Posts Tagged ‘Glasgow’

My Email to the Local Labour Party about the False View that only White Europeans Were Responsible for Slavery

January 4, 2023

I had an email from my local branch of the Labour party in Bristol this morning informing that they will be out this weekend canvassing people about the issues that matter to them. I wish them the very best of luck. Twelve years of Tory misrule have just about wrecked this great country and are forcing millions of ordinary, hardworking Brits into poverty. Not to mention the continued exploitation and impoverishment of the disabled and unemployment through benefit sanctions, work capability tests and all the rest of the welfare reforms that they have pushed through to enable them to stop paying benefits to people, who genuinely need it, all on the flimsiest of pretexts.

But one issue in Bristol that particularly concerns me is the way the slave trade is represented in exhibitions, the media and in education. Bristol was one of the major cities in the UK slave trade, along with London, Liverpool and I think Glasgow in Scotland. Although the slave trade was banned in 1807 and slavery itself abolished in 1837, it still casts a very long shadow over the city, just as it does the country generally. This was shown three years in the BLM riot that brought down the statue of Edward Colston and in a motion passed by the city council calling for reparations to be paid to the Black population. What concerns me about this is that it seems to me that a distorted image of slavery has arisen, in which White Europeans and Americans are seen as uniquely responsible and culpable for it. I am worried about the apparent lack of awareness that it existed right across the world and long before Europeans started enslaving Black Africans for labour in the plantations of the New World. It also appears that the BBC is determined to push this distorted image, as detailed by the group History Reclaimed and their document identifying the bias in twenty BBC programmes, several of which were about slavery. These included the edition of The Misadventures of Romesh Ranganathan when he went to Sierra Leone and Enslaved, presented by Hollywood actor Samuel L. Jackson. I therefore sent a reply stating my concern about this issue and the way it was handled by the local council. This runs

‘Dear Neil,

Thank you for your email letting me know that the party will be out this Saturday canvassing people in Bedminster about the issues that matter to them. I am afraid that long term illness prevents me from attending. However, apart from the continued cuts to public services forced on the mayor by central government cuts, there is one local issue that is of deep concern to me. This is the presentation and public knowledge of the history of slavery. Slavery has existed since antiquity and across the globe. Some of the earliest records come from the ancient near eastern town of Mari, which detail the sale of slaves and other properties. You can find lists of slaves on noble estates from ancient Egypt. Slavery also existed in the Muslim world, India and China. It also existed in Black Africa long before the emergence of the transatlantic slave trade. In some African societies, the proportion of the population that was enslaved varied between 30 to 70 per cent. By and large the slaves acquired by White European and American merchants were purchased from Black African slavers. Duke Ephraim, the king of Dahomey, had an income of £300,000 a year from slaving. There are records of British merchants to Africa being offered slaves Black chiefs. After abolition some of the slaving tribes attacked British trading posts in order to make us resume purchasing their human wares. Britain also paid compensation to former African slaving nations after abolition. In the 1850s we also fought a war with Dahomey in order to stop them enslaving the other local peoples.

But I am afraid I find little awareness of these issues in Bristol and among people generally. I am worried that this is creating a false view of the trade in the public, in which slavery, and particularly Black enslavement, is wholly the fault of Whites. This includes a lack of awareness that White Europeans, including British people and Bristolians, were also enslaved during the Turkish conquest of the Balkans and the Barbary pirates from Algiers and Morocco from the 16th century on till the French conquest of Algeria in the 1820s. I feel very strongly that this is creating an ideological motivated demonisation of Whites, especially if coupled with Critical Race Theory, which holds that all Whites are racist and will remain so.

I also feel this situation has been exacerbated locally by the motion passed a year or so ago calling for the payment of reparations for slavery, introduced by Green councillor Cleo Lake and seconded by Deputy Mayor and head of Equalities Asher Craig. This called for funding to be given to Black organisations rather than individuals, so that they can create sustainable, prosperous Black communities. This is obviously a noble aim, but the stipulation that the money should cover all Afrikans, as councillor Lake styles all Blacks, in the context of reparations means that Britain has accepted a moral responsibility for compensating people,. who were never enslaved by us, and which includes the vary African nations that committed the raiding and brutality that supplied the slaves. It also has nothing to say against the celebration in some African countries of these slavers, like Efroye Tinobue in Nigeria. It also erases from history the White victims of slavery.

I sent emails last year to Mdm. Craig and Councillor Lake pointing out these defects. I regret that I never received a reply. But this issue still has a particular urgency in Bristol. In previous correspondence, Asher Craig informed me that the local government was planning a new, ‘One Bristol’ curriculum for schools, which would foreground Black people. I have absolutely no qualms about Black Bristolians receiving the educational help they need, nor being included in our city’s history. But I am afraid that this curriculum will place the blame for slavery solely on White Bristolians and that this will lead to further racial division and prejudices.

I would very much like the local council to ensure that whenever slavery is taught or exhibitions on it mounted, its antiquity and the fact that other peoples, such as Black Africans, Arabs, Indians and so on were also involved, and that Whites were also the victims of the trade. This need not be an extensive treatment, but it should be there.

I hope you will take on board these concerns and recommendations, and wish you and the other party members all the best campaigning on Saturday.

Yours faithfully,

David Sivier’

I’ll let you know if I get a reply.

Rishi Sunak to Attend COP 27 After All

November 2, 2022

It seems that the internet petitions launched to get our recently un-elected Prime Minister to attend the COP27 conference have actually had an effect. According to Sky News this morning, Sunak has said that he will be going. He tweeted this morning that ‘There is no long term prosperity without action on climate change. There is no energy security without investing in renewables. That is why I will attend @COP27 next week: to deliver on Glasgow’s legacy of building a secure and sustainable future.’

Sky’s Tamara Cohen in this report below suggests that Sunak’s volte-face was caused by the unexpected backlash he got from his party, including former Chancellor George Osborne, who said that he was trashing the Tories’ green legacy. This was something the Tories can be proud of when frankly there isn’t much else. They were also thinking of Boris Johnson hosting the Glasgow conference. Also, the report says, it gives him a chance to network with the other world leaders.

So, no mention of the fact that the British public were also demanding he go, and Keir Starmer criticised him for not going, which obviously also put pressure on Sunak to reverse his decision. But at least Sunak is going to attend the summit at last.

Kwasi Kwarteng – Diversity Hire, or Just Another Member of Truss’ Government of Mediocrity?

October 2, 2022

It’s been a few days since I commented on a video by Simon Webb of History Debunked, so here’s one now. A few days ago, he put one up questioning Kwarteng’s qualifications for office as Chancellor of the Exchequer and wondering if he was only chosen because he was Black. Was his appointment simply a case of Truss giving him a job in order to show how diverse her government was? Given how disastrous the minibudget is, Kwarteng does not strike me as a brilliant economist. But then, neither does Truss herself, who strikes me as another absolute mediocrity. The same with Therese Coffey, who I wouldn’t trust to run a corner shop or local whist club. As for Jacob Rees-Mogg, I think he’s cleverer than the rest in that he has clever people working for him and is sufficiently slick with his patrician diction and general demeanour to conceal his absolute incompetence from much of the public. But none of them, absolutely none of them, strike me as intellectual powerhouses. Quite the opposite.

Readers of this blog of a certain age and taste in comedy will remember Glasgae toon’s guerrilla philosopher, Rab C. Nesbitt, and his biting view of Scots politics and the treatment of the poor and the underclass from the bottom of a pint glass. In one episode, Nesbitt crossed paths with the local Tory politician, a political nonentity looking forward to great things because Tory prime minister John Major was in office, and ‘this is the age of the mediocrity’. Ah, how that was the joke at the time! John Major was the grey man, a boring, uninspiring individual following the all-too vivid figure of Margaret Thatcher. Major himself wasn’t economically deft or competent, as his privatisation of the railways and the collapse of the pound during Black Wednesday showed. But compared to Truss and her crew, he was statesman of positively Churchillian proportions.

