Monday, July 09, 2007

British Islam: We are up against 20 years of preparation

In July 1989 I had an experience that scared and alienated me, but also made me realise who I was and, more importantly, who I was not - and would never be. I was 18 and in my first year at Brighton University, where I was studying for a BA in Humanities. I was meeting new people - people of different religions, cultures, ages, sexual orientation, experiences and interests. I was growing up, realising for the first time that there was a world other than the one my parents talked about constantly - the world of Long Eaton (where I lived) and Pakistan. I was discovering that I had a lot more in common with British non-Muslims than I had hitherto realised.

That summer two relatives of my mum's - girls of my own age - came to stay with us, as they had done often in the past. Like me, they were in their first year at university, but they had changed completely. To my horror, the girls I'd known so well - who were fun, happy, easy-going - arrived at our house wearing hijabs. I'd never seen them dressed like that before, and it was totally alien to me - and to my family and to mainstream Pakistani culture. The two girls I'd know for years, who used to talk about boys, clothes, fashion, music and films, were now wearing Middle Eastern outfits and claiming that this was their new religious identity and it was the true way to dress for any woman claiming to be Muslim.

They told me that they had joined an Islamic group at their university and that there would be daily lectures about Islam. They said that most of these lecturers were from the Middle East. Their key message was that they had to create an Islamic State, which meant that Muslims from all over the world had to unite. These people believed - and believe - that there is no Islamic state and therefore one must be created where all Muslims can live according to the true laws of Islam.

One of girls told me that the ways her parents had brought her up as a Muslim was not the true way and that her parents were misguided and she was trying to educate them through what she had learnt from her Islamic group at university. `People like you, Saira, are not Muslims because you are confused with religion and culture,' she said. `There is no culture, there is only religion, and until you accept that you cannot call yourself a Muslim.' She went on to state, `We are not British, we are Muslim.'

My two former companions were extremely well-rehearsed in presenting their arguments. To support a certain line of debate they would recite chapter and verse from the Koran. It's impossible to argue with someone whose get-out clause is always, `It is written in the Koran. We can't argue with God's Word.' The sad thing was that these girls had worked so hard to get to university to study medicine and enable themselves to get a great job. Their mother was just as shocked as I was at their transformation, and at the way they spoke and despised Britain so much. As she put it, `I sent them to university to study and become doctors and they've come back telling me that I'm not a proper Muslim and that I need to wear a hijab.' Back then, however, nobody really seemed to take much notice of this very obvious transformation and change in attitude in these two young women.

My point here is not to say that women who wear the hijab are extremists - far less that they will at some stage be involved in some terrorist activity - but to suggest that this is how, in many cases, extremism starts.

It dawned on me after the 7/7 bombings that the seeds of extremism were sown all over Great Britain well before 1989 and that indeed it had been allowed to flourish undeterred in this country for more than 20 years. We in Britain are not fighting a new phenomenon that raised it ugly head in 2005; we are fighting more than 20 years of planning and preparation by those who want Britain to be an Islamic state.

Of course, most British Muslims won't become violent extremists, but most will endanger society - albeit unwittingly - by supporting and condoning the actions of extremists. Very few will admit this in public, but many will say behind closed doors that they are sympathetic to the bombers' cause and that they can understand why they are doing it. These things are said in front of young children and justified by various conspiracy theories which nearly always involve Jews, America and the CIA.

But it is not all doom and gloom. In last weekend's Observer Hassan Butt, once a member of the radical group Al-Muhajiroun, wrote a very open and honest account of his experience. He said: `I believe that the issue of terrorism can be easily demystified if Muslims and non-Muslims start openly to discuss the ideas that fuel terrorism. (The Muslim community in Britain must slap itself awake from this state of denial and realise that there is no shame in admitting the extremism within our families, communities and worldwide co-religionists.)'

It is people like Hassan Butt that the government must engage with and give priority to, because they can make a difference; it is they who should be heard over the Muslim Council of Britain and many of the Muslim MPs who think they know the community and who in my opinion are too scared to tell the whole truth in case they lose Muslim votes.

There are too few moderate voices among the Muslim community. As a result, the extremists have their say, and are not opposed. This gives the non-Muslim population the impression that all Muslims are either extremists or agree with radical Islamic principles.

