The first of a series of four events presented by the RSA, City University London and the Samosa was a resounding success with a keynote speech by Conservative Chairman Baroness Warsi followed by a fiery Q and A session with Anwar Akhtar, director of The Samosa.
Anwar Akhtar began the lecture with an insight into his personal connection with Pakistan, drawing attention to the inspiration that British Pakistanis such as Amir Khan and Baroness Warsi herself are to those both here and in Pakistan, as strong British patriots with a love for their ancestral home.
Many observers trace the origin and development of the English Defence League to a poppy-burning publicity stunt staged by the group Muslims Against Crusaders (MAC) at last year’s Armistice Day commemorations. For many British Muslims like myself, the actions of MAC left us in a precarious situation with the tabloid press intent on providing front page publicity to a fanatical fringe and strengthening the EDL argument that we are a minority of fifth-columnists who cannot be trusted in relation to our loyalties to Britain. Muslims who adopted a principled anti-interventionist attitude towards the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan also felt that they could no longer articulate their position without being connected somehow to the opinions of Anjum Chaudhry’s band of merry but troubled men.
The recent murders of Haroon Jahan, Shahzad Ali and Abdul Musavir forced a much needed realignment in public opinion towards Britain’s largest and arguably most visible minority. Brutally run over whilst protecting local shops from looters, the principle of laying down your life in order to protect the innocent was thought to be an archaic concept from bygone eras of conquest and marauding tribes. However, within a moment of tragedy the boys recovered for many thousands of British Muslims the true meaning of the word ‘jihad’, which means ‘to struggle’ in Arabic from the nihilists of Al-Qaida.
Baroness Sayeeda Warsi is to kick off a series of four events with a speech exploring the complex and intimate relationships between Pakistan, Britain and the Pakistani diaspora in the UK.
The four debates will discuss:
· Given the historic ties between Britain and Pakistan (with 1.2 Million British citizens having Pakistani heritage and over 10,000 people flying from Manchester Airport to Pakistan every week) – what next for Britain and Pakistan?
· Do Westminster’s political and media networks engage sufficiently with the national British Pakistani community? Has the Prevent strategy resulted in the alienation of British Pakistani young people, and if so, how can more positive opportunities be created?
· Have the negative news reports and media narratives surrounding the conflicts in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan effected community relations in Britain?
· With the Pakistani diaspora continuing to support families, businesses, charities and welfare organisations back in Pakistan, what more can they do to engage with the recently announced £650 million DFID Pakistan aid programme?
· The series will feature prominent figures from the worlds of politics, business, arts, charity, culture, religion, philanthropy, development and the media. The programme will explore the historic, family, contemporary, economic, military and cultural ties between Britain and Pakistan and discuss the future for these relations both as part of the Commonwealth and in the context of a globalised 21st Century.
This is public interest note… I’ll be speaking at the launch of a new think-tank based at Goldsmiths college called ‘Centre for Identities and Social Justice’.
The event will take place on Wednesday, 5th October, 6pm.
LG Theatre 1, The New Academic Building
TOPIC THE PREVENT AGENDA: What are its unintended and intended consequences?
LORD CARLILE (Liberal Democrat, House of Lords)
SUNNY HUNDAL (Editor, Liberal Conspiracy)
FARZANA SHAIN (Public Policy, Keele University)
AKEELA AHMED (CEO, Muslim Youth Helpline)
JAMES HAYWOOD (President, Goldsmiths Students Union)
This is a guest post by Rita Banerji. She blogs here.
Calcutta currently is in the midst of the Durga Puja – the 10 day carnival celebrating the goddess Durga. It is the annual climax of Calcutta’s cultural ethos. Not having grown up in Calcutta, I had never actually attended this celebration as a child. So at 30 when I moved to the city, I was fascinated and curious. I photographed the celebrations from every angle and asked a million questions.
