A monthly roundup of photographs documenting Palestine, Palestinian life, politics and culture, and international solidarity with Palestine.
Palestine solidarity activists have forged a growing coalition with environmental and labor groups to organize against Veolia.
We are dealing with a bright bunch, regular Einsteins apparently:
This past week, since the publication of the report into the preventable death of Connor Sparrowhawk in a learning disability mental health unit in Oxford last July, my timeline has been buzzing with reactions to it — different blog articles (including mine) as well as criticism of the response from Southern Health and its leadership, the state of care for this group of people, not just in the Southern Health area, and of the more general attitudes of people, particularly the medical profession, towards people with learning disabilities and autism in particular. People have asked the question of “what would justice for LB look like”, and in this entry I intend to make a few suggestions.
1. Overhaul or abolish Southern Health
One might recall that in the aftermath of the two well-publicised deaths of children in the London Borough of Haringey, convenient scapegoats were found: in the case of Victoria Climbié it was a junior social worker, Lisa Arthurworrey, and in the case of Peter Connolly (Baby P) it was the director of children’s services, Sharon Shoesmith. Both ultimately won their case for unfair dismissal. It would be a mistake to just make an example of one leader, such as Katrina Percy, and leave everyone else in place. Southern Health’s record of treating patients with both learning disabilities and mental health problems is not good at all, and a number of its facilities have received damning CQC inspection reports, most recently the Parklands Hospital in Basingstoke and Antelope House in Southampton. There is evidence that services have in fact declined since some of the facilities formerly run by the Ridgeway Partnership were taken over by them; a CQC report from Slade House in December 2011, for example, found that they were meeting all the standards they were tested on and that patients had a positive view of the care they were receiving. Their report from the same place after Connor Sparrowhawk’s death revealed the opposite (assuming that they had not been remiss when inspecting the first time).
Not only have a number of their units been found lacking in standards of care, but their response to fatalities they are involved in seems to follow a familiar pattern, as Rich Watts notes: “sincere apologies”, admitting liability, platitudes about “lessons learned” and assurances that staff will have further training, that they will work with relatives and carers to ensure that their concerns are met, etc., but then nothing happening until the next fatality (and families report, in this and other cases, that a conclusion of “natural causes” is immediately recorded and maintained by the Trust). It’s very clear that this organisation’s stock reaction is damage limitation for themselves, not making amends or genuinely changing their working practices, and that the rot is at different levels — the leadership of some individual units is rotten as well as that of the Trust itself. The whole thing needs root-and-branch reform.
2. Accountability for the individuals responsible for Connor’s death
It’s very clear that the leadership of STATT failed to do the most basic checks, as the report demonstrates. The idea that they didn’t know that it was unsafe to leave someone with epilepsy in the bath unsupervised is preposterous, since a quarter of people with learning disabilities have epilepsy — they must have come across them in the past. They must be referred to their respective professional Councils. Prosecution should also be considered, if not for individuals than on a corporate manslaughter charge for the Trust itself. If manual workers are held responsible for deaths and injuries stemming from negligence in their work (such as an unsecured load being spilled onto a highway), then surely psychiatrists, managers and senior nurses must be as well when they make elementary mistakes that lead to a vulnerable person’s death.
3. Deal with the ATU problem properly
This is less a matter of justice for LB’s death and more a legacy to ensure that not only do young people with learning disabilities stop dying preventable deaths, but that the circumstances that lead up to them stop reoccurring. It has been observed again and again that so-called assessment and treatment units do not do much of either, and that many of the people in them are simply being warehoused because there is nowhere else for them to go. They are also often ill-equipped to deal with autistic people and make little attempt to improve their standards in this area. They are phenomenally expensive, costing much more than some very comprehensive home and respite care packages. They are led by psychiatrists, but very often the patients have no psychiatric reason for being there; they are there because a crisis in their life situation has prompted challenging behaviour as a result of a pre-existing learning disability. The report into LB’s death notes that an unnamed senior staff member at STATT said she believed that LB should not have been there, as early examinations proved that he had no psychiatric illness and was “ready for discharge” by the time he died. He was not discharged for lack of a care plan.
As I have written here before, I have heard of other cases of ATUs being used entirely inappropriately, psychiatric medications being used inappropriately, and sections of the Mental Health Act being used inappropriately, mostly to manage challenging behaviour, not psychiatric illness. These medications can have serious physical side effects; Mark Neary has recently told how his son Steven developed a painful liver condition as a result of years of being on psychiatric medication, which was only diagnosed when he took him to a private clinic. Another person I know of is kept under section because of behaviour that could have been managed in other ways (such as trying to run away) and was prescribed diazepam as a result of the stress of an impending, unwanted transfer to a secure hospital miles from home, which her family are fighting (this particular threat has receded, but her multi-disciplinary team still want to keep her under section and transfer her somewhere else if not there). That unit has made no attempt to accommodate her needs, providing only basic activities and no outings because of an escape incident several months ago (a problem her family deal with, on their very frequent outings, with a suitable harness that she cannot open). They could have better calmed her by lifting the threat.
