Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Public sector workers are fighting for us all

When hundreds of thousands of public sector workers go on strike, the government should take note. These are not the ‘militants’, the ‘extremists’ or the ‘bully boys’ that feature in the fantasies of the Tory media.

These are hard-working, mostly low paid, men and women who keep our vital public services going despite inadequate resources and ever worsening conditions. When these people, who are at the heart of our communities, feel they have no other choice but to walk out, we should all realise that there is a serious grievance that must be addressed.

Protest today at arrest of leading Palestinian activist

Protests have been called across the country in response to the arrest of leading Palestinian activist Sheik Raed Salah in London. He had been due to speak at a meeting in the House of Common this evening organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign attended by Labour MP's including, Jeremy Corbyn and Birmingham's Richard Burden.

A vigil is being held at 6.30pm today outside Waterstones in the city centre. Please email the Home Secretary and request a reconsideration of the deportation order to allow a court appeal. Call the Rt Hon Theresa May on 02072195206 or email at:

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Mental health care in crisis

This week my Politics & Media show on the Islam Channel examined mental health provision after a warning by Professor Dinesh Bhugra, the outgoing president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, that overcrowded and understaffed psychiatric wards are leaving patients fearful for their safety and unable to make proper recoveries.

I was joined in the studio by Polly Falconer, Head of Mental Health Training at the Afiya Trust and Ayesha Aslam, a psychotherapist who runs Sakoon Muslim Counseling services.

Parts 1 & 2 below. More online later.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Alice Walker to join aid convoy to Gaza

"It is justice and respect that I want the world to dust off and put – without delay, and with tenderness – back on the head of the Palestinian child. It will be imperfect justice and respect because the injustice and disrespect have been so severe. But I believe we are right to try."
More here.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Advice Surgery

Today's advice surgery is at 11.00am at Sultan Bahu Trust, 17-21 Ombersley Road, Birmingham, B12. Map here.

Monday, 20 June 2011

I will be interviewing Billy Hayes later...

Later today I will be in London to record my Islam Channel show. One of my guests this week is Billy Hayes, General Secretary of the Communication Workers Union (CWU).

Billy will be talking about the government's austerity agenda and union resistance to it, and its attack on multiculturalism.

Billy is outspoken critic of the David Cameron's 'muscular liberalism'. (Read his latest comments here and follow his blog here).

The programme will be broadcast tonight between 7 & 8pm.

100 women take part in Slutwalk

Despite the poor weather around 100 women joined Saturday's Slutwalk. The Birmingham Mail have a report here. I went with my family and thoroughly enjoyed taking part.

It is clear from the national and global reaction to the idea that a new generation of young impressive feminist activists are finding their voice.

Well done to the organisers and special thanks to Olivia Sparrow for the photos.

Why we are losing the war in Afghanistan

Having blundered in, the west found it had unwittingly taken sides in the complex Afghan civil war that has been running since the 1970s, siding with the north against the south, town against country, secularism against Islam, Tajiks against Pashtuns. We installed a government and trained an army that in many ways discriminated against the Pashtuns. It is the largest ethnic group in the country yet, under Karzai, Pashtuns from the south make up only 3% of the Afghan National Army. Not surprisingly, almost all Pashtuns supported the insurgency.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Brian Haw RIP

Some sad news. After a long illness the peace campaigner Brian Haw has died. Brian was the instigator on June 2 2001 of the peace camp opposite parliament. He maintained the camp for 10 years, literally around the clock, in opposition to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Explaining his motivation, Brian said, 'the children of Iraq and other countries were every bit as valuable and worthy of love as my precious wife and children. I want to go back to my own kids and look them in the face again, knowing that I've done all I can to try and save the children of Iraq and other countries who are dying because of my government's unjust, amoral, fear - and money-driven policies'.

For his conscience and dedication, we are all in his debt. May he rest in peace.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Solidarity with Saudi women car drivers

The struggle for women's rights in Saudi Arabia put down an important marker on Friday when at least 29 women defied the country's de facto ban on driving.

The campaign has been inspired by Manal al-Sharif, a young mum and computer expert who has received international attention, and a week in jail, for posting a film of herself driving on YouTube.

Although women are not formally banned from driving, to all intensive purposes they are. Women who drive get harassed and arrested by the authorities. In 1990 50 Saudi women were sacked from their jobs and banned from foreign travel for organising a similar protest.

Friday, 17 June 2011

Support the Slutwalk

Health permitting, this Saturday I will be speaking at the 'Slutwalk' in Birmingham city centre.

I will be taking part for one simple reason; there is no place in a civilised society for sexism and violence against women.

