Posts Tagged ‘Robert Peel’

Islamic Literature against Militant Islamic Fundamentalism

July 6, 2014

Earlier this morning I reblogged Tom Pride’s piece exposing the Daily Mail’s latest dirty trick in stirring up trouble between Muslims and non-Muslims. A journo for the Heil had turned up on an Islamic internet forum as a Muslim, and posted comments trying to provoke them into attacking and vilifying their country and its non-Muslim peoples. They smelled a rat, however, and didn’t fall for it. Looking at the disguised poster’s account, they traced it back to the Evening Standard, which used to be part of the Mail group.

It’s a nasty, dangerous piece of deception. Apart from the increased threat of terrorism, and the danger of young Muslim men turning to militant fundamentalism as a release for their social frustrations, Muslims themselves are also very much the victims of racist and sectarian attacks. A Saudi woman studying over here was murdered last week for wearing the niqub, or full face veil in the street. If the Heil journalist had succeeded, his deception could very well have cost an innocent person their life.

It is also illegal. As I blogged in my comment to the piece, there are laws against the state using similar tactics to entrap people. Although Sir Robert Peel, the Prime Minister, who created the London police force in the 1820s abolished agents provocateurs in the 1820, the cops seem still set on using them, and then being prosecuted in turn when they’re exposed. It is also an offence in British law to stir up racial hatred, as the BNP and National Front know full well and for which they and their members have been arrested and prosecuted over the years. It’d be very interesting to see Paul Dacre standing in the dock with Nick Griffin, Andrew Brons and the other storm troopers.

I have, however, also come across over the years a number of books written in support of human rights and democracy from an Islamic perspective. I’m writing about them as a corrective to the manipulative and dangerous rubbish written and done by the Standard, the Heil and the like.

Islam and Human Rights, by Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, 4th Edition (Tilford: Islam International Publications Ltd 1989)

Islam Human Rights Book

I bought this back in the 1990s when I was studying Islam at Uni. It’s written by a very senior Pakistani judge, religious scholar and human rights politician and advocate. The blurb on the back states that the author, Muhammad Zafrullah Khan, served as the Pakistani foreign minister in 1947, led the Pakistani delegation to the UN General Assembly, where he was president at its seventeenth session. He has also been at various times a judge and president of the International Court of Justice at the Hague.

The book is an attempt to show that the UN Declaration of Human Rights is in accordance with Muslim belief, and showing how the Qu’ran and religious literature support its provisions. The book begins with the Declaration, and then proceeds with chapters on man and the universe, and social and economic values. Chapter five then goes through the Declaration of Human Rights article by article, citing Islamic texts to support them. Chapter 6 is on ‘Prevalent Attitudes towards Human Rights among Muslims’, while the last chapter, seven, is on the ‘Future Relationship between Islam and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights’.

‘The Muslim Search for Democracy, Pluralism and Minority Rights’

Looking through the religious section of one of the charity bookshops on Friday, I came across this book, published by the University of Florida Press. This was another book, which examined the Islamic texts used by the militant fundamentalists in their attacks on democracy and other western conceptions of liberalism and human rights. It showed that, contrary to the assertions of the militant Islamists, the texts didn’t quite say what they thought they say, and can be used instead to promote democracy, pluralism and tolerance. It’s a useful approach, and more like this is needed to combat the claims made by the militants.

Secular Factors in the Growth of Militant Islam

There are a number of reasons for the growth in militant Islam throughout the world. Some of it is the result of globalisation displacing and impoverishing peoples, tribes and social groups, who are already struggling to make ends meet in the Developing World. See, for example, Alex Perry’s Falling Off the Edge: Globalization, World Peace and Other Lies (London: Macmillan 2008). Other factors are the failure of secular politicians in Egypt and elsewhere in the Middle East and Arab world, whether capitalist or Communist, to provide jobs, opportunities and economic development. See Bassam Tibi’s Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press 1990). Other factors are the continuous Western political intervention and imperialism in the Middle East, and its support of a series of unpopular and bloody tyrants in the region. See Said K. Aburish, A Brutal Friendship: The West and the Arab Elite (London: Gollancz 1991).

The Invasion of Iraq and Western Economic Imperialism

On that latter point, I’m really not surprised about the sectarian violence in Iraq. Apart from the deep tribal and sectarian divisions between its peoples, the western occupation has comprehensively wrecked the country’s economy. Western corporations scramble and lobby for the sale of the country’s state industries, which they duly purchased, they have also attempted to lock the private ownership of the nation’s oil industry in Western hands into the country’s constitution. The Neo-Cons also tried to turn it into a free trade utopia following the ideas of Von Hayek and co. They removed all the tariff restrictions against foreign imports, with a result that everyone in the world dumped their cheap goods on the nation. Unable to compete, the much of their own manufacturing industries went bankrupt and unemployment shot up to 60 per cent. When you have that many people poor, hopeless and angry, you can expect it all to explode into violence.