A week or so ago I went to an online meeting where members of the Labour left, like Richard Burgon and members of the TUC responded to Truss’ minibudget. They pointed out what a right-wing nightmare it was, along with her highly authoritarian attempts to strangle the unions with fresh legislation. Truss was promising nothing to the British working class except more poverty while massively cutting taxes for the rich. But the panel was also encouraged by the fact that people were determined to resist, and mobilising strikes and protests up and down this Sceptred Isle. And as for Truss and the rest of the minions, they saw them as the last of the Thatcherite True Believers. Thatcherism has run its course. It’s now looking threadbare. People are abandoning it. And Truss and co are the last of the market fundamentalists, more right-wing than Thatcher herself. And that’s saying something, given how she was a fan of real Fascists like General Pinochet!

If I read what the Labour people were saying rightly, this means that, as the last of the true-blue Thatcherites, Liz, Kwarteng and co are the scrapings from the bottom of the Tory barrel. In which case, Kwarteng didn’t get his post because he’s a diversity hire. He got his job because he shared the views and the same lack of ability as Truss and the rest of her followers.

And unfortunately, that means we’ve got to suffer his and Truss’ doctrinaire incompetence.

Their colour is immaterial. All that matters is their grotesque hatred and victimisation of the poor to benefit the extremely, obscenely rich.

Get them out now!

History Debunked Gets Nostalgic for the Polite Violence of British Football Hooligans

September 21, 2022

As against the really nasty, gun and knife violence of Blacks and other ethnic minorities. A few days ago, Simon Webb of History Debunked put up a video arguing that the reason Britain has become a much more violent society is because of non-White immigration. Yes, he conceded, riots and violence had occurred before mass Black and Asian immigration, but they were much less dangerous than currently. When fights broke out, as between different gangs of football hooligans, it largely involved fists. Knives and guns were rarely used. Now Webb does have a point here. The Lotus Eaters put up a video a few days ago of them speaking to Nick Buckley, a former police officer and anti-knife crime activist. Buckley stated that some of this violence did come from ethnic minorities importing their own cultural attitudes towards violence. An example of this was machetes, which came from Africa. But he did not have such a rosy view of indigenous British violence. Britain had in the past been an extremely violent society, but this had been successfully combated. And now we needed to start the process again with the new immigrants and their armed violence.

Absolutely. Here’s a couple of piccies I found of items issued to 19th century coppers for their own defence and protection. They come from Michele Byam’s Eyewitness Guides: Arms and Armour, published by Dorling Kindersley in 1988.

The above is a photo of a ‘stock’, a leather collar that was issued to the officers by some police forces to prevent them from being garrotted.

There was also this police sword. They weren’t carried by policemen on duty and were usually kept back at the police station. But they were issued for use in riots. One of the photos in one of the pubs around St. Nicholas’ Market in Bristol shows a group of 19th century cops drawn up in ranks practising their swordsmanship ready for just such a situation. I also remember hearing on a programme about 19th century crime that London was such a violent place that at any one time a certain high percentage of its officers would be off work recovering from injuries. 19th century Britain was far more violent than today, and if the criminals didn’t have knives, they had the ‘shiv’, which was often a cut-throat razor stuck into a cork. And Glasgow had a particularly nasty reputation for razor gangs.

This violence was successfully fought, in my opinion, through rising prosperity and the emergence of a culture of working-class respectability. My hope is that the same can be and will be done to crush the culture of violence in some parts of Britain’s ethnic communities.

Webb also stated that all the recent rioting could be correlated with immigrant communities and gave a list of them. This including the rioting across Britain in 1981/2, which was racial. But there have been other riots by Whites. Later in the 1980s or ’90s there was a riot in Hartcliffe in Bristol, which at the time was largely but not exclusively White. And I’m sure there have been other riots across the country that were the same, but have not been so notable because the rioters were Whites rather than Blacks or other ethnic minorities.

But there were other things Buckley said that probably didn’t go down too well with the true-blue Tories of the Lotus Eaters. Some of the rise of violence was blamed on the limits placed on stop and search, because more Blacks were stopped than Whites. But Buckley defended on it on the grounds that he’d been stopped and searched when he was a younger. And the reason why Blacks were stopped more than Whites was simply because Blacks were responsible for a higher proportion of crime. That was just statistics. The Lotus Eaters believed that the limits on stop and search had been put there by Blair. But he actually blamed David Cameron, who wanted to copy Blair in that regard, and Theresa May, who as home secretary took 20,000 coppers off the beat. As for the return of stop and search, Buckley stated that many communities were in favour of it because they wanted more police protection. Thus, in every council ward before an election, communities were asked if they wanted more policing, with the only answer either a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. If they answered yes, they had stop and search. Complaints of racism were to be ignored and rebutted, because the community had asked for it.

The Lotus Eaters would clearly support the return of stop and search, but I got the impression that the last thing they wanted to hear about the rise in violent crime is that it was due to Dodgy Dave Cameron and Tweezer curbing stop and search and cutting police numbers. Oh dear. How sad. Never mind.

In the meantime, let’s also recognise that while violent crime may have increased in Britain, there have also been horrifically high rates of it during the 19th century when it was driven by Whites.

A Liberal Muslim’s Journey through Islamic Britain and the Dangers of Muslim Separatism

June 30, 2022

Ed Hussain, Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain (London: Bloomsbury 2021)

Ed Hussain is a journalist and the author of two previous books on Islam, the House of Islam, which came out in 2018, and The Islamist of 2007. He’s also written for a series of newspapers and magazines, including the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Times, the New York Times and the Guardian. He’s also appeared on the Beeb and CNN. He’s an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has been a member of various think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations. The House of Islam is an introduction to Islamic history and culture from Mohammed onwards. According to the blurb, it argues that Islam isn’t necessarily a threat to the West but a peaceful ally. The Islamist was his account of his time in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a militant Islamic organisation dedicated to restoring the caliphate. This was quoted in Private Eye, where a passage in the book revealed that the various leaders Tony Blair appealed to as part of his campaign against militant, extremist Islam weren’t the moderates they claimed to be, but the exact type of people Blair was trying to combat. Among the Mosques continues this examination and critical scrutiny of caliphism, the term he uses to describe the militant to set up the caliphate. This is an absolute Islamic state, governed by a caliph, a theocratic ruler, who is advised by a shura, or council. This, however, would not be like parliament as only the caliph would have the power to promulgate legislation. Hussain is alarmed at how far this anti-democratic ideology has penetrated British Islam. To find out, he travelled to mosques across Britain – Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham and London in England, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, the Welsh capital Cardiff, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. Once there, he goes to the local mosques unannounced, observes the worshippers, and talks to them, the imams and other local people. And he’s alarmed by what he sees.

Caliphism Present in Mosques of Different Sects

The mosques he attends belong to a variety of Islamic organisations and denominations. Dewsbury is the centre of the Deobandi movement, a Muslim denomination set up in Pakistan in opposition to British imperialism. Debandis worship is austere, rejecting music, dance and art. The Barelwi mosque he attends in Manchester, on the hand, is far more joyful. The Barelwis are based on an Indian Sufi preacher, who attempted to spread Islam through music and dance. Still other mosques are Salafi, following the fundamentalist brand of Islam that seeks to revive the Islam of the salaf, the Prophet’s companions, and rejects anything after the first three generations of Muslims as bid’a, innovations. But across these mosques, with a few exceptions, there is a common strand of caliphism. The Deobandi order are concerned with the moral reform and revival of Muslim life and observance, but not political activism, in order to hasten the emergence of the caliphate. Similar desires are found within the Tableegh-e Jama’at, another Muslim revivalist organisation founded in Pakistan. This is comparable to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Christianity, in that its method of dawa, Muslim evangelism, is to knock on lax Muslims’ doors and appealing to them become more religious. It’s a male-only organisation, whose members frequently go off on trips abroad. While the preaching in Manchester Central Mosque is about peace, love and tolerance as exemplified in the Prophet’s life, the Barelwis themselves can also be intolerant. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, was a member of the Barelwi Dawat-e-Islami. He murdered Taseer, whose bodyguard he was, because Taseer has dared to defend Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy. Under strict Islamic law, they were gustakh-e Rasool, a pejorative term for ‘insulter of the Prophet’. The penalty for such blasphemy was wajib-e qatl, a mandatory death. Despite being tried and executed, Qadri is regarded by many of the Pakistani faithful as a martyr, and a massive mosque complex has grown up to commemorate him. In his meetings with various imams and ordinary Muslims, Hussain asks if they agree with the killing of blasphemers like Taseer, and the author Salman Rushdie, who had a fatwa and bounty placed on his life by the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran for his book, The Satanic Reverses. Some of them give evasive replies. One imam even defends it, claiming that Rushdie deserved death because he insulted love, as represented by Mohammed and Islam. A Muslim female friend dodges answering by telling him she’s have to ask her husband.

