Readers may recall the controversy earlier this year concerning the islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) who were banned from UCL after being found to be segregating men and women at a University debate.
iERA, and speakers such as Hamza Tsortsis, have been a high profile presence on many university campuses, despite being from the unreconstructed wing of British Islam. For example, visit their website and you will notice that whilst their male speakers are pictured, the female are not only listed at the end, but are faceless, existing only as blank hijabs. The perfect metaphor for the type of society iERA are seeking to create!
Following the furore at UCL, UK Universities appear to have gone away to ponder guidance on campus meetings. This has come down on allowing segregation, provided it is equal and does not disadvantage anyone. Those of us old enough to remember apartheid era South Africa may giggle at the concept of an approach which is 'seperate' but equal. You can find a link to the full guidance in this article on the UK Universities blog, where they also clarify their position.
This appears game, set and match to the Islamists, something iERA recognise. Of particular interest here is their argument that under the Equality Act 2010, UK Universities have no option but to comply with requests for seperate seating.
Some strong critical pieces have appeared about UK Universities stance, for example by Sara Khan, along (of course) with a determined silence from those on the left of the political spectrum, who once spoke so loudly against segregation on the grounds of race.
There is a petition asking Universities UK to reverse its decision. I have signed it, along with over 6000 others. You may wish to do so.
The concept of a scary primary school teacher is a difficult one to accept, but Lynn Small, Headmistress of Littleton Green Community School in Cannock, Staffordshire, certainly scares me.
Ahead of a proposed school trip to Staffordshire University as part of their religious eductation, Ms Hall wrote to the parents of the school children stating that:
"Refusal to allow your child to attend this trip will result in a Racial Discrimination note being attached to your child's education record, which will remain on this file throughout their school career."
I have no idea what a racial discrimation note is, how children as young as five may be given one, or who decides what effect such a note can have. Does it, for example, have a bearing on whether they can go to the secondary school of their choice? I do know I have read few things as scary, or as startling, since I last battled through one of the histories of Stalin's Soviet Union.
After complaints from parents, Ms Hall has withdrawn the letter and apologised. It would be nice to think Staffordshire County Council is also considering whether to withdraw her contract of employment - or do they keep a whole series of 'racial discrimination notes' against the names of young children as well?
There will be plenty of JFK articles and retrospectives today.
This is a track from many years back by Steinski and the Mass Media (I remember getting it free with the NME a good twenty five years ago) with a video that has been created, using contemporary footage in Dallas, by a man calling himself Ted Marzipan. I am not sure why Mr Marzipan credits the track to Coldcut as well as Steinski, but the video itself is a fascinating piece of work.
A blogger called 'Jacobinism' has written a very interesting survey of the responses to the departure of EDL leader Tommy Robinson, his work with the Quilliam Foundation, and what it tells us about the state of multi-culturalism in the UK. I commend it to you.
'Jacobinism' throws a few barbs at academics, namely Matthew Goodwin and Chris Allen, so I do hope this particular academic is allowed to reply with a few additional points, which I hope add to the contents of the pot:
Worth adding that many individuals have left organisations well to the right of the EDL, and been lauded when they have traveled in the orbit of the anti-fascist organisations Searchlight and Hope Not Hate. Ray Hill, Tim Hepple, Darren Wells and Matthew Collins had all arguably done things far worse, in terms of violence, than the EDL's Tommy Robinson or Kevin Carroll. None were really scrutinised (despite links to the security services) and the response of much of the liberal left was simply to cheer them as wrong 'uns turned good.
There are several explanations for why Robinson has not had the same response. One is the long
standing animosity directed at Quilliam by the Muslim Brotherhood and
Jamaat-e-Islami dominated Muslim representative organisations in the UK.
Possibly the only organisation some disliked more than the EDL is Quilliam!
Second is the fear Robinson is pulling a scam - which is possible, although I would give those adopting this position some credence if they had also looked critically at previous figures on the far-right to renounce their past.
The third - and I think most important - is fear. Muslim representative organisations - and part of the left - are terrified that Robinson and Quilliam may actually be genuine. What could be more threatening than than the articulation of criticisms of strands within British Islam that is not readily dismissed as racist?
