The United Kingdom came in for robust questioning on its human rights record from other UN member states last week at the Human Rights Council, during the historic first session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). Over the course of three hours, 38 countries took the floor to ask UK Justice Minister Michael Wills about a wide range of issues, including racial discrimination, corporal punishment against children, abuses committed by UK armed forces abroad, and failure to ratify particular UN conventions and their protocols.
Coming at a time when the UK government is trying to pass yet another piece of counterterrorism legislation, which includes extending pre-charge detention to 42 days, it’s no wonder a significant number of countries asked about UK counterterrorism policies. Neighbors such as The Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland expressed concern about 42 day detention, but so did countries like Syria and Algeria. Algeria’s representative pointed out that the Human Rights Committee – the UN body that monitors compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – had recently “upbraided” Algeria for allowing up to twelve days of pre-charge detention.
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The embrace of former extremists is a slap in the face for Muslims who have worked tirelessly to build a British Muslim identity and foster inclusion by constructive community activity. It’s another attempt at the marginalisation of the overwhelming majority who never had a moment’s doubt that Islam gives no sanction for such murderous and misguided perversion of belief.
I am troubled by the fact that former extremists are seen as the only people who know how to deal with extremism. Just because you have been an inmate of a mental hospital does not mean you are an expert in clinical psychology. But former extremists are being lionised because they confirm the basic tabloid prejudice that violence is a natural part of being a Muslim. So whose ignorance is being vindicated? Certainly the potential of an open, unapologetic belief in Islam as a valuable part of British society is not on the agenda.
At every stage of dealing with extremism, the government has made the wrong choice. First, only British-trained imams were to be promoted, though how and what they were trained in was not examined. Then there were to be roadshows at which religious scholars selected for their moderation and tractability, rather than an understanding of the problems of young British Muslims, would explain the error of extremist ways. Then Sufism was touted as the solution, and the Sufi Muslim Council was created as the voice of moderation. Now the way forward is with sinners who were once mouthpieces for jihadi propaganda and advocated the violent rejection of all things western.
The British public gives more to a Devon-based donkey sanctuary than the most prominent charities trying to combat violence and abuse against women, a report released today by a leading philanthropy watchdog reveals.
New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) has calculated that more than 7 million women have been affected by domestic violence but found that Refuge, the Women’s Aid Federation and Eaves Housing for Women have a combined annual income of just £17m. By contrast the Donkey Sanctuary, which has looked after 12,000 donkeys, received £20m in 2006.
NPC estimates the cost to society of domestic abuse, sexual violence, forced marriage, trafficking and honour crimes has reached £40bn a year – greater than the country’s defence budget.
“As a society we are not spending enough on this issue whether through charities or the government,” said Justine Järvinen, the author of the report. “Violence against women appears regularly as the subject of media reports and in the storylines of soap operas but rarely does it come up in normal conversation, which suggests there is a stigma around it. The truth is it is very common.”
Every year 1.5 million women experience domestic abuse at least once, 800,000 are sexually assaulted and 100,000 raped, the report states. More than one in four women has experienced at least one incident of domestic violence by a current or former partner, which means 7.4 million women in the UK have suffered domestic abuse, according to government figures.
The House of Commons, held up as a beacon of democracy, has a ‘dirty little secret’, according to black MPs – its racism.
Dawn Butler, only the third black woman ever to have become an MP, said she faced such frequent racism from politicians of all parties that she had to ‘pick her battles’ to avoid being constantly in conflict with her colleagues. Disillusioned by what she has found, she is calling for a dedicated complaints department with the power to suspend politicians and send them on awareness training courses.
‘I thought people in Parliament would be progressive. It is still a shock that they are not,’ she said. ‘Over the past 400-plus years, the only black people – and black women in particular – in Parliament have been there to cook and clean. For some politicians, it’s still a shock to come face to face with a black women with any real power. Racism and sexism is Parliament’s dirty little secret.’
She is backed by Diane Abbott, the only other black woman in the Commons, who said that she had suffered 20 years of prejudice. ‘In the beginning, some of it was sheer ignorance. I remember being shocked when a Labour MP asked me once whether we celebrated Christmas in Jamaica,’ said Abbott, Labour MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington.
‘It has not helped that the Labour party powers-that-be have always seen me as “uppity” but I have dealt with the racism and misogyny by reaching out to other black women.’
Butler, who won the Brent South seat in 2005 when she was 35, described how shocked she was by the attitude of a senior Conservative who challenged her right to have a drink on the Commons’ Thameside terrace, a privilege reserved for MPs.
Three men have been jailed for three years for a campaign of racial harassment against a Muslim colleague.
Amjid Mehmood was tied to railings and force-fed bacon while a rucksack with protruding wires was put on his locker, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
Fellow road maintenance workers Lee McDermott, of Rowley Regis, and Sean Melaney and Phillip Skett, both from Birmingham, admitted racial harassment.
The nine-month campaign of abuse came to light when Mr Mehmood told police.
McDermott, 31, from Blue Stone Walk, Sean Melaney, 28, of Steatham Grove, Kingstanding, and Skett, 39, of College Road, Erdington, were each jailed for three years.
So, Trevor Brooks, sorry “Abu Izzadeen”, has been jailed for inciting and funding terrorism, temporarily ending the career of yet another loud-mouthed Celebrity Fanatic. Funny how these men (and they’re always men, of course) have always called on others to go and kill themselves for The Righteous Cause, yet have always preferred to stay at home (usually at the expense of the state they claim to loathe).