Thursday, 8 January 2009

Big Vern comes to town

Had a very interesting series of meetings today with Vernon Coaker, the Home Office Minister responsible for policing, counter-terrorism, end community cohesion. (Promoted in the autumn from his previous Home Office post, where he had responsibility for prostitution, amongst other things and came to a really good meeting I organised in east Bristol last spring).

We started off at the Council House in Bristol meeting police, council officers, the council leader and community activists involved in delivering locally on the Government's 'Prevent' strategy, (basically about preventing radicalisation and violent extremism in local communities).

We then went to the Shah Jahal mosque in Stapleton Road to meet mosque leaders and others from the Muslim community (including Arif Khan, Labour's council candidate in Easton in the June elections), where we talked mostly about Gaza and how upset people feel about what is happening, so I gave them an update on my discussions with Bill Rammell on Tuesday. (Got another meeting lined up with Bill on Monday, by the way).

Last stop was the BMCS offices to meet a group of Muslim girls involved in the Waasila project, who gave us very positive feedback on how the project has helped develop their confidence and given them a forum in which to discuss cultural issues.

Tomorrow Arif's organising a march in support of the people of Gaza, leaving from the Shah Jahal mosque at 2pm and heading into the city centre. I'll be at the Limes (day centre for early onset Alzheimer's sufferers in Kingswood) but will be trying to catch up with them at the Council House a bit later.


Dave H said...

“...where he had responsibility for prostitution, amongst other things and came to a really good meeting I organised in east Bristol last spring”

Kerry, you must be doing this deliberately.

Guthrum said...

Big Vern is responsible for Prostitution- thats a bit of an unfortunate turn of phrase

Kerry said...

Which is why I didn't say he was responsible for it.

Guthrum said...

where he had responsibility for prostitution,

Yes you did Kerry

Mike said...

I hope the march also condemns the Hamas agression against Israeli citizens but am not holding my breath.
I get a little uneasy about some on the left getting quite so cosy with Islam. Would the people from this mosque march in support of the socialist principles of equal rights for gay people, women and so on? Answer-no. In the same way as the Somali community in Bristol treats women as second class citizens so the Muslim community bases its creed on religious bigotry (and the destruction of the state of Israel) which has nothing in common with progressive principles.

Remember Remember said...

Had any orders to STFU about Gaza yet?
I'll be making it clear that I won't buy from shops who sell Israeli made stuff.
I'll also encourage others not to vote for any party that has a "Friends of Israel club"

Kerry said...

Mike. How about providing som evidence for these sweeping generalisations?

Bristol Dave said...

Mike. How about providing som evidence for these sweeping generalisations?

Allow me:

"Violence and discrimination against women, including genital mutilation, is common. The rape of women by militia and bandits is a problem, and there are no laws against spousal rape."

Sounds lovely.

Old Holborn said...

"I'll be at the Limes (day centre for early onset Alzheimer's sufferers in Kingswood) but will be trying to catch up with them at the Council House a bit later."

You really are doing it on purpose Kerry. I just blasted half a cup of tea over my laptop.

Emerald said...

Talking of this “Prevent” strategy. Does it not ever occur to you and the rest of the Government that there are many, many other people in a wide variety of “communities” who are also becoming increasingly angry and alienated, often, (frighteningly) for directly opposed and incommensurable reasons?

Do you not realise that providing special attention to one community, as this strategy seemingly does, only further angers and alienates a whole range of people who have been drifting further apart over the last years, blown along by many of New Labour’s misguided policies and actions?

This strategy appears dangerously divisive to a society already grievously fractured along a hugely diverse range of ethical, social and political, as well as religious and ethnic lines. Britain now has more divides than a chocolate orange. One impact too many and we might well fall apart.

Kerry said...

OH - we (in the office) have no idea what you're talking about - something to do with finding early-onset Alzheimers amusing? Nice one.

Bristol Dave - you can hardly judge Somalis in Bristol by what happens in Somalia, nor can you hold all of them responsible for human rights abuses perpetrated by some of them. I've said before on here, many Somalis in Bristol are actively campaigning against such things.

Emerald - it's part of the counter-terrorism strategy, seems sensible to me - what's the alternative?

Bristol Dave said...

Bristol Dave - you can hardly judge Somalis in Bristol by what happens in Somalia, can. What else do we have to go on? Or do they suddenly change (let's face it) the beliefs of a lifetime and give up their sexist, really rather backwards ideals towards women as soon as they arrive here?

nor can you hold all of them responsible for human rights abuses perpetrated by some of them. I've said before on here, many Somalis in Bristol are actively campaigning against such things.