So the failure of ATUs must be addressed firmly. I suggest the following:
- All ATU staff must be trained in understanding and managing autism, and be able to make the environment stimulating for all those who have to live there
- Consider having separate units for autistic people
- Better tools for managing challenging behaviour, escapes etc than the Mental Health Act (if they do not exist already, in which case staff should know about them and which to use). Specifically excluding autism from the MHA should be considered.
- Staff should stop cutting families out of the care of their patients or service users, particularly when the SU is a young adult who has recently lived at home, and start listening to them about their concerns and about what the SU is used to, etc. Many families report that they are treated as the enemy, and often refused access to their relative’s living quarters. This must stop, except where abuse is a concern.
- Stop cutting day activities and support, as lack of activity and being cut off from friends, etc., are factors which can precipitate crises and make living at home (when relatives have to work, for example) difficult or impossible
- The NHS and charities should investigate ways to better manage the transition from school life to adult life, as again this is a major cause of crises in older teenagers with severe forms of autism
- Charities have to educate themselves about the realities of some of these units. A campaigns officer for Mencap said in a radio interview on BBC Radio Oxford today at ATUs are “large, clinical settings” and that the job could better be done in more homely settings, closer to home. In fact, they are often small units; STATT had only seven beds, and only five of them were being used.
- These same organisations should be championing service users and their families. Families often report that they are silent when they are fighting for their relatives’ rights or to get them home, but jump on the bandwagon when they succeed. That they are often commissioned to provide services for local authorities, etc., strikes some of us as not entirely coincidental.
- Cut the red tape, as it is widely observed in a variety of institutions, including schools, care homes and hospitals that many staff seem to spend more time on paperwork than with the people they are teaching or serving. It is a major cause of people leaving some professions in large numbers and of stress-related absence and early medical retirement, and was noted in the CQC report into Slade House and the report into LB’s death that staff spent too much time on administration.
- Deaths in these units should always be investigated by an independent body.
That we spend much money on ATUs is symptomatic of a much wider malaise: that we have to account for every penny and are always looking for an opportunity to cut spending because lower taxes win votes, and as a result, we can justify ATUs because they are “crisis care”, but not for home support or decent care homes — that looks like a luxury, or “freebies”, and for that, we always look for ways to make the user or their family pay if they have even modest means. So we must change this attitude to money and to disabled people, but there is so much that can be done in the meanwhile, both to improve crisis care and to keep people out of it. Much as heads deserve to roll at Southern Health and at STATT and other bad units, it won’t make things better for other people with learning disabilities outside the Southern Health area.
BBC Radio Oxford today (4th March) interviewed a mother of a former patient at Slade House from 2008-10, who told of dreadful conditions there before they were improved following her complaint, although it is clear that they declined again afterwards. Phil Gayle also interviewed Jason Carlisle, regional campaigns director for Mencap, and a representative from the organisation My Life, My Choice, who himself has a learning disability and was a former resident of the same unit as Connor Sparrowhawk. It can be listened to online here for the next week.
The event was first a go, then it was reported to be cancelled. I found out today that it might have never been cancelled to begin with.Conspiracy Theorist Trains Police On ‘Counterterrorism’ By Michael Allen, (Opposing Views)
Culpeper County, Va. deputies and staff members recently received a three-day “counterterrorism” training course from John Guandolo, a former FBI agent.
The training took place last week at Germanna Community College in Fredericksburg, Va.
“Everything went smoothly,” Sheriff Scott Jenkins told Fredericksburg.com.
However, Guandolo is a conspiracy theorist who has made a number of extraordinary claims, such as the head of the CIA, John Brennan, being a secret Muslim who brought “known Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood leaders into the government and into advisory positions” and American Muslims not having “a First Amendment right to do anything,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Guandolo also claims that an advisor to President Clinton was a senior al-Qaeda supporter, noted the Star Exponent.
Sheriff Jenkins claimed he was flooded with emails in support of Guandolo’s training.
“It’s hard to believe that the Culpeper County Sheriff’s Office would knowingly associate itself with such a disreputable character,” Josh Glasstetter, of the Southern Poverty Law Center, told Watchdog.org.
EDL member charged with terrorism offences is Michael Piggin
A judge has lifted an order banning the naming of an 18-year-old man charged with terror offences.
Michael Piggin, of Loughborough, is accused of possession of items for the purpose of terrorism, including partially-constructed pipe bombs. He is also charged with possessing a document containing information likely to be useful for a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
Mr Piggin denies the two charges and his trial is due to begin on Tuesday.
Mr Piggin is alleged to have possessed nine partially-assembled petrol bombs, firework powder, partially-constructed improvised explosive devices, a crossbow, a variety of air rifles, a gas mask and stab proof vest. He is also charged with having a notebook containing information about the planning of attacks and the construction of explosive devices.
Mr Piggin, whose name could not previously be reported owing to his age, is due to stand trial at the Old Bailey in London.
