Saturday 4 November 2023

The Dilemmas of War


The Israel-Hamas Conflict - Part 2

In this article, I try to be cleareyed without getting involved in emotional outbursts. Nor would I try to popularise any blame game, but I would try to distance myself from the outpouring of grief we see on our screens that continues to unfold daily. This discourse is more or less a sequel to last week's article; however, in this analysis, I again try to go beyond the causes and roots of the problems and avoid the present-day happening. This undertaking will discuss the dilemmas faced by both of the parties involved. On the one side, the 
pent-up frustration resulted in the loss of control, lashing out and killing unarmed civilians and on the other, a harsh retaliation anchored on a disqualification of the entire Gazeans. 

The Hammas group are Palestinian self-appointed protectors of the Palestinian people but are not recognised so much by them. However, their attack on the Israeli Kibbutz on October 7th has ignited an onslaught by the Israeli Defence Forces on the entire Palestinian population of Gaza. An unarmed 2.5 million people live in an area no more than a quarter of the size of Yorkshire. Despite calls for a ceasefire from around the world, destructive and relentless indiscriminate shelling shows signs of stopping. My guess is that describing the men and women of the Kibbutz as unarmed is an erroneous term. Since declaring Israel as a Jewish state, the right-wing government has allowed the settlers, as well as all its citizens, to carry arms. These heavy weapons are often used to force the eviction of Palestinian people from their homes. So Hammas' argument goes, they are no longer unarmed therefore are legitimate targets. 


                                                     The Gaza Strip is often described as an open Prison.

Since October 7th, we have seen daily death and destruction filling our TV screens. The news comes to us with warnings about "images you are about to see". It is horrendous time we are passing through. Suffering is all around us, and we are living in a world of military power and fear. The war in Sudan is ongoing, and so is the war in Ukraine. Now we have the Israel-Hamas war. Before long, we would no longer need warnings of forthcoming images. We would not be traumatised but immune since human nature can only comprehend so much at a time.   

It is an axiomatic fact that this is a different type of war than has gone before; it is well beyond another round of conflict. This war, Israel says, is existentialist, and to some extent, I agree with them. However, here is the catch: who is Israel fighting? Israel is flirting with a dilemma of its own ma ing. The roots of the conflict lie in its right-wing policies and its hawkish attitude toward the Palestinian people, which continues unabated despite the international outcry of condemnation that had gone on for years. Hamas say they are freedom fighters, and they waged this war against the oppression of its fellow Palestinians, a battle for liberty and against the apartheid regime of their opponent. The terrorist attack of early October killed and kidnapped many civilians, which, three weeks later, they still hold as hostages, invited Israel to unleash a war for its survival and to maintain its oppressive regime, continuing to justify its actions by the "right to defend ourselves.", while the Palestinians without any recourse, from the Arab world, continue as hostages to for une. But the sad part for Hammas is that it is difficult to fathom the other motives that go beyond gaining world attention and further notoriety and what Hammas hope to gain out of this war.  

Israel sees itself in a catch-22 situation, so much so that it has to deal with three entities at once: Hostages, civilians and a terrorist organisation. The ramifications of not crushing terrorism could affect not only Israel but the entire Western world. Painful to Israel, it may be, but its savage response can only have a limited effect on terrorism locally or in the international arena. But its action will be partly responsible for igniting terrorism in other parts of the world. Coupled with the rhetoric of support mainly from Democratic governments with high immigrant populations, it ignites the catalyst of extremism and radicalism. 

In effect, as I see it, Israel is fighting a proxy war on behalf of America and Europe. Hamas is a convenient litmus proof of terrorism, an organisation recognised as such by Europe and America, so they must be dealt with on terrorists' terms, which is how the Western world sees things. American and European wholehearted support is on the same terms. The problem, though, is how Israel weeds out the good from the bad. The consequent barrage of shelling gives evidence it was divorced from its allegiance to its citizens as well as the citizens of its allies. That leaves Israel under an ethical yoke, a burden of how to deal with such a situation.   Israel is a functioning democratic state, holding to moral ground responsible to itself and the international community, and it has a moral responsibility towards its citizens, first and foremost.  

It finds itself unable to filter out the primary target; it realises unravelling the problem could be expensive, being forced to reject the concern over the lives of those hostages, as of all other Western hostages. They must remain the collateral damage caught up in unfortunate circumstances of war. War is Realism focused on an objective, a question of military power remaining central. Hence, it must sacrifice them as soldiers tied up in the conflict. From Israel's perspective, a pursuit of realpolitik, a zero-sum war: a matter of kill or be killed. For Israel, it is not just a war but an eradication of a foe; bloody it is, but there is no other way. The options are limited, as Israel recognises. That is for the present, but the future could be far more ominous. Israel will need to address the regional network of threats and armed groups backed by Iran now menacing the country on multiple fronts. These include threats from Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen, as well as from within the Palestinian population in the West Bank. That is aside from the dangerous power vacuum left behind.

But there is also this worrying irony. The majority of the Palestinians are Muslims, and the fanatics amongst them and those around the world see this conflict as a war against Islam. Their Islamic world has hijacked this conflict and is trying to turn the sting on its head into a Jihad; the extremist among the mainstream has morphed Hamas' objectives into a struggle to defend the Muslim faith. American and European enthusiastic support of Israel and against the Palestinian flag, a political move, is interpreted as an anti-Islam action. This motive would most likely awaken the hibernating terrorist cells in Europe and America.   

But that is not all. Where would we go after the extinction of Hamas? With the revival of discrimination against the Palestinian people in place, there remain scores to settle by both sides. If history is anything to go by, Military machismo has never solved an ideology. The Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain and Soviet communism came down by persuasion and an ideological change driven by smart power, which compensated for an impossibility. Extravagant principles, nasty politics, and the arrogance of power are demons that rob any leadership of choice. New approaches are in desperate need.  For a mighty military power like Israel to stop portraying the Palestinians as worthless, negating such an extremist outlook must sit at the core of commonsense policies. To formulate a carrot-and-stick strategy, look at recent events as a call for more negotiations, multilateral diplomacy and less reliance on military power and force.


