Sunday, 7 February 2016

The plight of young girls and women under Islam

The plight of women as second class citizens under Islamic theology has been highlighted once again by a new report published by the United Nations. This time (and for about time) Iran has come under scrutiny Justice for Iran reports:

The UN has criticised Iran for forcing girls to wear hijab (Islamic veil) at the very young age of 7 irrespective of their religious affiliations. Following a review of the situation in Iran, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) urged the country to “review its hijab laws and regulations and ensure that the right of girls to wear or not to wear hijab is fully respected.”

The UN watchdog for children’s rights condemned Iran for the pre-defined ages of puberty for girls at 9 and for boys at 15 lunar years and asked the State to increase the minimum age of marriage for both girls and boys to 18 years. The CRC also stated that an increasing number of “girls at the age of 10 years or younger” are “subjected to child and forced marriages to much older men.” and urged the Iranian government to “to increase the legal age of marriage to 18 years and criminalize marital rape.”
The report continues:

The UN body said it was concerned about child sexual exploitation and abuse committed under the Iranian law which allows for a marriage between the “father and adopted child, paving a path for sexual abuse of children.” In its recommendations, the committee urged to ensure that those responsible for the approval of forced and child marriage, including judges, parents, guardians, religious or traditional leaders are held accountable.

Meanwhile there is some good news for women in Algeria. :

A new Algerian law came into effect this week punishing violence against women and sexual harassment, in a victory for feminist groups that had fought for years for the legislation.

The law, effective from Monday, had been blocked by the Senate for eight months amid resistance from conservative Muslims who view it as interference in family affairs.

The new law if implemented correctly will result in heavy sentencing. The Star Tribune reports:

If a domestic attack prevents the woman from working for over 15 days, the perpetrator faces two to five years in prison.

If a woman is mutilated, or the violence causes loss of eyesight or a limb, or any sort of permanent damage, the law says the attackers could face from 10 to 20 years' incarceration.

However there remains a long journey for the vast majority of women in the Muslim world before their basic human rights take precedence over medieval , male dominated theology.

This means fighting for the complete separation of religion and the state.


Saturday, 6 February 2016

Has mass immigration ended the European dream?

The dream of uniting Europe gradually into something new has taken a severe setback following a number of recent events mainly surrounding the two big immigration issues. According to a poll published in The Times (no link £) yesterday the "out" campaign has now surged into the lead:

The campaign to leave the European Union has been handed it's biggest lead after the public rejected David Cameron's deal on reforms..

Excluding the "don't knows" this means that 56% want to leave whilst 44% want to remain.

It's clear that immigration has become a major issue and is divided into two concerns. The first is the perception of "benefit tourists" from a number of the poorer European countries. On it's own this is an issue that could have been tackled as there are lots of British citizens living in other European countries. The real factor that has turned a sizable number of people against the EU is the current wave of migration from not just Syria but from North Africa.

At first the pictures of dead children drowning on their way to Europe attracted much sympathy but there is a growing realisation that the majority of migrants, even from Syria are actually single men, many of whom have abandoned their wives and families whilst they seek "safety".

Events in Cologne on New Years Eve, even if perpetrated by a minority of migrants has focused attention on the problems of integrating an influx of people with very different cultural values to those of the host countries.

Germany is not the only country where there has been a backlash against the latest wave of migrants. Whilst the attitude of the more "conservative" Eastern European counties like Hungary, Poland and Slovakia is to be expected (the latter banning any Muslim migrants completely), the situation has been reached whereby the more tolerant Scandinavian countries have taken a sterner line.

Both Sweden and Finland have announced they will be deporting large numbers of migrants/failed asylum seekers. Many countries across Europe have closed their borders, an act which undermines the whole point of the EU in the first place. The free movement of people within Europe.

In terms of the "blame game" it was German Premier Angela Merkel's invitation that changed the game. Europe was already experiencing problems with the non-integration of a large element of it's Muslim population. The huge influx over recent months has only exacerbated these problems.

It doesn't help with the attempts by government authorities to suppress news about crimes being committed by newly arrived migrants. In fact as they are finally brought into the mainstream media the anxiety of many Europeans have been raised simply by  the attempts at censorship.

Take for example just one story that finally broke in the Austrian media over the past few days and reported in the  Daily Mail  :

A 10-year-old boy was so brutally raped by an Iraqi migrant in a swimming pool cubicle that he had to be hospitalised for his injuries.

A lifeguard immediately called an ambulance after the boy went to him in floods of tears, while the Iraqi was entertaining himself by repeatedly jumping off the three-metre diving board.

Police arrested him on the spot at the pool in Vienna, and during an interrogation, he told them that it was a 'sexual emergency' as he had not had sex in four months.
...the migrant, who had entered the country through the Balkans on September 5, official records show, said he could not help himself as he had an 'excess sexual energy'.

He told police that he knew such an act was 'forbidden in any country of the world', and he was not 'always sick', as he has a wife and a daughter in Iraq.

This man should face a long prison sentence for his horrific crime and then be deported back to Iraq.

