Thursday, April 27, 2006

MCB: Homosexuality is sinful (official)

After having drawn attention on this blog to an alleged concerted campaign by the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and gay rights groups to eradicate homophobia amongst the Muslim community the MCB has issued a press statement denying that there is any substance to the story published by Marc Shoffman on,  stating categorically that "the practice of homosexuality is sinful in Islam" and that "homosexual relationships are sinful and clearly go against Islamic teachings".

The MCB clarification goes on to say that "The article written by Marc Shoffman contained various inaccuracies that have misrepresented the MCB. Chief amongst them is the reference to a 5-year plan endorsed by the MCB. Abdul Aziz has confirmed to the MCB that no such plan exists and that the reference to one was entirely fictional."

Since no correction appeared on the pinknews site and the above MCB release indicates that Abdul Aziz is a real person who is in contact with them, the retraction by the MCB raises questions of its own and I asked Shenaz Yusuf, media officer with the MCB to clarify the actual position of Abdul Aziz who according to the MCB statement was incorrectly described as a "policy advisor" but has made statements on their behalf in the capacity of "consultant adviser" before. I also asked her what action the MCB intended to take against Marc Shoffman or Abdul Aziz to ensure that the misrepresentation of the MCB does not continue. After all, when informing me of the MCB press release she had written: "I'm very surprised that you should have suspected that the MCB would be involved in any such endeavour and irked that you did not seek to ascertain the veracity of the alleged 'campaign' by speaking to a member of the MCB."

Sadly, the reply to those simple questions proved less than satisfactory. About Abdul Aziz it said: "Abdul Aziz is not a Policy Advisor to the MCB. He is not a member of
the Central Working Committee nor does he hold any official position whatsoever within the organisation. The MCB sometimes asks him to attend meetings on our behalf if necessary."
So hang on, whilst he has no position with the MCB, the MCB does sometimes ask him to attend meetings on their behalf. So this does make him a kind of consultant. And when he does attend meetings on behalf of the MCB, presumably he speaks in their name? Did the MCB send him to meet with Marc Shoffman?

As for my other question, I was now asked to apologise for not checking with the MCB about a story which they themselves could not be bothered to ask for a retraction. The pinknews article stood unchallenged for over two weeks, and only after I made reference to it in my blog was a statement denying its truths issued by the MCB. And now I was told: "We cannot correct every misrepresentation in the media. We simply issue statements clarifying our position in the hope that people with good intentions will take noteā€¦Since it was Abdul Aziz whose comments were misrepresented as MCB policy, the matter of retraction is his to pursue." This was followed by: "I would ask that since you appear to have taken the published
account on Pink News as gospel truth, without verification of the claims contained therein from the MCB itself; something that would have entailed a mere phone call, that you apologise to the organisation for not seeking its own comments before maligning it in this way."

Who said the MCB was arrogant? After all, if somebody makes a statement or gives an interview on behalf of an organisation like the MCB and says what he shouldn't have, it is for the organisation to rein him in, not for me or the public to wonder whether he might have just fallen from grace. And if the organisation is misrepresented in public, it is for the organisation to seek a retraction, rather than put the onus on the reader.

To make doubly sure I asked whether Abdul Aziz had been sent by the MCB to meet Marc Shoffman or whether they were at least aware of him having this meeting. I also asked whether they had requested and received any apologies from either of them. I was told that they had received an apology from Abdul Aziz who "was greatly apologetic for not stepping in and correcting the errors sooner but then given his having suffered a mugging on the day the news appeared, it would have been unkind to have expected swift action. We have requested that he also pursue the matter of correction with Marc Shoffman." Nothing about the first question, but if I read this reply correctly it tells me that for Abdul Aziz to pursue this matter with Marc Shoffman on behalf of the MCB he must be in touch or know where to find him.