Crimean Tatars feel pressure from all sides
by Sam Narod, AlJazeera America
They survived Stalin’s attempt to destroy them, but Muslim minority is now caught in the middle of Ukraine’s uprising
SIMFEROPOL, Ukraine — Ali Aliev was a 9-year-old when German troops occupied Crimea during World War II, and he still remembers the day he and others in his village in the southeastern Sudak region of the peninsula gathered in a schoolyard to wait for their liberators, the returning Soviets.
There he learned that the indigenous Crimean Tatar population was being rounded up and sent away.
“We didn’t know where, just somewhere,” he said, now in his 80s and living in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea.
His people were loaded onto empty train carriages — women, children and elders crammed together. When the train stopped, the Soviets opened the doors, threw dead bodies over the side of the platform and restarted the train.
After 22 days on board, Aliev ended up at a labor camp in the Ural region in the center of the USSR. This was Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin’s punishment for the Crimean Tatars, citing Tatar collaboration with the Nazi invaders, despite the fact that many had served in the Red Army.
Descendants of the Golden Horde of Genghis Khan, the Crimean Tatars are Turkic-speaking Muslims and the peninsula’s indigenous inhabitants. The Soviets left them scattered in labor camps across the barren steppes of Central Asia. Thought to number approximately 200,000 at the time, almost half the population died from hunger, thirst and disease in their first year of exile.
“They threw us aside to exterminate us from the earth,” Aliev said. “But despite what we lived through, the people never forgot their homeland. We went to sleep at night dreaming of Crimea.”
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Crimean Tatar population has slowly returned to an entirely different homeland from the one they were forced to leave, one dominated by ethnic Russians and Ukrainians. Since the Tatars’ homecoming, they have been fighting for their rights, but with the newest Russian incursion, the Crimean Tatars here says they feel hemmed in from all sides.
With Russian troops on their streets and Russian president Vladimir Putin’s warning that he will use force to secure Crimea and eastern Ukraine, anxiety is mounting among the minority, which supported the uprising against now ousted President Viktor Yanukovich. The embattled Tatars, who make up 12 percent of the multiethnic peninsula, according to a 2001 census, look unlikely to get their way.
On Saturday, Putin requested and received authorization from the upper house of Russia’s parliament to use military force in Ukraine. On a call with U.S. President Barack Obama, Putin “stressed that in case of any further spread of violence to eastern Ukraine and Crimea, Russia retains the right to protect its interests and the Russian-speaking population of those areas,” the Kremlin announced. On Sunday, Ukraine responded by calling up its military reservists, while Russian troops continued to surround Ukrainian military bases on the peninsula.A return from exile
“Other ethnic groups here have governments that protect their future, but we don’t have a homeland other than Crimea,” said Abduraman Egiz, a deputy with the Mejlis, a representative body for the Crimean Tatars.
Russians make up almost 60 percent of the peninsula’s populations, and Ukrainians compose 24 percent according to the 2001 census.
“We want to protect our language, history and historical figures, but the legacy of the USSR lives, and people don’t understand these basic rights need to be guaranteed,” Egiz said.
Return from exile in Central Asia was a slow process. “All the adults told us stories about our homeland. They pounded us with them so we would never forget,” Zulfere Memetova, a 30-year-old accountant who grew up in Uzbekistan, remembered.
Her relatives spoke their native language at home, and Memetova said she used to tell her friends at the end of every school term that she wouldn’t be back next year because she would return to Crimea. She ended up finishing her degrees in Uzbekistan.
When the Tatars were finally allowed to return in the late 1980s, they found ethnic Russians living in their houses. They started building their own settlements from scratch. When Memetova’s mother-in-law Zarema Nasibolaeva, a 57-year-old doctor, returned to Crimea in 1993, the family members had sold all their belongings to pay for their homecoming. She remembered finding her ethnic brethren living in tents and ramshackle structures while struggling to build permanent housing. “Some people had even dug holes in the earth and were living there,” she said.
Interacting with the rest of the population proved challenging as well. “The Russians were terrified of us because of the Soviet propaganda. I used to argue with people on public transportation, but after a while we got used to each other,” Nasibolaeva said.
Even before the current crisis, Egiz, who is also a founding member of Bizim Qirim, a youth organization focused on Tatar identity retention, said Crimean Tatars were worried about losing their culture and their linguistic roots. In exile many spoke the Tatar language at home in secret to keep traditions and as a challenge to Soviet rule, but the modern world has come crashing down on the minority.
Bizim Qirim sponsors cultural events, appears on television to support Tatar rights and holds workshops in universities to promote Tatar issues. “Our main challenge is assimilation,” Egiz explained. Bizim Qirim started a petition to return village and street names to their historical Tatar names. “In our return to Crimea, one of our main goals was to retain the identity of our nation,” he said, “but as a minority, our rights are lacking. There are no strong laws protecting minority rights.”
Today Memetova and Nasibolaeva live in an apartment compound financed by the Ukrainian government that was reserved for Tatars. The streets outside the blocs are unpaved and muddy, and the school that the government was supposed to construct for children has been frozen since 1992.
