Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Muslims testing British tolerance

Increasingly, Muslim women in Britain take their children to school and run errands covered head to toe in flowing black gowns that allow only a slit for their eyes. Like little else, their appearance has unnerved Britons, testing the limits of tolerance in this stridently secular nation. Many veiled women say they are targets of abuse. At the same time, efforts are growing to place legal curbs on the full Muslim veil, known as the niqab.

The past year has seen numerous examples: A lawyer dressed in a niqab was told by an immigration judge that she could not represent a client because, he said, he could not hear her. A teacher wearing a niqab was told by a provincial school to go home. A student who was barred from wearing a niqab took her case to the courts, and lost. In fact, the British education authorities are proposing a ban on the niqab in schools altogether.

David Sexton, a columnist for The Evening Standard, wrote recently that Britain has been "too deferential" toward the veil. "I find such garb, in the context of a London street, first ridiculous and then directly offensive," he said.

Although the number of women wearing the niqab has increased in the past several years, only a tiny percentage of women among Britain's two million Muslims cover themselves completely. It is impossible to say how many exactly. Some who wear the niqab, particularly younger women who have taken it up recently, concede that it is a frontal expression of Islamic identity, which they have embraced since Sept. 11, 2001, as a form of rebellion against the policies of the Blair government in Iraq and at home. "For me it is not just a piece of clothing, it's an act of faith, it's solidarity," said a 24-year-old program scheduler at a broadcasting company in London, who would allow only her last name, Al Shaikh, to be printed, saying she wanted to protect her privacy. "9/11 was a wake-up call for young Muslims," she said.

At times she receives rude comments, including, Shaikh said, when a woman at her workplace told her she had no right to be there. Shaikh said she planned to file a complaint. When she is on the street, she often answers barbs. "A few weeks ago a lady said: 'I think you look crazy.' I said: 'How dare you go around telling people how to dress,' and walked off. Sometimes I feel I have to reply. Islam does teach you that you must defend your religion."

Other Muslims find the niqab objectionable, a step backward for an immigrant group that is under pressure after the terror attack on London's transit system in July 2005. "After the July 7 attacks, this is not the time to be antagonizing Britain by presenting Muslims as something sinister," said Imran Ahmad, author of "Unimagined," an autobiography of growing up Muslim in Britain, and the head of British Muslims for Secular Democracy. "The veil is so steeped in subjugation, I find it so offensive someone would want to create such barriers. It's retrograde."

Since South Asians started coming to Britain in large numbers in the 1960s, a small group of usually older, undereducated women have worn the niqab. It was most often seen as a sign of subjugation. Many more Muslim women wear the headscarf, called the hijab, covering all or some of their hair. Unlike in France, Turkey and Tunisia, where students in state schools and female civil servants are banned from covering their hair, British Muslim women can wear the headscarf, and indeed the niqab, almost anywhere, for now.

But that tolerance is eroding. Even some who wear the niqab, like Faatema Mayata, a 24-year-old psychology and religious studies teacher, agreed there were limits. "How can you teach when you are covering your face?" she said, sitting with a cup of tea in her living room in Blackburn, a town in the north of England, her niqab tucked away because she was within the confines of her home. She has worn the niqab since she was 12, when she was sent by her parents to an all-girls boarding school. The niqab was not, as many Britons seemed to think, a sign of extremism, she said. The niqab, to her, was about identity. "If I dressed in a Western way I could be a Hindu, I could be anything," she said. "This way I feel comfortable in my identity as a Muslim woman."

No one else in the family wore the niqab. Her husband, Ibrahim Boodi, a social worker, was indifferent, she said. "If I took it off today, he wouldn't care." When she is walking, she is often stopped, she said. "People ask, 'Why do you wear that?' A lot of people assume I'm oppressed, that I don't speak English. I don't care, I've got a brain."

Some commentators have complained that mosques encourage women to wear the niqab, a practice they have said should be stopped. At the East London Mosque, one of the largest in the capital, the chief imam, Abdul Qayyum, studied in Saudi Arabia and is trained in the Wahhabi school of Islam. According to the community relations officer at the mosque, Ehsan Abdullah Hannan, the imam's daughter wears the niqab. At Friday prayers recently, the women worshipers were crowded into a small upstairs windowless room away from the main hall for the men. A handful of young women wore the niqab and spoke effusively about their reasons. "Wearing the niqab means you will get a good grade and go to paradise," said Hodo Muse, 19, a Somali woman. "Every day people are giving me dirty looks for wearing it, but when you wear something for Allah you get a boost."


