Palestinian American politician clarifies stance on BDS.
In an earlier entry I discussed the unhelpful ‘defence’ of niqaab that only a few thousand women wear the garment. However, a side argument is that only a few hundred wear the burqa, the garment best known from Afghanistan which covers the whole body including the eyes and face. I saw Miqdaad Versi of the Muslim Council of Britain make this argument on Twitter this morning. I find this a very dubious claim. I would imagine that the number wearing the Afghan burqa in the UK is closer to zero, if not actually zero. The burqa is a garment specific to rural Pashtuns in Afghanistan and Pakistan; only a minority of British Asian Muslims are Pashtun. The garment is not widely available here, it is not the Sunnah, and it is not practical. The niqaab is widely available both in shops and online and is practical in the sense that it can easily be flipped up when the wearer needs to show her face (there is also a layer that can cover the eyes which can also be flipped up or down; if you see a woman with her whole face covered, this is probably also a niqaab).
There is another garment called the burqa; this is worn in the United Arab Emirates and covers parts of the face. It consists of a cloth veil stretched over a metal frame. There are parts of London where there are lots of Muslims from wealthy parts of the Gulf and I’ve walked around those places very frequently; I’ve never seen an Emirati burqa either.
Also, the Evening Standard website yesterday published a piece about a study which claimed that British Asians received worse treatment after terrorist attacks: some 40% of British Asian Muslims said they experienced a “rise in negative treatment” and 26% of Sikhs, and just under a third said people had been abusive to them while 11% said they had been excluded from events. The picture they use to illustrate the report is of a woman in niqaab, and stock images of women in black niqaabs have been used to illustrate reports of ‘trouble’ involving Muslims for years (whether it’s terrorism, the spread of “radical ideologies” or whatever discontent of any kind). This insistence on linking niqaab to extremism of any sort is part of what generates hatred towards Muslim women in particular and the number of women wearing it declined after media campaigns targeted at it, not immediately after major terrorist attacks.
The impact on Sikhs has been widely observed both here and in the United States; Muslims in some parts of the world wear turbans and pictures of well-known terrorists wearing them have appeared in the media often. I have come across Muslims who wear a certain type of turban, but the majority of people who wear them in western countries (albeit a different style without a cap underneath) are Sikhs and there have been many violent attacks on Sikhs by people who mistook them for Muslims.
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Politicians unite in condemnation of Fraser Anning’s speech, but his party leader Bob Katter says he backs him ‘1000%’
Bob Katter, the veteran Queensland political maverick, has lauded an inflammatory speech by his Senate representative, Fraser Anning, declaring the contribution “absolutely magnificent” and “everything that this country should be doing”.
As political leaders moved in lock-step to condemn Anning’s speech – which praised the White Australia policy, called for an end to Muslim migration, and invoked the term “final solution” – Katter, the leader of Katter’s Australia party, struck a starkly different note, declaring the speech had his “1,000% support”.
Straight from Goebbels’s handbook from Nazi Germany.Continue reading...
The words Fraser Anning reserved for the Muslim community were once directed at Jews who had survived the Holocaust
There is much to find objectionable in Senator Fraser Anning’s first speech to the Australian Senate. The baffling, deplorable invocation of Nazi genocide by referring to immigration as a “problem” requiring a “final solution”, is particularly striking. But we mustn’t allow this conspicuous statement to prevent us from seeing the real animus and the real purpose of the speech. It is a call for a return to a darker time of policy-making on the basis of national origin, skin colour, and religion.
Anning fails to comprehend what it is that makes our country great and what it is that is truly worth protecting.Continue reading...
Wife of jailed Saudi blogger is at the center of diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada.
Education charity Classics for All distances itself from high-profile supporter
The Ides of March may be long past but Boris Johnson has found himself, like Julius Caesar, under attack from an unusual direction – in Johnson’s case, the nation’s classical scholars.
Following his incendiary remarks about Muslim women wearing the burqa, Johnson has found his position on a charity promoting the study of classics under threat, after several members threatened to cut their ties if Johnson’s were not.
We have alerted our Trustees to recent comments and the Trustees will be reviewing your concerns. https://t.co/Zsmp83O7JPContinue reading...
