News Feed 20120320

Financial Crisis
» Beijing Raises Fuel Prices, Risks Stoking Inflation
» Indian Economy Slowing Down: The Future of Young People at Risk
» Monti Says Critical Stage With Germany Now Past
» Romney Hails ‘Extraordinary Victory’ In Illinois Primary
Europe and the EU
» Ashton: My Remarks on Toulouse Attack ‘Grossly Distorted’
» Crumbling Cologne Cathedral Drops Stones
» East German Payments ‘No Longer Needed’
» France: Neo-Nazis May Behind Toulouse Killings
» France Clears Three Neo-Nazi Suspects in Jewish School Shooting
» Germany: High Hurdles for Possible Ban on Far-Right Party
» Germany: Mayors Attack Solidarity Pact: Poor Western Cities Fed Up With Funding East
» Norway: Prince Charles Meets Massacre Survivors
» Swedes Back Obama in US Election: Survey
» The Economic Death of a Southern Italian City
» UK: ‘Sexual Abuse of 15-Year-Old Girl by Gang of Six Men Was Filmed on Mobile Phone’
» UK: Ken Livingstone: I Will Make London a Beacon of Islam
» UK: Queen Elizabeth Delivers Jubilee Speech to Parliament
» Vatican Report Expresses ‘Pain, Shame’ at Abuse in Ireland
» With Spring, A New Political Tenor Arrives in Italy
Israel and the Palestinians
» Germany to Sell Israel Nuclear-Capable Submarine
Middle East
» Accused of Terrorism: Turkish Reporters Struggle Against Repression
» Prayer Chain for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Imprisoned in Iran
» Series of Attacks in Iraq, Dozens of Dead. Church of St Mathew in Baghdad Targeted
South Asia
» Indonesian Ulema: Lady Gaga is “Haram,” Forbidden, No to Concert. Fans in Revolt
» Italian Marines to Stay in Indian Prison for Two More Weeks
» Pakistan: Lawmakers Debate Terms of US Ties
Latin America
» International Pressure on Bolivarian Countries: A Hopeful Sign
» France Makes it Harder to Become French
» UK: Editor Courts Controversy With Book About Islamic Immigration
Culture Wars
» UK: Home-Grown Freedoms Are the Strongest
» UK: Note to Ken — Multiculturalism is So 80s

Financial Crisis

Beijing Raises Fuel Prices, Risks Stoking Inflation

For the second time this year, the government comes to the rescue of (state-owned) refineries by raising petrol and diesel prices by 6 and 7 per cent respectively. This will push up inflation, which has always caused social unrest. Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund gives the thumbs up to government policy, warning however against risky investments.

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) — China has raised the price of petrol by about 6 per cent and diesel about 7 per cent for the second time in 2012, as it struggles with the rising cost of crude oil resulting from the crisis between Iran and the international community. Iran supplies China with 20 per cent of oil imports, but sanctions have reduced sales and increased prices. Now many fear inflation might go up further and cause social unrest.

Chinese authorities have decided to save domestic refineries, which are state-owned, rather than keep inflation low. After consumer prices peaked in July last year at 6.5 per cent, they eased in the subsequent months. In February, it stood at 3.4 per cent from a year earlier, below the government’s target of 4 per cent.

China’s is the world second largest oil consumer after the United States. Demand for energy has led to more exploration but also increased international and domestic tensions.

“This price hike comes sooner than our expectations,” said Gordon Kwan, head of regional energy research at Mirae Asset Securities Ltd in Hong Kong. “It signals the official ending of China’s anti-inflation campaign.”

Meanwhile, China’s economy is sailing safely towards a soft landing, but it needs to move away from its export and investment-driven growth focus if it wishes to maintain vitality, this according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

“China is landing quite well,” said Zhu Min, the recently appointed IMF deputy managing director. “However, it still needs to carefully manage its investment-driven development model, as investment takes up about 48 per cent of gross domestic product.”

Indeed, to manage unemployment, the government has invested heavily in certain areas, creating significant speculative bubbles. More importantly, it has failed to sustain the new middle classes and help workers, which might lead to rising demands.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Indian Economy Slowing Down: The Future of Young People at Risk

Over the last ten years, growth has declined from 9% to 6%. But poverty has fallen from 37.2% to 29,% from 2004/2005 to 2009/2010. The Congress government has failed to fully exploit the wealth generated by the economic boom, enslaving itself to a policy of waste and corruption. The new objectives are to eradicate poverty and create jobs. But without a pro-growth plan, the first victims are the future generations.

Mumbai (AsiaNews) — The economic growth of India that was up to 9% in the later part of the last decade is currently slowing down at 6.1% in the quarter ended Dec.31, the slowest in the last three years. The Government has already downgraded expectation of growth this March budget.

This slowing growth challenges two views cherished by leaders in New Delhi: that the country will effectively eradicate poverty within the space of a generation, and that it will assume its rightful place in the front rank of global powers. Both goals depend on an economy that generates enough resources to fix glaring deficiencies in health and education and to build a muscular military. India must also generate jobs to ensure that a youthful population is employed productively rather than drawn to myriad violent movements — from Maoism to ethnic separatism to religious radicalism — that dot large part of the country.

Though the global economic slowdown hasn’t helped matters, The Wall Street Journal blames India’s politicians. Instead of using the bounty of the boom years to double down on reforms, the ruling left-of-center coalition led by the Congress Party appears to suffer from a strange hankering for the socialist past. This has led it to sacrifice a historic opportunity to swiftly transform India into a middle-income country on the altar of shortsighted populism.

Nobody embodies this sorry state of affairs more than the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Ha was once touted as a great reformer, thanks to having been the finance minister who unleashed the “Big Bang” reforms amid a balance of payments crisis in 1991. But his tenure as Prime Minister has been different. Most recently, the first sign of political opposition was enough for him to abandon a plan to lift restrictions on foreign investments in retail. These days he’s more likely to be seen muttering darkly about foreign hand behind anti-nuclear protests in the southern state of Tamil Nadu than make a principled case for deeper liberalization.

The government’s biggest “achievement” is its flagship National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, which promises each rural person a 100 days of work per year. This distorts labor market, encourages widespread corruption and has helped — along with fuel and fertilizers subsidies to balloon the federal fiscal deficit to an estimated 5.6% of GDP this year instead of the budgeted 4.6%. A proposed food security bill would poor billions of dollars more into a public distribution system already notorious for graft and wastage, and create a new entitlement that future generations will find difficult to kill.