In the mosques’ libraries he finds books promoting the Caliphist ideology, denouncing democracy, immodest dress and behaviour in women, who are commanded to be available for their husband’s sexual pleasure, even when their bodies are running with pus. Some are explicitly Islamist, written by Sayyid Qutb and his brother, the founders of modern militant Islamism. These mosques can be extremely large, serving 500 and more worshippers, and Hussain is alarmed by the extremely conservative, if not reactionary attitudes in many of them. In many, women are strictly segregated and must wear proper Islamic dress – the chador, covering their hair and bodies. The men also follow the model of Mohammed himself in their clothing, wearing long beards and the thawb, the long Arab shirt. But Hussain makes the point that in Mohammed’s day, there was no distinctive Muslim dress: the Prophet wore what everyone in 7th century Arabia wore, including Jews, Christians and pagans. He has a look around various Muslim schools, and is alarmed by their demand for prepubescent girls to wear the hijab, which he views as sexualising them. Some of these, such as the Darul Ulooms, concentrate almost exclusively on religious education. He meets a group of former pupils who are angry at their former school’s indoctrination of them with ancient, but fabricated hadiths about the Prophet which sanction slavery, the inferior status of women, and the forced removal of Jews and Christians from the Arabian peninsula. They’re also bitter at the way these schools did not teach them secular subjects, like science, literature and art, and so prepare them for entering mainstream society. This criticism has also been levelled Muslim organisations who have attacked the Darul Uloom’s narrow focus on religion. The worshippers and students at these mosques and their schools reject the dunya, the secular world, and its fitna, temptations. One Spanish Muslim has immigrated to England to get away from the nudist beaches in his home country. And the Muslim sections of the towns he goes to definitely do not raise the Pride flag for the LGBTQ community.

Hussain Worried by Exclusively Muslim Areas with No White Residents

Hussain is also alarmed at the way the Muslim districts in many of the towns he visits have become exclusively Muslim quarters. All the businesses are run by Muslims, and are geared to their needs and tastes, selling Muslim food, clothing, perfume and literature. Whites are absent, living in their own districts. When he does see them, quite often they’re simply passing through. In a pub outside Burnley he talks to a couple of White men, who tell him how their children have been bullied and beaten for being goras, the pejorative Asian term for Whites. Other Whites talk about how the local council is keen to build more mosques, but applications by White residents to put up flagpoles have been turned down because the council deems them racist. Hussain objects to these monocultures. Instead, he praises areas like the section of Edinburgh, where the Muslim community coexists with Whites and other ethnicities. There’s similar physical mixture of Muslim and non-Muslim in the Bute area of Cardiff, formerly Tiger Bay, which has historically been a multicultural cultural area. In the mosque, however, he finds yet again the ideology of cultural and religious separatism.

The Treatment of Women

He is also very much concerned about the treatment of women, and especially their vulnerability before the sharia courts that have sprung up. A few years ago there were fears of a parallel system of justice emerging, but the courts deal with domestic issues, including divorce. They have been presented as informal systems of marriage reconciliation. This would all be fine if that was all they were. But the majority of the mosques Hussain visits solely perform nikah, Muslim weddings. Under British law, all weddings, except those in an Anglican church, must also be registered with the civil authorities. These mosques don’t. As a result, wives are left at the mercy of Islamic law. These give the husband, but not the wife, the power of divorce., and custody of the children if they do. Hussain meets a battered Muslim woman, whose controlling husband nearly killed her. The case was brought before the local sharia court. The woman had to give evidence from another room, and her husband was able to defeat her request for a divorce by citing another hadith maintaining that husbands could beat their wives.

London Shias and the Procession Commemorating the Deaths of Ali, Hassan and Hussain

Hussain’s a Sunni, and most of the mosques he attends are also of that orthodox branch of Islam. In London, he attends a Shia mosque, and is shocked and horrified by the self-inflicted violence performed during their commemoration of the Battle of Karbala. Shias believe that Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, was the true successor to Mohammed as the leader of the early Muslim community. He was passed over, and made a bid for the caliphate, along with his two sons, Hasan and Hussain, who were finally defeated by the Sunnis at the above battle. This is commemorated by Shias during the month of Moharram, when there are special services at the mosque and the jaloos, a commemorative procession. During the services and the processions, Shias express their grief over their founders’ martyrdom by beating their chests, matam, faces and whipping themselves. They also slash themselves with swords. All this appears to go on at the London mosque, to Hussain’s horror. He is particularly disturbed by young children beating their chests and faces in the worship the night before, and wonders how this isn’t child abuse.

Separatist Attitudes and Political Activism in Mosques

He is also concerned about the political separatism and activism he sees in some of the mosques. They don’t pray for the Queen, as Christians and Jews do, but there are prayers for the Muslim community throughout the world and funeral prayers for Morsi, the former Islamist president of Egypt. He finds mosques and Islamic charities working for Muslims abroad, and activists campaigning on behalf on Palestine, Kashmir and other embattled Muslim countries and regions, but not for wider British society. Some of the worshippers and Imams share his concern. One Muslim tells him that the problem isn’t the Syrian refugees. They are medical men and women, doctors, nurses and technicians. The problem is those asylum seekers from areas and countries which have experienced nothing but war and carnage. These immigrants have trouble adapting to peace in Britain. This leads to activism against the regimes in the countries they have fled. Afghan and Kurdish refugees are also mentioned as donning masks looking for fights. Some of the worshippers in the mosques Hussain attends had connections to ISIS. In London he recalls meeting a glum man at a mosque in 2016. The man had toured the Middle East and Muslim Britain asking for signatures in a petition against ISIS. The Middle Eastern countries had willingly given theirs. But an academic, a White convert who taught at British university, had refused. Why? He objected to the paragraph in the petition denouncing ISIS’ enslavement of Yazidi and other women. This was in the Quran, he said, and so he wouldn’t contradict it. This attitude from a British convert shocked the man, as usually objections to banning slavery come from Mauretania and Nigeria, where they are resented as western interference. And in another mosque in Bradford, he is told by the imam that he won’t allow the police to come in and talk about the grooming gangs. The gangs used drugs and alcohol, which are forbidden in Islam and so are not connected to the town’s mosques.

