Saturday, February 21, 2009

Some Muslim schools in Britain 'make children despise the West': Ban on cricket and Harry Potter

Some Islamic schools are promoting fundamentalist views and encouraging children to despise Western society, a report warns. An investigation by the Civitas social policy think-tank found websites of some of the UK's 166 Muslim schools are spreading extreme teachings, while a handful had links to sites promoting jihad, or holy war. Examples include web forums forbidding Muslims from reading Harry Potter books, playing chess or cricket and listening to Western music.

The Civitas report, entitled Music, Chess and Other Sins, claims Ofsted inspectors are incapable of scrutinising Muslim faith schools properly, and demands an inquiry by MPs. Many of the websites featured in the report were shut down or edited in the hours before it was published.

Islamic schools educate thousands of Muslim children. Most operate in the private sector although increasing numbers are seeking state funding.

The study, overseen by Dr Denis MacEoin, a university lecturer in Islamic studies, looked at material found on Islamic schools' websites, either content or via links. Examples include the website of the Madani Girls' School in East London which stated: `Our children are exposed to a culture that is in opposition with almost everything Islam stands for. `If we oppose the lifestyle of the West then it does not seem sensible that the teachers and the system which represents that lifestyle should educate our children.' The report claims this `bruising comment' gives children a `negative picture of Western life'. The website comments have since been edited and parts deleted.

Dr MacEoin stressed that the problems were not found in all Muslim schools, but said some were instilling a disturbing `ghetto mentality'. The Association of Muslim Schools condemned the study as `misleading, intolerant and divisive', claiming it was `based on prejudices rather than evidence'. A spokesman said: `Muslim schools provide an outstanding standard of education. Ex-pupils have developed into exemplary citizens and participate in all aspects of civic society.' The Department for Children, Schools and Families said it was investigating the claims and would treat seriously any failure by state-funded schools to `promote community cohesion'.


Tear it up! The British Labour party's welfare reform isn't working

A new generation are growing up jobless. If they haven't worked, they should receive less benefit than those who have

By Frank Field (Frank Field is Labour MP for Birkenhead and the former Minister for Welfare Reform)

The main force of the recession is yet to hit us but unemployment is surging. In its Pre-Budget Report the Government predicted that at the end of 2010 the number of unemployed on benefits would have reached 1.55 million. That total looks as if it will be passed a year and a half early. The recession calls for a totally new, two-stage programme of welfare reform. But first we must acknowledge that the Government's New Deal and "making work pay" strategies have failed to get many unemployed people into work, even at the height of the boom. It has been an expensive failure - various tax credit schemes and New Deal projects have cost the taxpayer œ75billion since 1997.

The results are derisory. In ten years, the number of jobless people of working age has fallen by only 400,000, down from 5.7 million. The record of each of the New Deals is depressing, in particular the Government's flagship New Deal to end youth unemployment. In the early years more than half of those on the New Deal for Young People landed a sustainable job (one that is held-down paid employment for 13 weeks or more). But at the top of the boom two thirds of New Dealers - 30 per cent of them "retreads" of the scheme - failed to find such a job. This failure can be seen in the increased number of Neets ("those not in education employment or training"). There are now 1.1 million in Britain, more than when Labour took power in 1997.

There are many young people in my Birkenhead constituency anxious to work. But others have never worked and tell me that, as they are given 100 pounds a week or more (with housing benefit) as a right, they wouldn't take a job for less than 300. When I suggest to them that no employer will offer them that kind of money because they can barely read or write, they tell me to take it or leave it.

It is terrible that we have abandoned a generation who believe they have got a pension for life. I once interviewed a group of unemployed youngsters who were anxious to work. Their contempt for the New Deal surprised me. Little wonder - it does not lead to work, it does not teach the skills that they need, and for many it is just an excuse to mess around.

After six months on benefit all those under 25 are enrolled on the New Deal. First, they must negotiate what is called a gateway. Up to four months are spent getting claimants ready for the world of work. If no job is forthcoming, they must choose one of four options: employment, membership of an environmental task force, voluntary placements or full-time training All the New Dealers I spoke to had, through lack of choice, to take training. Whether it was suitable or not, the only training was for IT work. But there were not enough workstations to go round, making a mockery of the exercise.

Sanctions against bad behaviour or not turning up were conspicuously absent. Certainly there was no incentive for trainers to take a tough line; they risked losing their fees if they sent recalcitrant new dealers back to the Jobcentre. A key change that the Government wants to make is to pay New Deal contractors by results. But with programmes failing in the boom years, it is understandable that providers are squealing at such an idea. With unemployment rising, they want more of the old New Deal that gives them their fees upfront.

So what should be done? First, scrap the New Deal for Young People and recycle the money saved into green community programmes that lead to actual jobs. These locally run projects would take young people who cannot find work and offer them training. It could be fairly simple: learning how to be a park warden or to insulate the roofs of pensioners. It should also teach new skills: the chance to earn plumbing qualifications by working for companies installing new, more efficient central heating. When they are trained, they could become full-time workers, paid the minimum wage, on these green projects

One of the biggest lessons the Government has yet to learn is that these schemes must be run locally. It is still drawing up mega-contracts with big companies for large-scale New Deal schemes like the ones that the disgruntled New Dealers described. Mega-contractors are replacing the sort of local providers I have met who were brilliant at tailor-making schemes that were relevant to New Dealers' needs. We need more schemes run by them.

