Monday, September 10, 2018

Can you give Scouts canoe lessons while wearing a full Islamic veil?

Can you give Scouts canoe lessons while wearing a full Islamic veil? Absolutely not, says Brian, who devoted a lifetime to the Scouts but was kicked out after saying a Muslim Scout leader looked like Darth Vader

As a devoted Scout master, Brian Walker has spent decades teaching children how to canoe and climb hills, abseil down cliffs, pitch tents, build fires and cook bangers.

But last year – after more than half a century since he first joined the movement – he was thrown out, he says, like ‘an old slipper’.

What had he done to deserve summary expulsion?

Well, in an outburst which may be considered incendiary in our politically correct times, the British Canoe Union instructor had dared to suggest that a fellow leader, a Muslim woman, might endanger children by taking them out on the water in her niqab face veil.

How could she jump in to rescue a Scout in difficulty? How could she navigate her own canoe properly beneath her veil? How could she be sure her instructions were being seen and heard?

They’re questions many people might reasonably ask.

But Mr Walker went on to say Zainab Kothdiwala, the respected head of a thriving all-girl Scout pack in her home town of Heckmondwike, West Yorkshire, looked like Darth Vader.

And he added that the sight of someone doing adventure sports in a full face veil would be incongruous enough to scare children and animals.

Clearly, Mr Walker, 63, is a man with robust opinions and a ripe turn of phrase, a trait he shares with former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, who recently compared women in burkas to ‘bank robbers’ and said they looked ‘like letter boxes’.

The Scout Association did not approve, declaring Mr Wilson to be in breach of its diversity and equality rules.

 He was dismissed from his post as assistant leader of an Explorer Scout pack in his home city of Bristol by a letter, which stated that his views ‘do not fit within the Equal Opportunities Policy’ or the Scout values of ‘integrity, respect, care and belief’.

He was forbidden from wearing his uniform and badges or having anything to do with Scout Association paperwork, never mind children.

But now, 18 months later, he has won an unexpected reprieve.

As a county court judge prepared to rule on the row, the association capitulated, paying him damages and costs. He is donating the cheque to charity. The victory, which owes much to the help given to Mr Walker by the Christian Legal Centre, is a pyrrhic one for him personally. The Scout Association won’t apologise and has publicly said it still doesn’t approve of his comments.

But more broadly, his story once again raises the impossible question of where the fault line lies between civilised opinion and unacceptable prejudice.

Speaking to The Mail on Sunday in the semi-detached home he shares with his wife, Annie, near Bristol, he says the whole experience has left him feeling bruised and sad about the direction he feels the Scouts are heading. ‘This was never, ever a personal attack,’ he says. ‘The very fact that this woman is a Scout leader means she shares my values, my belief in volunteering and giving something back society. But her outfit says a lot more about Islam than it does about scouting.

‘You can’t go abseiling in a niqab, I’m not sure about hiking and I don’t agree with canoeing. ‘She’s at risk of drowning herself, not to mention the fact that it compromises her ability to keep Scouts safe.

‘The movement is about to implode under the weight of its own dogma and absurdity. I took a stand for freedom of thought and freedom of speech.’

The quite extraordinary saga traces back to March 2017, when Mr Walker took umbrage at the spring edition of the Scouts quarterly magazine, Scouting.

He and his wife Annie are evangelical Christians – just like Chief Scout Bear Grylls – and Mr Walker was unhappy with a gushing profile of Mrs Kothdiwala ‘in her full Islamic veil’.

The magazine, which included a faith calendar, said: ‘Zainab cuts a striking figure when she takes the girls out canoeing or goes hiking through the Yorkshire hills.’

The calendar promoted Islam, Buddhism and even the Indian faith of Jainism with brief mentions of Christmas and Easter.

Mr Walker sent the editor a private email, never intended for circulation or publication, asking him to reconsider this kind of coverage. He doesn’t think of himself as a bigot or as a xenophobe, having travelled extensively in more than 60 countries, learned Spanish in Ecuador and karate in Japan, been up the Amazon and survived a military coup in Paraguay.

He was, however, angered by the drift from what he sees as core scouting values and beliefs that trace back to Lord Baden Powell, who founded the movement on Christian principles while wishing it to welcome people of all faiths.

‘How sad and disappointed I am,’ Mr Walker wrote, ‘that the whole Scout mission is to push a politically correct agenda of multi-faith brain washing, anything that denigrates Christianity. In the magazine, children are encouraged to visit a Sikh temple or a mosque yet for a St George’s Day celebration are told “choose your venue carefully, the use of non-religious buildings can ensure the event is welcome to all”.

