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Justifying my Labour Party membership

Recently I received a circular from the Labour Party telling me it was going to be “an exciting and challenging time for the Labour Party over the next 15 months”. Quite.

The circular contained a number of additional items:

Raffle tickets:
coded message about the past management of the economy?

Gordon Brown “Help and hope for the future”:
hmmm.

Make Life Easier… Vote by postal form:
Arrghhh, not bloody postal voting!

What can Labour learn from Obama? from the Fabian Society:
Not at lot, given they are probably in a worse position than the Republicans were in.

A few days later I received a letter informing me that my membership fee is going up. It is not going up a great deal, but it’s the one item of expenditure on my bank account statements which brings forward comments from my partner. “Why are we paying money to this lot?” is usually followed by comments about second homes, stone sinks, porn, the state of the economy, and the government. My standard response “Well, one reason for staying in is that you can at least help prevent the worst elements of the Labour Party gaining control, because they’d be an absolute disaster” is cutting less and less ice, largely because my partner thinks Labour will be out of power for at least two terms.

How long ago 1997 feels.



Fighting Back

In today’s Times, Taj Hargey of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford has launched a stinging attack on his opponents:

This week I not only won a libel case in the High Court but a victory against religious fanaticism within Britain’s Muslim community. Muslim Weekly, a conservative newspaper, had falsely accused me of belonging to a heterodox sect and therefore being a heretic. I was apparently less of a Muslim than the readers of that paper.

As the head of a progressive Muslim organisation in Britain that is dedicated to an enlightened, egalitarian and erudite Islam, I was victimised, like other forward-looking Muslims, by a campaign of classic McCarthyism. Just as Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined the lives of countless Americans during the 1950s when he and his committee smeared innocent people as communists, the Muslim hierarchy in Britain have used witchhunts to maintain their unquestioned theological power. Any Muslim freethinker is automatically branded as heretical or un-Islamic and excommunicated from the community – and debate is shut down.

I hope that my public vindication in the courts will embolden more progressives, dissenters and particularly thinking women to put their heads above the parapet and challenge the fundamentalist mullahs. Only then can we loosen the deadly grip of the self-appointed religious fraternity on what it is to be a Muslim in Britain.

Unfortunately, Islam in Britain has been taken over by the followers of a warped manifestation of the faith. The Muslim Council of Britain, the main Muslim newspapers and many of the big mosques are dominated by men who subscribe to a virulent and backward-looking brand of Islam that has been exported from the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.

More here.


Workers fighting for their livelihoods: entertainment on Fox

I had to check to make sure this isn’t a sick, belated April Fool’s Day joke. Unfortunately it appears to be all too real:

About 700,000 Americans were sacked in March. In the past month three men who recently lost their jobs went on gun rampages, killing a total of 26 people. What to do with such grim news? Turn it into a reality TV show, of course.

Bright sparks at Endemol USA, the American branch of the brand that brought you Big Brother, have come up with a new idea: to wallow in the misery of America’s threatened workers.

Each week, the show, Someone’s Gotta Go, sets itself up in a small business where times are hard and redundancies have to be made. The employees – usually 15 to 20 of them – will be allowed to see the firm’s books, and will be told how much each of them earns.

Then they will reveal what they think of each other. They will be fighting for their livelihoods, for at the climax of the episode the employees will vote to decide which of them is added to the pile of unemployed…

“We’re always trying to find the next thing that is topical and timely in the zeitgeist,” Endemol’s North American director, David Goldberg, told Variety.

He went on to suggest the TV show would be doing hard-pressed employers a favour: “For a lot of people, it takes the pressure off them. As a boss myself, I don’t want to have to make those decisions. It’s safe to say it hasn’t been difficult to find companies willing to participate.”

That’s right: let the workers fight each other to keep their jobs. Anything to make things easier for hard-pressed employers.

I’m not a devotee of “reality” TV shows. I’m sure there have been plenty of revolting and tawdry ones, but I can’t imagine any of them being this cruel. So naturally, the “we’ll give anything a go” people at Fox have ordered the show for their schedule.

