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»   Coming to Captain SKA's "Liar Liar" party tonight? Comedy, left-wing activists and lots of Tory bashing! Why not eh? http://bit.ly/fB48w4 4 hrs ago

»   'Why anti-fascists should let Pastor Jones visit the UK' http://bit.ly/gB0eO5 - great post by @RadicalDanFrost 5 hrs ago

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  • Technorati: graph / links
    17th February, 2009

    MI5: Government ‘exploited terrorism fears’

    by Sunny at 9:00 am    

    The Independent reports:

    Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has accused the Government of exploiting public fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties. Her comments came on the same day as a report published by international jurists suggested that Britain and America have led other countries in “actively undermining” the rule of law and “threatening civil liberties” in the guise of fighting terrorism.

    “It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state.”

    Well, talk about stating the obvious but when the former head of the MI5 says it then suddenly it takes a whole new meaning. But there’s no point really just blaming the government. Since 9/11 and 7/7 we’ve seen a whole industry of bloggers, national journalists (Melanie Phillips, obviously, but plenty of others too) and think-tankers (Policy Exchange) and general wingnuts (Douglas Murray) who have become obsessed with finding ‘Islamists Under The Bed’.

    Now, some of those concerns may have been real but they weren’t the only ones raising them. The difference is that this whole industry wanted to push as far as they could, even arguing at times (wave to Martin Amis!) that Muslims could - possibly, maybe, just having a thought experiment you know - singled out for further curtailment of their civil liberties. All those people who cheered on the neoconservatives in the US as they used and abused surveillance powers, as stood by New Labour while they talked up ID cards - they are also to blame. The fact that it has become illegal to even take a picture of a police constable is not just the fault of New Labour, it’s also the fault of the apologists on the left and right who went along with that agenda. Dame Remington’s comments must come as a stinging slap. How does that make you feeeeeeeel?

    16th February, 2009

    Why I’m hardline on environmental issues

    by Sunny at 7:52 pm    

    A lot of the time, I quote other people simply because they’ve said what I wanted to but never got around to it. I frequently get criticised on here for taking a hardline stance on environmental issues, especially on supporting groups like Plane Stupid, because they’re seen as too alienating. Because Middle England won’t agree, the argument goes, these people are a danger to the cause. I always disagree.
    This article by Peter Malchett hits the spot.

    Now environmentalism has gone mainstream, Hickman argues, we need to “embrace mature political debate”. I agree with a lot of what he says, but not his conclusion that compromise and pragmatism are now the order of the day. This isn’t the first time that environmentalists have won an argument. Nor is it the first time that there has been a significant backlash as a result.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Environmentalism

    Is it April Fools’ day already?

    by Rumbold at 7:51 pm    

    “Former prime minister Tony Blair has won a one million dollar (£697,000) international prize for his “exceptional leadership”, it has been announced. Mr Blair, now a Middle East mediator, will receive one of the three gifts from the Dan David Foundation in past, present and future categories.

    The foundation announced he will receive an award in the “present” category “for his exceptional leadership and steadfast determination in helping to engineer agreements and forge lasting solutions to areas in conflict”. Mr Blair is the representative of the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers — the United States, European Union, United Nations and Russia.”

    From these people. Partly based on his performance in the Middle East. Yes, that Middle East.

    (Via Conservative Home)

    Filed under: Humour

    Vaz Deference

    by Sid (Faisal) at 5:40 pm    

    The Geert Wilders episode has been a self-fulfilling farce. A Dutch MP in a blonde bouffant, who happens to be a neo-Nazi and a race supremacist, wins accolades for himself by pretending to stand up for freedom of speech by demanding the ban of the Quran, thus depriving the right of others to read it. On the other side, a number of agitated and perturbed Muslims confirmed the perception that Muslims transform into angry, violent thugs whenever they feel their “deeply held beliefs” have been personally insulted by threatening to kill Wilders by violent means over the screening of his film.

