Last year Kareem was alive, but in a wheelchair. As he had been since the 2006 attacks by Israel on Gaza. He was from Gaza.  Medical Aid for Palestine asked me to tell his story as part of their campaign for injured and sick Palestinians. I had a picture taken of me, holding a poignant picture of Kareem. He looked quiet, resigned to his fate. He could not seek the medical help he needed because the Al Wafa hospital where he was being treated was bombed in 2014. Medics and paramedics there patiently tried to rehabilitate injured men, women and children. During this assault, 17 hospitals and 42 primary health care centres were destroyed. 18,000 houses were flattened and 110,000 people displaced. Kareem could not seek treatment elsewhere because movement is restricted and controlled. Now I hear Kareem died of untreated kidney failure. Try to imagine how he felt before his life was taken, his rage and incomprehension. Hatred too, I imagine. In this single story you understand the tragedy of Palestinians and also of increasingly intransigent Israel, which seems to have lost its heart and soul. History is betrayed and co-opted; the oppressed becomes the oppressor. there can be no winners.

Blog, 4th of June 2016

Hating the Immigrant: A National Sport

Immigration Hatred

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown

 I want the BBC’s political editor Nick Robinson to look me in the eye and tell me that it was a big mistake to let my people- the Ugandan Asians- into this country. A big mistake because the majority of Brits resented us coming, believed the ‘influx’ would put intolerable pressure on jobs, housing, NHS and education and corrupt the national identity. Local authorities paid for full page adverts in Ugandan newspapers asking Asians to keep out of their areas. Most of the media was maniacally opposed, same as when Jews were coming over before World War 11 and in the centuries previously. Mr Robinson is presenting a programme on BBC2 this week showing the scale of public concern about immigration. Instead of being an objective conduit, he has, in a jingoistic, right wing newspaper, slammed the Corporation for censoring anti-immigrant opinions. A big lie. These are the only views now dominating the papers and airwaves. Robinson was once an ardent Chairman of the Young Conservatives. Possibly deeply held political positions don’t just wash away when you get a top broadcasting job. If that feels like a slur, forgive me. But as an immigrant I feel slandered by the caustic populism now flaunted by respectable intellectuals and politicians.

Roger Mosey, previously a BBC executive, now Master of Selwyn College, Cambridge,  made similar observations late last year. Others are on the same warpath. They seem or care not to know the history of this eternal crisis. Here are a few of the facts gone missing in this so called debate: In 1903, Cathcart Wason, Liberal MP for Orkney and Shetland- no migrants there, even now-  asked in parliament: ‘What is the use of spending thousands of pounds on building beautiful workman’s dwellings if the places of our own workpeople, the backbone of the country, are to be taken over by the refuse and scum of other nations’? In the sixties the people and many of their leaders complained bitterly about ‘aliens’ living off benefits. Patrick Gordon Walker, Midlands Labour MP said in 1962: ‘This is a British country with British standards of behaviour. The British must come first’. Not only Cameron, and May, but Ed Milliband and Yvette Cooper too are repeating that mantra. Remember the hysterics over migration from Hong Kong when it was handed back? The way Afghani refugees were treated when they came here? Migrant hatred is part of the complicated story of this country. And so is hard won migrant love. The media surely has a duty to ensure social trust and tell the whole story.  

BBC and other journalists  have not excitedly prioritised  the majority view that the death penalty should be brought back or that paedophiles should be put away on some remote island forever. Ministers too have been leaders not followers on these issues.

Until a decade back, most Brits did not support real equality for gays. Leading media outlets presented sane arguments and aired persuasive voices, felt morally compelled to argue the case. By not pandering to democratic tyranny, they enabled the population to shed prejudices.  On immigration the BBC and others are led by right wing trendsetters on social media and encourage the tyranny. I do understand that in recession people fear the foreigner. And that Islamicism has increased those fears. But those can’t be the excuses for the pervasive nastiness directed at migrants and refugees.

Robinson is disdainful of senior BBC figures who feared a free-for-all immigration debates ‘would unleash some terrible side of the British public’. They were right. When doors are opened to objectors and neo- jingoists, responsible broadcasters must ensure fairness. They don’t. For balance, programmes should cover the concerns of immigrants too. How it leaves us feeling vulnerable and devalued. Call me Tony Hall. Let’s talk. It’s time.

According to received wisdom, those opposing migration are not racist . But if verified data is ignored, if immigrants’ voices are silenced, if the bullish majority freely maligns incomers, it is  xenophobia. The economic downturn was caused by irresponsible bankers and a dysfunctional economic model not by migration. Housing shortages and the misery of the poor, for whom I feel deeply,  is the result of government policy not the Polish carpenter or Punjabi waiter. We came, settled and became productive citizens. As did most of those who came before us. Researchers at Manchester University have found the most mixed UK neighbourhoods are the most healthy and that it is deprivation, not diversity, that adversely affects the quality of life in some urban areas. In 2012, The National Institute of Economic and Social Research found ‘no association’ between higher immigration and joblessness and that immigration was an economic stimulant.

