Posts Tagged ‘The Independent (newspaper)’

‘I’ Report on Macron’s Vow to Fight Islamist Separatism in France

October 9, 2020

Here’s another piece from the I about extremism, from last Saturday’s edition for 3rd October 2020. Written by their columnist Michael Rose, it discusses the announcement by French president Macron that he intends to fight against the separatism and extremist Islam in Muslim communities on the other side of la Manche. The article runs

President Emmanuel Macron has pledged to fight “Islamist separatism”, which he said was threatening to take control in some Muslim communities around France.

France has struggled with Islamist militancy for years but the government is increasingly worried by broader radicalisation within Muslim communities. Officials cite the refusal of some Muslim men to shake women’s hands, swimming pools that impose alternate time slots for men and women, girls as young as four being told to wear full-face veils, and proliferation of Islamic schools.

More than 250 people have been killed on French soil over the past five years in attacks by Islamist militants or individuals inspired by Jihadist groups. “What we need to fight is Islamist separatism,” Mr Macron said during a visit to the impoverished Paris suburb of Les Mureaux. “The problem is an ideology which claims its own laws should be superior to those of the Republic.”

France follows a strict form of secularism which is designed to separate religion and public life. The principle was enshrined in law in 1906.

Many French Muslims have long complained of discrimination and marginalisation that have contributed to poverty and social alienation.

Foreign imams will no longer be able to train clerics in France and there will be tighter controls on the financing of mosques.

“There is a crisis of Islam everywhere, which is being corrupted by radical forms,” Mr Macron said. But he added France had a responsibility . “We have created our own separatism,” he said, citing the ghettoization of minority neighbourhoods.” (p.30).

We were taught a little about the French suburbs, the banlieus, or at least those in Paris, in Geography ‘A’ Level when I was at school nearly 40 years ago. I don’t know about now, but they were then hit by poverty and marginalisation. They were built simply to house people and so consist of nothing, or at least precious little, except tower blocks. It was assumed that the residents would go into the centre of Paris for their shopping and amusement, and so there are no, or very few, shops or local amenities. As for poverty and marginalisation, Ali A. Allawi describes the deprivation, poverty and underprivileged conditions of European Muslims in his book, The Crisis of Islamic Civilisation.

There’s also been much prejudice against Arabs and Muslims in France. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown described the very cold reception her mixed race family got there when they went for a holiday a few years ago in the Independent. I thought things had improved somewhat, as a few years later she wrote another piece about a recent holiday there in which she and her family were welcomed and treated with courtesy. There was also a series of anti-racist protests a few years ago, the name of which translates as ‘Don’t Touch My Mate’. This consisted of White young people showing their solidarity by standing up to racism and discrimination against their Black and Muslim friends.

But there has also been trouble with Muslim extremism and Islamist violence. Over a decade ago there were protests across France when the government ruled that under the doctrine of laicism, the official policy of French secularism, Muslim girls were banned from wearing the hijab in schools. This broke out despite leading French imams declaring that the ban didn’t contradict Islam and could be observed by pious Muslims. The insistence that girls as young as four should wear full-face veils is definitely extreme and not required by Islamic law. From what I remember from when I studied Islam at college as part of the Religious Studies course, girls up to seven years old can wear whatever they like. The dress requirements gradually come after they reach that age, and I think that they are only required to wear the full veil at puberty.

There have been fears about Islamic separatism in other European countries. In the 1990s there was controversy in the main Germany trade union organisation. This claimed that while the affiliated Muslim organisations or its Muslim members claimed to support integration, in reality they had a separatist attitude towards their non-Muslim brothers and sisters.

I also wonder if the accusation of separatism may not be literally true, in that some Muslims extremists may be pursuing a conscious policy of apartheid. I’ve written in previous posts how, when I was studying Islam, I came across passages in books published by British Muslim presses that demanded autonomous Muslim communities. And way back in January 2000, right at the dawning of the new millennium, the Financial Times included a brief piece featuring Anjem Chaudhry, who never met an Islamist terrorist he didn’t like. Chaudhry was then running an outfit called Sharia4Belgium, which wanted Belgian Muslims to have their own autonomous enclave with Arabic as it official language, governed by sharia law. Chaudhry’s now in jail for his support for al-Qaeda and ISIS. I don’t know if such demands are still being made by sections of British and European Islam following the 9/11 attacks and the government’s attempts to curb Muslim radicalism and promote integration. It wouldn’t surprise me if it was, somewhere, though the vicious Muslim firebrands like Kalim Siddiqui, who declared that British society was a monstrous killing machine and that killing Muslims comes very easily to non-Muslim Brits, seem to have gone quiet. The imam, who received Salmon Rushdie back into the faith, also recommended that Britain should train its own imams. When he was writing their was a shortage of Muslim clergy in Britain, and he was afraid that religious extremists from places like Pakistan were being allowed in thanks to this.

