Tories suspend 14 members over alleged Islamophobia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 17:01

Conservative party responds to collection of abusive remarks found on social media

The Conservative party has suspended 14 members for allegedly making Islamophobic comments after a string of abusive posts were uncovered on social media.

The party was responding to racist and abusive remarks that were discovered and collected online by the @matesjacob Twitter account, and made by people who had said or indicated they were members of the party.

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If we reject gender discrimination in every other arena, why do we accept it in religion? | Beatrice Alba

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 17:01

Young women and girls deserve better than what mainstream religion offers them

Cardinal Pell’s recent child sexual abuse conviction has been the catalyst for criticisms of women’s lack of authority in the Catholic church. But why has it taken a crime of this magnitude for criticism of the church patriarchy to gain traction?

Perhaps it’s partly timing – with the rise of online activism and in the wake of the #metoo movement, many feminist causes are gaining mainstream support.

Related: Lucía, 11, was raped. Then Argentina’s church conspired to deny her an abortion | Claudia Piñeiro

Teaching girls that they are equal and deserve full participation in public life is inherently at odds with many religions

Related: God is a Woman: Ariana Grande taps into a long herstory of a female lord

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Pupils shouldn’t be denied LGBT lessons – whatever their parents say | Benali Hamdache

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 16:18
Growing up gay and Muslim, I know I would have benefited. Parkfield school should continue its ‘No Outsiders’ programme

Parkfield community school in Birmingham has found itself in the headlines once again after protests against its No Outsiders lessons. The protests by the school’s largely Muslim parent body garnered a lot of coverage and raised a fundamental question: how can inclusive education reach every child when many households of faith remain deeply opposed?

No Outsiders is a teaching package designed for primary school children. The lessons cover gender, sexual orientation and the idea that discrimination is wrong. Andrew Moffat, the author of the package and assistant headteacher of Parkfield, had been trialling the resource at the school when the controversy erupted.

Related: Birmingham school stops LGBT lessons after parents protest

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Far right ‘infiltrating children’s charities with anti-Islam agenda’

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 March, 2019 - 06:00

Anti-extremism officials say Ukip is among groups seeking to fuel tension over child abuse

Rightwing groups including Ukip are attempting to “infiltrate” child protection charities to further an anti-Islam agenda, officials from the government’s counter-extremism programme believe.

Officers from Prevent said far-right figures were using voluntary groups to stir up tension in towns with historical problems of child sexual exploitation.

Related: We’re told 84% of grooming gangs are Asian. But where’s the evidence? | Kenan Malik

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Autism, driving, and changes to British notification rules

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 March, 2019 - 18:28

Last weekend, by chance, some of us found out that people with autism spectrum disorders (principally Asperger’s syndrome) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) were required to notify the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) of their condition, something they had not been previously required to do unless it affected their driving. This guidance appeared to have been issued recently without any consultation or indeed any notification, leaving many of us worried that we would have to choose between risking incurring large fines by not notifying or insurance refusals or dealing with both bureaucrats and medical professionals who are either ignorant of our condition or influenced by prejudice. People I follow online who know about autism are horrified and regarded this as both discriminatory and based on ignorance. There seemed to be evidence that the DVLA did not know what they are doing, and different people who have approached the DVLA had different responses. (The guidance was reverted while I was writing this article, but the matter is likely to still be under consideration.)

A boarded-up, two-storey, red-brick building with concrete blocks and metal fencing in front of it. In the foreground is a blue sign that says "Welcome to Roselands Clinic", and above it, on a white background, the logos "Your Healthcare, providing services for the NHS" and "Kingston NHS Primary Care Trust".Roselands Clinic, New Malden, where my diagnosis took place.

For one thing, the form people are expected to use to notify the DVLA (the M1 form, available in PDF form here) is outdated and geared towards conditions which dictate regular medical attention, which this does not. It asks you to state your GP’s name and address, and your consultant’s name and address and the last time you saw them for this condition. The problem is that not everyone has seen the consultant who diagnosed them since the day of diagnosis; after this is done, people are usually referred to services such as those which help with finding employment and securing benefits, if they are available, which is the reason many of us sought a diagnosis (or why our relatives encouraged us to do so). Does a consultant mean only a medical consultant, or will a consultant psychologist (such as the one who diagnosed me) do? The consultant may have moved on, as mine did in 2017, and the clinic in question closed, as mine (pictured) has been. The form assumes we have a single GP; this has not been the case for many of us for many years, as we are registered with large clinics and see whichever GP is available, which may change from appointment to appointment. The form should really be updated to take this into account.

Different people who approached the DVLA had different responses. One person on Twitter said that their son’s condition had been notified to the DVLA by the police last year, but they were not interested. Another person who contacted the DVLA was also told that people who had been driving for years before their diagnosis without incident were of no interest to them. Yet others who contacted the DVLA by phone were told that their phone-call had ‘flagged’ them and they should therefore get their M1 form in within two weeks. However, we do not yet know what they will do with the form and many of us are worried about over-reaction or prejudice, particularly those (like me) who drive for a living or could not get to work without our cars (or motorcycles) because of where we live or work. In 2016, an investigation by the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman (PHSO) found that disabled people and those with various medical conditions were being refused licences or having their licence restorations delayed for unacceptably and unnecessarily long periods, sometimes leading to them losing their jobs or businesses. People I know who, for example, had seizures on one occasion while ill were kept waiting years to have their licences restored, simply becuase the DVLA did not know what to do. This is a new issue; how do we know that we will not suffer the same treatment despite having driven without incident for years before diagnosis?

