Sunday, August 21, 2005

Through Their Teeth 

Anyone wanting to know how the Blair government works should read the transcript of a recent High Court case taken up by shareholders of the now defunct Railtrack against the former Transport Secretary for misfeasance while in public office. In one exchange with counsel for the shareholders, Keith Rowley QC, the former Transport Secretary Stephen Byers was asked if what he'd told a House of Commons Transport Committee about Railtrack was "deliberately not an accurate statement".

The former high flying Byers replied: "It was such a long time ago, I cannot remember, but it is not a truthful statement and I apologise for that."

He added, "I cannot remember the motives behind it."

It was such a long time ago when that happened. The false statement was in fact made on November 14, 2001.

Faced with internal emails and memos from his then Ministry, the former minister had little choice but to admit that he had been economical with the truth.

Also a long time ago was the build-up to the invasion of Iraq when, some of you will recall, Blair's government used fake cries about Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) and plagiarized pages from a dog-eared Ph.D thesis to state their case about the feasibility of bombing and occupying Iraq. Perhaps it should also be mentioned here to put some perspective in the matter, that during the first Gulf War (when Shi'ah revelers in Basra — delighted at being liberated — were left to be sitting ducks to Saddam Hussein's helicopter gunships), a witness statement was made in the US of the Saddam regime soldiers doing just a little short of eating babies. And as it turned out, the 'witness' hauled before US television cameras was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the Court of the elder Bush.

As I've said before, there's a certain malleability about truth uttered by people in politics nowadays that it is becoming more difficult to accept that 'truth' is essentially what is, er, true, but is more likely to be what the utterer feels he can get away with.

Take some recent events in Britain. The Police chief in London came out with an immediate statement after the shooting of the unfortunate John Charles de Menezes that he had no doubt that it was related to the terrorist attacks in London. How the voracious appetite of the press was fed — thick jacket, jumping over the ticket barrier, and so on and so forth. How much of that is true now? And this was the same Police Commissioner who is now resisting all attempts for an independent investigation into the circumstances that led to Menezes's death.

There should, in fact, be an independent investigation into the horrible tragedy of 7-7 in London and what happened after that — the Muslim community certainly would like to have one of that — but do you think there's a chance of one being held?

Sixteen years ago, in February 1989, Belfast human rights lawyer Pat Finucane was shot dead in his home in Belfast in Northern Ireland. There's prima facie evidence of police and military intelligence agent collusion with paramilitary Loyalists in the killing. An investigation by former commissioner for the Metropolitan police Sir John Stevens in fact found that there had been collusion, concealment of records, absence of accountability and "the extreme of agents being involved in murder."

This was Northern Ireland in the 1990s when factional fighting found expression in bombs, murder and mayhem, and where the intelligence services learnt to concoct their spin. This was at a time when it was fashionable for some section of Americans to provide funding for Irish Catholic terrorists who didn't have any qualms about bombing the British mainland.

Under pressure from the Irish Republic, Blair appointed a Canadian judge, Peter Cory to look into the case of Pat Finucane and not surprisingly, the judge recommended a public inquiry. Blair's response to this was to push through the Inquiries Act in Parliament on 7th April which gave the executive power to block public scrutiny of state actions.

Commenting on the Act, Amnesty International said:
"[It] undermines the rule of law, the separation of powers and human rights protection. It cannot be the foundation for an effective, independent, impartial or thorough judicial inquiry in serious allegations of human rights violations. Nor would it provide for public scrutiny of all the relevant evidence."
Blair is trying to put judges under this constraint of state security too in matters that may affect the human rights of the accused in terrorism cases. In other words, being accused of terrorism is justification enough for a person to have his rights curbed.

It's one thing to be having terrorists on your land, as Cherie Blair seemed to be saying in her human rights lecture in Kuala Lumpur recently, but it's another to be jumping headlong into the cesspit with them.


Through Their Teeth

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Gone To The Head 

It is with amazing rapidity that the mood has changed about the terrorist attacks in London. An alim for all seasons, Dr 'Sir' Zaki Badawi has come out with a useful fatwa, that Muslim women can de-hijab if they feel insecure, and as Dr Badawi is very much the darling of the establishment and the media (never mind that minor hiccup at the US immigration) the Daily Mail, among other papers have followed suit with sarcely veiled shock horror reports that some Muslim women have resisted this call to drop the hijab. Some have even formed a club in defence of the hijab, shock horror flaming cheek!

Many strange things have come out of the woodwork, take Amir Taheri for instance, who comments in the Times, who said that Muslims should avoid the colour black or white (one's the colour of the al-Q and the other the Taliban), but green is alright folks, it's the colour of the House of the Prophet. And as for the beard, well, the Prophet, he said, had no more than a Van Dyke.

Strange noises coming out of the chaos. In one fell swoop Muslims are all guilty for being themselves.

I for one am not too concerned if Muslim women are hejabed or not, it is their choice based on their perception of Islam. And the argument for the hejab (at least a headscarf) is pretty strong. If a Muslim woman chooses not to be hejabed, it's her choce, but if she chooses to be, who can deny her that right? After all, that's the right to choose that they're all shouting about. But in France they've legislated to take this right away, and in Britain the argument has been turned on its head with some fashionable Muslims coming in to contribute the worth of their rational heads. I would have said these are self-hating Muslims had the Jews not already had the copyright on that.

Is the issue here terrorist bombings or the headgear of Muslim women? Is there a causal connection with hejabed women and the explosions on the bus and on those trains? Why has attention now turned to the hejab? Oh, it's because they have been attacked by racists and bigots. But do you hear of Jews being asked to abandon their yarmulke in the face of racial attacks? Of course not, because it's absurd. Because that's missing the plot.

The terrorist attacks in London have alarmed both Muslims and non-Muslims; non-Muslims have suffered just as Muslims too have died in the attacks. Instead of pandering to the opprtunistic attacks on any one community, it is time to look squarely at the incidents in the face and examine the real issues, answer the glaring questions and settle the anomalies that are still extant. Was the bomb in Edgware Road in or under the train? Who were the four men who posed before the cctv camera before going out with their rucksacks? Was there a security exercise taking place at the very stations and at the same time as the actual attacks on the trains? What actually happened to the poor Brazillian man who was shot dead on the train not once, but more than five times? Where did the announcement of responsibility from an unherad of group on the internet come from? Who is this Eritrean/Somali named Isaac?

And as for the 'cleric' Omar Bakri Mohammad, the man who 'slipped' out of the country just in time, good-riddance and I hope, wherever he is now, the banks will still clear his social security cheques.

It is time now for all of us to have a clear head. Go HERE for a start, and read this very important fatwa by my friend the eminent Shaf'ii jurist, Shaykh Muhammad Afifi al-Akiti.


Gone To The Head

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