Sunday, April 30, 2017
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UK and Europe
News and politics from around Europe and Great Britain.

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The most important national issue of our time – how do we create a country in which economic growth enables the many ‘people who are just about managing’ to feel more economically secure in life, not only across the Northern Powerhouse but across the country – is being debated by leading thinkers and decision makers in Bradford in March.

Theresa May declared on becoming Prime Minister in the context of the Brexit vote: “We will strive to make Britain a country that works for everyone, regardless of who they are, regardless of where they’re from.”

‘Making Inclusive Growth a Reality’ is an RSA Inclusive Growth Commission conference, hosted in Bradford on 6 March, facilitated by Mark Easton, BBC Home Editor and attracting keynote speakers Andrew Percy MP, Northern Powerhouse Minister and Stephanie Flanders, Managing Director of J P Morgan Asset Management and Chair of the Inclusive Growth Commission.

Pioneering work on inclusive growth, led by local authorities working in partnership with business and community partners, across the Leeds City Region will be showcased.

The Bradford event follows a year-long national inquiry to identify practical ways to make local economies across the UK more economically inclusive and prosperous. It will launch the Inclusive Growth Commission’s ‘how to guide’ which recognises that it is the leaders, businesses and citizens of regional cities and towns that will play the critical role in securing the conditions for economic growth and social inclusion.

On the back of the Bradford conference, the inquiry will publish its final report of recommendations the next day. This is expected to cover areas such as social and physical infrastructure investment, place-based industrial strategies, inclusive devolution and proposals for measuring ‘quality GVA.’

Three West Yorkshire council leaders, Coun Susan Hinchcliffe from Bradford, Coun Judith Blake from Leeds and Coun Peter Box from Wakefield, will speak about how their councils have been in the forefront of developing pioneering initiatives to try and make sure economic growth benefits everybody in their cities.

Bradford Council Leader, Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, said: “I’ll be pleased to welcome the Northern Powerhouse Minister once more and I’m glad that Bradford has been chosen as the national host of this important event.

“Bradford is exactly the right place for it. Government needs to back big cities like Bradford which has massive potential but which has been overlooked when it comes to Government investment for years. In Bradford we need decision-makers to take note of the report’s recommendations and turn them into action.

“Leeds City Region is already making inroads into securing decent jobs and providing the right skills for the local population. We want to build on all that work which will further boost the prosperity of the area.”

Case studies will be profiled at the event demonstrating the progress so far, and attendees will also be able to hear from businesses and residents from the region who will describe their experiences of inclusive economic growth.

Charlotte Aldritt, Director of the RSA Inclusive Growth Commission, said: “The ‘How to guide’ is an important milestone for the Inclusive Growth commission.

“It demonstrates the importance of key leaders in local government, businesses and the third sector working together to tackle challenges and mobilise resources in order to bring quality jobs to a region.”

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by M Nazir Tabassam

A British politician of Indian origin rose to the horizon of prominence like an evening star and fell into the mire of ignominy like a leaden ball. Born in Aden in 1956 with a birth name Nigel Keith Anthony Standish Vaz, drove his name from a distant relative of 17th century missionary Saint Joseph Vaz, has been creating ripples in the British politics since the good old days of New Labour. When he was 9-years-old, he moved along with his family to the UK in 1965 where he attended Latymer Upper School in London before joining the University of Cambridge for a degree in law. He practiced law as a solicitor before entering the House of Commons.

keith-vazHe found himself in the headlines in 1987 when he was elected as an MP for Labour in Leicester, the first Asian for whom the Commons opened up their doors. Controversy and self-contradiction have been his hallmarks during his political career. He has been a Eurosceptic as well as a Euro-enthusiast. In 1990, we saw him marching along Muslim protesters against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses; and yet it is on record that he offered words of support for the author.

When Labour came to power in 1997, Vaz rose to prominence in 1999 becoming the first Asian minister in the Lord Chancellor’s department before being promoted as minister for Europe. In 2000, an investigation began into whether Mr Vaz had taken payment from a solicitor. He delayed investigation for months, refusing to hand over information and refusing to answer questions. However, most of the allegations were not upheld in these investigations, but unusually many allegations were listed as “not completed” rather than rejected.

As said earlier, Keith Vaz, like a cat, has many lives, and at every turn of the tide he reinvents himself. In 2001, an investigation against him reopened. This time the allegation was that Mr Vaz helped process the UK passport application of one of the Indian billionaire Hinduja brothers, who gave £1million towards the Millennium Dome. It was shown that Hinduja had paid Fernandes Vaz – the legal firm run by Mr Keith Vaz’s wife – for work on visa. Keith Vaz married Maria Fernandes 23 years ago in 1993. Maria is a former barrister and Principal of the law firm Fernandes Vaz, established in 1995.

In 2001, Keith Vaz’s tenure as Europe minister came to an end when he resigned on “health grounds”. In 2002, the investigation committee concluded that Mr Vaz had provided misleading information to the first investigation and he was suspended from the parliament for a month. But the central allegations made against him remained unproved. He was not found to have illicitly received money from outside sources that had not declared. However, his suspension from the Commons for a month was a humiliation that made his decline and fall look absolute.