Since the former foreign secretary likened women in niqabs to ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’, there has been an increase in reports of anti-Muslim abuse. How does it feel to be victimised because of your dress?
‘Oh, there goes a letterbox.’ On Saturday, while Sidrah Sajad was out shopping in Manchester, where she lives, she heard a man – middle-aged, white – say this to a companion as she walked past. “I turned around and said: ‘Excuse me,’ and they just walked off,” she says. She was in a rush that day, but usually – because abuse happens fairly regularly – she likes to confront it. “I’m the sort of person who will engage. If someone is saying such negative comments, I like to approach them and give them the opportunity to talk to me, say: ‘Why would you say something like that?’” How did she feel? She sighs. “You know what, it’s ignorance. That person is not educated. Part of British values is trying to respect and embrace the norms of all the faiths. Even if we don’t understand it, we honour common ground. Every individual has a choice to live their life the way they want to, and we should respect that.”
It is just over a week since the former foreign secretary Boris Johnson likened women who wear the niqab – the face veil – to “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in a column for the Daily Telegraph. Johnson said he was against a ban but his comments, whether throwaway or carefully calculated – including that the burqa and niqab were “odd” and “oppressive” – have had real-life consequences for many British Muslims. Women have spoken of feeling vulnerable, and some have been abused. The anti-Muslim hate-crime monitoring group Tell Mama has reported a spike in abuse against Muslim women since Johnson’s column appeared. In the week before the column was published, five women reported incidents against them (all were wearing the hijab, and none wore the niqab). In the week after the column, 14 women wearing the hijab and seven who wore the niqab reported abuse to the organisation.Continue reading...
As I mentioned two posts back about the niqaab controversy, Boris Johnson found an ally in the former (and possibly future) UKIP leader Nigel Farage, who made a comment on BBC London radio to the effect that the people in “the country” were behind Johnson and that it would increase rather than decrease his popularity. This notion that the “real England” consists of its small towns and villages is a common trope of Brexiteers because it its strongest support is in some (though actually not all) of these places: while a lot of urban areas outside London (Birmingham for one) voted by a majority for leaving the EU, the strongest support was in areas surrounding the Wash on the east coast, Boston in Lincolnshire in particular. A few weeks ago a Twitter acquaintance pointed me towards this article by Matthew Goodwin on Quillette, which describes itself as “a platform for free thought” and whose associate editor is Toby Young. The article traces British “scepticism” towards Europe back to traditional English anti-Catholicism, citing Linda Colley’s Britons: Forging the Nation (which I studied at university).
Goodwin notes that the debate over Brexit has been “utterly dry, sterile, and completely lacking in imagination” and overly focussed on such things as the overspending of the Leave campaign, and which shows “no engagement whatsoever with the growing pile of evidence that we now have on why people actually voted for Brexit”. Most Leave voters had, he says, “a clear and coherent outlook and had formed their views long before the campaign even began”. He said he hoped that there would be a “long-overdue debate” about the “divides, inequalities, and grievances that had led to this moment”, but nobody wants such a debate “because conversations require a reply”; their focus has been simply on overturning the result. In this he has a point; putting aside the Tory Brexiteer voters in places like Lincolnshire, a good many working-class voters voted to leave the EU because of long-standing neglect of their parts of the country which coincide with our being a member of the EU or its predecessors, and Labour also made the enormous mistake of opening the doors to hundreds of thousands of workers from eastern Europe, after both Labour and Tory governments had spent years cultivating and appeasing anti-immigration sentiment, perhaps assuming nobody would mind because they were white.
Neither of these issues has been addressed. The idea of rebuilding industry devastated in the 1980s is still dismissed as backward-looking stupidity or inward-looking economic nationalism. Admittedly, the iron and coal deposits which made some of these industries profitable in the past are no longer there, but some of the destruction happened because Tory governments preferred to sell off national assets than turn them around. This is significant because a large proportion of the pro-Remain vote in England came from the southern shires, a tract from Gloucestershire through Oxfordshire and down into Surrey and Hampshire, much of which consists of safe Tory seats, and these are some of the people who should be contemplating the effects of the policies they supported throughout the 80s. Goodwin notes that the tendency to simply oppose Brexit rather than engage with it is “particularly strong in the academy” whose teachers tend to vote for left-wing and ultra-liberal parties. This sounds like a stereotype — I graduated 20 years ago — but it rings true to the attitudes I have encountered on Twitter: ordinary people’s perceptions of the effect of immigration on their wages and jobs are dismissed as fallacies with references to economic theories. No matter if the explanation is not nearly as simple as “immigrants drive down wages” or “immigrants take jobs so British people cannot get them”, people are instinctively resistant to any theory that frames immigration as anything other than a positive.
