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PEN Members Decline to Defend Press Freedom.

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Forbidden to Ridicule, Say Some PEN Authors.

New York Times.

The decision by PEN American Center to give its annual Freedom of Expression Courage award to the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo has prompted six writers to withdraw as literary hosts at the group’s annual gala on May 5, adding a new twist to the continuing debate over the publication’s status as a martyr for free speech.

The novelists Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi have withdrawn from the gala, at the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan. Gerard Biard, Charlie Hebdo’s editor in chief, and Jean-Baptiste Thoret, a Charlie Hebdo staff member who arrived late for work on Jan. 7 and missed the attack by Islamic extremists that killed 12 people, are scheduled to accept the award.

The Guardian carries this comment from the US,

I was quite upset as soon as I heard about [the award],” Prose, a former PEN American president, told Associated Press during a telephone interview on Sunday night. Prose said she was in favor of “freedom of speech without limitations” and that she “deplored” the January shootings, but added that giving an award signified “admiration and respect” for the honoree’s work.

“I couldn’t imagine being in the audience when they have a standing ovation for Charlie Hebdo,” Prose said.

As somebody who’s not heard of Prose until today I can’t imagine being in any audience with her.

This reaction is worth remembering,

Salman Rushdie, a former PEN president who lived in hiding for years after a fatwa in response to his novel “The Satanic Verses,” said the issues were perfectly clear. Mr. Ondaatje and Mr. Carey were old friends of his, he said, but they are “horribly wrong.”

“If PEN as a free speech organization can’t defend and celebrate people who have been murdered for drawing pictures, then frankly the organization is not worth the name,” Mr. Rushdie said. “What I would say to both Peter and Michael and the others is, I hope nobody ever comes after them.”

Little Atoms, Charlie Hebdo: why is solidarity so difficult for some writers?    cites a PEN statement,

“The rising prevalence of various efforts to delimit speech and narrow the bounds of any permitted speech concern us; we defend free speech above its contents. We do not believe that any of us must endorse the content of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons in order to affirm the importance of the medium of satire, or to applaud the staff’s bravery in holding fast to those values in the face of life and death threats. There is courage in refusing the very idea of forbidden statements, an urgent brilliance in saying what you have been told not to say in order to make it sayable.”

Padraig Reidy then makes the comments many of us would agree with,

It is all very well to state one’s support for free expression as an abstract, as almost everyone does, but if one cannot express solidarity with people who are murdered for exercising their free expression, then you don’t support free expression. It actually is that simple. I wonder sometimes if the likes of Carey and others tie themselves in knots over these things because the simplicity itself is unappealing: “Where’s the angle?” they think. “Where’s the fresh perspective I can bring?” “What’s the clever thing to say here?”

But while they might reject simplicity, they embrace certainty. They are quite sure that they will never be Charb, they will never be Charlie, they will never be Rushdie. They, being good and right, will never find themselves in the middle of a global storm, or staring down the barrel of a gun: not because they are scared to provoke, but because they only speak and write in self-evident truths with which no one could disagree.

Peter Carey, Michael Ondaatje, Francine Prose, Teju Cole, Rachel Kushner and Taiye Selasi join a list of people who hold their liberal noses in the air when it comes to real fight for freedom of expression.

Charlie’s liberty is the freedom to ridicule abuses, to hold the bigoted up to account, and to “laugh at everything”(rire à tout).

It is the liberty to attack intolerance head on.

Follow the line of Charlie!

Written by Andrew Coates

April 27, 2015 at 11:56 am

George Galloway – Who Once Endorsed Richard Mawrey QC – Says Lutfur Conviction for Fraud and Illegal Practices “Shameful”.

with 15 comments

March 2007. Socialist Worker.

“George Galloway, the Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, spoke in the House of Commons on Monday night during a debate on public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system. Here is the full text of his speech, extracted from Hansard, the official report of parliamentary proceedings (© Parliamentary Copyright 2007).”

In Tower Hamlets last May, we witnessed the most corrupt election held in Britain since 1872. Hundreds of votes were purloined by crooks applying for postal votes and getting them redirected to an address sometimes just doors away from the registered address of the voter. Whole blocks of flats woke up to discover that every one of their residents had applied for a postal vote to be redirected to another address without their knowledge. Some 2,800 postal vote applications were delivered to the town hall in Tower Hamlets in the last hours of the last day, and many were brought in by sitting councillors. A total of 18,732 postal votes were registered in Tower Hamlets: a vast increase on the vast increase that had occurred at the general election the year before. Almost 15 percent of those were delivered on the last afternoon. A total of 946 postal votes were redirected to addresses that were not the registered address of the voter, with considerably more as a percentage in the wards where new Labour councillors were under pressure.

