Jeremy Corbyn hails ‘vote of confidence’ after Labour win Oldham byelection
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Giles Fraser: Exploits Refugees’ Plight to Support Attacks of Secularism.
One the most tasteless, not to say, repugnant, attempts to make political capital out of the plight of the refugees and migrants in Calais, has been published
It comes not from the xenophobic right but from the Guardian’s favourite Cleric, Giles Fraser. (Thanks: JD)
why don’t the refugees want asylum in France? One reason is because many of them perceive Britain to have a stronger tradition of religious tolerance than France. And this often surprises the French, because they pride themselves on their much-discussed notion of laïcité – roughly, secularism plus – so sacred a notion that it’s enshrined in article one of the French constitution.
Now it is to expected that a paid employee of a State Church – at St Mary’s Newington in south London – would defend his source of income. Although no doubt he puts this in the Guardian Register of Ideological Interests one does not notice any parallel effort on his part to draw attention to this privileged place in Britain’s uncodified constitution.
No doubt his mind is on higher things.
Last year Giles Fraser indulged in this rant.
The glorious triumph of atheistic rationality over the dangerous totalitarian obscurantism of the Catholic church is one of the great foundation myths of republican France. And coded within this mythology is the message that liberty, equality, fraternity can flourish only when religion is suppressed from the public sphere. It is worth remembering what this ideological space-clearing involved.
At the end of the 18th century, France’s war against the Catholic church reached its bloody conclusion. By Easter 1794, the same revolution that once proclaimed freedom of conscience had forcedly closed down the vast majority of France’s 40,000 churches. What began with the confiscation of church property and the smashing of crosses and chalices, ended with forced conversions and the slaughter of priests and nuns at the guillotine.
It is in this period, the so-called Reign of Terror, that the modern English word terrorism – deriving from the French terrorisme – has its origins. “Terror is nothing but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue,” argued Robespierre, in what now sounds like a sick press release from Islamic State. Over in the Vendée, those who remained loyal to their centuries-old faith were massacred in what historian Mark Levene has called “an archetype of modern genocide”. The systematic de-Christianisation of France was not the natural and inevitable collapse of sclerotic religion and the natural and inevitable rise of Enlightenment rationality. It was murderous, state-sponsored suppression.
This was but the prelude to Fraser displaying unforgiving spite against our comrades in Charlie Hebdo, “the reason publications such as Charlie Hebdo persist with their crass anti-clerical cliches (where the joke is usually a variation on bishops buggering each other) is that a powerful strain of French self-understanding actually requires a sense of external religious threat against which to frame itself.”
The Tendance replied at the time.
We pointed out the Terror was presided over by Robespierre, who put a stop to “De-Christianisation” declared that “atheism is aristocratic” and tried to create a state cult of the ‘Supreme Being’. We suggested instead of relying on a Clerical Wikipedia he actually read some of the history of the period, which includes conflicts inside the Church – a minority of which backed the Revolution – and the majority which supported the counter-revolution, which by definition, did not. We even supplied a short reading list, for the vociferating Vicar to read.
In a truly atheist spirit we stated that Fraser was speaking gobshite about our Charlie and had spat on the graves of our beloved martyrs.
Now Gilles is at it again.
He has yet to tackle that reading list, which would no doubt have disturbed the unfurrowed creases of his brow.
There are indeed no facts, only interpretations.
Secularism is repression.
Laïcité began as justification for eradicating the influence of the Catholic church – and involved the murder of thousands of priests during the revolution. It continues as a cover for discrimination against Muslims.
From the Terror to Discrimination there is but a small step.
It would be interesting to know how the principle of religious neutrality means …religious discrimination.
The one-time Putney Preacher – fond of evoking the Levellers’ Putney debates, perhaps less so on airing the intolerant and bigoted side of the Parliamentary and other Puritans, makes a further link,
….laïcité is a way of ensuring the state’s systematic blindness when it comes to religion. It is an official pretence not to notice whether or where somebody prays. For its detractors, this supposed neutrality is nothing of the sort, but rather a cover for the eradication of religious visibility, indeed religious rights, from the public sphere. This week, both Amnesty International andHuman Rights Watch condemned the French police’s human rights violations against Muslims.