Memetova’s children do not speak the Tatar language because they spend all day in Russian-language schools while she is at work. “When my daughter started day care, she spoke Tatar. Within a month she started speaking to me in Russian,” Memetova said. They worry that their the language and culture is slowly being eroded.
These days, cultural concerns have taken a backseat to developments in Kiev and Moscow. The Tatars came out in Simferopol on Feb. 26 to support the Kiev protests after Yanukovich was ousted. So far, the Tatars say they have not seen signs of support from the government in Kiev. “Just as we’ve had to do everything ourselves, so it will continue,” Memetova said.
Over sweet tea and chocolate in the family’s home, the chance of a better life under Russian control seemed slim, and the prospect of help from the West seemed even further. “Maybe they won’t find a place to export us, but they’ll find a way to extinguish us. We’re afraid of Russia. We’ve never had anything good from them,” Nasibolaeva said.
At last justice has been served. Michael Adebowale and Michael Abedbolago were convicted of the brutal murder of British soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich last May. Rigby’s family issued a statement saying:
We would like to thank the judge and the courts for handing down what we believe to be the right prison terms.
We would also like to thank everyone who has supported us in the last nine months.
It has brought us a lot of comfort and we feel satisfied that justice has been served for Lee. We now ask to continue to grieve in private.
Predictably, anti-Muslim bigots have seized the opportunity to issue their own statements, recklessly indicting Islam, and with it, the entire UK Muslim community.
To his credit, London Mayor Boris Johnson prefaced his anti-Muslim diatribe with a qualifier in an article published by the Telegraph. Johnson said he was glad it was the last time the public would have to hear the perpetrators “pervert the religion of Islam.”
The Mayor then launched into a bizarre “kitchen sink” rant about a wide range of issues, including the “Paedophile Information Exchange”, female genital mutilation, “radical Islamic extremism,” and the alleged perils of political correctness.
The Daily Mail quoted him as saying:
The children of Islamist radicals should be taken into care…
Mr Johnson said young people were increasingly being ‘radicalised at their home’ and taught the sort of ‘crazy stuff’ similar to the views espoused by the killers of Lee Rigby.
He said lack of clarity about the law meant the authorities were reluctant to intervene.
The Mayor wrote in the Daily Telegraph: ‘A child may be taken into care if he or she is being exposed to pornography, or is being abused – but not if the child is being habituated to this utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become murderers.
‘It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care.’
Whatever the merits of the Mayor’s arguments, his comments seem highly misplaced with regard to the murder of Lee Rigby. Michael Adebowale and Michael Abedbolago are both converts to Islam, and therefore we reasonably conclude were not raised by Muslims–never mind “Islamist radicals.”
Boris Johnson's comments about radicalisation of Muslim children miss the point: parents are the best antidote to extremism
It's hard to know where to begin with Boris Johnson's comments when he suggested that radicalised children should be taken from their parents. It is certainly true that the radicalisation of some young Muslims continues apace in parts of the UK. Indeed, the Syrian crisis has revived – and, more importantly, legitimised – the notion of jihad in the minds of an entirely new generation of British Muslims.
Studying that conflict brings the misguidedness of Johnson's comments into sharp relief. At the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, we have been charting the trajectory of hundreds of Europeans now fighting in Syria. Wherever possible, we speak to them about their experiences. In almost every case, the parents of these young men (and, increasingly, women too) knew nothing of their plans.
Consider Ifthekar Jaman, perhaps one of the best known Britons to have joined the Syrian jihad. To his parents and colleagues (many of them non-Muslim), he was a polite and studious young man. All they knew was that he intended to study Islamic theology in Turkey last summer. It was a ruse. The next anyone heard from him, Jaman he had joined rebels in Syria fighting with the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (Isis).
From Syria he became a minor celebrity of sorts, using the internet to attract other fighters to the country. At least eight men, all aged between 19 and 25, later joined the jihad through him. Trace any of their journeys and only one common feature emerges – their parents were unaware of their plans.
None of this is exceptional. Parents are often the last ones to spot the radicalisation of their children; a view that might seem inexplicable at first, but makes sense when you consider the context in which such radicalisation takes place.
Those who become radicalised typically come from irreligious backgrounds. In many cases they will have been involved in gangs, criminality or other forms of clandestine activity. This is the profile most susceptible to radicalisation; individuals with these traits are a prime target for Islamist recruiters.
Even British fighters in Syria specifically target them. "Sometimes people with the worst pasts create the best futures," reads one propaganda poster encouraging British Muslims to join the Syrian jihad. An accompanying message explains: "Jihad is a purification, no matter who you are or what sins you have. No good deeds are needed to come before it."
This is precisely what makes the radical message so seductive. It offers instant and complete redemption to those who may otherwise feel their lives becoming increasingly hopeless. Join the jihad and be reborn; your shortcut to eternal bliss awaits.
For parents whose children undergo this transformation, all the initial signs are encouraging. They see ostensibly positive changes: increased piety, greater obedience, and dissociation from troublesome acquaintances. By the time they realise what's going on – if at all – it's much later.