Macron’s comments also came at the same time that the Spectator published a piece claiming that the Swedish authorities had announced that immigrant communities in some of their cities were dominated by criminal gangs and had turned whole areas into a no-go zones. There was a war going on between a number of immigrant criminal gangs, in which firearms and even rocket launchers had been used. The Swedish chief of police had supposedly appeared on television to state very clearly that the immigrants responsible for the violence were not proper asylum seekers, but had come to the country simply to make money through selling drugs. This was apparently confirmed by the Swedish prime minister, Lofven, who said that his country would not be taking any of the former residents of the destroyed immigrant camp in France. Or so it has been claimed by right-wing, ant-immigration websites.

A few years ago the Islamophobic, ‘counterjihad’ websites Gates of Vienna and Vlad Tepes wrote pieces praising a book by the former mayor of one of the German towns. He claimed that his town had effectively been overrun by Muslims, who maltreated and forced out ethnic Germans. The book was widely attacked and criticised. They also claimed that Malmo in Sweden, or at least parts of it, had been taken over by Muslim immigrants and become violent, crime-ridden no-go zones for non-Muslims. I don’t know how true these reports are as they come from the racist right, websites which did have connections to the EDL. Certainly Fox News’ claim that British cities like Birmingham had been taken over by Muslims and were now no-go zones for White and non-Muslim Brits provoked widespread criticism and hilarity when they made it a few years ago.

It seems to me that nevertheless, even if these claims are exaggerated, there is nevertheless a real fear of Islamic separatism throughout Europe and that Macron is reacting to it in France.

One contributory factor, I have no doubt, is neoliberalism and the destruction of the welfare state. The French scholar, Alfred Kepel, advances this argument in his book on the resurgence of Christian, Muslim and Jewish fundamentalism, The Revenge of God. When Thatcher started her attacks on the welfare state in the 1980s, she hoped that it would lead to a resurgence of charity. This didn’t happen. But Muslims are obliged to support the poor through the zakat, the alms-tax paid to the local mosque. I think this concern to give to the local poor amongst Muslims isn’t confined just to their own community in Britain. There were Muslim restaurants giving free meals to the homeless at Christmas, and my parents bumped into a young Muslim woman, who was also buying stuff she could give to the food bank, in our local supermarket. But the support provided by the mosques in the absence of state aid does mean that communities may become more isolated and inward-looking.

If we really want to stop Islamic separatism, as well as White racism, not only should Britain and Europe take measures promoting racial integration, but neoliberalism urgently needs to be ditched. It’s dividing communities as it pushes people into real, grinding poverty. But there’s no chance of that, at least in this country, as the very rich are making too much money at the expense of the rest of us, regardless of our colour and religion.

Private Eye Criticizes Israel, But Continues Smearing Labour as Anti-Semitic

November 28, 2018

Here’s another example of Fleet Street’s double standards over Israel and the Labour party. In last fortnight’s Private Eye for 16th to 29th November 2018, there was an article in the ‘Street of Shame’ column attacking Israel and its attempts to censor criticism. But the magazine continues to spread the smear that Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party are anti-Semites, as shown very clearly in a review of Jonathan Coe’s Middle England.

The article, ‘Value Judgment’, was about the Israelis’ refusal to let British journalist Sarah Helm, the author of an article on suicide amongst young people in Gaza, enter the country. It ran

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt announced this month that media freedom is at the heart of his new “values-based” foreign policy. “Democracy, the rule of law, and freedom of expression mean nothing unless independent journalists are able to hold the powerful to account,” he declared, “however inconvenient this might be for those who find themselves on the receiving end.”

Hunt’s promise is being put to the test at once by the Israeli government’s refusal to give veteran British correspondent Sarah Helm a press pass to enter Gaza.

In the 1990s Helm covered the first Gulf War and the Oslo accords as diplomatic editor of the Independent, and later served as its Jerusalem correspondent. She has reported on the Middle East regularly ever since. But her latest application produced this reply from Ron Paz of Israel’s Government Press Office (GPO): “It has not been proven to the satisfaction of the GPO that your primary occupation is News Media. Therefore the GPO is unable to issue a GPO card for you.”

