Thursday, 24 July 2014

Enough is enough : Syria

Back in 2011, BFTF contacted (in this post) the MCB, OIC, Arab League, Syrian Embassy and local mosques to urge them to act to stop the escalating conlict there.

None of them responded and BFTF is ashamed that he has not been active on this issue in the intervening years.

So, it is perhaps time to try again.

Sent the message below to the MCB, OIC, Arab League, and local mosques

"Can you please advise which organisations (e.g. local MP, Arab League, EU etc) I should pressure to act to stop the killing in Syria and, if you have a view, what actions you think those organisations should take".

Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Enough is enough : Gaza and the West Bank

Some comments on the current attack on Gaza:

Gideon Levy in Haaretz comments on:

"..how the Hamas rockets "didn’t fall out of the sky from nowhere" but instead followed the breakdown of negotiations with Israel; attacks on Hamas following the murder of the three hikers "which it is doubtful Hamas planned"; the "false arrest of 500 of its activists" and more.
The article closes by pointing out that the the approach being taken by Israel is diametrically opposite to the policies that will result in a solution to the conflict suggesting one way forward: "A port in Gaza to export its excellent strawberries? To Israelis this sounds like heresy. Here once again, the preference is for (Palestinian) blood over (Palestinian) strawberries"
Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Gabor Maté comments in the Toronto Star on how :
"There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.
The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth."

And By Lawrence Weschler writes at Truthdig that :
"For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis... manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp."

There has been much talk on social media of consumer boycotts, but with few references to actual organisations running such campaigns. So far as BFTF can tell, the first point of call is www.bdsmovement.net, and organisation that is supported by over 100 NGO's in Palestine.

Before boycotting something, BFTF tries to know three things:
i) What, exactly is to be boycotted
ii) What alternative products should be bought instead
iii) What evidence there is that the people the boycott is alleged to support actually want it, and that this is the best way of helping them.
iv) That a boycott is not hypocritical (whilst realising that one cannot tackle everythng at once)

The answers to these questions, in relation to Gaza and the West Bank, are not quite clear to BFTF at this point.

Information on the Co-op boycott of settlement produce can be found here.

But what BFTF is pretty sure about is that Palestinians would like a hand up rather than a hand out, so hopes to shortly be buying some Palestinian produce from a local Zaytoun stockist (in BFTF's case this appears to be Roots Health Foods in Nottingham

Finally (for now), sent the following to my local MP :
"Like many people, I am appalled by death and destruction currently being wreaked on Gaza and wanted to make three hearfelt points to you:

i) Do you think bombing the living daylights out of a population is going to make them come begging to the negotiating table? Is that what the British people would do in a similar situation? I think not.

ii) The many years of peace in the West Bank has resulted in nothing for the Palestinian population there. Their crops are still routinely destroyed, they are still routinely humiliated by IDF security forces, they are still discriminated against in terms of trade, electriciy and water and housing.

iii) The UK Government likes to strut around as a permanent member of the security council, and has Tony Blair as the envoy for the Quartet - but I don't see what Mr Blair, or the UK government is practically doing to bring any semblance of justice to the lives of the Palestinians. I would welcome some evidence from you on this point."

Update:13 Aug 2014
Received a response from BFTF's local MP. Social media comments suggest that the wording is exactly the same as used for others how have, presumably, challenged on this issue. BFTF notes that the response only adresses some of the points that BFTF raised.

The response makes a number of key points :

"I oppose the Israeli incursion into Gaza...the rising death toll of innocent civilians in Gaza simply cannot be justified"

"The continued firing of rockets at Israeli civilians is completely unjustifiable..."

"I fear that the killing of Palestinians on a daily basis will cause yet more grief and destruction in Gaza as well as risking greater isolation for Israel and fuelling further extremism and conflict"

"I questioned [the PM during a Commons debate] on his approach to the conflict and why he thought the violence was proportional.."

The Commons question mentioned above can, of course be found on Hansard and is shown below:

"Local MP : Hundreds of my constituents have contacted me because they are angry and sickened by the killing of innocent Palestinians and the injuries to many thousands more in Gaza over recent days. They find it hard to understand the Prime Minister’s view that that violence is proportionate, so will he explain how he has reached that conclusion?

The Prime Minister: What I have said clearly is that the Israelis need to exercise restraint, obey the norms of international law, do more to avoid civilian casualties and help bring the situation to an end, but they would be assisted in that if Hamas agreed to the ceasefire that Israel has agreed to."