Islamophobia against Northern Irish Muslims

But Islam isn’t a monolith and many Muslims are far more liberal and engaged with modern western society. Going into an LGBTQ+ help centre, he’s met by a Muslim woman on the desk. This lady’s straight and married, but does not believes there’s any conflict between her faith and working for a gay organisation. And in reply to his question, she tells him that her family most certainly do know about it. He meets two female Muslim friends, who have given up wearing the hijab. One did so after travelling to Syria to study. This convinced her that it was a pre-Islamic custom, and she couldn’t find any support for it in the Quran. She also rejected it after she was told at university that it was feminist, when it wasn’t. In Belfast he visits a mosque, which, contrary to Islamic custom, is run by two women. The worship appears tolerant, with members of different Muslims sects coming peacefully together, and the values are modern. But this is an embattled community. There is considerable islamophobia in Northern Ireland, with Muslims sufferings abuse and sometimes physical assault. One Protestant preacher stirred up hate with a particularly islamophobic sermon. Many of the mosque’s congregation are converts, and they have been threatened at gun point for converting as they are seen as leaving their communities. Travelling through Protestant and Roman Catholic Belfast, Hussain notices the two communities’ support for different countries. On the Nationalist side of the peace walls are murals supporting India and Palestine. The Loyalists, on the other hand, support Israel. But back in London he encounters more, very modern liberal attitudes during a conversation with the two daughters of a Muslim women friends. They are very definitely feminists, who tell him that the problem with Islam, is, no offence, his sex. They then talk about how toxic masculinity has been a bad influence on British Islam.

Liberal Islam and the Support of the British Constitution

In his travels oop north, Hussain takes rides with Muslim taxi drivers, who are also upset at these all-Muslim communities. One driver laments how the riots of 2011 trashed White businesses, so the Whites left. In Scotland, another Muslim cabbie, a technician at the local uni, complains about Anas Sarwar, the first Muslim MP for Scotland. After he left parliament, Sarwar left to become governor of the Punjab in Pakistan. The cabbie objects to this. In his view, the man was serving just Muslims, not Scotland and all of its people. During ablutions at a mosque in Edinburgh, he meets a British army officer. The man is proud to serve with Her Majesty’s forces and the army has tried to recruit in the area. But despite their best efforts and wishes, Muslims don’t wish to join.

In London, on the other hand, he talks to a modern, liberal mullah, Imam Jalal. Jalal has studied all over the world, but came back to Britain because he was impressed with the British constitution’s enshrinement of personal liberty and free speech. He believes that the British constitution expresses the maqasid, the higher objectives Muslim scholars identified as the root of the sharia as far back al-Juwaini in the 11th century. Jalal also tells him about al-shart, a doctrine in one of the Muslim law schools that permits women to divorce their husbands. The marriage law should be reformed so that the nikah becomes legal, thus protecting Muslim wives with the force of British law. And yes, there would be an uproar if prayers for the Queen were introduced in the mosques, but it could be done. Both he and Hussain talk about how their father came to Britain in the late 50s and early 60s. They wore three-piece suits, despite the decline of the empire, were proud to be British. There was time in this country when Muslims were respected. In one factory, when a dispute broke out, the foreman would look for a Muslim because they had a reputation for honesty. The Muslim community in these years would have found the race riots and the terrorist bombings of 7/7 and the Ariana Grande concert simply unbelievable. Had someone told them that this would happen, they would have said he’d been watching too much science fiction.

Muslim Separatism and the Threat of White British Fascism

Hanging over this book is the spectre of demographic change. The Muslim population is expected to shoot up to 18 million later in the century and there is the real prospect of Britain becoming a Muslim majority country. In fact, as one of the great commenters here has pointed out, this won’t happen looking at the available data. If Scotland goes its own way, however, the proportion of Muslims in England will rise to 12 per cent, the same as France and Belgium. For Hussain, it’s not a question of how influential Islam will be in the future, but the type of Islam we will have. He is afraid of Muslim majority towns passing laws against everything the Muslim community considers forbidden. And as politicians, particularly Jeremy Corbyn and the Muslim politicos in the Labour party treat Muslims as a solid block, rather than individuals, he’s afraid that Muslim communalism and its sense of a separate identity will increase. This may also produce a corresponding response in the White, Christian-origin English and Brits. We could see the rise of nationalist, anti-Islam parties. At one point he foresees three possible futures. One is that the mosques will close the doors and Muslims will become a separate community. Another is mass deportations, including self-deportations. But there are also reasons to be optimistic. A new, British Islam is arising through all the ordinary Muslims finding ways to accommodate themselves within liberal, western society. They’re doing it quietly, unobtrusively in ordinary everyday matters, underneath all the loud shouting of the Islamists.

The Long Historical Connections between Britain and Islam

In his conclusion, Hussain points out that Islam and Britain have a long history together. Queen Elizabeth I, after her excommunication by the Pope, attempted to forge alliance with the Ottoman Sultan. She succeeded in getting a trading agreement with the Turkish empire. In the 17th century, the coffee shop was introduced to Britain by a Greek-Turk. And in the 8th century Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, used Muslim dirhams as the basis for his coinage. This had the Muslim creed in Arabic, with his head stamped in the middle of the coin. Warren Hastings, who began the British conquest of India, opened a madrassa, sitting on its governing board and setting up its syllabus. This is the same syllabus used in the narrowly religious Muslim schools, so he’s partly to blame for them. During the First World War 2.5 million Muslims from India willingly fought for Britain. Muslim countries also sheltered Jews from the horrors of Nazi persecution. He’s also impressed with the immense contribution Muslims gave to the rise of science, lamenting the superstition he sees in some Muslim communities. He really isn’t impressed by one book on sale in a Muslim bookshop by a modern author claiming to have refuted the theory that the Earth goes round the sun.

To Combat Separatism and Caliphism, Celebrate British Values of Freedom and the Rule of Law

But combatting the Muslims separatism is only one half of the solution. Muslims must have something positive in wider mainstream society that will attract them to join. For Hussain, this is patriotism. He quotes the late, right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton and the 14th century Muslim historian ibn Khaldun on patriotism and group solidarity as an inclusive force. He cites polls showing that 89 per cent of Brits are happy with their children marrying someone of a different ethnicity. And 94 per cent of Brits don’t believe British nationality is linked to whiteness. He maintains that Brits should stop apologising for the empire, as Britain hasn’t done anything worse than Russia or Turkey. He and Imam Jalal also point out that the Turkish empire also committed atrocities, but Muslims do not decry them. Rather, the case of a Turkish TV show celebrating the founder of the Turkish empire, have toured Britain and received a warm welcome at packed mosques. He points out that he and other Muslims are accepted as fellow Brits here. This is not so in other countries, like Nigeria and Turkey, where he could live for decades but wouldn’t not be accepted as a Nigerian or Turk. And we should maintain our country’s Christian, Protestant heritage because this is ultimately the source of the values that underlie British secular, liberal society.

He also identifies six key values which Britain should defend and celebrate. These are:

  1. The Rule of Law. This is based on Henry II’s synthesis of Norman law and Anglo-Saxon common law, to produce the English common law tradition, including Magna Carta. This law covers everyone, as against the sharia courts, which are the thin end of an Islamist wedge.
  2. Individual liberty. The law is the protector of individual liberty. Edward Coke, the 17th century jurist, coined the phrase ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’. He also said that ‘Magna Carta is such a fellow he will have no sovereign’ It was this tradition of liberty that the Protestant emigrants took with them when they founded America.
  3. Gender equality – here he talks about a series of strong British women, including Boadicea, the suffragettes, Queen Elizabeth and, in Johnson’s opinion, Maggie Thatcher. He contrasts this with the Turkish and other Muslim empires, which have never had a female ruler.
  4. Openness and tolerance – here he talks about how Britain has sheltered refugees and important political thinkers, who’ve defended political freedoms like the Austrians Wittgenstein and Karl Popper.
  5. Uniqueness. Britain is unique. He describes how, when he was at the Council for Foreign Relations, he and his fellows saw the Arab Spring as like Britain and America. The revolutionaries were fighting for liberty and secularism. There was talk amongst the Americans of 1776. But the revolutionaries didn’t hold western liberal values.
  6. Racial Parity. Britain is not the same nation that support racists like Enoch Powell. He points to the German roots of the royal family, and that Johnson is part Turkish while members of his cabinet also come from ethnic minorities. Britain is not like France and Germany, where Muslims are seen very much as outsiders.

Whatever your party political opinions, I believe that these really are fundamental British values worth preserving. Indeed, they’re vital to our free society. On the other hand, he also celebrates Adam Smith and his theories of free trade as a great British contribution, because it allowed ordinary people and not just the mercantilist elite to get wealthy. Er, no, it doesn’t. But in a book like this you can’t expect everything.

