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  • 30th April, 2007

    Why John Reid must go

    by Sunny at 5:32 pm    

    I’ve written a short piece for Martin Bright’s blog on the New Statesman website explaining why Home Secretary John Reid must go over his department’s complicity in leaking stories to the press just before police raids.

    The last days of Tony Blair

    by Leon at 4:07 pm    

    We are entering into the final period of Tony Blair’s crumbling premiership, he’s had a long time in power and faces his last days drowning in bad polls.

    That said, to win three elections at the head of a party previously seen as unelectable is quite an achievement; Blair has his place in history. It may not come in quite the form he may wish but he will be long remembered whether we like it or not. Predictably there will be a scramble to influence/shape the character of that historical record…

    So, ten years of ‘Blairism’, a huge amount of controversy (enough scandals to beat even the last days of the Major Tory government) and ‘radical’ decision making but to what end?

    What are your impressions of his time in power, how have things changed in this country, for the better or worse? Are you glad to see the back of him or sad to see him go?

    Being poor and being brown

    by Sunny at 1:54 pm    

    The poverty rate for Britain’s minority ethnic groups stands at 40%, double the 20% found amongst white British people, according to new research published today (30 April) by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF). Minority ethnic groups are also being overlooked for jobs and are being paid lower wages, despite improvements in education and qualifications.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Race politics

    A councillor’s view on tackling the BNP

    by Sunny at 9:24 am    

    PP reader and occasional commenter ‘A Councillor Writes…’ wrote an interesting post a few days ago on a previous thread which I believes deserves proper reading and discussing. I hope he or she does not mind me highlighting it, particularly since it covers some efforts by councillors to neautralise the BNP.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: The BNP
    29th April, 2007

    Rushanara Ali to challenge Galloway’s seat

    by Sunny at 5:58 pm    

    Our East end insider Halima points out that Rushanara Ali has won the opportunity to represent the Labour party at the next General Election for Bethnal Bow and Green, George Galloway’s constituency. Rupa Huq and others missed out. The hustings vote was yesterday. Both of them are quite intelligent and competent going by their CVs. Let’s hope Rushanara is now able to build solid grassroots support and Rupa gets selected for a different seat.

    Filed under: Party politics

    Not an open thread

    by Katy at 3:57 am    

    I am not in the mood for an open thread this week, I’m afraid.

    Normally I use the open thread to ask you to give me something interesting to read, to watch, to listen to or to think about. And politics is strictly verboten. But this week I’m going to break all the rules and recommend you some reading instead.

    Sandmonkey is an Egyptian blogger. He’s been writing for a while. He gave those of us who have never been to Egypt a window into its society. He is a passionate believer in democracy. No doubt as many Egyptians disagree with his views as agree with them; that’s usually how it works, isn’t it? But today he’s announced that he has reached a stage where he no longer feels that it is safe for him to blog.

    Why? Read this.

    And then this.

    And then read all of his archives, and check out his blogroll too. You’ll be glad you did.

    Filed under: Current affairs
    27th April, 2007

    Taking on the BNP (pt 2)

    by Sunny at 6:03 pm    

    One of the problems I have with media interviews of BNP people is that, because of the instantaneous nature of the medium, they can lie and get away with it. In a recent interview with the BBC for example one of their goons Simon Smith made this claim:

    Immigration and crime are the same thing. In West Bromwich and Smethwick we have the highest crime rates. Where we’ve got a more indigenous population and in Wednesbury we have lower crime figures. Multiculturalism doesn’t work.

    Except that this doesn’t add up at all, as Unity at Ministry of Truth shows. In fact he takes that apart in his typically comprehensive way. Most people may know the BNP are lying bastards but it isn’t so easy to have the facts on hand to challenge such lies. Inevitably such lies will be believed by racists who are less interested in facts and more in polemics. But how should the media respond?

    Filed under: Media,The BNP

    What really happened in the East End?

    by Sunny at 9:19 am    

    PP reader Halima points to a very interesting article. Last year the book ‘The New East End: Kinship, Race and Conflict’ was published to much fanfare.

    It reflected some of the preoccupations of Family and Kinship, attempting to trace the impact of government policy and its unintended consequences on communities.

