Monthly Archives: January 2010


  The Tory MP for Monmouth, David Davies, has sparked outrage by making comments interlinking rape with attitudes towards women in minority cultures.

Commenting on a rape case and the background of the attacker, Balal Khan, Davies said:

“I think there is a wider question here – what is it about this young man’s upbringing, what about his community or his parental upbringing that led him to think that women are second-class people whose rights can be trampled over like this?”

“There are some sensitive issues here, but there do seem to be some people in some communities who don’t respect women’s rights at all, and who, if I may say, without necessarily saying that this is the case on this occasion, who have imported into this country barbaric and medieval views about women, and that is something that needs to be addressed.”

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  The Jewish Chronicle front page today revisits the heavy lobbying Government is facing from Anglo-Jewish organisations to amend universal jurisdiction provisions before the next election.

The paper two weeks ago reported that the Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, was pushing for legislation to be placed on the statute books before the window of opportunity of passing it during the current parliamentary term closes.

The JC today reports that the proposed changes to the law to protect Israeli officials accused of committing war crimes from arrest and prosecution in the UK, has hit a stumbling block. The paper cites a source claiming that Justice Minister, Jack Straw, is frustrating Miliband’s efforts to keep on track.

The paper states:

‘Mr Straw is known to be highly sensitive to the views of his Muslim constituents in Blackburn and is close to the Muslim Council of Britain, which opposes a change to the law.

‘…according to a highly placed source, the Justice Secretary is “pulling every trick in the book” to frustrate Mr Miliband’s move to deal with it.

‘The source said: “Every time a deal seems close to being done, Jack finds another ‘obstacle’. He is the block. Without him this would have been dealt with weeks ago.”’

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  The Independent today prints a letter from the MCB responding to Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s article in Monday’s edition of the paper in which she referred to the organisation as “retrogressive” for its opposing the banning of Muslim female attire (niqab and burqa).

The letter reads:

‘Yasmin Alibhai-Brown takes an unexplained swipe at the Muslim Council of Britain as she pursues a bizarre attack on those women who choose to wear the veil. She claims that the Muslim Council of Britain is “retrogressive”, but gives no reason for this.

‘The Muslim Council of Britain is a democratic, cross-sectarian Muslim umbrella body that does not pass judgement on any Muslim tradition or tendency. We have consistently argued for equality of opportunity, not for special privilege.

‘Ms Alibhai-Brown rails against “liberal Westerners” who do not submit to her “progressive Muslim” aim of restricting the veil in public places. We presume her ire would also be reserved for President Obama who said last year: “It is important for Western countries to avoid impeding Muslim citizens from practising religion as they see fit, for instance, by dictating what clothes a Muslim woman should wear. We cannot disguise hostility towards any religion behind the pretence of liberalism.”’


 

Today sees the launch of the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) and its seminal research paper on ‘Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: a London Case Study’.

The EMRC, based at Exeter University, is co-directed by Dr Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Dr Robert Lambert, former head of the Muslim Contact Unit at Scotland Yard.

Their first piece of research, a report into anti-Muslim hate crime in London, establishes a causal relationship between an environment that habitually demonises Islam and Muslims, stoked by media commentators and populist politicians, and religiously motivated hate crimes.

The report states:

“…empirical evidence demonstrate[s] that assailants of Muslims are invariably motivated by a negative view of Muslims they have acquired from either mainstream or extremist nationalist reports or commentaries in the media. Moreover, the evidence is clear that the major motivating factor for violence against Muslims is a negative and false belief that Muslims pose a security or terrorist threat.”

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  The testimony of Sir Michael Wood (pictured), chief legal adviser at the Foreign Office, and his deputy, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, to the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War reveals the extent to which the Blair government roundly ignored the legal advice of international law experts, pressuring them to reconsider their views on the illegality of declaring war on Iraq in the absence of a second UN resolution.

Documents declassified on Tuesday and presented to the Chilcot Inquiry, as well as the evidence of Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, paint a damning portrait of a government determined to wage a war against the judgment of experts employed to offer legal advice on courses of action that remain within the law.

The Chilcot Inquiry heard of how the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, was leaned on to ‘carefully consider’ the advice he gave government after he had advised that war without a second UN resolution would be illegal. The inquiry also heard of the cavalier attitude of the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, to the advice given by FCO legal experts on the illegality of war and the dangers of the position the government was inclined towards.

