Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Another triumph of British multiculturalism
Five members of a gang [below] who stripped a 16-year-old girl in a park then posted the pictures on Facebook have been jailed for a total of 18 and a half years.
The nude photographs were taken by Victoria Beckford, 27, and Siobhan Vaughan, 29, who added them to the teenager's profile page on the social networking website.
The shocking images, taken in Crystal Palace park, south London, were spotted by friends and family who contacted the girl's mother.
As the thugs were sentenced it emerged the girl had tried to kill herself two days after she was abducted and subjected to the 'humiliating and degrading' ordeal. Inner London Crown Court heard she then spent two months recovering in the Maudsley Hospital in Camberwell, south-east London.
Victoria Beckford, 27, and Siobhan Vaughan, 29, who took the shocking images, were both jailed for four years. Fellow gang members Daniello Johnson and Antonio Williams, both 19, were also sentenced to four years each while Sian Roberts, 24, was caged for two and a half years.
Judge Usha Karu said: 'A vulnerable 16-year-old girl was subjected by each of you to a terrifying ordeal which culminated in her humiliation and degradation. 'This was then distributed on the internet for everyone to see - and unfortunately for you, it was that last act which led to the discovery of what had happened.
'Her humiliation, fear and reluctance must have been obvious to you, yet you persisted, determined to achieve some kind of revenge for a sum of money that amounts to about £50.'
The five defendants had denied the attack but were convicted of false imprisonment in July after a three-week trial.
The victim, who cannot be named, had been taken hostage by the gang as punishment for an unpaid £50 debt. She was locked in a cupboard, punched and whipped with a leather belt during the ordeal on August 14 last year, before being taken to the park and stripped.
The girl had been lured to Brixton, south-west London, believing that a friend was going to remove braids from her hair. Williams and Johnson were waiting for her there. Johnson tied her wrists with a dressing gown cord and demanded her phone and PIN number, then locked her in a cupboard for more than an hour
During that time he slid the blade of a knife through the gap between the doors, before letting her out and beating her with a leather belt.
Roberts, who was owed the cash, then arrived with Beckford. Roberts 'dragged' the 16-year-old to her car and drove her around south London before collecting Vaughan.
With dusk approaching, the group is then said to have headed to a 'poorly lit' corner of Crystal Palace Park, where Beckford ordered the girl to strip, telling her: 'This should teach you a lesson.'
The girl was also offered the alternative punishment of immersing her hands in boiling water, which she said she would prefer. But her tormentors decided they did not want to 'leave visible marks' and forced her to undress.
Mr Polnay said: 'She removed the entire top half of her clothes, but this was not enough for the defendants - and both Victoria Beckford and Siobhan Vaughan demanded that she remove the entire bottom half. 'She was now completely naked, and Victoria Beckford and Siobhan Vaughan then took out their mobile phones and took photographs.'
Giving evidence, the girl said at one point during her ordeal, Johnson handed a penknife to his one-year-old son and told him to 'get' her.
Asked how he handed the blade to the baby she replied: 'He just gave it to him, handle first, and he walked towards me holding the knife.' Mobile phone experts subsequently recovered a deleted copy of the nude photograph on Williams' handset, which had been saved at 8.58pm on August 14, the court heard.
Williams and Johnson were arrested on August 17 and Roberts and Beckford were arrested six days later. Vaughan was arrested on September 20.
Johnson, of no fixed address; Williams, of Thornton Heath, south London; Roberts, of Bromley, Kent; Beckford, of Gypsy Hill, south London and Vaughan, of Croydon, and the 17-year-old, of West Norwood, south London, were convicted of false imprisonment.
Beckford and Vaughan were also found guilty of one count of making an indecent image of a child.
Speaking after the case Police Constable Andrew Birks, from the Lambeth police CID said: 'This is a horrific case where the victim was subjected to hours of abuse, assault and humiliation by five defendants who when arrested told police a string of lies to try and conceal their involvement.
'Through the bravery of that child, the jury has been able to recognise the truth behind the events of that day and to reach the verdicts that they have.
'The events themselves left a traumatic mark on her life, made worse by having to appear in court and relive them because these defendants continued their trail of deceit.'
Muslim fundamentalists win censorship battle
In Sweden, cartoonist Lars Vilks received death threats from al-Qaeda after he drew an image of the prophet Muhammad in 2007. His home now has a barbed wire sculpture that could electrocute an intruder and an axe he has said would allow him to "chop down" anyone breaking in.
His paranoia appears to be justified. In March, seven people in Ireland were charged with plotting to kill him.
Six years after the Danish publication of cartoons depicting Muhammad led to riots, firebombs and up to 200 deaths around the world, there is no resolution to the standoff between those defending free speech and extremists defending a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam.
The September 11, 2001, attacks lit up a previously dormant cultural divide between European-style open discourse and the sensitivities of the continent's growing Muslim communities. The divide has since been exaggerated and exploited by both hardline Islamists and Europe's extreme right. Some fear the result has been a rolling-back of freedom of speech.
