The Guardian view on Islamophobia: time for the Tories to act | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 July, 2018 - 18:27
The former Conservative chair Sayeeda Warsi is right to call for an independent inquiry into what she calls the party’s ‘Muslim problem’

Institutions can promise to tackle their problems because they grasp that there really is a problem. Or they can promise to do so because they begin to discern – often very tardily – that others, including their own members and supporters, believe there is a problem. On the surface, at least, the difference between these approaches cannot always be easily defined. Yet people usually have a gut sense of which has been adopted. They also know which will lead to real solutions.

Sayeeda Warsi, formerly the chair of the Conservative party, has demanded that it launch a full and independent inquiry into Islamophobia (or, as she put it, a “fuck the Muslims” tendency) within the party, echoing a call from the Muslim Council of Britain. Lady Warsi, the MCB and other critics point to cases including the Conservative councillor suspended after sharing an article calling Muslims “parasites” and Tory MP Bob Blackman, who retweeted a message from the founder of the English Defence League (by mistake, he says) and was a member of an Islamophobic Facebook group (to which he says he was added without his knowledge). Most damaging of all – because it was a matter of party strategy, not just the action or words of an individual – was the London mayoral campaign of Zac Goldsmith, which sought to tar Sadiq Khan as an extremist, and the subsequent attempts to justify those tactics.

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'Our community is terrorised': Muslims abused as men invade Brisbane mosque

The Guardian World news: Islam - 5 July, 2018 - 05:48

Group of men threaten elderly man and call 15-year-old boy ‘bloody terrorist’ at Kuraby mosque

Islamic leaders say rightwing extremists are behind an offensive act of intimidation at a Brisbane mosque, where a teenager was called a terrorist and Islam a cult.

A group of men went to the Kuraby mosque in southern Brisbane on Wednesday, and abused and threatened worshippers after asking to be let inside to film what was going on, the Islamic Council of Queensland said.

Related: Far-right activists who invaded mass would be charged with terrorism if Muslim, rector says

Related: Fascism is coming | First Dog on the Moon

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Who says the Left hates the white working class?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 4 July, 2018 - 23:45

 Snob Labour MP's Twitter dig at White Van Man's England flags"I saw a post on Medium last weekend, “Burning Down the House: Identity Politics and its Discontents”, which posited that white working-class voters who had voted for politicians like Donald Trump had faced “a double-bind”, a choice between a left-wing party that believes that they are ‘privileged’ for having white skin and which sometimes appears to love everyone but them, or a right-wing party that holds that they are poor because they deserve to be. It also gives a few examples of progressive hostility to expressions of white working-class culture or whiteness itself (e.g. ‘snobbish’ bans or sneers about displays of British or English flags, reference to whiteness as a pathology or ‘psychosis’ or to white people as evil) as if to demonstrate why white people might not choose to vote for the party which was historically based on their vote. The article, however, fails to acknowledge the reason for why white working-class voters may perceive the progressive left as despising them: there is simply no mention of the words ‘media’, ‘press’ or ‘tabloid’ anywhere in the article and I believe more people in that demographic read tabloid newspapers and listen to radio phone-ins than have any exposure to the sort of activism that portrays white people or whiteness as evil, other than what the media chooses to tell them.

To begin with: the displaying of flags and similar trappings of patriotism is not part of working-class culture in the UK. It is something the tabloid press encourages from time to time and which comes and goes around the time of international football tournaments such as the World Cup and European Championships. Similar is the case with poppies: they have always been ubiquitous in the media but there have always been adults who are not in any public-facing role who do not buy or wear them, but it was only when the Sun started preaching to everyone that they should wear them that they started to be seen as a marker of who is really British. There are many expressions of indigenous culture such as music and cuisine which is not generally regarded as ‘white’ even if most of the people who enjoy them are. By and large, white people enjoy foreign food, whether of European or other origin, because they want something more appetising and varied than native food — the “Sunday roast” served at the many carvery restaurants being really the only type of native food we take pride in. I’ve never heard it suggested that someone is racist for liking any of these things, instead of or as well as music or cuisine of overseas origin. It’s not generally accepted that, say, English folk music is an expression of “white pride” and when fascists periodically try to reclaim them as such, the musicians rebuff them.

The author quotes a few examples of (mostly American) Black activists making arguments for such things as Black-only spaces, and questioning whether their children can be friends with White (American) people. He does not question why they may be doing this, and given that he is British, he does not really examine the differences between the American situation and the British one in which there is much greater integration, particularly in the cities. Personally, I have a number of (mostly if not all Muslim) Black American contacts on social media, some of whom formerly took a very conservative position on issues such as the family and attitudes to the law and so on, who have increasingly taken withdrawn from ideas of integration, even with other Muslims, in the few years since the spate of unjust killings that led to the Black Lives Matter movement and then the Trump campaign ramped up. They have become increasingly convinced that Whites hate or despise them and (in the case of the Muslims I know) that immigrant Muslims identify as White or aspire to do so and despise them, and aware that the State does not regard the lives of their Black sons, brothers and husbands as sacred, that they can be killed in short order for no reason, and that some of their white ‘friends’ will assume that they must have done something to provoke that. They are increasingly aware that their White (especially middle-class) friends have no idea what their lives are like, that they are aggressive when reminded of the fact, and expect extreme gratitude for small favours (the “ain’t I always been good to you people?” response as seen in The Color Purple).

