Saturday, November 03, 2007

Teachers' Muslim dress order

A SCHOOL was yesterday accused of MAKING teachers dress up as Asians for a day - to celebrate a Muslim festival. Kids at the 257-pupil primary have also been told to don ethnic garb even though most are Christians. The morning assembly will be open to all parents - but dads are BARRED from a women-only party in the afternoon because Muslim husbands object to wives mixing with other men. Just two members of staff - a part-time teacher and a teaching assistant - are Muslim.

Yesterday a relative of one of the 39 others said: "Staff have got to go along with it - or let's face it, they would be branded racist. "Who would put their job on the line? They have been told they have to embrace the day to show their diversity. But they are not all happy."

The day aims to belatedly mark Eid, the end of Ramadan. Sally Bloomer, head of Rufford primary school in Lye, West Midlands, insisted: "I have not heard of any complaints. "It's all part of a diversity project to promote multi-culturalism."


Christmas should be 'downgraded' to help race relations says Labour think tank

Christmas should be downgraded in favour of festivals from other religions to improve race relations, says an explosive report. Labour's favourite think-tank says that because it would be hard to 'expunge' Christmas from the national calendar, 'even-handedness' means public organisations must start giving other religions equal footing. The leaked findings of its investigation into identity, citizenship and community cohesion also propose:

* 'Birth ceremonies', at which state and parents agree to 'work in partnership' to bring up children

* Action to 'ensure access' for ethnic minorities to 'largely white' countryside

* An overhaul of Britain's 'imperial' honours system

* Bishops being thrown out of the House of Lords

* An end to 'sectarian' religious education

* Flying flags other than the Union Jack.

The report by the Institute for Public Policy Research was commissioned when Nick Pearce, now head of public policy at Downing Street, was its director. IPPR has shaped many Labour policies, including ID cards, bin taxes and road pricing.

The report robustly defends multiculturalism - the idea that different communities should not be forced to integrate but should be allowed to maintain their own culture and identities. And it says immigrants should be required to acquire some proficiency in English and other aspects of British culture 'if - but only if - the settled population is willing to open up national institutions and practices to newcomers and give a more inclusive cast to national narratives and symbols'. It adds: 'Even-handedness dictates that we provide public recognition to minority cultures and traditions.

'If we are going to continue as a nation to mark Christmas - and it would be very hard to expunge it from our national life even if we wanted to - then public organisations should mark other religious festivals too. 'We can no longer define ourselves as a Christian nation, nor an especially religious one in any sense. 'The empire is gone, church attendance is at historically low levels, and the Second World War is inexorably slipping from memory.'

The report, written by IPPR advisers Ben Rogers and Rick Muir, calls on Ministers to launch an 'urgent and upfront campaign' promoting a 'multicultural understanding of Britishness'. 'Multiculturalism can be shown to provide for a fairer and more liberal society and does not necessarily lead to social division and community conflict, as its critics have claimed,' it says.

Councils must act to 'ensure children mix and are able to form friendships with pupils from different backgrounds'. The report adds: 'Any liberal state should recast the civic oaths and national ceremonies, or institutions like Parliament and the monarchy, in a more multi-religious or secular form and make religious education less sectarian.' The presence of bishops in the House of Lords, for instance, is condemned as an 'anachronism' that should be removed.

The system in which parents are required to register a new baby at a register office is dismissed as 'purely bureaucratic'. The occasion should be transformed into a 'public rite', using citizenship ceremonies for immigrants as a model, the report says. 'Parents, their friends and family and the state [would] agree to work in partnership to support and bring up their child.'

Rural Britain, the report complains, 'remains a largely white place'. Much more needs to be done to 'ensure access' to the countryside for black and ethnic minority groups, disabled people and children from inner-city areas.

Sayeeda Warsi, the Conservative spokesman on community cohesion, said: 'Their comments betray a breathtaking misunderstanding of what it is to be British. These proposals could actually damage cohesion.' She added: 'You don't build community cohesion by throwing out our history and denying the fundamental contribution Christianity has played and does play to our nation. 'As a British Muslim I can see that - so why others can't just staggers me.'

