Lisa Forbes resignation

lisa forbes antisemisim row for peterborough by-election.jpg

More worries that dodgy social media likes can prove to be misplaced as the Labour candidate who wants to replace the equally dodgy Onasanya cannot resist aimlessly liking anything she sees on twitter in an effort to grab as many votes as she possibly can. There is no time, now, for her resignation and replacement so she will have to plough on despite loud condemnations of her stupidity.

Denials and assurances have followed this morning and may well be eclipsed by the Trump cavalcade and by Sadiq Khan’s attempts to pull focus with an article saying that Trump is a neo-Nazi.

What does all this mean? – well, just as Russia tightens its grip on what can and cannot be published, the UK reveals rather well that we are absurdly liberal in what we say and allow to be said here both publicly and privately. What needs to change is not the limits of censorship, castigation and monitoring but a better way of thinking that is more inclusive and kinder. Incidentally, it’s what needs to change in Russia too.

More on Russian Censorship

I got called to task yesterday for barking on about Russia’s censorship of gay issues when I drew a picture of Elton John. A well-meaning pundit wrote to me and complained that my concerns about russian state homophobia were ill-judged when there are still states like Saudi Arabia that execute people for being gay.

My concern however, is about censorship and dubbing. The Elton John issue is just an example.More than that, it demonstrates as does all the HTB rubbish, that I personally witnessed, that Russian censorship is effectively privatised. As Putin’s regime loses power, individuals and their companies vie with one another to do what they think the state would like to see- they are all currying favour and their common tool is to manipulate the media.

What Russia is doing today goes back really to the time of Suleiman the Magnificent who simply stopped the developing media in its tracks. The Western-style free press was forbidden, and this vigorous censorship persisted until the 19th Century. It was, in fact, a very successful attempt to foster nationalism. So, when we see this happening in our own time, in whatever country, we need to look beyond the censor to see what is actually going on. It is not just about what we are trying to stop, and how it is stopped but also what is being encouraged.

Modern Russia plans to set up a form of confessional religious studies across secondary schools. This alone I find worrying.

The parallel laws against Homosexuality- section 28, Federal law no. 436-FZ of 2010-12-23 (July 2012) and Article 6.21 (30 June 2013). There are similar laws in China.

The much more dangerous issue is about how to present “truth” than simply about suppressing a minority group. And remember that the current law in Russia is no different in intent from the law (section 28) put out under Margaret Thatcher – to protect children from “teaching of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. Anne Widdicombe’s comments yesterday suggest that she continues to honour the underlying and homophobic principle behind that law btw, in so far as she implies that homosexuality is something that can, should or might be cured by medicine… ie: it is a disease and, as the russian law puts it, is “not “traditional”. These two laws are simply representations of forms of prejudice that go back to the mediaeval period and probably early Christianity where a great deal of effort was given to establishing what was natural and “against nature”. David Attenborough and others demonstrate very nicely that homosexuality is present in many animal societies – it is therefore fundamentally “natural”, so that argument is demonstrably stupid. The British law was a response to the threat of AIDS and the 2013 Russian law, I suggest, is a response of growing nationalism and a desire to toady to the nastier (sic Trump) realities of Orthodoxy.