Sunday 29 October 2023

The War on Social Media

Israel--Hamas War

 I know I am only an armchair warrior, but I have lived long enough to say that I have never experienced such a war. Since the start of The Israel-Hamas war on the 7th of October, it was not confined to jet fighters and tanks but has taken a form all of its own. It is a war of words, emotions, blame, and counterclaims that are mostly unsubstantiated, reason-lacking, and littered with opinions void of any intellectual substance. We are getting carried away by the emotion of the occasion. 


Not only in the physical world, but this war has taken over the virtual world like a hurricane. Social Media is abuzz with rumours, abuse, and misinformation. More than likely, it will be won or lost on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok. YouTube, Photoshop and imaging AI never had it so good. Unsuspecting, our posts give their CEOs power to regulate us without liability to them. We forget Social media is funded through trading personal data to advertisers. Algorithms categorise opinions, and that personal data is then used to target users with information, or disinformation, tailored to their personality” – in other words, to send people content which is centred on ideas they already agree with. Ideas are reaffirmed rather than challenged; accordingly, social media groups are affirmed in their apparent objective truth. This affirmation increases hostility when those groups are exposed to those who do not share their view. 

 Sharing has taken on a new dimension. In this war, it is not to amuse or help others, but it gives us status and adds importance that we are in the know while we give away our identity. Yes, sharing means we are connected to the world and how we perceive it. No fear or possible bias could stop it; pivoting on one word in a headline could impact our emotional factor, which decides which side we are on in this war. Physical violence on our streets is not far behind perpetrated by these platforms. Unfortunately, a source of progress, they are not.


 Here we are; we thought only bombs could hurt us. For instance, the Christchurch gunman in New Zealand, not long ago, had spent years on social media trying to advance the cause of white power. His social media posts, he eventually decided, were not enough; now it was "time to make a real-life effort post." He murdered 51 people. The repercussions mean we are not safe anywhere; the war on our street would continue long after the shelling stops. 


 There are no sides or causes to consider, neither toleration nor moderation. There is no in-between but total and absolutist blame. Governments, the press and the rest of the world are divided between East and West; each side blames the one side even for atrocities committed by the other. The word 'counter' is everywhere—counter-blame, counter-proof, counter-pro, counter-statement, and all the Counter you can think of. 'Viral' is not far behind. It is not fashionable to be moderate or compromising, and remaining silent is not an option. 


 Free speech is paramount to the value of Democracy; it was supposed to bring out the truth, but it is morally bankrupt in this war. It has taken a hammering in the virtual space of the internet; Democracy is morphing into totalitarianism. Worse, we see it replaced by distortion and lies online; both could mean we face backlash and possible reprisals.

And it is spreading. Since October 7, more than 150 companies and leading Brands have made statements condemning Hamas’s attacks on Israel. Those with branch offices in Israel have taken pages in the press advertising the fact. Some employees and customers have started expecting or demanding that companies speak out on social issues and take a stand. They are expected to go public on Social Media.  This would inevitably create an environment where their employees, with different opinions, are barred from deviating from that position. It also puts heavy pressure on companies and employees to carefully navigate the tricky terrain in their public statements as the war continues. And again, falling in the middle is not an option. Viewpoint diversity and individuality are not applauded but are vilified and attacked. Consequently, social media can easily collapse into a marketplace filled not with ideas but with intellectual thuggery.


 In this jungle of posts, the truth is getting lost. The constant bombarding of videos and articles does not intend to differentiate between truth value and emotional responses. The primary objective is to compete in the popularity stakes. Emotional content is easier to understand and connect with, and that is what dominates digital platforms. The urge to generate emotional reactions and seek the approval of one’s followers and friends results in intellectual debate being pushed to the margins. The legitimacy of these posts is given by the number of 'shares' or 'likes', so the mechanism of searching for the truth becomes irrelevant. Attention-grabbing is the driver, so the ideal intention of free speech to seek knowledge gets lost on social media. Moreover, Ideas are global, and the sheer size of social media makes it impossible to search for the truth. Between this polluted content, it is also impossible to establish any form of discussion on the validity or otherwise of this war.


 False posts on social media can quickly gain attention and be shared widely, strengthening the voices spreading misinformation. They can deceive and mislead individuals, distorting their perceptions of reality and shaping public opinion based on incorrect or manipulated information, drowning out accurate information and creating a distorted narrative. Moreover, false posts on social media platforms might discourage individuals from engaging in free speech, especially if they fear backlash or becoming targets of online harassment based on their views. This chilling effect can hinder open and diverse dialogue.


 Censorship is undemocratic and has no grounds in Liberal thinking public where even racists have rights. No perfect censor can filter out true or false; to do so can only lead to suppressing ideas, which can kill individual thought. We all have the right to drive a car, so we all have the right to pollute the air. Moreover, we relish commanding a 'like' to our unchecked posts, irrespective of whether we unsuspectingly echo fibs or misinformation. The most important is popularity. Social media was prophesied as a digital leap in democratic speech, a marketplace of ideas or a source of communication, sadly, no longer. 

On an individual basis, self-discipline is essential; we either become more discerning in learning media literacy or rely on fact-checking websites or organisations that investigate and verify the accuracy of claims made in news and other sources. Such as the CRAAP test (Currency, Relevance, Authority, Accuracy, Purpose) to assess the quality and reliability of information.


 On the other hand, especially in this war, censorship is required to prevent forms of hate speech that target marginalised communities which may need to be restricted to maintain social harmony and ensure equal participation of all citizens in public discourse. Striking a balance between protecting individuals from harm and preserving free speech is crucial. It is evident by the fact that Antisemitic hate crime has continued to soar in London, with 408 offences recorded so far this October, compared with 28 in the same period last year. Islamophobic hate crime is also on the rise, up from 65 offences last October to 174 so far this month.

 When the guns fall silent, the war of words will go on. It is crucial, however, to strike a balance between combating misinformation and preserving the democratic values of free speech and diverse opinions. Achieving this balance requires ongoing dialogue, learning, and continuous improvement from social media platforms, as well as active engagement from users and society as a whole. And, in this war, only History will be the adjudicator in this quagmire of truth and unsubstantiated claims to bring justice to the victims of the war.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Europe: A Cultural Time Bomb?

