30 May 2008
Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2003, justifying child abuse at Guantanamo Bay.
Info courtesy of Maryam Hassan from Cage Prisoners:
Mohammed el Gharani, a Chadian national born and brought up in Saudi Arabia, decided to move abroad because he faced discrimination as a non-national of African origin and felt his prospects of economic or educational advancement were poor.
He went to Pakistan, shortly before the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, reportedly to study English and gain IT skills. In order to get a passport that would allow him to travel unaccompanied, he needed to be over 18, so he lied about his age.
In October 2001, when he was 15 years old, Mohamed was praying in a mosque in Karachi when it was raided by Pakistani police. So began years of incarceration as a result of the US-led "war on terror". Mohamed ended up in Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, where he remains to this day. His body is apparently covered in scars caused by the torture and beatings he has suffered. His teeth are said to be falling out because of neglect, and his tongue is apparently cracked as a result of dehydration. The psychological harm his ordeal has caused is harder to gauge.
After his arrest Mohamed was taken to a prison in Pakistan where he alleges:
He was hung by his wrists, naked apart from his shorts, with his feet barely touching the floor. If he moved his interrogators beat him. This continued for up to 16 hours a day for three weeks.
He was blindfolded for this entire period, apart from three to five minutes each day when he ate.
He was forced to drink lots of water before his interrogators tied his penis with string so that he could not urinate.
When his Pakistani captors told him that he would be transferred to US custody, Mohamed was overjoyed. He told his lawyer he thought that the USA was "all about democracy, and they were a fair and good people" and that his torture would end.
Mohamed's optimism was rapidly shattered. He says that when he was handed over to US custody, he was put in blue overalls, hooded, shackled, beaten and threatened with death. He was taken by helicopter to Kandahar, Afghanistan, where he alleges:
He was stripped naked and repeatedly beaten.
He was doused in freezing water and left exposed to the elements for three or four nights.
A guard held his penis with a pair of scissors and told him he would cut it off.
He was repeatedly called "nigger" by US soldiers, a term of racist abuse he had never heard before.
In January 2002, Mohamed was one of the first "enemy combatants" to be transferred to Guantánamo Bay. Sedated, shackled and hooded for the flight, he was allegedly beaten severely on arrival and threatened with torture that "would be worse than anything he had been through in Pakistan". He says he has been subjected to constant racial abuse at Guantánamo Bay. He also alleges:
He was hung from hooks, with his feet not touching the ground, and then beaten. This happened around 30 times, for up to eight hours each time.
He was placed in extremely cold rooms and subjected to loud music.
He was moved between cells every 20 minutes so that he could not sleep.
He was burned with a cigarette during an interrogation.
He was forced to look at pornographic images.
On one occasion when guards were removing him from his cell, he was assaulted with particular brutality. He was pepper-sprayed and guards in full riot gear slammed his head into the floor causing him to lose a tooth.
"They did not ask me my age until I had been in Cuba for a year."
"We made this camp for people who would be here forever. You should never think about going home. You’ll be here all your life… Don’t worry. We’ll keep you alive so you can suffer more." A US interrogator speaking to Mohamed in Camp V.
Contrary to claims that juveniles in Guantánamo Bay have been held in conditions befitting their age, Mohamed has been held for over a year in Camp V, which is modelled on the harsh "super-maximum" security prisons on the US mainland. Mohamed is kept in a concrete isolation cell, in solitary confinement, for up to 24 hours a day. He is supposed to be allowed to exercise for an hour three times a week, but once a week or even once a fortnight is the norm. There is 24-hour lighting. Large, loud fans designed to prevent detainees from communicating between cells are kept on all the time.
In April 2003, the US authorities revealed that children as young as 13 were among those held at Guantánamo Bay. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2003 stated: "Despite their age these are very, very dangerous people… they may be juveniles, but they’re not on a little league team anywhere, they’re on a major league team, and it’s a terrorist team".
In 2004, the Department of Defense announced that it had released three juveniles from Guantánamo and said that "every effort" had been made to provide for the "special physical and emotional care" of juveniles held at Guantánamo. It stated that juveniles were held in a separate detention camp, Camp Iguana, that they were taught English and mathematics, could exercise daily and were even taken on trips to the beach.The Pentagon says that five juveniles have been released and that no others are held at Guantánamo. The Pentagon has defined child detainees as those aged under 16, contrary to international standards.
Mohammed el Gharani is not the only juvenile held at Guantánamo Bay. At least four and possibly nine of the current Guantánamo detainees were under 18 when detained. Some of them were as young as 13.