 The DVLA Autism Test, Explained (Picture of young woman holding L-plate.) Here is Sam. Sam is autistic. Sam has been autistic all of their life.
Sam took driving lessons while autistic.
Sam took a theory test and passed it.
Sam took a practical driving test and passed it.
This is Sam as a safe, qualified driver, driving for years afterwards.

(Picture of a middle-aged woman in a flourescent yellow jacket, holding a clipboard.) This is a highly experienced Driving Examiner. They test every element of a driver's safety. If someone is not safe, they don't pass them.

(Picture of a man in late middle age with a stethoscope round his neck.) This is a Doctor. The DVLA want the Doctor to say if Sam is a good driver. The DVLA do not believe the Driving Examiner. The DVLA do not want to know if Sam is already a safe, good driver with years of experience.
The Doctor has never seen Sam drive.
The Doctor does not know if Sam is a good driver.
The Doctor has hundreds of actual patients to see, and is already overworked. The Doctor is not happy.

The National Autistic Society made an inquiry with the DVLA who told them that previous guidance had been wrong and that autism had always been a notifiable condition; the NAS say they believe that this guidance should be changed as they “don’t believe that the DVLA guidance reflects the potential impact of autism on driving properly”. An autistic blogger named Kat Williams contacted the DVLA and was passed from pillar to post while on the phone (see thread) but got a call back from a manager who told them that it was the General Medical Council who told them that all autistic drivers needed to be “looked into” (she has put in a Freedom of Information request for clarification on this). There was also suspicion voiced that this was an information gathering exercise prompted by the Department for Work and Pensions, seeking to find out who was claiming disability benefits and free public transport passes (which were issued to people with ASDs in some districts, including mine, until recently) when they could drive.

The NAS advised that people should notify, but again, there was no guarantee that the disclosure will be dealt with appropriately and the DVLA’s website really does not give much reassurance. They tell us that they might contact our GP or consultant, arrange for us to be examined, or expect us to take a further driving assessment; we really need more specific information on what they will do with a disclosure of an autism diagnosis. Again, some of us have not seen our consultant for years, but many GPs are not well-trained on autism and even psychiatrists, as many an inpatient with an ASD has discovered to their cost, are often woefully ignorant of the subject. (When I saw one of the GPs at my clinic to ask for referral for diagnosis, he left the request on his desk for months until I called to remind him!) And as has been noted, doctors who have plenty of patients to see will not be happy about having these requests dumped on them when they have never seen the individuals driving. The DVLA do, after all, already have driving examiners for this and the people concerned have already passed their tests (often more than one test, if they are bus or truck drivers).

As it happened, the DVLA today reverted the guidance on their website to its previous wording: “You must tell DVLA if your autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) affects your ability to drive safely”. Had they not done this, I would have waited for reports from other drivers who notified the DVLA about this issue before I did so myself. I currently have no other way of making a living and have been driving without any serious incident since 1995, have passed three driving tests and a HIAB (loading crane) equipment operation course, have held a Certificate of Professional Competency (CQC) since 2014 (when it became compulsory) and have no personal doubts about being safe to drive. I have no confidence that the DVLA would handle my disclosure appropriately and would have waited to hear exactly what their criteria are for allowing a person with a diagnosed autistic spectrum disorder to drive or continue driving.

I do have a suspicion that this is the result of Asperger’s syndrome being merged with autism in the recent diagnostic manual or DSM, something that many disability activists supported; they called the opponents of this change such insults as “Aspie snobs”. The reason was that the main criteria for the distinction of Asperger’s syndrome was that someone’s speech was not delayed; without that identifier, someone would always have been diagnosed with autism, not Asperger’s syndrome. It’s true that the name has fallen out of favour since it was discovered that Johann Asperger was a more committed Nazi than had previously been thought. However, as autism is generally considered a severe disability while Asperger’s syndrome was not, I feared that people previously diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome would be subject to the same legal and official disabilities as those with more severe autism, such as being refused the right to settle in another country on the grounds of being a potential “drain on the system”. If this is the reason, my fears about this have been confirmed, and people are likely to be subjected to unnecessary hardships and scrutiny because their condition is no longer considered distinct from a similar but more severe one. As a community, we should think very carefully before welcoming or celebrating such changes in future.

(It is, of course, true that there are often co-morbid mental health issues with autism and some autistic people have required mental health treatment for these or for the after-effects of trauma. However, these conditions have names and are diagnoses in their own right; autism on its own is not a psychiatric disorder and should not be treated as such.)

