Glad to be gay, ashamed to be Anglican?

Let us pray for the repentance of Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, who is a troubled soul.

If he’s not knocking England’s Muslims, it’s our gay compatriots…

The editorial in today’s Morning Star, A message to the bigots, on the bishop’s response to Pride.

There’s a message to all of us contained in the distasteful pronouncements of the Bishop of Rochester at the weekend.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali delivered his considered opinion of what he believes is a proper, Christian attitude towards those who do not share the conventional sexual orientation that his church espouses.

And that message was every bit as detestable as the Islamist fundamentalism that justifies jihad and terrorism as weapons in a battle for religious rectitude.

It bears about the same relationship to the attitude of everyday Christians as jihadism bears to the attitude of everyday Muslims. And that is none whatsoever.

We welcome homosexuals, we don’t want to exclude them, said Bishop Bigot.

“But they are going to have to repent and be changed.”

Everyone with any involvement in the peace and anti-war movements has had experience of working with active and committed Christians of all denominations or none.

And, from a socialist perspective, that experience is generally a positive and optimistic one, of working with people with a different motivation, but with a commitment to the human race, to the shared values of respect for life and of toleration of difference.

It’s a meeting of minds with people who do not necessarily share every principle that we espouse, but who have enough courage to join in solidarity over the things on which we agree and to develop mutual understanding on those points which may divide us.

It is a celebration of mutual respect and a working agreement that there are shared aims which are common to people of very different life experiences and have a value which transcends the proscriptions with which those who would divide us hedge us around.

There is a lesson for Dr Nazir-Ali in our shared experiences.

It is a lesson that he, and all the bigots of all religions or none should take to heart.

And that lesson is that the human race is greater by far than the narrow, prejudiced and perverted caricatures that the merchants of dogma would turn us into.

Half a million people gave the lie to the bishop at the weekend on the streets of London.

The queers and the queens, the bears and the dykes were joined by the trade unionists, the communists, the socialists and the militants from a dozen different fields in mutual solidarity to celebrate people’s right to live as they are, not as they are expected to be by their lords and masters, temporal or spiritual, in this narrow, proscriptive, capitalist society.

The Tories and the Establishment are falling over themselves to appear gay-friendly.

However, that’s not through tolerance of difference, that’s through a cold appreciation of the electoral advantages to be gained.

But take the mask off and you have the crusader, the figurehead who would thrust onto you the conformity of intolerance and the rigour of convention – provided that that conventionality suits the prejudices that still hold sway in a reactionary Establishment.

There’s a lesson for socialists in the bigotry of the bishop and the unity of the half-million people on the streets of London whom he railed against.

And that is that solidarity and tolerance are principles which unite us. Given unity, all the distasteful orthodoxies that are built to control us are powerless to do so.

That unity takes work to achieve, tolerance to establish and patience to build.

With it, we are invincible but, without it, the Nazir-Alis of this world will divide, weaken and dominate. It’s our choice.

Police state in the UK?

A former securocrat issues a warning:

Dame Stella Rimington, the former head of MI5, has warned that the fear of terrorism is being exploited by the Government to erode civil liberties and risks creating a police state.

Dame Stella accused ministers of interfering with people’s privacy and playing straight into the hands of terrorists.

“Since I have retired I feel more at liberty to be against certain decisions of the Government, especially the attempt to pass laws which interfere with people’s privacy,” Dame Stella said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper.

“It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties, precisely one of the objects of terrorism: that we live in fear and under a police state,” she said.

But wait – there’s more! International criticism now:

In a further blow to ministers, an international study by lawyers and judges accused countries such as Britain and America of “actively undermining” the law through the measures they have introduced to counter terrorism.

The report, by the International Commission of Jurists, said: “The failure of states to comply with their legal duties is creating a dangerous situation wherein terrorism, and the fear of terrorism, are undermining basic principles of international human rights law.”

The report claimed many measures introduced were illegal and counter-productive and that legal systems put in place after the Second World War were well equipped to handle current threats. Arthur Chaskelson, the chairman of the report panel, said: “In the course of this inquiry, we have been shocked by the damage done over the past seven years by excessive or abusive counter-terrorism measures in a wide range of countries around the world.

“Many governments, ignoring the lessons of history, have allowed themselves to be rushed into hasty responses to terrorism that have undermined cherished values and violated human rights.’’

