Thursday, 29 October 2015

Not All Hate Crimes are Created Equal

Another blast from the past.

2011 this time and two stories which appeared within a month of each other.

The first one in March concerns Emdadur Choudhury, a self proclaimed Islamic fundamentalist on benefits who decided to protest at a remembrance day parade with his fellow jihadists in East London. In front of past and present British soldiers and their families they chanted "British soldiers burn in hell" and burned poppies Choudhury was fined £50 plus a £15 victim surcharge.

The second story was about former soldier Andrew Ryan of Carlisle, who was understandably annoyed by poppy burning. So annoyed in fact that he went to a library, took a copy of the Quran and set fire to it outside the Old Town Hall in Carlisle city centre. Ryan was jailed for 70 days.

What the hell is wrong with England? How on earth can a man be sent to prison for burning a book in the street, while a self declared enemy of everything Britain stands for can disrupt a remembrance parade in such a foul way and be given a fine that is less than you would get for a parking offence?

There are two possible explanations. The first is that the British establishment is cowering in fear of these Islamic extremists. They are desperate to be seen to be tough on Islamophobia, and equally desperate not to be seen to come down too hard on Islamists. The second explanation is that they secretly agree with Choudhury, they want to promote fundamentalist Islam. They give a derisory fine which he will probably never pay anyway as they have to be seen to be doing something, yet they come down hard on any resistance to it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Quilliam Foundation and 'Moderate Muslims'

Aren't the Quilliam Foundation a reasonable lot? Dedicated to tackling extremism in all it's forms, the Muslim think tank claims to stand for 'religious freedom, equality, human rights and democracy' who could object to that?

It's co-founder and Chairman Maajid Nawaz is a former Islamist, imprisoned for 5 years in Egypt  for extremist agitating. There he was adopted by Amnesty International as a 'prisoner of conscience' and his life seems he have gone upwards and leftwards ever since. He was instrumental in creating the new, more conciliatory Tommy Robinson, and later stood as a Liberal Democrat MP. So he must have reformed himself, right?

First things first, William Henry 'Abdullah' Quilliam is a strange choice to name your moderate Muslim think tank after. A 19th century convert, he is credited with building the first Mosque in Britain in his native Liverpool and worked tirelessly to promote Islam there with generous funding from Muslim countries. His political activities were not limited by his new found spirituality though. He was insistent that no Muslim should ever fight for a European power, he opposed British intervention in the Sudan and swore allegiance instead tot he Ottoman Empire. He didn't go to live there though. He stayed in Liverpool, calling for a worldwide Caliphate.

So it's not really surprising that despite their 'reasonable' image and reassuring disavowal of extremism 'in all it's forms' they seem to have a particular interest in the usually fairly trivial examples of anti-Islamic extremism such as racial profiling, and so little to say on the hateful, fundamentalist preachers operating in Mosques across the country with the aim of creating an Islamic state in England.

That's not to say that Quilliam is a hotbed of extremism breeding the next generation of suicide bombers. In fact it's worse. They exist in a grey area who share with ISIS the same end of a global Islamic Caliphate, but disagree on the means to get there.

So far there is much talk of not alienating moderate Muslims, and driving them into the arms of extremists. Such talk is complete nonsense. any Muslim who, considering the events of the last few years, is driven to Islamic terrorism by the understandable suspicion many people have towards Muslims was clearly never very firm in their belief in secular democracy to start with. Conversely any Muslim who is sincere in his belief in secularism is more likely to be angered by his fellow Muslims bringing such suspicion and attention to the personal matter of his faith that he is likely he will reject all the more the extremist elements of it.

We actually need to polarise Muslims to that we know what we're up against. So that Muslims who are genuinely secular and moderate are brought into the side of secularism and moderation, and those who are secretly or dormantly fundamentalist are shown to be so.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Sharia Cherie Blair and Cultural Masochism

Last week I talked about Lauren Booth, half sister of Cherie Blair, wife of King Tony. But somehow I missed this little gem from 10 years ago.

Shabina Begum was a 16 year old student of Bangladeshi extraction, and in 2006 she took her school to the highest courts in the land to argue for the right to wear the jilbab, the formless bag that women in Saudi Arabia wear to demonstrate that they have no rights at all.

When the High Court rejected her case, frogmouth Cherie Blair (nee Booth) herself stepped in to represent Begum in the Court of Appeals. They won, in what Sharia Cherie described as "a victory for all Muslims who wish to preserve their identity and values despite prejudice and bigotry."

