Muslim Women’s Council: ‘Naz Shah employs cheap publicity stunt that will divide communities’

    At 'An Audience with Naz Shah and Salma Yaqoob' last night, Naz Shah left shortly after arriving on the grounds that the Conservative candidate for Bradford West, George Grant, was discriminated against by the Muslim Women’s Council on the basis of his faith and gender, as he wasn't given a platform to speak.

    The event was framed from the outset as an audience with Naz Shah and Salma Yaqoob, never a hustings. Both candidates were contacted prior to the event and informed that the audience would be mixed. It was explicitly pointed out that the purpose of the event was to allow the constituents of Bradford West to engage with the two Muslim women standing for election. Naz Shah had the opportunity to decline our invitation in full knowledge of this. If she was taking a principled stand as she claimed, she should have declined our invitation. Instead we were bombarded with a barrage of calls from Naz Shah’s office and her male supporters, who eventually hijacked the event and were restrained by police and our own security. The heckling and tense atmosphere yesterday was reminiscent of the baradari clan politics that have marred Bradford for so long. Had Naz Shah sincerely believed this was a women-only event, she should not have invited her male supporters to attend, which leads us to believe she was intent on mounting insurmountable reputational damage on our organisation and by extension, on Bradford, the very city she claims to champion.

    We have two prominent British Muslim women standing for the same seat, a first for this General Election which is worth celebrating. Rather than creating division on the basis of gender and faith, we wanted to reach out to an electorate often overlooked, and in fact to honour requests from these women to have an audience with the two candidates. Our decision to host an audience with two female Muslim candidates was deliberate. As an organisation that works at a grassroots level with Muslim women in Bradford, we wanted to mobilise them to exercise their right to vote. Muslim women have historically been sidelined in areas of political engagement. Recent findings that up to eight million women may not vote at the general election are incredibly worrying.

    We take seriously any accusations of discrimination on the basis of faith or gender. We regret Naz Shah chose not to remain and participate in the event. The Muslim Women’s Council was founded on values of fairness and equality. This is evidenced throughout our work such as the Curry Circle which feeds predominantly white men, Bradford Women for Peace, the Great Get Together, and our head coverings book project which has brought together Muslim, Jewish and Christian women, to name but a few.  In the spirit of values of fairness and equality that are at the very crux of what we stand for, we will continue to organise events that promote inclusion and dialogue for the betterment of our community, not just during election time.

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    There was a post-invasion plan for Iraq, but the West has learned nothing from its failure

    By PAUL ROGERS

    Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

    The recent bombing in the heart of a largely Shia district of Baghdad is now reported to have killed at least 165 people, including 25 children, and wounded 225.

    Caused by a single large truck bomb, it is the latest in a series of attacks claimed by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. These incidents have added hugely to a civilian death toll now approaching the terrible losses of the height of the Iraq War a decade ago.

    According to Iraq Body Count, the worst years since the 2003 invasion were 2007 (more than 29,000 killed) and 2008 (more than 26,000). There was a marked decline towards the end of the decade but even then more than 4,000 were killed each year in 2010-12, and more than 9,000 in 2013 as the impact of IS began to be felt. Since then, the situation has apparently peaked, but still remains desperate: more than 20,000 died in 2014, 17,500 in 2015, and 7,000 in the first six months of this year.

    That the latest attack came just days before the publication of the Chilcot report makes for a tragically apt coincidence. And yet there is a real risk that in all the hubbub about Chilcot, Tony Blair, war crimes and the rest, two absolutely core elements of the tragedy of the War on Terror will be lost.

    On the one hand, too many still hold on to the mistaken idea that the West was unprepared for the consequences of regime termination in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. And on the other, many think we’re beginning to get it right, destroying IS by intense remote warfare using airstrikes and armed drones and driving it from territory it controls.

    Ready to rebuild

    The West did not “lose the peace” in Iraq because it wasn’t prepared.