Anti-Semitism out of control in Europe

A young French Jew is kidnapped, tortured and left to die by a band of Muslims. An arson badly damages Geneva's largest synagogue. A 13-year-old girl on a London bus is robbed and kicked unconscious after her attackers ask if she is "Jewish or English." Anti-Semitism in Western Europe apparently is out of control. That is the consensus of a dizzying array of recent reports, the latest of which was released this week at a conference combating discrimination under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Representatives of dozens of European governments were expected at the June 7-9 meeting in Bucharest, Romania, a follow-up to a 2005 conference of the OSCE conference on anti-Semitism in Spain. The 2007 Hate Crimes Survey by the U.S.-based organization Human Rights First goes beyond the data included in many of the studies to suggest that most European governments are woefully inept at measuring and thus prosecuting hate crimes.

Human Rights First says the survey is the first by a U.S. non-governmental organization to examine racist, xenophobic, homophobic and anti-religious crimes in Europe. While the report includes analysis of Russia, Ukraine and even North America, the focus is on Western Europe. It is also the only one of the recent reports to raise the specter of a Europe teetering on the verge of a Hitler-era epidemic of racist hatred. "Today the parallels with the 1930s include the seeming indifference of many governments and broad sectors of public opinion to the rising violence and fear that once again threatens European Jews, and with them members of other minorities," says a separate, companion report that focuses exclusively on anti-Semitism. "As it did in the 1930s, the reactivation of ancient prejudices and the transformation of new hatreds into deadly violence have been largely overlooked outside the Jewish community," the report concludes.

In most European countries, "anti-Semitic violence and other hate crimes still are largely unacknowledged in public policy and action," according to the survey by Human Rights First, formerly known as the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. Paul LeGendre, who directs the anti-discrimination program for Human Rights First, told reporters from the group's New York office, "One of our findings is that governments are not doing enough to report on hate crimes. We have a sizable data deficit." The companion survey says that the data that has been collected "reveals both a general trend toward a rise in anti-Semitic incidents and a trend toward violent crimes against Jewish people in a growing proportion of such incidents."

The analysis came after a May 24 fire that badly damaged the largest synagogue in Geneva. The fire was labeled as arson several days later, sending shock waves through Swiss Jewry. Many Jews are also protesting anti-Semitism they say is disguised as criticism of Israel throughout Western Europe. The latest examples come from Britain: the proposed boycott of Israeli academics, which the largest British teachers union voted last month to disseminate to its membership for a final decision, and the country’s largest trade union, with more than a million members, deciding to consider a boycott motion on Israel at its upcoming conference.

Reports issued since Israel's war in Lebanon last summer and widely covered in the international media showed a marked increase in anti-Semitic incidents, rhetoric and attitudes in the 27-member European Union. The picture, however, may be more complicated as anti-Israel and anti-American sentiment have spilled over into what some hope are only cyclical rises in hostility based on world events and not on actual antipathy to Jews. Similar spikes occurred during the first and second Palestinian uprisings.

But others argue that anti-Israel and anti-Jewish behavior have become indistinguishable. As tensions flare in the Gaza Strip, European Jews may be wondering whether this summer will repeat last year's record number of attacks against them, their synagogues and their cemeteries. In an Anti-Defamation League survey on European attitudes toward Jews released in May, 51 percent of respondents in five countries said Jews are more loyal to Israel than to their home country, and 52 percent said Israel's actions have lowered their views of Jews.

European leaders are now discussing, with Israel’s participation, how to improve the country’s image. A European Jewish Congress report issued last November revealed a dramatic rise in anti-Israel discourse during the Lebanon War both among leftist politicians and media in Europe, as well as on the extreme right. The discourse, the report said, often morphed into anti-Jewish sentiment. For Ilan Moss, author of the report, this trend was illustrated best when someone anonymously laminated a Guardian newspaper photo of victims from the Israeli airstrike in Qana that killed 28, including 16 children, and taped it to the front of a London synagogue. "The message was clear: You Jews are responsible for this massacre," Moss said.

More here


Poland is again in the front line of another world war - a moral battle for the soul of Europe and the world. Its two enemies are the population control/abortion industry and the homosexual movement. The agency of oppression, the European Union, is demanding that Poland obey regulations by the European Parliament in Brussels to provide abortion, homosexual rights and same-sex marriage. A European Parliament resolution in April condemned Poland for being "hateful" and "repulsive" for refusing to permit the promotion of homosexuality in schools The resolution threatened that "homophobic" countries such as Poland would be taken to court.