Unfortunately David Goldberg and Fox honcho Rupert Murdoch get to keep their jobs and huge salaries. That’s capitalism.

In whatever region of hell he currently occupies, the 19th-century financier, railroad baron and strikebreaker Jay Gould– who famously declared “I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half”– is smiling.

(Hat tip: DSTPFW)


Obama hosts White House Passover seder

He is the first US president to do so, complete with a reading of the Haggadah.

I’m not surprised; Obama is, as I’ve suggested before, the first Jewish president.

Passover, of course, celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, leading ultimately to their return to the Land of Israel. The seder includes the traditional wish, “Hashanah haba’ah birushalaiyim” (Next year in Jerusalem). All told, a suspiciously Zionist holiday.

Hag Pesach sameach l’culam. Happy Passover to all.


Jihadi Preaching in Tower Hamlets

By now readers of this blog will be familiar with Anwar al Awlaki, the preacher of hatred and jihad.

Here’s another snippet from his work. In a broadcast to “brothers and sisters in Pakistan”, he says this:

There are more and more Muslims who are coming to the conclusion that jihad must be part of our programme of revival and change in the Muslim world, that the occupying enemy must be fought, and that the tyrants also must be fought. Now Pakistan and Afghanistan, with their long history of Islam, their large populations, and their location, are and will be charting the new history of this ummah.

So you need to realise where you are now. You are in a focal point. You are in centre stage. You are in a place where probably, you may have already recognised, that history is being made in that particular part of the world.

So, the terrorists killing British troops in Afghanistan are the heroes of the ummah.

You can listen to the whole poisonous speech here if you like.

The UK is of course another important target for Awlaki. This weekend, he will address an audience in Tower Hamlets.

Another speaker at the event will be Murtaza “Jews and Christians are our enemies” Khan, widely known as a hate preacher since the broadcast of Undercover Mosque.

The third speaker is Uthman Lateef of the Hittin Institute. It has published a call for Israel’s annihilation, whilst (amazingly) making the absurd claim that Jews will prosper in an Islamic state of Palestine:

Therefore, the modern scholarly opinions too seem to suggest that the Muslims were never anti-Semitic nor did they ever persecute Jews because of their religion. If the Muslims have this historical record then they should be allowed to run the affairs of Palestine and other Islamic lands ensuring that the Islamic law is implemented comprehensively, as it was the effective implementation of this law in the first place which produced the ‘Golden Age’ discussed above. The ‘One State Solution’ based upon the Islamic model supported by Shari’ah is a cohesive model that allows a diverse multitude of ethnicities to co-exist and enjoy the same freedoms and rights that are thwarted by the Zionist state today. The ‘Two State Solution’ based upon Secular Democracy does not qualify to be a solution for the conflict, but rather will only intensify the divisions between the Muslim Palestinians. Furthermore, the proposal of the ‘Two State Solution’ is divisive and advocates the segregation of a ‘Jewish’ Sate from a Secular ‘Muslim’ state, proving that it is not a long term solution for the Middle East.

Lateef also spoke at the last London event Awlaki addressed, as reported here.

By the way, the Muslim Council of Britain, which has claimed to oppose extremism, is listing the event on its web site.

The meeting will be held at the Brady Centre, a Tower Hamlets facility.

If you would like to ask the Centre why it is hosting a jihadi event, its e-mail address is bradycentre(at)towerhamlets.gov.uk.

UPDATE

Paging Jacqui Smith! I think this is one of the most ludicrous official takes on jihadi preaching I have ever seen.

Statement from Tower Hamlets Council

“The council considered its own procedures and policies and consulted with the Police about whether the event planned for this weekend at the Brady Centre should go ahead. We also sought advice from the Home Office. These enquiries did not present us with grounds to prohibit the playing of Anwar Al Awlaki’s recorded message at the conference.

Tower Hamlets is a borough where people from different backgrounds get on well together and where there is a strong community spirit. Whereas national and local government must not allow people with extreme views to undermine this spirit and the cohesiveness we see every day on our streets, we need to ensure that views are expressed as part of an open debate and can be democratically challenged.