What Johnson also overlooks is that it is often parents who provide the best antidote to extremist beliefs. One of the biggest quandaries among those who study radicalisation is identifying the point at which individuals move from "extremism" to "violent extremism".
There are few concrete answers, but some general patterns are identifiable. Look at the trajectory of British terrorists such as Mohammad Sidique Khan, one of the four July 2005 suicide bombers, or Omar Sharif, another suicide bomber, this time in Israel, and a hardening of attitude is clearly identifiable after their families disowned them because of their radical views. The best results come in cases where parents stay in the picture, providing challenge alongside support.
What these parents often struggle against is the simplistic yet seductive nature of hyperbolic belief. Those who peddle it are already seizing on Johnson's suggestion – that radicalised children should be taken from their parents – to further their own narrative about British Islam being under siege. In the process, the very constituency whose support Johnson should be seeking – that of British Muslim parents – is being lost.Shiraz Maher
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Farmers’ groups in Gaza prepare for Israeli Apartheid Week and a new year of boycott initiatives.
Mayor of London calls for children at risk to be removed from families and taken into care
Muslim children at risk of radicalisation at the hands of their parents are victims of child abuse and should be taken into care, Boris Johnson has said.
The Mayor of London called for children at risk from extremism to be removed from their families to stop them being turned into "potential killers or suicide bombers".
Johnson said "fatal squeamishness" had developed over intervening in the behaviour of certain groups in society but insisted there was a need to be "stronger and clearer in asserting our understanding of British values".
Some children are being "taught crazy stuff" in the vein of the vile beliefs of soldier Lee Rigby's killers Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, he added.
In his weekly column for the Daily Telegraph he said: "We know that the problem of radicalisation is not getting conspicuously worse – but nor is it going away. There are a few thousand people in London – the "low thousands", they say – who are of interest to the security services; and a huge amount of work goes into monitoring those people, and into making sure that their ranks are not swelled by new victims of radicalisation.
"What has been less widely understood is that some young people are now being radicalised at home, by their parents or by their step-parents. It is estimated that there could be hundreds of children – especially those who come within the orbit of the banned extremist group al-Muhajiroun – who are being taught crazy stuff: the kind of mad yearning for murder and death that we heard from Lee Rigby's killers.
"At present, there is a reluctance by the social services to intervene, even when they and the police have clear evidence of what is going on, because it is not clear that the 'safeguarding law' would support such action.
"A child may be taken into care if he or she is being exposed to pornography, or is being abused – but not if the child is being habituated to this utterly bleak and nihilistic view of the world that could lead them to become murderers
"I have been told of at least one case where the younger siblings of a convicted terrorist are well on the road to radicalisation – and it is simply not clear that the law would support intervention.
"This is absurd. The law should obviously treat radicalisation as a form of child abuse. It is the strong view of many of those involved in counter-terrorism that there should be a clearer legal position, so that those children who are being turned into potential killers or suicide bombers can be removed into care – for their own safety and for the safety of the public.
"That must surely be right. We need to be less phobic of intrusion into the ways of minority groups and less nervous of passing judgment on other cultures. We can have a great, glorious, polychromatic society, but we must be firm to the point of ruthlessness in opposing behaviour that undermines our values.
"Paedophilia, FGM, Islamic radicalisation – to some extent, at some stage, we have tiptoed round them all for fear of offending this or that minority. It is children who have suffered."
Johnson branded Islamic extremism as an "awful virus" but suggested political correctness was hampering attempts to stop it spreading.
He added: "It must have been dreadful for the family of Drummer Lee Rigby to listen to the ravings of his killers as they were finally hauled away to the cells and, one hopes, to a lifetime of incarceration.
"If those relatives have one consolation, it is that they were just about the last words those men will ever pronounce in public; the last time we will have to hear them pervert the religion of Islam – and the most important question now is how we prevent other young men, and women, from succumbing to that awful virus: the contagion of radical Islamic extremism.
"Every day in London and other big cities, there are thousands of counter-terrorism officers doing a fantastic job of keeping us safe. They have to work out who are the most vulnerable young people, who are the most susceptible - and they have to stop the infection of radicalisation before it is too late.
"That will sometimes mean taking a view about what is happening to them in their homes and families – and I worry that their work is being hampered by what I am obliged to call political correctness."
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s crude, divisive tactics have put Canada on a worrying political trajectory.How Stephen Harper divides and conquers our many minorities: Siddiqui
Stephen Harper governs not so much for Canada as for his Conservative party. He used to do it by stealth. Now he does it openly, like the Republicans in Washington who, in fact, are beginning to pull back from their partisan brinkmanship just as he is bulldozing ahead with greater arrogance.
Take his proposed changes to the Elections Act, which would favour the Conservatives — gut the power of the chief elections officer Marc Mayrand (who had taken the Tories to court for breaking election laws) and make it more difficult for voters to cast ballots but easier for political parties to raise money.
Take John Baird’s highly publicized trip to the Ukraine — an unapologetically Conservative mission, not a Canadian one.
