Saturday, January 11, 2003

News Feed 20110423

»Hindus Find a Ganges in Queens, To Park Rangers’ Dismay
»Jones Plans Suit Against Wayne Co. Prosecutor With Ann Arbor Law Firm
»New Jersey Transit Worker, Fired After Burning Koran, Wins Back His Job
»Pastor Seeking to Protest at Mosque Briefly Jailed
»Some Want Good Friday a Federal Holiday
»The Reality of Campus Anti-Semitism
»Violence in Another McDonalds Almost Kills Customer
Europe and the EU
»Germany: SPD Fails to Expel Sarrazin
»UK: Exploring Business Through Culture [The Philosophy of Ecomuslim]
»UK: Nigella Lawson and the Great Burkini Cover-Up
»UK: The S&M Lib Dem: Shame of Councillor Who Posted Raunchy Pictures of Herself on the Internet
»UK: Your Cross Can Stay But Che Guevara Poster Has to Go: How MoS Helped Electrician Win the Battle to Display Crucifix in His Repair Van
North Africa
»Charity: Children Raped During Libya Conflict
Israel and the Palestinians
»West Bank Conference: Intifada Possible in Sept.
Middle East
»Cellmate of Dubai Cell-Death Briton Says He Was Attacked by Six Guards Then Left for Four Days
South Asia
»Failed Taliban Suicide Bomber Shot Dead in Afghanistan Was ‘Sleeper From London’
Australia — Pacific
»Villawood Detainees Ask to Come Off Roof
»UK: Asylum Seekers Run Up £2,500 Taxi Bill… Even Though the Bus Fare Costs £1.80
Culture Wars
»UK: The Black Headmistress Who Saw Lynch Mob in a Parent’s Poster and Called Police
»Did the Universe Begin as a Simple 1-D Line?


Hindus Find a Ganges in Queens, To Park Rangers’ Dismay

As the Hindu population has grown in Queens over the last decade, so too has the amount of ritual debris — clothing, statues, even cremation ashes — lining the banks of the bay in Gateway National Recreation Area. “We call it the Ganges,” one pilgrim, Madan Padarat, said as he finished his prayers. “She takes away your sickness, your pain, your suffering.”

But to the park rangers who patrol the beach, the holy waters are a fragile habitat, the offerings are trash and the littered shores are a federal preserve that must be kept clean for picnickers, fishermen and kayakers. Unlike the Ganges, they say, the enclosed bay does not sweep the refuse away. The result is a standoff between two camps that regard the site as sacrosanct for very different reasons, and have spent years in a quiet tug of war between ancient traditions and modern regulations. Strenuous diplomacy on both sides has helped, but only to a point.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Jones Plans Suit Against Wayne Co. Prosecutor With Ann Arbor Law Firm

Detroit— Controversial Florida pastor Terry Jones told The Detroit News today that he plans to file a lawsuit against the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office and other government entities in connection with his arrest Friday and the case the prosecutor filed against him in connection with his planned protest outside the Islamic Center of America.

“We were arrested for something we had not done,” said Jones today from Detroit Metro Airport as he prepared to go back home to Gainesville, Florida.

“I was totally shocked. I could not believe it,” Jones said of his arrest. “Even the police who put the handcuffs on us were shocked.”

Jones said he is working with the Ann Arbor-based Thomas More Law Center to file the lawsuit for violation of his Free Speech rights. He said he and the attorneys are scheduled to discuss the case at 7 tonight.

The Thomas More Law Center is nationally known conservative Christian law center noted for its religion-based First Amendment case. The law firm filed a suit against the City of Dearborn last year. That case involved alleged violation of the constitutional rights of Christian missionaries jailed by police at the city’s International Arab Festival. The missionaries sought to pass out literature but police said they could only do so in a certain area of the massive event.

Constitution expert Robert Sedler said he is glad to see Jones is challenging the “bizarre” ruling by Dearborn District Court Judge Mark Somers.

“The Supreme Court says you cannot deny a permit because of the message,” said Sedler, a Wayne State University Law School professor. “The U.S. Constitutional supersedes everything, which is why this is so bizarre.”

Jones is coming back to Dearborn on Friday.

He said he will hold the demonstration at 5 p.m. Friday outside Dearborn City Hall. He says he wants to stay within the confines of the law. Jones said the issue has now shifted from “radical Islam” to a battle to protest the First Amendment.

“We’re getting support from all around America,” said Jones.

Jones and his associate pastor, Wayne Sapp, were briefly jailed Friday for refusing to post a $1 bond requested by Judge Somers after a six-member jury found that Jones and Sapp would likely create a “breach of the peace” if they were to go along with their demonstration outside the mosque on Good Friday.

Jones and Wyatt bonded themselves out of jail shortly after their arrests. Jones said Friday that he and Sapp “made it very, very clear that we posted this under the greatest protest,”

Jones said the “whole proceedings, were a definite violation of our Constitutional rights.”

Legal observers said the judge’s actions were unusual but Somers had followed the letter of the law.”

The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office had no comment on Jones plans to sue.

Redford resident Richard Fournier, who attended the first day of Jones’ and Sapp’s trial, says he doesn’t believe their constitutional rights were violated because their protest could have created a disturbance and possibly a riot.

           — Hat tip: RE[Return to headlines]

New Jersey Transit Worker, Fired After Burning Koran, Wins Back His Job

A New Jersey Transit worker who was fired after burning pages of a Koran during a demonstration in Lower Manhattan on Sept. 11 last year has been reinstated, reimbursed for lost wages and benefits, and awarded $25,000 in compensation for the pain and suffering caused by his dismissal.