In addition to the allegations of torture, there have also been reports of attempted suicide by juvenile detainees. Their stories belie the rosy picture painted by the US administration.The detention, interrogation and alleged torture of unrepresented children at Guantánamo Bay contravene international laws that apply to both adults and children, as well as the special standards developed by the international community to protect children.
28 May 2008
On the agenda was a new embargoed report by the US GAO confirming that the vulnerability of the United States to disruptions to oil supplies is due not only to political and economic factors, but especially due to the imminent reality of peak oil. The report is the first time a US government agency has officially admitted the inevitability of an imminent peak in world oil production, with consequent ramifications in the form of "irreversible declines for oil fields, regions, countries and eventually the world."
The report finds that the majority of expert projections expect the peak to occur without warning any time between now and 2040. Most disturbingly, the report emphasises that the US federal government has failed to explore any preventive or mitigating measures to tackle the problem and associated implications of peak oil, even though, as the report warns, "an imminent peak and sharp decline in oil production could have severe consequences, including a worldwide recession."
The publication of the GAO report, despite offering a grave warning of the necessity of immediate urgent action to prepare for the impact of the peak of world oil production, has received relatively little coverage in the press considering the import of its findings. Although most peak oil experts predict that the peak of world oil production is most likely to hit at around 2010, some evidence suggests it may already been breached.
According to David Strahan, a former BBC financial news correspondent and author of The Last Oil Shock, "There are currently 98 oil producing countries in the world, of which 64 are thought to have passed their geologically imposed production peak, and of those 60 are in terminal production decline."
24 May 2008
UK: Terrorism arrests provoke outrage on Nottingham campus
By Elham Asaad Buaras
London, The Muslim News OnLine:
The arrest of an academic and a student from the University of Nottingham for the possession of extremist material has provoked outrage on the campus after it was revealed the apparent offence concerned downloading information for a PhD, The Muslim News has learnt.
Politics student Rizwaan Sabir was arrested on May 14 along with a 30-year-old member of staff under the Terrorism Act 2000. Both men were eventually released on May 20, although the staff member was re-arrested on unrelated immigration issues. Students and staff alike branded the arrest an exploitation of anti-terror laws and stifling of civil liberties. Co-ordinator of Dissertation and Sabir’s personal tutor, Dr Bettina Renz, said that the material in question, an edited version of an al-Qa’ida handbook, was “easily accessible” and available on government websites. “The information he downloaded was 100% related to his studies,” Dr Renz told The Muslim News. “The information he obtained is available on websites that are widely used on reading lists in the School of Politics,” she said.
[follow the link above for more]...
8 May 2008
In today's Independent we see an eye-opening article revealing that amidst what is described as a series of "global food shortages", a new "government-backed report" shows that "the British public" annually throws away "4.4 million apples, 1.6 million bananas, 1.3 million yoghurt pots, 660,000 eggs, 550,000 chickens, 300,000 packs of crisps and 440,000 ready meals. And for the first time government researchers have established that most of the food waste is made up of completely untouched food products – whole chickens and chocolate gateaux that lie uneaten in cupboards and fridges before being discarded" -- adding up to "a record £10b" every year.
And that's just us Brits. Imagine what the totals are for the Western world combined: Scary and revealing stuff that makes the word "overconsumption" seem like a gross understatement.
But despite the shock value of such important revelations, I'm increasingly concerned at the way in which the food crisis is being portrayed. The Independent goes on to explain the causes of the food crisis as follows: "... millions of the world's poor face food shortages caused by rising populations, droughts and increased demand for land for biofuels, which have sparked riots and protests from Haiti to Mauritania, and from Yemen to the Philippines."
So the food crisis comes down to three things:
1) rising populations (presumably not us in the advanced West, but rather those Third World crazies breeding like rabbits despite being so poor)
2) droughts (which may be exacerbated by climate change but in any case often occur naturally and therefore we purportedly can't do much about)
3) and the drive from energy corporations for investment in biofuels.
Indeed, according to the British government's new chief scientific adviser, Professor John Beddington speaking at a government conference two months ago:
"price rises in staples such as rice, maize and wheat would continue because of increased demand caused by population growth and increasing wealth in developing nations. He also said that climate change would lead to pressure on food supplies because of decreased rainfall in many areas and crop failures related to climate. 'The agriculture industry needs to
double its food production, using less water than today.'"
So again, population and economic growth in the 'developing nations', plus climate change, are to blame, and can only be addressed by doubling food production using less water (technologically impossible for all intents and purposes, but we'll come back to that). It's Them again -- too many of Them, wanting More.
