Saturday, August 19, 2017
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News

by Bradford West MP Naz Shah
Today I’ve been given “a right to reply” regarding a story running in tomorrow’s Daily Mail.

One of the questions I was offered to comment upon was, “Members of her family have challenged her account of growing up in squalor moving home 14 times in under two years”

Followed by the most disturbing statement I’ve been asked to respond to, which is one about the abuse my mother suffered which reads, “her account of physical and sexual abuse suffered by her mother at the hands of Mohammed Azam was rejected by the court of appeal in her appeal case”

Before I get to the more important points in this article, let me clarify a couple of things. I was 6 years old when we first moved. Between the ages of 6-8 I didn’t count the number of times we moved, but I do remember we moved often. I remember the outside toilet because I was afraid of the dark as well as the neighbour’s dog at the back of our back to back house. I remember the bath in the kitchen and seeing a rat running across it which frightened me as to me it seemed enormous. I remember going on holiday with social services because we were poor and I hated sleeping in a dormitory. So dear Daily Mail, my apologies if  I can’t give you the 14 addresses with postcodes – I don’t have many happy memories of that time. I have plenty that no child should ever have and I try not to remember them.

I’m not going to catalogue my mother’s abuse here as it is well documented, certainly in the court papers that the Daily Mail have most probably trawled through like Galloway did. But what I will talk about is the court dismissing her as incapable of belief.

My mother didn’t tell her story because of the concept of “honour”, as it brought shame upon the wider family and very little was understood about it, so when she did finally find the courage to speak out back in 1997/8 she wasn’t believed. However, it is well documented that when reviewing and subsequently reducing her tariff from 20 years to 12 years, in 1998/9, Lord Chief Justice Bingham acknowledged my mother was a desperate woman in desperate circumstances.

It has taken years of campaigning by women’s rights groups to help people understand this issue of “honour based violence”, a patriarchal mindset and culture which is prevalent in parts of some communities.

This is no different to the change in attitudes that has taken place to begin to understand street grooming.

We have to accept that it was only in 2015 that the terminology “child prostitutes” was removed from government literature. And one of the biggest reasons we never saw any prosecutions was because these victims and their stories of horror were not believed. It was the approach which Nazir Afzal, the Chief Crown Prosecutor applied at the time which led to convictions in Rochdale and other cities. Why? Because he believed these girls.

I have always acknowledged that we have a particular model of abuse, street grooming, which is pertinent to a minority of British men of Pakistani heritage who work in the night time economy. It is a fact, a fact that we cannot and must not hide away from. In doing so we must also be mindful not to fuel the fire of hate and vilify a whole community with sweeping statements.

So this brings me to my understanding of The Daily Mail. A paper which claims to be on the side of victims.

The only motive I can fathom for this personal attack upon me and my character by the Daily Mail, is because I dared call out the racism and fascism of a right wing tabloid.

But the saddest and most important issue isn’t this attempted attack on me, but the fact that in and amongst all of this conversation we’ve stopped talking about the victims.

How do we change attitudes and challenge this misogyny and abuse to stop it?

How do we empower our young people to be resilient and address issues of safe guarding, because all these victims have a common denominator which is their vulnerability?

We should be renewing the call for research so we can better understand what we are dealing with, whilst supporting these young girls, these survivors, to rebuild their lives having relived the horrors of the evil abuse to get justice.

The truth is that I have no idea what this potential news story about me will finally look like in tomorrow’s paper, or even if it makes it to print. But the fact is that The Daily Mail questioned my mother’s abuse, a victims account, and in doing so have undermined years of work women have campaigned upon across this country and beyond. This in my eyes is not only disgraceful but unforgivable. I cannot and will not allow this to go unchallenged, not only for the sake of my own mother, but for the sake of every victim who isn’t believed.

So, Dear Daily Mail, whilst you trawl through records and question my mother’s abuse, a victim’s narrative, whilst peddling hatred and division, I and countless others will continue to do what we do. Concentrate on the issues that matter, with a dialogue of unity not division.

Finally, as a woman, a survivor, a daughter and a mother, I will be damned if I allow a right wing sexist tabloid tell me what my experiences are. Like every other survivor, I own my own narrative. People like my mother and I, and so many other victims, have had their accounts questioned. I have been fighting this battle all my life. So bring it on, because I will not be silenced.

Naz Shah
Member of Parliament
Bradford West

by Nazir Tabassum

It is very clear now that Mrs May, the Prime Minister of the UK, is now nominally in charge, destitute of any real power. Certain figures among her party are intending to place their hand on the off switch; however, it is being watched when they do so.

So far, two successive Conservative leaders have gambled their majorities; David Cameron on a Brexit referendum for which he was woefully unprepared, and then Theresa May on the snap elections for which neither the country nor her party was prepared.

Kate Maltby, writer and critic, says: “My Tory party has gambled away its reputation. It needs more than a new leader.”

Thus, there is every likelihood that the Prime Minister may face a coupe attempt by some Tory MPs in the autumn season. She is so weakened now that she can hardly afford to sack any senior cabinet figure for fear of triggering a leadership challenge.

It seems that the Conservatives are now a house of cards. The infighting is no more encrypted; it is all evident. The battling of allies of the stalwarts like Philip Hammond, Boris Johnson and David Davis from arguments around the cabinet table, have now moved to the open warfare at Westminster summer garden party.

Efforts are being made by the senior Conservatives to downplay the split and infighting labelling it as a result of the “too much warm prosecco”, which is doubtless an insult to the voters’ intelligence.

Why all this? The answer is very well known. The contest for leadership is afoot, as well as, for the nature of Brexit. In this backdrop, Mrs May, enfeebled politically, shorn off of authority, is incapable of reasserting discipline in the party after her election disaster.