It seems worth mentioning at this point that Begum is of Bangladeshi extraction and was born in the UK around 1990. The jilbab meanwhile was invented in Saudi Arabia in the 1970s, loosely based on a specific Wahabi interpretation of the Qu'ran. Bangladesh is traditionally a relatively moderate Sunni Muslim country. The jilbab forms no part of it or Shabina Begum's traditions or identity. It's a potent symbol of the absolutist and insanely literal interpretation of the Qu'ran which pertains in Saudi Arabia and is behind much of the militant Islam which drives terrorism. I'm not a human rights lawyer but I would imagine Cherie must have known this before taking the case to the highest court in the land.

Quite aside from the absurdity of a high profile case in the House of Lords to enable her to defend her "modesty" this must have made for some interesting evenings at the Blair household, what with Tony then engaged in the height of the war on terror, and Cherie fighting for the right of a British Bangladeshi girl to dress like an Arabian fundamentalist.

To their great credit the school, Denbigh High School, to their eternal credit fought on to the House of Lords where Booth again represented Begum and finally lost, establishing the principle that the school dress code did indeed trump the right to dress like someone you wouldn't want to sit near on public transport.

There was something else a bit strange about this case though. Denbigh high school is in Luton, and at the time of the case it's pupils were some  80% Muslim, and 4 of the 6 governors of the school who fought so hard against this display of Islamic extremism, as represented by the wife of the then Prime Minister, were also Muslims. 

The interesting character Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, leader of the organisation Muslim Parliament said that  "This may be a victory for human rights but it is also a victory for fundamentalism." Siddiquie is something like the Muslim equivalent of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He supported the fatwa against Salman Rushdie and strongly criticised the Iraq war in 2003, but is also a founding member of British Muslims for a Secular Democracy. He's a crackpot by any reasonable standards, but by the standards of modern British Muslims he's a hand wringing moderate.

In fact by the standards of Cherie Blair he is a wet. Clearly like her half-sister, only the full fat Wahabi lunacy fresh from Saudi Arabia is interesting and enriching enough for Cherie and her view of multicultural Britain. 

It's a curious case for a leading human rights lawyer and a self-appointed first lady of President Blair to take up. And it adds to my suspicion that at the very heart of New Labour, and throughout our political establishment is deep seated wish to actually promote Islamic fundamentalism at the expense of our own culture. Even when the genuine "moderate Muslims" who they claim to support are dead set against it.

The explanation that this was driven by a sort of soppy liberalism taken to an extreme simply doesn't wash. Cherie Booth wasn't fighting a stuffy white establishment for the right of a ethnic minority to wear her colourful traditional garb and enrich us, she was fighting moderate Muslims for the right of a second generation Bangladeshi to wear the uniform of militant Wahabi Islam from Saudi Arabia. It is not tolerance or diversity it is wanton cultural suicide.

Looking the Wrong Way

200 years ago Thomas Robert Malthusians was predicting that the population boom at the time would lead inevitably to hunger, disease and war. In 1811 the population of England was 8.7 million, by 2011 it was 53 million, according to Wikipedia. It had multiplied by 6, and yet food was cheaper and hunger less widespread than in Malthus' time, and the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo passed in June without much possibility of a rematch.

What happened in the interim was two things. Most importantly and best known is that technology and trade gave us more food, advances in medicine and general living conditions conquered many diseases and with a couple of false dawns, Europeans finally tired of slaughtering each other and decided to go on holiday and swap wines and cheese instead. The other factor, much less discussed, is that people stopped reproducing at the same rate. According to this study the Total Fertility Rate peaked at around 1820 and then simply dropped off a cliff from a high of nearly 6 children per woman, and fell below the replacement rate of 2.1 women per children by the 1930s. It briefly spiked after World War 2, giving us the baby boomer generation who are now in their 60s and 70s. However, after peaking at 2.95 in the 1960s, not a "boom" which would have impressed demographers in the 1820s, the rate fell again. It's currently hovering around 1.9, which is below the replacement rate, but far from the worst in the developed world. 

We hear a lot about over population. That is people who believe that the biggest problem we face is ever more people leading to ever greater competition for resources this will create. I've never bought this, for the same reasons Thomas Malthus was wrong originally - we tend to get more efficient at using the resources we have, extracting resources we didn't know we had and finding substitutes for resources that do become too scarce to use economically. 

What doesn't seem to get a lot of attention is the opposite problem. Densely populated and expensive as Britain is it's far from packed to bursting point, nor starving for the lack of food or other necessities. A far greater problem is our massive unfunded pension liabilities, because the burden on a much reduced working population supporting a greatly enlarged non-working population will be enormous.

And it isn't just a British problem by any means. Nor even a developed world problem.

Here's the World Bank's data on fertility

We are facing a global equivalent of what has happened in Europe and Japan. A fertility rate in freefall, an aging population which is declining and not enough people of working age to actually extract and use the resources we need.
China, Thailand and Cuba are well below the 2.1 replacement threshold.

Even much of the Arab world is hovering in the 2-3 zone and falling, and to find positive growth you have to go to sub-Saharan Africa, which dominates the top of the data. But even here it's falling dramatically.