Slowing growth should be taken as a warning that there won’t be sufficient spoils to divide if Delhi continues on its current course instead of shifting to a strongly pro-growth policy. The question now is, how quickly will Indian politicians heed the alarm bell being sounded by slowing growth and undertake reforms to unleash the country potentials.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Monti Says Critical Stage With Germany Now Past

Angela Merkel hails Italy’s “courageous reforms”

MILAN — Growth, European governance and reforms were three of the items on the agenda when the German chancellor Angela Merkel met Italy’s PM Mario Monti. Mr Monti said afterwards: “We reviewed European issues as a whole, not just economics and finance. At this stage of Europe’s life, when the worst of the crisis looks very much behind us, we cannot relax, either on matters of domestic policy or on European policy. The European Union needs to embark on a stage of focusing attention on employment, and youth employment in particular”.

MEDIA BRIEFING — Mr Monti and Ms Merkel faced the cameras at the end of their afternoon meeting. The German chancellor was in Rome to call on Italy’s prime minister, Mario Monti, and president, Giorgio Napolitano. The visit was keenly anticipated, especially following the cancellation of a similar visit in the wake of the surprise resignation of the German president, Christian Wulff. Mr Monti commented: “During our talks, we manifested our shared interest in the ratification by our respective parliaments of the fiscal compact, the European stability mechanism, and we explored ways of working jointly”. Mr Monti then highlighted areas of strong convergence with Germany: “We have decided to cooperate closely on various tools for growth policy, specifically services, labour mobility and innovation. We want to hold firm on budget stability while enhancing focus on growth, and to do so in an integrated fashion”…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]


Romney Hails ‘Extraordinary Victory’ In Illinois Primary

(CNN) — Mitt Romney scored a decisive win in the Illinois Republican presidential primary Tuesday night, with the former Massachusetts governor holding a double-digit lead over his top rival.

“We thank the people of Illinois for this extraordinary victory,” Romney told supporters in the Chicago suburb of Schaumburg. “Elections are about choices. Today, hundreds of thousands of people in Illinois joined millions of people in this country in this cause.”

With 99% of precincts reporting, Romney led former Pennsylvanian Sen. Rick Santorum by a 47%-to-35% margin. Texas Rep. Ron Paul was running third at 9%, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich brought up the rear at 8%.

Exit polls showed Romney led strongly in the Cook County suburbs and the “collar counties” around Chicago, where about half of Tuesday’s votes were cast…

[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Ashton: My Remarks on Toulouse Attack ‘Grossly Distorted’

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said Tuesday that remarks attributed to her Monday referring to the attack in Toulouse were “grossly distorted” by a news wire service.

A statement released by Ashton’s bureau said she “referred to tragedies taking the lives of children around the world and drew no parallel whatsoever between the circumstances of the Toulouse attack and the situation in Gaza.”

Ashton, the statement added, “strongly condemns the killings at the Ozar Hatorah school” and extended her sympathies to the families and friends of the victims, as well as to the people of France and the Jewish community.

The EU foreign policy chief came under heavy criticism from Israeli officials Tuesday in response to the reported remarks. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and opposition leader Tzipi Livni all called on Ashton to retract the statement attributed to her.

Agence France Presse reported Monday night that Ashton told a group of Palestinian youth in Brussels: “When we think about what happened today in Toulouse, we remember what happened in Norway last year, we know what is happening in Syria, and we see what is happening in Gaza and other places — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.”

The statement was perceived as an equation between the murder of three Jewish schoolchildren in France and Palestinian deaths in the Gaza Strip.

Speaking during a visit to China, Liberman said that the comparison was inappropriate and that he hopes that she retracts her statement. The children Ashton should be talking about, he continued, “are the ones in southern Israel who live in constant fear of rocket attacks [launched against] them from Gaza.”

           — Hat tip: J-PD [Return to headlines]

Crumbling Cologne Cathedral Drops Stones

Cologne cathedral, one of Germany’s most famous landmark buildings, is crumbling and dropping stones on people’s heads — leaving one man with cuts to his head which needed hospital treatment on Monday. A 50-centimetre chunk of the cathedral fell off from 25 metres above the ground and smashed into smaller pieces when it hit the roof before showering onto people below.

The Kölner Stadt Anzeiger newspaper reported on Tuesday that a homeless man who had been sitting by the cathedral was hit on the head and required brief hospital treatment for cuts. And although the area was roped off while workers inspected the spot where the piece had broken off, people familiar with the cathedral say bits break off all the time.

Smaller pieces break off all the time, Matthias Demi of the cathedral’s constructions office told the paper, though usually “only in very wet weather or wind.” When there is exceptionally bad weather, such as storms, the cathedral is cordoned off.

“It was very unusual that such a big piece broke off in such good weather,” said the head of the cathedral’s building operations Barbara Schock-Werner. She said she had never seen anything like that in 13 years of working at the cathedral.

After an inspection it was determined that the piece that fell was from the 14th century and dropped off from the cathedral due to wear and tear. “It could be that the stone already had a crack in it and because of the strong temperature changes between February and March and the crack grew,” Demi told the newspaper.

For now the spot will not be repaired as it would require extra scaffolding and be too big of a job at the moment.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

East German Payments ‘No Longer Needed’

Mayors in the struggling Ruhr area in west Germany want to end their “solidarity” payments to eastern Germany, saying the east no longer needs the money and their cities are heavily in debt, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

France: Neo-Nazis May Behind Toulouse Killings

Paris, 20 March (AKI) — France is investigating the possibility that neo-Nazis are behind the shooting that left four people dead outside a Jewish school in southern France, as well as other recent fatal attacks, interior minister Claude Geant said Tuesday.

The gunman who shot dead four people outside of a Jewish school in Toulouse was wearing a video camera on his chest, Geant told Europa 1 in an interview Tuesday, citing a witness. It’s not known if the incident was taped by the assailant.

The attack at the private Ozar Hatorah school followed two shootings last week in and around Toulouse which killed three soldiers. A scooter was also used those attacks.

A teacher with his two children and the daughter of the school’s director were killed in Monday’s shooting.

“The government of Israel has decided to transfer the coffins to Israel as soon as possible, with the cooperation and assistance of Israel’s representatives in France,” the Israeli foreign ministry said in a statement.

