A daily blog on the thrills, spills, and frequent absurdities of the world's one and only 'non-imperial empire' - as Barroso himself called it - the European Union.

Anything to say? Contact me at europeandisunion@yahoo.co.uk

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Moral Cowardice Blinds us to Abuse of Muslim Women

'Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice' - Ayaan Hirsi Ali

I was appalled - but not in the least bit surprised - to see the Guardian triumphantly declaring that British Muslims 'are at last finding their voice.' This is, out of all the major national papers, the one most responsible for silencing all criticism of Islamic culture as 'xenophobia' or 'Islamophobia,' thereby helping to ensure that scholars and studies that were speaking out never saw the light of day. There are, or were, plenty of people helping Muslim women find their voice - Theo van Gogh, Pim Fortuyn, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, to name but three. They raised issues such as forced marriages, female genital mutilation, and honour crimes. The Guardian's response, and that of its readership, was not to join them, but to deride them - as fascists, racists, Islamophobes, and bigots, often without justification. Pim Fortuyn, assassinated in 2002 by a left-wing activist, was in fact a 'reformed' Communist, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a former Muslim herself. As a newspaper, it cannot now celebrate, or claim, a cause which others worked so hard for - and even gave their lives for - and which it did its best to discredit and disenfranchise. Not only that, but the 'victory' it claims has been achieved is not even close.

It celebrates the proliferation of 'women's networks and forums,' feminist groups and support groups, neglecting to mention, of course, that all the women who would have access to these things are the ones who - the whole spectrum of fundamentalist misogyny is considered - need them least. That they can access these services is proof that they can, at least, read and write. Many women cannot. They can leave the house without a male family member watching their every move. Many women cannot. They are at least aware that someone is out there offering help. Many women are not. Take a look at the two women in the photo: jewellery, make-up - luxuries that would be denied to many of those who need more than anyone else for the spotlight to fall on them, a spotlight that - even as the Guardian declares victory - continues to pass them by.

Now, a lot of the 'denialists' out there (only using their words against them) continue to insist that these women don't exist, that they're figments of a right-wing imagination. We can see in the comments on that article that a significant portion of the populace is willing to disregard them entirely, portraying them as attempts to build up support for a war with Iran. This is utopian ignorance in the extreme. Although we do not see or hear from them in our daily life, or even know that many of them are in the country, we can infer from statistics that there are plenty of them. It was revealed that one hundred thousand women in the UK may have undergone female genital mutilation. I'm willing to bet that very few of them would have opted to do so voluntarily, given that it's incredibly painful, and most of them were toddlers at the time. So there must have been male or female relatives encouraging the practice. Every one of them would have female relations - mothers, sisters, aunts, or daughters - and so, for every one woman that we know about, there logically has to be many more that go unnoticed. The same could be said of statistics for forced marriage, honour crimes, spousal abuse, rape within marriage, and social disenfranchisement: what we see is but the tip of the iceberg, and many campaigners and pressure groups have said as such.

It is time to stop the ceaseless whataboutery: it doesn't matter that fundamentalist Muslims are the minority. It doesn't matter if many of the women subjected to abuse are illegal immigrants. No-one should be a patriarchal pawn in modern Britain, and, irrespective of their right to be here, they have set foot on British soil, which has a tradition of making slaves free. It's high time that the subject of female emancipation - socially, legally, financially, and politically - was brought to conservative Islamic neighbourhoods in the UK. For starters, the requirement for both partners to speak English to a reasonable standard before they are allowed to enter the country, or receive state benefits, the removal of bilingual education, the supervision of religious schools and places of worship known for the fundamentalism of their preachers, and, last but not least, a government which is not afraid to put more police on the streets, and a greater presence in the communities where this abuse is more likely to take place. The prevailing moral cowardice and insecurity on the part of the authorities is leading to the de facto tolerance of fundamentalist hate - not just misogyny, but the outright abuse and enslavement of tens of thousands of British women and girls.

Monday, 23 April 2012

The UAF's Definition of 'Fascist' Is Deplorable

Look at these racist bastards. Picture by Irmgard.

People celebrate St. George's Day in many different ways. Some put a flag on their cars, or on their windows, to show their patriotic sentiment. Some go to their pub with their own band of merry men and sample English brews - or any brews, for that matter - in quantities that are only really allowed on nights of drunken national revelry. Others like to throw things at pre-pubescent girls.

Fortunately, this latter group of individuals exists is largely self-contained within the wider unit that is Unite Against Fascism. For those unfamiliar with them, this group of left-wing activists look out for demonstrations by groups using the words 'England,' 'English,' or 'Britain' in their name, and either force them to abandon their march, change the route (as they did in their instance), or show up for a 'counter-protest.' Then they act surprised and innocent when conflict breaks out. Conflict which, as three young girls and a number of police horses from Brighton found out when bottles and coke cans came hurtling towards them, they often start.