As if to emphasise the point, we hear in the same piece that:
"Hilary Benn, the environment secretary, said at the conference that the world's population was expected to grow from 6.2bn today to 9.5bn in less than 50 years' time. 'How are we going to feed everybody?' he asked."
Only a rhetorical question of course. Sorry to break it t'ya folks, but 'feeding everybody' has never really been one of the state's major concerns. That's why "Each tonne of wheat and sugar from the UK is sold on international markets at an average price of 40% and 60% below the cost of production respectively (ie, it is dumped)", thus undercutting local farmers across the South, who thus lose any semblance of agricultural-independence they may have once had (i.e. the ability to feed their own people), thus becoming subject to the whims of the global food market, manipulated through speculation in the interests of Northern investors and consumers.
But the important point for now is that as far as Hilary Benn is concerned, it's clear that the cause of the problem is "their" population growth.
Later in the article, Professor Beddington is cited pointing out that global grain stores are currently at the lowest levels ever, just 40 days from running out. He again emphasises the question of food production: "I am only nine weeks into the job, so don't yet have all the answers, but it is clear that science and research to increase the efficiency of agricultural production per unit of land is critical."
According to Beddington, food security is the "elephant in the room" that politicians must face up to quickly. In reality, the "elephant in the room" goes far deeper than the surface issues scratched at lamely by the government, and sits in the heart of global food production. Some of Beddington's observations show that he is dimly aware of this problem. He understands that production needs to be increased drastically. But his solution is a technological one, "science and research" in order to maximise "efficiency" so we can produce faster and better to meet escalating global demand. This is unlikely to happen. Beddington knows it. Benn knows it. The supermarket chains know it.
From this conventional analysis of the food crisis, we are not left with many solutions. We may, however, pick among the following: 1) the proliferation and prolongation of droughts due to climate change means that we need to slow down our CO2 emissions by introducing 'market incentives' (i.e. big taxes) targeted largely at consumers, who are blamed for having no regard for the size of their individual carbon footprints. transfering to alternative renewable energies is, for some odd reason, irrelevant. 2) reducing population growth in developing countries to decrease demand for food (nothing at all to do with NSSM 200, of course). 3) go easy on the biofuels (but fail to propose investment in other viable alternative energy sources). 4) pray day and night that Science will somehow generate a technological miracle of agricultural production.
Obviously, none of these 'solutions' seems to really offer a way out for the food crisis -- and that's because the analysis is fundamentally flawed. It's not completely wrong, it just misses out half the picture, and so comes up with a false diagnosis of what's actually gone wrong. The result is that the institutions that require urgent re-structuring are being absolved. The government, the state, and the network of giant multinational corporations that govern global agribusiness, are excused of any culpability. The cause of the crisis, we keep hearing is, WE, THE PEOPLE! It's the developing nations, who just won't stop breeding, dammit. It's us Western consumers, who won't stop eating and throwing a third of our food away. It's everyone except the state-corporate complex that controls the food industry.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that you and I are NOT culpable. Of course we are. We do throw away tonnes, literally, of food. We do, each of us, have large carbon footprints that we should try to reduce in our own ways. Populations are increasing. But the question is this: are these factors the fundamental causes of the current global food crisis? Or are they exacerbating factors that are accentuating and intensifying the impact of the food crisis? Following mainstream news coverage of food shortages, one would be forgiven for believing that rising food prices are all because of you and me, the public, the general consumer. We have been thoroughly pathologised. And the British government, with its eye-opening study of how much food the British consumer chucks away without thinking, is complicit in this pathologisation.
Why is that the government-backed report discussed in today's Independent, says nothing about the institutions who are primarily responsible for food wastage, the supermarkets, the multinational food chains? If the government is genuinely concerned about food wastage in this country, why won't they do something about the fact reported by the same newspaper in February, that:
"Retailers generate 1.6 million tonnes of food waste each year... An influential watchdog, the Sustainable Development Commission (SDC), will condemn targets set by the Government's waste-reduction programme as 'unambitious and lacking urgency'. It will also say multi-buy promotions are helping to fuel waste and obesity in Britain. Speaking to The Independent on Sunday ahead of the report's publication on Saturday, Tim Lang, SDC commissioner, said it was 'ludicrous' that the Government had not pressured retailers into setting tougher targets to cut waste.