France has one of Europe’s highest Jewish populations.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

France Clears Three Neo-Nazi Suspects in Jewish School Shooting

Police now looking into whether killer was Islamic extremist

Police have cleared three neo-Nazi suspects in the killing of three schoolchildren and a rabbi at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France. The suspects were former soldiers who were discharged from duty for neo-Nazi activity in 2008.

All three were interrogated by the police.

French authorities now believe the killer was motivated by Islamic extremism or racism, Israel Radio reported.

It is the third shooting attack in the Toulouse region in just over a week, and the suspect may be linked to all of them. The previous shootings targeted and killed soldiers of North African origin.

The soldiers, part of an elite paratrooper regiment, were let go from the military after a photo of them surfaced of them saluting a Nazi flag with a swastika.

Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, 29, his 4-year-old and 5-year-old sons Gabriel and Arieh, and 7-year-old Miriam Monsonego were killed Monday outside the Ozar Hatorah school in the southern French city.

In the attack, a gunman drove a scooter and used a handgun to shoot and kill the victims. Police believe the killer may have taped the killing, and think he may plan to post the video on the Internet.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

Germany: High Hurdles for Possible Ban on Far-Right Party

Ever since the revelations about the murderous Zwickau cell, political pressure to ban the far-right NPD party has been growing. After a previous attempt failed in 2003, the government wants to be sure it can succeed before it starts proceedings. But a secret document reveals the legal challenges are tougher than many are admitting.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Germany: Mayors Attack Solidarity Pact: Poor Western Cities Fed Up With Funding East

Closed swimming pools, potholed streets, run-down buildings. Many western German cities, especially in the industrial Ruhr rust belt, are looking worse for wear after years of neglect in which they’ve had to transfer billions funds to help rebuild the former communist east. Now their mayors want to stop paying.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Norway: Prince Charles Meets Massacre Survivors

Britain’s Prince Charles on Tuesday met survivors of Norway’s island massacre last year as he and his wife Camilla visited Oslo as part of a Scandinavian tour.

The prince had requested the meeting with several survivors of the July 22nd killings on Utøya island, where right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik shot dead 69 people, mainly teenagers attending a summer camp.

The now 33-year-old Breivik, who has said he was on a crusade against multi-culturalism and Europe’s “Muslim invasion”, had earlier set off a car bomb outside government buildings in Oslo, killing eight people.

Prince Charles lost his grand uncle Lord Louis Mountbatten, with whom he was close, in a 1979 attack by the Irish Republican Army (IRA).

The meeting took place behind closed doors at the Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, in the presence of Norway’s King Harald V and Queen Sonja.

Before the meeting with the Utøya survivors, including the head of the Labour Party youth movement which had organised the summer camp, Eskil Pedersen, the prince laid a wreath at the national monument in Oslo.

He also held talks with Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, but they made no public statements.

On Wednesday, Prince Charles is set to visit Norway’s second largest city, the picturesque Hanseatic port of Bergen, where he is scheduled to visit a marine research ship and a Norwegian Royal Navy frigate.

On Thursday, he and Camilla continue their Nordic tour, first travelling to Sweden, followed by a visit to Denmark.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Swedes Back Obama in US Election: Survey

If Swedes could vote in US elections, President Barack Obama would handily beat either Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum, according to a new survey, which also reveals Swedes can’t seem to get enough of US politics. Seventy-four percent of Swedes indicated they would vote for Obama whether the sitting Democratic president faced either of the top two Republican challengers, an online survey carried out by the YouGov polling firm shows.

And while less than half of US voters currently approve of Obama’s record as president, 62 percent of Swedes say they are satisfied with Obama’s performance. The YouGov survey also revealed Swedes’ concerns about what might happen should the Republicans retake the White House in November 2012, with 52 percent indicating an Obama loss would have a negative effect on the world’s security.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

The Economic Death of a Southern Italian City

Crotone was once called the “Milan of the South,” thanks to its bustling industry and entrepreneurial spirit. But over the past 20 years, the Calabrian city has seen its factories close and locals forced onto welfare.

With 1,586 employees, the Local Health Authority (ASL) is the largest enterprise in this mid-sized city in Calabria, a region in southwest Italy. And the next largest? The provincial public administration, with 390 employees, which is followed by city government offices and local branches of the national government.

In Crotone, one in every 50 inhabitants has a public-sector job. More than twice that number — 6,444 — are unemployed. Locals call this “social safety valve” system. Even the state-funded holding center for illegal immigrants is considered an important source of employment.

Once upon a time, Crotone was called the Milan of southern Italy. The 1960s and 1970s were the golden age of Pertusola, a successful metallurgy company that employed up to 1,300 people; of Montedison, where more than 1,000 workers produced fertilizers and detergents; and of Cellulosa, where hundreds of chemists developed innovative paper products. It was an era when a state-of-the-art technical institute, the Donegani school, turned out the workers of tomorrow. It was an age of wealth and freedom.

But since the 1990s, all this is in the past. Pertusola and Montedison have closed, and Cellulosa went bankrupt. The last generation of workers occupied the factories with strikes, and set fire to the machines.

The glorious industry of the area is no more. Now, there is just the toxic trail they’ve left behind: the soil across a huge area in the center of the old town is poisoned by metals and chemicals, and has been waiting for a cleanup for 20 years. None of this helps build a tourist industry in an area known for several important sites of Greek ruins…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

UK: ‘Sexual Abuse of 15-Year-Old Girl by Gang of Six Men Was Filmed on Mobile Phone’

A drunken 15-year-old girl was filmed naked and pleading as a gang of six men sexually abused her throughout the night, a court heard.

Harrowing footage from one of the defendant’s mobile phones seen by Leeds Crown Court showed the young girl lying naked while men laughed and touched her.

She could be heard saying: ‘Give me back my clothes’ and ‘let me go’.

Ali Rehman, 26, his brother Hassan, 18, Larasab Hussain, 45, Faisar Younas, 23, Saqib Hussain, 31, and Wahid Hussain, 19, are on trial in West Yorkshire after the teenager was ‘used and abused like an object’.

The jury watched the videos as Sharon Beattie, prosecuting, transcribed the men’s conversation — which was in Urdu, Punjabi and English.

Miss Beattie said: ‘In her account, various videos were taken that evening, only one was recovered — taken at the end of the evening.

‘But it demonstrates how they were treating her as an object, something to use and abuse. There is no question of her giving consent to any activities that evening.’

The court heard how the schoolgirl had been drinking with a friend on the night of May 11, 2010, when they went to Ali Rehman’s home, where they shared Jack Daniels and coke with him and his friends.