    It controversially argued that administration of local housing policy had benefited Bangladeshis, leaving the white working class resentful and had contributed to the rise of racism in Tower Hamlets through the 80s and 90s. Trevor Phillips, then chair of the Commission for Racial Equality and now head of the Commission for Equality and Human Rights, declared the book, “one of the most important I’ve read for a long time”.

    Except that this wasn’t the whole picture.

    Earlier this month, a bitter meeting at the British Sociological Association aired some of the fury. The criticism of sociologists is vociferous. They argue it is “incompetent”, lacking any academic rigour and more about opinionated polemic than evidence. But this is more than an academic spat. People at the heart of the housing battles of Tower Hamlets in the 80s - residents, campaigners and housing officers - are equally perturbed. They argue it omits crucial elements of the wider picture; that it goes beyond explaining white racism to justifying it.

    “My report in 1994 showed how the council didn’t apply need and repeatedly discriminated against Bangladeshis in favour of whites. The reality is the opposite of what they claimed,” said Adams, adding that repeated investigations in the 80s and early 90s uncovered evidence of systematic discrimination in housing policy against Bangladeshis.

    “What they omit is that there was some joint action … they also omit the fact that there was a very high level of racial violence on the streets. Even if all the housing problems had been solved, the racism would still need to have been tackled - there’s a long history of it in the East End with anti-semitism and anti-Irish sentiment.”

    This from a report in Society Guardian last week. Isn’t that interesting? The book, which said Bangladeshis in the East End got it easy misrepresented the whole truth, ignoring the racism and prejudice they faced in getting housing. More interesting points:

    Bangladeshis are depicted as largely passive recipients of a middle-class “do-good” type of welfare generosity, but researchers argue this erases the struggle of a generation of small Bangladeshi groups who campaigned for racial justice.

    It dangerously explains racism away by blaming welfare policy, and thus unintentionally both exonerates racism and undermines the importance of need in allocating welfare.

    Read the whole article [hat tip: Halima]
    Update: 5CC has more intelligent commentary on this.

    Update 2: PP commenter Halima has a letter in the Guardian on this.

    Filed under: Race politics

    Let asylum seekers illegal immigrants work

    by Sunny at 5:18 am    

    Two thirds of Britons believe illegal immigrants who have been in the UK for more than four years and who work and pay taxes should be allowed to stay, according to a poll. The survey of 1,004 British adults also found two out of three people believe asylum seekers should be allowed to work.

    The campaign proposes an “earned regularisation” programme which would offer provisional work permits to migrants who become permanent by having stable employment and passing language tests.[icEaling]

    Update: The Independent has more on this today. MPs have also swung into action.

    A growing cross-party campaign for the 500,000 long-term illegal migrants in Britain to be given an amnesty with rights to work in this country will gain pace at Westminster today as MPs call for the regularisation of “irregular” migrants on humanitarian, security, and economic grounds.

    Jon Cruddas, a candidate for the Labour deputy leadership, is to table a cross-party Commons motion in support of the changes, which have received celebrity backing in the form of Nick Broomfield, the director of a documentary-style film based on the story of the 23 illegal Chinese immigrants who died while picking cockles for a gang master in Morecambe Bay.

    Update 2: Title of post changed thanks to Katherine’s comment.

    26th April, 2007

    Both Home Office and police leaked info

    by Sunny at 3:35 am    

    Tony Blair thinks there is no reason to investigate whether Home Office ministers leaked any information to the media before the recent ‘Muslim soldier beheading’ raids. But today’s Guardian proves otherwise:

    The Guardian has been told that an aide to John Reid, the home secretary, was responsible for one of those leaks, and has also learnt that there is strong suspicion among the highest-ranking police at Scotland Yard that one of their own officers also briefed the media.

    The row over the leaks which accompanied those arrests erupted after deputy assistant commissioner Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, warned on Tuesday that such disclosures, both in advance of operations and while they were ongoing, could be illegal and highly dangerous.

    Defence lawyers are expected to argue that it will be impossible for any of the men arrested in Birmingham to receive a fair trial as a consequence of the leaks at the time of their arrest.