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Policing the boundaries

Indigo Jo Blogs - 3 March, 2019 - 18:11
Tom Bower and Mike Segalov on Good Morning Britain

During the launch of the Independent Group, while it was still a breakaway faction from the Labour party, there was an exchange on a morning TV show between Tom Bowers, the author of book on which the Mail on Sunday’s parade of irrelevances about Jeremy Corbyn is based, and Mike Segalov, a Jewish Labour party member who is generally supportive of Jeremy Corbyn, which ended in Bowers calling Segalov a “self-hating Jew”. This was widely condemned on social media but did not really receive much censure on TV or the mainstream print media. The phrase is an insult commonly used on dissenters within the Jewish community such as those who condemn Israeli abuses of the Palestinians or indeed Zionism itself. Meanwhile, as Mahershala Ali won a second Oscar this week, people have been sharing The Atlantic’s piece from 2017 on why “some Muslims” were not celebrating, i.e. because he is an “Ahmadi Muslim” or Qadiani to us, a sect that mainstream Islam does not accept as Islam because it accepts a recent claimant to prophethood.

To take another example: Wednesday before last, there was a letter in the Guardian signed by over 200 members and supporters of the Labour party defending its leader from accusations of tolerating anti-Semitism, citing his “lifetime record of campaigning for equality and human rights, including consistent support for initiatives against antisemitism, is formidable”. There was a letter in reply to that published a few days later which alleged that the signatories to the earlier letter “plainly feel the need to rely on their Judaism to bolster its content” when it is irrelevant because the “vast majority” fo the British Jewish community do not trust him on the issue. On Twitter the sentiment has been more bluntly expressed: that a lot of Corbyn’s Jewish supporters are in fact not Jewish and often rely on having a Jewish ancestor generations back to back up that claim when they otherwise have no connection to the Jewish community, are not Jewish according to Jewish law because their Jewish ancestry is on the wrong side, and are certainly not practising. (When non-Jews do it, identifying ‘good’ from ‘bad’ Jews is regarded as anti-Semitic, but in this case ‘mainstream’ Jews insist that they are the Jews to be listened to rather than “those others”.)

In our community, on the other hand, we have always had numerous people claiming to speak for us or for Islam itself whose purchase on Islam is extremely weak, at best. Some are members of sects which diverged from Islam even longer ago than the sect Mahershala Ali belongs to but still regard themselves as more Muslim than they regard us, and the feeling is mutual; others are secularists who use their Muslim heritage to cast slurs on the Muslim community in general or promote policies which are against our interests. I have a name for these sorts of people: Muslimanders, relating to their tendency to say “I’m a Muslim, and …”, and when challenged from within the community, they will usually turn back to their non-Muslim friends in the media and claim that it justifies their position because the Muslims are just showing the backwardness they were generalising about (the case of Usama Hasan losing his imam’s job in east London for believing in human evolution is a good example). If they are people with Real Media Jobs, they will not deign to address criticism from mere bloggers or social media chatterers. They’ve made it and we haven’t, and we’re just jealous.

And the worst thing that any Muslim can do in these situations is to say that the person who has a Muslim name (or claims to be a Muslim) but is spouting outrageous nonsense that is completely opposed to Islam or to Muslims’ interests on any level is not actually Muslim despite their name. This has been posited as a “litmus test” of moderate or extremist Muslim attitudes recently and calling a person with a Muslim name an unbeliever is deemed equivalent to signing someone’s death warrant, even if you know, and the person accusing you knows, that you do not have the kind of followers who would do that sort of thing (or indeed followers at all, as opposed to mere readers), but the intention may have nothing to do with wanting harm to come to that person but simply to make it clear that the person’s views are anti-Islamic, that they have no connection with the Muslim community at all and no right to speak for us. Supposedly someone may hear or read your words and take the Shari’ah into their own hands — we are held to be responsible for what anyone who reads them might do, even if we do not say “go and do this”. I’ve had to deal with non-Muslims sanctimoniously lecturing me about this from a position of ignorance in the past, as well as when an imam made very valid observations about the behaviour of Shi’ites and I commented that they resonated with my experiences of some of them.

There are also some Muslims who have internalised this fear of being seen as an extremist to such an extent that they will condemn Muslims for pointing out kufr (unbelief) when they see it, or for stating the fact that a member of a sect which has been acknowledged to be un-Islamic for decades or even centuries is not a Muslim, despite their also having used their media platform to spread obvious falsehoods about Islam or Muslims or to make claims that put Muslims in jeopardy. And yes, it is unacceptable in the Shari’ah to make careless accusations of unbelief in the context of disagreements (even if someone is in the wrong) or because someone commits a sin, even a public one; those are not the circumstances I am referring to. (There are categories of unbelief where anyone who denies it falls into unbelief; this is when people show obvious disdain for Islam, Almighty Allah or His Messenger, or deny things everybody knows such as that alcohol is prohibited. One must not be so afraid to be called an extremist — and I do believe this was the motive, in the incident I am referring to — as to deny that clear unbelief is what it is, or to defend an open enemy of the community when someone says they are not Muslim.)

Every minority has had to deal with well-known figures who go beyond being conciliatory into being disloyal, who often pose as spokespeople for the group. There are a number of expressions for these sorts of people: in the African-American context they are sometimes called Uncle Toms or House Negroes, British Asians sometimes call them coconuts (brown on the outside, white on the inside), while in Wales the term “Dic Siôn Dafydd” refers to a Welshman who “despises his language and who imitates the English”, after a fictional character by a 19th-century pamphleteer who pretended not to understand Welsh and refused to speak to even his mother in their native language. It’s no surprise that we have real or purported Muslims who behave in the same way or that the media or politicians prefer to hear from them than from people who challenge them, but it is important that we be able to point these people out without being called an extremist or having accusations of sympathy with terrorism made against us. The opinions of a small clique with access to the media cannot be assumed to be the true voice of the Muslim community, or to be more enlightened than the community they may have left behind.

