Thursday, 24 July 2014

Enough is enough : Syria

Back in 2011, BFTF contacted (in this post) the MCB, OIC, Arab League, Syrian Embassy and local mosques to urge them to act to stop the escalating conlict there.

None of them responded and BFTF is ashamed that he has not been active on this issue in the intervening years.

So, it is perhaps time to try again.

Sent the message below to the MCB, OIC, Arab League, and local mosques

"Can you please advise which organisations (e.g. local MP, Arab League, EU etc) I should pressure to act to stop the killing in Syria and, if you have a view, what actions you think those organisations should take".

Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Enough is enough : Gaza and the West Bank

Some comments on the current attack on Gaza:

Gideon Levy in Haaretz comments on:

"..how the Hamas rockets "didn’t fall out of the sky from nowhere" but instead followed the breakdown of negotiations with Israel; attacks on Hamas following the murder of the three hikers "which it is doubtful Hamas planned"; the "false arrest of 500 of its activists" and more.
The article closes by pointing out that the the approach being taken by Israel is diametrically opposite to the policies that will result in a solution to the conflict suggesting one way forward: "A port in Gaza to export its excellent strawberries? To Israelis this sounds like heresy. Here once again, the preference is for (Palestinian) blood over (Palestinian) strawberries"
Meanwhile, Holocaust survivor Gabor Maté comments in the Toronto Star on how :
"There is no understanding Gaza out of context — Hamas rockets or unjustifiable terrorist attacks on civilians — and that context is the longest ongoing ethnic cleansing operation in the recent and present centuries, the ongoing attempt to destroy Palestinian nationhood.
The Palestinians use tunnels? So did my heroes, the poorly armed fighters of the Warsaw Ghetto. Unlike Israel, Palestinians lack Apache helicopters, guided drones, jet fighters with bombs, laser-guided artillery. Out of impotent defiance, they fire inept rockets, causing terror for innocent Israelis but rarely physical harm. With such a gross imbalance of power, there is no equivalence of culpability.

Israel wants peace? Perhaps, but as the veteran Israeli journalist Gideon Levy has pointed out, it does not want a just peace. Occupation and creeping annexation, an inhumane blockade, the destruction of olive groves, the arbitrary imprisonment of thousands, torture, daily humiliation of civilians, house demolitions: these are not policies compatible with any desire for a just peace. In Tel Aviv Gideon Levy now moves around with a bodyguard, the price of speaking the truth."

And By Lawrence Weschler writes at Truthdig that :
"For the single overriding fact defining the Israeli-Palestinian impasse at this point is that if the Palestinians are quiescent and not engaged in any overt rebellion, the Israelis... manage to tell themselves that things are fine and there’s no urgent need to address the situation; and if, as a result, the endlessly put-upon Palestinians do finally rise up in any sort of armed resistance (rocks to rockets), the same Israelis exasperate, “How are we supposed to negotiate with monsters like this?” A wonderfully convenient formula, since it allows the Israelis to go blithely on, systematically stealing Palestinian land in the West Bank, and continuing to confine 1.8 million Gazans within what might well be described as a concentration camp."

There has been much talk on social media of consumer boycotts, but with few references to actual organisations running such campaigns. So far as BFTF can tell, the first point of call is www.bdsmovement.net, and organisation that is supported by over 100 NGO's in Palestine.

Before boycotting something, BFTF tries to know three things:
i) What, exactly is to be boycotted
ii) What alternative products should be bought instead
iii) What evidence there is that the people the boycott is alleged to support actually want it, and that this is the best way of helping them.
iv) That a boycott is not hypocritical (whilst realising that one cannot tackle everythng at once)

The answers to these questions, in relation to Gaza and the West Bank, are not quite clear to BFTF at this point.

Information on the Co-op boycott of settlement produce can be found here.

But what BFTF is pretty sure about is that Palestinians would like a hand up rather than a hand out, so hopes to shortly be buying some Palestinian produce from a local Zaytoun stockist (in BFTF's case this appears to be Roots Health Foods in Nottingham

Finally (for now), sent the following to my local MP :
"Like many people, I am appalled by death and destruction currently being wreaked on Gaza and wanted to make three hearfelt points to you:

i) Do you think bombing the living daylights out of a population is going to make them come begging to the negotiating table? Is that what the British people would do in a similar situation? I think not.

ii) The many years of peace in the West Bank has resulted in nothing for the Palestinian population there. Their crops are still routinely destroyed, they are still routinely humiliated by IDF security forces, they are still discriminated against in terms of trade, electriciy and water and housing.

iii) The UK Government likes to strut around as a permanent member of the security council, and has Tony Blair as the envoy for the Quartet - but I don't see what Mr Blair, or the UK government is practically doing to bring any semblance of justice to the lives of the Palestinians. I would welcome some evidence from you on this point."

Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Enough is enough : Egypt

Very disturbed to read how two trials in Egypt earlier this year resulted in 720 people being sentenced to death.
According to the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales, the trials were very unfair, commenting that :
"The majority of the defendants were tried in absentia and no specific evidence was put forward by the prosecution in respect of individual defendants. Defence lawyers were not allowed to call witnesses, present their own cases or cross examine on the prosecution case. The trial of the 529 defendants was concluded in only two short sessions... No consideration was provided as to the evidence against each individual defendant, nor any reference to the standard of proof...In particular, defence lawyers claim that there is evidence which proves that a large percentage of the convicted were not even present at the scene of the Minya events last August."
This comes against a backdrop of systemic violence and abuse in Egypts legal system, according to Amnesty International. A report by the human rights organisation points out that :
"Amnesty International has gathered damning evidence indicating that torture is routine in police stations and unofficial places of detention, with members of the Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters particularly targeted. It is carried out by both the Egyptian military and police including in premises belonging to the National Security Agency, in many cases with the objective of obtaining confessions or to force detainees to implicate others. Among the methods of torture employed are techniques previously used by state security during Mubarak’s rule. These include the use of electric shocks, rape, handcuffing detainees and suspending them from open doors"
Amnesty also point out that :
"Egypt is a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Article 14 of which guarantee the right of everyone to a fair and public hearing by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law. The article further guarantees the right of everyone facing criminal charges to be informed promptly of the nature and cause of the charges against them; the right to have adequate time and facilities for the preparation of their defence; the right to be tried in their presence; and the right to examine, or have examined, the witnesses against them. Article 6 of the ICCPR states that, in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the ICCPR."
So sent this to to Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Human Rights Mahy Hassan Abdel Latif (contact.Us@mfa.gov.eg) and two addresses at the Egyptian Consulate in the UK (Egypt.culture@btconnect.com , info@egpressoffice.com)
"I have been very disturbed to hear about the mass death sentences handed down to over 700 people earlier this year in Egypt. So far as I can tell, the trial was very flawed and the defendents (many of whom claim to have been elsewhere at the times the crimes were committed) had little chance to defend themselves.

Separately, I am also appalled to read in reports by Amnesty that torture, rape and electric shocks are routinely used on detainees.

Egypt should be ashamed that it has allowed these unfair trials and routine use of torture to happen. As well as causing me to lose respect for Egypt, these actions also give ammunition to those who say that Muslim countries are incapable of governing themselves without becoming violent, intolerant, dictatorships."


Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Enough is enough : China

Very disturbed to hear that Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China are being banned from fasting in the month of Ramadan, according to the BBC.

According to the reports, students were "were being forced to have meals with professors to ensure they were not fasting."

Another report describes how hospital staff are being forced to sign a pledge that they would not fast.

This is an unacceptable restriction on freedom to practice ones faith.

So sent this to the Chinese Embassy in London:
"I have been very disturbed to hear reports that Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China are being banned from fasting, to the extent that some students are being forced to eat meals with college staff to prove that the students are not fasting that day. To hear that the Chinese government is behaving in this way reduces my respect for China, and makes me less likely to buy Chinese made products."

And this to the High Commission for Pakistan in the UK
"I have been disturbed to read reports that reports that Muslims in the Xinjiang region of China are being banned from fasting, to the extent that some students are being forced to eat meals with college staff to prove that the students are not fasting that day. As China is a good friend of Pakistan, I wondered what efforts the Pakistani Government has made to stop this practice."
Related Posts:
Enough is enough Syria
Enough is enough Gaza and the West Bank
Enough is enough Egypt
Enough is enough China

Are you a Type 1 or Type 2 Person

Proof that activism works

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Challenging the BBC on negative portrayal of Muslims in Spooks (2004)

Challenged the BBC in this, rather angry, email over an episode called "Outsiders" (Series 3 Episode 7, 22nd Nov 2004). BFTF has no record of any response from the BBC. This was back in 2004. So far as BFTF can tell, nothing at all has changed in the intervening 10 years. BFF wonders why he is paying a licence fee to get demonised in BBC dramatic output.