    Trouble at Vaisakhi mela

    by Sunny at 3:26 am    

    The Gurudwara (Guru’s home) is the communal area where Sikhs come to worship, eat food with each other and get married. It is also a lucrative business, as anyone more intimately familiar with the institution will point out. People donate abundant amounts of money without giving much thought to who it goes to or what it’s spent on. Unsurprisingly then, some people get very interested in controlling them. And that is where the trouble starts.

    On Sunday, during the annual Vaisakhi celebrations in Birmingham, a huge fight broke out between rival gangs and one man got badly stabbed. The police has since arrested four people. Some say it was a fight between Shere Punjab and Babbar Khalsa. Others link to the control of Smethwick Gurudwara. YouTube has the BBC News and ITV News reports. Laban Tall has some more material, illustrating, if anything, that young British Sikhs can’t spell to save their lives.
    Update: Three men have been remanded now (via Laban).
    More seriously, in Nov 2005 Jay Singh wrote an article here asking whether mob violence was taking British Sikhs into crisis. With gang-violence constantly flaring up in Birmingham over control of Gurudwaras, could this be a real possibility? And where are the local “community leaders”? Hiding from the issue and pretending that there isn’t a problem with Gurudwara corruption, money laundering to Punjab and complete lack of transparency within management committees.

    Filed under: Organisations,Sikh
    25th April, 2007

    Typically, Reid is all over the place

    by Sunny at 1:33 pm    

    The home secretary, John Reid, today cautioned against scaremongering over the nature of the terrorist threat facing Britain but then went on to warn about the “devastating consequences” of a potential al-Qaida assault on Britain’s financial markets and energy supplies. [Guardian]

    Well there’s a surprise - John Reid makes contradictory scare-mongering statements.

    Despite the high-level denials, the Liberal Democrats produced a dossier of what they said were “numerous cases” in which “Whitehall sources” had given unauthorised briefings during ongoing terror investigations.

    Interesting. Does anyone know more about this dossier? Liberty issued this today:

    Liberty today welcomed the condemnation of leaks to the media during anti-terror operations by the UK’s top anti-terror police chief Peter Clarke. Following extensive leaks to the media during an anti-terror operation in Birmingham in February 2007, the human rights group sent a freedom of information request to the Home Office seeking clarity on its public briefings policy. The response, due on 3 May 2007, will help Liberty to determine whether new guidance on off the record anti-terror media briefings should be established.

    Liberty Director Shami Chakrabarti said: “Secret off the record anti-terror briefings not only heighten public fear but also undermine police operations, prejudice fair trials and isolate communities who could provide key intelligence. There is grave danger of party politics trumping public safety considerations if political staff do indeed play a role in off the record media briefings during these anti-terror operations.”

    Reid adds:

    “I believe it is crucial that the home secretary wakes up and thinks about the security of the nation first and foremost every morning. That is what I do now,” said Mr Reid.

    In other words, “I have no other purpose in life other than to scare you into submission”. Can’t wait until Gordon Brown shuffles him out.

    Filed under: Current affairs
    24th April, 2007

    Who runs London?

    by Sunny at 6:04 pm    

    London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Minister for London Jim Fitzpatrick MP will launch Operation Black Vote’s Who runs London?, a booklet and interactive website that map out the governance of the city of London. The 130 page booklet and website will list the capitals strategic decision making institutions including the GLA, GOL, the 32 London councils and provide information on their role and why ordinary citizens might contact them.

    The website and booklets will be an indispensable resource for community groups, individuals and students of citizenship. The launch event will take place tomorrow at the Thistle Victoria Hotel, Buckingham Palace Road, SW1W 0SJ from 11am-12pm (Wednesday 25th April).

    This is most definitely to be welcomed, although I found the list of BME and Media organisations painfully inadequate. For the former it focuses mostly on the usual suspect of religious bodies (how is ‘Sikhs in England’ even vaguely influential?) and misses out other key bodies such as womens organisations (Newham Asian Womens Project, Southall Black Sisters, Al-Nisa Society etc). Those sections need much more work, but the main bit looks quite handy.