I start by surveying the origins of the social problems gripping most European societies: rising crime, radicalism, racialism and Jihadism, mainly among the youth of Black and Muslim groups throughout Western countries. A worrying counterculture sweeping Europe is demographically impacting its social fabric. I then sketch out their causes and how they are intertwined, mostly stemming from poverty, discrimination, alienation, marginalisation and feelings of being left out. I then propose ideas on how Europe needs to respond to achieve social cohesion and adapt to the inevitable incoming cultural diversity. 

At the end of WWII, Europe (as in all references, I include Britain as part of Europe) wanted to get back on its feet, clear up the destruction the war had caused, begin reconstruction and re-industrialise.  Manual labour was in short supply, so the countries turned to their former colonies.  Britain turned to its former Caribbean, Indian, and African countries.  France primarily relied on Algerians, Moroccans and other former North African colonies.  Although Germany did not share in the carving of Africa, like Belgium, it was reluctantly granted a place in the sun.  It also had allies such as Turkey.  From these sources, it invited a labour force mainly working as guest workers in the car and construction industries.  Germany also turned to Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia and Yugoslavia to work its mines and to satisfy its other booming sectors.  There was also a wave of Irish immigrants to post-war Britain, mainly employed in heavy work, building trade and infrastructure. 

The import of human labour continued throughout Europe, including Spain, Holland and Italy.  This cheap foreign labour put to jobs that the local inhabitants would rather not do.  The social implication constituted a dividing line that ran parallel to previously imbued racial ideas of the white man's preeminence over the 'other'.  In Britain, this influx of foreign labour created faint signs of xenophobic tendencies, enough for some landlords to put up signs "No Irish no blacks, no dogs" in windows of rented accommodation.  Derogatory Terms such as Wog, P*ki, etc., increased.

The spark of prejudice and discrimination lit up, but as yet too dim to the naked eye.  Only, it would crystallise in the European social outlook and in many European institutions, including law enforcement.  Up until now, European authorities were unaware that ubiquitous social attitudes of superiority were taking hold and would act as stored markers in the future.  However, social stratification and categorisation were indeed taking place.  A Nigerian person in Nigeria is identified by his tribe and by his Religion.  The same person in Germany is identified as Nigerian or African, while he is recognised as Black in Britain. Bearing in mind that by 1914, Europe held roughly 85 per cent of the earth as colonies, protectorates, dependencies, dominions, and commonwealths, it is no wonder that most immigrants into Europe were either Black or Muslim. 

Nonetheless, the flow of multiethnic and multi-religious people continued, changing Europe's industrial and commercial landscape.  The economies of Europe expanded at a phenomenal pace.  In Britain, the average annual growth of GDP was raised – from an average of 3 per cent to 3.6 per cent between 1962 and 1973.  Real GDP per capita by the end of that period had risen by 45 per cent.  Moreover, the 1960s also saw a notable rise in labour productivity.  At the start of the decade, it was growing by 2.6 per cent a year; by 1967, the annual growth rate was 6.4 per cent. 

In early August 1972, the President of Uganda, Idi Amin, ordered the expulsion of his country's Indian minority, giving them 90 days to leave the country.  Most of them are holders of British nationality, granted to them for building the Kenya-Uganda African Railways, so Britain was the obvious choice of refuge.  Their arrival added to an already complex cultural mix, fuelling further prejudices.  Similar intakes were happening elsewhere.  Europe at this time was seeing tremendous growth in economic immigration.  Yet the countries concerned remained undeterred by changes to its social complexion, unaware they were constructing a 'problem', as yet, a pixelated view of cultural complexities.  Even from these early stages, they should have noted that cultural differences must be appreciated and understood.


Two economic classes of migratory people into Europe had given rise to population dynamics and city demographic changes.  Those who come to Europe for work tend to congregate, building up distinct pockets of culture and enjoying their shared language and customs within their closely-knit communities.  In Britain, for instance, the Irish Catholic went to Kilburn in inner London, those of Indian origin housed in South Hall West London, and later arrivals concentrated in Harrow, Kingsbury and Wembley areas of North London.  At the same time, people from Muslim Pakistan went to Tower Hamlet in East London.  A slum area part of London, which had previously housed mainly Russian Jews escaping the numerous Pogroms and who gradually moved to Golders Green and Hendon in North London.  Those from Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, went to the Green Street area of Forest Gate, East Ham, while Caribbean people joined in Brixton, South London and Jamaicans in Notting Hill.  People who come in for humanitarian reasons tend to be more affluent, integrated more efficiently in terms of housing and education and more geographically distributed, living in central London and its outer suburbs.  However, all these clusters of immigrants had no wish to mix with natives but tended to stick to their cultural communities, sharing a common language and customs as those they left behind.  The same overall grouping occurred in Birmingham, Leicester, Manchester and Liverpool.

 A similar shaping of social landscapes was taking place in Germany's Berlin, Cologne and Frankfurt cities.  While in France, people mainly from Almaghreb, North Africa, which includes Tunisians and Algerians, heavily concentrated mainly in Paris and less so in Lyons and Marseilles, South of France.  Immigrants who made their homes in both countries worked in the mining, steel, construction, and automotive industries.  Their woman took up domestic work for extra income.  At the same time where such heavy concentrations of common identities were located, shoots of counter-ideological forces began to surface.  Faced with the downturn of the economy in France and Britain, economic hardship coupled with neglect in government housing re structural policies, second-generation immigrants felt deprived and disadvantaged, an anger that showed itself in the increase of ideological radicalism.  Immigrants started to be perceived not as Immigrants from Morocco, Pakistan or Turkey but as "Muslims".  More of that later. 

Frustration and Anger; an easy go-to emotion, began to surface in earnest, and both had different strands that showed in many ways: Rioting and looting by the Black community and the terrorising that later ensued by Muslim radicals.  It goes without saying that the vast majority of both communities are law-abiding individuals, and only a tiny minority indulge in rioting and religious fanaticism.

It is interesting to understand why such escape routes were chosen and what European government institutions can do to prevent them.  Let me take the Black issue before embarking on the more challenging Muslim 'problem'.  Both are analogous; although linked in many ways, at the same time, they diverge in other ways.  The Black minorities' route to violence through negative emotions such as anger and frustration ends up in what is sometimes dubbed 'grievance culture'.  This is mainly evidenced these days by increases in serious youth violence and knife crime, often caused by drugs and gang culture.  Studies show the main reason is racial discrimination, repression and lack of opportunities in work, housing and barriers they face to social mobility.  Having closely examined the issues involved, there are clear signs of racial disparities marked by colour prejudice.