The reinstatement of the worker, Derek Fenton of Bloomingdale, N.J., was announced on Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey, which sued the transportation corporation on his behalf, arguing that his actions were protected by the First Amendment. The reinstatement was part of a settlement agreement, filed this week in Federal District Court in Newark, in which Mr. Fenton dropped his suit in exchange for getting his job back.

“In America, we have the right to burn all kinds of things — letters, flags, books, Bibles and Korans,” Deborah Jacobs, executive director of the New Jersey group, said Friday.

Ms. Jacobs said the case should “serve as a reminder to our leaders that they can’t punish and censor political expression based on their own emotional reactions or sense of morality.”

Mr. Fenton, 40, was fired two days after the demonstration, accused of violating New Jersey Transit’s employee code of ethics by tearing pages from a copy of the Koran and igniting them with a cigarette lighter to protest plans for building a Muslim community center and mosque two blocks north of ground zero. He was participating in a protest staged by about 2,000 people near the proposed site of the center, 51 Park Place, during a day of memorial and prayer services marking the ninth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

After the civil liberties union sued in February, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey told reporters that he supported Mr. Fenton’s dismissal. “That kind of intolerance is something I think is unacceptable,” he said. “So I don’t have any problem with him being fired. You’ve got to make decisions in this job. I made one.”

Mr. Christie said, however, that he was unaware of the decision to fire Mr. Fenton until after it was made.

A spokesman for the governor’s office did not return several calls and messages on Friday seeking comment. A spokesman for New Jersey Transit referred questions about the case to the state attorney general’s office, but a spokesman there did not return repeated calls.

Frank L. Corrado, a lawyer who represented Mr. Fenton with a co-counsel, Rubin Sinins, both working pro bono, said he did not know why Mr. Fenton felt so strongly about the proposed Muslim center, or whether his action was prompted by the last-minute decision of a pastor, Terry Jones, to scrap plans to burn a Koran that day outside his Florida church.

Ms. Jacobs said of Mr. Fenton, “He just seemed to be angry about the community center being too close to ground zero.” Opponents of the center described the proposed building as an assertion of Islamic “triumphalism.”

At Mr. Fenton’s request, his lawyers obtained an assurance in the settlement agreement that he would not have to attend extra sessions of cultural “sensitivity training” upon his return to work. “He did not want to have to do that,” Mr. Corrado said, “And we felt that thought control should not be the employer’s business here.”

The settlement was reported on Friday by The Star-Ledger of Newark.

Mr. Fenton, an 11-year veteran of New Jersey Transit who was a commuter train conductor before assuming duties as an $86,000-a-year supervisor several years ago, will still undergo “whatever diversity education is required from time to time of every employee,” Mr. Corrado said. “He just won’t get special treatment.”

The code of ethics Mr. Fenton was cited for violating forbids employees from “bringing disrepute” on the agency, Mr. Corrado said. But during the demonstration, Mr. Fenton was off duty and wore nothing to indicate that he worked for the transit agency, the lawyer added.

Pamela Geller, a blogger who was instrumental in organizing the Sept. 11 demonstration, said she did not know Mr. Fenton or condone his actions. “I wouldn’t do what he did, myself; it’s disrespectful,” she said. “But it’s free speech.”

Ibrahim Hooper, the spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim civil rights advocacy group, said his organization had not sought Mr. Fenton’s firing. “We have always believed,” he said, “that somebody should not be punished in their employment for actions taken — no matter how reprehensible — in their private lives.”

           — Hat tip: Jerry Gordon[Return to headlines]

Pastor Seeking to Protest at Mosque Briefly Jailed

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A Florida pastor’s planned demonstration outside a Michigan mosque was scuttled Friday after a jury determined the protest would constitute a breach of the peace and he was briefly jailed for refusing to pay what authorities called a “peace bond.”

The Rev. Terry Jones, whose past rhetoric against Muslims has inflamed anti-Western sentiment in Afghanistan, said he refused to pay the $1 bond because to do so would violate his freedom of speech. He later paid it and was released.

Jones had planned a demonstration Friday evening outside the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, a suburb of Detroit that is home to one of the largest Muslim communities in the nation. An estimated 30,000 people in Dearborn, about a third of the city’s population, trace their roots to the Middle East.

Prosecutors worried the protest would lead to violence and asked Dearborn District Judge Mark Somers to intervene. Somers conducted a one-day jury trial to determine whether Jones would pose a threat to peace. They did, and Somers then ordered Jones and an associate to post the bond to ostensibly cover the costs of police protection.

While largely symbolic, the bond also came with conditions that included a prohibition on Jones from going to the mosque or the adjacent property for three years.

Somers said he spoke to the jury after they reached their verdict and they told him they were concerned with the “time, place and manner and not the content of the speech.”

But Robert Sedler, a constitutional law professor at Wayne State University, called the entire proceedings unconstitutional. He said the U.S. Supreme Court has found that it’s the job of the police to protect speakers at such events and said it is unconstitutional to require protesters to post a bond for police protection.

“What basis did the state have for arguing that they would breach the peace?” Sedler said. “It’s a matter of First Amendment requirement: The government can’t stop a speaker from speaking because of danger from a hostile crowd.”

The state law allowing a judge to require a bond “for preservation of public peace” originally dates to 1846. As recently as 1999, the state Court of Appeals upheld it as constitutional in a case involving feuding neighbors who sought peace bonds against each other.