The council must at all times act within the law and censorship of any kind is a dangerous step towards the erosion of civil liberties. The event and its participants are not acting unlawfully, and Mr Awlaki is not prohibited by the Government. We will of course, continue to work relentlessly for our residents, doing everything we can to support them to consider and reject expressions of violence and hate in any form.”

The Tories are on the case:

Shadow security minister Pauline Neville-Jones, who has written to Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, said: “I am shocked that a known extremist is being allowed to speak in a taxpayer-funded venue used by vulnerable young people.

“I have written to Jacqui Smith calling on her to make sure this does not go ahead.

“I am amazed that she has done nothing to stop this despite her tough talk. Perhaps her focus has been elsewhere. Public funds and facilities, including local council funding and facilities, must not be given to extremist groups.

Well, Jacqui?


A T Sol Writes: “Dear Daud, Eff Off”

Iain Dale has the letter:

Letter from the Treasury Solicitor, acting on behalf of HMG

8th April

Farooq Bajwa & Co
Solicitors
Regent House
Nuffield Place
London W1H 5YN

Dear Sirs

Dr Daud Abdullah

We act for the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and have been passed a copy of your letter to her dated 31 March.

We understand from your letter that your client, Dr Daud Abdullah, does not dispute that he is a signatory to the Istanbul Declaration from which the Muslim Council of Britain (the MCB) has distanced itself in its letter of 23 March. We further understand that Dr Abdullah has not yet sought personally to disavow the content of that Declaration, and that he has not taken any action to withdraw his signature from it.

We assume that Dr Abdullah would not dissent from the view that the contents of the Declaration are a matter of legitimate and substantial public concern, and that, as the Government Minister with lead responsibility for community relations and faith matters, the Secretary of State has a clear duty to comment on the issues raised by it, especially since Dr Abdullah has signed it whilst holding a senior position in the Muslim Council of Britain which has been one of the Government’s interlocutors in the Muslim communities.

In the light of the Secretary of State’s duty, and given that your client appears to stand by the contents of the Declaration, we consider that the assertions made in your letter are misplaced.

You complain on behalf of your client that, in her letter dated 25 March 2009 which was published in The Guardian on 26 March, the Secretary of State commented that the declaration which your client signed,

“supports violence against foreign forces – which could include naval personnel.”;

That comment was based upon, and fully warranted by, the wording of paragraph 8 of the Declaration, which provides as follows:

“The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard the sending of foreign warships into Muslim waters…as a declaration of war, a new occupation, sinful aggression, and a clear violation of the sovereignty of the Nation. This must be rejected and fought by all means and ways.” [emphasis added]

If, as you insist on his behalf, your client did not intend the Declaration to be seen as a call to attack foreign warships, then surely he should not have signed it whilst it contained paragraph 8 and should now take steps to resile from it – as, we understand, the MCB has claimed it has done.

You also insist on your client’s behalf, in relation to the issue of anti-Semitic violence, that he has never advocated violence of any sort, least of all that based on race and or religion; and your client has, in his response to the Secretary of State published on the Guardian website on 26 March, directly stated his position as being

“…absolutely opposed to any attack or violence directed against innocent persons of any faith or no faith anywhere in the world…” [emphasis added]

The Secretary of State’s legitimate concern is however that, far from being “a declaration of political support” as you contend, the Declaration read as a whole does encourage such violence, since Paragraph II 7 provides as follows:

“The obligation of the Islamic Nation to regard everyone standing with the Zionist entity, whether countries, institutions or individuals, as providing a substantial contribution to the crimes and brutality of this entity; the position towards him is the same as towards this usurping entity.”

The clear meaning of this is that any supporter of Israel is to be regarded not as innocent, but rather as guilty of the perceived “crimes and brutality” of Israel, and as liable to the same treatment as that which the Declaration calls for against Israel. Elsewhere in the Declaration, reference is made to “jihad and resistance against the occupier until the liberation of all Palestine” [Paragraph II.5]; to Hamas “maintaining the Resistance against the Jewish Zionist occupation” [paragraph II.2]; to the Palestinian Authority’s attempts to broker a peaceful solution as “the false peace process” [paragraph II.3]; and so on.