    To add to the hilarity, take a look at the video (below) of a Newsnight report broadcast last Thursday night. Keith Vaz, Labour MP of Leicester, pretends to engage knowledgeably on the intricate points of the issue of freedom of speech that underlies the whole episode. Instead his ruse is blown when it becomes apparent that not only does he wilfully misunderstand the fundamentals of FoS, he has come on a discussion on Wilders’ 18 minute film on national television without even having seen the film.

    Continue Reading...

    Good news on Iran asylum case

    by Rumbold at 11:55 am    

    It is good that Jacqui Smith has decided to act humanely:

    “A lesbian who fled Iran after her girlfriend was arrested and sentenced to death in Tehran has won her battle to be granted asylum in Britain.

    Supporters of Pegah Emambakhsh, 41, who claimed she would be executed if she was deported back to her homeland, welcomed the Government’s change of heart last night after their hard-fought, four-year campaign.

    Ms Emambakhsh came to the UK in 2005 fearing for her life, but last year she lost a court battle to stay in this country. Following a high-profile campaign involving gay rights groups, MPs and The Independent, the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, agreed to reconsider her case.”

    However, it does rather contradict her previous statement, made in June last year, that homosexuals could safely be deported back to Iran provided that they didn’t flaunt their sexuality once returned.

    15th February, 2009

    Iran and the West

    by Sid (Faisal) at 8:41 pm    

    The BBC’s “landmark” 3 part documentary series, ‘Iran and the West‘ began last week, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.

    With interviews and first hand commentary from key players from the events, who include two ex-presidents of Iran, Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami and leading westerners including ex-US President Jimmy Carter as well as Secretaries of State George Schultz, Warren Christopher and Madeleine Albright.

    1. The Man who Changed the World
    2. The Pariah State
    3. Nuclear Confrontation

    Another BBC documentary, not part of this series, but a good place to start is ‘Iran and Britain‘ which charts the history of Iran prior to the Revolution and serves as an excellent introduction.

    Unmissable stuff. Documenatries of this quality don’t come around very often, so catch them on iPlayer while they’re still available.

    Filed under: History

    Hamas murder campaign exposed

    by Sunny at 12:40 am    

    The Guardian reports:

    Amnesty International said Hamas forces and militias were involved in a “campaign of abductions, deliberate and unlawful killings, torture and death threats against those they accuse of ‘collaborating’ with Israel, as well as opponents and critics”. It said at least two dozen men had been shot by Hamas since the end of December and “scores of others” shot in the legs, kneecapped or beaten.Amnesty gave detailed accounts of some of the cases and said there was “incontrovertible evidence” that Hamas security forces and militia were “responsible for grave human rights abuses”. Hamas officials have admitted hunting for suspected collaborators, but they have denied this campaign of attacks.

    A few quick points.
    First, this is why I don’t support Hamas - they kill their own people and are interested only in power rather than the higher purpose of Palestinian liberation. I’ve not supported Sikh Khalistani separatists in the past for the same reasons (despite human rights abuses by the Indian government and other reasons) because its just a power-grab under religious garb.

    Continue Reading...
    14th February, 2009

    The pork non-story

    by Rumbold at 2:14 pm    

    Various papers covered the story this week about how a Domino’s pizza outlet in Birmingham had stopped putting pork products on their pizzas, replacing them with a selection of halal meat. The Daily Mail, never one to miss an opportunity to attack Muslims, even had a picture of James Savage (looking glum), who was unable to order pizza with pork on, and had to drive two miles to another outlet (and then presumably proceeded to ring up the papers). As Mr Savage put it:

    “I’m all for racial and religious tolerance but if anything this is intolerant to my beliefs and discriminatory against me. I had to travel two miles out of my way to their next nearest branch - I was appalled.”

    Once again, this is one of those non-stories, which, while true, is so irrelevant that its only purpose can be a way in which to attack Muslims. As Tim Worstall pithily points out:

    “No, it’s not discrimination you fool… they’re a private business and they can serve what the f*** they like.”

    Exactly. But ‘business tailors products to customer demand’ doesn’t have quite the same ring about it as ‘Muslims stop English eating pork- must eat halal instead’, does it?