Her friend went upstairs with Rehman to buy some cannabis and left the house at around 9pm, taking the 15-year-old’s mobile phone with her.

It was agreed that the young girl should be left behind to sleep off the alcohol because she was ‘wasted’, with Rehman, from Dewsbury, West Yorks, saying: ‘You can stay here because you can’t even walk.’

The abuse began, the court heard, when the teenager was led upstairs to a bedroom and she was laid down on a mattress.

The girl had told police that Rehman allowed his friend Saqib Hussain into the room and told him: ‘You have 10 minutes.’

Miss Beattie told the court: ‘If this is right it demonstrates from the off Ali Rehman was set on this girl being available for the sexual gratification of himself and his friends and the fact she couldn’t walk demonstrates she was vulnerable to all these men.’

After 10 minutes it is alleged that Rehman then entered the room and raped her, but was interrupted by his brother telling him they had to leave.

Ali Rehman was set on this girl being available for the sexual gratification of himself and his friends and the fact she couldn’t walk demonstrates she was vulnerable to all these men.

The court heard that Rehman told the girl to put her clothes on, flung her over his shoulder and carried her from his bedroom to the nearby home of co-defendant Faiser Younas.

The jury heard that at one point she woke up to two of the men trying to rape her at the same time. She said she remembered crying throughout her ordeal.

The prosecutor said the group then left, putting the girl in a taxi, driven by Larasab Hussain, going via Asda in order to get more alcohol.

The girl said she could feel herself coming around by this point, but was then given more vodka.

The group then went to Hussain’s flat to allegedly continue the abuse further. One man was heard to say he did not want his face in any pictures.

They then went back to Rehman’s home, where the police discovered the girl in the morning.

At first the girl denied that anything had happened to her out of fear, the court heard.

But she changed her mind and gave her full account in October 2010.

Ali Rehman is charged with three accounts of rape, and one of attempted rape, Saqib Hussain is charged with sexual assault, Faisar Youas with one account of rape, Hassan Rehman with attempted rape, Wahid Hassan with one account of attempted rape and Larasab Hussain with an account of sexual assault.

The men, all from Dewsbury, deny the charges. The trial continues.

           — Hat tip: Vlad Tepes [Return to headlines]

UK: Ken Livingstone: I Will Make London a Beacon of Islam

by Andrew Gilligan

Here is the full version of a story which appears in the print edition of today’s Daily Telegraph:

Ken Livingstone has promised to turn London into a “beacon” for the words of the Prophet Mohammed in a sermon at one of the capital’s most controversial mosques. Mr Livingstone, Labour’s candidate for mayor of London, pledged to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying: “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet.” Mr Livingstone described Mohammed’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.” He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.” He also promised to “make your life a bit easier financially.” Mr Livingstone was speaking at last Friday’s Jummah prayer at the North London Central Mosque, also known as Finsbury Park Mosque, formerly controlled by the terrorist recruiter Abu Hamza.

Hamza was removed in 2003 but the mosque is now controlled by an Islamist organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain, which has been linked to the banned terror group, Hamas. A man who has acted as spokesman for the current leadership, Azzam Tamimi, is on record as supporting suicide bombings. One of the mosque’s current directors, Mohammed Sawalha, is described by the BBC as a former senior figure in Hamas who “is said to have masterminded much of Hamas’s political and military strategy” from his post in London. In 2009 Mr Sawalha also signed the Istanbul Declaration which calls for attacks against the allies of Israel, which include the UK. The British Government interpreted it as calling for attacks on British troops. In 2010, the Labour MP Khalid Mahmood, a Muslim moderate, resigned from the mosque’s board of trustees and reported it to the Charity Commission, accusing the mosque of forging his signature on key legal documents.

Mr Livingstone has been dogged by allegations of links to Islamic fundamentalism. In 2010, in the London borough of Tower Hamlets, he campaigned against his own party’s candidate to back a controversial independent politician, Lutfur Rahman, sacked by Labour for his links to a Muslim extremist group, the Islamic Forum of Europe (IFE). During his mayoralty, Mr Livingstone’s London Development Agency channelled hundreds of thousands of pounds to the East London Mosque in Tower Hamlets, controlled by the IFE, even though senior LDA managers strongly opposed the grant. In return, IFE activists campaigned strongly for him at the 2008 mayoral elections, boasting that they “got out the vote” for Mr Livingstone and achieving dramatic swings to him in their east London heartland. Mr Livingstone also gave thousands of pounds of public money to the Muslim Welfare House, a charity closely associated with the Finsbury Park Mosque, which signed an open letter backing his re-election campaign in 2008. In his last sermon, delivered in the valley of Mount Arafat, near Mecca in 632 AD, the Prophet Mohammed attacked discrimination, saying that “a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white, except by piety and good action.” However, he also said that men had a right to ensure their wives “do not make friends with anyone of whom you do not approve.”

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Queen Elizabeth Delivers Jubilee Speech to Parliament

England’s Queen Elizabeth II delivered a speech to both houses of the British parliament on Tuesday as part of the events surrounding her Diamond jubilee, marking 60 years as the country’s head of state.

During the ceremony at Westminster Hall in London, a stained glass window marking the queen’s anniversary was unveiled. The window was a gift from members of parliament and was paid for with private contributions of the lawmakers.

Elizabethis just the second English monarch ever to celebrate 60 years on the throne. The first was Queen Victoria, who celebrated her Diamond jubilee in 1897.

Queen Elizabeth said she hoped her Diamond jubilee would provide an “opportunity for people to come together in a spirit of neighborliness and celebration of their own communities.”

She thanked her son, Charles, and other members of her family for representing her in travels to other Commonwealth countries.

At the end of her speech, the queen rededicated herself “to the service of our great country and its people now and in the years to come.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Vatican Report Expresses ‘Pain, Shame’ at Abuse in Ireland

Progress has been made, according to Apostolic Visitation

(ANSA) — Rome, March 20 — A Vatican report on paedophilia by clergymen in Ireland expressed pain and shame at the sex abuse on Tuesday while stressing that the Catholic Church had made significant progress in protecting children.

The Holy See published a summary on its website of the findings of a 2011 Church probe in Ireland, called an Apostolic Visitation, commissioned after several reports uncovered decades of abuse and cover-ups in Catholic schools in Ireland and in the Dublin diocese.

The scandal was one of a series that have hit the Church around the world in recent years, in countries including the United States, Australia, Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Germany and Italy, badly hitting its standing.