    In early 2002, the assumption was that the post-war reconstruction and the development of Afghanistan could be left mainly to the Europeans, while the US led the fight to terminate Saddam Hussein’s rule. And the “liberation” of Iraq would have the bonus effect of thoroughly constraining Iran, which would face US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western allies in the Gulf, and the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet controlling the seas.

    The neo-cons always saw the Iranian regime as the real threat to the region; as the saying went in Washington, “the road to Tehran runs through Baghdad”.

    At first, it seemed to work brilliantly, and Bush felt empowered to give his notorious “mission accomplished” speech barely three weeks after the fall of the Baghdad regime. What would come next was already thought out, and is brilliantly captured in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

    Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority really believed that Iraq could become a pure neo-liberal economic model state, with wholesale privatisation of all state assets, flat tax rates, minimal financial regulation and no trade unions. It is utter nonsense to suggest there was no plan; the point is that, as Chandrasekaran explains in excruciating detail, the plan failed dismally from the start.

    In practice, quite a few Britons working with the provisional authority, including some from the Department for International Development, saw the tragedy unfolding and tried to counter it, but had far too little influence to have much effect.

    Right track, wrong track

    Then there’s the notion that the West is now “getting it right”.

    The air war of the last 23 months has been far more intense than reported, with at least 30,000 IS supporters killed so far and inroads being made into the group’s controlled territory, especially in Iraq but also in Libya. But to forecast any kind of victory in the near future is hugely dangerous.

    Over the past 18 months, IS planners have systematically set out to take the war to their enemies, and not just the Abadi government in Baghdad. We’ve seen a range of attacks in a number of countries, many inspired and encouraged by IS, and others with more direct involvement.

    Tunis, Sousse, Brussels, Paris, Sinai, San Bernardino, Orlando, Istanbuland Dhaka – these are all part of a widening campaign, one aimed, in part, at stimulating anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred, as well as demonstrating IS’s continued power.

    Even 15 years after 9/11, Western strategists still fail to see al-Qaeda and IS for what they are: transnational revolutionary movements rooted in an eschatological outlook which sees this earthly life as just one part of the process. At root, IS wants and needs war with the West, and the West is giving it just what it wants. Until that fact is confronted, the war will go on.

    If this week’s debate over the Chilcot Report concentrates almost entirely on Blair and Iraq and does not even begin to recognise this wider dimension, it will have been a tragic missed opportunity to address where the West has really gone wrong.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation
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    'Brexit has given legitimacy and a newfound voice to racist and Islamophobic narratives' - Dr Qari Asim, MBE

    Dr Qari Asim, MBE, Senior Imam (Makkah Mosque Leeds)

    The result of the historic EU referendum has been dramatic and unexpected for many, giving rise to the political and economic turmoil that had been widely forecast in the event of a Brexit. Other consequences were perhaps not as well predicted, such as the rise in racial attacks in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. The result has exposed the uncomfortable divisions between London, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the rest of England and Wales. Brexit has sparked fears of further disintegration of the United Kingdom and even across the continent.

    It has also highlighted the intolerance that exists towards ethnic minorities within the UK. The fact that there has been a 57% rise in the number of hate crimes reported in the aftermath of the referendum shows that the result has given a new found confidence to those who may have previously expressed such views online or in closed quarters; they have been emboldened to take their messages of hate to the streets.

    Prior to the EU Referendum, I wrote that political leaders on both sides of the campaign needed to avoid alarmist scare stories and hyperbolic claims and focus on engaging all sections of the society, addressing the specific concerns of those who are under-privileged and disenfranchised. One particular section of society that seems to have been ignored by the Remain campaign are less affluent communities, living in areas of social and economic deprivation, with little or no employment prospects. Although by no means all members of these communities perceived the EU to be the cause of their lack of financial stability, an overwhelming majority did. Disturbingly, even areas which have been direct beneficiaries of EU funding have felt so disenfranchised with their lot that they have voted Leave.