“Post-Liberal Bot” does not seem to question whether the White vote for Trump is a cause or an effect of the increasing turning-away of Black people from integration and friendship with Whites. Besides the fact that Republicans have always, since the days of Richard Nixon, relied on racially-coded appeals to White resentment and on tactics aimed at suppressing or corralling the minority vote (gerrymandering, felony disenfranchisement accompanied by over-policing, and so on), Trump combined this with open associations with the white Far Right, with violence at his rallies, with openly racist generalisations about Mexicans being rapists, with threatening rhetoric about “law and order” along with a few vague promises to White voters in the Rust Belt that he might bring jobs back. The sight of people voting for an open, aggressive racist who made promises to restore law and order and economic certainties reminds a lot of people of the rise of Hitler; we have seen a similar thing recently with Narendra Modi’s rise to power in India. People who will not be the main victims of the gas chambers or the machete mobs will feel safe voting for a fascist.

I’ve seen some of the rhetoric about ‘whiteness’ but in all honesty, I doubt that the average White voter in the street, either here or in the USA, has much exposure to it. As a number of White Liberal commentators have abundantly demonstrated, the right-wing media have sought over many years to persuade the provincial White voter that the Democratic party is dominated by the “metropolitan elite” which is only at home on the Atlantic or Pacific coasts and treats the interior as a ‘flyover’, and additionally is in hock to the inner-city welfare-dependent population (i.e. Blacks) and does not care for the self-reliant real American. A less extreme variant of this message is given out by the Tory party and press here; right now, they cannot persuade anyone that getting rid of the NHS is a good thing, but they can persuade people that all manner of undeserving people are getting treatment they aren’t entitled to, or isn’t really necessary, on their readers’ taxes. Really, the people who come into contact at first hand with the rhetoric described in PLB’s article, and are at risk of accusations of inadvertent racism, are activists themselves.

That’s not to say that all of these accusations are justified. There is a tendency in many activist circles for people to claim to be offended on the basis of a theory when the language used (as it is usually about language) could not possibly have hurt them; I call these sorts of people “pro-flakes”, people who make a career, or at least a hobby, of finding things to get offended at. The most recent example was last week in which a number of Black activists on Twitter took umbrage at the use of the term “poorface”, meaning wealthy people trying on poverty for size, in an article for the Independent by the cookery writer Jack Monroe. The term is a reference to “blackface”, in which white performers “blacked up” to perform parodies of Black culture and music to white audiences, and the terms “cripface” and “cripping up” have been used by disabled people to refer to non-disabled actors playing disabled roles in films, TV etc in preference to disabled actors who are passed over for roles they could play. Monroe of course apologised and had the Independent remove the offending language from the piece, but how much could it really have offended anyone? All the people I saw complaining were much too young to remember the Black and White Minstrel Show which ended in the late 70s on British TV, much less the American heyday of the practice. It was not a question of the language causing widespread, genuine offence, but of it triggering a learned offendedness reaction in a small group of people.

Racial activists often do not regard themselves as part of the “progressive left” anyway; they regard it with some degree of suspicion, because they have come across race-blindness and behaviour influenced by white privilege in liberal and left-wing circles as much as anywhere else — but in any case they are one part of a large coalition. They vote Labour or Democrat, including when the candidate is white and relies on but does not reward their vote, often because the alternative is worse. However, I do not see why they should be expected to keep quiet about the way they see the world when they suffer discrimination on a regular basis and risks of violence that white people do not even think of because it might hurt white people’s feelings, or be twisted by people with a hostile agenda. In short, the idea of the progressive left as “hating working-class white culture” is a right-wing commercial media trope which has no real basis in reality; progressives despise the attitudes encouraged and fostered by the vulgar right-wing media rather than actual indigenous culture; the media translates this into hatred or contempt of ordinary working people.

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No more excuses. Time for an inquiry into Tory Islamophobia | Sayeeda Warsi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 July, 2018 - 06:00
Criticism of antisemitism in the Labour party isn’t credible as long as we’ve failed to root out hatred in our own backyard
• Sayeeda Warsi is the former co-chairman of the Conservative party

I’ve been warning my party of its “Muslim problem” for far too long. Which is why I can only welcome a change in tone from some senior members of the party in recent weeks. Theresa May condemned anti-Muslim prejudice in the House of Commons. The Conservative party chairman, Brandon Lewis, wrote that it was “utterly unacceptable that anyone should suffer abuse because of their faith”, and at a recent event to celebrate Eid, the communities secretary, James Brokenshire, was clear about the need to tackle Islamophobia. I welcome this language, but it’s not enough.

Related: The Tories have an Islamophobia problem. Will they tackle it? | Miqdaad Versi

Related: Sayeeda Warsi calls for inquiry into Islamophobia within Tory party

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Sayeeda Warsi calls for inquiry into Islamophobia within Tory party

The Guardian World news: Islam - 4 July, 2018 - 06:00

Former party chair claims Tories are in denial about the problem within their ranks
Sayeeda Warsi: No more excuses on Tory Islamophobia

Sayeeda Warsi has called on the Conservatives to launch a “full independent inquiry” into Islamophobia in the party and warned the Tories were pursuing a politically damaging policy of denial about the problem in its own ranks.

The former Conservative party chair accused incumbent Brandon Lewis of a “woefully inept” response to recent complaints and added that MP Zac Goldsmith should receive “mandatory diversity training” following his unsuccessful attempt to beat Sadiq Khan to the London mayoralty.