Warsaw was the location this year for the fourth World Congress of Families (May 11-13), originally founded by American author and researcher, Dr Allan Carlson, president of the Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society. The congress was attended by a gathering of 3,300 delegates from the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe (including Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia), Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Ironically, this pro-family event was held in a massive exhibition centre, originally named the Joseph Stalin Palace of Culture and Science. A postwar "gift" from the Soviet Union to the people of Poland, it is the tallest building in Poland and is known as "a Stalin wedding-cake".

Once, during World War II, Soviet dictator Stalin mockingly asked: "How many divisions has the Pope?" One could say that, six decades later, they were present in force at the World Congress of Families IV. The aura of the famous late Polish pontiff, Pope John Paul II, dominated the Warsaw gathering and he was quoted by many speakers. Speakers included Ellen Sauerbrey, assistant US secretary of state for population, refugees and immigration; Inese Slesere, member of the Latvian parliament; Christine de Vollmer, president of the Latin American Alliance for the Family; Katarzyna Mazela, vice-president of the Forum of Polish Women; Pat Fagan, research fellow at the Washington DC-based Heritage Foundation; Bill Saunders of the Family Research Council; and Father Thomas Euteneuer, president of Human Life International.

In what could be described as its "sexual harassment" of Poland, the EU is also targetting Baltic countries, Lithuania and Latvia, with homosexual propaganda which mandates that countries include "sexual orientation" in its anti-discrimination laws as a condition of membership and benefits in the EU. Malta is another country attacked for its pro-life laws. However, Poland - the land of Pope John Paul II, author of Evangelius Vitae - is the big prize. If abortion and homosexual activists can topple Poland, they think others will fall into line.

How soon Europe forgets it was John Paul II, with his support for Poland's Solidarity movement, who achieved the non-violent liberation of his homeland from Soviet occupation. There were other major world-players responsible for this outcome as well, such as US President Ronald Reagan and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher; but John Paul II was the original inspiration. The Poles are proud that this liberation of their country - and of Eastern Europe - was achieved with minimal loss of life.

Roman Giertych, Poland's minister of education and deputy prime minister, and Marek Jurek, speaker of the Polish parliament, told the congress delegates that their country would not be intimidated and had no intention of acceding to the demands of the EU to provide abortion, homosexual rights and same-sex marriage, or support attacks on the traditional family.

Polish officials said Poland intended to assume a leadership role to end the demographic winter in Europe caused by a birth-rate below replacement level, and familial breakdown caused by sexual permissiveness. Defying the EU's homosexual activism, Giertych said legislation seeking to protect children in schools from homosexual propaganda would be put forward as planned. It was "something I have to do," he said.

At its closing session, delegates endorsed the congress's Warsaw Declaration - a pro-family credo for the 21st century - whose opening words proclaim: "The natural family, creation of God, is the fundamental human community, based on the life-long marriage between a man and a woman, in which new individuals are conceived, born and raised."


Limits on free speech in Australia

I largely sympathize with the thinking below. In the usual conservative way, however, I think a balance has to be struck. I don't think there should be ABSOLUTE freedom for journalists and whistleblowers to do as they like but I think a "public benefit" defence should always be allowed to them

The past few days have seen the legal system serve up yet another vivid illustration of the depressing state of free speech in Australia. On Friday the former public servant Allan Kessing copped a nine-month suspended jail sentence for his crime of leaking reports to a newspaper about the chaotic state of security at Sydney Airport.

Yesterday two journalists joined him in the ranks of the criminal class when Chief Judge Michael Rozenes, in Victoria's County Court, ordered convictions be recorded against Melbourne Herald Sun staffers Michael Harvey and Gerard McManus, and fined them $7000 each. They were convicted of contempt of court, but their crime was doing their jobs by telling the public what was really going on, rather than feeding them the spin-doctored version of events the Government had cooked up.

Their story, published in the newspaper in 2004, embarrassed the Government, humiliated the then minister for veterans' affairs, Dana Vale, and provided another reason why the Australian media have formed a Right to Know coalition to lobby for changes to the law. The story was good journalism. It should never have ended up in court. It revealed the Government had opted to accept just five of 65 recommendations on ways to improve benefits for war veterans, thereby saving about $500 million.

What stung was that the journalists got hold of the minister's "speaking notes" which, they wrote, revealed how she would "publicly sugarcoat the Government's offer to veterans and their families". By the time the story was published, a revolt by Government members had killed off the plan. But that didn't stop the Government's pursuit of the leaker.

A public servant, Desmond Patrick Kelly, was accused. During committal proceedings the two journalists were directed to identify their sources for their story. They refused, saying they were acting in accordance with the journalists' code of ethics, which requires journalists to protect the identity of their sources in such circumstances.

More here


Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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