Perhaps a better way of saying this would be that there is a contradiction between defence of universal human rights in secularism and the practices of the French state. How can we judge this: by reference to the same universal human rights.
Britain, one assumes because it is not secular, has, apparently a much better human rights record than France.
Fraser unfortunately does not offer evidence of that.
Nor does offer any proof that faith is an issue, rather than, say, the strict regulations that govern French refugee status, and the fact that speaking and learning that language, rather than English, may appear daunting to many.
There is one further problem with Fraser’s attempts to use other people’s misery for his own ends.
Religiously tolerant Britain – or rather its Government – is more than reluctant to accept the Calais refugees and migrants
In France the film, Les Salafistes, has created intense controversy. At one point it seemed as if it might be banned. Now the documentary has been released, with a certificate than denies cinema entry to under-18s. In Saturday’s Guardian Natalie Nougayréde discusses the picture, which includes videos from Daesh (Islamic State – IS, also ISIS) and al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI), with interviews with Salafists (rigorist Islamists) and jihadi leaders (Les Salafistes is gruelling viewing – but it can help us understand terror.)
She states, “The most gruelling moment comes when an Isis propaganda films shows a line of captured men walking towards the banks of a river; jihadi militants then shoot them in the head, one by one. The waters of the river start flowing with blood. And we see the pleading, panic-stricken faces of Isis’s victims, filmed close-up just before they are killed.”
Nougayréde considers that Les Salafistes “opens our eyes to a fanatical world”, that we “need to understand that ideology, however twisted and repulsive” Claude Lanzmann – the director the monumental film on the Holocaust, Shoah, she notes, has defended the film and asked for the age limit to be withdrawn. The screen shows better than any book the reality of the most fanatical form of Islamism. Lemine Ould M. Salem et François Margolin, have created a “chef d’oeuvre”. Its formal beauty brings into sharp relief the brutality of the Islamists, and “everyday life under the Sharia in Timbuktu, Mauritania, in Mali, Tunisia (in areas which have been under AQMI occupation or influence), and in Iraq. The age restriction on entry should go. (Fleur Pellerin, ne privez pas les jeunes du film, Salafistes! Le Monde 29.1.16.)
Lanzmann also argues (which the Guardian columnist does not cite) that Les Salafistes shows that “any hope of change, any improvement, any understanding” with the violent Islamists it portrays, is “futile and illusory”.
In yesterday’s Le Monde (30. 1.16) there is a fuller account of Les Salafistes and the controversies surrounding it, as well as on Made in France a thriller that imagined a jihadist cell preparing an attack on Paris. With a planned release in November, as the Paris slaughters took place, it was withdrawn and now will be available only on VOD (View on Demand).
Timbuktu not les Salafistes.
Saturday’s Le Monde Editorial recommends seeing the 2014 fiction Timbuktu rather than Les Salafistes. The Islamic State has already paraded its murders and tortures before the world. Its “exhibitionnisme de l’horreur” poses a serious challenge to societies that value freedom of expression. In the past crimes against humanity, by Stain, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Pol Pot or Pinochet, were carried out in secret. The Nazis or the Khmer Rouge’s propaganda was designed to hide the reality of genocide; Daesh’s videos are explicit and open, produced to terrorise their enemies and to rouse the spirits of their supporters. Margolin and Salem’s film does not, the Editorial argues, offer a sufficiently clear critical approach for a non-specialist audience. The victims only speak under the eyes of their butchers. The drama Timbuktu, where ordinary people in the city of that name are shown grappling with the everyday despotism of AQIM occupation – the rigorous application of the Islamists’ version of the Sharia, is a better way of thinking through the phenomenon of Jihadism. Its quiet and subversive message, the simple acts of playing prohibited music and smoking (banned), many would agree, unravels the absurdity and cruelty – the callous stoning of an ‘adulterous’ couple – of Islamism on a human scale.