-----Original Message-----
Sent: 24 November 2004 00:44
To: info@bbc.co.uk
Subject: Spooks - Nov 22nd

Does the BBC and KUDOS productions have the demonisation of the Muslim community as some kind of mission statement?

I have just had to endure a whole week of trailers that appeared to show messages from an "Islamic" Terrorist group.

They must have been Muslims mustn't they? The messages were in Arabic after all. But just in case there was any doubt, part of the message was helpfully translated to mean "Jihad". There you go, told you it was Muslims.

And the programme itself continued in the same vein, with the Spooks team raiding a "Cultural Centre" in the UK (would that be the same one that had child suicide bombers in the last series, perhaps?).

But it turns out that it's okay, because this time the Muslims didn't do it.

Let me just get this straight. Are you saying that it is now acceptable to use the asssumed guilt of Muslims as a plot line ??!!

Are you saying that it is okay to, once again, portray Muslims as terrorists so long as, after half an hour of leading the audience on, you then say, "Only kidding, look, it wasn't the Muslims after all"?

I would point out, again, that the ONLY time the BBC portrays Muslims in its dramatic output is when they are either terrorists or asylum seekers

Frankly, I am starting to wonder why I am paying a license fee to an organisation that seems hell bent on portraying me (and my family) as a fifth columnist threat to society.

And if this is the BBC's idea of a contribution to Islamic Awareness week, then I think the Muslims in the UK are better off without it.

In summary, my questions are :

i) Why did the BBC show repeated trailers that associated Islam with terrorism?

ii) Why are Muslims only portrayed in negative terms in the dramatic output of the BBC?

Related Posts
How to positively engatge with the Media
Positive Portrayals of Muslims in the Media
Details of News Stories simply done get read
Demonisation of Muslims in the Media
Negative Portrayal of Muslims in NCIS

Challenging the BBC on portrayal of Muslims in Spooks (2003)

Challenged the BBC (via a phone complaint) on their claim that they had consulted with Islamic experts for the 9th June 2008 episode of Spooks "Nest of Angels". A member of the Editorial and Investigation Team responded saying that :

"I am unable to divulge details of the Islamic Experts that were consulted for the programme. Ultimately the BBC takes responsibility for Spooks and we are satisfied that this episode was extensively researched and that the BBC's usual rigorous editorial policy and legal requirements had been followed"

Links:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nest_of_Angels
http://spooks.wikia.com/wiki/Nest_of_Angels


Portrayal of Muslims in NCIS (2008)

Had an, ultimately fruitless, email discussion with Channel 5 back in 2008 about the overwhelmingly negative portrayal of Muslims on the US made NCIS drama...

13 April 2008
Subject: NCIS, Fri 11th April 2008

Dear Channel 5

I was deeply disturbed by the negative portrayal of Muslims in this episode of NCIS. Specifically:

i) A group calling itself something along the lines of "Muslims for Peace" turned out to be intent on performing suicide bombings. The implication being that Muslims are largely two faced, and not to be trusted. Having a group called ""Muslims for Peace" also implies that all other Muslims are "for War".

ii) Muslims were shown exclusively in a context of terrorism.

ii) Muslims having beards of wearing prayer-caps were exclusively shown be resentful of the NCIS agents in a way that is rare for other characters to be portrayed.

NCIS has a history of such portrayal. For instance in just three months last year it managed to rack up the following :

23rd March 2007 : 2 detectives found themselves in a crate of terrorist related "Al- Qaida" cash

24th March 2007 : Comments about Al-Qaida dropped into a conversation on a different topic

20th April 2007 : A decapitated head in the boot of a car prompts Ziva to tearfully tell how her friend was beheaded by Hamas in Ramallah

11th May 2007 : Ziva comments that "I've seen 12 yr old suicide bombers in Israel" in an eposide relating to a student who appeared to be a suicide bomber.

I can recall no positive portrayals of Muslims In addition there are running stories relating to Gibbs search for the terrorist "Ari", and the last season ended with a terrorist attack on a US naval ship.

I appreciate that this is a drama series and that terrorism is a legitimate topic. What is NOT acceptable is to link Muslims and terrorism repeatedly throughout a series - and to do so without any positive references to Muslims in storylines that are unconnected with terrorism.

It is inconceivable that that any other minority would be portrayed in such a systematically negative fashion. I would welcome some evidence from C5 that it has a larger number of positive portrayals of Muslims than negative ones in its dramatic output.

