Tendance Coatesy

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Posts Tagged ‘Free Speech

Batley Grammar: Teacher Suspended for Mohammed Lesson Can Return to School but Religious Censorship Imposed on Lessons.

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Batley Grammar and the triumph of the mob | The Spectator

Fears that Batley’s Blasphemy Law Will Spread in Education.

But now, the Batley Grammar School religious studies teacher has found unlikely support from a Bury branch of Unite, which largely represents binmen.

Brian Bamford, secretary of Tameside Trade Union Council, has submitted an emergency motion for the National Conference of Trade Union Councils in June to champion the cause of the suspended teacher.

The motion urges the NEU and all other unions to support the teacher and to publicly condemn those demanding his dismissal.

It notes that blasphemy laws were abolished more than a decade ago, and adds that “dogmatic restraints” should not be imposed on the religious education  curriculum.

Mr Bamford is also secretary of Bury Unite commercial branch in the North West, which represents binmen across the borough, and the motion’s wording had to be approved by the branch committee before being passed up to the Tameside TUC which it is affiliated to.

“This is a motion which has come in from bin men, from ordinary working people,” said Mr Bamford, a retired electrician who has been active in the trade union movement since the 1970s.

“As far as I can see, staying silent goes contrary to what we believe in at our branch, and especially in the trade congress.

“We are affiliated to the Orwell Society and freedom of expression is very important. I don’t feel guilty in any way for taking a stand on this issue.”

Mr Bamford claimed that an NEU official attempted to pressurise him into withdrawing the motion on the basis that it was “unhelpful” to draw further attention to the issue.

He said he was phoned by the official who asked him to “reconsider” the motion since it “risks inflaming what is an extremely sensitive and very complex situation” for members.

Despite this support this is what has happened:

School to no longer show Prophet Mohammed

Humanists UK says:

May 27th, 2021

Batley Grammar School will no longer use images of the Prophet Muhammed when teaching Religious Studies (RS). That was the conclusion announced today of the School’s investigation into controversy over such an image being used in a recent lesson. The School has said it will take this approach because ‘it is committed to ensuring that offence is not caused’. Humanists UK has expressed alarm at a blasphemy law now effectively being in place, and the chilling effect this is likely to have on other schools.

This incident occurred in a lesson on blasphemy. It led to Muslims protesting outside the school gates. The teacher in question was suspended. He has now been reinstated.

An independent investigation into the incident has now found:

‘Difficult issues such as blasphemy are included in the curriculum offer, as these are key aspects of the provision, and are important learning points for all our young people. The image in question was used on 22 March as part of the “controversial issues” topic in the RS scheme of work for Year 9.

‘It has been confirmed that the image was used on more than one previous occasion. The image had been selected to supplement the scheme of work and was not included in the formal scheme overview. The Trust fully recognises the level of concern this has caused.

The independent investigation has concluded and the Trust has accepted that the teaching staff who developed and delivered the lesson genuinely believed that using the image had an educational purpose and benefit, and that it was not used with the intention of causing offence. Nevertheless, the Trust recognises that using the image did cause deep offence to a number of students, parents and members of our school community. The Trust deeply regrets the distress this has caused. The Trust also considers that the topics covered by the lesson could have been effectively addressed in other ways and without using the image.…

‘The Trust considers that its lesson planning processes could have facilitated a more holistic approach to the selection of teaching aids, taking more careful account of relevant factors which would include: …the need to respect and understand all faiths and no faiths

‘In the light of the above, and in respect of the views of our school community the Trust is clear that it is not necessary for staff to use the material in question to deliver the learning outcomes on the subject of blasphemy; or any such images of the type used on 22 March for use in any Trust RS lessons, or any other lessons…

‘The Trust will not avoid addressing challenging subject matter in its classrooms but it is committed to ensuring that offence is not caused…’

In October a Muslim extremist murdered the French schoolteacher Samuel Paty after he used an image of Muhammad in a lesson on free speech in an open society.

