We can't eradicate racism but telling its targets to grin and bear it isn't good enough | Tim Soutphommasane

The Guardian World news: Islam - 21 September, 2016 - 01:30

Australia’s values of civility and tolerance are being tested by anti-Muslim rhetoric in parliament – and society’s response will be crucial

Debates about racism in Australia are always contentious, more so when they involve political representatives, but the public should be forthright in speaking out against appeals to fear.

Australians should resist attempts to divide the country according to race or religion. It’s only right to expect political representatives to set the tone for society.

Related: Comprehending Pauline is not the challenge. Engaging constructively with Hansonism is | Katharine Murphy

Related: Meeting Pauline Hanson's voters: silent screamers find their voice

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Race discrimination commissioner criticises Pauline Hanson for stoking division

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 September, 2016 - 21:06

Exclusive: Tim Soutphommasane enters debate as Essential releases poll showing 49% of Australians support a ban on Muslim immigration

The race discrimination commissioner, Tim Soutphommasane, says Pauline Hanson is stoking division and appealing to xenophobia as new polling suggests 49% of Australians support One Nation’s call for a ban on Muslim immigration.

Following Hanson’s first speech in the Senate last week, in which she declared that Australia was in danger of being “swamped” by Muslims and reiterated her call for a ban on Muslim immigration, Soutphommasane was expected to use the opportunity of a forum at the Australian National University to urge Australians to resist politicians’ attempts to divide the community according to race or religion.

Related: When we walked out on Pauline Hanson, we were reaching out to decent Australians| Richard Di Natale

Related: If you want a response from the Muslim community, first understand it | Mostafa Rachwani

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Trending Trolls and Being Silent on Social Media

altmuslim - 20 September, 2016 - 20:30
By Saud Inam Abraham Lincoln said: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” We all know what trolls are when it comes to the internet. Those unbearably annoying, opinionated, arrogant, and argumentative. Unfortunately, we have trolls in other forms too. I call them Trending Trolls. [Read More...]

Muslims in bombing suspect's city safeguard community from backlash

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 September, 2016 - 18:06

Local leaders in Elizabeth, New Jersey, assembled to express concerns and secure mosques amid rise in violence against Muslims: ‘People will hate us regardless’

When he heard on Monday morning that the man suspected of being responsible for a bombing in Chelsea was a Muslim from Elizabeth, New Jersey, Nawaz Sheikh knew the local community needed to act.

Sheikh, the president of the Muslim Community Center of Union County, picked up the phone and called Hassen Abdellah, the president of Elizabeth’s Dar ul-Islam mosque, to discuss how to respond.

This image says it all. Let's end the politically correct agenda that doesn't put America first. #trump2016

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After the New York bomb, Muslim Americans are braced for a backlash | Faiza Patel

The Guardian World news: Islam - 20 September, 2016 - 01:06

Anti-Muslim sentiment, stoked by toxic political rhetoric, is already high. In the coming days, innocent Americans will be targeted simply because of their faith

Terrorism has strained traditional American notions of individual responsibility. While such attacks fortunately remain rare in our country (data shows that out of 14,000 murders in the United States, a few dozen per year are motivated by religious or political ideologies of any persuasion), violence by a Muslim is often attributed to the entire American Muslim community. Sometimes, it is accompanied by calls for sending them home or clamping down on them in various ways. Even before police identified Ahmad Khan Rahami as the person suspected of setting off the bomb that exploded in New York on Saturday night, social media was awash with anti-Muslim slurs and threats. A twitter campaign launched to support Muslims was hijacked to spread fear and hatred instead.

Already reeling from the divisive and bitter rhetoric that has marked the current presidential campaign, Muslim Americans are bracing for the backlash. My own Facebook page is flooded with warnings not to leave home and tips for staying safe if one does venture out, especially directed to those of us who look “Muslim” – like the two young Brooklyn mothers in headscarves who were attacked earlier this month while out walking their infants in strollers. Their fears are hardly misplaced. According to a recent analysis by California State University, a compilation of official hate crime data from 20 states shows that in 2015 anti-Islam incidents increased by 78.2% and anti-Arab incidents jumped by 219%, “the most precipitous rise since 2001”. Another study shows that mosques have been attacked at rates not seen since the 2010 controversy over building an Islamic cultural center near Ground Zero.

