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7th March, 2006

An attack on freedom of speech

by Sunny at 3:32 am    

It would be no exaggeration to say there is a bit of paranoia in certain circles on what Muslim students at university are doing. Or more specifically, about the potential for ‘recruitment’ by extremist such as Al-Ghuraaba and Hizb ut-Tahrir. But where do you draw the line?

Last year two friends, Assed Baig and Darrell Williams, were expelled from Birmingham’s Matthew Boulton College for producing a newsletter that discussed their frustrations at how the college behaved, including its refusal to let them establish an Islamic Society and general political antipathy of fellow students.

Kitty Killer writes about the background on Liberty Central. The NUS has also backed the boys, who were recently interviewed on Channel 4 News.

Having wearily watched Al-M and HuT recruit at university and intimidate others into silence, I’m unsure on where the boundaries lie. Former HuT member Shiraz Maher advocates universities keep a close eye on activity in that C4 interview and I agree. But it is definitely going too far when educational establishments don’t even allow religious societies, like in this case, until an extremist element can be proven.

As an aside, C4 News started a blog on News From Iran on Monday, much more informative than the hysterical drivel in the MSM and blogs these days.

5th March, 2006

Muslims should learn “art of peaceful dissent”

by Sunny at 4:09 pm    

Lady Kishwer Falkner yesterday:

Muslims should have “broader shoulders” when it comes to issues of free speech such as the Danish cartoons, a Lib Dem home affairs spokesman has said.

Kishwer Falkner, who is a Muslim, said her community must be “tolerant” and “learn the art of peaceful dissent”. She said freedom of speech was not just a Western concept but it was necessary in any pluralistic society.

She has also said Britain should repeal blasphemy laws, and there should be equal standards on freedom of speech - i.e. David Irving should not have been jailed and neither Ken Livingstone suspended. I agree.

I also consider Lady Falkner to be more informed, in tune with British Muslim sentiment and credible compared to Trevor Phillips, hence my reason for ignoring his speech last week. Another point that many hysterical ranters forget:

Sajj Karim MEP said Muslims in the European Union had “by and large” responded to the publication of the cartoons democratically, even though they had been offended by them.

Filed under: Party politics, Religion
3rd March, 2006

Canadians allow Kirpan at school

by Sunny at 10:32 pm    

The Canadian Supreme Court has ruled it ok for Sikh kids to wear the Kirpan (dagger, pictured) at school.

The specific case that went to the Supreme Court involves Gurbaj Singh Multani, now 17. Five years ago, he accidentally dropped his kirpan in the schoolyard of a Montreal elementary school.

Parents of other children pressured the local school board to ban the dagger, because of a zero-tolerance policy concerning weapons. Gurbaj’s parents sued, and the case wound its way through the courts for several years.

Not everyone is happy though and this ruling is likely to spark a debate about religious symbols in classrooms. Anyone know if the Kirpan allowed here?

For the uninitiated, the Kirpan is one of the five K’s that baptised Sikhs, known as Khalsa Sikhs, are obliged to wear. Although most of the Sikh Gurus did wear them anyway, it was codified by the tenth Guru - Sri Gobind Singh.

As an aside, United Sikhs is challenging a French government on allowing turbans in driver’s licence photos.

2nd March, 2006

But we don’t want them back!

by Sunny at 3:22 am    

Three Britons left an Egyptian jail on Tuesday after serving almost four years of their five-year sentences for spreading propaganda for an Islamist group, the mother of one of Britons said. Officials said they would be deported to Britain within 24 hours.

The Britons — Reza Pankhurst, Maajid Nawaz and Ian Nisbett — were among a group of 26 men jailed for between one and five years for spreading the propaganda of the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party). [Reuters]

Like we don’t have enough HuT lunatics in this country already.

Filed under: Religion, The World
26th February, 2006

London rally against terrorism/extremism

by Sunny at 2:56 pm    

Ok, this comes as a bit of a surprise. There was another rally in central London yesterday, this one against terrorism and extremism. Going on the pictures by resident photographer Kesara, the rally was against the declining situation in Iraq and the destruction of holy shrines by terrorists.

He says: I’m not sure if it was bigger than last weeks but it seemed a bit more vocal - I’d place numbers approx 10,000. The Police were a little annoyed with the organisers - “You said you were expecting 2000 - 5000 people - we cant shut down Picadilly on a saturday morning!!!”