Black people face unacceptable difficulties in simply finding somewhere to live or getting a decent job because of their skin colour, according to findings from a major repeat survey by the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights.  Many from deprived and disadvantaged families are neglected in care homes, living under constant threat of exploitation, eviction, and arrests.  Take racial harassment: 30% of respondents say they have been racially harassed in the last five years; 5% have been physically attacked, and around a quarter of black people experienced racial discrimination at work or when looking for work.  Young black people are especially vulnerable; in some countries, up to 76% are not in work, education or training compared to 8% of the general population.  14% of respondents say private landlords will not rent accommodation to them.  This is especially problematic, as only 15% own property, as opposed to 70% of the EU's general population.  In addition, 45% live in overcrowded housing compared to 17% of the general population.  Discriminatory profiling in police stops is also an issue: 24% of respondents were stopped by the police in the last five years.  Among those stopped, 41% felt the stop constituted racial profiling, which undermines trust in policing and community relations.

Faced with such high hurdles, many opt out of the education and employment system but take more accessible routes to better themselves—drugs and gangster culture, which inevitably leads to rioting, looting, serious youth violence, and knife crime.  Opting out is also mirrored in the make-up of the social fabric of much of the black community, where single mothers living in ghetto-like council estates suffer absent fathers, child neglect, deprivation, and an altogether dysfunctional style of life.  Unfortunately, it is so often popularised by the media as Black people's disease.

The second part of this article is about the 'Muslim' problem'. Terrorism and violence are among the first things many people think about when coming to this subject, which can generate both racist ideas, Islamophobia and hate crime. So, what drives youths, by all evidence, a tiny Muslim minority, towards that end.? Aside from the similarities we found towards black people here, there is an addition of a vital element: Religion. Many studies on the subject, however, dispute elements of Religion are the factors since most of those turning to violence are not religious zealots or picked up their teachings in Mosques or religious schools. Different studies show different conclusions. Much evidence suggests other complex series of societal dysfunction factors involved in causing barbarous carnage. While many other experts dispute this, they believe ideological factors veer these youths towards Radicalism, Jihadism and violence. 

Both sides agree these youngsters have become "radicalised," a process through which vulnerable Muslims are groomed for extremist violence by those who champion hate:

1-The claim is that people become terrorists because they acquire specific, usually Religiously informed, extremist ideas.

2-These ideas are acquired differently from those in which people receive other extremist or oppositional ideas.

3-A conveyor belt leads from grievance to religiosity to adopting radical beliefs to terrorism.

4-The insistence that what makes people vulnerable to acquiring such ideas is that they are poorly integrated into society.

Jamie Bartlett, head of the Violence and Extremism program at the British think tank Demos, argues that such terrorism "shares much in common with other counter-cultural, subversive groups of predominantly angry young men."

It also follows that those who spurn secularised ideological differences, upholding self-proclaimed righteous codes of conduct, and wish to impose them on others are the principles markers of fanaticism.  These intolerable attitudes towards others' way of life lay the rules of incompatibility.  Inversely, visible features of marginalisation, the pull away from the mainstream invisible and peaceful vast Muslim majority.  They perceive an array of moral wrongs by the mainstream while allowing a build-up of multiple grievances against the not-like-minded, including fellow Muslims, ending in terrorist activities against clubs, theatres, Churches and even Mosques.

But Religion is not always the ruling factor in violence.  There are many home-grown youngsters whose orientation is at the opposite end of Religion.  Anger and frustration fill their everyday life, and they feel left out without a chance to better themselves.  They feel alienated from the mainstream and realise they are incapable of achievements, causes for which many of them can not reason.  Unable to reach where they want to be, prisoners within themselves without any release opportunity from a nightmare.  Their only way to express themselves is through intolerance, crime and violence. 

 As such, there are clearly many strands to the problems and, equally so, many threads to be tied together by those in governments to introduce effective measures for Europeans to integrate.  Harmony is of the essence before time runs out and for the divisions to turn from social to political since the Hard Right is eager to capitalise on riots and civil unrest in Europe's capitals.  The parties of the Right have been steadily gaining traction among voters and consolidating power in recent years in tandem with increased immigration due to Europe's open borders policies.  The sudden and high rates of imports of immigrants, mainly from Muslim countries, clearly put a strain on Europe's social fabric, exhausting the provisions on health, housing and education. 

As I see it, the keys to integration are three-fold.  I call for the general white native populations, the immigrants, the government, and voluntary organisations for providing the essential tools.  Remember that blacks and Muslims living in the EU are a highly diverse mix of ethnicities, languages, secular and religious tendencies, cultural traditions and political convictions.  Often, the second generation, although of similar makeup, is more challenging to handle, having experienced some of the prejudices faced by their parents.

Now for the more challenging 'Muslim' problem, in my opinion, its possible causes and possible remedies. 

Many European Muslims, particularly young people, face barriers to their social advancement. This could give rise to a feeling of hopelessness and social exclusion. Racism, discrimination and social marginalisation are serious threats to integration and community cohesion. Discrimination against Muslims can be attributed to Islamophobic attitudes and racist and xenophobic resentment, as these elements are often intertwined. Available data on Muslim victims of discrimination show that European Muslims are often disproportionately represented in areas with poorer housing conditions. At the same time, their educational achievement falls below average, and their unemployment rates are higher than average. Muslims are often employed in jobs that require lower qualifications. As a group, they are over-represented in low-paying sectors of the economy. This could give rise to a feeling of hopelessness and social exclusion.

For example, in the UK, a radio programme produced by the BBC in 2004 carried out an exercise where 50 firms received applications from six fictitious candidates with names strongly suggesting white British, African or Muslim background. The white candidates were more likely (25 per cent) than the black (13 per cent) applicants to be invited to interview, while those with a Muslim name (9 per cent) had the least success. In France in 2004, the University of Paris sent out standard curricula vitae identifiable as being from a variety of ethnic groups in response to 258 job advertisements for a salesperson. It was found that a person from North Africa had a five times less chance of getting a positive reply. The same is found to apply to educational facilities and housing, and altogether, like the black population, severe restrictions on social mobility are a general failure of meritocracy.

