The Sydney cafe siege of Man Haron Monis has provoked some interesting responses, not least as he appears to have been a high profile, and rather unpleasant figure, in Australia for some years. My twitter timeline is often clogged up with people complaining about the government of Tony Abbott and perceived Australian racism, yet what is most noticeable in the Monis case is the tolerance with which Australia appears to have treated him.
2015 marks the hundredth anniversary of what can perhaps be seen as the first Islamist terror attack in Australia - the Battle of Broken Hill in 1915. Perhaps the most detailed comparative piece on Broken Hill and Martin Place so far has been by an Australian Pastor, Mark Durie, published by the Middle East Forum as "One Hundred Years of Jihad in Australia" That is perhaps a slighly erroneous title, as Australia was hardly threatened by jihadist actors during its decades of a more isloationist foreign policy, or, crucially, when it had far fewer Islamists on its territory.
This being The Guardian, Sparrow perhaps avoids the obvious point - that Anarchists came to reject such violence as a strategy (or even a tactic) a development yet to shape many Islamist actors. Either way, there is plenty of interest in both articles, and they serve as a reminder that some issues may not be as new, or even as threatening, as they at first appear.
The Sunday Telegraph has a major piece today on a possible government crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK.
Such a move was probably inevitable once it became clear one of the MB's leaders, Yusuf al-Qaradwi, was promoting the concept of a Sunni-Shia sectarian war, and encouraging any able bodied Sunni to go to Syria to take part in that conflict. We are today seeing some of the consequences of that advocacy - in the continuing number of Britons travelling to fight in Syria, the threat posed to our own citizens by those in jihadist organisations and the dangers we face from those returning from the front line in Iraq and Syria. This is not simply about terrorism - what price women's rights, community relations or concepts of democracy in a community influenced by ISIS?
Curiously Robert Mendick and Robert Verkaik's newspaper article holds back from examing the scale of the British establishment's blunders with regards to the MB. These encompass politicians, the police and academia. Mayor of London Ken Livingstone brought Yusuf al-Qaradawi to London as a man we could do business with, a Muslim theologian with the respect and ear of British Muslims. I wonder if Ken, listening to al-Qaradawi's call for violence against Shia Muslims, has now had time to reflect on the wisdom of that approach?
Then there is Bob Lambert QPM, who as head of the Metropolitian Police's Muslim Contact Unit, faciltated not only Al-Qaradwi's London sojourns, but regarded him as a bulwark against the influence of Al Qaeda. According to Lambert's memoirs, this support extended to the Commander of the Met's Special Branch. To paraphrase Brendan Behan, there is no situation so bad, the intervention of a police officer can't make it worse.
Earlier this year, I raised the question of the Muslim Brotherhood's influence in British academia. The organisation Spinwatch, with its illustrious advisory board and staffed by some prominent researchers on the British left in Prof David Miller of Bath University, Tom Griffin, Hilary Aked and also Tom Mills of the New Left Project, has been funded by the Muslim Brotherhood's Cordoba Foundation, to the tune of £10,000.
Since then, Spinwatch output has at times reflected issues of concern to the MB - a 2011 report concerning the "Cold War on Britain's Muslims" and a 2013 report exposing a pro-Israeli lobbying group, BICOM. At the 2011 Critical Terrorism Studies conference in Glasgow, Prof Miller reacted angrily to a conference panel on 'Religious Terrorism.' It was perhaps no coincidence that the papers presented in that part of the conference were not sent for peer review, and consequently did not appear in the journal Critical Studies on Terrorism, where several Spinwatch writers may be found.
According to the Sunday Telegraph, Dr Lorenzo Vidino has been advising the Cabinet Office on its review of MB activities in the UK. It may also be time that a few academics began to look critically (in the true sense of the word) at what impact the Muslim Brotherhood may be having on parts of British academia.
I had another late night request yesterday from the Evening Standard's letters page, asking for my views on the proposed UK intervention in Iraq. I don't know if they will use my words in today's edition, but here they are:
Twenty five years after the Rushdie protests, we still don't have a viable policy to address Islamic extremism. Twenty years since British jihadis fought for the Bosnian Mujahideen, we are still scrambling to properly respond to the issue of UK Islamists fighting overseas. If in doubt, revert to type - support the same side as the Jihadis, then when that is exposed as folly, launch air raids, and hope for the best. In the very year when government in Libya has collapsed (the RAF's last destination) that is not good enough.
Western governments should tackle ISIS at source - stop its funding from the Gulf, stop its flow of manpower via the Turkish border, and stop the flow of support from Salafi Muslims in Europe - be it directly as fighters or indirectly as often dubious charities. Whilst support for a secular Kurdish state could have been given by now, more generally, a retreat from this troublesome part of the world is overdue. As what is really a Sunni v Shia civil war continues (towards an Islamic Götterdämmerung?) let us look to our moat. And where he can, the Prime Minister should begin to pull up the drawbridge.
Paul Stott, University of East Anglia
Britain has had twenty five years, since the domestic protests in support of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie, to develop a viable strategy towards Islamism. We still seem to be stumbling from crisis to crisis, forever apologising and scared of giving offense. It is all very British, and it is all a big balls-up. There is time to take a better route, but that moment will not be around for ever. Here is my letter to The Standard:
David Cameron has adopted a curious approach to ISIS. Firstly we have a British Prime Minister informing people establishing what they consider a pure Islamic state, they are not really Muslims at all. Does he think they are going to agree and give up their hostages?
Such pointless words are in fact solely for domestic consumption, and an electorate fatigued by Islamist extremism, yet fully aware of earlier, flawed interventions in the Middle East.
Next he repeats the canard Islam is a religion of peace. Far from being a pacifist, Muhammad is one of histories most impressive and innovative military commanders, fighting nine battles in ten years, whilst his companions led 47 military campaigns (see Islamweb.net). It is from this turbulent period of Muhammad and his companions, and their establishment of sharia, that Salafis (those who seek a return to the original path) such as ISIS and their British members receive inspiration.
Rather than verbiage, the PM would be better advised ensuring evidence of war crimes by British jihadis is being carefully collated, dual citizens lose their UK nationality, and our NATO ‘ally’ Turkey controls its border with Syria.
Paul Stott, University of East Anglia
I am not in London yet, so have not seen if it has been printed, or if it has been printed and edited down. There is more that could have been said. For example on the differences between the Islamic State and post 2001 Al Qaeda, or the need to stop encouraging Islamist actors in the UK by ceding ground to them. I can think of few things sillier than fatally raising expectations on issues such as 'voluntary' sharia councils in the UK - but that debate will do another time.
I have sadly missed the Comics Unmasked exhibition at the British Library, which closed on August 19th.
You can gain some insight into what was missed by looking, whilst you can, at the relevant section on the British Library website. There is also a book written to accompany the event, and an excellent summary appeared in the May issue of Fortean Times, courtesy of Paul Gravett.
As a long term observer of that curiously puritanical streak which runs through the British left, I was immediately drawn to this paragraph in Gravett's article:
It’s ironic that the first exhibition devoted to comics was probably the touring display of so-called ‘horror comics’ - imports, reprints and imitations of uncensored American comic books like the notorious Tales from the Crypt - organised by the National Union of Teachers. This display toured the country and was the basis of a film strip projected in schools. While these were intended as part of their campaign to raise alarm about the effects of this shocking material, it probably also gave many youngsters their first exposure to these tempting terrors. Pressures on the government to take action came from many sides, including the unlikely alliance of the Church of England, right up to the Archbishop of Canterbury himself, and the anti-American Communist Party who discreetly ran the Comics Campaign Council. The result in 1955 was the Children and Young Persons (Harmful Publications) Act. Very few prosecutions resulted but it is still in force and the stigma against comics has never entirely gone away.
It is worth re-capping on that. A major trades union, the NUT, the Communist Party of Great Britain and the Church of England all campaigned against the presence in the UK of American comics. And this resulted in legislation being enacted against 'harmful publications'. Legislation that has never been repealed!
Just skimming through the various histories I have on my bookshelf of the CPGB, I cannot find any mention of the Comics Campaign Council as a prominent 'front-group.' Then again sympathetic histories may be very likely to avoid the subject.
I have never actually got round to reading Melanie Phillips' critique of the education system, All Must Have Prizes. However, judging by this recent announcement on the staff email list at the University of East Anglia, it has some predictive value:
We will have two extra seminars on 23/07 and 30/07.
Patricia Esteve (Universitat Rovira i Virgili) will present “Affirmative Action through Extra Prizes” on 23/07 from 4 to 5 pm at ARTS 3.15. The following is the abstract.
Abstract: Some affirmative action policies establish that a set of disadvantaged competitors has access to an extra prize. Examples are gender quotas or a prize for national competitors in an international competition. We analyse the effects of creating an extra prize by reducing the prize in the main competition. Contestants differ in ability and agents with relatively low ability belong to a disadvantaged minority. All contestants compete for the main prize, but only disadvantaged agents can win the extra prize. We show that an extra prize is a powerful tool to ensure participation of disadvantaged agents. Moreover, for intermediate levels of the disadvantage of the minority, introducing an extra prize increases total equilibrium effort compared to a standard contest. Thus, even a contest designer not interested in affirmative action might establish an extra prize in order to enhance competition.