Like Catholicism, Orthodoxy has an aggressively homophobic side and, as we are seeing now, many of the more vocal clerics promoting anti-gay legislation were themselves living double lives and so knew exactly where to look…(think pope Paul VI to start with, the notorious Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo of Colombia, and Metropolitan Serafim/Leonid Mikhailovich Chichagin- but it is all to be found in Frédéric Martel’s book “in the Closet of the Vatican“)…. as for the saudi issue, it is relevant but the history of Islam is more complex- not only did it take a puritanical turn in the 9th century but until the Napoleonic conquests at the end of the 18th century/ 19th Century the Muslim world had a reputation for being a bit louche- the anglican/ scottish churches, for instance, criticised the “East” for its liberal standards- think Henry Mondral’s comments about “voluptuousness” when he visited Syria in 1695, and Thomas Rowe, for example, not its intolerance, and the Ottoman empire as well as nomadic Arabia, Egypt and Morocco attracted western writers- Byron (“I can’t empty my head of the east”), Gide, Genet, Wilde, Forster as well as probably Lawrence of arabia…it is only the advent of the austere and feared religious police, the mutawwa’in and the pincer-grip of Wahabi’ism that we see today in Saudi. (check out another book: Saudi Arabia Exposed: Inside a Kingdom in Crisis) remember that until very recently homosexuality (a very modern word too) described what people did and only recently has become about who they are (identity). Remember that Oscar Wilde was married…in muslim culture, esp in Iran where there is a written Persian record (think of the hedonism in the 9th Century arabian nights, the Mughal figurative art in Islam, the rise of music in islam – despite modern islamic injunctions against music) gay sex was an incidental activity not something that defined a person. And, as in Greece, it was both tolerated and a manifestation of the love of beauty, celebrated in poetry. The love object, incidentally, in alot of arabic poetry (Rumi, Hafiz, esp Bulleh Shah who loves Inayat Shah) is often, maybe because of the fierce protection of women, a boy and not a girl.


I must write something about “Kismet”, the amazing Minnelli film from the 1950’s. It prefigures Disney’s Aladdin and is such a mix of the Arabic, Turkish, Indian and Chinese. Multiculturalism long before Guy Ritchie!


Mr Livingstone I presume!

red kenI am astonished that the BBC report on the Livingstone affair today lets him get away with the perverted chronology that he presents as “fact” on BBC Radio London. Either he is wrong and the BBC have avoided making that clear or he is right. No subsequent BBC report makes it clear that his so-called “facts” are wrong.

The impression, instead, given in reports is that his error lies in his attempts to smudge over Naz Shah’s supposed anti-semitism. In fact, Livingstone is just wrong.

And let’s get something else clear from the beginning- it is quite possible to be critical of current Israeli policy (It may even be not only “possible” but “necessary”) without being anti-semitic. Not all Jews support the State of Israel, and even among those who do, there are many who openly reject the current treatment of Palestinians.

This is what Livingstone said,

“It’s completely over the top. It’s not anti-semitic. Let’s remember when Hitler won his election in 1932, his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting zionism before he went mad and ended up killing 6 million Jews…” He went on to add  that Hitler was “a monster from start to finish” but he claimed to have been quoting “historical facts”.

His history is wrong. And it is wrong of the BBC to let him get away with this.

The facts are very simple, when Hitler came to power in 1932(sic), a wave of international horror at the treatment of Jews in Germany, known now as the “anti-Nazi boycott”started in New York two months after he became chancellor and continued in various forms until the outbreak of the war. There was already a good deal of anti-semitism, and indeed the Catholic Bishop of Linz thought anti-semitism was “a moral duty”, something he announced in January 1933, when Hitler became Chancellor. But the full force of hatred was fired by outrageous lines like this in Mein Kampf: “Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: ‘by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” and elsewhere he argues that it was the “deceit of Jews” that led to Germany’s defeat in the First world war- “the sacrifice of millions at the front” would have been prevented “if twelve or fifteen thousand of these Hebrew corrupters of the people had been held under poison gas.” Strong words from the man who cannot dodge responsibility for the Holocaust. They were echoed in the Nazi party newspaper, Der Sturmer which had the motto “the Jews are our misfortune”. In 1941, one day after declaring war on the US, he brought up this same argument in Berlin to justify the annihilation of Jews. Hans Frank, who attended this briefing, went on to brief his own officials in Krakow saying, “in Berlin,” he had been told “to liquidate the Jews….As an old National Socialist, I must state that if the Jewish clan were to survive the war in Europe, while we sacrificed our best blood in the defence of Europe, then this war would only represent a partial success.