Time went on and by 2007, Mr Vaz slowly and gradually became more influential in helping to prop up the increasingly significant Asian vote, firstly for Tony Blair and secondly for Gordon Brown. In June 2007 he was promoted to Chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee. Select committees have limited formal powers and resources. But with a keen eye for a passing bandwagon, and by ensuring committee grilling are theatrical enough to get on the television news, they can put themselves to the centre of the political action.

In 2009, the Telegraph disclosed that Mr Vaz had claimed more than £75,500 for a Westminster flat despite his valued at £1.15 million family home being just 12 miles from parliament. Although his actions were not illegal, he was asked to pay back a four figure sum. Not only to suffice that, he was accused of writing to a high court judge trying to halt proceedings against a solicitors’ firm which had lavished hospitality on him. The lawyer has since been struck off after being found guilty of 104 breaches of the rules governing solicitors’ conduct.

In 2008, Vaz backed the government at a crucial moment for the 42-day terrorist detention without charge. During the debate on 10th June 2008 Keith Vaz was asked in Parliament whether he had been offered an honour for his support. He said: “No, it was certainly not offered – but I do not know; there is still time.”

Vaz led efforts to curb Britain’s cocaine trade by heading up a Government inquiry into the drug. A subsequent report – The Cocaine Report – was published by the Home Affairs Select Committee. Mr Vaz argued against a proposed ban on amyl nitrate, also known as poppers. His Parliamentary support came during a Commons debate on the Psychoactive Substance Bill.

Now, in 2016, Mr Vaz stands down from the Home Affairs Select Committee following allegations involving male escorts and their use of amyl nitrate. The tales of prostitutes, drugs and suspicious cash are bubbling around. Two years ago he was caught on CCTV camera meeting a young man at a hotel. And an ex-worker at a London hotel said: “the married MP often arrived at short notice, sometimes with young men. There were a number of times when he did not stay the whole night. He would stay for just a few hours before checking out”.

Keith Vaz has all the while been a great survivor. We have yet to wait and see if he could reinvent himself once again after this huge ignominy.

IRREGULAR WAR

By Jim Greenhalf

Last month’s Chilcot Report into Britain’s part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq comprehensively rejected the explanations offered by former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair. It confirmed that Britain’s role in America’s ‘War on terror’ was an error of judgement.

The conclusions published by Sir John Chilcot’s committee of inquiry included the following points:-

. Peaceful disarmament options had not been fully exhausted by March 2003. Contrary to Mr Blair’s assertions in the House of Commons, Saddam Hussein possessed no chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear Weapons of Mass Destruction. There was no imminent threat to the west from Iraq’s president.

. UK intelligence failed to establish beyond reasonable doubt that these weapons existed. United Nations’ weapons inspectors conducted 700 searches in 500 places and did not find evidence of WMD.

. The consequences of Invading and occupying Iraq were under-estimated. Mr Blair over-estimated his ability to influence America’s President George W Bush. The UK is not required to give the United States unconditional support whenever it asks.

. Memos published in the report reveal that Mr Blair several times told President Bush that public opinion in the UK and Europe was not in favour of regime change military action. Mr Blair confided that he could lose the support of “half of the EU”; nevertheless he despatched 45,000 British troops to Iraq as part of the American-led coalition. He also told President Bush that if the Iraq venture failed the whole region would “fall apart”.

Interestingly, these and many other points and can be found in a book published before Chilcot called Irregular War: Isis and the New Threat from the Margins. Compiled and written by Professor Paul Rogers, of Bradford University’s Peace Studies department, the 218-page book is part historical chronicle and part analysis. It is a timely reminder that all actions have consequences, usually unforeseen. This is especially the case with UK politicians who, against their better judgement, allow themselves to get carried away by the idea of Britain’s allegedly special relationship with the United States.

The book also has a proselytising purpose. This is evident here and there throughout the six chapters leading up to the final two in which Prof Rogers re-states his case. This is that unless the West urgently reforms its unregulated free market economics of the past 30 years, embraces more sustainable environmental policies and alternative energy sources, and finds another way of dealing with global terrorism other than by heavy-handed military action, much of the world will be in grave danger of catastrophe by 2045. Not so much Apocalypse Now but in the near future.

However, this Doomsday scenario does scant justice either to the book’s subject range or to the writing style of its author. Prof Rogers, a personable man who lives in Holmfirth, who has a small-holding and enjoys church bell-ringing, is more upbeat about the world’s capacity for and capability of resilience.

In the last of the book’s eight chapters, A Possible Peace, he reflects briefly on his career, saying: “When dealing with such subjects – potential nuclear annihilation, terrorism and political violence – over a long period (the best part of 40 years in my case), one has three options: drink, suicide or optimism. I don’t drink (much) and have not so far felt suicidal, so I must have chosen optimism, even if that optimism has been a little misguided at times.”

In retrospect my support and sympathy for Tony Blair thirteen years ago was also misguided. The same might be said of America’s policy of channelling hundreds of millions of dollars and weapons of massive destruction through Pakistan to supply the Mujahidin in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union’s invading Red Army in the 1980s.

Anyone not aware of this recent history could do worse than watch the Tom Hanks movie Charlie Wilson’s War. Based on the real-life Texan Senator and committed anti-communist Charlie Wilson, the film celebrates America’s part in funding, equipping and training tribal Muslim fighters in this irregular war against the USSR. The irregulars won. But the long-term repercussions for the West were severe. “We fucked up the end-game,” the real Charlie Wilson said later.