And it is simply unacceptable to blame women for male violence against us, irrespective of what we wear or how we act.

The view that women can be at least partly to blame for being raped is widespread.

According to an Amnesty International survey, about 1/3 of people think women are partly to blame for being raped if they were under the influence of alcohol, had been flirting, or were dressed 'provocatively' at the time of the incident.

The consequence of these kinds of views is that they help create a culture which helps legitimises physical and sexual assault against women.

And the statistics are shocking. Globally, 'up to 6 out of every 10 women experience physical and/or sexual violence in their lifetime'.

In the UK an estimated 3 million women experience violence every year, and many have to live every day with the legacy of violence from their past.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

A Sunday bike ride

Sparkbrook Neighbourhood Forum in conjunction with Saheli Women's Group and Push Bikes have organised another bike ride for this Sunday, 19th June.

They are meeting at 10am at the Mac in Cannon Hill Park and bikes can be hired for free.

These bikes rides are good fun but places are limited and they getting booked fast. For more information ring Razia Shabnam on 0121 772 1224.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

‘People are getting more and more afraid of each other’

Dutch Muslims and Jews unite to oppose ban on religious slaughter

In a sign of growing religious intolerance in Holland, the Dutch parliament is set to introduce a law which will essentially ban kosher and halal slaughter. The proposals has united a coalition of animal rights and anti-Muslim groups.

The measure is being viewed as part and parcel of a European wide attack on multiculturalism: ‘Many Jews and Muslims see the ban as part of a growing European hostility to immigration and diversity. Geert Wilders the far-right Dutch politician, has called for the Netherlands to ban the burka after France curbed the public wearing of the Islamic face veil; politicians including Germany’s Angela Merkel and Britain’s David Cameron have proclaimed the failure of multiculturalism; and anti-immigration parties such as Finland’s True Finns have been increasingly successful at the polls’.

The Amsterdam Jewish-Moroccan Council has organised protests against the law with ‘with imams and rabbis marching together in opposition to it'.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Prevent and Neo-Conservative Ideology

The Muslim Council of Britain are doing a great job collating commentary on Prevent. Bob Lambert is the latest to submit. Read his analysis here.

Monday, 13 June 2011

The Equality Act is not just 'red tape'

As part of its initiative to abolish unnecessary bureaucracy, the government is asking whether the Equality Act 2010 should be scrapped.

It tells you all you need to know about this government’s attitude to equalities that they consider ‘red tape’ legislation designed to protect people from discrimination.

Tell them what you think, here.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

'Muslims call for action against hate crimes'

'Islamophobic attacks have been on the rise, with an increase in assaults, vandalised mosques and desecrated graves'. More here.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Homophobia in Tower Hamlets: how a small group of bigots are trying to stitch up the East London Mosque

The picture of Tower Hamlets as a hotbed of Islamically-inspired homophobic violence – which has previously been promoted by Johann Hari, Graeme Archer, and which the LGBT activists' statement now tries to uphold – is just a myth. There were far fewer homophobic crimes reported in Tower Hamlets last year than in Westminster or Islington, while the percentage increase was much less than in a number of other London boroughs. There is no evidence that it is Muslims who have been disproportionately responsible for the homophobic crimes committed in Tower Hamlets. Nor is there any indication that those members of the Bangladeshi community who have engaged in homophobic attacks did so because of their religious beliefs. But it becomes clear that the purpose of the LGBT activists' statement is not to provide an objective analysis of homophobic violence in Tower Hamlets. Rather, their aim is to smear the East London Mosque as its source.
Typically insightful analysis from Bob Pitt at Islamophobia Watch.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Responses to Prevent

Good article by Medhi Hassan in yesterday's Guardian and insightful observations from a variety of commentators on MCB's website. Read them here and here.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Why do people believe in conspiracy theories?

Conspiracy theories are rife, and some people feel the need to share them with me all the time.

There was an interesting discussion on yesterday's Today programme about their growth and why otherwise sensible people sometimes believe them.

Jonathan Kay, author of 'Among the Truthers: A Journey Through America's Growing Conspiracist Underground', is the guest.

He admits he has never wins any arguments with conspiracy theorists, and describes the experience of engaging in one as descending into an never ending 'rabbit hole'.

Believe me, I know the feeling.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

'Birmingham universities rubbish claims of "complacency" at extremism'

TWO Birmingham universities have rubbished claims made by the Home Secretary of “complacency” in tackling radicalisation and Islamic extremism at UK universities. A Birmingham City University spokesman said: “We are confident that extremism is not a problem at this University; we offer a safe community for students, staff and visitors. We are fully informed on Home Office advice in this area and work closely with local agencies." A spokesman for Aston University said: “We feel fostering mutual respect and providing opportunities to discover more about different faiths and cultures is an extremely important step to helping avoid extremes of views.”