Finally, there is nothing new about BBC snobbery getting in the way of any serious critique of the EDL. It was there right at the organisations birth - as this article on Alan Urry's 2009 BBC Radio 4 documentary demonstrates.
Poverty means I no longer buy the Daily Telegraph on a Saturday, but the i, which is a mere 30 pence - and 20p on weekdays.
It seems a little unfair that my first post about this excellent newspaper should be about a cock-up, but this is too good not to record. The iQuiz of 9 November (which also appears in the Independent) has the following at question six:
6. The Workers' Revolutionary Party adheres to the theories of which 20th century figure?
For anyone with more than a cursory knowledge of the British political fringe, that is a really frustrating question. It could be Trotsky, the butcher of Kronstadt. It could be Lenin, the founder of the Bolshevik dictatorship. It could be Gerry Healy, the WRP's late and unlamented leader. Think Jimmy Savile with a bald head and without the charity work, and you are nearly there.
Intrigued, I followed iQuiz master Simon O'Hagan's instructions to turn to the answers on page 16. And the answer is?
6. Hovis Bread
Thank you Simon O'Hagan. That was very, very funny.
Joe Glenton has a major article on The Guardian's Comment Is Free, arguing that 'soldier worship' is blinding us to the reality of warfare.
I have never really understood Joe Glenton. I can understand his opposition to the Afghan and Iraq wars - I marched against them both myself. It is perhaps a little harder to understand how he came to join the military and then object to such conflicts - surely he must have realised that the British Army is sent to such arenas on a regular basis, and that the nature of 'joining-up' is that you do not get to pick and choose?
What I really do not understand is how someone who has been a soldier can spend so long in the political circles he has - which is broadly the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Stop the War Coalition? Joe Glenton knows full well how the British military is discussed in those circles. He knows that people with no family or personal connections to the average soldier (the full timers in the STWC and SWP come from a different social class from all but the officers running the British army) genuinely hate armed forces personnel.
Whether it is toned down in his earshot or not, he surely knows that deaths of soldiers in places like Helmand are not mourned by this part of the left, or even considered in any detail, but are instead ascribed the status of acts of the 'resistance'. In private they are cheered. In public they are used merely to justify pre-existing political positions.
Attitudes towards the armed forces have certainly shifted in recent decades. Those allocated status in this society - from police to politicians to our overpaid footballers - all seem unworthy of it. It is not hard to admire the working class man from Lancashire or Essex going into battle with the Taliban far from home, for a pittance. If I were to see a firefight between the two, I know instinctively whose side I would be on. I just don't think, sadly, it makes much difference. Afghanistan is likely to remain a mess for a very long time, in large part because of the religious trends that are predominant there. Much the same could be said of Iraq.
We also know instinctively, if viewing that fictional firefight, which side the leaders of Stop the War Coalition would be on. For it is here that blind soldier worship collides with its unwanted cousin - blind hatred of armed forces personnel. I can't believe Joe Glenton does not see that, hear it or feel it in the political circles he moves in . I guess he is now so committed, in career terms, it probably does not matter anymore.
Clearing through my desk today, I came across The Spectator for 6 October 2001.
Admist all the post 9/11 tears and fears, was an article by Peter Oborne entitled "One wishes Blair the best of luck, but has he gone ever so slightly mad?" Commenting on the Prime Minister's speech to the Labour Party conference in Brighton, Oborne closes by stating:
Missing from Blair's speech was any warning that the war might be long, that British soldiers might die and that we face the prospect of retaliation. Entirely lacking was any sense of the bleak, remorseless intractability of events, or that man is a shameful, fallen, miserable creature. Politicians with generous natures and expansive schemes for the betterment of mankind crop up from time to time. Usually they are American: invariably they fail. Tony Blair's ambition is the broadest in reach of any world statesman since Woodrow Wilson or perhaps J.F. Kennedy. Wilson's scheme was rejected by the world while Kennedy's legacy was Vietnam. Nevertheless, one wishes Mr Blair all the luck in the world.