Not wanting to be chastised again for lack of communication with the MCB's media office, I reiterated the question about whether Abdu Aziz attended a meeting with Marc Shoffman on behalf of the MCB or with their knowledge, and finally got this: "There was no meeting with Marc Shoffman. Abdul Aziz was referred a telephone enquiry to apprise Marc of the work of the MCB's legal affairs committee on anti-discrimination issues surrounding the enforcement of the EU directive on equality in the workplace. He was once asked to step in and attend a meeting on this when the MCB official could not be present."

So in plain English Abdul Aziz did talk to Marc Shoffman upon the request of the MCB (albeit on the telephone) but also once attended a meeting on their behalf to cover for an MCB official. In other words, he acted on behalf of the MCB. He may have messed up by doing so, maybe with best intentions. Maybe he was keen that the MCB should not fall foul of anti-discrimination rules, which include discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, seeing that funding these days is hard to obtain without subscribing to these. Maybe those discussions weren't meant to go public. But why I should I take the blame for it all? Or need we now check every statement given by somebody on MCB business with somebody else from the MCB, just in case they can't agree amongst themselves or differ in what they say behind closed doors and what they state to the public?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The Art of Whitewash

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has today released its findings following its investigation of complaints against police officers when Muslim law student Abdu-l-Muqtadir Mustaqim was stopped at the road side during a routine vehicle check and then ended up spending the whole night at Milton Keynes police station from where he emerged with a seriously swollen face. The report of findings makes recommendations for improving certain aspects of policing, addressing in particular the lack of statistics with regard to the ethnicity of people stopped at the roadside and the lack of sensitivity by front line police officers towards the feelings of young Asians, but in general the result was as expected: it exonerated the police officers involved on all counts.

Given that these days police can restrain an innocent man on the London Underground and unload eleven bullets into him and still be found to have displayed exemplary good conduct by the IPCC, it would border on the insane to expect a greater level of "independence" from this body in what was a comparatively minor case. In fact, I have long suspected that the real meaning behind the initials of the IPCC is: "Ignore Police Culpability Commission". Its purpose is to give the semblance of due process whilst the results are usually a forgone conclusion.

This whitewash, also common to select enquiries to placate public concern, for example the enquiry into the circumstances surrounding Dr. Kelly's apparent suicide, is achieved by a mixture of re-arranging the facts coupled with making excuses where the facts cannot be sufficiently re-arranged. The most recent report by the IPCC, for example, does, buried in its pages, admit to serious irregularities and failings on behalf of Thames Valley Police, but relativates them instantly. The final remark of the case summary sums up its general approach: "With any incident involving the police there are always things that could have been done differently".

In itself, the report is not particularly thorough and makes easily avoidable mistakes, e.g. confusing a doctor at accident and emergency with the general practitioner of Mr. Mustaqim. It seems there has never been an intention to be thorough in anything other than dismissing the validity of the complaints made. The report does not even query why it was that the camera in the police road-side vehicle conveniently malfunctioned and why the sound of the CCTV cameras in the police custody suite did mysteriously not work at the time, rendering both items of evidence useless. To circumnavigate the problem that the timing of events would have rendered the evidence of a number of "independent" witnesses the IPCC procured for the prosecution untenable and favoured the complainants' version of events, the case summary observes that there is "evidence to show that the timer on all CCTV footage from the police station is incorrect. It was showing approximately 15 to 20 minutes behind real time." The authors of the report do not find such crucial inaccuracy worthy of further comment.

Unfortunately, even a camera without sound and a faulty time stamp still shows that the complainant is repeatedly pushed against the wall and out of view of the camera. The report acknowledges several such "instances" but justifies them as having the "definite intention" of containing the detainee "in a specific area of the yard". "Perhaps not all of the placing movements (sic) are wholly necessary", it observes, but qualifies them as "understandable".

The report also admits errors in record taking and incorrect completion of the custody record and goes on to say that "The reason for the errors is unknown. It may have been caused by carelessness or just because of pressure of work." For people who wear uniform, it seems, the standards of performance are automatically lowered. A similar nonchalant attitude is taken when admitting that wrong information was given to myself when I telephoned the police station about the incident. This is how the case summary puts it: "Because of the amount of time that has elapsed since the incident, it is practically impossible to ascertain whether Dr Bleher was lied to, or whether genuine mistakes were made with regard to the information he was given".