It had a wierd feel to it too (nothing hostile mind you). For one thing it was about the bombing of the shrine in Iraq and there were plenty of Iraqi flags flying. In fact I didn’t see too many anti-cartoon placards - ’twas all pictures of the Golden Mosque. … There was a lot of “Down with Bin Laden” “No to Terrorism” chanting going on …although it was primarily concerning terrorism in Iraq, there were no references towards the London bombings really. Loads of anti Wahabi sentiment. Peaceful…but still…slightly ‘odd’ and I cant explain it.

Irna says it was organised by Shia groups, which explains the sentiments expressed. It is disappointing however that more of the media did not cover the march, probably because it was not organised by the press-release-happy MCB.
Yusuf Smith also mentions it.

Filed under: Religion
24th February, 2006

Some justice for Gujarat victims

by Sunny at 9:30 pm    

Nine people have been sentenced to life imprisonment in India for killing 14 people during the arson attack on the bakery in Gujarat. On surface maybe not a huge story, but it is explosive stuff. [hat tip Mirax]

The Best Bakery incident took place during the 2002 Gujarat riots in India, when mostly Hindu mobs went on a rampage across the state and killed over 1000 Muslims (an official figure, NGOs put it between 2000 - 3000). It was in retaliation to 56 Hindu pilgrims being burnt alive in a train fire in Godhra - back from a rally in the holy city of Ayodhya. Gujarat unfortunately has a long history of communal violence.

This incident is symptomatic of a wider problem: the inability of the Indian justice system to prosecute rioting mobs or their instigators. The key witness behind the case kept changing her stance, and there were widespread allegations of political meddling. The Hindu points to some problems.

India’s Tehelka magazine says it has uncovered bribery by BJP officials (former govt).

Nevertheless, like the anti-Sikh killings of 1984, the vast majority of perpetrators and the pupeteers behind it (like Gujarat chief Minister Narendra Modi), have never been brought to justice. So although this should be welcomed, most Muslims (and some Hindus) affected by the riots will not get any justice.

Filed under: South Asia, Religion, India
22nd February, 2006

Reformist Muslims announce Mohammed cartoon contest

by Sunny at 4:25 pm    

A group of progressive Muslims, annoyed not only at the original cartoons but also of the reaction afterwards, have announced their own contest inviting drawings about prophet Mohammed and Islam. They say:

As islamic reformers and progressive muslims, we believe that people should have legal right to express their opinion or dissent without fear of governments or mobs. In that regard, we applaud the people of Denmark for not censoring their media. History has proven that truth and justice cannot flourish in an environment of suppression and oppression. Though the cartoonists depicted and insulted our beloved prophet Muhammad, a figure that we consider dearer to us than our fathers and mothers, we stand by the rights of cartoonists to express their views.

Who said drawing cartoons was a boring business?

Filed under: Religion, The World, Humour

First, the bad news…

by Sunny at 4:16 pm    

Major unrest has erupted in Iraq between Shia and Sunni groups, that I hope will not erupt into civil war. It follows a major bomb attack on one of Shia Islam’s holiest mosques.

Kudos to the Norweigans meanwhile, for brokering another round of peace talks in Sri Lanka between the government and Tamil Tigers.

21st February, 2006

Denial ain’t an African river girlfriend!

by Rohin at 3:08 pm    

Freedom of speech, again! Oh Lordy Lord it’s all a-comin’ at once. By now most of you will have heard about David Irving’s three year jail sentence for holocaust denial. Essentially, disgraced British historian Irving claimed the gas chambers had not existed, which contravenes Austrian law - the country in which he was interviewed when he made his assertion. A libel case six years ago destroyed his reputation and most of his enemies were placated by this verdict alone. He was branded an active holocaust-denier, an anti-Semite and a racist.

However, yesterday many were stunned when the three year sentence was handed down to Irving, who pleaded guilty during the trial in Vienna. Irving has already announced his plan to appeal. So what should we make of all this?

Continue Reading...
18th February, 2006

Posturing over cartoons continues

by Sunny at 10:11 pm    

The Muslim Action Committee (MAC) held a protest over the prophet Mohammed cartoons in London today, with around 10,000 people attending. StrangelyPsychedelic has pictures. Behind the scenes political posturing seems to be taking place.

Today’s rally was not supported or given a mention by the usual suspects of Muslim groups because the new kid on the block is vying for influence. This one is led by imams and my feeling is that last week’s rally was poorly attended because they told congregations to come today instead.

Controversies are perfect opportunities for religious groups to organise protests and demand attention. It’ll be interesting to see how MAC proceeds from here. Will it try to usurp the MCB’s position?

JP’s culture editor Flemming Rose meanwhile explains ‘Why I Published Those Cartoons‘ in tomorrow’s WaPo [hat tip: Peter Pedersen]. Worth reading and discussing.