Le Monde’s account of the controversy (La Terreur passe mal sur grand ecran) also observes that books about the Islamic State have reached a wide audience. They offer a better way, less influenced by the emotions that the cinema screen arouses, to understand Jihadism. It is equally the case that, through the Web, a substantial number of people have already seen the kind of horrific scenes Les Salafistes brings to the big screen.
The Empire of Fear.
Empire of Fear. Inside the Islamic State (2015) by the BBC correspondent Andrew Hosken is one of many accessible studies that have reached a wide audience. It is a thorough account of Daesh’s origins in the Al-Qaeda milieu and how it came to – separate – prominence in the aftermath of the US-led Coalition’s invasion of Iraq. Hosken has an eye for detail, tracing out the careers of key Daesh figures such as Zarqawi and Baghdadi. He challenges for example the widely claim that Islamic State leader Baghadadi and ‘Caliph’ was “radicalised” in a US prison in Southern Iraq in 2004. In fact “hardening evidence” indicates, “Baghdadi may have started his career as a jihadist fighter in Afghanistan and may even have known Zarqawi there.” (Page 126)
The failure of the occupation to establish a viable state in Iraq, the absence – to say the least – of the rule of law, and the importance of Shia mass sectarian killings of Sunnis in the Islamic State’s appearance. The inability of the Iraqi army to confront them, culminating in the fall of Mosul, were conditions for its spreading power, consolidation in the Caliphate, in both Iraq AND Syria, and international appeal.
Empire of Fear is valuable not only as history. Hosken states that by 2014 it was estimated that there were between five to seven million people living under Islamic State rule. “The caliphate has not delivered security, human dignity, happiness and the promise of eventual pace, let alone basic serves, but it has produced piles of corpses and promise to produce piles more.” (Page 200) He states that the “violent Islam-based takfirism” – the practice of declaring opponents ‘apostates’ worthy of death – has taken its methods from former Ba’athist recruits, always ready to slaughter opponents.
The suffering of those under the rule of Daesh is immense. “Men and children have been crucified and beheaded, homosexuals thrown to their deaths from high building and women stoned to death in main squares.” (Page 228) The Lion Cubs of the Khalfia, an army of children, are trained for battle. Even some Salafists initially allied with Daesh – with counterparts in Europe still offering succour to the dreams of returning to the golden days of the prophet, have begun to recoil. Hosken observes “..they have ended up with Baghdadi and his vision of an Islamic state with its systemic rapes, its slaves and concubines, child soldiers, murder, torture and genocide.” (Page 236)
The Islamic States efforts to capture more territory and people will continue with or without Baghadadi. The film title Salafistes reminds us that the Islamic State’s totalitarian Islamism is not isolated. It is connected to a broader collection of groups preaching rigorist – Salafist – Islamism, not all users of extreme violence, still less the public glorification of murder. The creation of all-embracing State disciplinary machines to mould their subjects to Islamic observance is a common objective of political Islam, from the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia to Daesh’s mortal enemies in Iran. The religious cleansing of religious minorities, Yazidis and Middle Eastern Christians continues under a variety of Islamic forces. Yet the degree of oppression and genocide marks the Islamic State out.
The recent Channel Four Documentary The Jihadis Next Door indicated that there is a European audience, however small, for Daesh’s genocidal propaganda. In Britain alone up to 700 people have been attracted enough by Islamic State death videos to go and join their ranks. One can imagine that amongst them some will be capable of watching Les Salfistes in a spirit far from the critical intentions of the film’s directors. It is to be doubted that they would have been reached by the scorn for Islamist rule and the resilience of humanity displayed in Timbuktu.
Hosken concludes, the “group may end up destroying itself or being destroyed by its many enemies. However, whatever happens, its virulent ideology looks likely to survive in a Middle East now riven by sectarian division, injustice, war and authoritarianism,” (Page 257)
The British left, with no government at its command, is not in a position to negotiate in efforts that try to bring “security, justice dignity and peace to a deeply troubled region”. We have little leverage over Bashar Assad’s own despotism in Syria. But we may be able to help Syrian democrats, and those fighting the Islamic State, to give our support to those fighting for dear life for freedom – from the Kurds to Arab and Turkish democrats – by ensuring that there is no quarter given to Daesh’s Salafist allies in Europe and totalitarian Islamists of any kind, independently and against those who see the Syrian Ba’athists as an ultimate rampart against IS.