The world as a whole is at 2.36, just above replacement.

Our current predicament in the UK of high prices for first time buyers and a large pension liability might be just a foretaste of global population decline, and the same problems on a world wide scale as billions of people live longer, work less, consume more and have fewer children. And the house prices and taxes required to cover it won't encourage people to have more children or have them younger, which might avert this.

Anyone think we're going to run out of people before we run out of oil, water, land or food?

It's not quite clear if or how this trend can be reversed. Maybe it will self correct after the baby boomers die off, freeing up resources. Maybe populations will move around according to which countries have a shortage and which have a surplus. Something that will have profound cultural implications but perhaps make the situation at least economically sustainable. 

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Lauren Booth - Supreme Cultural Masochist

I missed this at the time but in 2010 Lauren Booth, half-sister of Cherie Blair, converted to Islam. She's now set up a blog full of nonsense, promoting Islam and denigrating Britain. It's quite an interesting insight into the mind of an ├╝ber cultural masochist.

We hear how unfair it is that vocal Muslims face extra security checks, just because a few of their number happen to have flown planes into buildings to make their point. We hear how Islam is good for the environment, and the generosity of Muslims brings communities together, two favourite hobby horses of the left. We hear how it's people vs. government on the case of refugees, 'the people' saying let them in and the government saying No. She obviously doesn't speak to the same people I do, but then seeing as she lives in Qatar, who have taken a grand total of zero Syrian refugees as far as I can tell, she wouldn't.

Her article about inviting her mother to Qatar which is illuminating too. Their respect for the elderly and parents in particular is admirable, though in Lauren's case clearly this respect hasn't prevented her from moving half way around the world to pursue Islam or mocking her mother's fear and antipathy towards Islamic extremism. Instead she tells her that Qatar is "like Cannes in the 1950s,with lots of glossy sheikhs wafting around and beautiful women, dressed modestly and behaving with casual decorum.” In contrast with a picture of an elderly white British woman covered in blankets, clutching a hot water bottle and sitting by a gas fire with the mocking subtitle "Another British pensioner lives life to the full."

This is probably the most telling. Of course Booth wasn't in Cannes in the 1950s. She means it's like her romanticised vision of Cannes in the 1950s. Stylish and elegant where Britain is stuffy and conservative. Exciting and intriguing where Britain is drab and familiar. Flogging and stoning wasn't legal in Cannes in the 50s of course, but let's not get too hung up (pardon the pun) on such trivia. If you're a well off, liberal lefty looking for something stylish and exciting then converting to Islam and having a place Qatar trumps any amount of volunteering in Africa or buying a bolt hole in Tuscany. It's way more committed than getting a tattoo. Let alone such a simple and mundane thing as looking after your elderly mother and adhering to the culture she brought you up in. Suck on that big sis.

Of course, Booth fits few people's definition of a normal or decent person in many ways. She left her husband Craig Darby after he a motorbike accident left him with brain damage, and her way of finding a husband might raise some eyebrows, or indeed some stone throwing hands, in the countries of her adopted religion.

It all starts to paint a picture of a selfish and rather bitter woman with a grudge against Britain, choosing the most shocking way to rebel and denigrate western civilisation by aligning themselves with it's most aggressive enemy. For Tony Blair's sister in law it might all seem chic and stylish, something to write Guardian articles about as though converting to Islam was something akin to becoming a vegan or joining Greenpeace. Of course this is not the reality for the dim witted school girls who elope to join ISIS or for the girls who do their rebellious exploration closer to home and end up being raped by Muslims in Rotherham or elsewhere.

It's not quite clear whether these attention whores actually understand that Islam is not some exciting diversion like a tattoo or a motorbike. It's a vicious death cult which is busily engaged in maiming, killing and oppressing millions of people across the world. If they don't then they're just gullible fools, but I suspect they know full well what Islam is, but are so consumed by their hatred of western civilisation that they don't care.
Don't worry, the tax payer won't be paying for it. The nice people at Serco dug deep and transported 7 illegal immigrants from Heathrow to Manchester on behalf of the Home Office, for the sum of £3,000.

Of course the tax payer is paying for it somehow. Even if Serco are making a "loss" on this you can be very sure they're making it back with what they're milking from such ridiculous contracts elsewhere.

Never having made this particular journey before in my life, and lacking the wisdom and economies of scale that we pay these experts at Serco for, armed only with a laptop I Googled "Heathrow to Manchester" and found this:

National Express coaches range between £34.50 and £45.90 depending on when you leave. 7 seats at the top price would cost £321.30.

Standard rail fare without booking is £189, so times 7 is £1,323.

SkyScanner shows BA flights today as £195, so £1,365 for 7.