The war against terror cannot be won without moderate Muslims coming out and standing up for British values - the values of integration and living peacefully in a secular society. We should not be scared to shout this out, loud and proud: we should not be intimidated by a few hotheads into thinking we are any less Muslim if we say we are British and don't want to go around blowing up innocent people in the name of Allah. British Muslims have to realise that there is no `but' after a sentence like, `I wholeheartedly disagree with the terrorist actions and the killings of innocent civilians.'


Flagging Britain

Post lifted from Prof. Brignell. See the original for links. Prof. Brignell is referring to the fact that new British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has ordered that the Union Jack will fly above his official residence: No. 10 Downing St. in London

Britain's new Prime Minister is wrapping himself in a piece of coloured cloth in order to cover up a couple of rather ugly embarrassments. The cloth in question is the union flag, which was once pronounced anathema in the heady early days of the New Labour project. As in almost everything else New Labour purported to stand for, the movement has completed an about turn.

Embarrassment number one is the festering sore in the flank of the union arising from the insouciant Mr Blair's quick fix in creating the Scottish Parliament, completely ignoring the infamous West Lothian Question that had so exercised finer minds. Now that we have a Scottish Prime Minister, absurdities pile upon absurdities. The PM's own constituents (in common with those of another party leader in the adjoining Fife constituency) have privileges that are forbidden to the English, such as free drugs for cancer and dementia, free university education and guaranteed small school class sizes. Furthermore, these privileges are funded out of a massive subsidy to Scots, paid out of English taxes according to the historical Barnett Formula (which, incidentally is now repudiated by its eponymous author). Even worse, Scottish MPs, like the PM, are entitled to vote on matters that only affect the English, such as those proscriptions, whereas the reciprocal relationship does not apply.

Embarrassment number two is that the Prime Minister has declared his intention of reneging on the manifesto promise for a referendum on the question of a new European Constitution. Blair, as his final act of treachery, signed up to a new drastic transfer of powers. All over Europe it is acknowledged that the new treaty is the old constitution in almost all except name. Only in Britain is the fiction maintained that it is not a constitution. That bit of coloured cloth, which is now to fly above all official buildings, is about to become virtually meaningless. In reality it should be replaced by the flag of the other union, and perhaps soon will be. Comparisons with that other great democratic union in North America are spurious. The EU is an undemocratic oligarchy, corrupt and riddled with fraud. Would you invest in a business that has never had its accounts passed by its auditors? If only Britain had an opposition!

London hospital does not give a damn about infection control

Back to the 18th century

A hospital that is failing to tackle superbug infections has been served with an official warning in the first case of its kind, the health watchdog will announce today. Inspectors from the Healthcare Commission have found Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield, North London, to be in "serious breach" of the Hygiene Code, the latest government rules to manage healthcare-associated infections such as MRSA and C. difficile. Even basic requirements, such as providing hand-washing gels at a patient's bedside, were not in place, the watchdog said.

Barnet and Chase Farm Hospitals NHS Trust, which manages the hospital, has now been served with an improvement notice, ordering immediate changes to infection control practices. Despite reporting more than 600 superbug infections in a six-month period last year, there was "no evidence" that the trust learnt from its mistakes, the commission said. Among "fundamental problems" highlighted during a spot-check were failures to keep wards clean, to properly assess the risks of superbug infection and to isolate infected patients so that they could not spread illness.

The commission was given powers to issue improvement notices last year. This is its first. The Barnet and Chase Farm Trust, which had told the commission that it was meeting the three core standards relating to the Hygiene Code, was found during an unannounced visit on June 7 to be in breach of several key duties set out in the code. The trust was rated as "weak" in quality of services and use of resources in the 2005-06 annual health check by the Healthcare Commission. Its provision of potentially misleading information to the commission could affect its rating in this year's assessments of NHS Trusts.

According to latest figures from the Health Protection Agency, there were 584 cases of C. difficile in patients aged over 65 at the trust from January to September last year. From April to September 2006 there were 29 reported cases of MRSA. Updated figures are expected to be published by the end of the month. The problems, described as "wide--ranging and serious", included:

- A failure to provide and maintain a clean and appropriate environment for healthcare.

- A failure to provide adequate isolation facilities for patients already suffering from infections.