“With respect to the Jews, therefore, I will only operate on the assumption that they will disappear… We must exterminate the Jews wherever we find them.(Auschwitz: The Nazis and the ‘Final Solution’, BBC Books, 2005, p.112)

Goebbels proposed a number of “countermeasures”, really an excuse to boycott and close Jewish businesses in Germany with Goebbels on record saying “the boycott will be resumed until German Jewry has been annihilated”. Placards outside Jewish shops told people not to use them- Kauf nicht bei Juden! and Die Juden sind unser Unglück! Within one week, beginning on April 1st 1933, a one-day boycott of Jewish shops escalated into the wholesale banning of Jewish workers from Government jobs and from practicing law. Only the Lutheran church opposed the sanctions while Catholic bishops had what was described as “cordial” chats with the Führer. By the end of April, Jewish children were being turned away from schools under the “Overcrowding in German Schools and Schools of Higher Education Act”.

The Haavara agreement was a further response by Hitler’s Germany to the Anti-Nazi Boycott, brokered partly by the Va’ad Leumi organisation. This was signed on 25th August 1933, but although it facilitated the emigration of 60,000 people to what was then called Palestine, it also involved confiscating their property in Germany. A complex and half-hearted refunding process had already been in place through Hanotea for shipping goods from Germany to Israel.

Hitler was certainly not a supporter of the agreement and the impression given is that he was dragged into it because he feared the Anti-Nazi boycott was destroying the fragile efforts made to sort out the German economy. Johann von Leers and Achim Gercke also did not support the Palestinan agreement advancing resettlement instead to Madagascar as a way to solve the “Judenfrage” It was only 2 years’ later that the Nuremberg Laws came into effect. The rest is certainly “history”.

Whatever happens to Livingstone and Naz Shah, the BBC comes out of this looking distinctly shabby. I have just renewed my TV licence: I regret that now. A shame.


Miqdaad Versi’s campaign

Just a footnote here to draw attention to the work of Mr Versi who works for the Muslim council of Great Britain. Sloppy journalism simply has no place in defining the way we tackle extremism and the threat of terror. On 23rd March, he tweeted a correction to some rather silly reports that suggested that Muslims were not doing enough to stop the spread and influence of ISIS. We should be careful not to soak up the nonsense peddled by twits like Trump who claimed there are no-go” areas in Britain There may well be, and they are reserved for people peddling the nonsense you peddle, Mr Trump. For God sake, Donald, grow up! It matters not one jot whether you eventually secure the Presidency or whether you are just in this race for the pleasure of making hell, you are a public figure, and you have responsibilities – not, I think to “truth” but to “probity”, common decency.

This is what Mr Versi wrote:

We’ve had mosques that throw extremists out of their midsts. We’ve had many hundreds of Muslims reporting other Muslims to the police and to counter-terror officials. We have over 95% of Muslims saying if there is any Muslim within their own community, maybe committing an attack, they would report them. Of course there are fringe elements in any community and there are people who have gone to Syria to fight for Daesh or so-called ISIS. They are people we need to stop.




Horrid news today that a 13 year old girl was stopped by a teacher in her school and asked whether she was carrying a bomb. Simply because she was wearing a hijab. While this shows a degree of insensitivity and stupidity, it also demonstrates just how successfully Donald Trump is stirring up a wave of Islamophobia in the US, as if the efforts of Daesh/ISIS are not enough!

It is only a month or so since Ahmed Mohamed was arrested for taking a home-made clock to a show and tell session at his school. That led not only to an apology and to a call from the whitehouse and Mrs Clinton who met Ahmed, but also to an offer to be schooled in Doha and what I gather is a sizeable demand for compensation.

You know when you are doing wrong- when children are harmed. Here we have just two instances where children have been deeply upset by stupid teachers. The rise of racism and idiocy needs to be stopped before more children are hurt.

None of this aggression is necessary. Trump’s latest pronouncements come very close to the language of hate that would see him under arrest in the UK – certainly, calls for him to be denied entry to Britain should be taken seriously.

In the North east, the word “Trumping” is a euphemism for flatulence which I suppose rather sums up the man and his message. But flatulence can be unpleasant and the time has come to open the windows.