Shome mishtake, shurely? In the past four years Helm had applied seven times to enter Gaza through the Erez checkpoint, and had never been turned down before. She reported on these visits for the Observer, Sunday Times, Guardian and Indy as well as Newsweek, New York Review of Books and New Statesman – all of which look remarkably like “News Media” to anyone except Mr Paz.

Last month Hunt said he was “very concerned” by the Hong Kong authorities’ rejection of a visa for Victor Mallet, Asia editor of the Financial Times. “in the absence of an explanation from the authorities,” he said, “we can only conclude that this move is politically motivated.” The same applies to the banning of Helm, since the official reason is so patently absurd. Was it something she wrote? Such as, perhaps, a harrowing 5,500-word long read for the Guardian in May this year on the rising number of suicides inside Gaza, particularly among the young and bright?

Helm has hired the Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard to challenge the ban. Following Hunt’s announcement that he is now a global champion of press freedom, the Eye asked the Foreign Office if he would be taking up Helm’s case with the Israelis. At the time of going to press there was no answer. (p. 8).

All good stuff, showing the Israeli state’s determination to silence foreign reporting of its gross maltreatment of the Palestinians, and the double-standards over this by Jeremy Hunt at the Foreign Office. And the paper has many times in the past satirized the Israelis over this. But like Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, they too have joined the rest of the press in attacking Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party as anti-Semites, simply because Corbyn does stick up for the Palestinians.

The Eye’s ‘Literary Review’ in that same issue carried a very critical review of Jonathan Coe’s Middle England, ‘Remoans of the Day’. The novel, one gathers, is a fictional description of the state of modern Britain in the run-up to Brexit. The Eye’s anonymous reviewer attacked it for its pro-Remain bias, in which all the Leave characters are described as racists and no discussion is made of those who voted Leave on the issue of sovereignty, rather than immigration. It also criticizes the book for its sympathetic portrayal of a female supporter of Jeremy Corbyn, despite her anti-Semitism. The review states

Coe’s sole attempt at balance appears to be a portrait of Doug’s daughter, a vindictive Corbynista. His heart isn’t in it. Coe explains away her “knee-jerk antisemitism: as the product of “passionate support for the Palestinian cause” rather than, say, two millennia of racial prejudice. He forgives her and reflects that the young were right to be angry “at the world his generation had bequeathed”. Nowhere, of course, does Coe explain away knee-jerk Islamophobia among Leave voters as the result of “passionate opposition” to the oppression of women or righteous anger at being bequeathed a world where Islamists murder schoolgirls at Arianna Grande concerts. (p. 34).

But as the Eye should know, Corbyn never has been an anti-Semite, and nor are his supporters. Corbyn has always stood up for people of all races and religions against persecution, as Mike has shown on his blog, where he listed the number of times Corbyn supported Jews against what he perceived as prejudice and intolerance. And Corbyn’s supporters not only include decent, anti-racist non-Jews, but also entirely self-respecting Jews, who are far from being ‘self-hating’, as they are smeared by the Israel lobby. But the Eye’s determined to maintain the lie that they are.

Coe also seems to believe this lie, despite his apparent sympathies with the character. Which suggests that Coe, despite his liberalism, appears to have swallowed all this bilge about anti-Semitism absolutely uncritically. Unless he, and his agent and editor were also afraid of the Israel lobby and what might happen to his literary career and their book sales if he really told it as it is and also got accused of anti-Semitism.

And it’s more than possible that the Eye is also afraid to debunk the anti-Semitism smears, because they fear being smeared as anti-Semites in turn. The Eye has frequently been hit with libel suits, the most notorious being Cap’n Bob Maxwell’s attempts to shut them down in the 1980s. All of the pieces in the Eye are anonymous, and while the magazine has attacked Israel and the British secret state in the past, there appears to be lines that the magazine definitely isn’t prepared to cross. Perhaps there also afraid that if they reveal that, er, Corbyn and his supporters ain’t anti-Semites, a similar smear against them will close the magazine down. Quite apart from the issue of the magazine’s own political bias. Even before the anti-Semitism smears erupted, the Eye was attacking Corbyn for being ‘far left’, especially in its ‘Focus on Fact’ cartoon.

