Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cheney is a "war criminal advocating terrorism"

Dick Cheney has been called a war criminal advocating terrorism. Not, as one of my Marine correspondents would prefer to suggest, by the leftist media, but by an insider with impeccable credentials – Larry Wilkerson, former chief of staff under Colin Powell. He accuses the vice president and the defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld of heading a cabal of extreme nationalistic and messianic voices within the Bush administration. It seems, cracks are appearing in the edifice of the “neocon” American empire.

He is scathing about claims by the war-mongers that they could not have known that things would turn sour in Iraq. He claims that Cheney was fully aware that the Iraq invasion would create more terrorism, because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard." Strong language from someone who, after all, had supported the Iraq war.

All this will come as a disappointment for die-hard marines. I am not referring to the naked-fighting Royal variety. I mean the ones who, for example, vent their spleen by sending me the following email: “Let all of the islam scum you know that, as of last year all United States Marines in country have been coating their ammo in pigs blood.
That means every muslim cocksucker shot or killed is going straight to hell. Have a nice day.”

The self-declared marine, of course, only displayed his ignorance of matters relating to heaven and hell, but he also gives the lie to the postulations by war president Bush and his cronies that this is a fight for democracy, not against Islam and Muslims. Naked Marines, Marines with a high level of hatred and low IQ, in-fighting amongst the upper echelons of the military, it all opens a window for us into the decadent world of the defenders of so-called civilisation.

It also tells us, unfortunately, that you can insult Muslims with impunity. You can get arrested for the thought-crime of simply asking a question about the Jewish holocaust as the recent cases of Zündel, Ruldolph and Irvine show, but Muslims remain scot-free. You can call them names, detain them, torture them, shoot them with impunity (without coated ammunition, of course, because the animal rights lobby wouldn’t stand for the frivolous killing of pigs).

I sent a complaint to the ISP from where the offensive hate-mail originated: direcpc.com / direcway.com operated by Hughes Network Systems in Germantown, MD, and did not have the courtesy of a reply. I emailed the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) to follow this up and was met with the same cold shoulder lack of response. I suppose there’s no money in it.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

The naked truth

After the premature deaths of army recruits in Deep-Cut barracks, the British ministry of defence is once more at the centre of a scandal. This time, the allegations are that the Royal Marines made two trainees fight each other stripped naked, while surrounded by other watching marines also stripped completely naked.  This initiation ceremony was supervised by two officers in fancy dress. Unfortunately, another Marine filmed the whole scenario and went public.

The armed forces are claiming that neither bullying nor harassment is commonplace within their ranks. The whistleblower, however, claims that this was not some drunken behaviour, but a premeditated exercise. He is probably right. Putting new recruits into degrading and compromising positions by which they could be embarrassed later has long since been part of the ritual in Masonic lodges. The shame of being found out creates in in-group feeling, bonding the members of the organisation together.

For more on these skeletons in the cupboard see the excellent book “Satanic Voices Ancient and Modern” available here. What is surprising is not that the army engages in such practices, but that one of their own is going public about it.

As for going public, I’ve added my name to those willing to risk a jail service by publishing the memo about Blair and Bush wanting to bomb Al-Jazeera, should it fall into my hands. After all, I know enough about prison to find my way around it, having been a prison Imam for many years. It’s so typical of New Labour: they talk of open government and practice censorship. Of course, Blair does not want the embarrassment of people finding out what he’s really like. Nor the allegations made by David Shayler in Bristol that he once worked for MI5 to spy on student protestors before becoming prime minister. I wonder what he had to go through by way of initiation ceremony.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Education, education, education

We all remember the slogan with which Tony Blair made education a key priority for his term in government: Education, education, education. If one were asked to rate his performance in this respect, he could hardly be given full marks. In fact, his education-related policies have been an utter failure.

A YouGov poll commissioned by the Learning and Skills Council just confirmed that the UK has the highest drop-out rate in the industrialised world for 16-year olds, as far as continuing education is concerned. This means the highest number of youngsters entering the job market at the low-paid end with only basic qualifications.

The government has repeatedly stressed that it wants more people to stay on in education and obtain degrees. Yet, again, actions speak louder than words: this “Labour” government has removed the free right to an education and instead commercialised the higher education sector, allowing universities to charge students for the full cost of their courses. For those who can’t afford the student fees plus associated costs for accommodation, books, travel, etc., the government has come up with the ingenious idea of plunging them into debt at an early age by making support available only on a loan basis.