No doubt, to the mind of a professional activist, who could see fascism on the back of a soup can, these three girls were hardcore Nazi sympathisers. The horses spend so much time around the police that they will soon be indoctrinated, by one of those gruff old detectives we see on TV, into the politics of hate and fear. That is, if they haven't already. But, in reality, UAF never had a shred of evidence to suggest that the girls - or any of the people involved in the March for England parade - were nationalist, racist, or even 'fascist.' Their political statement was one of the broadest I've ever seen. In fact, if we remove the word 'England,' it's something that the UAF could have written. Their only policy is opposing 'hardline religious extremists' and 'fascist groups.' A veiled reference to Islamic hate clerics that may be (whose fascism the UAF seems not to notice), but it certainly is not nationalistic - and it is not a justificiation for a bunch of self-righteous thugs to set upon them.

So, at what point will UAF apologise for the actions of some of their members?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Left-Wing Populism Is Not the Answer

The French Communist Party: the largest in Melenchon's Front de Gauche.

The Guardian's most left-wing columnist thinks that left-wing populism is the answer. Seamus Milne, of the by-election in Bradford West and the apparent surge of far-left French presidential candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon, writes that 'a well-known former parliamentarian from the main centre-left party has used acharismatic radical left populism to mobilise alienated voters at the sharp end of austerity against a political elite that has failed to deliver for them for decades.' Campaigning on left-wing populist principles is, he insists, a winning formula for the future.

But, though George Galloway is certainly left-wing, you'll find no evidence of it in his campaign literature. Take a look at this letter, copies of which were handed out by supporters outside Bradford mosques. Boldly beginning 'to voters of the Islamic faith and Pakistani heritage,' it is essentially a diatribe why Galloway is more Muslim than the other candidates, containing a list of his various accolades in Islamic countries for good measure. There is no summary or full employment policy or plans for the expansion of the welfare state. Rather, it is an open pitch to sectarian and pan-Islamic nationalist sentiment.

Likewise Melenchon only overtook le Pen in France when it was believed that the mass-murderer was a disgruntled far-right activist who 'hung around the fringes of le Pen rallies.' It's not difficult to overtake a close rival when someone suspected of being in their camp commits a terrorist atrocity. Nor is it difficult to stay ahead - for a time. The Progess Party in Norway was reeling from the aftermath of the 22nd July attacks for months, even though it was admitted by the murderer himself that their conservative-liberal ideology (basically Tories, without many environmental policies and not as prone to obfuscation when it comes to immigration) played no part in the killings. Since then, the Progess Party has almost attained its pre-attack levels of popularity. There's no reason that le Pen will not do the same. In fact, when you consider that the polling company which showed her to slipping behind Melenchon, LH2, routinely scores her popularity lower than the across-poll average, and she has put distance between herself and Melenchon in the past, all this talk of an Melenchon takeover might yet turn out to be much ado about nothing.

There are already twenty-nine left-of-Labour parties in the UK who do campaign on a platform of 'cuts, tuition fees, unemployment, poverty and the decline of a city neglected and mismanaged by all the main parties.' They range, ideologically, from watermelons to revolutionary Marxist-Leninists. And all of them, combined, were outpolled at the last election. By UKIP. Twenty to one. There may be a 'yawning political gap,' but it left-populism clearly is not wanted to fill it.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Malmö: The Failure of Sweden's Multicultural Experiment

Two cities. One place. Picture by Dpol.

A sign on a grassy verge reads 'Sveriges första Fairtrade city. Välkommen!' This is Malmö, Sweden's southwesternmost city, just across the water from Denmark. At first glance it is an unassuming place, bearing the scars of industrial decline beneath a modern, glitzy veneer of ecofirms and cultural centre. Home to both a well-established Jewish community, founded by survivors of the Holocaust, and a far larger number of itinerant economic migrants from the Horn of Africa, it was one of the first cities in Sweden to adopt 'multiculturalism' as an official policy, under its social democratic mayor Ilmar Reepalu. This is how it presents itself to the outside world: as a shining beacon of 21st century idealism, indulging in ecologism and immersing itself in cosmopolitan culture, the place to go if you want to sample the world from the window of your hotel room. The BBC clearly fell for the hype.