Related: Muslim group accuses Tories of turning blind eye to Islamophobia claims

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Slam from Sudan: how Emtithal Mahmoud shook the world

The Guardian World news: Islam - 2 July, 2018 - 06:00

She has debated with presidents, been comforted by the Dalai Lama, and been called one of the world’s most inspiring women – but it’s as a poet that Emtithal Mahmoud truly shines

Emtithal Mahmoud was brimming with rage and misery when she sat down to write her poem Mama. Her grandmother had just died in Sudan, her mother was on a plane to the funeral and she felt consumed by anger.

“I wrote it in one of the darkest times of my life,” she says. “It felt like my grandmother had survived everything, the war, famine, and in the end it was not just cancer, it was lack of access to proper medical research. It was a very dark time. And that poem helped me get through it.”

My parents got death threats every single day when I was walking. We were constantly under surveillance

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NHS deaths and “blame culture”

Indigo Jo Blogs - 1 July, 2018 - 22:40

A picture of Nico Reed, a young white boy with ginger hair, sitting in a swing designed for a disabled user, with straps and a full seat, holding on to the support ropes with both hands. He is smiling. The swing is in a back garden with white plastic garden chairs on a patio behind, and a rear door to a house behind them.Last week a report was published by the Health and Social Care Advisory Service (HASCAS), commissioned by the NHS Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, about the death of Nico Reed (right), a young man who died at a residential home run by Southern Health, the same NHS trust whose negligence led to the the deaths of Connor Sparrowhawk and others in its learning disability and mental health units (report in PDF format here). An inquest into Nico’s death found that he had not been observed as often as he should have been, but the family have said that after he was forced to move for financial reasons from the school where he had lived since he was six, the physiotherapy he depended on ceased and the staff ceased trying to communicate with him, which both his family and the school staff had done mainly through a communication book, which they lost. This comes on the heels of revelations about the deaths of hundreds of mostly elderly patients at a hospital in Gosport after they were prescribed doses of diamorphine (heroin) that they did not need through syringe drivers; it has been alleged that the patients given this treatment were the noisy or disruptive ones, not those in most pain. In reaction to this, health secretary Jeremy Hunt called to an end to the “blame culture” within the NHS, which he claimed prevented whistle-blowers from coming forward, as this could have prevented further deaths during this period in Gosport. (More: Alison Cameron.)

As someone who has followed the stories of a number of disabled young people who have died as a result of negligence by both NHS and private health care providers, I do not believe that this comment by Jeremy Hunt is really intended to strengthen the position of whistle-blowers. That needs specific legislation to prevent such people being dismissed or otherwise penalised when they raise concerns, either with their management or with anyone else. As the BBC article linked above says, nurses tried to raise concerns with the management 30 years ago but were ‘silenced’; people have seen their careers ruined for raising concerns about corruption and other issues with people within their own organisation, which is not “whistle-blowing” in the real sense, anymore than informing authority such as the police about wrong-doing is whistle-blowing. I believe it has more to do with reducing the capability of patients and their families to hold healthcare providers and their staff accountable for wrongful deaths or injuries, and is strongly linked to complaints, usually from right-wing tabloids, about “compensation culture”.

Most of the cases I have been following do not hinge on a single negligent action by a single doctor or nurse (the case of Oliver McGowan being a notable exception). They are the result of decisions made by a whole series of people from healthcare bureaucrats and managers to medical staff. Inquests generally look at the immediate circumstances, such that the inquest into Stephanie Bincliffe’s death did not ask why she was in an institution where the staff clearly did not know how to treat her and so left her for seven years in a windowless room where her only comfort was gorging on junk food until she died of obesity-related sleep apnoea, or why nothing had been done to rehabilitate her into the community in all that time, and the inquest into Nico Reed’s death concentrated on the interval of his observations rather than the wider picture: why he was in that institution, why he was denied physiotherapy when it was of clear benefit, and so on. So, identifying human error contributing to a disabled person’s death is difficult as the inquest only looks at the immediate circumstances; as the original coroner in the case of Colette McCulloch (who has now stepped down as a result of complaints by Colette’s family) said, he is there to rule on how she died, not why.

The idea of attacking “blame culture” in the NHS rather smacks of the “no-blame approach” some schools favour when dealing with bullies: they want to get everyone round a table (or in a circle on the floor) and talk about the problem, why the bully wants to hurt someone, what the victim might have been doing that might have contributed to the problem, and so on. It rather assumes that every bullying situation is a “six of one, half-a-dozen of the other” situation and that the victim might actually be frightened to sit in a room and talk about their feelings with a bully, who might well be the dominant person in the class or year group and might then pretend to agree and then betray everything they have been told to their friends in the playground. In the real world, blame is a fact of life. If I shunt another vehicle at 10mph and damage someone’s back bumper, there is blame: either I or my insurer pays for the repair and/or replacement. If I make a mistake and cause a serious accident, I may lose my licence or go to jail. The same is not true of mistakes in medicine; if a doctor thoughtlessly prescribes the wrong medicine, or one they had been advised had caused adverse reactions and which the patient and their family had asked not be prescribed, the chances of their being held accountable are slim even if the patient dies. They are generally given the benefit of the doubt and the bereaved family’s view is regarded as emotional and biased, inferior to the doctor’s authoritative, expert opinion.

