Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category
Yasmin Rehman: Secularist of the Year.
A courageous campaigner for human rights against religious intolerance Rehman’s award should be widely welcomed.
It is fitting that she chose her acceptance speech to commend two “personal heroines” comrades Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, who like herself have had to face the hostility of obscurantist bigotry, sexism and ill-judged criticism from some quarters.
It is time that all the left stands with these women.
The Irwin Prize for Secularist of the Year 2017 has been awarded to Yasmin Rehman, the secular campaigner for women’s rights.
Yasmin has spent much of the past two years to get the Government to recognise the dangers faced by ex-Muslims and Ahmadi Muslims from Islamic extremists. She has used her own home as a shelter for women at risk of domestic abuse.
Accepting the prize, Yasmin Rehman thanked the Society for recognising her work and said she was “incredibly humbled” to be nominated among other figures who were “personal heroines.”
She said there were two women, Maryman Namazie and Gita Sahgal, whom she couldn’t have campaigned without, and that she was “honoured” to stand beside them.
Secularism was not opposed to faith, she said, before describing how she had been shut down as ‘Islamophobic’ and “racist” despite being a Muslim herself. There is anti-Muslim sentiment in society, she said, but ‘Islamophobia’ was being used to silence and curtail speech.
Yasmin said she didn’t know if she could ever go back to Pakistan because of her work in the UK, while in the UK it was “impossible” to get funding for secularist work. She asked where women could possibly turn if they faced religiously-justified abuse. Muslim women were left with nothing but religious, sharia arbitration, while faith healing was spreading, with ill women being controlled by male relatives and religious leaders and told to pray instead of seeking medical treatment.
FGM and honour-based violence were being dismissed as “cultural”, while in fact polygamist and temporary marriages were Islamic practises, she said. There is a slippery road from this to child marriage, and there should be “no space” in the UK for these practises.
“Great powers within the community” were holding women back, and low rates of Muslim female employment could not be attributed entirely to discrimination by employers.
Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “I’m particularly pleased that this afternoon we have a secularist who is also a Muslim to present our prizes. She is living proof that secularism and Muslims can co-exist if given half a chance and co-founded British Muslims for Secular Democracy in 2006.”
Mr Sanderson described how secularism protected the rights of all and said it and democracy were “interdependent”.
Dr Michael Irwin kindly sponsored the £5,000 award. The award was presented by Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. She said: “The thing I find interesting and frightening at the moment is when I talk to young Muslims is how little they understand what secularism means.”
She said the Society’s most important work was in explaining what secularism meant for young people, particularly Muslims, and demonstrate that secularism was not atheism.
She warned of the growth of Muslim “exceptionalism” and that “universalism needs to be promoted.”
The Society was joined at the central London lunch event by previous winners of the prize including Maryam Namazie, who was the inaugural Secularist of the Year back in 2005. Peter Tatchell, who won the prize on 2012 also attended.
Turkish parliamentarian and 2014 Secularist of the Year Safak Pavey was unable to join the Society, but sent a message to attendees: “I wish I could be with you but we have the critical referendum approaching and we are very busy with the campaign. Each and every one of your shortlisted nominees is a very distinguished members of the secular society without borders.
“I wholeheartedly thank all of them for their courageous and precious contributions in defence and support of secularism and congratulate this year’s Secularist while looking forward to work together for our shared cause.”
Mr Sanderson praised her for working in “increasingly dangerous” circumstances to resist the Islamisation of Turkey.
Other campaigners were thanked for their work and Terry singled out Dr Steven Kettell, who was shortlisted for the prize, for his “excellent response” to the Commission on Religion and Belief in Public which had advocated expanding many religious privileges. Mr Sanderson thanked Dr Kettell for pointing out the many injustices that CORAB’s recommendations would have introduced, in his “excellent” report.
Scott Moore, the founder of Let Pupils Choose, was thanked for his campaign work. He said that, as an 18 year old, he had been campaigning for his entire adult life to separate religion and state, after religion was forced on him and taught as “absolute fact” during his childhood. He said the education system in Northern Ireland “robbed” pupils of their religious freedom. “All belief systems should be treated equally, but they are not.”
He was applauded for his hard-fought campaign work and Mr Sanderson said Moore gave him “hope for the future.”