    Filed under: Events,Party politics

    Yard finally arrests Abu Izzadeen

    by Sunny at 2:53 pm    

    Abu Izzadeen, who has graced our media far too many times with his ranting and raving, especially on the Today programme and Newsnight, has been arrested by Scotland Yard.

    Anti-terror police today arrested six men on suspicion of inciting others to commit terrorist acts overseas and raising funds for terrorism. One of the men, Abu Izzadeen, heckled the home secretary, John Reid, when Mr Reid visited east London last year.

    Officers from the Metropolitan police counter-terrorism command, working with local police, arrested the men - aged between 21 and 35 - at five addresses in London and one in Luton early this morning.

    Filed under: Current affairs

    George Galloway and Piara Khabra

    by Sunny at 11:12 am    

    George Galloway MP (Bethnal Bow and Green) has promised he won’t be standing at the next election. Piara Khabra MP (Southall) was told a while back he wouldn’t be allowed to stand for his seat again. So who will replace them both?

    The race to find a successor to Oona King as Labour MP for Bethnal Green and Bow has hit fever pitch after the party finally settled on its shortlist of candidates. Former Tower Hamlets council leaders John Biggs and Helal Abbas have been named alongside four previously selected contestants. They now battle it out with Tower Hamlets councillor Lutfur Rahman and the three remaining women in the contest, Dr Rupa Huq, Rushanara Ali and Cllr Shiria Khatun. A grand hustings takes place on April 26 with a final ballot of 500 party members two days later. [East London Advertiser via David Osler]

    The person who gets elected is very likely to become the next MP for that area. Meanwhile, I didn’t get around to writing about this earlier, Labour has imposed an all-women’s-shortlist for Southall. Unsurprisingly that has annoyed a few local councillors but that’s nothing to cry over. The smart money is on Sonika Nirwal taking over. If she wins the seat, she will be competing with Priti Patel to take the title of first Asian woman MP.

    Filed under: Party politics
    23rd April, 2007

    Sickening advertising

    by Sunny at 10:25 pm    

    Thanks to Zahed for sending this to me. Annoyed readers could complain about these ads to the company and / or the Advertising Standards Authority.

    Update: On a related note, the Observer had this on Sunday:

    John Lewis is set to revolutionise the way high street stores use models to sell clothes by becoming the first retailer to use ‘normal-sized’ women in its advertising rather than thin models. The shop, widely respected for its ethical practices, is seeking to address the damaging controversy over ‘size zero’ models by employing a variety of women of different shapes and weights in its promotional activities, including shop window mannequins.

    It recently caused a stir in the fashion industry by using a size 12 model to market its summer swimwear collection. After finding that none of its usual British model suppliers had women of that size on their books, the store turned to South African model Lauren Moller.

    Filed under: Media
    21st April, 2007

    It’s another open thread but I’m afraid I can’t think of a specific name for it at this point in time!

    by Katy at 2:21 pm    

    Charles Schulz, who drew the Peanuts comic strip, had a yearly April Fool strip which was always the same scenario: Lucy would pretend to hold a football (a wrongly shaped American football, not a proper football, but whatever) for Charlie Brown to kick and then pull it away at the last minute. Every year there was a different punchline. In an interview Schulz said that every year he was afraid that he wouldn’t be able to think of a new punchline, and that although so far he had managed it it was getting harder and harder.

    Well, that is where I am with naming the open threads, and I’ve only been writing for PP for a year or so.

    But then again I have to think of a name for the open thread every two weeks, whereas Schulz only had to draw the April Fool’s Day strip once a year.

    So I’m not really sure what point I’m trying to make. But here is an open thread. The usual rules apply: happy stuff, people. No politics, no racism, no arseholery in any way shape or form. I reserve the right to delete any comments that contravene the rules, and also to hack your legs off with blunt instruments. (No, seriously. I run a tight ship here. I believe in discipline. And I have found that the only way to teach people not to spoil the open thread is to hack off their limbs. It’s the only language you people understand.)

    So - to the open thread! But I repeat: no politics, nastiness or miserable stuff. Not if you value your extremities.