If you want to know why community relations are poor in some parts of the UK, and negative attitudes expressed towards Islam in Britain, this is as good a place as any to start:
1986 - 2007 Activists from organisations such as the Islamic Foundation and Muslim Council of Britain produce a series of pamphlets setting out how Muslim school children living in Britain should be educated
2007 - 15/07/14 - Activists attempt to implement these strategies in some Birmingham schools
2014 - Media exposure of accusations of a Trojan Horse approach to schooling at some Birmingham state schools emerge. As well as anonymous documents (probably fake) these include accusations made by former head teachers from a range of ethnic backgrounds. The NASUWT is representing several
- Muslim community representatives, the National Union of Teachers and some left leaning journalists, dismiss the accusations, and state they are rooted in Islamophobia and racism
- Across three seperate inquiries, many of the accusations are substantiated
- 15/07/14 - Some of those involved in allegedly seeking to push Islamist agendas in Birmingham schools, resign
- 23-25/07/14 Academics and political activists in the Birmingham Muslim community complain that the Trojan Horse affair has damaged community relations. They make no mention of their own role in any damage done, and conduct no critical self analysis.
Last weekend saw the most succesful leader of a British fascist organisation, Nick Griffin of the British National Party, leave its leadership, for the undefined role of 'President'. He has been replaced by Adam Walker, a former teacher from County Durham.
In a quickly written but detailed analysis of these events, Larry O'Hara of Notes From the Borderland magazine has given a wonderful summation of Griffin's 15 years in charge of the BNP:
"For some time now, Griffin has been a politically dead man walking, but this should not blind us to the strategic breakthrough he made in far right politics. Despite his European dalliances (and those closer to home with CI8/Blood & Honour in the past) he has never been a Nazi, seeking to develop a non-Nazi fascism that combined both electoralism and extra-parliamentary politics. Sadly for him (though not anti-fascism) he could never convince enough BNP members of the nuances and salience of this strategy."
Do read the full article, "The BNP's Nick Griffin Gets Booted Upstairs".
There was an interesting blast from the past at the "Putting Birmingam School Kids First" public meeting on the 26th June.
Who should be amongst the concerned parents but Helen Salmon. Both Ms Salmon, and her five year old son Ben, spoke at the event.
When the Respect party split in 2007-8, in Birmingham the dispute centered on the inability of the organisation to field diverse slates of candidates. Muslim men, one of them a recent defector from the Conservative Party, predominated. Helen Salmon of the SWP objected. Salma Yaqoob inferred she was racist, and things got very nasty indeed.
As divisive and damaging as the 'Trojan Horse' affair, and the behaviour of Islamist educationalists which preceded it has been, clearly a reconciliation has occured between Helen Salmon and Salma Yaqoob, who organised the public meeting.
Is it me, or is there not something slightly sinister in seeing children giving speeches in this way? Especially as the words were almost certainly written by his mother? Where once the individual confessed to thought crime and pledged to take the correct path in future, now it seems, they get their children to accompany them............
Amongst the flurry of World War One related posts and comments, there seemed little point in adding my own - it is not my field. I do though want to share the words of Atatürk on the graves of those Allied soldiers who fell in what is now Turkey:
"Heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives! You are now lying in the soil of a friendly country. Therefore rest in peace. There is no difference between the Johnnies and Mehmets to us where they lie side by side here in this country of ours. You, the mothers, who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears; your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace. After having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”
― Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
The article below is a report I wrote for the The Backbencher webite last year, following a Northampton University conference. Whether it was something I said or not, I was not invited back for the 2014 follow-up! Anyway, as The Backbencher lost my original article when they swapped servers, here it is.
Assessing the Far Right and the Ground It Stands On?
Friday 28 June saw a conference at Northampton University entitled “The Far Right in Transition”. This brought together approximately 100 people to hear speakers discuss the contemporary and historical far right, its activities and some of the responses to it. The conference had one slightly different tack – me – as I was invited at the last minute to discuss the Woolwich terrorist attack and to put it in some historical context.
Northampton University runs the Radicalism and the New Media research centre and the first part of the morning was devoted to its centrepiece – the launch of the archive of the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight. Searchlight has been a controversial presence in the British anti-racist movement for over 50 years – Anti-Fascist Action (of which I was a supporter) and Antifa (of which I was a founder) both proscribed their members from working with Searchlight, because of its relationship with the police and security services. Such history was not on the agenda in Northampton – indeed much of the day was about the legacy of Searchlight and its now elderly editor Gerry Gable, as he gifts Searchlight’s vast archive to the University of Northampton for future research.
For all the past bitterness, this may well prove to be Gable’s legacy – the opportunity to view the hundreds of boxes of far-right material that includes books from as far back as the 1880s, magazines from the 1930s, and thousands of fascist leaflets. Some 200 boxes of material have been catalogued by curator Dan Jones, with some 300 to follow. There are complete runs of some material – for example Searchlight itself, and Spearhead, the magazine John Tyndall ran for much of his political life.
Conferences like this tend to bring together a slightly curious mix of participants – academics, past and current political activists, community leaders, the police and in this case a sizeable contingent of counter terrorism officers, something that perhaps reflects the concern about events post-Woolwich. Podcasts of all eleven presentations are available, although not the Q and A’s which followed. Of the talks if you only have time to listen to a handful I would firstly pick out Alexander Meleagrou-Hitchens who examined the EDL in terms of the international counter jihad movement. It is often stated that the EDL has kick-started a whole series of like minded groups across Europe, but this does not appear to be the case, indeed the EDL actually rather trails in behind groups abroad. Hitchens travelled to Defence League demonstrations in Aarhus and Stockholm, and found that activists there tended to be more middle class than their English counterparts, older and sometimes with political backgrounds on the left, rather than the right. My instinct is that there may be very different local reasons that bring people into such movements in different countries – and even different cities within those nations. It may be that further research across a greater number of countries will answer my hypothesis in time.
Fiyaz Mughal of Tell Mama spoke of his organisations work monitoring anti-Muslim hatred on Twitter. Interestingly, whilst recent media articles have seen Tell Mama referred to as an organisation monitoring both anti-Muslim hatred and intra-Muslim tensions, the later role was not mentioned. Tell Mama has the software to pick out key words in abusive texts, and grooming cases now appears to be a bigger issue in such material than terrorism.
There was some discomfort about where this work can lead – a 15 year old girl ‘Nicole’ was cautioned by the police after she had made 8 months worth of tweets that Tell Mama had monitored, and it seems this police route is the most likely response to such material. Mughal stressed Twitter believe firmly in the First Amendment, and have heard and ignored Tell Mama’s concerns about the platform they provide.
The third talk of interest was Will Baldet of the St Phillips Centre in Leicester, who has responsibility for the government’s anti-extremism platform Prevent, in Leicestershire and Rutland. Here it was obvious how keenly broader ‘anti-extremist’ narratives are running in police and government circles. Anti-fascist demonstrations were identified as a drain on public resources, counter-productive and unwise, as they do not achieve anything. I kept expecting someone in the audience to shout out ‘Cable Street’ but no one did. More seriously, I suspect Will Baldet does understood how much anti-fascists mythologise their history, and see themselves in a life and death struggle against an enemy. To the government and police though, they are just a public order problem.
Baldet identified some key elements in the make-up of far-right ‘extremists’ – anger management issues, anti-authoritarianism, identification as the under-dog, defiance, recklessness, a failure to handle inner conflict, attention seeking and an intolerance of ambiguity. Whilst this type of psychological approach is always interesting, where it gets us is another matter. I asked if a similar chart could be drawn up of Islamist actors, and was told that this typology was in fact an amalgam of the characteristics of neo-Nazi and Al Qaeda members, plus would be suicide bombers in Iraq. Fascinating stuff, but reading through it again, much of it could equally apply to any 18 year old in a street gang or football firm, and arguably to a much wider number of 18 years olds full stop.
On this evidence at least, the answers to assessing the far right and the ground it stands on do not lie in cod psychology.
Paul Stott is an academic in the field of Terrorism Studies, based at the University of East Anglia. He tweets @MrPaulStott
I wrote the article below almost exactly 12 months ago - 0n 22 June 2013. It is re-published here as it is was since lost from The Backbencher site where it originally appeared, and I never got round to pubishing it in full on this blog. Hopefully it has stood the test of time over the past twelve months.
A Strange Kind of Glory: Life Undercover
Monday 24 June sees a Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 at 8pm. From its scheduling, the programme will examine the use of undercover police officers by the Met, and some of the resultant sexual scandals that are now coming to light.
Over the past few years, The Guardian and Observer have run a series of revelations about Special Demonstration Squad operations infiltrating far-left, anti-racist, anti-fascist, environmental and green organisations, mostly via the pen of Paul Lewis. What is noticeable about the police investigations, all of which appear to have run for several years, is the comparatively small beer that resulted in terms of prosecutions for criminal offences and/or prevention of serious crime. In the case of Peter Black, known as Officer A, who infiltrated an organisation protesting against deaths in police custody, one is left with the rather unpleasant impression that the police were not investigating criminal activity, or developing advance indications of public disorder, but instead were looking to find out what dirt protestors had developed on the Metropolitan Police.
Perhaps the most prominent of the undercover officers to be exposed is Bob Lambert, who was known as ‘Bob Robinson’ when he infiltrated a series of peace, ecological and animal rights organisations in the 1980s. Since retiring from the Metropolitan Police he had forged himself a successful career as an academic, where his research focused on Islamophobia and British counter terrorism initiatives. It was this high profile that was to be Dr Lambert’s undoing – some of those he had spied upon realised that Bob Lambert and Bob Robinson were one and the same, and exposed him when he attended an anti-racist conference in October 2011.
The details of his time undercover include entering into a long term relationship and fathering a child with a woman who had no idea as to his real identity. Both were abandoned. On 13 June 2012 the Green MP Caroline Lucas used parliamentary privilege to allege that whilst an activist in the Animal Liberation Front, ‘Bob Robinson’ had carried out the firebombing of a London department store in 1987.
