Posts Tagged ‘United Nations’

Yasmin Alibhai-Browne on the Saudi’s Empire of Terror

October 2, 2015

Okay, I’m sorry I haven’t been blogging much in the past few months. As I’ve explained before, the re-election of the Tories left me profoundly depressed and dispirited with the state of politics in this country, and the mindset of the British people. I’ve also been trying to write a book on the British Empire and slavery. That’s also taken up a lot of my time.

However, I’ve come across a few items, which I think really deserve to be blogged about. One of them is about Cameron supposedly performing a lewd act with the head of a dead pig. There’s so much going on with that story that I intend to devote a whole post about it. But first there’s this piece, by Yasmin Alibhai-Browne, on the evils of the Saudi Regime.

Alibhai-Brown’s one of the journos on the Independent. She’s of Ugandan Asian heritage, and is married to a White British man. She writes mostly, though not exclusively, about racial issues, as well as women, and, of course, Islam and the position of Muslims in modern British society. I’ve got a lot of respect for her, as she will tackle difficult issues that many others won’t touch. She has, for example, covered anti-White racism as well as the more familiar variety inflicted on ethnic minorities. This was in the first few years of this century, when the statistics showed that more Whites were the victims of race hate crime than Blacks or Asians. I admired her for that, as she showed that you can tackle that issue without having any sympathy with the Fascist Right or the racial reactionaries of the Tory party.

Last Sunday, the 27th September, she put up this article about the pernicious influence of the Saudis. She wrote:

Iran is seriously mistrusted by Israel and America. North Korea protects its nuclear secrets and is ruled by an erratic, vicious man. Vladimir Putin’s territorial ambitions alarm democratic nations. The newest peril, Isis, the wild child of Islamists, has shocked the whole world. But top of this list should be Saudi Arabia – degenerate, malignant, pitiless, powerful and as dangerous as any of those listed above.

The state systematically transmits its sick form of Islam across the globe, instigates and funds hatreds, while crushing human freedoms and aspiration. But the West genuflects to its rulers. Last week Saudi Arabia was appointed chair of the UN Human Rights Council, a choice welcomed by Washington. Mark Toner, a spokesperson for the State Department, said: “We talk about human rights concerns with them. As to this leadership role, we hope that it is an occasion for them to look into human rights around the world and also within their own borders.”

US ‘welcomes’ UN putting Saudi Arabia in charge of human rights panel

The jaw simply drops. Saudi Arabia executes one person every two days. Ali Mohammed al-Nimr is soon to be beheaded then crucified for taking part in pro-democracy protests during the Arab Spring. He was a teenager then. Raif Badawi, a blogger who dared to call for democracy, was sentenced to 10 years and 1,000 lashes. Last week, 769 faithful Muslim believers were killed in Mecca where they had gone on the Hajj. Initially, the rulers said it was “God’s will” and then they blamed the dead. Mecca was once a place of simplicity and spirituality. Today the avaricious Saudis have bulldozed historical sites and turned it into the Las Vegas of Islam – with hotels, skyscrapers and malls to spend, spend, spend. The poor can no longer afford to go there. Numbers should be controlled to ensure safety – but that would be ruinous for profits. Ziauddin Sardar’s poignant book Mecca: The Sacred City, describes the desecration of Islam’s holiest site.

Even more seriously, the pernicious Saudi influence is spreading fast and freely. King Salman has offered to build 200 mosques in Germany for recently arrived refugees, many of whom are Muslims. He offered no money for resettlement or basic needs, but Wahhabi mosques, the Trojan horses of the secret Saudi crusade. Several Islamic schools are also sites of Wahhabism, now a global brand. It makes hearts and minds small and suspicious, turns Muslim against Muslim, and undermines modernists.

She’s absolutely right about the destruction of historic Mecca, including the buildings, monuments and homes of Muhammad and his companions – the holiest figures in Islam. The Independent has published a number of pictures showing how the city has been effectively gutted in a frenzy of building and modernisation. This has been ostensibly to provide more accommodation and greater access for the millions, who go to the city every year on the Hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca. But it also shows the Saudis’ deep lack of concern, even contempt, for their country’s ancient monuments. Much of the radical Islamism now threatening the world is Saudi in inspiration. considering the destruction the Saudis have inflicted on Islam’s holiest city, I’m not remotely surprised that ISIS have been so keen to destroy ancient monuments they consider to be ‘against Islam’. And that’s a highly elastic phrase, which also means genuinely Muslim monuments, but from a sect or interpretation of Islam they hate or mistrust.