Much as the traditional definition of a Jew may exclude some people with traditional Jewish surnames, the traditional definition of a Muslim, to Muslims, is not “someone who looks like a Muslim to the untutored eye”. Of course, Jews are defined as much by ancestry as by religion; a Muslim is defined by belief and affirmation, not by ancestry at all. Some of the people of Jewish ancestry defending Jeremy Corbyn are practising Jews (particularly certain groups of Haredim) and some are Jewish enough by ancestry to have been put in the gas chambers had they been around 70 years ago; some are not. Given that you don’t have to be practising to be Jewish to a racial anti-Semite, the opinions of those Jews who are part of modern Orthodox synagogue communities or have connections to Israel should not be the only ones taken into account when assessing the “Jewish view” of whether the Labour party has become anti-Semitic or not. And if Jews’ views on who is a Jew and who is not are to be respected, ours about who is a Muslim and who is not should be as well, and those with no loyalty to the community or who make their living confirming others’ prejudices should have their media platform lowered somewhat.

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Anti-Muslim poster linking Ilhan Omar to 9/11 sparks outrage in West Virginia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 March, 2019 - 16:54

Sign at event sponsored by Republican Party bore an image of the burning World Trade Center juxtaposed with a picture of the Muslim congresswoman

An anti-Muslim poster outside the chamber of the West Virginia House of Delegates that falsely connected the Minnesota congresswoman Ilhan Omar to the 9/11 terrorist attacks has drawn strong rebukes from local and national lawmakers, while causing the resignation of a state capitol staffer and the reported injury of another.

Related: The neo-Nazi plot against America is much bigger than we realize

Related: 'I know what intolerance looks like': Ilhan Omar takes her turn in the spotlight

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Kashmir is in a perilous state because of India’s pivot to nationalism | Ajai Shukla

The Guardian World news: Islam - 3 March, 2019 - 07:00

Nerendra Modi’s refusal to speak to the separatists and his party’s anti-Muslim agenda fuel a vicious cycle of violence and retaliation

On Friday, the four-day-long military flare-up between Pakistan and India began winding down, with Islamabad handing back an Indian air force pilot taken captive by the Pakistan army two days earlier. He had been shot down in the first aerial fighter combat between the two South Asian enemies since a full-scale war in 1971.

Yet, forgotten in the Indian euphoria is the fact that Kashmir, where the deaths of 40 security men in a suicide bomb attack last month triggered this latest crisis, continues to simmer. Even as the pilot walked free, four policemen died in an encounter with Kashmiri militants.

Separatist leaders and the young people who come out on the streets at their behest are considered Muslim traitors

Related: Stand-off in Kashmir: ‘Our last hope is that a war will sort this once and for all’

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The Tories’ response to raging Islamophobia? Turn a blind eye | Miqdaad Versi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 March, 2019 - 09:00

A litany of unpunished bigotry by MPs should perhaps be no surprise from a party which seems to attract anti-Muslim racists

On Thursday’s BBC Politics Live show, the Conservative MP Henry Smith dismissed claims of Islamophobia in the Conservative party, citing the fact he personally had not seen any anti-Muslim discrimination.

Yet we have a fair idea as to just how Islamophobia has taken hold among the party’s support base and how its leadership is responding to such attitudes.

Related: It isn’t just young people who have turned to Labour. Muslims have too | Miqdaad Versi

Related: Why it’s OK for young Muslims to be radical | Ali Ahmad

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Why it’s OK for young Muslims to be radical | Ali Ahmad

The Guardian World news: Islam - 28 February, 2019 - 07:00
Radical thought can be positive and progressive, it doesn’t have to mean joining a death cult

The legal and moral conundrums posed by the return (or not) of British jihadis following the collapse of the Islamic State “caliphate” has triggered renewed anxiety about the place of Muslim youth in western society. The home secretary, Sajid Javid’s populist bid to strip Shamima Begum of citizenship has heightened the pitch of an emotive debate. But little has changed in Britain’s approach to counter-terrorism, soon to undergo independent review following years of heavy criticism.

The Prevent strategy places entire communities under suspicion without necessarily being effective. European equivalents have fared similarly. A €2.5m French deradicalisation boot camp in the Loire valley asked participants to sing the national anthem, eat non-halal food and learn “Republican values” without rehabilitating a single individual.

The ummah, or 'community of believers', attunes many young British Muslims to suffering and injustice in other countries

Related: One man’s (very polite) fight against media Islamophobia

Related: I’m proud to be young, British and Muslim. Why should I change my name? | Iman Amrani

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Dutch court rules against Muslim man who refused to shave beard for job

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 February, 2019 - 14:02

Man’s benefits were cut after he refused to be clean shaven for asbestos removal training

A Dutch court has backed the suspension of a Muslim man’s benefits over his refusal on religious grounds to shave his beard while on training for a job.

The unnamed man had been offered a job as an asbestos removal officer but was subsequently told he would need to be clean shaven in order to undergo the training course.

