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Once upon a time, there was this thing called 'Multiculturalism'. 
I write about those turkeys who've voted for Christmas.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Panto Terror

One of the major stories of the past week was that of Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, the terror suspect of Somali origin, breaching an order restricting his movements by fleeing a mosque in a burqa.

There have been many angles to the story:  from the spectre of the terror threat to the efficacy of the new ‘terrorism prevention and investigation measures’ order, or TPim, which Mr Mohamed is alleged to have breached. If you’d picked up a newspaper or browsed any newszine, an army of pundits had run with the item, and waxed lyrical on related themes: terrorism prevention, surveillance, burqas, burqas in public places, burqas in hospitals, burqas in courts, liberalism/feminism/secularism Vs freedom of religion… And last but by no means least, if you’d listened to any talk-radio, the British Street had spoken with one, clear voice: no more. No more burqas, no more immigration, no more softly-softly, no more Islam in Britain.  

All of the above deserves its place in the sphere of public debate – I won’t disparage any of it. But two things struck me: firstly, the relish with which the topics were gorged upon. This wasn’t sober coverage; it was closer to an orgy. One could almost visualise broadcasters and commentators ejaculating over the bevvy of hot topics spread out in front of them.

And secondly, not at any time when the burqa drum was being banged – or should I say burka or berk-a, in line with the enthusiastic mis-pronounciation – did I hear a single comment reflecting that only a small minority of Muslim women actually wear a veil that covers their face.

This all brings me to an alternative view as to why the story got picked up and highlighted to such an extent. To be sure, I don’t believe it has anything to do with the legitimate points above. Rather, it was because it presented a rare, pantomime spectacular. Put simply, news makers and headline writers were able to use the words terror, mosque, berk-a and Mohammed – not once but twice - in just the one sentence. And thus the dominoes were lined up precisely, and the first one tapped.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

On Pakistani grooming

In October 2013, the BBC screened an extraordinary account of the last days of Tommy Robinson as leader of the English Defence League. His journey began with a chance encounter with Muslim commentator Mo Ansar, and led ultimately to the doors of the Quilliam Foundation, a counter-extremism think-tank.

His position vis-à-vis Islam morphed over that time from a stock ‘Islam is evil’, to a more nuanced one, wherein he still considered parts of Islam/the modus operandi of many Muslims to be incompatible with modern Britain, but saw that street violence was the wrong tool for change.

One particular point that had led to his hostility, was that of ‘grooming’. It is a fact that the practise of targeting vulnerable girls, enticing them with gifts, drink and drugs to create a dependency - the quid pro quo for which soon becomes sex – is a UK crime disproportionately carried out by Pakistani men.

For Tommy Robinson, the reason for this was Islam itself: “There is a terrible view in Islam of women, especially non-Muslim women.” The same opinion was echoed by others, such as when Mo Ansar met with families of grooming victims: “The men in those (Islamic) families are using Islam as an excuse to treat the females in their family like that…they say, ‘within our religion, this is what we can do’ ”.

I’d like to posit another theory, and in the spirit of a picture painting a thousand words…

The above serves as a cartoon reduction of Islam, through Western eyes. It shouts its message of violence, of male domination and female subjugation. For many, it captures the very essence of Islam; a perfect distillation. Moreover, it then becomes legitimate to view every Muslim through these terms – indeed, it soon becomes impossible to view a Muslim outside of such terms. And now moving on…

The above serves as a cartoon reduction of the West, through Muslim eyes. Its messages are crystal clear: of decadence, drunkenness, money and privilege, reckless abandonment – and an advertised sexuality. When white woman are harassed, or otherwise receive 'unwelcome attention' when travelling to Muslim countries, it's because the guys offering 50-cent camel rides cannot view white women outside of such terms. But what the disproportionate grooming of British girls by Pakistani men also shows, is that many of these men, either born or long since settled in the UK, also cannot view white women outside of such terms.

In both cases, myopia is made possible when the ‘other’ remains unknown, or where the only exchanges are trivial. So whilst the Pakistani groomer may encounter white women in his day-to-day business, those transactions cannot challenge his world view. And thus his entry point into this subterranean world, is a complete disconnect from the wider society in which he lives. It is his isolation - not his religion - that keeps the 'fantasy' of white women burning in his mind.

Thursday, 31 October 2013

Is a crime by Muslims a Muslim crime?

