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.

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Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party hires former adviser to Donald Trump

The Guardian World news: Islam - 17 September, 2016 - 02:09

Hanson reiterates comments from her factually-incorrect maiden speech when she said Australia was at risk of being ‘swamped by Muslims’

Senator Pauline Hanson’s One Nation party has hired a former economic adviser to the US Republican candidate, Donald Trump.

Hanson’s chief-of-staff, James Ashby, told a community forum in the central-Queensland town of Rockhampton on Friday night: “... on the economic side on things, tomorrow there’ll be a front-page announcement, from what I understand”.

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Yasser Louati: Islamophobia And Islamodiversion

Loon Watch - 16 September, 2016 - 22:35


Yasser Louati of CCiF, a French organization that tracks Islamophobia, has an excellent video on how Western governments and mass media work to impose austerity and repressive laws while diverting public opinion with the scapegoating of Muslims.

Religion News Service: Muslims surpass atheists as most unpopular group in US

Loon Watch - 16 September, 2016 - 22:21

 Muslims pray at the Dulles Expo Center during Eid al-Adha, the "Feast of the Sacrifice", the second of two major holidays in Islam, September 12, 2016, in Chantilly, Vriginia. The holiday honors the willingness of Ibrahim (Abraham) to sacrifice his son, as an act of submission to God's command. (Photo by Evelyn Hockstein/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Disturbing news. The question is why is there such an increase. Some of the obvious reason is the Islamophobia industry and its manufacturing of hate, the rise of ISIS and the sensationalization of their threat to the West and of course the US presidential campaign of 2016. What are some other reasons?

via. Religion News Service

About 40 percent of Americans say atheists “do not at all agree” with their vision of America, according to a new study from sociologists at the University of Minnesota who compared Americans’ perceptions of minority faith and racial groups.

But the study marks a grimmer milestone — Americans’ disapproval of Muslims has jumped to 45.5 percent from just over 26 percent 10 years ago, the last time the question was asked.

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Former Manchester United steward jailed for life for imam murder

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 September, 2016 - 16:28

Mohammed Syeedy convicted of being the getaway driver for killing of Jalal Uddin in Isis-inspired Rochdale attack

A former Manchester United steward has been jailed for a minimum of 24 years for the Islamic State-inspired murder of a “gentle, well-respected” former imam in Rochdale.

Mohammed Syeedy, 21, was found guilty of helping to kill Jalal Uddin because the 71-year-old practised a form of Islamic spiritual healing considered to be “black magic” by some extremists.

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Rochdale Muslims fear fervour of youth spilling into hate and violence

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 September, 2016 - 16:10

The murder of a respected imam highlights the dangerous emergence of a radical and intolerant attitude towards religion

Community leaders paint a bleak picture for young Muslims living in the borough of Rochdale on the outskirts of Greater Manchester. They have grave concerns that Muslim youth are increasingly turning to anti-western sentiment and extreme interpretations of Islam.

In recent months the peace in the narrow streets sitting in the shadow of the impressive Jalalia Jaame mosque has been shattered.

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

The Guardian World news: Islam - 16 September, 2016 - 04:04

Pauline Hanson isn’t the first to lament the silence of the Muslim community. But why should we participate in a discussion that reduces us to a caricature?

In the days and months following Pauline Hanson’s maiden speech in the Senate, there will be request upon request made for the Australian “Muslim community” to respond.

From the outside looking in, such a request seems harmless, even justified. Hanson did, after all, dedicate a large majority of her address to Muslims and Islam, so it appears to be rather logical to seek a response from said community.

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The Guardian view on interfaith marriage: a human right | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 September, 2016 - 19:46
Fundamentalists around the world believe that people – particularly women – should not be allowed to marry outside their faith. They must be resisted

Romeo and Juliet is in some ways the most subversive of all Shakespeare’s plays. The plot seems hackneyed to us now, but that is because of the immense revolution in perspective that separates us from Shakespeare’s day. We believe marriage is something that is made by the relationship between two individuals, not their families, their tribes, or their religious authorities. All these outsiders are involved in the relationship, and their traditions and their habits of thought will of course affect it. But none has the right of veto over it. Consenting adults must choose, wisely or unwisely, to marry whom they will.