- A lack of appropriate management systems for infection prevention and control.

- A failure to assess risks of acquiring healthcare-associated infection and to take action to reduce or control them.

In addition, only one microbiologist, working four hours a week, was employed to monitor infections at the trust, which serves a catchment of 500,000 people. There was also no identified budget for training of staff in infection-control and attendance at such training was not monitored. Clinical staff were found to be "confused" about isolation policies, "indicating that they are not always adhered to".

The commission said in a statement: "Because the trust does not conduct analysis to determine the cause of infection on all patients confirmed to have MRSA, it is difficult for the trust to monitor and learn from outbreaks and incidents." It has now been given deadlines to address issues raised by the commission, with the local strategic health authority overseeing the work. Anna Walker, chief executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: "I hope this sends out a strong message to all trusts that we will not hesitate to use our powers when it comes to enforcing the Hygiene Code."

Richard Harrison, medical director at Barnet and Chase Farm Trust, said: "Our issues around infection control follow the national picture, but with an extra 500,000 pounds investment in cleaning the wards, screening patients before admission and our prudent antibiotic policy, the trust is winning the battle against hospital-acquired infections. The trust reported 74 new case of C. difficile in April and only 16 cases in June."


British pupils to be taught about the Olympic games - instead of geography

The dumbing down never stops. Propaganda is more and more being substituted for knowledge. Knowledge might enable kids to think for themselves -- and the Left can't afford that! Kids must be TOLD what to think

Traditional geography teaching is to be sidelined in favour of studying global warming, Third-World trade and the 2012 Olympics. A major shake-up of the secondary school curriculum aims to make subjects "more relevant" by introducing "modern day issues". Lessons in capital cities, rivers and continental drift will make way for "themed" teaching on issues such as the causes of climate change, the impact of buying clothes on poorer nations and the effects of the South-East Asian tsunami.

Other key subjects such as history and science will also be affected by the changes, which mark the biggest upheaval in secondary education since the national curriculum was introduced in 1988. The measures, which come into force in September next year, will be unveiled by Schools Secretary Ed Balls next week. Ministers hope they will encourage more pupils to stay on at school after the age of 16. But many teachers remain unconvinced.

A convention of history, English and science teachers on Thursday issued a plea for traditional subject disciplines to be protected. The new curriculum will be followed by 11 to 14-year-olds. Other new subjects include "emerging" languages such as Mandarin ["Emerging"? It's thousands of years old!] and Urdu, as well as personal finance and practical cookery. In cookery, pupils will be taught how to analyse a diet to ensure balance and variety, how to keep food safe at home and prepare contemporary healthy recipes.

The previous Education Secretary Alan Johnson insisted certain "untouchables" would remain in the curriculum, including the two World Wars. But swathes of other material will be relegated to optional status. Mr Balls will announce that "sustainable development" [Greenie propaganda] will become a compulsory part of the geography curriculum. Pupils will learn to understand relationships between people and the environment by studying the impact of the tsunami.

They will also conduct fieldwork projects such as "the regeneration of East London as part of the 2012 Olympics". And they will explore globalisation by looking at the impact of their choices as consumers, including buying clothes and trainers. Schools minister Lord Adonis said: "We want geography to excite pupils so that they continue studying the subject when they leave school."


Nursery rhymes no longer taught in many British families

There was a time when every child could tell you who cut off the tails of three blind mice, why a sneeze might signify death from the plague and which sadistic child pushed the poor pussycat down a well. But now the traditional nursery rhyme, in all its gruesome, bloody detail, is in danger of dropping out of modern culture. A survey suggests that 40 per cent of parents with young children cannot recite a single popular rhyme all the way through.

It is not that parents have stopped singing to their children entirely. Three quarters of parents surveyed agreed that singing to young children was a good way to help them to learn to read. But rather than sing nursery rhymes whose origins and meanings are lost to them, 44 per cent of parents said that they were singing pop songs and television theme tunes instead. These, they said, had much more relevance in their daily lives.