Nominee Houzan Mahmoud spoke powerfully about the important of universal rights and freedoms.
Barry Duke, editor of the Freethinker, was given a lifetime achievement award for his commitment to free speech, LGBT rights and equality and resistance to censorship in apartheid South Africa.
The Society’s volunteer of the year was named, Sven Klinge, and thanked for the many occasions on which he has photographed NSS events.
Yasmin Rehman had been nominated, “for her advocacy of a secularist approach to tackling hate crime and promoting the human rights of women. She said, “I am incredibly honoured and humbled to be included in the list of nominees for this award particularly given the work being done across the world by so many brave and courageous people fighting against the hatred and violence being perpetrated by the religious Right of many faiths.”
Yasmin Rehman is a freelance consultant and doctoral candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Her area of research is polygamy and the law. She has worked for more than 20 years predominantly on violence against women, race, faith and gender, and human rights. Yasmin has worked for Local Government, the Metropolitan Police Service as Director of Partnerships and Diversity (2004-08) during which time she also held the Deputy national lead for forced marriage and honour based violence. Yasmin has most recently been commissioned as founding CEO of a race equality charity in East London, followed by Transforming Rehabilitation bid and now reviewing police responses to domestic abuse for national charities. Yasmin is currently member of the Board of EVAW (End Violence Against Women Coalition), an Independent Adviser for City of London Police and a member of the Centre for Secular Space.
Scottish Referendum: More Nationalist Claptrap as SWP Demands Vote so “May can be wrecked on the shores of Scotland.”
Another Bout of Nationalist Claptrap Looms.
The Scottish National Party’s Call for a new referendum is not just a diversion from the fight against the Tory Government, its austerity, and its Brexit plans.
It is an extension of the sovereigntist call to take back ‘control’ of ‘our’ country from the Brexit backers and their left hangers-on to Scottish politics.
Shiraz is right to observe that Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s immediate response was wrong, Second Scottish referendum: why Corbyn was wrong.
…last weekend Jeremy Corbyn visited Glasgow and told the media: “If a referendum is held, then it is absolutely fine, it should be held. I don’t think it’s the job of Westminster or the Labour Party to prevent people holding referenda.”
“A spokesman for Corbyn” and “a source close to Corbyn” tried to minimise the damage.
According to the spokesman: “Jeremy reaffirmed our position today that if the Scottish Parliament votes for a referendum, it would be wrong for Westminster to block it. Labour continues to oppose a further referendum in the Scottish Parliament”.
But Labour has not taken a position that Westminster should agree to a referendum if Holyrood votes for it. And Corbyn’s argument that the Labour Party should not “prevent people from holding referenda” does not fit in with Scottish Labour’.
Shiraz is also right to underline that the SNP has an infinite supply of reasons for call for Scottish independence as the cornerstone of their politics. Their apparent ‘left-of-centre’ politics, that is policies to boost public services for their people, are not social democratic. They do not demand equality, an end to the exploitation of the market, social ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange (Clause Four) but the Scottish ownership of the political system.
Like sovereigntists everywhere the call for our ain folk to take power out of the hands of ‘Westminster’ may seem at odds with apparent support for membership of the European Union.
Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, to cite but three examples, are run by various coalitions of nationalists, including, in Slovakia’s case, a government agreement of centre-right nationalists around , the ‘centre left’ PM Robert Fico.
In this context “the dissolution of a key imperialist state” means a new set of mini-states as deeply implicated in the world political and economic system with nothing about the basic character of capitalism, market societies, changed except a cultural gloss and a potential for nationalist political exploiters to ensconce themselves in privileged positions.
It is quite possible for a Europe of the Nations, a European Union that tilts to various kinds of nationalists, to emerge without doing anything more for the interests of the left than to divide it out between competing cultural and national interest group identities.
An indication of the poor economic logic behind this latest bid comes from the Financial Times (January 18th)
Scotland’s economic growth was a third of the overall UK figure and unemployment is rising, according to figures published as the governing Scottish National party struggles to decide whether to demand another independence referendum.