Philip Hammond is being targeted on account of negative briefing for he is against hard Brexit. Moreover, he is adamant on maintaining fiscal discipline. His adversaries label him as a stooge of the establishment who can go the extent of ignoring the Brexit results. Therefore, he is being embarrassed on account of his statements about “public sector workers being overpaid, and that, even women can drive trains”.

Negative briefing against each other has become quite common in the Conservative party which is now a house of cards. A senior Tory has blamed Michael Gove, the environment secretary, and, Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, for being involved in briefing against Philip Hammond. This senior Tory says: “They are so obsessed with hard Brexit that they are prepared to run the economy off the cliff; they don’t like the fact Philip is pointing out that we will deservedly lose the next election if we do that.”

Philip Hammond is under attack from within his party. There are some who try to undermine him in an endeavour to safeguard Brexit; others detest him as a potential rival for the keys to No. 10.

Another scene of this long Tory play is focused on Boris Johnson and David Davis. Both of them are inwardly hungry for the top job but outwardly pose as if they are the guardians of Brexit vote. Someone has remarked that the elevation of David Davis to Brexit Secretary was like inviting an untrained terrier into the chicken coop.

But the stories of bad blood between Boris and Davis are in circulation. Sunday Times reported the brawl between the two that took place at the Spectator summer party where they behaved “like a pair of rutting stags”. David provoked Johnson over his “failure” to keep his sister Rachel from defecting to Liberal Democrats. Their allies threatened kicking each other in the balls if they did not stop briefing against each other.

There are others who are less ambitious; they think that their interest will be best served if Theresa May stays in the Downing Street. One of such Tories told the Telegraph: “What’s really going on is that the establishment, the treasury, is trying to …. it up. They want to frustrate Brexit. This is a critical moment. That’s why we have to keep Theresa May. Otherwise, the whole thing will fall apart”.

In the Conservative party, Boris Johnson and David Davis are these days viewed as big snarling beasts who are making most of the noise.

Ambition for leadership is not restricted to them only. There are many more who dream of moving into No. 10 by a stroke of luck or a good chance. These include Sajid Javid, Priti Patel, Jeremy Hunt, Justin Greening, Amber Rudd and Andrea Leadsom.

Then there is a second tier of junior ministers and a third tier of back benchers, who are waiting in the wings until their profiles are improved. When the inevitable leadership contest of the Conservative party start, they too will declare their interests.

In the meanwhile, negative briefing and counter briefing goes on ceaselessly as a part of phony war for the leadership. A campaign to work out their supports in case of any eventuality is also going on side by side. Allies of David Davis are making catalogue of their supporters.

An interesting aspect of this “House of Cards” is that many a Tory MP’s are worried as they are desperate to avoid another election for the fear that Jeremy Corbyn may not win.

 

by Nazir Tabassum
While on holiday in Wales, the idea flashed to the mind of the British Prime Minister Mrs Theresa May that a few more seats added to her basket would make her position strong when she will sit across the negotiating table in Brussels to deal Brexit.

This idea was further strengthened as she considered Labour party in disarray and its Leader still not able to get his leadership established by the dissenters of the party. Her two advisors, now removed unceremoniously, further led her into a make belief situation and as a result, one fine morning, as she woke up from deep, dreamy and peaceful slumber, she came out of the 10 Downing Street where media people were already waiting, she surprised everyone present by announcing snap elections.

At that time, she had a majority of 13 seats in the commons. She never knew that dreams rarely come true. She was also unmindful of the fact that most of the dreams turn out to be deceptive in the real life and thus become nightmares. And the same happened. So, when she got up once again on the Friday morning of June 9, she had lost majority and could win just 318 seats, 326 is required to form majority government. In this way, her plan to make her position strong in Brexit negotiation simply backfired.

The election results were highly encouraging for the Labour party; they bagged 262 seats but these elections proved beyond any doubt that Jeremy Corbyn is a man of parts having skilful leadership qualities. All of his adversaries as well as the dissenters in the party were led to the practical belief that paying lip service to the tabloids and going against the Labour ideals is not the mantra to win elections.

Before going any further, the election results at a glance: Tories – 318; Labour – 262; SNP – 35 (losing 21); others -23. Grandies like Alex Salmon, Angus Robertson, and Nick Clegg were toppled over.

There was nothing for Mrs May except to cut a sorry figure for the loss of majority that she had and for her former colleagues who lost their seats and became jobless. Though the election results were a disaster for Mrs May, yet she clings with power and to stay in power she is obliged to beg support from DUP (Democratic Unionist Party) of Northern Ireland with 10 seats. In this way, her hopes to boost her mandate for Brexit negotiation were dashed. And now her minority government is dependent upon 10 DUP members to pass any piece of legislation in the Parliament.

She failed miserably to deliver a resounding victory for the Conservative party. In spite of all that, her decision to cling to power has instigated widespread condemnation not only by her colleagues in the House but also by Jeremy Corbyn who has demanded her to resign. On the floor of the House he said:

“We are not an opposition; we are a Government-in-Waiting”.

Apart from that, there were demonstrations in which the majority of the participants were young people who clanged in and around Downing Street raising slogans demanding her resignation. Now Mrs May is isolated by her cabinet with big Tory MPs like Boris Johnson, and Amber Rudd conspicuously absent from the airwaves in the aftermath of the election results. Boris, as he was previously, is Foreign Secretary; Amber Rudd, Home Secretary; Sir Michael Fallon Defence Secretary; Philip Hammond Chancellor of the Exchequer; David Davis seen prominently in Brussels is Brexit Secretary.

It is interesting to note what she said to the Queen as she met her in Buckingham Palace, asking permission to form the minority government:

“What the country needs more than ever is certainty and having secured the largest number of votes and greatest number of seats in the General election, it is clear that only the Conservative and Unionist party has the legitimacy and ability to provide that certainty by commanding a majority in the House of Commons.”

She further said: “Her minority administration will guide the country through the crucial Brexit talks that begin in just 10 days.”