A Humanists UK spokesperson commented:

‘Schools should be able to show depictions of Muhammad. If done sensitively, this can be an important part of Religious Education.

‘High-quality RE should not merely seek to “respect all faiths” or avoid “offence”. If that is all it does then it cannot hope to equip young people to understand and navigate contemporary debates around religion. Schools are public bodies, charged with the education of children. They must open their minds by promoting critical inquiry and personal, intellectual, and moral development. This means they must cover criticism of religions in ways religious groups won’t like. And in the case of Islam, this means debates around depictions of Muhammad. Pupils can understand such debates much more easily if they see what all the fuss is about themselves.

‘If schools shy away from this responsibility, and instead reintroduce a blasphemy law that was repealed 13 years ago, that would represent an educational failure.’

Written by Andrew Coates

May 27, 2021 at 6:03 pm

Skwawkbox Back Before the Beak.

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May be a Twitter screenshot of text that says "simon gallant @simongallant7 @unitetheunion and @skwawkbox fail to pay latest slug of £680,000 legal costs following @annaturley libel victory in December 2019. Enforcement action starts tomorrow, followed by bailiffs attending union offices and bankruptcy proceedings against Steve Walker. 17:40 24 May 21 Twitter Web App"

Our Thoughts Go Out to Steve Walker.

Skwawkbox Archives - Guido Fawkes

Unite and blogger must pay £1.3m libel case costs to ex-Labour MP

Judge orders union and Stephen Walker to pay up after they were sued by Anna Turley in 2019

In November 2019, Labour MP Anna Turley sued Unite the Union and Steve Walker, editor of The Skwawkbox, for libel in respect of an article which appeared on The Skwawkbox on 7 April 2017.[16]

On 19 December 2019, following a six-day trial at the Royal Courts of Justice, Turley won the libel claim against Unite and Walker and was awarded damages of £75,000.[17][18] The judge Mr Justice Nicklin found that there were “no reasonable grounds to suspect [Turley] of any form of dishonesty in relation to her joining Unite Community.”[18] An application to appeal was filed,[19][20] but refused on 7 May 2020.

Here is Walker’s Organ.

No ‘Exclusive’ or ‘Breaking News’ as yet….

Written by Andrew Coates

May 25, 2021 at 8:26 am

Posted in Free Speech

Tagged with ,

Free Speech, Anti-Semitism and ‘Left Anti-Semitism.

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The Fight Against Anti-Semitism is Being Taken up by Socialists and the Radical Left.

In a number of countries anti-semitism has become a major political issue. There are many different left responses. In the UK Socialists Against Anti-Semitism, organised by”  people who believe in a socialist transformation of society, and that that entails combatting antisemitism wherever it is seen.” has been created. In France, the Réseau d’Actions contre l’Antisémitisme et tous les Racismes, Action Network against Anti-Semitism and all forms of racism, has been created by people on the radical left. (January 2021: Création du Réseau d’Actions contre l’Antisémitisme et tous les Racismes. Communiqué de lancement et déclaration d’intention.

A hard to tackle issue is free speech.

As democrats and humanists we wish no restrictions on people’s opinions. This does not mean that we should stand by and not contest views which we consider wrong. Anti-Semitism, is all its varied forms, can involve serious incitement and the denial of historical facts. Campaigners on the issue should not let anti-semities get away with spreading hatred and falsehoods.

One group which claims to campaign on the issue is the Labour Campaign for Free Speech.

They appear to run into difficulties.

Free speech Weekly Worker Letters Page.

The Labour Campaign for Free Speech has postponed its next meeting again, from April 24 to May 29, citing “diary clashes” – fair enough, if a little disappointing. Even more disappointing, I thought, was the agenda item (and I can no longer find the agenda on the website) on the discussion over a difference of opinion revealed at the opening conference in February.