Moreover, discrimination and social profiling can run along these lines. A European Muslim can not be Iraqi/British or Algerian/French, the same as he can not be Catholic/Muslim. There is no such thing as American/Arab or American/Muslim, only Arabs or Muslims. Going off topic a little, in America, for instance, the government has denied the Arabs their individual and exclusive identity, and they remain invisible and outside the political arena as a consequence. American prejudice runs: "You can hit an Arab free; they're free enemies, free villains—where you couldn't do it to a Jew or you can't do it to a black any more." Or, when an Arab/American says 'we', a white American asks, "Who do you mean?"

To meet the ideological and racial conundrums, since integration is inevitable in minimising social disturbances, we need to overcome several myths as a starting point.  The apparent failure to integrate by Muslims has been viewed in cultural terms, that is, as a failure to adapt to European culture and to adopt European norms, values and styles. In other words, Muslims do not integrate because they are Muslims, and Islam is perceived as incompatible with Western culture and values. A further problem is that Islam has been constructed as a problem.  To damp down the growing anti-Islam sentiments that have recently arisen due to increases in migration.  To understand the cultural difference not to lump all Iraqi, Iranian, Moroccan, and Pakistani not by nationalities but Muslims. People from Morocco and people from Afghanistan have only religion and Islamic culture in common and nothing else.   

It is important to note, religious violence is not exclusively directed to Muslims but is widespread among other religious groups.  Antisemitic violence exists in all its forms as well as antichristian violence directed at Christian groups.  People do ask why this Christophobia goes mostly unreported and those committed in places like Pakistan receive little interest.

I argue, therefore and advocate the following suggestions. Measures and practices that tackle discrimination and address social marginalisation should become policy priorities.  Also, they should incorporate anti-racism and diversity training in their police training programmes.  To implement support measures for migrants and minorities, including Muslims, to provide them with equal opportunities and prevent their marginalisation.  Minorities should be actively consulted in formulating policies aimed at social integration.  Governments must encourage and intensify their efforts to improve employment opportunities, particularly social mobility for minority youth, Black and Muslims alike.  Discussing racism, xenophobia, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia and discouraging religious hostilities should be part of official school curricula.  To encourage to engage, especially among the youth, more actively in public life (e.g. in political, economic, social and cultural institutions and processes).  Media are encouraged to implement recruitment and training initiatives for journalists to better reflect the diversity that exists in European society.  States are encouraged to enact or reinforce legislation on Internet service providers to prevent the dissemination of illegal, racist material.  Last but not least, new training is an opportunity for culture change in policing, undertaking measures to rebuild public trust.  Increasing the representation from ethnic minority communities across the country introducing guidelines, if not disbanding racial profiling.  These encouragements will set trends in bringing fresh perspectives, helping to build a service more representative of the public it serves and instilled with the right culture, hoping to eliminate incidents such as the recent French riots.

Integration must not stop at the gates of the host country, but the Muslim community needs to acknowledge its share of responsibility and play its part.  Because part of the reason for resisting integration among people of the host country is Islamophobia.  Much of this fear stems from the continued scenes of violence in Pakistan, Afghanistan and from most of the Arab countries. 

At the popular level, Islamophobia is very powerful in generating anti-Islam sentiment leading to hate crimes and hate speech. Hardening of attitudes also dramatically increasing, as revealed by a special study on Islam by the Bertelsmann Foundation. Taking Germany as a case study, the 2014 public opinion survey shows the following alarming percentages: 57% of Germans believe that Islam poses a threat; 61% are convinced that Islam is incompatible with the West; 40% say that 57% that“because of Islam I feel as a stranger in my country”; and 24% think that Muslims should not be allowed to immigrate to Germany.  Also, in the UK, according to YOU GOV, a survey in England revealed that 49% agreed that there would be a clash of civilisations between Muslims and native white Britons.  

Muslim countries can not ignore these figures, they need to accept some of these findings because they are counted as responsible for the degradation of Islam.  They can not dismiss the rising tide of Islamophobia by dismissing it by suggesting it is a sort of incurable Western illness.  Also, they defend their position by claiming that European-native Jihadists or ISIS sympathisers do not represent real Islam.  Moreover, some rich Muslim countries need to stop exporting nihilistic fundamentalist movements while keeping a tight grip on protest and dissent at home.  The same applies to teachings in Mosques and Madrassas in host countries. Such measures will help to narrow the cultural distances between Muslims and other religions.

In conclusion, some 25 million Muslims and an estimated 10 million black people live in Europe.  A clash of cultures is bound to come unless Madrasses, Mosques, government institutions and NGOs help to stamp out Islamophobia and mitigate the harmful rhetoric coming from the far-right parties.  Racial stereotyping, force, surveillance, stigmatisation and repression do not answer social problems like Radicalism, Jihadism, youth violence and knife crime.   Greater efforts are needed to emphasise social-economic integration, civic participation and equal citizenship, as opposed to ethnic solidarity. However, Europe may be at a crossroads but remain determined to find solutions to quell the anger and accommodate minority interests by exploring adequate measures while remaining mindful of cultural differences.  Finally acknowledging, multiculturalism is an inescapable part of European life, and accepting that Europe is changing its colour and starting to appreciate the social reconstruction of its peoples and the richness that comes with cultural diversity.

Sunday 29 January 2023

Human Rights in retreat


Eighty years ago, Winston Churchill declared one of the aims of the Second World War to be the ‘enthronement of human rights’. Within a decade, the United Kingdom was leading international efforts on a non-binding Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948), and, shortly after, negotiations were concluded for the European Convention on Human Rights (1950). These two instruments opened the door to a new international legal order, one that placed the protection of the individual at its heart and set limits on the actions taken by states and their governments. The European Court in Strasbourg was created to provide enforceable safeguards against abuses of public authority. Despite many sceptics to such ideas and the spread of exceptionalism around the globe, I here argue that human rights must be universal and equality before the law and access to justice together ought to form the backbone of a democratic state.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 10, 1948, embodies the broadest consensus of contemporary civilisation on the subject of Human Rights. It gives recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family, which is the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world. But unfortunately, many of those countries that have signed up need to pay more attention to the significance of this comprehensive declaration, not translate it to suit their culture to provide a fence against what it stands for. Here as we shall see later in this essay, overcoming what the convention stands for, several hurdles of State autonomy, exceptionalism, and State sovereignty.   