Psychological Factors in Domestic Terrorists

As for domestic fundamentalists and Islamic terrorists, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writing in the Independent this week pointed to psychological causes within the minds of some of the young men, who get caught up in it. By and large the fundamentalist terrorists are not the poor and uneducated, but often highly educated people, often from a very westernised background, who are torn by internal conflicts about their identities as western citizens and Muslims. And lack of job opportunities is also very frequently a factor. This all needs tackling. Alibhai-Brown stated that the attempt to tackle the psychological causes of Muslim domestic terrorism and militancy was abandoned in Britain, as Blair and successive administrations sought solutions in interfaith dialogue and foreign policy. In my opinion, that’s needed too, but not to the exclusion of other, psychological approaches.

My point here is that it’s not simply a straightforward, simple case of religion alone causing violence and conflict. And the above books are here trying to make a positive improvement to the situation by showing that a reconciliation between Islam and democracy, human rights and religious and ethnic pluralism is possible.

Unlike the Evening Standard and the Mail, which just wants to stir up even more hatred to sell a few more copies of their wretched rags.

IDS and his Armed Bodyguards: Are the Police Arming themselves against the People

December 13, 2013

My blog post on the reports that IDS appeared before the Work and Pensions committed surrounded with bodyguards and armed policemen, who intimidated members of the public, including a group of disabled people and their carers, has attracted a lot of attention and comments. Some of the most significant and ominous have been made by Slugabed, Joseph Jesus and CAS.

Regarding the legality of police officers raising the guns at innocent civilians, CAS commented:

‘Police officers broke regulations if they pointed the guns at you and their fire-arms licenses should be revoked. They are trained to never aim a weapon at anyone, even one that is not loaded, unless those people pose an imminent threat and are being arrested. You should never aim a weapon at anyone unless you are willing to shoot them; this is basic firearms practice. Such a weapon may fire accidentally, even with the safety pin in place. Unless you threatened violence, then the police officers should not have raised their weapons. The police complaints commission must be informed as this is a very serious breach and a clear case of misconduct.’

Slugabed stated that if it occurred within the House of Commons, a complaint should be made to the Master-at-Arms, Lawrence Ward. This was confirmed another commenter, Pedanticgeek.

More ominously, he stated:

‘Not long ago I happened to be in the Worshipful Company of Gunmakers’ Proof House in Commercial Road.The cage there was filled with hundreds of semi-automatic rifles in their crates waiting to be proofed. “Police job.Never had so many to be done” said the man working there,”We’ve had to take on extra staff”’.

His report of the police stocking up on weapons was confirmed by Joseph Jesus, who said:

‘I think you will find that the police are tooling up they have also purchased vast numbers of Tasers.

According to gunpolicydotorg

Police in the United Kingdom are reported to have 272,88417 firearms

BBC – Full-time equivalent (FTE) officers in the 43 forces stood at 134,101

So thats a semi-automatic carbine plus a side arm for each officer.

The question is come the crunch whether the rank & file coppers will turn their weapons upon us or their treasonous corrupt political masters, equally the military.

Our best defence it would seem is to inform every member of the above as to the crimes currently being committed by those that rule over us.

This tooling up scenario is echoed in the USA and no doubt the rest of the OECD and EU nations.’

Lallygag said of IDS and his armed guards that ‘If anyone still had any doubt about whether we still live in a democracy, surely the image of IDS surrounded by armed guards ‘protecting’ him from a group of disability campaigners will finally dispel that doubt. We live in a plutocracy. By the rich, for the rich. And they will protect themselves at all costs. Don’t doubt that.’

Indeed. Looking around the bookshelves in Waterstones on Monday I found a book in the politics section arguing that Britain was developing an oligarchy of the super-rich and powerful. This is overwhelmingly, obviously correct. When Blair was in power the gap between rich and poor in this country was wider than at any time since 1832, I believe. Now it is even wider. Never mind Scottish devolution, Britain is rapidly becoming two nations: the poor, including those in work, and the rich, who have never had it so good and are becoming even richer. And the Coalition is governing on their behalf.