Take the government’s boycott of the opposition from the Aga Khan’s speech Friday at Massey Hall. Even the MP for the riding, Liberal Chrystia Freeland, was frozen out.
All this follows Harper’s recent trip to Israel and the West Bank, which was crassly political in more ways than one.
At one event there, Conservative MP for York Centre, Mark Adler, barred the respected Liberal MP Irwin Cotler, who had gone to Israel on his own dime. Harper’s unusually large delegation of 200 did not have a single Canadian Arab but included a representative of the extremist Jewish Defence League, which works with, among others, the right-wing and Islamophobic British group, English Defence League.
Less known has been Harper’s decision to exclude Baruch Frydman-Kohl, the highly respected rabbi of the liberal Beth Tzedec Congregation, one of Toronto’s largest synagogues.
Frydman-Kohl is president of the Toronto Board of Rabbis, which in 2012 denounced the Jewish Defence League for hosting American anti-Islamic blogger Pamela Geller. Describing her views as “distasteful,” the board said that “there was no sense in inviting her here to speak before a Jewish audience.”
Fryman-Kohl clearly does not fit Harper’s definition of a good Canadian Jew, nor does Cotler.
These examples, as others before, fit into a well-established pattern — Harper’s “you are with us or against us” approach to governing; his hijacking of Canadian foreign policy to serve Conservative interests; and his divide-and-conquer tactics of pitting one ethnic community against another.
He was right to honour the Aga Khan, making him an honorary citizen in 2009 and having him speak to Parliament on Thursday and in Toronto on Friday. But the prime minister’s motives are clearly suspect. His wooing of the Ismaili community in Canada follows the pattern of Conservative niche marketing to several other minorities.
He has done so not only with the Jewish community — in the recent provincial byelection in Thornhill won by the Conservatives, many Jewish voters let it be known that they had, in fact, “voted for Harper.” He has also made inroads into the Hindu, Sikh, Bahai, Coptic Christian, Pakistani Christian and Pakistani Ahmadiyyah Muslim communities.
Nothing wrong in a government paying attention to minority concerns in their ancestral or spiritual homelands — except when the catering to special interests is so obviously tied to fishing for votes and financial contributions for the Conservative party, or worse, it fans rather than reduces old-country troubles in Canada.
In Harper’s black-and-white world, supporting Israel means opposing Arabs in Canada. He has little or no engagement with Canadian Arabs, up to half of whom are Christian, even though at 780,000 they are more than double the Jewish population of 329,000. Not that numbers should dictate policy but a cavalier disregard for specific communities by their prime minister demeans the office he holds.
Harper also ignores Canada’s Muslims, the fastest growing and the youngest demographic in the country, with a median age of 28.9 years vs. the Canadian average of 40.2 years, according to Statistics Canada. At more than one million, they are now nearly three times the population of Buddhists (368,000), more than twice the population of Hindus (498,000), Lutherans and Pentecostals (478,000 each) and Sikhs (455,000), nearly double that of the Christian Orthodox (550,7000) and half as many as those belonging to the United Church (two million).
He has particularly solicited the smaller minorities that have come to Canada escaping persecution in Muslim lands. Their plight was real enough. But he and the Office of Religious Freedom that he established rarely speak out on behalf of persecuted Muslim minorities in such places as Myanmar.
All such selective, ideological, partisan and vindictive activities sacrifice the common Canadian interest in the service of the ruling party. Worse, they exacerbate our differences by pitting one minority against another or stoking divisions within a community. That’s no way to govern a highly diverse, but still united, nation.
Haroon Siddiqui’s column appears on Thursday and Sunday. firstname.lastname@example.org
This unity between faith schools doing random acts of kindness appears to be a subversive part of the Jewish facilitation of the Muslim takeover of the West.Jewish, Muslim schools unite for random act of kindness
Two faith-based Richmond schools put cultural differences aside and came together for an annual display of goodwill.
Students from Richmond Jewish Day School and Az-Zahrra Islamic Academy served food in the Downtown Eastside today, honouring a three-year-old tradition known as “Random Act of Kindness Week.”
The tradition started at RJDS, and commemorates the life of a former student in the Jewish community who was known for her kindness and generosity to others.
Last October, two teachers struck up a conversation and introduced the idea of bringing their students together.
“We were reluctant, we weren’t sure how it would be received,” said Richmond Jewish Day School teacher Shoshanna Burton.Az-Zahhra Islamic Academy student Sadiyah Jagani and Richmond Jewish Day School student Abe Ravvin serve food together in the Downtown Eastside for Random Act of Kindness week. (CBC )
“We got together and we fell in love.”
Az-Zahhra teacher Sukhaina Jaffer said by bringing the students together, they are having important conversations, even if they are just about kid stuff.
The students agree.
“I thought it was a really good idea because it was our Jewish school and their Muslim school coming together,”said Richmond Jewish Day School student Abe Ravvin.
The work is also being well received.
Downtown Eastside resident Fred Miller said he appreciates the good will.
“If Muslim and Jewish kids can live together why can’t the rest of the world live together,” he said.