    Interestingly, although 46% of British Muslims live in the bottom 10% most deprived wards in England, most of them did not see European Union as a cause of their economic and social depravation. 70% of Muslims voted for Remain, in line with some other minorities like Asians in general (67%) and Blacks (74%).

    The EU Referendum result highlights the gulf that exists in our country between the political elite and the under-privileged in parts of the our country. This protest vote, which ignored advice from political figures from David Cameron to Obama, respected institutions from the Treasury to the Bank of England, as well as Churches and other places of worship, makes one point abundantly clear: the disenfranchised amongst us will no longer accept being marginalised.

    The Brexit result also seems to have unleashed division, bigotry, and hatred against migrants and minorities. It has given legitimacy and a new found voice to racist and Islamophobic narratives. Leading up to the EU Referendum, we all saw that the tone, language, campaigning material and actions of some members of the Leave campaign were anti-Muslim, anti-semitic and anti-ethnic minorities. The divisive and toxic campaigned continued for months - ranging from the Leave campaign poster stating that 76 million Turks were about to join the EU to the infamous UKIP ‘breaking point’ poster showing Syrian refugees on the Croatia-Slovenia border. But most of us remained silent.

    In my own hometown of Leeds, which is a tolerant, dynamic, and economically vibrant city, I saw that members of the Leave campaign were espousing hate-filled rhetoric and attracting many people in city centre. Instead of talking about economic, political and social benefits of leaving the UK, they were focusing on the perceived “Muslim invasion” of Britain, or "Sharia" being enforced in parts of Yorkshire.

    I must stress that those who voted to Leave did so for a variety of reasons and not all of them should be accused of being, selfish, bigoted, xenophobic or racist. However, my concern has always been that a UK departure would reinforce ultra-nationalist far right sentiments amongst certain sections of society, and they would seek to alienate and demonise minorities.

    The brutal murder of Jo Cox MP - whom I knew to be an inspiring public servant, selfless humanitarian and fearless campaigner - is a stark reminder about the growing threat from far right extremism, as the murderer is alleged to have been in contact with far right movements, and potentially 'radicalised' by them.

    My concern has therefore unfortunately been proven correct. Within a couple of days of Brexit, we have seen anti-Muslim, anti-migrant and anti-refugee sentiments on our streets. In the London borough of Hammersmith, the glass. doors of a Polish cultural centre have been daubed with an anti-Polish slogan. In Cambridgeshire there have been reports of signs saying "Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin" posted through the letter boxes of polish families on the same day as the referendum result. In Newcastle, a placard was placed urging the country to “start repatriation”. In Walsall, there has been an attack on halal butchers.

    A number of Muslims have been shouted at with the question: "When are you going back home?" or called a "paki", which many of us may have heard in the 1970s and early 1980s. The reports of incidents include a group of young men shouting “Get out, we voted ‘Leave’” at a Muslim girl in the street; and a man in a Tesco supermarket yelling “Rule Britannia! Now get out.” at a Muslim woman. Little do the abusers know that ancestors of some of these Muslims not only fought for Britain in World Wars, but then came to build Britain post World War II.
    As an independent member of the government's anti-Muslim hatred working group, I am deeply concerned about the rise of racial and religiously-motivated incidents against all communities, in particular Muslims. Anti-Muslim hate monitoring group Tell MAMA reports 326 percent increase in incidents against Muslims in 2015 – and warns Brexit could make it worse. We have already seen two elderly Muslims being murdered, and mosques being attacked; the current surge in Islamophobia is only likely to reinforce fear and create further divisions between communities.

    Although sometimes it is argued that some Muslims do not follow British values, we are now seeing that British values - such as tolerance, rule of law and respect for others - are being trampled upon by far right extremists. What has been most upsetting and disturbing is that there have been no immediate statements from Leave campaign leaders condemning such xenophobic and racially-motivated incidents. I would urge our government, political parties and police to take robust and meaningful action to tackle the alarming rise in Islamophobia and anti-migrant sentiments, but also members of civil society not to tolerate such incidents of hatred.

