Jettison Blair!

Labour needs to push Blair overboard soon to have any chance in the May elections. By Liam Bailey

Prime Minister Tony Blair has stated his intentions to stand down before the next election. It is a near certainty that he will be replaced by the Chancellor Gordon Brown. Gordon Brown has announced his intentions to distance himself from the white house, to “speak his mind” and put Britain’s National interests first.

The Prime Minister has refused to set a date for his departure, but has said the 2006 Trades Union Congress (TUC) would be his last, meaning he will leave sometime before September. Most people believe he will leave in May to have a decade in office but keep his promise to go before the TUC 2007. Others believe he will go sometime before May to give his successor time to assure the maximum Labour vote at the May elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and local councils.

Pollsters are predicting a heavy defeat for Labour at the May elections. Under Blair they may well be right. I predict arrogant Blair will again put his legacy before the Party and Britain’s national interests by staying in office until at least May, assuring his decade as Prime Minister. Not only that but Labour is currently conducting an extensive policy review, which Blair hopes will secure his legacy by entrenching long-term plans for public service reforms. It is highly unlikely that he will leave before its conclusion.

Many people also believe he will hang on as long as possible in the hope the Northern Ireland’s devolution can be restarted while he is still in office. All these things make it unlikely that he will be stepping down any time soon and unlikely his successor will have anytime to influence the vote in May, if in fact Blair doesn’t stay on for the elections.

The Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said it best: “We have a constitutional novelty. A prime minister with responsibility and no authority and a chancellor with authority but no responsibility. How can this dysfunctional government conduct the affairs of the country?” The latest Labour party scandal proves he is right.

Former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has caused a massive stir in the UK by taking her Dyslexic son out of state school and into a private school. Ms Kelly said she was doing “the right thing for my child”, in paying 15000 pounds per year fees to move her son from public schooling in Tower Hamlet’s borough to private schooling. A boarding school in Oxfordshire is Ms Kelly’s choice, despite there being 20 schools close to her home, six with either outstanding or excellent Special Education Needs (SEN) services according to a recent Ofsted report. Downing Street almost immediately released a statement supporting MS Kelly and David Cameron, who has a son with cerebal paulsey expressed his sympathy.

I doubt if the thousands of parents across the country, who have children with severe learning difficulties but can’t afford private school will feel the same, in fact it is likely that they will have lost faith in public sector SEN schooling. Either way the former Education Secretary, now Communities Minister Ruth Kelly has shown little faith in her community, little faith in the education system and therefore little faith in herself. Her decision has also caused a massive scandal for Labour, which could really do without it at the moment.

The debate has continued in the papers and Thursday’s British television news, since the Sunday Mirror expose. In 2005 David Blunkett became the ninth minister Blair had forced to resign, and five others have resigned in scandalous circumstances, four over the Iraq war. I have no doubt that Ruth Kelly would have been the tenth forced resignation under normal party conditions. An ITN news reporter echoed Menzies Campbell Wednesday, saying: Blair has the responsibility but no authority and Brown has the authority but no responsibility, so it looks likely she –Ruth Kelly– will stay in her job. So, not only is it yet another high-profile scandal and yet more bad publicity for the Labour Party, but it has yet again drawn attention to the “dysfunctional government” running the UK.

All the above combines to make it very unlikely the pollsters will be proved wrong about the May elections. Labour will indeed be in for a blood-bath.

So, what has never looked likely before begins to look likely now, a Scottish National Party (SNP) win in the Scottish Parliament elections and maybe even Scottish Independence. The Scottish National Party is slightly ahead of Scottish Labour, and miles ahead of all other parties in most opinion polls, you can’t blame them for thinking this could be their year.

The SNP will undoubtedly try to gain Scottish independence, which has a lot of support in Scotland but not from me. I am a proud Scot, but I am also proud to be British and believe we have far more clout in Europe and the world speaking with one unified voice. Devolution has meant Scotland can still act in its own right, with its own separate funding and separate policies, as the smoking ban in Scotland has proven. I am a smoker and to see people on T.V. smoking in English pubs, knowing we can no longer smoke in public places north of the border is one example I could do without.

New supporters are adding to the people who have always supported the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland. They believe Scotland could be better off as an independent state because it would have sole control and reap the profits of Scotland’s oil reserves, which they believe would expand the Scottish economy.

The fact that the opposition party set to gain the most in the Scottish Parliament elections is not the Conservatives or the Liberal Democrats but the SNP is evidence of what is making people angry, perhaps more so than any of the above. The Scottish people want to distance themselves from Blair’s foreign policy and they see the SNP’s vision for an independent Scotland as the best way to do that.

Therefore, perhaps the biggest disadvantage for having Blair onboard is his unrelenting support for Bush and the U.S. combined with anti-U.S. feeling in the U.K. running at an all time high. This is largely because of Bush’s foreign policy, which Blair has followed blindly. Despite support for the Iraq war and therefore Bush and therefore Blair being at an all time low, Blair refuses, whatever his reasoning to criticise Bush even slightly, no matter how stupid his foreign policies seem.