For the entertainment of the chamber, let me say that, despite all this, our party defeated the Labour mayor, the Labour deputy mayor, the Labour leader, the Labour deputy leader, the Labour housing convenor, the Labour deputy housing convenor – I could go on, but the house would lose patience. In one ward, New Labour councillor Bill Turner, who won by just 38 votes, himself had postal votes redirected to the address at which he said that he was living. The system is so utterly without basic democratic protection that it is virtually impossible to detect fraud with a sufficient degree of proof to bring the matter successfully before an election court, where, as might not be known, one must demonstrate that the fraud would have changed the result of the election. Fraud can therefore be demonstrated on a significant scale, but if it is not enough to change the course of the election, the matter is simply thrown out.

Two petitions were accepted, and were prayed in aid by Labour members. But we were only allowed to have the postal votes for the winning Labour candidate examined, and the only check that we could carry out was a forensic examination and comparison of the signature. None the less, the handwriting expert agreed by all sides in the petition identified 30 percent of the postal votes as questionable, and believed that the signatures were probably from different hands in almost half those votes – and that was just sampling 300 postal votes out of almost 19,000.

It continues,

On top of that – this is where the issue of complacency arises – a major police investigation into voting fraud in Tower Hamlets is ongoing, and has engaged four police officers full-time for the past ten months. No charges have yet been brought – I do not know if they will be, as it is so easy to subvert the system – but Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman has already commented, on the basis of that investigation, that postal votes are particularly susceptible to fraud. Despite all the talk of there not being many prosecutions, the Crown Prosecution Service has confirmed that 390 cases of alleged electoral offences have occurred over the past seven years, and not all in inner cities. In Reading, only two of 46 postal vote applications examined were found to be authentic. Richard Mawrey QC *, who has been much quoted this evening, looked at ballots in the Birmingham city wards of Aston and nearby Bordesley Green. He said that there were at least 1,000 forged votes in Aston and 1,500 to 2,000 in Bordesley Green. The system of postal voting on demand is leading to a banana republic perception.

Like the minister, I am a former Labour Party official. I have been fighting elections for almost 40 years, almost always on the winning side. I know about elections. Now, for the first time in my political life, people ask me, ‘How do we know that they are counting these votes fairly? How do we know they are not rigging the election?’ I am not saying that that is happening, but there is a systematic undermining of confidence in the electoral process, caused largely by postal vote fraud.

Galloway observes,

Councils share the responsibility with government. Richard Mawrey QC considered our two petitions – the only two that we could get in front of the election court. I hope that the minister, who is laughing, will listen to what he said about a New Labour council just a few miles from Westminster, held by one seat that was only secured by this type of corruption. In response to our petitions, Richard Mawrey QC declared that the evidence that we presented showed ‘disturbing’ and ‘suspicious’ signs of ‘classic postal voting fraud’. He went on to say that a regime that allows electors to acquire postal voting ballots ‘on demand’ has been ‘an open invitation to fraud’, which has proved to be ‘distressingly easy’.

Yet in the wake of those comments by a Queen’s counsel, Tower Hamlets council, with its Labour majority of one, issued a press release that was such a falsification that Andrew Gilligan – remember him? The minister shakes her head. He was the only journalist to tell us the truth about the government’s lies on Iraq. He said in the Evening Standard that the council’s press release was a pack of lies. Who presided over all this? A woman called Christine Gilbert, whose intimate connections to New Labour are so personal that I would not like to go down that route. Suffice it to say that her reward for presiding over the tower of corruption in Tower Hamlets was to be made the chief inspector of schools at Ofsted. God save our children. God save the integrity of their examination results.”

Galloway is still fond of the electoral law.

Galloway refers Labour leaflet to the Director of Public Prosecutions

Posted by on Friday, April 24, 2015

A Labour election leaflet from candidate Naz Shah in Bradford West which is being delivered to every household in the constituency has been referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions because it contains alleged false statements aimed at affecting the election result.

Respect candidate George Galloway has made his second referral to the DPP under Section 106 of the Representation of the People Act 1983. The complaint concerns an extremely critical statement about Galloway attributed to a local businessman, a pharmacist, in the Heaton Ward of the constituency, which the man denies making.

“This was brought to my attention by a senior consultant at the Bradford Royal Infirmary, who works closely with the pharmacist,” Galloway says. “I have made inquiries and I am satisfied that the man, a highly respectable man, did not say what he is quoted as saying. These quotes were printed alongside his photograph. He is shocked and angry and claims that Labour have failed to respond to his complaint. The quotes appear to have been invented and then included in Shah’s leaflet which is now being distributed by Royal Mail to every house in Bradford West. It is an absolutely despicable and desperate act by Shah and her team, but sadly absolutely typical.”