Hundreds of pandals— elaborate temple like structures of bamboo, cardboard and jute—are are set up all over the city, which house the idols of the goddess and her family. There are different ceremonies marking each of the 10 days with enthralling symbolisms. Yet, within a couple of years my puja fever had died down, and that was largely because I didn’t appreciate a lot of what I was discovering about the pujas. So much so, that over the last 5 years, I have consistently boycotted the Pujas and urged others to do the same. Here are my reasons why:
> At the end of the celebrations all the idols are immersed in the Hoogly – the city’s river, a tributary of the Ganges. There are more than 40,000 idols dumped into the Hoogly every year. These idols are larger than life, some of them 10-20 feet tall, and most are made of non-biodegradable materials like concrete, fiberglass and metal. These don’t wash downstream. They sink to the bottom and make the river bed one big junkyard.
Some of the key findings are as follows (from p.56 of the report):
From the outset, among leaders and followers it is clear that the EDL has had sustained connections with the BNP and other extreme-right groups. Moreover, the EDL might profess itself a single issue, counter-jihadist movement, but its failure to adhere to this line leaves it looking like all previous racist extreme-right groups. This failure makes it even more difficult to ignore the neo-Nazi methods, antecedents and current connections of the EDL’s leaders and its followers.
Consequently, these profiles allow four conclusions. Firstly, the EDL is unarguably connected to the BNP and other far-right groups, whether by previous association or by shared interest. Secondly, some of these far-right individuals have possessed significant weaponry that identifies them as potential ‘lone wolf’ terrorists. Thirdly, EDL leaders and followers have engaged in criminality, especially racially aggravated incidents. Fourthly, the EDL engages in doublespeak that powerfully questions their claim to be a single-issue, non-racist movement.
It wouldn’t have escaped your notice that I’ve been blogging a lot less here lately. This isn’t just because running Liberal Conspiracy is a full time job – it is because I’ve been working on another big project.
Eons ago, long before I got into blogging, writing or anything to do with the media, I worked at a technology start-up. I joined straight after university and the ‘dotcom boom’ was in full swing. I’d always been interested in the tech industry and had tried to start two companies during those days (while I was working full time).
Unfortunately, the market soured by 2001 and despite our well-thoughout business plans (a rarity in those days), no one wanted to invest. I wouldn’t say the tech boom is back but I’ve caught the bug again.
For the past 5 months I’ve been working on a project more ambitious than anything I’ve done before. It has been painstakingly slow to develop because I had little time and because a brotha has to eat and sleep occasionally too. But I’ve had some help, which has made it easier.
Hence – blogging has been light. I’ll be launching within a few weeks. I’m not allowed to say what it’s about until then. But I thought I owed you guys an explanation at least for the pitiful lack of content.
The Chief Constable of Nottinghamshire Police has paid £20,000 in compensation to Rizwaan Sabir for his wrongful arrest and seven days’ detention under the Terrorism Act 2000 in May 2008.
Mr Sabir – currently a PhD student at the University of Strathclyde researching domestic UK counter-terrorism policy – was arrested after downloading an edited version of the ‘The Al-Qaeda Training Manual’ from a US government website for his postgraduate research as a Masters student at the University of Nottingham.
Sabir subsequently brought proceedings against Nottinghamshire Police for false imprisonment and breaches of the Race Relations Act 1976 and the Human Rights Act 1998.
He also claimed under the Data Protection Act 1998 regarding false information on Nottinghamshire Police records, including a clear but unfounded assertion that Mr Sabir had been convicted of a terrorist offence, which had led to Mr Sabir being subject to numerous stops and searches.
“For more than 3 years, I have been fighting to clear my name and establish that the police were wrong to arrest me and put me through the tortuous experience I suffered at their hands. I have finally succeeded in doing so, and they have been forced to account for the wrong they did to me.”
“But I am one of the lucky ones. I cannot forget all those other innocent people like me who have suffered at the hands of the police but do not have the chance or means to vindicate their names.”
Yesterday evening I may have given the impression to some people on Twitter that James Delingpole’s blogging for the Telegraph was shit and repeatedly wrong.
Now, the first part of that is obviously true. More intelligent ppl than me have pointed out to me that the second accusation may get me into trouble. So, before my ass gets sued, a clarification. Delingpole writes comment and doesn’t know much climate science at all. He admitted he interpreted interpretations by other people. But I can’t find any instance of him apologising for lying about anything, so if people wrongly got the impression I had accused him of worse, I withdraw the accusation. As he mostly opines on various issues, technically he cannot get factual stuff wrong. I don’t want to accuse him of stuff he didn’t do.
