Saturday, 25 October 2014

Stuff what BFTF asked Mosques to do.

A blog charting the response received when emailing (usually four) local mosques to suggest (very simple) things they could do to improve engagement between the Muslim community and wider society, or ways people could act to stop conflict and injustice.

Before reading this post, you may wish to have a look at these two related posts :

i) Positive Muslim Stories
ii) Stuff what the Imam said

Apr 2016 :
I've noted that Muslim Characters on BBC drama only use phrases such as "Assalamu alaikum" in the context of negative storylines and have complained to the BBC about two recent instances. Thought you may wish to do so similarly, and perhaps encourage your congregations to do so as well. Details and template complaint here :
Response:One, but none from mosque leadership

Mar 2016 :
Just wanted to suggest that it would be in the interest of the Muslim community leaders in Nottingham to think about cultural events that can encourage their congregations to attend in Nottingham. This would build bridges and allow the Muslim community to be a stakeholder in the wider cultural life. It would also counter the far-right assertion that Muslims want to destroy British culture, and also counter the extremist assertion that there is no common ground between Muslims and wider society. Some examples to consider :
I note in particular that Mayfest is coming up very soon.

Response:One, but none from mosque leadership

Mar 2016 :
Suggested that leaders in the Muslim community might wish to challenge the government regarding wasted food aid drops in Syria.


Dec 2015 :
Suggested that leaders in the Muslim community needed to discuss these questions and issues regarding Muslims serving in the armed services.


Nov 2015 :
Suggested mosques should ask their congregations to be vocal and that congregation should express their views (to their MPs) regarding a possible commons vote on bombing Syria.


(although the petition BFTF signed did receive a response - see here)

Nov 2015 :
Suggested mosques might want to challenge local MP / Conservative party on treatment of Muslims at risk of suicide.


Oct 2015 :
Suggested to mosques that, following two nasty attacks on vulnerable Muslims travelling on London buses, the mosques might want to quiz Nottingham City Transport on their policies for helping people under attack on public tranpsort.

Two imams responded saying they had sent off emails challenging NCT. See post for details.

Sep 2015 :
Asked if mosques should be more supportive of the Nottingham Green Festival, given the strong overlap between Islamic teachings and many of the values expressed in the Festival (e.g. campaigning for animal welfare; for social justice; for help for refugees; to support the NHS etc etc.)

Response : None

Jul 2015 :
Emailed to tell mosques about the challenges BFTF had made to authorities regarding PREVENT and media bias (as described in this post). Asked if mosques could provide some further examples of the issues highlighted.

Response : None

Jun 2015 :
Emailed mosques to ask if they would be interested in a talk on what BFTF had learnt in the UoN MOOC entitled "Propaganda and Ideology in Everyday Life" that BFTF had attended.

Response : None

Update Oct 2015, raised this one in person at a particular mosque, was told to talk to one of the staff members. Staff member said they were not able to facilitate this event.

May 2015 :
Emailed two mosques to say I was concerned about the anti-vaccination messages being pushed by some Muslim groups, giving the example of a talk by Dr Omar Zaid in which he commented that :

“The whole concept of a vaccine is fundamentally flawed" ; "The younger they trained the doctors, the more hardhearted they seemed to become.” ; “The vaccines themselves, which are introducing foreign proteins directly into the bloodstream. God did not design us to do that” ; “Modern medical specialists think they know best, they already know its fundamentally flawed because they don’t want to admit [they have] made a mistake” ; Regarding vaccines “I would recommend that people just say no” “the doctors are culpable, there are illiterate, they are functionally illiterate"
Response : Received a response from one Imam which included the comment that "All I can say is that it was the Beloved Prophet’s (peace be upon him) sunnah to seek cure for illnesses. We have to go out into the world and seek cures. Allah says: Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…." Surah Ar-Rad(13):11 so just praying to Allah to cure us isn’t going to result in cure. Man has to get up and make an effort to change whatever is wrong inside him.

Jan 2014 :
Asked if mosques could also challenge IPSO regarding a MailOnline article that broke the IPSO code. Details here

Response : None

Dec 2013 :
Asked some questions regarding the mentality of the murderers who killed the children in the Peshawar massacre, and what UK orgs and Muslims could do to combat this. Details here

Response : Responses received from two Imams (and also the MAB). Again, detailed here

Sep 2014 :
"I've written a couple of emails to DEFRA challenging them on their failure to meet their own tree planting targets in recent years. And also on their failure to put into place a structure to protect the Nations ancient woodland, in trust, for future generations - something the Government promised to do back in 2013. With protection of the environment in general and trees in particular, being so prominent in Islam I wanted to suggest that perhaps your respective masajid could encourage the congregations to also be active in this area.