Criticisms of Hussain’s Book

Hussain’s book caused something of a storm on the internet when it was released. The peeps on Twitter were particularly upset by the claims of Muslims bullying and violence towards Whites. There was a series of posts saying that he’d got the location wrong, and that the area in question was posh White area. In fact the book makes it clear he’s talking about a Muslim enclave. What evidently upset people was the idea that Muslims could also be racist. But some Muslims are. Way back c. 1997 Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote a report for the Committee for Racial Equality as it was then on anti-White Asian and Black hatred and violence. Racism can be found amongst people of all colours and religions, including Muslims.

People were also offended by his statement that in the future there could be mass deportations of Muslims. From the discussion about this on Twitter, you could be misled into thinking he was advocating it. But he doesn’t. He’s not Tommy Robinson or any other member of the far right. He’s horrified by this as a possibility, a terrible one he wishes to avoid. But these criticism also show he’s right about another issue: people don’t have a common language to talk about the issues and problems facing Britain and its Muslim communities. These need to be faced up to, despite the danger of accusations of racism and islamophobia. Tanjir Rashid, reviewing it for the Financial Times in July 2021, objected to the book on the grounds that Hussain’s methodology meant that he ignored other Muslim networks and had only spoken to out-of-touch mullahs. He pointed instead to an Ipsos-Mori poll showing that 88 per cent of Muslims strong identified with Britain, seven out of ten believed Islam and modern British society were compatible and only one per cent wanted separate, autonomous Muslim communities. It’s possible that if Hussain had also travelled to other towns where the Muslim population was smaller and more integrated with the non-Muslim population, he would have seen a very different Islam.

Intolerant Preaching Revealed by Channel 4 Documentary

On the other hand, the 2007 Channel 4 documentary, Undercover Mosque, found a venomous intolerance against Christians, Jews and gays being preached in a hundred mosques. A teacher was effectively chased out of his position at a school in Batley because he dared to show his pupils the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a class on tolerance. He is still in hiding, fearing for his life. Hussain cites government statistics that 43,000 people are under police surveillance because political extremism, 90 per cent of whom are Muslims.

These are vital questions and issues, and do need to be tackled. When I studied Islam in the 90s, I came across demands in the Muslim literature I was reading for separate Muslim communities governed by Islamic law. This was accompanied by the complaint that if this wasn’t granted, then Britain wasn’t truly multicultural. More recently I saw the same plea in a book in one of Bristol’s secondhand and remaindered bookshops, which based its argument on the British colonisation of America, in which peoples from different nationalities were encouraged to settle in English territories, keeping their languages and law. It might be that the mullahs are preaching separatism, but that hardly anybody in the Muslim community is really listening or actually want the caliphate or a hard line separate Muslim religious identity.

Conclusion

I do believe, however, that it is an important discussion of these issues and that the sections of the book, in which liberal Muslims, including Hussain himself, refute the vicious intolerance preached by the militants, are potentially very helpful. Not only could they help modern Muslims worried by such intolerant preaching and attitudes, and help them to reject and refute them, but they also show that a modern, liberal, western Islam is very possible and emerging, in contradiction to Fascists and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson.

Tolerant Muslim Preaching and Complaints of Misrepresentation in ‘Among the Mosques’

June 25, 2022

I’ve started reading Ed Hussein’s Among the Mosques, his account of his journey through Muslim Britain looking at its culture, differences, and values. He did so by going to the mosques and other Muslim cultural and religious centres in Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. While there, he met and talked to ordinary local people as well as the worshippers at the mosques, hearing their views and concerns. It was met with a storm of controversy when it came out because he talked about the conversations he’d had with Whites,, who’d suffered from racism, bullying and assault from Muslims in their areas. This was angrily denied, and a people went on Twitter to claim that the area he was talking about wasn’t Muslim but a posh White district. But the critics were talking about a different area from that visited by Hussein, and the book states this. The controversy seems to show the inability of some on the left to deal with the reality of anti-White racism by ethnic minorities.

But I don’t think the book does present a biased image of British Islam. Yes, in some areas, such as Dewsbury, the Islam practised – Deobandi – is austere and based on a theology of cultural separatism, in which Muslims are called to create and maintain a separate cultural and religious identity in preparation for the emergence of the caliphate. In other areas and mosques, the preaching and observance is more relaxed. Manchester’s Central Mosque is Barelwi, a sect based on the teachings of a 13th century Indian Sufi preacher. Their worship includes music, song and dance and the imam’s address was about interfaith tolerance as shown by Mohammed’s example.

Hussein writes

‘The imam continues to develop his theme of the need to change and improve ourselves based on our love for the Prophet. He encourages us to study the life of the Prophet Mohammed and how he acted towards people, even his enemies. Each time his name is mentioned the congregation again kiss their thumbs. The imam talks about the Prophet’s compassion, his kindness to his enemies, his message of co-existence with the Jews, Christians and pagans in seventh century Medina.

‘Are we such model citizens? Do we make our Prophet proud? he asks rhetorically, raising his hands with an exaggerated shrug like an Italian.

He quotes:

Qad ja’akun nur. Certainly a light has come to you.

That light is the prophet and the Qur’an, asserts the imam. ‘Are we radiating this light? Do our neighbours and friends in this country see us as carriers of love? The Prophet is shifa, he is healing. Has he healed our lives?’ (p. 46.) This isn’t that far from the various Anglican and other Christian clergymen in this country also preaching about the need for tolerance and love to heal ‘broken Britain’.

Earlier in the chapter he meets with a Muslim woman, Faiza, and her husband, who has come to the meeting as a chaperone as Muslim women may not meet strange men unaccompanied. She wears the niqub, and tells Hussein that she has reported three of her work colleagues to the HR department because they think she’s an extremist for doing so. She also talks about how the Muslim community in Manchester has been misrepresented thanks to the wretched suicide bomber at the Ariane Grande concert.

”One of the suicide bombers, Salman Abedi, was from a mosque in Didsbury here in Manchester,’ Faiza explains, adding in exasperation: ‘We have almost seventy mosques in this city. Yes, twenty-nine innocent kids died. And over a hundred were injured. For what crime?’ she shrugs. ‘One suicide bomber – one salafi – caused the incident, but what about the hundreds of Muslim taxi drivers who immediately took the injured to hospital? The drivers didn’t charge for this, but just offered their compassion and help. And why do we forget all the Muslim doctors and nurses at the hospital>’ Faiza is speaking passionately but intelligently.’ (p. 38). Elsewhere in the chapter he describes how all the mosques in the area condemned the bombing, but this wasn’t reported in the press coverage. And other Muslims tell him that they tried to warn the authorities six times about Abedi but were ignored. It’s a familiar story I’ve heard about other Muslim extremists – the congregation at the local mosque were worried, and attempted to alert the authorities only to be ignored.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it seems to me that Hussein is trying to present a fair picture of British Islam. Islam, like most other religious, isn’t a monolith but composed of a number of sects, which may differ considerably in their theology and practise. Indeed, the title of one book we had in the library at College on Islam was The Sectarian Milieu. There are serious issues and challenges from some of the more austere sects, which reject mainstream cultural values and integration. And Muslims are like everyone else – human beings -, and so may have their own prejudices and biases. And some are no doubt racist thugs and bullies, just like some Whites.

These issues have to be squarely addressed, not denied, or distorted so that all British Muslims become tainted due to the actions of violent extremists. If we don’t do this, then it’ll be left to the real bigots and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL.

Stop the War Coalition’s Day of Action Tomorrow

May 6, 2022

I got this email just this afternoon from Stop the War Coalition giving the details of the protests and demonstrations they’re holding against the war in Ukraine tomorrow. They’re almost entirely in England, but there is one in Glasgow for any Scots, who may wish to join in and another in Cardiff for the people of Wales. The email states

Tomorrow: International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine

Towns and cities across the UK will be alive with anti-war activity tomorrow as part of the International Day of Action for Peace in Ukraine.