One might have thought that the campaigning for the conspiracist red-browner David Miller, and the support from individuals like Norman Finkelstein was the cause of the rumpus. But apparently not. Their latest internal row is all about whether too “curb the free speech of fascists!’

Trying to set the controversy in other terms this long read is important:

Escaping the prison house of the Jewish question and left antisemitism

It will not please everybody, Here some extracts, the full article should be read. It is a discussion of the issues that arise from the politics of the Middle East, and the persistence of forms of anti-Semitism in Europe, with the legacy of a long-standing hostility to Jewish people revived in both modern conspiratorial terms and extreme forms of anti-Zionism. The author is hard on figures like Norman Finkelstein, those associated with the SWP and fringe characters like Tony Greenstein. One central point, which is well taken, is that this critical stand has to be differentiated from the alt-right Tory government’s culture wars.

this paper, I am seeking a fuller and richer culture on the activist and academic Left for freedom of thought on Palestine and Israel that involves an honest and critical self-reflection on the issue of left antisemitism, alongside freedom of speech and peaceful action against the longstanding and ever-worsening oppression of the Palestinians by Israel’s state and military. This is a plea from the Left to the Left: to oppose to a right-wing government’s culture war in the name of freedom of speech, at the same time as, on our own terms, enacting what belongs to us at the grassroots, and to discuss the problem of left antisemitism while opposing the Israeli state and military occupation and dispossession of Palestinian land and subjugation of Palestinian people.

To illustrate the ideological terrain that impedes recognition of contemporary and left antisemitism, I draw on rejoinders from three well-known pro-Palestinian left academics on this question. Norman Finkelstein, in an address in 2015 to the Philosophy Society at the University College Dublin, responds to a question on whether there is a rise of antisemitism in Europe. His full response is available to watch on YouTube.

To recap, much of the Left comprehends antisemitism as an exclusive manifestation of the Right: either as an aspect of the populist Right and fascism against the Jews; or as a false accusation made, behind-the-scenes, by Israel and the Zionist lobby against the Left internationally to silence criticism of Israel; or as a reaction and product of Israel’s existence as a Jewish, expansionist, racist, and settler-colonial state. Contemporary left anti-Jewish racism, or antisemitism, involves a process of signification that ascribes ‘the Jew’ with negative characteristics that have negative consequences – the idea of ‘the harmful Jew’ – which merges into a way of seeing and making sense of the ills of global capitalism.

The harmful Jewish Other is seen as part-and-parcel of a Zionist collective that harbours a particularly harmful imperialism, a particularly harmful nationalism, a particularly harmful settler-colonialism, a particularly harmful ethnic cleansing, and a particularly harmful racism, comparable only to two historical pariahs, South African apartheid and Nazi Germany, and which operates, clandestinely, a particularly sinister, tyrannical and harmful global reach to shut down criticism of Israel, to dominant the world, and to threaten world peace. What follows is the conclusion that the Jewish nation-state must cease to exist as a Jewish nation-state in order to belong to humanity, and that the Zionist Jew must stop being a Zionist Jew to be included in the commune of human beings. As Fine and Spencer (2017) make plain, the Jewish question and left antisemitism expresses itself through the negative face of universalism, as the Other of universalism. This is confirmed by Ilan Pappé’s (2019) damning assertion, previously quoted, “you cannot really reconcile the ideology of Zionism with universal values, whether they are Marxism, socialism or even liberalism”.

The author concludes:

“In our opposition to the culture war of Britain’s right-wing Conservative government against the Left in academia, which includes its punitive request to impose the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism, we must also create space for a fuller and richer culture of discussion and debate that is able to escape the prison house of the Jewish question. There is, however, a danger that opposition to this culture war is blended into the Jewish question – that too, we must resist.”

Recognising that left anti-semitism exists is part of the way of confronting the problem that we have in defending the liberty of expression, which includes the freedom to criticise these views.

Written by Andrew Coates

May 1, 2021 at 1:27 pm