As well as banning non-Muslim religions, other Islamic sects are also banned in Saudi Arabia. The Shi’a live in marginalised villages without gas, electricity or running water. They are not allowed to build or worship in their own mosques, and their religious literature, including their version of the Qu’ran, is illegal. When copies are found, they are confiscated and destroyed. A few years ago the Grand Mufti declared them heretics, who were worthy of death. Some of the destruction they have caused seems to be directed against the Shi’a. A few Saturdays ago the Independent’s sister paper, the ‘I’, carried a story about the Saudis’ bulldozing the homes occupied by Muhammad and his followers. While these are naturally of considerable veneration to Muslims generally, the Shi’a in particular venerate them and travel to them when making the pilgrimage.

As for the Saudi’s fixation with secular money-making, it’s pretty much been the case in that part of the Islamic world since the Middle Ages. Mecca became extremely rich on the money spent by the pilgrims flocking there, and much of the poetry written during the Middle Ages was extremely secular. It wasn’t about the delights of paradise, or the beatific vision of God’s face awaiting the faithful in paradise, or about religious devotion to Muhammad, his companions and the Qu’ran. No, it was about the delights of getting drunk on wine, and having a great time with the slave girls.

I’ve read accounts of interviews from moderate Muslims around the world, who have lamented how the religion in their countries has become increasingly intolerant and violent due to the influence of preachers, who have gone to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to study. And moderate Muslims over here have voiced the same concerns. There was also a piece published nearly a decade ago in the Saturday edition of the Financial Times by the imam, who received Salman Rushdie back into the faith after he emerged from hiding. I’m afraid I really can’t remember the imam’s name, except that his first name is Zakariya, if I remember correctly. This scholar has written extensively about Islam in Britain, as well as inscriptions in Arabic dating from the 17th century and found in churchyards in Yorkshire. This particular imam wanted the British government to invest in a British Islamic seminary. There was at the time a shortage of imams to serve in British mosques. This allowed some of the fire-breathing bigots from outside Britain to jump the queue at immigration, and spread their message of hate to Brits over here.

And I’m afraid the situation is only going to get worse. According to an article I read back in the ’90s in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, foreign governments sponsor and support mosques in the West to promote their own national influence. That means that the 200 mosques the Saudis intend to build in Germany will reflect the hard-line attitudes of Saudi Arabia, rather than a more liberal, Western form of Islam that the moderates look forward to. As it stands, there has already been friction and accusations of separatism in Germany directed against some of the Turkish Muslim organisations. In the ’80s or ’90s there was a controversy within the German labour unions against some of the Turkish labour organisations. The Germans alleged that despite their talk of integration, the Turkish groups were pursuing a separatist agenda. A German-Turkish writer has also described how, when he was a child, he had ethnic German, non-Muslim friends until one of the Turkish Muslim scholars told their community that they shouldn’t have anything to do with them. Politicians and activists across Europe are worried about the growth of parallel communities, which attempt to cut themselves off as far as possible from outsiders, whether, White, Black, Asian, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, secular or whatever. One Islamic community leader on a programme about racial problems in contemporary Britain, spoke about his fears for the development of Muslim communities, whose citizens would only know other Muslims. His views were echoed by the representatives from the other faiths – Judaism and Christianity, who also appeared on the programme. They were similarly worried that their peoples would also grow up in sealed communities interacting only with members of their own faith.

All this is likely to get worse if the Saudis are allowed to proceed unchecked. And, quite simply, I don’t think there is the political will to prevent it. Alibhai-Brown points out later in the article how close the royal family is personally to the Saudis. There’s also the awkward fact that they dominate the oil economy. They can throw their weight around now, because of the way they learnt they can wreck the global economy by raising or dropping the price of oil, as they did during the energy crisis of the 1970s. All they have to do is drop their prices, and the Texas oil industry – or Venezuelan, for that matter, is decimated. And the profits to be made from their oil company, Aramco, are just too massive to be resisted by Western industrialists and politicians. And so it seems that the Saudis can spread global terror and religious hatred with impunity.

