Monday, 28 March 2011

I am on Radio 4's Women's Hour shortly after 10am this morning

I will be discussing the so-called French 'burka ban' which is due to be enforced from April 11. Apparently the secular identity of the French state is under threat because a few hundred Muslim women want to cover their face for religious reasons. I don't think so...

The Innocence of the Liberal Hawk

Good articles against 'liberal interventionism' from Gary Younge and Mike Marqusee here and here.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Defend the NHS - make this song a hit!

As yesterday's massive TUC demonstration again highlighted, there is a new generation of young people engaging in politics, and they are doing so in their own distinctive style.

None more so then the aptly named rapper MC NexGen, who eloquently exposes the threat government plans to 'reform' the NHS pose to its future, and rains down righteous anger against the government minister spearheading it.

This song is brilliant and deserves to be a hit. Let's make it one. Copy the link and pass it on…

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Ken Clarke: Libya attack puts UK at risk of Lockerbie style revenge

Government Minister and Tory grandee Ken Clarke believes that the intervention in Libya is putting us at risk of a Lockerbie-style revenge attack and admits he is "not totally convinced anyone knows where Britain is going" in the conflict. Read more here.

Today is just the beginning

This government is planning a fundamental assault on the welfare state and the rights it gives to all of us. If they are successful, it won’t be the big society we are left with, but a broken society.

It is nothing less than a declaration of war against the poor by Cameron and his fellow millionaires. The bankers get their bonuses, and big business sees its corporation tax cut, while we see our incomes cut and services destroyed.

And like all wars, this one also comes with its own propaganda campaign.

We are told this is a crisis of public spending, and that cuts are the only solution. But this crisis was not caused by the public sector. Billions have been handed over to bank shareholders to save them from their own greed and stupidity. Meanwhile, tax revenues are falling because no government will make the rich pay their fair share. During Labour's three terms in office, they actually taxed the rich less than Margaret Thatcher did!

We should clamp down on tax dodging. The tax avoided and evaded in a single year could pay for the £81bn, four-year cuts programme! We should introduce a financial transactions tax – the Robin Hood Tax – on the bankers who created this mess in the first place. A tax of just 0.01% would raise £25bn.

This is the alternative way to reduce the deficit – one based on investment that will generate growth and refill the public purse through increased tax receipts.

This crisis is the result of corporate greed and the politicians who failed to rein them in. But with millions facing falling living standards, fewer jobs, and worse services, Cameron turns his fire, not on the bankers, but on our multicultural society. He is wheeling out another weapon of mass distraction – this time one that is even praised by the BNP.

The government have been forced to retreat over plans to privatise our forests. They need to be defeated again. That is going to need resistance across our whole society, uniting our diverse communities with the public sector workers who deliver the services on which we all rely. Today is just the beginning.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

There's nothing moral about Nato's intervention in Libya

The attacks on Libya risk a bloody stalemate and are a threat to the region. The alternative has to be a negotiated settlement.
A breath of fresh air from the Guardian's Seumas Milne. Read it here.

Young People's Question Time

Last nights Young People's Question Time on BBC 3 was dominated by Libya. George Galloway was one of the guests and got a fantastic response from the audience for his anti-intervention arguments. You can watch it here.

Sparkbrook Ward Committee tonight

This months ward committee will be held tonight at 6. 30pm, Clifton Primary School, St Paul’s Road, Balsall Heath, B12 8LY.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Only 1 in 3 support war in Libya

In view of the pro-war saturation coverage in the media, I was encouraged by this poll showing that only 1 in 3 British people support war in Libya.

This government's lack of action over atrocities committed by its allies in Yemen and Bahrain, while proclaiming humanitarian concerns in Libya, expose a double standard. The military strikes are motivated by concern for protecting and extending oil interests, nothing else.

I expect opposition to the war to increase, especially, as the human and financial costs of war rise. With this government slashing jobs and services, people are rightly asking how can they can spend at least £3m a day on dropping bombs abroad while closing libraries at home.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Fear or Hope?

I have been thinking about the recent ‘Fear and Hope’ research published by Searchlight. On the face of it, the results are worrying. They appear to show growing support for the far right, increased opposition to immigration, and a particular hostility to Muslims in Britain.

Certainly, these most negative findings were seized upon by the media. Featuring prominently was the assertion that “almost half of voters would back a far right party that did not promote violence”.

This is news, of course, and any serious evidence about attitudes to race and immigration needs to be considered carefully. But I am concerned about the way the report was spun by its own authors, who often seemed to be accentuating the negative.

This is an important debate, and Unite Against Fascism have now published a comprehensive response to the Fear and Hope report. It concludes:

“At a time when austerity and cuts are creating fertile ground for scapegoating and racism, providing a breeding ground for the extreme right, the real priority should be to explain the enormous economic and social contribution that generations of immigrants have made to this country, and defending Muslim communities from those who would blame them for their feelings of malaise”

Thursday, 17 March 2011

10 reasons to oppose intervention in Libya...

Andrew Murray, chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, makes the case against intervention here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A just peace for Palestine

Just Peace for Palestine have launched a new blog. I am a big fan of their work and already their blog looks very informative. Check it out.