A burning of the Quran in March at Jones’ church in Gainesville, Fla., led to a series of violent protests in Afghanistan that killed more than a dozen people. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said fears that Jones could incite violent counter-protests led them to court.

“These proceedings were solely about public safety. This was never about prohibiting free speech or fearing rioting but about a situation that could potentially place the public in danger in Dearborn,” Worthy said.

But Dawud Walid, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said Jones and Sapp should have been allowed to demonstrate outside the mosque to show that Muslims in Dearborn would not have rioted in response.

“Mr. Jones has been made as a martyr for free speech,” Walid said.

Dearborn had denied Jones a permit to protest outside the mosque and offered alternative sites, but Jones wouldn’t move the location. He refused to pay the bond to make a point about freedom of speech, said David Grisham, a pastor from Amarillo, Texas, who came to Detroit to take part in the demonstration with Jones.

Earlier in the day Friday, Jones said if the court hearing went too long, he would return to protest next Friday. He did not return a telephone message left by The Associated Press Friday night seeking comment.

Jones acted as his own attorney and told the jury in his closing argument that the mosque, one of the largest in the country, was chosen because his protest is against “a radical element of Islam.”

“All we want to do is walk, demonstrate, protest on an area that already belongs to you, to the city,” Jones said. “We are not accusing this mosque. We are not accusing the people of Dearborn. We are not accusing all Muslims.”

           — Hat tip: heroyalwhyness[Return to headlines]

Some Want Good Friday a Federal Holiday

Already a holiday in 11 states, Puerto Rico, Guam

(WWLP) — Good Friday is a Christian holiday, but now some want to make it an official federal holiday as well.

Good Friday is already an official holiday in 11 states, including in neighboring Connecticut, but some want to make it nationwide.

The Campaign to Commemorate Good Friday as a National Holiday officially launched its appeal in Washington, D.C. Friday; trying to gather 1 million signatures to send to Congress.

Many Western Massachusetts residents take the day off as a personal day, yet there are mixed opinions about making this day a non-work-day for everyone.

“It’s a difficult question because there are so many faiths around here where Good Friday isn’t a big holiday to some people,” Angela Courchesne of Feeding Hills said.

“I think that Good Friday is a day that everybody should get off, but it’s hard, because there are so many different religions and everyone has different holidays,” Kristy Severino of West Springfield said.

In addition to Connecticut, Good Friday is a state holiday in Delaware, Hawaii, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas. It is also a holiday in Puerto Rico and Guam.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

The Reality of Campus Anti-Semitism

Should the federal government intervene when an American university permits its campus to become unsafe for Jews? When the prevailing atmosphere on campus is hatred against Israel and all things associated with the Jewish people? After a long and involved debate, the Obama administration finally did the right thing last October and stated definitively that such conduct is impermissible at institutions that receive federal funding. While that ruling, which was prompted by an epidemic of anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students at the University of California at Irvine, ought to have been welcomed by both academia and the organized Jewish world, it has now been challenged by the American Association of University Professors. In a newsletter on the AAUP website, Cary Nelson (the association’s president) and Kenneth Stern of the American Jewish Committee contend that recent events on American university campuses—at Berkeley, Santa Cruz, and Rutgers in addition to Irvine—do not rise to the level of a “working definition” of anti-Semitism. Calls for redress by Jewish students and professors are nothing more, they conclude, than an unscrupulous effort to “censor anti-Israel remarks.”

But Nelson and Stern are wrong both about the situation on campus. And they are wrong about the motivations of those whose activism led the U.S. Department of Education to issue its ruling.

Last September, one month before the ruling was issued, COMMENTARY published Kenneth L. Marcus’s essay “A Blind Eye to Anti-Semitism,” a thoughtful examination of the sordid goings on at the Cal-Irvine and the halting steps taken toward combating the epidemic of anti-Semitic acts that had taken place there. The former head of the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Marcus detailed not only the unhappy story of how the university had failed to protect Jewish students, but also set forth the legal rationale for the federal government ‘s intervention. He pointed out that Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in federally funded universities and public schools. Although it has been argued that laws banning racism do not apply to Jews (who are not a race but a people), Marcus rejoined persuasively that, in addition to being a religion, Judaism is a group identity that involves more than adherence to a faith.

Contrary to Nelson and Stern, what is happening on campus isn’t merely the free exchange of ideas about Israeli policies. As Marcus wrote:

There, on the campus of the University of California at Irvine, Jewish students were physically and verbally harassed, threatened, shoved, stalked, and targeted by rock-throwing groups and individuals. Jewish property was defaced with swastikas, and a Holocaust memorial was vandalized. Signs were posted on campus showing a Star of David dripping with blood. Jews were chastised for arrogance by public speakers whose appearance at the institution was subsidized by the university. They were called “dirty Jew” and “

ing Jew,” told to “go back to Russia” and “burn in hell,” and heard other students and visitors to the campus urge one another to “slaughter the Jews.” One Jewish student who wore a pin bearing the flags of the United States and Israel was told to “take off that pin or we’ll beat your ass.” Another was told, “Jewish students are the plague of mankind” and “Jews should be finished off in the ovens.”

The result of these incidents was that Jewish students rightly feared the consequences of speaking up in opposition to this spirit of intolerance. While it may be held that the university should have been able to handle this problem without federal intervention, the truth is that the school did nothing. Cal-Irvine officials reacted to complaints with indifference or without urgency. The Jewish community was left with little choice but to resort to legal complaints seeking to compel the government to enforce the law against discrimination. It is very much to the credit of the Zionist Organization of America that it championed this cause.