The increased stockpiling of weapons by the police forces is extremely alarming, as it shows that they and the Coalition are alarmed at a violent public backlash against their corruption and misgovernment. I am also not surprised that this is in line with other police forces in the Developed World. Neo-Liberalism has been promoted throughout the globe as the solution to the world’s economic and political problems. It’s been foisted on the world’s nations through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. And throughout the world the results have been the same: grinding poverty and deteriorating conditions for the many, obscene amounts of wealth for the very few. Britain is no different to what is being forced on the poor in places as far apart as continental Europe and India, although at the moment our living standards are still much higher than those in the latter. And as the few fear that the poverty and despair they have forced onto their fellow citizens has provoked anger, resentment and the possibility of violence and chaos, so they are arming the police to protect them. This is a return to the worst aspects of the Victorian era, when ‘special constables’ were recruited to deal with the possibility of working class violence, rioting and insurrection, and the infamous ‘Peterloo Massacre’ when the cavalry massacred a peaceful demonstration camped out to protest high prices and poor wages.

It is also profoundly against the best British traditions. George Orwell, in his book, The Lion and the Unicorn: Socialism and the British, celebrated British uniqueness. England felt different, not just because of its warm beer, pre-decimal coinage and its people’s bad teeth, but also because their gentleman manners. His book is a polemic arguing for a uniquely British brand of Socialism that would be at once radical, and so traditional that foreign observers would wonder whether a revolution had actually occurred at all. This would, he believed, be brought about by the growing classlessness of British society. He noted that there was now a growing class of people, who were now neither obviously Middle or Lower class. Undoubtedly what has saved this country from violent revolution in the past was the doctrine of class reconciliation. This was expressed in Disraeli’s ‘One Nation’ Toryism, and also Fabian Socialism and the Labour Party. The Fabians believed that Socialism would ultimately benefit everyone in society, and rejected class warfare in order to win the support of the middle classes. I have also mentioned several times that to many British radicals, the presence of standing armies in peacetime was an institution foreign despots used to oppress their peoples, something profoundly at odds with traditional British liberty. I think it’s significant and telling that when Sir Robert Peel founded the metropolitan police force, he deliberately made the unarmed. The police forces on the Continent were armed as part of the fundamental view that they were to be a force actively fighting crime. The British police, on the other hand, were unarmed to show that they were there to assist the victim. I also wonder if an additional reason was also to reassure the British public that our police would not be like that of absolutist monarchies or dictatorships, which were there to suppress political dissent and opposition, but instead simply to protect the citizen, his property and his freedom. Since then the police have been extremely keen to gain the support of the public. One chief constable has even remarked on how they were used politically under Margaret Thatcher to destroy the Miners’ Strike. He even described them then as being ‘Maggie’s army’.

This now seems threatened by the Coalition and their war on the poor, the marginalised and the disabled. It cannot be allowed to continue. If it does, then the police force will turn into exactly oppressive, political force its founders sought to avoid, and the gentleness of British society that Orwell praised will have been destroyed. The growing gulf between rich and poor in this country and an increasingly armed police, distant and contemptuous of the people they are sworn to protect are a far more profound threat than Tory rants about ‘political correctness’ and the louche behaviour of pop stars and TV and sports celebrities.

Charles Dickens on the Brutality and Rapacity of the Tories

September 29, 2013

Charles_Dickens_1858

Charles Dickens is one of the great titans of modern English literature. His works have been prized, celebrated and imitated since the publication of The Pickwick Papers . The book’s appearance prompted a horde of copies lower down the press hierarchy in the penny journals. The copyright laws were much less rigorous then, and so these, lesser novels all had titles similar, but not identical to those of Dickens himself. His book, Sketches by Boz, was taken and copied by one of the 19th century popular journalists, as ‘Sketchbook by’, followed by a name very similar to Dickens’ ‘Boz’. His books have been adapted into stage plays, films and musicals, most famously A Christmas Carol, which has twice been filmed as a cartoon, and Oliver Twist, which became Lionel Bart’s musical, Oliver! His novels have also been frequently adapted for television. In the 1970s, for example, many of the Beeb’s period costume dramas broadcast on Sunday evening were adaptations of Dickens. I particularly remember Nicholas Nickleby and David Copperfield.

Despite his deserved popularity and immense respect, I suspect Dickens’ status as one of the Great Men of English Literature has probably done much to put people off him. People have a tendency to distrust automatically anything that becomes official, established art. One way to guarantee that people refuse to read a particular willingly is to put it on the school syllabus. Moreover, modern audiences are also likely to be left alienated by some of the characteristics of much 19th century writing, such as verbosity and their sentimentality. Boys in particular are likely to be put off him because of his novels’ period character, which associates them with the great 19th century lady novelists Jane Austen and the Brontes. In Superman II, for example, Clarke Kent’s identity as a wimpish square is firmly established, when Superman’s alter ego announces he wasn’t around to cover one incident as he was at home that evening reading Dickens. One suspects that its the kind of literature that such narrow-minded upholders of bourgeois respectability as Mary Whitehouse liked. For those younger readers suspicious of Dickens, I strongly recommend his short story, The Railwayman. It’s one of the classic British ghost stories, and completely amazed me when I read it as a teenager with its complete absence of all the dullness, verbosity and sentimentality I’d expected to come across in his works. Today one of Dickens’ great champions is the thesp Simon Cowell, who has toured in a one man play about the great writer and his life, and even appeared as his hero in a episode of Dr. Who, with Christopher Ecclestone playing the Time Lord. The video below comes from the Guardian, and is on Youtube. In it, Simon Callow takes the viewer around Dickens’ London.