Fantastic, the very best of luck to them. It still doesn't mean that Mike's fairly accurate description of the downsides of Islam (in a lot of countries, including Somalia) can be brushed aside as "sweeping generalisations".

Kerry said...

Radical suggestion... How about judging people as individuals by actually talking to them and having conversations with them and getting to know them?

Sexism is hardly the preserve of one particular group - looked at the blogs of some of your right-wing friends lately?

Emerald said...

“Sensible“ Kerry? Labour’s actions since 1997 have been about as sensible as putting on a chip pan and then popping down the road for a chat.

You may remember Kenan Malik did a brilliant expose of British multiculturalism on C4 a few years ago, “Tribal Britain” or some such title, showing how Labour identity politics has exacerbated divisions by holding out resources to groups of people purely on the basis of ethnicity, eg Sikh, Bangladeshi, Afro-Caribbean. Resources being limited, ethnic groups then end up competing for scarce resources. Some groups, mentioning no names, even get left out from the start. Not exactly a recipe for social harmony and cohesion, eh? At present some people are actually coming to Britain because they know that they will be able to hive themselves off into ethnically homogeneous zones, unlike other European countries which have proper policies on thorough integration. As Elby the Berserk well explained a while ago, you cannot make community by government diktat or social engineering. It can only grow organically (good word that) from the ground up and in an atmosphere conducive to social bonding. New Labour’s globalised and PFI Britain is, sorry to say, not at all conducive to community - in fact it is destructive of community.

Not everything can be blamed entirely on New Labour. The British State has been condoning dangerous people and their activities, as long as they are believed to affect only other countries, from Drake (still known as el Diablo in Spain) through Marx, and right up to Abu Hamza and his ilk. I gather that the previous government allowed loads of militant Islamists who are known threats to democracy and peace to take up residence here, especially in London, on the spurious and cowardly basis of them refraining from carrying out attacks in Britain. This is unacceptable. It seems to many people that Labour still has not done anywhere near enough to break up such breeding grounds. There are also the issues of the massive funding from Salafist / Wahhabi / Deobandi sources abroad, which has been casually permitted for years, and so on and on.

You need to take a leaf out of Haroon ar-Rashid’s book and visit pubs in St George or Hillfields in disguise, Kerry. Try and act like a normal person who isn’t politically correct and you might have a chance of understanding what “ordinary people” are really thinking underneath. If you’re really chameleonic and sensitive you may find some realities that raise your hairs.

Chris Gale said...

Emerald makes some very good points, although Marx was just a political theorist and much misunderstood. He also had lots to say about religion which some on the left would do well to revisit, instead of marching alongside Islamist anti Semites and fascists and making their bed with such reactionaries. We have seen a lot of that the past week or so.

Much of the white working class is being driven into the hands of the BNP and it is crass not to recognise this and act on it.

If you build a Bengali community centre or such like, you create demand for a ‘white’ community centre to match it. Faith schools are the worst offenders, dividing up communities on ethnic lines when they are at their most impressionable.

People should also be free to make their views known on Islam which is deeply sexist, homophobic and frankly medieval, and a growing threat to western secular society.

I read just the other day more about Sharia law which many Muslims want introduced here. This account sums up what lies behind Islam.

A 13-year-old rape victim in Somalia, Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow, was convicted of adultery under Sharia law. She was then buried up to her neck and stoned to death by 50 men. Over 1000 spectators watched this indescribable act.

On a parliamentary visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories a Labour MEP met a number of leading politicians on both sides. Business was conducted in the usual way with the usual greetings, including the handshake, the universally recognised greeting symbol in such circumstances. The one exception was a high-ranking Muslim man who refused to shake her hand for religious reasons. As the MEP said 'Since I was the only woman on our delegation, I was the only person subjected to this treatment. Needless to say, this man’s attitude does not fill me with confidence about the future for women under those who hold such views.'

Kerry said...

And are the Pope's views on homosexuality, abortion, contraception shared by everyone with a Catholic background?

DaveA said...

This is in Liberal Dubai too from 2003. Of course under Sharia Law the women's testimony is only worth half of a man's. Charming.

"Police in Dubai have rejected a French businesswoman's allegation that she was gang raped by three local men, and instead charged her with having "adulterous sexual relations", a crime which carries a maximum 18-month jail sentence under the Muslim emirate's Sharia law."

"But the men took her to an outlying district and raped her for several hours before finally dropping her at her hotel, Ms Tiouli says."

"To make things more interesting, a women's testimony is worth half that of a man, though she may easily testify twice as long. If a woman accuses a Muslim man of rape, Sharia requires she have four male witnesses -- four male witnesses who just happened to observe the rape, but did nothing to prevent it -- therefore, the likelihood is that the rape victim will be found guilty of adultery or fornication and stoned to death. Canada doesn't have the death penalty -- not even for Muslims -- so this presents a bit of a problem."