Having met Bob Lambert in the course of my own academic research, I can say he is one of the most personable and considerate individuals I have known. His slightly bumbling, Sergeant Wilson out of Dad’s Army act belies a sharp mind. The problem of course is it is precisely those qualities that undoubtedly made him such a successful operator when spying upon his fellow citizens, many of whom will have given him their friendship, camaraderie and indeed love in return. Bob’s career in the Special Branch brought him the Queen’s Police Medal and an MBE. But when placed in the context of the ambiguities and indeed personal betrayals he engaged in along the way, those baubles arguably represent a strange kind of glory.
Similar sentiments may be expressed when considering the life of the late Duncan Robertson. On Thursday 20 June along with the writer Larry O’Hara I attended his inquest, at St Pancras Coroner’s Court. Mr Robertson was a long term activist in the British fascist movement, and his death in March this year was marked by a flowing tribute published on the British National Party’s website on 29 April. Croydon BNP Branch Organiser John Clarke was quoted as saying “Nationalism has lost a real friend with the passing of Duncan. Rest in peace mate”.
On 19 May the parapolitical magazine Notes from the Borderland broke the news that far from being a ‘friend’ of ‘nationalism’ Robertson had been working undercover for the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight for nine years.
Subsequently Searchlight dedicated much of the May issue of their magazine to his work, rather grandly referring to him as a ‘Searchlight intelligence officer’. There was no explanation of how a man aged only 48 had died, although reference was made to his struggle with ill health. The frightening physical decline in the pictures of Duncan Robertson over the years certainly indicated a man with considerable issues.
The inquest confirmed that Duncan Robertson had passed away on 19 March 2013, having taken 140 paracetemol tablets the day before, whilst staying on his own at a central London hotel. Prior to his death, at one stage he was drinking 150 units of alcohol per week, whilst wrestling with severe pain resultant from a surviving a train accident many years previously. In evidence to the court, Searchlight Editor Gerry Gable described Robertson as a ‘Research Journalist’ saying nothing about the undercover life he had led in the BNP (and other fascist currents) on Searchlight’s behalf. As such, the Court did not consider the pressures forming close relationships with the fascists he was informing on may have had on his mental state.
On 20 June the Coroner recorded a verdict of suicide whilst suffering from depression. The court had been unable to trace any of Duncan Robertson’s family, and he appears to have had few close friends. The current edition of Searchlight salutes him as a comrade, but as with Bob Lambert, one is left with the strong impression that a life undercover is a very strange kind of glory.
Paul Stott is an academic in the field of Terrorism Studies, based at the University of East Anglia. He tweets @MrPaulStott
This is an article I wrote on the 13 June 2013, and had published on The Backbencher website. As it was lost due to some technical issues, for the record I re-prooduce it below.
Domestic Terrorism in the UK – Time To Calm Down Dear?
The murder in Woolwich of Drummer Lee Rigby refocused attention on the United Kingdom’s issues with both terrorism and radical elements within British Islam.
Woolwich was new on certain levels. For the first time since 2005 terrorists had killed in mainland Britain (there were several murders by dissident Republicans in Northern Ireland in that period) The run of unsuccessful attempts – 21/7, the Haymarket nightclub attack, Glasgow Airport, the attempted murder of Stephen Timms MP – had served as a reminder that for now the UK’s Jihadis lack the tradecraft that the Provisional IRA in particular developed. The Four Lions style attempt to attack the EDL in Dewsbury last June, where would-be holy warriors turned up late, then got nicked on the way home for driving an uninsured vehicle, and a plot to blow up Luton’s Territorial Army base using a bomb under a toy car, had even added a slightly comic element to British Jihadism.
Woolwich was a reminder that a deadly threat does still exist. The added difference was that unlike an attack on a transport interchange or bar, in Woolwich there was no attempt to inflict mass casualties –civilians were free to go about their business whilst the two alleged murderers delivered monologues to anyone with a camera phone.
In recent decades several terrorist strands have existed in the United Kingdom. The Good Friday Agreement did not bring a total end to violence related to the Six Counties/Ulster/Northern Ireland (delete according to your allegiance) but went a significant distance towards doing so. With the Provisional IRA and Loyalist groups de-commissioning, and broad public support holding, those fringe elements who rejected the peace process took some time to re-constitute themselves.
2013 sees Derry/Londonderry (delete according to your allegiance) as the UK’s City of Culture. Derry, alongside Lurgan, is one of the stronger areas for dissident Republicans, who also have a major opportunity to remind the world they have not gone away with the G8 summit held in the province this month. Then again, speculation in July 2012 that dissidents coming together under one umbrella would see an attack at the Olympics came to naught.
For Britain’s stuttering forces on the far right, the murder of Drummer Rigby served as a shot of adrenaline. The extent to which cooler heads have departed the English Defence League was demonstrated by balaclava clad demonstrators throwing bottles in Woolwich. For all the blood curdling talk which sometimes accompanies the EDL (from some of its supporters and some of those monitoring it) the pattern of response to this killing mirrored 7/7 – some unpleasant expressions of racism, petty violence, arson attacks and vandalism – but with no sign of an anti-Muslim uprising or pogrom.
Keep Calm and Carry On?
As well as keeping politically inspired violence in perspective, we need to keep terrorism in some form of context. In 2012, terrorist cases were falling, prompting David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, to comment you are as likely to die from a bee sting as a terrorist:
In terms of our way of life, more long term threats may actually come from needless legislation to ‘protect’ us – something former Home Secretary John Reid and ex-Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation Lord Carlile shamelessly promoted in media interviews post Woolwich.
The recent PRISM revelations should serve as a reminder that the function of all security services is to collect data on its own citizens, and that new technology allows greater intrusion than ever before. What was lacking from Reid or Carlile was any evidence that increased monitoring powers could have prevented Woolwich, just as those in the Labour party who wanted to introduce ID cards after 7/7 could not produce a shred of evidence that such legislation would prevent a domestic terrorist conducting a suicide bombing.
The Why Question?
The debate about why people are radicalised is at times circular – it is now unfashionable in liberal circles to play up religious elements, and de rigueur to raise our foreign policy – but at least here in the UK we are having the debate. Surveys from the Pew Research Center suggest in no Muslim country does a majority believe 9/11 was carried out by Arabs. The US, the Jews, Israel or any combination thereof cops the blame. How can terrorism – and counter terrorism – be rationally debated in such environments?
We need to carry on debating these issues. Yes foreign policy is cited repeatedly by Jihadist actors, but equally central, in their literature and statements, are religious issues. If anyone thinks our foreign policy is solely to blame, perhaps they would like to explain why author Salman Ruhdie was in hiding for so long?
Paul Stott is an academic in the field of Terrorism Studies, based at the University of East Anglia. He tweets @MrPaulStott
Last summer I had three articles on security, policing and the far-right published on The Backbencher, a UK based libertarian website which deserves a wider audience.
It was recently pointed out to me that the articles had now been taken down, which happened as The Backbencher had switched to a new server. Checking on this blog, I had not put all the articles on here either, which was an oversight.
I will put each article on this blog, over the next three to four days, and hopefully The Backbencher will also do the same. As ever, comments are welcome, especially as, twelve months on, it is also interesting to see how any analysis stands the test of time.
A decade or so ago, I was thrown out at Stonehenge, having climbed over a fence with my then girlfriend and walked over towards the stones.
English Heritage then expected individuals to pay £4 or £5, to view what is our national heritage. Yet the stones existed long before this 'custodian', its board or its paper shufflers - and will be around long after they are forgotten. On BBC2 tomorrow evening at 8pm, some of the controversies and debates around this most important of sites are discussed in The Culture Show: The Battle for Stonehenge.
According to the write-up in The Sunday Times, this will include 'astonishing' film of police brutality towards travellers attempting to reach the stones in 1985. Any round-up of the many shameful events in the 1980s must include reference to the Battle of the Beanfield, a classic example of what can happen when the state believes it can act as it pleases to those on its margins.
Happy Summer Solstice everyone.
This is from Michael Scheuer, a former CIA officer best known for heading the agency's anti-Bin Laden unit. He states:
"For now, however, the beginning of wisdom is to look at what is going on in Iraq and Syria and see it clearly. In both places all of those folks that multiple U.S. administrations have identified as enemies of America are killing each other. In Syria, the Assad regime, Iran, and Lebanese Hizballah are killing Sunni mujhaedin from all over the world, as well as their local allies and supporters. In turn, the Sunni Islamists in Syria are killing Assad’s troops, Iranian Revolutionary Guards, and Hizballah fighters. This is a perfect circumstance for the United States, all our enemies are killing each other and it is not costing us a cent or a life."
And this conflict is increasingly occuring in Iraq, and to a lesser extent in Lebanon.
It is too early to say if we are approaching a sort of Islamic version of Götterdämmerung, where Islamism and Jihadism are taken to their logical conclusions by opposing elements in an intra-Islamic war. It is however far from impossible.
If so the United States, and indeed the United Kingdom, has no business intervening.
The historian Niall Ferguson has recently picked up one of the more dishonest intellectual batons around - the claim that Margaret Thatcher would have 'seen off' radical Islam.
Speaking at the Centre for Policy Studies inaugral Margaret Thatcher Liberty Conference, Ferguson as good as sank the project before it began, by making the bizarre claim that Mrs Thatcher would have 'whole heartedly' have fought radical Islam.