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Don't confuse Islamic faith with terrorism, says Nice attack survivor

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 September, 2016 - 18:45

Yasmine Bouzegan Marzouk lost three family members in the truck attack in July and spoke at a national ceremony in tribute to French victims of terrorist attacks

A young French Muslim woman who lost three family members in the 14 July jihadi attack on Nice made an impassioned plea on Monday not to confuse the Islamic faith with terrorism.

Yasmine Bouzegan Marzouk, 21, told a national ceremony in tribute to the French victims of terror attacks that they were carried out by “barbarians who do not follow the law, faith or religion”.

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On safety around trucks and mobiles

Indigo Jo Blogs - 19 September, 2016 - 12:00

A blue curtain-sided trailer halfway round a tight corner on a road. Part of this is a public service announcement. I was involved in a minor collision a couple of weeks ago. The scene is in the photograph on the right.

I was taking this bend in the large articulated lorry you can see. It’s a minor road in Edenbridge, Kent which serves some industrial premises as well as some housing. The tractor unit is on its side of the road but the back of the trailer is not. That’s normal when a long articulated vehicle turns a sharp corner. You will notice that it’s not wide enough for a car to get through. Yet, someone tried to drive one through that gap, and the driver’s side of her car ended up against my trailer’s wheels. I stopped when I heard her shouting and honking, and she managed to reverse her car back.

Much of the publicity surrounding truck safety is about cyclists getting crushed when they attempt to overtake a truck, usually an eight-wheel tipper truck, on the left as the tipper is just about to turn left. The problem has to do with poor visibility; there is a blind spot immediately below a truck’s nearside window, which is only partly alleviated by a down-facing mirror above the window. Very little education is given to other road users about how to stay safe around big trucks; you only learn of the dangers when you learn to drive a truck, it seems. I commonly find car drivers sneaking round me, or trying to, when I’m attempting to negotiate a busy junction, often impatient with the fact that a truck is wider than a car and much longer and that the lanes are not wide enough to accommodate the vehicle. I need more than one lane, which is why I straddle both.

The back of an articulated lorry consisting of a low-height, white Iveco tractor unit coupled to a long, 15ft 3in high trailer with blue curtain sides. The truck is on a bend, the tractor is over to the left while the back of the trailer is about halfway over the other side of the road.Another thing to be aware of is that a truck driver cannot see all around him all the time. We have no rear-view mirror (some trucks have back cameras, but they are only used when reversing). We have three mirrors and, between them, six mirrors (sometimes we may have CCTV screens showing what’s in various blind spots as well). Add the dials on the dashboard and there are ten places we could be lookng at any one time. So in a short space of time, if you appear alongside a truck, there is a very strong chance that the driver will not see you immediately. If he is driving slowly, that might well give you time to get into a dangerous position, as was the case with the lady in this crash, who told me that she was on her side of the road and I wasn’t on mine and “never dreamed that I wouldn’t stop”. In fact, my tractor unit was on the correct side, but the trailer does not follow the same course as the tractor when turning a bend. Unless it has a rear-steer axle, which most do not (a few supermarket trailers and the new ultra-long ones do), it takes a bend more widely, especially if the bend is sharp, like this one. So even if the gap had appeared wide enough when I began taking this bend, it would not have been when I was halfway round it, or more.

The key to staying safe around trucks is to stay away. If a truck (especially an articulated one) is taking a sharp bend and you’re going the other way, stop until it’s finished. If there’s one straddling two lanes in a narrow one-way system or roundabout, stay back and don’t try to sneak up its side. Stay away from the back of a large rigid (single) truck, as on most of them the back will swing the other way when it turns (more so if it has rear steer). Don’t walk close to it on the road if its engine is running (don’t, for example, cross immediately in front of it; if you’re just below the windscreen, the driver will not see you unless he looks in the down-facing mirror, and trucks built before about 2006 don’t have them). Many lorries nowadays have stickers on the back saying “if you can’t see my mirrors, I can’t see you”, but there are many places that a driver might not see straight away. Just stay right back.

The past week or so, there has been a lot of discussion about raising the penalties for using mobiles at the wheel, after a man was jailed for nine years for killing a cyclist by hitting him at 65mph in his van, while sending a text message; the man was a repeat offender who had received five fixed penalty notices and attended two “awareness courses” for the same offence. This was clearly a recidivist, reckless driver with no regard for others’ safety or the law, and if he had been banned from driving, would have driven anyway. Deborah Orr, in yesterday’s Guardian, noted that convictions for using mobiles while driving fell by half between 2010 and 2014 and that this had been “blamed on cuts in traffic policing” (rather than that fewer people were doing it, largely because cars and sat-navs came to double as hands-free kits and because smartphones developed better voice-control) and suggested that “if fewer people are getting caught, the sensible thing would be to beef up the consequences when they are”. Apparently, from next year, the penalty for using a mobile while driving goes up to six points (meaning two such offences results in a ban) from the current three.