A defence under Section 106 of the act, False Statements As To Candidates, is that the statements made are believed to be true, “There cannot be a ‘reasonable grounds’ defence when statements are invented,” Galloway added. “I am urging the DPP to urgently investigate this blatant attempt to influence the outcome of the election.

But how times change when it comes to Tower Hamlets.

Meanwhile Nick Cohen comments: Tower Hamlets: how a dictatorship flourished in the East End.

See also this claim that Richard Mawrey QC was not “qualified” to pass judgement, and hinting that he had a “particular interest” in Muslims (see above!!!).  “sitting in judgment was one man only – not a qualified judge, only a barrister (assumed by the media and even myself, to be a Judge) – who has demonstrated previously a peculiar interest in Muslims and elections. This man found Lutfur Rahman guilty of multiple offences under the Representation of the People Act 1983.” “Jen Izaakson asserts in contempt of the judgement that “. Law is, explicitly, to be applied differently to Muslims than as it applied to the ‘agnostic metropolitan elite’, whoever they are (is this the bankers in East London?).”

Here: A review of the judgement in the Lutfur Rahman case.

We learn with no surprise that Izaakson is closely linked to Richard Seymour – the ally of the militant wing of post-colonial studies, the racist and homophobic Indigènes de la République.

This is how he describes his politics,

Jen Izaakson

Jen Izaakson @Izaakson

Rootless cosmopolitan. Anti-humanist. Historical Materialist. LSE grad. PhD.

Izaakson’s ‘demolition’ of the judgement is laughable.

This incontinent drivel states,

In court one particular afternoon I watched as five Muslim witnesses were repeatedly asked, “did you say it was haram to not vote for brother Lutfur?”, as if these people were religious scholars in any position to do so. Within Islam there is a debate about whether to vote at all in elections, not about which candidate is the godly choice! To make such a claim, to decide god’s will and choose a specific man above another as more fated by god, I imagine, though I’m no sheik, would be sacrilegious.

No you are not a sheik, or a scholar or a gentleman.

Obviously the electioneering of the Muslim Brotherhood’s various branches from North Africa, Egypt and elsewhere,  has not come to the writer’s attention, to cite just one case amongst hundreds.

If Rahman was indicated as the only right ‘Muslim’ candidate is this not a problem?

If the Labour ‘Zionist’ Party was not ‘Muslim’, then is this not a problem?

Is there anything wrong with religiously motivated campaigning?

Apparently not.

There is a lot worse in this torrent of dissembling.

Just take one example,

Postal Vote Fraud

The evidence for these claims was the testimony of Andrew Gilligan, a right-wing Telegraph journalist linked to cronyism claims that has hounded Lutfur for years. Gilligan simply stated that two Tower Hamlets councilors had two addresses. To be clear: it was found that Rahman was guilty of this claim due to it simply being thought that Gilligan’s testimony was ‘credible’ (believable), without any proof. All that was believed is that two councilors had two addresses and then Gilligan’s assumption they therefore must’ve voted twice was agreed with.

See above for Gilligan’s past.

All Izaaskson demonstrates that the judge accepted the truth of a witness statement.

Has he any other alternative ‘proof’ that it was not?

No he has none.

The rest of the criticism, on organised religious pressure (see our previous post) is equally airily dismissed as the action of ” exuberant groups” – and whatabout Labour supporters own enthusiasm!

We wonder why there was a trial at all, Seymour, Rees and Izaakson could simply look at this “natural” enthusiasm with a wry smile.

Because they too backed Lutfur and wanted him to win.

* Richard Mawrey QC,“The judge who disqualified Lutfur Rahman is one of the country’s leading electoral law practitioners and has handed down previous, scathing judgments resulting in councillors being removed from office. Richard Mawrey QC, a deputy high court judge, specialises in election cases and has developed an acute awareness of voter fraud in his experience as an election commissioner – although there have been calls to improve the way the court operates.” Guardian. Wikipedia.

Lutfur Rahman, the Left and ‘spiritual influence’.

with 58 comments

https://twitter.com/donovanian999/status/591292548578152448

Luftur Gets Support.

There have been a variety of reactions to the high court ruling by Richard Mawrey QC, on Thursday that Lufter Rahman, the mayor of Tower Hamlets borough since 2010, was guilty of vote-rigging, seeking spiritual influence through local imams, and wrongly branding his Labour rival a racist.

 This carries some weight.

