TV adhan: media attack Muslim visibility

The front page of the Sun from 2nd July 2013. It reads "Ramadan a Ding-Dong" with the sub-heading "Stunt could inflame tension".Yesterday, the Sun led with a headline “Ramadan-a-Ding-Dong”, a reference to Channel 4’s decision to air the Muslim call to prayer at different times of day during Ramadan. Their article includes an endorsement from Anjem Choudary and the latest al-Muhajiroun front group, “Islamic Emergency Defence”, as well as claims from UKIP that it’s a PR stunt and that most Muslims would not want it; a Tory MP, Conor Burns, called it “politically-correct tokenism” and asked, “what would happen if they were to do this type of thing during a Christian festival such as Lent?”. The Sun also carried an opinion piece from Anila Baig, claiming that no Muslim will actually be watching C4 to hear the call to prayer and that it’s another case of how the channel “worships controversy” with such programmes as Dogging Tales and The Man with the Ten Stone Testicles. AN Wilson suggests that they also carry the other four calls (as the Sun claims they are actually doing) and not carry adverts for alcohol if they were really serious about providing a service to Muslims.

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Jeremy Forrest: what’s the meaning of abuse?

Picture of Jeremy Forrest, a white man with stubble with a grey jacket with a strap over his shoulderThe week before last (I have only just had the opportunity to write about it due to work), a teacher from Kent called Jeremy Forrest was jailed for five and a half years for having an affair with a schoolgirl and running away with her to France until they were both brought back. Besides his prison sentence, he was ordered to sign the sex offenders’ register and banned from working with children for life. However, the girl (whose name cannot now be mentioned in new articles although the media have not removed dozens of articles from last September when she was missing) has stuck by him, intends to visit him in prison and has allegedly been given permission, and yesterday and today interviews with her were published in the Sun (which referred to her as Gemma Grant, the name she assumed during her French ‘adventure’), in which she claimed that if anything, she groomed him rather than the other way round. There have been a number of comments published about this, among them by a woman who had an affair with a teacher while at sixth form college, Hadley Freeman in the Guardian saying that he is a “pathetic man-child” but no paedophile and in nothing like the same league as Stuart Hall or Jimmy Savile, and there are these two entries by the feminist blogger Louise Pennington, who calls Forrest a rapist (as she called John Peel and others in the rock world who slept with teenage groupies in the 1960s and 70s).

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What’s the point of ‘care’?

The other night I saw a Panorama documentary which covered the issue of children going missing from the care system in the UK. I had been expecting this to be about children who were in care after being trafficked, and disappearing into the hands of the gangs who trafficked them (mostly Vietnamese), but no — this was about teenagers, mostly, who go missing from children’s homes and very little effort is being made to find them. It made me wonder what the point is of keeping them in the care homes in the first place. (The documentary can be watched online here for the next year or so; there is an article here which discusses the issue.) Continue reading

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Mark Littlewood: making the War on Welfare personal

Today the Daily Mail published a quite astonishing and appalling article by Mark Littlewood of the Institute of Economic Affairs (and former spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, the Pro-Euro Conservative Party and NO2ID) calling for the government to publish the names and addresses of every individual claiming benefits in the UK. This has already been reacted to with fury by disabled people on Twitter, many of whom have already faced public hostility by people who perceive them as benefit claimants. He compares benefit recipients to the companies whose tax affairs have come under scrutiny in the media (and, supposedly, at the G8 summit); he calls those companies “wealth creators and tax contributors” and benefit claimants “tax consumers”. (More: David Gillon @ Where’s the Benefit?, Latent Existence, Tom Pride.)

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People’s Assembly: a review

A marquee with a mostly seated audience facing the camera. Susan Archibald, a white woman wearing a black jumper and trousers in an electric mobility scooter, is speaking.Yesterday the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, which has been holding “rallies” (I’d call them meetings, rather than rallies which I always thought were held in the street or at least in the open) around the country, including one in Brighton which I went to on 30th May, featuring Owen Jones, Mark Steel and local MP Caroline Lucas (there was a London one the same day, but it was in a pub and the ‘star’ speakers were Ken Livingstone and Lindsey German), held its big event at Methodist Central Hall in Westminster. The Brighton one was somewhat disappointing as, taking place two weeks after Woolwich, the speakers (and workshop sessions) focussed entirely on economic matters and barely acknowledged (it was mentioned about three times) that the EDL were on the march again and racism and, particularly, Islamophobia were a major issue again. This time, though, there were sessions on the anti-war movement and combating the far right, of which I attended the latter (they were on at the same time). I’ve published a set of pictures of the parts of the event I attended on Flickr.