Also this past week, it was reported that an Australian gynaecologist, Emil Shawky Gayed, was facing an investigation after mutilating a number of women and performed unnecessary operations on numerous women over a decades-long career, with consequences that could have been fatal for the women or harmful to the babies they were carrying. One of the patients, Vicki Cheadle, was told by another surgeon that Gayed’s treatment of her had been botched and that she would have died if she had waited any longer for treatment, but refused to support her with a statement about Gayed’s errors:

“He threatened me, and told me he would make sure no doctor in [town] would treat my sons or myself if I took legal action against Gayed,” she said. “That he would get on the stand and lie, because I was lucky any doctor operated on me and that I should respect Gayed’s training and experience.”

I saw a tweet by a feminist blogger who claimed that this represented how much Australia values women. It’s more a reflection of the lengths the medical profession will go to back each other up even when they are in the wrong, even with lethal consequences for ordinary mortals. The doctor referred to in this quote clearly had more to gain by retaining Gayed’s friendship and professional support than by protecting other women he might operate on. In the case of the elderly people killed at Gosport, the doctor was a woman and the patients were of both sexes; she was defended by hospital management and even this past week, a former nurse who worked under her defended her, claiming she was a “good woman” who just wanted to make patients comfortable, even though this was the justification given at the time for giving the overdoses.

Of course, whistle-blowers have to be protected and to be able to expose wrongdoing without fear (and the fear might stem from the fact that their own record might not be squeaky clean) and not every family of a person who dies as a result of wrongful actions while in hospital wants a single person to carry the can. They do want what happened to their relative never to happen to anyone else, but sometimes this means the people responsible being out of the profession, or in jail. It’s exceedingly distressing to watch one’s disabled relative — son, daughter, brother, whoever — be treated with callous disregard to their well-being, happiness, family life and liberty over a series of decisions, for them to suffer obvious abuse or neglect and then die, and absolutely nobody held accountable to the point of even taking a pay cut. When those of us in less skilled occupations mess up and people die, there are consequences for us; in healthcare and its management, there is simply too much impunity. If a patient is not photogenic and they or their family are not well-connected, doctors (especially consultants) know that acting according to their prejudices or with indifference to their life and well-being is something they can get away with. Before we even talk about “ending blame”, we must end this.

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Muslim candidates rise above Trump hostility to focus on issues

The Guardian World news: Islam - 1 July, 2018 - 11:00

For the nearly 100 Muslims running for state and federal office in the midterms questions about their faith are unavoidable

Deedra Abboud, an attorney, is competing for the Democratic nomination for the US Senate in Arizona. She has never sought public office before. But she has become a fixture in national headlines – in part because of online vitriol generated by the fact she is a Muslim.

Abboud wears a headscarf. Slurs against her have included calling her a “towel head” and suggestions that Muslims should not serve in the US government.

Related: Muslim Americans on Trump's travel ban: 'We live as second-class citizens'

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Ten face charges in France over suspected far-right terror plot

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 June, 2018 - 18:47

Police linked those arrested to extremist group urging people to combat Muslims

Ten alleged extreme-right militants suspected of a terrorist plot to attack Muslims in France are to appear before a judge and face preliminary charges.

Nine men and one woman aged 32 to 69 – including one retired police officer – were arrested in raids across France on Saturday, in the Paris area, the Mediterranean island of Corsica and the western Charentes-Maritimes region.

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Muslim Americans on Trump's travel ban: 'We live as second-class citizens'

The Guardian World news: Islam - 27 June, 2018 - 06:00

After the supreme court upheld the president’s executive order, Muslim Americans voice fears for their relatives

Ali Alsubai got the news through a text alert. “Supreme court upholds Trump’s travel ban,” it said. The news filled him with sadness.

The 21-year-old had been among the thousands of Yemeni-New Yorkers to descend on Brooklyn’s borough hall in the winter of last year and pray outside, dropping their work around the city to protest when Trump first announced his contentious and chaotic ban in January 2017.

Related: Trump hails 'tremendous victory' after supreme court upholds travel ban

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Muslim group accuses Tories of turning blind eye to Islamophobia claims

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 June, 2018 - 22:00

Muslim Council of Britain writes again to party chairman calling for internal inquiry

The Muslim Council of Britain has accused the Conservative party of hoping allegations of Islamophobia in its ranks will “magically go away” and complained that the party’s chairman has not responded to its call for an internal inquiry.

Three weeks after it first raised the issue, the group wrote again to Brandon Lewis on Tuesday highlighting further allegations of anti-Muslim prejudice within Tory ranks. It said it was not acceptable to turn “a blind eye to legitimate concerns about bigotry”.

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Dutch senators vote for partial ban on burqa in public places

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 June, 2018 - 17:52

MPs in the Netherlands back bill by 44 to 31 votes in final hurdle before it becomes law

Dutch senators have overwhelmingly approved a bill to ban the burqa from some public places including schools and hospitals.

“The Senate has agreed with the bill,” the upper house of parliament said. “The bill proposes a legal ban on wearing clothing that completely covers the face, or only shows the eyes, in educational institutions, on public transport, in government institutions and hospitals.”