A view most ordinary voters across Europe would consider the appropriate way to deal with this criminal.

However there remains the possibility of this man, like so many other criminals that have arrived in Europe of not being sent back because of their "rights". A recent example that irritates people was reported by the Telegraph :

The daughter-in-law of terrorist Abu Hamza cannot be deported from Britain despite a criminal past because of human rights laws, an EU law chief has ruled.

The mother-of-one was jailed for a year in 2012 for trying to smuggle a mobile phone Sim card to the hate cleric while he was being held in Belmarsh prison.

Apparently she can only be deported if she is considered a "serious risk" to society.

Assisting Abu Hamza seems enough of a risk to me. 

And exactly why is she claiming Asylum from Morocco anyway? It remains a stable country, far from perfect but better than most in the Arab world these days.

These incidents may only be the actions of a minority of migrants but our inability to get rid of these criminals does irk many and is leading to more of an anti-European view than previously experienced.

The future of the European project is seriously at risk. From the point of view of a trade unionist I find the prospect of leaving the EU whose laws are the only barrier to the current Tories making a bonfire of our rights in the workplace frightening.

The EU needs to be reformed without a doubt and more common sense used by the the judiciary in making rulings and European politicians in making laws that make sense to us ordinary folks.

Friday, 5 February 2016

Earth, Wind & Fire - Boogie Wonderland

From the age of proper dance music. Boogie Wonderland, featuring the late Maurice White who sadly passed away today .

Your music lives on...

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Grant Asylum to Ex-Muslim Omar Makram

It's not safe to be an atheist in the Muslim world, though the number of those quietly (or not in some cases) has been growing. In Islam it appears that leaving the faith can only be punishable by death.

They call it "apostasy". 

I call it freedom of choice.

The Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain report:

Omar Makram, an ex-Muslim, vocal atheist and a critic of Islam from Egypt fled his home country due to the threats he faced. Despite the threats, the Swedish authorities have refused his application.

Currently, the Swedish authorities seek to deport him back to Egypt were his freedom and perhaps even his life would be in danger. To further prove his convictions he had to resort to making a video where he renounced Islam by desecrating the Quran public for all the world to see.

In Egypt, authorities use blasphemy law to crackdown on vocal atheists, critics of Islam and reformists and that has intensified following the Egyptian revolution in 2011 when young people pushed for more space for freedom of speech.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

PCS Left Unity and the phantom menace...

Having left the PCS union over a year ago my interest in their internal affairs has waned. However my attention was drawn to the fact that the union is about to have it's first internal elections for two years following their (self-inflicted) financial crisis when a friend posted a link to an article by the PCS Independent Left to Facebook which announced:

Branches are to shortly begin the nomination process for the NEC elections. The Independent left is standing in those elections. In comparison to the current leadership- the leadership that cancelled the 2015 elections but who still proclaim that democracy is in their DNA- we want a different union. Not one that self proclaims itself radical but a union that is radical.

As yet no list of candidates for this small faction of usually very shouty "comrades" but out of interest I went to the website of the main Left Unity organisation who had already published their slate but bizarrely declared:

It is likely the current NEC will be challenged by right wing candidates, who are the discredited “moderate” grouping now re-branded as 4themembers. They want us to return to a do-nothing policy of bowing down in the face of the Government’s attacks. They have campaigned in the past for NO votes in industrial action ballots and some of their candidates have argued that we can do nothing to stop the cuts and suggested partnership with a Tory government! Any gains we have won under the most difficult circumstances will be under threat if they ever returned to power.

The right wing are undemocratic and weak. They tried to prevent Mark Serwotka from taking office as General Secretary after he won his first election and spend more time attacking their own union than the employer and the government. Only a Democracy Alliance led NEC is committed to implementing Conference policy and building a campaigning, democratic union. Given the scale of attacks from the Government a strong determined leadership is crucial. It is therefore vital the Democracy Alliance is once again returned to lead the union and defend members’ interest.

Besides the fact there are clear  inaccuracies in the description of the 4themembers group there is one other little problem. 4TM does not exist anymore unless someone has suddenly revived it without any ones knowledge. 

Firstly the (now defunct) 4themembers group was set up whilst the (also defunct) National Moderate Group still existed and ran candidates against both Left Unity and the NMG. As the former National Secretary I can tell you the vast majority of 4TM supporters (including myself) were never members of the old Moderate group.

That aside, 4TM's demise was caused by a couple of factors. Firstly a large number of key activists simply reached retirement age or left the civil service and it became clear that the organisation was no longer viable when after attempting to put together a slate there simply were not enough candidates to gain even a simple majority. It was in these circumstance that I decided to resign as National Secretary.

The game was up though in deference to a small group who wished to continue that I never wrote about the groups demise. Since then a fair number of former 4TM members and supporters have left PCS to join Prospect one of the other civil service unions.

There are some good people who remain in PCS but the 4themembers group as it was is no more.

And yet the Left Unity group raise the prospect of a "phantom menace" to their continued hegemony of the failing PCS union. One PCS activist once told me if a group like 4TM didn't exist, LU would have to invent them. This prophecy has seemingly come true.