Kerry said...

And your point is...? None of the Muslims I know would condone or in anyway endorse what happens in places like Saudi Arabia and Dubai. Might as well say that the activities of the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda (guided, they say, by the 10 Commandments) in abducting children, using them as child soldiers, raping and mutilating people in villages, must therefore be supported by Christians the world over. Could cite plenty of other examples - but my basic point is that racism depends on picking extreme examples and then trying to use that to justify prejudice against a whole race. And on those grounds, I'm not going to publish any more 'examples' from you.

The Bristol Blogger said...

I think there's some understandable confusion on this thread about the difference between Islam and political Islam/Islamism.

The former is a fairly harmless set of religious beliefs that is able to largely assimilate with Western values.

The latter is a virulent, reactionary, theocratic political ideology that is sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, anti-democratic and generally as anti-liberal and anti-Western as it's possible to get.

Kerry, rather than sitting on your moral high horse sneering racist at people, your time might be better spent explaining this difference to people.

It is quite important, although something that the Labour Party seems to want to shy away from.

Last year your council produced a '5 myths about Islam' leaflet that entirely failed to mention political Islam/Islamism and instead just said "“There is no such thing as ‘Islamic terrorism'".

How helpful is this? If you want to tackle extremism, you're going to have to name it and explain it.

Somehow there is an assumption that local government, police, university authorities, and others will learn by osmosis about “The Ideology”.

The palpable fear and reluctance in naming “The Ideology” speaks volumes about the malaise of the modern west. Worse, the patronising attitude that somehow naming Islamism will result in loss of Muslim support is based on the premise that “the Muslim community” is what the game-players of sectarian politics define it to be.

Brits of all backgrounds deserve higher standards and greater transparency from the government. We are not stupid. We can distinguish between Islam the religion, and Islamism the political ideology

Ed Hussain, The Guardian

Kerry said...

I think you're pretty naive if you think it's just that they don't understand the difference. Some people, maybe. The people who post on here? No.

Chris Gale said...

Kerry, are you accusing a fellow Labour party member of racism?

Last time I checked Islam was a religion NOT a race. But accusing those who DARE to criticise reactionary religions of racism, thus breaking the great taboo, is easy isn't it. It shuts down debate.

I make no apology for being very critical of a belief system which is diametrically opposed to democratic progressive values and policies and which is a growing global threat to values of secularism and democratic ideals.
I make the same critical analysis of other superstitious, damaging theocratic nonsense no matter what belief system.
None of this is based on someone's racial origins/colour of their skin.
Perhaps you would care to take back that insinuation?

So called 'moderate' Islam has the same hallmarks as Islamism, i.e it is sexist, homophobic, anti-semitic, anti-democratic and generally anti-liberal and anti-Western.

On a wider question, it does our party no good if working class white people are told that their fears and concerns about the growing cultural and ethnic change around them are 'racist'.
The BNP simply get new recruits, as Margaret Hodge MP alluded to a while back and was shot down in flames for. Not every day I agree with Margaret Hodge but she did get it right on that.

I am amazed at the contents of the leaflet that has been mentioned. Do you agree with the genius who wrote 'there is no such thing as Islamic terrorism'?

There are those on the left who would have you think that 'Moderate' Islam is the predominate theology among Muslims. If that were so you would view this mysterious majority hitting the streets denouncing the acts of Radical Islamists of both the Sunni and Shia. You do not see this!
Where are they marching for equality, womens rights, gay rights? Errrrrrr

Chris Gale said...

Not to ,mention the pain and suffering endured by animals under Islamic practices at home and abroad. Cruelty to sentient creatures is institutionalised in Islam but hey we are not allowed to be critical as we will be labelled as racist!

Kerry said...

I was referring to the Tory/ libertarian trolls who can't seem to tear themselves away from this site.

There's nothing racist about saying you don't approve of halal. Unless you're Nick Griffin and saying it for entirely the wrong reasons. Context is all.

thebristolblogger said...


If you want to read the leaflet in all its glory here's a link (it's a PDF by the way). To my mind, it's not really getting to grips with the issues we're increasinly facing here in the UK vis a vis Islamism. To believe this leaflet is to believe that Islamism is harmless and some sort construct of racists and the media.

Kerry, in my experience most people don't understand the difference between Islam and Islamism, particularly people on the left who seem to see any minority through rose-tinted spectacles. A lot of really dodgy stuff is going unchallenged or worse, those prepared to challenge are being labeled as racists, Zionists etc.