Tag Archives: Islam4UK

Justice League

I wrote earlier that Amir Choudhary was ‘wrong, plain wrong’ and was rightly called up on it by this bloke over here in the comments. Rightly because, in one important aspect, Mr Choudhary is right, for reminding us of the non-British war dead, albeit for some very wrong reasons: getting his name in the papers. We lost count as the Afghani and Iraqi body counts increased far in advance of our own, widely mourned, totals. Except that is too kind an analysis, because we didn’t lose count, we decided not to count. Partly out of embarrassment and partly because we found it more convenient to turn the dead into terrorists:

The problem is: in Afghanistan the peasants do suspicious things, too. Some then die because they are indeed Taliban, while others become Taliban for being dead

There is a road safety ad on TV at the moment which shows a man haunted by the mangled body of the dead child he hit with his car. Everywhere he looks he sees the broken, twisted limbs. You have to wonder if that’s what Tony Blair’s dreams are like. Except there’s not just one child, there are hundreds, all eyeballing him through the dark nights, silently demanding to know why they couldn’t be allowed to live.

Over Christmas I watched the film Frost/Nixon, the showbiz and glitz world of the interviewer warily treading onto the unfamiliar territory of dead Vietnamese and Laotians. We all want a Frost/Nixon moment, where the wrongdoer looks at the camera and it hits him, that there is so much blood on his hands he is looking at about 200 billion years in Purgatory. That he caused all this pain because he couldn’t admit to being wrong. It is probably too much to hope for that we get such a moment on Friday afternoon. As Blair realises that he, like Nixon, is now tainted unto death and probably in his obituary too, as a man who waged an illegal, doomed war when all sensible advice counselled against it. Then he looks straight to camera as a single, unwiped tear drifts down his cheek and finally, we have our absolution.

I don’t expect it to end so neatly. Real life has a tendency to be, of course, less dramatic than dramatists would hope. However, the Iraq Inquiry has gone about its work with a calm dedication that, although I almost hate to admit it, has done more good than throwing Blair, Campbell and Straw into the Coliseum and releasing the lions.

Banning dissent, ignoring international law, disregarding Parliament. For a bunch of lawyers, New Labour has shown a strange disrespect for all things legal. Speaking truth to power is never a comfortable job, but good counsel has rarely been at such a low premium, at stages ignored, disregarded and, a final humiliation, ‘encouraged’ to provide more favourable advice. The Guardian’s legal affairs correspondence, Afua Hirsch:

What also came across with fresh clarity was the government’s dismissiveness of the legal expertise in its own departments… In his evidence, Wood said Straw’s dismissal of his advice was ‘probably the first and only occasion’ that a minister rejected his legal advice in this way

So it is all the more heartening to see the forces of justice fight back, not like the superheroes Blair and Bush imagine themselves to be, but via calm reasoning and careful sifting of the facts, the Supreme Court and the Iraq Inquiry have, this week, given a small glimmer of hope that the rule of law still prevails.

Picture from the Hollywood News, with thanks!
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Say what you see

All looks a bit silly now, doesn't it chaps?

Despite earlier proof of arse-elbow location difficulties, Rod Liddle was caught in a rare act of sense-speaking this weekend in his Sunday Times column. He hasn’t always used his own freedom of speech in such a sensible manner, but his argument that banning groups for being obnoxious or unpleasant is a crass method for combating them, is sound.

You may also have heard Pat Robertson’s measured commentary on the Haiti disaster coming as a result of a ‘pact with the devil’. Is this callous? Yes. Stupid? Very much so. Worthy of banning? I would say, absolutely not.

I am lucky enough to have people in my circle of friends and family with whom I do not need to adhere to many niceties when speaking. Our debates and conversations often seem like arguments to the outside observer, because no holds need to be barred, no punches pulled, all is up for grabs. It is true freedom of speech – you are soon told if you are going wrong or being foolish, but you won’t be censured for it – so it allows for true freedom of thought as well.

We must have the courage to allow our national conversations to display the candour of a group of friends gathered around a table after a few too many. Words are not our enemies. There is no idea, which by being voiced, can take your life, rob you of your money or cause your hair to drop out. I am confident that the sky won’t fall in because a group of people walk through a town holding empty coffins, however repugnant the idea of that is.

I believe that allowing Islam4UK’s march to go ahead would have done more to condemn the group than banning them can ever achieve. Wootton Bassett is not sacred ground, nor has it been consecrated or designated as an official monument. It is a place in our country where people have chosen to make their own personal tribute to the dead. I support this completely. We should all remember the (often young) people who fight for our freedoms, some being left horribly scarred, in such a personal, reflective and dignified way.

What we shouldn’t do is give away so cheaply the freedom that we require our armed services to defend. What sets us apart from the Taliban and their ilk is our belief in freedom. This includes, but should not be limited to, freedom to protest, freedom to speak and, crucially, the complete and untrammelled freedom to make a right arse of ourselves on a national stage so that other people can point out our errors.

Also in Sunday’s Times, you see, was an interview with the, well, I hesitate to call him a ‘mastermind’ but for want of a better word, the ‘mastermind’ behind Islam4UK and, it should not surprise anyone to find out, he is an absolute, 24-carat, idiot of a man. Inconsistent, stupid and wrong, plain wrong. From watching the news, you might have suspected he was evil incarnate, read the interview and he comes across in a very different way. Make your own mind up here.

There was once a similar debate about banning marches by Fascists in the 1930s. Then, it was decided that to allow them to go ahead was to reveal the movement in all its goose-stepping, uniform-wearing stupidity. A ban was only imposed when it became too difficult to police the inevitable battles with anti-fascists that would ensue. So, while it is tempting to want to turn up to any future march and throw bricks at ‘the group formerly known as Islam4UK’, might I suggest that a better response would be to show them on heavy rotation across all channels instead. That was an effective strategy with Nick Griffin, as it was previously with Oswald Mosley, and no doubt will be again, so long as we manage to resist the urge to ban everything we don’t agree with.
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