The SNP made Scotland’s relative economic strength a central part of its case for independence ahead of the 2014 referendum, but growth has fallen behind, partly because of sharp falls in the oil price. New figures show Scottish onshore GDP in the third quarter of last year grew 0.2 per cent while equivalent UK growth was 0.6 per cent. Compared with the same period of 2015, Scottish GDP was up only 0.7 per cent, against the UK-wide figure of 2.2 per cent. Mark Diffley, of polling company Ipsos Mori Scotland, said that while voters often struggled to assign blame for economic problems between the governments in Edinburgh and London, the poor performance made leaving the UK a tougher sell. “It’s probably more difficult to make an economic case for independence when things are looking so gloomy.”
Just saying that the SNP is pro-EU does not mean that the kind of national egotism the party has represented for decades will evaporated.
Meanwhile how will the pro-Scottish independence left react?
They are unlikely to care about economics….
A clue is in SWP leader Charlie Kimber’s article, printed last week, 7 Mar 2017.
It will take a mass movement, on the scale of the one in 2014 and beyond, to force the Tories to concede a referendum and then win it.
It has to be based on militant opposition to austerity and racism, and a fight for a society where people come before profit.
If that succeeds then just as David Cameron was brought down by the EU referendum, so May can be wrecked on the shores of Scotland.
More nationalist claptrap, more unionist claptrap…and, May will be gone…
The SWP no doubt wishes to repeat its success in backing Brexit.
Sorcerer’s Apprentices barely covers this lot…
George Galloway to Write Children’s Books about an “Ethical Pirate” and “his family come pirating with him.”
Galloway to Write about ‘Ethical Pirates”.
Our old mucker George has been busy.
George Galloway, the former Labour and Respect MP, has announced that he has signed a publishing deal for a series of children’s books about an “ethical pirate” who travels the high seas around Indonesia with his family.
The report continues in the Guardian,
He told the Guardian: “In a few weeks or days I’ll have five children under the age of 10 and I have four young grandchildren also, ranging between three and 14. I’ve read to them a very large number of children’s books, and all of them have been fascinated by pirates. And judging by the success of Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s not only children who are fascinated by them.
“The problem is that pirates are such poor role models, drinking rum and carousing with women, cutting people’s throats and making them walk the plank and so on. This is about an ethical pirate. A kind of Robin Hood of the high seas, who is a husband and father, and his family come pirating with him.”
The books, Galloway added, are set in the Spice islands, “now in Indonesia but once upon a time the richest place on the earth, and the site of much pirating”.
“The centre of the story is a very beautiful bay where my wife once worked called Ambon Bay, in what is now the Molucca islands. The book is set in a crossover period between Portuguese, British and Dutch colonial rule,” he said.
Galloway launched his own publishing company – Friction – in 2005, to publish “books that burn, books that cause controversy and get people talking”.
He is the author of I’m Not The Only One, the Fidel Castro Handbook and Mr Galloway Goes to Washington, but this is his first foray into children’s literature.
“I’ve already told my children and grandchildren these stories, they’re very excited, they like them very much. You don’t have to cut people’s throats to be a warrior.
“But writing for children is very difficult, it’s harder than writing for adults because you have to express what you want to say in language that will be understood by a 10-year-old. Luckily, I have lots of people I can practise on, to say, ‘Do you understand that phrase?’ and if they don’t they say, ‘What does that mean, daddy?’ You have to put yourself in a child’s shoes. It’s not child’s play writing for children.”
Suggested templates for these chef d’oeuvres, the first of which is said to be, ‘Red Molucca the Good Pirate’.
Yet Galloway has not forgotten politics:
Demolish the Sacré-Cœur?
French citizen proposes demolishing the “Sacré-Cœur”, a “Versailles verruca that insults the memory of the Paris Commune”. (une verrue versaillaise qui insulte la mémoire de la Commune de Paris). He his project consists of the complete demolition of the basilica during a great popular fête. Le projet consiste en la démolition totale de la basilique lors d’une grande fête populaire.»
un habitant du quartier ne l’apprécie visiblement pas. Ce dernier a soumis, samedi 11, un projet au budget participatif de la Ville de Paris (qui propose aux citoyens de décider de l’investissement de 5% du budget municipal) pour la raser sans autre forme de procès. “Le Sacré-Cœur est une verrue versaillaise qui insulte la mémoire de la Commune de Paris. Le projet consiste en la démolition totale de la basilique lors d’une grande fête populaire“, peut-on lire à titre de justification.