In fact, Mrs Thatcher empowered radical Islam. Most disastrously via our support for the Mujahideen in Afghanistan (who of course a few years later begat the Taliban, providing the sanctuary to Al Qaeda which enabled 9/11) and secondly via her cosy relationship with the Islamising military dictator of Pakistan, General Zia. One wonders what Zia would have made of the liberty conference?
And that is without even mentioning her deep relationship with the primary state sponsors of Sunni terrorism, Saudi Arabia, or that the first person to propose an Islamic school in Britain was ...........Margaret Thatcher.
It is fashionable, and indeed correct, to flay Tony Blair for the encouragment his foreign policy gave to Islamist actors. But let us not forget that Britain has been getting it very wrong on Islamism for a very long time. And that despite the myopia of her supporters, Mrs Thatcher was up to her neck in those blunders.
Tuesday evening sees a debate in London on developments in the Basque country, as the conflict between ETA and the Spanish state reaches another stage.
Endgame for ETA: Elusive Peace in the Basque Country: Book launch and discussion
Free Word Centre, 60 Farringdon Rd, London EC1R 3GA
Tuesday 10th June 6:30 pm
The violent Basque separatist group ETA took shape in Franco's Spain, yet claimed the majority of its victims under democracy. For most Spaniards it became an aberration, a criminal and terrorist band whose persistence defied explanation. Others, mainly Basques (but only some Basques) understood ETA as the violent expression of a political conflict that remained the unfinished business of Spain's transition to democracy. Such differences hindered efforts to 'defeat' ETA's terrorism on the one hand and 'resolve the Basque conflict' on the other for more than three decades.
This discussion will address questions explored by Teresa Whitfield in her new book, Endgame for ETA: Elusive Peace in the Basque Country. What led ETA to last so long? And what factors contributed to its decision to end its violence in 2011? What is ETA, and where is the Basque conflict, today? Are there lessons from the Basque experience that may be relevant elsewhere?
Teresa Whitfield is a Fellow of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and the author of Paying the Price: Ignacio Ellacuría and the Murdered Jesuits of El Salvador and Friends Indeed? Groups of Friends, the United Nations and the Resolution of Conflict, in addition to Endgame for ETA.
Jonathan Powell is the Chief Executive of Inter Mediate; as Chief of Staff to Tony Blair he was the lead British government negotiator on Northern Ireland 1997-2007. He is the author of Great Hatred Little Room: Negotiating Peace in Northern Ireland; The New Machiavelli: How to wield power in the modern world and Talking to Terrorists, How to End Armed Conflict published in October.
The discussion will be introduced and chaired by Andy Carl, Director of Conciliation Resources
The link to the Eventbrite page is here.
I have submitted the letter below to the Evening Standard, which should appear in todays edition. Back in January and February the Standard's letters page, and Channel 4 News (amongst others) featured a debate on to what extent our security is threatened by the Britons who have gone to join some of the rebel factions in Syria.
That discussion featured people like Asim Qureshi of Cage arguing we have nothing to fear from those taking up arms against Assad. Others compared the Syrian fighters to those who left these shores in the 1930s to fight fascism in the Spanish Civil War. As delegates at the G7 conference meet in Brussels to discuss (amongst other issues) the Syrian fighters, that is a position which looks silly:
Your leading article, Syrian Blowback, is timely. Last week saw not only the arrest in France of a returning jihadi for the alleged massacre in the Brussels Jewish Museum, but Stratford resident Mohommod Nawaz's guilty plea to smuggling ammunition into Dover on his return from Syria. There have been three convictions of Britons for travelling to Syria to attend camps, with more cases pending. The debate on this Letters page and elsewhere earlier this year that foreign fighters pose no threat to their home nations now looks fatuous.
The PM is in a tricky situation. With most Britons entering the conflict via Turkey, he needs to face the reality that a significant threat to our security is facilitated by a NATO ally. Yet Cameron himself gave succour to the Syrian rebels, seeking to intervene against Assad until public opinion forced him back. If he hopes for international action against travelling jihadis, he would do well to remember we are now in the third decade of a small number of British Sunni Muslims joining Mujahideen groups, with a disastrous effect on our security and community relations. What kept him?
Paul Stott, University of East Anglia.
Listening to some of the arguments ahead of tommorow's elections to the European Parliament, I can't help but note how much attitudes to the European Union have shifted during our membership, none more so than on the political left.
The quote below is from the 1975 history of Hackney Trades Council:
"The Common Market Campaign saw the Trades Council give its full support for the Hackney Keep Britain Out Campaign and although disappointed at the result of the referendum, delegates felt that it meant that their work as trade unionists would have to be intensified in the next few years."
Barry Burke "Rebels With A Cause: The History Of Hackney Trades Council 1900-75" (London: Hackney Trades Council and Hackney Workers Education Association, 1975), p.81
This is from Helen Pidd's Guardian article yesterday, on Yorkshire and Humber UKIP MEP candidate Amjad Bashir. She reports his sons were fined for employing illegal immigrants at their restaurant business in Manchester.
Ms Pidd closes her article by analysing the constituency and the likely outcome of the election. She writes:
At the last European poll in 2010, Ukip won one seat in the county:Godfrey Bloom become the MEP. He is currently serving as an independent MEP after being thrown out of the party for making disparaging remarks about women and foreigners from "bongo bongo land". Bloom is not standing again. Nor is Andrew Brons, originally elected on a British National party ticket, but also now an independent after falling out with Nick Griffin, the leader of the far-right party. Ukip is expected to win both those seats plus a possible third in Yorkshire.
This confuses how European votes are cast, under what is known as the PR closed list. There is no way to vote for Godfrey Bloom's seat, or indeed for Andrew Brons. Voters have one vote, which is cast for a party. The number of seats available varies from region to region, but in Yorkshire and the Humber it is six. The total number of votes for each party is then used to allocate a proportionate share of seats - if you get half the votes you get half the seats.
There are no doubt reasons why Helen Pidd wishes to allocate Godfrey Bloom and Andrew Brons seats to UKIP. But they do not equate with how the election is actually run.
Looking at Yvonne Ridley's timeline on Twitter, she now seems to be adopting a curious mixture of Islamism and Scottish nationalism, from that well known redoubt of both, the Scottish borders.
A thought suddenly occurs. Am I the only person who imagines Sister Yvonne gets home of an evening after a hard day's activism, throws her hijab on the sofa, lights a fag, pours herself a large scotch and declares "At least that's the end of that nonsense for another day"?
This is easily my favourite Chumbawamba track.
As we import coal from Colombia, have millions in fuel poverty, and listen to green idiots trying to convince us wind power will work, listen to it and weep at what we have lost.
The editor of Hope Not Hate, Nick Lowles, has an article on the Huffington Post website this morning concerning UKIP - "Challenging the Politics of Fear".
My comments in reply to this are below:
Is the author of this piece the same Nick Lowles who approached the European Movement as far back as 1996, when part of Searchlight magazine, offering to do research into anti-EU groups in the UK?
In that letter, Nick Lowles offered to use informants in such organisations to "provide your organisation with invaluable ammunition to your cause". (The letter was leaked and appeared in Notes From the Borderland magazine in 2001)
Far from being someone newly concerned about UKIP due to some of its members silly comments, Nick Lowles needs to be seen for what he is - a long term player in the arguments over Britain's role in the EU. And as principled as his stance may be against racism, on the EU question, he is on the wrong side.
One of the reasons blogs like this are important (and the main reason, despite lack of time that I maintain it) is that they remain a vital tool against the censorship of ideas by established voices. The Huffington Post and The Guardian's Comment is Free have both declined to publish comments I have made in recent months, an experience I know that has been shared, in the CIF case, by Sarah AB of the blog Harry's Place.
Thus far, my comment on the Lowles piece has not appeared, even though one submitted later has been published. In this instance, it may be the Huffington Post does not want a rounded discussion about both UKIP and Hope Not Hate. The Guardian's censorship (and that is what it is) experienced by both Sarah and myself, appears to centre around a desire to protect Islamist voices from reasoned critique. If people are not obviously racists and still questionning elements within British Islam, they are to be silenced.
As I commented on Harry's Place:
I twice tried to post criticisms of what I saw as Salma Yaqoob's grievance based approach to the schooling controversy under her comment is free article. Both times The Guardian's moderator removed my comments.
Last month I tried to post a similar, critical comment on the Huffington Post, where the academic Imran Awan had written that Muslims in Birmingham felt like a suspect community. Perhaps so I argued, but there had been two major terrorist trials involving Birmingham jihadists in the past twelve months, with parents from the city having to go out to Pakistan to bring their sons back from terrorist training camps. My comments were not published.
It seems that as problems appear pertaining to parts of British Islam, not only do Islamists attempt to avoid debate by playing the 'Islamophobia' card, but their position is now being backed up by others, who seek to prevent any challenge to Islamist apologias.
Perhaps not the McCarthyism the hammy Ms Yaqoob complains of, but this is hardly a sign of healthy, democratic debate.
I know I should not take the 'Home' supplement of The Sunday Times too seriously, but Charlotte Vowden needs to be flayed through every high street in the country for this nonsense in a feature "Turning up the heat" on the economic prospects in Birmingham:
"Unemployment has blighted Birmingham - despite its four universities - so giving its young folk the best start in life is high on the agenda here. To tackle the problem, some schools such as Perry Beeches the Academy, in Great Barr, have added balti cooking lessons to the curriculum."
So there you have it. What was once one of our great industrial cities is addressing the problem of economic decline and unemployment by .............. doing cookery classes in some of its schools.