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Decathlon drops French sports hijab after politicians threaten boycott

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 February, 2019 - 19:35

Retailer faced outrage from some of Macron’s ministers against Muslim head-coverings

The French sports store Decathlon has cancelled a plan to put a sports hijab on the market in France after several politicians, including one from Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, called for a boycott.

The retailer’s plain, lightweight running headscarf, which covers the hair but not the face, is already on sale in Morocco and was to be extended to France and worldwide. But after a social media storm and outrage from some politicians against Muslim head coverings, the company backtracked and said the garment would not go on sale “at the present time” in France.

Le sport émancipe. Il ne soumet pas. Mon choix de femme et de citoyenne sera de ne plus faire confiance à une marque qui rompt avec nos valeurs.
Ceux qui tolèrent les femmes dans l'espace public uniquement quand elles se cachent ne sont pas des amoureux de la liberté.#Decathlon

Notre service client a reçu plus de 500 appels et mails depuis ce matin. Nos équipes dans nos magasins ont été insultées et menacées, parfois physiquement.
Pour vous donner une idée, voici le type de messages qu’on reçoit :

Related: Sadness, anger and fear: how Nice is responding to the burkini ban

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Dump him!

Indigo Jo Blogs - 25 February, 2019 - 17:04
Picture of Pamela Stephenson Connolly, an older white woman wearing a dress with bright patterns in purple, green, red, orange and other colours with a gold-colour handbag over her right shoulder and holding a bottle-green scarf in her left hand. Behind her the wall has logos that read "Kiyomi" and "Jupiters hotel & casino, Gold Coast".Pamela Stephenson Connolly

This is about a letter to Pamela Stephenson Connolly, the Guardian’s agony aunt for all things sexual. The letter is from a 27-year-old woman who had developed an eating disorder as a result of a previous boyfriend’s porn use; she used her current boyfriend’s phone and found a pornographic video open as well as searches for material about very young or skinny women. Rather than telling the woman to reconsider her position, she tells her to confront her boyfriend about it in a “non-combative” manner and apologise for “snooping”.

It’s not the first time the Guardian has failed to tell someone who wrote in with a story of what was obviously abuse that this is what was going on: recall Annalisa Barbieri and the young lady whose mother called her fat and ugly and constantly compared her to models on the TV. The paper really needs to educate some of its columnists about this issue. In this case, the columnist could have told the author of the letter that maybe she ought to think of whether she really wanted to be in a relationship with this man who is unfaithful, obviously not satisfied with her and unlikely to change regardless of whether the relationship progresses. The letter does not say how long this relationship has lasted so far but it is better to get out of it early than allow it to awaken a dormant mental illness.

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What good will splitting the Labour party do?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 24 February, 2019 - 23:03
A group of 11 people (4 male, all but one white) standing at the bottom of a flight of steps inside a building.The (so far) 11 members of the Independent Group.

So, last week it finally happened, the split that had been rumoured for several months: seven Labour MPs, initially, resigned the whip. Rather than forming a new party or just joining the Liberal Democrats, they decided to form an “independent group” which has been incorporated as a company rather than a political party, which it has been pointed out absolves them from disclosing the sources of their funding. The MPs who initially took part were:

  • Luciana Berger (Liverpool Wavertree)
  • Ann Coffee (Stockport)
  • Mike Gapes (Ilford South)
  • Chris Leslie (Nottingham East; before 2007, Shipley)
  • Angela Smith (Penistone & Stocksbridge)
  • Gavin Shuker (Luton South)
  • Chuka Umunna (Streatham, south London)

The two principal reasons given were Brexit and anti-Semitism but the MPs are clearly on the right of the party and cited reasons such as Jeremy Corbyn being a threat to national security and his hostility to the private sector. Since then, another Labour MP (Joan Ryan, for Enfield North) and three Conservative MPs (Anna Soubry, Heidi Allen and Sarah Wollaston), all noted opponents of Brexit, have joined them. Ian Austin has also resigned the Labour whip but not joined the new group; it has also been noted that Nicholas Soames’s Twitter profile has lost any reference to the Conservative party, although his website is still a sea of blue and there are two links to Tory party websites on it.

Even before they offered to replace the DUP in a confidence-and-supply arrangement with the Tories and promised to support them in any no-confidence vote, the impeccable right-wing credentials of all the Labour MPs who defected have been detailed in a number of Twitter threads. Quite simply they seem to represent the illiberal instincts of New Labour without the moderating influence of the Left. One of them, Angela Smith, made a remark on Politics Live on Tuesday morning that being a member of an ethnic minority is not just a matter of being Black or “having a funny tinge” — the point being that you could be white and Jewish — which immediately provoked widespread scorn. Smith is also on record as having accepted gifts from a construction firm linked to the privatised water industry and also opposes renationalisation of said industry; she unsuccessfully tried in 2007 to keep the details of her expenses private. In her initial speech at the group’s launch, she claimed that real working-class people did not like being “patronised by left-wing intellectuals and told that being working-class and poor is a state of grace”, a classic right-wing trope and a straw man as far as the mainstream Left is concerned nowadays.