    The ‘Obama effect’ on fashion

    by Sunny at 11:49 am    

    The New York Times reports:

    “Some casting sheets actually said ‘No Blacks,”’ the 19-year-old model Shawn Sutton was saying on Friday, backstage at the Duckie Brown show in the Bryant Park tent. He was referring to the model castings at the recent men’s wear shows in Milan.

    Mr. Sutton was one of 24 models in a show whose casting, for once, reflected some ethnic diversity. It is early days in New York’s Fashion Week, but already there are signs that the recent industry habits of exclusion may be undergoing a shift. Call it the Obama effect, if you will. “Oh, it’s totally about Obama,” said Marcus Lloyd, a 22-year-old African American model from Dallas. “I remember my agent was like, ‘If Obama does become president, there’s going to be a lot more work for you guys.’ “

    As much as people like to pretend that the world runs by meritocracy, I suspect an Obama presidency will have huge and continuing impact such as this. We already saw it affects black pupils at school - I have a feeling there will be more.

    Filed under: Race politics

    The play should go on!

    by Sunny at 5:48 am    

    According to the Guardian, there’s a “storm brewing” over a play at the Royal Court.

    It has incestuous, pig-breeding, drunken Irishmen, snooty Frenchmen, farcical Jewish anarchists and the animated presence of a mad mullah ranting about how women must be subservient to men. It reminded the Daily Telegraph of the Carry On films and the London Evening Standard of “the slick, cruel, abusive style that Bernard Manning perfected ages ago”. Its director and writer may well have anticipated controversy, but shortly after opening at the National Theatre, England People Very Nice, a new play by the award-winning dramatist Richard Bean about successive waves of immigration to the east end of London, has been labelled racist and offensive by the communities it portrays.

    I call bullshit. The play must go on and I bet its actually lampooning the racism that immigrants face when they come into the country. Either way, I have no problem with such stuff - theatre is meant to provoke people.

    Continue Reading...
    13th February, 2009

    Times article - Salman Rushdie

    by Sunny at 10:47 am    

    I’ve written an article for today’s Times on Salman Rushdie and the Satanic Verses controversy, which is published in the newspaper. The jist is: The Salman Rushdie affair prompted all of us to examine what it means to be British.

    I’m also bloody exhausted and tired. Blogging might be light as I catch up on a mountain of emails.

    Filed under: Events,History,Media

    Is there a shortage of intelligent bloggers?

    by Sunny at 1:17 am    

    On Harry’s Place, it seems finding intelligent writing requires scraping a barrel. Yesterday I wrote for an article for CIF comparing different kinds of racial insults that are used to dehumanise people. Rather than understand what the article is getting at, which he always fails to do, Neil D on HP uses a picture of a Muslim extremist, though anyone with two brain cells to rub together can replicate that; to make an an argument. It amounts to: I don’t like Sunny’s comparisons so I’ll assume the person making racial insults is harmless and the Muslim making religious insults is a potential terrorist. And to drive home the point I’ll cleverly put in a picture there.

    Filed under: Blog,Race politics

    Geert Wilder’s freedom of speech hypocrisy

    by Sunny at 12:56 am    

    The Times newspaper reports:

    Lord Ahmed denies allegations in the Spectator that he had “threatened the House of Lords authorities that he would bring a force of 10,000 Muslims to lay siege to the Lords if Wilders was allowed to speak”. Lord Ahmed told The Times that he was considering legal action against the Spectator. A spokesman for the House of Lords did not comment on the allegation. Lord Ahmed said he had received “dozens if not hundreds of hate mail and threats as a result of Fitna” but told The Times he would not protest the screening of the film in Mr Wilders’ absence.

    Baroness Cox said the original screening was delayed not because of alleged threats but because she was made aware of Mr Wilders’ calls for the Koran to be banned shortly before the event and she disagreed with them. In a joint statement, Baroness Cox and Lord Pearson insisted that they were promoting freedom of speech: “We do not agree with Geert Wilders that the Koran should be banned…. Geert Wilder’s ‘Fitna’ film is not a threat to anyone.