It also casts doubt on the political convictions of the Eye’s deputy editor, Francis Wheen. Wheen, like Hislop, is another public schoolboy, but appears to be firmly left. He’s written biographies of both Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, as well as publishing a collection of the Eye’s literary reviews in the 1990s as Lord Gnome’s Literary Companion. But his magazine’s determination to smear Corbyn and prevent a future Labour government on the basis of accusations of political extremism and anti-Semitism suggests that his heart is very much with the Neoliberal Thatcherite wing of the so-called ‘Moderates’.

Nicholas ‘Fatty’ Soames Uses Homophobic Insult against Owen Jones. No Censure from Tories.

April 22, 2018

So much for the Tories and their vaunted ‘Respect’ policy. These are the people, who claim that Labour is riddled with anti-Semites and misogynists, all busily insulting nice young Blairites like Luciana Berger and Angela Eagle. Berger has received anti-Semitic abuse and threats, but they’re nowhere near as extensive on the left as she’s claimed. And one Blairite made up her tale of misogynist abuse completely. They exaggerate and lie because it’s convenient for them to say so, in order to cling to power in the Labour Party. And, of course, for their allies in the Tories to cling to power in government.

Allies? Really? Isn’t that going too far? No, not at all. As one terrified local Blairite Labour leader called for Tories and Lib Dems to join her party, in order to stop it being overrun by the ‘far left’, by which she means Momentun and mainstream social democrats, and the Blairites stand for exactly the same policies as the Tories – privatisation and welfare cuts – it’s fair to describe them as exactly that.

Jones had written an article criticising the mainstream media for living in the London bubble. It ignores everything outside the capital, and is dominated by groupthink. It is also full of mediocrities and incompetents, who got there not on personal merit, but because of who they knew.

Mike was a professional journalist, and brings his own considerable journalistic skills to his blogging. And he entirely concurred. And what Jones said is not remotely controversial, except to offended establishment journos. The Guardian and Independent have talked about how national journalism is dominated by London. Just as so many of the leading journos were also friends and neighbours of Dave Cameron in the Cotswolds. I noticed long ago that some of the stories that got into the national press about burglaries and murders were only in there, because they occurred in London. The same crimes are perpetrated all over the country, but these cases were only considered worthy of national news because they took place in the nation’s capital.

As for groupthink and classicism, you can see it. The mainstream media all follow the establishment line that unquestioningly accepts the need for austerity, and gets very shrill and upset when somebody else does. You look at the backgrounds of the main journos, and you’ll see that the majority of them are very comfortably upper-middle class with family connections to the press and media. Paul Dacre’s father was another hack with the Mail, when he was writing admiring stories about Hitler in the ’30s, for example. The editor of the Scum is an old Etonian.

And what makes this situation worse, though Jones didn’t mention it, is that the industry relies heavily on unpaid interns. The worst offender is the Groaniad, if Private Eye exposes can be believed. It’s very difficult for talented outsiders to break into, and they are being exploited by the hacks and mediocrities above them.

This was all too much for the establishment journos, who all dogpiled into Jones to revile him. And the odious Soames was in there as well, calling him by a homophobic epithet. Jones is gay, and Soames called him a ‘sh*tweasel’. According to the Urban Dictionary, this is someone who inserts his penis up another’s bottom by surprise without warning. So pretty much an anal rapist, then.

It’s an ugly term, and an ugly slur. Mike considers the possibility that Soames may not have known what it meant, and though it just meant he was someone who stabbed people in the back, in the conventional way.

Not an excuse.

Not that Soames is exactly a stranger to controversy. I can remember how he was all over the News Quiz on Radio 4 under Major for his monstrously bigoted comments.

But the silence about this from the Tories and the mainstream media is deafening. As Mike points out, you can imagine the howls of outrage from the Tories and the mainstream press if this had come from a Labour MP, and directed at a Tory or Blairite. Especially with the upcoming debate on anti-Semitism. But when it’s good, right-wing Tories making such comments, there’s nothing.

So much for the new Tory embrace of the gay community. Well, I can remember how, over a decade ago, backbench Tory after backbench Tory had to resign after making homophobic and racist comments. Cameron said he was going to clean it all out as part of his campaign to modernise the party. He clearly hasn’t, as Soames remark shows.

The Tories are an organised hypocrisy, and this shows once again how corrupt and partisan the mainstream press are. Get them out.

Another Appeal to Sign 38 Degrees Petition against Anti-Corbyn BBC Bias

July 14, 2016

I received this email this afternoon from Maria Patrick, who launched a petition at 38 Degrees, the internet petitioning group, against the Beeb for their appalling bias against Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters. She asks for everyone, who shared her petition to do so again, so that it can get the necessary numbers of signatures. She says

Dear Friends,

Thank you all so much for signing my petition. The response has been overwhelming.