DUP leader, Arlene Foster said: DUP’s backing for the Conservative was far from a done deal as she only said she would talk to Mrs May to try and find a way forward. I’m informed deal is done; the parliamentary arithmetic of the situation will mean Mrs May will face an almighty struggle to pursue the policies set out in the Conservative manifesto.

Now, what is clear as day light, is that if a handful of Conservative MPs desert the party on key votes, Mrs May’s plans would be left in tatters. This is the basis on which Mr Corbyn urged the Prime Minister to resign; she “should go and make way for a government that is truly representative of this country.” Not only Mr Corbyn but senior Conservative members too suggested she should consider her position.

Adding salt to the injury, George Osborn, the sacked former Chancellor, now editor of the Evening Standard, while talking to ITV, said: He doubts whether the PM can “survive” in the long term as Conservative party leader.

The “hard Brexit” on which she based her future politics is now crumbling as Donald Tusk, President of the EU Council, said in a letter to Mrs May: there is now “no time to lose” on Brexit negotiations after other senior figures suggested talks be delayed.

Conservatives, more so their leader, had to face further humiliation when Ben Gummer, the architect of Tory manifesto, and Jane Ellison, financial secretary of the treasury, lost their seats. As opposed to that, Labour performed much better than expected with Mr Corbyn announcing he was ready to form the government. Speaking from the Labour party headquarters, he said: “I think it is pretty clear who won this election. We are ready to do everything we can to put our programme into operation. There isn’t a parliamentary majority for anybody at the present time, the party that has lost election is the Tory party, the arguments the Conservative party put forward in this election, have lost.”

Tim Farren, the Lib Dem leader said: If Mrs May had an “ounce of self-respect, she should resign”. Paul Nuttal, UKip, after losing from Bostan and Skegness, has resigned as leader. Big hopes are being pinned to Mrs May at a time when she has not yet comfortably settled at the head of her new government. The leader of the Scottish Conservative party, Ruth Davidson, herself a gay, says she has received assurances from the PM over gay rights should the Tories do a deal with DUP.

Such is the scenario of uncertainty in the wake of Mrs Theresa May’s search for certainty. Therefore, we are left with no alternative at the moment to wait and see which way the wind blows.

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

“Terror destabilises, not constructs; and instability creates vacuum, filled, for more often than not, by those with a fascistic agenda, whether that fascism is sponsored by religious fundamentalism or multinational colonialism”, wrote Huck Gutman, professor of English in the University of Vermont, USA.

There is no denying the fact that terrorism thrives within the illegitimate borders of occupation and dictatorship; it festers behind security walls put up by imperial powers; it crosses those borders and climbs those fences to explode inside the countries responsible for, or complicit in, occupation and domination. The manifestations of this a priori can be observed both in Palestine and Kashmir.

In 1979, the USSR entered Afghanistan with its thousands of troops to prop up the newly established pro-Soviet regime which was near collapse due to lack of political and military support. But the truth was that the US began aiding the Islamic fundamentalist Mujahedeen six months before the Russians made their move. According to Zbigzeniew Brazezinski, the then security advisor to Jimmy Carter, this aid was going to induce a Soviet military intervention.

However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan still raised alarm bells in Western capitals. It was feared that such a move by the Soviet was a serious threat to the vested interests of America in South Asia as well as in the Middle East and that the Russian’s old dream of controlling hot waters could come true. The USA was reluctant to engage in direct confrontation with the Soviets. Instead the Americans cajoled General Zia ul Haq, the sixth president of Pakistan, to launch offensive against Russians from within his country with arms and money supplied by them. Zia, with the help and guidance of his intelligence agency ISI, was responsible to train and arm the Mujahedeen in partnership with the CIA. Zia ul Haq, a self-acclaimed fervent Islamist, was determined to drive the “Godless, atheists and Communist menace” out of Afghanistan. Recruitment and training of volunteers from almost all over the world, particularly from the Muslim countries of Middle East and Africa as well as China, to take part in the war effort against the “evil “of Communism.

The bulk of Mujahedeen, who were readily willing to sacrifice their lives to defeat Soviet infidels, were Afghans and Pakistanis. It has been alleged that the Pak Army’s battalions in Mujahedeen outfits were also included in the fighters. Billions of dollars were poured into the war effort by the USA and Saudi Arabia. In fact, Saudis matched the USA’s contributions dollar-for-dollar for the purchasing of arms and paying the Mujahedeen. In addition, private donations to help Mujahedeen in their war efforts against the Soviets amounted to 20 million dollars per month at their peak. Osama bin Laden was one of the prominent fighters among Mujahedeen. He too contributed heavily in terms of finance to the Afghani Jihad.

HENCE THE FOUNDATION OF EXTREME RELIGIOUS IDEOLOGY WAS LAID BY THE UNITED STATES AND ITS STAUNCH ALLY ZIA-UL-HAQ WITH THE FINANCIAL BACKING OF SAUDI ARABIA AND THE SPIRIT OF JIHAD WAS REKINDLED.

 Meanwhile Gen Zia was killed in an air crash with the American Ambassador and a few military top officers. By this time, he was convinced that American policies toward the Muslim world were loathsome and designed to maintain its hegemony upon Muslims.

When the Soviets left Afghanistan, America too deserted that country leaving behind the Afghan war lords who continued to fight with one another for another decade while the Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI continued to manipulate them. At that period of time “interior depth” became a catch word in Pakistani politics. It was said that Pakistan is in dire need of “interior depth” in Afghanistan. During this period, hordes of Afghan young pupils studying in various seminaries of Pakistan, especially one in Akorra Khatak, were ready to take over power from the warring Afghan war lords. These were the Taliban, now well equipped, trained and reedy to fight for Mullah Umer’s victory.