    He may not be a threat to anyone here because we ignore such stupid fools. But there’s two points here.
    First, Wilders is no believer in free speech, so for him to try and play the victim is rather hypocritical.
    Secondly - where has this claim come from about Lord Ahmed ‘summoning 10,000 Muslims’?
    Thirdly, Geert Wilders wants:

    all immigration from Muslim countries halted, Muslim immigrants paid to leave and all Muslim ‘criminals’ stripped of Dutch citizenship and deported ‘back where they came from’.

    Deported where they come from? That is of course no different to the anti-semitic libel that Jews (in this case Muslims) have no relevance to the country they hold citizenship in, and are all traitors to its values. No surprise to see Melanie Phillips is supporting his cause. Incidentally, what did he say in Netherlands that led to charges of incitement to violence? I’m interested in knowing that.

    Filed under: Media
    12th February, 2009

    Women enforcing Patriarchy?

    by Shariq at 8:33 pm    

    Nesrine Malik has a fascinating post on the irony of older female relatives in enforcing patriarchal values on subsequent generations of women.

    As I grew older and became more familiar with the world of women, I saw the men in my family as less and less the petty female-obsessed guardians of the status quo and more like its final enforcers. When my Sudanese female cousin recently wed a white Canadian, the women of the family were whispering nastily on the wedding night at how the standards of the family had fallen, while the men maintained silence in the face of a fait accompli. The mothers, aunts and grandmothers mocked or criticised the men’s silence behind their backs and saw themselves as the family’s moral foundations, with the men wielding only material and physical power.

    For more, check out the comments thread on this post from a couple of months ago. It explores similar themes and more and Nesrine asked me to hat tip everyone who helped make that a great discussion and which influenced her CIF piece as well .

    11th February, 2009

    Two responses to Geert Wilders

    by Sid (Faisal) at 11:34 pm    

    This is the response of the Quilliam Foundation to the news that Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP who takes ownership of the “controversial” film Fitna has been barred from entry to the UK to attend a screening of the film:

    The Quilliam Foundation has announced its opposition to the decision by the Home Office to ban Geert Wilders, the Dutch MP, from the UK. The Quilliam Foundation believes that although many of Wilders’ public statements are bigoted, ill-informed and offensive to people of all faiths, this is not an adequate reason to prevent him from coming to the UK.

    The Quilliam Foundation says that Wilders’ ideas should be challenged through debate – not through government intervention that may only make him a martyr to his supporters.

    The directors of the Quilliam Foundation therefore challenge Geert Wilders to an open and public debate on Islam and its compatibility with European values.

    Continue Reading...

    Valentine supporters fight back

    by Rumbold at 8:27 pm    

    In the aftermath of the Mangalore attacks, and the campaign to send pink underwear to Sri Ram Sena, the group Save the Earth Foundation has promised to deploy martial-arts trained volunteers to protect courting couples from thugs:

    “In groups of five or six people, at least ten teams of young men and women, trained in tactics of self defence will patrol major areas in Delhi and will be particularly vigilant against attacks on gift galleries that house special paraphernalia for Valentines Day.”

    Sharia banking: a sinister plot?

    by Rumbold at 5:47 pm    

    No.

    It was recently revealed that the UK now has a larger Sharia banking sector than Pakistan and many other Muslim countries:

    “There are now five “fully Sharia-compliant” banks in the UK while another 17 leading institutions including Barclays, RBS and Lloyds Banking Group have set up special branches or subsidiary firms for Muslim clients.

    The $18billion (£12bn) in assets of Britain’s Islamic banks dwarf those of some states where Islam is the main religion, including Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey and Egypt.”

    For most people, this shouldn’t be especially alarming. London is a centre of global finance, and Britain has a growing Muslim population. Moreover, many of the Muslim countries used for comparison are poor. If consenting adults wish to place their money with a legal institution, it is unclear why that should be controversial. There are legitimate criticisms to be made of Sharia finance (namely whether it only upholds the letter and not the spirit of Islam), but it is nothing more than a system which is structured slightly differently. One columnist disagreed (I won’t name her, but see if you can guess who before clicking on the link):

    Continue Reading...