We are calling for the withdrawal of Russian troops in Ukraine, an end to the military escalation by NATO countries and for all efforts to be focused on finding a negotiated solution to the horrific war in the country.

A Scotland-wide demonstration is set to march through Glasgow and protests will also be taking place in Bournemouth, Brighton, Manchester and Newcastle.

Stalls and speak-outs have also been organised in over 30 locations. Find yours below…

BathBath Abbey, 11:30am – 12:30pm

Bournemouth: Protest – Bournemouth Square, 2pm

BrightonProtest – Brighton Clock Tower, 2pm

Cardiff: Queen St (near M&S), 2pm

Essex – Colchester: Stop the War Stall @ Climate Jobs Trades Council Event, Headgate Theatre, Chapel Street North, 11:30am-4pm

Essex – Harlow: Obelisk, Harlow Town Centre, 1-2pm

Hastings: Hastings Town Centre, 12-1pm

Huddersfield: Street stall and protest. Market Cross, Huddersfield Town Centre, HD1 2AA, 12.30 pm

Glasgow: Stop the War in Ukraine – Scotland National Demonstration, Assemble: 11:30am @ Blythswood Square

Leeds: Outside body shop, Briggate, 1:30-3:30pm

Lewes: Top of Cliff High Street, 12pm

London – Ealing: Ealing Broadway, Lloyds Bank, 12:30 – 2pm

London – Enfield: Enfield Town, Barclays Bank, 12pm

London – Hackney: Narrow Way, 2pm

London – Islington: Highbury & Islington Station, 12 – 2pm

London – Kentish Town: Kentish Town Station, 12 – 1:30pm

London – Lewisham: Lewisham Clock Tower, 11- 1pm

London – Newham: Opposite St John’s Church, 12-1:30pm

London – Walthamstow: Walthamstow Town Square, 1pm

Liverpool – Top of Church Street, 2-4pm

Milton Keynes- Outside M&S/opposite Civic Offices, 12pm

Manchester – Piccadilly Gardens, M1 1RN, 11am-1pm

Newcastle – Protest: Assemble, Grey’s Monument, 12 noon

Norwich: Speak Out: Haymarket, 2pm

Oxford: Bonn Square – Stall/Vigil/Mass Leafletting, 12-4:30pm

Portsmouth: Palmerston Rd Precinct, Southsea, 12pm

Plymouth: Sundial, Armada Way, 12pm

Sheffield: Sheffield Town Hall, 1pm

ShrewsburyPride Hill, 10:30am, 12pm

Southampton: The Bargate, High Street, 1-2pm

Swansea: Swansea Centre, 11:30-12:30pm

York: Shambles, York Town Centre, 12pm

Share the List of Events

We are asking all activists involved to upload pictures to social media and tag us @STWUK or use the hashtag #PeaceForUkraine

Please can you also email pictures to us at office@stopwar.org.uk if you would like your event included in the end of day report.

Do write to us and let us know how you get on!’

The email also includes notice of forthcoming protests in support of the Palestinians on the 14th May, and against the siting of nuclear weapons at Lakenheath on the 21st.

Protest for Palestine – Saturday 14 May

Join us on Sat 14th May to call for an end to Israel’s oppression and to assert the right of the Palestinian people to live in freedom with justice and equality.

The Palestinian people need our solidarity now more than ever.

Click Here for Full Details

Stop Nukes Coming to Lakenheath – 21st May

It has been revealed that Britain is to become the sixth country in Europe to host US nuclear weapons. The expected location: RAF Lakenheath, a US Air Force base in Suffolk – 70 miles from London.

Creating the conditions for siting American nuclear weapons in Britain puts us on the front line of a nuclear war. It is tantamount to painting a target on the back of everyone in this country.

We’re joining the CND protest at RAF Lakenheath on Sat 21 May. Transport is being organised from across the country. If you’d like to join us click the button below. 

Find Your Nearest Transport

Glasgow Council Report Criticises Statues of Livingstone, Peel and Gladstone for Slavery Links

April 5, 2022

GB News and the Heil carried reports a few days ago attacking Glasgow council for a report compiled by a highly respected Scottish historian about the city’s historic involvement in the slave trade and its statues commemorating figures connected with it. The council felt that, unlike Liverpool and Bristol, and the city had not faced up to its history as one of the other major British centres of the slave trade. It compiled a list of seven statues that were particularly questionable because of their subjects’ links to the trade. These included the missionary and abolitionist, David Livingstone, Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone. The reports concentrated on the criticism of Livingstone, as the man was a fervent abolitionist and it demonstrates how ridiculousness the iconoclasm by the anti-slavery activists is. According to reports by GB News, the Heil and the Glasgow Herald, it’s partly because Livingstone started work at age 10 in factory weaving and processing slave-produced cotton from the West Indies. They make the point that as a child worker, Livingstone had absolutely no control over what the factory did. I doubt very much that he had much control, as someone who could be called a ‘factory slave’, over his choice of employment either. Later videos from GB News and further down in the articles from the Herald and the Heil is the statement that he also defend the cotton masters, believing that they were paternalistic. He may well have done so, but this hardly discredits him because of his life’s work in Africa.

Livingstone had a genuine, deep hatred, as many British Christians had at the time, of slavery. He travelled to Africa to spread Christianity and to combat slavery as its sources. He was also a doctor, and had worked hard after work to educate himself. One of the guests on the GB News debate about it was a right-wing historian of Africa. He pointed out that Livingstone is still very much loved in Africa, and there are plaques to him in Malawi, Zambia, Tanganyika and three other African countries. I have no doubt this is absolutely true. A few years ago I took out of Bristol’s central library a history of Malawi. The book was even-handed and objective. It did not play down massacres by the British army committed when we annexed the area during fighting with the slaving tribes. It described how, under imperialism, White Malawians tended to look down on the indigenous peoples and the dissatisfaction with imperial rule that resulted from the use of forced labour. But neither did it omit or play down the enslavement of indigenous Africans by the other native peoples. These included the Yao, Marganja, Swahili and Arabs, who preyed on the other tribes for the Arab slave trade, sending their captives to Zanziba, Kilwa and across the Indian ocean. To gain their victims’ trust, they’d settle down with them for a year, working alongside them as friends before finally turning on them. They also set up a series of forts to defend the slave routes. One of these, set up by Zarafi, one of the most infamous slavers, had a palisade on which were impaled 100 severed heads. As for the akapolo slaves used in the local economy, they were made very much aware of their status. They had to work with broken tools, and eat their meals off the floor. The chiefs, meanwhile, seemed to have spent much of their time relaxing and having their hair done.

Livingstone, whatever his faults, hated all this and his settlement became a refuge for runaway slaves. As did many of the other settlements he or his followers founded for this purpose. These settlements have since expanded to form some of Malawi’s towns.

William Ewart Gladstone was the leader of Britain’s Liberal party, serving as prime minister, in the latter half of the 19th century. The scandal here is that Gladstone’s family got its money from slave estates in the West Indies. I know Conservatives who genuine hate slavery, who despise Gladstone because of this. So it isn’t just ‘leftists’ that have issues with the Grand Old Man, as Gladstone’s supporters dubbed him. But Gladstone is immensely important because of the social legislation he enacted. He was an Anglican, who, in the words of one historian, ‘became the voice of the Nonconformist conscience’. He wanted the disestablishment of the Anglican church at a time when Christian Nonconformists were still required to pay it tithes and other duties that left them disadvantaged. He also wanted to give Ireland home rule. Of course this faced immense opposition, and I think it was one reason why he failed to win elections as the century wore on. But it seems to me that if he had been able to enact this policy, then perhaps Ireland’s subsequent history may not have been quite so bloody. One of the surprising facts about Irish history is that there was in the 18th century an alliance between Roman Catholics and Protestant Nonconformists. This was before Roman Catholic emancipation, which legalised it and granted Roman Catholics civil rights. At the same time Protestant Nonconformists were tolerated, but still suffered deep political disabilities. As a result, one of Ulster’s historic Roman Catholic churches was build with donations and subscriptions from Ulster nonconformist Protestants. This surprising fact was included in a BBC Radio 4 series, Mapping the Town, which traced the history of British and UK towns through their maps.

