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  • 22nd May, 2008

    Black cheerleaders not welcome

    by Rohin at 7:26 pm    

    The Indian Premier League has invited cheerleaders from overseas to add a bit of US-style razzmatazz (read: flesh) to the matches. Two British girls were turned away just before going on stage during a match at Mohali. They were told the crowd don’t want to see black people, only beautiful white girls. The company responsible denies racism and says they will investigate when a formal complaint is made. The two girls did eventually get to perform. [Link]

    Filed under: Race politics,Sports

    Time to kill postal voting too

    by Sunny at 3:48 am    

    Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob says the way to encourage more ethnic minority women into politics is by killing off postal voting.

    Coun Yaqoob said: “A particular issue I want to raise is postal voting on demand. I want to call for it to be scrapped. “Thousands of Asian women have been denied secret ballots and thousands of ballots have been stolen.”

    She said she had experienced pressure from within the Asian community not to stand as a councillor. “There were people saying it wasn’t the job of a woman to be doing this,” she added.

    But she had experienced no overt racism when she stood as a councillor, she said. “There are misconceptions. People assume you are only interested in representing part of the community and you have to tell them you want to represent the whole community.”

    I agree with her on killing off postal voting. It probably won’t encourage more women into politics, but it will certainly get rid of some dodgy councillors and politicians in Asian areas who are helped by the biraderi (brotherhood) system. It’ll help Salma, put it that way.

    And much as her politics on Muslim issues annoys me, I’d rather Salma Yaqoob go further up the political system. She is a bit of a leftie and a feminist herself, even if somewhat half-heartedly. But first she’ll have to extract herself from the train-wreck that is Respect and join the Libdems or Labour.

    Go on Salma, stop wasting everyone’s time, bite the bullet, and join a serious political party. You’ve already joined that Labour commission. You’ve got less than two years. Just do it.

    Ethnic minority shortlists dead

    by Sunny at 3:37 am    

    A few months ago Sunder Katwala (of the Fabian Society) and I argued that having ethnic minority shortlists, where only non-white candidates were put forward for a particular parliamentary seat, to boost their numbers in parliament, was a bad idea.

    The proposal is being dropped now. Poor Keith Vaz MP will no doubt be crying, because it extinguishes more opportunities for him to push his buddies into power.

    21st May, 2008

    Israel and Syria admit the start of formal peace talks

    by Leon at 10:00 pm    

    Well, well…

    Israel and Syria announced today they have begun indirect talks to reach a “comprehensive peace” in the first formal negotiations between the two mutual enemies for eight years.

    Israeli and Syrian officials have been in Istanbul since Monday, holding meetings with Turkish officials who have shuttled between both sides. Officials said the process began after the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, visited Turkey in February.

    “The two sides stated their intention to conduct these talks in good faith and with an open mind,” said Olmert’s office. “They decided to pursue the dialogue between them in a serious and continuous way, in order to achieve the goal of comprehensive peace in accordance with the Madrid Conference terms of reference for peace.”

    It is not clear how much has been agreed, but Israel has said it wants Syria to cut ties to Islamist groups such as Hizbullah and Hamas, while Syria wants the return of sovereignty over the Golan Heights, °©captured by Israel during the 1967 war.

    Hope for the Middle East yet?

    Filed under: Middle East

    Did Tesco breach electoral rules?

    by Rumbold at 7:47 pm    

    Regular Pickler ZinZin sent me this interesting article, on the possible breach of electoral rules by Everton football club and Tesco:

    “A DOSSIER has been handed to police claiming that Everton FC and Tesco may have illegally influenced the results of the recent local elections in Knowsley, the Daily Post can reveal. They could face prosecution over electoral offences once an investigation has been concluded by Merseyside Police.

    The dossier and complaint refer to a glossy leaflet and DVD circulated to every household in Kirkby at a cost of £22,000 during the final week of the recent local election campaign. The mail-out promoted the merits of the £400m Destination Kirkby development which includes a massive food store, new football stadium for Everton and shopping centre.

    Continue Reading...
    Filed under: Current affairs

    More good news!

    by Sunny at 5:23 pm    

    More good news today.

    A gay Iranian teenager who said he could be executed if he was sent home has been given asylum in Britain. Mehdi Kazemi, 19, came to London to study English in 2005, but later discovered his boyfriend had been charged with sodomy in Iran and hanged.

    A 38-year-old Iranian soldier who deserted rather than lay anti-personnel landmines also won the right to stay.

    The asylum policy does work sometimes eh? Hat-tip to Stroppybird. We’ve blogged about Mehdi Kazemi on here before.