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Dickens is partly celebrated for his work defending the poor and describing the hardship and poverty of the lives of ordinary people in 19th century Britain. Indeed, his surname has become a byword for conditions of grinding poverty and squalor in the word ‘Dickensian’. Dickens himself consciously wrote some of his novels both as works of social criticism, but also actively to improve the conditions of the poor. Horrified at the respectable middle classes’ indifference to the suffering of the labouring poor, he wrote A Christmas Carol. This transformed Christmas from a relatively minor holy day into the massive festival that it is today. As a socially engaged writer, Dickens could and did write bitter pieces sharply attacking the Conservatives. In 1841 the Liberal magazine, The Examiner, published his ballad, The Fine Old English Gentleman: New Version. It was a parody of a traditional ballad celebrating the virtues of the gentry. The hero of the traditional ballad shared his good fortune with his social inferiors, in the line ‘while he feasted all the great, he never forgot the small’.

Dickens wrote his satirical versions after the reforming Whigs had lost office and been replaced by Peel’s Conservatives, and the country was in the middle of a depression. The poem attacks the Tories for their corruption, brutal and oppressive laws, and their savage oppression of the poor to enrich themselves and the other members of the aristocracy. Cheekily, Dickens states as a direction for the poem’s performance that it should be said or sung at all Conservative dinners. It shows that what could be described as agit-prop literature long preceded the Communist party. The blackly humorous suggestion of performance venue and the bitter satire of the poem itself very much reminds me of the same mixture of humour and bitter social criticism in much contemporary radical, popular protests following 1960’s Situationism. This leads to the question of whether Dickens, if he were alive today, would be marching with the demonstrators, neatly attired in top hat and tail coat, and wearing a Guy Fawkes mask. Here’s the poem:

‘I’ll sing you a new ballad, and I’ll warrant it first rate,
Of the days of that old gentleman who had that old estate;
When they spent the public money at a bountiful old rate
On ev’ry mistress, pimp and scamp, at ev’ry noble gate,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

The good old laws were garnished well with gibbets, whips, and
chains,
With fine old English penalties, and fine old English pains,
With rebel heads, and seas of blood once in hot in rebel veins;
For all these things were requisite to guard the rich old gains
Of the fine old English Tory timnes;
Soon may the come again!

The brave old code, like Argus, had a hundred watchful eyes,
And ev’ry English peasant had his good old English spies,
To tempt his starving discontent with fine old English lies,
Then call the good old Yeomany to stop his peevish cries,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

The good old times for cutting throats that cried out in their need,
The good old times for hunting men who held their fathers’ creed.
The good old times when William Pitt, as all good men agreed,
Came down direct from Paradise at more than railroad speed …
Oh the fine old English Tory times;
When will they come again!

In those rare days, the press was seldom known to snarl or bark,
But sweetly sang of men in pow’r, like any tuneful lark;
Grave judges, too, to all their evil deeds were in the dark;
And not a man in twenty score knew how to make his mark.
Oh the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

Those were the days for taxes, and for war’s infernal din;
For scarcity of bread, that fine old dowagers might win;
For shutting men of letters up, through iron bars to grin,
because they didn’t think the Prince was altogether thin,
In the fine old English Tory times;
Soon may they come again!

But Tolerance, though slow in flight, is strong-wing’d in the main;
That night must come on these fine days, in course of time was
plain;
The pure old spirit struggled, but its struggles were in vain;
A nation’s grip was on it, and it died in choking pain,
With the fine old English Tory days,
All of the olden time.

The bright old day now dawns again; the cry runs through the
land,
In England there shall be deear breat – in Ireland, sword and brand;
And poverty, and ignorance, shall swell the rich and grand,
So, raly round the rulers with the gentle iron hand,
Of the fine old English ~Tory days; Hail to the coming time!

Great literature transcends the ages, and speaks eternal truths about human nature, politics and society. What is shocking reading this is just how much is true today. The line about the silence of the press in the face of horrific oppression and abuse just about sums up much of the modern press under Murdoch, Dacre, the Barclay twins and the rest.

Source
Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove with David Horspool, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport (Edinburgh: Canongate 2013).