Three years ago, the government-funded Waste and Resources Action Programme (Wrap) left it up to supermarkets to find voluntary 'solutions to food waste' in an agreement dubbed the Courtauld Commitment. 'The Government is frankly not using its leverage adequately. It really should toughen up on Courtauld, which must be enforced because this is ludicrous,' said Mr Lang, who is also professor of food policy at City University, London.
The 18-month study, which found that 'too many supermarket practices are still unhealthy, unjust and unsustainable', said Wrap should adopt a 'more aspirational approach to reducing waste in food retail by setting longer-term targets and [supporting] a culture of zero waste'...
A separate study by Imperial College for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, found that supermarkets preferred to throw away food that was approaching its sell-by date rather than mark it down in price."
So three months after being hit over the head by the Sustainable Development Commission, the government's waste reduction programme completely ignores the warnings that supermarket profit-maximisation policies are not only directly generating billions of pounds of waste by dumping good food, they are encouraging consumers through excessive advertising, multi-buy offers, and refusal to slash prices on older foods, to also buy excess food they don't need, a third of which they dump in turn.
Instead, the government simply blames consumers. Period. Don't penalise Profit, nor Power. Pathologise People.
The corporate-biased law doesn't help either, because: "The scale of the wastage from supermarkets, food processors, wholesalers and restaurants is not known, because many companies refuse to make their data public, citing commercial confidentiality." In other words, we don't even know the real scale of corporate food wastage. Worse, the government regularly does the same thing -- here's an example: "In the past 10 months, the government's food intervention board dumped almost 30,000 tonnes of fresh vegetables and fruit which had been withdrawn from the market to guarantee farm prices."
So the problem is far more complex, rooted in a consumerist culture that is tied to a political economy being deliberately sustained by those institutions with the most to gain from this entrenched structure. The government has no interest in transforming that political economy. So the result is an insistence on inspecting only half the picture, ignoring the role of the global corporate food industry.
Driven by capitalist imperatives for short-term profit maximisation and long-term cost-minimisation, global agribusiness has established an international food production system that is, basically, dying.
Most of the Earth's fertile land is already now being used for food production. Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2005 reported that "there is now little room for further agricultural expansion." One of the scientists, Dr Navin Ramankutty, points out: "The real question is, how can we continue to produce food from the land while preventing negative environmental consequences such as deforestation, water pollution and soil erosion?" Or, more bluntly, how are we going to keep producing food if our production-system continues to destroy the very means to produce food?
It's not that the Earth can't produce the food. Its that corporate agribusiness can't produce the food. In fact, as I've warned previously, it has been failing to produce the food since the 1990s, during which grain production has increasingly slowed. The frenzied application of fertilisers and other modern agricultural practices served to temporarily escalate production, but simultaneously have intensified soil erosion, destroying in years essential nutrients for crop-growth that take centuries to replace. The imminent peak of world oil production, oil being the chief underpinning for industrial agricultural methods, which is either just round the corner in 2010-ish (or worse, passed in 2005) means that the global corporate food production system is up against its own physical limits.
For us to keep eating, it's true, we have to put an end to our insane overconsumption and wastefulness. But there are real limits to what the consumer can do within the existing global corporate food system. So we need to turn our attention to that system, and demand that it changes fundamentally, which means, of course, a wholesale transformation of our political economies in ways which rely on renewable energy resources and localised less-intensive but no less successful traditional agricultural practices. We need some kind of grassroots action, which makes our voices impossible to ignore. It will take time to develop, to become strong, to gather momentum. But it needs to be done, and now. Because at current rates of declining food production and rising prices, fuelled by unscrupulous market speculation, many, many people are likely to die, not just in the South, but here too. And while this death escalates, a few at the helm of the global corporate food industry will reap unprecedented windfall profits from their deaths. That's why real solutions aren't being put on the table. Death is regrettable, but when it comes wrapped in £££$$$, it's not so bad...
On 6th May at around 1.30pm, a community support officer started hassling Aqil Shaerer who is a Palestinian protestor associated with Brian Haw and often around Parliament Square. It is unclear what grounds they had for this. Brian became involved and explained to them that Aqil was part of his authorised demonstration. Two more Pcso officers became involved, but then they all left.
A short while later a police van arrived and they immediately homed in on Brian, claiming that he was harassing them. Before anyone realised what was happening, one of the youngest of the cops kicked Brian’s legs from under him, wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him behind his back.