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Alex Spourdalakis: an atrocity, not a tragedy

Picture of Alex Spourdalakis, a white teenage boy, lying in a hospital bed with a cuff around his right wrist which is attached to the bed, with him holding an object of some kind in his mouth. He is covered by a white sheet from his waist down.Last week I heard the news that a 14-year-old boy with severe autism, Alex Spourdalakis, had been murdered by his mother and another female carer in a suburban area near Chicago after they had made appeals to get what they considered suitable care for him. Alex himself was first given an overdose of painkillers and when that failed to kill him, they stabbed him in his chest. They then attempted to take their own lives by an overdose, but were found alive and are now in custody, charged with first-degree murder. The American media (the story was not broadcast in the UK, although the Daily Mail reported it on their website) branded it a “tragedy”, quickly attributed the murder to the difficulty of caring for a boy with a learning disability, and implied that it had been waiting to happen. This is the stock response to the murder of a disabled child, and it’s wrong. (More: Ariana Zurchner, David Gorski @ Science-based Medicine, Wendy Baskin, Michael Scott Monae jr, Jo Ashline, Kassiane @ Time to Listen, Same Difference.)

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EDL versus Muslim extremists: Moore’s double standards

Picture of a burning building (the former Bravanese Centre in Muswell Hill, north London) with a fire engine and a white Ford Transit van in the foreground, with firemen trying to put the fire outWoolwich outrage: we are too weak to face up to the extremism in our midst - Telegraph

The above bit of EDL apologism by Charles Moore appeared in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph, and it also contains a dig at Tell MAMA, the formerly state-funded body that monitored anti-Muslim attacks (hence the acronym) and an attempt to stir up fresh outrage over the murder of Lee Rigby four weeks or so ago, claiming it has died down and people are focussing on a backlash against Muslims which he claims is exaggerated. The fact that it has prompted a resurgence of a formerly moribund violent street gang as well as at least three arson attacks on Muslim properties, one of them burned to the ground, is no exaggeration.

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Graffiti and the brutal conformity of the gang

Picture of a water treatment works with the tag "LGANG" sprayed on a large round building, with three tower blocks in the background and a lake, with swans swimming, in the foregroundLaurie Penny has an article in the latest New Statesman (not online yet) in which she bemoans the lack of graffiti on the trains and buses in London, which she says is ubiquitous on public transport and buildings in other cities such as New York and Berlin. She puts this down to the huge concentration of CCTVs in London and people’s willingness to accept them, and in the context of the revelations about the American National Security Agency’s data snooping operations, represents a “gradual chilling effect” of people getting used to constant surveillance. I’m not so sure.

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Let’s get the EDL banned

Graphic of a person putting a swastika in a dustbinProscribe English Defence League (EDL) - e-petitions

This is a petition to proscribe the English Defence League. This will not force the EDL out of existence, of course, but it will mean no more of their demonstrations and the public violence that always accompany them. It will mean displaying signs of belonging to the EDL, such as shouting slogans associated with it and wearing their T-shirts, will become a crime. It will likely mean that successor groups are banned as well if they are deemed to be the EDL rebranded, as has been the case with al-Muhajiroun. As with al-Muhajiroun, their reach will be greatly reduced and will have to go underground if they are to operate at all; any violent operations will be put down to “gangs of thugs” with “EDL links”, and it will not be mistaken for a lawful popular movement.

If you are in the UK I urge you to sign this petition. If enough people sign it, it may be debated in Parliament.

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Huge impact? Hardly.

Yesterday a 21-year-old Somali woman from London was given a community service order for posting an offensive tweet about the soldier Lee Rigby after his stabbing last month (but before the full facts about the attack became known), to the effect that anyone who would wear a Help for Heroes T-shirt deserves to be beheaded (she claimed this was a comment on the design of the T-shirt). She admitted “sending a malicious electronic message” and ordered to complete 250 hours of unpaid work by Hendon magistrates, who warned her that she could have been imprisoned and that her words “had a huge impact and clearly caused offence and distress”. The “offence and distress” manifested itself in threats to rape her and kill her by burning her house down, and she was arrested after going to the police to report this.

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London Bravanese mosque firebombed

Police probe mosque blaze amid fears 'firebomb attack' is Woolwich revenge - London Evening Standard

Picture of a burned-out red-brick building with yellow tape around it, with a fire engine and ladder to the right and houses behind

Last night a mosque in Muswell Hill, north London, was firebombed and the letters “EDL” were spray-painted onto the burned-out remains. Who exactly might have done this is still being investigated, and the fact that the EDL’s initials were sprayed on it doesn’t mean it was them, as opposed to a sympathiser. The mosque is next to houses, which meant that lives could have been endangered even if nobody was in the building, and is also very close to a primary school.