    Filed under: Current affairs
    20th April, 2007

    BBC’s Jade Goody shame

    by Sunny at 1:44 pm    

    Well, now we know that BBC television executives will sink to any depth to further their ratings.

    Jade Goody is set to make a TV comeback - talking about her part in the ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ racism row. The shamed reality TV star - who saw her popularity plummet after being accused of bullying Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty in the Big Brother house - will speak about the experience on BBC1′s ‘You Can’t Fire Me, I’m Famous’ this summer.

    A source told Britain’s The Sun newspaper: “Jade was beginning to think her bad luck would never end. But getting on this show will do her good. It’s her chance to tell her side of the story - without anyone telling her how to say it or what her ‘media strategy’ should be.” [LifeStyleExtra]

    Now who is willing to bet that the ‘source’ was a BBC executive or someone from her management team praying her career gets back on track and delivers the ratings?

    What kind of a message is the BBC giving out? That you can be an obnoxious, racist bully on television (and society) but if you pull in the ratings then you can find salvation through our wonderful public service broadcaster. I have a hunch they dreamed up the show after trying to find a way to get Jade Goody back on their screens.

    Not only is this the epitome of trash TV, but it is insulting to ethnic minorities that our public service broadcaster is trying to help Jade Goody get her ‘media career’ back on track despite her behaviour. Isn’t this going to simply legitimise casual racism and bullying? I think it’s time to dig out those BBC executive effigies. I’m going to have fun with this…

    Filed under: Media,Race politics

    Why some America right-wingers are idiotic

    by Sunny at 11:16 am    
    Filed under: Media,Race politics
    19th April, 2007

    Taking on the BNP in Local Elections (pt 1)

    by Sunny at 6:09 pm    

    I’ll be running a regular series of information posts and articles on the BNP and their tactics in advance of the upcoming Local Elections in May. Yes, there are local elections happening next month in case you weren’t quite aware.

    The racist party is funding around 655 candidates in this year’s Local Elections (Guardian), compared to 363 last year and just 221 in 2004. The Times has published an interview with Nick Griffin today, which I still found a bit nauseatingly rosy.

    Blink have published a full list of BNP candidates contesting seats. The Methodist, United Reform and Baptist Union Churches have published a briefing document on racism and extremism on the elections. The Methodist Church has also produced guidelines with suggestions on how churches can respond to extremist political parties.
    Brett at Harry’s Place points out how not voting helps the BNP.

    Filed under: Race politics,The BNP

    Racial quotas for Met police?

    by Sunny at 4:52 pm    

    The London Metropolitan Police has a problem. In a city which is now nearly 4030% non-white, out of their 31,000 employees, only about 7% are of ethnic minority backgrounds. Only in certain cases do I believe that employees of particular industries or sectors need to ‘represent’ the people they serve on race and gender lines. Along with media and politics, the police is definitely another. I’m sure our readers will have a vigorous debate on whether representation is actually necessary anyway, but I believe it is.

    In order to rectify this situation, the police is now actively discussing and debating positive discrimination and ethnic quotas (via pommygranate). Now to be honest I don’t think many ethnic minorities will want to be recruited on the basis of their colour rather than merit, so this is not really up for discussion. The point is, if the police do not adopt such quotas, what else could they be doing?

    For a start they could review why they run long and expensive vendettas against senior officers they don’t like? They could review why brilliant senior officers keep getting passed over for promotion? Maybe the Met police could be more open about what it’s doing to tackle racism within the police?

    I get the feeling such racial quotas will only increase resentment within the force. What is needed here is a wholesale review and a change in the internal culture.

    Filed under: Race politics
    18th April, 2007

    The Indian love for rioting

    by Sunny at 1:31 am    

    When 16-year-old Rukku Khushi came to the Star News office at Mahalakshmi with 23-year-old Abdul Kadir, all the way from Surat on April 13, the story was simple: A Hindu minor was in love with a Muslim boy.

    But on Monday, soon after the couple had gone on national television, the channel’s Mumbai office was attacked by men belonging to a little-known outfit called the Hindu Rashtra Sena. They ransacked the office, smashed windows and beat up two guards, accusing the channel of negative portrayal of the Hindu girl from Surat “kidnapped” by her companion. [Indian Express]

    And on top of that…

    Angry crowds in several Indian cities burned effigies of Richard Gere on Monday after he swept a popular Bollywood actress into his arms and kissed her several times during an AIDS awareness event.

