Saturday, January 27, 2007

Muslims defend Catholic stance in homosexal adoption row

THAT should trump everyone else

The Muslim Council of Britain has backed the leaders of the Roman Catholic and Anglican churches in the adoption row. The intervention adds to the pressure on the Government to create an exemption for religious adoption societies under the new Sexual Orientation Regulations. This week the Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York entered the debate with a strong statement of support for the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, who wrote to every member of the Cabinet warning that Catholic agencies could not accept a law that would force them to place children with gay couples.

Catholic leaders have given warning that the church’s seven adoption agencies, which placed 227 children last year, cannot breach Vatican guidelines against allowing gay couples to adopt, and would have no alternative but to close.

The Muslim Council said that it backed the churches’ “principled stand”. Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari, the Secretary-General, said: “The right to practise one’s faith or the freedom to have no belief is a cornerstone of our society, as is the right of all to live free from unfair discrimination and harassment.

“Homosexuality is forbidden in Islam. The Sexual Orientation Regulations as we understand them do not promote homosexuality but would provide protection against discrimination and harassment on account of sexual orientation. “As Muslims, we are obliged to uphold the moral standards and codes of conduct dictated by our faith.”

He said that the refusal to permit an exemption was inconsistent with previous antidiscrimination legislation. He added that the regulations should “take full account of our multifaith, multicultural, multiethnic society and make accommodation to accord with differing beliefs and values”.

  • Catholic leaders in Scotland have raised the stakes in the row by warning senior Cabinet ministers from Scotland that they will campaign against Labour candidates in the Scottish elections in May over the issue.

    Archbishop Mario Conti, the vice-president of the Bishops’ Conference in Glasgow, wrote to Gordon Brown, the Chan-cellor, John Reid, the Home Secretary, Alistair Darling, the Trade Secretary, Douglas Alexander, the Transport and Scottish Secretary, and Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, and repeated his warning to the Prime Minister that disallowing Catholic agencies to discriminate will be a “betrayal”.

  • Source

    The BBC's cultural Marxism will trigger an American-style backlash

    Intolerant and consumed by political correctness, the corporation is waging an Orwellian campaign against British values

    How often do you hear, on the Today programme or Newsnight, contemptuous references to the tabloid or popular press as if it was some disembodied monster rather than the very embodiment of the views of the great majority of the British people?

    Fair enough. The tabloid press - and it's getting confusing here, because the Times and the Independent are, of course, tabloids now, and the Mail has more quality readers than most of the so-called quality papers put together - is big enough to look after itself. Except I don't think it is fair, because this ignores the ever-burgeoning influence of the most powerful media organisation in the world: the hugely subsidised BBC. And it's my contention that the BBC monolith is distorting Britain's media market, crushing journalistic pluralism and imposing a monoculture that is inimical to healthy democratic debate.

    Now before the liberal commentators reach for their vitriol - and, my goodness, how they demonise anyone who disagrees with them - let me say that I would die in a ditch defending the BBC as a great civilising force. Indeed I for one would pay the licence fee just for Radio 4. But the corporation is simply too big. For instance, it employs more journalists and their support staff -3,500 - and spends more on them - œ500m - than do all the national daily newspapers put together.

    Where there was once just a handful of channels, the BBC now has an awesome stranglehold on the airwaves, reaching into every home every hour of the day - adding ever more channels and even considering launching over 60 local TV news stations across the UK. No wonder Britain's hard-pressed provincial press complains it can't compete, our ailing commercial radio sector is furious that the market is rigged against it, our nascent internet firms rage that they're not competing on a level playing field, and ITN, aided and abetted by some pretty incompetent management, is reeling on the ropes.

    But it's not the BBC's ubiquity, so much greater than Fleet Street's, that is worrying, but its power to impose - under the figleaf of impartiality - its own worldview. Forget the fact that the BBC has, until recently, been institutionally anti-Tory. The sorry fact is that there is not a single Labour scandal - Ecclestone, Mittal, Mandelson and the Hindujas, Cheriegate, Tessa Jowell, and Prescott and Anshutz - on which the BBC has shown the slightest journalistic alacrity.

    No, what really disturbs me is that the BBC is, in every corpuscle of its corporate body, against the values of conservatism, with a small "c", which, I would argue, just happens to be the values held by millions of Britons. Thus it exercises a kind of "cultural Marxism" in which it tries to undermine that conservative society by turning all its values on their heads.