John Rees on the outrageous dismissal of Tower Hamlet’s first elected Muslim Mayor

The Tower Hamlets electoral fraud trial was a political event from the beginning. Indeed, everything you need to know about the decision of High Court Judge Richard Mawrey to declare void the election of Britain’s first Muslim Mayor is contained in his summary judgement. In it he said that Muslims in Tower Hamlets are ‘not a real minority’ because, apparently, there are so many of them in the borough.

Like the rest of his remarks it will fuel every racist stereotype that has ever been uttered about Tower Hamlets, and it will legitimise the long and disgraceful war by Tories, Lib-Dems and the local Labour Party to stop the rise of Bangladeshi representation in the area.

Rees asserts,

The judge’s view is so baseless that perhaps we should not be surprised that he is refusing to issue the executive summary of his judgement that he read out in court.

And what of the main charge that Lutfur Raham used ‘spiritual influence’ to gain votes? The judge obviously imagines that Muslims are so backward and superstitious that they cannot make their up their minds how to vote without religious guidance, or to ignore such advice if they wish. How confusing it must have been for those Muslim electors in wards where the front-runners were both Muslims!

And in any case in every Tower Hamlets election Muslims vote for Labour in large numbers as well as for left of Labour candidates. The Mayoral election in which Lutfur Rahman became Mayor (for the second time) was no different.

And if the use of ‘spiritual influence’ in elections is enough to declare them void then there’s going to be a few other results declared null…in Northern Ireland where the influence of Protestant and Catholic churches will remain enormous at the coming  general election for instance. Perhaps the most amazing aspect is this spiritual law under which the judge issued his verdict is archaic, first introduced by the British in Ireland to stop Catholic preachers rallying the Irish! One doesn’t need much imagination to see how this legal relic will be used against Muslims.

He also says,

Even more staggering is the judge’s accusation that Lutfur Rahman ‘played the race card’. Actually he played the anti-racist card against a Labour Party establishment which has long abused the loyalty of its supporters in Tower Hamlets.

The Judge began (Richard Mawrey QC’s ruling on Tower Hamlets election court.   Paragraph 152)

“…just as undue spiritual influence under s 115 of the 1983 Act is not confined  to Christianity, it is equally not confined to religions which have the Christian sacraments or an equivalent, the threat of withdrawal or refusal of which can be used by clergy to influence voters. Similarly, it is not an essential ingredient of the section that the spiritual influence should be that of a monotheistic religion or of a religion which contains a belief in an afterlife where punishments and rewards are meted out for conduct in this life. In an appropriate case undue spiritual influence could be created by what some might regard as a cult, such as Mr Moon’s ‘Unification Church’ or even ‘New Age’”

He observed (Para 529) ,

The Petitioners’ case may be summarised as follows.  In formulating his campaign, Mr Rahman, as well as playing the race card, was determined to play the religious card. The campaign would be targeted at Tower Hamlets ’ Muslim population with a stark message: ‘Islam is under threat: it is the religious duty of all devout Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman and his party .’  (para 530) It was not, the Petitioners said, the first time that the religious card had been played. There was a persistent history of Mr Rahman attacking his opponents who happened to be Muslim by claiming that they were not, unlike himself, devout and pious Muslims.

Continuing he remarked,

Secondly there is a substantial body of credible evidence that the Imams’ message that it was the duty of faithful Muslims to vote for Mr Rahman entered the general campaign ,with religious duty being mentioned in canvassing before the poll and to voters attending polling stations on election day.
What this meant in practice is covered in the judgment section on ‘intimidation’.

(Para 590),  Groups of supporters would approach voters, particularly Bangladeshi voters and harangue them in a manner that appeared to some onlookers to be rather aggressive.

Several witnesses from different polling stations used the phrase ‘running the gauntlet’ to describe their passage into the polling station. Others spoke of feeling ‘harassed’.

(Para 591) Both English and Bengali speaking witnesses attest to THF (Rahman’s party – note) supporters shouting, amongst other things, that a) it was the duty of Bangladeshi voters to support Mr Rahman: this was normally expressed as support for Mr Rahman rather than for THF as a party; b) similarly it was the religious duty of all faithful Muslims to support Mr Rahman; c) Mr Biggs was a ‘racist. d) the Labour Party was ‘racist’ and ‘Zionist’; e) anyone voting Labour had been brainwashed against Islam.

Rees asks,

And if ‘playing the race card’ is grounds for declaring an election void are we now going to see other candidates judged by this standard. Will UKIP councillors or MEPs be held to account? Or perhaps it’s only an accusation that applies to people who suffer racism.

Absolutely right.

He also says,

That leaves the only meaningful charge being that of misusing funds. Yet that would have to be proved in the case of every single councillor for the election as a whole to be re-run, even if it could be agreed that this is grounds for re-running elections rather than a slap on the wrist that expense fiddling MPs receive.