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When 77 hats do the lotus position: the cosmic world of Younes Rahmoun

The Guardian World news: Islam - 26 June, 2018 - 06:00

On a journey around the bustling, sun-filled medina of his hometown, the Moroccan artist – a contender for the Jameel prize – shows our writer where he finds inspiration

On a bright spring day, the artist Younès Rahmoun is showing me around his home town of Tétouan, a city in Morocco at the foot of the Rif mountains. Inside the medina – the old walled area and a Unesco world heritage site – he spots a bead on the ground. It’s small, plastic and the least interesting thing I can see. Nearby, men in striped, hooded djellabas sell spices while women in traditional Berber straw hats walk past. But in Rahmoun’s art – which has been nominated for the Victoria and Albert Museum’s Jameel prize – simple objects such as this bead can contain worlds of meaning.

The 43-year-old is dressed in an understated style – muted grey checked shirt and baseball cap – but talks like a mystic, seeking signs in everything. He is one of Morocco’s most important artists, but is unassuming, apologising for his (excellent) English as he looks for the words to explain how his spiritual life informs his work.

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The Guardian view on Erdoğan’s Turkey: illiberal democrat takes power | Editorial

The Guardian World news: Islam - 25 June, 2018 - 18:31
The country’s new president is a man who developed a party, became the party, and is now trying to become the state. It’s a worrying development

After winning landmark presidential and parliamentary elections, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has taken a giant step towards one-man rule in Turkey. This is an extremely worrying development in the largest Muslim Nato member state. Since the July 2016 failed military coup Turkey has been under a state of emergency, which makes it hard to believe election campaigns were fought cleanly. Government control of media meant opposition parties were not given equal airtime. Journalists and human rights defenders have been prosecuted and jailed, sometimes for bogus terrorism offences. Farcically, one of the six candidates for the Turkish presidency campaigned from jail.

Though Turkey is not a dictatorship, it is now an illiberal democracy. The public votes but the government pays no more than lip service to minority and individual freedoms. Mr Erdoğan, the leader of the Justice and Development party (AKP), will take up the vast presidential powers he fought for – and won in a referendum last year. He will now control a powerful system of government that abolishes the role of prime minister and shrinks the role of parliament. He can now legislate by decree. The new president and his party control the body that appoints the judiciary. Until these changes judges and prosecutors had been a thorn in Mr Erdoğan’s side. But a quarter of them were dismissed in a crackdown last year. Little wonder the judiciary now gives Mr Erdoğan standing ovations. So much for the separation of powers.

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Encouraging obesity?

Indigo Jo Blogs - 24 June, 2018 - 22:32

 25% off". The shop is set against red brickwork.Yesterday I came across a report in the Daily Telegraph claiming that a study from the University of East Anglia (in England) had suggested that the normalisation of overweight models and “plus-size” clothes ranges were threatening to normalise obesity by encouraging people to underestimate their weight, and that this could undermine efforts to tackle the “obesity epidemic where more than three in five Britons are overweight or obese”. A more detailed summary is available at Science Today but it finds that the numbers misperceiving their weight increased between 1997 and 2015; of the overweight, it increased from 48.4% to 57.9% among men and from 24.5% to 30.6% among women; of obese men, the figure increased from 6.6% to 12% in the same period. As might be expected, the number of overweight people trying to lose weight was much less than the number of those in the obese category (about half, versus more than two thirds).

The author of the study, a Dr Raya Muttarak, a senior lecturer at the university’s School of International Development, claims:

Seeing the huge potential of the fuller-sized fashion market, retailers may have contributed to the normalisation of being overweight and obese. While this type of body positive movement helps reduce stigmatisation of larger-sized bodies, it can potentially undermine the recognition of being overweight and its health consequences. The increase in weight misperception in England is alarming and possibly a result of this normalisation.

Likewise, the higher prevalence of being overweight and obesity among individuals with lower levels of education and income may contribute to visual normalisation, that is, more regular visual exposure to people with excess weight than their counterparts with higher socioeconomic status have.

The problem is that the existence of plus-size ranges is only one of many factors influencing people (and women in particular) in what they do about their weight. For large parts of the period between 1997 and 2015 studied in this paper, fashion shows preferred unnaturally tall and thin models; models of normal and even below normal weight were pressured to lose weight until they ceased to have periods and displayed other signs of poor health — this was the heyday of the “size zero” model. Many major retailers used mannequins which were exceedingly thin with no bosoms to speak of. So, the mere existence of a few plus-size ranges with appealing names (as if they should be called “fatso” or something like that) does not change the fact that there is an overwhelming pressure to get thin; dieting advice in just about every women’s magazine on a regular basis, the repeat suggestion or assumption that any reader will want to lose weight, the use of moralistic language such as the suggestion that food which is hearty or has any noticeable fat content should inspire guilt in the eater. And all this despite the fact that anorexia can be triggered, especially in an adolescent, by the smallest of comments which may not be an insult, or intended as one.

What should be done if the mere presence of models and clothing ranges that acknowledge the existence of overweight people and do not apply pressure on the customers to lose weight encourage obesity? Does the author suggest that people who are overweight or obese face more and more pressure to lose weight, regardless of how their weight gain occurred to begin with? It is also known that certain medications can cause weight gain, particularly those used in psychiatry, and whatever the harms this weight gain causes, coming off it may not be an option. Even if someone is overweight simply because they eat too much, being overweight is not a dire health hazard in the same way that smoking is; smoking smells foul and is detrimental to other people’s health as well as the smoker’s, and it can cause cancer, even in a young person. While being morbidly obese is, as the name implies, a short-term health risk, being a bit fat does not necessarily put you at risk of becoming morbidly obese.