Ian Davidson, of the pollster MyVoice, which questioned 1,200 parents for the survey, said that the nursery rhyme was falling victim to market forces. "It all seems to be to do with choice and relevance. Twenty years ago there were 100 different breakfast cereals to choose from, now there are 300. The old brands such as Kellogg's Cornflakes remain, but there will also be many other options. "It's the same with nursery rhymes. They will never die out among a core of people, but they are facing more competition in popular culture and they no longer have a clear field any more," he added.

But Janine Spencer, a developmental psychologist at Brunel University, lamented the decline of the nursery rhyme, which she said was of enormous educational value. "Not only are nursery rhymes an important historical part of our culture, but by singing them to young children you can help speed up the development of their communication, memory, language and reading skills. "Singing nursery rhymes is also an entertaining and fun way to interact with your baby or toddler, and is crucial for recognising and learning phonic sounds," Dr Spencer said.

The survey, commissioned by the children's television channel Car-toonito, found the knowledge of nursery rhymes increased with age. Survey participants were given the first line of 15 common nursery rhymes and asked to complete it. Four out of ten (40 per cent) younger parents (aged 30 years and under) could not recall a single nursery rhyme in full, whereas only 27 per cent of those aged between 55 and 64 and 13 per cent of those aged 65 or more are unable to recall one in full. Overall, 27 per cent of adults were unable to complete a single rhyme. Of the rhymes people did know, the most popular were Jack and Jill (19 per cent), Humpty Dumpty (17 per cent) and Ring a Ring o'Roses (12 per cent). But 71 per cent of parents had no clear idea of their origins or possible historical meaning.

The survey follows the introduction by the Government of a new phonics teaching programme in English primary schools called Letters and Sounds, which emphasises the importance of preparing preschool children for phonics through songs and nursery rhymes.


Jack and Jill has several possible origins. It may mark King Charles l's unsuccessful attempts to reform the taxes on liquid measures, Jack being half a pint and Jill being a quarter of a pint, or gill. Although the King's measures were blocked, he subsequently ordered the volume standard measures to be reduced, while the tax remained the same

Humpty Dumpty was originally posed as a riddle, as "humpty dumpty" was 18th-century slang for a short, clumsy person, who might well be the kind to fall off a wall Similar riddles have been recorded in other languages, such as Boule Boule in French, or Lille Trille in Swedish

Ring a Ring o'Roses was usually accompanied by a playground skipping game that ended with children falling down and is said have originated with the Great Plague in 1665. Some experts dispute this, pointing out that European and 19th-century versions suggest that this "fall" was not a literal falling down, but a curtsy


Britain: Those who can't, teach

Less than half of primary school teachers have two good A levels [High school qualification], while only 41 per cent of secondary teachers have a degree in the subject they teach, according to a report claiming that the profession is in crisis.

There has been a big increase in teacher numbers in recent years, after a shortage in the mid1990s. But the report from the think-tank Politeia says government policies focus too much on increasing numbers with too little regard for quality. It notes there there are two nonteaching members of staff for every three teachers. There are now 150,000 teaching assistants, while the number of unqualified teachers working in schools has increased significantly in the past decade.

Bob Moon, Professor of Education at the Open University and co-author of the report, said: "The assessment system allows even the weakest candidates through". The Training and Development Agency for Schools, the Government's teacher training agency, rejected many of the findings, insisting that standards had never been higher. [That doesn't say much]



One of Britain's biggest engineering companies has banned staff from travelling on bicycles or motorbikes after declaring them too dangerous. Jacobs Babtie advises local authorities on sustainable transport projects - including how to get more people to switch from four wheels to two. It has told staff at its 36 offices across Britain that they must drive or use public transport. They can use bicycles only if they are working away from roads, such as on canal towpaths.

In an e-mail to all employees, a copy of which has been obtained by The Times, the company's health and safety manager says: "It's patently obvious that if you are struck by a wayward vehicle when you are on a bicycle or motorbike you are going to be more severely affected than if you were in a car. The reason for this policy is to protect our employees from other vehicles on the road.

There will be a few limited exceptions when employees will be permitted to travel by bicycle, but that would be when that mode of transport is required to undertake the job, for example, carrying out surveys along river banks and tow paths."

The ban on cycling on company business has infuriated several staff, who have been cycling without any serious safety incidents for years. They believe the ban is partly the result of conditions in the company's insurance policy. The e-mail acknowledges that staff are unhappy about the ban and admits it "could be construed as being at odds with our environmental policy and the requirement to be environmentally responsible".