He is however still a nasty person. Last year he published the name and details of an innocent member of the public who had contacted their MP with questions about the environment. After Delingpole’s readers started harassing this individual, the Telegraph took the post down. Neither the website nor Delingpole issued an apology for that as far as I know.
“We share some of his opinions, and his fear, but not what he did in Norway 22 July. I do not think he is insane. I think that his approach was insane…Breivik dared to come forward with his opinions, and was tough, in some regards. People need to understand that Breivik is not alone in these feelings.”
Yaxley-Lennon previously appeared to make a threat at the end of his interviews with the BBC’s Newsnight and CNN shortly after the massacre in Norway, which was immediately noticed by Newsnight host Jeremy Paxman and CNN anchor Becky Anderson. Curiously, Yaxley-Lennon is also on record as making exactly the same claim about Far-Right anti-Muslim terrorism occurring in the United Kingdom “within the next 5 years” several months before Breivik’s attacks in Norway.
A detailed Pickled Politics article about the EDL’s links to Breivik can be read here. More recently, British counter-terrorism officers have confirmed that they are now investigating and monitoring the EDL in the same way that they investigate potential Islamist terrorists, and that this is a direct consequence of Breivik’s murderous actions.
Furthermore, Paul Ray aka “Lionheart”, one of the EDL’s original founders who is being investigated by the Norwegian police for his links to Breivik, has now stated that Breivik is indeed part of a wider Far-Right movement, including possible cells in the UK. The Norwegian police are expanding their investigations in conjunction with Scotland Yard to possibly include the questioning of a number of British citizens. Multiple photographs of various EDL supporters brandishing guns have also recently surfaced, and some examples can be seen via Hope Not Hate here.
The school, which will have compulsory Punjabi lessons for all pupils, has been a labour of love and duty for Birmingham’s 200,000-strong Sikh community. Sikhs as old as 90 and as young as five have helped strip floorboards and paint, says principal-designate Ranjit Singh Dhanda.
He says that one of the core concepts of the Sikh faith is Daswand – donating a minimum of a tenth of your earnings, time, knowledge and prayers to a noble cause or a social service.
Some 130 members of the community have helped, unpaid, on a daily or weekly basis. They include Amardip Singh Suri, manager of a plastics factory, who has come after work almost every day when the workmen leave, to sweep up until the early hours.
Nice in theory, but I’m increasingly against the idea of religious schools – I think they have too much potential to segregate on religious lines. Religious schools should at least have a quarter of students from different backgrounds.
Earlier this week, BBC Radio 4’s In Touch ran a programme called Visually Impaired British Asians.
The programme looked at the specific issues affecting British Asians with visual impairments. Research has suggested that South Asians are more likely to have several eye diseases than the general population. However, expectations among their community about what they are able to do are limited.
The programme raised the very important point that awareness of sight loss related diseases needs to be raised among British Asians in order to prevent them. The importance of eye tests was also emphasised.
For several reasons, British Asians may be missing out on support that is available to people with visual impairments. The programme looked at some of these reasons. For example, many older Asians in Britain are unable to speak or read English.
As part of the programme, presenter Peter White spoke to a South Asian adviser for the RNIB, who speaks to patients in their own languages. She raised the point that older British Asians are used to natural, holistic remedies for health problems and may find medical solutions, such as laser surgery, too extreme.
Peter White also spoke to a South Asian social worker who is registered blind herself. She now has her own organisation helping other South Asian people with sight loss. She recalled the case of one woman who could not believe that blind people could leave their houses! This woman, herself, had not been allowed, by her husband, to leave her house. The point was raised that for cultural reasons, South Asians think that if people with sight loss leave home alone, they are not being looked after and protected well enough by the family.
Finally, the point was raised that organisations need to be sensitive to the cultural needs of South Asians.
I found the programme very interesting and very educational. I believe that this is a programme that all British Asians of all ages really need to hear. If you agree, please click this link to listen to it on BBC iPlayer.
Pickled Politics would like to wish our Muslim readers “Eid Mubarak”, as today marks the end of Ramadan (or “Ramzan”, as we South Asians pronounce it).