    Plus, the government has also agreed to give temp workers equal rights (after employment of 12 weeks). While all the limelight was grabbed yesterday by the abortion bill, this was also passed through. Well done, Labour! You aren’t entirely bad.

    Filed under: Economics

    A bit exhausted

    by Sunny at 5:17 pm    

    I’ve been emailing, campaigning and blogging so much about the whole abortion thing over on Liberal Conspiracy that I’ve temporarily run out of things to say on other issues. Heh. Hence my lack of blogging on PP last few days. Now that the vote is over, there are a few interesting reflections I’ll share tomorrow and get back to regular blogging here.

    Filed under: Blog

    The ‘culture wars’ are coming to Britain

    by Sunny at 5:05 pm    

    From my article today for CIF:

    It’s important first to understand how religious fundamentalists of all stripes work. In order to drive up their numbers, support and media attention, they need controversies and wedge issues to get the core base fired up. The British Christian fundamentalists are importing tactics from their religious counterparts in the US where gay rights and abortion have been used for decades to wage “culture wars” that have pushed the country to the right on social issues.

    Their plan in the UK will be the same. The human fertilisation and embryology controversy and the argument over hybrid embryos, abortion and gay rights is merely the start of a larger cultural battle that they will want to wage across Britain for years to come. Like Hizb ut-Tahrir and their Islamic caliphate pipe-dreams, this lobby is in it for the long haul.

    The time to sit on the fence on this issue is over because this isn’t just about abortion. Their agenda is clear - to take us back to the days of God’s rule and intolerant religious fundamentalism. If the Christian fundamentalists are getting organised to push through their homophobic and misogynist agenda, then liberals must also get organised.

    20th May, 2008

    Christian fundamentalists and British Muslims

    by Sunny at 5:00 pm    

    Via Ministry of Truth, this is an excerpt from last night’s documentary.

    I have some advice for British Muslim groups who might want to get involved in the controversy over the HFE bill and abortion: don’t.

    Foolish people from a rent-a-quote Muslim group sent out a press release yesterday saying it hoped MPs would vote to end abortion. Apart from the obvious fact that the fools didn’t understand the legislation anyway, the point is that this debate is a poisoned chalice for Muslim groups.

    There is no doubt that Nadine Dorries and her crew will try and enlist them in a broad coalition in her own culture wars. But the first thing we know about these nutjobs is that they’re outright bigots. The second thing we know is that they will try and use British Muslims for their own agenda when necessary (to get media attention for example) and demonise them when necessary.

    To their credit, the MCB seems to have so far stayed away from passing any judgement on the bill. I hope they remain that way.

    On other other hand, any attempt by British Muslim groups to loudly claim abortion is against their religion and that they’ll be encouraging all Muslims to write to their MPs opposing the HFE Bill, would be the best shot in the arm to the pro-choice movement. Then the media would finally start saying what a horror it is that men (Muslim men!!!) are trying to restrict white women from choice over their own bodies. The Daily Mail wouldn’t know what to do.

    Christian fundamentalism in the UK

    by Sunny at 6:04 am    

    Did anyone watch this programme last night on Channel 4?

    As the Human Fertilisation and Embryo Bill continues its way through Parliament, David Modell follows some of the leading members of Christian pressure groups as they attempt to win converts and convince MPs to base laws on Biblical beliefs.

    Hard-line Christian activists are now mobilising believers in an attempt to make an impact on society nationally. Followers believe abortion and homosexuality should be illegal, there should be no sex before marriage and that the law of blasphemy should be strictly enforced.

    Well, we exposed this on Liberal Conspiracy last week, by pointing out that Nadine Dorries MP was being funded by Christian groups in her campaign to curtail abortion rights. The main Christian groups mentioned in that documentary: LCF, CARE etc are not only bigoted, but behind Nadine Dorries MP’s campaign.

    If you missed it, like me (anyone have it on YouTube?), you can read this article about it. Modern Tories - same as the old Tories.

    19th May, 2008

    Abortion and misogyny

    by Rumbold at 5:38 pm    

    In the debate over the abortion laws, a number of commentators have labelled attempts to tighten the law as misogynistic, since it will decrease the control a woman has over her own body. This might well be true, but abortion can also help to reinforce misogynistic attitudes. Many families around the world have a preference for a boy over a girl, whether because of the superior strength of the average male, dowry costs, the desire to carry on the family name, or because of one-child policies. Abortion, combined with improved ultrasound scanning, has resulted in tens of millions of female foetuses being aborted because of their gender. China and India both have 107 men for every 100 women, while Pakistan has 108 men to every 100 women. The treatment of women as second-class citizens thus begins in the womb.