All of them who were in parliament in the mid-2000s voted for the Iraq war. Those who came after voted against investigations into it. None of them voted against the 2015 welfare bill. Like most of the Labour defectors, Joan Ryan has talked of the anti-Semitism issue being a major reason for her defection, but she is in fact strongly partisan towards the state of Israel; such people, Jewish or otherwise, are not the people most qualified to dictate what constitutes anti-Semitism. Chuka Umunna has not been consistently anti-Brexit in his stance, despite this alliance being prompted largely by Corbyn’s ambiguous stance regarding Brexit; in September 2016, he told the Huffington Post that he would support Theresa May in sacrificing access to the Single Market so as to enable restrictions on freedom of movement (he later ‘clarified’, claiming that he had “always been totally consistent in saying that Britain must be a member of the Single Market, on which thousands of jobs and rules protecting workers’ rights rely”). Umunna also played the “more British than thou” game against the Muslim community in 2013 when he purported to be ‘horrified’ that the head of Universities UK had voiced approval of religious societies allowing the separation of men and women at their events on campus, claiming it “offends basic norms in our society”. Whose society is that, Chuka?

As for the Tory defectors, all of them voted for the Coalition austerity programme and at least two of them have defended their position and said it was worth it. Soubry has voted in favour of repealing the Human Rights Act, against making caste discrimination illegal, against strengthening the military covenant (in other words, providing decent accommodation and conditions for military personnel), in favour of cuts to funding of local government, against measures to combat climate change, in favour of reducing the scope of legal aid and in favour of secret evidence in court. Heidi Allen has also opposed investigations into the Iraq war and voted against retaining the Human Rights Act. These are not progressive MPs by any stretch, despite Heidi Allen’s display of tears at food banks (accompanied by the least Labour of Labour MPs, Frank Field).

In my opinion, the defections prove that adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism last summer was a mistake: despite the lack of any serious new incident, the ‘issue’ is still a huge bone of discontent for the right-wing of the party who will never be satisfied unless anyone who has voiced anything but the most polite criticism of Israel and its rampant disregard for Palestinian human rights is forced into humiliating apologies and/or expelled. Much of the “anti-Semitism” otherwise alleged bears no resemblance to anything that would be considered racism if said about any other group (and if some said it did, they would be told “tough luck”) but centres on statements that trigger “anti-Semitic tropes”, such as their controlling the media or international finance, which are interpreted so loosely that any suggestion that they (or groups of them) have undue influence can lead to an accusation and once accused, defence constitutes offence. For this reason I’m always inclined to doubt any claim that the problem is ‘widespread’; the figure, if there is one, will be inflated by over-detecting ‘tropes’. Much as with the issue of FGM in the UK, it’s nowadays automatically assumed that the problem is major and anyone who doubts it is “in denial”.

The policy also means that no active Muslim can have a role in the party as anything they say on the matter will be held up to hostile scrutiny, which I strongly suspect is part of the motive for some of the agitators even though they do not say it openly. Muslims are expected to be grateful clients rather than play an active role in the party that they have long seen as best representing their interests. The irony is that we are accused of being racist for refusing to accept a racist demand that Palestinians should suffer so that Jews do not have to — and today, this refers not to suffering oppression, but suffering any impingement on their lifestyle (hence such things as water theft). While Muslims are not the only victims of racist Tory policies, of course, many of us find it galling that current or former Labour MPs and their friends in the media froth about anti-Semitism while declaring that they will vote to keep the Tories in power when their record on racism is far worse.

This is a major reason why I have not rejoined the Labour party at any time since I left in 1995; it is not a free speech zone on this or any other issue. It demands Leninist levels of loyalty even when delivering only slightly watered-down free-market capitalism. If you’re caught even talking about tactical voting or suggesting that people vote for someone else besides their “red prince” or Blairite war hawk, you’re out. You can get expelled by local party apparatchiks for any statement they deem disloyal, and this policy gives them another avenue to silence dissenting voices. The defectors are, of course, not people silenced by the party’s compliance regime but people who want it enforced more and more rigidly. There is a reason they did not simply defect to the Liberal Democrats, and it’s not just because their stock tumbled at the 2015 election and has not recovered greatly: the Lib Dems are a democratic party with none of the control-freakery and stage-management of the Labour and Tory parties.

Sadly, despite the huge media interest (Owen Jones commented that the target demographic appeared to be senior journalists), I suspect that this will only entrench the Corbynites in control of the Labour party. If Corbyn is defeated at a subsequent general election, it is likely that they will support him if he insists on remaining in position and if he does not, they will support his anointed successor and can now more easily resort to the stab-in-the-back narrative much as Labour supporters often do about the 1983 defeat, blaming the SDP rather than the Falklands war victory or their own manifesto. It also allows their former local parties to find a replacement before the next general election and thus there may be no way back for them. If Labour had contested another election and lost before this split, his supporters would have realised — if that were indeed the case — that the electorate would not vote for Corbyn and would have had to assess why, much as was the case after the 1983 election. However, some of his policies are popular with Labour members and not as unpopular with the electorate as the right-wing separatists think; they conveniently forget that the membership decisively rejected the functionaries who stood for leadership in 2015 and this was before Corbyn’s victory triggered the influx of new members or “£3 supporters”. I know many Labour voters who are dissatisfied with Corbyn to some extent but are desperate to get rid of the Tories is vital and would be devastated if their concerns were hijacked to secure another Tory victory.