The latest U.S bombing in Somalia is yet another example, Blair was asked during Wednesday’s Prime Minister’s questions if he was concerned by the air strikes from the US air force carried out on Somali targets over the last few days. It was suggested by Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn that what was needed was not foreign intervention but a peace process. Blair agreed: “What is in the interests of everyone in Somalia is to have a peace process that works properly”.

Bearing in mind that for the last fifteen years Somalis have endured either all-out war or total violent chaos in the country, Blair should surely have stopped there, or perhaps added something like: and that is what everybody, including the U.S wants to see in the country. Instead he added: the extremists at work in Somalia pose a threat not just to those outside Somalia but those within it as well and that global terrorism around the world had “a clear ideology and strategy” and where lives were being affected by it, it was right that those responsible were targeted. Bush can do no wrong in Blair’s eyes.

People are worried that with Blair in power the government will be pressured by Bush’s troop surge in Iraq and won’t keep its promise of bringing thousands of our troops home this year. Home from what many believe is an un-winnable war.

Blair staying in power but not really in charge puts the Labour party at a definite disadvantage. For one thing it gives opposition MP’s an easy target to aim criticism and ridicule at. Everyday that passes without an announcement of Blair’s departure means less time for the new leader to turn things around, more time for people to get even angrier as the dysfunctional government is exposed time and again and more reason for opposition MP’s to rub their hands together.

There is a program scheduled on British T.V. channel More Four called the Trial of Tony Blair. In the program Blair is convicted and jailed by a war-crimes tribunal at The Hague. This is further evidence of the U.K’s feelings about the Iraq war and Blair’s part in it. The Labour Party needs to cast Blair from around their neck before it is too late.

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Ending the Israel/Palestine Conflict?

I am starting a War Pages think-tank, well blog-tank actually. To be a part of it simply comment on this article with your views on how the Israeli/Palestinian conflict could be resolved and I will select the best comments for the blog-tank.

Open the Debate:

Intent on ousting Hamas, dividing the PA and playing for time, Israel may be missing an achievable dream.

By Liam Bailey

The Gaza ceasefire is now an empty shroud, as Israel, patience exhausted has said the IDF will re-start launching “targeted” attacks on Palestinians launching rockets into Israel from the coastal strip, on average twice daily. So, the cycle will begin, attack, brings defensive attack, brings further attacks, brings defensive attacks… repeat infinite.

The always fragile truce, amid what can only be described as an abhorrent failure by both sides to realize the opportunity it presented, was doomed to failure from the start.

Hamas may be unwilling to recognise Israel but its actions during the ceasefire have proven it a willing partner in any peace process. Only unwilling to succumb to anything that will lessen the chances of a Palestinian state eventually achieved, being worth the years of bloodshed. That includes a unity government that allows Abbas free reign to lead the Palestinian people back down the path of his Israeli and American subservience.

Hamas’ attempts to do what was expected of them and resist the occupation through diplomacy, were not met with acceptance of the fact that they were clearly making an effort to moderate their ways. But by equal efforts to cripple their democratic intentions, because they refuse to recognise Israel, renounce violence and box themselves into a corner.

Israel has existed for many years regardless of who accepts its right to do so. I fail to see what difference Hamas’ recognition would make, like saying, at most twelve words would end Hamas violence, when years of the IDF military supremacy hasn’t.

Hamas’ infinite resilience in the face of the extreme pressure caused by the Israeli/U.S. forced boycott of Hamas governed Palestine, has led to more creative efforts to end their governance. Abbas’ call for new elections was at least partly done for the Palestinian people, realizing that a unity government was not on the horizon he tried to end the Palestinian siege one way or another. It was also undoubtedly done partly to get back into Israel and America’s good books and cheque books, at the expense of his relationship with Hamas and therefore at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA) and population.

His recent meeting with Olmert was a sign that it had worked. Olmert agreed to the removal of 27 West Bank check-points, slackening the noose around Gaza and the release of 100 million dollars in tax revenues. Revenues usually collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinians, under Hamas simply collected by Israel.

Olmert’s concessions to Abbas were undoubtedly an attempt to influence any elections that may be held in the PA by helping Abbas to regain some credibility with the Palestinian people. Just three days later Israel announced its authorization for a new West Bank settlement, already being built in the Jordan Valley, to re-house settlers evicted during the Israeli pullout from Gaza. Palestinians must have wretched at Israel behaving like a god over them; Israel giveth –slightly more freedom and money that was rightfully theirs– and Israel taketh away –yet more land from any future Palestinian state–.

If only Israel’s leaders could see that granting the Palestinians what they want would also be the ideal solution for Israel.

There is currently worry within Israel that falling immigration may result in the balance being tipped against it remaining a predominantly Jewish state. If Israel gave the Palestinians an independent state within the borders as they stood before the 1967 six day war, and a partial right of return, allowing only descendants of those expelled in the 1948 war the right to return, only to the newly formed state, Israel’s Arab population would surely move into the new state. This would put Israel closer than ever to a totally Jewish state if not completing the dream.

Israel’s Arabs may not migrate however, as some people, such as Israeli businessman Reuven Kossover, fear that such a Palestinian state would be racked by poverty and at the mercy of foreign aid for its foreseeable future. There is also a simple solution to that problem:

Palestine’s warm climate would allow the growth of tropical fruits, which could be sold and exported in a global orchard business; grapes could obviously go to the manufacture of Palestinian wines. As well as craft manufacture industries that could also be exported around the world. We have already seen the pyrotechnical capabilities of the Qassam manufacturers, with a little training Palestinian rockets –and other fireworks– could bring happiness instead of misery. In my lifetime I have only seen one Palestinian export, Palestinian clove oil.