All Britons should keep a diary for one week and note the interactions with ‘outsiders’. It’s what we all do, have to. So why this relentless hostility?

 The independent, 6th January 2014

 

 

  

Gender segregation in British Universities 1&2

Universities and Gender Segregation

The 10th of December, this Tuesday is Human Rights Day. It is my birthday too and insha-allah ( God willing) I plan to mark both by joining a demo outside Woburn House in Tavistock Square, London. These are the offices of Universities UK, ( UUK) an affiliate which describes itself as ‘the voice of UK universities’, being a bit presumptive I think, especially now.

 

In its wisdom, this august body has published guidelines on gender segregation at universities. The issue has been raised over the last few years by lecturers and students who complain that, for certain events, organisers and speakers expect men and woman to sit apart or not attend. Sexist dress codes and other behaviours are being spread and pushed in British universities by retrograde Islamic societies and individuals, most of them men, though there are always willing maidens who say yes, yes, yes to such diktats. UUK okays this Apartheid and offers up nauseating justifications. It’s done  in the name of free speech, yes really. ; ‘Concerns …[for the] beliefs of those opposed to segregation should not result in a religious group being prevented from having a debate in accordance with its belief systems’. Furthermore, staff should not worry unduly about the rights and wrongs of this small matter.  

 

So as of now, separation in lecture halls and seminar rooms is fine so long as women don’t have to sit behind men (gee thanks!) but can be seated in lecture hall reservations. Separate but equal. Just how Boers ordered society in pre-freedom South Africa. So should gays have to sit apart from heterosexuals? Hindus be kept equal and apart from Muslims? If EDL members want to have meetings and insist blacks can only sit in designated areas, I suppose UUK would not object. Having conceded to the most objectionable demands once, they would absolutely have to again and again.

 

What will they do if a Muslim, female Mandela goes sits with the men? Will they carry her out and throw her down the steps? Some preachers on campus are today telling women to get back into the home, out of public life. Muslim women in jeans or with hair uncovered have been asked to leave lecture rooms by clothes vigilantes. Two Muslim LSE students harangued me for my unholy attire and views just a month back. The guidelines effectively endorse the most offensive prejudices about women: that they are a social and moral peril and if they sit with men, pornographic fantasies or molestations will make it impossible for anyone to concentrate on lectures, say, on Plato or the Life of the Prophet. Think of how grades will tumble, and league table results. One wonders who and what else universities will accommodate to get their hands on £9000 per year.

 

Throngs of students, academics, parents, politicians, and feminists should fill Tavistock Square and shout out loud. Not that they will, what with Christmas shopping and perhaps inchoate fears. Various student unions roll over, again and again before Islamicists and their outrageous demands- backing full veils, speeches by Wahabis- and thus far, there has been no clear condemnation from the NUS of this disgraceful document penned by the deluded UUK. This latest capitulation is a disaster for feminism, for university life, for modernism, for progressive ideals and for Muslims most of all.   

        

 Muslim education achievements are so abysmally low because our educators do not liberate them from dark age interpretations of Islam and instead encourage those. (Perhaps it’s a cunning plot to keep them down and out of mainstream life!) I know of female medical students – three Muslim and one Orthodox Jew- who will not touch male patients, of all male religious professional networks and even worse examples.     

 

I end with a poem by American poet Stephen Dobyns.    

 

A cry was heard among the trees,

not a man’s, something deeper.

The forest extended up one side

the mountain and down the other.

None wanted to ask what had made

the cry. A bird, one wanted to say,

although he knew it wasn’t a bird.

 

… They waited

for it to come a second time. It’s lost,

one said. Each thought of being lost

and all the years that stretched behind.

Where had wrong turns been made?

Soon the cry came again. Closer now.
To me it expresses the unspoken dread felt by millions of us, as reactionary religious practices stealthily enter heads, homes,  citadels and national institutions. How many wrong turns have been made by guardians of nations and other leaders? How many more twisted paths will they take us down? Our noblest sanctuaries have been infiltrated, our faiths corrupted by zealots abetted by western liberals, our so-called friends. Instead of being free and enlightened our universities are now closing off and surrendering to Saudi Arabian obscurantism. God, please, please help the young.  

 The Independent, 10th December 2013

Gender Segregation 2 

RESULT! In one week, we, a small group of stalwarts, Muslims and non-Muslims, who opposed sex apartheid in universities raised slumbering politicians and jolted gutless academics. Universities UK  (UUK) will reconsider its guidelines sanctifying gender apartheid in the name of freedom of speech and equal access. 

My column denouncing this advice appeared last Monday. On Tuesday, Human Rights Day, a bitterly cold night, protestors demonstrated outside the UUK Headquarters in central London. No UUK rep came out to speak to us.  ( Dear readers you should have been out there with us) .That evening, on Channel4 news I took on Omar Ali of the federation of Student Islamic Societies. He said uni segregation was no different from what happens in synagogues and mosques and that a liberal society should accommodate such ‘choices’. I argued that prayer houses were not state funded public spaces and that some choices ought never to be accommodated. The next day, Nicola Dandridge, UUK’s CEO was on the BBC Radio4 Today programme,. Presenter Justin Webb, probing, yet reasonable, put to her the arguments against male-female separatism. She rebutted them all, alight with self righteousness. I threw a glass of water at the radio. Missed the radio, broke the glass, picked up the pieces, almost weeping with rage. Such white liberals from left to right need to grow up. By Friday UUK had shed its earlier overconfidence and seemed to be wavering. I predict the guidance will be binned.