In the faith calendar, no mention is made of the real meaning of the two biggest Christian festivals, Christmas or Easter.’

Then came his ‘Darth Vader’ comments and criticism of the association’s commitment to LGBT education – unwisely saying ‘camp takes on a whole different meaning’ – and told the editorial team he didn’t like the magazine’s cover picture either. ‘It was a child in a new age unicorn suit blowing bubbles with bubblegum. Just irrelevant. Scouting has gone fluffy. I don’t make any apology for saying so.’

His email was passed to Tim Kidd, the association’s chief commissioner, who sent it to Mr Walker’s local group, setting in motion the train of events that would see him expelled.

He appealed against the decision but found himself still barred. Then, with the help of the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Walker brought a claim against the association, accusing it of discrimination against his own religious beliefs.

The Scout Association agreed an out-of-court settlement but for the moment he remains barred.

Mr Walker is one of life’s volunteers, having been in 21 SAS, the Territorial branch of the Special Air Service, and the RAF Auxiliary. When he lived in Australia for 15 years, he was a reservist military medic and army engineer there too. Three years ago, to mark his 60th birthday, he spent two weeks and £3,000 of his own money – he is an electrician by trade, so that was a significant sum – in Uganda building an orphanage.

So what are the thoughts of his wife of 28 years, Annie – a former police officer and now full-time carer to their eldest son Liam, who is severely disabled?

‘I’m proud of Brian,’ she says. ‘I think he was brave to take a stand but I have never doubted my husband’s courage, whether he was hopping on a helicopter to Kosovo or climbing this particular political mountain. I backed him going public with the court case because I felt that if this could happen to us it could be happening to others too. I wanted us to have a voice.’

Throughout the controversy, Mrs Kothdiwala, has retained a dignified silence. In the magazine, she described herself as bossy and adventurous and made a powerful defence of her choice to be veiled: ‘I am who I am with or without the veil. It’s not a barrier, it doesn’t stop me from doing anything.’

Today, she declines to elaborate on those comments.

Mehwish Siddiqui, a fellow leader at 1st Heckmondwike Ansaar Scouts, said: ‘Zainab is a very conservative Muslim and wears the niqab all the time. She’s always up for anything and wears her niqab for the sports activities like canoeing. It doesn’t get in the way.’

Last night, the Scout Association declined to say whether it agreed the niqab was safe for taking Scouts canoeing and hiking.

A spokesperson confirmed it had settled out of court but added: ‘This does not imply that we accept Mr Walker’s claim made against us or his view of the world.

‘The Scouts do not accept Mr Walker was right when he made his offensive comments. As a charity, we had to weigh up whether it was worth using our limited time and money on a costly and prolonged legal dispute. ‘In this case, we decided it was in our best interests to settle this matter out of court.’

Mr Wilson is, characteristically, unrepentant saying: ‘I don’t regret my Darth Vader quip because it has brought the issue to the fore and begun a debate.’

As a Scout master he’s long been an expert in knots. It looks like he’s got the Scout Association tied up in a big one for some time to come.


Historian Lars Tragardh on the rise of the Sweden Democrats

Sweden is celebrated internationally for its stable social democracy and its humanitarianism. But as Sweden goes to the polls this weekend, it could be the latest country to experience a populist revolt. The ruling Social Democrats, the most successful centre-left party in Europe, are expected to win, but with a significantly reduced vote-share. Meanwhile, populist upstarts, the Sweden Democrats, who gained their first seats in parliament just eight years ago, are expected to have their best-ever showing. Polling figures vary wildly, but with no mainstream bloc likely to command a majority, an upset is on the cards.

spiked caught up with Swedish historian Lars Tragardh to discuss what lies behind Sweden’s populist moment.

spiked: How do you account for the rise of the Sweden Democrats?

Lars Tragardh: The big story is the decline of the left-wing Social Democrats. From the 1930s onwards, they were an extraordinarily successful party. In part, this was because they embraced the nation.They were able to produce an effective narrative of democratic nationalism. They also dropped the language of class struggle and took up a much broader notion of a country of citizens, who belong together. [i.e. Fascism]

But in recent years a perfect storm has emerged in relation to the nation state. All the mainstream parties are occupied by globalists of one sort or another. On the right, the Moderate Party went in a neoliberal, globalist direction. The Centre Party, which began as a party for farmers, is now borderline libertarian. On the left, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the influence of the 68ers was in decline and there was a general sense of exhaustion with the Social Democrats’ economic policies. A new kind of left-wing idealism started to emerge in the name of human rights and global civil society. The nation started to be demonised as racist, xenophobic and exclusionary. The left also wedded themselves to identity politics.