How many states can you name that have received more news coverage and publicity in recent years than Israel and Palestine?

According to the proverb that no publicity is bad publicity, the novelty of Palestinian exports and the strong support for the Palestinians plight around the world would ensure new businesses expand and provide jobs very quickly. This would not require heavy or sustained financial aid, but an international or Arab program ensuring Palestinians who desire to set up in business get adequate training in the field they choose. Let’s hope Israel sees sense soon.

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US: End of Middle East Dominance: What Dominance?

Previously suppressed states are exploiting the mess in Iraq and vying for supremacy.By Liam Bailey

With the Baker report suggesting America talks with its staunch adversaries Iran and Syria, and the public’s apparent support for Baker’s findings. It is beginning to look like Bush might finally be forced into –unthinkable for him– acts of history validated common sense. Since talking to Iran and Syria was first suggested by Blair after he gave evidence to the Baker Commission, analysts have been questioning the end of U.S domination in the Middle East.

The question should be: did the U.S ever dominate the Middle East? Sure, unconditionally supporting Israel ensured their influence in that conflict, IDF style. Bombing and shooting the Palestinians into agreement with the U.S’ –fad– peace plan at the time. Meanwhile the U.S exerted little or no influence in Israel’s often ill-advised and frequently illegal actions. Israel currently has little or no influence in Middle East affairs anyway. It couldn’t get by without U.S aid [PDF], let alone suppress the latest Palestinian Intifada.

There was a tradition of U.K and U.S influence in Iran’s monarchical rule after we imposed a suitable Shah. The current stand-off over Iran’s nuclear program, and its meddling in Iraq [PDF] show how much things have changed. Not only recently but since the Iranian revolution in 1979, the hostages taken in the U.S embassy during the revolution flipped the bird to U.S influence in Iran.

Iran currently showing disregard for U.S power is a facade to amplify its own strength and help their hegemonic aims.

Syrian diplomats have always adhered strictly to agreements reached with their U.S counterparts. But they have also been close to all-out war over the Israeli Lebanon conflict in 1983. The U.S, recognising that Syria plays a central role in the Middle East and in global Jihad, attempts to exert its influence. And turn the “rogue state” from a supporter of terrorism to a supporter of democracy and U.S hegemony. They have and probably will never succeed in that aim.

The U.S has enjoyed 70 years of good relations with Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, until 9/11 put a significant strain on the “special relationship”. Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Israel during the Israel/Hezbollah conflict and rhetoric of going to war showed that the U.S doesn’t hold much influence over Saudi Arabia.

In Iraq’s case, we all know the current scenario. The U.S has as much influence in Iraq now as any of the rival militia factions. The same influence it has recently had over every other Middle East country, very little.

The U.S has had reasonable influence in Turkey since shortly after World War II, with the exception of the mid-late 70’s when Turkey invaded Cyprus. The U.S’ influence in Turkey crumbled in the build up to the Iraq war. Turkey refusing U.S forces entry to hit Iraq from the North, showed that –unlike Saudi Arabia– Turkey’s loyalty to their Iraqi Muslim brothers and sisters influenced their policy more than U.S relations. U.S aid [PDF] was cut-off 2003. Except a small military grant, which I presume was necessary for Turkey’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Relations fell apart in Mar. 2005, when the U.S ambassador to Turkey resigned after two years. Because Turkey’s government came out in support of their President’s decision to visit Syria in early April that year, despite the U.S warning against it. Also for ignoring the ambassador’s calls for Turkey to join an international coalition concerning Syria.

The U.S weighs its relationship with and influence of Egypt perhaps higher than any other Middle East country, because of its leadership role in the region. A role which was set when Egypt was actively fighting Israel and sought military aid from the Soviets. Several other Arab states shortly followed suit. U.S Israel relations improved after the 1979 peace treaty was signed with Israel. Since then the U.S has given billions of dollars [PDF] in military and financial aid to sustain Egypt’s moderate voice in Arab councils. Persuade less moderate regimes of the benefits of compromise and to maintain the Egypt-Israeli peace treaty.

The latter has been more successful than the other two by far. As the U.S failed to realize that the feelings of Egypt’s leaders toward Israel’s treatment of their Arab Palestinian brothers didn’t change overnight. More likely they realised they would be in a much better position to help the Palestinians in every way with a whole whack of U.S aid.

Jordan’s monarchy has perhaps the best relationship with the U.S. The U.S began providing Jordan with economic and military aid in 1951 and 1957 respectively. Relations were slightly soured by Jordan’s reluctance to participate in the first Iraq war to liberate Kuwait. Relations improved throughout the 1990’s as Jordan began to take a more favourable view of normalization of relations with Israel. Over the years the U.S has provided billions of dollars [PDF] in aid to Jordan. In return Jordan provided logistical support in the Afghanistan war, and, informally the same in the current Iraq war, although the monarchy was publicly opposed.