As the Taliban were invading the war-torn country, on their way to Kabul, they swept away war lords like Gulbuddin Hikmatyar, a one-time hot favourite of Pakistan’s ISI. Their Chief or Amir was a one-eyed Mullah Omar who defeated his opponents and established the Taliban government in 1996. Afghanistan, thus, became a safe haven of Osama bin Laden, a rich Saudi national, who organised his terror group Al-Qaeda, now to revenge USA after having dealt with the Soviets.

The decision of the Soviet Union to withdraw from Afghanistan, was hailed as the humiliating defeat for the Soviets and a great victory for the Mujahedeen forces and the USA. The West celebrated the victory with a sigh of relief but without the realisation of this victory’s long-term consequences. America and its allies in the war were so much intoxicated with their victory that they failed to recognise they are leaving behind both in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the rapidly growing monster of Taliban and Al-Qaeda.

It has to be understood that America and Saudi Arabia were the main culprits of creating and nourishing the monster of Al Qaeda and Taliban and Pakistan was used by them, as a front-line state, because of Zia’s belief in religious obscurantism. As a result, the country is still facing and suffering extremism and terrorism and ranked internationally as having witnessed the worst forms of violence and terrorism next to Iraq.

Then came the catastrophe of 9/11 when 19 terrorists, 17 of which were Saudi nationals, hit the twin towers and the Pentagon. The intelligence sources pointed out the involvement of Osama bin Laden in the attack. Mullah Omar adamantly refused to hand him over to the US and hence, the invasion of Afghanistan by US and its NATO allies, which continues till today.

Another illegal war was imposed on Iraq in 2003 in the name of democracy by Bush and Blair. In subsequent years Libya, Syria and Yemen were also invaded by American imperialists and their allies ostensibly under the guise of changing regimes and gifting freedoms and democracy to the peoples of these countries. Instead, all these nations and their wealth, national and cultural heritage and the infrastructure has been destroyed to unprecedented levels. Millions of innocent civilians have met their deaths in horrible ways and millions have been forced to leave their home lands to become unwanted refugees. The countries that were responsible for causing decimation and destruction of their countries are refusing to accept them as refugees.

All the panic, volatility, unrest and political instability and divisions deliberately created by the West in some Muslim countries is, in fact, the major contributory factor in the rise of extremism and terrorism. Any people would resort to violence if they are pushed to the wall.

In desperation, people can engage in activities which in normal circumstances they will avoid. The younger generation of Muslims globally are not willing to submit meekly to the powerful and to be subdued, dictated and controlled. Unlike their despotic rulers, they hate to be subservient to the powerful West. The rapid advancement in technology and the access to the internet coupled with social media are playing the most important role in disseminating all sorts of information in a matter of seconds even to the most remote areas of the world.

The extremist and terrorist groups like Daesh and Al Qaeda have come into being and have organised themselves only in those countries which have no effective governments and are engulfed in civil wars. They are just filling the vacuum. They DO NOT enjoy the popular support. The victims of their brutality and savagery are 99.9 per cent Muslims. If these war- torn countries are allowed by the imperialist power and its partners to restore normalcy in accordance with their political, cultural and religious values, the perpetrators of extremism and terrorism will die their natural deaths. They only flourish in areas where either there are no governments at all or are very weak and ineffective.

However, in Western Europe, the terrorism committed by a tiny number of Muslims is a direct reaction to state terrorism perpetrated by the USA and its allies in the Middle East and elsewhere and the biased and lopsided policy in relation to Palestine and Kashmir. To be quite explicit and honest, I will say without any fear of contradiction that the terrorist acts in Great Britain are intrinsically linked to our policy of intervention in the domestic politics of the countries under discussion.

In other words, we have to review our foreign policy. British Muslim communities have been consistently demonised and dehumanised by certain sections of our national press and media. Of course, any act of terror is abominable and unacceptable in any civilised and peaceful society and anyone who is found to be preaching and promoting such an obnoxious ideology must be brought to book and punished. But to paint the entire community with the same brush is not only unfair and unjust, it is also harmful for community cohesion. As a whole, the 3 million British Muslims are a law-abiding and peaceful community and have lived in Britain for longer than half a century.

The government and security agencies have been complacent in nipping the evil of extremism in the bud as it began to raise its ugly head in the nineties. I wrote a paper in 1999 warning the Labour government of the growing danger of extremism among a few Muslim organisations who had established links with the outfits who were already engaged in terrorist activities in Sudan, Pakistan and Afghanistan.  Although my paper was discussed in a meeting of the National Executive Committee, nothing was heard of any action thereof.

These organisations in Britain were financed by Saudi Arabian individuals as well as government. It is ironical that Saudi Arabia, a country, which is well known for supporting, promoting and exporting terrorism, still remains a blue-eyed boy of the USA. Does it not expose the West for its double standards and hypocrisy?

The recent visit of Donald Trump to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia endorses the perpetuation, in that country, of the worst autocratic monarchy in the world. The speech he delivered in Riyadh should put an end to any hope of a rapprochement between the US and Iran. He called on Arab members of the recently formed defence alliance of 39 Muslim majority countries led by Saudi Arabia, to isolate Iran and held that country responsible for promoting global terrorism though Iran is vehemently opposed to Islamic State.

Trump openly took sides with religious, sectarian and political divisions of the Middle East and told the world that America would continue to be a part of the Saudi-led defence alliance which is fighting in Yemen. It is worth noting that Trump singled out Hamas and Hezbollah as terrorist organisations. Both of these are anti-Zionism and have long been opposed by the US and Israel. Trump knows that the growing conflict between Arab Sunnis and Shia Iran can become precursors to a future sectarian war in the region. America will ensure that they fall into such a folly. The American foreign policy makers have to learn fast that the era of unipolar world is over. Soon it has to face the challenges of new emerging powers with new alliances. As the present Leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, recently said Trump should build bridges and not walls. Trump should heed to his advice and work for the world and not for dividing the world and creating more divisions and hatred.

