Equal opportunities fascism

November 29, 2009 at 10:15 am (1)

From Mumbai newspaper Sunday Mid-Day:

Mumbai: The British National Party welcomes its first non-white member, and with him, a brand new chapter of fanaticism

An elderly Sikh man is set to become the first non-white member of the British National Party. Since gaining two seats in the European Parliament in June, the far-right party has become subject to a law that prohibits discrimination on racial grounds.

Its leader, Nick Griffin, has a conviction for inciting racial hatred.

Knowing a legal battle to retain its ‘whites only’ policy could result in bankruptcy, the BNP is working to allow the likes of 78-year-old Rajinder Singh to join  its constitution can no longer limit membership to ‘indigenous Caucasians’.

Mr Singh moved to Britain from Punjab in 1967. He lost his father during Partition and makes no attempt to hide his disdain for Muslims. The retired school teacher is so fond of Mr Griffin and his stance against the so-called ‘Islamification’ of Britain that he has acted as a character witness at his trial.

Under Tony Blair, it would have been unthinkable for the BNP to get where it is. Blair joined the US’s illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003. He didn’t listen to his lawyers or the voters. He always believed he was right and still stands accused of having blood on his hands. With such a strong personality around, there was never any room for a small-time wannabe dictator such as Nick Griffin.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown, however, is a less forceful character, clumsily aping the fascists with his “British jobs, for British workers” slogan pandering to the worst instincts of the electorate instead of challenging them.
A few weeks ago 50-year-old Griffin Mr Singh’s buddy was invited to appear on BBC TV’s flagship political debate show, Question Time.

Despite a chorus of objection, the BBC pointed to its commitment to ‘impartiality’ in allowing Griffin to appear (earlier this year, when Israel had bombed Gaza to smithereens, the broadcaster cited impartiality as its reason for refusing to air an aid advertisement).

Eight million viewers later, Griffin is a household name who is looking for a seat in Parliament. And his Punjabi friend is more than willing to support his bid to rid the UK of Muslims. (There is even talk that he will be the first non-white to stand as a BNP councillor!)

Mr Singh told the London Times: “It’s a natural process in the Muslim psyche, to take over. The fear of Islam is well founded, well justified. I don’t hate Muslims. By definition a Sikh is supposed to love all even the enemy.”

Explaining his support for the BNP, he adds: “I am a victim of Islamic aggression. The individual Muslim is a good guy. He is my neighbour, he is working hard. But when they are all together, everybody should be very fearful. The other parties are not standing up for the national interest.”

Mr Singh told the Independent newspaper: “I come from partitioned Punjab that saw a lot of bloodshed in 1947. Anyone escaping that genocide would pray to God, say never again and vote for BNP.”

One YouTube video shows a young Griffin suggesting Sikhs be paid to return to India. “Lots of Sikhs would go home and west London wouldn’t be so crowded at rush hour time. Everybody’s happy.”

But there is a silver-haired lining to this cloud. Shimla-born Mohinder Singh Pujji who flew a Spitfire in the Battle of Britain in 1940 and was one of 18 Indian pilots in the Royal Air Force (and the only one to have flown wearing a turban), has hit out the BNP. The 92-year old is upset by the party’s use of Spitfire imagery on its website having fought the Nazis in World War II, he’s at it again.

“The BNP are wrong to use the (image of the) Spitfire as representative of their party,” he told the Evening Standard. “They forget people from different backgrounds helped in the Second World War. I am proof of this I was flying a Spitfire. I also met Winston Churchill.”

He added: “Even in those days, there were ethnic minorities fighting for the British. I’d recommend the armed forces for young people, regardless of race.”

On the Daily Mail website, a woman called Kate left this comment about Rajinder Singh:

“While I understand that this man is acting out of the pain of his father’s death, he is clearly hugely misguided and extremely ignorant if he seriously believes that the BNP are the answer to his prayers.”

She might have added that the BNP are equally stupid if they believe Mr Singh is the answer to their prayers. If anything, his joining the party is a sign of their demise.

Illustration by Gynelle Alves

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Bad loan

November 29, 2009 at 9:59 am (1)


Bad loan

Having won the Nobel peace prize in 2003, Iranian lawyer Shirin Ebadi is now the first laureate whose medal has been confiscated by a government. The human rights lawyer is currently abroad and will be thinking about the wisdom of returning to her country – the award was plundered from a safe, along with her French Legion d’Honneur medal and a prize from a German press association.