Lacking home-grown qualified professionals the UK increasingly imports qualified doctors, nurses, engineers, IT specialists etc. from abroad. Thus our government not only squanders the future of its own citizens but also drains the resources of other countries, whilst at the same time talking tough on immigration. Words and deeds really don’t match in the double-speak world of New Labour.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sleepwalking into free fall

A French woman was bound over by the Magistrate’s Court in Brisbane today after having been arrested at the airport upon arrival from Hong Kong. She had planned to spend a three weeks’ holiday in Australia and taken a cocktail of drinks and sleeping pills ahead of the flight because she was “scared of flying”. Why somebody with a phobia of flying boards a plane in the first place without need or compulsion but to go on a holiday is anybody’s guess. Of course, you wouldn’t expect a rational decision from somebody soon thereafter ready to jump off the plane in mid-air in order to feed a nicotine addiction.

She was stopped by flight attendants after walking up to an emergency exit with an unlit cigarette and a lighter and trying to open the doors, presumably for some fresh air. It probably never occurred to her that it must have been something like minus thirty degrees out there with the air so thin that she would have phased out before lighting up. At least she was considerate enough not wanting to annoy other passengers with passive smoking, although they would not have appreciated a sudden gust of cold wind entering the cabin.

The woman’s solicitors argued that she had a habit of sleepwalking and had no recollections of what had happened. Thankfully, the interior of an aircraft is a controlled environment. What worries me is that you might encounter the same people with erratic phobias and delirious from a mixture of drugs and alcohol out on the street driving a car or being given responsibility for others at work. It definitely is safer up in the air.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Why should China pay homage to US?

The Americans are whingeing that China is not playing by the rules, or to be more precise, by their rules. If China wants to be accepted by the international community (that’s short-hand for the United States of America and those who agree with them or are cajoled into doing so), then China should adhere to our conventions, the argument goes.

In reality, Americans are sulking that China’s power is on the rise whilst American power is on the wane. This is a classical case of “Do as I say, not as I do.” Why should the Chinese comply with such demands instead of following the rules of empire? After Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, who are the Americans to lecture the Chinese on human rights?

The United States has opted for unilateralism and is slowly getting its due desserts. America only ever invokes international law when it coincides with her own interests. Be it politics or in trade, America wants her cake and eat it. They want everybody to abide by the rules but to be exempt themselves. They refuse to be signatories to, for example, the nuclear non-proliferation treat, but want Iran to be punished for allegedly not sticking to it.

America has taught the world that international legality is only a smoke-screen and that in international relations might is right. China has no need to be lectured on international legality by a country regularly flouting all the rules all the time. China is leveraging its new-found economic, military and political power. This may be uncomfortable for Americans, but they are only getting a taste of their own medicine.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Child abuse not illegal in Israel

As long as the child is Palestinian (and moves) and you’re a member of the Israeli Defence Force you can do what you want and not be held to account. As the Guardian reports a military court in Israel just acquitted a soldier who unloaded the whole magazine of his machine gun into a defenceless 13-year old girl. “I old you I was innocent” the soldier is said to have announced after the not guilty verdict.

At not time did the school girl pose a danger to the soldiers at the military post where Captain “R” was posted when he riddled her with bullets. She was at a safe distance and had dropped her school bag, so was not carrying anything that could have been mistaken as explosives. In fact, before shooting her, the captain was told by his colleagues on the watch tower that she was just a little girl “scared to death”.

No matter, he justified his action thus: “Anything that's mobile, that moves in the zone, even if it's a three-year-old, needs to be killed. Over." Now after officers from the Metropolitan Police unloaded their guns on Brazilian Charles de Menezes in a London underground train, we learned that the new “shoot-to-kill” policy had been introduced after British armed police officers received training from Israel, code-named “Operation Kratos”. If they were instructed to shoot at anything that moves, even if it’s a three-year-old, then we can be hardly surprised at the ferocity with which they took out the innocent electrician.

Irrespective of these rules of engagement, outside the Israeli Defence Force and the British police force the killing of an under-aged school girl or an innocent passenger on a commuter train will still be regarded as cold-blooded murder.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Saddam is dead, long live Saddam!

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – we’ve done it again. The King is dead, long live the King.