None of it really seems to matter to the investigators. "Shit happens" seems to be there motto, and "if in doubt side with the officers". As far as the police are concerned, the IPCC has done a marvellous job restoring the integrity of the service. Unfortunately, the public don't necessarily share that view. For people who experience heavy-handed policing first hand the whitewash by the IPCC merely gives them added cause for cynicism and further eliminates the basis of trust.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Subverting Islam

Muslims in the West are increasingly worried about the rise in open attacks against Islam. Even the BNP has switched from blaming the Jew to blaming the Muslim and Nick Griffin is trying hard to appease Jewish sentiment after having identified the common Muslim enemy. In this climate of open season for anything Islamic Muslims fail to realise that a much greater danger is looming from a subversion of Islam with help from within. As for the public denunciation of Islam I tend to recall the words of Hamza in the late Mustapha Akka's movie The Messenger: "What faces me never frightens me". The downfall for Muslims has historically been from backstabbing and betrayal.

Meanwhile, Islam is being redefined for us by those who cannot live with its courage of conviction. Until very recently Muslims resisted the temptation of the banking world to lure them into the conceited net of debt-finance. As a consequence, they many Muslims were unable to get a mortgage for their home without feeling associated guilt and ended up having to pay somebody else's mortgage instead via inflated rental prices. The colonial Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) was the first to come up with the ingenious idea of re-branding with its Amanah house finance scheme. If an interest-bearing mortgage could be sold to Muslims as "halal" and virtually interest free, those Muslims desperate to do the right thing would happily pay even higher interest rates than anywhere else on the market. The government even changed the rules on stamp duty to allow this con to be marketed. For details on this "halal mortgage" scam see my article "Spot the Difference: Selling halal mortgages is like telling porkies with interest". Many other lending institutions have since moved into the field, most notably the inaptly names "Islamic Bank of Britain". Of course, they all have so-called Shariah boards of scholars to make the unlawful permissible.

A similar development is now taking place on the dietary front. The insistence of Muslims to only eat halal meat has also frequently come under attack, notably under the guise of animal rights with the fraudulent claim that halal slaughter is cruel to animals whilst stunning animals before slaughter is more humane. I discuss this subject in my leaflet "The halal slaughter controversy: Do animal rights activists protect the sheep or the butcher?" which also contains my translation of a scientific study comparing the two methods. I have had discussions with animal rights activists which went round in circles because on the one hand they claimed the study, the only of its kind, was irrelevant since it was outdated, on the other hand they objected to carrying out a new study because it would involve the suffering of animals. So they are quite happy to have animals go through the pain of stunning followed by slaughter which also suits the butchers who, due to the high amount of meat we consume nowadays, run fully automated conveyor belt slaughter lines.

Recently the British food market is flooded with "halal" labelled meat and poultry provided by non-Muslim slaughter houses and distributed through supermarket chains like Safeways, Asda or Lidl, threatening to put the halal family butcher's shop out of business. They all carry the stamp of approval by the "Halal Food Authority". In spite of the official sounding name this is a voluntary organisation which gave the "authority" to pronounce meat items as halal to itself. Their wording of the halal slaughter process is clever and misleading when they state that the animal must not be "stunned to be killed or otherwise rendered wholly insensible prior to slaughter". Of course, the HFA approves stunning for slaughter as its president Masood Khawaja admits to the BBC: "It is acceptable as long as the animal is not dead prior to slaughter". As with "halal" interest the Islamic requirements have once more been reduced to a mere ritual in which the poor animal suffers twice, first by a blow to the head and then by being slaughtered whilst still conscious. This foul compromise is the worst of both slaughter methods, but Muslims are glad to be able to buy their "halal" meat supplies cheaper at their local supermarket, and the HFA is making a handsome profit from certification. The bizarre result is a conveyor belt of carcasses in a non-Muslim slaughter house attended by a Muslim slaughterman who recites the "Bismillah" whilst they pass by, aided by an audio recording in case he should not be able to keep up with the speed of production. If reciting a prayer was the only difference between "halal" (permitted) and "haram" (prohibited) meat, I might as well buy any meat item I please and say the prayer just before eating. They whole point of the dietary prescription in Islam is that the animal is dispatched with the least amount of suffering, and this suffering is certainly increased by stunning. Stunning does not make the slaughter process any less painful for the animal, it simply makes the handling easier for the slaughterer and thus permits higher outputs.