 This Talibanisation of British universities has got to stop. Now I think it might be.

The Independent, 17th December 2013

 

 

 

 

Through the Western Glass Darkly

Published in the Independent, 21/1/ 2013

The desert siege in the In Amenas gas plant is over. The end, as foretold, was bloody. According to the Algerian government, 23 hostages and 32 hostage-takers died in the inferno. The victims – whatever their nationalities- were all the same, men who suffered unimaginable fear and violence. I doubt they gave any thought to who was ‘British’, who ‘French’ and who just a plain native. They were workers in a globalised economy, in it together till the end. Sure, class and race meant some had more than others. But when caught in such a grisly drama, all such distinctions must dissolve, burn off. Grief too will be shared between high and low as families mourn. They are united in agony and turmoil. Ours is an age of perpetual instability and entropic barbarism.

Western power merchants- particularly Brits and Americans- in contrast, use each such tragedy to engender discord. They strut on the world stage, issue threats, remind the world who’s boss, always was and always will be. ( As if ). When will they see themselves as others see them, or try to empathatize with the citizens of three quarters of the world? It was embarrassing to witness Cameron’s colonial irritation with the Algerian upstarts who went ahead with the rescue without seeking permission from the UK or US. Economic might is draining away fast from these old centres of power, and they have lost two key wars in the last decade. But does that make them a little more humble, less solipsistic, any the wiser? Not at all. They didn’t get to where they were with self-doubt and by playing fairly. This latest farrago has brought out the worst in these cowboys and we should be afraid, very afraid.

It just hasn’t been the same since they assassinated Bin Laden. We need a proper scoundrel to hate. So out of the desert storm he comes, a one-eyed super-villain, Mokhtar Belmokhtar, AKA ‘Mr Malboro’ because he gets rich selling smuggled cigarettes. Wow! Katherine Biglow can make another blokey film about Mr Malboro next. Imagine the awards. His band of maniac men call themselves Those Who Sign Their names in Blood. ( How do we know any of this is true? )Soon Belmokhtar’s name will be as familiar to our children as Voldemort. And we will be persuaded that another western Jihad is needed against this evil monster, to make the world safe again. Which day never comes, though endless military action does mean a thriving weapons industry which sells to anyone with fat wallets, able to bypass weak regulations.

Cameron once again says Britain will show ‘iron resolve’ as must the G8. Leon Panetta, US Defence Secretary stood with our man Phil Hammond and warned the attackers would be ‘hunted down’, that they would find ‘no sanctuary, no refuge, not in Algeria, not in North Africa, not anywhere’.

The truth is that most malevolent and ruthless terrorists will find sanctuary and refuge even among people who loathe them, whose lives are blighted by extreme Islamicism. And that is because now the west is loathed and feared even more. Not the great civilizations and systems of the west- those are admired and coveted. But the Occident’s hypocrisies, ethical indifference to the sufferings of its victims, paranoia, lies and catastrophic wars. Worse still, that since 9/11 everyone is expected to agree that white lives matter more than others and that all policies and illegal actions are OK because the end matters more than the means. And the end is to maintain western privileges. Nations like Algeria and Mali, destabilised by Muslim militants, know western interventions are always based on self-interest and their own people become part of the necessary debris. It is a dirty deal and one that will be increasingly resisted, which means only continuing chaos for the poorest people on earth.

US drone attacks kill children and other innocents in Pakistan and Afghanistan. So what? To those who operate the drones, according to a US magazine, the casualties are ‘ bug splats’. These lifeless kids have no teddy bears, candles, names or even numbers. Do we expect the relatives of these ‘splats’ to feel for us when we lose innocents? As Obama’s second term is heralded in, don’t expect to hear the words ‘Guantanamo Bay’ where inmates hang between death and life, uncharged, untried, touching no conscience. Obaidullah was nineteen when incarcerated there in 2002. In 2012, all charges were dropped and still he waits and writes poems about love and spring’s fragrances. Next week the High Court hears further allegations about the torture of Iraqis by our soldiers. Meanwhile millions go to Biglow’s movie about Bin Laden and an exquisite filmic argument justifying torture.

Those people who were caught up in the Algerian shoot-out were victims of pitiless terrorists. In that Cameron is right. But distorted western values made them vulnerable too and there is no sign that our leaders understand that responsibility. In 2012, on a visit to Mumbai, I met Mike, an idealistic Englishman and Sunil, a historian. Over tea Mike asked; ‘ Why do Muslims hate us westerners so much?’ To which Sunil, a Hindu, replied: ‘Not only Muslims, my friend. We all do because you don’t see the world through our eyes ever. If you did, we would have a future together’. That is the only way we have a future together. Cameron and the rest of the western elite political don’t get that and never will.