Why I won’t go quietly

I’ve lost another friend tonight. Or at least I will soon. Either she will unfriend me or, assuming that she continues to advertise funding links to Britain First on her facebook page, I’ll unfriend her. Fortunately this one is just a facebook contact, not a real life friend, but it’s still sad.

A few people have asked me why I’m so adamant about this. After all, “it’s only their opinion” to support this neoNazi group – can’t I respect their right to their opinion?

The answer is, of course, “Yes, I can”. I respect their right to finance a group of neoNazi street thugs by posting paypal links on their social media accounts. But I also have the right not to associate myself with such people.

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This is more than just a difference of opinion. This is about supporting either street militia or human rights. It’s not possible to support both. Nor, in my view is it acceptable or realistic to pretend that it doesn’t involve all of us….

“First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.”
(Pastor Martin Niemoller)

Britain First attacks my Muslim and non white neighbours. I’m neither black, Asian nor Muslim but I am a member of this society. And divisive, neoNazi bigotry affects us all equally. We cannot be neutral. We can only act or look the other way.

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If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
(Archbishop Desmond Tutu)

To look the other way when friends advertise funding links for this group of thugs is to pretend that it’s OK. That’s the wrong message. It’s not OK at all. It’s divisive, destructive and I genuinely think that opposing these fascists is a duty.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” (Edmund Burke)

That’s why I’ve ended a few relationships. It’s also why I’m very clear with the other person about why. There should be a social consequence to antisocial behaviour. I can think of few behaviours more antisocial than funding groups who victimise innocent citizens on the grounds of skin colour, nationality or religious beliefs.

Some people just quietly unfriend people and ‘slink away’. To my mind that’s inadequate. People need to understand why they’ve been rejected. How else will we encourage them to reconsider? Slinking away may well be easier but it’s hardly effective.

We need to stand up and be counted.
We need to oppose the neoNazi scourge.
And we need to have the courage to tell our contacts (and sometimes our former friends) why.

United we stand,
Divided we fall!

I want to be part of a peaceful society so I’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with my black, Asian and Muslim neighbours in open defiance of all those who seek to harm them.

Will you?

Birmingham faith schools face unfriendly fire

This week in UK the national news has been obsessing about Islam again. Senior tory politicians, Teresa May & Michael Gove are both fuelling the anti-Islamic fire with a well publicised (& perhaps stage-managed) spat about ‘extremism’ in several Birmingham schools.
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It’s hardly surprising that as the national mood takes another goosestep toward Islamophobic nationalism this issue has surfaced now. It has, after all been known about for years according to reports. But the tories are losing ground to more openly nationalist groups like UKIP and paramilitary street ‘defence’ groups such as ‘Britain First’. The tories need a scapegoat – an ‘acceptable’ issue to hide behind as they compete to display their own xenophobic traits. So they’ve conflated religious extremism with terrorism and stamped on a few Muslim schools. Job done!

Except that it’s only half a job…. and it’s only half done.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m no fan of Islamic faith schools. In fact I’d go so far as to say that any school that aims to indoctrinate children into accepting nonsense like creationism is psychologically abusive and its teachers are, by definition, professionally negligent.
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But why single out Islamic schools only?

Education minister, Michael Gove has gone on record condemning these Islamic schools for denying their pupils access to lessons on evolution. I agree with him about that. The theory of evolution underpins the rest of biology and informs many more sciences including chemistry, paleontology, archeology, anthropology, vast areas of medicine and significant swathes of psychology. Creationism denies many basic precepts of geology, physics, cosmology & astronomy, dendrochronology, archeology and climatology. In short, creationism undermines students’ ability to understand the methods of science, to evaluate evidence and to form onjective opinions. To teach creationism as fact is to betray students!

But I still think the current attack on these Birmingham schools is unfair. After all they’re only doing what was asked of them.

Successive UK governments have indulged faith schools, including these ones, for political reasons for years. This feigned outrage isn’t about faith schools at all – it’s about the tory party finding an excuse to align itself with Islamophobes. Michael Gove can pretend to be disgusted at schools teaching creation all he wants but he’s fooling nobody. After all, Gove personally approved the development of three creationist Christian schools as recently as 2012. This has nothing to do with legitimate and reasonable concerns about educational betrayal. It has to do with the continuing isolation and scapegoating of British Muslims. And it stinks.

So here’s my suggestion…..
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Let’s cut to the chase and ban all religious prosletising in schools. Let’s teach religious education and encourage children to study many religions as cultural artefacts and optional systems of belief – rather like politics. Let’s give kids information on religions, on scientific method and instruction in critical thinking and evidence evaluation. Let’s accept that no child is old enough to be a Muslim, a Christian, a Jew, a Sikh, a Bhuddist or anything else. They’re too young and naive to decide, whatever their partisan parents might think.

Let’s teach comparative religion in secular schools. Let’s teach atheism, humanism and critical thinking in schools too. And let’s ban ALL faith schools.

Anything less is just obvious discrimination. Given this government’s already appaling record in that department, a little fair play (however unusual) might go a very long way.
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Ordinary Muslims protest in their millions against the Islamist ‘Muslim Brotherhood’

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Today’s events in Egypt are truly remarkable. According to the BBC the anti-Islamist protest sees the greatest number of people in a single protest throughout all of human history. Think about that.

These are ordinary Muslims risking their lives to protest in their millions against Islamic extremism.

Meanwhile in domestic news there’s another bomb scare at a UK mosque. This time in Liverpool. Maybe some of the UK’s far right extremists should stop and think for a moment about who the real terrorists are. Maybe they should look in the mirror a bit more closely.

How will this help?

Apparent arson attack on London Mosque (signed in graffiti: ‘EDL’). http://t.co/sD1IiokKjX And a ‘prominent’ EDL leader refused to condemn it. That’s pretty instructive, isn’t it? What a pack of thugs!

People are just people

Just a short point (may become a blog series in time)…

If we are to complain about Islamic fundamentalism, as the English Defence League never tire of doing, we must also complain about the abuses of Jewish & Christian fundamentalism. They’re all based upon the same God of Abraham (what Dawkins describes as “The bronze age God of war”).

Have you read Leviticus lately? Whatever charges of brutality can be brought against Islam can also be brought against Christianity and Judaeism. There’s plenty of stoning, sexism, genocide, rape and general nastiness on God’s part in all three religions. Fortunately though not everyone goes in for such antisocial practices.

The reality is that most Europeans (including European Muslims) reject fundamentalism in favour of a more pragmatic approach to society – live & let live. Let’s face it there’s a huge difference between Muslim & Islamist just as there is between Christian & Creationist. That’s why European law & the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regularly chastises the more extreme devotees of all three religious groups.

Let’s celebrate similairity instead of fighting about difference.

People are just people!

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