Paul Rogers provides a masterly and important summary: “This long conflict lasted from 1980 to 1988 and was very much part of the Cold War environment. As such, it developed into a proxy war between East and West…In the latter part of the war foreign fighters , including Osama bin Laden and his associate Ayman al-Zawahiri, formed a small but significant part of the revolt, backed by the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) and the CIA.

“By the end of the decade the Soviets had gone, and bin Laden, al-Zawahiri and others formed al-Qaeda (meaning the ‘Base’), which would take the idea of an Islamist sharia caliphate out beyond Afghanistan. During the 1990s bin Laden and his followers moved from Saud Arabia to Sudan and then back to Afghanistan, this time to aid the Taliban (‘student’) movement fighting the Northern Alliance warlords in a bitter civil war for control of the country.

“By the end of the 1990s, al-Qaeda had the features of a small transnational revolutionary movement, and was unusual in that it was rooted not in political ideology, ethnicity or nationalism but in religious identity…

“Looking beyond the earthly life, the eschatological element of al-Qaeda culture meant, and still means, that revolutionary change may be measured in many decades, if not a century or more. Recognising this is fundamental to understanding the persistence of al-Qaeda and other movements, including ISIS, but it is perhaps the one element in the Islamist outlook that has been least appreciated by Western analysts used to operating on a much shorter political timescale.”

In this respect George W Bush’s New American Century was extremely parochial in its world view. His ‘War on Terror’ against the ‘Axis of Evil’, compelling to some at the time, now look like titles of Austin Powers films rather than serious foreign policy. Against the Towering Inferno reality of the attacks on the World Trade Center that might seem flippant. Paul Rogers does not make such remarks himself. On the contrary, he frequently re-states the physical shock of 9/11, as the aerial attacks were seen virtually live on television world-wide.

What drives educated young men, as the 9/11 kamikaze killers were, to do such things? Israel and the plight of Palestinians provide only one answer; there are others. According to Prof Rogers the economic and social marginalisation of billions of people, from Afghanistan to Africa, is perhaps the most obvious. These are not the people without any hope at all, but those who subsist on or just above the poverty line of a few dollars a day. These are the people whose expectations are frustrated, either by autocratic rulers or by free market economics which benefit only the few.

Iraq blew up in the faces of the US coalition because the conquerors allowed the country’s social, economic and law enforcement infrastructure to degrade. As Chilcot found, neither the Americans nor the British prepared sufficiently for the aftermath of the invasion. There was no equivalent of The Marshall Plan that repaired Western Europe after World War 2. The treatment of Iraqis by triumphant US soldiers quickly withered the welcome that had greeted them. The liberators became vilified as invaders. Armed resistance followed. Those taking part in the insurgency against America’s finest had gained knowledge and experience from the irregular warfare against communists in Afghanistan. What happened in Iraq from 2006 became the template for other insurgencies elsewhere and horrors such as the Ramadan bombing in Baghdad which killed 250 people. Another of the consequences remains the millions of refugees pouring out of Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and parts of Africa where al-Qaeda and ISIS offshoots operate. Refugee camps may prove to be academies for a future generation of the disenfranchised and dispossessed.

“Whatever happens in the coming months and years, and whether ISIS thrives, just survives or declines, the conditions remain for other movements to arise from anywhere across North Africa, the Middle East or South East Asia. The lessons of three failed wars, with a fourth now in progress, are clear, and yet the belief still persists in clear-cut military solutions. Altering this deeply embedded attitude will be singularly difficult, even more so than changing economic thinking or responding to climate change, but has to be done,” Paul Rogers writes.

Just as Chilcot recommends that Britain learns the lessons of its failed military adventure in Iraq, Prof Rogers says the extent of these failures in Iraq and elsewhere, in Afghanistan Syria, Libya, has to be analysed in detail and the implications argued for forcefully and repeatedly. The most obvious of these, at least to me, is Britain’s docile willingness to be America’s poodle. If nothing else the dubious War on Terror should tell us that the time has come to free ourselves from the leash of the so-called ‘special relationship’ with the United States, which seems to come down to us doing whatever they ask. After 43 years we are freeing ourselves from the choke-chain of the EU; time to do likewise with the land of the star-spangled banner. The New American Century ethos of the past 30 years has cost hundreds of thousands of lives, mainly civilian, and many billions of dollars.

Paul Rogers could be depressed about the future: doing something about the circumstances that give rise to terror groups like ISIS is one thing; dealing with the murderous day-to-day reality is another. But Prof Rogers is optimistic. “For nearly a decade and a half, until around 1990, my research on international security focused on nuclear issues and the very real risk of what was called, in an anodyne phrase, a ‘central nuclear exchange’. If a global nuclear war had been fought, hundreds of millions would have died, and perhaps billions in the years that followed, and yet the two power blocs prepared and trained for just such a conflict.

“In the early 1980s the risk was real and we now know that we were lucky on several occasions to avoid a global catastrophe. Yet catastrophe was avoided, and while we still face serious problems, these do not include worldwide nuclear disaster…The next two decades are likely to prove pivotal in avoiding an unstable and insecure world, but there is immense potential for positive change and huge possibilities.”

. Irregular War: ISIS and the New Threat From the Margins is published by I.B. Tauris.