Some suitable music to mark the occasion:
A live performance of an extract from “Man Kunto Maula”, by the Pakistani singers Atif Aslam and Riaz Ali Khan. Dedicated to Ali, this devotional song was written by the Indian Sufi poet and musician Amir Khusrau in the 13th century; it is regarded as the first qawwali in Indian history. Amir Khusrau, the Sufi Muslim saint Nizamuddin Auliya’s most famous disciple, is widely regarded as one of the founders of North Indian classical music as an organised art form. Atif Aslam is the younger singer in the video below; he often contributes to the soundtracks for Indian films, and has become very popular during the past couple of years.
The good thing that came out of the riots was a renewed sense of community. “How does one put this without sounding gross … it was terrific to see the Asian communities on telly and not to have to think about terrorism, and not to have to think about the thing I’m always thinking about… do they want to kill Jews?”
Is that meant to be a joke?
Jacobson looks at an Asian person and thinks they might be terrorists or want to kill Jews? What is he smoking? Has the paranoia got to him?
Does he look at me and think ‘Hmmm, this guy has brown skin. Maybe he wants to kill me. I better run and hide!‘. Perhaps he should stop reading Jihad Watch or something. Idiot.
Update: a few people on Twitter say he’s saying it positively.
Let’s try a thought experiment. If I say: “Isn’t it great we can stop thinking of these white people as morally degenerate savages for a bit and see them as nice people who cleaned up after a riot” – that wouldn’t be highly patronising?
An Indian couple who met at a legal firm have become the first in Britain to claim ‘caste’ discrimination, saying they were forced from their jobs following their marriage.
An employment tribunal was told that solicitor Amardeep Begraj, 33, was from a higher caste than her husband Vijay, 32, the practice manager.
He belonged to the Dalits, formerly known as the Untouchables because of the nature of their work in roles such as cleaning, pest control or scavenging, and the lowest class of people according to the ancient Indian caste system.
Mrs Begraj has told the tribunal that a senior colleague warned her against marrying Mr Begraj because people of his caste were ‘different creatures’, while he was told his position at the firm was ‘compromised’.
What’s worse is that both are of Sikh background, which theoretically eschews the caste system as false. I hope she wins the case. Urgh.
IKWRO, a charity dedicated to helping women of Middle Eastern origin escape domestic/’honour-based violence, is conducting an survey into the experiences of Muslim women who use the courts to settle family disputes. Sunny has written on Sharia courts in the past, and the issues surrounding them.
It is for staff in organisations which have advised women who have used or considered using Muslim Arbitration Tribunals or Islamic Sharia Councils to resolve family disputes.
The aim of the survey is twofold, as it seeks to discover:
1. The experiences of women using Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Islamic Sharia Councils to resolve family disputes.
2. The level of experience and knowledge about Muslim Arbitration Tribunals and Islamic Sharia Councils among the women’s sector, and the sector’s information needs.
Despite all the violence and destruction that occurred across England during the recent riots, there were also some heartening developments. Most well-known, of course, is the reaction of Tariq Jahan, the inspirational father of one of the young men murdered in Birmingham as they attempted to protect the local population from the rioters. Mr Jahan’s extraordinary dignity and calls for peace on the basis of our common humanity played a huge part in preventing the situation from spiralling into even worse violence.
Tariq Jahan’s actions have effectively resulted in him becoming a national hero in Britain, and some of the most moving articles have come from unexpected sources such as The Telegraph and the Daily Mail. The outpouring of support and praise for Mr Jahan has included commenters who are openly expressing deep regret for their previous prejudice against Muslims.
A prayer event in Birmingham ahead of the funerals of Shazad Ali, Abdul Musavir, and Tariq Jahan’s son Haroon was attended by approximately 20,000 people, both Muslims and non-Muslims alike, and invited speakers included visitors from one of the local synagogues. An online book of condolence has also been launched by Birmingham city council.
Interfaith unity and friendship
Inspiring examples of interfaith unity and friendship also occurred across the country during the riots. For example, Sikhs were heavily involved in joint efforts to protect the local towns & cities as a whole and the associated places of worship, including the defence of mosques. Correspondingly, Muslims also volunteered to protect Sikh temples. And a joint Sikh-Muslim prayer vigil was held at the site of the murders of the young Asian Muslims in Birmingham, attended by several hundred people and involving both Sikh and Muslim prayers. A photo of the candlelit vigil is displayed at the top of this article. You can also watch an interview of Harpreet Singh, one of the Sikh organisers of the joint vigil, in the video below.