The second prong of a new strategy must be directed at those now joining the dole queues. Many registering at Jobcentres for perhaps the first time in their lives are shocked that, after decades of making national insurance contributions, they are entitled to a mere 60.50 a week. This is the same sum that would be paid to someone who has never worked. It hardly reinforces the culture of work. The jobseeker's allowance ought to be graded according to the number of years that a claimant has worked. It could be doubled to 121 for those with, say, ten years' of NI contributions and increased to 181.50 for those with 15 years. Work is part of their DNA - a more generous benefit payment will not stop them returning to work as soon as they can.

But more can be done to help these workers. Last year more than 120,000 skilled foreign workers came to work in Britain filling jobs that were not first advertised locally. Employers should register all skilled vacancies at Jobcentre Plus. Only then, when it is clear that a company cannot find suitable local labour, should permits be granted for non-EU skilled workers. The Government must seize the initiative now. If it doesn't, joblessness could become permanent for this older generation and the generation to come.


Foreign workers in Britain double to 3.8m under Labour - and majority are from OUTSIDE the EU

Foreign workers are taking a greater share of British jobs than ever, it emerged last night. They now hold more than 3.8million jobs - 13 per cent of the total. In 1997, when Labour came to power, people born outside the UK held only two million jobs, 7.5 per cent of the workforce. The figures are an acute embarrassment for Gordon Brown, who was under renewed attack last night over his promise to deliver 'British jobs for British workers'. Tories said there 'cannot be anyone left in Britain' who believes the 2007 pledge.

Most damagingly, two-thirds of the foreign workers were born outside the EU - in countries whose citizens need permits to work here.

The figures were compiled in the wake of angry wildcat strikes across the UK over the number of jobs going to people from overseas. They were sparked by protests at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire, where Italian and Portuguese workers took all the jobs on a lucrative new contract.

The figures came as a second study, by Migrationwatch, revealed that British workers are also losing out under EU free movement rules. Europeans taking advantage of the rules to work here outnumber Britons working elsewhere in the EU by more than four to one.

The figures revealing the proportion of foreign workers in the UK are the result of research by the independent House of Commons Library. The analysis is based on figures from the Office for National Statistics, which was criticised by ministers last week for releasing them. The statistics were obtained from the Library by Shadow Work and Pensions Minister James Clappison, who said last night: 'This is yet more evidence that Labour have failed to bring migration from outside the EU under control despite repeated promises to do so. 'It is no wonder the Government has tried to bully the ONS into covering up yet more bad news.'

Shadow Immigration Minister Damian Green said: 'There cannot be anyone left in this country who believes Gordon Brown's pledge of British jobs for British workers. 'This shows the continuing failure of the Government's immigration policy. A Conservative Government would introduce an annual limit on work permits for people from outside the EU. 'That's the only way you can get some control into the system.'

Mr Clappison's figures are particularly bad news for Labour because they indicate that, even as the economy was plunging into recession, little or nothing was done to protect the jobs of British workers.

Between October and December 2007, before the crisis took hold, there were 25,860,000 UK-born people in employment. A year later, with the UK officially in recession, the figure had shrunk to 25,582,000. Over the same period the number of non-UK born workers leapt from 3,605,000 to 3,819,000. Some 9 per cent of the workforce are now from outside the EU - up from 5.3 per cent in 1997.

The Commons Library figures conflict with ones issued by the Government because the methods of measurement are different. Statisticians, including the ONS, prefer to count UK-born workers versus foreign-born workers because a person's country of birth, unlike nationality, is not subject to change. The Home Office prefers to focus on the number of British nationals. This will include people who arrived from overseas but have since been given citizenship.

A Government spokesman said last night: 'Over 90 per cent of people working in this country are UK citizens and we are stepping up the help we give people to get training and support to get back to work. 'Many migrants stay for only a short period of time. We have always said we would run our immigration system for the benefit of the UK. 'We have brought in the points-based system to control numbers and we have put restrictions on workers from Romania and Bulgaria. 'We are using the flexibility of the system to make employers offer British jobs through Jobcentre Plus before recruiting foreign workers. 'But if we close our borders we all become poorer.'


NHS blunders set schizophrenic patient free to stab woman 21 times

Health workers caring for a paranoid schizophrenic who stabbed a woman in a supermarket 21 times have admitted a series of failings, her family revealed. Samuel Reid-Wentworth was yesterday ordered to remain at Broadmoor high security mental hospital indefinitely for his 'premeditated' and ' frenzied' attack on Lucy Yates, 20.

The news came as it emerged that Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust has implemented stringent changes in its care for mentally ill patients. Senior managers admitted a series of blunders during a tense meeting with Miss Yates's parents, Hugh and Debbie. Although no staff have been sacked, bosses insisted 'lessons have been learned'.

