Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Britain: Couple banned for life from shopping centre and branded 'terrorists' - for taking photos of their grandchildren

A couple were banned for life from a shopping centre - because they were taking photos of their beloved grandchildren. Kim and Trevor Sparshott were ordered to stop taking photos because they were causing a security threat. They were thrown out of the centre after they took out a camera to snap the look on the youngsters' faces when they turned up unexpectedly.

The couple were on a four-day break from their home in Spain and wanted to surprise their family by arriving at the centre, in Fareham, Hants, while they were shopping. But when they went to take a photo, a security guard pounced and ordered them out. The guard then insisted that cameras were banned because of the risk of a terrorist attack - and barred the bemused couple for life.

Speaking from her home in Malaga, Spain, Mrs Sparshott, 51, said: "I couldn't believe it. I was so shocked. "He said we had committed an act of terrorism. "At first I wanted the ground to swallow me up whole because it was so embarassing - but then I got really angry." Mr Sparshott, 52, added: "Instead of being a nice surprise for our family it turned into a nightmare. I was furious. "In these worrying times we understand the need for caution, but surely a quiet word when he first saw us would have stopped all this unpleasantness."

The couple, who had been visiting their daughter, who lives in Gosport, Hants, with her husband and children, returned to Spain in shock. They wrote a letter of complaint to the centre, and received a reply from manager Pam Gillard who said taking photos was a security risk. In the reply to the Sparshotts, Ms Gillard said: "By the sounds of it my officers/duty manager didn't explain the position very clearly and for that I apologise." Speaking after the incident, she added: "Fareham Shopping Centre is private property and has a policy to support the security of the shops, where the taking of photographs needs prior permission. "The Sparshotts are welcome back to the centre." Ms Gillard refused to comment further on the centre's security policies, but added that the camera ban was not because of a terrorist threat.

The situation has amazed civil rights campaigners, who say the centre's reaction was 'completely over the top'. Roger Smith, director of civil liberties group Justice, said: "The key is proportionality - it is quite reasonable to have restrictions on what people can do, but this is just daft. "It seems completely over the top."


Woman artist gets death threats over homosexual Muslim photos

The Dutch were debating the limits of freedom of expression last week after an artist who photographed gay men wearing masks of the prophet Muhammad was forced into hiding and her work removed from a museum exhibit. Speaking on the telephone from an unspecified location in the Netherlands last week, the artist, an Iranian exile who goes by the pseudonym of Sooreh Hera, said she had been threatened with "execution". She accused the director of the municipal museum in The Hague of cowardice for caving in to Muslim extremists.

Her story is a reminder of the tensions that have put the Netherlands and other European countries on the front line, sending dozens of people threatened by extremists into hiding since 2004, when a Dutch film-maker was murdered on the street and his collaborator driven into exile. This leaves Hera, 34, in no doubt that she is in real danger. "They said to me, `We're going to burn you naked or put a bullet in your mouth'," she said, referring to menacing e-mails. "They say, `Now you are locked in your home and you cannot go out any more'."

She said that by photographing gay Iranian exiles in masks of Muhammad, the founder of Islam, and Ali, his son-in-law, she had wanted to expose a "hypocritical" attitude towards homosexuality in countries such as Iran, where men can be hanged for homosexual conduct. "They condemn homosexuality but in countries like Iran or Saudi Arabia it is common for married men to maintain relations with other men," said Hera. "Works of art can be provocative. It is not an artist's job just to paint flowers. Art should shine a light on social issues."

The photographs were part of an extensive collection of images by Hera of mostly Dutch gay men. Another part of her exhibit was a video featuring hard rock music and images of Iranian clerics interspersed with pictures of naked men. Wim van Krimpen, director of the museum, initially praised Hera's collection of photographs as "exceptional". Last month, however, he announced that the masked men could not be included in the forthcoming exhibition because "certain people in our society might perceive it as offensive".

This was no understatement. When a Danish newspaper published cartoons of Muhammad in 2005 it unleashed what the prime minister referred to as the country's biggest international crisis since the second world war as Muslims staged violent protests. "The museum director was very afraid," said Hera. "He gave in to pressure from the Islamists. It is censorship." In protest, she withdrew the rest of her photographs from the exhibition and Ranti Tjan, director of a museum in Gouda, agreed to put them on show. He received threats from extremists and was under police protection last week. Hera declined to discuss her own security arrangements.