To defend human rights we need to align with the staunchest adversaries of all forms of oppression, the secularists, the humanists, the democratic left, and, above all, our Kurdish and Arab sisters and brothers who, with great courage, face Daesh every day on the battle field.
Oz No 40.
Early SWP Cadre Manuel.
There has been debate about the relationship between Charlie and English speakers.
Apart from the snide, bordering on racist comments that Charlie was ..er ‘racist’ there is the idea that we anglophones are incapable of understanding Charlie.
Well, the alternative left tradition I come from is well in the line of Charlie.
I have read their cartoonists from my adolescence onwards.
As one can see Oz magazine, not to mention Nasty Tales, published similar material in the past.
I am a French speaker but do not claim any special privilege on this point about satire though wish simply to say: Charlie is greatly loved.
Birmingham Trojan Horse Inquiry: Headteacher Jahangir Akbar receives life ban for inflicting religious intolerance on pupils.
Shame of devout Islamic Headmaster who tried to enforce his religion on state school.
Trojan horse headteacher receives lifetime ban for professional misconduct.
Reports the Guardian.
Jahangir Akbar, formerly of Oldknow academy in Birmingham, removed sex education from curriculum and banned celebration of Christmas and Diwali.
A headteacher who was accused of misconduct in the so-called Trojan horse scandal in Birmingham has been banned indefinitely from teaching after being found guilty of professional misconduct.
Jahangir Akbar, who was the acting headteacher of Oldknow academy in Small Heath, Birmingham, was found by a disciplinary hearing to have “failed to uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviours”. Investigators said he allowed an undue amount of religious influence on the education of pupils at his school.
The Birmingham Post reports however this,
The former headteacher of a Trojan Horse-linked school in Birmingham has been handed an “indefinite” teaching ban – but could be back in the classroom in five years time.
Jahangir Akbar , the former acting principal of Oldknow Academy in Small Heath, was last month found guilty of professional misconduct following a hearing by the government-run National College for Teaching & Leadership (NCTL).
Now the Department for Education has revealed the 38-year-old has become the first teacher in Britain to be sanctioned for allowing an “undue amount of religious influence” on pupils’ education.
One has little doubt that the kind of person in the NUT who backed this creature will come up with an explanation….
Benedict Anderson dies in his sleep in Indonesia.
Benedict Anderson, a Cornell University scholar who became one of the most influential voices in the fields of nationalism and Southeast Asian studies, died Sunday in Indonesia. He was 79.
Anderson died in his sleep during a visit to the city of Malang, Indonesian media reported. His death was confirmed on the Facebook page of Thai historian Charnvit Kasetsiri, his close friend and colleague. The cause of death was not immediately known.
Anderson is best known for his 1983 book “Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism,” whose controversial thesis is that nationalism is largely a modern concept rooted in language and literacy.
“Many readers of ‘Imagined Communities’ did not know that his knowledge of Southeast Asian languages gave him insights into Indonesian, Thai, and Philippine political culture and history,” said Prof. Craig J. Reynolds of Australian National University.
Anderson’s influence was not limited to the sphere of theory, as he engaged with the contentious issues of the day with a rigorous analysis and dry wit that inspired his students.
“Throughout his life, he inspired successive generations of students to brush history against the grain by similarly marshaling every ounce of their intellectual creativity and courage to look at history and politics in totally new and greatly more profound ways,” said Steve Heder, a research associate at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies who studied under Anderson at Cornell.
Born to Anglo-Irish parents in 1936 in Kunming, China, Benedict Richard O’Gorman Anderson grew up in California and was educated at Cambridge and Cornell, where he studied Southeast Asian politics.