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

After a long 43 years of niggling the marriage between the Brits and the European Union, it ended last month in divorce. The outcome of the referendum surprisingly tilted in favour of BREXIT. So now we are out of the EU. The BREXIT are jubilant but the immediate after effects appear to be catastrophic.

The Prime Minister David Cameron has resigned. The future of the Labour leader is unsure and hanging in the balance. The value of the pound has dramatically dropped by more than ten per cent which may continue to fall infinitely. The financial market is in turmoil. The ripples of its tumultuousness have been felt globally. Some of the major banks and financial houses are seriously considering to move to France and Germany and the entire future of the EU is in jeopardy.

Our own country is deeply divided across the board and has been plunged into the state of utter confusion and uncertainty. The leaders of political parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have intensified their campaigns for independence. A large number of migrant workers from the EU are faced with expulsion over the next few years and British citizens living and working in Europe will be faced with a similar fate.

Immigration was pivotal to the leave campaign. For over two months, its leaders were constantly engaged in scaring voters about the influx of Eastern European and other immigrants who will ‘take over’ Britain. Disinformation about the cost and benefit analysis was another tactic used to mislead voters. The divisions in the Tory Party created further confusion. The pinch, hurt and humiliation felt by poor voters of Tories austerity policy was blamed on immigrants who are here only to exploit and abuse our welfare system. Hence, the disenchantment with the lower and deprived class grew fast against the European Union.

575531dfc361883a0d8b457bThe euphoria of BREXIT was short-lived. They soon discovered that their lies and innuendoes were realised by many who voted to quit. Several petitions have been organised to ask parliament either to reverse the decision or to hold another referendum. The pressure from the EU leaders is fast increasing to invoke article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty for leaving the Union without any delay. BREXIT leaders now seem to be sucked by quagmire.

In fact, the triumph of BREXIT was not earned by them. Sadly it was a triumph of hate, fear, bigotry and jingoism. It was a triumph of growing nationalism and far right politics. It was a triumph of racism and xenophobia. Above all, it was a triumph of venomous and vitriolic politics of Farage and Trump. And this is frightening. It should be worrying for all of us.

This dangerous and divisive mind set has got to be challenged and defeated sooner than later before it rips our society further apart.

Disunited, fractured and economically destabilised, Britain is in desperate need for a leader who can unite the country and help us sail safely through troubled waters. BUT THE QUESTION IS THIS: IS THERE SOME ONE WE CAN RELY ON AND TRUST?

By Jim Greenhalf

Panel: David Cameron maintains that the UK would be more prosperous, secure and have greater influence in the world, in the European Union rather than out of it. Those in favour of leaving the EU, don’t have an alternative strategy, the Prime Minister said: “They seem to be making it up as they go along.” Well, there is such a strategy, and it was compiled and written by Bradford political researcher, author and blogger Dr Richard North. JIM GREENHALF reports.

CUTTING the Gordian Knot that binds the UK to the political and economic structures of the European Union would not be a single historic event but a gradual process over several years at least.

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Richard North

That’s why Richard North, beavering away in the book-crammed study of his Wibsey house, called his 420-page strategy FLEXCIT, short for Flexible Exit and Continuous Development. It went online in April last year since when the author calculates that more than 50,000 people have downloaded it from his EUReferendum.com blogsite.

A 48-page summary was published last month (March) by the Leave Alliance, a network of anti-EU campaigners that includes the Bruges Group and the Campaign for an Independent Britain.

“After nine treaties and 40 years of political and economic integration, there can be no clean break. Unravelling in a single step is not going to happen, and certainly not without compromises. This is a point that cannot be made too strongly,” Dr North says in the pamphlet’s introduction.

As one of the few pundits who correctly forecast the outcome of last year’s General Election, Richard North, whose books co-authored with Christopher Booker include the definitive history of the EU – The Great Deception – Richard North challenges the Prime Minister’s ideal of Britain within a reformed EU.

The EU can only be changed by treaty agreement of all 28 member states. International agreements are made on the basis of ‘shared misery’, he added. Favourable treatment for one will be opposed by other member states not in receipt of it, especially if the proposed reforms infringe any of the EU’s four freedoms: freedom of movement of people, capital, goods and services.

Richard North’s FLEXCIT strategy imagines and describes six phases following Britain’s declaration under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to leave the EU.

“First you leave,” he said, summarising the phases for Urban Echo readers. “Negotiations for that take at least two years. Then you sort out immigration, European trade regulations, the policy issues governed by EU law (there are 22,000 EU laws), the global trading matters and finally you address domestic political reform to restore democracy and prevent Parliament from ever again giving away our power as it did in 1973 when we signed up to the European Communities Act.

“The EU’s ambition is to create a new country called the United States of Europe. That’s simply not a direction in which we can travel because there is no mandate for it,” he said.

Leaving the EU means changing a relationship, not ending it, as the FLEXCIT pamphlet makes clear:-

“We are simply travelling separately. This is not isolation but an agreement to do many more of the same things in a different way, all to our mutual advantage.”

by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum
by Mohammed Nazir Tabbasum

John Kerry, the US secretary of state, Federica Mogherini, head of the EU foreign policy and Javed Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister met in Vienna, the capital of Austria, on January 16 and issued a joint communiqué declaring that a nuclear deal has been reached at between Iran and the world powers after the certification of UN’s international nuclear watchdog IAEA, that Iran has fulfilled all her obligations set forth for her in July last year.