    Of course, there is the odd dissenting voice, but by and large BBC journalism starts from the premise of leftwing ideology: it is hostile to conservatism and the traditional right, Britain's past and British values, America, Ulster unionism, Euroscepticism, capitalism and big business, the countryside, Christianity and family values. Conversely, it is sympathetic to Labour, European federalism, the state and state spending, mass immigration, minority rights, multiculturalism, alternative lifestyles, abortion, and progressiveness in the education and the justice systems.

    Now you may sympathise with all or some of these views. I may even sympathise with some of them. But what on earth gives the BBC the right to assume they are the only values of any merit?

    Over Europe, for instance, the BBC has always treated anyone who doesn't share its federalism - which just happens to be the great majority of the British population - as if they were demented xenophobes. In very telling words, the ex-cabinet secretary Lord Wilson blamed the BBC's "institutional mindset" over Europe on a "homogenous professional recruitment base" and "a dislike for conservative ideas".

    Again, until recently, anyone who questioned, however gently, multiculturalism or mass immigration was treated like a piece of dirt - effectively enabling the BBC to all but close down debate on the biggest demographic change to this island in its history.

    Above all, the BBC is statist. To its functionaries, insulated from the vulgar demands of the real world, there is no problem great or small - and this is one of the factors in Britain's soaring victim culture - that cannot be blamed on a lack of state spending, and any politician daring to argue that taxes should be cut is accused of "lurching to the right".

    Thus BBC journalism is presented through a leftwing prism that affects everything - the choice of stories, the way they are angled, the choice of interviewees and, most pertinently, the way those interviewees are treated. The BBC's journalists, protected from real competition, believe that only their worldview constitutes moderate, sensible and decent opinion. Any dissenting views - particularly those held by popular papers - are therefore considered, by definition, to be extreme and morally beyond the pale.

    But then, the BBC is consumed by the kind of political correctness that is actually patronisingly contemptuous of what it describes as ordinary people. Having started as an admirable philosophy of tolerance, that political correctness has become an intolerant creed, enabling a self-appointed elite to impose its minority values on the great majority. Anything popular is dismissed as being populist - which is sneering shorthand for being of the lowest possible taste.

    The right to disagree was axiomatic to classical liberalism, but the BBC's political correctness is, in fact, an ideology of rigid self-righteousness in which those who do not conform are ignored, silenced, or vilified as sexist, racist, fascist or judgmental. Thus, with this assault on reason, are whole areas of legitimate debate - in education, health, race relations and law and order - shut down, and the corporation, which glories in being open-minded, has become a closed-thought system operating a kind of Orwellian Newspeak.

    This is perverting political discourse and disenfranchising countless millions who don't subscribe to the BBC's worldview; one of the reasons, I would suggest, for the current apathy over politics.

    How instructive to compare all this with what is happening in America. There, the liberal smugness of a terminally worthy, monopolistic press has, together with deregulation, triggered both the explosive growth of rightwing radio broadcasting that now dominates the airwaves and the extraordinary rise of Murdoch's rightwing Fox TV News service. Democracy needs a healthy tension between left and right, and nature abhors a vacuum. If the BBC continues skewing the political debate, there will be a backlash and I predict that what has happened in America will eventually take place in Britain.

    Now, there's been much talk recently of the need for more civic journalism in Britain, the very thing the BBC prides itself on. But let's pose this question: what if a civic BBC finds itself dealing with an administration that does not behave in a civic way? An administration that manipulates news organisations and the news agenda, that packs ministry press offices with its supporters, that chooses good days to bury bad news, that favours news bodies that give it positive coverage and penalises those who don't, that fabricates health and education figures, and concocts dodgy dossiers - an administration that, in Campbell and Mandelson, thought nothing of engaging in systematic falsehood.

    Is the BBC's civic journalism - too often credulously trusting, lacking scepticism, rarely proactive in the sense of breaking stories itself - up to dealing with a political class that too often set out to dissemble and to deceive? The bitter irony, of course, is that when, for once, the BBC was proactive in its journalism and did stand up to the Labour party by breaking a genuine story, the corporation and its craven governors all but imploded under pressure from a rabid Campbell.

    And what is interesting is that this contrasted with the ruthless support for the Iraq war that Rupert Murdoch imposed on his papers and their equally ruthless suppression of any criticism of the invasion whether it involved the attorney general's malfeasance, virtually ignored in the Times, or Dr Kelly, all but hung drawn and quartered by the Sun.