His early specialization in Indonesia turned out to be both a curse and a blessing. A curse because a near-forensic analysis of Indonesia’s bloody 1965 coup that he wrote with fellow scholar Ruth McVey led to him being banned from that country until 1999. The “Cornell Paper,” as it came to be known, questioned the conventional wisdom that the coup was the consequence of an abortive communist uprising, suggesting instead premeditation on the part of the army.
But while retaining an active interest in Indonesia, Anderson’s enforced absence from that country encouraged him to turn his energies elsewhere, with Thailand becoming another specialization by the mid-1970s. He learned enough Thai to co-author a 1985 collection and study of translated modern Thai short stories.
Anderson’s most influential work on Thailand was his 1977 essay “Withdrawal Symptoms,” which analyzed the social forces behind a 1976 counterrevolution in Thailand just three years after a student-led revolt toppled a military dictatorship.
“His scholarship and commitment to progressive political change meant that he was an icon for scholars in the region and for all those who have studied the region,” said Kevin Hewison, a professor of politics and international studies at Australia’s Murdoch University. “His analysis of Thailand’s 1970s political turmoil remains unsurpassed and is as important today as it was when published.”
Thailand is currently under military rule after another coup last year.
Anderson later turned his attention to the Philippines — learning Spanish so he could study colonial-era documents — which led to his last major book, 2005’s “Under Three Flags: Anarchism and the Anti-Colonial Imagination.”
For many on the left Anderson’s study Imagined Communities remains deeply influential.
Great titles are especially dangerous. Imagined Communities is one of the greatest, and I shall be arguing that the cluster of concepts it sums up deserves still to be central to our thinking about the world. But it is understandable, and touching, that the first footnote to Benedict Anderson’s afterword to his new edition should read, in explanation of the trimming of the title in his text: ‘Aside from the advantages of brevity, IC restfully occludes a pair of words from which the vampires of banality have by now sucked almost all the blood.’
Part of the force of Imagined Communities as a title – as an idea – comes from the way the two words immediately set the reader wondering whether they are meant as oxymoronic, and if they are, with what degree of irony or regret. The words bring to mind the true strangeness, but also the centrality, of the human will to be connected with others ‘of one’s kind’ whom one will never meet, and never know. Connected with them in the present, by blood or language or difference from a common enemy (or combinations of all three); and connected through time by a shared belonging to something that seems to emerge from a steadier, thicker, more grounded past and be on its way to an indestructible, maybe redeeming future.
Anderson defined a nation as follows,
“I propose the following definition of the nation: it is an imagined political community-and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion…. Communities are to be distinguished, not by their falsity/genuineness, but by the style in which they are imagined…. Finally, [the nation] is imagined as a community, because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately, it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willing to die for such limited imaginings.”
For Anderson the ‘imaginary’ of nationalism is the result of a number of historical developments: the declining importance of elite classical languages such as Latin or Sanskrit, because of mass literacy in spoken languages; the erosion and movements of state legitimacy based on divine right and hereditary monarchy; and the emergence of printing press capitalism (“the convergence of capitalism and print technology… standardization of national calendars, clocks and language was embodied in books and the publication of daily newspapers”—all phenomena occurring with the start of the modern industrial capitalism.
A nation emerges within these emerging networks of power and communication.It becomes a community because,
regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible, over the past two centuries, for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.
Anderson , some writers have suggested, underplayed the class dimensions of the social imaginary, the neglect of the way ruling classes have cultivated – deliberately or unconsciously – national imagery – and his lack of sustained analysis of the French Revolution (which had a strong ‘universal’ appeal) as a ‘model’ of nationalism.
His work is also perhaps only suggestive in tackling the importance of ‘trans-national’ imaginaries’ and communities, from democratic socialism, early Communism, liberal internationalism to the anti-‘national’ and genocidal dreaming and practice of Daesh.
To our mind Anderson stands out for this double-edged description of the importance of language in shaping our sense of social being,
“What the eye is to the lover — that particular, ordinary eye he or she is born with – language – whatever language history has made his or her mother-tongue — is to the patriot. Through that language, encountered at mother’s knee and parted with only at the grave, pasts are restored, fellowships are imagined, and futures dreamed.”