In years of dealings with the police, Brian has never ever been violent towards them, although he has suffered at their hands on many occasions, including a very violent and pre-meditated attack by a TSG officer, U1019, on the 12th January this year. Rear handcuffing is normally reserved for violent offenders, or is sometimes used where police have no knowledge of the person arrested and cannot guarantee their safety. Of course, neither situation relates to Brian haw. Brian was manhandled into the police van, and the police waved jauntily at protestors as they drove him away to Belgravia police station.
At first the custody officers told supporters Brian was being held for 'disorderly conduct' but when his solicitor, Maggie Peters from Bindmans, became involved, they said he was being held for a section 5 public order offence. They allege that he had shouted at a passing vehicle "get a job you fat bastard". This seems quite unlikely, and the only witness the police appear to be relying on is one of their own policemen.
They admit the passer-by has not made any complaint. Section 5 is not an imprisonable offence and can in fact be dealt with by a fixed penalty notice. Despite this, police have now held Brian for more than four hours.
There seems to be a sinister pattern emerging. Recently, the parliament square protestors have launched legal challenges against the police and courts, and these have taken the form of lodging judicial reviews at the high court, and adding "addendums" as new events occur. Each time something is lodged, within a matter of days, the police target one of the protestors at the square, violently arrest them and then hold them for a disproportionate time. Just this Friday Brian Haw and Barbara Tucker lodged a new addendum to their judicial review at the high court, detailing recent legal travesties for judicial consideration.
Yet another shining example of the state's ongoing war on our freedoms.
2 May 2008
Years ago, recognising the importance of Political Correctness and exploiting the anxiety generated by 9/11, the fascist BNP cunningly reinvented itself as entirely Non-Racist. In doing so, it focused its efforts less on the idea of carting off black communities and ethnic minorities “back home”, than on the supposedly rapidly inter-breeding alien Muslim communities invading “our country.”
Increasingly, these ideas have crept into the mainstream political spectrum. Although the failings and inadequacies of the British, European and global political economy are rooted in its structural inequalities, immigration takes the blame for the problem of unemployment. Although al-Qaeda terrorism is a marginal phenomenon relative to the global Muslim community, covertly financed even now by Britain’s own diplomatic and financial allies in the Middle East and Central Asia (e.g. Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), Muslim communities are increasingly criminalised wholesale as inherently backward, anti-modern, and excited by medieval anti-female violence. Thus, multiculturalism is recognised as a huge mistake. Difference should never have been tolerated – it needs now to be concertedly dissolved into a homogenous culture, the norms and values of which are defined by an implicit ideology of ‘blood and soil’ – ‘we are the white indigenous population, our skin evidencing our purity of bloodline, our pristine ancestry, tied to our native soil; and thus you aliens coming into our land need to conform to our ways.’
Suddenly, there is an ‘us’ and a ‘them’, irreconcilable, except by the latter’s absorption into the ‘us’. Cultures are viewed as discrete entities tied to biologically distinctive racial groups. Racism, and racial war fought as a clash of civilisations, is viewed as a natural, inevitable dynamic of the neo-Darwinian human condition – regrettable, perhaps marginally tameable, but nevertheless entirely natural, and thus understandable. The real signifier, then, of difference is no longer biology as such, but culture. Cultural difference implies bio-territorial incompability.
Social cohesion, then, can only be achieved through a process of purification. Cleansing the soil of alien additives by converting them into ‘good citizens’ who are no longer culturally different.
This is a new form of fascism, different from the old, blatant, Nazified manifestation, primarily due to its recognition that it cannot allow its face to be seen. While denouncing the piece of cloth a Muslim woman might wear on her head (yet strangely uninterested by the pieces of cloth sometimes worn by Jews and Sikhs), it hides beneath its own veil, the veil of ‘freedom’. It hides so well that it no longer even recognises its own reflection:
‘We want you to be free. Free to conform to our ways. For we are Modern, the New.’
Freedom is now defined not by the individuals right to be as they wish to be. It is defined by a bio-territorial mass, dissent against which is viewed as a dangerous form of subversion, a national security threat, justifying further sanctions against freedom, ridicule, humiliation, incarceration, until the source of subversion submits.
Boris Johnson is here to stay.
And here’s some of what he’s already had to say.
Of course, he denies that he is racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic. And he may well even believe this, genuinely.
But the new racism, xenophobia and Islamophobia is defined fundamentally by its new chameleon visage, its extraordinary ability to shape-shift at any moment and appear as its exact opposite. Here we have instances of Boris being an anti-colonialist, an anti-racist, and an anti-terrorist. Yet it is in these very instances that he reveals himself for what he is.