    I don’t think that the average member of the ‘Coalition for Choice’ knowingly endorses these sort of misogynistic attitudes, nor would restricting abortion help in this matter, but for those who talk unreservedly about the ‘right to choose’, ask yourselves what is the difference between aborting a foetus because you don’t want a baby and aborting a foetus because of its gender? I would be interested to know the dividing line, if there is even one.

    This is not a parody, promise

    by Sunny at 5:06 am    

    This is straight from Melanie Phillips’s blog:

    Anthony Browne has an excellent piece in this week’s Spectator saying that what Britain needs is US-style think-tanks whose size enables them to do what the far more modest British think-tanks cannot do and for which there is a crying need — to challenge the intellectual stranglehold of the universities. Indeed, we need to go much further than that. At the heart of Britain’s spiral of intellectual, moral, social and political disintegration (yes, I am indeed understating the case) lies the intellectual hegemony of the left, enforced through bullying, intimidation, character assassination and the whole bag of tricks used to stifle an open society.

    Continue Reading...

    I want my juice without VAT!

    by Sunny at 4:30 am    

    This is a guest post by regular PP commenter Douglas Clark

    I am a huge supporter of the petitions hereabouts. I have signed up for Iraq interpreters. I have signed up for ‘no change’ to 24 weeks.

    I have even signed up for no VAT on juice. What?

    The no VAT on juice is not a Pickled Politics issue. It is an Innocent (fruit juice plc) issue. But it is right. If I buy oranges - VAT free - I can squeeze them, using my juicer. Yet, if I want to buy juice, already squeezed, add VAT.

    Given that juice is good for you, yes it is, I am somewhat amazed that this was (part of) the response from HMG:

    Dietary based taxes were considered by Derek Wanless in ‘Securing Good Health for the Whole Population’ -published in 2004. The report highlights a number of difficulties of principle and practice in any attempt to use the tax system to influence diet. Furthermore, European VAT rules require that in most cases, the same VAT rate is applied to all competing products. This limits the extent to which any new reduced rate could be targeted on the most healthy fruit drinks.

    Petition information -

    It is not the most important issue on the planet, it is, however, indicative of how out of touch this government actually is. I think.

    Filed under: Humour,Party politics
    18th May, 2008

    A problem at West Midlands Police

    by Sunny at 5:18 pm    

    Nick Cohen writes this today:

    Far more vulnerable people than journalists are suffering from the double standard. Earlier this year, the Centre for Social Cohesion issued a report on honour killings and beatings. South Asian and Middle Eastern women’s groups reported an increasingly widespread trend. Officials who should treat all women equally were deciding that where their community’s religious and cultural practices conflicted with the law, the law had to give way.

    Zalikha Ahmed, director of the Apna Haq refuge, told the report’s researchers: ‘We don’t visit the station when certain Asian officers are on because some of them are perpetrators and one of them said that he would not arrest someone who used force on his wife.’ A worker in a women’s group in the north, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisals, added she had been ‘appalled’ by an Asian ‘chief inspector who had offered to help a family track a girl down’. The report’s authors noticed that women’s groups appeared to have problems with one force in particular. It was the West Midlands police.

    Its unfortunate that Nick uses the Sufi Muslim Council and Civitas backed Centre for Social Cohesion to back up his examples, but he has a point about West Midlands Police. Tales of women campaigners not getting support from police officers have circulated loads of times. But its not just that.

    Last year during the Vaisakhi Mela in Birmingham a mini-riot broke out between rival gangs and groups, which I blogged here. Guess what - the police completely down-played the incident and didn’t even release the name of the man who got stabbed. Read the news report here. I have spoken to journalists from the area since, who say there are links between the police and some of the local trouble-makers. When trouble flares up, they downplay it in the name of “community cohesion”. These are not just isolated incidents - there is something fundamentally wrong at West Midlands Police in my view. In losing the court action to Channel 4, I hope an inquiry is held and something is done to change the local police culture.

    17th May, 2008

    Religious symbols in schools; a strange twist

    by Rumbold at 9:04 pm    

    Normally when religious symbols and schools make the news, it is to do with pupils being denied the opportunity to display the symbols. A Sikh school in the Indian Punjab has done the opposite however, and insisted that the Hindus in the school (who make up around 20% of the pupils), have to wear turbans. A number of Hindu parents are complaining that they were not told about this, while the school claim that this has been their policy for a while and that it was clearly stated. Looking up the school’s code of conduct, one finds that:

    “All non-sikh students follow their own religion but they have to cover their head with Patka (up to Class V) or Dastaar (Classes VI to XII) and they have to follow the spiritual and religious curriculum of Akal Academy.”