She said she would like to attend the opening of the show in Gouda if it went ahead, but that it might be too dangerous. "There are times when I am very afraid," she admitted, "times when I feel like a prisoner."

The affair has highlighted deep divisions among Europeans over how to deal with the Islamic extremism since the murder of Theo van Gogh over a film that criticised Islam's treatment of women. A note attached to his body with a knife threatened other people, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a Somali-born former Dutch politician and his collaborator. She fled to America, accusing the Dutch of "appeasement" of extremists. She has since returned to the Netherlands and is said to be working on a film about the repression of gays in Islamic societies.

She may not get much support from the politicians, who seem determined to avoid confrontation even if some might accuse them of turning a blind eye to the erosion of artistic freedom. When Hera wrote to Ronald Plasterk, the culture minister, asking for his support he agreed to meet her but would not help to reinstate her photographs in the exhibition. Wouter Bos, the deputy prime minister, seemed to take a stand for freedom of speech, saying: "In a democracy, we do not recognise the right not to be insulted." The left wing de Volkskrant newspaper, by contrast, praised the museum for its "great professionalism" in excising the images.

For her part, Hera, who fled Iran seven years ago, says she has "no regrets", particularly when she thinks about the young men and women being hanged there for offending the country's code of sexuality. "I do it for them," she said, "for the boys and girls with no freedom in Iran."


Deluded Leftist memories

By Gerard Henderson, writing from Australia

As someone once said, old soldiers never die. Quite a few, having abandoned the sword, keep battling with the pen or keyboard. So it is with the Pakistani-born British radical Tariq Ali. Once one of the most prominent student radicals in the West during the late 1960s and early 1970s, he is looking back with fondness on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the student revolutions that are said to have shaken the world in 1968.

Last Saturday the Herald carried Ali's recollections on 1968 under the heading "The year that changed the world". On the same day The Weekend Australian Magazine's cover story focused on seven Australians who recalled "the year the world changed". Both Ali and those of his Australian counterparts who remain on the left exhibited a lack of comprehension about what really happened or, rather, did not happen in 1968.

According to Ali: "What was remarkable about 1968 was the geographical breath of the global revolt. It was as if a single spark had set the entire field on fire." He was referring to attacks on US forces in Vietnam, demonstrations in such Western democracies as the US, France, Italy, Britain and West Germany, along with opposition to the communist totalitarian regime in Czechoslovakia. But the fact is that the US was not militarily defeated in Vietnam in 1968 nor were the Western democracies overturned that year. Indeed, Richard Nixon was elected US president in November 1968.

Some of the Australian activists of four decades ago exhibited a similar sense of self-delusion. The painter George Gittoes recalled that "everyone was mad in 1968". The newly retired Labor politician Meredith Burgmann declared that "anyone from that time will tell you - we really thought the revolution was about to happen". According to the filmmaker Albie Thoms, in 1968 or thereabouts "everyone started self-medicating". Even today, the likes of Gittoes, Burgmann and Thoms seem unaware that about 1968 they mixed with a few members of the left intelligentsia. At the time the overwhelming majority of Australians were a quite sane lot who did not believe in the likelihood of imminent revolution and were not into the drug culture.

There is little evidence to support the view that 1968 was the year that changed the world. During the 20th century many years were more significant, including 1914 (the outbreak of World War I), 1917 (the Bolshevik Revolution), 1933 (the coming to power of Hitler's Nazis in Germany), 1939 (the outbreak of World War II) and 1989 (the effective collapse of European communism).

Certainly 1968 was a big year for news. In addition to violent student demonstrations in the Western democracies, 1968 witnessed the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in the US. Yet, despite such traumas, Western democracy prevailed as an institution. Within a little more than a decade the Conservative Margaret Thatcher was in 10 Downing Street in London and the Republican Ronald Reagan resided at the White House in Washington. Meanwhile, the Liberal Party's Malcolm Fraser prevailed over Gough Whitlam in late 1975. At the time Fraser was the enemy of the left intelligentsia Down Under.