On this evidence, the emerging economic powerhouses of the east have little to fear from the UK.
The Evening Standard's editorial on Ukraine of 16 April 2014 is a classic example of both British muddle, and the innate ability of journalists to call big issues, not by events, but their perception of the facts.
The advance of Ukrainian troops into the dissident eastern city of Kramatorsk marks a new phase in a conflict which, as President Putin unhelpfully remarked, brings Ukraine to “the verge of civil war”. It is however a necessary move; it would be quite intolerable for any government to see entire cities and regions fall under the control of dissident groups with absolutely no democratic mandate.
It is only a matter of weeks of course since the democratically elected government of Viktor Yanukovych was overthrown, with the eager connivance of the British government and the European Union. Central to that overthrow were the actions of dissident groups on the streets of the capital city Kiev, where there was vicious fighting.
To add insult to injury, the Evening Standard editorial continues:
Indeed, it may be the case that some of the thugs demonstrating against the Kiev government and in favour of Moscow are deployed by corrupt local oligarchs, anxious to preserve their preferential tax status.
For the record, the Standard (like the Independent and the i) is owned by the Russian businessman Evgeny Lebedev, son of Russian oligarch Alexander Lebedev. As with many oligarchs, Lebedev made his fortune in the years of Russia's post-Soviet decade of gangster capitalism. Like Putin, he is ex-KGB. The Evening Standard should not have to look too far if it wishes to investigate the relationship between oligarchs and the political process...........
Those with strong stomachs can find the full Evening Standard editorial here. Please beware, you do have to wade through an arslikan piece on Prince George before you get to it.
On Tuesday 8 April the Hellenic Centre in London is playing host to Dr George Kassimeris of Wolverhampton University, who is talking on "Terrorism in Greece: Will It Ever End?"
Long after revolutionary left terrorism peaked, and broadly died off in France, Italy and Germany, armed struggle groups flourish in Greece, a trend continuing even after the sudden dismantling of the N17 organisation in 2002. Contrary to popular understanding, specific types of terrorism do tend to come to a close, which raises the interesting question of why such violence appears to have become a permanent fixture of Greek life.
George Kassimeris is best known for his excellent 2000 book on N17 "Europe's Last Red Terrorists" - which places the militants in a specifically Greek context, and outlines with some skill their political positions and overtly domestic focus. His reseaerch in other fields is perhaps less impressive (a 2008 Critical Terrorism Studies interview with long term British Islamist Moazzam Begg fails to ask a single critical question!) and it will be interesting to hear where, for example, Kassimeris places the emerging violence of Greek fascists.
Entrance is free, and the talk starts at 7.15pm at 16-18 Paddington Street, London W1U 5AS.
Just ahead of Saturday's selection process, some interesting issues have emerged concerning the candour of Ruth Smeeth, one of three candidates seeking selection for Labour in the parliamentary constituency of Stoke North and Kidsgrove.
These questions, raised on the Notes From the Borderland website, include the revelation (via Wikileaks) that she is considered a protected source by the American Embassy in London. Combined with what appears to be a very selective CV set out on her campaign website, real concerns emerge about where she would actually stand if elected to Parliament.
The NFB letter to Labour Party members in Stoke is set out below. An historical overview of Ms Smeeth's career, taken from issue 10 of Notes From the borderland magazine, may be also be downloaded as a pdf Download NFB 10 SMEETH 001.
STOKE NORTH LABOUR PARTY: CHOOSE AN MP WITH TEETH, ANYONE BUT SMEETH! 31/3/14
In a month that has seen both Bob Crow and Tony Benn laid to rest, the importance of principles in politics has been underlined. Which brings us neatly to Ruth Smeeth. As you know, having been nominated by 8 out of 10 wards, she hopes to be selected as PPC for the above constituency on April 5th. We respectfully suggest that before you vote for her, the following ‘economies with the truth’ uttered by Ms Smeeth be considered, along with all of her political CV. If you do then vote for her, it cannot be said you did not know what you were getting. Either overleaf or (in the case of email) as an attachment we have enclosed two pages extracted from a far longer article analysing the political agenda/machinations of Hope Not Hate, the organisation she works for.
While we do not doubt her personal anti-racism, if you thought this a Left-field genuinely ‘radical’ campaign, the full article will come as a shock. It can be ordered online via www.borderlandmagazine.co.uk or via our main web-site (www.borderland.co.uk). As the first reflex of the scoundrel is shoot the messenger, we recommend a quick glance to see we are indeed Left/Green anti-fascist investigative researchers who publish a magazine when we can. Anyway, forget us, what about Ruth, (hereafter RS)? Various points of interest are as follows >>
“I’ve lived in Staffordshire for the last seven years” (Stoke Sentinel on-line 12/2/14) declared RS. While she has an address in Uttoxeter, she has not lived there “for the last seven years” as a primary residence, the clear implication of the quote. Without going into too much detail, her actual home is in London SE23, bought for £145,000 in 2002 and now valued at over £350,000. It was recently still her main residence, shown by RS renewing her personal web-site domain ruthsmeeth.com in early 2013 from that address. RS is ‘local’ in the same way the Queen is a ‘local’ of Balmoral. Still, at least RS can commiserate with electors about house prices in Stoke. Or maybe not…
About that web-site: now here’s a thing. While the defunct ruthsmeeth.com is still owned and paid for by RS, her current campaign site ruthsmeeth.org.uk, set up in February 2014, traces back to Labour HQ nationally. RS wouldn’t be using a nationally-run site to cover up very non-local tracks would she? Perish the thought.
“I very much come from a trade union background” (Stoke Sentinel 12/2/14). True, and she has even worked for UNITE the union. However, RS omits to mention her work as head of PR for Sodexho, involved in the privatisation of school catering services roundly criticised by Jamie Oliver. Even worse, she subsequently became head of UK PR for Nestle, a company boycotted since 1988 for obscene practices including discouraging breast-feeding among African women in order to sell milk-powder. These two jobs put her supposed ‘trade union’ background in perspective. It’s not where you come from that matters, but where you end up and how you get there, as Tony Benn’s career showed.
Hidden Agenda (1) Foreign Affairs: let it not be said RS is a mundane character. A US embassy cable obtained by Wikileaks and referred to in the Daily Telegraph 5/2/11 refers to her as a source to “strictly protect”, about which RS said when challenged “I would not consider myself to be a source for the US government”. Yet she patently is. Truth serum anyone? Her husband Michael Smeeth (involved in the privatised health care sector General Electric Corporate: a surprise, not) can certainly advise her on this matter. For he is an Executive Committee member of the ultra-shadowy British American Project, set up during the Reagan Presidency, and long thought to be a US Trojan horse designed to manipulate UK politics in US interests, and heavily spook (spy) connected at that. Almost as exotic, RS is a fanatical Zionist, and has worked for pro-Israel group BICOM. Now, Zionism is certainly a legitimate point of view, but the question has to be asked, if RS becomes your MP do you really think she will be genuinely open-minded on important foreign policy matters such as war and peace (sending squaddies from Stoke to die abroad), or subordinate to the whims of those making policy in Washington & Tel Aviv rather than Tunstall? Think about it: the answer’s obvious.
Hidden Agenda (2) Domestic Politics: In 2012 RS stood for Labour’s NEC Elections on the slate of right wing pressure group Progress, a faction committed to bringing back the glory days of Tony Blair (no, we don’t remember them either) and privatising even more public services/slashing social expenditure. As her web-site shows, she wasn’t going to tell you about this until after her selection, if at all. At least Militant had the guts to argue for their political programme explicitly. That is not the RS way.
“a real people person and able to relate to working class folk on the doorstep”: an endorsement from the vainglorious Councillor Kyle Robinson’s blog 7/2/14. If this means RS’s superficial charm (as long as you don’t mention Palestine) then certainly true. However her beliefs, job profile, and evasiveness about a second home even before she’s elected (most MP’s wait till afterwards before doing that) means you should think very long, and very hard, before selecting RS as a candidate. Please do so.
As for the two other candidates you have to choose from, we certainly, as a collective, have a preference, but declaring or campaigning for such is not our role. Rather, we have put before you various verifiable facts concerning Ruth Smeeth that indicate, in our view, either of the other two would make a better MP. Over to you………
Our politics appears to go through distinct periods of self-doubt, something particularly noticeable in concerns about low voter turnout, and especially low levels of participation in politics from young people.
Once the solution was to get younger politicians, more women, and more black people. Before that was the need to put Commons debates on television. More recently we have had the rise of postal voting and e-petitions. None have made a significant difference. Next it seems is e-voting, as promoted by the Speaker, John Bercow (as if we have not had enough fraud cases with postal voting).
This evening at 8pm Radio 4 devotes the first of four programmes to e-democracy in Estonia, a country of which I only seem to hear good things. One sentence however, deflates the concept before it even begins "The Estonian system relies on an ID card".............
I have only just spotted a piece by Natalie Zinets and Elizabeth Piper in the i of 28 March 2014 (it does not seem to be online).
"Kiev pulled closer to Europe by £16bn deal" discusses credits and loans being extended to the Ukraine by the European Union, United States and the International Monetary Fund:
"Kiev opened the way for the IMF deal by announcing on Wednesday a radical 50 per cent hike in the price of domestic gas from 1 May and promising to phase out energy subsidies by 2016".
Reports state that the BBC is to to remake the series 'Civilisation' on art, architecture and philosophy, first made made by Kenneth Clark (father of Alan) in 1969.