If, as you insist on his behalf, your client is opposed to all violence of any sort, then that is a further reason why he should not have signed the Declaration and should now distance himself from it.

In this regard, the Secretary of State welcomes the statement dated 26th March (but not issued until 27 March, and in any case subsequent to the Secretary of State’s letter in the Guardian dated 25 March) signed by inter alia Dr Abdullah and agreed at a meeting attended by Mohammad Sarwar MP. While this clearly states that Dr Abdullah rejects violence, the conflict with the Istanbul Declaration remains and Dr Abdullah remains a signatory to it.

The Secretary of State’s preferred course is that these issues are resolved by discussion between all the interested parties, as offered in Mr Rossington’s letter of 25 March and accepted by Dr Bari, Secretary General of the MCB in his letter of 27 March to Mr Rossington. Unfortunately, the Secretary of State does not consider that such discussions can sensibly take place while the threat of legal proceedings remains.

Dr Abdullah will no doubt wish to consider this reply, with the benefit of advice from you. We should make it clear, however, that if his decision is to proceed with an action against the Secretary of State, that action will be defended robustly; and the Secretary of State will take all steps necessary to vindicate her position in front of a judge and jury. We hope this will not be necessary; but if proceedings are issued, we confirm that we have instructions to accept service on behalf of the Secretary of State.

It follows, of course, that your offer of settlement is rejected.

Yours faithfully,
etc


State violence

Here’s another camera angle on the assault by a Policeman on Ian Tomlinson. Although the footage is from distance, and partially obscured, I think this makes the attack on Ian Tomlinson look even more appalling.

There is some debate on a Facebook group “Justice for Ian Tomlinson” about the removal of PC numbers from Police uniforms. I had union colleagues who were set upon in a country lane by unmarked Policemen after being stopped on the way to secondary picketing. This happened during the Miner’s Strike in the 1980s. There should be an expectation that Police officers meting out violence on behalf of the state, whether justifiable or not, should be traceable and accountable for their actions. If it is the case that Policemen are deliberately hiding their identification, then that is completely unacceptable and should be seen as a disciplinary offence.

On another note, while it may be true to say that there are some thugs in the Police (and I have friends in uniform who confirm there is still some life on mars) some perspective is needed. This is the action of one man. He may be no more representative of policing, than Harold Shipman is of medical practice. What is perhaps more concerning is the Police’s apparent failure to communicate clearly about incidents and their tendency to give out reassurances and pronouncements about incidents before investigations have concluded. This invariably means they look like they are involved in a cover-up, even if they are not, thus undermining public confidence.


Anti and Pro Islamists on the Centre Left

So, there’s the spat going on between Sunder Katwala and Nick Cohen, over the following passage:

When I asked Shiraz Maher, the co-author of the Policy Exchange report, why he had not offered his work to the leftish Fabians or Institute for Public Policy Research, he guffawed. They would never print what he wrote. For this Muslim liberal, the left was no longer a home but an obstacle.

Said Sunder:

I will set out why I think Cohen, Maher and Husain are wrong to make this charge – and why I think it suggests a lack of serious engagement on their part. Let us find out if they will, on reflection, wish to withdraw it. 

I find this lazy slur factually wrong, politically regressive and personally offensive. And it reflects very shoddy journalism on Cohen’s part. Despite specifically choosing to identify the Fabians (and the ippr) in his Observer column as responsible for, at least, an abdication of democratic responsibility, Cohen did nothing whatsoever to get in touch with those he lambasts.

A complaint was made to the Observer Readers Editor. A letter was signed by some Labour supporting Muslims, along with a Tory journalist and a couple of people associated with a political foundation founded by a senior Jamaat-e-Islami figure (who remains a trustee), that some interpreted as a call for Nick Cohen to be sacked, but others did not.  Asim Siddiqui and Martin Bright have both been drawn into the spat.

At the heart of the issue is the question as to whether the Fabians or the IPPR would publish the sort of report that Shiraz Maher wrote. 

I am hugely heartened by Sunder’s forthright and angry denial  of the “slur”. The Left should be actively opposing antisemitic terrorist politics, and groups that seek to establish a theocracy in which women and non-Muslims would be systematically discriminated against. Were the Fabians to refuse to publish a work critical of the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis,  then an important part of the Left would be utterly lost.