King Abdullah’s policies of normalization with Israel and alliance with the U.S cause much unrest from Jordan’s Islamic fundamentalist groups. Like the Jordan Muslim Brotherhood, an influential part of the political mainstream. It also causes unrest in parts of the Palestinian communities, and in prominent professional and trade organizations.

The Middle East and its rich oil reserves have always been at the fore-front of U.S policy. So much so that they have taken their eye off the ball elsewhere; allowing China to become the main influence in Asia and enter the fight for global supremacy. The North Korean nuke test is another example of the Bush administration taking their eye off the ball.

Given all this focus on their Middle East policy it is ludicrous that it has descended into such a farce.

Little wonder as it is largely the world’s most backward foreign policy. Unconditionally supporting a country surrounded by enemies –Israel–, while hoping to exert influence over its enemies. Is like a boxer’s coach shouting orders at the opposing fighter. Stupid. Previously however the U.S had tried to exert their influence over Israel’s enemies by diplomacy in the main. Bush Jnr coming in with his complete ignorance of foreign policy and its relation to even recent history, alongside his policy of never talking to your adversary. Combined with the backward policies above, are perhaps the main reasons for the current state of the Middle East.

Something else I find laughable however is Bush Snr, responsible for another reason for the current mess. Coming in now and telling his son what he needs to do in Iraq. If he had honoured his statements to the Iraq’s Shia and Kurdish populations, by ordering U.S forces to go on into Iraq and topple Saddam Hussein’s regime, in the first gulf war 1991. Embracing the uprising started by the Shia in the south and driving Iraqi forces into the Kurdish uprising in the North. Both of which were started because of Bush’s suggestion of support.

Saddam would undoubtedly have been easily defeated. As he was 2003, but the occupying U.S or U.S/U.N forces would have probably had the support of the Kurdish minority and Shia Majority. Giving the Sunni’s no choice but to join the new diplomatic efforts or be left out of Iraq’s democratic future. As oppose to miss-trust for Bush Jnr by Shia and Kurd’s after being lied to by his dad before him. And resentment because of the massacres his lies led them into.

I believe had Bush Snr done this Iraq would have been a stable democracy by now, certainly closer than has been for decades.

In closing, the U.S never really had much influence in Middle Eastern affairs. The little it did have from supplying heavy financial aid to needy countries in prominent positions. And U.S and Israel’s superior military force were sufficient to secure the things they really needed and manipulate affairs to ensure no-one else gained more control.

The Iraq war in 2003 showing that U.S military force was useless against sporadic Jihad’s guerrilla warfare. Accelerated the rate at which the little Middle East influence the U.S had is disappearing. All that remains is moderate influence in return for heavy aid to countries with even less influence –than the U.S– in Middle East affairs.

The rich and influential Middle East countries are exploiting the exposed weakness to secure their own hegemony.

It will be interesting to watch the changing political and military landscapes in the coming months. Especially if a serious U.S strategy shift in Iraq coincides with a policy shift in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Liam Bailey is a writer from the UK, he runs the War Pages weblog and can be contacted by e-mail.

Al Qaida: The Iraq Trap

New book author on BBC2 suggests Al Qaida tricked the U.S into (their downfall) the Iraq war. By Liam Bailey

Released Oct. 17, “Inside the Global Jihad how I infiltrated Al Qaeda and was abandoned by Western Intelligence” is the story of Omar Nasiri, who started out running guns for Algerian Islamic Radicals: Groupes Islamiques Armés; Armed Islamic Groups in English, GIA as they are most commonly known. After stealing money from the radicals he was forced to seek the protection of French intelligence in Belgium, who were taking the GIA threat very seriously. Omar Nasiri, which is a pen name to protect his identity, was given the money to return to the radicals and over the next 7 years became a vital French intelligence asset.

As the various splinter Islamic radical groups began to coalesce into the global threat of Al Qaida. Nasiri was sent to the training camps of Afghanistan, losing contact with his French intelligence controllers. When his training was complete he was sent to the UK, to form a sleeper cell. Picked up by British intelligence he again became a spy under the joint control of British and French intelligence, the French were worried that London wasn’t taking the threat seriously, naming the capital Londonistan because of the number of radicals taking refuge there. While in London Omar Nasiri provided intelligence on radical clerics like, Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza and mosques like Finsbury park; a haven for radical preaching. Until he parted company with the intelligence community in the late 90’s when they began to lose trust in him and he began to become frustrated that they weren’t taking his information seriously enough.

Omar Nasiri’s account of life inside Al Qaeda training camps is, according to Michael Scheuer, former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden Unit, “more complete than any intelligence we had available to us in the 1990s” and “has no peer in the publications of the American intelligence community.” As well as being checked for validity by Michael Scheuer, the facts were also checked by members of various European intelligence agencies before publication.

The above facts about Nasiri’s story came from his Oct. 16 interview on BBC2’s Newsnight. During the interview Nasiri gave some details about the training regime inside Al Qaida camps in Afghanistan. Nasiri talked of seeing one of his fellow trainees hanging by his feet from the ceiling, his trainer explained to him that the man wasn’t being punished; he was being trained in what to do if he was captured and tortured under interrogation. Nasiri said that Al Qaida operatives are taught, not how to maintain silence under torture, but to lie; to tell the enemy what they think the enemy wants to hear.