BFTF sent a Tweet to the MP saying thank you for raising this question in the Commons.

Also sent this to the Nottingham Conservative Group:

Dear Nottingham Conservatives

I'm very disturbed to hear David Cameron say, in his 21st July Statement on Gaza, that "The crisis was triggered by Hamas raining hundreds of rockets on Israeli cities"

This is flat wrong, nothing in the Arab-Israeli conflict happens in a vacuum. As respected Israeli writer Gideon Levy points out, the Hamas rockets "didn’t fall out of the sky from nowhere" but instead followed the breakdown of negotiations with Israel; attacks on Hamas following the murder of the three hikers (which had nothing to do with Hamas); the false arrest of 500 of its activists and more.

I am also very disturbed to see that while David Cameron feels able to "condemn" the Hamas rocket attacks (which have caused very little damage or casualties), he is only able to ask the IDF to "exercise restraint" - an IDF that has killed thousands, maimed thousands more, left tens of thousands homeless and destroyed schools, mosques, hospitals and power stations.

I am hoping you can explain this double standard because I am finding it REALLY hard to understand.

It is simply not in the UK's interest to allow Israel to cause such destruction in Gaza. As Peter Hain MP has pointed out, this will only increase the chance of Hamas being replaced by nihilists like ISIS.

I could go further, and take apart David Camerons statement piece by piece, but I shall leave it there as these are the most important comments I wanted to make.

I look forward to your response in due course.


Update:28th Aug 2014
An article by Max Blumenthal includes section about from Suleiman Zreibi, a resident of Gaza whose son was shot while, he says, going to help a wounded neighbour during intense Israeli shelling:
"I met Suleiman Zreibi in front of the ruins of his home, which Israeli forces destroyed with a combined salvo of missiles and artillery shells... “We’ve been suffering and it started more than 60 years ago, not yesterday,” Suleiman Zreibi declared. “When I build a house, the Israelis bomb it. When I try to make a living, they destroy my business. When I try to have a child, they kill him.” "

The article also describes how Gazan civilians were allegedly used as human shields by IDF forces:
"[Mahmoud Abu Said] said the Israeli troops dragged him back into his house, blindfolded him and wrapped him in a blanket on the floor as they began to blow holes in the walls to use as makeshift sniper slits — what US troops in Afghanistan called “murder holes.” Then the soldiers stripped Mahmoud to his underwear, handcuffed him, slammed him against a wall and began to beat him. With an M-16 at his back, they forced him to stand in front of open windows as they hunted his fleeing neighbors, sniping directly beside him at virtually anything that moved."

And it also gives the testimony of 50yr old farmer Abdul Rahman, from Beit Hanoun - just one example of how some civilians have lost almost everything to the Israelis:
"In 2005, Israeli bulldozers razed his citrus trees to extend the buffer zone, wiping out trees that provided oranges to the entire Gaza Strip. They then destroyed the wells he used to irrigate his land. And when they returned this year, they leveled his four-story home, killed his flock of 80 goats and incinerated the five tons of wheat he had stored. Bees buzzed all around us as we spoke, the remnants of an apiary Rahman had kept until it was obliterated by Israeli bombs."
Lastly, the article gives an example of how a family was forced to stay in their home, and then killed in a bombardment:
"...Unlike in areas like Shujaiya, where residents were bombarded without warning, many of Beit Hanoun’s locals were able to escape ahead of the Israeli onslaught. When Rahman returned to his home during the first temporary ceasefire, however, he found rubble of his neighbors' home littered with human flesh and dismembered limbs. Some had not been able to escape after all.

The dead were all members of the Wahadan family, one of the 89 families completely or mostly liquidated by Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip during the seven weeks of Operation Protective Edge. According to Rahman and several of his neighbors, Israeli troops from the Givati Brigade ordered the Wahadan family to remain in their home as the rest of the residents from the area fled, warning them that if they attempted to evacuate they would be shot. They were turned into human shields as members of the Hamas-affiliated Qassam Brigades staged period attacks on the occupying Israeli forces, attempting to dislodge them from the area.