A serious case here of whataboutery – which we will ignore: this is the judgement on Rahman, not on the whole council.

The conclusion Rees reaches is unfortunate.

The general climate of Islamophobia (the Daily Express is already gloating) makes any accusation half believed even before it is investigated. It is of a piece with the mounting establishment hostility to the SNP. The old system is fraying and any challenge to it is being met with a full force tide of reaction. If the establishment gets away with removing one of the few councils that came to power by fighting racism and austerity, that has an admirable anti-war record, then the whole left will have suffered a setback and every racist in the country will be rejoicing. We should not let that happen.

So the whole affair can be dismissed as part of the “tide of reaction”.

Not it can’t.

The Judge ruled that there was a great deal of politiking to gain  support – through grants and other mechanisms – in the Borough.

The Independent reports,

… former mayor, who was elected to a second term last year, had focused his electoral machine on the borough’s large Bangladeshi community – effectively bribing voters by targeting them with generous grants and using the influence of a senior cleric to tell Muslims it was their duty to vote for him.Mr Mawrey said: “The evidence laid before this court has disclosed an alarming state of affairs in Tower Hamlets. This is not the consequence of the racial and religious mix of the population, nor is it linked to any ascertainable pattern of social or other deprivation. It is the result of the ruthless ambition of one man.”

It is well-known on the left that is explained away on the grounds that “this is Big City politics”, “they all do it.” That in this instance Rahman had acted in this way to serve a progressive – anti-austerity and broadly on the left – platform.

That’s as may be – it’s contestable. But what Rees raises is the issue of ‘religious guidance’, which, he considers irrelevant, since everybody can make up their own minds.

Clearly this was not the view of Rahman and his supporters.

Is the ‘spiritual influence’ that Rahman used, and described above in the judgement (there is more detail in the full text), acceptable?

Is screaming in a mass about religious duty, hatred of  ‘Zionists’, and ‘racists’ (er, oddly conjoined), to everybody about to vote something part of “fighting racism and austerity”?

Is it ‘anti-racist’ to identify one candidate with one religion and appeal, above all, to ‘faithful Muslims’?

Is labelling – systematically – your opponent a “racist” (which is  libelous if written) a campaigning strategy to follow ?

Is machine politics left politics?

Instead of yelling,  ‘Islamophobia’, we should also look at Rahman’s connections with Islamism – including some of groups who can only be called racist – as part of his way of building support for his “electoral machine”.

What exactly is his stand on, and relations with, the Jimaat-i-Islami whose leaders have been accused of complicity in genocide, the mass murder of our Bengali sisters and brothers, in 1971?

This is apparently not a problem for Counterfire.

Nor, it seems, for former London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Lutfur Rahman: Ken Livingstone says he hopes corrupt mayor will appeal High Court verdict says the Evening Standard.

“Former London mayor Ken Livingstone has slammed a High Court judge’s decision to void Lutfur Rahman’s election, calling the Election Commissioner an “unelected bureaucrat”.”

A dissenting voice, James Bloodworth, reminds us of a few home truths.

Lutfur Rahman played the Islamophobia card to silence his critics. And too many on the left fell for it

We must ignore the inevitable cries of “stitch up” that will now follow.

Those of us who have lived in Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets in recent years had a fair idea that something wasn’t right. An atmosphere of menace and intimidation prevailed at council meetings and a cult of personality was thrown up around Rahman himself, with posters carrying the Mayor’s face (and little else) increasingly ubiquitous in the borough. Extremist preachers were invited to speak in council chambers and council grants were directed away from secular organisations in favour of groups which mainly served the Bangladeshi and Muslim communities.

American Muslim Groups Refuse to Recognise Armenian Genocide.

with one comment

Exactly 100 years ago, on 24 April 1915, the Turkish government arrested 250 Armenian intellectuals and cultural leaders in Constantinople, so beginning the Armenian genocide.

From late spring of 1915, massacres were carried out throughout Turkey. The government organised the genocide by creating death squads, passing laws to sanction deportation and confiscation, using the then cutting-edge railway and telegraph technology, and wrapping the whole thing up in the nationalist ideology of pan-Turkism.

Peter Balakian concluded,

Turkish denial comes in many forms. This year, one of its tactics aimed at undermining the memory of the genocide includes holding a centennial event for the Battle of Gallipoli on 24 April – the day Armenians worldwide remember the genocide – rather than 25 April, the usual Gallipoli commemoration date. The offence is compounded by the attendance of Prince Charles and Prince Harry at this politically concocted gathering.