This brought the interviewer to ask about the top Al Qaida operative Iban al Shakh al Libby, who, when captured revealed the intelligence that Colin Powell presented to the UN in the run up to the Iraq invasion. Nasiri said that al Libby was accomplished in the training techniques of remaining calm and telling the enemy what they want to hear under interrogation. Evidence emerged recently that the intelligence from al Libby that formed the basis for the Iraq war was art of a confession extracted under torture in a CIA prison in Egypt. When Nasiri was asked what al Libby would do if tortured, Nasiri said, “he would lie.”

Nasiri went on to suggest that, before the Iraq war, Al Qaida had wanted to draw the U.S into invading a Middle East Muslim country, and said that Iraq was believed to be the weakest. Given the long running battle between the U.S and the UN as to whether Saddam’s reluctance to cooperate with weapons inspectors was strong enough evidence that he was concealing an active WMD program, and given that U.S Neocon plans for an Iraq invasion since 1998 were almost common knowledge. It is easy to see that the intelligence al Libby provided on Al Qaida links with Saddam were –knowingly– exactly what the enemy wanted to hear, and according to Nasiri, exactly what Al Qaida wanted the U.S to believe.

This adds yet more doubt in the ability of President Bush to run his country effectively. Not only were Bush’s father and his aides, many top U.S intelligence analysts and many respected media analysts able to predict that an Iraq invasion would go horribly for the U.S. But Al Qaida, the U.S’ biggest enemy at the time were also able to predict that among other things, their activities would turn Iraq into a quagmire for coalition forces, also adding weight to the claims that Al Qaida have stirred up Iraq’s sectarian misery. So again I ask: why wasn’t Bush Jnr or anyone by his side able to see that they were right?

If Nasiri is correct, and what al Libby revealed under torture did draw the U.S into the very invasion of a Muslim country that Al Qaida were praying for. Then the U.S has been given a taste of its own medicine in Iraq.

Although the official line remains that U.S funding for the Afghan Mujahideen began after the Soviet invasion in 1980. A 1998 interview with President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski revealed that the U.S had begun covertly funding the Mujahideen in Afghanistan July 3 1979, long before the Soviet invasion Dec. 24 the same year. Brzezinski advised the President the day funding began, that he believed it the covert aid would induce the Soviet’s to invade Afghanistan, and, so called the Afghan trap, would be an opportunity to give the Soviet’s their Vietnam War.

Just as the Afghanistan war effectively ended the Soviet’s run –against the U.S- for world supremacy. The Iraq war, with the U.S now considering seeking their enemies help has effectively ended the U.S’ run for joint –with Israel- Middle East domination and their reign of world supremacy.

This article was published by OhmyNews International 18/11/06

Nazism Gains a Foothold in Britain

Widespread demonization of Muslim’s in the British mainstream has opened the door to the far right.

By Liam Bailey

The demonisation of Muslims from the top of government down first Muslim peer Lord Ahmed spoke of is beginning to affect every aspect of British life. Not only is it leaving young Muslim’s open to fundamental and extremist propaganda but, as the verdict in last week’s trial of a far-right politician showed, it is slowly seeping through our whole society and beginning to affect our judicial and political systems.

Given the British National Party’s (BNP’s) main policy of removing all ethnic minorities from Britain, the trial of their leader Nick Griffin and his colleague Mark Collett for using words or behaviour intended to incite racial hatred didn’t surprise too many people.

The court watched Nick Griffin, who was filmed by an undercover reporter telling BNP supporters that Islam was a “wicked, vicious faith” and that Muslim’s were turning Britain into a “multi-racial hell hole” Collett was also filmed calling asylum seekers “cockroaches” and saying “lets show these ethnics the door in 2004”as well as slurring murder victim Stephen Lawrence as a drug dealer, in a pub in Keighley West Yorkshire. With such compelling and damming video evidence, and neither showing any remorse their acquittal came as a shock to many.

When compared to the previous day’s trial of 23 year old Muslim Mizanur Rahman, who was tried for much the same crime at the Old Bailey, for his attending a protest in response to the Danish cartoons carrying placards saying “annihilate those who insult Islam” and “behead those who insult Islam”. As well as calling for more Sep. 11th style attacks and soldiers to be brought home from Iraq in body bags. Despite his apology: “I didn’t think about what I was saying.” and his lawyer comparing his remarks to those made from soapboxes at Speaker’s Corner, Rahman was found guilty of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour with intent to stir racial hatred.

Given the similar crimes and the lack of remorse shown by the BNP defendants who were also faced with stronger evidence than the young Muslim defendant, the contrasting verdicts were an indication that Islamaphobia, caused largely by the government’s demonization of Muslim’s is affecting justice in Great Britain.

Islamaphobia first became a problem after 9/11, but it really started increasing after the terror attacks on the London underground July. 2005. Just how much of a problem it was becoming was first evident in the local elections in May this year, when the BNP gained 11 council seats. Given the party’s reputation of racism and using violence to achieve its main policy of removing all ethnic minorities from Britain; these gains were the first indicator that Labour’s tough stance on race issues and immigration was legitimising far-right views.