Though Israeli forces knew the Wahadan family was still inside their home — they had ordered them to remain there, after all — they did not attempt to evacuate them when a bombardment was called in. According to Rahman, at least 10 members of the Al-Wahadan family were trapped in the house when it was attacked. All of them died and their body parts were not removed for 10 days [They were Hatem, Samira, Jamila, Fatma, Tzaki, Suhad, Sumud, Ghena (aged 2 to 70)]"


Update:28th Aug_2 2014
A joint MCB-Board of Deputies statement on Gaza has unravelled slightly following a report describing disagreement over the phrase "The targeting of civilians is completely unacceptable". According to the Jewish Chronicle, a MCB spokesperson said the phrase meant "It refers to both sides, Israel and Hamas. It’s civilians that pay the price. On both sides.” - but a Board spokesperson stated that "We are very clear that the IDF does not target civilians; that’s why we felt able to sign it.”

Update:28th Aug_3 2014
An Al-Jazeera report talks about the Israeli attack on Shujaiya, a residential area on the eastern edge of Gaza City, on Jul21st. The attack came a day after IDF leaflets told residents to evacuate the area. According to a US army official, the Pentagon report on the attack showed that the IDF had used :
"...a minimum of 258 artillery pieces, according to the officer’s estimate — pumped at least 7,000 high explosive shells into the Gaza neighborhood, which included a barrage of some 4,800 shells during a seven-hour period at the height of the operation."
In the US, Lt. Gen. Robert Gard, (Chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in Washington) commented that:
“That rate of fire over that period of time is astonishing. If the figures are even half right, Israel’s response was absolutely disproportionate."
After the attack, the IDF said that “Hamas ordered them [civilians] to stay. Hamas put them in the line of fire.”

Update:28th Aug_4 2014
Jeremy Bowen, in a New Statesman article comments that:
"I saw no evidence during my week in Gaza of Israel’s accusation that Hamas uses Palestinians as human shields. I saw men from Hamas on street corners, keeping an eye on what was happening. They were local people and everyone knew them, even the young boys."

More on this issue here.

Update:29th Aug 2014
An Al-Jazeera article describes what happened in the "cease-fire" after the last Israeli invasion of Gaza, in 2012. The article describes how, in the three months following the introduction of the "cease-fire", the following happened:

4 Gazans killed by the IDF, 91 wounded.
63 shooting attacks by the IDF in Gaza.
13 IDF army incursions into Gaza.
30 IDF navy attacks on Gaza fishermen.

The same time period also saw IDF or Settler attacks in the West Bank leave 6 Palestinians dead and 618 wounded.

Meanwhile, from the Gaza side, there was the following:

2 mortar shells into Israel.

Update:29th Aug 2014
As of 25th August, the UNRWA reported that there were 289,109 Palestinian civilians are taking shelter in 85 of their schools in Gaza.

Update:Jan 2016
An article describes how Israeli Settlers set fire to at least 100 olive trees near the village of Burin in the occupied West Bank.

The mayor also said that IDF occupation forces prevented Palestinian citizens from putting out the fire, only allowing civil defence forces into the area when the fire had expanded to cover a larger area, adding that they had previously been prevented from harvesting their olives trees.

The report also mentions that settler attacks have recently escalated with the start of the olive harvest season, and several Palestinian towns have seen their crops stolen, olive trees cut and lands confiscated.

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IDF shoot Palestinian footballer in the feet ten times.

Link report on how Israeli forces shot
"Their names are Jawhar Nasser Jawhar, 19, and Adam Abd al-Raouf Halabiya, 17. They were once soccer players in the West Bank. Now they are never going to play sports again. Jawhar and Adam were on their way home from a training session in the Faisal al-Husseini Stadium on January 31 when Israeli forces fired upon them as they approached a checkpoint. After being shot repeatedly, they were mauled by checkpoint dogs and then beaten. Ten bullets were put into Jawhar’s feet. Adam took one bullet in each foot. After being transferred from a hospital in Ramallah to King Hussein Medical Center in Amman, they received the news that soccer would no longer be a part of their futures. (Israel’s border patrol maintains that the two young men were about to throw a bomb.)...."


Sent email to FIFA, local Football teams, MP, FA saying that this deliberate targetting of Palestinian footballers is unacceptable and asking what they are doing to hold Israel to account for this.

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Update Dec 2016
Whilst going through some old emails, BFTF noticed the response from the BBC to complaints (in 2009) regarding the fact that the BBC had refused to support or air a Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) campaign for aid to help the victims of the war in Gaza. The BBC commented that :
"...But there is a second more fundamental reason why we decided that we should not broadcast the appeal at present. This is because Gaza remains a major ongoing news story, in which humanitarian issues - the suffering and distress of civilians and combatants on both sides of the conflict, the debate about who is responsible for causing it and what should be done about it - are both at the heart of the story and contentious..."