In Britain, since the 7/7 odious terrorist attacks in London, few more similar attacks have been carried out. In the space of twelve years, 85 innocent lives have been lost and more than two hundred injured. These horrific incidents are too many and even a loss of one life is too much. They have contributed to the increase of ISLAMOPHOBIA and divided our communities.

It is worth keeping in mind that militants are still capable of striking anywhere at any time. It is also worth noting that groups such as Daesh and the English Defence League are all the time on the lookout for sick and weak and individuals with a split personality to recruit them in their ranks and use them for a heinous motive of committing terror in our cities.

However, the overall impact of extremism and terrorism and the toll it is taking on our peoples’ lives is something that must be thoroughly examined at the widest level and this examination must have in its scrutiny the review of our Foreign Policy.

 

by Nazir Tabbasum

A loss of just six seats would be enough to turn Theresa May out of Downing Street                                                                                                              

Prime Minister Theresa May has been in the office just for nine months. She was not at ease with the governance feeling that her mandate to rule was borrowed. She wanted to be strong enough to go to negotiate over Brexit in Brussels. For that matter she felt that only her own mandate could give her enough strength necessary to negotiate over her own terms and conditions. Thus she chose to appeal to the right wing of her own party as well as anti-immigrant part of the UK population. But this aspect of her thinking is deeply unpopular with the British business and with much of the country. Thus she has gambled taking into account the gains of Tories in the last general elections and the losses of Labour party.

The polls of these elections would be about a week away when these lines would be published. Election manifestos of the three main stream parties are already launched. Lib Dams promised a vote on Brexit and to raise £1billion by legalising cannabis. Labour chose Bradford and Conservative, Halifax, to launch their manifestos.

Labour kicked off by pledging to abolish tuition fees and nationalise mail, rail and energy firms. Theresa May’s slogan “join me on this journey” to a land where old people worth more than £100,000 will pay for their social care. Moreover, about 900,000 children who are either eligible for the pupil premium supplement or classed as being in ordinary working families will lose the right to a free hot lunch. Tory candidates expressed their private concern about their party’s plan to make people pay for their old-age home care through their estates. The campaign is going on full swing. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn suggested hustings to the incumbent prime minister but she avoided to face his opponent publically on the electronic screens.

There is a remarkable rebound in Tory manifesto as it strikes against the rock hard progressive manifesto of the Labour party. Going through it, one feels that what Labour has offered to the toiling masses of the UK groaning under the Tory rule since 2010, Conservatives have changed their usual course of conservatism in the shape of Mayism by claiming: “We do not believe in untrammelled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality. We see rigid dogma and Ideology not just as needless but dangerous”.

Is this a new technique to woo voters? Is this an evolutionary aspect of the Toryism? Mrs May breaks away from David Cameron on one hand and from Thatcherism on the other, yet she reacts violently by saying that there is no such thing as Mayism. We are left with no other conclusion than the one that the secret of winning election by the Tories lies in the fact that the Party is immensely fluid and changes colours like chameleon, according to the need of the hour.

After the launching of the manifestos of the two parties, the opinion polls swung in favour of the Labour Party. The first survey since the Conservative manifest was brought to light published by YouGov on 17 May brought the Conservatives down to 44 %, with the Labour up to 35%. The change in opinion is the direct result of the publication of manifestos of the two parties. In this way, Labour’s standing has gone up, the highest since the last general election. The credit goes to the Party’s offering to the public whose living standards have gradually been going down since the Tories came to power in 2010.

These are the indicators that point to the probability that there won’t be any such thing like landslide victory of the Tories. Now the percentage point difference between the two parties is just 9. If Labour continued to spread their message “For the Many, not for the few”, they may continue to improve their standing before the polling day, and the result could be anybody’s guess.

Mrs May’s election manifesto clearly said that people needing social care at home will have to pay for it until their value of their assets – including their homes – reached a floor of £100,000. The party also promised that a family home would never need to be sold in a person’s life time, with costs, initially uncapped, instead recouped after death. But later, while visiting North Wales, she announced that the social care costs would now be subject to an unspecified cap. She said that her social policy will limit winter fuel allowance to the poorest and take peoples’ properties into account in the means test for social care at home.

Soon after these announcements, Mrs May was accused of “chaos, confusion and indecision” as she made a U-turn on her plans to make people pay more for social care just days after these were first announced. Thus her announcement was dubbed as “dementia tax”.

A political scientist, Sir David Butler, who has covered every general election since 1950, used his new Twitter account to declare it unprecedented. Manifestos are documents indelible and sold as such to the voters, later becoming mandate in the exercise of powers. The U-turn made by Mrs May leaves her undefended and thus leaving her accusations of weakness of others as baseless.

A pertinent question about her credentials as a Brexit negotiator has been raised by Labour’s election co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne: If this is how they handle their own manifesto, how will they cope the Brexit negotiation?”

Theresa May has confessed publically that if she lost just six seats, she will lose majority and Corbyn will become Prime Minister.

The long and short of it is that these elections are an opportunity for Jeremy Corbyn to go to the country with his modern socialist manifesto he has always wished that the Labour party would put to the public. This election is going to be a defining moment in the contest between the left and the right of the party.

There is just one Labour MP in Scotland today that once was a stronghold of Labour party. We have yet to see during these elections if Labour could retrieve a few more seats in that country that was called a predominantly Labour province.

As temperatures rise across the district, the Bradford West election campaigns are also heating up.

Independent candidate Salma Yaqoob has been accused by the Labour Party of making misleading and false claims on her campaign leaflet.

The Labour Party has demanded that Yaqoob, from Birmingham, stop making these ‘misleading and false’ claims on her campaign literature, which have been distributed across the district.

leafletThe ex-Respect politician has been exposed for including a photograph of herself with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on her leaflets, along with the palpably false phrase “a vote for Salma is a vote for Corbyn.”

A spokesperson for the Labour Party said: “There is only one Labour Party candidate in Bradford West and that is Naz Shah. Naz has been an outstanding member of parliament for Bradford West since trouncing George Galloway two years ago and if re-elected will continue to be a strong voice for local people.