So we’ve liberated Iraq from a brutal dictator who was heading a sectarian government, imprisoning and torturing dissidents, intent on producing illegal weapons and even allegedly using chemical weapons against his own population, killing innocent civilians in large numbers.

Today, Iraq is a better place. It is headed by a sectarian government, imprisoning and torturing dissidents, using illegal weapons including chemical weapons (white phosphorus) on their own people, and innocent civilians die in large numbers.

The last Iraqi despot, Saddam, was groomed and installed by the CIA and remained an American puppet until he fell out of favour. Today’s Iraqi government, too, was installed by the CIA, but this time under the mantle of democracy. Democracy is a way of legitimising the usurpation of power. The public accounting office in the US has just upheld the claims that Bush came to power fraudulently. So why get upset when he installs his stooge in Iraq. It’s democracy, stupid.

And what about international law, you might ask. The old Iraqi regime was chastised for not cooperating with weapons inspectors and obfuscating the work of the UN. The new regime refuses to let the UN in to investigate allegations of torture. And changing the constitution of a country under occupation and install a new government is, of course, also illegal under international law.

Under international law the occupier retains responsibility for everything that happens in the country under occupation. The US and UK governments cannot wash their hands of the human rights abuses in Iraq blaming the Iraqi government they installed. As long as their armed forces have overall control, they are charged with maintaining law and order. But who cares about laws. After all, might is right. As a precautionary measure the United States is not a signatory to any international treaty that could harm her at some point in time and vehemently opposes an international court of justice.

The only time they really need to worry about the will of the people, legality and moral responsibility is when they start losing power. Then again, the way it is going, that prospect doesn’t seem too far off. Regime change in Washington?

Monday, November 14, 2005

Selling Islam

Yesterday I attended the Birmingham finale of the MAB road show “Celebrate Eid programme”, a mixture of musical performances (Nasheeds), comedy, fundraising and admonition. The show’s flavour was strongly influenced by the predominance of the American entertainers on the tour. I came away with mixed feelings.

Don’t get me wrong, done properly Nasheeds, songs in praise of the prophet, peace be with him, are great to listen to. Malaysian Group Raihan were, as always at their best. Preacher Moss and his common sense humour were as appropriate as the sincere exhortations by Imam Johari Abdul-Malik. I can’t say I was too taken by the Islamic gospel variety of “silky smooth” Khaleel Muhammad, and I did frown to see 786 sing and dance inside a mosque for their music video. But Islam in the West is made up of so many different cultural strands, and they will eventually have to find the right pitch.

The audience were great too. They were told to clap but not to scream, but did both. Normally, at Muslim functions they are told not to clap either and just sit there sombre and bored. During the evening they raised well in excess of ten thousand pounds for the earth quake victims in Pakistan and Kashmir, and at the end they all felt like one big family.

It’s not the content I’m moaning about. It’s the general setup of Islamic events these days. To put on a big show in a concert hall of a major UK city you need sponsorship. The sponsors, however, aren’t in it for the love of Islam but for the money. You don’t get an Islamic activity any more, well not on a larger scale, without advertising the high-interest mortgages from Amanah finance, an offshoot of the colonial Hong Kong Shanghai Bank Corporation (HSBC). Glossy Muslim magazines sprouting up like mushrooms advertise mortgages (re-Christened as Shariah-compliant or halal by virtue of having appointed a board of scholars) alongside recruitment advertisements for the police service and the armed forces.

Islam is going commercial and there is a price attached. As a journalist I know the influence advertisers have over editorial policy. One magazine I contributed to had full-page ads withdrawn because of an article I wrote on how the High Street Banks fool the unsuspecting Muslim consumer into believing that their costly products are as kosher as halal pork properly dispatched using all the right rituals. That magazine is not going to invite me again to voice my opinion. And how long will we be able to criticise the government, the police and the military when they hold the purse strings?

This is not entirely new, of course. The first mosques in the UK were called “Pakistani Welfare and Cultural Centres”, avoiding the mention of Islam, because local councils only gave grants for ethnic, not religious activities. We’ve survived and still got the mosques we wanted. So this, too, may be a passing phase. Once the excitement of going with the money wears down, we might come back “straight and level” before we “spin out of control” in pilot-speak. Meanwhile, however, there seems to be a great deal of confusion whilst Muslims in the West are trying to find their feet.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Grand Coalition

Germany’s grand coalition between the SDP and CDU is about to set to work. Two parties with outwardly opposing ideologies, the one socialist the other conservative, are about to join ranks in order to tell the German people, in the words of the Chancellor designate Angela Merkel, to tighten their belts. Proof positive, if any was needed, that when it comes to practice, those ideological differences account for little.