There has to be a balance struck; what must be encouraged is healthy eating, not weight loss or being thin for its own sake. The widespread prominence of the slim or skinny figure combined with messages to be thin or lose weight, or continually watch one’s weight, is a known contributor to eating disorders and remaining excessively underweight because of an eating disorder is a lot less healthy than being a bit overweight — and people with anorexia will also misperceive their weight, seeing a fat person where everyone else sees a painfully thin one. It’s important for people, and especially young people, to know they do not have to let their figure rule their life and that it’s not a disaster to be a bit overweight — it’s a lot easier to remedy than anorexia nervosa — and seeing people who are not thin and having clothes available that acknowledge that not everyone is helps to deliver this message.

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Anwar Ibrahim in Turkey: “The Future of the Muslim World”

Inayat's Corner - 24 June, 2018 - 04:46

The Malaysian political leader Anwar Ibrahim – who was freed from prison last month following the dramatic election victory of his Pakatan Harapan alliance – was in Turkey this week where he was invited to give a talk on “The Future of the Muslim World”. The talk and the subsequent Q&A session has fortunately been uploaded on to YouTube and can be viewed by clicking on the link below.

Anwar began the talk by recounting how two of the first people who got in touch with him following his release, the former Vice-President of the USA, Al Gore, and the popular Qatar-based Islamic scholar, Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi, called him to say that the situation regarding democracy in the Muslim world had been a picture of gloom and despair and that the recent elections in Malaysia which saw the ousting of the corrupt Barisan Nasional government – which had been in power for almost 61 years – had given much needed hope to democrats everywhere.

The victory in Malaysia was only possible, Anwar said, because the Pakatan Harapan alliance had gained the overwhelming trust and support of all sections of Malaysian society including the Muslim Malays but also the Chinese, the Hindus and the animist population. The Malaysian people spoke out resoundingly in favour of democracy, freedom and the end to the abuse of power.

Regarding Mahathir Mohamad, who was responsible for the arrest and subsequent imprisonment of Anwar back in 1998, and is now Prime Minister again due to his role in the Pakatan Harapan alliance, Anwar said that he had forgiven Mahathir due to his support for institutional reform and agreement to strengthen the institutions of governance.

Anwar publicly acknowledged and thanked the Turkish President, Racep Tayyip Erdogan, for standing by him and his family when he was imprisoned and for being prepared to courageously speak out on issues that mattered to the Muslim masses including the Zionist dispossession and persecution of the Palestinians and the Burmese junta’s genocide of the Rohingya minority. He added that Erdogan’s wife Amine had visited the camps of the displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh to learn about their situation first-hand.

The Qur’an describes the Prophet Muhammad as “uswatan hasanah” – a good example – and Anwar urged Muslim governments to similarly lead by example instead of just issuing fine words and then failing to back them up with correct actions. The key issues facing many Muslim countries included good governance, establishing a free media and an independent judiciary.  He said too many Muslim governments were mired in the deepest hypocrisy whereby they would talk about their respect for Islam but would happily imprison their citizens and leave them to rot in jail for years on end for unjust reasons.

The video is about 75 mins long and the introduction to Anwar begins at 09:21 into the video.

Racist da’wah (and “crazy British Muslims”)

Indigo Jo Blogs - 19 June, 2018 - 23:11

A still of Abu Ibraheem Hussnayn, a young South Asian man wearing a white cap and with a long beard wearing a long, dark-coloured robe, talking into a microphone he is holding in his hand, standing in front of an ice-cream van with the slogan "Mind that child" on it.Over the weekend a video surfaced of an Asian Muslim street preacher telling his fellow local Muslims (also mostly Asian) that as well-brought-up people who come from respectable families, they should not be talking as if they were Black or want to be Black. This obviously caused a stir with a number of Black Muslims from various parts of the world, not just the UK, saying it confirmed their belief that the Muslim community was rife with “anti-blackness” but it also seemed to reinforce prejudices among Muslims elsewhere (such as the US and Canada) that British Muslims were wild, extreme and out of ‘control’. The man later posted a video with a partial apology, although he also accused Black Muslims of having a “victim mentality”. The original video (“addressing the gangsters and drug dealers”) can be found here on YouTube and the ‘apology’ here on Facebook.

First, it’s clearly racist to contrast well-brought-up people and respectable families with Black people, to use ‘Black’ as a synonym for riff-raff — he did not mention Muslims or non-Muslims, or gangsters or anyone else. Given that he is a ‘salafi’, a sect which has a very strong Black membership and leadership in this country and in the USA (there is, or was, a ‘salafi’ mosque in Birmingham with an African-American imam), this is particularly astonishing. I’ve met young Asian people who talk with a bit of street slang in their vocabulary who were not drug dealers, they were just young people brought up in places where that sort of language was common. If he really was addressing ‘gangsters’ then whether they talk like they’re from back home in the Punjab or from Compton or wherever, or a bit of both, should be the least of his worries. I’ve also met Black people, including Muslims, who do not act or speak like gangsters and do not want their children mixing with or adopting the habits of those sorts of people. If you want to tell people not to act like gangsters, drug dealers or petty criminals (or their admirers/wannabes), there are ways to express that than telling people not to “sound Black”, because then you are talking about the good and the bad among Black people.