Over time, this has opened up a gap for the Sweden Democrats to fill. A lot of people still think Sweden exists, that citizenship is a legitimate idea and that national community and national culture matter. Like in many Western countries, Sweden has an elite that has overinvested in globalism and underinvested in ordinary politics at the national level – the elite has forgotten that the only democracy we have takes place within the nation state.

spiked: How central is the issue of immigration to the populist moment?

Tragardh: It is important to have some nuance here. The fact is that attitudes to immigration, in particular to economic immigration, are generally positive. Sweden has a very long history of successful immigration since the 1940s. But in the postwar period, immigration was always linked to the labour market. Effectively, even those who came to Sweden nominally as refugees were treated as economic migrants. Pretty much the day after they arrived, they were in work and their employers paid for language instruction. There was no discussion of multiculturalism – everybody understood that when you come to a new country, you learn the language and try to figure out the customs and do your best to adjust to it.

But things are very different today. After the 1970s oil crisis, lots of restrictions were placed on economic migration. This was at the behest of the trade unions, who wanted to limit immigration to control the supply of labour and keep wages up. Over time, there was a slow erosion of successful economic immigration, which came to be replaced with a humanitarian-led policy which prioritised refugees. In 2015-16, there was an acute sense of crisis. But the numbers arriving are much lower now and we are seeing more and more integration into the labour market, so I’m optimistic.

I currently head a research project on social trust, and when I look at our data Sweden stands out as a country where national identity is not coupled to ethnic notions, but instead is more civic and citizenship-based – it prioritises demos, not ethnos. This creates a context of openness. But at the same time, our data on Swedish values tells us that work is absolutely crucial. There is no tolerance for people who don’t work. Sweden is not a country of free lunches. We have a social contract based on citizens who work, pay taxes and thus – and only thus – earn social rights. National identity is open, but it’s also very demanding.

spiked: Did that social contract break down in the wake of the refugee crisis?

Tragardh: Yes. Over 160,000 people arrived over the space of a few months, some of whom were illiterate and very few spoke the language. They entered a country with a high-octane labour market that requires all sorts of skills. Of course this creates problems in the short-term.

After the Second World War, Sweden adopted a secondary national identity as a ‘moral superpower’. So, internally, there’s a very tough attitude towards work. We hate charity – the whole welfare state is built to get away from charity. We don’t want to stand cap-in-hand, we want to work, earn our own rights and not be beholden to middle-class do-gooders. But when it comes to people abroad, that logic seems to no longer apply.

There’s been a long tradition in Sweden of giving money to the starving children in Africa. But when you have a large number of refugees, that relationship becomes domesticated. Suddenly, you have these two different logics operating within the same country. On the one hand, we expect our own citizens to work and to work hard. But for others, it is enough to just exist. You arrive with human rights and that means that you should be given certain privileges. I’m exaggerating, of course, but you get my point.

The tension between being a moral superpower and the social contract has bothered a lot of people. You have pensioners who are poor, there are problems in schools, there are queues in our hospitals. People are asking where are the rights of citizens who have been paying into this system for years – why doesn’t anyone care about them? That’s where the Sweden Democrats have very effectively stepped in.

spiked: Sweden is often celebrated by British politicians for its model of consensus. Has the populist surge disrupted that consensus?

Tragardh: You’ll see lots of articles saying that Sweden is facing the end of social democracy and the Swedish model. But it is too hasty a conclusion. All the mainstream parties are still refusing to talk to the Sweden Democrats – they say that they are Nazis. But the fact of the matter is that the Moderates and the Social Democrats have started to agree with the Sweden Democrats on immigration. If you start to add up on the numbers, it looks like a consensus!

Everything in Sweden basically works. Of course, our public services have problems. But there is no party that is seriously considering dismantling the welfare state. It is very popular and it works well. Sweden’s economy is doing really well and there is virtually no unemployment. Something is clearly working, so it is not as if you need a revolution. And if you actually look at the Sweden Democrats’ policies, they might be flirting with some conservative ideas about the family and gender relations, but they are enthusiasts for the welfare state like everyone else. I understand the needs of journalists abroad to dramatise what’s going on in Sweden, but Swedish society is not breaking down.


Why young white men are abandoning the Democrats

The Democrats’ embrace of identity politics is turning off a generation of voters.