These warnings aren’t being heeded. In fact the nebulous category of “extremist” is to be broadened:

The government is considering plans that would lead to thousands more British Muslims being branded as extremists, the Guardian has learned. The proposals are in a counterterrorism strategy which ministers and security officials are drawing up that is due to be unveiled next month.

Some say the plans would see views held by most Muslims in Britain being classed by the government as extreme.

According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.

• They promote Sharia law.

• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.

• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.

• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Contest 2 would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values. Those who advocate the wider definition say hardline Islamist interpretation of the Qur’an leads to views that are the root cause of the terrorism threat Britain faces. But opponents say the strategy would brand the vast majority of British Muslims as extremists and alienate them even further.

This counter-terrorism “mission creep” into the realm of politics is worrying. Not least because it will be counter-productive.

If the government truly wanted to tackle violent extremism it would pull our armed forces out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

This would also be a hugely popular move – most especially for military families who are seeing their loved ones killed and injured in conflicts that can only make us less safe.

It’s like a fascist state, fascists complain

Okay, so it’s illegal. It’s leading to people having their privacy invaded.

I’m talking, of course, about the leaking of the personal details (including home addresses as well as hobbies) of members of the white supremacist British National Party.

But putting people’s personal details online – this is the kind of thing fascists do, isn’t it?

Well, a former employee of the BNP (and so, one assumes, a racist sympathiser) is said to have uploaded the information.

As Jeremy Dear, the general secretary of the journalists’ union, blogs:

I’ve had neo-nazis threaten me at home, publish my details on Redwatch, the right-wing website designed to target and intimidate journalists and trade unionists, and was once physically assaulted by them and had to go to hospital. The BNP have staged demonstrations outside the NUJ’s head office and have issued threats to dozens of our members – particularly in Yorkshire. How sickening to hear Nick Griffin on Five Live this morning say he would use the Human Rights Act against to protect privacy when he stands for abolishing the act.

The fascists have also taken the opportunity to do some Muslim-bashing while they are busy insisting that they are being victimised.

If nothing else good comes of this exposure, perhaps it will help a few racists understand what it’s like being bullied – some might even empathise with ethnic minorities facing abuse and discrimination.

BBC dishonours armed forces – fails to report majority opinion against Afghan war

Talk about state television…

Each week, more young men are coming home from the Middle East in coffins or with missing limbs and mental scars.

The BBC’s idea of a debate on the role of UK forces in occupied Afghanistan is a feeble one-sided radio “debate”.

This is the most readable part of the story on Auntie’s website:

More than two-thirds of Britons think UK troops should leave Afghanistan within a year, a BBC poll has found.

Of 1,013 people polled, 68% said troops should withdraw within 12 months, with 59% of men agreeing and 75% of women.

One assumes that the Stop the War Coalition were not even asked to put someone up, as the only panelist expressing doubts is Simon Jenkins:

“I think the government should always pay attention to public opinion, particularly in matters of war and peace. It has never received a popular mandate for this war in any realistic sense.

“It was done at the bidding of the Americans – there’s a new American president we might be able to capture something from that but he’s equally in favour of it. I just think we should pull out.”

The rest of the article is just lies about the threat of international terrorism increasing. If anything, I imagine it would decrease.

As far as I see it, only good can come of troop withdrawals.

If it were not for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq (and the occupation of six counties in Ireland):

* There would be a quicker response to floods and other natural disasters as the armed forces could be deployed for civil defence. More people would be saved, fewer homes would be damaged.

* Muslim people would be more willing to give information to the police on terrorist activities.

* The corporate newspapers would be less inclined to print Islamophobic drivel. Although, the capitalists would still use religious and ethnic differences in an attempt to divide working people…

* In both Iraq and Afghanistan, reconstruction and development could start in earnest.

It’s typical of the BBC to deny an open debate on the merits of the Afghan war – it’s the state broadcaster and was given something of a punishment beating over the Kelly affair.

The survey it conducted delivered no surprise verdict. The poll result was similar to others that have already been taken.

What’s galling is that the BBC has been through days of Remembrance broadcasting and a special season of programmes on the First World War, but has kept quiet about the pro-peace majority.

If only it would keep quiet about John fucking Hutton.

No, Minister: why Yvette Cooper and Phil Woolas are hypocrites

First, Yvette Cooper:

Banks will face new curbs on home repossessions to prevent families from being evicted when they fall into financial difficulties, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury has promised. […]

‘We need a more responsible approach to repossessions,’ Cooper said in the interview. ‘What we are looking at is something looking much more widely at all of the banks, because I think repossession needs to be lot rarer. We need to do everything that we can to keep people in their own homes.’