Some of the North American responses to it reflect the prejudices about the Muslim community here which have been taking root there the last couple of years. I’ve seen Twitter profiles saying things like “if you’re from the UK, don’t mention me”, remarks like “I read something disgusting and then looked at his profile, saw ‘UK’ and that explains it” and had lectures from an American Muslim convert telling me not to tell Americans anything about moderation or integration given all the extremism among my community. I suspect this is the effect of several years of right-wing propaganda and scaremongering about “no-go areas” that are a staple of American talk radio in some places. The person whose tweet drew my attention to the talk (and the preacher, whom I had never heard of before then) asked what the Muslim leadership were doing about him or where were they. Well, he was talking in the street, and the “Muslim leadership” consists of mosque committees, school governing boards and a few umbrella bodies and they control what goes on on their own premises but not in the street. It is the local council and the police who are responsible for monitoring and policing what goes on in the street and they could move him on, get a court injunction to stop him doing this or arrest him if he is breaking the law (which he may be). Perhaps these Americans are under the mistaken impression that we really have Shari’ah courts here; we do not, and never have done.

Abu Ibraheem’s apology does not really answer the reason why people criticised his original statement; amid all the side-swipes about Muslims other than ‘salafis’, it consists of the usual accusations of it being taken out of context, when it sounds just as bad in context; that the man who ‘first’ posted the video (who is Black) was in the habit of calling Asians by a derogatory name (which is irrelevant); and that some of “our Black brothers and sisters” have a victim mentality. Well, the reason they may do is because they’ve experienced racism in mosques and particularly from Asians — everything from insisting on giving talks and sermons in Urdu to refusing to allow their daughters to marry them (admittedly, the people responsible for that will do this to anyone who is not Asian or just not from their caste or tribe). What I believe, and have made this point here previously, is that there are people trying to exploit and exaggerate what racial tension there is among British Muslims so as to encourage separatism and manufacture leadership opportunities for themselves, and he has played right into their hands with this speech.

This coming weekend there is an Eid event which is only for Black Muslims; it’s an evening of poetry and political talk and it’s a full week after Eid so it’s not a real Eid event, but it’s disturbing that they think this is appropriate. One of the teachings of Islam is that we are all equal before God and we are all brothers and sisters; this is why it is unacceptable for two people to speak so that a third cannot hear or understand them. White and Black Muslims are both a minority in the British Muslim community; if we exclude Somalis, even together we are a small fraction. As a convert whose only language is English, I often find Asian religious events uncomfortable and isolating, yet imagine that a group of my Muslim friends who also speak English (and not also Urdu) want to spend Eid with only their Black friends — where does that leave me? This is about fostering isolation, fomenting suspicion about others’ attitudes that may be unjustified, and denying solidarity at a time when Muslims are all under suspicion and facing regular attacks from the political classes and the media. Do they think the mobs, or the secret police, will not come for them?

Abu Ibraheem Hussnayn is one man, an obscure street sermoniser of whom many of us had never heard until we saw that clip on Twitter last weekend. Let nobody assume that most Muslims, or even most Asian Muslims, are anything like him or have similar attitudes. There is no justification for using this speech as an excuse to sow further divisions among the Muslims here and to turn Black Muslim against White or Asian or Arab. It is, of course, a good thing for Muslims from West Africa or Somalia, or wherever, to have mosques based in their communities where their culture is reflected in the design and so on (and the manner of prayer, since schools of thought other than the Hanafi school are ill-represented in mosques in the UK), and I have been to the Nigerian-run mosque in Peckham and found it to be a very friendly place and welcoming to non-Nigerians and non-Africans, but there is no reason for exclusivity or for shutting ‘outsiders’ out.

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Like many gay Muslim people, I have no faith in Pride | Amrou Al-Kadhi

The Guardian World news: Islam - 19 June, 2018 - 09:19

The London march is being hollowed out by corporations, and its militant secularism excludes people of faith

Throughout June – London Pride month – corporations around the city will boast of their allegiance to the LGBT community. Walk into a Wagamama, and rainbow flags are intended to show solidarity with LGBT citizens. Barclays, Pride in London’s main sponsor, declares its support in the guise of a temporary rainbow filter on its website logo. What udon noodles and contactless payment have ever done to end homophobia will forever remain a mystery.

On the surface, London Pride celebrates the city as a place of LGBT equality. But this external display of inclusion belies a core that is routed in exclusion. Once a political protest, Pride has been commodified into a business arena cashing in on “the pink pound”. It’s hard to think of a major corporation that doesn’t have a float at the parade, with everyone from PlayStation to Costa broadcasting their dedication to LGBT customers. The relationship between gay equality and good business even dominates Pride in London’s blog forum.

Let’s pull our attention to how LGBT rights intersect with the struggles of other minorities

Related: Stonewall withdraws from Pride in London over 'lack of diversity'

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Christopher Chope, upskirting and Parliamentary games

Indigo Jo Blogs - 16 June, 2018 - 18:27

Picture of Gina Martin, a young white woman wearing a pink blouse with white dots and a pair of earrings with a large orange triangle and circle hanging from them.Yesterday a bill was expected to go through Parliament to ban ‘upskirting’ — the taking of pictures under someone’s clothing, usually a woman’s skirt, without their consent — and the bill, a private member’s bill, had the support of MPs from all the main parties and the support of the government, but was blocked by a single MP who shouted “object” before it could be debated. It was put back until July, when it could be debated again or could be blocked again using the same mechanism. Also yesterday, another Tory MP noted for using tricks to block PMBs, Phillip Davies, talked out a bill known as Seni’s Law after Olaseni Lewis, known as Seni, who died after he was restrained by 11 police officers at the Bethlem Royal Hospital in south-east London; the bill would have required police officers to wear body cameras when carrying out restraint and automatically trigger an independent investigation when somebody died after restraint. This bill will be debated again on 6th July, though more of the same trickery cannot be ruled out (if it runs out of parliamentary time, it will not be voted on and will not pass). Theresa May has said she wants to see the bill, or one like it, pass as soon as possible and Victoria Atkins, minister for women, has said the government will allocate time for the bill. (More: Paul Bernal (a guest post which explores the human rights angle of the upskirting issue), Labour MP Jess Phillips.)