Details and background can be found here.

It is BFTF's strong belief that one factor in the alienation of young Muslims is that, in general, Muslim organisations do not provide practical examples (that the organisations have taken themselves) of how to engage with society, to achieve change, to challenge the government etc.And this lack of examples leaves young people frustrated, vulnerable to conspiracy theories and believing they are powerless. This is not a good thing."

Response : None

Jul 2014 :
"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?"

Response : None

May 2014
"This Friday, could you please, please, please mention the May Fest event at the University of Nottingham (Sat 10th May, 11am to 5pm) to your congregation and encourage them to take advantage of this free day of fun and education! It really is a great day out for all the family - and a wonderful chance to talk to researchers at the UoN about what they do. Lots of fun activities for kids and adults alike. You will not be disappointed inshallah. We talk, as a community about our committment to learning and the Islamic heritage of science - well here is a chance to demonstrate that we stil have that love of knowledge today. More info here: and here.

Response : One response from an Imam who said "Inshallah will spread the news...and will also try and come down"

April 2014
"I've written two complaints to the PCC regarding the DailyMail coverage of the "Project Trojan" story. But a lot more could be done if Imams / Mosques did the same - and encouraged their congregations to do so as well - assuming that you believe the allegations to be false, of course. Information here. Response : None


Friday, 24 October 2014

Talk - Uri Gordon on Anarchism

Interesting Cafe Sci talk recently by Uri Gordon on Anarchist Politics. This post is based on the talk, with a little extra linkage thrown in.

Uri stated that in contrast to MONarchy (one leader), the ideal behind ANarchy was to be free of rulers, and that the anarchy did not mean chaos, insecurity etc

Uri asked the audience to consider the many occasions at work and at leisure when people organised themselves without the need for leaders (e.g. going to the pub for lunch, a walk in the country, a charitable venture, a community garden etc, adding that "Humans can get along just fine without rulers" and that perceptions to the contrary were pushed by interests such as the state, patriarchal institutions, corporations who wish to exploit etc.

As an example of how anarchy can work in communities, Uri gave the example of aboriginal hunter-gatherer communities around the world, who have been found to have structures that do not have a leader, have cultural codes that look after the environment. They respect their elders - but all members of the community get this respect when they become old. However, Uri later added that this model could not work in todays world as there were too many people and the environment was too degraded.

According to Uri, anarchists seek to build a new society within the current one rather than being co-opted into existing power structures via conventional elections etc.

A protest by the Spanish anarchist trade union CGT,
who represent some 2 million workers

Anarchists also believe in direct action, without relying on intermediaries - hence movements such as Occupy, the Brazilian World Cup protests, the emergence of community gardens in run down areas, and cases of people tying themselves to trees to prevent construction projects.

(although a darker side of direct action can be seen in this article). Related to this is the concept of the "Propaganda of the Deed".

Uri also mentioned that he had a very pragmatic approach to anarchism, and little time for those who put the purity of the ideology over the practicalities of actually helping people and achieving social good. He also cautioned against conspiracy theories as "lazy thinking".
Uri also gave some pointers for further reading:

Emma Goldman (who Uri quoted from).

African Anarchism - The History of a Movement

Decolonising Anarchism

Tom Payne - Common Sense

Incidentally, researching for this post has revealed to BFTF the existence of the rather lovely anarchist phenomena of "Twinkles"

Image Sources

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Camping near Clipstone

At No3 sons repeated exhortation, spent a weekend camping in Nottinghamshire this September. Took the opportunity to have a look at the (now disused) Clipstone colliery....

The Clipstone Colliery, , produced coal from 1927 until 1993, and then again from 1994 to 2003. The imposing headstocks were amongst the tallest in Europe when built during upgrades in the 1950s and were given Grade II listed status by English Heritage in 2000 as being ‘special architectural or historic interest’.

The site is currently owned by Welbeck Estate, who would like to demolish the headstocks - although others are campaigning for the site to become an adventure park including a mile long zip line! (see also

Clipstone Colliery

There is an e-petition to save the headstocks. BFTF has signed it, and hopes you will too.