I can't help thinking such a programme will be a lot more challenging to make - and a lot more challenged - today. Here is Phillip Hensher in the Telegraph:
The moment when a series about Western art could be described as covering “civilisation” is long gone. Quite rightly, the successor, even if limited to the highest achievements of civilisation, is going to want to talk about Benin bronzes, Mughal culture, the pinnacles of Chinese arts. There will be talk of the art of minorities, perhaps “outsider” art, and women artists will occupy a much more central place than they did for Clark.
Scholars of oriental art existed in 1969, of course; one of the perverse developments since then has been that, with the denouncing of “Orientalism” by Edward Said’s 1979 book of the same name, we are both much more aware of the importance of non-European art, but rather pathetically nervous about discussing it at all. This will have to be addressed by the makers of the series.
It is not just that Kenneth Clark is a difficult attack to follow. The number of competing interests, and interest groups, standing ready to contest space make the programme fraught with potential banana skins. Don't expect Civilisation on your television screen any time soon.
"There is no compelling evidence that genetically modified crops are any more dangerous to humans or the environment than conventionally farmed food, and it is time for Europe to be stripped of its obstructive control of the technology, scientists have advised the Prime Minister".
Steve Connor, Science Editor, i, 14 March 2014.
Tucked away on page four of the Business supplement of today's Daily Telegraph:
"The Serious Fraud Office recovered just over one-tenth of the proceeds of white-collar crime it intended to in the last financial year, a fall on 15pc of intended assests it confiscated in the previous years.
According to data obtained by Pinsent Masons, the SFO recovered just £3.9 million against a £31.9m target in 2012-13. The agency, charged with deterring financial crime, has endured shrinking budgets."
Samira Shackle has an article on the Rationalist Association website, asking what risk British fighters in Syria pose on their return to Britain. It is a rather bland assessment, although not as irritating as attempts to portray such fighters as a latter day version of the International Brigades. Here is my reply to such sentiments:
It really is embarrassing seeing people compare British fighters in groups like ISIS or the al-Nusrah Front to those who fought fascism in Spain (a better comparison for the GB jihadis, in terms of both politics and perhaps competence, may be to the Irish Blueshirts who joined Franco).
Britons in jihadist organisations in Syria, like their predecessors who went to Somalia, Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Bosnia, are not just fighting against something, but for something. And the 'for' bit of the equation is where any positive sides to this adventure collapse. The Britons reported in Syria are not to be found in nationalist or broadly secular groups, but in those fighting to establish the type of state established most recently by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Do these fighters pose a problem when they return? In security terms - yes. Prisons across the world are littered with veterans of similar jihads. We have just seen one veteran of the Bosnia Mujahideen, Londoner Babar Ahmad, plead guilty to terrorist offences in the US. There are plenty of others.
In broader social terms, the best outcome for community relations, women's rights and democracy in the UK is that most of these combatants do not come back. Sadly that is unrealistic, just as it is wishful thinking to hope all our fascists will one day ship themselves off to some of the Aryan dream lands trailed in the north western states of the US.
We are now in the third decade of a small number of Britons travelling to fight in Mujahideen type organisations, and it is indicative of the timid approach traditionally taken that this is in some way being portrayed as a new problem - it is not. The 7/7 bombings were arguably only possible because of the training two of the suicide bombers - Khan and Tanweer - received at the camps of 'freedom fighters' in Kashmir.
The gloves really should have come off then - with both Britons joining such camps, and those in this country who finance them. Now that seems to be changing - witness the arrests across the country of those returning from, or trying to travel to Syria, in recent months. We are going to see a lot more arrests, a lot more complaints of 'Islamophobia' and further desperate attempts (from useful idiots on the left as much as from Islamists) to portray jihadists as freedom fighters. Whenever you hear such claims, remember that these individuals are not just fighting against Assad, they are fighting for something. And unless you want to live in the seventh century, what they are for is as bad, or worse, as Assad's Syria.
In the 1970s, if the National Front had applied to affilate to the National Council for Civil Liberties, would you have opposed them?
If so, why did you not oppose the affiliation of the Paedophile Information Exchange?
As pressure mounts on Harriet Harman, there is one way of noting when the pressure is really telling on Patricia Hewitt. When she was struggling as Health Secretary, New Labour windmill Andrew Marr took to refering to this most haughty of politicians as 'Pat' Hewitt, in a vain attempt to make her seem just like the rest of us.
We will know this issue is really squeezing Patricia Hewitt's neck when she starts to become 'Pat' again.....
If you fail to pay your subscription to Virgin or Sky, Richard Branson or Rupert Murdoch will cut you off. Fail to pay your subscription to the BBC, and you can be fined up to £1000, and ultimately go to prison.
107 people have been jailed in the past two years for this 'offence', and non-payment of the TV licence amounts to an astonishing one in ten court cases. When laws are so routinely broken, it is evidence, not of bad behaviour, but bad law. And the TV licence is a bad law. It is certainly a regressive tax, but is also one levied regardless of whether you watch the BBC or not - it is assumed everyone does, even in this age of a thousand and one specialist channels covering everything from motor sport to Hinduism.
If organisations may be called 'institutionally racist' it is fair to argue that the BBC is institutionally profligate, middle class, London centric and elitist - one only has to consider the problems relocating parts of its coverage from west London to Salford to see how the little people are viewed by those in their ivory towers.
There is of course nothing wrong with the BBC existing, and those who want to use its services doing so - I would be happy to pay for the advert free CBeebies programming for example - but that hardly seems worth the £145.50 levied on virtually every household from Land's End to John O'Groats.
What to do about all this? One small step is to stand with those already opposing the licence fee. Follow @ ScrapLicence Fee on Twitter. Sign their petition on the government website, to try and get the matter debated in parliament. And the next time you see something which annoys you greatly on the BBC - just remember - you are the one who is paying for it........
The business section of today's Daily Telegraph has a small piece which sees BP pitching for tax breaks to encourage further investment in oil and gas resources.
Of more long term significance is arguably the penultimate paragraph of Andrew Critchlow's article, which reminds us that:
"According to the International Energy Agency, the US will overtake both Russia and Saudi Arabia by 2015 in oil production and will achieve energy self-sufficient over the next 20 years".
This refers to an IEA announcement last November, based on the Americans succesful use of shale. If we take all this at face value (and it presupposes the environmentalists critique of shale comes to naught) the day when the USA has no strategic interest at all in the Middle East moves a step closer.
A decade ago, the 9/11 Commission, in its report into the Al Qaeda attacks on the US, stated that the United States and Saudi Arabia needed to forge a new relationship, one that was about more than oil. Nothing much appears to have followed that call, save for America's retreat from Iraq, and its distancing from Egypt, where the Russians and Saudis are jostling to be best friends to the new military regime.
Could there be anything better for the US than waving goodbye to the Middle East, waving goodbye to its corrupt rulers, religious extremists, violence and wars? We may be a few years away from that reality, but when it comes, it would be nice to think that the UK, on this issue at least, is prepared to copy the United States.
I have just finised Morrissey's marvellous autobiography, and the politics blog of the University of East Anglia, Eastminster, was good enough to publish my review. For some reason they left out my line that it is only £3.87 in Tesco, which must be the bargain of the year. Anyway, here are my thoughts............
In autobiographical terms, 2013 belonged to Manchester. Barely had Sir Alex Ferguson passed a burning torch to David Moyes, than his second (!) autobiography was topping the sales charts. Not far behind, in the immodestly titled Penguin Classics series, was Morrissey’s memoir, of his home city, The Smiths, family, popular culture and a fair amount of score settling.
Morrissey’s Manchester receives a Joycean stream of consciousness introduction, including the highlight of “Mother Peter, a bearded nun who beats children from dawn to dusk” (p.9) After an overlong summary of an adolescence which serves as an attempt to put ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ to words again, things pick up. The real skills here are observation, detail and evocation – a whole cast of Mancunian characters are introduced then packed off, usually via early deaths from illness or accidents.
The shifting music scene of the mid-1970s has rarely been better evoked than it is here. “Iggy defined the new manhood that the world so badly needed, lest we die beneath the wheels of Emerson, Lake and Palmer” (p.113) or of the Sex Pistols first Manchester gig (p.115).gig “They are not the saviours of culture, but the destruction of it – which suits me quite perfectly, and I manage to see them two more times that year".
One constant are the sketches of heroes and influences. Star struck at the sight of American author James Baldwin, Morrissey backs away, fearing the totality of rejection. Breakfast with David Bowie sees the great man announce he has had so much sex and drugs in his life, he can’t believe he’s still alive – to which Morrissey naturally responds “I have had so little sex and drugs I can’t believe I’m still alive” (p.245) That Morrissey met and knew Ian Curtis is something I had never considered, and brings a tear to the eye.
It is p. 147 before The Smiths get a mention, and the humour submerges into cattiness. It is made crystal clear from the start that The Smiths was Morrissey and Marr, with Joyce and Rourke mere accoutrements. Record label Rough Trade’s management is caricatured as congenitally out of touch, succeeding in little but holding the band back. Sandie Shaw is portrayed as a little madam, Tony Wilson a touch too keen to be ‘Mr Manchester’. Not that the author claims infallibility. This is after all a man who wanted to drop ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’ as he doubted it was good enough for ‘The Queen is Dead’. At times the sense of grievance does become tiresome – a frustration at world domination denied only by the incompetence of others is inherent. This tune (also played to death by Peter Hook of New Order) arguably reflects the dichotomy between critical and commercial success, financial eminence or artistic credibility. Few end up with both.