This electoral announcement says a lot about the blinkered and self serving activist caste who control Left Unity through the "Democracy" Alliance. The comrades live in a political bubble separated from reality.

And they have a problem.

The fortunes of PCS have declined as has their membership. The loss of a whole department of members, Serious Organised Crime Agency who formed their won and very successful union effected the unions finances directly. Following the end of "check off" the NCOA outnumber PCS ten to one in the.

A smaller breakaway in the HMRC has had less effect, but the RCTU has a much longer journey before it will be in a better position to challenge PCS. 

How the remaining opposition group, the PCS Independent Left will fare considering it's obvious ultra leftism is hard to tell but Left Unity/Democracy Alliance whatever label the far left led by the Socialist Party and Mark Serwotka hide behind is difficult to tell. However I wouldn't bet on their demise just yet.

The Independent left make a case for change in their latest post following the debacle that came to light last year:

Union finances should be open to all members for inspection, open to debate and discussion within the membership. The union should report back progress or the lack of progress on all negotiations. All full time officer posts should be subject to election. Our aim is that all full timers are on the average wage of the membership. Now all this stands in stark contrast to how the union is currently run. Despite the cut back in full time officer numbers they still are paid much more than the bulk of the members and certainly are not accountable to the members. We want to change that.

I remain totally unconvinced that the IL are the right ones to achieve such lofty aims but without a mainstream opposition they may well prove to be more of a challenge than Serwotka and PCS President Janice Godrich might suppose.

The problem faced by those that remain in PCS is the simple fact both these groups orientate towards the new and totally unelectable leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. Janice Godrich recently posted the Independents article on the formation of a "Trade Union Momentum" on the unions Facebook page.

Meanwhile whilst the various comrades focus their attentions on various extra-curricular political activities the situation in the civil service for ordinary staff (including "their" members) steadily worsens.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

More Portsmouth Councillors to quit Labour?

The Labour Party is beginning to eat away at itself with the near messianic intolerance of Corbyn's supporters. The largest of the independent Labour Party forums has become so dominated by the Corbynistas that it is impossible to comment on the issues of the day without being labelled as a Tory (or worse) if your views are even slightly to the right of Lenin.

On the ground this has already seen large numbers of long standing Labour members  (and supporters), let alone voters, depart.

The latest news comes from Portsmouth News

FRESH problems have emerged in Portsmouth’s Labour Party as two of its three remaining councillors consider their long-term future because of political tensions.

Councillor Aiden Gray, the deputy leader of the city’s Labour council group, says there is a ‘vendetta’ against anyone who challenges Jeremy Corbyn’s far-left views – forcing him to think about whether he should quit.

It comes after complaints were made to the Portsmouth Labour Party’s executive about negative comments Labour group leader, Cllr John Ferrett, made about Mr Corbyn.

No action has been taken against Cllr Ferrett, but the senior Labour member says he’s finding it ‘difficult’ defending his corner and is taking things ‘day to day’.

Cllr Ferrett said: ‘There were complaints made against me, largely on the basis of comments I have made about Jeremy Corbyn.

John Ferrett was the Labour Party candidate at the last general election and is a national official for the Prospect union.

His brother, Ken Ferrett left the Labour Party last year as reported on this blog: Portsmouth Labour Councillor Resigns from the Labour Party

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Black lives matter! Time to deal with Boko Haram

Logo of Boko Haram.svg

With the worlds eyes firmly focused on Syria, Iraq and ISIS there is a growing tendency to not just overlook but forget the very real tragedy going on every day in Nigeria.

The Independent reports today:

Boko Haram extremists have burned a number of children to death in a hours-long attack that has left at least 65 people dead.

According to an eyewitness survivor - who hid in a tree to escape the attack - the terrorists set fire to the village of Dalori and shot people attempting to flee in the country’s north-east on Saturday evening.

Alamin Bakura said the shootings and burnings continued for four hours and he had lost several of his own family members in the attack.

The violence then continued as three female suicide bombers followed the survivors who managed to flee to the neighbouring village of Gamori before blowing themselves up - killing many more people.

Although these Jihadist extremists have been causing mayhem for some years, they only really came to peoples attention when they kidnapped over 200 schoolgirls at gunpoint, most of him remain missing to this day.

Boko Haram are responsible for at least 20,000 deaths and have driven over 2 million people out of their homes. 

Like ISIS (to whom they have now declared their allegiance) their murderous rampage knows no boundaries as they indiscriminately kill men, women and children.

Like ISIS they also enslave women.

Meanwhile the world does almost nothing to help the under-armed and frankly ill trained troops of the Nigerian army.

Even worse the left is nowhere in sight. For all it's "anti-imperialist" pretensions their energy is always firmly focused elsewhere. 

The plague of Islamic fundamentalism is clear for all to see whether in the Middle East, North Africa or Nigeria. The time has come to stand up to these monsters who hide their criminality behind religion and deal with this menace.

Black lives matter.

Where are the so-called Stop the War Campaign and their fellow travellers? 

Where indeed.