However, I am appealing for your help once more.

The political situation within the Labour Party at the moment is absolutely outrageous. The MPs responsible for the ‘coup’ have now turned their attention to discrediting Labour members and Jeremy Corbyn supporters. The narrative within the Labour party at the moment is one that brands all Jeremy Corbyn supporters are as violent thugs and loonies. This sensationalist labelling of people from all walks of life has been adopted and propagated by the main stream media and has led to Labour effectively barring new members and supporters from voting in the upcoming leadership election. The BBC is the main culprit in this subversion of democracy as it is a trusted broadcaster funded with public money, and many people are making supposedly ‘informed’ opinions based on the news stories they cover – or not.

My petition was never meant to be a rallying point for Jeremy Corbyn supporters, but a platform for anybody, regardless of their political leanings, to speak out against blatant BBC bias, imparticality and inaccuracy.

I have spoken with the Media Reform Coalition and received some very useful advice and practical help with the petition and complaint, but in order for this campaign to have the impact it needs it needs to have at least 100,000 signatures.

https:​//you.​38degrees.​org.​uk/petitions/hold-the-bbc-to-a​ccount-for-it-s-smear-campaign​-on-jeremy-corbyn?source=facebook-share-button&time=​1467286909​

Please, please, please can you share the petition again? Share it far and wide. If everybody who signed can get just two people to sign the petition we’ll have over 70’000 signatures in total. That’s a huge step towards this goal and will give the complaint more weight.

I know that there are gazillions of petitions going round at the moment in response to the outrageous machinations of the coup MPs and the NEC, but we must not forget how the media is influencing public opinion and reaction with it’s campaign of misinformation and distortion.

I would also like to ask for those of you who have made individual complaints to the BBC relating to bias, impartiality and accuracy please can you contact me directly at maria.patrick78@yahoo.co.uk. I am collecting complaints and responses and passing them on to the Media Reform Coalition. They will then form part of a professional dossier which will ultimately be sent on to the BBC and OFCOM.

Once again thank you for your support.

Maria xx

I am very happy to do this, as I share her disgust at the very blatant bias of the BBC and the rest of the media, included the allegedly left-wing papers of the Mirror, Guardian, and the supposed, but not really, ‘Independent‘. If you haven’t signed the petition, but would like to, please do so at the address contained in her email.

Back to Thatcher for Schools: Teachers forced to Rely on Handouts due to Poor Pay

September 17, 2013

The Independent yesterday (16th September 2013) reported that teachers were increasingly turning to handouts to support themselves due to inadequate pay. The article begins

‘Growing numbers of teachers are being forced to accept emergency cash handouts to help pay for food, accommodation and clothing.

Cash crises are particularly hitting stand-in supply teachers – many of whom do not receive any pay during the long summer holiday break – according to new figures released to The Independent.

Data from the Teacher Support Network, a charity set up to help teachers in hardship, shows that £120,000 in grants were awarded to struggling teachers in the academic year September 2012 to June 2013.’

It can be read at: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/teachers-turn-to-emergency-handouts-to-cope-with-public-spending-squeeze-8817910.html

This unfortunately is part of Thatcher’s legacy, and a return to the issues facing teachers when she was in power in 1985. The teaching unions then took industrial action over her plans to cut or limit wages increases and the education reforms she was introducing. They were afraid that these would not only harm teachers, but damage the British educational system as a whole. They believed this would harm the children in their charge and stop them achieving their true educational potential. At least some of these fears have been realised.

Government ministers and educationalists have become worried in the past few years that education, particularly primary education, has become a ‘man desert’. Few men are entering education, and so boys, particularly those from the working class, are falling behind girls educationally. Particularly in areas where fathers absent, these underachieving lads are turning to criminality and violence due to a lack of positive male role models.

This is an issue I know many teachers were worried when Thatcher clamped down on teachers nearly thirty years ago. I know female teachers, who were worried that the increasingly poor pay would put men off from teaching. I can remember being asked by a visiting lady at my first college whether there were any men training to be teachers there. Now unfortunately these fears have come true, and society is paying the price.

The more general issue of teacher’s poor pay and conditions was the material for a skit by those great funsters, Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones. Here’s their take on the issue, as relevant now as it was then.

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When Mel died, Britain lost one of its funniest and most brilliant comics. RIP, Big Guy!