"..After looking at all of the circumstances, and in particular after seeking advice from senior leaders in BBC Journalism, we concluded that we could not broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully constructed, without running the risk of reducing public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in its wider coverage of the story..."


BFTF notes that, in contrast, the BBC had no problem supporting DEC campaigns during conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

BBC DEC Appeal for Syria 

BBC DEC Appeal for Yemen

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Related Posts:
Commons debate on Gaza 21st July 2014
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Enough is enough : Egypt

Very disturbed to read how two trials in Egypt earlier this year resulted in 720 people being sentenced to death.
According to the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, the trials were very unfair, commenting that :
"The majority of the defendants were tried in absentia and no specific evidence was put forward by the prosecution in respect of individual defendants. Defence lawyers were not allowed to call witnesses, present their own cases or cross examine on the prosecution case. The trial of the 529 defendants was concluded in only two short sessions... No consideration was provided as to the evidence against each individual defendant, nor any reference to the standard of proof...In particular, defence lawyers claim that there is evidence which proves that a large percentage of the convicted were not even present at the scene of the Minya events last August."
This comes against a backdrop of systemic violence and abuse in Egypts legal system, according to Amnesty International. A report by the human rights organisation points out that :
"Amnesty International has gathered damning evidence indicating that torture is routine in police stations and unofficial places of detention, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters particularly targeted. It is carried out by both the Egyptian military and police including in premises belonging to the National Security Agency, in many cases with the objective of obtaining confessions or to force detainees to implicate others. Among the methods of torture employed are techniques previously used by state security during Mubarak’s rule. These include the use of electric shocks, rape, handcuffing detainees and suspending them from open doors"
Amnesty also point out that :
"Egypt is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 14 of which guarantee the right of everyone to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The article further guarantees the right of everyone facing criminal charges to be informed promptly of the nature and cause of the charges against them; the right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence; the right to be tried in their presence; and the right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against them. Article 6 of the ICCPR states that, in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the ICCPR."
So sent this to to Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights Mahy Hassan Abdel Latif (contact.Us@mfa.gov.eg) and two addresses at the Egyptian Consulate in the UK (Egypt.culture@btconnect.com , info@egpressoffice.com)
"I have been very disturbed to hear about the mass death sentences handed down to over 700 people earlier this year in Egypt. So far as I can tell, the trial was very flawed and the defendents (many of whom claim to have been elsewhere at the times the crimes were committed) had little chance to defend themselves.

Separately, I am also appalled to read in reports by Amnesty that torture, rape and electric shocks are routinely used on detainees.

Egypt should be ashamed that it has allowed these unfair trials and routine use of torture to happen. As well as causing me to lose respect for Egypt, these actions also give ammunition to those who say that Muslim countries are incapable of governing themselves without becoming violent, intolerant, dictatorships."


Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Enough is enough : China

Very disturbed to hear that Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China are being banned from fasting in the month of Ramadan, according to the BBC.

According to the reports, students were "were being forced to have meals with professors to ensure they were not fasting."

Another report describes how hospital staff are being forced to sign a pledge that they would not fast.

This is an unacceptable restriction on freedom to practice ones faith.

So sent this to the Chinese Embassy in London:
"I have been very disturbed to hear reports that Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China are being banned from fasting, to the extent that some students are being forced to eat meals with college staff to prove that the students are not fasting that day. To hear that the Chinese government is behaving in this way reduces my respect for China, and makes me less likely to buy Chinese made products."

And this to the High Commission for Pakistan in the UK
"I have been disturbed to read reports that reports that Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China are being banned from fasting, to the extent that some students are being forced to eat meals with college staff to prove that the students are not fasting that day. As China is a good friend of Pakistan, I wondered what efforts the Pakistani Government has made to stop this practice."
Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Challenging the BBC on negative portrayal of Muslims in Spooks (2004)

Challenged the BBC in this, rather angry, email over an episode called "Outsiders" (Series 3 Episode 7, 22nd Nov 2004). BFTF has no record of any response from the BBC. This was back in 2004. So far as BFTF can tell, nothing at all has changed in the intervening 10 years. BFF wonders why he is paying a licence fee to get demonised in BBC dramatic output.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 24 November 2004 00:44
To: info@bbc.co.uk
Subject: Spooks - Nov 22nd

Does the BBC and KUDOS productions have the demonisation of the Muslim community as some kind of mission statement?