    Indeed, I would suggest that the intimacy and power-brokering between these two papers and No 10, and the question of whether Mr Blair would have got away with his falsehoods and misjudgments over Iraq - indeed, whether Britain would have gone to war at all - without the support of the Murdoch empire, is a brilliant doctoral thesis for some future media studies student.

    Yes, the BBC is, in many ways, a wonderful organisation. But the fact remains that it depends for its licence fee on the British population as a whole, yet only reflects the views of a tiny metropolitan minority. If it continues with this abuse of trust, then the British people will withdraw their consent and the corporation will fall into discredit. And that would be a very great pity.



    Thousands of migrant workers from the Caucasus, Central Asia and China are leaving Russia as the government institutes tough new measures aimed at cracking down on illegal immigration. Campaigners against illegal immigration are welcoming the measures, saying low-paid migrants were distorting the job market and taking work from Russian citizens. But critics say the moves are ill-advised because they will drive up retail prices and create a labor shortage that could hurt Russia's booming economy.

    About 12 million people, mostly citizens of impoverished ex-Soviet republics who do not require a visa to enter the country, are currently working illegally in Russia, according to analysts. The new rules set the quota for legal foreign workers at 6 million, while at same time imposing fines of up to $30,000 on companies that employ foreigners illegally. Also, as of this month, only 40 percent of workers in Russia's retail markets are allowed to be foreigners, and none should be by April 1.

    Foreign workers have traditionally dominated in Russia's retail markets, with people from Azerbaijan, for example, selling fruits and vegetables, and Chinese selling cheap manufactured goods. Illegal migrants, mostly from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, are also heavily employed as laborers in the construction industry. 'We aren't wanted anymore, so I guess we'll be going home,' said Artak, an Armenian who sells cigarettes and alcohol at a kiosk in central Moscow. 'I'll be surprised if they can find a Russian who is willing do this work all day for what they pay me.'

    With illegal migrants difficult to track, it's not clear exactly how many are leaving Russia. But Russian police have been out in force to enforce the new laws, and signs are that few are taking the risk of staying. Many stalls at food markets across Moscow are empty as vendors leave the country. Some markets have closed altogether, while others have posted signs looking for vendors with Russian citizenship. Russian television has shown images of empty markets in the Far East, where Chinese stallholders have fled across the border.

    A Russian union organizer who works with illegal migrants in the construction industry said companies are throwing thousands of workers off job sites in fear of being prosecuted. 'You used to be able to get off the plane and immediately find work. Now everyone wants to get back on planes to go home,' said the organizer, who did not want his name used because he worries that he'll be targeted by authorities.

    The new measures appear to be a response to a surge in ethnic nationalism and opposition to immigration that has occasionally erupted in violence. In August, a bomb tore through Moscow's Cherkizovsky market, killing 13 persons, mostly illegal workers from Central Asia. Racist attacks have grown dramatically, with at least 53 persons killed last year in racially motivated assaults, according to the human rights group Sova. Last fall, President Vladimir Putin denounced 'ethnic gangs' that control Russia's markets and called for regulation to protect 'the native Russian population.'

    Alexander Belov, the head of the influential Movement Against Illegal Immigration, welcomed the new rules as 'a step in the right direction.' But he said Russia needs to go further and impose full visa requirements on 'people from poor countries who take jobs from Russians and give nothing back to our society.'

    Russia's population is shrinking by 750,000 people a year and has fallen below 142 million due to low birth rates and high mortality rates, especially among working-age men. There are fears the new measures could lead to an economic slowdown if foreign workers cannot be replaced. 'Most of the migrants working in Russia are doing jobs Russian citizens don't want,' said Svetlana Gannushkina, the head of the Migration and Law Network, which assists immigrants. She said the measures are little more than a populist move ahead of elections to the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, later this year.

    This could backfire, she added, because the crackdown may also drive up costs in retail markets, hurting Russia's poor. The average Russian earns only about $5,000 a year, and low-income Russians do most of their shopping in retail markets. 'This is going to damage not only migrant workers but also all the people who won't be able to afford to pay more for fruits, vegetables and meat,' she said.

    The government appears to be hedging its bets promising that prices will not rise and that the April 1 deadline for foreigners to be banned from markets could be extended. 'The laws are aimed at regulating the normal functioning of markets and not at reducing the quantity of goods traded,' Economic Development Minister German Gref said in televised comments. 'If we see any threat, the time limit can be extended by a government decision.'


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