So, we need to know what the Labour defectors hoped to achieve. Do they really want to stop Brexit, or force changes in the Labour party, or simply stop Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister by any means necessary? How far down that road will they go, and still say it is worth it?

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China says 'preventive' work in Xinjiang detention camps should be applauded

The Guardian World news: Islam - 24 February, 2019 - 07:02

Government steps up outreach to foreign envoys, explaining its achievements in the region home to Muslim minorities

China’s counter-terrorism and de-radicalisation efforts in its far western region of Xinjiang should be applauded for creating a new method of tackling the problem, a senior diplomat told foreign envoys last week.

China is stepping up its diplomatic outreach over controversial detention camps in the heavily Muslim region, inviting more foreign diplomats to visit as it seeks to head off criticism from Muslim-majority nations and at the United Nations.

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'I didn’t get here by being polite': ABC's Sami Shah on free speech in Australia

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 February, 2019 - 23:35

Comedian and breakfast radio host demands the right to be offensive but concedes some lines shouldn’t be crossed

On his summer holidays from his job as co-host of the ABC’s breakfast radio show in Melbourne, Sami Shah got to work. He’s making a Radio National series on freedom of speech in Australia, called Shut Up, for which he has interviewed everyone from conservative journalist Andrew Bolt to lawyer Nyadol Nyuon. He’s finishing off a Melbourne Comedy festival show. He writes micro stories on Medium. He’s chipping away at a novel.

“I’ve never done one thing at one time,” he says over coffee in his inner-city home. “I get bored quickly otherwise.

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Yes, we do talk about the family

Indigo Jo Blogs - 22 February, 2019 - 17:41
A black and white picture of two white women, an elderly, white-haired one with glasses wearing a large necklace with large beads hanging from it, and a younger one with dark hair standing behind her but bending down to look at her from the side.

Why won’t Remainers talk about family? (Giles Fraser, Unherd)

In this article the Anglican bishop talks about how modern British society has palmed off the duty of caring for its elderly on to paid workers and relies chiefly on imported labour, particularly from eastern Europe, to do it. Care chiefs and pro-EU politicians have warned of a care crisis as these staff leave or are unable to get visas to come here at the same time as the number of people needing elderly care is predicted to double. Fraser dismisses this as “Remain-inspired end-of-the-world fearmongering” and says that freedom of movement has enabled young people to cut ties with their families, to go and work wherever the work is or wherever the pay or the lifestyle is best. “All this,” he says, “is a philosophy that could not have been better designed to spread misery and unhappiness”:

This is what happens when that much over praised value of social mobility becomes the way we think about dealing with social inequality. Social mobility is very much a young person’s value, of course. Get on. Get out of your community. Find a job anywhere you please. Undo the ties that bind you. The world is your oyster.

This is the philosophy that preaches freedom of movement, the Remainers’ golden cow. And it is this same philosophy that encourages bright working-class children to leave their communities to become rootless Rōnin, loyal to nothing but the capitalist dream of individual acquisition and self-advancement.

He starts with an anecdote about a woman who rang a doctors’ surgery because her elderly father had soiled himself. The doctor, allegedly, asked her if she had children and if so, had she ever called the doctor because their nappy needed changing? She had no answer to that. He heard this from his friend who is a GP. I really wonder how many people ring doctors’ surgeries and get to speak to a doctor over the phone, especially about a problem such as this. In reality, you would speak to a receptionist, and they are more likely to just say “sorry, we can’t provide that service” and refer them to social services if she needs someone to care for her father. But Fraser tells us that it’s our duty to look after our elderly parents rather than to “subcontract” it. “It is the daughter of the elderly gentleman that should be wiping his bottom.” I don’t know if he just meant daughters but that is what lots of people have taken away.

Fraser may not have noticed, but sometimes there are reasons why someone might not be able to be their elderly parents’ sole carer and sometimes good reasons why they might not want to. Maybe they were abused, exposed to harm or neglected by the parent as children and found themselves living with their parents as adults; maybe they spent their childhood caring for another relative and never got a break; maybe the elderly parent has dementia and is impossible to live with. Maybe the adult child is disabled and cannot do the job on their own, or maybe they have other children or other relatives to look after, perhaps including a disabled one. Caring for an elderly relative can be more taxing than caring for a baby because babies are small and light and elderly people are full adult size and need lifting, which many people do not have the training to do properly. It is not a good thing if the social care system is suddenly deprived of thousands of workers.

He assumes that it is freedom of movement that drains young people out of small towns, leaving them to “become ghost towns of hopelessness”. However, young people do not have to go elsewhere in Europe to get away from such places and before industries and then such facilities as youth clubs and even libraries were destroyed to satisfy the demands of ideology, union-busting and cost-cutting, most of the young people stayed in their home towns as they had no reason to leave. The minority who got university placements always left. Fraser supports a no-deal Brexit and believes that this will shock us back to looking after our families as he thinks we did in the past, a past which, he told us on Twitter this morning, was “better; much better”. Well, it was better if you were white, not disabled and had the good fortune to be part of a happy family. If you weren’t all of these things, it was likely to have been miserable: divorce was difficult, spousal abuse was widely tolerated and marital rape deemed legal, people turned a blind eye to child abuse and disabled children spent most or all of their childhoods in institutions and for some disabled people it was their whole lives. That’s right; we didn’t always look after our families in the days before capitalism, Thatcher and the EEC.