Although Nelson and Stern wrongly treat the students complaints as if they were trivial, they also claim that the resort to the law harms the cause of fighting anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism. Government intervention shifts the discussion, they believe, from opposing bigotry to protecting free speech.

Anti-Semites will howl that they are being repressed if they are prevented from spreading hatred for Jews on university campuses. No question about it. But those who preach hatred for African-Americans could make the same argument. Even to ask whether Nelson or Stern would be okay with the Ku Klux Klan’s holding officially sanctioned forums at federally-funded schools, however, is to answer the question.

Nelson and Stern go on to compare the warnings about campus anti-Semitism to the debate over immigration laws. But the comparison is just as specious. There is, after all, a clear distinction between advocating enforcement of existing laws against illegal immigration and broadcasting anti-Hispanic hate, even if the distinction is often erased in the heat of debate. No one is calling for Israel’s critics to be barred from campus. Harassing Jews in classrooms and public spaces as well as holding authorized campus events whose purpose is to promote the delegitimization of the Jewish people, however, crosses the line from unpleasant speech to an illegal promotion of violence.

The atmosphere of hatred created at Cal-Irvine in 2003 and 2004 and now being duplicated at other American universities stands as a watershed event in the history of the movement to defame Zionism and the Jews. At a time when this pernicious movement tries to flood into America through the classroom door, it is more important than ever that decent people speak out against the rising tide of international anti-Semitism. When universities fail to restrain the haters, it is up to the government to treat Jew-hatred no differently than it would bigotry against any other minority group. No matter what the AAUP says.

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Violence in Another McDonalds Almost Kills Customer

Here is another fine example of the trend of violence in fast food restaurants. Two females beating the hell out of a patron, while several employees stand by and watch. One male manages to provide the facade of assistance to the victim in this brutal attack. The two females exit, then re-enter the store to continue the beating, until a an older woman attempts to stop them from dragging the victim outside into the parking lot. note: the male employees have disappeared from camera view, even though they are plenty well capable of stopping the attack. At the end, the white victim is beaten until she has a seizure, at which point the camera operator warns the female attackers to flee, because the police are on the way. Note: he makes sure to repeatedly tell the criminal attackers to flee, instead of keeping them there for the police to apprehend.

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]

Europe and the EU

Germany: SPD Fails to Expel Sarrazin

Controversial former politician Thilo Sarrazin has held on to his membership in the center-left Social Democratic Party, overcoming efforts by party leaders to get him expelled for his inflammatory remarks on race. Thilo Sarrazin’s book “Germany Does Away With Itself” raised the ire of the Social Democrats’ (SPD) party leadership and many in Germany for arguing that intelligence is partly determined by genetics and that Muslim immigrants were lowering German standards. Some in the SPD wanted him out of the party. But Thilo Sarrazin remains a member of the struggling center-left party after proceedings against him were dropped late on Thursday by a party tribunal in his Berlin district.

According to SPD organizational statutes, a member can only be expelled from the party if he “violates the principles of the SPD, particularly if he disregards the imperative for inner-party solidarity or is guilty of a dishonorable act.” In exchange for the withdrawal of the motion to have him removed, Sarrazin agreed to adhere to the party principles in the future. “I never intended to breach Social Democratic principles with my arguments,” he wrote in a statement. “When speaking at future events and public appearances, I will make sure that my commitment to Social Democratic principles is unquestionable.” Sarrazin was a high-profile SPD politician when his book was published last year. His claim that immigration would be the downfall of German society set off a nationwide debate about the integration of immigrants in Germany. After mounting pressure he stepped down from his position on the board of Germany’s central bank.

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Exploring Business Through Culture [The Philosophy of Ecomuslim]

Date: Friday 13th May 2011

Time: 8pm

Venue: House of Lords

For more details, please click here.

The Philosophy of EcoMuslim

In our eagerness to progress and develop we have lost sight of the finite and delicate nature of our home Earth and our place therein. Individuals, nations and regions continue to increase consumption and demand on Earth’s ecosystems and natural resources, thereby leaving greater ecological footprints.

Nature’s ability to provide for our lifestyles and consumption, continually diminishes the environment and the Earth is unable to heal herself in time to provide for our needs and those of the future generations. Our behaviour is not sustainable if we want to sustain life, nature and beauty in our only home Earth.

EcoMuslim want to change behaviours on an individual, organisational, societal, national, regional and global levels to preserve the Earth’s ecosystems, natural resources, beauty and environment. We are the guardians of the natural order, protecting the environment, working to reduce our individual and collective ecological footprints. We will pioneer change, lead by example and influence an eco-responsible existence of everyone who resides on our beautiful planet Earth.

EcoMuslim achieving the change over the next decade

As a non-profit making entity in the United Kingdom we aim to work at three levels:

• National Context

• European Context

• International Context

National Context

At the National Context where necessary we will also work under our sub-brands. We have held a number of events at the House of Lords and other prestigious venues, planned for more and have attended a number of high level conferences and private events. Do visit our Galllery Section to view photos and read speeches.

European Context

At the European level we will engage green networks. We will influence the 20 million plus Muslims to adopt better life styles to protect the environment and become a global lead on green issues. Thorough our endavours we will create a positive image and existence for Muslim peoples in Europe.

International Context

In the International Context we aspire to become a leading global green organisation. Our work at this level will have two strands — Engagement and Influence. We believe that there are not enough organisations or individuals undertaking the urgent work of protecting and preserving the environment. EcoMuslim will engage and work with existing organisations and structures building and disseminating best practice. We will attend international events as necessary. The cyclones in Bangladesh, Burma, China and other parts of the world necessitate urgent and continuous action.