That is why it was so important that last week Pope Francis affirmed that the slaughter of the Armenians was the “first genocide of the 20th century”. He showed that he would not be bullied by the Turkish state. Nor would he be cajoled by Turkey’s specious rhetoric suggesting that if he used the word “genocide” he would create a crisis between Muslims and Christians. The pope took the moral issue even further when he addressed the corruption of Turkish denial: “Concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

On the centenary of the genocide, Turkey would do its national honour well if it listened to him. There can be no reconciliation until there is truth.

“If Armenian-American college students felt betrayed in the past day, I would not blame them. So many of them came out to support student resolutions at several universities across the country demanding divestment from the Israeli occupation.  And yet, one of the largest American Palestine solidarity organizations in this country just told these students that their grandparents’ stories still need to be verified. If you do not know what I am referring to please read this statement put out by the United States Council of Muslim Organizations.

In this statement, member organizations of the USCMO, including American Muslims for Palestine, make the case that President Obama should not refer to the “events of 1915” as a genocide without further investigation. They call for a more “balanced” approach through academic consensus based on Turkish archives that Turkey refuses to open to establish a “just memory.” The statement also refers to the importance of Turkey as an ally in the fight against ISIS. What is even worst is that it was released on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the genocide.

http://twitter.com/ramahkudaimi/status/589905206072213505/photo/1

The fact that this statement came from every major Muslim organization in America is outrageous in itself. The fact that American Muslims for Palestine signed on to this statement is doubly heinous.

How American Muslims for Palestine does not recognize the moral hypocrisy of such a denial is beyond me. Palestinians as a people have spent decades demanding the world recognize our ethnic cleansing from our homeland. For years, it was the stories of our parents and grandparents against the denial of the entirety of Israeli society. Even after the opening of Israeli state archives (that only Israeli academics had access to) confirmed what we have always known to be true, we still fight to have the Nakba and our right to return recognized. On top of all this, AMP must have forgotten that there are Armenian-Palestinians who survived this genocide.

What kind of logical acrobatics did AMP have to undertake to avoid seeing the moral hypocrisy of this statement?

To fully appreciate the self-deceit required for AMP to be a co-signor to this denial of history, one only need replace ‘Turkey’ with ‘Israel,’ ‘Armenians’ with ‘Palestinians’, ‘genocide’ with ‘ethnic-cleansing,’ and ‘ISIS’ with ‘Islamic terrorism.’ These are some of the sentences you would be reading:

‘…characterizing the events of 19(48) as (ethnic cleansing) without proper investigation of these events by independent historians will not only jeopardize the establishment of a just memory pertaining to these events, but will also damage the efforts aimed at achieving reconciliation between (Israelis) and (Palestinians).’

‘As Americans, we are concerned about alienating a key ally, (Israel)’

‘Our government has been closely cooperating with the (Israeli) government on defeating (Islamic terrorism)…’

The writers of this statement could work for the US State Department.

Thankfully, progressive Muslims, Palestinians, and solidarity activists across the country are expressing their outrage.”

The USCMO statement has been disowned by many groups:

MLFA Response to USCMO Statement on Armenian Genocide

April 20, 2015 – DALLAS – Representatives from Muslim Legal Fund of America are clarifying their organization’s position on a statement released today by United States Council of Muslim Organizations (USCMO) regarding the Armenian Genocide of 1915.

Khalil Meek, Executive Director of MLFA, said the organization he represents does not take positions on or make public statements about international issues. As a domestic-only organization, Meek emphasized that 100 percent of MLFA’s focus and efforts remains within the borders of the United States of America.

“It is not MLFA’s place nor is it part of its mission to question the Armenian genocide,” said Meek. “I apologize if the inclusion of MLFA’s name in this statement caused any confusion to our donors, supporters or anyone else.”

 The British Government has also refused to recognise the Armenian genocide.

Christian and other religious minority communities are again under threat in the Middle and Near East.

It would be interesting to see how British Muslim organisations plan to respond to the anniversary of the Armenian genocide.

Charlie Hebdo Seminar in Queens University Belfast Cancelled Amid Fears for “Reputation” and “Security”.

with 14 comments

Can we Laugh About Everything? Not if Universities Have their Way.

This story broke yesterday but just how rotten the reasons given by the ‘University’ are are only just sinking in.

The decision to cancel a conference in Belfast on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders in France has been labelled “a bitter irony”.

The event had been scheduled for Queen’s University, Belfast, in June.

Vice chancellor Patrick Johnston said he cancelled because of the security risk and concerns for QUB’s reputation.

But two academics who had been booked to speak said it was ironic that an event about free speech should be called off in this way.

Self censorship was one of the themes of the conference.