The whole article can be read at: http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/the-evil-empire-of-saudi-arabia-is-the-west-s-real-enemy-a6669531.html. Go and read it.

I don’t think what she said about there having been no coverage of the iniquities of the Saudi regime is completely accurate, however. A little while ago there was a documentary on Channel 4 about radical and extremist Islam, which included some of the viciously anti-Semitic and anti-Western teaching coming out of Saudi mosques and madrassas. That provoked a critical article about the Saudis in parts of the press. I think the Daily Mail ran a piece. But it shows how seriously that kind of journalism is taken in that it appeared on Channel 4, which was already set up as the alternative cultural channel to BBC 2, the Beeb’s alternative channel for more serious culture.

Despite the horror and violence of the situation in the Middle East at the moment, I believe that there are still opportunities awaiting us to bring about peace and tolerance. But these will be blocked if we allow the Saudis to continue preaching intolerance. The world’s peoples – Muslim and non-Muslim – deserve better.

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Iran’s Anti-War Rhetoric and the Reality: Republicans Really Want War with Iran

April 21, 2015

Yesterday’s I newspaper reported that the Iranians’ supreme leader had returned to making hostile speeches about America. The article stated

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has accused the United States of creating “myths” about his country’s capability for nuclear weapons. The highest authority in Iran said: “They created the myth of nuclear weapons so they could say the Islamic Republic is a threat. No, the threat is America itself.”

The Islamic Republic’s attitude towards America, and the language it uses about the Land of the Free, has always been extremely hostile. Back in the 1980s and 1990s America was ‘the Great Satan’, and the regime staged mass demonstrations with protestors chanting ‘Marg Bar Amrika’ – ‘Death to America’.

This time, however, the Iranians are right. The Republicans in America and Israel’s Netanyahu have been lying about Iranian nuclear capability in order to provoke a pre-emptive strike against Iran. I’ve reblogged a report from The Young Turks about Netanyahu’s speech to the UN in 2012 arguing that the Iranians were on the brink of creating a nuclear bomb that was totally false. The Iranians had no such capability and no such ambitions. Mossad had told Netanyahu this. So had Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, and the chief of the Israeli armed forces.

I’ve also put up another video from The Young Turks on a speech by Sheldon Adelson, a multimillionaire donor to the Republican party, also stating that the Iranians were developing nuclear weapons. In his speech, Adelson makes the monstrous suggestion that America should threaten Iran with a nuclear strike unless they comply and close down their nuclear programme. If the Iranians refuse, they should be punished with a nuclear attack. The Americans should first drop a nuclear bomb on an uninhabited area to demonstrate the seriousness of their intentions. If the Iranians still went ahead and refused to comply, Adelson recommended that the next bomb should be aimed at Tehran, the nation’s capital.

Absolutely unbelievable.

But unfortunately, the Republican’s rhetoric of nuclear strikes has not diminished. In the report below, The Young Turks discuss a campaign video made by a Republican organisation against Rand Paul, for siding with Obama about trying to solve this issue with the Iranians through negotiation. Again, there’s the scaremongering about a possible Iranian nuclear attack on America.

The report doesn’t stop there. It also discusses the comments made about Rand Paul by other members of the Republican party, who also don’t think he’s sufficiently pro-war. Like a Republican senator from Texas, who states that Rand Paul needs to show his willingness to launch a nuclear attack on a Muslim country, in order to show his fitness for the presidential office. He qualifies his bloodthirsty demand by saying, ‘I don’t know how he would do this’. This does not diminish the enormity of the Repug’s demand. Here’s the video.

Nobody should be threatening anyone with nuclear annihilation. The world’s come far too close before to total nuclear Armageddon. If there’s one thing that should definitively rule out somebody from entering the Oval Office, it should be the willingness to use nuclear weapons.

After the Fall of Communism, for a brief moment it looked like the world would be safe. The terrible arms race between NATO and the Warsaw Pact was over. Nuclear missiles were being scrapped and the silos abandoned. The world and its billions could look forward to a brighter future, without the fear of a terrible death, and the absolute end of the planet.