In case people think this is off the wall the reason why the Basilica was built is well known (I lived in the same quartier des Grandes-Carrières …)
Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871[crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, which was an increasingly popular vision of a loving and sympathetic Christ.
The inspiration for Sacré Cœur’s design originated on September 4, 1870, the day of the proclamation of the Third Republic, with a speech by Bishop Fournier attributing the defeat of French troops during the Franco-Prussian War to a divine punishment after “a century of moral decline” since the French Revolution, in the wake of the division in French society that arose in the decades following that revolution, between devout Catholics and legitimist royalists on one side, and democrats, secularists, socialists and radicals on the other. This schism in the French social order became particularly pronounced after the 1870 withdrawal of the French military garrison protecting the Vatican in Rome to the front of the Franco-Prussian War by Napoleon III, the secular uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-1871, and the subsequent 1871 defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian War.
Though today the Basilica is asserted to be dedicated in honour of the 58,000 who lost their lives during the war, the decree of the Assemblée nationale, 24 July 1873, responding to a request by the archbishop of Paris by voting its construction, specifies that it is to “expiate the crimes of the Commune“. Montmartre had been the site of the Commune’s first insurrection, and the Communards had executed Georges Darboy, Archbishop of Paris, who became a martyr for the resurgent Catholic Church. His successor Guibert, climbing the Butte Montmartre in October 1872, was reported to have had a vision, as clouds dispersed over the panorama: “It is here, it is here where the martyrs are, it is here that the Sacred Heart must reign so that it can beckon all to come”.
In the moment of inertia following the resignation of the government of Adolphe Thiers, 24 May 1873, François Pie, bishop of Poitiers, expressed the national yearning for spiritual renewal— “the hour of the Church has come”— that would be expressed through the “Government of Moral Order” of the Third Republic, which linked Catholic institutions with secular ones, in “a project of religious and national renewal, the main features of which were the restoration of monarchy and the defense of Rome within a cultural framework of official piety”, of which Sacré-Cœur is the chief lasting triumphalist monument.
The decree voting its construction as a “matter of public utility”, 24 July, followed close on Thiers’ resignation. The project was expressed by the Church as a National Vow (Vœu national) and financial support came from parishes throughout France. The dedicatory inscription records the Basilica as the accomplishment of a vow by Alexandre Legentil and Hubert Rohault de Fleury, ratified by Joseph-Hippolyte Guibert, Archbishop of Paris. The project took many years to complete.
Mehdi Meklat “Voice of the Banlieue.”
Mehdi Meklat (more details here), who has written extensively on Bondy Blog (set up to express “ la diversité ethnique and to be “la voix des quartiers”) who has contributed to France Inter and Arte, is the co-author of the books Burn Out and Minute, has been caught out.
Meklat was promoted by French left outlets such as Les Inrockuptibles and has appeared on his cover with former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira. The magazine presented him as the “voice of youth and the Estates, “a new generation from the banlieue.”
Following his latest promotion on the front cover of Les Inrockuptibles it has become public that he is the author of extreme racist, anti-semitic and homophobic – and just plain violent misogynistic gobshite – on Twitter under the name of his ‘alter ego’, Deschamps (apparently a ‘funny’ play on the conceptual artist , has dominated the French media over the last week. (Affaire des tweets de Mehdi Meklat).
Le Monde devoted an Editorial to the affair (L’affaire Mehdi Meklat, révélatrice de deux sociétés qui ne se rencontrent pas. 22.2.017).
The daily noted the decline of open-minded humanist voices in the banlieue, and the growth of the ‘identitarian extreme-right, both indigenous, around the Front National, and Islamist, in conditions of mass unemployment and social exclusion. In this instance Meklat revealed a swelling tide of “la violence rhétorique”. It deplored the tolerance given in social media to far from “anodyne” verbal violence, which, experience showed, can lead to more dangerous consequences.
More details: Le Monde, Le chroniqueur Mehdi Meklat rattrapé par ses tweets haineux (21.02.17)
(Bring Hitler to kill the Jews. I gob phlegm in the dirty mug of Charb and all the Charlie Hebdo lot.)
AS the re-tweet indicates he has a real problems with women, calling for sodomising them, amongst other vile comments.