Professor Jytte Klausen, a Dane, is professor of comparative politics at Brandeis University in Massachusetts, an expert on Muslim communities in Europe and author of the book The Cartoons That Shook the World.
She believes there is no doubt the cartoon controversy has led to more self-censorship: "The bottom line is that on this issue, the extremists won."
Professor Klausen's book examines what happened after the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a dozen cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad in 2005. One showed him wearing a turban with a lit bomb in it and another portrayed him in heaven begging a line of tattered, smoking young men: "Stop, stop, we have run out of virgins!"
Critics said the cartoons were racist and blasphemous, in part because many Muslims believe Islam does not permit images of the prophet. As a result of the publication, one Danish embassy was bombed and several were set alight. In London, demonstrators carried signs calling on Muslims to "massacre" those who insulted Islam and warning, "Britain, you will pay, 7/7 on its way". (The London terrorist bombings, which occurred on July 7, 2005, are known as 7/7.)
Last September, an American cartoonist went into hiding following death threats after she called for a "Let's draw Muhammad" day. Molly Norris, of Seattle Weekly News, "went ghost" on the advice of the FBI. She changed her identity to evade a fatwa by a Yemeni-American al-Qaeda leader, Anwar al-Awlaki, who named her as a prime target and said her "proper abode is hellfire".
Meanwhile in Europe, police thwarted a plan last December for a "Mumbai-style" machine-gun attack on Jyllands-Posten.
The freedom of speech debate is not a simple question of Muslims versus Westerners, but of moderates versus extremists. Many Muslim reformers have also suffered violence or intimidation for criticising Islam.
In 2008, Britain's Centre for Social Cohesion named 27 writers, including Salman Rushdie, as well as activists, politicians and artists who had been persecuted for their views.
But Professor Klausen says the more common reaction has been self-censorship, a force she ran up against with her 2009 book. Yale University Press dropped not only an image of the original newspaper page of Muhammad cartoons but Islamic pictures of the prophet drawn centuries ago for religious manuscripts, citing fears that innocent lives might otherwise be lost.
Professor Klausen told the Herald: "I said there was no realistic threat, this is an academic book … but there was a difficult counter-argument: 'We don't really worry about what's going to happen in Hartford, Connecticut, we are worrying about what might happen in Afghanistan.' Are we going to base standards for academic publications on what's happening in Nigeria and Afghanistan?"
The decision was also criticised by a British free-speech organisation, the Index on Censorship, which ran an online interview with Professor Klausen - but which also refused to publish the cartoons.
Index's news editor, Padraig Reidy, told the Herald he has not come across any cartoonists who have spoken of feeling threatened or of self-censoring. But he warns there has been a big shift in terms of what the law says is acceptable after Britain introduced religious vilification laws as a result of concerns Muslims might be targeted following the September 11 attacks.
"The unfortunate thing is that religious hatred laws have created this expectation in [Muslims'] minds that their religion can't be insulted," he says.
"Whereas anyone interested in free speech would say people should be protected but ideas should not be protected; that religions should be open to scrutiny and sometimes should be mocked … but now a new 'right not to be offended' comes into play."
Mehmood Naqshbandi is the author of a guide to Islam and the creator of the website Muslims in Britain. He says Britain's religious hatred laws do not include a right "not be offended", as shown by the anti-Muslim rhetoric and actions of the English Defence League, such as the carrying of a pig's head on a pike.
Asked whether non-Muslims should refrain from drawing Muhammad, he says that is a difficult question but "for a conscientious Muslim, the simple answer is that they shouldn't".
Why should a taboo for Muslims become a taboo for everyone? Mr Naqshbandi says if the West practised the tolerance it preaches, then that respect would be extended to the religious taboos of others. But he also says the cartoons "tend to give offence in parts of the Muslim community that want to be offended".
He believes both sides have to grow up. "The Muslim community has got to be a lot more nuanced in its response to these kinds of issues, and recognise that however technically offensive and challenging they may be, they are part of a juvenile response by the West to Islam, and that the West will grow out of it; just as the West must realise that Muslim communities in the West are very insecure and it will take a long time for them to gain confidence."
Professor Klausen believes the cartoon controversy has damaged free speech in Arab countries, too. She argues that the row blew up only after it was manipulated by politicians on both sides.
The Danish prime minister initially refused to meet angry ambassadors from Muslim countries because he did not want to be viewed domestically as recognising Muslim complaints, while Egypt used the controversy to push back against the Bush administration's pressure for human rights.
"The Arab League used the whole issue to justify censorship of satellite TV, saying: 'This is what you get when you have free speech, insults and anger and unregulated violent expression'," Professor Klausen says.
She thinks it was understandable that many Muslims were offended but that the Danish newspaper could not have foreseen what would happen. "In 2005 we weren't yet used to the consequences of global media. The paper put it up on the website [unthinkingly]," she says.