I have just had to endure a whole week of trailers that appeared to show messages from an "Islamic" Terrorist group.

They must have been Muslims mustn't they? The messages were in Arabic after all. But just in case there was any doubt, part of the message was helpfully translated to mean "Jihad". There you go, told you it was Muslims.

And the programme itself continued in the same vein, with the Spooks team raiding a "Cultural Centre" in the UK (would that be the same one that had child suicide bombers in the last series, perhaps?).

But it turns out that it's okay, because this time the Muslims didn't do it.

Let me just get this straight. Are you saying that it is now acceptable to use the asssumed guilt of Muslims as a plot line ??!!

Are you saying that it is okay to, once again, portray Muslims as terrorists so long as, after half an hour of leading the audience on, you then say, "Only kidding, look, it wasn't the Muslims after all"?

I would point out, again, that the ONLY time the BBC portrays Muslims in its dramatic output is when they are either terrorists or asylum seekers

Frankly, I am starting to wonder why I am paying a license fee to an organisation that seems hell bent on portraying me (and my family) as a fifth columnist threat to society.

And if this is the BBC's idea of a contribution to Islamic Awareness week, then I think the Muslims in the UK are better off without it.

In summary, my questions are :

i) Why did the BBC show repeated trailers that associated Islam with terrorism?

ii) Why are Muslims only portrayed in negative terms in the dramatic output of the BBC?

Related Posts
How to positively engatge with the Media
Positive Portrayals of Muslims in the Media
Details of News Stories simply done get read
Demonisation of Muslims in the Media
Negative Portrayal of Muslims in NCIS

Challenging the BBC on portrayal of Muslims in Spooks (2003)

Challenged the BBC (via a phone complaint) on their claim that they had consulted with Islamic experts for the 9th June 2008 episode of Spooks "Nest of Angels". A member of the Editorial and Investigation Team responded saying that :

"I am unable to divulge details of the Islamic Experts that were consulted for the programme. Ultimately the BBC takes responsibility for Spooks and we are satisfied that this episode was extensively researched and that the BBC's usual rigorous editorial policy and legal requirements had been followed"

Links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nest_of_Angels
http://spooks.wikia.com/wiki/Nest_of_Angels


Portrayal of Muslims in NCIS (2008)

Had an, ultimately fruitless, email discussion with Channel 5 back in 2008 about the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of Muslims on the US made NCIS drama...

13 April 2008
Subject: NCIS, Fri 11th April 2008

Dear Channel 5

I was deeply disturbed by the negative portrayal of Muslims in this episode of NCIS. Specifically:

i) A group calling itself something along the lines of "Muslims for Peace" turned out to be intent on performing suicide bombings. The implication being that Muslims are largely two faced, and not to be trusted. Having a group called ""Muslims for Peace" also implies that all other Muslims are "for War".

ii) Muslims were shown exclusively in a context of terrorism.

ii) Muslims having beards of wearing prayer-caps were exclusively shown be resentful of the NCIS agents in a way that is rare for other characters to be portrayed.

NCIS has a history of such portrayal. For instance in just three months last year it managed to rack up the following :

23rd March 2007 : 2 detectives found themselves in a crate of terrorist related "Al- Qaida" cash

24th March 2007 : Comments about Al-Qaida dropped into a conversation on a different topic

20th April 2007 : A decapitated head in the boot of a car prompts Ziva to tearfully tell how her friend was beheaded by Hamas in Ramallah

11th May 2007 : Ziva comments that "I've seen 12 yr old suicide bombers in Israel" in an eposide relating to a student who appeared to be a suicide bomber.

I can recall no positive portrayals of Muslims In addition there are running stories relating to Gibbs search for the terrorist "Ari", and the last season ended with a terrorist attack on a US naval ship.

I appreciate that this is a drama series and that terrorism is a legitimate topic. What is NOT acceptable is to link Muslims and terrorism repeatedly throughout a series - and to do so without any positive references to Muslims in storylines that are unconnected with terrorism.

It is inconceivable that that any other minority would be portrayed in such a systematically negative fashion. I would welcome some evidence from C5 that it has a larger number of positive portrayals of Muslims than negative ones in its dramatic output.

I would also ask C5 to consider the effect that consistently negative portrayals of Muslims have on community relations. Consistently negative portrayals of Muslims have an adverse effect on the perceptions that some non-Muslims have of Muslims. They also have the effect of demonstrating to some Muslims that the "establishment" is determined to portray them as the enemy within and that they will never be accepted in this country.