A shock poll by Reuters/Ipsos reveals that the Democrats are shedding millennial votes, with support dropping by nine percentage points since 2016. This shift is most pronounced among white millennial men, who now favour Republicans over Democrats by 11 percentage points. In 2016, Democrats led Republicans in this group by 12 percentage points. There has been a staggering swing of 23 percentage points in just two years.

The poll shatters a number of widely held assumptions. Firstly, that young people are naturally drawn to the Democrats. Secondly, that the chaos and incompetence of Donald Trump’s rule are enough to turn voters blue. While two thirds of those polled dislike Trump, that distaste does not translate into either a rejection of the GOP as a whole or into support for the Democrats.

Democrats are clearly yet to come to terms with their defeat in the 2016 presidential election. Since then, the party has devoted a great deal of energy to pushing allegations of Russian meddling – a story of little interest to ordinary voters, who have long since accepted the outcome of a fair and free election. Similarly, baseless and shrill accusations that Trump is a fascist have clearly been ineffective in drumming up support for an alternative. Opposition to Trump is one thing, but most voters are none the wiser as to what the Democrats actually stand for.

But while the Democrats may be uninspiring to millennials as a whole, the party is actively alienating young, white men. Today’s identity politics is impossible for millennials to avoid, whether they are confronted with it on campus or through clickbait comment pieces. In the identitarian worldview, ‘white men’ are responsible for all the world’s woes – the phrases ‘white people’ and ‘white men’ are practically shorthand for evil. Listicles reveal the ‘37 things white people need to stop ruining in 2018’, magazines declare that ‘white men must be stopped’, while even respectable outlets like the Washington Post ask ‘why can’t we hate white men?’.

But rather than reject the divisive politics of identity, the Democratic establishment and its cheerleaders have embraced it. During the election, Hillary Clinton namechecked and explicitly targeted a number of demographic groups. At the same time, her team told the media they were confident they could win without the support of white men. Many commentators agreed. ‘Hillary Clinton doesn’t need white men’, insisted the Washington Post – supposedly because they make up a declining share of the electorate and can therefore be ignored. Of course, we all know what the result was – white voters were crucial to Trump’s election upset. Nevertheless, liberal commentators are still urging the Democrats to ‘get over’ white working-class voters in the upcoming midterms. They are surplus to electoral requirements, outsiders to the ‘progressive coalition… in all its multicultural, multiracial splendour’, according to one writer.

Democrats insist that white voters are electorally irrelevant. But when they disappoint the party and decide not to vote for it, they are painted as backward and irrational. Clinton’s defeat was rationalised by her allies as a ‘whitelash’ – not a rejection of a wildly unpopular candidate, but an outburst of racist rage. Clearly, white male millennials are picking up on this kind of language and are beginning to think that they are not wanted by the party.

A truly progressive party ought to be able to give voice to concerns that bridge racial and gender divides. It ought to have a more honest understanding of its past failures and a clear programme for the future. But if the Democrats continue to shirk responsibility for their electoral defeats, and continue to embrace identity politics, it won’t just be young, white men who abandon them.


A recipe for trouble: Australian Girl Guides to let 'boys who identify as female' join and share bedrooms, bathrooms

After being female only for more than a hundred years Girl Guides is allowing boys who identify as girls to join the ranks.

Anyone who is transitioning or identifies as a girl is now allowed to join - and there are already three girls who previously identified as boys already in the guides.

Those who are biologically female but identify as male are not allowed to join Girl Guides.

Girl Guides Victoria CEO Amanda Kelly told the Herald Sun: 'It's not a big deal, it's more of an explanation of what we already do.'

Girl Guides is for females between five and 17, which means that those who as 'non-binary/neutral/gender fluid' because it is an 'explicitly female organisation', the publication reported.

While only three young women in Victoria have disclosed Ms Kelly believes there are more in the organisation who are.

She said in one case the girl had not disclosed and they had helped her do that.

Another has been happy and open to talk about her transition.

The policy stated: 'An individual is to be considered the final authority on their own gender identity. The only way to know if a person is a transgender person is if the person discloses this to you.

'It is not appropriate to judge who is and who is not a girl, nor is it appropriate to approach a person to ask if they are transitioning.'

The new policy guidelines mean that any child is able to use the bathroom that matches their gender identity.

In the event that a parent is concerned about this the Girl Guides Victoria has set strict guidelines.

'This is often raised in conversations about denying transgender people access to bathrooms and is recognised as a form of discrimination. Advise the parent that you expect all girls to behave in respectful and appropriate ways,' they state.

Those involved in a unit will also participate in the same activities, including sleeping in the same area.

Kristen Hilton, Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commissioner, said she welcomed the new policies.



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, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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