To be clear, immigration is not the only reason why working-class people’s jobs, wages and conditions are under threat: another is the casualisation of a number of lines of work and the resulting weakness of unions. In many industries, including mine (transport), a lot of the labour is sourced from agencies — many companies do not hire frontline staff (e.g. truck drivers) themselves but get everyone from an agency. Staff do not know each other very well (perhaps inevitable with single-man truck driving). However, with an unregulated labour market, employers are dissuaded from investing in new talent because they have a ready supply of experienced workers from abroad: many transport bosses here will not take someone on who has less than two years’ entitlement as to do so would increase their insurance premiums.
However, it is not only Remainers who are often impervious to the facts. Speaking to a group of fellow drivers and a minor transport boss a few weeks ago, I found that many were firmly pro-Brexit; when I pointed out that it would mean isolation from the huge trading bloc on our doorstep, they pointed out that there were still lots of foreign trucks on the road bringing things in and taking them out — proof, they said, that the economy was not collapsing (this is a lot like those who say “global warming, what global warming — look, it’s snowing!”). I pointed out that we were still in the EU and the problems would begin when we actually left, particularly if it was without a favourable deal. They then accused me of being ‘negative’, as if positive thinking could affect the outcome of anything that is independent of one’s behaviour. And this says nothing about the very wealthy Tory Brexiteers who are well known to be too rich to personally lose out much if the economy collapses as a result of our falling into isolation, yet continue to push for a hardline Brexit. Some of them are known to be shifting money abroad already.
Goodwin bemoans the lack of debate about the long-term causes of the Brexit vote. However, the date for leaving is getting closer and closer day by day and there is no longer a long enough term to have such a debate; it is becoming increasingly obvious that a favourable deal other than remaining in the European Economic Area (EEA) is not available to us. The EU will not agree to it because some of the demands Britain makes is not conducive to their security (e.g. allowing a non-member to collect tariffs) and also because of the fear of other states seceding in Britain’s wake. It has to be remembered that the move towards European integration began after World War II because politicians realised that if goods were able to cross borders, armies usually did not: trade barriers caused poverty and discontent, which at different times made both fascism and communism popular. I have seen younger Tories boast that their generation are no longer affected by the fear of war in Europe and the idea that European integration is key to making sure we do not slide back into the past. Personally, with only the UK isolated outside the European Union, I am more afraid of the civil unrest that might erupt here, or the ease with which anger at the loss of jobs or the rise in food prices (or its unavailability) might be deflected towards a visible minority.
A common test I do when reviewing pro-Brexit articles, or those highly sceptical of the media’s role in fomenting the pro-Brexit sentiment, is to search the article for mentions of the press, papers or media (a previous article to this effect scored zero). This one mentions a “jingoistic press” in the paragraph about Linda Colley’s book, and ‘media’ a few times, often in reference to social media. This is, in my opinion, a major weakness of that argument: the debate about the legitimacy of the Brexit vote has been focussed on Russian interference and the Leave campaign’s overspend, but rarely touches on the bias in the commercial print media which is known to have circulated a number of falsehoods about the EEC and EU over the decades since European integration became the watchword in the late 1980s (rather than the EEC as being good for business). The right-wing press have particularly campaigned against the European Convention on Human Rights, enshrined into British law as the Human Rights Act of 1998, which it portrays as giving unwarranted rights to illegal immigrants, terrorists and people in both categories with often mendacious claims (e.g. that somebody could claim a right to a family life on the basis that being deported would mean leaving his cat). The benefits to ordinary people (e.g. a person with a learning disability securing rights not to be detained indefinitely on the say-so of one doctor) are never mentioned. Admittedly, the ECHR is an instrument of the Council of Europe, not the EU, but referring to it as coming out of “Europe” blurs the distinction.