The Jack Straw induced veil debate, and the other prominent ministers drawn in supporting his view, Nov. 13, perhaps more than anything else accelerated the rate at which the demonization of Muslim’s and Islamaphobia was not only becoming acceptable behaviour but the norm in Britain. The debate, still making the news and drawing in yet more prominent people, like the Archbishop condemning the wearing of the veil in public, has the potential to do even more damage to race relations in Britain.

The not guilty verdict for two prominent BNP members was hailed by Jon Cruddas, a contender for the deputy leadership of Labour as a “wake up call” for his party. This has led to their considering tightening race laws even further. Calling the BNP leaders’ statements offensive, Chancellor Gordon Brown almost immediately pledged to raise the chances of convictions in similar cases by brining in tougher powers. As the trial of Mizanur Rahman showed the law is tough enough, further tightening legislation in the current climate of Islamaphobic double standards would only increase the persecution of Muslim’s for such crimes.

I believe it may already be too late but what the government should focus on is reversing its anti-Muslim rhetoric and putting a stop to the government’s treating of Muslim’s differently to other ethnic groups, by trying to impose restrictions on their religion and behaviour. Contrary to the governments belief that this would reduce terrorism and increase integration it is in fact having the opposite affect…

My last article dealt with the detrimental affect the government’s rhetoric demonizing our Muslim communities is having on our efforts in fighting “home–grown” terrorism. These latest developments show that since the 7/7 attacks, the governments actions and rhetoric, like that of Jack Straw’s veil views, in demonizing Muslims, have steadily created a substantial rift between “us” –non Muslims- and “them” –Muslims- which is causing increasing separatism in Muslims and Islamaphobia in non Muslim’s. This Islamaphobia is growing in Britain and slowly but surely threatening every aspect of British life.

Islamic Terror Rife in UK

The government’s actions have turned moderates into extremists.

By Liam Bailey

Head of MI5 Eliza Manningham-Buller shocked Britain Nov. 10 2006 when she announced that MI5 were tracking around 30 “priority one” terror plots in the UK involving 200 groups comprising of some 1600 dangerous extremists, mostly British born and linked to Al Qaeda. She also said that she believed in the not too distant future the threat could be from chemical or nuclear attacks. Adding that “martyrdom” videos showed that extremists were clearly motivated by their interpretation of U.K foreign policy as Anti-Muslim, “in particular the U.K’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan”.A video of one of the 7/7 bombers, released shortly after the attacks stated only the Iraq war as a reason for the attacks, this is because even Muslim’s can see the reasoning behind the Afghanistan invasion, given the carnage of 9/11 and the strong links between the perpetrators and terrorism central Afghanistan.

The media made a mockery of the justification for the Iraq war, illuminating the “sexed up dossier” and 45 minute strike lie, leaving Muslim’s to wonder at the true reason for obliterating Muslim land.

So when the U.K under Blair went ahead with its part in the Iraq war, despite the millions of people, including many Muslim’s protesting before the event, this caused many British Muslim’s, mainly the young to rebel against our way of life; creating an element of separatism within our Muslim communities.  

Blair and Bush’s actions before the Iraq war, like Gauntanamo bay displaying severe discrimination against Muslim’s, guilty (and tortured to admit it) until proven innocent under the watch of two supposedly democratic governments. Gauntanamo Bay was also responsible for showing Muslim’s and non-Muslim’s that the U.S and U.K governments clearly felt it was okay to treat Muslim’s as second class citizens, not entitled to the same basic rights as non-Muslim’s, such as innocent until proven guilty and the right to legal counsel, or the Geneva convention preventing torture.  This laid the foundations for the separatism the Iraq war created.

As a dispatches survey in July/Aug 2006 found that the separatism is young Muslims, alienated and disillusioned by British foreign policy, focusing on their religion and becoming devout Muslim’s, in that they stop enjoying western comforts and past-times. I believe their drifting away from their British roots and British friends makes them ripe for radicalization as Eliza Manningham-Buller said “by friends, families or organised training events in Britain and abroad.”

The 7/7 bombings, an unintended consequence therefore of the UK’s support Gauntanamo bay, and involvement in the Iraq war brought the War on Terror to UK shores, leading to heightened security in the capital and increased pressure on the intelligence services.
Religious discrimination against Muslims increased after the July 7 attacks, which also showed, long before the MI5 chief’s announcement, that the increasing separatism within our Muslim communities, particularly among the young, can easily turn into extremism and “home-grown” terrorism. This increased the demonization, discrimination and persecution of Muslims, which in turn increased Muslim separatism, and the vicious cycle began.

The MI5 chief also said that the number of plots had increased by 80% since January, this can’t be directly put down to Afghanistan, Gauntanamo or Iraq, but their triggering 7/7 and the heightened pressure on the government and intelligence services led to intelligence mistakes, homeland security policy and foreign policy that can account for such a staggering increase. The first, an intelligence and police mistake was the Forest Gate raid.