The forgotten Uyghur people in China

So, what are Human Rights – Human rights are fundamental rights and freedoms that every person in the world should have. Human rights are norms that aspire to protect all people everywhere from severe political, legal, and social abuses. Examples of human rights are the right to freedom of religion, the right to a fair trial when charged with a crime, the right not to be tortured, and the right to education. A call on courts and citizens to give full and faithful protection to the rights of everyone, regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, or national origin. There must be a presumption of innocence. It is the responsibility of the state to prove that someone is guilty not of the suspected person to prove their innocence. People should not be coerced into confessing to a crime or giving evidence against themselves. In general, if someone exercises their right to silence, it should not be used as evidence of guilt or as a reason to place them in pre-trial detention. Human rights are a deserved justice that protects the individual to enjoy life as he or she pleases. To suppress the freedom of choice, whether culture induced by the states will be considered a violation of human rights or tyranny; a vicious act to mask concern for human dignity. Rights also define the claims that one legal subject could legitimately make against another to protect their person, property, business, reputation, and interest or to compel another to live up to their contracts, promises, and other obligations.

The large-scale protests in China are not just a response to Covid restrictions but about fundamental human rights, including freedom of speech. They follow weeks of demonstrations in support of women’s rights in Iran.

In this essay, I tackle several themes and ask whether Human rights are universal and whether democracy and the rule of law can stand without respect for human rights. In that context, I ask questions about the existence, content, nature, universality, justification, and legal status of human rights against an almost universal moral code. A shared moral norm of actual human moralities that are enshrined in Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, and Buddhism. Human Rights are a social construct,  
cultivated from a natural being, that appeals to every individual to be free. To take away freedom and liberty by imposing state control is tyranny and unfortunately is on the increase with the rising trend of Authoritarianism around the world; often exercised by powerful leaders to satisfy their selfish ambitions.

With that in mind, cultural exceptionalism by civilised bearers of responsibility and States is a misdemeanour, and those who practice it lean on morally hollow legal justification and fail in their ethical duties. It is unfortunate if Human rights become unavailable to any jurisdiction or group of people. Without respect for human rights and the right to life, a country ceases to be democratic. The rule of Law, Democracy, and human rights are intertwined, where neither religion nor ideology has a place. Ignoring the conception of democratic rights runs against the grain of an intrinsic desire in every one of us to be free.

However, that said, although rights and liberties have been part of the tradition since biblical and Roman days, many theologians and philosophers today view rights with suspicion, if not derision. And since Human Rights are generally believed as a social construct, they are not natural. Around the world, there is tension between religious freedom and sexual freedom in modern liberal democracies. Many religious critics view rights as a dangerous invention of Enlightenment and post-Christian liberalism, predicated on a celebration of reason over revelation, of greed over charity, of nature over scripture, of the individual over the community, of the pretended sovereignty of humanity over the absolute sovereignty of God. These scholars call for better ideas and language to emphasise core virtues like faith, hope, and love and goods like peace, order, and community.

Where the State assigns itself as the keeper of religious scriptures, they need to adapt for its citizens' benefit and comply with the rules. In contrast, they must reconsider local cultural exceptionalism, traditions, and tribal customs. Despite their antipathy for the whole human rights system and to the Rights of the individual but to move away from the exceptionalists' view of the idea of this system of individualism as corrosive of social cohesion. To reject ideas, this system erodes the social customs and traditions and the ideas of an unsustainable position once the individual ceases to be subordinate to the group but commits to shared values towards a common culture. The exception is not to be an individual.

While others reject the concept of natural rights altogether arguing that only positive legal rights are real. Also believe moral right is objectively real, but not effective unless translated into positive law terms. They are dismayed by abstract and universal rights declarations — like the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens (1789), the United States Bill of Rights (1791), or the Universal Declaration of Rights (1948) and their many progenies. They believe, these grand rights documents have encouraged citizens and authorities, lawyers and judges alike to invent all manner of untethered rights claims, upsetting long cultural traditions in so doing.

There is no denying of course, that human rights can only be legal rights. I argue that the wrong is where the constitution that anchors such legality is warped or contradicts the moral norm, making dissent punishable by an ideologically induced law. This is where human rights are governed by ideologically inspired ideas transcending the rules of a covenant to which they are signatories. Since it is arguably a social construct, its suitability to one society may differ from that of another. Creates an opportunity for some states to decouple from the Human Rights convention. Here we enter a minefield of contradictions. First, what makes an ideologically inspired law? Where does that law fit when that ideology conflicts with other ideologies inspired by ‘norms’ within the different cultures of the same society? The struggle for freedom can be found in every culture. I am also considering the contrast between the USA and Iran or Afghanistan, for instance. Is the Electric Chair less humane that stoning a woman to death? Both deny the right to life by lawful execution. We will get to that later.

The plight of the descriminated Uyghur community in China 

Many states reject the idea of Western-sponsored ideas of freedom. Nevertheless, people have human rights regardless of whether they are found in practices, morality, or the law of their country or culture. And like many western States, and for practical reasons, countries around the world are free to impose several qualifications on ideas of universality. First, the right to vote is held only by adult citizens or residents and applies only to voting in one’s own country. Second, the human right to freedom of movement may be taken away from a person convicted of committing a serious crime. And third, some human rights treaties focus on the rights of vulnerable groups such as minorities, women, indigenous peoples, and children. Also, in such cases, as the Bill of Rights in the UK today, the right to protest, dissent, and demonstrate only applies to peaceful protest and does not extend to any violence inflicted or damage caused during a protest or wilful obstruction of motorways. In other words, Human Rights are not absolute or for any one culture to monopolise.