    The UK has never been – and will never be – a land for one faith or one community only. It will continue to be a multi-belief and multi-ethnic community, united by shared values. Despite the rise in anti-Muslim hate intimidation and crime, Muslims need to stay calm, vigilant, and watchful. In the month of Ramadan, we need to display a dynamic spirit of open mindedness, co-operation and tolerance. There should be no place in Britain for any kind of prejudice and hatred. To allow otherwise is to do injustice to millions of people who voted to Leave the EU because they wanted their country to be more open and internationalist in its outlook.

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    From The Outside In...

    BY Alison Bellamy

    I caught a taxi recently, from Dewsbury train station. I enjoy talking to taxi drivers where possible as they have their ears to the ground and know what is going on in the community, so are often a good source of news, which I am always looking out for.

    Most of the taxi drivers in the small West Yorkshire town, which is about 12 miles from Leeds, are Asian, I am told. The small market town, once a thriving shopping attraction, is now over run with bookies, charity shops and discount stores.

    The area is often the butt of derivative jokes, or labelled in some of the national media as the run-down town where young terrorists are groomed or where kidnap victim Shannon Matthews comes from.

    I sometimes feel defensive as I think home is where the heart is and there are good and bad people everywhere, whatever their race, religion or beliefs.

    The chatty, young private hire driver with a Geordie accent was keen to talk. He was probably around 19.

    ‘I can’t believe I’m back to sharing a bunk bed at my age,’ he exclaimed. ‘It was bad enough at home when I was younger with four of us in one room.’

    I love hearing people’s back stories and glimpses into their lives.

    Turns out he was fairly new to the town, staying at his uncle’s house in Ravensthorpe, while studying at Leeds University to be an optician.

    ‘I moved down from Newcastle last year, but I can’t believe the tension here. You can feel it.’

    ‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

    ‘Well I went out with friends and we ended up in a nightclub last week as we could not find a decent shisha place. I asked a pretty girl to dance and had a laugh with her, nothing serious, and then was almost beaten up for no reason. The bouncers had to stop him.

    ‘Some bloke didn’t like the fact I was Asian and dancing with a white lassie. He didn’t know her or me but decided he didn’t like it.

    ‘At home in the north east no one bats an eyelid, but here, it’s a problem. There is tension.’

    Immediately, I knew what he meant. There is a tension. It’s not necessarily the terror links in recent years. It is something which has slowly crept up.

    I remember 20 plus years ago going out as a youngster for a curry, when it was a novelty to eat poppadum and hot, spicy Asian food. There were only a handful of restaurants around.

    I recall one occasion when we saw young waiters being horribly abused as they suffered racist insults, mainly from drunken men. I recall chapattis being thrown across the restaurant like frisbees and awful names being shouted out. It was terribly upsetting and remains a traumatic memory for me.

    The polite young waiters barely retaliated at first, but as the years went on something happened. They fought back and stood up for themselves.

    In hindsight, crimes were being committed that night but laws have thankfully changed for the better since then, and it simply would not be tolerated today.

    Now, 25 years later, people cannot be abused for their race or religious belief. Of course, it still goes on, sadly. But people are thankfully brought to justice wherever possible.

    I reassured the taxi driver that there were good people in Dewsbury and he should always remember that. He would not accept a tip and said that our conversation was worth more than any tip he could ever receive.

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    The referendum debate heats up

    mr money bags business cartoon (2)Our columnist Mr Money Bags, who has decades of experience in Finance, an MBA, an advanced diploma in Financial Planning and not to mention his super business skills, is here to give you, our lovely readers some valuable tips and advice on money business matters. He is forthright and can sometimes be stern when it comes to your cash, but when it comes to finance he really is the expert. Read on for your business and finance advice…

    I guess the referendum should not be linked to business in isolation, but the government has actually made it so; therefore, I thought I will share some things that have come up in the media in the last two days.