The issue of the extent to which the electorate “knew what they were voting for” is only of limited relevance given that we are a representative democracy, not a plebiscitary one, and Parliament is meant to weigh public opinion against the greater good. A memorable passage from Linda Colley’s book was the section on the Catholic Emancipation Act, which attracted a record volume of petitions in opposition which has yet to be broken. Parliament had behaved, she wrote, as neither a conservative oligarchy nor a representative assembly. It could do this because it knew that the views of the general public about Catholics — that they were a fifth column, loyal only to Rome, regarded Protestants as heretics and would persecute them given half a chance — were based on myth and propaganda. More recently, Parliament has resisted public and press demands for the reintroduction of hanging, aware that innocent people had been hanged and would have been (e.g. Stefan Kiszko, the Guildford Four) if it had been retained.
Very much the same is true of many of the public’s beliefs about the EU and the difference here is that some of the Brexiteers in Parliament who are leading the charge are those who have been peddling the myths about the EU in the press for years — Boris Johnson being the most notable example. Goodwin mentions the ethnic minority vote for Brexit; I can state that myths were behind some of this too. Some believed the European Parliament was going to ban halal slaughter; some believed that shutting off migration from the EU would lead to the gates being opened to migration from South Asia again; some simply believed that the EU was hostile to Muslims and that Muslims were safer in a Britain that is outside Europe.
Goodwin does not really address the issue of the narrowness of the vote either. 48% of those who voted, voted to remain in the EU and this is considerably greater than the share of the vote traditionally required to win a general election. Put a specific deal on the table which does not make it easy for British people to holiday in France or Spain and does not guarantee low food prices and easy availability and it is unlikely to garner the 52% of the vote that went to Leave in 2016. Divide the vote up as you would a general election vote and Remain comes out the winner. Now that people are more aware that Brexit is unlikely to be a simple process and that the politicians charged with it are incompetent and in some cases venal, evidence is showing that support for Brexit is ebbing away, especially in Labour-voting constituencies — the ‘true English’ in the provinces are hardening in their support for it, perhaps perceiving a “stab in the back”, but small towns in Lincolnshire are no more or less the “real England” than inner-city London and Birmingham or the old mining towns of Yorkshire.
There is a song, Rex Bob Lowenstein, about a fictional radio DJ who resisted his company’s demands to implement playlists and went to jail for his efforts; in the last verse, the singer and songwriter Marc Germino sang that his efforts were “just to find what the people W.A.N.T.” (which was also conveniently the station’s call sign). The song is often played as a tribute to DJs who play “real music” rather than pop, but when I heard this final verse I could not help but be struck by how banal and anticlimatic it was. This is real life, not a radio request show, and whatever the merits of Rex Bob Lowenstein’s approach, it does not translate well into politics. What the people W.A.N.T. does not always mean the greater good and a majority, especially a very slim one, and however well-distributed, does not have the right to destroy the prosperity that is vital for everyone’s well-being. As the Rolling Stones (and, I suspect, your mother) said — you can’t always get what you want.
Possibly Related Posts:
- Corbyn and Anti-Semitism versus Brexit
- One big no, many small yeses
- How (not) to argue with Brexiteers
- Corbyn stands no chance without a second referendum
- Unite, but follow me
Crossbencher Fraser Anning widely condemned for speech praising white Australia policy and pushing for plebiscite on Muslim immigration
An Australian crossbench senator has invoked the term “the final solution” in an inflammatory speech calling for a plebiscite asking voters whether they want to end all immigration by Muslims and non-English speaking people “from the third world”.
Fraser Anning, formerly of the far-right Pauline Hanson One Nation party, and now a member of the Katter’s Australia party, used his maiden speech in the Senate to call for “a plebiscite to allow the Australian people to decide whether they want wholesale non-English speaking immigrants from the third world, and particularly whether they want any Muslims”.Continue reading...
Foreign minister claims residents of Xinjiang are ‘living in peace and happiness’ after UN panel hears reports of secret internment camp
Anti-China forces are behind criticism of policies in the far western region of Xinjiang, the Chinese foreign ministry has claimed, after a UN panel aired accusations that one million ethnic Uighurs may be held in internment camps.