Now it seems the Republicans are taking us back in that direction. Their extreme belligerence to Iran and by extension, the entire Islamic world, is taking us back to the era of the Cold War. It’s a betrayal of the dreams of peace that generations of campaigners, politicians and ordinary people had living for decades under the shadow of the bomb.

Iran also has its hard-liners, who also want a chance to fight a war against the Great Satan. And the Ayatollah Khamenei is a brutal tyrant, whose regime stifled any kind of humanitarian progress or change. In this instance, however, he’s right about the Americans and their scaremongering in order to provoke yet another war.

Anthony Sampson on the Meanness of the Rich

April 10, 2015

Anthony Sampson in his book Who Runs this Place? The Anatomy of Britain in the 21st Century has a passage discussing the way 21st century Britain is now far meaner and much less generous than in the 19th century, and America today. The people most willing to give money to charity, however, are the poor. The rich are the least likely and willing to give to charity. He states:

While the rich in Britain have become much richer, they have not given more away. Their incomes relative to the poor have increased, but they feel much less pressed than their predecessors to share their wealth, whether prompted by social obligations or by a religious conscience. The connections between business and philanthropy which were so marked among Quakers and other practising Christians have largely disappeared. ‘As inequality of wealth balloons back to nineteenth-century levels,’ wrote Will Hutton in 2003, ‘there is no sign of nineteenth-century levels of civil of engagement and philanthropy by the rich.’

It is a striking fact that 6 per cent of the British population provide 60 per cent of the money given to charity, but it is more striking that the poor give away proportionately more of their money than the rich. ‘It’s more surprising because the rich can give away without noticing it, while the poor make a sacrifice,’ said one charity chief. ‘But the poor have more empathy with less fortunate people.’

The big corporations have been equally reluctant, and most boardrooms have shown little interest in charities. In 1986 two leading businessmen, Sir Hector Laing, a committed Christian, and Sir Mark Weinberg, and ex-South African, set up the Percent Club to urge companies to devote 1 per cent of their pre-tax profits to charity, but they soon had to reduce the target to 0.5 per cent, and their results were still disappointing: by 2001 the top 400 companies were giving exactly the same percentage, 0.42, as ten years before. A few big corporations stood out above the average. Reuters gave £20 million in 2001, amounting to 13 per cent of its pre-tax profits, which were sharply down. Northern Rock, the mortgage company based in Newcastle, gave away £15 million, or 5 per cent of pre-tax profits. Other big companies provided gifts in kind, rather than money, though they were not always as generous as they looked. (Sainsburys gave away food that was past its sell-by date, which avoided the cost of dumping it in land-fill sites.) Most companies have shown little interest in more giving.

‘Corporate donations … are worth less now than they were in 1991,’ said Stuart Etherington, the chief executive of the National Council for Voluntary Organisations. ‘Clearly it is time for the government to get tough with the business sector.’ But the New Labour government showed little desire to get tough.

By 2000 the two chief overarching bodies for charities – the NCVO and the Charities AID Foundation – were so concerned about the lack of funds that they approached Gordon Brown at the Treasury. His budget provided major tax concessions to donors – which are now as generous as the Americans’ – and he also helped to finance a Giving Campaign, chaired by the former head of Oxfam Lord (Joel) Joffe, an unassuming but persistent South Africdan who worked closely with Weinberg. The campaigners have had some success in giving more prominence to charity, but donors have been slow to exploit the over-complicated system of tax relief; and the charities are still very disappointed by the response, both from corporations and from individuals – whether entrepreneurs, corporate directors or the million-a-year men in the City.

Joffe, like other heads of charities, is struck by the contrast between attitudes in Britain and America where giving is part of the culture. ‘If you’re rich in America and don’t give,’ he said, ‘you’re regarded as an outcast.’ Americans give on average 2 per cent of their income to charity, compared to the British figure of 0.6 per cent. The British have often argued that their governments have take over the roles of philanthropists in health, education and social services, to which Americans devote much of their giving. ‘People still expect the government to pay for the basic social and artistic causes,’ says Hilary Browne-Wilkinson, who runs the Institute for Philanthropy in London. But the expectation is much less realistic since the retreat of the welfare state and the lowering of taxes, while the rich in the United States remain more generous than the British, and more systematic and effective in attaining their objectives. ‘British charity is more reactive, sometimes responding quite generously to television coverage of famines and disasters,’ says Joffe. ‘The Americans have a more strategic sense of what they want to achieve and plan their giving accordingly.