Another blow to the EDL’s purported claim to be only against Islamic extremism:
A member of the English Defence League will appear before a judge today accused of racially-motivated vandalism after a mosque was sprayed with graffiti.
Charlotte Davies, 19, of Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, was charged after an attack on the Nasir Mosque in Hartlepool and a shop and guest house in Shotton Colliery in November last year… Two men also accused of the attacks will enter pleas at a later date
Throughout the looting/riots, the EDL attempted to capitalise on the situation, and use it as an excuse to promote themselves and as an excuse for some violence.
Cambridge saw EDL vigilantes clear Mill Road (an important road in the town centre) of imaginary looters, only to be told by local traders that they were not welcome. Meanwhile a senior Met police officer warned of more attempts by the EDL to hijack local communities defending themselves, with places like Enfield being hit.
Nor did the EDL stick to its alleged belief of only being anti-Islamic extremism. An EDL gang attacked a bus with black youths on it in London, whilst EDL posters online flooded forums with racist language directed primarily against blacks:
The English Defence League have reverted to type, with torrents of sickening anti-black racism on their divisional Facebook walls, peppered with the N-word, and description of black people being “monkeys” and “apes”. Since their existance, the moderators have tried to brush all of their non-Muslim racism under the carpet, pretending that the EDL have only one enemy, Muslims, but since the rioting began in London, the far right group have switched tack to virulent anti-Black racism of an extreme and disturbing nature.
Now graffiti is going up condemning the riots, signed by the EDL. Compare and contrast such behaviour with how many victims of the looting reacted. In Birmingham, Tariq Jahan, the father of one of the three men killed by looters, called for calm:
Today we stand here to plead with all the youth to remain calm, for our communities to stand united. This is not a race issue. The family has received messages of sympathy and support from all parts of society … I lost my son. Blacks, Asians, whites – we all live in the same community. Why do we have to kill one another? Why are we doing this? Step forward if you want to lose your sons. Otherwise, calm down and go home – please.”
Others held vigils or banded together to clean up the area. If there is a silver lining in all this senseless violence and destruction then it will be the renewed bonds that now exist between many people in the worst affected areas, which is what a healthy society depends on.
A film examining the mass killings of baby girls in India and China is to be released in early 2012 (trailer below). Researchers estimate that the gender imbalance in these two countries is such that it could only have been achieved through the mass abortion of female foetuses and the murder of millions of baby girls. Look out for Pickled Politics contributors Rita Banerji and Mitu Khurana at 1:41-1:54 in the video.
The film tells the stories of abandoned and trafficked girls, of women who suffer extreme dowry-related violence, of brave mothers fighting to save their daughters’ lives, and of other mothers who would kill for a son. Global experts and grassroots activists put the stories in context and advocate different paths towards change, while collectively lamenting the lack of any truly effective action against this injustice.
I said this earlier on Twitter so I best justify it quickly:
I’m going to stick my neck out and predict tonight will see a lot less trouble than yesterday. I think this has peaked.
Of course there is a good chance people will read this later tonight and laugh. But that is the whole danger with predictions.
My thinking is this. Whatever ‘alienation’ and ‘dispossession’ these youths feel from society (and why are they mostly men?) – the looting has flared up mostly because there is a widespread perception that the police cannot do much about it, and this is their chance to get some free stuff and have one over the police.
This has become a socially driven event, where the expectation that they can get away with it drives it further. Without that expectation, it should in theory die quickly.
I say ‘in theory’ because the other problem is that a lot is dependent on flash-points. Without the spark, a tense situation can easily dissolve into nothing.
The police talking up their numbers and showing shots of them suiting up in heavy armour should have an impact. So will the raids last night on some of the looters.
If London is much quieter last night – it will show that the flare up of the London riots (following Tottenham on the first night) was driven more by the sense of weakness with the police (or ‘shorting the law’ as Alison Charlton called it) than by deep rage (though I accept there is low-level rage present regardless).