In Britain, too, we have seen New Labour overtaking the Tories on the right. Ultimately, party politics are simply a stage-set aimed at an unsuspecting population to give the semblance of democracy. On polling day we all have a chance to vote for a new shift to take over whilst the management stays the same. No wonder voter apathy is continually on the increase.

On the local level, too, they will run expensive but futile consultation exercises where they give us a choice between pre-conceived options, neither of them a radical departure from what went before.

When have you last seen a government reversing the unpopular policies of their predecessor? All our governments are heavily in debt to private financiers, and consequently they all run the same economic policies for the benefit of those financiers. If they don’t tow the line they soon find themselves ousted from power with a generous helping from within the media establishment. Money talks.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Israeli connection

Call me a conspiracy theorist if you must, I think I’m just being practical. How much of a coincidence can accept as reasonable? “Al-Qaida” has just been said to have blown up a hotel in Jordan which is said to have been popular with Israelis. Scores of people got killed, but no Israelis, because they were warned beforehand as reported in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

Those with a good memory might recall that Bibi Netanyahu also escaped the damaging effects of the July 7 bombings in London because Israeli intelligence asked him to leave his hotel just in time. And when the towers in New York got struck on 9/11 employees of the Israeli firm Odigo had been receiving advance warnings to stay at home. There were also share dealing irregularities which might give a clue about who had prior knowledge and I bet it was Osama – but then those trails were never properly followed.

In my mind there are two possible scenarios. Either the Israelis consider non-Israeli lives of so little importance that they don’t bother sharing their warnings with them, or they had a hand in the bombings from the start. Now you will cry anti-semitic in addition to conspiracy theorist, but before you get carried away by the notion that those poor persecuted Israelis can do no wrong, have a look at their history. From the blowing up of the King David hotel during the days of the Irgun and Stern terrorist gangs under the British mandate, to the first hijack in modern history, to the bombing of the US diplomatic centre in Egypt (Lavon Affair) and the attack on American navy personnel on the USS Liberty, they’ve not been too squeamish with sacrificing the lives of others, even their closest allies.

They will do anything that furthers their cause. And what could better further their cause than having the whole world in fear and awe of Arab and Islamic terrorism?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Blair's defeat: the good, the bad, and the ugly

The good news: the 90 day internment plans of the anti-libertarian Blair government were defeated. Even though the Chancellor of the Exchequer rushed back from Israel (what was he doing there?) and the Foreign Secretary from Russia.

The bad news: an equally outrageous extension of police custody without charge to 28 days was approved. Let’s hope the Lords have the good sense and stomach to fend this off, too.

And the ugly? Well, he will have to go eventually. And maybe today he has realised that his days are numbered. Then again, I wouldn’t count on it. Some just don’t get the message. Thatcher didn’t either. Seems to be a thing about right-wing prime ministers.

Fortress Europe: stuck in the colonial mindset

It’s the same all across Europe. France is battling with wide-spread rioting, Britain is quarrelling whether to bring back internment. Neither are on a winning ticket.

It was the Swiss author Max Frisch who summed the immigration dilemma up so succinctly: “Workers were called, but people came”. After the devastation of the second world war Europe needed the help of foreigner to rebuild her economies. They were brought in from Asia and Africa as hired slaves. There was not intention to give them any rights or to have them settle permanently.

Alas, they stayed. Yet, two or three generations later they are still treated as strangers by the establishment. If they become too visible there is soon talk of sending them all back home. Never mind that you couldn’t get hospital treatment or buy your basic conveniences if all the immigrants and children of immigrants suddenly left (or even went on a Sabbatical at the same time) – like children they should be seen but not heard.

Frisch was right, of course. The people who came had a sense of worth and dignity and aspirations of their own. They resent being treated as second class or even sub-human. By resorting to emergency powers first used in Algeria the French make it abundantly clear that they have learned nothing from their disastrous colonial past. If you keep beating people, you brutalise them. If you criminalise people, they will break the law. If you deny them their identity, they will come to reject the nation in which they live.