Indeed, the Observer Readers Editor has ruled as follows:

Katwala told me that Maher had never had any contact with the Fabians or the IPPR, but “his co-authored paper is quite good; it contains nothing we could not have published”, so it would appear that Maher and Cohen’s accusation of censorship is without foundation in this case.

On that basis, the Fabians appear to be leaning away from the  ’partnering with “non-violent Islamists”” position. That is an excellent outcome. 

The IPPR, by contrast, does appear to have bought wholly into the “Moderate Muslim Brotherhood” thesis. Have a read of this article:

Non-violent Islamists are much more likely to come across Al Qaeda recruiters and recruits than moderates, who do not move in those circles. And unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda’s Islamist critics have the credentials to make their criticism bite. If, as seasoned former counter-terrorism officer, Bob Lambert, observes, ‘Al Qaeda values dozens of recruits over hundreds of supporters’, can the government really afford to do business only with moderates?

We must have two aims in all of this: save lives and build a cohesive society. The two are inextricably linked. A surefire way to set community cohesion back in this country is for another bomb to go off. A community-based approach to counter-terrorism is required. Communities can provide warning, when Al Qaeda won’t. They can help the police both to understand what might be of concern and to avoid unnecessary grievance. And, as a last resort, they can help them into a teenager’s bedroom – or give them the keys to Finsbury Park Mosque – when they don’t want to have to kick the door down.

This is an endorsement of Leiken, Bergen and Cruikshank, and specifically Lambert

That is all well and good. Except that one of the people that Lambert handed over the Finsbury Park Mosque signed the Istanbul Declaration. Working closely with government didn’t stop Daud Abdullah from signing that Declaration. Neither did a visit from the Lord Chief Justice, where he endorsed Sharia law, stop the Imam of the East London Mosque signing the Istanbul Declaration either.

So, please, remind me again what precisely the process of engaging with supposedly “non-violent Islamists” is supposed to achieve? Evidently, it hasn’t stopped them from threatening Jihad the moment they step outside the United Kingdom. 

What worries me is this. There is a section of the Left which has now come to the conclusion that threats of Jihad against British forces, and against Jews within and without Israel, is just ‘resistance’. I believe that they have bought into the Conflicts Forum thesis, and have decided that we have to cultivate these people, if we’re to stop Al Qaeda.

Of course, if Andy Hull of the IPPR is right about all this, then it is very important that Nick Cohen and Shiraz Maher be confounded and silenced. Perhaps the only people who can save us from the negative effects on social cohesion of a bomb going off, are extremists, who have the credibility to persuade the hotheads that there’s another way to gain power, other than murder.

Martyn Gilleard wanted to set off nail bombs to “save” Britain from black people. Robert Cottage was stockpiling explosive chemicals for a race war he believed was forthcoming. Neil MacGregor threatened to bomb Glasgow Central Mosque. 

Clearly – if we are to follow the advice of the IPPR’s Andy Hull – the only solution is for the Government to engage closely with the non-violent extremists of the British National Party. We must provide them with buildings to meet and and organise from. Nick Griffin should be invited to Downing Street, to advise on immigration policy. We must minimise and cover up for their racism. We must accuse others, who question the wisdom of this policy, of anti-White bigotry. 

This is, of course, a very stupid idea. By legitimising an extreme racist group, we would increase, not diminish racism. It would show that violence, and threats of violence, achieves real results. Nobody in their right mind would suggest such a policy. 

There’s one final part of the IPPR article that I’d like to focus on:

And let us not forget that, like Maher, people can change their politics over time. Our own Cabinet is replete with former extremists, radicals and revolutionaries: Alistair Darling was a supporter of the British section of the Trotskyist Fourth International, Alan Johnson was a Marxist, and Peter Mandelson was a member of the Young Communist League. Martin Luther King was a radical cleric and the Archbishop of Canterbury was once arrested at a CND march.

Yeah. This is a very good point. 