Around the world, ten died in Libya when police opened fire on protestors, angry over an Italian MP printing and wearing a t-shirt bearing those cartoons. The MP has since been forced to resign. In India, a minister put up a huge reward to behead the cartoonists and was then slammed by the leading Muslim body. [hat tip: Vikrant]

Technorati tags: prophet Mohammed, cartoons

Amartya Sen on British multi-culturalism

by Jay Singh at 7:19 pm    

In July, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen is publishing a book titled Identity and Violence that brings more perspective to the debate on British multi-culturalism. Sen’s voice is badly needed. He is heavyweight intellectual with an impeccable record in advocacy for tolerance, pluralism and harmony; critical of the situation we are in but ready to defend multicultural precepts where they need to be defended.

In the Guardian today:

What begins by giving people room to express themselves, he argues, may force people into an identity chosen by the authorities. “That is what is happening now, here,” he says, a little indignantly. “I think there is a real tyranny there. It doesn’t look like tyranny - it looks like giving freedom and tolerance - but it ends up being a denial of individual freedom. The individual belongs to many different groups and it is up to him or her to decide which of those groups he or she would like to give priority.”

And next, he makes a point that Pickled Politics has been expounding consistently:

“Suddenly the Jewish, Hindu and Muslim organisations are in charge of all Jews, Hindus and Muslims. Whether you are an extremist mullah or a moderate mullah, whether you’re Blair’s friend or Blair’s enemy, you might relish the idea of being able to speak for all people with a Muslim background - no matter how religious they are - but this may be in direct competition with the role of Muslims in British civil society

In particular it means that government accords power and consults with the most conservative and self-interested representatives of a community, it silences dissent, and it also formulates a crude counter-response by society as a whole.

Unable to appreciate the diversity of individual life within minority groups, mainstream British society slots individuals into reckless and inadequate stereotypes, viewing minorities through the telescope of the issue-and-identity politics that sectarian bodies push, pumped up as they are with hot air and hubris because they get to sup with politicians and appear in the media.

He further speculates that this attitude may have roots in a disastrous policy followed by the British in the end years of British rule in India:

“This is the way,” he says, “that the British tried to interpret community divisions in India between Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs and Christians. To Indian nationalists, it looked a further example of divide and rule, emphasising the divisions. The way that the British are handling it today makes one wonder whether the cultural confusion that the British had then has now been brought back home.”

Guest post by Jay Singh

17th February, 2006

Could the cartoons bring down President Musharraf?

by Sunny at 1:58 am    

Pakistanis are notorious for arriving late to parties, though only slightly lesser than Indians. So it is with little suprise we find that when rabid fanatics in other parts of the world have burned some foreign embassies in self-righteous anger and gone back home satisfied, the Pakistani brothers suddenly realised they were falling behind in the “we’re angry too you mofos” stakes, and started rioting.

It could be that they were protesting against horribly bad KFC/McDonald’s food, but there’s no excuse for Pizza Hut dammit.

Continue Reading...
15th February, 2006

Jews join holocaust cartoon contest

by Sunny at 6:02 pm    

Leslie Bunder reports:

A group of Israelis are taking on an Iranian newspaper which is running a contest inviting readers to submit cartoons about the Holocaust by saying they can do better themselves and inviting Jews around the world to take part.

“We’ll show the world we can do the best, sharpest, most offensive Jew hating cartoons ever published,” said Amitai Sandy a graphic artist and publisher of Dimona Comix Publishing in Tel Aviv. “No Iranian will beat us on our home turf,” he added.

Fighting hate with humour - there’s no better way.

Filed under: Religion, The World, Humour

The school that wants to ‘convert’

by Sunny at 4:19 am    

Here at Pickled Politics, we’re against faith-based schools, or at least an expansion in their numbers since they are not going anywhere for now. So with some interest, I see this article about a Catholic school in Glasgow that is 75% Muslim, and now trying to ‘convert its religion’.

Continue Reading...
Filed under: Party politics, Religion
14th February, 2006

Re-visiting Behzti: from a different perspective

by Sunny at 4:20 pm    

Christie Davies points me to an interesting article he has written for the Social Affairs Unit blog, on the Sikh play Behzti.

But before you say - ‘oh no, not again’, I think its worth discussing this because he raises different arguments to the standard ‘freedom of speech’, or ‘Sikh nutters gone crazy’ ones. For a start, he is very disparaging about the quality of the play itself.