Browsing Twitter yesterday, I came across the following:

After I’d got beyond the horror of what I’d just read, I began to wonder – why had this been posted? Was Mr Fatah simply reminding us that this is a cruel and random world? Possibly… Alternatively, he may have been hinting at something else – that such crimes are more common in KSA. Perhaps he knew something that I didn’t, in which case this wouldn’t simply be an atomic tragedy. And so I put just that question forward:

To my surprise I got an immediate reply, but not one that I was expecting:

And so it became apparent that for Mr Fatah and the Atheist Thinker, there was nothing atomic about this at all. Indeed, if such a story had originated from, say, Papua New Guinea, or The Gambia, would it even have been 'interesting' enough to post? And if you can stretch to believe that, would the Atheist Thinker have so latched onto it…? For them, the resonance, the extrapolation was clear.

From my perspective, such a Pavlovean response is both wrong and dangerous. Without further information, once cannot possibly deduce anything ‘interesting’ from this sickening story. But that doesn’t mean that one can never infer. On the contrary, there is legitimate debate to be had over how the sexual impulse can warp or corrupt when given no scope for healthy expression. Thus, with sober analysis, it is not impossible to reach broader conclusions: whether over Saudi society, or even Islamic societies more generally. But even then, one still cannot talk loosely about ‘Islam’, as the manifold ways in which the religion is understood and practised, makes it impossible to lump together everyone on earth who calls themselves a Muslim. But that strategy – i.e. to conflate problems involving Muslims to a Muslim problem – and thus reduce everyone down to some cartoon stereotype, is now commonplace.

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Drones and the human rate-of-exchange

Argument and counter-argument has been had on the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, to kill militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt, amongst other places. In brief, the main points of opposition are a) that the deaths of ordinary civilians is unacceptable, b) it’s counter-productive (in that it acts as a recruiting sergeant for the militants), c) it’s an invasion of sovereignty and d) it’s illegal under international law.

On the other hand, those for drones maintain a) it kills far fewer civilians than any other potential method, b) it costs no American lives, c) it keeps America (et al) safe, and d) it’s cheap.

One must also mention the more nuanced positions, such as from commentators such as Raza Rumi and Myra MacDonald, who charge Pakistanis with hypocrisy for getting more exercised over fewer civilian deaths from drones, than they do over the greater number of casualties via the Taliban/Al-Qaeda, or even Pakistan army operations.

All these plates will undoubtedly keep spinning, but in all likelihood, no-one really knows: the secrecy of the operations along with the remoteness of the areas concerned means that no-one, including the key players, can speak with total confidence. And so, depending on our native pre-disposition, we simply believe what we want to believe.

My angle here though is tangential, and was precipitated by two articles, the first of which was an account by Rafiq Ur Rehman, whose mother was killed by a drone attack.
It begins:
The last time I saw my mother, Momina Bibi, was the evening before Eid al-Adha. She was preparing my children's clothing and showing them how to make sewaiyaan, a traditional sweet made of milk. (…) The next day (…) she was dead, killed by a US drone that rained fire down upon her as she tended her garden.

It’s highly personal, not especially well written, and moving as well as occasionally saccharine sweet – just like a thousand testimonies that everyone has heard/read/seen dramatized, from 9/11 through to 7/7 and beyond. But this man wasn’t American or British – he was Pakistani. And yet here he was, telling the world that his mother was a full-blown human being, whose life mattered to those around her, and whose absence had inflicted a terrible wound.

The second was a thought-provoking article by PostLibertarian. In it, he lays out the fundamental premise for drones - that evil people are plotting to do the West harm and it’s best to take them out pre-emptively - and then proceeds to comment:
Fundamentally, I just don’t trust the government to ever have enough information (…) to determine the fates of people who are not obviously engaged in warfare on a battlefield.

But what if there really are terrorists who hide in the mountain villages of weak governments to plot lethal attacks against us, and defensive military tactics are not reliable enough, so targeted drone strikes really are the best way to counter them while still killing fewer civilians than any alternative we have? I don’t know enough to discount the possibility that this may be true... But based on everything I’ve learned and observed so far, forgive me if I’m still mighty sceptical.

His concerns encapsulate perhaps the most common position amongst British voters. To paraphrase, ‘…I don’t know, so perhaps it’s best to be safe, but I’ll be fucked if I’m writing those jokers in Parliament a blank cheque of support…’ In particular, the lack of faith in government to locate their proverbial arse from their elbow - let alone discriminate a would-be terrorist from a grandmother teaching kids how to make milky treats – would pervade much of the debate. And yet, the drones programme continues smoothly on. So why? 

Answer: the deaths of people in the Pakistani hinterlands does no psychic harm. It doesn’t upset, disturb, rattle or resonate. In short, it’s a non-event. Why? Because from an Anglo-American POV, their exchange-rate has been devalued. So when a news bulletin reports a civilian death, one doesn’t see a granny passing on secrets to making the perfect sewaiyaan; one just sees angry beards and shrouded zombies. The project to lower their currency in relation to, say, an American life – in effect to strip them of their human status - has worked perfectly.