When people leave extreme and radical politics for good, they do it in style. Like Shiraz, they devote a part of their lives to explaining precisely how it was that they ended up engaged in vicious extremist groups, and doing their very best to explain how they think that politics can effectively be defeated. Or like Peter Mandelson, they poured their talents into making the Labour party a centre-Left, electable party. 

Then, there are the entryists. Those who realise that the game is up for extremists, so try their best to sound conciliatory, at least when they’re speaking in English in the United Kingdom. But they can never quite bring themselves to speak out against Jamaat-e-Islami or the Muslim Brotherhood. They feel honour bound to defend Mawdudi and Qutb. And they’re very keen in finding good social democratic-sounding reasons to support the goals of extreme Islamist groups. 

The Labour Party has had entryists in droves. If Andy Hull’s thinking represents a strand of Labour thinking on this issue, we’ll make a damn good target for a new wave of entryists.

But the bottom line is this. As far as the IPPR is concerned, it looks as if Shiraz and Nick were right.


Legislature or Judiciary?

Norm has a post up on the decision of the Vermont legislature to legalise same-sex marriage. He says:

Rod Dreher says that, though he’s opposed to gay marriage, if it’s going to be legalized, this is the right way to do it – that is, legislatively, through ‘the elected representatives of the people’, rather than having it ‘imposed on unwilling polities by the judiciary’. I must say I find this a strange argument coming from within a liberal democratic culture that generally lauds the separation of powers. Particularly since the subject here is that of a person’s sexuality, a matter at the very heart of questions of identity, of the right of individuals to freely choose to be who they are. If the courts are thought unfit to rule on a question like this, it amounts to saying that social majorities can dictate how each of us lives, even though our life choices may be injurious to no one. For this argument to be made in the United States of America of all places does strike me as odd.

Hmm.

I agree with Norm on this. However, tactically, I am attracted to Rod’s position. Let me start with a little story.

A number of years ago, a contemporary of mine at Oxford – now a prominent Professor of Law – was teaching United Kingdom Constitutional law (such as it was, at the time) on a US Summer school program. During the course of a tutorial, he observed that certain policy matters were decided by the courts in the US as matters of constitutional right,  in the United Kingdom were  decided by the legislature.

He gave as an example, the right to an abortion: in the US, the product of a Supreme court ruling, and in the United Kingdom, the result of the Abortion Acts.

A student  immediately challenged him, enquiring why he was denying that the right to choose an abortion was a fundamental human right. He explained that he was not: he was simply talking about comparative constitutional law approaches. The student promptly reported my friend to the University authorities for (I would imagine) ‘gynophobia’. I’m pleased to say they took no action.

Now, I do believe that there are certain fundamental human rights, that should be protected by the courts. However, the content of rights are affected by the ideological struggles which precede and establish the widespread acceptance of their primacy and legitimacy. I wouldn’t deny that the courts can play an important role in establishing those norms. Brown v Board of Education, Roe v Wade were all paradigm shifting decisions.

But I’m inclined to believe that the best way to achieve grand philosophical twists, is by political activism: not by judicial fiat. The struggle for gay rights – for example – has truly been won, not when a court upholds the rights of an individual petitioner, but when a party fears that it will not win an election, if it pledges to deny equality to same-sex couples.

However, if that shift has not yet taken place, but the legal precedents all push in one direction, should a citizen be denied their rights? I find it hard to say that they should.


Canadian columnist is early winner

The New Republic magazine once held a “Most Boring Headline” contest. The winner was the title of a column by the late journalist Flora Lewis: “Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.”

Well, the year is still relatively young, but I think we have a winner in the 2009 “Most Cringe-Inducing Sentence Written by a Canadian Columnist” competition. It’s by Linda McQuaig of The Toronto Star: “With the mental toughness of Noam Chomsky and the showmanship of Mick Jagger, Galloway slices through the pro-war apologetics of political leaders like a knife through warm butter.”

I mean, she couldn’t even be bothered to come up with a reasonably fresh analogy. Although the way I usually hear it is “like a hot knife through butter.” I suppose it works either way.

(Hat tip and much respect: Terry Glavin)

Update:
To what should be no one’s surprise, the government-run Tehran Times has reprinted McQuaig’s column.