The two schools say they are planning to work together on future projects, building on what they have in common.
Yesterday, William Saletan of Slate.com published an article (The Muslim Taxi Driver) on how to kill legislation that favors Christian religion and it has to do with prejudice and paranoia against Muslims,
If you want to kill legislation that protects the right of Christians to withhold business services from same-sex couples, here’s one way to do it: Don’t warn people about Christians. Warn them about Muslims.
That strategy was on display in the campaign against Arizona Senate Bill 1062, which would have shielded businesses from discrimination suits if they acted on religious beliefs. Everyone understood that the bill would have allowed conservative Christians to refuse services for a gay wedding. But in Arizona, that wasn’t a strong enough argument against it. So opponents went for the Muslim angle.
Many Americans who talk about religious freedom are really just interested in the rights of conservative Christians. They’re not so keen on Muslims. In fact, they worry about Muslims imposing their beliefs on Christians. Two days ago, in praise of the Arizona bill, Rush Limbaugh complained, “Religious beliefs can’t be used to stop anything the left wants to impose—unless they’re Muslim religious beliefs, and then we have to honor those. But any other religious beliefs are not permitted.”
The first reference to Muslims in the Arizona fight, as far as I can tell, came from the Anti-Defamation League in a letter to state senators and in testimony before a state Senate committee on Jan. 16. If the bill were to pass, the ADL’s assistant regional director told the committee, “A Muslim-owned cab company might refuse to drive passengers to a Hindu temple.”
CAIR-Arizona has condemned the ADL’s stereotyping, calling on the group to apologize,
“It is unconscionable that a group purporting to defend civil rights would resort to religious bigotry to promote its political agenda,” said CAIR-AZ Board Chair Imraan Siddiqi. “The introduction of this stereotypical scenario gave way to the narrative that Muslims are in some way serial abusers of ‘religious freedom based denials of service,’ which is completely baseless.”
Sen. Lee “not so” Bright.New Anti-Sharia Legislation Introduced in Several States
The 2014 legislative year has already seen legislation proposed that would ban the application of Sharia law in state courts. There are currently nine states that have introduced some variation of a bill aiming to block Islamic law. Most of the bills have carried over from 2013 with the exception of Vermont, which has introduced its first bill of this stature.
The bills are intended to combat the perceived threat that Muslims are undermining the United States Constitution and imposing Sharia law. Although almost none of the bills mention Sharia or other religious law specifically, instead opting for more neutral language, such as “foreign” and “international” law, their intent to vilify Muslims remains very much the same.
The bills are modeled after legislation entitled American Laws for American Courts (ALAC), which was authored by anti-Muslim lawyer and activist David Yerushalmi. The decision to explicitly leave out words like Sharia and Islam reflects a recent court case in Oklahoma where a federal judge ruled that legislation directly targeting Sharia law was in violation of Muslims’ Constitutional rights. However, the bill was amended and secured Oklahoma as the sixth state to enact such a law. Now even more states are looking to pass their own versions.
South Carolina State Senator Lee Bright (R) is one of the lawmakers trying to pass this type of legislation in his state. Bright is a prime example of the paranoia and anti-Muslim demagoguery behind these bills. Over the summer, Bright, who is primarying Lindsey Graham (R-SC) for a 2014 Senate seat, accused the senator of being a “community organizer for the Muslim Brotherhood.” This was after Graham took a diplomatic trip to Egypt with Senator John McCain (R-AZ). In a recent speech, Bright also went on a diatribe about Muslim immigration, asserting that the country might be admitting terrorists.
“We got to be careful about who we let into this country,” he told the crowd. “A lot of these folks from terrorist nations are coming in on student visas, and we shouldn’t allow it.” Later in the speech, Bright referred to immigrants crossing the Southern border unlawfully as “an invasion” and claimed some of them might have connections to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Bright is not the only state representative looking to have a bill of this category passed, however. Listed below are all of the proposed 2014 anti-Sharia bills:
Florida has introduced Senate Bill 386. The bill’s sponsor is Sen. Alan Hays (R), who last year proposed SB 58, which died on the Senate floor. Hays has previously compared Sharia law to a “dreadful disease,” and its only vaccination is anti-Sharia legislation.
Iowa’s House Bill 76 was carried over from 2013 and has been referred to a Judiciary House Committee.
Kentucky has introduced HB 43, which has been referred to a House Judiciary Committee.
Missouri has re-introduced SB 619. The bill’s sponsor is Republican State Senator Brian Knieves, an anti-immigrant legislator and member of the State Legislators for Legal Immigration. SB 619 was vetoed last summer by Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon.
Mississippi has introduced HB 44, which has been referred to a House Judiciary Committee.
Vermont has introduced SB 265 and is the state’s first anti-Sharia bill.
West Virginia has introduced SB 2116, which is currently in a Judiciary House Committee.
Legislation outlawing Sharia law in state courts remains unnecessary and a distraction from more pressing matters. The background of the laws and its fringe sponsors show their true intent and has no place in our legislative process.
For more on Senator Lee Bright and his controversial views, visit The National Memo here.