“The Holy See re-echoes the sense of dismay and betrayal which the Holy Father expressed in his (2010) Letter to the Catholics of Ireland regarding the sinful and criminal acts that were at the root of this particular crisis,” the summary read.

“With a great sense of pain and shame, it must be acknowledged that within the Christian community innocent young people were abused by clerics and religious to whose care they had been entrusted, while those who should have exercised vigilance often failed to do so effectively…

“For these faults, forgiveness must once more be asked: from God and from the victims!”.

The Vatican report said the senior churchmen it sent to Ireland had verified that steps had been taken since the 1990s to achieve greater awareness, both in the Church and society as a whole, of how serious the problem of abuse is.

“The Archbishops of the visited Archdioceses gave assurance that all newly discovered cases of abuse are promptly brought before both the competent civil authority and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith,” it added.

The report also contained a series of recommendations, including more training on child protection for seminarians and increased pastoral attention to victims of sexual abuse and their families.

After an initial response to the scandals that some depicted as defensive, the pope has been increasingly open about sex abuse and has prayed and wept with victims on recent trips overseas, including to Malta and Britain Benedict has repeatedly pledged to root out abuse but some victims groups have said they want to see “more concrete” steps.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

With Spring, A New Political Tenor Arrives in Italy

What’s going on in Italy? The administration is popular, despite having not been elected. Elected political elites, on the other hand, have little power. Under recently appointed Prime Minister Mario Monti; the tenor of Italian politics has improved considerably. The question is how long the experiment can last.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

Germany to Sell Israel Nuclear-Capable Submarine

Germany has confirmed plans to sell a discounted nuclear-capable submarine to Israel, after Berlin reportedly dropped objections over Jewish settlement building in the Palestinian territories.

Germany will send a sixth nuclear-capable submarine to Israel and will subsidize the cost, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere announced on Tuesday after meeting his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak in Berlin.

The sale comes after years of negotiations that Israeli media reported were stalled due to tensions over Israel’s continued construction of Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Berlin reportedly agreed to the sale after Israel released millions of dollars in withheld customs duties to the Palestinian Authority last year.

Three German-made Dolphin-class submarines are already in use in the Israeli navy, delivered in 1999 and 2000. Two other submarines have been ordered and are under construction, slated for delivery later this year.

The Dolphin-class submarines run on a combination diesel and electric motor. Experts say the latest order from Israel is capable of carrying nuclear-capable, mid-range rockets, although this has not been confirmed.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Middle East

Accused of Terrorism: Turkish Reporters Struggle Against Repression

Turkey has sparked international criticism over its treatment of journalists who dare to criticize the government, with many jailed on terrorism charges. The recent release of prominent reporters may signal change, but more than 100 journalists are still imprisoned in the country, more than in China or Iran.

He has done things in the last 375 days that he would never have imagined doing before. He made dumbbells out of pipe sections, watched too much television, and at some point he discovered the sunflower seeds. That was when he realized that he was losing too much weight in prison. “I chewed those damned sunflower seeds like someone possessed,” says Ahmet Sik.

The journalist is sitting in his living room in Istanbul, surrounded by his wife Yonca, daughters and closest friends. There is red wine and chocolate cake, and Sik, a youthful 42-year-old with a thin beard, still can’t believe he’s a free man. It is the evening of Tuesday, March 13, the day after his release from the Silivri high-security prison for presumed terrorists .

He was in pretrial detention for a year and 10 days on charges of being a “member of a terrorist organization.” Sik is one of the most famous investigative journalists and authors in Turkey. His colleague Nedim Sener, another investigative reporter who has won several awards, had researched the reasons behind the murder of journalist Hrant Dink in 2007. A little over a year ago, on the morning of March 3, 2011, a special unit of the Turkish police arrested both men.

The journalists were charged with belonging to an ultra-nationalist secret organization called “Ergenekon,” though there was no evidence to support the allegations. The notorious network, Turkish prosecutors claim, contrived a plan to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan several years ago. Since 2007, special police units have been trying to put a stop to the activities of the Ergenekon group, although its existence has never been proven.

Non-governmental organizations like Reporters Without Borders and Human Rights Watch had long criticized Turkey for its repression of journalists, but a line was crossed with Sik and Sener’s arrests. With their work, the two men had helped expose connections among politicians, the judiciary and organized crime in Turkey, the so-called “Deep State” that went back decades.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman [Return to headlines]

Prayer Chain for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani, Imprisoned in Iran

Dear Christian friends,

We have been asked to forward this email and pray for Pastor Youcef. Please forward using the bcc box so that a list of e-mail addresses is not circulated.

URGENT PRAYER NEEDED for cancellation of execution for Pastor Youcef in IRAN

This prayer chain is calling ALL Christians into action NOW on behalf of this Iranian pastor, who faces execution!

Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani never practiced the Muslim faith and converted to Christianity at age 19, becoming a pastor later. But the courts say that since his mother and father were practicing Muslims, he must recant his Christian faith or die. So far, in three court appearances, he has refused to do so — RISKING EXECUTION AT ANY MOMENT. The Iranian Supreme Court often acts quickly in administering the death penalty…

           — Hat tip: 1389AD [Return to headlines]

Series of Attacks in Iraq, Dozens of Dead. Church of St Mathew in Baghdad Targeted

A bomb exploded near the Syrian-Orthodox church in the capital, killing two guards and wounding five others. Across the country there were over 20 explosions. AsiaNews sources: attacks to derail the upcoming Arab League summit. The violence set to continue.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) — The Syrian Orthodox Church of St. Matthew, in Baghdad, is one of the objectives targeted by Iraqi extremists, who this morning carried out a series of attacks across the country to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion — March 20, 2003 — to overthrow Saddam Hussein Nasser. Church sources in Iraq asking for anonymity for safety reasons, told AsiaNews, that the two guards were killed in the attack, while five others were injured. Meanwhile, the provisional toll from the bomb attacks — in more than 20 explosions — in the capital, in Kirkuk, in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, and Hillah in Mahmoudiya is at least 39 dead and 200 wounded.

AsiaNews sources in Iraq confirm “at least the 20 explosions” in different areas of the country, including the bombing of the church of St. Matthew, which “caused the death of two guards and wounded five other people.” At present it is unclear if the place of Christian worship was the real target of the extremist. In Kirkuk, a city 300 km north of the capital, there were “three blasts that caused about 10 deaths and more than 40 wounded” in a neighborhood where the attackers “have targeted a police station.”