Oldham by-election is a two-horse race… between Ukip and a Labour moderate
Sun columnist Rod Liddle visits Oldham, the rock-solid Labour seat, where voters are ditching Corbyn’s barmy army in favour of a Ukip dark horse.
The Sun. Wednesday December 2.12.15.
So you could say that whatever happens in Oldham tomorrow, it’s sorta lose/lose for poor old Labour.
Jim McMahon defeats Ukip challenge with increased share of vote in first poll test of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour leadership.
The Guardian. Friday December. 6.12.15.
Note: No George Galloway Candidate for London Mayor.
No Galloway in the Poll at all.
Recent sightings of Galloway on Election trail (Huffington Post):
Hot on the Campaign Trail: Galloway Addressing Mass Rally.
Tea and Coffee Xmas ‘Party’.
Last Sighting: Galloway Canvassing.
Galloway: Corbyn Wants me for a Sunbeam as George Promises, “Every terrorist will be shot down dead.”
Every terrorist will be shot down dead, and if I can, I will pull the trigger myself.
Our old friend George Galloway is a busy fellow these days.
He’s full of lightness and sweet to boot.
As the only serious contender in the race for the Mayor of London, is good to hear of his,
expressions of pleasure in Corbyn’s triumph and accompanying disclosures about his closeness to Corbyn and members of his team. These claims of intimacy scaled a new peak over the weekend when the Sunday Times reported him describing Seumas Milne, my fellow Guardian writer who’s taken leave to become Corbyn’s executive director of strategy and communications, as his “closest friend” with whom he has “spoken almost daily for 30 years.”
Only one shadow, no bigger than a man’s endorsement by the Labour Party, stands in his way.
Khan, who is, of course, Labour’s mayoral candidate. He’s called him a “very boring man”, a “flip-flop merchant”, a “product of the Blairite machine”, an accomplice in Blair/Brown “crimes and blunders” and an “unprincipled speak-your-weight machine” who “went into what can only be described as a swoon over kissing the queen’s hand.”
Galloway also appears to consider Khan, a Muslim, an inadequate practitioner of his faith, telling the Evening Standard that the Labour man erred by holding the Koran “in his left hand” when he met the monarch and that this “wasn’t missed by people who care about these things”.
The Guardian’s newshound interviewed the dapper gent hot on the campaign trail.
Such was the backdrop to my question, which I put to Galloway during a public meeting held on Tuesday evening at the Orford House Social Club in Walthamstow, E17. His answer began with a metaphor he often favours. “Sadiq Khan supports Jeremy Corbyn like the rope supports the hanging man,” he said, winning a ripple of laughter among the 100-plus people present.
One can see that Galloway has lost none of the touch that has made him a hit with audiences from Spring Road Allotment shed to the Dean Street telephone box.
Nor his surefire political acumen,
“I have no doubt whatsover that Sadiq Khan is part of the cabal which is seeking to bring Jeremy Corbyn down.”
“If you’re looking for a Corbyn in this election, it’s me. It’s not Sadiq Khan. I support all of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies. I might put them a little differently. If you don’t mind me saying so, I might put them a little better. But I support them.”
Galloway is also the coppers’ best mate, reports a different Guardian (local paper for Waltham Forest amongst others),
Galloway also promised to support the police and security services in the fight against terrorism.
“The police will find a friend in me,” he added.“Every terrorist will be shot down dead, and if I can, I will pull the trigger myself.
“I say to the police officer in the room, when it comes to your wages, your resources and your strengthening, you can count on me.”
The word – unconfirmed – is that Galloway also supports our gallant Russian ally’s bombing in Syria.
He’s got another Best Friend these days.
Galloway has just re-tweeted, John Ross, former leader of the International Marxist Group, and now best-known for his article, How China made the World’s Greatest Contribution to Human Rights.
Galloway is soon appearing in a US ‘theater’.