The Forest Gate raid angered Muslim’s, initially because of the shooting, the unnecessary level of force/officers (250) and the almost immediate suspicions in the media that the raid was launched on flimsy intelligence. Subsequent stories unfolded in the coming days, revealing the raid was launched on the flimsiest of uncorroborated intelligence, from –according to his own barrister- an “utter incompetent”. Serving a sentence under the terrorism act 2000, Abu Bakr Mansha reportedly gave the information in return for a transfer to a more lenient prison.  Blair’s support for Gauntanamo and the Forest Gate raid also showed Muslim and non-Muslim Britain that (Blair) the UK government felt that the current massive problem of terrorism being carried out by Muslims, gave them the right to openly discriminate against and persecute Muslim’s, this further demonized the Muslim community and fuelled the vicious cycle of discrimination and separatism. 

The 7/7 bombings also enabled the government to pass new terror legislation: The Terrorism Act 2006.

The changing or expansion of the definition of terrorism, and the inclusion of “glorification of terrorism” as a charge in the Terrorism Act 2006 worried civil liberties campaigners, who feared anyone campaigning against the government could be accused of glorifying terrorism and therefore arrested.   The new laws and police powers, especially longer detention of terror suspects; extended to 28 days without charge and extended stop and search and interception powers –surveillance, phone taps and room bugs- have and are causing anger within the British Muslim community.  Even the governments information commissioner fears that Britain has become a surveillance society.

Muslim’s, especially the young have been complaining about increased persecution by the police since before the 7/7 attacks, especially the stop and search powers of the Terrorism Act 2000 being used excessively and disproportionately against them. As I have said the 7/7 attacks increased pressure on the police, so the extension of stop and search powers in the new bill -mid 2006- meant even more young Muslim’s were being stopped and searched, devout Muslim’s with the stereotypical Islamist look –like Osama Bin Laden- were increasingly targeted by police. This isn’t entirely the police’s fault, potential terrorists are likely to be Muslim, but under the new laws, stopping and searching the same individuals or groups is doing more harm than good.

The police’s best chance in the fight against terrorism comes from regular, reliable intelligence from within the Muslim community, continuing to demonize, create the impression of discrimination, and Blair’s comments after Forest Gate that more similar raids were likely; practically saying that stopping another attack is more important than the obvious mistreatment and shooting of a subsequently innocent –second class citizen-Muslim, decreases the chances of obtaining said intelligence and therefore of successfully fighting terror.

The Israel/Lebanon conflict was another possible turning point between growing levels of Muslim separation and the current heightened threat from extremism/terrorism or as Eliza Mannigham-Buller put it between “passive sympathy” and “active terrorism.” 

Blair’s handling of the Israel/Lebanon conflict again showed double standards and discrimination against Muslim’s, in that he and Bush condemned Hezbollah killing civilians in rocket attacks but allowed Israel to continue indiscriminately killing Lebanese Muslim’s. Even as most other world leaders were calling for an immediate ceasefire. Some Muslim’s must have thought the only way to stop Israeli bombardment was for Hezbollah to defeat Israel, leading to many Muslim’s in the Middle East taking up arms in Jihad and going to Lebanon to fight.

I’m sure many of Britain’s young Muslim’s were also angered by the heavy civilian death toll and with vivid images in every news report like the 34 children killed in Qana may quite possibly have radicalized some young Muslim’s in Britain and around the world, saving the terror networks and radical clerics a job. Undoubtedly, Blair’s support for such carnage increased the separatism among British Muslim communities, leaving yet more young Muslim’s ripe for radicalization and more worryingly with so many Jihad video’s just one Google away, possibly some actively seeking out terror networks to join.

Jack Straw’s –publicity stunt- comments that Muslim women wearing the veil was a barrier to communication and would hinder the integration of Muslim communities. Also adding that he felt all Muslim women should voluntarily remove their veils. The debate they provoked brought support for his remarks from several other prominent government ministers. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis feared the veil was creating a voluntary apartheid. As I wrote in a previous article, Jack Straw’s comments and those supporting them could eventually lead to government sanctioned apartheid, by denying Muslim women the same rights as everyone else, to wear what they want in a “free” country. As the first Muslim peer Lord Ahmed said this added to the demonization of and discrimination against U.K Muslims coming from the top of government down, this again increased the separatism making terror networks and radical cleric’s job of recruitment far easier.

So, in attempting to stop another 7/7, the UK government, police and intelligence services’ actions have demonized Muslim’s and gave the impression that, given this new threat, persecution of Muslim’s is okay. Every action that did this increased the feeling of separatism within young U.K Muslims. As 7/7 and The MI5 chief’s announcement showed, this separatism has been increasingly turned into extremism by the radical clerics and terror groups. Therefore, because of the government’s ill-thought out actions, especially those since January the U.K now faces an incredible threat from “home-grown” Islamic terrorism.

This article was published by OhmyNews 3 days ago. I predicted the terror threat MI5 warned of just after the Airline bomb plot in August this year.

Lifting the Veil on the Debate!

Lifting the Veil on the Debate!

The UK veil controversy is perhaps the biggest step backwards so far in the long fight against extremism.

By Liam Bailey

When senior British politician Jack Straw commented that he would prefer Muslim women not to wear veils which cover the face, he sent a rock rolling down a hill, which over the last week and a half has turned into a religiously discriminate avalanche separating the U.K.

The cabinet minister also said that in closed “surgeries” where he meets his constituents, he asks Muslim women if they would mind removing their veils. He added that although he didn’t want to be “prescriptive” he believed covering people’s faces could make community relations more difficult.