Given what we now know about Blair's intentions with regards to Iraq, Oborne perhaps appears a tad generous. Even so, as crystal balls go - Oborne has been proved pretty much on the money.
Some of you may have bought the Sony Xperia mobile phone, which has had rave reviews. I was able to get one free when I am renewed my mobile phone package.
It claims the best water resistance of any smartphone, and took out newspaper advertising to that effect earlier this year.
Don't believe it. Whilst placing son number two on the toilet on a blearry eyed morning, with the phone in the breast pocket of my pyjamas, the inevitable happened. Needless to say despite immediate retrieval, the phone has never worked since.
I have now returned to my old Blackberry.
When it comes to technology, from mobile phone salesman to those offering new IT systems for the NHS I recommend one, very simple line. Don't Believe The Hype.
I don't speak the language, but for those who speak Dutch, this site gives on overview of the Dutch fighters amongst the jihadis in Syria.
In the English language, this article from the Jihadology website by Pieter Van Ostaeyen tells the story of the death of one particular fighter from the Netherlands.
"Guerillas have always gone where the cover is. The cover used to be in the jungles, but now we have foilage-penetrating radar, so they can be seen under the jungle canopy. It used to be that the cover was in the mountains, but now we have satellites and drones. The cover now is in the city, and there are big areas in cities in the developing world with no government or police presence."
David Kilcullen, in The World Today, October-November 2013, Vol 69, No.5, pp.32-33.
Kilcullen is promoting a new book "Out of the Mountains: The Coming Age of the Urban Guerilla".
Certainly in terms of Al Qaeda, Kilcullen appears to be on to something. Whilst the convention built up that Bin Laden and co were hiding out in the mountainous border areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan, in practice many of the most significant figures were instead to be found in Pakistan's towns and cities. Consider not just Bin Laden in Abbottabad in 2011, but also Abu Zubaydah (Faisalabad, 2002) Ramzi Binalshibh (Karachi, 2002) and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (probably in Quetta in 2003, although this is disputed).
I am yet to read Kilcullen's book, so it is not immediately clear to me how this coming urban guerilla relates to the western urban guerilla of 1970s and 1980s fame. Whilst some of those groups, like the Red Army Faction, at times proved militarily sophisticated they were often more pussycat than tiger, in large part because they developed little resonance amongst the broader working class. Also the urban guerilla tended to still need a safe haven outside of the cities where they operated - for the Red Army Faction, East Germany, for the IRA, the Irish Republic.
Still, that makes reading Kilcullen's book all the more interesting.
BBC Radio 4 is in the middle of a lunchtime series examining the history of terrorism - Terror Through Time, presented by Feargal Keane.
The programmes are at 1345 each day, and run for fifteen minutes. I listended to Fridays, which mostly featured the Sykes-Picot Agreement, one of those rather shameful episodes of our history that most Britons know very little about. I personally found it a little slow paced, but with six more episodes to come, and a lot of ground to cover, that will surely change.
The academic advisor for the programme was the excellent Richard English of St Andrews University, whose "Terrorism: How to Respond" is important reading to anyone studying this subject.
Sean O'Neill has a front page piece in The Times arguing that the Edward Snowden leaks are the biggest blow to British intelligence for a generation.
One one level, this is curious. Snowden was not a British citizen, was not employed by a British intelligence agency and had few if any connections to the United Kingdom. Ostensibly he should have been able to access very little information that could damage this country.
The problem of course is that the British intelligence agencies long ago traded any independence they had for a 'seat at the top table' next to the United States. A 'what's ours is yours' approach seems to have ensured, with GCHQ at Cheltenham even accepting a stipend from the US to do snooping work for it. All of which meant that instead of only Tom, Dick or Harriet having access to classified British information, it was available to any Ed, Chuck or Earl the Yanks saw fit to give it to.
And in this case it was Ed.
Whether Edward Snowden has damaged British security is unclear to me. What is clear is that he should never have been in a position to do so - and if he was, the blame for that lies in the UK, not the USA.
Lots of people have had their say on Mehdi Hasan's rant against the prejudices of the Daily Mail on Question Time, and the subsequent publication of his earlier, obsequious letter to the same paper, asking for a job.
You can see both here.