EcoMuslim Identity

EcoMuslim is a person who passionately cares about the conservation and well being of the environment. The values and teachings of Islam are the reference framework for an EcoMuslim’s passion. The life of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) provides the EcoMuslim with inspiration for preserving nature, beauty and the environment. The EcoMuslim lives an eco-responsible life and influences others to live eco-responsibily. Every person is a potential EcoMuslim.

“Those who care about the environment seldom undertake activities to destroy it. When people care about the environment and take ownership of the environment where they reside. They are part of where they live and feel more integrated with their society and nation. We may not be able to change the world overnight but we certainly can change ourselves, influence our families, friends and colleagues now. We hope you will support our endavours and work with us to raise awareness and preserve Earth and her beauty”.

Omar Faruk

Founding Director

[JP note: This should win a prize somewhere for the most staggeringly stupid announcement for an event to issue recently, and that this event should be taking place in the House of Lords is further evidence of the stampede away from reason occurring in the UK.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: Nigella Lawson and the Great Burkini Cover-Up

by Madelaine Bunting

Was Nigella Laswon’s beach burkini a defence against the Australian sun, or a subversive political statement?

Earlier this week, a British woman in Australia wore a full head-to-toe black suit, complete with hoodie, to go swimming. Perhaps she thought what she wore on the beach was her own business. How wrong could she be. Wind forward a couple of days and there were already more than 100,000 items on a Google search under Nigella and burkini; the image had been beautifully subverted in a Times cartoon on the op-ed page (it was Nick Clegg’s turn to be burkini-ed as he frolicked in the surf with Cameron), and dozens of shots of her unusual swimwear were in newspapers and on websites attracting thousands of hits. Plus several columnists had shared their thoughts on the folly or wisdom of Nigella Lawson’s decision.

Lawson’s burkini had become a textbook illustration of a Hot, Flat and Crowded world, to borrow the title of a book by the American globalisation theorist, Thomas Friedman. The Hot is self-explanatory, given that the most plausible explanation for the burkini was the Australian sun; Flat, because the speed of the web ensures an audience of millions, even billions, within hours for the smallest detail of someone’s everyday life, and Crowded, because for a celebrity, nowhere is safe from the long reach of a paparazzi zoom lens. And, as in all crowds, people want to look and pass comment; a crowded world entails a lot of gossip. It also brings into conversation — or collision — entirely different cultures.

And therein lies the rub. Lawson is an icon of English femininity. She has crafted her own image as carefully as she decorates one of her fancy cakes. She has offered her voluptuous cleavage and fine facial features as a way to glamorise the female labour of feeding family and friends. No longer the sweated brow, stained hands and soiled apron of mother at the stove, but the effortlessness and poise of cashmere cardigans, hourglass figures and — on one particular occasion which made a big impression on me — sparkly mascara. Only someone who has turned femininity into a career would have the time to pull all this off.

But the contradictions thrown up by our crowded world is that an icon of sexy English femininity turns to a Muslim sportswear website for help in combating the ageing, carcinogenic ravages of the Australian sun — or was it to conceal the curves from the prying eyes of a global audience? Inevitably the commentators (and so far in my researches, they were all women) pondered on Lawson’s motivation, and whether this decision was a style blunder, a “betrayal of her own brand”, or a defiant and admirable insistence on privacy for her body.

What provoked less comment was the extraordinary timing of Lawson’s burkini beach trip, coming only a week after France’s ban on women wearing the burqa and niqab came into force. On one side of the world, England’s finest rose is choosing to don sharia-compliant clothing, while on the other, one of the foremost liberal democracies in the world is bringing the full force of the law against a small number of women who insist on wearing their interpretation of Sharia-compliant clothing. One prompts a torrent of witty, playful commentary, the other is accompanied by a bitterly contested debate on the treatment of women in Islam. At the heart of both stories is an obsession with women’s bodies and how they should or shouldn’t be displayed — and the fierce patrolling of different social conventions governing them.

On a beach, a woman is expected to expose her body, and it’s that refusal which has captured attention. Lawson is defying our social conventions to protect herself — her privacy and her skin. And there is a sneaking understanding, even admiration, in many quarters for her gesture. Evident among all the women commenting is a weary recognition of the ordeal of swimwear — the hair removal and fake tans required to meet even minimal standards — which, for the post partum, becomes a widespread sense of falling short, of failure. And there’s an appreciation of how this falls punitively on famous women, whose bodies abroad are scrutinised for extra bulges, cellulite and sag; if anyone is in any doubt as to what Lawson shrewdly dodged, look at some of the harsh judgments on her bikini-clad companion. Few women can fail to understand Lawson’s urge to wrap up.

Meanwhile, on the street, a woman is expected to show her face, and when she refuses she now faces prosecution from the state in countries such as France and Belgium. All that distinguishes the two cases of Islamic dress is our beliefs about choice. The assumption is that Lawson chose her outfit, and the assumption is that niqab-wearing women in France are not making a free choice. But how confident can we be of either assumption? Perhaps Lawson would rather the contempt generated by a burkini than the scorn and judgment generated by revealing a middle-aged woman’s body — but what kind of constrained choice is that?

Equally, some French niqab wearers use precisely the arguments of individual choice to justify their niqab as a way of ensuring privacy in a culture saturated with the exploitation and commodification of women’s bodies. The latter is an uncomfortable reality for many who have been so disempowered that they are only left with irritated impotence: my 14-year-old son asks me why I put up with the huge M&S lingerie billboards plastered over London, and I have no reply. I don’t much like the niqab because it eliminates the possibility of street conviviality, but I understand entirely the desire to withdraw from the world’s invasive, intrusive attention.