Reports speak of 13 other deaths and fifty wounded in Karbala, the Shiite holy city, where two car bombs exploded. More attacks were reported in Hillah, Latifuyah and other areas of Iraq, although currently there is no official news.

The long trail of blood today marks the ninth anniversary of the U.S. invasion and is just the latest in a series of unending violence that mark a nation divided between Arabs, Kurds and Turkmen, and where Christians are often the victim of revenge caught in the crosshairs of power plays. From 2003 to December 2011, the date of complete withdrawal of U.S. troops, 4,550 U.S. soldiers have died and 300 allies. However, the real carnage regards the Iraqi civilian population, which has around 100 thousand casualties since the war began.

Iraqi political experts interviewed by AsiaNews emphasize that today’s attacks could be linked to the upcoming Arab League summit, to be held in Baghdad — for the first time since 1990 — between 27 and 29 March next. “There are nations — said the expert — who want to derail the summit, because the league is composed of a majority of Sunnis.” Added to this is “the feast of Nawruz”, the traditional celebration that marks the new year for Shiite and Kurdish communities. Born within the pre-Islamic era sacred to the Zoroastrians, it is now observed by many Sufi and Baha’i.

The attackers, said the source, want to strike at key events and “we expect more attacks in the coming hours and days to come.” Violence in Iraq “is not finished.” (DS)

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

South Asia

Indonesian Ulema: Lady Gaga is “Haram,” Forbidden, No to Concert. Fans in Revolt

Radwan Khalil, a member of the MUI said that the singer is a “threat” to morality and the concert is “haram”. She is “too sexy” and could lead to carnal desires. Thousands of fans against the words of Muslim leader. Ironic comment by a leader of the liberal movement: it is “forbidden” to attend without a ticket.

Jakarta (AsiaNews) — “Pop” music lovers in Indonesia are at war, following the statement issued today by the Ulema Council (MUI), which has branded the Lady Gaga concert, scheduled in the coming months as “haram” — forbidden — and morally “threatening”. The Islamic organization plays a role of “observer” of manners and morals in the archipelago and several times in the past, has intervened in the debate with public stances that have sparked heated debate. Among others, in March 2011 they railed against the flag-raising “because Muhammad never did so”, before they had launched anathemas against the popular social network Facebook deemed “amoral” against yoga, smoking and the right to vote, especially for women.

Khalil Radwan, executive member of the MUI said that “no Indonesian Muslims” should attend the concert of the U.S. pop-star, in June in Jakarta, because her gestures and clothing exhibited on the stage are contrary to morality and reprehensible. “My opinion — adds the leader of the Ulema — is based solely on religious tradition. [She] is too sexy on stage, this could induce a carnal desire among people of different sexes.” Consequently, Khalil Ridwan continues, we would see a “moral drift of the nation and its people.”

The strict clampdown has provoked the reaction of thousands of Indonesian music lovers, who have not hidden their anger and outrage at the words of the Islamic leader. “Music is music,” they say in a loud voice, “it has nothing to do with the desires of the flesh.” Some used irony, like Ulil Abshar Abdalla, a leader of the Islamic Liberal Network movement, declaring: “as far as I know, it is ‘haram’ to see the show without a ticket.”

The U.S. performance artist Lady Gaga — whose real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta — has sold millions of albums around the world and is scheduled to appear at Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in central Jakarta on June 3. All 44 thousand tickets have already been sold and the concert is already declared “sold out”. The date in Indonesia is part of a larger tour in Southeast Asia for the next few months. The singer’s entourage are aware that, for the exhibition, she will wear a dress “suited” to the host country.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Italian Marines to Stay in Indian Prison for Two More Weeks

Separate hearing to decide on jurisdiction

(ANSA) — Rome, March 19 — Two Italian anti-piracy marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen will stay in prison in southern India for two more weeks, a magistrate ruled on Monday.

Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, who have been at the centre of a diplomatic row between the countries since being detained last month, were sent back to a jail in the city of Thiruvananthapuram.

A separate hearing on Monday, meanwhile, is considering Italy’s claim that it should have jurisdiction for the case, not India, as the officers were guarding an Italian merchant vessel in international waters.

The Italian government also believes that, regardless of who has jurisdiction, the marines should be exempt from prosecution in India as they were military personnel working on an anti-piracy mission.

Italy has said the marines fired warning shots from the merchant ship they were guarding, the Enrica Lexie, after coming under attack from pirates.

It said they followed the proper international procedures for dealing with pirate attacks, which are frequent in the Indian Ocean.

The Indian authorities, on the other hand, said the marines failed to show sufficient “restraint” by opening fire after mistaking the fishermen for pirates.

           — Hat tip: Insubria [Return to headlines]

Pakistan: Lawmakers Debate Terms of US Ties

Islamabad, 20 March (AKI/Dawn) — Pakistani lawmakers have opened a debate on the terms of the nation’s re-engagement with the United States after ties were all but severed following deadly American air-strikes on Pakistani troops in November.

“Pakistan wants to pursue good relations with every country, Pakistan also wants to pursue its own national interest,” foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar told reporters after the session.

The session on Tuesday, being attended by both the upper and lower houses and chaired by the recently appointed Senate Chairman Nayyar Bokhari, could help determine whether the country’s reopens US and Nato supply lines to Afghanistan.

The parliament was also briefed on the details of Pakistan’s sensitive defence pacts in an in-camera session.

The parliamentary commission has also demanded an end to American drone strikes inside the country and is seeking an unconditional apology for the Nato attack that killed 24 soldiers in Pakistan.

Raza Rabbani, chairman of a parliamentary committee on national security, outlined its recommendations in that those responsible for the attack should be brought to justice and the recommendations also said that any use of Pakistani bases or airspace by foreign forces would require parliament’s approval.

“The US must review its footprints in Pakistan,” he said. “This means the cessation of drone strikes inside Pakistan.”

The Ministry of Defense and US/Nato/Isaf were also told to draft new flying routes for areas close to the border.

The panel recommended that “Pakistan should seek an unconditional apology from the US for the unprovoked incident” and said “taxes and other charges must be levied on all goods importing in or transiting through Pakistan”.

Rabbani said that if and when supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan are resumed, the shipments must be taxed. He insisted that parliament should approve any future use of Pakistani bases or air space by foreign forces.

The commission said that the re-opening of the US/Nato supply route must be based on a thorough revision of the terms of conditions of the agreement, which shall be subject to strict monitoring within Pakistan on anti-entry, transit and exit points.