    (A Patka is a cloth head covering, sometimes worn instead of a turban. A Dastaar is a turban)

    As far as I can tell, the school has done nothing wrong. It is a Sikh school and insists on a uniform. The rules are clearly laid out, and the rule about non-Sikhs’ headgear is covered in the first point of the freely-available code of conduct. The only bone of contention would be whether expecting non-Sikhs to wear turbans is right from a religious point of view.

    Appeasement versus negotiations

    by Sunny at 4:40 pm    

    This discussion on America’s MSNBC, about Barack Obama and negotiating with Hamas (which I think is the right thing to do) is hilarious. via Gene.

    First Asian woman mayor in Britain

    by Sunny at 4:34 pm    

    … and it had to be Leicester, unsurprisingly. What a bizarre ceremonial hat though. Munjula Sood was born in Ludhiana. Well done to her.

    Filed under: British Identity

    I’d probably invade Burma

    by Sunny at 4:32 pm    

    … at this stage, to save lives.

    While Jim Jay isn’t convinced, I still think its an option worth thinking about.

    … and no, Iain, it doesn’t show the UN is useless, primarily because the UN is not supposed to twist any country’s arms, only provide a common place for discussion, mediation under the proviso of consensus.

    16th May, 2008

    More BNP in-fighting

    by Sunny at 2:24 am    

    Via Dave Cole, I find that Tory Troll has uncovered more evidence of BNP-infighting.

    The BNP’s national elections officer has condemned a challenge to Nick Griffin’s leadership of the party as ‘an abuse’ of the BNP constitution and ordered members not to sign nominations.

    The extraordinary email was sent by Eddy Butler after BNP councillor Colin Auty announced that he would stand for the leadership. In the email obtained by the Lancaster Unite Against Fascism group, Butler acknowledges that members have a right to challenge the leadership, but then says:

    “It is an important Right – it is a declaration of our Parties openness and commitment to democracy. However with Rights come responsibilities and duties. A Right without a duty is an abomination in any society. It is a recipe for chaos. Indeed in our modern society it is the incessant claiming of Rights by groups that shown no sense of duty or responsibility that is one of the key components of the undermining of the civic order of our country.”

    The challenge by Auty is thought to be related to a more serious challenge last year when some thought that the party may very well fracture into two competing entities. That risk was narrowly avoided after Griffins black ops department ordered expulsions, bugging operations and even the raiding of a members home.

    Fight fight fight!!

    15th May, 2008

    ‘Honour’-based violence conference

    by Rumbold at 1:53 pm    

    Yesterday I attended a conference on ‘honour’-based violence (HBV), which was organised by the charity IKWRO (Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation). It was an excellent event and was very well organised by Diana Nammi, Joanne Payton et al from IKWRO. The speakers were interesting, and ranged from policemen to CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) employees to charity workers. While there was enough interesting material to write half a dozen posts, I just want to examine some of the salient points:

    -The current estimate for the number of ‘honour’ killings worldwide is 5,000, and was compiled by UN official and human rights activist Asma Jahangir in 2000. Diana Nammi, founder of IKWRO, argues that this is a gross underestimation, as is the figure for the UK, which puts the number killed at 10-12 per year. Diana Nammi pointed out that IKRWO helped 70 women last year escape from HBV, and they are just one charity dealing with this sort of thing.

    Continue Reading...

    Re-evaluating the ‘no-platform’ policy

    by Sunny at 4:25 am    

    Should anti-racists continue to have a no-platform policy? The trade-union movement spearheaded this a long time ago and the move was vital in de-legitimising the BNP and National Front etc.

    But I’m not sure it works any more. The BNP has been successfully de-legitimised and it has become an acronym of abuse in most circles. The problem is that it has gone too far. We end up ignoring what the BNP say rather than taking on their arguments and accurately demolishing them.

    My fear is that because the establishment now ignores the BNP, those people pissed off with the establishment (most of the political parties) vote for it in protest. Adam Bienkov argued the same on Liberal Conspiracy a few days ago, regarding Richard Barnbrook - the BNP’s London Assembly candidate.

    I’m coming back to this because Unity has highlighted an instance of Birmingham University hosting a debate by the extremist Muslim organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. The B’ham Post is now on the case.