This is the brilliantly subversive conclusion to this random collision of stories in our crowded planet. Unwittingly perhaps, Lawson the skilful image maker has just launched a powerful political statement about how a woman can choose to wear sharia-compliant clothing. Everyone understands her to be an aspirational brand, a role model, an arbiter of taste. In the topsy-turvy chaos of a web world where images and ideas are deracinated, massively projected, manipulated and recycled, Lawson’s beachwear has already become iconic — and in a small way, revolutionary. Marianne, the symbol of the French Revolution, stormed the Bastille, breast bared; her 21st-century descendant is burkini-clad.

[JP note: A better proposal would be to hang out the dhimmi-bunting to dry.]

           — Hat tip: JP[Return to headlines]

UK: The S&M Lib Dem: Shame of Councillor Who Posted Raunchy Pictures of Herself on the Internet

A Liberal Democrat local election candidate has left her party red-faced after she posed in fetish gear in provocative pictures which she then posted on the internet.

The semi-naked photographs of Holly-Ann Battye, which show her lying on her back with a ball gag in her mouth and cupping her breasts, appeared this week on the website DeviantArt, under the user name HollyTheWolly.

Other Gothic-themed shots of the candidate for the South Northants Council ward of Cosgrove and Grafton, are disturbingly captioned ‘I kill’, ‘Voodoo’ and ‘Make It Bleed’.

In several images Miss Battye is seen with blood dripping from her lips or pouting at the camera.

The photographs emerged just two weeks before the country is due to go to the polls in the local elections on May 5.

Miss Battye, who has defended her ‘artwork’, claims it is being used against her as part of a personal attack on her character by political opponents.

[Return to headlines]

UK: Your Cross Can Stay But Che Guevara Poster Has to Go: How MoS Helped Electrician Win the Battle to Display Crucifix in His Repair Van

The manager allowed to display a picture of Che Guevara in his office while Colin Atkinson was ordered to remove the cross from his van is a Left-wing union executive with a fascination for Cuba.

Denis Doody, the environmental manager at the housing association depot where Mr Atkinson oversees training, has made more than 40 trips to the communist-run island over the years.

He has also enthusiastically supported the country, now headed by Fidel Castro’s brother Raul, in speeches and articles, including one for the Marxist organisation the Revolutionary Communist Group.

But it emerged yesterday that, following the furore over the cross, the union man has now decided to remove the image of Che Guevara, who played a key role in the Cuban revolution in the Fifties, from his office wall.

[Return to headlines]

North Africa

Charity: Children Raped During Libya Conflict

Libya horror: Children say they witnessed their mothers raped, fathers murdered

Horror in Libya: Children as young as eight have been sexually assaulted during the conflict between rebels trying to oust the Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and forces loyal to him, a British charity said on Saturday.

Save The Children said it had spoken to nearly 300 children in six temporary camps in rebel-held Benghazi and heard reports of rapes and murders committed within the last four weeks in Ras Lanuf, Ajdabiyah and Misrata.

Michael Mahrt, who carried out the assessment, said the families and children spoke of “soldiers” committing the assaults, but the charity could not say which side they came from.

In one case mothers who had fled the fighting told the charity that a group of four or five teenage girls in Ajdabiyah had been abducted, held hostage for four days and raped.

In another case in Ajdabiyah an eight-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in front of her 10-year-old sister and other siblings, the charity said.

Mahrt said the reports of sexual violence against children were unconfirmed but consistent.

“The stories are similar that we get across these camps. I am completely confident that this happened,” he told Reuters.

Adults were not spared the violence, the charity said. Some children said they had witnessed their fathers being murdered and mothers raped before they were themselves beaten.

           — Hat tip: DM[Return to headlines]

Israel and the Palestinians

West Bank Conference: Intifada Possible in Sept.

Young Palestinians encouraged by events in Egypt, West Bank leader says

In the absence of a diplomatic breakthrough, a Palestinian uprising may break out in September, a popular leader in the West Bank predicted Saturday.

Speaking at the 6th Annual Bil’in Conference on the Palestinian Popular Struggle, Mohammad Khatib said that while the Palestinian Authority does not wish to see an Intifada, some Palestinians are interested in an uprising against Israel.

“I think the next months are the most critical,” said Khatib, who is among the leaders of the anti-security fence campaign in the village of Bil’in. “If we see no significant developments, an Intifada will break out.”

This year, the conference was named after Italian activist Vittorio Arrigoni, kidnapped and murdered in the Gaza Strip about a week ago. The event was attended by foreign diplomats and Palestinian leaders, headed by Prime Minister Salam Fayyad. Senior religious clerics and foreign activists were also in attendance.”

“Our objective is to enlist international support for our struggle in Bil’in, and for the Palestinian struggle in general,” Khatib said. “This is our way to engage in PR efforts and spread our story through the world.”

Despite a Facebook campaign calling for a new Intifada to be launched in May, Khatib estimated that if an uprising indeed breaks out it will likely get underway in September. Young Palestinians are the ones pulling in that direction, he said.

“They see what happened in Egypt and this gives them a backwind, yet the Palestinian Authority is attempting to prevent it in all sorts of ways,” he said.

One approach is the PA’s decisive, open objection to an Intifada, with Palestinian officials focusing on a diplomatic campaign. Last week, PA leader Mahmoud Abbas declared that the second Intifada was “disastrous” for the Palestinians and added that he will not tolerate a “third armed uprising.”