The targets, as “Mr Hyde” Deschamps included: « les homos », « les juifs », « Charlie », « les transsexuels », « les Français », « les lesbiennes », « les femmes ».
He, like many racists, homophobes and ‘left’ apologists for Islamism, has a particular hatred of gay secularist Caroline Fourest, whom he has accused of paedophilia.
Those who promoted this individual are having a hard time explaining this activity, which took place from 2011 to 2015, away.
Socialist Worker: Racism “not main factor in Brexit Vote” and Brexit backing Trump not same thing as ..Brexit..
Nothing to do with Brexit, says Socialist Worker Alternative News Factory.
Socialist Worker. 21.2.2017.
There’s no shortage of things to be angry about at the moment—especially when it comes to racism and attacks on Muslims and migrants.
It can be hard to keep track of the outrages committed by US president Donald Trump.
And in Britain many politicians think the vote to leave the European Union (EU) is an opportunity to attack migrants and end freedom of movement.
Yet Trump and Brexit are not the same thing—and we shouldn’t lump them together.
There are similarities between the two. They both happened because sections of working class people kicked back at mainstream politicians after decades of attack.
Some did swallow racist myths pushed from the top of society.
But there is a major difference. There could never be a progressive case for supporting Donald Trump—but there has always been a left wing and anti-racist case against the EU.
Socialist Worker campaigned to leave the EU because it has enforced austerity and locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty.
It’s not true that the main factor behind the Leave vote was racism against migrants—as polls keep showing.
It was a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politicians.
There’s an anti-establishment feeling in Britain that can be turned into resistance.
But to do that means connecting with people’s anger—not dismissing it as racist.
It is no doubt important to emphasise that Trump, who strongly backed Brexit, is not Brexit, nor indeed is he Paul Nuttall, nor was he present, like Nuttall at the Battle of Hastings.
Yet one suspects that the SWP are stung by the loud noises of celebration coming from the Trump camp, and far-rightists around the world, from Marine Le Pen onwards, at the British vote to Leave.
It would be interesting to see the data that shows that the main factor behind the Brexit was “a way of punishing the elite and mainstream politics.”
It would be also interesting to see a Marxist analysis of the ‘elite’, what class it is, and indeed what an ‘elite’ in the UK is.
It would be perhaps too much to expect an account of how leaving the EU, and attacking migrants’ rights (in the UK and, for UK citizens within continental Europe) and ending freedom of movement within its frontiers, is going bring borders down and help, “locked out refugees fleeing war and poverty”.
No doubt the “The EU’s Frontex border guards stop refugees entering Europe by land – forcing them to risk their lives at sea.” will disappear as the UK……. sets up its own border guards.
How Brexit was going to be part of the the fight against austerity by consolidating power in the hands of the right-wingers now in charge of the UK Sovereign state, opening up the way for future trade agreements with the pro-Brexit nationalist Trump, is one of those mysteries of the dialectic.
One that shouting that Trump is not Brexit, and an analysis based on “kicking back” at elites, is not going to unravel.
As for people’s reasons for the Leave vote.
This is a synthesis of many studies (Wikipedia).
On the day of the referendum Lord Ashcroft‘s polling team questioned 12,369 people who had completed voting. This poll produced data that showed that ‘Nearly half (49%) of leave voters said the biggest single reason for wanting to leave the European Union was “the principle that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK”.”
Lord Ashcroft’s election day poll of 12,369 voters also discovered that ‘One third (33%) [of leave voters] said the main reason was that leaving “offered the best chance for the UK to regain control over immigration and its own borders.”’
Immediately prior to the referendum data from Ipsos-Mori showed that immigration/migration was the most cited issue when Britons were asked ‘What do you see as the most/other important issue facing Britain today?’ with 48% of respondents mentioning it when surveyed.
In the SWP’s Alternative News Factory the third who were plainly anti-migrant have vanished, nor any consideration that this may have been a reason, if not the principal one, for a Brexit vote.
Perhaps the writers for Socialist Worker were asleep when the torrent of anti-migrant propaganda was unleashed in the country.
Now, how exactly is the SWP going to relate to the “anti-establishment” demand that motivated the others that “decisions taken in the UK should be taken in the UK” by these people ‘angry at the elites’?