Professor Max Silverman from Leeds University told BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster: “It is deeply ironic that what was going on in Paris this year to do largely with freedom of speech is actually being replicated by the university itself.

“There is a bitter irony in that the ability to discuss these topics has been taken away from us by this university decision.

“If you cannot discuss these sensitive issues in a university then I don’t know where you can discuss them. I do fear for what we value most in our democracies.”

Prof Silverman said the cancelled conference was now getting much more publicity but “for all the wrong reasons”.

‘Baffled and dismayed’

“Queen’s University has a wonderful reputation. It is a very prestigious institution. I don’t think this is going to enhance that reputation at all,” he said.

Dr Brian Klug from Oxford said he was both “baffled and dismayed” by the decision to cancel.

“Organising this was an admirable initiative and I cannot understand why the university has pulled the rug out from under their feet,” he said.

“We really don’t know what the vice chancellor was worried about. We haven’t been told what that security risk consists of. I think we are all owed an explanation.”

Dr Klug said that not only was it not the role of the university to stop freedom of speech, but it was “the responsibility of academia to respond to complex international conflicts in a constructive analytical way”.

The symposium: Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, had been due to be hosted by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities.

Twelve people died when two brothers, Said and Cherif Kouachi, fired on the journalists on 7 January at the satirical magazine’s offices in Paris.

Five others were killed over the two following days by one of their associates.

Padraig Reidy in Little Atoms provides essential background.

The Vice Chancellor of Queen’s University Belfast, Patrick Johnston, was today criticised after the cancellation of an academic symposium on the fallout from the Charlie Hebdo murders.

The symposium: Understanding Charlie: New perspectives on contemporary citizenship after Charlie Hebdo, was due to be hosted in June by QUB’s Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities. But delegates, including Oxford University philosopher Brian Klug were informed via email on Monday (20 April) that the event would not go ahead.

The email informed speakers: “The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s University Belfast has made the decision just this morning that he does not wish our symposium to go ahead. He is concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

Doctor Klug said this morning he is “baffled” and “dismayed” by the decision.

“I don’t understand either of his concerns. The second – the reputation of the university – strikes me as ironic, as his action does not exactly reflect well on Queens,” he told Little Atoms via email.

More on Little Atoms.

Nick Cohen has commented on this story,

The Vice Chancellor at Queen’s – one Paul Johnston –  cancelled the discussion yesterday because he was “concerned about the security risk for delegates and about the reputation of the university.”

What to make of his cowardice?

The most obvious point is that senior academics now see suppression of debate as a means of protecting “the reputation of the university”. Freedom of thought and open argument, once the best reasons for having universities, are now threats which must be neutered.

Second, it is now not only difficult or impossible to satirise Islam because of fear of violence, it is becoming difficult or impossible in British universities to discuss the actual violence. Not only can you not show Charlie Hebdo cartoons, you cannot talk about the motives of the men who murdered the cartoonists. Third, although he cannot prove this, Walsh suspects that there was no real security risk, just the possibility that someone’s feelings would be hurt when he and others unequivocally condemned the murderers of cartoonists and Jews. The possibility that someone will or may hear an argument he or she does not like is now enough to justify censorship.

Finally, Queen’s has made the vice-chancellors and academics protesting against the Conservatives’ plans to ban Islamists look like perfect fools and utter hypocrites. If universities censor learned debates on Islamism, how can they possibly deny the state the right to censor Islamists?

The beloved martyr Charb’s book Lettre aux escrocs de l’islamophobie qui font le jeu des racistes has been extensively commented on in the English speaking media.

There is a very fine article today in the Independent today:

Charlie Hebdo editor’s final book: ‘Letter to the Islamophobia Frauds Who Play into the Hands of Racists’.

This is worth underlining,

Stéphane Charbonnier was a cartoonist and writer. He was a supporter of the French Communist Party. And while, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo aggressively poked fun at Catholicism and Judaism as well as radical Islam, his book – published in France last week – is a passionate rejection of the allegations that, under his editorship, Charlie Hebdo was “racist” or “Islamophobic”.

In the book, Charb, as he was always known, defends his publication of cartoons mocking radical Islam and caricaturing (but never mocking) the Prophet Mohamed. He argues – from a left-wing, anti-racist, militantly secular viewpoint – that the word “Islamophobia” is a trap, set by an unholy alliance of Muslim radicals and the unthinking, liberal Western media. The real issue, he says, is racism and Charlie Hebdo was never racist…

The Indy’s article is essential reading.