    At the moment, I am abroad and the hot topic for UK travellers is what’s going to happen next week. I have been keeping an eye on the papers, and I have also been undertaking my own research. I guess I am being a geek, but its part of my job as a Chartered adviser to be able to answer client enquires and not look dumb struck.

    One of the first things I want to focus on is that nobody knows what is going to happen. I want to compare the referendum as the UK going into business in a new territory. Let’s think of it this way if you are new to business you are more likely to fail, but if you have an existing business and you change strategy the chances of failure are far less, and even if there is failure the impact is far less.

    If you talk to business people, and especially change management consultants, they will tell you that change is constant, and sometimes it is needed. However, in the case of the referendum this will be a big change regardless of the whether we remain or leave. The U.K. is an established country, the fifth largest economy by some reports and as far as I can see we are independent; hence even if we do leave I do not foresee major issues because we are embedded within The EU, and changes will take many years to take us completely out of the EU.

    The second thing I want to focus on is scaremongering by the government by throwing umpteen statistics at us the general public.

    I am taking a punt on the EU referendum, and by this I mean that I have cashed in all my pension and investment funds. This is because I personally believe no matter if we vote in or out the markets are going to fall for a short time only. I therefore sold my stocks, when the price was at its highest in April and have been sitting on cash funds till the markets dip as low as I think they will go and then buy low.

    The reason I did the above is because when you buy low, you get more units for your money, and when the markets grow guess what I have made a return. I am guessing I will return circa 10% or more on my money.

    I read that the in campaign is saying £100 billion has left the stock market, well yes it would have done so. This is because investors hedge the market. This means they take a risk on some of the money, and speculate just like I am doing so. This does not mean the money has left the UK, but instead is most likely sat in cash.

    Last week in the press there was talk of tax rises, quoting our chancellor “Far from freeing up money to spend on public services as the leave campaign would like you to believe, quitting the EU would mean less money,” Osborne said. “Billions less. It’s a lose-lose situation for British families and we shouldn’t risk it.”

    Osbourne said he would have to:

    Implement £15bn of tax rises, a 2p rise in the basic rate of income tax to 22%, a 3p rise in the higher rate to 43% plus a 5% rise in the inheritance tax rate to 45p

    Increase in alcohol and petrol duties by 5%

    Cause Spending cuts worth £15bn, including a 2% reduction for health, defence and education, equivalent to £2.5bn, £1.2bn, £1.15bn a year respectively

    Make Larger cuts of 5% from policing, transport and local government budgets.

    The above might happen, and it’s a big might. I say this because who knows what will happen, and because I personally do not believe such drastic action would be needed if we left the EU. This is because trade will still continue, we will all still be working, and still paying taxes. My personal view is things will stay as they are in the short term, and yes we might have to make changes but these changes could take upwards of ten years before they are implemented.

    When the UK joined the EU it took time to implement changes anyhow, and I guess we took a risk. Also even if we leave, a fair amount of our laws are embedded from EU legislation; therefore, we still will use the same laws.

    The other thing I wanted to say was the UK did not join the euro. Was this a good decision or a bad decision? Looking back whatever your thoughts are I think this was a bold move by the UK and one I do not think is regrettable.

    Overall, I think Britain for once is finally on the map, and the whole of Europe is looking at us. I would encourage you all to read forums, look at the Internet and look at both arguments to stay in Europe and arguments to leave.

    If we do vote to stay are things going to stay the same, or is Europe not going to take us seriously, and the annual farce of Mr Cameron trying to negotiate a better deal, which in my view never happens will this get us better rights etc?

    If we leave will this force the EU to collapse, as we are one of the biggest countries within the EU? If the UK does leave, will it lead to other countries following us out?

    Whichever way you vote I would encourage you all to take the vote seriously by undertaking your own research.

    I leave you all with some words of thought from Margaret Thatcher relating to Europe, “It is frequently said to be unthinkable that Britain should leave the European Union. But the avoidance of thought about this is a poor substitute for judgement,” I guess this comment sums it up. We have to think, and make a sound informed decision about which way we are going to vote.

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