Morrissey’s solo career is a curious beast – there is much more of it than his time in The Smiths, and it has tended to swing from extreme peaks to extreme trough. Yet few have had careers of his longevity and managed to maintain such a cutting edge - a track as political as ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ was released a full 22 years after The Smiths formed. When ‘Margaret on the Guillotine’ appears Morrissey even receives a visit from the secret police, Special Branch requiring assurance that he did not pose a mortal threat to Mrs Thatcher. Amongst the score settling is clear anger that the NME could accuse him of flirting with fascism for posing with the national flag, yet a few years later make the union jack a virtual logo as the music press embraced ‘Brit-Pop’ with relish. How easily times change.
There are challenges in being Morrissey. Meetings with parents of the Moors Murders victims must have been harder than he sketches (p.167) and being the soundtrack to adolescent misery and sexual frustration brings a peculiar responsibility which is not addressed herein (“Angel, Don’t Take Your Life” on his first solo LP is a very deliberate anti-suicide song, written to discourage fans from killing themselves). At particular times clumsy pronouncements on animal rights or animal welfare in China have rightly brought opprobrium.
Yes, the world could survive without his examination of the Smiths 1996 court case (mercilessly relayed on p. 302-351). But griping and the lack of an index aside, there is little else wrong with this book. What we have runs parallel to Morrissey’s best music - a genuine slice of thoughtful popular culture, and an insight into Britain and Britishness, that matters.
Why is Morrissey important? Arguably it is for the sense of loss that has always pervaded his – and The Smiths work. Whilst critics focused on the personal introspection and sexual failure in songs like “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” or “Unloveable” watch the video to “Dagenham Dave” and see an England that has shifted irreparably in our lifetimes. As Dave’s intended dumps him in the underground car park, by a giant Ford motor logo, and he angrily smashes Morrissey’s gold disc, we seem to be left with nothing, except absence and anger.
Still, there is always X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent and Simon Cowell.............
Last nights Evening Standard had a letter on the British fighters in Syria, by Amandla Thomas-Johnson of Cage (formerly Cage Prisoners), which ended with the words "Listening to their views should be at the heart of forming policy".
I have no idea if the Evening Standard will print my reply, but this is what I sent them:
Amandla Thomas-Johnson of Cage takes an ahistorical approach to the question of British Muslims fighting in Syria (Letters, 4 February).
Combatants from earlier jihads litter high security prisons across the world, the most recent British example being Bosnian Mujahideen 'veteran' Babar Ahmad, who in December pleaded guilty to terrorism charges in the United States. The 7/7 bombings would arguably have been impossible but for the training two of the bombers had received at the camps of 'freedom fighters' in Kashmir.
By all means lets listen to the views of the Syrian fighters, but what we have heard so far sounds little different from those seeking Islamic utopias in earlier jihads. And those did not end well - for anyone.
Paul Stott, University of East Anglia.
I had the post below published today on the blog Harry's Place:
A cross post by Paul Stott
Earlier this week Harry’s Place reported on the recent meeting between President Obama and the Speaker of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which was attended by a leading Muslim Brotherhood figure in Britain - Anas al-Tikriti. One thing missing from the analysis was the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood, via al-Tikiriti’s Cordoba Foundation, has been seeking to pursue its politico-religious objectives in the United Kingdom, developing support and influence on the political left.
One route for this has been via Public Interest Investigations (PII) an organisation with two elements, Spinwatch and Powerbase. Spinwatch is a well respected website, best known for its work on the dangers of corporate lobbying, and has had some profile on the British left, via figures such as Prof David Miller, Tom Griffin, Hilary Aked and also Tom Mills of the New Left Project. Spinwatch styles itself thus:
“Spinwatch investigates the way that the public relations (PR) industry and corporate and government propaganda distort public debate and undermine democracy. The PR and lobbying industry in the UK is the second biggest in the world, worth £7.5 billion. As the go-to organisation for information on this field, we routinely track PR and lobbying firms and corporate front groups, exposing their spin and deception”
This is reinforced by the bold statement that “Our core concern is in promoting equality and protecting fundamental human and democratic rights”
Since 2010, Spinwatch has received a total of £10,000 in funding from Anas al-Tikriti’s Cordoba Foundation. I shall leave it to others to judge the extent to which the Muslim Brotherhood believes in equality, democracy and human rights, although its record in and out of power, in Egypt speaks for itself, and that is before we even consider the record of Brotherhood influenced groups in areas such as Gaza. So – what does the Cordoba Foundation gain from Spinwatch?
In 2011 Spinwatch published the hardly understated “Cold War on Britain’s Muslim’s: An Examination of Policy Exchange and The Centre for Social Cohesion” – two organisations who had long warned against Muslim Brotherhood influence in the United Kingdom. The extent to which the piper called the tune is unknown, but the advantages of getting others to defend the MB (and by implication the Cordoba Foundation) from domestic critics, and to have non-Muslims place such criticism in the ever widening category of Islamophobia, appear obvious. The document was sponsored by the Cordoba Foundation, and funded by them to the tune of £5000, with Anas al-Tikriti thanked for his generosity (p.53). The praise lavished on former Metropolitan Police Special Branch manager Bob Lambert, on the same page, has not stood the test of time well.
Last year Spinwatch stepped up to the plate again, publishing a report entitled “The British Israel Communications and Research Centre: Giving Peace a Chance?” This time the Cordoba Foundation and al-Tikriti went unmentioned, with Memo Middle East Monitor sharing the billing with Spinwatch, and providing the now standard £5000 in cash. Here the Muslim Brotherhood connection is however maintained – MEMO is led by Muslim Brotherhood supporter Daud Abdullah, and the man himself joined the report’s authors for one its launch meetings.
Spinwatch’s staff also seem to be revving up in another direction – taking on the alcohol industry. For this, David Miller has obtained funding from the European Commission, (as the declaration of interest at the bottom of this article reveals) although one can’t help thinking on this issue at least, if our masters in Brussels had not coughed up, the Muslim Brotherhood would.
In evidence to the House of Commons Public Administration Committee on 6 March 2012, Prof Miller stated of corporations:
“when corporations want to pursue changes in laws or pursue particular contracts, they adopt a whole panoply of measures, including party funding, yes, including lobbying and also including buying up ex-Ministers or civil servants as part of their strategy.”
He is 100% correct. All we need now is an organisation, some activists or even academics willing to look in the same way at the lobbying of international politico-religious organisations such as the Muslim Brotherhood.
As the old saying goes I’m free. My concern is that Spinwatch has already been paid for.
It has been bothering me for a while who Lib Dem pervy peer Lord Rennard reminded me of. And now it comes to me - Herr Flick of the Gestapo, played by Richard Gibson in the 1980s sitcom 'Allo 'Allo.
And the two pictures below prove it:
Given their respective tendencies to exhibit extreme sexual frustration, an illiberal disposition and to try to take advantage of female colleagues, could they by any chance be related?
If there is one thing our politicians do not lack, it is inventive ways to spend taxpayers money.
The Daily Telegraph reveals that £250,000 has been spent on portraits of MPs. How? Why? Who makes such decisions, and where do they justify them? The Telegraph illustrates its article with a picture of the paintings of Ken Clarke and Diane Abbott, the Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington:
Is that really Diane Abbott? It looks more like the great US rapper KRSOne to me:
Perhaps the most curious aspect of Michael Gove's attack on a 'left-wing bias' in portrayals of the First World War is that he appears not to have understood the experiences of one of Britain's foremost historians.
The second volume of Alan Clark's superb diaries find him ruminating, on 24 July 1989, as to where he may end up in the pending government re-shuffle. Clark writes:
I think Defence is more likely. So many people have said that I am to go there first as M of S (Minister of State) in order to be poised to slither upstairs if George (Younger) inherits, or goes somewhere grander. And it would be bound to be Procurement. Partly because I know all the weapons system specs off the top of my head, partly because the Army brass won't have me in AF (Armed Forces) because of The Donkeys.
It is worth reading that sentence again and fully digesting it. Seventy years after the end of the First World War, senior figures in the British Army could black ball a Conservative politician from becoming Minister for the Armed Forces, because in 1961, during his earlier career as a historian, he had criticised their predecessors leadership of that conflict.
Perhaps Michael Gove ought to sit down and read a copy of The Donkeys, to see what so rattled our Generals. He could also ponder the hatred Clark's analysis appears to have engendered. If so he may find that explaining such events within the easy context of left and right does not easily fit.
I came across the quote below in an article about the inauguration of the new Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio.
I know little about him, but recognised immediately who Roger L Simon was talking about in his final paragraph. I will let my readers add some British names to the concept of 'Soros Socialists'......
"They are the “Soros Socialists,” successful people who want to stay rich and powerful. They do this by espousing social programs and making pronouncements, few of which affect them even minimally. But they have the image of being generous egalitarians and the image is all. It prevents them (their power and greed) from being scrutinized by others — and even more importantly it can prevent them from scrutinizing themselves."
Below is my review of Mark Curtis' book Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion With Radical Islam, which appeared in Vol 21 No:1 of Anarchist Studies, 2013.
Spend any time at an anti-war demonstration in England, and the view that there is a global war on Islam, or against Muslims, will be articulated. The protagonists are seen as the United States, Israel or the UK (or any combination thereof). Mark Curtis turns these conventions upside down, with a withering expose of how Britain has historically looked to work with and alongside Islam, and in particular its most conservative adherents. The settings for this approach vary – Empire, Iran under Mossadegh, Soviet-dominated Afghanistan, much of the Arab world in post-colonial years – but the aims and practice of British foreign policy have been surprisingly consistent. These have been to develop working relationships with those in power or likely to obtain it, and to promote British and international business interests against domestic populations.