“Lee Bright Warns of Immigrant ‘Invasion’ From ‘Terrorist Nations’” (via Right Wing Watch)
The hysteria over “Muslim Family Fun Day” in the UK (h/t: Farhan) sounds very familiar, as a similar anxiety and hysteria was witnessed here in the USA last year when some Muslim groups organized a Muslim Family Day at Six Flags Great America,
Legoland cancels Muslim family fun day in fear of “guest and employee safety”
There has been a Muslim Family Day at Six Flags Amusement Parks in many cities across the U.S. for 10 years now, since 2000. The idea was to plan a special day after Ramadan. This year some of these Family Days will be held on September 12th, and that has set off a firestorm of objections. Some even calling the event a “stab in the eye” of Americans, or “spitting in the face” of Americans.
Glenn Beck wonders why they (those Muslims) would be so insensitive as to pick a day so close to 9/11. Obviously his crack research staff needs to be replaced. That is the weekend after the end of Ramadan this year. The Islamic calendar is lunar rather than solar, so events on the Islamic calendar move forward by approximately 11 days each year in the lunar calendar. In a couple of years this event will be coming in August rather than September. In 2009 the events were planned around September 21, in 2008 around October 1, in 2007 around October 14 – you get the idea.
The Tea Party Patriots website (the same folks that brought you the “bring your dogs” protest of the Temecula mosque) has a page which posts the rantings of all sorts of bigots claiming that this is a“symbolic victory”, “this is all about conquest”, “Islam is not a religion”, “STOP THE SILENCE. STOP THE NONSENCE. STOP THE MUSLIM DAY – THEY ARE NOT AMERICANS. THEY DO NOT ABIDE BY OUR CONSTITUTION – THEY ARE NOT ONE OF US – YOU ARE EITHER WITH US OR AGAINST US – MAKE YOUR DECISION.”, ” Islam tells people it is OK to be two-faced liars”, ” they cannot ever respect our constitution because it’s in direct violation with Sharia and how they must abide by a set of laws called dualism, compelling them to lie to others”, “there is no such thing of (sic) a ‘mild’ muslim”.
The family fun day which was organised by Sheikh Haitham al Haddad of the Muslim Research and Development Foundation (MRDF) for Sunday 9th March will not be going ahead after a barrage of violent messages were made by far-right Islamophobic extremists.
The English Defence League, Casuals United and other far-right groups vowed to hold a protest outside Legoland, many threatening to use violence to prevent the family outing.
Legoland issued the following statement:
“The Legoland Windsor Resort prides itself on welcoming everyone to our wonderful attraction; however due to unfortunate circumstances the private event scheduled for Sunday 9th March will no longer take place. This was an incredibly difficult made after discussions with the organisers and local Thames Valley Police, following the receipt of a number of threatening phone calls, emails and social media posts to the Resort over the last couple of weeks.
“These alone have led us to conclude that we can no longer guarantee the happy fun family event which was envisaged or the safety of our guests and employees on the day – which is always our number one priority.
“Sadly it is our belief that deliberate misinformation fuelled by a small group with a clear agenda was designed expressly to achieve this outcome. We are appalled at what has occurred, and at the fact that the real losers in this are the many families and children who were looking forward to an enjoyable day out at Legoland.
“We would like to apologies to them and to the organisers, and to thank them for their understanding. We hope that they will all be able to come to visit us during the season.”
“Want the Tories out next year? Only one way to do it” from Ron’s Rants
Ron Graves explains in the post above that if you want to get rid of the Tories in 2015, the only way to do it is to vote Labour, and not to “protest” by not voting, spoiling the paper or voting for a candidate that doesn’t have a chance of winning. While I agree that the best we can hope for in 2015 is a Labour government, unless you live in Scotland where the independence referendum gives other options, voting Labour will not get rid of the Tories in many constituencies - in fact, it may make a Tory win more likely.
I live in New Malden, which is in Edward Davey’s constituency of Kingston and Surbiton. Here, Labour hasn’t ever won, to my knowledge, and certainly not as long as I’ve lived here. The progressive vote has always gone to the Liberal Democrats, and their vote has been swelled by former Labour voters (like us) from less affluent places who didn’t let their (modestly” increased wealth push then into the Tory camp. Labour have always come third place here behind Lib Dems and Tories, and except in 1997 which was its first, its share has always been below 10%.
It’s possible that former Tory voters might switch to Labour, but most of the people who might switch are those who have voted Lib Dem because it’s the only apparently progressive party that has a chance of winning the seat. Voting Labour will just split that vote, resulting in this seat turning Tory. Admittedly, that might be counterbalanced by swings to Labour in Labour/Tory swing seats, but it still gives the Tory a chance to bed himself in with favours to various groups within the constituency.
That leaves many of us in places like Kingston with no real means of making sure we do not get a Tory government in 2015 - either we vote for a Lib Dem who will sell our vote to whoever the biggest single party is, or for a minor candidate (including Labour) and just let the Tory in. Either way, it’s likely to be a wasted vote.