The Guardian reports:

‘While Downing Street was pressing Goldsmith hard, and eventually successfully, to come round to the view that a UN resolution would not be necessary, Straw was battling it out with his lawyers in the FO. Sir Michael Wood, Downing Street’s chief legal adviser, wrote to Straw on 24 January 2003 expressing concern about comments Straw had made to then-US vice president, Dick Cheney, in Washington. Straw told Cheney Britain would “prefer” a second resolution but it would be “OK” if they tried and failed to get one “à la Kosovo”.

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  UN Human Rights experts have published a report on the ‘reinvigorated’ use of secret detention as part of states’ counter-terrorism efforts and the human rights abuses involved in the practice.

‘In a 222-page study which will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March, the experts conclude that “secret detention is irreconcilably in violation of international human rights law including during states of emergency and armed conflict. Likewise, it is in violation of international humanitarian law during any form of armed conflict.

The study, which took almost a year to complete, involves responses from 44 States to a detailed questionnaire, as well as interviews with 30 individuals – or their family members or their legal counsel – who were victims of secret detention, and in many cases may also have been subjected to torture.

‘It provides an historical overview of the use of secret detention, noting that it is not a new phenomenon in the context of counter-terrorism. From the Nazi regime to the former USSR with its Gulag system of forced labour camps, States have often resorted to secret detention to silence opposition, according to the report.’

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  In today’s edition of The Independent, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown once again berates Muslim women who choose to wear the burqa.

Alibhai-Brown writes:

‘You people who support the “freedom” to wear the burka, do you think anorexics and drug addicts have the right to choose what they do? This covering makes women invisible, invalidates their participatory rights and confirms them as evil temptresses. Does it stop men from raping them? Does it mean they have more respect in the home and enclaves? Like hell it does. I feel the same fury when I see Orthodox Jewish women in wigs, with their many children, living tightly proscribed lives.’

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  Martin ‘The Great Koran Con Trick’ Bright reports in the latest issue of the Jewish Chronicle that UK Jewish leaders are furious that the government has restored ties with the country’s largest Islamic umbrella body, the Muslim Council of Britain.  

Bright says:

‘In a strongly-worded letter to John Denham, the Communities Secretary, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council expressed their “deep regret” at his announcement last Friday bringing the MCB in from the cold after asking and receiving assurances of its opposition to all forms of racism, including antisemitism.

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  It was inevitable that the resurfacing of the niqab/burqa issue in the press, initiated by UKIP’s announcement of its intention to ban these items of clothing, would see Joan Smith (pictured) of The Independent proffer her blinkered views couched in her familiar secular gender equality framework.

She writes in her column today:

‘The niqab and the burka are symbols of an ideology, not a fashion statement, and we shouldn’t be afraid of making a robust ideological response to them.

‘Here is mine. One of the most fundamental human rights is equal access to public space. Islam doesn’t demand that men cover their faces before they go out, but its more extreme advocates place special conditions on how women dress outside the home. It’s a typical example of patriarchal practice, based on the notion that women should be under the control of their male relatives at all times, and it’s incompatible with any notion of universal human rights. It limits women’s contact with non-relatives and maintains barriers between people who have different ethnic and religious backgrounds. (Of course it does. That’s what it’s for.)

‘In effect, a woman in a niqab is wearing a mask, signalling her deliberate separation from people unlike herself. It’s hard to think of another form of dress which is so highly politicised – or so rejectionist of mainstream culture.’

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  There’s something typically disturbing about the Daily Express’s coverage (image, left) of the reported termination by Newham Council of proposals by Tablighi Jamaat to erect a mosque and educational complex with 12,000 people capacity in East London.

Newham Council has reportedly served the trust that has been negotiating use of the land to build the complex an eviction notice after the trust failed to meet a January deadline for submission of building plans.
 
The Daily Express’s headline on its news article about this, ‘Olympics ‘Super-mosque’ is banned’, is not without wider connotations.

Following a weekend where newspapers widely reported the UK Independence Party’s declaration to administer a ban on the burqa and niqab, and last week’s announcement on the banning of Islam4UK/Al Muhajiroun, one wonders if it is with devious intent that the Daily Express uses the term ‘banned’ in relation to the mosque plans falling through.

Is the paper suggesting a line of continuity between all these events with a wishful banning checklist – ‘mosque down, burqa and niqab to go’?