A hands-free kit consisting of a wire with a plug similar to a headphone jack, two earpieces, a microphone with a button, and a clip.I started driving commercially in 2000 and back then, mobile use while at the wheel was at the norm. Hands-free kits were not very reliable, often consisting of a wire with an earpiece, a microphone and a button or two (see picture). They often came bundled with the phone, but I rarely used mine because they were unconfortable and liable to get tangled up. I often took calls when driving and when I had to make a manoeuvre that really did require two hands (even changing gear), I’d say “hold on a minute”, put the phone down, do whatever I had to do and then picked it up again. That said, I was somewhat relieved when the ban came in, as I always realised it was dangerous and not being able to use the phone meant the boss couldn’t bother you. The advantage of this became more obvious years later when one of my regular employers fitted their trucks with trackers, and would call me to demand explanations for why I’d stopped (usual response was “to use the loo”) or taken the route I’d taken.

If they do increase the penalties, the new penalties should only apply when a mobile is used when actually driving, not when stationary. Many people know that it is illegal to hold a phone while driving, but they do not realise that you are breaking the law by doing so when stopped at the side of the road if the engine is running. Sometimes there is no choice; the engine needs to be running to pair the phone to the car’s hands-free, as the connection will cut when the engine is switched on (which usually cuts power to the electronics) and some cars and some phones will not automatically reconnect. Smartphones are often used as maps, sat-navs and music players these days, not just as phones or social media clients. The danger is not in the phone being used when the engine is running, but in the phone being held by the driver who should have two hands on the controls, and the law should reflect this.

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World's oldest library reopens in Fez: 'You can hurt us, but you can't hurt the books'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 September, 2016 - 07:00

After years of restoration, the ninth-century Qarawiyyin library in north-eastern Morocco is finally set to reopen – with strict security and a new underground canal system to protect its most prized manuscripts

The caretaker stares at the wrought iron door and its four ancient locks with a gleam in his eyes. Outside, the Moroccan sun shines down upon the ornate coloured tiles of Khizanat al-Qarawiyyin, located in the old medina of Fez. This, it is widely believed, is the oldest library in the world – and soon it will be open to the general public again.

“It was like healing wounds,” says Aziza Chaouni, a Fez native and the architect tasked with restoring the great library.

I hope that the people from Fez will use the space like a second home

Related: An insider's guide to Fez: Ceramics, courtyards and Macbook decals

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No, we do not need to act on that referendum

Indigo Jo Blogs - 18 September, 2016 - 14:55

The border along the main Dublin-Belfast road during the Troubles. There is a queue of cars and trucks, with signs saying things like 'Please wait, security check in progress, remain in vehicleIn the months since the referendum on leaving the EU, opinion seems to have hardened on the matter of whether there should be any question of leaving, given the 51.9% vote in favour. In the days following, when the value of the pound had dropped to a long-term low, David Lammy suggested that we should “stop this madness” given the very slim majority, the rapid exposure of the premises of the Brexit campaign as lies, the economic shock and the rise of racially-motivated violence. More than two months later, with favourable trade deals with any other country nowhere on the horizon and hardline anti-Europe Tories in key cabinet positions (such as Liam Fox who favours withdrawal from the EU customs union and a hard border with Ireland, which will make scenes like that in the accompanying picture a reality again), with the new PM insisting there will be no new referendum, no Parliamentary vote and no general election before her government takes the UK out of the EU as a matter of prerogative, the mainstream Left has developed a fatalism over the matter, with both Jeremy Corbyn and Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the TUC, stating over the past few days that we “have to respect democracy”; only Owen Smith, the Labour party leadership challenger, advocating a new referendum on whatever deal the Tories are able to strike.