But the article is also very critical of the government and the liberal arts establishment. Why are minority groups treated differently? Why did the government not take a stronger stance against the violence? Are there double standards in the way it was all treated? And finally, why it was such a PR disaster for Sikhs.

Continue Reading...
12th February, 2006

Final word on the Danish cartoons?

by Sunny at 10:01 pm    

Fareena Alam of Q-News has an article in the Observer today, worth reading in full. To highlight a few points:

That the future of liberal democracy rests on defending the publication of these insulting caricatures is as ridiculous a claim as that Muslims can defend the honour of their prophet by unrestrained violence and rioting.

Clearly, it’s not just Danish cartoonists and their apologists who are ignorant of the Prophet. I wonder what the parents of the child wearing the ‘I love al-Qaeda’ cap would say had their son been on the number 30 bus that terrible day.

‘We must stop thinking of ourselves as “the tribe of Islam”,’ declared Imam Zaid Shakir, an African-American scholar and civil-rights activist. ‘Until we start to think of ourselves as the children of Adam, concerned about the welfare of all our fellow human beings, we are missing the point of being faithful.’

In the aftermath of the London bombings, many have realised we have to stop hiding behind a false sense of unity and call a spade a spade.

We are among the most politicised and engaged communities in Britain. We belong here. How many times do we have to say this before society cuts us some slack and lets us get on with it?

Religion can be a powerful tool for social cohesion and good citizenship. The trouble is that many Muslims have treated Islam as something inward, exclusive and proprietary.

Filed under: Media, Religion
11th February, 2006

Time for another riot?

by Sunny at 10:58 pm    

I hear some people aren’t too happy that PokerGuru has Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh faith for the uninitiated) holding a deck of cards and promoting gambling. The website is part of London based PartyPoker. We do not advise burning their offices down, at least until a few letters of protest have been sent.

Filed under: Religion, Humour
10th February, 2006

Go somewhere else!

by Al-Hack at 5:07 pm    

Jews should be told quite clearly that our citizens have the legal right to criticise, lampoon, ridicule and mock Jewish leaders to their heart’s content, in any way that they wish: that Judaism and Jews have no special claim to protection from the rough and tumble of post-Enlightenment intellectual, political and social life. If they cannot live in a society in which this is the case, they should go somewhere else…

Outraged? You should be. Theodore Dalrymple in the Spectator. Just substitute Jews for Muslims and Judaism for Islam. [via ]

Filed under: Media, Religion
9th February, 2006

Be careful of whom you take advice…

by Sunny at 3:45 am    

An interesting situation is developing in Denmark, with Danish Muslims becoming increasingly split on how to proceed over the cartoon row. According to the Beeb, top Muslims are declaring that they are proud of being Danish and “supporting Danish values”. Even the right-wing MPs are suprised, prompting one to declare: “I didn’t know there were so many Muslims in Denmark who are supporting Western values.” Erm, it might help to talk to some of them occasionally you know.

Two months ago, a group of Danish writers warned that “the harsh tone in the national debate about Muslims and integration was comparable to Nazi rhetoric against Jews”. The most instructive part of the article comes after:

However, some of the strongest protests against the cartoons have come from imams who are part of the government’s integration think tank.

For the Danish integration minister, Rikke Hvilshoj, that stance is a wake-up call. “It is very clear that we cannot trust the imams any longer if we want integration to succeed in Denmark,” Mrs Hvilshoj says.

The Labour party and Ken Livingstone could learn a lot from that, not just for Muslims but all Asian communities.

Filed under: Religion, The World
8th February, 2006

Jyllands-Posten goes after Jews

by Al-Hack at 7:56 pm    

Flemming Rose, the culture editor of Danish daily Jyllands-Posten, said today he was trying to get in touch with the Iranian paper, Hamshari, which plans to run an international competition seeking cartoons about the Holocaust.

“My newspaper is trying to establish a contact with the Iranian newspaper, and we would run the cartoons the same day as they publish them,” Mr Rose told CNN. [Guardian]

So can we assume that after Jewish organisations complain, othe European papers will also reprint them?

Muslim organisations here, politically useless in this whole joke of a controversy, have decided to stage another rally Saturday. Rather peversely, I’d like to see Al-Ghuarabaa hijack this too.

Update by Sunny: JP has clarified saying it would happen only after it took “a decision on their standard”. And have now backtracked completely.

Another Update: Will you be boycotting Egypt too?

Another update by Sunny: Turns out culture editor of JP, Flemming Rose, had a nice chat with Daniel Pipes in 2004 too. [via Postman].

Technorati tags: Jyllands-Posten, cartoons
Filed under: Media, Religion, The World
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