There are still many societies and parts of many religions where the attitudes of the Montagues and the Capulets are entirely comprehensible. In the old patriarchal order men were not free to marry against the interests of their family and women were very much less free: they were treated as property.

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Billions in Taxpayer Money to Israel: How the NYT Hides Unsavory Facts from View

Thanks to American taxpayers, Israel has been receiving $3.1 billion in direct military aid each year, and under a new agreement signed this week that amount is set to rise to $3.8 annually. This is a hefty package and major news, but The New York Times has been oddly reticent about it, running a story on page 6 of the print edition and without fanfare online.

This is not a new phenomenon at the Times. Over the past year, as the United States and Israel have negotiated a new 10-year memorandum of understanding concerning military aid, readers have seen few references to the topic, and even with the signing of a new agreement this week, the newspaper maintains its minimalist approach.

The article by Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis gives few details of the deal, instead proving a great deal of space to the state of U.S.-Israeli relations. The story reports that the present aid package (signed in 2007 and due to expire next year) amounts to “about $3 billion a year” with additional funds of up to $500 million a year authorized by Congress for missile defense.

We also learn that Israel made some concessions in negotiations, that this week’s deal is “the largest of its kind” and that Israel receives more U.S. money than any other country. But much is missing.

In fact, Israel gets more than half of all U.S. military aid ($3.1 billion out of a total of $5.9 billion), and Israel together with Egypt receives 75 percent of American foreign military assistance. Since the large allotment for Egypt is aimed at maintaining a non-threatening neighbor on Israel’s border, this could also be counted as indirect aid to Israel.

In fact Israel has been receiving well over $3.1 billion. By a conservative estimate, the United States has been giving the country $3.7 billion in direct aid annually with funds for immigrants to Israel, grants for American hospitals and schools, “joint defense projects” with the Department of Defense, and an early disbursement of aid.

The last item on that list refers to a special arrangement: In contrast to other recipients, Israel receives all its funds from the United States in one lump sum within the first month of the fiscal year. The money is then transferred to a Federal Reserve Bank interest-bearing account, allowing Israel to accrue some $15 million annually in interest.

Then there are other perks, such as loan guarantees, “cash flow financing,” and the right to purchase arms directly from companies rather than going through a Department of Defense review.

In addition, donations sent by Jewish and Christian groups to support settlements are tax-exempt. So every dollar donated to support the colonization of Palestinian land means the loss of at least 20 cents that should go into the U.S. treasury. This is an indirect subsidy to Israel that has cost American taxpayers an incalculable amount, at least some tens of millions of dollars.

The Times, however, has shown no interest in revealing the full extent of aid or of pursuing the arguments against pouring so much money into Israel. This week’s story mentions criticism of the aid agreement not until about three quarters into the text, and then it is reduced to three bland paragraphs with quotes from the representative of an anti-occupation organization.

In fact, the opposition goes well beyond such groups. A member of Congress, Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), has asked the State Department to investigate Israeli military units for possible violations of the Leahy Act, which prohibits the dispersal of U.S. funds to groups that violate human rights with impunity.

In 2012, 15 leaders of major religious organizations wrote to Congress asking that military aid be made contingent on compliance with American law. Other groups have sponsored billboards in various areas of the country highlighting the incredible largesse the United States provides for Israel.

Moreover, a poll of Americans taken in 2014 revealed that 60 percent believed the United States gives too much aid to Israel, and of that group 34 percent said it received “much too much.” The percentage claiming that our aid package was excessive was even higher (65 percent) among Americans under 34.

Other commentators have noted that Israel is a wealthy country, with universal health care, and is less in need of help than American citizens who struggle to fund their schools, pay for prescription drugs and meet medical fees.