Many of the American mega-rich a century ago, like Carnegie, Rockefeller and Ford, converted part of their fortunes into foundations which today provide a powerful counterweight to the prevailing profit motive. ‘He who dies rich, dies disgraced, ‘said Andrew Carnegie, who gave away his fortune to finance free libraries and a peace foundation. More recent billionaires like George Soros and Bill Gates, have continued this tradition. When Ted Turner, the founder of CNN television, gave a billion dollars to the UN 1997 he quoted Carnegie and mocked his fellow billionaires: ‘What good is wealth sitting in the bank?’ The rich lists, he said, were really lists of shame.

But there are only a few comparable British bequests, like the Wellcome, Sainsbury or Hamlyn foundations, and most of the old rich feel much less need to commemorate their wealth through charity. The British aristocracy have traditionally seen their main responsibility as ensuring the continuity of their estates and families, in which they have succeeded over the centuries, helped by the principle of primogeniture which allows the eldest son to inherit the whole estate. Their argument can appeal to anyone who values the timeless splendours of the countryside, with its landscapes of parkland, forest and downland which owes much to the protection afforded to large landowners. Old money in Britain has been interlocked with the environment as it has never been in most parts of America, where land is less valued, and where the rich have more urban and nomadic habits.

But the argument is less valid today, when much of the responsibility for the environment has been taken over by English Heritage or the National Trust. Many old families with large estates still have incomes which greatly exceed the cost of their upkeep, and they still have responsibilities to contemporary society. Many of the new rich are happy to follow the earlier tradition, but they are still less encumbered. Most people of great wealth in Britain today show a remarkable lack of interest in using their money to improve the lives of others.

Above all they feel much less need than their predecessors to account for their wealth, whether to society, to governments or to God. Their attitudes and values are not seriously challenged by politicians, by academia, or by the media, who have become more dependent on them. The respect now shown for wealth and money-making, rather than for professional conduct and moral values, has been the most fundamental change in Britain over four decades.
(pp. 346-8).

So the rich have become much meaner, while the poor are the most generous section of the population. Charitable giving has declined along with notions of Christian morality and an awareness of need. People still expect the government to provide, despite the attack on the welfare state. The aristocracy don’t give, because they’re still concerned with preserving their lands and titles. While the new rich are feted by the media and society, simply for being rich, without any concern for morals or charity. And because universities and the media are dependent on them, they are reluctant to criticise them for their lack of charitable giving.

This was inevitable. Modern Conservative ideology was all about greed, shown most acutely in the Yuppies of the late 1980s and 1990s. And because the Tory attacks on the welfare state concentrate on attacking the poor as scroungers, there’s no incentives for people to give to them either. If someone’s labelled a scrounger or malingerer, giving to charities to support them is just as bad as government tax money.

This marks another, massive failure of Thatcherism. She thought that if the welfare state was rolled back, charitable giving would increase. It hasn’t.

Thatcherism has made the rich meaner, and the Tories continue with the same attitudes and visceral hatred of the poor.

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Republicans Blocking International Disabled Rights Legislation

March 30, 2015

This is another piece of news from America, which is also relevant over here. In it, the left-wing news anchor and political commentator Rachel Maddow discusses the Republicans’ refusal to ratify an international treaty promoted disabled rights and accessibility worldwide. The treaty is itself based on legislation, which George Bush SNR signed was back in 1990. Maddow describes it as making the American laws stipulating public access for disabled people the ‘gold standard’ around the world. It had large, bi-partisan support, and was being promoted by the both the leaders of the Democrats and Republicans. This included John McCain, the former Republican presidential candidate, who addressed the senate from his wheelchair.