“She, and only she, has the full support and endorsement of Jeremy Corbyn as the best choice for Bradford West.

“People in Bradford West have a choice on 8th June – re-elect their strong Labour MP who will stand for the many, not the few, or elect a Tory who would sit on his hands while his Party in government slash funding to local schools and further run down our crisis-hit health service.”

Salma Yaqoob was unavailable for comment.

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
Nothing has changed for the third world countries. They were raided, plundered, colonised and occupied before and after the cold war era and they are attacked, destabilised, ruined and changed into ashes in this age of so-called globalisation.

In 2003, George W. Bush in the company of Tony Blair, the then British Prime Minister, said there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq is now a doomed country. Is it doomed because of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction? The whole world knows that it was just a bad name given in order to kill him. Now they say that they have evidence Assad’s forces used sarin gas against civilians on 4 April.

If we just go back and see US President Donald Trump as a private US citizen on Twitter and then as a presidential candidate, we see him quite good with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power. At that time he was of the opinion that US should not get involved in another Middle Eastern conflict in particular with one who is backed by Russia. When he won the elections, he told Wall Street Journal: “My attitude was you‘re fighting Syria, Syria is fighting Isis, and you have to get rid of Isis”. This was the basis on which Assad called Trump “a natural ally”.

On March 30, Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador to the UN, said that the US needed to “pick and choose [its] battles”, though Bashar al-Assad was accused of human rights violations. “Our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out”.

562754-syria-chemical-attack-reutersIn spite of all this, the United States launched 59 cruise missiles on Shayrat Airbase, a Syrian airfield, on the morning of 7 April 2017. It was alleged that this place was the base for the aircraft that carried out the chemical attack on Syrian citizens. It has been claimed by senior White House officials that Syrian military officers involved in the chemical weapons programme were at the Shayrat base before and on the day of Khan Sheikhun attack. They say that the attack was carried out by the Syrian air force SU-22 war plane, dropping at least one munitions containing sarin. A US official laid blame on Russians’ connivance with the Syrians in this alleged attack without any sound evidence, speculating on the premise that there has been long-term collaboration between the two countries.

Foreign ministers from the G7 nations met in Italy on Monday 10th and Tuesday 11th April and the meeting focused on putting pressure on Russia. Boris Johnson led the push and asked the participants to allow more sanctions against Russian and Syrian leaders suggesting that they could follow the findings of an investigation by the independent Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

But Germany and Italy, who were of the opinion that the increasing broad economic restrictions on Russia would be counterproductive, could not be influenced by Boris, and the Italian foreign minister, Angelino Alfano, said it would be wrong to isolate Russia or push it into a corner.

The allegation of chemical attack was vehemently refuted by Putin who said that Western and Turkish accusations that Syrian government had dropped nerve agent sarin that killed dozens of civilians in Idlib earlier in April, were comparable with the now discredited claim that Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “It reminds me of the events in 2003 when US envoys to the Security Council were demonstrating what they said were chemical weapons found in Iraq”, the Russian President told reporters on 11 April. “We have seen it already”.

Thus, Vladimir Putin’s support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was further strengthened as he shrugged off western criticism and claimed that his opponents planned fake chemical weapons attacks to justify further US missile strikes.

The US President Donald Trump showed constant change of colours with regard to his approach towards American involvement in Middle Eastern conflicts. The day after the alleged chemical attack and on the first day when images of the suggested victims were published, Trump said Assad had crossed “many, many lines”. Hours before guided-missile destroyers launched 59 Tomahawk missiles, Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, indicated that Trump had reversed his position completely. “Assad’s role in the future is uncertain, clearly. With the acts that he had taken, it would seem that there would be no role for him to govern the Syrian people”, he said.

When the media men asked Tillerson about US preparations to rally an international coalition to remove Assad from power, he replied: “Those steps are under way”. In spite of all that the US administration kept on changing position. Thus, soon after the missile attack , the newly appointed national security advisor HR McMaster described the US attack as “aimed at the capacity to commit mass murder with chemical weapons, but it was not of a scope or scale that it would go after all such related facilities”.

On 9 April, Tillerson said: “Our priority is first to defeat Isis”. Once the US “conclude” that war, the US would attempt to broker ceasefire agreements between the Syrian civil war’s combatants. Tillerson said he was hopeful to work with Russia “and use their influence to achieve areas of stabilisation throughout Syria and create the conditions for a political process through Geneva in which we can engage all of the parties …”Nothing about Tillerson’s statement implied that Assad’s “fate” would be to leave power. Contrary to that, Tillerson insinuated that overthrowing Assad would be disastrous, and to that he cited Obama’s adventurism in Libya: “Any time you go in and have a violent change at the top, it is very difficult to create the conditions for stability longer-term”. Yet we see that the contradictions in American policy know no bounds, as Nikki Haley, the US Ambassador in the UN, though agreed with Tillerson on the importance of “the political solution”, she added: “In no way do we see peace in that area with Assad as the head of the Syrian government, and we have to make sure we’re pushing that process”.

On 11 April, Tillerson told the journalists after the G7 summit: “It is clear to all of us the reign of Assad family is coming to an end. But the question of how that ends and the transition itself could be very important in our view to the durability, the stability inside of a unified Syria”.

The Trump era in the White House is not short of eccentrics as we see the White House press secretary Sean Spicer comparing Syria’s Bashar al-Assad with Hitler: “We didn’t use chemical weapons in World War II. You had someone as despicable as Hitler who did not even sink to using chemical weapons”.

During his election campaign, Trump emphasised that his only focus in Syria would be defeating Islamic State, repeatedly signalling that he had little interest in regime change. But he ended that policy by launching missile attack on Khan Sheikhun.

In the final analysis, what can be said about US policy in Syria is that it is full of contradictions, unclear, ambiguous and confusing more now than it was before Trump.