None of this debate appears in the Times, which seems determined to keep the subject well below the radar. Thus we find a lightweight story on the inside pages of the print edition, well behind a more prominent one about Syrian and Israeli skirmishes in the Golan Heights, and an uninformative one-minute video of the signing ceremony on the Middle East page.

Times readers are to remain ignorant of the full, unsavory story about U.S. aid to Israel. If the facts were fully reported, this might inspire unwelcome questions and pushback. Better to say as little as possible and allow Israel to keep collecting its yearly billions from American taxpayers.

Barbara Erickson

[To subscribe to TimesWarp, scroll to the bottom of this page for email, follow @TimesWarp on Twitter or like Times Warp on Facebook.]

Filed under: US Military Aid to Israel Tagged: American taxpayers, Betty McColllum, Israel, Media Bias, Military aid to Israel, New York Times, Palestine

British ambassador to Saudi Arabia completes hajj after converting to Islam

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 September, 2016 - 11:42

A picture of Simon Collis in the traditional white robes worn by pilgrims during the hajj was posted on Twitter

The British ambassador to Saudi Arabia has converted to Islam and this week completed the hajj with his Syrian wife.

A picture of Simon Collis in the traditional white robes worn by pilgrims during the hajj was posted on Twitter by Fawziah Albakr, of King Saud University.

أول سفير بريطاني للمملكة يؤدي فريضة الحج بعد اسلامه:سيمون كوليز مع زوجته السيدة هدي في مكة. الحمدلله

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Typecast as a terrorist | Riz Ahmed | The Long Read

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 September, 2016 - 06:00
As my acting career developed, I was no longer cast as a radical Muslim – except at the airport

To begin with, auditions taught me to get through airports. In the end, it was the other way around. I’m an actor. Since I was a teenager I have had to play different characters, negotiating the cultural expectations of a Pakistani family, Brit-Asian rudeboy culture, and a scholarship to private school. The fluidity of my own personal identity on any given day was further compounded by the changing labels assigned to Asians in general.

As children in the 1980s, when my brother and I were stopped near our home by a skinhead who decided to put a knife to my brother’s throat, we were black. A decade later, the knife to my throat was held by another “Paki”, a label we wore with swagger in the Brit-Asian youth and gang culture of the 1990s. The next time I found myself as helplessly cornered, it was in a windowless room at Luton airport. My arm was in a painful wrist-lock and my collar pinned to the wall by British intelligence officers. It was “post 9/11”, and I was now labelled a Muslim.

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When the airport interrogation came, it was more of a car crash than my Slumdog Millionaire audition

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Politicians and Muslim leaders condemn Hanson: 'She doesn't know what she's talking about'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 15 September, 2016 - 00:30

One Nation senator’s maiden speech ‘peddles prejudice and fear’ and will make harassment of Muslims more likely, critics warn

Pauline Hanson’s comments about the impact of Islam and migration on Australia have received condemnation from Muslim leaders and politicians across the spectrum.

Keysar Trad, the president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said the speech displayed ignorance about Islam and that Hanson needed to conform to Australian values like a “fair go for all”.

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Pauline Hanson's maiden speech to the Australian Senate – full text

The Guardian World news: Islam - 14 September, 2016 - 22:33

The One Nation senator calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and reiterates fears about multiculturalism aired in her infamous 1996 address

Pauline Hanson calls for immigration ban: ‘Go back to where you came from’

First of all, I would like to welcome everyone in this house and thank you for your attendance. It is very much appreciated. When I cast my mind back to the last day on the floor of the House of Representatives in 1998, just prior to the election, I called out across the chamber, “I will be back!” Those around me cried out, “No, you won’t!’”

My electorate boundaries were changed, forcing me to stand for the new seat of Blair. Also, with the introduction of full preferential voting, this cost me the seat. Although I polled 36% of the primary vote, this was not enough against the Liberals’ 21% and Labor’s preferences, delivering them the seat.

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