It is true that 1968 was significant in that it marked the beginning of the decline in European communism. The Soviet Union's invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 discredited European communism, even though its demise was to take a further two decades. Those who resisted communist totalitarianism in Czechoslovakia, Poland, East Germany, the Soviet Union and elsewhere were the real heroes of 1968. The fact is that most of the student demonstrators and their fellow travellers supported communist dictatorships elsewhere. Most notably in China, where Mao's Cultural Revolution turned an entire nation into a prison ruthlessly administered by the communist elite. Later the 1968 set was to support the communist revolutions in Vietnam and Cambodia, which led to mass murders, incarcerations and refugees. And, of course, the Cuban dictator Fidel Castro remains a leftist hero to this day.

As the one-time leftist David Horowitz wrote in his autobiography Radical Son, the New Left in the US "was not an innocent experiment in American utopianism, but a self-conscious effort to rescue the communist project from its Soviet fate". This succeeded for a while when, following the cancellation of military aid by the US Congress, the anti-communist government of South Vietnam collapsed in 1975 in the face of the Soviet-supplied North Vietnamese Army. But in time the likes of China and Vietnam abandoned the hardline communism for which they were admired by the student revolutionaries in the West.

Many of today's baby boomers, in Australia and elsewhere, have never expressed regret for having supported some of the most brutal dictatorships the world has known. Take, for example, the British commentator Beatrix Campbell, who has a regular slot on Phillip Adams's ABC radio program Late Night Live. Writing in the Sunday Times on October 28, Neil Lyndon commented that Campbell is "never called to account for the fact that as a young subeditor on the communist Morning Star newspaper she took state-subsidised holidays in the odious Eric Honecker's East Germany".

The events of 1968 had little impact in the West. As David Caute pointed out in The Year Of The Barricades, the New Left in the West at the time engaged "in a murderous battle with the state, supposedly to arouse the working class from its torpor, in reality to play out social frustrations and personal fantasies". It was much the same in Australia, albeit without the extreme violence. This is widely accepted today, except by those old soldiers who seem to remain fossilised in 1968.


First love yourself ....

Paul Hasluck, a talented writer who went on to become Australia's Governor General in the 1970s, recalled scenes which were commonplace during his childhood in Western Australia in the 1920s in his autobiography, Mucking About.
Kalgoorlie schoolboys seemed to be given to chanting derisive rhymes. There were convent schools as well as state schools. The state school urchins used to follow the convent boys down the streets chanting.
Catholic dogs jump like frogs
And eat no meat on Friday.
Catholic dogs jump like frogs.
In and out of the water.
Hasluck's recollection reminds us that not so long ago -- within living memory -- it mattered very much whether you were Irish or Polish, Jewish or Protestant, Chinese or Filipino. But those difference -- as pundits analyzing Barack Obama's victory in the Iowa caucuses never cease to point out -- seemed have become less important over the decades. In that context, Bishop Nazir Ali's warning that "no-go" areas have cropped up in Britain are all the more astounding. The perverse accomplishment of the Multicultural Project has been to reverse the process of community building it set out to hasten.

Why this paradoxical result should be the case is an interesting question to consider. Hasluck's biography itself provided a clue to the answer. The public space increased as love for the nation increased. As people began to identify themselves as Australians the relative differences between them decreased, as did the jeerings. But not only did a healthy patriotism actually expand the public space, it was, Hasluck argued, the prerequisite to respect between nations -- an observation that would shock the politically correct multiculturalist, who normally believes the precise opposite. Hasluck's argument is simple and commonsensical and for that reason probably incomprehensible to the post-modern. Describing his feelings following a return from England as a child, he wrote:
My own deeper love and knowledge of Australia is refined by a shared love of England. In love of our country each of us realizes a common humanity coming from deep wells. A feeling for one's own country is the clearest way to feeling deeply for men in other countries. The folly and failure of so many attempts by internationalists to do good comes from the fact that they lose sight of the true goodness in other countries when their own senses are blunted to the goodness of their own.
The observation that a genuine appreciation of other cultures must begin with a respect for one's own may seem self-evident until one realizes how rarely it is made. That argument naturally extends itself to a critique of multiculturalism. Having destroyed the feeling of security that comes from belonging to a larger home, the country, multiculturalism has left nothing for individuals but a retreat into the doubtful safety of sect, race and tribe. The Pale is back; and we are all beyond it.



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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