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
Theresa May’s sudden decision to hold a snap election on 8 June 2017 surprised many political observers and politicians. She said ‘I have taken this decision as Britain needed stability and strong leadership following the EU referendum.’ Last month, the Parliament endorsed her decision with more than a two third majority which was required under the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011.

Generally snap elections are called by the incumbent at an advantageous time when they believe the political climate is in their favour. And usually to capitalise on such a favourable opportunity to increase their majority to decide any pressing issues. For Theresa May, the current most pressing issue, of course, is BREXIT. On the one hand she is faced with the internal rift within her party. The far-right MPs who are pro-hard BREXIT want to sever links with Europe and to ensure the implementation of a strict immigration and refugee policy.

Ms May seems to have caved into the ultra-right threats. Also the investigation of twenty MPs from her party over the last elections’ expenses is very serious and if the allegations against them are proved, they could be disqualified. In view of these difficulties and the current thin majority of only ten of her party in the parliament, she believes it may not be possible for her government to carry on effectively and even be faced with a no vote of confidence. Hence, she has taken a calculated risk of going for a snap-election.

A glimpse of what is likely to dominate the election is mirrored in the daily headlines of our national newspapers. The flagship for Tories is BREXIT. Therefore, their strategy is to keep voters mainly occupied with this issue and create the impression that Theresa May will be a strong and unassailable leader to successfully conclude the negotiations for BREXIT. This sort of tactic may divert the attention of voters from the irreparable damage and influence the UKIP supporters to vote for the Tories. Interestingly very little emphasis is placed on social and economic problems facing the country.

Jeremy-Corbyn-Theresa-May-Brexit-YouGov-poll-Article-50-Len-McCluskey-785174The Labour Party has presented the voters with its ten point’s plan that embraces mainly its policy on social, economic and health, housing and education. It also aims to raise the minimum wage, the tax on wealthy and re-nationalisation of railways. The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has been a target for the media and Tory Party from the first day of his successful bid for leadership. He has been consistently smeared, vilified and at worse described as a security risk for the country. He has been tainted as incapable of leading the party. His enemies within the Labour Party have refused to accept him as their leader and yet despite all such odds, he has not only survived but steadily increased his popularity.

The former Labour Prime Minster and Leader of the Party, Tony Blair has publicly said that even Labour voters should consider seriously to support the Liberal Democrat and Tory candidates who are against hard –BREXIT. His statement is another thin end of the wedge into already fragile unity of the party.

One of the most critical aspects of Labour policies is its defence and the controversial future of Trident. The Labour Party have to be transparent and unambiguous on the policy to allay suspicions and confusion. However, the position on BREXIT is gradually being clarified and explained to the public.

Seven years of Tory rule and its policy of austerity has broken the back of the poor and lower middle class families. The National Health Service has been forced to its near collapse. Massive cuts in public services have crippled the ability of local councils to provide essential services.

The education of our children is in disarray. The disabled citizens are facing extreme hardship. Homelessness in recent years has rapidly increased. Even begging has become more visible in the centres of our cities. Such are the dire side effects of austerity on the lives of poor and unemployed people. The systematic tendency for social and economic inequality, in Britain, that is rooted in its institutional structures has been reinforced in the last seven years of Tory reign. Such structures of systematic inequality and increased poverty are counter-posed to the very idea of the social justice.

What else can we expect from this flawed and lopsided paradigm? Ms May, under the irresistible pressure from the far-right is refusing to accept refugees from Syria for whose plight to flee their country, we have share of our responsibility too.

The Liberal Democrat Party is hoping to capture the Remain vote as its main election focus is on Remain. Since the party is free from the shackles of coalition with the Tories, it expects to lure the Remain voters across the board. This could prove to be a false hope. However, they may increase their seats in their heartlands.

It is difficult to make any predictions about the outcome of snap-elections and particularly the election on June 8 is exceptional. The major focus of all mainstream parties is on BREXIT. During referendum and even now, the country is divided right in the middle. About 52 per cent of electorate who then supported BREXIT were from all major political parties of the land.

It is assumed that of this number, a good percentage may no longer be willing to support BREXIT. These apologists now may switch their allegiance to pro-soft or pro-Remain parties. If this hypothesis comes true, the Tories might lose a significant segment of these voters which could be a gain for the Lib Dems. It is envisaged that Labour’s support in large cities of the Midlands and North may remain undisturbed. But most importantly, both Labour and the Tories have to reclaim their share of votes in Scotland. The failure to achieve this target will have a decisive impact on the overall results of the election. A greater proportion of young and ethnic voters are traditional supporters of Labour whereas the older population may continue to be loyal to the Tories. However, one must not ignore to recognise that there is a strand of strong anti-government sentiments deriving from the shoddy treatment of the disabled and slow bleeding demise the National Health Service and massive cuts in public services which may tilt the scale in favour of Labour.

One should not rely on daily results of opinion polls. They have proved to be wrong in the recent past, both during the referendum in our country and elections in America. The current election is different to past general elections in Britain. It is not only about the national issues. The main plank used by the Tories is BREXIT.

Snap elections are always fraught with uncertainties and risks. The last such election was called by Edward Heath in 1974 in order to get a mandate to face down the miners’ strike. It resulted in a hung Parliament in which Labour won more seats by a narrow margin. Heath resigned and was replaced by Harold Wilson. It would not be a miracle if history repeats itself!

Editors note: This article was written before the publication of the parties manifesto

Six months ago the Prime Minister, Theresa May, spoke about her commitment to the ‘just about managing’, the poor as well as the rich, and to tackling the ‘burning injustices’ of social and economic inequality. The need for national consensus in the wake of the Brexit referendum and a revival of one nation conservatism. She made great capital about the steadfast and steady leadership she would provide and the cynicism and opportunism of those encouraging her to call an early election. The country she argued could not risk the instability that would inevitably cause!