********************************************************************

17 April 2008
Dear Ash


Thank you for your recent enquiry regarding NCIS and the portrayal of Muslims.

We were sorry to learn that you feel that this series portrays Muslims in a negative way. Whilst we fully understand your sentiment based on your perception of the programme, we feel that you are mistaken. As the programme is set in a department of the US Military, it is entirely feasible that there will be mentions of terrorism related matters. The episode in question, titled Grace Period, features a number of Muslims but only two are found to be involved in terrorist activity. Indeed, other Muslims featured in the episode are either successful business owners, clerics working to promote peace or volunteer workers also keen on promoting peace. With the exception of the two terrorists in this episode, the portrayal of Muslims and interactions with NCIS staff was both positive and reverential.

Nonetheless, we understand your concerns and have logged your comments for the attention of all relevant Five personnel.

  ********************************************************************

17 April 2008
Dear Channel 5


Thank you for replying to my comments.

Unfortunately, you're responses do not answer my questions, and are incorrect in some respects. Specifically:

1) You state "the programme is set in a department of the US Military, it is entirely feasible that there will be mentions of terrorism related matters"

I agree with you, as shown by by original statement "I appreciate that this is a drama series and that terrorism is a legitimate topic"

2) You state "Indeed, other Muslims featured in the episode are either successful business owners, clerics working to promote peace or volunteer workers also keen on promoting peace. With the exception of the two terrorists in this episode, the portrayal of Muslims and interactions with NCIS staff was both positive and reverential".

This is plain wrong. My recollection is that the "business owner" was found to be a terrorist. Also the workers at his office scowled at the NCIS agents and were certainly not "reverential".

3) My comment was that "What is NOT acceptable is to link Muslims and terrorism repeatedly throughout a series - and to do so without any positive references to Muslims in storylines that are unconnected with terrorism". I would welcome your confirmation that you agree with this.

4) My question was "I would welcome some evidence from C5 that it has a larger number of postive portrayals of Muslims than negative ones in its dramatic output". An answer to this would be gratefully received. And please note, having a token "good Muslim" in a programme that otherwise contains Muslims that are bent on death and destruction does not, in my mind, particularly count as a positive portrayal.

********************************************************************

Date: 23rd April 2008
Dear Ash

Thank you for your further e-mails.We are sorry that you feel we did not address the questions in your previous e-mail.

It would appear that on your first point, you agree with our explanation. On your second point, we have watched the episode in question and stand by the information that we gave you on the various Muslim characters in that episode.

On your third point, the series does not link Muslims with terrorists. However, there are terrorists featured in the series who are Muslims. The episode Grace Period made it quite clear that these terrorists are a minority and do not represent the views of all Muslims, this was reiterated by a number of comments made by various characters through the episode.

Muslim fundamentalist terrorists do exist, as do fanatics of every race and creed, and as such are a legitimate inclusion in films or dramas. Fanatics shown in such films or series, regardless of their ethnic or religious group, are not implied to be representative of that group as a whole. Films regarding the IRA do not seek to suggest that all Irish people are terrorists, just as a series such as NCIS does not suggest that the terrorists featured represent all Muslims.

Your further comments have been logged in our Viewer Enquiries Report, which is circulated throughout the company.

********************************************************************

25th April 2008
Dear Channel 5


Thank you for taking the time to respond.

1) However, I am afraid that you have omitted to answer my key question :

"I would welcome some evidence from C5 that it has a larger number of positive portrayals of Muslims than negative ones in its dramatic output". An answer to this would be gratefully received. And please note, having a token "good Muslim" in a programme that otherwise contains Muslims that are bent on death and destruction does not, in my mind, particularly count as a positive portrayal. Had I known that your reply would respond to my other points and leave this one unanswered, I would have restrained myself to asking this one central question.

********************************************************************

The conversation went on a bit further after this, but not to any significant effect

Related Links http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-to-positively-engage-with-media.html
http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/positive-portrayals-of-muslims-in-media.html
http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/details-in-news-stories-simply-dont-get.html http://bftfblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/demonisation-of-muslims-in-media.html

Look Up From Your Phone, and Shut Down Your Display

Rather wonderful polemic against social media (irony noted)[Bit sweary in places]:


Artist Jeffer M-Garib

Just a note about Jeffer M-Garib, a self-taught artist who works as a playworker in Nottingham. Jeffer was born in Kirkuk, Kurdistan and survived life under Saddam Hussain's brutal regime.