First, as has been pointed out many times (most recently by Kenneth Clarke, the Tory MP and former minister in both John Major’s and David Cameron’s governments), a referendum is by definition advisory and not legally binding. Parliament is the law-making body and we do not have the ‘initiatives’ found in some democratic countries such as Switzerland and parts of the USA. There are many reasons why there is a separation between public opinion and the legislative process; it ensures that moral panics and passing outrages cannot, in general, result in lasting unjust law. The anti-Europe sentiment that led to the recent referendum was not, of course, sudden; it had been building for years, in large part because of repeated media misinformation, much of it now known to have been sourced from Boris Johnson but eagerly repeated by the same commercial press that for years repeated myths about “Winterval” and “banning Christmas”. Politicians had resented the checks on their power that membership of the EU imposes, as they do in the case of the Human Rights Act, and the Press, catering to a middle-class, white, provincial readership that sees itself not in need of human rights, eagerly assisted them.

There is plenty of precedent in the UK and other representative democracies for the majority not always getting their own way. No government since the Second World War received an outright majority of the popular vote; most received a share far lower than 48.1%, the share of the population that voted against leaving the EU. (The combined Tory/Lib Dem share of the vote in 2010 was 59.1%, though the combination itself did not have a popular mandate; a Tory/Labour coalition would have had a combined vote-share of 65.1%.) There are numerous examples of parties receiving shares of seats wildly out of proportion to their share of the vote because of how their votes were distributed (e.g. the Liberal/SDP alliance in 1983 and UKIP in 2015). The incumbent Labour government received more votes than the Conservatives in 1951, yet lost the election for the same reason. In the USA, George W Bush won the presidential election in 2000 despite receiving fewer votes nationally than his Democrat opponent, Al Gore, again because of where his votes were cast. There is also a long history of Parliament voting for what it sees as the greater good in spite of perceived public opinion. There has long been public and media support for the reintroduction of the death penalty; it has remained off the statute books because Parliament, even under Thatcher, was aware of a long history of miscarriages of justice both before and after abolition. Some polls put the support for the death penalty at over 70%, far higher than in the case of the recent vote to leave the EU. The Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829 produced a flood of petitions opposing the law unmatched in volume before or since; the law, however, remains and has been strengthened.

As I said in my previous entry on this subject, nearly all the dissatisfaction with the EU is rooted in British government policy and economic orthodoxies, not in EU diktats, and those orthodoxies are not being challenged by the present Tory government or its media. In some conditions, sovereignty and ‘freedom’ are more important than jobs and economics; much as a woman might flee an abusive marriage into poverty, a nation might well justify exiting a union whose forces were shooting people in the street or torturing people in its prisons. That is not the case here. The public does not know the economic consequences of leaving the EU, as nobody has shown willingness to put their cards on the table until we trigger Article 50 and formally begin negotiations. It is not acceptable that the government should isolate this country politically, at the expense of thousands if not millions of jobs, on the basis of a vote of slightly over 50% driven by false promises and outright lies, when the facts about leaving were not known and the vote might go differently once they are.

The MP and philosopher Edmund Burke famously said to the electors of Bristol (who were, at the time, a small subset of the population of Bristol), “your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion”. The political classes, who sometimes do know better than the electorate, in this case betrayed their trust dramatically, failing to subject the referendum to a threshold of, say, 60% of the vote or the basis of our exit from the EU to a further referendum or even a Parliamentary vote. In any other situation, a proportion of 51.9% would be called “about half” and the fact that the faction in power belongs to that about-half does not change that fact. To honour the result of the June referendum regardless of the consequences would prove all the worst stereotypes about democracy — “two wolves and a sheep deciding who’s for dinner”, “mob rule in which 51% can deprive 49% of their rights”, etc. It must not be allowed to happen, least of all as a result of fatalism or subservience on the part of Labour or the trade unions, who represent those with the most to lose from leaving, especially in the absence of a very favourable agreement.

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Islamist militants reportedly free Norwegian hostage in Philippines

The Guardian World news: Islam - 18 September, 2016 - 00:32

Kjartan Sekkingstad was abducted in September 2015, alongside a Filipina woman, who has already been freed, and two Canadians who were beheaded

A Norwegian held hostage by a notorious kidnapping-for-ransom gang in the strife-torn southern Philippines was released Saturday after a year in captivity and will soon be handed over to authorities, officials said.

Kjartan Sekkingstad was abducted by Abu Sayyaf from a high-end tourist resort in September 2015, alongside a Filipina woman, who has already been freed, and two Canadian men who were later beheaded by the Islamist militant group.

Related: Canadian tourists among four abducted by gunmen at Philippines resort

Related: Canadian hostage beheaded by Islamist militants in Philippines

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