His comments sparked outrage from some in the Muslim community but others apparently agreed in some way with the former Foreign Secretary. The debate has been raging on almost every British media site and television talk show ever since.

Jack Straw has vehemently denied that his comments and the ensuing debate were an intentional outburst to raise his profile, which it has undeniably done, ahead of the Labour party’s deputy leadership election.

In the light of the Danish cartoon controversy and the mass protests sparked by the Pope’s innocent comments, I find it hard to believe that a former Foreign Secretary was surprised at the debate his comments had provoked, as he told reporters at a Blackburn press conference on Oct. 13.

I don’t deny that a good debate on this issue could be very beneficial for this country’s recent problems of increasing separatism within Britain’s young Muslim community.

Comments like this from a prominent figure, stating his opinion before any debate, in many people’s eyes has accelerated the rate at which the demonisation and persecution of Muslims has become seen as acceptable behavior. Behavior which became more common after 9/11 and even more so after the July 7 terror attacks on London.

The many conflicting views on this issue, including within the Muslim community, have formed a very interesting debate, one which might have led to many Muslim women volunteering to remove the full veil, perhaps in public, perhaps when speaking to someone, or wearing only the Hijab headscarf in public, who knows.

However, the repercussions of Jack Straw’s remarks and the ensuing debate have the potential to reverse the little progress we have made in the war against extremism.

A classroom assistant who in the past would almost certainly have been free to carry out her job while wearing the full veil, was suspended last week for refusing to remove her Niqab in the classroom at Headfield Church of England junior school in Dewsbury, West Yorkshire. Although she had said she would remove it when adult males were not present.

The school’s children are mainly of Pakistani and Indian heritage, although a few are white British. Aishah Azmi worked as a bilingual support worker for the children, many of whom only spoke English as a second language. If Mrs Azmi was the only person who fully understood the children at all times it is incredibly likely that the children had become attached to her. To see and hear about her being suspended for wearing headgear that they quite possibly see regularly in their family lives must seem very unfair. Therefore this is displaying discrimination against Muslims to the next generation of Muslims. This will not help community relations in the long term.

A local government minister responsible for community cohesion, Phil Woolas told the Mirror that Miss Azmi: “Should be sacked. She has put herself in a position where she can’t do her job.”

The Muslim Council of Great Britain was quick to condemn the minister’s comments as an “outrageous” and “reckless” foray into a “matter that should be decided by the school — and if necessary by the courts.” I’m sure many Muslims agreed and saw the minister’s involvement as persecution and discrimination, in that if this was an assistant suspended for refusing to remove a nose piercing or such like the minister wouldn’t have called for her dismissal.

I feel Phil Woolas should have been attacking the school administration for suspending her for wearing the veil, when no rules prohibit its wearing. I suggest he may have if a Sikh man had been suspended for refusing to remove a turban.

Either way, discrimination and persecution are surely two words which should never be associated with anyone who is responsible for community cohesion. Phil Woolas is therefore as much a candidate for dismissal as anyone.

Phil Woolas wasn’t the only person to take on Jack Straw’s stance, or unfortunately to get it badly wrong.

The Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, has said: “What Jack touched on was the fundamental issue of whether, in Britain, we are developing a divided society.”

As this varied debate has shown with many Muslims speaking out in support of Jack Straw and others, all Muslim women do not wear the veil so there is no divided society as in “them” and “us,” only the division between women that choose to wear the veil and women that don’t. David Davis also warned that Muslim women wearing the veil may create a “voluntary apartheid,” when in reality the opposite is true.

Muslims being allowed to wear the veil freely is nothing more than the same freedom granted to everyone else in the U.K., the right to wear a turban or skull cap or even a habit, in other words the same freedom to wear exactly what we want enjoyed by all in the U.K., no apartheid.

In comparison Jack Straw’s comments, including his call for the complete dropping of the veil by Muslim women and comments by others in support, are basically saying everyone can wear what they want, except Muslims. That is apartheid and that is why the words discrimination and demonisation appear many times throughout this article.

A prominent person is worried about this rising trend of discrimination and demonisation coming from the very top levels of government down. Labour’s Lord Ahmed, the first Muslim peer, dropped a bomb on the debate during an interview on the BBC Radio 4 Sunday programme: “Let’s be honest, there are people in our community who call themselves Muslims who have been threatening our national security. It is very unfortunate. But the problem is that the politicians and some people in the media have used this for demonisation of entire communities, which has become a very fashionable thing today.”

This trend is already becoming a real problem in Britain, as shown by this ugly incident in Liverpool when a man forcibly tore the veil from a woman waiting at a bus stop.

Religious discrimination against Muslims increased after the July 7 attacks, which also showed that the increasing separatism within our Muslim communities, particularly among the young, can easily turn into extremism and “home-grown” terrorism. This increased the demonisation, discrimination and persecution of Muslims, which in turn increased Muslim separatism, and the vicious cycle continues.

This debate, provoked I’m sure, at least partly to further Jack Straw’s career, has fed the vicious cycle and indirectly influenced the next generation. It will likely result in more “home grown” terrorism in the
U.K. and possibly around the world.

The above article was first published by Oh My News International 17/10/2006