    Photographs of the 57-year-old actor embracing Shilpa Shetty and kissing her on the cheek at an HIV/AIDS awareness event in New Delhi were splashed across Monday’s front pages in India - a country where public displays of affection are largely taboo.

    In Mumbai, members of the right-wing Hindu nationalist group Shiv Sena beat burning effigies of Gere with sticks and set fire to glamorous shots of Shetty. Similar protests broke out in other cities, including Varanasi, Hinduism’s holiest city, and in the northern town of Meerut, where crowds chanted, “Down with Shilpa Shetty!” [INS News]

    There can only be two explanations:
    1) There are too many Indian men with time on their hands.
    2) Both incidents illustrate the need for Indian men to regulate and control the actions of Indian women.

    Update: I am making a generalisation here, almost sarcastically, but perhaps I should elaborate and provide context. The protests and rioting are standard policy for the Hindu far-right, including organisations such as the VHP and Shiv Sena. They are always the ones that protest against Valentines and other “slurs on Indian culture” with such protests, which basically equates to saying: “how dare these women do something we disapprove of“. They are, as some point out in the comments, sexually and intellectually challenged. The vast majority of Indian males don’t get involved in any riot of course, these are almost always precipitated by organised religious groups (as is the case for most of South Asia).

    I wanted to highlight these events not because they’re funny or idiotic, or pretend far worse isn’t happening in South Asia, but because they are part of a pattern of trying to control and subjugate women - a topic not really discussed when such events take place.

    Filed under: India,Sex equality
    17th April, 2007

    Sikhs and British multiculturalism (pt 2)

    by Sunny at 1:55 pm    

    The British Sikh experience is closer to the British Muslim experience than most people think or even acknowledge. Dr Gurharpal Singh’s article below illustrated how the fight over religious exemptions started with the former decades ago. This negotiation for exemptions is not the death-knell of secularism but should be part of any society’s committment to tolerance and respect. It applied to Jews before them and so on. The line isn’t clearly defined of course - it has to be negotiated and deliberated in each case. For example I’d support exemptions for halal food or turbans but not different criminal laws for groups on the basis of race or faith.

    But the similarity between Sikhs and Muslims also extends to the inter-generational tension between younger British-born offspring and the older generation born back in the sub-continent. In a follow-up article to Dr Singh’s, I’ve also written a short piece for Catalyst magazine on the parallels between ‘youngsters’ of these two faiths in contemporary Britain.

    But the more religious youngsters are increasingly on a path of conflict with the older generation because the latter are seen as unconcerned about such issues. Management committees are notoriously opaque and difficult to engage with, and are frequently prone to allegations of corruption or other wrong-doing.

    This inter-generational tension is further exacerbated by the lack of open media platforms to foster debate and tackle relevant issues. Here too, there is an unwillingness to push the boundaries of free speech within the community. When someone then raises a taboo issue in the mainstream media, as Gurpreet Bhatti did with her play Behzti, there is an instinctive defensive reaction that ‘dirty laundry’ must not be aired in public.

    Sikhs and British multiculturalism

    by Sunny at 1:22 am    

    Long before British Muslims became the new bogeymen, it was the Sikhs who tested the limits of multiculturalism and religious exemptions in public life here. In an interesting article for last month’s Catalyst magazine (by the CRE), Dr Gurharpal Singh briefly reviews their presence here:

    At the height of domestic opposition to coloured immigration in the 1960s, there were two typical responses to the settlement of Sikhs in large numbers. The first, using language not too dissimilar from that currently being used in reference to British Muslims, questioned the possibility of Sikhs ever being able to integrate into British society. Writing about the initial Sikh settlement in Gravesend, John Gummer concluded that they were ‘strangers in a strange land and … intellectually and educationally ill-equipped to deal with the complexities of a modern civilisation’. Gummer subsequently became a cabinet minister and chairman of the Conservative Party.