Speaking at the conference, Palestinian politician Mustafa Barghouti received great applause after declaring that “our situation will not change without a popular uprising.” When asked to translate his words to English, Barghouti made clear he was referring to a non-violent uprising; however, the young Palestinians at the event apparently did not notice this nuance.

‘People will decide’

Meanwhile, a Fatah source told Ynet that the group maintains full control of the West Bank, stressing that the situation there is different than in Egypt.

“A decision about an Intifada must be taken from above,” he said, adding that such uprising will not happen should officials not order it. “Even if we assume that riots will start following the Facebook group’s call, they will end in a day or two.”

However, some Palestinians believe that a third Intifada is the only option. Senior Islamic Jihad member in Gaza Khaled Batash responded to Abbas’ comments by saying that only the Palestinian people will determine whether an uprising takes place.

“He made a grave mistake and offered a promise he won’t be able to deliver on,” Batash said. “Only the Palestinian people will make the decision.”

Elsewhere, senior Hamas official Osama Mazini accused the PA’s security forces of thwarting popular efforts to launch an Intifada, charging that the PA was “persecuting Intifada organizers and their supporters.”

           — Hat tip: AC[Return to headlines]

Middle East

Cellmate of Dubai Cell-Death Briton Says He Was Attacked by Six Guards Then Left for Four Days

A prisoner who shared a cell with a British tourist allegedly beaten to death by guards in a Dubai police station has revealed how he begged him to help save his life.

The witness said Lee Brown, 39, told him: ‘Please, please help me. Call my embassy, call my family . . . They beat me badly. Please help me otherwise I will die.’

His testimony includes the claim that after being attacked by six officers, Mr Brown was left alone for four days to die in his cell and that no officers checked on him. The officers, he says, even joked: ‘He’s crazy. Let him die in there.’

[Return to headlines]

South Asia

Failed Taliban Suicide Bomber Shot Dead in Afghanistan Was ‘Sleeper From London’

A suicide bomber who was shot dead before he could detonate himself in Afghanistan’s defence headquarters had travelled from London, it’s believed.

The Times are reporting that Britain’s intelligence services have been handed details of the militant who infiltrated the base on Monday.

Sources high up in Afghanistan said the would-be bomber’s name and other personal information had been forwarded to London, suggesting that he had been living here in Britain.

[Return to headlines]

Australia — Pacific

Villawood Detainees Ask to Come Off Roof

Three protesters who have remained on the roof at Sydney’s Villawood Detention Centre following a fiery riot have asked to come down, a refugee advocate says.

A riot by up to 100 detainees on Wednesday night left nine buildings gutted by fire.

Twenty-two protesters, transferred to Silverwater Correctional Centre, have been questioned by police.

Social Justice Network member Jamal Daoud on Saturday said the detainees were contemplating their fate after an exhausting few days.

“There’s three still on the roof and they have asked to come down,” Mr Daoud told AAP.

Mr Daoud said the detainees were feeling depressed and the atmosphere remained tense inside the centre.

“They want to talk to a UN representative for refugees and they’ve said: ‘If it is impossible for us to be released in the community, send us to a third country’.”

A Department of Immigration spokeswoman said 22 detainees were still at Silverwater Correctional Centre and Australian Federal Police (AFP) were talking to those still on the roof.

“One has come down earlier today and there’s three still on the roof,” the spokeswoman said on Saturday afternoon.

The protest was triggered when two men climbed onto the roof of the main centre early on Wednesday after having their asylum applications rejected.

They were joined by another 11 and, by midnight (AEST), up to 100 people were involved, vandalising and setting fire to buildings. There was an explosion shortly after 2am on Thursday when an oxygen cylinder ignited.

Meanwhile, acting Prime Minister Wayne Swan on Saturday condemned a rally outside the centre, planned for Monday by the Refugee Rights Action Network.

Mr Swan said the rioters’ actions could not be defended and the rally would be inappropriate.

“I don’t think that’s necessarily appropriate at all. There has been unacceptable behaviour by people inside the facility,” he told reporters in Cairns.

“We cannot, in any way, condone the sorts of acts and behaviour we have seen at that facility in recent days.”

Mr Swan refused to be drawn on the police’s decision to deny food to the four protesters still on the centre’s roof.

“I think the authorities should take every responsible course of action to remove people from those positions. That is entirely a matter for the law enforcement officials.”

Mr Swan on Friday promised those involved would “feel the full force of the law”.

But he has ruled out making any changes to Australia’s immigration detention policies until after an inquiry is completed into the Villawood riots and a similar incident last month at the Christmas Island detention centre.

Opposition immigration spokesman Scott Morrison on Saturday said the government could not effectively deal with the controversies.

“The fact is this government has no clear line of thought or policy or process of dealing with these riots,” Mr Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

“We have a rolling crisis, it’s not new, been happening for over a year and yet they fail to learn from one riot to the next.”

           — Hat tip: Nilk[Return to headlines]


UK: Asylum Seekers Run Up £2,500 Taxi Bill… Even Though the Bus Fare Costs £1.80

Asylum seekers are being ferried to and from court hearings by a private taxi company costing the taxpayer thousands of pounds — even though the local bus does the trip for £1.80.

Each five-mile trip from the train station to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal Centre in Newport, Gwent costs £8.70 in a cab.

Around £2,500 a month is being spent to bring migrants to Columbus House — where applications to become British citizens are heard. It is paid by the Tribunals Service to a private taxi company.