China has said Xinjiang faces a serious threat from Islamist militants and separatists who plot attacks and stir up tension between the mostly Muslim Uighur minority who call the region home and the ethnic Han Chinese majority.
Any defamatory rumours are futileContinue reading...
Racism is a virus that can be easily released by politicians who stoop low. But we can’t ignore how religions treat women
So, what is the good liberal to do? What is the good humanist to say? Boris Johnson’s anti-Muslim “jokes” were not a dog whistle, but a foghorn beckoning racists to his Steve Bannon-assisted leadership cause. But in the maelstrom he has deliberately caused, the risk is that liberals are silenced on criticising religion, Islam in particular. Are you for the niqab or for Boris’s racism? That’s a preposterous choice.Continue reading...
Michigan Democrat has been vague about stance on US military aid to Israel.
Defense minister makes patently false claim that 168 Palestinians slain since outset of Great March of Return all belonged to Hamas.
Muslim Council of Britain tells PM to act after Boris Johnson’s ‘dehumanising’ comments
The Muslim Council of Britain has urged Theresa May to launch an independent inquiry into Islamophobia in the Conservative party after several MPs supported “dehumanising comments” made by Boris Johnson.Continue reading...
UN panel says 1m ethnic Uighur Muslims being held in internment camps in Xinjiang
China has denied claims made during a UN panel last week that authorities are suppressing the rights of Muslim minorities in the west of the country in the name of fighting terrorism.
A Chinese delegation told a UN human rights panel on Monday that China has launched a “special campaign” to crack down on “extremist and terrorist crimes”, but no specific ethnic or religious groups were being targeted.Continue reading...
Anger is precious - don’t squander it on a dog-whistle politician who wants us to throb with fury at the mention of his name
Oh, great. Another article about him. You know who I’m talking about. The fuzzy-haired boil on the back of British politics, the walking indictment of the British class system, the bumbling consequence of decades of a lazy media implicitly trusting the poshest person in the room, the sentient sack of potatoes whose political highpoint was getting stuck on a zipline during the London Olympics.
I’m so tired of hearing he’s 'broadening the debate' when he's just an old Etonian doing an impression of a cabbieContinue reading...
Islamophobic incidents have increased after Johnson’s column disparaging veils worn by women, says Muslim Council
Britain’s largest Islamic organisation will write to Theresa May on Monday demanding that Boris Johnson be subject to a full disciplinary inquiry, arguing that no one should be allowed to victimise minorities with impunity.
The Muslim Council of Britain said Islamophobic incidents had spiked since Johnson’s controversial article was published a week ago and therefore the Conservative party process needed to go beyond its initial stage.Continue reading...
There was a time when Conservatives used to split over this or that aspect of an EU treaty; or the practice of monetarism; or the composition of the House of Lords; or the consequences of welfare policy. Now they argue over whether it is acceptable to sneer at Muslim women in religious dress. O tempora, o mores, as Jacob Rees-Mogg might say.
There is depressing bathos in the fact that two cheap gags in Boris Johnson’s Daily Telegraph column about the burqa have caused such a rift. But they have.Continue reading...
Tweet by wife of former Tory MP Neil Hamilton comes during escalating row over Boris Johnson’s burqa remarks
Christine Hamilton has been sacked as a charity ambassador after comparing the burqa to the outfits worn by the Ku Klux Klan. “If the burqa [sic] is acceptable then presumably this is too?” she tweeted, posting a picture showing individuals wearing Ku Klux Klan-style clothing.
Following the criticism she received, Hamilton insisted her tweet had been misunderstood: “For heaven’s sake – no, I am not comparing Muslim women to KKK members and yes, thank you, I do know the difference. I was graphically illustrating how full facial cover can be sinister, which is how many people view the burqa.”Continue reading...
Martin Henriksen and Sabah Qarasnane don’t have much in common. He is an outspoken, virulently anti-Muslim politician from a rightwing populist party who thinks wearing a headscarf is incompatible with Danish identity.
She is a Moroccan-Danish community organiser from a part of Copenhagen the government has officially dubbed a “ghetto”, proud of her country, her religion and her headscarf.Continue reading...