Gradually, because as Muslims we want to be part of the consumer society, Islam is being undermined until all that remains is a few labels. We can then wear Islam on our sleeves (or fashion accessory headscarves), but little substance will remain. Islam will no longer be a principled way of life but a mere fashion whilst our habits and attitudes will differ little from those not sharing our faith. Here is the latest example: The government-sponsored Muslim Council of Britain, another self-appointed "authority" came under a lot of fire for refusing to take part in Holocaust memorial celebrations and more so when its knighted leader Sir Iqbal Sacranie criticised homosexuality in a radio interview as socially destructive. They are now making amends and have promised to campaign to eradicate homophobia amongst the Muslim community. In turn the "Muslim" spokesman of the gay rights campaign organisation Outrage is promising to help them eradicate Islamophobia, too. All is well then in the state of Denmark (oops, Britain, we're meant to boycott Denmark these days). The only remaining stumbling block is that modern Muslims and their treacherous "representatives" must now also acknowledge Israel's inalienable right to exist and occupy. Then we will finally be considered as sufficiently civilised and admitted as a full member of the "international community".

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Flight 93 cockpit recording is a hoax

I will stick my neck out and declare it a hoax: Jurors in the al-Moussaoui trial were shown alleged cockpit voice recordings of the final stages of the hijacking of United Airlines flight 93. It was played to the court accompanied by a video showing gruesome pictures of charred bodies, so it was intended to stir emotions rather than to provide hard evidence. The defence team's objections to the type of evidence were over-ruled.

It took the authorities a long time to come up with evidence from the flight recorders which they had earlier stated were not recoverable. It seems to me they still did a rather sloppy job when replacing the real recordings with this dramatic production. Here is why:

First of all, Cockpit voice recordings and recordings of air traffic communications are separated, yet in this case they appear together. I only have the transcript to go by since the actual recordings have not been released. I cannot establish from the transcript at what volume certain parts of it appear. It is possible that the crew instead of using headsets would have switched air traffic communications onto the cabin loud speakers so that they would also be audible in the cockpit. It does, however, not explain why we can hear communications from air traffic control and another plane on the frequency, but we cannot hear the communications by flight 93 crew to air traffic control, although those should have been a lot more audible.

According to the transcript air traffic control received a communication that there was a bomb on board, but we do not hear the pilots stating so. Air traffic control ask another plane on the frequency whether this is what they heard and they confirm. This means that the pilots must have stated so on the frequency. Air traffic control could not have gauged this information from the transponder code selected by the pilots as this would not be accessible to the crew of the third plane nor would it be specific. There is a transponder code for hijacking, but not for a bomb on board. Air traffic control could not have taken this information from what the hijackers said either, since to transmit a message to air traffic control the pilot has to press a push-to-talk button and the noise cancelling microphone will not pick up anything from the background.

However, let's assume, unlikely as this is, that they did pick up what the hijackers said according to the transcript, namely: "Ladies and Gentlemen. Here the captain, please sit down keep remaining seating. We have a bomb on board. So sit." Here the script writers for the audio/video presentation made their biggest blunder. According to the script those remarks were made in Arabic. Air traffic could have got them translated, although not instantaneously, and they would have had to figure out what language they were dealing with first, but there is no chance that the crew of Executive Jet 956, the third plane on the frequency, could have understood those remarks.

The script writers made sure that there is plenty of Arabic in the recording to firmly establish the origin of the hijackers. They also add plenty of Bismillahs and Allahu akbars to show that these are Muslim fanatics. With the above quoted remark they have, however, gone over the top by making the translation sound foreign as well. Either they had a very incompetent translator or they weren't sure whether they should script this remark in Arabic or English - "keep remaining seating" sure does not sound like a good translation.