    Love in a Headscarf, book

    by Sunny at 2:10 pm    

    Obviously by that headline I’m not referring to myself. (Though, scandalously, I did once date a woman in a headscarf). Shelina, who blogs at Spirit21 has published her debut book: Love in a Headscarf. It will be launched this Friday at City Circle, if you’re interested in attending (free).

    Filed under: Culture,Events

    Blame the crisis on promiscuous couples!

    by Sunny at 11:08 am    

    Who is to blame for the financial crisis? If you’re a hardcore capitalist and don’t want to blame banks or big businesses, then you have to find other scapegoats. Enter, promiscuous couples. According to Tim Montgomerie of ConservativeHome:

    “The proximate cause of the banking crisis was the increase in couple cohabitation and the banks supine acceptance of the government’s promotion of “every choice of lifestyle”. The banks lent money to couples who were unlikely to stick together.” - Nick Gulliford has posted the above thought on the thread below Michael Fallon’s indispensable Platform article. It’s a very uncomfortable thought but I bet Nick is partly right. All the stats point to much greater instability in cohabiting relationships. I’d certainly like to see the data.

    First blacks, and now promiscous couples (maybe even gays?). I wonder if David Cameron will take up this baton. Will he announce that the Conservative Party’s policy to subsidise married couples will end boom and bust by protecting the housing market? Heh.
    (via Mark Pack)

    On an different note, I’ve been writing some long articles for different newspapers and websites, and so drowning in work. Hence the blogging is a bit quick and dirty. Apologies for that.

    New York Times does a hatchet job on M.I.A.

    by Sunny at 7:04 am    

    Apparently, rapper M.I.A. (who looks glorious in her advanced pregnancy by the way) is on the “outer fringes” of opinion by being concerned about Tamil deaths by the Sri Lankan government.

    Erm, this is despite the fact that Amnesty International published a report saying the same thing? I love the NYT but this hatchet job really is pathetic.

    Filed under: Media,Sri Lanka

    ‘No more blank check for Israel’

    by Sunny at 1:30 am    

    A press release I received
    The New York-based Campaign for Peace and Democracy is sending a declaration to President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Middle East Envoy George Mitchell entitled “No More Blank Check for Israel!” To date 1253 individuals have signed, including Ervand Abrahamian, Stanley Aronowitz, Norman Birnbaum, Noam Chomsky, Ariel Dorfman, Martin Duberman, Carolyn Eisenberg, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Adam Hochschild, Doug Ireland, Tony Judt, Dave Marsh, Scott McLemee, Charlotte Phillips, MD, Katha Pollitt and Matthew Rothschild. The full list of signers is available at www.cpdweb.org

    The statement says:

    No country should have to face rockets fired at its citizens, and we condemn Hamas’s launching of rockets into Israeli civilian areas. But the solution is not raining bombs and missiles down on one of the most densely populated sites in the world, making massive civilian casualties inevitable, and which, apart from its immorality, guarantees only another generation of hatred towards Israel. The solution — as the Israeli peace movement, human rights groups, and the United Nations have urged — is to lift the economic blockade imposed on Gaza and end the Occupation.

    The statement ends with a call for an immediate end to U.S. military aid to Israel. “We do not want our tax dollars or the leaders who speak in our names to continue supporting the attacks on the Palestinian people.”

    On a related note, Tony Lerman - former head of Jewish Policy Research thinktank - wrote two excellent articles that deserve plugging. On in the Guardian and one in Prospect mag - on how Jews in the UK and USA are speaking out against Israel’s actions.

    Donal Blaney

    by Sunny at 1:09 am    

    Blogging is almost sadistic in one sense - you’re constantly flogging similar horses every day. And you have to do it regularly and vigorously otherwise there’s no real point to is. Who’s heard of a popular blog that publishes occasionally and meanders on about different issues that are irrelevant to each other? But that sadism isn’t much different to normal work in many ways.