It was also suggested that no verbal agreement regarding national security shall be entered into by the government or any other ministry or department.

The commission said that no overt or covert operation inside Pakistan shall be tolerated. It also suggested that there should be prior permission and transparency on the number and presence of foreign intelligence operatives in Pakistan.

The commission recommended to the government that Pakistan should actively pursue the gas pipeline project with Iran.

It was also recommended that 50 per cent of US/Nato/Isaf containers may be handled through Pakistan Railways.

The session was adjourned until Monday on Opposition Leader Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan’s request to give lawmakers time to study the recommendations.

Nisar criticised the government for keeping the report “secret” and failing to give party leaders time to discuss it before tabling it in parliament.

The parliament, which will now meet on Monday, will debate for several days and then vote on whether to accept the report.

Gen. James Mattis, commander of US Central Command, said earlier this month he expected to visit Pakistan in mid-to-late March to talk with leaders about reopening the supply routes. His would be the first trip by a US military official since the airstrikes, and will be taken as a high-level sign that Pakistan’s army leadership wants to re-engage.

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

Latin America

International Pressure on Bolivarian Countries: A Hopeful Sign

By Luis Fleischman

After a decade of silence and an apologetic attitude towards the countries of the Bolivarian alliance (ALBA), the international community finally protested attacks against freedom of the press in Ecuador, forcing the Ecuadorian president to back off.

For years the Organization of American States and countries of the region have been enablers and thus passive accomplices of the anti-democratic wave that has penetrated Latin America. Under the pretext of helping the poor and the disenfranchised, Bolivarian regimes led by Venezuela and including Nicaragua, Cuba, Ecuador and Bolivia have violated civil, political and human rights, freedom of the press and judicial autonomy…

[Return to headlines]


France Makes it Harder to Become French

France will be making it harder for foreigners to seek French citizenship as of January. Critics say the new requirements, which include tough language tests and allegiance to “French values”, are an electoral ploy that panders to the far right.

Foreigners seeking French nationality face tougher requirements as of January 1, when new rules drawn up by Interior Minister Claude Guéant come into force.

Candidates will be tested on French culture and history, and will have to prove their French language skills are equivalent to those of a 15-year-old mother tongue speaker. They will also be required to sign a new charter establishing their rights and responsibilities.

“Becoming French is not a mere administrative step. It is a decision that requires a lot of thought”, reads the charter, drafted by France’s High Council for Integration (HCI). In a more obscure passage, the charter suggests that by taking on French citizenship, “applicants will no longer be able to claim allegiance to another country while on French soil”, although dual nationality will still be allowed.

Guéant, a member of President Nicolas Sarkozy’s ruling UMP party, described the process as “a solemn occasion between the host nation and the applicant”, adding that migrants should be integrated through language and “an adherence to the principals, values and symbols of our democracy”. He stressed the importance of the secular state and equality between women and men: rhetoric perceived largely as a snipe at Muslim applicants, who make up the majority of the 100,000 new French citizens admitted each year.

France’s interior minister has made it clear that immigrants who refuse to “assimilate” into French society should be denied French citizenship…

           — Hat tip: C. Cantoni [Return to headlines]

UK: Editor Courts Controversy With Book About Islamic Immigration

Danny Lockwood, an editor and publisher, has courted controversy by writing a book with a provocative title, The Islamic Republic of Dewsbury.

It is a blunt assault on multi-culturalism seen through the prism of his experience of immigration in the town of Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. The book’s paperbook version sold out in six weeks, according to a HoldTheFrontPage report, but it is available for download on Kindle. Lockwood refers to his book as a “hard-hitting chronicle of the massive social changes in the district” and what he describes as “20 years of failed multi-culturalism.” He launched an independent weekly title, The Press in Dewsbury, in March 2002 in competition to the Dewsbury Reporter and Batley News, which he used to edit. Many of the book’s topics were aired when Lockwood was sued for libel by Dewsbury’s former MP and Labour minister, Shahid Malik. A two-week trial ended in a hung jury and Malik then dropped the action after reaching an out-of-court settlement with Lockwood and a Tory councillor. Lockwood said: “We haven’t heard a negative word from a single person who has looked beyond the title and actually read the book. No fatwas, no boycotts of the business.” On the Amazon site, there are currently eight reviews, all of them warmly praising Lockwood’s book. Lockwood says he still has copies of the book available from his own publishing offices in Dewsbury.

Sources: HoldTheFrontPage/Amazon reviews/Yorkshire Evening Post

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: Home-Grown Freedoms Are the Strongest

Charles Moore reviews ‘Can We Talk About This?’ at the Lyttelton.

This performance (it is not a play) is well titled. The words were, allegedly, uttered by Theo Van Gogh, the director of the controversial anti-Muslim film Submission just before an Islamist assassin stabbed him to death in the street in Amsterdam in 2004. The answer, from the murderer’s point of view was, obviously, ‘No’. By his deed, he was rejecting the central Western idea that questions of belief and ideas are to be settled by discussion, not by the sword. But the title has a further meaning as well. It asks a question of the audience. Can we — vaguely liberal, largely secular Western society — talk about the danger to that society posed by multiculturalism, and particularly by more militant versions of Islam? The purpose of this show is to get that talk going. Judging by the conversation buzzing at the end of the evening, it succeeds.

The means chosen is not, as I say, conventionally theatrical. DV8, the company which puts on the performance, is known for “physical theatre”. Normally, its shows are wordless. In this case, there are plenty of words, but none of them is contributed by a playwright. All are taken from interviews conducted by DV8 with more than 40 players in the relevant debates — people such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the brave ex-Muslim atheist who starred in Submission, Ann Cryer, the former Labour MP who campaigned against forced marriage, the ghastly, plagiaristic columnist Johann Hari, the late Christopher Hitchens etc. The interviews are then spliced together and delivered by the members of the DV8 company. As they speak, they constantly perform the physical theatre for which they are trained, wiggling their heads about and twisting their limbs. It sounds pretentious, but actually it improves what would otherwise be an extremely static hour and 20 minutes.