    I’ve no problems equating Pizza HuT with the BNP, which is why I ask this question. I’ve debated with HuT myself plenty of times: they’re braindead robots who keep parroting the same lines and pretend they’re lovely and fluffy, with the added annoyance (unlike the BNP) that they actually think they’re intellectuals. Like, they think they’re intelligent for apparently coming up with this utopian society and constructing an Islamic methodology for everything. The other problem is that most of the people who choose to take on HuT don’t know much about them, which provides them an opportunity to play the victim card and pretend they’re just lovely people.

    So what do we do with a problem like HuT? Constantly expose and scrutinise them? Or try and ignore them with a no-platform policy with the danger that they pick up anti-establishment Muslims? I side with the former. But in cases like this, neither should universities actively provide with a platform, neither should stupid anti-racist activists endorse them.

    14th May, 2008

    Edwards endorses Obama

    by Leon at 11:39 pm    

    Barack Obama

    It’s been a long time coming but John Edwards has finally endorsed Barack Obama:

    Democrat John Edwards is endorsing former rival Barack Obama, fresh signs of the party establishment embracing the likely nominee even as Hillary Rodham Clinton refuses to give up her long-shot candidacy.

    Edwards was to appear with Obama in Grand Rapids, Mich., as Obama campaigns in a critical general election battleground state.

    The endorsement comes the day after Clinton defeated Obama by more than 2-to-1 in West Virginia. The loss highlighted Obama’s work to win over the “Hillary Democrats” — white, working-class voters who also supported Edwards in large numbers before he exited the race.

    Another nail in the coffin for the Clinton campaign…

    Libdems force u-turn on immigration

    by Sunny at 3:40 pm    

    Sent to me in a press release today

    The Liberal Democrats today forced the Government into an embarrassing U-turn after it tried to slip new immigration rules through Parliament.

    Although the Conservatives and Labour were happy to vote through measures forcing automatic penalties on anyone making even an honest mistake on an immigration application, the Liberal Democrats forced a Parliamentary debate on the issue.

    Under the measures, anyone making a mistake of any kind on an immigration form could have been banned from reapplying to enter the UK for between one and 10 years, even if they were under 18 years old when the mistake was made.

    However, in a dramatic reversal of policy, Labour’s Immigration Minister Liam Byrne announced that the automatic penalty would not apply to families or those under 18 when the error was made.

    Well done Libdems! I hope the Indian newspapers are watching and know about this!

    13th May, 2008

    Breaking: bombs go off in India [updated]

    by Sunny at 4:22 pm    

    Five Six major bomb blasts have killed around 12 people in the Indian city of Jaipur (state of Rajasthan), the Times of India reports. Reuters also reported it 10 min ago.

    [hat tip: Nav]

    Update: The toll has now reached 60 according to The Hindu.

    Update 2: The Guardian reports a group has claimed to be behind the bombings:

    A little-known Islamic militant group claimed responsibility for a series of bomb blasts that claimed the lives of 63 people in the heritage city of Jaipur two days ago – an attack which could see top international cricketers leave the country and jeopardise India’s new billion-dollar cricket league.

    The group, which called itself Indian Mujahideen, emailed video clips to two Delhi-based media organizations of a bicycle, which it said was packed with explosives that were set off at one of half a dozen sites in Jaipur, with the aim of disrupting the tourist industry. The claim was also sent to the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), which governs the state of Rajasthan.

    Obama goes after Jewish Democrats

    by Sunny at 4:15 pm    

    “I think that the idea of a secure Jewish state is a fundamentally just idea, and a necessary idea, given not only world history but the active existence of anti-Semitism,” Mr. Obama said in the interview. “That does not mean that I would agree with every action of the state of Israel.”

    But, Mr. Obama continued, “the fundamental premise of Israel and the need to preserve a Jewish state that is secure is, I think, a just idea and one that should be supported here in the United States and around the world.”

    Asked if he thought Israel was a “drag on America’s reputation overseas,” he said it was not. But, referring to tensions in the Middle East, he said: “What I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions.”

    I know this will annoy Anas but I’m in agreement with Obama of course. My views are pretty much the same. I’m posting this partly because I’m writing an article for CIF on when politicians pander to specific bases of their party. Shariq wrote about this a few days ago: Micro trends, micro politics?

    There are three dynamics here worth noting. First that politicians always have to appeal to different bases of their own party while trying to reach out to new ones. This, to me, is standard politics.

    Second, note that American Muslim organisations haven’t issued angry press releases in response, as they probably would in the UK. This is good politics.

    Third, inevitably there are different standards applied to different minority groups. If Obama had addressed concerns of American blacks to overtly he’d be accused of pandering. Obama, thankfully, knows this. He’s intentionally said nothing to appear to pander to American Muslims or blacks. This is clever politics.

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