His blog comments that:

"I have experienced 8 years of continuous war(first ,second golf war 1990,uprising 1991 against the regime ,oppression,mass murder,using gas against civilian, economic sanction,civil war and many more"

His work has been shown at both of Nottinghams Universities, the Surface Gallery and the New Art Exchange. He was also the subject of a feature in the "Beyond Borders" newspaper in June 2012.

Contact Details:
http://www.jeffer-garib.blogspot.co.uk/
jeffer.garib@yahoo.co.uk
0754 0741 088

Dr Eoin Clarke talk on NHS in Nottingham 2012

Back in (BFTF thinks) May 2012, BFTF atended a talk by Dr Eoin Clarke in Nottingham. The talk covered various issues related to the NHS and, in particular, its privatisation under the NHS and Social Care Bill. Here are a few notes that BFTF took at the event.

Private healthcare companies have taken on a lot of debt, and need to service this. Some are using the assets they buy (e.g. hospitals) to obtain finance.
[BFTF : See this article in the Guardian]

Meanwhile, in Cambridgeshire:
1) Private companies take on finance
2) Down scale skills of employees (e.g. using workfare people to deliver meals on wheels, using Healthcare assistants to do nurses jobs.
3) All private companies exempt from Freedom of Information and whistleblowing legislation
[BFTF : Article on Circle/NHS hospital and GMB article on health service outsourcing]

50% of hospital applications for Foundation status are rejected - these hospitals merge or are sold off.
[BFTF : OpenDemocracy article on poor participation in NHS Trusts]

The work of Sally Ruane (De Montfort University) was mentioned.

Action - get CCGs to sign a pledge that they will be transparent about choice, engage meaningfully and retain local access to services

The Health and Wellbeing boards are new and do involve local communities. They should provide joined up commissioning but cannot impose decisions on the CCG

Community Health Councils were good but were abolished by Labour.

See also :
http://www.keepournhspublic.com/policybriefings.php
http://www.theguardian.com/society/2012/mar/20/valedictory-nhs-privatisation-health-bill

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Wahhabi lecture in Nottingham

A couple of years ago, BFTF went along to a talk by a Wahhabi speaker.

Amongst the claims made were :

That pre-Wahaabi Arabia was so dangerous that people would make a will before setting out on the Hajj, and that rulers would take an army attachment with them for the same reason.

That Abd al-Wahhab did not meet with any British agents in Basra as he left there in 1740 and there was no British Counsellor there before 1767.

"If you ask the Shia who are the worst they will say the Sahaba"

Abd al-Wahhab lived in an area not controlled by the Ottoman empire.

Anyone who does not subscribe to Sahaba practices is a deviant

Commented on actions of Aisha(R.A) as being due to her "being the jealous woman she was"

Refuted claims that Wahhab killed 60 thousand Hajjis by saying that Wahhab died before the Saudi state had control of Mecca and Medina. Also claimed that only 3800 were killed in battles between Wahhabis and others.

BFTF is disturbed by the fact that speakers for an ideology that is so intolerant of other branches of Islam (never mind those of other faiths) and so ready to destroy Islamic heritage sites are able to speak in Nottingham.

Related Posts
How Islamic thought is context based
A short history of Wahhabiism
Challenging the Saudi Government on their policies

Sunday, 6 July 2014

The connection between potholes and surveillance legislation

The Government recently announced a £168million fund for repair of potholes as part of "the biggest investment in the road network since the 1970s".

BFTF notes, and is rather encouraged by the fact that the fund will reward those councils who are using best practice :
"In total 148 authorities applied for funding and all will receive a share. A greater share is being provided to a number of model authorities who were able to demonstrate best practice in highways maintenance. These councils have invested in new technology and initiatives. They have brought in specialist machinery or set up dedicated crews, to help fix potholes or prevent them from appearing in the first place."
BFTF wonders if cycle lanes will also get an investment that is the biggest "since the 1970s", but that is another story.

It's perhaps worth looking at what various bodies believe are the causes of potholes:

West Sussex Highways : "Any combination of hot weather, heavy rain or cold snap causes potholes."

Dr Mujib Rahman, Sen. lecurer in civil engineeering at NTU : "Increasing traffic volumes and heavier loads, allied with repeated adverse weather is causing significant deterioration in ageing road materials..."