Why did Chope object? According to the BBC, he is one of a group of Tory backbenchers who routinely object to “what they see as well-meaning but flabby legislation” being passed on a Friday afternoon when only a small number of MPs are in the House — only about 30 MPs (out of more than 600) were present for the debate yesterday. They believe bills should be properly debated before new laws are passed, especially those which create new offences for which, as in this case, people could be sent to prison for breaking. Gina Martin, who started the campaign to make upskirting illegal, said that Chope had told her that he was not really sure what the term meant; I find that difficult to believe given that (a) he could have just asked someone and (b) the bill would have described in detail what was to be banned, rather than using a colloquialism.

Insisting on proper parliamentary scrutiny of PMBs is a noble enough cause on the face of it, but we have to ask what Chope and his friends have ever done to make sure they are scrutinised properly rather than just block them as the BBC reports that they have been doing for at least the last 20 years. Has they ever tried to get their fellow MPs, Tories or otherwise, to show up and scrutinise them, as is their job, rather than go home? As some of them (including Chope) are barristers, do they read the bills and check them for weaknesses and loopholes? Have they raised the issue of why private members’ bills are relegated to Friday afternoons when there are only a couple of dozen MPs in the chamber, when it is known that there will be MPs who will block them on principle, rather than at a time when it is well attended? Why do MPs think PMBs are so unimportant that fewer than a tenth of MPs turn up to debate them? And is it really only Tories that care that bills be properly scrutinised, or is it that they only care to block bills they don’t like? Chope himself has sponsored 47 PMBs himself, the most recent being a bill to introduce “co-payments” (i.e. payments by patients) for NHS treatments; this was objected to in May and its second reading was supposed to have taken place yesterday. So it appears his objections are at least partly party-political.

Picture of R Kelly, a Black man with a shaven head wearing a black shirt (open to reveal his chest) with handwritten letters on it in white, black trousers, and holiding a stick in his hand with a cycle mirror near the end.Despite the noise being made by Tories in response to Chope’s objection, it has to be remembered that the Tories are heavily linked to tabloid newspapers and magazines that make money out of invasive stories. Not everyone who takes an up-skirt picture is a pervert in a dirty mac; some of them are professional paparazzi who then sell the pictures; a favourite of theirs is to take a picture of a woman in a short skirt getting out of a car, when if she is not careful, she will expose her underwear. It is quite likely that many Tories do not like the idea of restrictions on the ability of these companies, which provide valuable propaganda for and funding to the Tory party, to publish stories and make money in response to pressure from ‘prudish’ or ‘humourless’ people, or on the ‘right’ of men to “act like men” or young men to “act like lads”. There has also been a clueless remark on Twitter by a lawyer who claimed that if women took more care about the way they dress, they would not find themselves “in jeopardy”. Well, short skirts have been common in western society, on and off, since the 1920s. Whether we like them or not, they’re no invitation to look at, let alone take pictures of, what they cover. But with the aid of a selfie stick (a 21st century version of R Kelly’s walking stick and cycle mirror apparatus from the early 90s), even women in long skirts are vulnerable to this.

Coming on the back of my previous article about Tory Islamophobia and their failure to keep bigots out, I feel that this behaviour reflects the viciousness and contempt for justice that is endemic in the Tory party and has been for decades. Essentially, they treat Parliament as an extension of the games they played at boarding school (which both Chope and Philip Davies attended) and any appeal to social justice is seen as a little bit like an 11-year-old boy pleading “it’s not fair” (the appropriate response to which is to repeat it back to them in a mock whining tone). Why would anyone want it to remain legal to take a picture of a woman’s underwear (or sanitary/incontinence pad) without her consent, or for there not to be accountability for deaths by restraint of mentally ill people, or for landlords to be able to evict tenants for complaining about conditions? If there are concerns about scrutiny, there are constructive ways of achieving this rather than using trickery to stop a bill even being considered. And we must ask the people who run local Conservative party associations why they keep selecting candidates who, as MPs, treat the legislative process like a game — we do not know who runs these organisations and there is no accountability for them.

The procedures must be reformed. One or two men should not be able to dominate the process of debating PMBs such that they run out of time if they do not like them (and if they go against those men’s personal interests — Chope and Davies are both private landlords — their abilities should be further restricted). Concerns about inadequate scrutiny or attendance should have to be raised with the Speaker, or there should have to be a threshold to uphold an objection, and that threshold should be in double figures, at least. Normal organisations have quoracy rules to ensure that a handful of members of a representative body cannot pass policy; this should also be the case with Parliament, which would make the justifications for filibustering and objecting redundant. And finally, PMBs should be treated with the seriousness they deserve, and given appropriate debating time if enough MPs register their support, not relegated to Friday afternoon when everyone wants to go home, as the concerns that drive them are often very serious ones where human life or suffering is at stake. They deserve more than schoolboy games and a mock-pitying whine.

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