It was, however, turned down and blocked by the Repugs for what Maddow describes as ‘tin-foil hat’ reasons, that she said she wouldn’t dignify by repeating. If it’s like other international legislation that has been voted against by the Republicans, then my guess is that it involved fears about loss of sovereignty. Almost a decade ago, when the American Right was loudly denouncing Islam for the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, they refused to support an international motion in the United Nations to ban it around the world. Why? The reason appears to me to be the same reason that America has never signed up to the Human Rights court to try war crimes in the Hague. There’s a deep, pernicious fear amongst Republicans of allowing foreign nations reciprocal rights over the US. It contravenes the deep feelings of American exceptionalism in the party. This demands that America should have the freedom and power to enforce its moral standards around the world, but should never have to submit to legal constraints or judgements from other countries. This piece of news shows how far this attitude seems to go, right up to the point where it actually contravenes an American initiative to promote their standards as that of the world’s on a social issue.

I also decided to put this up because of the brief background information it gives on the disability rights movement in the US. Or at least that part of it, which campaigned for mandatory access to public transport. It came from a group called ADAPT – Americans Disabled for Access to Public Transport, which was set up in Denver in 1983. They staged a series of campaigns where they tried to get on buses en masse, despite being turned away and arrested, as the video shows. Colin Firth and Anthony Arnove include a piece by the Bristolian disability activist, Liz Crowe, ‘Catching Buses’, in their anthology of radical historical texts, The People Speak: Democracy Is Not A Spectator Sport. In it, Crowe describes her campaign to get disabled people access to public transport. The piece is from 1999, nine years after George Bush made it law in America.

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.

The League of Empire Loyalists and the Term ‘EUSSR’ for the EU

April 27, 2014

I posted a piece this morning about the way UKIP’s election poster, showing a British workman supposedly unemployed through foreign workers taking his job, harks back to earlier Conservative posters with exactly the same message from the 1904-5 election campaign. Jess, who supplied further information on the anti-immigration campaigns of the late 19th century and its leaders, also suggested that the term ‘EUSSR’ for the EU had its origins in the rhetoric of the League of Empire Loyalists. The League was a Fascist group that founded the National Front with the British National Party and the Greater British Movement.

In a further comment to the article, she writes:

The earliest reference I have (so far) seen to ‘EUSSR’ is a piece in ‘Candour’ by Mark Ewell ; Candour’s Clarion Call’, October 1983.

A paragraph with the sub-heading ‘Stepping-stone to the United (Soviet) States of Europe’ Ewell comments on a report in The Times about the Soviet Union appealing “to the E.E.C.’s own Court of Justice over an anti-dumping action taken against it by the Commission…” [p.77]

It did not strike an immediate chord with the ‘Loyalists’.

Their favourite phrase, for a long time was to bang on along the lines
“The plans of the Euro-fanatics to create a United States of Europe in an effort to destroy the nation-state…” [GR Kemp, ‘Chunnelling to our Doom; Candour Feb 1986]

or

“The pattern for the new U.S. of E. will be subtly different. Multi-party systems in the regions will continue to debate the issues, and send their elected representative, at vastly increased salaries and overheads, to prestigious assembles in the heartland of Europe, but in the end the really vital decisions will be taken by a politburo or committee’ (J. Wilkes sic], Democracy after Thatcher, Candour, March 1991)

You will not need me to point out to you the echoes of the phrase; “elected representative, at vastly increased salaries and overheads” in the current ukip adverts.

But you can see the LEL moving towards the language of Ewell, cited above, with the implied comparison of the European Parliament, and Commission with the Soviet system.

I suspect that the final leap to ‘EUSSR’ was made a little after this, probably to avoid antagonising influential U.S. money.

Later in 1991 Leslie Von Goetz penned a couple of paragraphs which are integral to ukip thinking. The second of these;

“Those who would lead us blindfold into ‘Europe’ without even understanding the difference between a federation and a confederation risk having a lot of blood on their hands when the various peoples of Europe realise that in the name of free trade, which they could have had anyway, quite simply they have created a monster which is ruining domestic agriculture, depriving their own parliaments of the right to levy their own taxes and control their own immigration, and giving overwhelming powers to a small bureaucracy which cannot begin to police the gigantic frauds generated by its insane rules” [Candour, June/July, 1991]

would appear to be as much part of the tory Europhobe’s discourse, as that of ukip.