More here.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Cameron and Blair: the real counter-terrorism coalition

I will be commenting on the new Prevent report as soon as it is published today. This article by Dr Robert Lambert sets the scene. Bob is co-director of the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) and former head of the Muslim Contact Unit in the Metropolitian Police. He is one of the most insightful and astute commentators around on anti-terrorist policy.

Monday, 6 June 2011

The rise of far right parties in Europe

Thanks to Islamaphobia Watch for highlighting this interesting article on the growth of the far right across Europe:

The success of many far-right parties is predicated on a significant public distrust of Muslims. Over half of Danes believe that Islam hinders social harmony; three-quarters of citizens from the former East Germany want to ‘seriously limit’ the practice of Islam; half of Britons associate Islam with terrorism; four in ten French people see Muslims living in their country as a ‘threat’ to their national identity; more than half of Austrians believe that ‘Islam poses a threat to the West and our familiar lifestyle’. 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Support the Connexions service

More than a million young people are unemployed. Yet the government is taking an axe to Connexions, a vital service that helps young people find work, education and training.

An early day motion has been tabled in parliament that calls on the government to “reverse its policy and instead to provide sufficient funding to the Careers and Connexions Service to help our young people plan and organise their futures”.

The EDM, and the names of the MP’s who have signed it, can be viewed here.

If your MP hasn’t signed it yet, please contact them and ask for their support. You can contact your MP directly, using this website:

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Commemorating the Nakba

Thanks to Azim for sending me this film he made of last month's Nakba commemoration outside the Israeli embassy.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Tonight at the movies: Chronicle of Protest

Chronicle of Protest  is a new documentary about the movement against government spending cuts in the universities and beyond with students, activists and citizens of the real “big society”. 

Participants in the film include Terryl Bacon, Terry Eagleton, Mehdi Hasan, Joe Kelleher, Josie Long, Len McCluskey, Blake Morrison, Paul O’Prey, Nina Power, Michael Rosen, Lee Salter, Clifford Singer, Sly and Reggie, Mary Warnock and more. With songs by Banner Theatre.

The film starts at 7.30pm tonight. It will be introduced by director Michael Chanan and followed by discussion.

It is being screened at Birmingham Library Theatre

The event is organised Trestle Table Film Night in collaboration with the New Statesman and Roehampton University.

Tickets cost £4.

Newsnight interview Arundhati Roy

Thursday, 2 June 2011

University campuses are not 'hotbeds of radicalisation'

With the government set to release a revamped version of their counter radicalisation strategy, Prevent, I am expecting there to be new clamp downs on freedom of speech.

The 'mood music' for this has been created by right-wing think-tanks and commentators who have been creating the impression that our universities are virtual breeding grounds for violent extremism among Muslim students.

Well, not according to chief executive of Universities UK, Nicola Dandridge.

In an interview in the Daily Telegraph she upholds freedom of speech, dismisses claims that 'that because wild things are said at university that automatically equates to radicalisation”, and cites advice from the security forces that “that there is not necessarily a link that they can prove between open debate in universities and violent extremism subsequently.”

More here.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Sparkbrook's secret admirer

Last night's 'Secret Millionaire' was a treat.

It featured the inspirational story of Aria Taheri.

Aria arrived in Birmingham over twenty years ago as an asylum seekers and has since become an IT millionaire.

Sparkbrook obviously had a big impact on Aria, (or 'Harry' as he called himself in the programme), when he first lived here all those years ago.

He was revisiting to see what the area was now like, and to see if with his wealth he could give back to a community that had given so much to him.

Not surprisingly, the experience of being an asylum seeker had a defining impact on the person Aria has become.

His visit to St Chad's Sanctuary (which is not in Sparkbrook, but never mind) to meet recent asylum seekers was moving.

Contrary to Sun-style headlines about asylum seekers sponging off the system, the vast majority just want the opportunity to better themselves.

As one Zimbabwean women that he spoke to said, 'give us chance to work - that's much much better. To be self sufficient is the most excellent thing'.

The organisation is maintained by the dedication and love of an Irish nun, Sister Margaret.

Aria's £15,000 donation will go a long way in helping her to continue providing invaluable support to one of the most vulnerable sections of our society.

Dynamic women doing fantastic work in the community was a feature of the programme, so it was no surprise to see Mary Mockbill appear!