Interestingly, in all the discussions about what went wrong in France during the last two weeks of rioting, the voice of those communities who rebelled against being abused and stigmatised is nowhere to be heard. The media prefer to talk to members of the establishment. People who haven’t got a clue what it is like to live as an Algerian in Marseille rant about the causes and the cure of these unpredictable riots. In their petty minds French Muslims should be glad that the Republic liberated them and tore the scarves off the heads of their womenfolk.

Barring a complete U-turn it is too late for French race relations. Britain still stands a chance, but Tony Blair and his cronies want to squander it fast. Blair and Blair (the prime minister and the police chief) want to bring back internment. It doesn’t matter whether it is for 90 days, 60 days, 28 days or 14, what is at stake is the principle of due process. The new legislation will permit the law enforcement agencies to create outlaws at a whim. The signals sent to the minority communities will be clear: you could be next. The ensuing disquiet will not lead to compliance, it will erupt in anger.

When the French battled with furious resistance in Algeria they had to finally withdraw and give up control of the colony. When the British faced stiff opposition in India they had to give up on the Empire. Now the French and the British government are hell-bent on turning the very people who helped them rebuild after the war into enemies. They are drawing battle lines within their own countries. Should the attempt to keep those lesser citizens subjugated fail, where will they run this time?

Monday, November 07, 2005

British police display racist credentials

It was only a joke and it was only to be seen by police officers. The Police Federation magazine featured a cartoon depicting officers outside a mosque having to remove their shoes before gaining entry. The intended message: that respect for religion can get in the way of efficient policing. The sublime message: that mosques harbour criminals or terrorists and should not be off-limits for the police.

Bedfordshire’s Chief Constable Gillian Parker complained to the editor saying: “We have worked hard to achieve relationships and I feel that the stereotypical portrayal of Muslims as terrorists has jeopardised this”. The Editor, Metin Enver, apologised and stated that no offence was intended. But the damage is done.

It could just be a bit of fun, but Muslims remember serious cases of biased policing. Take the case of Barbar Ahmed, for example, who alleges that when he was arrested by police in a dawn raid anti-terrorism officers he was severely beaten and then forced to kneel in the prayer position whilst one of the officers asked him: "Where is your God now?" Six days later he was released without charge. If Tony Blair has his way, he would have been held for 90 days.

Barbar Ahmed has since been re-arrested under an extradition warrant from the United States although there is not a shred of evidence against him. In January 2005, the Independent Police Complaints Commission recommended that one of the police officers accused of beating Babar have proceedings initiated against him for "excessive force". Supposedly all the other officers looked the other way at the time and were entirely blameless.

Ignoring those facts the Police Misconduct Tribunal found in April 2005 that there was "no case to answer" and that the officer in question had acted "professionally" with "great bravery" and that "he should be commended and not castigated".

Cases like this, and there are many others, mean that Muslims don’t see the funny side of this cartoon at all. To them it rather looks like the police are showing their real colour in a magazine thought to be only for their eyes.

Friday, November 04, 2005

Deepcut cover-up cuts deep into public confidence for the police

Four young army recruits died at Deepcut barracks and the army immediately covered up their deaths as suicides. A police investigation followed and covered up the army’s cover-up. This investigation has been looked at afresh and serious concerns have emerged. Former Labour MP Brian Sedgemore, also a barrister at law, labelled the affair "scandalous" and said either senior police officers or senior Army officers must be lying.

Geoff Gray, the father of one of the dead soldiers wondered "How can these people lie to us in such a way?" and wants the matter referred to the Independent Police Commission. The parents of Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian shot dead on the London underground by anti-terrorism officers might have asked the same question when confronted with the numerous police lies since exposed. They, too, are looking for the Independent Police Commission to arrive at the truth. I fear they will all be disappointed, because in my experience, the Independent Police Commission is yet another stage in the grand cover-up.

Since the Guildford Four (the appeal judge concluded that the officers must have lied) and the Birmingham Six high profile appeals certain safeguards have been introduced to counter the hitherto unchecked opportunity for the police to fix the evidence. The current government is trying to reverse all that has been achieved with regard to ensuring that police officers act properly within the law. It wants to give the police unprecedented new powers. As this new evidence confirms once more, they are bound to abuse them.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Better not follow the continental model of integration

Paris suburbs have seen a week of rioting sparked by the death of two Arab teenagers allegedly chased by police. Seeing the lives of two young people so tragically wasted was the straw the broke the camels back for France’s immigrant communities. Of course, right wing politicians lament that immigration should never have been allowed to the current level where one out of 10 inhabitants of France is of immigrant belonging. But the ageing societies of the West need cheap labour and realists know that there is not much of an alternative. In France as here in the UK, the very governments who talk tough on immigration are busy facilitating the flow of people into the country.