Therefore, a big chunk of sanctions imposed on that country by US, EU and the UN are being lifted. This step will unfreeze Iran’s billions of dollars of assets and allow her to sell its oil in the world market.

The announcement opened the floodgates of joy and happiness for the Iranian masses that have been made scapegoat to suffer more than a decade for none of their faults. Thus, the Iranian foreign minister Javed Zarif commented: “This is a good day for the Iranian people as sanctions will be lifted today.” Soon after the international sanctions were lifted, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said: “Iran has opened a new chapter in its ties with the world”.

90This move was welcomed by most of the countries of the world except Israel that accused Tehran of still seeking to build a nuclear bomb. Strangely enough, Israel was not alone in criticising this deal; she was joined by the holier than the holiest Monarchy of the world Muslims, Saudi Arabia in expressing their dislike. On Tuesday (19/01/16) Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubier said in his exclusive interview to Reuters: “The lifting of sanctions on Iran as a result of its nuclear deal with world powers will be a harmful development if it uses the extra money to fund “nefarious” activities”. While Israel (a Jewish state) and Saudi Arabia (a state which is the fountain head of Islam) are juxtaposed in condemning this deal, it would be interesting to see how Imam of Makkah’s Grand Mosque (an appointee of the SA government) looks at this deal, who tweeted (18-24 January) alleging an “alliance of the Safavids with the Jews and Christians against Muslims”. [Iranians are also known as Safavids].

The way this deal would lift the economic sanctions that were progressively imposed by the US, EU and the UN in response to Iran’s nuclear programme needs elaboration. Sanctions on trade, shipping and insurance are going to be fully lifted by EU. The US would suspend, not terminate, its nuclear-related sanctions, thus allowing Iran now to get reconnected with global banking system. The UN would lift sanctions related to defence and nuclear technology sales, as well as an asset freeze on key individuals and companies. Non-nuclear US sanctions would remain in place, notably the ban on US citizens and companies trading with Iran, and US and EU sanctions on Iranians accused of sponsoring terrorism would also remain in place.

Iran would immediately get $100bn (£70bn) of frozen Iranian assets. It is expected that she would increase its daily export of 101 million barrels of crude oil by half a million barrels shortly and another half a million barrels in future. It is expected that Iran would soon order the Airbus Consortium for purchase of 114 new passenger planes.

President Hassan Rouhani said that everyone was happy with the deal, apart from those he described as war-mongers in the region – Israel and hardliners in the US Congress. “We Iranians have reached out to the world in a sign of friendliness, and leaving behind the enmities, suspicions and plots, have opened a new chapter in the relations of Iran with the world”, he said in a statement on Sunday (17/01/2016) morning. Rouhani added: “The lifting of sanctions was a turning point for Iran’s economy and the country needed to be less reliant on oil revenue.

The only candidate to be credited as the “ARCHITECT” of this deal is John Kerry, the US Secretary of State who, commenting on the deal, said; “It had been pursued with the firm belief that exhausting diplomacy before choosing war is an imperative. And we believe that today marks the benefits of that choice”.

However, it did not go unchallenged from within the United States. The Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said the Obama administration had moved to lift economic sanctions “on the world’s leading State Sponsor of terrorism”.

This deal, as envisaged quite early, came as a shock to the monarch in Riyadh. They had their first shock in 1979 when Shah of Iran was deposed and replaced by Shia theocracy of Ayatollah Khomeini and other clerics of similar description who started crying hoarse that there is no place of monarchy in Islam. In a recent exclusive interview to Reuters, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Adel al-Jubier was asked if Saudi Arabia discussed seeking nuclear bomb in the event Iran managed to obtain one despite its atomic deal. He said Saudi Arabia would do “whatever it needs to do in order to protect our people”. Where Saudi Arabia can look to seek an atomic device? Nowhere except Pakistan. Thus, Pakistani premier Nawaz Sharif, without wasting any time, came to Riyadh along with his army chief to console and comfort their erstwhile benefactor. They could not stop short of pronouncing their support in case of any defence-related eventuality. In an apparent equalising gesture they did visit Tehran also to clarify the reconciliatory nature of their visit.

Both Tehran and Riyadh are theocratic states, the former ruled by a Council of Shia Elders without whose clearance no one can contest election; the latter is ruled by House of Saud dynasty but their home affairs are run by the clerics who profess Wahabi / Salafi Islam as opposed to that of Shia clerics of Iran. There is a worst human rights record in both the countries. The women are treated worst in both the countries

by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE
by Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

A few years ago during a brief discourse over a cup of coffee in my house with one of the most prominent Indian film directors, Mr Mahesh Bhatt, on the subject of the British Muslim community, he asked me how do I feel as a British Muslim in Britain after the 9/11 and7/7 terrorist attacks in New York and London? After a pause I said: “In the sixties and seventies I was a black young man, in the eighties I was an Asian, in the nineties I became to be known as a Muslim and in the beginning of the 21st century, I am a terrorist.”