Almost the first words are, like the title, a question: “Do you think you are morally superior to the Taliban?” Members of the audience are asked to put up their hands if they do. On my night, only about 20 per cent did so, and I think this was supposed to prove how weak and weedy is our relativism beside the implacability of extremists. In fact, I did not put up my hand, and I suspect others felt the same, on the grounds that it is unwise to judge one’s personal moral superiority. If the question had been rephrased to ‘Do you think British culture is morally superior to that of the Taliban?’ the result would have been very different. In any event, it is clear where the sympathies of the director, Lloyd Newsom, lie. He is on the Left, and he is attacking those of his comrades — they have dominated public policy for 30 or 40 years — who believe in group rights, rather than common rights. He is opposing the doctrine of multiculturalism which says that the ethnicity and religion of minorities are so important that they should excuse their adherents — Pakistani or Bangladeshi Muslims, for example — from the rules of tolerance that apply to the rest of us. He favours a racially plural culture, but not a ghettoised one.

One of these 40 interviewed was Ray Honeyford, who died earlier this year. Mr Honeyford provided an early test case of multicultural doctrines. He was the headmaster of a state school in Bradford in the 1980s, and he wrote articles complaining about how Muslim parents could demand privileges not available to other parents, such as the right to take their children off to the Indian subcontinent during term-time. He thought it was wrong that they could be exempted from the British culture of which they were, by citizenship, a part. For his outspokenness, he was called a racist, and forced out of his job. It was the start of something very big, which got bigger with the threats to Salman Rushdie. It is with us still.

Seen from a non-Left point of view, some of the evening is common sense for slow learners. Few conservatives ever thought that multiculturalism was a good idea, so we derive a melancholy, slightly lofty satisfaction from seeing others catching up with us. I have heard these issues aired so often before that at one point, I must admit, I drifted off. I woke up with a start when I heard my own name being mentioned on stage. One of the wiggling, twisting actors mentioned a column I wrote in this newspaper eight years ago in which, he said, I “claimed that the Prophet Mohammed was a paedophile”. I didn’t, in fact, should anyone out there be thinking of murdering me. My point was that we should all be free to say that he was.

Despite being misrepresented, I was, of course, pleased to be made a small player in this history. Is the essential message of the evening right? In one sense, yes. We are a free society only if we keep it free. To do so, we must maintain a common political culture from which no group, because of some real or imagined grievance, is excused. I was impressed by how strongly the audience seemed to feel this, clapping almost defiantly at the expression of a truth too long suppressed. A few years back, Left-wing theatres like the National would not have dared put on this sort of show. It is good that it now does so. In another sense, though, I was less convinced. People like the director seem to put their faith in the application of universal principles of human rights. In reality, these principles, especially when imposed by the European Court of Human Rights, make things worse. They create their own intolerance. Our strongest freedoms are home-grown.

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]

UK: Note to Ken — Multiculturalism is So 80s

by Ed West

Is Ken Livingstone the most repulsive man in Britain? I’m not talking physically repulsive, of course, although his recent Putin impression is hardly likely to set a new dynamic of the male sexual ideal, a la Nick Kamen’s appearance in boxer shorts in the 1985 Levi’s advert. Nor his hysterical witticisms, chronicled here (although his comment for June 26 last year was hard to fault). I mean that he is someone who actually has a malign and divisive influence on society. His latest stunt is telling the people of Finsbury Park mosque that when he retakes power he’s going to “educate the mass of Londoners” in Islam, saying: “That will help to cement our city as a beacon that demonstrates the meaning of the words of the Prophet.” As this paper reports:

Mr Livingstone described Mohammed’s words in his last sermon as “an agenda for all humanity.” He praised the Prophet’s last sermon, telling his audience: “I want to spend the next four years making sure that every non-Muslim in London knows and understands [its] words and message.” He also promised to “make your life a bit easier financially.”

I’m not sure what he meant by the last one. Ken made life easier financially for quite a few people during his eight years in power, but money is not really the issue.

Rather it is Ken’s long-time shenanigans in playing divisive ethnic politics than makes him such a repulsive figure. After the July 7 bombings London was covered in those “Diversity is strength”-style posters that troubled cities such as Leicester and Luton are fond of displaying in unwitting parodies of George Orwell’s nightmare future. And yet “one London” is precisely the opposite of what Ken’s politics have achieved.

It’s worth recalling that Livingstone pioneered multiculturalism, that long-discredited and divisive policy (see Charles Moore today), following the 1981 Brixton riots. In London multiculturalism focused on supporting the black community, which involved giving out public largesse to self-declared “community leaders” to combat racism. In places like Bradford and Birmingham, where community leaders saw multiculturalism not as a way of fighting inequality but of resisting assimilation, it was much more damaging; a new book about the policy in Dewsbury is proving a great hit.

Since then the dynamic in London has changed, and Muslim immigrants have become the new working class for the unthinking Left, for whom anti-racist doctrine trumps any concerns about misogyny, homophobia or anti-Semitism, let alone the views of the native working class. It’s true that Islam has become something of a scapegoat for all the problems associated with immigration, if only because by citing it one can express anti-immigration sentiments using liberal arguments, when in fact “diversity” is a problem in itself.

But this hostility is, in my opinion, magnified by the way that politicians have jumped on the Islamophobia bandwagon and tried to de-legitimise genuine concerns about both cultural practices and immigration levels. Perhaps Ken’s fondness for Islam is genuine and he does see it as the job of the London Mayor to educate people about the faith, rather than, say, fix its myriad problems, but such words can only be divisive in a large, diverse city where people rub along best when differences are minimalised.

Standing in a very anti-Tory city during a time when the Government is highly unpopular, Ken is probably going to lose, and the reason is that he has a serious white problem. He is very unpopular with many suburban voters for his associations with Irish Republicans, black “anti-racists” (many who express openly racist views) and now ultra-conservative Islamic clerics. That is why the 2008 elections were so racially divided, as this report stated:

Correlations between London Assembly voting patterns and ethnic groups show that the link strengthened between the Labour Party vote and areas high in percentages of both Pakistani and Bangladeshi groups.Another significant change recorded here was between the votes for the Conservative party and areas with a high percentage of the population that was White British. The strong positive correlation between the data increased in strength from 0.44 in 2004 to 0.56 in 2008.

Comments like those made in Finsbury Park are hardly going to reverse this trend. In all honestly I can’t say I would have voted for Oona King, whom Ken defeated to be Labour candidate, but I know that many would, and Livingstone’s election was good news for the Tory party. But I still lament that Labour has chosen this highly divisive figure to represent London; for the good of all Londoners, Muslims especially, let’s hope that this is his swansong. Doesn’t he realise that multiculturalism is so 1980s?

           — Hat tip: JP [Return to headlines]