    In their pioneering study of 1969, Colour and Citizenship: a Report on British Race Relations, Rose et al were more optimistic. For them, the trajectory of the Sikh community’s future development in Britain depended largely on ‘efforts by government and by local authorities … to help adolescents to remain within their own culture while feeling at home in the culture of their adopted country’. This analysis eventually informed the policy formation process on ‘race relations’ of the then Labour government, and one of its leading figures, Home Secretary Roy Jenkins, is credited with formulating the credo of British multiculturalism, not as ‘a flattening process of uniformity, but cultural diversity coupled with equality of opportunity in an atmosphere of mutual tolerance’.

    In the 50 years since Jenkins outlined his vision, British Sikhs have tested, if not expanded, the limits of this framework. Since the 1960s, successive campaigns over the right to wear turbans, beards and kirpans (small daggers carried by orthodox Sikhs) in public places and at work and schools have generated intense debates about the limits of public accommodation of Sikh demands.

    The whole article is worth reading, for how the context is similar with British Muslims today and for what Dr Singh sees as the future for British Sikhs based on recent events.

    16th April, 2007

    Articles to read, stuff to chew on

    by Sunny at 4:02 pm    

    1) Writing in the Media Guardian today, former New Statesmen editor Peter Wilby:

    Britain, the papers thought, was made to look powerless and wimpish by Iran and the interviews only reinforced that impression. But the press, I think, is misreading the game. The west is competing with Iran not to project power, but to project victimhood. It does not want stiff upper lips, but trembling lower ones, preferably with tears, to signify, by modern convention, the authenticity of pain. When Lord Palmerston wished to show foreigners they could not deal lightly with British citizens, he sent a gunboat. His successors send Sir Trevor McDonald into action. That is how wars are conducted in the media age.

    2) In BBC News yesterday:

    Fifty-seven per cent of the Muslims polled said they identified strongly with their country, compared with 48% of the general public. Muslims were also more likely to express confidence in the police (78% to 69%), national government (64% to 36%), the justice system (67% to 55%) and elections (73% to 60%). Nearly three-quarters of the Muslims said they felt loyal to the UK, and 82% said they respected other religions.

    Can’t wait to see this poll come out in full. That should shut up some of the usual racists.

    3) In Karachi, Pakistan, 10s of 1000s of people came out in protest against a harsh Taliban-style court set up by a mosque to curb “vulgar” activities. The imam of that mosque had also recently threatened President Musharraf. The protest organisers, MQM, branded the mosque “religious terrorists”.

    4) Writing in CounterCurrents, Kavita Krishnan briefly mentions how the Hindu far-right movement (called Hindutva) have used women for their own ends, adding that:

    But it would be a mistake to imagine that this aspect of Hindutva – Bajrangi’s brand of violent policing of women, or the Bajrang Dal’s threat issued a few years back, that Hindu women who married Muslims would have their noses cut off, or its periodic threats against women wearing jeans or couples celebrating Valentine’s Day – marks a rupture with a gentler and more benign Hinduism. Communal fascism of the Hindutva variety draws sustenance from the widely prevailing anxiety of Hindu caste communities about breaching of patriarchal codes, caste and community boundaries – and the resultant threat to property relations and status.

    Certainly, feminists can cite plenty of examples through Indian history to show how Hindu religious bodies have sanctioned violence against women (Sati) or put them in a lower social order (the Manu Smriti is one example). But there have been plenty of revivalist movements who don’t fit that patriarchal narrative. But more than that, such deep in-grained patriarchy in Hindu families (as there is in Muslim societies) has not come about through religious sanction but this system of caste, which puts all the emphasis on women as carriers of culture than men.

    I’ll give you an example. Two weeks ago the author and former UN secretary-general candidate Shashi Tharoor wrote an article in the Times of India lamenting the demise of Indian women wearing the sari. As plenty of critics pointed out, and he acknowledged rather lamely, he said nothing about Indian men abandoning traditional Indian clothes in favour of shirts and trousers, focusing instead on women alone. Such sexist attitudes are endemic of course in Indian society, where a set of rules apply to women that apparently do not apply to men (including on modesty).

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