Asylum seekers, Refugees, or immigrants

The new Bill of Rights aims to replace the Human Rights Act 1998 in line with Brexit ideals. It is arguably designed to "help prevent trivial human rights claims from wasting judges" time" and to make it clear UK courts do not always need to follow the decisions of European courts. However, public consultation found people were "overwhelmingly against the proposals", with victims of violence against women, care home residents, and those whose family members have lost their life due to the actions of the police among those raising concerns. The reforms would undermine the universality of human rights by making it more difficult for certain groups to bring cases. Also, it contains clauses that make it easier to deport foreign criminals. The intention is to ensure a proper balance between the rights of individuals and effective government in line with British common law traditions and reduce reliance on Strasbourg case law. For the record, A refugee, conventionally speaking, is a person who has lost the protection of his or her country of origin and who cannot or is unwilling to return there due to well-founded fear of persecution. Such a person may be called an asylum seeker until granted refugee status.

Exceptionalism goes even further.  The Taliban in Kabul, Afghanistan, demand to be left alone to implement their own religious and cultural values at home without foreign interference. Leaders in Kabul insist on not being judged by the norms of others --especially in the West. When America's Western allies tell it that the U.S. capital punishment system is barbaric, local politicians and courts reply that it is their way and no one else's business, precisely what the Taliban says. The United States insists, for example, on the right to execute persons who committed crimes as minors. Never mind that this violates U.S. obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). It is the American way, representing American values and ethics. Many other countries, such as Egypt, Sudan, Turkey, and China, practice a variety of cultural exceptionalism, some more exaggerated than others; such was the case in South Africa's system of Apartheid as is today alleged in Israel.

Pakistan Arrests “11th Imam of Islam” Under the most stringent laws in the world
and carry a possible death sentence

On the other hand, the safety net created by The Universal Declaration of Human Rights treaties setting out civil, political, cultural, and economic rights, as well as the rights of children, women, ethnic groups, and religions, made no room for cultural exceptionalism. In my opinion, wavering ideas of what is Right for you is not right for us; runs unsteadily towards injustice, since the freedom of an individual is inalienable. The challenge now is to create a globalised culture universalising the idea that human rights drive decision-making and overcoming false beliefs that its provisions weaken state sovereignty. On the contrary, Human rights, democracy, and the rule of law create an environment in which countries can promote freedom, protect individuals from discrimination, and ensure equal access to justice for all. Freedom is a natural desire, but for many, freedom is a struggle discriminated from understanding what it is to be free, to have no fear.

With freedom, however, comes responsibility and in this modern digital age control of the internet is an essential part of the universal order. It ensures the rights of all concerned while protecting children from harmful influences. Surveillance and regulating the internet is an added part of the Bill of Rights I referred to earlier. One of the methods used is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Although using this method, there is the likelihood it leads to the erosion of individual freedoms and human judgment with automated control Human rights remain central to what it means to be human. Governments need to ensure they are used as shields, monitoring what can be harmful and overseeing accountability and remedies for any breach of those standards. . Protecting us in the digital age will determine the internet will be a force that liberates, not enchain us. Action to control harm neither constrain freedom nor encroaches on privacy.  

Women have been stripped of the Right to be a Woman.

In conclusion, I believe the government’s à la carte approach to human rights would not do and would not sustain a democratic system. While policing Human Rights does not create authoritarianism but ensures a balance with the Rights of every individual. Obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights ensure that these rights continue to be highlighted by the State’s Rule of law as set out under the convention. To move away from shared ideas of conformity versus autonomy but build an interrelationship within state society in line with Democratic values. Democracy is a universally recognised ideal based on shared universal values, irrespective of cultural, political, social, and economic differences. In tandem with its content values of the Rule of Law and equality of Justice, it preserves and promotes the dignity and fundamental rights of the individual. Sadly Human Rights are in retreat; seeking utopia is not real. The widespread exceptionalism, discrimination, torture, and abuse of the individual are increasing in this ever more turbulent world.  

According to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the situation is so desperate for Afghan women that they commit suicide at a rate of one or two a day.

Sunday 24 July 2022

The Race to number 10


A fight to the finish, no doubt it will be a bruising contest. Whoever wins this race will come out the loser. Britain is ailing, and none of the arguments put forward by both Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss makes much sense in the long run or stands on enough firm footing to win an election in two years. Britain can not afford a test of time because economically, it is bleeding and fast becoming the sick man of Europe.  

Britain is facing the prospect of reliving the nightmare of the 1970s, when inflation, interest rates, price rises and wages were chasing each other. Fifteen, twenty, or even thirty per cent rise in wages to accommodate price increases. All spiralling out of control. The strong trade unions at the time, trying to protect the standard of living of their members, were indirectly fanning the flames of inflation by asking for higher wages. Today, we have a limited labour supply thanks to Brexit policies of closed borders. The basics of supply and demand plus Social media help to embolden attitudes risking the appeal for higher pay. Then as today, the steep hike in energy cost was partly the reason for this nightmare.   

The two contenders have to deal with an array of problems they would face from day one. Prices in the UK have been rising at their fastest rate for forty years. Lorry drivers were first in the queue for wage increases. Then on Teachers, public sector workers, British Airways, Barristers, Nurses, and more. The central bank faces a balancing act with setting interest rates between applying too much pressure to deal with the prospect of high inflation. The politicians need to deal with the fallout. The cost of money, as well as the cost of all services, food and energy, are picking up. The signs that the country is heading for a recession. The cost of the living crisis must force an incumbent government into action.

Britain faces massive interest payments from debts dealing with the Pandemic. Cutting taxes to protect consumer income at this stage is another debtor finance policy the country can ill afford. Easing the pain in the short term will not make it go away. One of the priorities for the government is to deal with falling output, invest in technology in industry and infrastructure and build prospects for the future. To deal with problems of worker numbers, the taxpayers are declining, dependents on either side, the very young and the old are increasing. The incoming Prime Minister's priority is a need to orchestrate the recovery from the present economic shocks and cut taxes when the country can afford it.
On balance, the chances of the two contestants lie on a knife edge.   Whether Rishi is premiership material remains doubtful. He lacks the charisma and appeal; his knowledge and intellect don't make up for either, perhaps too honest for a politician. Besides, whether Britain is ready for a Brown face occupying number ten is a shot in the dark. Liz portrays herself as a giver by not raising taxes. A populist in the Johnsonian mould is more about style than content. Winning is all that matters; varnishing what matters and hitting all the right notes makes her the darling of the Party's right-wing. In a recent Gallup poll, she is placed way ahead of her opponent in popularity. So take your pick.