Arriving in style: Asylum seekers are being driven to tribunals at Columbus House, Newport by taxi — at a cost of £2,500 per month

Campaign groups have criticised yet another wasteful Government scheme.

Matthew Sinclair, from The Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Across the public sector, costs need to be properly kept under control and the taxpayer’s money spent on front line services and not on more convenient journeys for asylum seekers to tribunals.

[Return to headlines]

Culture Wars

UK: The Black Headmistress Who Saw Lynch Mob in a Parent’s Poster and Called Police

For a poster advertising a primary school parents’ meeting, it is certainly unusual.

Using models, it depicts scientist Charles Darwin surrounded by an angry mob wielding flaming torches and makeshift weapons.

According to the school governor who created it, City executive David Moyle, it is a satirical joke about pushy middle-class parents demanding higher standards.

Yet when black headmistress Shirley Patterson saw it, she believed it represented her surrounded by white parents.

She reportedly compared it to a scene from Mississippi Burning, a film about the Ku Klux Klan’s racist lynchings, saying it left her ‘fearing for her and her family’s safety’.

She called the police, claiming harassment. Then a council inquiry spent weeks determining the race of the Charles Darwin figure. Now Mr Moyle has been suspended from the governing body of Goodrich primary school in fashionable East Dulwich, south-east London, and is considering withdrawing his two younger children.

Although the police realised Darwin was white, and said no crime had been committed, Southwark council insisted it had ‘appropriately’ investigated the ‘deeply disturbing’ poster.

The Labour authority refused to reveal details of its inquiry — which involved half a dozen officers at a time when 500 jobs are set to be cut.

And it will not discuss how a model of a white, bearded, Victorian scientist could be confused with a black 21st century headmistress.

But a friend of Mr Moyle said: ‘Southwark council summoned David for a meeting and told him the posters amounted to harassment.

‘A two-week investigation was carried out into the toy Charles Darwin’s ethnicity, before it was ruled “indeterminable”.

‘But the council inquiry, carried out by a whole team of officers including the assistant director of access, inclusion and education, Pauline Armour, ruled the poster was “an image of violence and intimidation”, and “deeply disturbing and damaging to children”.’

Last night Mr Moyle, who is also a volunteer cricket coach at the school, said: ‘The poster and subsequent events have taken up way too much of my time this year. I was very surprised and disappointed that the school executive tried to criminalise me over it, especially in light of the amount of time my wife and I have given to Goodrich over the last eight years.

‘If there was a perceived problem with the image I would have thought they could have spoken directly to me about it.

‘And as an ardent supporter of local government, I was taken aback by the reaction of the council, who not only fully endorsed the disproportionate reaction of the school management, but also contrived additional charges about the poster that had no relation at all to the original complaint.

‘The only people involved who have applied common sense to this incident are the police and the parents of the school, and to them I am grateful.’

The friend added: ‘David is really angry. He feels he can’t have his children in a school where the headmistress tried to have him arrested. The posters were supposed to be poking fun at parents, representing them as a peasants’ revolt.

‘And the parents, teachers and police saw nothing racist about it. But once the council got involved it escalated.’

Mrs Patterson, 53, replaced a popular long-term headmaster of Goodrich school when he retired in 2007. Ofsted inspectors rated the school, which has around 700 pupils aged three to 11, a lowly ‘satisfactory’ in 2008.

In January, newly-elected parent governor Mr Moyle, who lives nearby in a £650,000 Victorian house with wife Lisa, a former treasurer of the parents’ association, and their sons aged 12 and ten and daughter of eight, was asked to advertise a meeting.

He found the image on a website mocking ‘creationists’ angered by Darwin’s theory of evolution, and stuck posters around the school.

The next week he was told Mrs Patterson had complained to the National Union of Teachers.

The friend said: ‘Mrs Patterson was previously at a school where lots of children come from migrant families and English is not their first language.

‘But East Dulwich is quite gentrified, and a lot of middle-class parents here want schools that rival prep schools.

‘They want academic excellence.

‘She feels everyone is against her and has over-reacted to a poster she thought symbolised her.’

Mrs Patterson, who lives with her daughter in a £250,000 flat in Camberwell two miles from the school, refused to comment.

           — Hat tip: Gaia[Return to headlines]


Did the Universe Begin as a Simple 1-D Line?

A refreshingly simple new idea has emerged in the complicated world of high energy physics. It proposes that the early universe was a one-dimensional line. Not an exploding sphere, not a chaotic ball of fire. Just a simple line of pure energy. Over time, as that line grew, it crisscrossed and intersected itself more and more, gradually forming a tightly interwoven fabric, which, at large distances, appeared as a 2-D plane. More time passed and the 2-D universe expanded and twisted about, eventually creating a web — the 3-D universe we see today. This concept, called “vanishing dimensions” to describe what happens the farther one looks back in time, has been gaining traction within the high energy physics community in recent months.

If correct, it promises to bridge the gap between quantum mechanics — the physics of the very small — and general relativity — the physics of space-time. It would also make sense of the properties of a hypothetical elementary particle called the Higgs boson. And best of all, it would do so with elegant simplicity. “In the last 30 years, [physicists] were trying to make our theories more complicated by introducing more particles, more dimensions,” said Dejan Stojkovic, a physicist at the University of Buffalo who researches vanishing dimensions. “We decided to go the other way and make theories less complicated in the high energy realm. At high energy [in the early universe], we are changing the background on which the standard model of particle physics is formulated. In 1-D, the problem greatly simplifies.”

           — Hat tip: Fjordman[Return to headlines]