But what is the publicly-owned but privately controlled Northern Rock doing?

Credit Action said that the nationalised bank was twice as likely as other lenders to repossess a home if borrowers fell behind with their mortgage repayments. Chris Tapp, director of the charity, said its eagerness to repay the government meant it was treating struggling customers harshly.

More than 19,000 homes were repossessed in the first half of this year, 4,000 of which were seized by Northern Rock.

That’s saying nothing of the 1500 workers sacked by the Rock…

Onto Phil Woolas:

In his first public statement in his new position, Phil Woolas conceded that immigration became an “extremely thorny” issue during an economic downturn when people already living in this country were losing their jobs. He also pledged the Government would respond by making it even harder for non-European Union nationals to come to Britain to work and live.

Let’s decode this. Non-EU nationals will be limited; EU nationals will not…

So we can see this is not about limiting immigration at all, but about Woolas trying to boost his career with some prejudice. A quota for migrants from outside the EU (largely people of colour) but not for those within the single labour market of the EU (who are mostly white).

Migration controls as such are not racist – but these are clearly racist. Woolas has form, remember.

Tory Story: stop me if you’ve heard this one

Turns out some of these short-sellers that have been speculating against banks are donors to the Tories. As well as those hedge fund types

As Bradford & Bingley, the last of the independent former building societies, is shared between Santander and the state, the Tories have been attacking New Labour – whose economic policies (light-touch regulation, privatisation of public services) they have supported.

[On that B&B bail-out, the BBC’s economic correspondent Robert Peston notes that “For taxpayers to lose a penny Bradford and Bingley’s future losses would have to be unthinkably huge.” That doesn’t mean that it’s a good move, mind…]

Why it’s conference season, and the Tories are in Birmigham – and they’re not complacent, honest.

Aside from promises to stand Tory candidates in the six counties (AKA Northern Ireland), carry on state harrassment and demonisation of Muslims, and cut council services, we have an overture to Blue Labour ministers:

Senior Blairites could be offered jobs under a David Cameron government in the ‘national interest’ […] in a bid to poach some of Labour’s brightest talents and split the party.

Michael Gove, the shadow children’s secretary, singled out Schools Minister Lord Adonis, but also warmly praised current cabinet ministers James Purnell and the ‘outstanding’ Hazel Blears.

As for the Tories economic proposals, Green leader Caroline Lucas says we need more people power, not quangoes:

“We are in the middle of a financial crisis caused by a lack of democratic control of the economy, and the Tory response is to marginalise democracy even further. It’s what they call ‘disaster capitalism’ – seizing on an emergency as an excuse to drive through a hard-right ideological agenda.

“The Tories want to outsource oversight of government fiances to a quango they call the Office of Budget Responsibility. But we already have an Office of Budget Responsibility. It’s called Parliament.

“We don’t need another quango, filled with the same corporate bosses that got us into this mess, with a few Tory donors and ultra-right think-tank wonks for good measure. We need real democratic control of the economy, with power returned from multinationals to parliament and, most importantly, to ordinary people.

“The Tories want to outsource the handling of failed banks, too. When a bank has to be nationalised, it should be dealt with for the benefit of ordinary savers and borrowers, but George Osbourne wants banks handed over to the Bank of England for another dose of the insular City thinking that caused the problem in the first place.

“Under a Green New Deal, banks that failed would be restructured into more, smaller companies, so that any problems they have in the future can be contained without putting the whole economy at risk. High-street banking would be separated from high finance to improve the security of people’s savings and mortgages. We would restore some of our lost building societies, which added much-needed stability to the market. We would get finance, and the economy as a whole, working for people rather than distant corporations.

“The Tories want to cut public investment just at the time we need it most. Their attitude is ‘you’re on your own’. A Green New Deal means government doing its job: investing in keeping our economy healthy and building a sustainable economy for the future.

“By borrowing from the people through local bonds, government can create a secure investment for savers. That would allow us to revamp our public transport, energy supplies and housing, generating jobs, revitalising money flows, loosening ties to unreliable oil markets and cutting carbon emissions.”

Mark Steel on the media’s made-up Muslim stories

The attacks indured by Muslims in the UK are no laughing matter – and the extent of such violence and intimidation has been highlighted by the conservative journalist Peter Oborne, who links it to sensationalist (and usually false) media reportage of Muslims.