“What a relief it must be for Blair to get out of England. It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-waving piccaninnies; and one can imagine that Blair, twice victor abroad but enmired at home, is similarly seduced by foreign politeness. They say [Tony Blair] is shortly off to the Congo . No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and the tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down in his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.” [Telegraph (10/01/2002)]
“Like much of western Europe, Britain faces a demographic quandary. In the words of a recent UN interview the populations of EU countries are ‘melting like snow in the sun’… No one knows whether this is caused by the fecklessness of the modern British male, or by women’s liberation; or whether it is because divorce has become too easy.” [Boris Johnson, Lend Me Your Ears (London: HarperPerrenial, June 2004) p. 395]
So is Boris worried about the White Race, the increasing ability of Browns and Blacks to reproduce themselves and perhaps outnumber Us?
“When I shamble round the park in my running gear late at night, and I come across that bunch of black kids, shrieking in the spooky corner by the disused gents, I would love to pretend that I don't turn a hair. Now you might tell me not to be such a wuss. You might say that I am at no more risk than if I had come across a bunch of winos. But somehow or other a little beeper goes off in my brain… You might tell me that when they shout their cheery catcalls, I should smile and wave. And, you know, maybe a big girl’s blouse like me would break into an equally rapid lollop if it were a gang of white kids. Quite possibly. The trouble is, I'm not sure. I cannot rule out that I have suffered from a tiny fit of prejudice. I have prejudged this group on the basis of press reports, possibly in right-wing newspapers, about the greater likelihood of being mugged by young black males than by any other group. And if that is racial prejudice, then I am guilty. And so are you, baby. So are we all. If there is anyone reading this who has never experienced the same disgraceful reflex, then - well, I just don't believe you. It is common ground among both right-wingers and left-wingers that racism is ‘natural’, in that it seems to arise organically, in all civilisations. It is as natural as sewage. We all agree that it is disgusting, a byproduct of humanity’s imperfect evolution. The question is, what to do with the effluent?” [Guardian (21/02/2000)]
Well thanks for the admission, but Boris, you're not absolving yourself by insinuating that everyone feels the same way you do, nor that how you feel is actually an unfortunate byproduct of 'nature'.
“... too many Britons have absolutely no sense of allegiance to this country or its institutions. It is a cultural calamity that will take decades to reverse, and we must begin now with what I call in this morning's Spectator the re-Britannification of Britain. That means insisting, in a way that is cheery and polite, on certain values that we identify as British. If that means the end of spouting hate in mosques, and treating women as second-class citizens, then so be it. We need to acculturate the second-generation Muslim communities to our way of life.” [Telegraph (14/06/2005)]
I’m a second generation Muslim. Come and acculturate me. Please. I had no idea that my kind spouts hate in mosques (yes, the Finsbury Park mosque is not "all mosques") or that we treat our wives, daughters, mother, sisters and generally any females we meet as second-class citizens. I'll ignore for now that marginalising a woman for wearing a cloth on her head puts her in second-class. I’d really like to understand what you mean Boris, whether, indeed, there is any meaning at all behind this notion, and any real research or understanding behind it. How many mosques have you visited Boris? Or are you still believing that fraudulent nonsense put out by the right-wingers at Policy Exchange exposed by the lefty liberals on BBC Newsnight? You say we should identify our British values. I agree. But can we try to get beyond the banal tautology that British values mean fighting those barbaric second-generation Muslims who hate our values?
“We’ve all got to be as British as Carry On films and scotch eggs and falling over on the beach while trying to change into your swimming trunks with a towel on. We should all feel the same mysterious pang at the sight of the Queen. We do indeed need to inculcate this Britishness, especially into young Muslims.... We should teach British history. We should think again about the jilbab, with the signals of apartness that it sends out, and we should probably scrap faith schools. We should forbid the imams from preaching sermons in anything but English; because if you want to build a society where everyone feels included, and where everyone shares in the national story, we cannot continue with the multicultural apartheid.” [Telegraph (04/08/2005)]
Right. So if I’m not entirely impressed by the Carry On films, don’t eat pork, have a conception of modesty than doesn’t involve running naked on the beach, wonder what the big deal is about a monarchy that swallows taxpayer’s money due to dubious historical reasons, then I’m bordering on typically Islamist treason? I guess I’m just not sharing in “the national story” – or maybe the Etonian Boris version of it.
But perhaps it's too much to expect an educated Etonian to understand what really lies behind social exclusion, the segregation and marginalisation of both white and non-white communities in this country, the structural violence, institutional racism and class inequality that hits at the majority of the British people, Muslim and non-Muslim. Far easier to focus on the bogeyman of "multicultural apartheid", get Us to hate Them, so that the system itself can avoid uncomfortable scrutiny.