"All the international protests were with people who saw it on the internet but the editors were still thinking in terms of the print world, where it would just be displayed to local readers. If it was just the Danish, nothing would have happened … "Now we put things out in a global world and we have these instant reverberations."
Depression in women doubles since the 1970s as they 'try to have it all'
Only a moron would think that ANYBODY could "have it all" but some women appear to be gullible
Women are twice as likely to suffer from depression compared with 40 years ago because they are trying to juggle families and careers, researchers claim.
As many as one in seven will be affected by the condition at some point in their lives – more than double the number of men who will be.
Scientists say that the strain of trying to cope with having a family and pursuing a career is leaving women with a ‘tremendous burden’.
Researchers who have studied the extent of mental health problems across Europe say rates of depression in women have doubled since the 1970s. They found that women are most at risk from the age of 16 to 42, when they tend to have children. These age groups have between 10 and 13.4 per cent chance of developing depression – twice as high as men in the same age bracket.
Professor Hans-Ulrich Wittchen, who led the study, said: ‘In depression you see this 2.6 times higher rate amongst females. ‘There are clusters in the reproductive years between the ages of 16 to 42. ‘In females you see these incredibly high rates of depressive episodes at the time when they are having babies, where they raise children, where they have to cope with the double responsibilities of having a job and a family. ‘This is what is causing the tremendous burden.
‘It’s the effect on the females who can’t care any more for their family and are trying to be active in their profession, which is one of these major drivers of these higher rates.
‘We have seen compared to the 1970s a doubling of depressive episodes amongst females. ‘It happened in the 1980s and 1990s, there are no further increases now. ‘It’s now levelling off, it’s pretty much stabilised but it’s much much higher than the 1970s.'
The German researchers looked at the extent of mental health problems including dementia, eating disorders and even insomnia across the continent using previous studies and surveys.
Their work, which is published in the journal European Neuropsychopharmacology, found that 38 per cent of people are suffering from some form of mental illness. The most common of these are depression, insomnia, phobias and dementia in old age.
Just last month American researchers found that ‘supermums’ – women who try to juggle careers and families – are far more likely to be depressed. Their study of 1,600 young women was carried out at the University of Washington. It concluded that the women who try to do it all are more likely to feel like failures.
But other experts said men are just as likely to suffer from depression. The difference is that men tend not to admit it so they are often never diagnosed, researchers say.
Marjorie Wallace, chief executive of the mental health charity SANE, said: ‘The reason we believe that depression is twice as common amongst women than men is that women are more prepared to talk about it. ‘Men can find it more difficult to describe their feelings of anxiety, depression or loneliness and may lack the language to express their inner feelings.’
Australia's not very multicultural council
WITH little fanfare last week Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced her new Multicultural Council. But a curious feature of an advisory body that is supposed to be a "socially inclusive" representation of multi-ethnic Australia was the fact that at least five of its 10 members are Muslims, and not one member has a Chinese or Indian background.
This glaring oversight is despite the fact that China was Australia's largest source of migrants in 2010-11, comprising 17.5 percent of the total intake. And Indians made up 12.9 percent of migrants. There are no representatives from the indigenous community, either.
The 10 members of the council are: Rauf Soulio (chairman), a South Australian judge active in the Albanian community; Gail Ker, a board member of the Ethnic Communities Council in Queensland; Dr Hass Dellal, Executive director of the Australian Multicultural Foundation; Samina Yasmeen, Director of the Centre for Muslim States and Societies and Professor of Political Science at the University of Western Australia; Talal Yassine, a lawyer and director of the Whitlam Institute; Yassmin Abdel-Magied, a mechanical engineering student at the University of Queensland; Dr Tanveer Ahmed, a psychiatrist, author and newspaper columnist; Dr Tim Soutphommasane, a research fellow at Monash University's National Centre for Australian Studies, Peter Wertheim, executive director of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, and Carmel Guerra, chief executive officer of the Centre for Multicultural Youth.
New council members said they had been told not to speak to the media. But others in the multicultural community expressed surprise at the heavy Islamic presence, while pointing out the Muslim members could not be said to be monocultural, being drawn from such diverse ethnic backgrounds as Lebanese, Sudanese, Bangladeshi and Turkish.
Eminent Chinese community leaders such as Dr Anthony Pun, founding National President of the Chinese Community Council in Australia, might have been snubbed but last week he refused to have "sour grapes".
"I am sure the members have been appointed on merit and I would like to congratulate them. I would just ask that if they want to make decisions concerning Chinese-Australians they would they consult us."
All the new council members have significant CVs. But to have allocated half the spots to a religious group which represents just 1.7 percent of the Australian population seems peculiar. As does excluding the largest ethnic groups in the country.
It looks like yet another own goal from the Gillard government.
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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here or Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when blogger.com is playing up, there is a mirror of this site here.