The difference in France is that immigrants were never allowed to integrate or share the aspirations of their native compatriots. French immigrants – and the same goes for Germany – were denied citizenship and the right to vote. In addition they were subjected to severe cultural discrimination as most clearly expressed in the headscarf ban so stupendously pursued both in France and in Germany. In those riots they finally made their presence known. No matter who they are, communities will not go forever without a voice.

There are lessons to be learned for us here in Britain. Here, too, immigrant communities – even down to the third or fourth generation – are being disenfranchised and increasingly stigmatised. With the excuse of the war on terror police unfairly target Asian youngsters through their stop and search procedure. Such tactics breed resentment until the cup overflows.

Politicians, unashamedly sleezy and cynical, use those communities as a scapegoat for things gone wrong and wield the fear of the next terror attack to cower their disillusioned constituents into compliance. The police force is given a looser rein which it is likely to abuse, seeing a recent report found that it suffers from a lack of leadership as well as incompetence in the lower ranks due to inadequate entry level requirements.

Every Muslim in Britain has a story to tell in this respect or at least knows of somebody who does. How likely is the taxi driver who is rounded up by armed police whilst waiting to pick up a customer from Heathrow airport going to believe that the officers are there to protect him when the only justification they can give him for their suspicion is that he was sitting on his own and looked Middle-Eastern? He may be relieved that he was not shot on the spot like poor Brazilian Charles de Menezes, but his confidence in the professionalism of the police will seriously dented when they resort to such tactics. In spite of all the available technology from CCTV to immediate access to databases for car number plates etc., stop and search actions are not based on intelligence but on racial profiling.

The police will complain that they are overstretched and under-resourced and that they have to cope with a very real threat from international terrorism. They want the power of internment back that resulted in so many miscarriages of justice during the Irish troubles. They will be even more overstretched if they loose all the cooperation from hitherto law-abiding minorities and force their youngsters underground.

The police force in my own region, Thames Valley Police, came at the bottom of the list rating the quality of policing in the UK. They scored particularly poor in the areas of community relations and stop and search. I am not surprised. My own son, a law student, found himself battered by police when questioning whether their behaviour was racially motivated. They had stopped his car and harassed him by trying to find faults although his car and all his papers were in order, and when he alleged racism they slammed his face onto the bonnet, hand-cuffed him and kept him in custody over night. They then planted false charges of possession of a dangerous weapon on him which turned out to be a perfectly legal ornamental pen-knife, but nonetheless went to court accusing him of a public order offence.

In spite of video evidence available from his brother’s mobile phone camera, District Judge Williams took the liberty of arriving at her findings of fact in Milton Keynes Magistrate’s Court and found him guilty of calling an officer racist (although in the recording, clearly audible, he made a completely different remark from the one alleged), the very act of which she described as offensive and racist in itself. So if you feel you are being subjected to racist treatment by an officer of the police, don’t say so, as you might be committing a crime.

The spineless government-sponsored council of Racial Equality refused to take up the issue although it reversed everything the Steven Lawrence enquiry had achieved with regard to the procedures for dealing with claims of racism. Locally they tried to dissuade the young victim of police abuse to desist from appealing. The, again government-sponsored, “Independent” Police Complaints Commission, who were very eager to proceed and obtain all the defence evidence in order to be able to share it with the prosecution, started back-peddling after an appeal was launched so as to not “prejudice” its outcome. The appeal was allocated to Aylesbury Crown Court, one of the more racist benches where a bail application by a black or Asian defendant hardly ever gets granted who, however, stated that they did not have the capacity for such a complex trial and there might well have to be a wait of up to two years. A request by the appellant to move the case to Luton Crown Court, which has a much larger capacity, has still not been replied to, maybe because there is too strong an ethnic minority presence in Luton. The wheels of justice grind indeed slowly when it suits them.