I’m sure an eager Boris fan will find many ways of interpreting such statements in the most angelically benign fashion possible. Thank our lucky stars we’ve got the BNP to remind us! For the BNP, Boris should be brought in as their preferred second candidate, because “a second choice vote for him gives you the chance to vote BNP as your first preference and still vote to get Livingstone out of office”. Boris Johnson as Mayor would “be an improvement for the majority of Londoners.” Oh yes, the majority of Londoners. You mean, "the White Race majority", don't you, my dear friendly fascists?
Boris clearly feels more comfortable airing his rather filthy laundry when it concerns Muslims, who aren’t recognised as an ethnic minority and thus receive less protection than other ethnic minorities. Thus, Boris feels on firmer ground, more confident, when dealing with us subversive brown folks with our medieval beards and scarves, psychotic penchant for honour killing, and rampant obsession with imposing Shariah Law-defined Caliphate dynasties on England, by which to generally repress, murder and subjugate. No need for him to mince words. He jumps right in to mincing Muslims.
“To any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia – fear of Islam – seems a natural reaction, and, indeed, exactly what that text is intended to provoke. Judged purely on its scripture – to say nothing of what is preached in the mosques – it is the most viciously sectarian of all religions in its heartlessness towards unbelievers. As the killer of Theo Van Gogh told his victims mother this week in a Dutch courtroom, he could not care for her, could not sympathise, because she was not a Muslim. The trouble with this disgusting arrogance and condescension is that it is widely supported in Koranic texts, and we look in vain for the enlightened Islamic teachers and preachers who will begin the process of reform. What is going on in these mosques and madrasas? When is someone going to get 18th century on Islam’s mediaeval ass?”
If you really feel like getting "18th century" on someone's ass, try your own, Boris, but please, I beg you, stay the hell away from mine.
And from the same piece: “The Islamicists last week horribly and irrefutably asserted the supreme importance of that faith, overriding all worldly considerations, and it will take a huge effort of courage and skill to win round the many thousands of British Muslims who are in a similar state of alienation, and to make them see that their faith must be compatible with British values and with loyalty to Britain. That means disposing of the first taboo, and accepting that the problem is Islam. Islam is the problem.”
“The proposed ban on incitement to ‘religious hatred’ makes no sense unless it involves a ban on the Koran itself.... Militant Islam has been shielded from proper discussion by cowardice, political correctness and a racist assumption that we should privilege the beliefs of a minority, even when they appear to be mediaeval." [Telegraph (21/07/2005)]
So Islam is the problem, the "Koran" should be banned, and the Muslim minority's beliefs are "mediaeval."
So let’s fast forward to the present. What are you telling voters now, Boris? Islam is a "religion of peace". Militants take stuff “out of context.” We don’t need to ban the “Koran”. It’s not the whole Muslim minority community who believe this dastardly evil stuff supporting terrorism. Hmm. Somewhat off-key from your previous statements, Boris. So here we have a case of lying as part of your political campaign. Shouldn’t this be illegal in a democracy? No, I guess, not when democracy is already half-dead. Rather like Boris' pathetic Etonian excuse for a brain.
Boris Johnson’s coming victory is a significant blow to our weakened democratic institutions in this country, and proves that those who wish to protect human and civil rights need to revitalise, somehow, their traditional defunct strategies. Those strategies are failing precisely because they issue forth from a serious failure to understand the interconnected systemic dynamic of the intensifying social, political, economic and ideological crises our societies are facing. We don’t understand the insidious nature of the new racism. We don’t even recognise it as racist. In fact, some of us think it’s a wonderful step toward what Boris calls “re-Britannification” - the first time I’ve seen a term used regularly by Hitler and Himmler (the idea of “Germanisation”) appropriated and re-applied in a modern European context.
This is a wake up to civil society, that it needs to re-think its modus operandi and in particular its entire sociological vision. Unless we do so, and fast, the post-Boris era will be even worse than the one round the corner.
1 May 2008
Why've I thrown this prediction out there in this way?
Because the outcome of Mayoral elections will tell us a great deal about the political direction of this country.
I predict that Boris will win on the basis of a number of observations. Boris represents the legitimisation of the politics of the Far Right in the mainstream political party system. His position is quite clear, and is becoming increasingly accepted as fact by mainstream political parties across the spectrum: immigration, asylum is now a serious problem that is undercutting British jobs and damaging the economy; Islam as a faith and Muslims as a community inherently tend to incite violence and terrorism; alienation and segregation of ethnic minorities from wider society is a symptom of an outmoded ideology of multiculturalism, which is weakening social cohesion and undermining national security.