However, Mr Yates said: 'Everyone has been let down by the mental health system, and that includes the attacker and his family. 'The trust might say things have improved, but it doesn't change what has happened. I want better answers but I'm not hopeful.'

He spoke after the frightening psychiatric problems of Reid-Wentworth, 22, were laid bare at Lewes Crown Court yesterday. Reid-Wentworth stabbed Miss Yates repeatedly in the confectionery aisle at Somerfield in Littlehampton, West Sussex, while screaming: 'I'm a ******g psycho!' He later told police: 'I'm a schizo. I did it and I'm proud of it.' And when he discovered that Miss Yates had miraculously survived, he told officers: 'S***, I should have stabbed her more. If they hadn't dragged her away I would have carried on.'

Miss Yates was highly critical of the health chiefs who discharged Reid-Wentworth. She said: 'How was he left free to roam around and stab me and all but kill me? 'I'm disgusted with the people who decided he could be at large. This is partly their fault. 'I hope they can look at me and feel bad about those decisions, then maybe it will stop this happening to someone else in future.'

After the hearing Lisa Rodrigues, the health trust's chief executive, said her staff would learn everything they could from the attack. She added: 'There are always lessons to be learned both for the trust concerned and more widely and I readily acknowledge that the independent review we commissioned after this case offers some clear pointers for care and service improvements in the future. 'We have learned lessons from this case and we will share them with other trusts.'

But warning bells should have sounded when Reid-Wentworth was admitted to the Centurion mental health unit in Chichester, West Sussex, in August 2007 after being given two cautions by police for two random attacks on young women. He told staff he wanted to drink the blood of attractive young women and had been told to kill two people by God, Jesus and MI5. But the trust decided he would be cared for in the community. After a year, he persuaded his carers that his condition had improved and he was discharged. He stabbed Miss Yates six weeks later, having planned the attack by hiding a sword in bushes and slashing a door with a knife 50 times as 'practice'. Before leaving his flat in Bognor Regis, West Sussex, he scrawled 'I'm going to become a killer, ha ha ha' on the wall. Four days before the attack, he wrote to the psychologist who had treated him telling of his plans to 'kill an attractive woman'.

The court heard how Reid-Wentworth took a bus to Littlehampton, where he selected Miss Yates at random after spotting her walking through the town. He followed her into Somerfield where he stabbed her from behind with a 9cm flick knife. When she fell to the ground, he pinned her down and repeatedly plunged the blade into her.

Miss Yates, of Pulborough, West Sussex, received severe spinal damage and a punctured liver, and both her lungs collapsed. As paramedics fought to save her in the ambulance, the sales assistant's heart and breathing stopped three times. But after eight days in intensive care, she pulled through.

Yesterday, Judge Anthony Scott-Gall described the attack as 'horrific and wholly irrational'. 'This terrible attack was premeditated in that you planned for some time to kill a woman,' he said. 'She has been blighted for her whole life. You pose a genuine risk to members of the public, in particular to young women. 'Over some years you have felt the urge and need to drink women's blood. You also have fantasies about decapitating women.'


Cancer screening 'blights ten lives for every one saved'

More official wisdom of yesteryear down the plughole. Will they ever think to pretest the effects health advice?

Thousands of women have had unnecessary surgery, chemotherapy and radiotherapy as a result of routine breast cancer screening, doctors have warned. For each woman whose life is saved, ten healthy ones needlessly receive mastectomies and other treatment, a study found. Experts said the NHS should do more to warn women of the high risk of a false positive.

But cancer groups fear the news may lead to more deaths by putting women off the screenings, which are estimated to save more than 1,400 lives a year in England alone. All women from 50 to 70 are invited for the checks every three years. Around 1.7million had them last year out of the 2.2million who were offered appointments.

But some experts say they are not sensitive enough to show which cases will lead to fatal tumours, and those that pose no threat. More than 45,500 women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year and around 12,300 die. Twenty-three doctors, surgeons, academics and health specialists claimed yesterday: 'There are harms associated with early detection of breast cancer by screening that are not widely acknowledged. 'There is evidence to show that up to half of all cancers and their precursor lesions that are found by screening might not lead to any harm to the woman during her lifespan.

'Yet, if found at screening, they potentially label the woman as a cancer patient: She may then be subjected to the unnecessary traumas of surgery, radiotherapy and perhaps chemotherapy, as well as suffer the potential for serious social and psychological problems. 'The stigma may continue into the next generation as her daughters can face higher health insurance premiums when their mother's over-diagnosis is misinterpreted as high risk. 'We believe that women should be clearly informed of these harms to make their own choice about screening.'

Dr Paul Pharoah, Cancer Research UK Senior Clinical Research Fellow, University of Cambridge, and Professor Michael Baum, Emeritus Professor of Surgery at University College London, were among the experts who wrote to The Times. They criticise information sent to women eligible for the checks for not being honest, adding: 'None of the invitations for screening come close to telling the truth. As a result, women are being manipulated, albeit unintentionally, into attending.'

Jeremy Hughes, of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: 'Screening allows early diagnosis and potentially less invasive treatment for breast cancer.'


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