I was encouraged too by this article from Pink Floyd singer Roger Waters about why Israel's apartheid wall needs to come down.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Muslim “Hatemongering” – Fact or Fiction?

I am in London today for the recording of my weekly Politics and Media Show for the Islam Channel.

This week I am examining the issue of Islamaphobia in the media. My studio guests are; Richard Peppiatt, the former Daily Star reporter who quit in protest at its anti-Muslim coverage; Peter Oborne, the Daily Telegraph's chief political commentator; and Tim Parsons, Senior Lecturer at London Metropolitan University and former Chief Inspector for City of London Police.

I will also be joined on the phone by Stephen Abell, Director of the Press Complaints Commission.

I am looking forward to the show which will be broadcast at 7pm tonight. For those unable to watch it live I hope to upload a recording on this blog later in the week.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Friday, 11 March 2011

Public Meeting - 'No to the cuts'

Tomorrow evening I will be speaking at a public meeting organised by the Respect party in Springfield ward about the cuts, and what we can do to resist them.

Speaking alongside me will be Mary Pearson from Birmingham TUC and our Springfield candidate Rana Nazir.

The meeting starts at 7pm and will be held in St John's Church, Stratford Road B11 4RG (opposite Durham Road).

Free admission.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Government 'war' on welfare state is hitting women hardest

Thanks to the 150 women who attended Tuesday's International Women's Day event in Balsall Heath. It was a great fun and a lovely way to celebrate the contributions of local women.

I was asked to deliver the main address and in it emphasised the political struggle for equality that International Women's Day represents.

One hundred years ago that struggle was for basic equality for women like the right to vote. Today, that struggle is increasingly about women's right to work and maintain basic living standards.

As the TUC point out the governments 'war' on the welfare state is hitting women hardest. Unemployment is increasing and cuts in child benefit, maternity grants, working tax credit and housing benefit are all impacting on women disproportionately.

This year is the centenary of the founding of International Women's Day.

I can think of no better way to celebrate it, and the memory of the suffragette activists, than for women the length and breadth of this country to travel to London for the TUC's March for the Alternative on March 26th.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

'Celebrating 100 Years of International Women’s Day'

Today is International Women's Day. To mark it I will be presenting community awards to women activists at the 'Celebrating 100 Years of International Women’s Day' event at Balsall Heath Church Centre this morning.

It is a women only event and a creche is available. For more info, and to check whether there are any crèche places left, ring Hafizun 0121 464 8742 or Elsie 07815308180.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Blow for Big Brother Britain

One consequence arising from the successful campaign against spy cameras in Sparkbrook is the introduction of tougher national guidelines on police use of CCTV. Read more here.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Daily Star reporter quits in protest at tabloid's 'anti-Muslim' coverage

The Daily Star has been accused of printing fictional stories by a disgruntled reporter who has resigned over its "hatemongering" anti-Muslim propaganda.

More here.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The murder of Shabaz Bhatti

The murder of Shabaz Bhatti, Pakistan’s Minister for Minority Affairs, is another worrying sign of the rising tide of religious sectarianism in Pakistan.

Shabaz Bhatti was the last remaining Christian Minister in the Pakistani government. He was murdered because of his opposition to the country's blasphemy laws.

As I wrote at the time of the assassination of Salmaan Taseer, also murdered for his opposition to the blasphemy laws: 'these laws are often used to as a means to persecute religious minorities and restrict freedom of speech. It is right they should be revoked or revised'.

The Pakistani government needs to be stand up to religious bigotry and hatred. Instead they are retreating in the face of it.

We cannot separate this growth in religious fanaticism from the destabilising impact of the war in Afghanistan.  Writing in the Observer a few months ago, Imran Khan described how the ‘war on terror’ is “destroying Pakistan”, with the drone attacks fuelling “incredible anti-American sentiment”. He was writing before the latest twist in the tale, with ruthless CIA agents now apparently free to kill on Pakistani streets. If anti-western feeling was running high before, one can only imagine what it is like now.

It is a dangerously toxic atmosphere, and is fertile ground for religious fanatics who believe this is a war against Islam and Muslim identity. With every escalation of the so-called ‘war on terror’, the West is strengthening the appeal of these extremists and weakening the position of Pakistani Muslims who want only to live in peace with their fellow citizens.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The revolutions belong to the people who made them

The days of Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya are surely numbered. Large parts of the country are in opposition hands. And – in common with the uprisings elsewhere in the region – every attempt to intimidate the population only feeds the determination of the people to win.

But all the talk today is of a possible Western military intervention in Libya. A headline in The Times reads: “Britain is ready to use force to free Libya”

It is a display of breathtaking hypocrisy. Western powers have propped up dictatorships across Africa the Middle East for decades. One by one these dictators, bought and paid for with our money, are now falling.

Vote NO to cuts

Last night I was presented with a petition signed by over 1500 people from Bob Whitehead of Birmingham Against the Cuts, organisers of Saturday's fantastic demo.  

The petition calls on councillors at today's budget setting meeting to vote against the Tory-Lib Dem coalition's austerity plan for Birmingham. If passed it will have a devastating impact on jobs and services in our city. 

The meeting starts prompt at 2pm and is open to the public to attend.