When justice is neither done nor seen to be done, resentment builds up. Most youngsters do not conduct themselves as measured in the face of open aggression by law enforcement as the young law student in question. Recent violence in Birmingham reminded us that not all is well in England’s multicultural society. If you store up tension you risk an explosion once the fuse is lit. The French pushed a fragile coexistence over the edge. We take most of our laws from Europe now, but let’s hope that as a nation we retain some of our common sense. Following the French example would not serve us well.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Blair turns Kafka into reality

I’ve decided to re-read Franz Kafka’s “Der Prozess” (The Trial). His writings gave us the term “Kafkaesque”, an adjective often employed to describe some surreal distortion of reality. However, this reality has finally arrived with the government’s intended new anti-terrorism laws.

This is how it starts: “Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K., he knew he had done nothing wrong but, one morning, he was arrested.” It is the story of a law-abiding citizen who wrongly believes the authorities won’t target him if he has done nothing wrong. Under Blair’s ultra-right-wing New Labour government (Kafkaesque, isn’t it) this experience has become the norm for hundreds of people locked up under suspicion of terrorism only to be released without charge but with their lives permanently damaged.

At the moment police can only hold suspects for up to two weeks, but with the new proposals we are moving a step closer to Kafka’s absurd reality. Once people are held for a whole three months without due process, they loose touch with reality and will have great difficulties rebuilding their lives. The poor character in Kafka’s story, of course, does not get released at all, he gets executed.

I am sure our government would prefer it that way, too. Having to release people after admitting that there was not an iota of evidence against them is embarrassing. That’s why the government also wants to be able to use secret evidence which does not have to be produced in open court. Already we held foreign subjects imprisoned without them being able to even know the nature of the charges against them until our law lords decided that it was inhumane to do so. Hastily the government arranged for “control orders” to keep the same people under house arrest.

Now if you are arrested without being told why, kept for 90 days in the hope that you will finally be willing to sign anything just to get it over and done with, charged with an offence of aiding terrorism (a word on whose meaning the UN could not agree on in its last general assembly), and neither you nor your lawyers will be allowed to get to see the evidence which will only be presented to a specially selected judge – well, you’d be forgiven to think the world has gone mad. It’s a leaf right out of Kafka’s “The Trial”.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The moon will be late for the party

Instead of owning up to their mistake of starting Ramadan early, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states have declared that after completing 30 days of Ramadan, Thursday is going to be the first day of the month of Shawwal and thus the day of Eid celebrations. A few days ago I have explained here under the heading Which moon to follow? that the moon does not follow these declarations and will, unfortunately, turn up late for the celebrations. A great opportunity of salvaging what was lost at the beginning of Ramadan and working towards the unity of Muslims has been lost. And the problem perpetuates. Are we soon going to see the start of the lunar month being declared officially whilst we see the full moon shining brightly upon us? Maybe this is what it takes before people demand that our leaders get back in touch with reality.

Bring on Armageddon, George!

The sabre rattling about Iran is unnerving enough, and just the thought that the Bush junta could usher us into another war adventure whilst getting battered in Afghanistan and Iraq every day is mind-boggling. But Syria is an altogether different story.

Both Islam and Christianity share the end-time predictions of Armageddon (the Palestinian town of Al Megido), and both know this to be the final battle between those who believe and those who don’t. Their definitions of who is a believer differ, of course.

Secularists, too, are warning of the coming of the end, although they prefer to blame global warming. You don’t have to be a Muslim to relate to the prophetic description of those times: “the wide earth will shrink before them and the earth will become full of oppression and injustice, and the believer will find no shelter from harm.”

So back to Syria: Syria is the place, according to prophecy, where the tide will turn - it is the people of Syria and a group of the people of Iraq who will be the first to pledge allegiance to the Mahdi, the awaited saviour of the Muslims who will re-unite them after their defeat. With the help of the arch-angels Gabriel and Michael he will move towards Syria where he will decisively beat the allied armies of the disbelievers and establish Muslim rule until Jesus, the Messiah, returns for his second coming, also in Damascus.

The coming rounds of neo-conservative, neo-imperialist wars, therefore, are not just proxy wars for Israel. They are the beginning of the end. Commentators have pointed out with a measure of derision that George Bush sees himself inspired by God to do the needful. Indeed he is driven to act out the inevitable. His right-wing pro-Zionist fundamentalist Christian constituencies are Biblical fatalists. They believe that after Armageddon they will be the winners. They might be in for a big surprise!

There is no escaping history. What is inevitable must come to pass. The world is set on a grand collision course. America, the waning empire, is playing the end game. The result will not be to their liking. Bring it on George!