My experience with the Bravanese community (which originates from Brava or Baraawe in southern Somalia) is that they are far removed from extremism: they are traditional Sufi-type Muslims who have held out against the spread of “salafism” in the Somali community, let alone jihadi extremism. This is not to say that no Bravanese Muslim has ever become an extremist (although the killers of Lee Rigby were not even Somali and were not from that area), but it is highly unlikely that extremist ideas were being preached there. It is likely that the common denominator was race: most Somalis are black, like the two men of Nigerian origin who committed the Woolwich murder.

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Britain’s mosques are not a ‘swamp’

As the dust settles on the Woolwich murder, so the vultures are starting to circle and the ground is being prepared for generalised attacks on the Muslim community, however much it was made clear that ordinary Muslims condemn the murder and were not responsible for it. The Sun has another front-page story about a video’ed “rant” (meaning a lecture or speech) given by Anjem Choudary in an office in London (the same report was reproduced in the Evening Standard); Tony Blair last weekend wrote in the Mail on Sunday that the “ideology which inspired [the murder] is profound and dangerous” and that there was “not a problem with Islam” but “within Islam”, contrasting “Islamists who have this exclusivist and reactionary world view” with “the modern-minded … who hated the old oppression by corrupt dictators and who hate the new oppression by religious fanatics”, as if there were no in-betweens. Glasgow Labour MP Tom Harris (a member of Labour Friends of Israel) dismisses the idea that the EDL are bigger threat to “our way of life” than Islamists when they “can barely spell ‘fascist’”, as if you need to be able to spell to beat someone up and form a mass to cause enormous disruption and menace the public. Finally, David Cameron also harped on the “extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam” and claimed that “it is not simply enough to target and go after violent extremists after they’ve become violent. We have to drain the swamp in which they inhabit”, referring to university campuses, mosques and madrassas.

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No, Google can’t censor all the child porn

Front page from the Daily Mail, featuring the headling "What will it take for Google to block child porn?" with a picture of Mark Bridger, the murderer of April JonesIn the wake of the conviction of Mark Bridger yesterday for killing April Jones, a 5-year-old girl he kidnapped from a green on a housing estate in Machynlleth, mid Wales, last year, the focus has been on his fondness for child and child-abuse pornography which was found on his computer (along with other abusive images and film, including a rape scene from a film which had been copied to a video tape without the rest of the film). The Daily Mail led with the headline “What will it take for Google to block child porn?”, claiming that Bridger had searched the network for phrases like “naked five-year-old girls’, ‘nudism five-year-olds’ and ‘pictures of naked virgin teens’”, and that “child safety charities, including the NSPCC, demanded that the internet giants introduce immediate controls to stop paedophiles gaining access to child pornography”:

John Carr of the Children’s Charities’ Coalition on Internet Safety said: ‘If these images were not available on the internet then men like Hazell and Bridger might not go on to kill.

‘We cannot blame the internet for these people but it has opened pathways that lead them on to violent pornography and paedophile material.’

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Anjem Choudary is not Gerry Adams

Picture of Anjem Choudary, a man of south Asian apperance wearing a white robe with a black and white Shahada flag behind him.In the wake of last week’s Woolwich stabbing, there have been renewed calls to ban “hate preachers” from appearing on TV, most notably Anjem Choudary, the leader of al-Muhajiroun. Muslims, including myself, have for years called for him (and Omar Bakri before him) not to be given the oxygen of publicity, because he has only a tiny following and his stunts are almost always harmful to the Muslim community he purports to represent, yet he was presented as the voice of radical Islam to the nation, mostly by the right-wing tabloids. This week, two high-profile voices have been raised against banning him from TV: first Jack Straw, who compared the idea to the “IRA broadcasting ban” of the 1980s (which was easily circumvented by having an actor read the words of a Sinn Fein politician, usually Gerry Adams), and today David Anderson QC, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who said on the BBC’s PM programme last night on Radio 4, that “it’s important to give these people a hard time and to expose to the audience the sort of things they have been saying when they have not been wearing a tie in the television studio”. (You can hear the programme here until next Wednesday.)

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What’s an imam to do?

Picture of Michael Adebolajo, a Black African man wearing a white cap and robe with a black and white checked Palestinian-style scarf round his neck, in front of Anjum Choudhary, a South Asian man with a beard wearing a black jacket, who is speaking into a microphoneLast Friday at 1pm, Jeremy Vine had a slot about Islam and Muslims on his talk show on BBC Radio 2 — nice timing. This was, of course, prompted by the brutal murder of a soldier in Woolwich last Wednesday. Who should turn up on his show this time than Taj Hargey, yet again, as well as Usama Hasan from the Quilliam Foundation. The former spouted his usual rubbish, blaming “mullahs” who teach standard Islamic beliefs for the deranged behaviour of the two men who were members of al-Muhajiroun but struck out on their own. Usama Hasan told a slightly more interesting story about how he fought in the jihad in Afghanistan in the 1980s before beginning his “path to moderate Islam” after 9/11. There were, of course, no other guests representing the Muslim community. The programme can be found here and the slot starts 1hr 10mins in.