There is a problem with this opening sentence being in Arabic. From the content one would assume that it is addressed to the plane's passengers as it starts with "Ladies and Gentlemen." From the context it is said in the cabin upon first encounter with the captain. You can't talk from the flight deck to the passengers except over the intercom system, so it is unclear who the addressees of these sentences are meant to be. But neither crew nor passengers would have understood Arabic. If the remarks were made in conversation to fellow hijackers then they would hardly begin with "Ladies and Gentlemen" nor would they bother to inform them that they had a bomb on board.

Later in the tape we are treated with some more drama which would suit a Hollywood movie but not the real world of flying. It seems the hijackers discovered that there was a fight in the cabin. To control the situation one of them suggests to cut off the oxygen. What a folly! Breathing at high altitude in modern aircraft is achieved through cabin pressurisation not through the supply of oxygen. You can depressurise the aircraft, of course, but this would be gradual not sudden. And if you did it would affect both the passengers and the crew, so the hijackers would then need oxygen to cope with the thin depressurised air on the flight deck.

But we are made to believe that the hijackers were stupid. They tried to take control of the plane but didn't really know how to fly it. One of them is heard to instruct the other with short commands like "pull it down", "up, down, up, down", "down, push, push, push, push", "hey, give it to me". In the end, I suppose this explains why the flight crashed just like it happens on Microsoft flight simulator when you mess about with a 757. To emphasise the loss of control they suddenly all repeatedly say "Allahu akbar", but not the Shahadah.

Nice try, I say, but there is no doubt in my mind that, once more, we are being taken for a ride.


There is an unofficial transcript of Flight 93 available which was released by, not by the government. In that transcript the remarks about the bomb are made in English by the hijackers and a little later made again by the captain. A careful comparison of both texts reveals numerous discrepancies to the wording and the sequence of what is being said. There is no way both can be correct, ergo somebody is making things up. If Moussaoui's defence team don't tear this evidence to shreds, then they are working for the prosecution.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Unaffordable democracy

You can't afford democracy. That is the lesson the United States and Europe are teaching Palestinians. You may have your choice of government, but it will cost you. You may wish to insist on justice and keep repeating that Israel occupied Palestinian territory illegally, but it will win you no friends. If you want to succeed, throw your beliefs and principles over board and go with the money.

The lesson for the wider public world-wide is that the people are powerless and their elected governments are mere gatekeepers whilst we are governed by an elite with no respect for such aspirations as self-governance and freedom of belief and expression. In a recent programme on BBC's Radio 4 commentators made a comparison between the City of London and the East India Company, each of which representing a private interest group acting as a de-facto government. So as to not implicate the government of the day they conduct their global meddling under the subterfuge of trade and commerce. Should they run into difficulties, however, the political government is always there to help them out. The power elites know how to diversify in order to look after the interests of the oligarchy.

Whether it is the withholding of funding for the Palestinians in the hope that they would turn against the government they just elected (a serious miscalculation which indicates that our rulers have learned nothing from history and do not understand what motivates people under occupation), whether it is the creation of the European super state managed by an unelected commission, or whether it is the manipulation of political parties through funding and loans as in Britain, they get the policies they are paying for. We may think ourselves far advanced today from the days of colonialism, but we've really just got used to wearing blinkers. As the Iraq invasion under the spurious excuse of the danger from weapons of mass destruction has shown, the fight for resources is as fierce today as it was then, and whether we have an elected government or not, clandestine and open foreign adventures continue unabashed.

Now and then our governments see their greatest threat in the people whom they are meant to represent. Much of their effort is spent on keeping them in the dark at least until after the event, like with the so-called extraordinary rendition flights. The idiosyncrasies of the electoral system - which is also dependent on big finance - ensure that it is rare indeed that a government is in tune with its people. When it is, like in Palestine, it poses an unwelcome challenge to those who are used to be obeyed and must be starved out of existence.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Lost Identity

After lots of shuffling between the two Houses the British government has more or less got what it wanted - and what the United States government wanted it to have: (semi) compulsory ID cards for very man, woman and child. For now, of course, only those who wish to travel abroad, but soon the rest will have to follow. The government knew that the parliamentary process was only a stage show for the public, similar to the one played out when introducing an extension to time people can be held by the police for questioning without being charged. So confident was the government that in the "Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill" it made reference to identity cards issued under the "Identity Act 2006" although no such Act existed yet.

