Saturday, October 28, 2006

The treatment of women around the world.

Yesterday's newspaper stories made me smile. Women can dress very differently around the world and can cause quite a stir. Sheik Taj Aldin al-Hilali Australia's most senior Muslim cleric in a religious address to 500 worshippers in Sydney last month, was quoted as saying: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the back yard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem."

He added: "If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab [Islamic headscarf], no problem would have occurred."

He makes a point here about freedoms, modesty and encouraging men which have some reality when you look at city centre night life here in the UK as an example.

Then we have the treatment and abuse of women in India were their rough and often violent treatment is taken as part of life. The UN Population Fund's 2005 report found that 70 per cent of Indian women believed wife-beating was justified under certain circumstances, including refusal to provide sex, or preparing dinner late.

Yorkshire men in the UK joke about saying to their wives if there is a delay with food serving - "Where's me dinner, woman?" - but this is done in a jokey fashion and not under the threat of violence or abuse. I wonder just how little value is put on the lives of Indian women when I read further down the page the tale of Tripla.

Tripla was born in the jungles of eastern India. But she died hundreds of miles from home, in the scrubby fields around Delhi, murdered by her husband because she refused to have sex with his brother.

She was born into a penniless family. So when a man came looking for a wife and offered £170 for her, her parents accepted.

They lived together as husband and wife for six months. Then Ajmer ordered her to sleep with his brother, who could not afford a wife.

When Tripla refused, Ajmer dragged her to a field near the village and beheaded her with a sickle.

Tripla's story was uncovered by Rishi Kant, a women's rights campaigner. When he told her parents in Jharkhand what had happened, her mother wept. "But what could we do?" she asked him. "We are facing so much poverty we had no choice but to sell her."

Sometimes people forget in the UK how other people have to live their lives and just moan about their daily lives and chores. Little do they know just how lucky they are - the grass on the other side may look greener but all is not green.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where has the satire gone?

What do I find in my newspaper today?...

A staff revolt at the Daily Star prevented publication of a spoof Islamic version of the paper called the "Daily Fatwa".

The mock-up "Daily Fatwa", which promised a "Page 3 Burkha Babes Special" and competitions to "Burn a Flag and Win a Corsa" and "Win hooks just like Hamza's", was prepared to run as page 6 in Wednesday's edition of the Daily Star, one of the stable of newspapers owned by publisher Richard Desmond.

But shortly before the Star was due to go to press on Tuesday evening, concerned members of the National of Journalists (NUJ) called an emergency meeting in the 9th floor canteen of Desmond's Northern & Shell building beside the River Thames.

After 25 minutes, the NUJ chapel passed a motion saying that the article was "deliberately offensive" to Muslims.

The motion read: "The chapel fears that this editorial content poses a very serious risk of violent and dangerous reprisals from religious fanatics who may take offence at these articles. This may place the staff in great jeopardy. This chapel urges the management to remove the content immediately."

To the surprise of some of the journalists, the newspaper's management promptly complied, following discussions between the deputy night editor Ben Knowles, the editor Dawn Neesom and the editorial director Paul Ashford.

Desmond and Ashford are understood to have seen proofed versions of the page earlier that evening. A minority of members of staff felt that removing the article went against principles of freedom of speech.

...well, well, well. Another blow for freedom of speech in our country. There is nothing wrong with satire and there is space for this type of spoof in our national press. The National Union of Journalists has no right to interfere with the editorial decisions of a newspaper - the editors should have stood their ground. If the journalists want to work for another paper that is up to them - they know there are a lot of people out there who could take over their jobs tomorrow. Journalists are over-subscribed and many people want to get into journalism but competition is fierce - without even considering the possibility of employing Polish workers -like lots of other trades love to do to depress wage costs. We should not have to worry about offending people - the reader decides which newspaper to buy or not. The customer is self selecting and will have a sense of humour. I would not be offended by a spoof news page like the one that was made up and type approved. Islam must be a feeble religion if it takes offence so easily. Why should we be treading on egg shells? Where can we draw the line with acceptable humour if we cannot publish satirical pieces like this? We should not worry about offending a small number of Muslims in this country because you cannot claim that all Muslims will be offended only that a small vocal minority could be. Then we have to look at the figures involved, only 3 per cent of the UK population are classed as Muslim. Whatever you print in a newspaper could offend someone and censoring our press would offend me!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Don't mention the B word

I was annoyed to read a story in my newspaper on Thursday. It makes me wonder just how fragile some peoples' feelings really are...

One of Britain's first black female judges was racially abused by a legal messenger who had been on an all-day drinking session, a court was told yesterday.

City of London magistrates' court heard how the judge was driving past the Coach and Horses pub in Whitefriars Street, central London, on 23 December last year, when Death stepped in front of her car.

Michael Otuyalo, for the prosecution, said Mrs Briscoe heard Death call out through her half-open window: "You black cunt."

When Mrs Briscoe asked him to clarify what he had said, he replied: "You fucking wog." Mr Otuyalo added: "She informed him she was going to call the police, and he replied, 'Well, you called me a white cunt' - which she had not."

Other members of Death's group, which included his wife and his brother Christopher Death, were heard to shout "piss off" and "what's your problem?" Undeterred, Mrs Briscoe followed the group, who were trying to board a London taxi, until she informed the driver that she had been racially abused, said Mr Otuyalo.