Understandably today’s announcement of a General Election on June 8th caught many by surprise. In contrast to her often quoted prime ministerial predecessor, this Lady certainly is ‘for turning’ especially when the fruits of our electoral system beckon so strongly.

It seems that building a national consensus and safeguarding the country against political and economic instability are of scant importance, especially when compared to the prospect of locking out opposition to a hard Brexit whilst burying the Conservative Party election expenses scandal.

Today’s announcement is political game playing of the highest and most deplorable order. A cold and calculated attempt, less than a year since her leadership success and not two years since the last general election to create political advantage from uncertainty.

Theresa May and the Conservative Party have shown their true colours. After seven years of Tory austerity let us be in no doubt what a further term of office would mean.

This is a government that is dedicated to exploiting division not healing it.

I represent Bradford West, I have sought to work tirelessly on behalf of all the people living in a constituency that I was born in, grew up in and have lived in all my adult life. There are things a working class woman from West Bradford knows in her heart and can see with her own eyes that no Tory election spin can hide.

Since 2010 the Tories have imposed an agenda of economic austerity with unswerving disregard for its impact on the people of my home city. The simple fact is that Tory policies have hit the poorest people in the poorest places hardest. Those least able to cope with the loss of public services live in the areas where they have been cut most.

The Tories told us that savings could be made with cuts to top heavy management but it’s clear that its front line services that are now in a state of collapse. Those working in schools, hospitals, social services or the police work longer hours and carry a greater workload as they desperately strive to shield the most vulnerable from the full impact of Tory cuts.

Cuts to management that are so extreme that strategic and organisational capacity are undermined. The impact hits working class communities hardest. They make the greatest use of public services and notice what are initially presented as small changes to hours, waiting times, and cost. The effect is cumulative and disproportionate. When allied to a world of employment that is increasingly precarious and uncertain, where wages have stagnated for years and employment rights feel like a thing of the past, Theresa’s May’s hypocrisy is staggering.

There is an alternative. We need to start funding the public sector again, and we need to rebalance between investment and saving. We need to listen to alternatives because austerity has not worked. Debt is higher, borrowing is higher, and we have paid enough of a price for this government’s failure to deliver.

The time for bleak, pessimistic austerity from Tory governments is over.

It has bought the NHS to its knees, stripped local government of vital resources, decimated school funding and put immense pressure on those who were struggling the most.

This is a chance for optimism. It is a chance for us to want better. WE deserve better!

Better for ourselves and better for the next generation.

It is a chance to make a change.

This is your opportunity to vote for it!

Naz Shah MP
Bradford West

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by Zaf Shah
by Zaf Shah
The tragic events of 9/11 and other terrorist atrocities have grabbed attention all over the world. As an unintended consequence, this has changed the way we view the adherents of the Islamic faith.

This brought with it significant challenges for all of us. Indeed, and in Britain this was felt more acutely after the 7/7 London bombings and more recently the attack in Westminister. An ‘us and them’ notion of religious identity separation began to emerge more strongly than ever.

For me, and I am sure many of you reading this, created some real internal struggles. At what level in Islam was this sanctioned, or was it a misinterpretation of the ‘sacred text’?

Is the West at war with Islam? One can argue that the debate over who and what makes someone kill in the name of a religion or a political goal has been exhausted over the course of the last decade.

hqdefaultHowever, the why at the human level still eludes us. For example, why would a seemingly ordinary Bradford family decide to pack their bags and leave for a war zone in the hope of celestial redemption? This question is by no means easy to answer. It is for this reason that I embarked on the greatest intellectual struggle of my life, a PhD programme with the University of Huddersfield’s, Secure Societies Institute.

The research is primarily rooted in religious and political narratives. Anti-Terror legislation also features in the research. The Governments Counter Terrorism Strategy (Prevent) has created untestable suspicions for British Muslims; this is an element not to be overlooked. The research looks specifically at both political and religious narratives told by scholars and political ‘leaders’, that arguably many of us adhere to and act upon as ‘Gospel’. For example, what is it that a ‘scholar’ says that can make us act in ways that is in the traditional normative sense, very alien?

This research brings with it challenges to my own identity in the 21st Century as a British Muslim. To some extent which has never been more curious, and in part, thought provoking. Over the course of my life, I have tried, like many of you to navigate between what it is to be British, Muslim, a Bradfordian and a Yorkshireman. In some ways, I felt as though Britain was looking at my own culture as inferior to the ‘British culture’.

That said, the rationalised country in which I live helps me navigate my place in our social system, one that based on my own experiences with both my Muslim and Christian family has allowed me to create a distinct role, yet without a clash between my faith(s) and society. The community to which I belong has allowed me to appreciate from an Islamic perspective, that my own social identity plays a distinct part in shaping not only my own views, but also how I view the wider world and its citizens. While grappling with my own identity, my faith has allowed me to, understand and accept that the rights of all members of the human collective are not at odds with Islam. Yet at the same time, it is difficult to see where, given the rise of fundamentalism and traditionalist Islam, if ever Islam in the West will be able to reconcile the varying and competing interpretations of Sharia’h with human rights.

The events playing out in the Middle East serve as a constant reminder of the challenges British Muslims face in trying to understand the links between a faraway land and their rightful place in Britain. Britain has seen a surge in imported and transplanted traditions into society, both Islamic and cultural. While, this brings with it challenges, my experience of society through the British education system, and familial experiences, has allowed me to engage with a different set of values. Values which have gone on and continue to enrich my identity.

On a monthly basis, I will try to answer some of the provocative questions you may have. For example, is the West at War with Islam? Is the Government Prevent strategy a state spying tool aimed solely at Muslims? This is just a sample of what is going to be a journey of discovery and intellectual enlightenment, with the main purpose to bring us closer, rather than allow discord and divisions to be sown by a few.

Mr Zaf Shah, BA (Hons) PGC Law
PhD Scholar
Secure Societies Institute

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