Sadly this perception of Muslims residing in Europe and America has become so strong that it is frequently used as a popular propaganda weapon against the whole Muslim community to denigrate and demonise it. Some politicians and sections of the media have harboured and spread it to increase their rating and popularity. Even the moderate and liberal Muslims who attempt to defend themselves against the evils of terrorism, are silenced with the popular slogan “you are all the bloody same.” Hence, Muslim bashing has become a vogue in the western world. Donald Trump, the hopeful presidential candidate for America has recently vouched for the ban on Muslims’ entry to the USA. Also during many of his rallies, he has continued to ridicule the entire Muslim community and some of his staunch supporters at his rallies have chanted and shouted that, ‘every Muslim is a Satan and we don’t want them in America.’

100504277_cameroncu_249431bIn Britain, our very own Prime Minister Mr David Cameron, last month [January 2016] announced in Leeds that those Muslim women who can’t speak English will be helped by the government to learn the language. This initiative was welcomed by the community across the board. They appreciated the benefits that could accrue from this scheme, particularly for promoting social interaction and increased autonomy of Muslim females. However, Mr Cameron also delivered a warning that there could be great risk in some of these women to turn to extremism and terrorism if they fail to learn the language and if they fail to pass the language test, they will be deported to their countries of origin.

This part of Mr Cameron’s announcement is not only bereft of his political prudence and judgement and his naivety of ground realities, but it is manifestation of his true inner feelings about the Muslim community. His belief in the link between the inability to speak English language and extremism is incredible. It is a well-known fact that all those apprehended and convicted of their involvement in radicalisation and terrorism to date are all born, bred and educated in the UK. The cruellest irony here of his double talk is the depiction of Muslims as a negative and dangerous entity of British society.

His government’s policy of targeting a particular community for learning the language could be legally challenged.

The most important areas in which social interaction and cohesion can be promoted are our schools, neighbourhoods and work places. All successive governments have criminally failed to pay any serious heed to address this question. Almost all schools in the inner areas of our cities and towns with preponderance of Muslim population are ghettoised. Hardly any white face in these schools are visible. The situation in terms of neighbourhoods and work places is no different from schools. For the government, it seems to be an easy escape to offer cosmetics and yet gain national and international publicity. This is political hypocrisy at its height!

Unfortunately, the government and its leaders are too engrossed in playing power games and to outbid each other on restricting immigration and potential domestic ‘unrest’. They don’t realise that by diverting people’s attention from real issues of poverty and social injustice, they are engaging their minds in an unhelpful polarisation, the consequences of which could not be beneficial for society as a whole.

To single out the Muslims and casting on them constant aspersions and to demand that they should police their homes, neighbourhoods and communities for potential extremists and terrorists, is indicative of not trusting their loyalty as British citizens. Additionally, this kind of approach can entrench their feelings of victimisation. A community that already is beleaguered and under surveillance by our educational institutions, local authorities, police and other security agencies, can no longer afford any more pressures and demands.

To push them to a position of guilt is akin to drive them to the precipice. We have to be seriously mindful of the spill overs of such a policy.

The Muslim community is faced with many challenges. The biggest challenge is for its religious and political leaders to encourage mainstreaming and integrating with the indigenous communities.

No one denies that there is a tiny minority of Muslim youth who pose potential danger to our security and we must counter them without any reservations and extend our full cooperation to our security forces. The dangerous radicalism of a few young Muslim has finally become a frightening reality. But this should not mean that we punish the entire community.

The rising tides of extremism and terrorism are a deadly combination of historical wrongs and the havoc wreaked by hastily cooked up wars. Without addressing the source and the underlying causes of this ever growing evil of radicalism and terrorism, you cannot bring peace to the world. Mr Cameron should seriously consider to pursue a noble role of a peace maker and leave a legacy of which Britons can be proud of, rather than attempting to win political scores by abandoning the “core British values.”

The author is the former Lord Mayor of Bradford, Mohammed Ajeeb, CBE

by Mohammad Nazir Tabassum                                                                                                  

“As in Afghanistan, there is confusion about western objectives in a complex conflict – is the aim simply to push back Isis, or does it have to be halting the wider Syrian war in which Isis has thrived? Is this imaginable while President Assad remains on the stage, or is the removal of this man – who has killed more Syrians than anyone else, and driven so many to embrace Isis – a red line?” (The Guardian – Leader Comment 17/11/2015)

A member of the Islamic State in Syria and the Levant.This comment of the most esteemed daily newspaper of the UK is worth consideration. I think that while giving such comments, the learned editor has ignored certain basic and most important facts as to who initiated, instigated, supported, financed and funnelled the most sophisticated weaponry to the terrorists’ organisations like Al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda, and the so-called Free Syrian Army, usually described by the western press as “moderate opposition of the Syrian government.” The terrorists from all over the Muslim world including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Sudan and Chechnya were provided free access to come to Syria and join these terrorists. So all these three organisations acted as midwife and delivered the most barbaric, ruthless, heartless, merciless child that came to be known as Isis and who played havoc in Paris on 13 November 2015. Any impartial, unbiased and just observer can easily conclude that it is not President Assad but all these terrorist organisations supported and financed by the west as well as the monarchs, Amirs and Sultans of the Middle East, including Turkey, who drove many to embrace Isis. The western countries 226208-asadwatched passively while their Muslim citizens, both men and women, including Jihadi brides and in certain cases, the whole families to go and join the Isis.