And she attacked ceremonies to mark the registration of a baby. 'The thought of Gordon Brown sharing responsibility with me for bringing up my children sends a shiver down my spine. I thought we got rid of communism?'



Ministers were accused of downgrading the drive to cut carbon emissions from Britain's transport network after revealing a long-term strategy for increased road, rail and air travel. Environmentalists said the strategy did too little to combat climate change, attacking the decision to allow further airport expansion and road building and widening.

A strategy document published yesterday by Ruth Kelly, the Secretary of State for Transport, proposed backing London-style congestion charge schemes in major cities, but said plans for wider road pricing schemes remained "a decision for the future". It said that schemes to smooth the flow of traffic, including using hard shoulders, could cut emissions but said Britain needed a "targeted increase" in road capacity. Earlier this year, about 1.8 million people put their signatures to a Downing Street website petition opposing road charging.

The document called for aviation to be included in European emissions-trading schemes, but the document said there would still need to be "some growth in capacity" of airports. It said action was needed to reduce demand for short local journeys and said new technology could ultimately cut the majority of carbon emissions from cars.

It also attracted criticism for describing "goal one" as economic growth, while listing the fight against climate change as "goal two". Officials insisted that they attached "equal weight" to all five of their key goals for the transport system.

Tony Bosworth, the transport campaigner for Friends of the Earth, said in response: "Our view would be that climate change is the biggest problem the world faces and it must be the top aim for the Department for Transport."

He warned that the Government's policy was contradictory. "Urgent action on transport must be at the heart of UK efforts to tackle climate change. Some of today's proposals, such as more investment in small-scale local measures, are welcome, but continuing support for motorway-widening and airport expansion will increase emissions. If the Government is serious about tackling transport and climate change, its policy must be coherent, not contradictory."

John Sauven, executive director of Greenpeace, said: "When it comes to aviation and climate change this government becomes detached from reality.



Initiatives aimed at saving energy and reducing CO2 emissions could end up damaging the Government's climate policy instead, a new study claims. Scientists have found that new technologies designed to cut energy use could actually result in an increase. As an example they say a more fuel-efficient car which is cheaper to run can lead to the driver using it more often or on longer journeys. Or a householder looking for a new fridge might buy a bigger model because it is more energy efficient. In both cases some of the energy being saved is lost as a direct consequence of what is known as a 'rebound effect'.

The UK Energy Research Centre (UKERC) says in a new report that the resulting shortfall in energy savings could damage the Government's target of cutting energy use by 20 per cent by 2010. Scientists are divided over whether the rebound effect is significant but some believe that it can actually result in a net increase in energy use, which is known as 'backfire'. But the UKERC concludes the rebound effect is significant and cannot be ignored and it warns the Government that it must be factored into its climate strategy.

The report's chief author, Steve Sorrell, a Senior Fellow at UKERC, said the rebound effect had been ignored by experts and policymakers and had not even been mentioned in either the Stern and IPCC climate change reports or in the Government's energy white paper. "This is a mistake. If we do not make sufficient allowance for rebound effects we will overestimate the contribution that energy efficiency can make to reducing carbon emissions," he said. "This is especially important given that the climate change bill proposes legally binding commitments to meet CO2 emission targets. We need to get the sums right."

The report says that the rebound effect is hard to quantify because the evidence is diverse and hard to interpret but it was likely to have a bigger impact in heavier industries - such as steel making - than in domestic households where it was unlikely to exceed 30 per cent and was more likely to be closer to 10 per cent. But some modelling studies had predicted rebound effects of 50 per cent or more across the economy and half had also predicted the backfire effect where measures would actually lead to an increase in energy use. "We disagree with those who say the backfire effect is inevitable and we believe energy savings can be made without an overwhelming rebound," said Mr Sorrell. "Even if you lose 25 per cent you are still gaining 75 per cent and you can mitigate against rebound."

The report concludes that 'headroom' had to be built into policy targets to allow for the rebound effects, that energy prices should be raised in line with energy efficiency improvements and that absolute caps on emissions should be imposed.


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