When King Abdullah of Transjordan called for a pan-Islamic movement after World War Two, the Foreign Office was supportive, on the grounds it would be a bulwark against Communism. Within a decade a clear division existed in the region between the Islamic monarchies supported by Britain (to ensure access to their oil) and nationalist regimes whose orientation was frequently leftist. Curtis makes great use of the national archives to show that British plotting with radical Shia in Iran and funding of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt bore mixed results. Eventually it was to be Saudi oil money that ensured an Islamic bloc emerged to counter the nationalists (p.92).
In 1973 the world’s economic axis shifted, as the oil price quadrupled. Saudi Arabia used that wealth in two ways: the global propagation of its brand of Islam, and making serious financial investments in Western countries. By 1975 the Saudis had invested $9.3 billion here. Curtis argues ‘The upshot was that Britain was now economically reliant on the Saudi regime and would be in effect tied to aligning its foreign policy to the regime’ (p.119).
The US support for the Mujahideen in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan is a matter of record, but this book sheds new light on Britain’s role in that ill-considered escapade. The MI6 officer co-ordinating British support to the holy warriors was Alastair Crooke, based in Islamabad (p.144), and ex-SAS men were employed to train Mujahideen in Oman, Saudi Arabia and even Britain itself. Indeed, as it is Saudi Arabia and Pakistan who have been the primary sponsors of radical Sunni Islam, Curtis concludes: ‘Whitehall thus made a British contribution to the imminent emergence of global Islamist terrorism’ (p.149). Whilst the question of where this militancy would end was ignored, the Saudis made sure they kept the money flowing: from 1985 to 1988, the UK signed military contracts worth £15 billion with the Kingdom.
In the 1990s London began to become an important centre for both Arab exiles and, in time, the Arab media. Foreign Office advice was that fundamentalism was unlikely to have much appeal in the UK; something Curtis argues led to the toleration and protection of radical emigres for many years (p.174). With hindsight, this protection was astonishing: Osama Bin Laden’s two core fatwas declaring war against the West, were faxed from London in 1996 and 1998 (p.185).
And so it continues. Kosovo, Libya, Iraq – in each country Islamist actors were embraced against nationalist regimes (p.224). At times the perfidy is genuinely shocking. In 1978 the Shah of Iran was sold CS gas to put down riots, whilst talks were opened with the opposition. In 1982 a KGB defector gave MI6 details of Soviet assets inside the new Islamic Republic. MI6 and the CIA gave their names to the Ayatollahs, leading to the crushing of the left wing Tudeh party.
There are some areas Curtis does not address. Policy within the UK is broadly outside his terms of reference, yet in recent years we have seen an interesting domestic variant of the foreign policy he sketches. Here the New Labour government simultaneously gave huge sums of public money to the Quilliam Foundation (critical of many aspects of radical and conservative British Islam, and headed by several reformed Muslim ‘extremists’), whilst at the same time the Metropolitan Police’s Muslim Contact Unit purposefully worked with and empowered Salafi and Muslim Brotherhood groups in an attempt to diminish Al Qaeda’s influence in London’s mosques. As ever, our ruling class likes to have money on both horses in the race.
What they are not however, is ‘at war’ with Islam per se, and we have Curtis’ superb historiography to thank for explaining this.
Paul Stott, University of East Anglia
The Report, on BBC Radio 4 at 8pm this evening, devotes thirty minutes to an issue which is long overdue - the falsification of evidence by police officers against pickets during the 1984-5 Miners Strike.
This issue has been given impetus by understanding of the scale of the misconduct by South Yorkshire police at Hillsborough in 1989. I have to say the cynic in me wonders if this issue is old enough that it can now be safely addressed by the establishment - 30 years on it is likely virtually all of the police officers involved will be safely retired, and a cordon sanitaire placed around them.
More generally, the time is long overdue for a proper investigation into the police, the security services and the BBC's conduct during the miners strike. We know that it was gloves off for Mrs Thatcher, and that for the Conservative Party defeating the miners was a matter of life and death. The extent to which this corrupted institutions of the state - MI5, regional police Special Branches, the criminal justice system, the Department of Social Security, the BBC and a series of police forces is known, in bits and pieces, to the miners, but it has not been collated together into a single narrative.
Perhaps the closest we have is Seamus Milne's book "The Enemy Within: Thatcher's Secret War Against the Miners". Unfortunately Milne has proved himself so potty elsewhere, his can hardly be the final word. It is to be hoped that this evening's documentary is a step forward to addressing a significant, and shameful, part of Britain's history.
A Happy New Year to all readers of this blog.
A quiet Christmas gave me some time to read - I have just finished Ken Livingstone's "You Can't Say That", and managed to get through an impressive pile of newspapers over the last week. Two articles struck me in the press - one because it was so poor, the other because of its weight and implications.
In the rubbish bag must go Liz Hull's Daily Mail article of 27 December, which considers a curious spin-off from the case of missing Lancashire teenager Charlene Downes. "Stalker terror of mum whose girl was 'killed by paedophiles'" tells us that Karen Downes, the mother of Charlene, has been plagued by a stalker.
Mark Bailey, a New Zealander who travelled to Blackpool after reading Mrs Downes' website, has been fined and received a restraining order after pestering Mrs Downes to leave her husband. The article then gives a general overview of the Charlene Downes case, and that those tried with her murder received a six figure sum in compensation when the jury failed to reach a verdict.
For some reason the Mail's online article has a different heading to the print version, the rather more lurid "New Zealand man stalks mother of girl who was 'murdered and turned into kebab meat' after becoming obsessed with the case" is deployed. Perhaps that was considered a little too strong for the Daily Mail's print readership!
More seriously, Liz Hull manages to tell a very partial rendition of the Downes case. There is nothing on perceived police botching or indifference, Mr and Mrs Downes' subsequent involvement with the British National Party is ignored, as is the recent Times analysis (clearly based on a Lancashire Constabulary intelligence file) of the behaviour of Robert Downes, and the suggestion he frequently introduced men he met in local pubs to his daughter, leading to sexual activity. Such an important case deserves better.
The second article which I pored over was The Times interview with Michael Palin of 28 December by Rachel Sylvester and Alice thomson (safely hidden, I fear, behind their paywall). Palin's suspicion of modern technological developments is welcome:
"I feel a little bit alarmed by the whole depersonalisation of the internet. People are friends with people they've never seen, people are walking down the street and never look up because they're on the phone. What's happening to real life in all this?"
Secondly, and the section of the interview which gained most attention, Palin points to some of the effects of increased religiosity. Comparing today to 1969, when Monty Python began:
"Religion is more difficult to talk about. I don't think we could do Life of Brian any more", he says. A parody of Islam would be even harder. "We all saw what happened to Salman Rushdie and none of us want to get into all that. It's a pity but that's the way it is. There are people out there without a a sense of humour and they're heavily armed"
And that was when I realised what was missing from Ken Livingstone's memoir. Whilst Livingstone speaks with passion about the changes London in particular has seen via immigration and multi-culturalism during his life and his political career, he makes no attempt to recognise that there may be downsides to the same process.
Whilst the politicians of the three main parties are comfortable talking about the benefits of diversity, it is neccesary sometimes to articulate what these downsides are - in this instance, cultural. In a supposed liberal democracy, one of the country's best known media personalities and comedians believes it is now harder to discuss religion, and impossible to produce certain types of comedy. This is not due to reasoned debate or critique, but fear of physical violence and, indeed murder.
And that does require serious thought and debate in 2014 - it diminishes us all.
Readers may recall the controversy earlier this year concerning the islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) who were banned from UCL after being found to be segregating men and women at a University debate.
iERA, and speakers such as Hamza Tsortsis, have been a high profile presence on many university campuses, despite being from the unreconstructed wing of British Islam. For example, visit their website and you will notice that whilst their male speakers are pictured, the female are not only listed at the end, but are faceless, existing only as blank hijabs. The perfect metaphor for the type of society iERA are seeking to create!
Following the furore at UCL, UK Universities appear to have gone away to ponder guidance on campus meetings. This has come down on allowing segregation, provided it is equal and does not disadvantage anyone. Those of us old enough to remember apartheid era South Africa may giggle at the concept of an approach which is 'seperate' but equal. You can find a link to the full guidance in this article on the UK Universities blog, where they also clarify their position.
This appears game, set and match to the Islamists, something iERA recognise. Of particular interest here is their argument that under the Equality Act 2010, UK Universities have no option but to comply with requests for seperate seating.
Some strong critical pieces have appeared about UK Universities stance, for example by Sara Khan, along (of course) with a determined silence from those on the left of the political spectrum, who once spoke so loudly against segregation on the grounds of race.
There is a petition asking Universities UK to reverse its decision. I have signed it, along with over 6000 others. You may wish to do so.
The concept of a scary primary school teacher is a difficult one to accept, but Lynn Small, Headmistress of Littleton Green Community School in Cannock, Staffordshire, certainly scares me.
Ahead of a proposed school trip to Staffordshire University as part of their religious eductation, Ms Hall wrote to the parents of the school children stating that:
"Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child's education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career."
I have no idea what a racial discrimation note is, how children as young as five may be given one, or who decides what effect such a note can have. Does it, for example, have a bearing on whether they can go to the secondary school of their choice? I do know I have read few things as scary, or as startling, since I last battled through one of the histories of Stalin's Soviet Union.
After complaints from parents, Ms Hall has withdrawn the letter and apologised. It would be nice to think Staffordshire County Council is also considering whether to withdraw her contract of employment - or do they keep a whole series of 'racial discrimination notes' against the names of young children as well?