Bobby Sutliff’s cover of Richard Thompson’s
Small Town Romance (could not find the original).

And the irony is in the headline: the claim that Remainers never think of the family. Well, we do, because the immigration regime since the days of the Coalition is notorious for splitting up families because the British spouse does not have the required income, and if we leave the EU, the same will apply to British/European couples who are already facing uncertainty about whether they will be able to stay together or easily visit each other’s countries. Maybe Fraser thinks that this is also a good thing, because people will have to find partners among the people they know rather than, say, people they find though the Internet; but that actually is not possible for many people because their home community is dysfunctional in some way or because everyone knows the rumours about that went around about you when you were at school (the song Small Town Romance by Richard Thompson springs to mind), so if the Internet offers a chance of a relationship or a marriage that is free from the baggage of the past, surely it can only be a good thing.

It used to be said that Tories loved the family so much, one was not enough for them. It’s a long time since we heard any Tory preach about family values; people might just point out that they only care about families if they’re the right sort, preferably rich and white. It’s sad that today, a churchman that was thought to be reasonable and compassionate has started demanding that we narrow people’s horizons and restrict their opportunities to find not only work and prosperity but also love and family life.

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Fears for Uighur comedian missing amid crackdown on cultural figures

The Guardian World news: Islam - 22 February, 2019 - 01:14

Adil Mijit worked for a government arts troupe for 30 years, but his family fear he has been taken into a re-education camp

Arslan Mijit Hidayat says there is not a single Uighur who has not heard of his father-in-law, Adil Mijit. “We have a saying in the Uighur language ‘From seven to 70’ and anyone between these ages would know him,” said Hidayat, 31, who was born in Sydney to Uighur parents. “He’s A-list. When you think comedy, you think him.”

Mijit, 55, spent 30 years performing in plays and operas for a government arts troupe in Xinjiang, the far-western Chinese territory home to some 12 million Uighurs. Hidayat compares him to Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey and Australian comedian Carl Barron.

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George Galloway should not be readmitted to the Labour party

Indigo Jo Blogs - 20 February, 2019 - 22:31
Two white men in close-fitting all-in-one bodysuits. George Galloway, the older of the two, has a red one on which has a very large scooped neckline, and Burns is (apparently) younger, has a face that looks like a woman's and has a turquoise suit which leaves his left shoulder and part of his torso bare. Two doors are behind them with "Toilet" and "Shower" on them.George Galloway (then MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, east London) and Pete Burns on Celebrity Big Brother, January 2006

A longer post on the new ‘independent group’ formed by breakaway Labour and Tory MPs is in the works but I heard something today which has disturbed a lot of people that I know which is that George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour party in 2003 and then formed the Respect Coalition in collaboration with the Socialist Workers’ Party, has applied to be readmitted to the party. I disagreed with his expulsion at the time — one of the charges was that he encouraged British soldiers to disobey orders, which in the context of that particular (illegal, racist, ill-motivated) war was not unreasonable — but in subsequent years he has proved himself a quite disreputable character, having served two terms as an MP for the Respect party and in both of them being more interested in publicity stunts than in doing his job. The most egregious of these was appearing in Celebrity Big Brother, which goes on for several weeks in January (which is parliamentary time) if one is not voted off the show.

He was always notorious for cosying up to any dictator who wasn’t a US client, most famously Saddam Hussein, but he finally burned his bridges with anyone who had continued to defend him by calling someone a “window-licker” (a derogatory term for someone with a learning disability) on Twitter and then making a video in which he defended Julian Assange, the Wikileaks founder credibly accused of rape in Sweden, by saying that it could not have been rape because the woman was “in the sex game”. I know a few women who are very upset at the prospect of his readmission and such a move will lose them a lot of goodwill among people who hang on because they still have hopes about Corbyn as a progressive leader with a strong anti-austerity stance even if, say, they disagree with his stance on Brexit. Frankly, the hashtag used by some fringe feminists “#LabourLosingWomen” might become a reality.

At the moment, he has only reapplied; however, this week the party briefly readmitted the Liverpool council leader Derek Hatton whose antics plunged the city into huge debt in the mid-1980s as he made a vain attempt to defy Thatcher; the debt was not paid off until 2001 while he personally swanned around in expensive cars while running his Cyprus-based property empire. In the event he was suspended again after two days (for tweets from 2012 calling for Jews to “start speaking out publicly against the ruthless murdering being carried out by Israel”, a demand that will be familiar to any Muslim reading this), but it makes a lot of people worried about the reaction of the same committee to any readmission application from someone like Galloway. It must be resisted. The party’s name will be mud otherwise.

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'Free pass for mobs': India urged to stem vigilante violence against minorities

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 February, 2019 - 05:42

Human Rights Watch blames police inertia and government failures for lack of justice for those affected

Complicity by local officials and police inertia mean dozens of vigilante murders of religious minorities in India have gone unpunished over the last four years, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

The report urges the government to prosecute mob violence by so-called “cow protection groups” that have targeted Muslims, Dalits and other minorities in the five years since the Hindu nationalist BJP came to power.

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