She told the BBC: “They said they would detain me if I returned, or that they would make the environment unsafe for me wherever I am.”

The Guardian wrote:

The Norwegian foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Støre, described the move as “shocking” and said it was “the first time a Nobel peace prize has been confiscated by national authorities”.

Ebadi is also being asked to pay back-taxes on the £800,000 she received from Norway, which, she says, cannot be levied on prize money.

The news will worry the British Museum which is about to loan the 2,500-year-old Cyrus Cylinder to Iran as part of an exchange agreement – it borrowed antiquities from Iran for an exhibition earlier this year.

The BM is counting on protection from seizure laws in Iran to prevent the Islamic Republic from confiscating what many Iranians believe to be the world’s first human rights charter.

In her speech to the Nobel committee Ms Ebadi said: “I am an Iranian. A descendent of Cyrus The Great. The very emperor who proclaimed at the pinnacle of power 2500 years ago that… he would not reign over the people if they did not wish it. And [he] promised not to force any person to change his religion and faith and guaranteed freedom for all. The Charter of Cyrus The Great is one of the most important documents that should be studied in the history of human rights.”

Given that her medal is now in the hands of the Islamic Republic, the BM should reconsider its loan of the Cyrus cylinder, on which the ‘charter’ Ms Ebadi referred to is inscribed – it is due to go on display in Tehran in January.

According to one source, the chances that the Iranian government will decide to keep the cylinder are “very high”. Iran’s clerics have a history of hostility towards Iran’s pre-Islamic heritage – after the revolution, Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali threatened to raze Unesco-recognised world heritage sites with bulldozers.

In 2007 the Islamic Republic ignored a campaign to stop the Sivand dam being built which experts fear will destroy Persepolis. (Khalali did destroy the mausoleum of Reza Shah.)

Britain need only recall standing by as Iran seized 15 Royal Navy personnel in 2007 to know that lending the Cyrus cylinder to Iran is a bad idea – there will be nothing we can do. And it is perfectly conceivable that it will be damaged or destroyed.

In any case, given the recent violence in Iran against peaceful demonstrators, illegal detentions, torture – with reports of physical violations commonplace – the museum is surely duty-bound to deny or at least delay the loan of this priceless antique.

The BM, however, is adamant that the planned loan will go ahead. Given the fate of Shirin Ebadi’s Nobel medal, however, that doesn’t bode well for her hero Cyrus’s cylinder.

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Dear Foreign Secretary

November 24, 2009 at 3:08 pm (1)

To Rt Hon David Miliband MP
Secretary of State for Foreigh
and Commonwealth Affairs

The Cyrus Cylinder


Dear Mr Miliband

I am writing to express my concern at the British Museum’s decision to lend the 2,500-year-old Cyrus Cylinder to Iran.

The Cyrus Cylinder is an icon of human rights — as you will know it is inscribed with one of the world’s first declarations of human rights.

For this reason, it is a source of national pride to millions of Iranians.

The Museum secured the loan of a number of artefacts from Iran, for its exhibition Shah Abbas: The Remaking Of Iran earlier this year, with a promise that it would then lend the Cylinder to the Iranians.

I humbly suggest that the Museum, which in October said it was “monitoring” developments in Iran, has ethical grounds to renege on that promise.

Over the past few months, as you know, protesters for democracy in Iran have suffered violence, illegal detention and even death at the hands of the state.

Given this backdrop, lending Iran such a unique symbol of humane intent risks being seen as reward for bad behaviour. As such, the Museum’s well-meaning gesture is sure to deal a blow to Iran’s ‘green’ movement for democracy.

I respectfully ask that you intervene to ensure this does not happen.

Yours faithfully
Peyvand Khorsandi
Journalist and blogger

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November 9, 2009 at 6:34 pm (1)


Tony Blair, UN Middle East peace envoy, has failed to broker £1m deal to open Tescos in the region. Asked what this has to do with peace, he said: ‘Every little helps’.

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Ayatollah twitters

November 1, 2009 at 2:46 pm (1)

I wrote this at the time of the demos in Iran in the summer.

It is the democratic right of every Iranian.

To be attacked in a demonstration.

It is the democratic right of every Iranian.
To be carried away after being shot.

Every Iranian has the right to scream
under torture and interrogation.

Every Iranian has the right to be shot
— not shot of the Islamic Republic.

Shot in the face, in the arms, in the legs.

Every demonstrator has the right to a stretcher.

Every stretcher has the right to a body.

Everybody has the right to vote.

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