It also acknowledges the concerns among employees that the company will lose important contracts because the ban "will not please our environmentally friendly clients".

One of Jacobs' biggest customers is Transport for London, which has a target of achieving a fivefold increase in the level of cycling by 2025, and this weekend will host the opening races in the Tour de France. TfL paid Jacobs o6 million last year for various projects, including monitoring the impact of the congestion charge and measuring how many people have switched from driving to walking or cycling. On its website, Jacobs states: "In the area of cycling, we can offer expert resources at every stage from cycle policy and promotion through to the detailed design and implementation of cycle schemes."

Jenny Jones, the green transport adviser to Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said TfL should consider cancelling its contracts with Jacobs. She said: "It is hypocritical to offer advice on promoting cycling but at the same time ban your staff from using bikes. If Jacobs does not understand how important cycling is to TfL, we need to ask whether they are the right sort of company to work with."

A TfL spokesman said: "We find the attitude of Jacobs bizarre and we will be urging them to rethink this decision. TfL is committed to encouraging Londoners to get on their bikes whenever and wherever possible. Our serious investment in growing cycling has seen journeys by bike on soar by 83 per cent since 2000. The number of number of cyclists killed or seriously injured has fallen by 28 per cent since the mid to late 1990s." In Britain, 146 cyclists were killed last year compared with 203 in 1996.

Kevin Mayne, the director of the Cyclists Touring Club, said: "Banning cycling on health and safety grounds is ironic; forcing people off their bikes and into cars just reduces their fitness and increases the danger they pose to other road users. Jacobs' policy shows a complete lack of understanding of transport risk assessment. For TfL and local authorities to pay a company which bans cycling for advice on sustainable transport is like asking the lunatics to help run the asylum."

A US medical study found that people who cycled regularly beyond their mid30s lived on average two years longer. The British Medical Association has said that the health benefits of cycling far outweigh risks.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety said that Jacobs should give its employees training in how to be safer cyclists rather than banning them from cycling.



Ipsos Mori [British opinion pollsters] are about to publish some research they've done, "Tipping Point Or Turning Point? Social Marketing & Climate Change" Phil Downing, head of environmental research at the company, and one of the report's authors appeared on yesterday's Today program on BBC Radio 4 to discuss the findings:

"I think there are two key headlines that we've found. The first is that concern about climate change on the whole is rising. And we find that very few people, only a very small minority, actually reject out of hand the idea that it is actually changing the climate, that humans have at least some part to play in that."

So what's the problem?

"The more disturbing trend is there's still undecided or a large proportion who are ambivalent about the issue. And we see this filtering through to the number who say that they're not convinced that scientists can successfully model the climate. More frighteningly still that they believe the scientific debate is still raging, err, and the jury is still out."

But you don't need to be a global warming denialist, or even a sceptic to be part of the 56% of us who are unconvinced of science's current ability to successfully model the climate. Take for example, Kevin E. Trenberth's recent article on Nature's Climate Feedback blog:

"There is no estimate, even probabilistically, as to the likelihood of any emissions scenario and no best guess. ... Even if there were, the projections are based on model results that provide differences of the future climate relative to that today. None of the models used by IPCC are initialized to the observed state and none of the climate states in the models correspond even remotely to the current observed climate. In particular, the state of the oceans, sea ice, and soil moisture has no relationship to the observed state at any recent time in any of theIPCC models."

And Trenberth is no 'sceptic'. He maintains that global warming is happening, and humans are causing it. He concludes:

"... the science is not done because we do not have reliable or regional predictions of climate. But we need them. Indeed it is an imperative! So the science is just beginning. Beginning, that is, to face up to the challenge of building a climate information system that tracks the current climate and the agents of change, that initializes models and makes predictions, and that provides useful climate information on many time scales regionally and tailored to many sectoral needs."

Downing's research apparently fails to accommodate the complex and nuanced debate that evidently does exist. Furthermore, it seems that the public are far more sophisticated than he gives them credit for. Worse still, however, it is his own ignorance of the science, the debate, and his underestimation of the public that causes him to be 'disturbed' and 'frightened'. He then needs to invent reasons as to why the public don't see things the way he wants them to.


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