The term ‘United States of Europe’ seems to go back to the very foundation of the EU in the 1950s after the Second World War. I can remember studying the EU at school way back in the late ’70s- very early ’80s. The textbook we were using stated that the EEC as it was then had been set up following moves to create a ‘United States of Europe’ in the 1950s and ’60s. I think a ‘United States of Europe’ was the way the EU’s founders thought of it, and so there isn’t anything Fascistic in the term. The use of ‘EUSSR’ for the EU is, however, very different.

As for the League of Empire Loyalists, this was a non-party organisation set up by Arnold Leese, a former member of the British Union of Fascists. Leese was an anti-Semite, who believed that there was a global Jewish plot to destroy the British Empire directed by Jewish American bankers and financiers. The same bankers were also responsible for the Russian Revolution and the spread of Communism, as well as the various international organisations that arose after the Second World War, including the United Nations, NATO and the EEC/ EU. It’s the kind of weird conspiracy theorising that formed part of Hitler’s ideology of Nazism, and which was sent up by the late, great and very Fortean Robert Anton Wilson in the Illuminatus! books. Candour was the League’s magazine.

The term seems to have escaped the political ghetto of the LEL to find its way into conventional, Centre-Right political discourse. And some of those who have adopted the term, or the ideas behind it, have been on the completely opposite side of the political spectrum. I remember reading an article in the SF magazine The Edge with two Scots SF authors, China Mieville and the author of the ‘Culture’ series of SF novels, in which they talked about how they saw the EU – very much like the old Soviet Union, but something that was generally benign, despite its bureaucracy and corruption.

UN bedroom tax report reveals truth about Tories

September 13, 2013

In this article, published on Mike’s blog before his post on the Commissioner’s report, Mike comments on the Tories’ rage at the UN Commissioner’s attack on the Bedroom Tax. Using the text of the report itself, Mike refutes Shapps’ criticisms, exposing them for the lies they are, and the petulance and hypocrisy that lies underneath them.

Mike also found this piece on BBC News, in which Ms. Rolnik herself completely refutes Shapps’ lies. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-24053718.

Vox Political

What a spoilt little brat Grant Shapps has shown himself to be.

After the United Nations’ special investigator on housing told the Coalition government it should scrap the bedroom tax, describing the policy’s effect on vulnerable citizens as “shocking”, he threw a hissy fit.

He claimed that Raquel Rolnik had been biased from the start and had not met any ministers or officials, and said he would be writing to protest to the UN secretary general.

Why would an investigator, who has come to this country to see for herself the actual effect of a government policy, waste any time listening to ministers who want to overwrite her report with their own agenda?

Ms Rolnik is perfectly capable of accessing the reams of material that has already been written by the government about the bedroom tax – or spare room subsidy, as Mr Shapps (if that’s what he’s calling…

View original post 800 more words

The UN Housing Inspector’s Report on the Bedroom Tax

September 13, 2013

My brother, over at Vox Political, has posted up the report of the UN Commissioner, Raquel Rolnik, who came here to investigate the Bedroom Tax. She was deeply critical. After acknowledging the help given to her by government departments and agencies, and praising the UK for its considerable achievements in social policy, she remarks that

‘Some of my main preliminary findings indicate signs of retrogression in the enjoyment of the right to adequate housing. It is not clear that every effort has been made to protect the most vulnerable from the impacts of retrogression, indeed much of the testimony I heard suggests they are bearing the brunt. Housing deprivation is worsening in the United Kingdom. Increasingly, people appear to be facing difficulties to accessing adequate, affordable, well located and secure housing. The numbers of people on waiting lists for social housing have risen, with reports indicating waits of several years to obtain a suitable house.’…

‘Especially worrisome in this package is the so-called “bedroom tax”, or the spare bedroom under occupancy penalty. It came into force on 1 April 2013, without having been previously piloted. It essentially means a reduction in the amount of benefit paid to claimants if the property they are renting from the social housing sector is considered under occupied. The Government has argued that this policy reduces dependency and will make available a stock of under occupied homes.’

‘Fiscal austerity measures include budget cuts in local Government expenditure, as well as significant reduction on the grants available for housing associations to provide social and affordable homes. This implies that social landlords will be required to reach out to the private financial markets in order to fund their building activities. As a consequence they will be pressured to increase their profit-making activities, potentially being forced to increase rent and reduce the stock made available to social renters.’