There is sufficient evidence that the west has only been interested in the removal of Assad for which they have readily and happily been willing to pay the price of making their citizens unsafe at home. After all, why America wants to keep company with Al-Qaeda? For years they knew where Osama Bin Laden was housed, as did the Pakistan Army. They did not harm him. But only in 2011, when he was a spent up force and Barak Obama was going for his second term election that they chose to send the US Navy Seals to kill him. Bashar Al-Assad, like Qadafi and Saddam Hussain is secular.

pic_giant_091014_sm_obama-manages-isisIf the western countries really want their citizens to live in peace, then it is high time that they should reconsider their foreign policy. Interventionism pays dividends but only to a limited extent. It starts hurting very soon. The examples are Korea and China. Taiwan and South Korea have now fully realised that they were used as tools by the Americans.

When America and her western allies including the Middle East partners started a proxy campaign against Syrian President Al-Assad, they were faced by the Russians. Thus, they attempted, though unsuccessfully, to neutralize Russia. Look at the crude methodology that they applied to do so.

ujtCe9wjF89YaAPXGFmhhP0BvqwbAIh1Last month, a meeting took place between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the chief of Saudi Intelligence and the key link between Washington and Riyadh. The encounter between the two was leaked by certain interested quarters. Thus, in return for Russian acquiescence to regime change in Syria, Bandar offered not only oil and gas deals, but a “guarantee” to protect the winter Olympics next year in Sochi, Russia from terrorist attacks by Chechen Islamists. Bandar assured Putin that these groups were “controlled by us” and could be instigated or restrained as it suited Saudi and US interests. The meeting took place at Mr Putin’s dacha outside Moscow.

This interesting episode was also reported by The Telegraph (Sunday 22 November 2015). This is something that indicates irrefutably that western countries’ foreign policy has serious drawbacks. A policy in which these governments along with their non-European allies can flock together any time and run over any peace-living country without caring much that by doing so they may be making their own homes and people unsafe. Newton’s third law of motion is applicable not only on physical but also on political phenomena. This law states that in nature to every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction. Why the learned authors of western foreign policy deliberately ignore this scientific truth and start blaming others when they have to harvest the crop whose seeds were sown by them and by no one else.

In the final analysis I must state clearly and unambiguously that those who were brutally killed at various places in Paris were innocent people. They were not the scribblers of the French foreign policy. Their brutal killings cannot be justified by any reason whatsoever and the barbaric killers and the organisation to which they belong and wherever in the world they are located must be annihilated with the unified strength of all peace-loving, non-interfering countries of the world. The west and their Middle Eastern allies must realise that they have seen the removal of Qadafi and Saddam in the near past. Has anything good come out of that? Therefore, “desist from high-handedness because the vengeance of Nature is merciless.”

The Prime Minister, David Cameron has made it clear that at the end of this term in Downing Street, he will step down. Nonetheless, as pledged in 2013, he is bound to hold an in-out from the EU referendum before the end of 2017.

flagJudged by some of his not-easy-to-understand assertions, he is leaving the country in the lurch. When he says: “English votes for English laws”, it connotes that he is saying goodbye to the Scots before they actually opt for independence. Thus, there is a state of uncertainty – uncertainty about the future constitutional relationship between the different components of the United Kingdom: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Though SNP were humbled following the “No” vote in the Scottish independence referendum yet it left the sovereignty of Westminster internally within the UK in question.

Mr Cameron, irrespective of achieving anything substantial in renegotiation with the leaders of the EU, has to go for referendum. It will turn out later whether he will campaign to remain in or to get out of the EU. Either way his campaign would hinge upon 4 things – preferences of the people on EU membership, the question asked in the referendum, Conservatives’ popularity and inter- and intra-party politics.

cameron-euro-5_2079690bAccording to the latest opinion polls 40% of the people want to leave the EU. Receiving 4 million votes, 13% of those cast, UKip, who won the last EU elections, are campaigning for Britain’s exit from the EU. A substantial number of Tory MPs and many MPs of the Labour party are also in favour of exit.

In referendums, the question asked is always of crucial importance. In 2013, Conservatives suggested: “Do you think the UK should remain a member of European Union, Yes or No”. This question was widely criticised by various circles. Thus, the Electoral Commission intervened and proposed: “Should UK remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” This question was accepted by the Prime Minister Mr Cameron.

Though the Tories won 2015 general elections to the extent of forming government comfortably without sharing power with any other party, yet they are not comfortable over the in-out question. David Cameron wants to stay in the EU once he got some powers back from it. At the moment, Cameron is reluctant to reveal the full details of what he wants from the EU leaders but he is expected to demand opt-out from the EU ambition to forge a United States of Europe. His other demands may include restriction of access to in-work and out-of-work benefits to EU migrants, greater powers to national parliaments to block EU legislation, freeing of businesses from red tape and excessive interference from Brussels, protection of City of London financial markets from EU legislation and lastly, creating safeguards to ensure changes in the single market that should not be imposed on non-euro zone members by the euro zone.

Here I must stop to stress over another aspect of the issue, and that is, referendums quite often turn out to be the popularity tests of the incumbent government. Just like mid-term polls, these provide an opportunity to the public to express their indignation with the performance of the government. Here I would like to quote Michelle Dorrell, 35, a mum of 4, and a Tory voter, who broke down in tears on Question Time (15/10/15). Full of tears she confronted the energy secretary Amber Rudd saying: “I thought you were going to be better for me and my children.” As she said this the audience members shouted: “Shame on you.” So things like these cannot be ignored and these will make the legacy David Cameron would be leaving for his successor.