Sunday 10 July 2022

The End of the Johnson Era


Finally, we see the back of Boris Johnson. His wish came true; he didn't want to be a one-term Prime Minister. He never was fit for Downing Street; he should've stuck to his columnist and magazine editorial jobs where he is at ease with words. His facility with words largely helped to get him through that famous glossy black door of number ten.  He ignored the anger of many of his MP's and the calls for him to resign by loyalists, he could have done so with dignity instead he leaves office in disgrace. 

When campaigning for the conservative party's leadership, he had a talent for expressing a lie that made it believable. He won that contest, and not long after, defying expectation, with the same approach, he won the premiership in a landslide election victory with the highest majority since Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. That gave him a mandate to "get Brexit done". He will go down in history as the person who got us out of Europe. 

Not telling the truth was a fixation that marked his term of office. His career as a correspondent, journalist and early political position was littered with untrue statements for the sake of just saying something instead of reporting the truth. Throughout that period, he got the sack from a stream of jobs. But the strangest thing was he always had people rallying towards him. Maybe his buffoonery or just a comic-like appearance with a Chirchellian delivery had a special appeal that pulled them in. After dinner, speaking awaits most probably at £100,000 a go.  

But things have changed since he won that massive majority, effectively creating a coalition of North and South of the country under the banner of levelling up. Jeremy Corbyn is no longer on the scene, Brexit has not gone to plan, and the economy is in dire straights, signifying the winning mandate has gone to shreds. That was realised early enough, so it was a matter to keep to it or concentrate on voter appeal and window dressing. Disagreement on geography spending became a simmering dispute between the Prime Minister and his then Chancellor. Hence, the direction of travel was lost, most probably at the gates of the Pandemic. Taking tough decisions was not the make-up of Boris Johnson. However, unfortunately, for replacement, we don't have much to go on. We don't have anyone with enough charisma to pull the country together. 

The end came after the revelation of a series of scandals, cutting corners with the truth, chaos, parties during lockdowns, breaking his own laws and getting fined by the police, and their cover-up led to the loss of trust by both the public and his MP's. He knew nothing for one minute, and then it turned out he knew quite a bit but had forgotten. Later his memory recovers, and he apologises. And to wrap it up, now is time "to move on"—a matter of drip-drip allegations and drip-drip denials. More than anything, supporting the scandalous behaviour of one of his senior ministers was one drip too many. Finally, Rishi Sunak, his Chancellor and Sajid Javid, the Health Secretary, had enough and could no longer defend the indefensible, so they decided to resign. The former blames differences on economic policies, and the latter accuses the government of lacking integrity. Both together, losing trust in their leader, triggered the avalanche of resignations.

He has gone but not gone. He wants to stay on as caretaker Prime Minister despite the collapse of his authority and allies deserting him on all sides. That means his Presidency-like status goes on but lame until his successor is chosen despite the chorus of conservatives asking him to step down immediately. Aside from the good for the country was the good of the conservative party's reputation. To save what good is left of it. Unfortunately, however, no one in the wings to take over the party's leadership. No challenger, a serving minister or otherwise, had emerged to take over. So we are into an interregnum government of three months or so. Unless, of course, the system of choosing the next Prime Minister gets speeded up, which is likely. Many have put their hats in the ring, but at any other time, not one of the incumbents considered of material quality, let alone the premiership. But, we have to choose from what we have. Not much left in the barrel, though.

Tough decisions, to jump on one thing or another, you can not be all things to all men. But at such juxtaposition, the mind could play dirty and fuzzes the way forward; eventually, ambition for power overwhelms reason. And here we have good examples. Power corrupts, a flawed personality corrupts further and defending such a character carrying the lies forward as Nadhim Zahawi, Liz Truss and others that remained, in his inner circle, immediately put them on the spot. Moreover, the effect of supporting that same shady limelight would ruin their reputation, seriously undermining their political future. Zahawi, a 33-hour stay at number eleven, will go down in history as serving the shortest term in the role of Chancellor ever.   At last, he had the nerve to submit his resignation. But, alas, too late to save his political future. 

That support was against the backdrop of Johnson's loyalists quickly having read the script jumped ship, draining away at speed. 

So what is the road ahead for Britain? Whoever succeeds him or she will be greeted with a monstrous in-tray: the economy, Energy, Ukraine, Health, confusion over the Northern Ireland protocol and the overall Brexit disastrous after-effects.   The post Pandemic economic stall, worker shortage across all industries and raging war in Europe have caused Britain to have one of the lowest economic growth in the world. Are we going to see a rescue, or are we in it for the long term? A cycle of economic tensions, inflation and squeezes on household income will cause severe hardship for many.

Moreover, Britain has become unproductive as a nation, making it difficult and unaffordable to ease the pain. Welfare, ageing, health, investments and income will suffer as a consequence and will be an incredible challenge for any incoming Prime Minister. Who is up for the job is anybody's guess, but one thing is for sure, we won't see food becoming cheaper and zero interest rates will be a thing of the past.

My money is on Jeremy Hunt, the only candidate who never served in Johnson's government, but unfortunately, at the time of writing, he still has not declared to be standing for the leadership. He is also a remainer, so hopefully, if he makes it, Britain will stand a good chance of getting back into Europe its rightful place. My next favourite is Rishi Sunak. I see him as the most competent person to tell it as it is. He is more conservative, advocating sound policies of spending only what you have. Tax cuts will be a dominant feature in the race; he is the man to consider how to go about that. Zahawi is a chameleon if ever there was one. He did not jump ship in good time; his loyalty got the better of him, and he got soiled from the relationship with Johnson. Javid is focused and an excellent communicator, but his disciplinarian approach could be his downfall. Finally, Liz Truss is a latter-day Thatcherite but with a more hands-on approach, acquiring leadership skills early in her political career. The present-day favourite, Ben Wallace, the Defence Secretary, has declared himself out of the race. It would be interesting to see whom he backs. His support could make a vast difference to his or her electoral fortune. There are others, but for now, I have discounted them as they also ran.  

Source: Oddschecker as at 10/07/2022

Britain needs a change in its culture of politics at the top table, and Downing Street needs to be more generous with the truth.