The reason the tabloid press is full of made-up stories about the Muslim community? The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan need legitimising and by linking a domestic threat of terrorism to a foreign war of occupation, opposition to these unpopular wars can be diluted. In the seventies and eighties it was the Irish, now it is the Muslims.

Here’s Mark’s hilarious Indie column in full:

Wife-beating? That’s fine – unless you’re a Muslim

The Sun newspaper has come over a bit modest. Following a Channel 4 documentary about media reporting of Muslims, the paper accepts some of its stories were “distorted”. But they’re not doing themselves justice. They weren’t distorted – they were entirely made up. For example, a story about a Muslim bus driver who ordered his passengers off the bus so he could pray was pure fabrication.

But if reporters are allowed to make up what they like, that one should be disciplined for displaying a shocking lack of imagination. He could have continued, “The driver has now won a case at the Court of Human Rights that his bus route should be altered so it only goes east. This means the 37A from Sutton Coldfield will no longer stop at Selly Oak library, but go the wrong way up a one-way street and carry on to Mecca. Local depot manager Stan Tubworth said, ‘I suggested he only take it as far as Athens but he threatened a Jihad, and a holy war is just the sort of thing that could put a service like the Selly Oak Clipper out of business’.”

Then there was a story about “Muslim thugs” in Windsor who attacked a house used by soldiers, except it was another invention. But with this tale the reporter still claims it’s true, despite a complete absence of evidence, because, “The police are too politically correct to admit it.” This must be the solution to all unsolved crimes. With Jack the Ripper it’s obvious – he was facing the East End of London, his victims were infidels and he’d have access to a burqua which would give him vital camouflage in the smog. But do the pro-Muslim police even bother to investigate? Of course not, because it’s just “Allah Allah Allah” down at the stations these days.

Maybe Muslim newspapers should retaliate by publishing their own made-up stories. So it will be reported that “Barmy PC teachers in Leicester have banned children from playing Noughts and Crosses, claiming the cross reminds Church of England kiddies of the suffering undertaken by Lord Jesus. A spokesman for the Board of Education said, ‘We have to be sensitive. Which is why we’ve replaced the game with ‘Noughts and Hexagons’. We did look into calling it ‘Noughts and Crowns of Thorns’ but decided Hexagons was more appropriate.”

Or, “Doctors have been told that patients are no longer to be referred to as ‘stable’, as this is offensive to followers of Jesus, who was said to have been born in one. So medical staff have been informed they must use an alternative word, or if they can’t think of one just let the patient die.”

The most common justification for ridiculing Islam is that the religion is “backward”, particularly towards women, as a fundamental part of its beliefs. The Sun’s old political editor suggests this as a defence of his newspaper’s stance, saying that under Islam, “women are treated as chattels”. And it’s true that religious scriptures can command this, such as the insistence that, “a man may sell his daughter as a slave, but she will not be freed at the end of six years as men are.” Except that comes from the Bible – Exodus, Chapter 21, verse 7.

The Bible is packed with justifications for slavery, including killing your slaves. So presumably the Sun, along with others who regard Islam as a threat to our civilisation, will soon be campaigning against “Sunday Schools of Hate” where children as young as seven are taught to read this grisly book. And next Easter they’ll report how, “I saw a small child smile with glee as he opened a Cadbury’s egg filled with chocolate buttons. But behind his grin I couldn’t help but wonder whether he wanted to turn me into a pillar of salt, then maybe sprinkle me on his menacing confectionary treat.”

In his defence of making stuff up, the Sun’s ex-political editor spoke about the amount of domestic violence suffered by Muslim women. But there’s just as much chance of suffering domestic violence if you’re not a Muslim, as one of the 10 million such incidents a year that take place in Britain. Presumably the anti-Islam lobby would say, “Ah yes, but those other ones involve secular wife-beating, which is not founded on archaic religious customs, but rational reasoning such as not letting him watch the snooker.”

And finally the Sun’s man defends the line of his paper by saying that, after all, these Muslims “are trying to bomb our country”. So it’s their civic duty to make stuff up – the same as keeping a look-out for spies during the Second World War.

So we should all do our bit, and every day send in something, until the press is full of stories like “Muslims in Darlington have been raising money for semtex by organising panda fights.” Or “In Bradford all nurseries have been ordered to convert their dolls’ houses into miniature mosques so that Muslim teddies have somewhere to pray.”