It is an indication of how confused the political compass of the UK has become that Hasan is a darling of much of the left, when he is very much on the right on social issues. He is clearly pitching in his letter to add a Muslim perspective to the Mail's coverage of issues such as teenage pregnanices and family breakdowns.
Part of this confusion comes from what I see as a failure to take the ideas of religious actors, and more accurately in Hasan's case politico-religious actors, seriously. By and large such people mean what they say on social issues, something the left in particular is rather poor at grasping. If you want to know the type of society such beliefs create given the opportunity, take a look at the bible belt in the United States or most Muslim majority nations.
When the Rev Ian Paisely formed the Democratic Unionist Party, he stated he was forming a party that would be to the left on economic issues, but on the right on social and constitutional matters. Take out the constitutional bit, and I can't help thinking that is where Mehdi Hasan stands politically.
Well, this site may appear moribund, but it is not quite dead yet.
There have been no posts on here for a while, whilst I finished my PhD. "British Jihadism: The Detail and the Denial" was submitted yesterday and hopefully over the coming days and weeks I can get back to doing some things other than researching men with beards!
I do seem to have been the target of spammers in recent weeks - go away. This site is open again, but not for you.
Imagine. You are the democratically elected leader of the biggest country in the Arabic speaking world. Your party has waited nearly a century to take power and install God's law. You have been arrested and thrown into prison by the military. Your supporters are being massacred in the streets by the army, to international indifference.
And who walks through your cell door, but Baroness Ashton, the European Union's Foreign Minister. Oh to be a fly on the wall in that conversation. Here are my guesses as to Morsi's first words:
Where's your hijab?
Who are you exactly?
I was democratically elected, but you would not know anything about that.
Do feel free to post any additional suggestions you may have.
At the end of June the Radicalism and New Media Centre at Northampton University held a conference entitled "The Far Right in Transition".
It brought together academics, anti-fascist activists, journalists, community workers and police officers for a day of discussion and debate on the far right. I was perhaps the odd man out, as I was invited to speak about the Woolwich terrorist attack, and to put it into some historical context. You can download a podcast of all the talks here.
As part of my weekly column at The Backbencher, I have written up my observations of the day - as usual comments welcome.
Quite a few people are missing Abu Qatada already:
The far-right. His lawyers. His lawyers bank manager. Islamists. Jihadists. Tabloid editors. Tabloid journalists. All the police officers on overtime to watch him. All the police officers on overtime to watch his house. Human rights activists. Islamic human rights activists. Terrorism experts paid to talk about him.
It is a miracle he ever got deported!
The journal Anarchist Studies has just published its first issue of the year, and Vol 21 Issue 1 is a special issue on Technology.
The journal contains my review of the excellent Mark Curtis title "Secret Affairs: Britain's Collusion With Radical Islam" (Serpent's Tail, 2012).
I have written a short piece this weekend for The Backbencher, looking at some of the moral and political issues raised by the infiltration of political movements. It is entitled A Strange Kind of Glory: Life Undercover.
It really needs to be stressed that this is not simply about the conduct of the police. Very similar issues of legality and morality emerge about those individuals infiltrating organisations for industrial interests, or in the case of fascist organistations, those infiltrating them for Searchlight, Hope Not Hate and/or the police/security services.
Elsewhere, Larry O'Hara has written a detailed report of the inquest into Duncan Robertson, the Searchlight informant inside the far-right. His inquest earlier this week confirmed he commited suicide whilst suffering from depression. Read Notes From the Boderland's Duncan Robertson Inquest: Exclusive.
With Dispatches running a documentary on police infiltrators on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday 24 June, and an associated book by Rob Evans and Paul Lewis, Undercover: The True Story of Britain's Secret Police, these issues are not going to go away.
This morning I have had a little piece published on the promising website The Backbencher, which styles itself as an online libertarian magazine (I suspect I am at least 20 years older than everyone involved in it, but such is life).
I wanted to put the events at Woolwich and their response in some broader context, be it in terms of terrorism generally, how rare it is, and that there is a need for a few people to respond a little more soberly: Domestic Terrorism in the UK - Time To Calm Down Dear?