Sixt will hire you a 15 seat minibus for £335 for 24 hours. £120 for a driver for a day, same again on fuel makes it £575, £22 for the M6 toll both ways and it's a shade under £600.

I couldn't get a quote from people smugglers, but Mogdan paid £370 to cross the channel, which is a bit closer but involves an international border and a stretch of sea. If you could do a deal to get these people the rest of the way up to Manchester for the same price that would be £2,590.

So can I get a job in procurement at Serco? Or better still, the Home Office? I'd only ask about triple what someone of my experience would get on the open market, which is the first of many bargains for them. Maybe not, as in a full 15 minutes I haven't been able to find a more expensive (not to mention gratuitously offensive) way of transporting 7 people from London to Manchester short of chartering an aircraft.

Even the most obvious explanation of blatant corruption doesn't seem plausible. If you were going to help out your brother/uncle/mate on the Home Office's tab you'd probably be a little bit more restrained. Half that price would leave you room to hire and fuel a minibus and still pocket £1,000. Why the stretched limo? Why blab about it in the pub? 

It looks like another example of our influential cultural masochists seeking to elevate these people to a privileged class.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

World Power in a Week

If it wasn't so entirely possible that it would lead to World War 3, the flapping indignation of NATO would be comical. Four years after the US started providing material aid, and after one year of actively bombing Syria while achieving nothing, Russia appears to have achieved much within one week of a concerted campaign.

There are sound, obvious reasons for this success. Firstly is their willingness to put adequate firepower behind it - Russian fighter planes and cruise missiles, supplies of military hardware to the Syrian government, and now it seems Russian troops actually on the ground. Contrast this with the drone strikes and long range bombing runs of Obama who clearly wanted the glory of overthrowing a brutal regime and fighting terrorism, but not the bad publicity of American troops dying in Syria.

Most importantly though, the Russians are succeeding because of their wholly sensible decision to work with the Assad regime. At the very least, the regime has proven itself capable of running a stable country which tolerates minorities and will fight ISIS, even if it's not exactly a liberal democracy. It is quite simply the only possible way of stopping vast swathes of the country falling into the far worse hands of Islamic State. The western approach of adding yet another faction (one which no-one in Syria seems to want anyway) to the tinder box was always folly.

Such obvious folly that it makes one wonder if perpetual civil war and instability was the American objective all along. But this is the other thing that is so impressive about the Russian intervention - they seemingly haven't speculated about American motives, or got bogged down with the absurdly complicated politics of the region. Instead they have gone ahead with a very straight forward intervention to support a somewhat friendly government against a terrorist insurgency. Had America and it's allies done this 4 years ago, or even 1 year ago then this whole debacle could have been finished far quicker.

Instead, whether through indecision or malice, they have gifted Russia something it has longed for since the collapse of the Soviet Union: being a genuine world power which can look Washington in the eye. Shrewdly however, Putin has left the door wide open for the US and it's allies to cooperate with the Russian intervention. A deviously magnanimous move which leaves Obama with the choice of either standing back and letting Russia succeed where they have failed, or to petulantly condemn the Russian action while providing no better ideas. So far it looks like they're opting for the second course of action, with ill tempered accusations of Russian fighters violating Turkish airspace and the like. Unless Washington is prepared to risk World War 3 to repel these brief aerial incursions into the porous and barren border regions of southern Turkey, it is so much hot air.

So Putin's task is complete. After the serial failures of western countries to achieve their publicly stated objectives in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya or elsewhere, Russia has shown that it has the military capability and the political will to act where America can not. Countries facing an Islamic insurgency have a new number to call when they need outside assistance, and the world is significantly more bipolar than it was this time last week.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Fight Eggs with Eggs - Not Shit Eating Grins

Looking at that young man who got egged at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester, I couldn't help but feel that it painted a rather pathetic picture of the state of the so called right. Not that the Conservatives are really right wing in any meaningful sense, but they are the least left wing of the major parties. I was quietly pleased, if not ecstatic when they won the election and while hardly radical their attempt to reign in the worst excesses of the public sector largesse they inherited from Labour seems a worthwhile exercise.

Of course it's no great surprise to see the shrill left "protesting" outside, often aggressively shoving, blocking paths and throwing eggs. In a perfect photo op, one young Tory was hit right on the head with an egg. So there he is, this preppy looking Young Conservative with a gormless grin laughing at being hit by an egg. Great.

Where's the F off? Where's the anger? Where's the eye for an eye? It's fine to take these things in good humour, but you can't just take these things lying down. Egg them back. This is not the new testament, it's a power game. John Prescott understood this, which is why he lamped the man who egged him in Wales in 2001.

Seems like a small thing but it goes right to the heart of the total failure of British conservatives to make any mark or be taken seriously - they're too damn nice. The term cuckservative describes it well.