A history of Clipstone colliery here and some images of the colliery here and here.

Headstocks look like some kind of alien engineering
has been placed in the middle of the village

Meanwhile, next to the campsite was a farm - and BFTF was fascinated to see how quickly the farmer, armed with a tractor and a Lemken Solitaire 9 seed drill, was able to plant an entire field with seeds.

It left BFTF wondering if there was any information quantifying the impact of mechanisation on farming productivity

Mechanisation of seed planting

Amazing how quickly the whole field was planted

The best thing about camping, it seems, is cooking on a gas stove !

No3 Son made the dinner, bless him!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Top Trumps "Warships"

Whilst playing a game of "Warships" Top Trumps with No3 son, noticed that all the cards had little complimentary descriptions of their respective vessels (which were from the navies of nations ranging from the US to Italy to China).

Well, all the cards except one - the single entry for the Pakistan Navy (PNS Khaibar) was very disparaging. BFTF is struggling a bit to understand why...

The Cards (might be a couple missing)

Uniquely disparaging comments on the PNS Khaibar card

Title Card

A very rare Bourbon Cream

To eat or to sell on eBay? That is the question.

Actually, that is no question at all. Nom Nom Nom.

From one side, a perfectly normal Bourbon Cream....

..but from the other side, the biscuit is inverted -  a monstrous aberration.

A "Thank You" to the teachers at Berridge Primary

Been going through the stuff No3 son brought home on his last day at Berridge Primary School and was struck by how his writing improved over the time he was at the school.

So, this post is a big THANK YOU to the teachers there for working so hard to teach No3 Son literacy, numeracy and much else - and to a pretty good standard too!





Saturday, 18 October 2014

The camera might not lie, but it can certainly be economical with the truth

A post, hopefully occasionally updated, with examples of how shifting ones perspective a little can result in a very different view. In each case, the location does not change between the pictures, just the direction the shot was taken...


Luton Central Car Park, 2014 (might have moved a bit between these)

A trip to Stockwood Discovery Centre, Luton

Visited Stockwood Discovery Centre in Luton earlier in the year, here are a few pictures......

St Marys Church (in town centre, not at Stockwood)

More on this very beautiful church here

Examples of baby feeding equipment from years gone by

 A truck painted in the South Asian style

The truck, and the Romany Wagon shown below, were painted by the Museums youth team during 2011-12. The youngsters were trained by Haider Ali (truck) and Rory Coxhill (wagon)about the correct techniques and designs to be used.

You can read more about Haiders work here

and more about Wagon Painting here.

A panel from the truck

Romany Bow Top Wagon painted in the traditional style

Viva las Viva!

Because for many years Luton = Vauxhall

Exhibition of extraordinarily beautiful backlit space photographs

Great to see Stockwood Discovery Centre hosting this sciency exhibition. NSB has seen plenty of space images over the years, but these on another level!

These images do not come close to showing the originals awesomeness

NSB and small people put about a pint of 2p's into this - SO worth it.

Tree showing donors who have supported the Discovery Centre

Detail of tree

Monday, 13 October 2014

Sunday, 12 October 2014

An example of how dysfunctional the US healthcare system is

US academic Molly Worthen has written about her experiences of negotiating the privatised US healthcare system during her pregnancy.

It is not a happy story.
"My husband and I pulled into the parking lot for our first prenatal appointment 15 minutes early, excited to see the first ultrasound of the gummy-bear-sized creature in my belly. But before we laid eyes on a nurse or an ultrasound technician, the receptionist ushered us in for a meeting with a far more important person: Tami, the “financial counselor.”

where an administrator handed them a worksheet and explained the $1,100 fee that they had to pay up front - and which did not include hospital charges or many other items. When Molly's husband asked how much they would have to pay in total, assuming it what a routine birth, the response was :
“Oh, I couldn’t tell you that,”

Nor was their insurance company any more helpful, and neither could anyone give a cost for a specific treatment, saying that such information was "confidential". This level of dysfunctionality, of course, does not come cheap - US citizens paid some $200 billion in excess administrative fees in 2009, much of which could be emininated if the US adopted a public single-payer system of the kind that most developed countries favor.