But, in truth, Malmö is increasingly becoming known as a centre for sectarian division and a flashpoint for inter-ethnic conflict. It hit the headlines in 2010 after shootings by an anti-immigrant gunman claimed one life, and before that after it almost single-handedly earned Sweden two titles: one of ten countries worldwide where religious hostilities are increasing, and that of 'rape capital of Europe,' with incidence of the crime almost double that of runner-up UK. Many of these crimes have racial or religious motivation. Along with less serious crimes, such as robbery and theft, it is seen as an 'act of war' against mainstream Swedish society, inflicted by groups of migrants from Somalia and North Africa on unveiled Swedes 'asking for rape.' An investigation into violent crime at Svea high court by lawyer Ann Christine Hjelm found that over 85% of convicted rapists were 'born on foreign soil or from foreign parents,' and, before you reach for the unsubstantiated stock response of 'she must be a racist,' the National Council for Crime Prevention came to a similar conclusion (this was reported 'on Swedish radio,' admittedly according to Fjordman).

There have been frequent violent clashes between immigrant youths and the authorities, prompting the police in the infamous district of Rosengard to introduce compulsory Arabic classes and the fire services to refuse to go into the area without an escort. Jewish cemeteries have been set on fire, crowds have surrounded synagogues chanting 'Hitler, Hitler,'  and physical violence against the Jewish community has reached unprecendented levels; the Simon Wiesenthal Centre issued a travel advisory for the area, a measure usually reserved for conservative Islamic countries such as Turkey. To top it off, Reepalu - still in power after fifteen years, and widely accused of anti-Semitism after a string of off-the-cuff remarks - has done next to nothing to prevent the attacks, labelling them legitimate responses to Israeli action in Gaza.

Now, it appears that Reepalu is about to get the boot, following an interview with NEO Magazine in which he claimed that the Jewish community had been infiltrated by the Sweden Democrats, a genuinely far-right party borne out of that country's neo-Nazi movement. The country's Jews angrily countered with a letter to party head office. Pledging not to tolerate 'bullshit,' Lena Posner-Körösi, chair of the Jewish Community in Stockholm, told party leader Stefan Löfven that Reepalu has lost all 'credibility among us Jews in Sweden,' to which he replied that he 'can understand their reaction and I want to be clear. It's never okay when our representatives are seen as being unclear when it comes to people's equal value.' A meeting between the two is scheduled for later today, and Reepalu's career hangs in the balance. His departure would not only mean a reprieve from anti-Semtic statements for the city's Jewish community, but perhaps from the doctrine of multiculturalism, the failure of which has turned it into Sweden's Glasgow, and left it with all kinds of social and economic problems. Perhaps someone, without a fish supper on their shoulder, can turn the city around from the segregated, sectarian place it has became.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

The Return of the Surveillance State

Civil servants: coming to an email account near you. Picture by oogiboig.

Any terrorist discussing the minutiate of their plans in text-speak is truly quaking in his boots tonight. Not only will the time-honoured tradition of deliberating on the state of the jihad in consanant-only, 140-character bursts be stamped out, oh no - all of our communication on digital or electronic devices could be perused on request by the government's very own listening agency, the GCHQ, under plans to be announced in the Queen's Speech.

The coalition government - which, lest we forget, said this about the surveillance state prior to the election - intends to launch the most ambitious ramping-up of government monitoring in British history. Far more radical than anything conceived by the Labour government (whose abortive attempt to do something vaguely similar to this ended in 2006, a dismal failure, shot down by public anger), the proposed legislation will require service providers to make available  'on demand' all records of texts, phone calls, emails, and websites visited. This does not include exact content, but does extend to time, duration, and contact details, such as numbers and email addresses.

But why, you may be wondering. Can't the authorities can already access this information, about anyone subject to a criminal investigation? Yes, they can - the exact same information that they will obtain through the proposed legislation, in fact. So why, then, do they need this legislation? Why can't they use existing law? Three reasons. Note that 'on demand' aspect - that's important. It does not include a burden of proof. It does not even mandate that the government name the alleged offence. Whereas existing legislation requires government agencies to provide details before it allows them to snoop, the new legislation does not. Under it, you don't have to be subject to a criminal investigation. The government does not even have to suspect that you are involved in crime. They may just want details. And, if they do, service providers are compelled to hand them over, no questions asked. The best part is, you'll be none the wiser, so any rights that you thought you enjoyed in regards to finding out if they accessed it and why are theoretical.

This legislation will add nothing to the government's crime-fighting repertoire. It will simply reduce the number of hoops the government has to jump through before it can access your information. To zero. And, thus, should be resisted. We as people have the right to converse in private. The government does not have the right to rifle through our communications on the whim of some bored functionary. If we are assumed innocent in the courtroom, why shouldn't we be assumed innocent when we're not even accused of a crime?