These ideas are no longer simply the province of the BNP. The wholesale problematisation of the "Other" in Britain has now become a mantra voiced with varying conviction and persuasiveness by all the mainstream political parties, each offering their own differing levels of criticism and corresponding policy solutions.
Boris will win because the City (i.e. the UK's financial community) is backing him. In turn and in tandem with them, Boris is being backed by the corporate media. Headlines in the dailies, including front-page ones, for the past months have frequently focused on Red Ken's flaws: stories about extremists and terrorists amongst his campaigners and advisers; financial scandals at the heart of his administration.
Boris, whose racist, Islamophobic, and xenophobic track record, as well his utter political illiteracy and buffoonery, has received marginal coverage in comparison. Never once on the front-page, perhaps a few back stories, more likely, the odd pieces in the 'comment' sections of perhaps the Guardian and a few other more liberal outlets. Why is Boris being coddled, while Ken kicked, by the corporate media?
Because the political climate has shifted. Boris, with all his hateful, xenophobic baggage, has solicited the backing of powerful special interests who, having a very strong financial base, are prime political donors. The politics of the Far Right now finds pseudo-academic and mainstream support from the House of Commons, and even from recent investigative television documentaries. New Labour, furthermore, is in its death throes, having lost credibility not only with the powerful corporate lobbies which dominate our politico-economic landscape, but also with the wider public, repeatedly submerged in scandal after scandal. It is time for regime-rotation.
In will swing the Tories, though with nothing particularly new. Blair, admirable only for his ability to lie flagrantly while maintaining his trademark fixated cheshire grin, followed by the notoriously unelected and agonisingly uncharismatic Brown, have already together succeeded in pushing New Labour's domestic and foreign policy programmes further to the Right than Thatcher could have imagined in her wildest, wettest dreams. The Tories are now rightfully reclaiming the still-born heritage they had hatched more than 20 years ago, albeit renewed and revitalised in all its bloody, radicalised glory. A sign of how bad things are is the BNP's (qualified) endorsement of Boris as Mayoral candidate -- the first time that the fascists have actually come out in the open and found a mainstream political party candidate acceptable.
Why this sea-change in the political wind? It's a common thing, actually, historically. In times of social crisis and anxiety, the politics of 'Otherization' frequently becomes a strategy of political consolidation, and emotional consolation. It's always easy to find Others to blame. They steal our jobs, our bread, our women. Kill us and attack us all the time. They're so different from us. They hate us. Don't want to know us, or be like us. Can't speak our language. Want to change us. Control us. Enslave us. When the economy is teetering on the edge of the abyss (yes, it is an abyss), the climate is spiralling out of control (far faster than the IPCC would have us believe), peak oil well passed (the age of energy scarcity is here), food prices rocketing (yes, food production peaked about a decade ago and now we're feeling it [well imagine how they feel in the South?]), when systemic crises are converging but those who benefit from the system aren't willing to change it, then the avalanche of anxiety thus generated needs an outlet, a deflection point: the Other.
In other words, if Boris wins, it is an omen of things to come. It would mean that the problematisation of the 'Other' has become entrenched in popular consciousness in the heart of London, often viewed as one of the world's richest multicultural societies. It would mean that ethnic minority and Muslim voting blocs, despite having turned out in force, had been rendered obsolete. It would vindicate the extraordinary power of the military-corporate complex and its UK extension in the form of the City, to influence popular thinking through its structural influence over the mass media -- which is why Boris has been ahead in the polls this week.
Not only will Boris win, comfortably, his unlikely comrades in the BNP will come out with far more votes than hitherto expected. This will be treated as a surprise by mainstream media, if even acknowledged.
I hope that I'm wrong. But if Boris loses, he will lose by a margin. That he's gotten this far already, half-backed by the BNP, is a bad enough indication of the political climate in this country.
Maybe, by a long shot, he'll lose badly. Maybe I'm so wrong, it's almost hilarious. I really hope so. If this is the case, it means that my pessimism is unjustified, that the politics of the Far Right hasn't quite become as entrenched as I'd thought, that corporate and other special interests have been less successful than I'd anticipated in influencing public opinion in the favour of their favoured candidate.
This would be a good sign, a sign that people are still thinking, and not so easily susceptible to the fear-mongers.
But I still think I'm right.
Well, we'll find out soon enough...
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