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Grooming: Loss of liberty does not equal safety

Letters: We need an inquiry into sex abuse cases | Society | The Guardian

This letter from Anthony Stansfeld of Thames Valley police appeared in yesterday’s Guardian, and attributes the grooming and rape of girls in Oxford and elsewhere to the lack of supervision and safeguarding:

The problem is not only did people look the other way, but that the rules under which they operate can make safeguarding extremely difficult – that is what an inquiry needs to look into.

How can a pre-teenage girl in social care go missing 126 times? The answer is that her right to go to town and be groomed, then abused and raped, seems to have been regarded as more important than her being safeguarded. Until this is sorted out it is difficult for social services to do their job properly. Social care for pre-age-of-consent children must be looked into and proper rules established that makes their safeguarding easier.

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Woolwich knife attack is not terrorism

Yesterday a British soldier was attacked by two men with butchers’ knives on a street in Woolwich, south-east London, and killed in broad daylight in public view near to a primary school not long before the end of the school day. The men made no attempt to flee, one of them making a political statement to a passer-by’s camera or mobile phone, the footage of which was released to the press. When the police finally arrived, they then made to attack the police but were both shot and are now in separate hospitals. The area around the scene of the crime (which is on part of the South Circular Road, a major route for trucks) is still closed off. Last night the government’s emergency committee, known as COBRA, was meeting and the incident was said to be being treated as a “terrorist incident”. The Daily Mail has a pretty comprehensive coverage of the incident, along with some gratuitous sideswipes at local minority populations (including the clear images of two Black women walking past the attacker, in obvious contrast with the white woman who confronted him). Note: a picture of the attacker (taken from the video footage) is over the fold. (More: Half a Giraffe, The Goldfish on phony mental health speculations, Scriptonite Daily.)

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Taj Hargey is wrong on grooming

Picture of Taj HargeyLast week seven men from Oxford were found guilty of various sexual offences, including rape, for ‘grooming’ young girls and ultimately raping and allowing other men to rape them. Many of them were in local authority care and others (as in Rochdale) were placed in care by their parents in an attempt to stop the abuse that they were complaining about, but carers refused to listen to the girls’ and their parents’ complaints, in one case telling one of the victims that it was ‘inappropriate’ to talk about the issue at that time. On Wednesday’s Jeremy Vine show on BBC Radio 2, he had two guests: John Brown of the NSPCC’s sexual abuse programme, and Taj Hargey, an “imam” that the media commonly wheels out to issue sweeping negative generalisations about Muslims. The programme can be listened to here until next Wednesday and is the first feature (which starts after Michael Jackson’s Thriller ends).

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Hawking, the boycott and the Israeli CPU

Picture of Stephen Hawking, an elderly white man in a wheelchair, with his daughter Lucy Hawking, a white woman wearing a grey tight-fitting top and black trousers, with a picture of the earth on a black background behind him.Last week Professor Stephen Hawking pulled out of a conference in Israel, reportedly as part of an academic boycott of Israeli institutions on the grounds of it operating an Apartheid-type regime against its Palestinian subjects. The decision prompted a number of Israeli sympathisers to reassess their views of Hawking from being a genius who triumphed over adversity to being a “stupid cripple” who should hurry up and die, or similar, but one Israeli law firm recommended that Hawking change the processor he uses in his tablet to communicate, namely the Intel Core i7 which is developed at an Intel base in Israel. There are a number of reasons why the demand represents the ignorance and bias of those making it.

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The British Social Model of Disability and its drawbacks

“I’m not a ‘person with a disablity’, I’m a disabled person” (from xojane by Lisa Egan)

Recently I’ve noticed that a number of blogs by disabled people in the UK insist on referring to themselves, and similarly affected people, as “disabled people” rather than “people with disabilities”, the internationally recognised term which was commonly used in the UK until fairly recently, and that this term has become common (though not used consistently) in organisations such as government departments and student unions. The theory behind this is that the former term reflects a “social model” in which disability is the product of social barriers rather than a person’s physical impairments — the latter being termed the “medical model” in which disability is a medical problem to be cured, if possible. I see several problems with this use of language: it puts the British disability community out of step with those abroad, it regularly causes misunderstandings and misrepresentations, it is not inclusive, and is a false dichotomy in which an ideal model is presented in opposition to a composite of the worst disablist attitudes. (More: Emma’s Hope Book.)

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