I don’t know much about Robert Peel, except that he introduced free trade as a policy for the Conservatives, or a section of the Conservatives. But what he is primarily known for is founding the metropolitan police force. I’ve got a feeling he might also have been responsible for reducing the 100-odd crimes that carried the death penalty to three. These included murder and treason. It might be because of Peel that we’re no longer hanging people for stealing a loaf of bread or impersonating a Chelsea pensioner. But long before Glasgow council decided he was problematic, there was also a demonstration by masked protesters in London demanding that his statue should be removed. And last year the right were also getting in a tizzy because one of Liverpool’s universities was removing him as the name of one of their halls. The student union replaced him with a Black woman, who was a Communist and teacher. She is, no doubt, perfectly worthy of commemoration, but hardly in Gladstone’s league.

Part of the problem is that iconoclasts want to judge everything by a very strict, modern morality. Slavery and the slave trade was an abomination and was rightly abolished. Good people have been continuing the struggle against global slavery since then. But not everybody, who was connected to the trade, is such a monster that they should be blotted out of history in the same way Stalin’s historians removed all mention of his opponents.

One of the things you are taught, or at least were taught, in history at university level is not to play ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ with historical figures. There is no set outcome to the historical process. If events had been different in the past, then modern society would also be different. If, horribly, Wilberforce and the abolitionists had lost, then slavery would still be unchallenged today. At the same time, you need to use the historical imagination to understand why people in the past behaved as they did, and why good people by the standard of their times were capable of attitudes that are deeply morally repugnant to us.

The great British philosopher, Sir Isaiah Berlin, was an admirer of the 17th-18th century Italian historian Vico. Vico believed, as Berlin later did, that there were no objective moral values. He noted how they changed over time, and that to properly understand a past epoch, you needed to understand also its art and culture. I don’t think he was a cultural relativist, however. Berlin certainly wasn’t – he believed that while there were no objective moral values, there were certainly those which acted as if they were. He was fiercely anti-Communist, partly because his family were Lithuanian Jews, who had seen their logging business seized by the Bolsheviks and had fled the Russian Revolution. He was a major figure during the Cold War in establishing western contacts with Soviet dissidents like Nadezhda Mandelstam, who wrote moving accounts of her experience of the gulags under Stalin.

I don’t share Berlin’s Conservatism and strongly believe in the existence of objective moral values. But I strongly recommend Berlin’s books. He wrote a series of potted intellectual biographies, including on the early Russian revolutionaries like the 19th century anarchist, Bakunin. Even though he hated what they stood for, his books are notable for his attempts to see things from his subjects’ point of view. So much so that some people, according to Berlin, though he was pro-Communist. They’re fascinating and highly readable, even if you don’t agree that someone like the French utopian socialist Saint-Simon was ‘an enemy of freedom’.

There are statues of slavers and the people connected with the trade that deserve to be torn down. There had been calls for Colston’s statue to be removed since the 1980s. It was highly controversial all those decades ago, though many Bristolians would have defended it because he gave away most of his money to charity. But other historical figures deserve to be still commemorated despite their connections to the ‘abominable trade’ because of their immense work that has benefited both Britain and nations like Malawi. And I believe that some of those, who find figures like Gladstone objectionable, could also benefit from reading Vico and Berlin. In the meantime, it should be noted that Glasgow council has no plans to tear any statues down.

Slavery is a great moral evil. But historic slavery should not considered so grave and unforgivable, that it is used to blot out the memory of figures like Livingstone, Gladstone and Peel, whose work has so helped shape modern Britain for the better.

Email Campaign by We Own It Against Channel 4 Privatisation

October 20, 2021

I got this email yesterday from anti-privatisation, pro-NHS organisation We Own It about the government’s latest sell-off. They’re planning to privatise Channel 4. Their email explains that this is disastrous because Channel 4 are one of the few media outlets holding them to account. At the same time they have been instrumental in producing quality television, which is funded through the channel’s advertising revenue. The government’s proposed privatisation is such a terrible idea that even many Tories are protesting against it. To counter it, the organisation is asking people to write to their MPs using a form letter they have devised. Here’s the email:

“Dear David,

There is absolutely no reason to privatise Channel 4, but the government is planning to do it anyway.

You can take a quick, easy action today to stop them in their tracks.

Take action now

Why is this so important?

Channel 4 News is one of the few news programmes that really holds this government to account, on issues from the NHS to the climate crisis. In fact, that’s probably a big part of why the government wants to privatise it. 

(Remember when Boris Johnson failed to attend the Channel 4 leaders’ debate on the climate crisis, and they replaced him with a melting ice sculpture?)

If you want decent news coverage at the next general election, please take 2 minutes to email your MP, ESPECIALLY if they’re a Conservative.

Email your MP now

Privatising Channel 4 would be an incredibly destructive act that would damage the UK film and TV industry. The creation of Channel 4 is the reason why the independent sector in film and TV exists today.

This matters 

  • For the quality of programmes and films that get produced
  • For young people trying to enter the creative industry
  • For the UK’s reputation in the world

There is no problem that privatising Channel 4 is the solution for.

Channel 4 has a unique business model, making a profit from advertising that it reinvests in good programming and nurturing talent. Channel 4 now has offices in Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Bristol, so it helps with the ‘levelling up’ agenda, boosting investment and jobs all around the country. They also support local production companies and outreach programmes in Cardiff, Belfast, Bournemouth, Norwich, Wolverhampton, Preston, Doncaster, Corby and Leicester.

That’s why wherever you are in the UK, Channel 4 is a good thing for your area.

Take 2 minutes to take action now

Lots of Conservatives have come out against the proposed sale of Channel 4. Many celebrities, including very right wing ones, have too. This means we have a chance of persuading the government that privatisation is a bad idea.

As Kirstie Allsopp has said, the plan to privatise Channel 4 is incredibly destructive. “I am a fiscal conservative and I’m naturally conservative-leaning and I find [the sale of C4] to be a betrayal of conservatism. It’s bonkers…I stood outside St Pauls when Margaret Thatcher’s coffin went by, and she would be spinning in her grave if she knew what this government was intending to do. Because C4 produces money, it produces jobs, it fosters talent, it brings out the best in people, and it’s very British.”

If you have a Conservative MP, it’s so important that you take this action! Your MP is EXACTLY who we need to shift. You will see that the template email is aimed at appealing to MPs like yours. Please send the text as it is, to maximise the chances of doing that! Thank you.

If you don’t have a Conservative MP, your MP can still really help to raise this issue up the agenda.

I want to stop the Channel 4 sell off

Last time the government tried to privatise Channel 4 they failed – partly because of the campaign we were part of to stop them. 

Let’s win again this time around and protect this much loved, publicly owned asset.

Thank you so much.

Cat, Alice, Johnbosco, Matthew, Zana and Anna – the We Own It team

PS Thank you so much for the incredible response to our Halloween action to protect our NHS from the Health and Care Bill! If you’ve let us know that you’d like to take action locally, we’re getting your action packs ready at the moment and we’ll be in contact with you via email. Get in touch if you want to get involved – there’s still time!”

I’ve supported their campaign, and duly sent a message to my MP because of the reasons they’ve laid out in their email. It’s not just the government that Channel 4’s held to account. They also gave Mark Regev a hard time when during the bombardment of Gaza. Regev tried to tell the British public that if they sent aid to Gaza through Israel, it would still get there. John Snow knew he was lying and told him he was. Which shows that Channel 4 has more backbone when it comes to tackling Israeli lies and atrocities than the rest of our craven media, or at least, they did then.