Then there is a tug of war within and without the Conservatives. There is no denying the fact that when a party is split internally, it cannot successfully persuade voters of their leadership’s message. There are quite a few Tory MPs who would cause internal division. On the contrary, it seems more likely that internal divisions within the Labour party will make a ‘Brexit’ (Britain’s exit from EU) more plausible. Though both the Lib Dems and the Labour opposed referendum during the general elections saying that no referendum unless there were plans to transfer more powers from the UK to the EU but later on Labour stopped opposing referendum.

The Labour party, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Lib Dems are in favour of staying in the EU. They believe that Britain gets a big boost from EU membership – it makes selling things easier. They argue that the flow of immigrants, most of whom are young and keen to work, enhance the economic growth and helps pay for public services. They also believe that Britain’s status in the world would be damaged by leaving EU.

David Cameron has said that there is “no doubt” his planned reforms will require changes to the treaties governing the EU. But this would require the unanimous support of all EU members, and it may not be possible within the deadline he has set for a referendum before the end of 2017.

However, Jean-Claude Junker, President of the European Commission, has said he is ready to work with Mr Cameron to “strike a fair deal for the UK in the EU.” “The ball is very much in the court of the UK now”, a senior official told the Guardian. “It’s up to the British to define what they want.”

Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected leader of the Labour Party is being jeered at from outside and within his own party since September 12. Those who elected him with an outstanding edge over his three rivals, have pinned certain hopes on him. One out of many is the most important; they don’t want to see their leader failing, neither at the party nor at national level. So he must also have the clear realisation not to disappoint them on this count.

jeremy-corbyn-labour-leadership-electionWe do respect his republicanism but when it comes to his voters, many of whom still revere monarchy, and he standing respectfully in silence while the national anthem was being sung in remembrance of the Battle of Britain, and not moving his lips with others, is nothing but to disappoint his voters and give a chance of mudslinging to his adversaries. Right at the time of announcement of the result of leadership, he should have assumed himself a leader of the Labour Party who represents everyone, speaks for everyone and is no more an individual and idealist backbencher.

However, soon after his election as Leader of the Labour Party, he did certain good things as well. His clear cut articulation “working together to achieve great victories, not just electorally for Labour, but emotionally for the whole of our society to show that we don’t have to be unequal. It doesn’t have to be unfair, poverty isn’t inevitable, things can, and they will, change” has been very well received. The announcement of a 31 member shadow cabinet with the majority of women and a novel way adopted during the PMQs, were certainly appreciated. Even in this case he was castigated that the top three departments were all male. In an effort to bring about a balance in this regard, he elevated Angela Eagle to the post of first secretary of state that has always been so far a male monopoly. His broadly based shadow cabinet consisting of Lord Falconer, Hilary Benn, Rosie Winterton and Andy Burnham, apart from others indicated continuity.

The other good thing that he did was to accept the membership of the Privy Council. It is customary that Leader of the Opposition is taken into confidence and revealed to him certain highly confidential matters relating the national security policy. It has been leaked out that the leadership of the armed forces is reluctant to share with him such things but the Conservatives would certainly like to put his sense of responsibility to test.

gettyimages-481043092There are quite a number of Labour MPs, who do not support his stance over the use of drone attacks over ISIS in Syria, EU, NATO and Trident. So far as the EU is concerned, Corbyn has committed publicly that the party would campaign for the UK to stay in the EU in the forthcoming referendum. However he said: “We will, of course, oppose any attempt by the Tory government to undermine workers’ rights. But Labour is clear that the answer to any damaging changes that David Cameron brings back from his negotiation, is not to leave the European Union but to pledge to reverse any changes by campaigning to stay in and get a Labour government elected in 2020.”

On NATO and Trident, the first rebuke of Jeremy Corbyn came from military four days after his election. The first sea lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas announced the renewal of Trident and the creation of a new aircraft carrier fleet. He said: “I believe these two capabilities will define our nation’s strategic and maritime security authority for the next half a century or more.”

This can be well understood in the backdrop of Corbyn’s opposition of the renewal of Trident and spending of 2% of GDP on defence. Though Zambellas’s remark was certainly not aimed at Corbyn and hardly any senior member of the military would challenge an elected politician in public. Yet the senior ranks of military do think about these matters privately. The Sunday Times quoted a senior serving general who said: “there would be mass resignations at all levels and you would face the very real prospect of an event which would effectively be mutiny” in the event of Corbyn becoming prime minister. It is sufficient to refresh our memories of the alleged military plots to destabilise Harold Wilson. These are the basis of Tory ministers harping on the tune that the Labour party is “a threat to our national security, our economic security and our family’s security.” Yet, the Tories altogether ignore Europe’s refugee crisis, contribute to the collapse of the NHS and now they are concentrating on trade union bill to crush already feeble employee rights, amassing more wealth by drained profits from wages.

The choices are open to Jeremy Corbyn: accept the challenges, eschew individualism and work to keep the party united under his wings. Only by this way he would be able to cast away the shadows of the coming events.

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