Institute of Civil Engineers : "Snow and ice are the worst weather conditions for exacerbating existing road defects, due to the repetition of the freeze-thaw process,"

Dudley Council : "Potholes occur when the road's surface breaks and collapses. This often occurs as a result of cold weather."

Robert Goodwill (Parliamentary under-secretary of state for transport) discussed the issue of potholes in a recent interview on LBC, which was then reported in the Telegraph. According to the article, Goodwill commented that:

“We have also seen more traffic on the roads we have seen a four per cent increase in traffic in the first quarter of this year in comparison to a year ago, that is because more good are travelling around as the economy improves, more people are travelling to work as they get jobs so this means the roads are getting more wear and tear and this money helps councils get on top of that job.”
Really? Weather and years of underinvestment not a big factor?

4% increase in traffic and our roads start to fall to pieces?

Don't think so.

But what's that "we have also" bit at the beginning of the quote. Is there a bit before where he talks about the weather being a big factor? BFTF doesn't know, and can't find the interview on LBC anymore

So, either The Telegraph (and other papers) are being grossly misleading, or Robert Goodwill is.

Predictably, Goodwill's words were widely ridiculed in the comments sectios of the articles.

Anyway, a few days later, Home Secretary Theresa May is reported as asking for increased surveillance powers.

But, since I was clearly being mislead over the causes of potholes (either by the Telegraph or by a member of the Government), why should I think, even for a moment, that I'm not being mislead in this case, which also invovles a member of Government being reported in the Telegraph?

Fortunately, I can read a full transcipt of the speech here (something the Telegraph chose not to link to). It is very interesting.

One issue mentioned (both in the Telegraph and the full transcript) is that:

"Over a six-month period the National Crime Agency alone estimates that it has had to drop at least twenty cases as a result of missing communications data. Thirteen of these were threat-to-life cases in which a child was assessed to be at risk of imminent harm."

The transcript also describes how social media has changed the data landscape:

"First, we are living more of our lives online, using an array of new technology – IP telephony such as Skype and Facetime, social networking such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, chat rooms, anonymising services, and a myriad of mobile apps. This is hugely liberating and a great opportunity for economic growth, but this technology has become essential not just to the likes of you and me but to organised criminals and terrorists.

Second, the new technology is generally owned and operated not by states but by communications companies. They are global and they exercise considerable power. They collect data from their services about our online activity and they often use it for commercial purposes. It is often bought and sold. These companies affect – I might even say intrude upon – our lives and our privacy every single day. They can drive a car up your road and put an image of your home online for the world to observe. Of course, they do not need a warrant to do so.

Third – and I cannot emphasise this point enough – far from having some fictitious mastery over all this technology we, in democratic states, face the significant risk of being caught out by it. Governments have always reserved the power to monitor communications and to collect data about communications when it is necessary and proportionate to do so.

It is much harder now – there is more data, we do not own it and we can no longer always obtain it. I know some people will say “hurrah for that” – but the result is that we are in danger of making the internet an ungoverned, ungovernable space, a safe haven for terrorism and criminality. "
But, again, why should BFTF trust the Home Secretary not to mislead?

What BFTF came into this post thinking
The narrative that was in BFTFs head at the beginning of writing this post was:
1) Robert Goodwill, a member of government, is misleading me.
2) If one Government member can mislead, why should the others be trusted?
3) Lack of Trust is a serious issue when dealing with crime and security issues.

But it has all turned into a complicated can of worms, and lost BFTF a lot of sleep...

So, what to do?
Will send a Tweet to Robert Goodwill MP asking whether the report of his interview accurately represented his views on the main causes of potholes.

Will send an email to my Local MP saying that:
i) When one politician says something that is patently untrue, and at odds with the facts, then it puts the statements of ALL politicians in more doubt - Can the public trust you or can't they?

ii) It was good that the original transcript of the Home Secretary available online

iii) Is it possible to breakdown the 20 cases that the National Crime Agency has had to drop, to make it clearer what the types of crime involved are?

iv) Does the Labour Party now think that ID cards are a bad idea and a huge waste of money, or will that idea still be in their next manifesto? [see here for some info]

Update 6th Jul
Goodwill not on Twitter, can't email as not a constituent, Gov.uk says his role doesn't exist. Gave up.

Goodwills website says he is the PUS-DOT

Government website says no such role exists

UK Government Coat of Arms