I would also ask C5 to consider the effect that consistently negative portrayals of Muslims have on community relations. Consistently negative portrayals of Muslims have an adverse effect on the perceptions that some non-Muslims have of Muslims. They also have the effect of demonstrating to some Muslims that the "establishment" is determined to portray them as the enemy within and that they will never be accepted in this country.

********************************************************************

17 April 2008
Dear Ash


Thank you for your recent enquiry regarding NCIS and the portrayal of Muslims.

We were sorry to learn that you feel that this series portrays Muslims in a negative way. Whilst we fully understand your sentiment based on your perception of the programme, we feel that you are mistaken. As the programme is set in a department of the US Military, it is entirely feasible that there will be mentions of terrorism related matters. The episode in question, titled Grace Period, features a number of Muslims but only two are found to be involved in terrorist activity. Indeed, other Muslims featured in the episode are either successful business owners, clerics working to promote peace or volunteer workers also keen on promoting peace. With the exception of the two terrorists in this episode, the portrayal of Muslims and interactions with NCIS staff was both positive and reverential.

Nonetheless, we understand your concerns and have logged your comments for the attention of all relevant Five personnel.

  ********************************************************************

17 April 2008
Dear Channel 5


Thank you for replying to my comments.

Unfortunately, you're responses do not answer my questions, and are incorrect in some respects. Specifically:

1) You state "the programme is set in a department of the US Military, it is entirely feasible that there will be mentions of terrorism related matters"

I agree with you, as shown by by original statement "I appreciate that this is a drama series and that terrorism is a legitimate topic"

2) You state "Indeed, other Muslims featured in the episode are either successful business owners, clerics working to promote peace or volunteer workers also keen on promoting peace. With the exception of the two terrorists in this episode, the portrayal of Muslims and interactions with NCIS staff was both positive and reverential".

This is plain wrong. My recollection is that the "business owner" was found to be a terrorist. Also the workers at his office scowled at the NCIS agents and were certainly not "reverential".

3) My comment was that "What is NOT acceptable is to link Muslims and terrorism repeatedly throughout a series - and to do so without any positive references to Muslims in storylines that are unconnected with terrorism". I would welcome your confirmation that you agree with this.

4) My question was "I would welcome some evidence from C5 that it has a larger number of postive portrayals of Muslims than negative ones in its dramatic output". An answer to this would be gratefully received. And please note, having a token "good Muslim" in a programme that otherwise contains Muslims that are bent on death and destruction does not, in my mind, particularly count as a positive portrayal.

********************************************************************

Date: 23rd April 2008
Dear Ash

Thank you for your further e-mails.We are sorry that you feel we did not address the questions in your previous e-mail.

It would appear that on your first point, you agree with our explanation. On your second point, we have watched the episode in question and stand by the information that we gave you on the various Muslim characters in that episode.

On your third point, the series does not link Muslims with terrorists. However, there are terrorists featured in the series who are Muslims. The episode Grace Period made it quite clear that these terrorists are a minority and do not represent the views of all Muslims, this was reiterated by a number of comments made by various characters through the episode.

Muslim fundamentalist terrorists do exist, as do fanatics of every race and creed, and as such are a legitimate inclusion in films or dramas. Fanatics shown in such films or series, regardless of their ethnic or religious group, are not implied to be representative of that group as a whole. Films regarding the IRA do not seek to suggest that all Irish people are terrorists, just as a series such as NCIS does not suggest that the terrorists featured represent all Muslims.

Your further comments have been logged in our Viewer Enquiries Report, which is circulated throughout the company.

********************************************************************

25th April 2008
Dear Channel 5


Thank you for taking the time to respond.

1) However, I am afraid that you have omitted to answer my key question :

"I would welcome some evidence from C5 that it has a larger number of positive portrayals of Muslims than negative ones in its dramatic output". An answer to this would be gratefully received. And please note, having a token "good Muslim" in a programme that otherwise contains Muslims that are bent on death and destruction does not, in my mind, particularly count as a positive portrayal. Had I known that your reply would respond to my other points and leave this one unanswered, I would have restrained myself to asking this one central question.

********************************************************************

The conversation went on a bit further after this, but not to any significant effect

Related Links http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2013/09/how-to-positively-engage-with-media.html
http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2013/03/positive-portrayals-of-muslims-in-media.html
http://bftfblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/details-in-news-stories-simply-dont-get.html http://bftfblog.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/demonisation-of-muslims-in-media.html