Death tried to make a getaway by running off when he was refused by the taxi driver, but Mrs Briscoe caught up with him in a pub called The Alibi, after which the police arrived.

Richard Walduck, the chairman of the bench told Death as he sentenced him: "It was a very foolish thing to do.

"You don't need lectures on the dangers of alcohol. Be careful in the future."

He was sentenced to 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay Mrs Briscoe £100 compensation and costs of £200.

Mr Walduck said the compensation award "can no way reflect the damage done: it can only be regarded as a token".

... I have no place for racial abuse, discrimination or prejudice but this court case annoys me. People very often shout abuse in traffic, it is childish but humans very often release their frustrations with harsh words. If this guy had referred to the car driver as being fat, old, spotty, skinny, bald, a pram face or any other physical observation then this case would not have come to court. Oh no! he mentioned the B word, black! He could see that her skin colour was black, so what! She could have had white skin but her skin covered with acne and calling her spotty would not have brought him infront of a judge. In the heat of the moment people are going to call out the most obvious indentity character and low and behold she looked like a black woman and we all know what anatomy they have below the waist. Is it really that upsetting for people to see her as a black woman? People may call me names in the street but I am not bothered by what they call me, it is their choice. It does not bother me what physical characteristics they pick on to describe me, that is their choice. This name calling does no harm and this woman should be mature enough to ignore the comments and move on. How Richard Walduck can state
the compensation award "can no way reflect the damage done: it can only be regarded as a token" is simply beyond me. The sentence for this name calling of 100 hours unpaid work and ordered to pay Mrs Briscoe £100 compensation and costs of £200 is totally out of proportion to the alledged abuse. I think this woman should grow up, get a harder skin and live within the dynamics of urban life. Justice has not been done and I think this was a waste of Police and court time.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Jack Straw and women wearing veils .

Jack Straw has caused a storm in the media over his comments that were published in his local newspaper in Blackburn. He puts his views across very well but they are a vote loser. He complains about Muslim women speaking to him whilst wearing a veil when he likes to see the full face of the person he is having a conversation with. I understand his views but feel he is wrong to ask women wearing a veil to remove the veil whilst talking to him. OK he is losing the non-verbal language that the veil is hiding but at least he is speaking to one of his constituents. The content of the constituents speach is important not the non-verbal nuances. Remember Jack, do not judge people by appearances - listen to what they have to say. I am not bothered by how women dress in this country and feel it is the womens' decision and no-one elses'. If a woman stopped me in the street it would not matter to me how she was dressed, western or Arabic, hair free, headscarf or veil - I would treat them with the same respect. They also should not be bothered by how I dress or whether I shave my face. Live and let live Jack, life is too short to worry about a dress code when having a chat with strangers.

Monday, October 02, 2006

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations.

Today in my newspaper Yasmin Alibhai-Brown writes that...

The Employment Equality (Age) Regulations now make it illegal for employers to directly discriminate against people for reasons of age, and outlaw procedures that could indirectly exclude from a workplace people of particular ages.

I agree with her views expressed in her article, she is right - I could have written a similar article myself. Leglislation against age discrimination in the UK was a long time in coming and the usual suspects all came forward to try and stop it. It is a serious issue and affects an awful lot of people, blighted to a life of poverty due to the prejudices held amongst employers. Thankfully legislation and common sense has prevailed and this law has come into force.

However, this does not affect peoples' prejudices of age when dealing one to one in a personal environment. Outside of employment people can and will discriminate because of age. Yasmin illustrates this very bravely when she writes...

Recently I bumped into an infamous Tory lothario at the BBC Daily Politics studio. I teasingly asked him why he had never attempted to seduce me - an attractive, sensual woman. I am in truth a committed monogamist but that doesn't mean I shouldn't be invited to be naughty.

He was outraged, more I think by my age than my gall.

Well said girl, age should never be a barrier to being naughty! I am also a committed monogamist but it is very nice to be asked to be naughty and have the offer to stray away from home.
The plot thickens.

On the 11th July 2006 nearly 200 people were killed in bomb blasts in Mumbai, India. Time has rolled on and fingers are still pointing at who masterminded these terrorist attacks. Relations between Pakistan and India have been stretched in the past and this tragedy stretches them further. India and the press are now pointing the finger not only at banned terrorist groups but also the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) , a government agency. People around the world are wondering just how much the Inter-Services Intelligence are helping terrorists in Kashmir, India and the reformed Taliban in Afghanistan.

It is not just in Iraq where government agencies and insurgent groups are intertwinned. The government employees have their own political agenda too. There is the official government policy and the individual employee's personal view. That personal touch can be to help outside agencies, governmental - insurgent or terrorist.

It is bad what has happened in Mumbai and leaves a nasty taste in the mouth when you do not know whether your neighbours are in league with the terrorists who attacked your city. Is Pakistan covering for it's support of outside terrorist groups with her governmental agencies involved in a massive cover up? Time will tell and truth will out.

Of course on a global scale one can always wonder who is in with whom? Do nations provoke conflict/regime change for other reasons than which their leaders claim? Yes, they do and we all know that! Humanity has gone adrift and common sense may take a very long time to catch up. It is anybody's guess just how many lives will be lost before common humanity to man is restored.

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