And in French there’s more: EXCLUSIF. Le testament de Charb

Tué il y a trois mois, le directeur de “Charlie Hebdo” venait d’achever un livre où il répondait aux accusations d’islamophobie pesant sur son journal. “L’Obs” en publie aujourd’hui les extraits.

 https://i1.wp.com/cdn-parismatch.ladmedia.fr/var/news/storage/images/media/images/charia-hebdo/517440-1-fre-FR/charia-hebdo_inside_full_content_pm_v8.jpg

1o0 Lashes of the Whip if you don’t just Die Laughing.

Ken Livingstone Backs Naz Shah in Bradford as Galloway Faces Serious Challenge.

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Ken Livingstone backing Naz Shah in Bradford.

Has George Galloway met his match in Bradford West?

Parveen Akhtar

Extracts.

“Shah caught the public imagination by writing about her difficult personal life. She grew up poor and at times destitute after her father left her pregnant mother and two children for the neighbours’ 16-year-old daughter. Shah was then sent to Pakistan by her mother, who feared for her safety; there, she was forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 15. Her mother, meanwhile, suffered abuse at the hands of another man, who she ended up poisoning to death.

Shah’s journey into politics is a far cry from the PPE-at-Oxford template of the traditional upper-middle-class career politician. With this powerful story and the Labour Party political machine behind her, she is Galloway’s only credible opponent in the election.

“Galloway still has a following in Bradford West, and, as he is fond of pointing out, it’s an international one: “They’re watching this contest from Manhattan to Gaza, from Mirpur to Baghdad. They’re watching the result of this election all over the world.”

Dogged loyalists

“Galloway still has a following in Bradford West, and, as he is fond of pointing out, it’s an international one: “They’re watching this contest from Manhattan to Gaza, from Mirpur to Baghdad. They’re watching the result of this election all over the world.”

But on April 13, former Respect councillor Mohammad Shabbir released a statement announcing that he had joined the Labour Group within Bradford council. He stated that “Respect (George Galloway) is a party of one and sadly it will remain so.”

“At the end of the first hustings, an apparent Respect supporter who had heckled from the side-lines throughout asked Naz Shah a question as she was leaving for the night:

“Who will be dancing in the streets if your party wins – the Israelis or the Palestinians?”

“Human beings will,” she replied.

“Your leader’s a bacon-eating Zionist!” came the reply.

Shah responded: “Half of England eats bacon. I can’t decide my policies by that.”

 

 

Protests Grow at Katie Hopkins Migrants are “Cockroaches” Column.

with 13 comments

Rwanda: Never Forgotten. 

This is how Rwandan local radio incited the Hutus to violence:
‘You have to kill the Tutsis, they’re cockroaches.’
‘All those who are listening, rise so we can fight for our Rwanda. Fight with the weapons you have at your disposal: those who have arrows, with arrows, those who have spears, with spears. We must all fight.’
‘We must all fight the Tutsis. We must finish with them, exterminate them, sweep them from the whole country. There must be no refuge for them.’
‘They must be exterminated. There is no other way.’

 

Katie Hopkins petition calling for her to be sacked as The Sun columnist has almost reached 200,000 target, just three days after launch.

Katie Hopkins inspired the wrath of thousands when she described migrants desperate to reach Britain following humanitarian disasters in their own countries as “feral humans” and suggested the government deploy “gunships” to stop them landing on shore.

Her column for The Sun, in which she further labelled refugees “cockroaches”,  became the subject of heated debate over whether the language she used – and the tabloid published – broke editorial guidelines.

Not that the British public were about to wait for the results of an inquiry. An online petition quickly sprouted up on Change.orgcalling for her sacking from the paper.

From the Independent. 

Comrade  says why we are protesting.

On immigration, the language of genocide has entered the mainstream.

I have no interest in the personality of that exoskeleton of solidified bile that is Katie Hopkins. None. But as dead bodies are taken out of the sea, destined for unmarked graves, we might ask how the language she speaks, and the flaunting of murderous wishes towards people who have nothing but the clothes they are found in, has become so mainstream.

To see the vocabulary of genocide casually used by Hopkins in her Sun column has disgusted many, but it does not come out of nowhere. The “debate” around immigration is rarely a debate at all; it has become a void which people fill with more and more extreme and disconnected statements.

Those who preach “honesty” – Nigel Farage staring down the camera, telling us that we at home are thinking what he is thinking, that unlike other politicians he will “tell it as it is” – are lying. The far right’s fantasy of pulling up the drawbridge to stop this great flow of desperate humanity in transit is just that: a fantasy. The politician who promises control of all borders, and pledges to further strengthen that control by withdrawing further from Europe, is selling a simplistic idea. This idea is now indeed itself Europe-wide, as the toxic language around immigration has moved from the margin into the mainstream.

More at the Guardian. 

Written by Andrew Coates

April 20, 2015 at 4:48 pm