Channel 4 was set up in the 1980s to be an alternative to BBC 2. News was to be a particularly important part of its programming, and this has been consistently extremely good, even to Tories like former Mail columnist, now scribbling for the Times, Quentin Letts. The broadcaster was also going to offer programmes to minorities and groups not served by mainstream broadcasters. Hence when it started off it broadcast an adaptation of the Indian national epic, the Mahabharata, and a season of Indian films, All India Goldies. I also remember it having a news series of reports from Africa, fronted by Black reporters. It also helped launch a new generation of Black comedians with the series Desmond’s. And then there was the awesome Max Headroom. Unfortunately, the quality did decline in the 1990s as the programme chiefs made it more mainstream, though even then it did broadcast quality material like the American import, Fraser. And it does support the British film industry, or what remains of it. If you’ve seen a British film, or a British/Irish co-production in the past few years, chances are that it’s also been co-produced by Channel 4 films. Kirstie Allsopp is wrong about Margaret Thatcher not wanting it privatised. There were several times when the Conservative government tried to sell it off, or sold shares in it but it hasn’t been totally privatised.

Now it seems it will be. For the same reasons the government is trying to privatise the Beeb. Because both are obstacles to private TV stations that don’t have a public service commitment, and particularly because they’re obstacles to the grasping power of Rupert Murdoch.

I’ve supported this campaign and emailed my MP as requested because I don’t want the channel privatised. If you feel the same, please do so.

American Conservative Demands Beeb’s Privatisation Because Feminism, Muslims and Non-Binary Haircuts

February 28, 2020

Boris Johnson and his pet polecat, Dominic Cummings, have made it very clear that they want the Beeb privatised. They’re talking about removing the licence fee and turning it into a subscription service. This is because they claim that the Beeb is full of evil lefties, who are biased against them. The evidence from the BBC newsroom, at least, completely contradicts this. The Beeb followed the rest of the right-wing press in viciously attacking and smearing the Labour Party and its leader at every opportunity. And that included pushing the anti-Semitism smears. But this is the propaganda line Boris takes in order to justify his running away from everything but the softest interviews, and for the eventual privatisation of the Corporation itself.

The Tories hate the BBC partly for ideological reasons, partly out of simple political strategy and partly out of venal self-interest. They despise the Beeb as a nationalised industry and because, the present state of the Corporation notwithstanding, it has in the past criticised, contradicted and refuted Tory claims. Hence the Tories have claimed the Corporation was against them under Thatcher and John Major, and made the same threats of removing the licence fee. They also want to privatise it because many of the parties’ chief donors and supporters are the owners and proprietors of rival broadcasters, like Rupert Murdoch. They’re jealous of the Beeb’s dominant position in British broadcasting, and want to see it go so that their networks will fill its place. These rival networks also include American broadcasters, who have been buying into British TV companies since at least the 1990s.

And earlier this week, the American Conservative broadcaster Lauren Chen joined all the British Tories demanding the Beeb’s privatisation.

Who? Good question! Chen’s young American woman with her own internet show, discussing issues from a right-wing perspective. You can find her videos up on YouTube. I found one of them earlier this week, in which she ranted about how the Beeb needed to be privatised because of a programme produced by BBC Scotland, The Social. No, I hadn’t heard of it, either. I doubt many people in Britain have. But Chen had, and was furious. Because the Beeb was using it to push far left Social Justice Warrior propaganda on ordinary, Conservative-voting Brits!

This was because the programme had featured short pieces in which a variety of people talked about the issues that were important to them. Those Chen seized on and used as the subject for her video were a piece by a young woman complaining that men were all sexist and didn’t go to female-led movies. This would mean that the Oscar’s committee, over two-thirds of whom were male, wouldn’t give an award to Little Women. Another woman, who identified as non-binary, complained that she couldn’t get a suitably androgynous haircut.  A dominatrix appeared to talk about her profession and complain that people didn’t respect BDSM as they’d been conditioned to think of it as deviant. Another woman argued that Islam believed in the equality of all, whether male or female, while firmly wrapped up in a burqa so that only her eyes were visible. Then there was a young man arguing for Christianity. These all showed the Beeb’s liberal, progressive bias. It using taxpayer’s money to push feminist, LGBTQ+, Muslim propaganda. And it only broadcast the Christian because he was weak, woolly and unconvincing, and so showed how they wanted to present the religion.

Now I can’t say that those pieces would have been of interest to me, and I doubt they would to many other Brits. Some of the arguments were quite flimsy. For example, a number of vloggers on cinema dispatched the claims about sexism and Little Women a few weeks ago before the Oscars. They pointed out that there have been scores of female-led films, that have attracted a male audience. I don’t know if they mentioned it, but I’m fairly sure one was Annihilation. Based on the book by Jeff Vandermeer, this was an SF tale of a group of female squaddies investigating a mysterious zone in which the laws of nature had been subtly altered and plants, animals and humans mutated by a meteorite. This was a zone of eerie beauty and equally weird menace, and the film was highly praised. A male psychologist argued that it wasn’t because they were female-led that meant men had no interest in certain types of movie. Rather men were generally interested in tales which either contained violence or danger, or which had a strong element of good versus evil. And a number of female vloggers also said that they weren’t interested in seeing Little Women either, because there had been so many other adaptations of it. As for the non-binary woman and her haircut, as Chen pointed out, that was an inconvenience. Plenty of other people also have problems finding the right hairdresser or barber.

Behind all this, however, was her argument that the Beeb should privatised because then market economics would prevent it from foisting these opinions on the British public. The Beeb shouldn’t be using taxpayer’s money to produce material like this. Instead she told Brits that the money would be better spent on our failing health service. Well, our health service does need more money, but it’s only failing because the Tories also want to privatise it and sell it to American private healthcare companies. And it is true that if the Beeb was privatised, it probably wouldn’t be able to produce shows like The Social, because they wouldn’t be commercial. No-one would watch them, and they wouldn’t attract advertising revenue.

And this argument shows that Chen either knows nothing, or simply doesn’t care, about the ethos of public service broadcasting. The Beeb produces videos like those Chen attacked, not because it’s full of evil Commies determined to destroy mainstream British culture and turn everyone into BDSM, non-gender specific feminist Muslims, but because it has a duty to serve the public. That means that its content has to reflect a range of opinions, include those, who wouldn’t otherwise have a voice. Like women worried about how well a classic girls’ movie would do at the Oscars, fetishists, Muslims, the queer and transgender, and even the odd Christian. They pay their taxes and in a democratic state, have the right to make their views heard. They’re given a platform because free speech is a public good above the requirements of pure commerce, according to the ethos of public broadcasting. And everyone should be entitled to their opinion, regardless of whether it is held by the majority or not.

Chen isn’t defending free speech. She’s arguing for its denial.

As for The Social itself, I went to its homepage at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p039wndg

This simply states that

BBC The Social is an award-winning digital platform based in Glasgow that develops creative new talent.

We help develop ideas and commission content to publish across the BBC and our content reaches millions of people every week.

And most of their videos aren’t particularly political or contentious. Yes, their site has a section on LGBTQ+ videos, and as well as one about a young man coming out as gay at church. But they also have videos on disability in Scotland, the problem of living with a kind of alopecia, deafness, overcoming the stigma of being a single mother, and many other topics and issues. It seems to be ordinary community broadcasting, in the sense that it gives people in the wider community an opportunity to talk about issues that are important to them. It’s similar to a number of shows that have appeared on British TV, such as Brass Tacks back in the 1970s, and the 4 Thought short films on Channel 4.

You don’t have to agree with what these films are about to recognise that they are part of the reason public service broadcasting must continue in this country. The Beeb’s Tory bias is doing it no services by alienating its traditional left-wing supporters. But it’s important that the Beeb should continue, even if most of the newsroom and its senior management should be sacked.

Because ordinary people, including the transgender, Muslims, Christians, the disabled, and whoever else – should have a voice, and not just Tories and the owners of big multimedia firms.