She goes on to describe the response she has had from people with disabilities and the poor, who are finding it very difficult to cope with the tax.

‘I would like to refer now to the package of welfare reform and its impact on a number of human rights, but especially on the right to adequate housing, such as for those seeking to live independent and dignified lives with physical and mental disabilities. The so-called bedroom tax is possibly the most visible of the measures. In only a few months of its implementation the serious impacts on very vulnerable people have already been felt and the fear of future impacts are a source of great stress and anxiety.

Of the many testimonies I have heard, let me say that I have been deeply touched by persons with physical and mental disabilities who have felt targeted instead of protected; of the grandmothers who are carers of their children and grandchildren but are now feeling they are forced to move away from their life-long homes due to a spare bedroom or to run the risk of facing arrears; of the single parents who will not have space for their children when they come to visit; of the many people who are increasingly having to choose between food and paying the penalty. Those who are impacted by this policy were not necessarily the most vulnerable a few months ago, but they were on the margins, facing fragility and housing stress, with little extra income to respond to this situation and already barely coping with their expenses.’

She is also concerned that devolution of housing policies to local councils in Northern Ireland could lead to increased sectarianism in the province, and discrimination against Roman Catholics. Another problem she raises is the lack of suitable sits for Gypsy camps.

Her report discusses the legislation and economic thinking behind the governments policies, such as the bias in British housing policy towards home-ownership, rather than rented accommodation. In her conclusion, she recommends

‘First, and foremost, I would suggest that the so-called bedroom tax be suspended immediately and be fully re-evaluated in light of the evidence of its impacts on the right to adequate housing and general well-being of many vulnerable individuals.
Secondly, I would recommend that the Government puts in place a system of regulation for the private rent sector, including clear criteria about affordability, access to information and security of tenure.
Thirdly, I would encourage a renewal of the Government’s commitment to significantly increasing the social housing stock and a more balanced public funding for the stimulation of supply of social and affordable housing which responds to the needs.’

Predictably, this has produced an angry response from the Tories’ chairman, Grant Shapps, which Mike also covers and demolishes in this and other articles.

Scriptonite: Inequality of Wealth in UK Same as Nigeria

August 6, 2013

Yesterday Scriptonite published a post reporting UN statistics that the inequality in wealth between the rich and poor is now the same as Nigeria. It is the most extreme in the developed world, with the poorest in Britain living on the same incomes as those in Hungary and Korea. The piece is entitled Wealth Inequality in UK now Equal to Nigeria, UN Report. It begins

The UK has been sliding down the UN Human Development Report since 1991, and by 1996 became the most unequal nation in the developed world . The gap between rich and poor in UK society has risen sharply during the leadership of the Coalition government, yet long before these people got power, the gap between rich and poor in UK society was equal to Nigeria, with the poorest here living on roughly the same as their counterparts in Hungary and Korea.

Inequality, Inequality, Inequality

The 1996 and 2013 reports makes truly depressing reading, but should come as no surprise to those warning of exactly these results from ideological austerity policies.

Scriptonite links it to the implementation of the Tories’ Neo-Liberal policies, and suggests radical alternative systems, which people can join as a way of personally counteract government policy. Concerns about the growing gap between rich and poor in comparison with the Developing World goes back as far as Blair and Thatcher. I can remember a Fabian pamphlet during Thatcher’s administration noting that the inequality of wealth was the same as India. Since that time it’s become more extreme. Adam Curtis, the documentary film-maker, who directed the excellent The Century of the Self, discussed the increasing loss of social mobility in his The Trap: How We Lost Our Dreams of Freedom. He argued there that the growing division between rich and poor, and the lost of social mobility was due to Libertarian ideologies in which human behaviour was modelled on that of machines and applied to wider society in order to control the administration of goods and services after Thatcher’s privatisation. It is very well worth watching.

Scriptonite’s article is at http://scriptonitedaily.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/wealth-inequality-in-uk-now-equal-to-nigeria-un-report/.

Adam Curtis’ The Trap: How We Lost Our Dreams of Freedom is shown here