    Real sadism is when you’re Donal Blaney - a poor excuse for a politico who spends his time fisking a list of ’25 Things About Me’ meme that is going around on Facebook. Blaney looks rather obsessed by Clare Hazelgrove, a 20 year old Labour PPC for Skipton & Ripon. Why? Don’t ask why, these stupid people have to spend their time somehow, right?

    Maybe he hasn’t got enough work to do as a lawyer. Last year Blaney sent me a legal letter on behalf of his ‘client’ Guido Fawkes over something on LibCon, and I ignored it because both are insufferable idiots. Not only that, he is, according to Alex, a Hypocrite, Political Whore, and Torture Fan. Add to that now: obsessive. What next?

    Filed under: Blog
    10th February, 2009

    Is this supposed to be an anti-terrorism strategy?

    by Sunny at 5:06 pm    

    How do we deal with terrorism guys? I know, let’s have an ad campaign in Pakistan highlighting successful British Pakistanis. That will really get the Taliban thinking twice! I’m assuming that’s how the conversation before they launched this:

    Prominent British Muslims are being recruited to star in a government-backed advertising campaign aimed at preventing people in Pakistan from engaging in extremist activity, the Guardian has learned.

    The three-month public relations offensive, called I Am the West, consists of television commercials and high-profile events in regions such as Peshawar and Mirpur. It is being funded by the Foreign Office which is paying up to £400,000 for a pilot project.

    Starring in the first three adverts are Sadiq Khan, the communities minister, Jehangir Malik, the UK manager of Islamic Relief, English cricketer Moeen Ali and the Lord Mayor of Birmingham, Chaudry Abdul Rashid, who is from Mirpur. Mirpuris represent around 70% of Britain’s Pakistani population.

    Wow, they really have run out of ideas haven’t they? The Guardian’s Riazat Butt has an amusing article on it, but there’s questions to be asked about the government’s anti-terrorism strategy. Is this really the best they can come up with?

    Filed under: Media,Pakistan,Terrorism

    Israeli minister excuses more war crimes

    by Sunny at 3:48 am    

    Last night BBC’s Panorama aired a documentary on the Gaza conflict, clips of which you can watch from this page.

    The one below caught my eye because it features an interview with Interior Minister Meir Shetrit. The very same who previously said he didn’t really care for civilian casualties. You won’t be surprised to hear him express no remorse for civilian casualties again, other than repeat that everyone one of those children who died was somehow a Hamas hostage. Watch the video (below the fold). The report also points out:

    I visited Dr Izzeldeen Abuelaish’s home in Jabalya in Gaza. The Israeli army says that two tank shells were fired after soldiers thought they saw Hamas spotters in the building. It says there was fighting in the area. The doctor says it was quiet when the attack happened. His daughters and his niece felt safe enough to sit in a corner room in the apartment doing their homework. At the time I was there, the room in which the girls had been killed had not been touched since the attack.

    We’re supposed to accept that the civilian casualties should be blamed on Hamas. I don’t buy that argument because when the London terrorists blamed the Iraq war for their actions, people (rightly) said blaming others for your own murderous actions isn’t justification.

    Continue Reading...
    9th February, 2009

    Universally Unacceptable

    by Sid (Faisal) at 5:58 pm    

    A senior British Foreign and Commonwealth Office diplomat has been arrested and is on bail after shouting about the “fucking Jews” at a crowded gym in London. More in the Times:

    News reports today said that Rowan Laxton, 47, allegedly shouted “f***ing Israelis, f***ing Jews” while watching television reports of the Israeli attack on Gaza last month.

    He is also alleged to have said that Israeli soldiers should be “wiped off the face of the Earth” during the rant at the London Business School gym near Regents Park. The Daily Mail said that the tirade continued even after other gym users asked him to stop.

    The Foreign and Commonwealth Office declined to comment on the case because it was “currently subject to police inquiries”, but it is believed that Mr Laxton, who heads the FCO’s South Asia Group, is working normally.

    Continue Reading...
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