And the US system does not even really provide much healthcare - Molly found out that her family could have to pay up to $20,000 per year if a health crisis struck them after the child was born. Molly sums up her findings thus :
"A truly free market requires all parties to have access to the same information—and the time and expertise to interpret that information. Healthcare, by contrast, is an economy of specialized goods that most lay people don’t fully understand, in which insurance companies and many healthcare providers have a vested interest in concealing prices from consumers....

...What we have here is not a free market, but a failed one. Healthcare seems to be the only unpriced good in America. Most of us wouldn’t even buy groceries without comparing prices first. Imagine a store with no price labels at all—only the products aren’t corn flakes and cantaloupe, but appendectomies and hip replacements. Even in non-emergency cases, when consumers might have the luxury of comparing hospitals rather than calling an ambulance, most of us would rather trust the advice of our doctors than shop around for, say, bargain-basement chemotherapy.

If I, with my fancy PhD and free time to spend on the phone with clerks and bureaucrats, haven’t been able to figure out the cost of something as commonplace as having a baby, how must other people fare? "

Related Posts

What the Coalition Agreement says about the NHS
Campaigns to protect the NHS Interview with Prof Ian Shaw on the NHS Bill
Report on a Broxtow Save the NHS meeting
Falsification of data at SERCO
Report on a talk on Financial Incentives for Healthcare
Challenging the BBC on their coverage of the NHS Bill
This is what is wrong with the NHS Bill

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

How to talk to terrorists

The most important article BFTF has read in a long time. If you read nothing else on this blog, please read this:

Jonathan Powell : How to talk to terrorists

Saturday, 4 October 2014

Non-Sign II

BFTF has been fascinated to read about the "Non-Sign II" art installation at Blaine(WA) on the US-Canadian Border.

It is designed by artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo at the Lead Pencil Studio (see also here) and is a kind of anti-billboard, consisting of white space through which the changing landscape is framed by an intricate network of welded 0.8"(20mm) diameter blackened stainless steel rods.

Non-Sign II

It ranks highly on any reasonable scale of awesomeness!

BFTF asked Lead Pencil how the installation was constructed and how the designers were sure it would not fall down.

They were kind enough to respond, saying that they had confidence due to previous experience with the technique and pointed out that whilst the steel rods were thin, the spans they crossed were short and that the structure had a high strength to weight ratio.

Lead Pencil also kindly allowed use of the images in this post, which come from a gallery of pictures by fabricator Ian Gill.

This video (also by Ian Gill) gives some understanding of how the separate parts of the installation were prepared at the Lead Pencil studios and then joined together on-site (very cleverly, check it out at around 1m15sec).

Almost as interesting as the installation itself is the way it was funded - through the rather wonderful US Government's "Art in Architecture" program. This is run by the US General Services Admininstration (GSA), who state that:
"GSA reserves one-half of one percent of the estimated construction cost of each new federal building to commission project artists. A panel composed of art professionals, civic and community representatives, the project’s lead design architect, and GSA staff meets to discuss opportunities for artists to participate in the building project. This panel reviews a diverse pool of artist candidates and nominates finalists for GSA to evaluate. Artists who receive federal commissions work with the project architects and others as members of a design team to ensure that the artworks are meaningfully integrated into the overall project."

BFTF asked Nottingham Council whether they have a similar scheme and, if not, perhaps they should start one!

Bare Foundations

Part Completed

Part Completed - Detail (with Maple Leaf for scale)

Detail during construction, showing welds between rods

Detail during construction - showing rods ready for welding...
...a LOT of rods ready for welding

Construction at the site took 14 days

The completed installation - something for drivers to ponder
 as they queue at the Border Crossing !

Other Art related content
Non Sign II
Jeffer M Garib
Pictures of the Sky
Nottingham - Tiltshifted
Some Wonderful Artists
Graffiti Walls
Shonaleigh at Nottingham Storytellers
Great programme describing how some of Turners paintings covered key changes in the Industrial Revolution.
Piero Gilardi and John Newling at Nottingham Contemporary
God bless our libraries
Light Night 2013
The Chair
Himmah Eid Festival
Great Comedy on Radio 4
How art can affect you
Tour of the Theatre Royal
Fantastic Snow Art by Simon Beck (see also here)
Jean Genet at Nottingham Contemporary
Rick Davies and Michael Hansmeyer

Image Sources: All used with permission from Ian Gills Gallery