Being issued with an identity card is not, in itself, a major issue. What matters is its contents and how it is being used. What the government wants is lots of data about the carrier stored on a national (and probably international) database with instant access for anybody in its employment making it their business wanting to know something about you. New biometric passports and identity cards will have an electronic chip facilitating this exchange of information. And whilst a passport is designed for border crossings, the identity card is meant to become the main, if not only, way of proving you are who you are. All other ways of proving one's identity will be made increasingly difficult.

Already you can't buy a car number plate from a car retail store in the UK without identity, and whilst a photo card driving licence is accepted on its own, a paper licence - still in use by people who don't see the point of changing it for a plastic one -  is not going to be accepted even if combined with a current passport unless you also produce a recent utility bill. So a photo card driving licence is elevated to a status above a passport in order to get people used to the idea of plastic identity. And should you need to amend your driving licence by changing your address, for example, you will be forced to take a photo card whether you want it or not.

The same method will be applied to passport applications. From 2010, if you want a new passport, you will be forced to take an identity card (and pay for it), whether you like it or not. One of the ways to avoid this compulsion, and at the same time an excellent method to vote with your feet, is to apply for a new passport before then, irrespective of whether it has, or is about to, expire. In an excellent piece on "The Register" John Lettice argues exactly that point. He even points out that the government tried to remove the option of early passport renewal, probably in anticipation of such a move, but then reinstated it, since it does happen that people loose their passports or get them eaten by their dogs, as he puts it. This is one excuse, I suppose, Muslims will not easily conjure for explaining the disappearance of their identity documents.

All the same, with the disrespect the government is showing towards public opinion, the only way to stem the tide of government interference is by disrespecting its rules. Since it is now probably also a criminal offence to call for civil disobedience, then at least a "work to rule" principle should be applied. The N2ID group is doing its best to campaign against the changes, but only when people jam the system and make the introduction of ID cards costly, if not impossible, will the government juggernaut put on the brakes.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dismantling the welfare state

Health tourism is fast becoming a UK growth industry due to the gradual dismantling by stealth of the British National Health Service. On April 1 the government changed the arrangement for dentistry in the NHS, including a new charging system. Unfortunately it was not an April fool.

Dental practices receive less funding and consequently offer patients a reduced service, encouraging them to move from being NHS patients onto a fee-paying dental plan. Health care in "Socialist" Britain remains free but is increasingly becoming unavailable. Many dentists no longer accept NHS patients. For those NHS patients still on their list they are reducing their level of service. Whilst schools tell children about the need to see a dentist regularly, dentists are telling their patients that instead of twice a year they can no only be seen once a year unless they want to pay the full cost of the second check-up.

As in many other fields, Britain is mimicking the American model. If you have private health insurance you receive treatment, if you don't you shouldn't be alive anyway. The pension debate is going in the same direction. If you have a private pension you might be able to retire with a liveable income, if not you will have to work longer and end up with less. Government wants ever more taxes and reduce its return to the taxpayer ever more. The balance goes to the banks to whom the government is indebted.

Ibn Khaldun's statement that at the beginning of a dynasty it collects a large return from small tax assessments whereas as it becomes more corrupt it ends up collecting a small return from large assessments most certainly holds true. We in the Western hemisphere live at the end of a corrupt dynasty. It can only get worse, to paraphrase Labour's election song.

Meanwhile the middle classes vote with their feet and abandon dental practices in the UK altogether. Instead they book a cheap airline ticket for treatment in Eastern Europe at greatly reduced prices. What does it matter that the dentist or doctor abroad only speaks a basic English? Most practitioners at home in the UK are foreigners anyway.