Friday, 31 May 2013

Night Shelters at risk of losing funding

BFTF was concerned to read about a campaign on explaining that :

"...night shelters throughout England and Wales may now be threatened with closure by a legal ruling that supported Isle of Anglesey Council's decision to deny housing benefit to a man who was staying in a night shelter. This was done on the grounds that it could not be considered his ‘home’, as the man did not have the right to leave his possessions there or a guaranteed place every night.

Many night shelters rely on Housing Benefit payments to keep their services running. This income is needed more now than ever before, as many homelessness services are already seeing other sources of funding fall due to local authority spending cuts. Without access to Housing Benefit, many shelters may be forced to close their doors."
After signing the petition, BFTF emailed Nottingham Council to ask them to confirm that they would not be stopping housing benefit payments to night shelters and similar accomodation.

Update 18 Jun 2012 : Received the following response from Nottingham Council:
1. Winter Shelters
Emmanuelle House which refers in to winter shelter scheme has confirmed that it does not claim Housing Benefit for citizens it support. This scheme would be similar in services offered to that of the upper tribunal decision in Anglesey and as such we would not pay HB for these services and I have been advised by Housing Aid (Gary Harvey) that 80% of the winter shelter users do not have recourse to public funds.

2. Hostel accommodation
This includes the likes of London Road, The New Albion, YMCA, Salvation Army.
The users of these hostels are classed as tenants and have either licenses or tenancy agreements to reside at the hostels. As long as the tenant abides by the rules of the hostel and the tenancy agreement they have the right to stay at the hostel. This suggests a greater degree of permanence than that of the night shelter in Holyhead (Anglesey) and allows the residents to leave their belongings during the day.

Based on the above, it is likely that HB can and is paid as and when claimed. We will of course keep this under review, should any new schemes emerge or if there is a change to the hostel accommodation that would mean we needed to apply the Upper Tribunal decision.

Update 18 Jun 2012 : Received this from the petition sponsor Emmaus
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) was initially reluctant to take action in what it viewed as a local issue. However, following pressure from the homelessness sector [and the petition], the DWP has issued a joint clarification note with the Department for Communities and Local Government reassuring local authorities that ‘there has been no sudden change in the law’, so there is no reason to change housing benefit payments to night shelters. A number of local authorities are still reviewing their position as regards housing benefit payments to night shelters, so the Government’s action should help to protect services in these areas.

There was a real danger that a Tribunal decision on an individual case could have devastating and unforeseen consequences for emergency homelessness provision throughout England and Wales. Although the Government has stopped short of issuing definitive guidance for local authorities, this is an important step. Thank you to everyone who gave their support to our campaign.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

May 2013 - Updates and past posts

BFTF is conscious that those of you who keep up with the blog via email notifications will not be aware of the many updates that posts are given (as the email engine on blogger only sends out notifications when the post is first published, not if it is subsequently updated.

And the other thing that has been preying of BFTF's mind is that there is now quite a lot of archive material on the blog, much of which is as valid today as when it was written.

So, this is the second in what will hopefully become a monthly post summarising what updates have happened over the last four weeks or so, and also looking back on the most interesting posts from this month in previous years

Updates this month
04 May : Halfords still won't say whether they treat workers in Cambodia fairly

06 May : Still no response from local Masjid on inclusion of a Gift Aid section on donation forms

11 May : Proving to be Hard Work getting engagement from Council on combating Domestic Violence

15 May : Some more information on the "Amazon, I can't shop with you anymore" post

16 May : Another example of how activism really can make a difference.

25 May : The 92nd Nottingham Scouts have made two ginormous "Thank You" cards for two UoN researchers who talked about Chemistry, Geology knots

29 May : Response from Government on the "change in cicumstances" delays

29 May : Would the current Labour leadership have taken the UK into the Iraq war? An answer from a local MP (see end)

29 May : Some interesting info in the latest NG7 Foodbank update

Interesting posts from previous years

2012 : Prof Ian Shaw on the NHS Bill

2012 : Booing that National Anthem

2012 : What do we REALLY want?

2011 : Reclaiming Islam (3 parts)

2011 : Framing the Debate (2 parts)

2011 : Elf and Safety in the Media

Nottingham Unity Gathering

A "Nottingham Unity Gathering" was held recently at the Kashmir Centre in Seinton, Nottingham.

The event was arranged by Nottingham Citizens, Himmah and Karimia - and was supported by Muslim Hands, PAK Foods and Medina Superstore.

The gathering brought together over 100 Muslims and 100 Non-Muslims, all from a wide variety of backgrounds, and from organisations including faith groups, schools and trade unions with the aim of showing solidarity against extremism following the murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich, London.

An impressive turnout, from a wide section of Nottinghams communities

Speakers included the Rev Karen Rooms, from Nottingham Citizens and Dr Musharraf Hussein, Imam at the Karimia Institute.

Dr Hussein commented that the Muslim community "condemn this brutal attack on his life" adding that he had "faith in my country's resilience"

He also had messages for the Muslim community and for the wider society.

To the Muslim community Dr Hussein said "We must not be in denial of having extremists, religious fanatics and criminals in our midst" adding that their ideologies needed to be challenged and condemned. He also said that the Muslim community needed to "demonstrate passionately out loyalty to out country" and pointed that this did not mean automatic support of any particular governement or policy. And in an example of how the members of the Muslim community have deep and interwoven ties to many of the UK's institutions, Dr Hussein described how his grandfather had fought for the UK in the trenches of France during WW1.

To the wider society, Dr Hussein asked that they "Please don't associate the whole community with that crime"

Thought provoking stuff from the speakers

After the speeches, the audience had the opportunity to talk to each other, Muslim to non-Muslim, about what they held dear about living in Nottingham and also what they could do to make Nottingham a society that was truly peaceful diverse and democratic

A Nottingham Post report on the event can be found here

Related Links
Positive Muslim Stories
Report on an NTU talk on Muslim Identity in Canada
Muslim WW2 SOE operative Noor Inayat Khan
Muslim merchant seamen who died bringing supplies to the UK in WW2
A post (with links) on Nottingham Citizens

Saturday, 25 May 2013

How BFTF reacts to product packaging messages

A couple of weeks ago, BFTF's ears pricked up on hearing a TV advert for a Birds Eye Fish product being stocked at Sainsburys - because the advert said the product was "MSC certified". So, the next time BFTF was at that store, and after checking out the packaging, BFTF bought a couple of packets.

The product is "Birds Eye Large Haddock Fillets in Harry Ramsdens Famous Batter"

So, more a novel than a product name.

But anyway, they were rather delicious. BFTF is likely to buy more.

As the product packaging had a lot of messages, BFTF thought it might be interesting to list them out and estimate how much of a part they played in BFTF actually buying this product

The part different packaging messages play in BFTF's
purchasing decision (click to enlarge)

Challenging a Muslim org on sustainably sourced paper

This post has morphed a bit since originally posted, and now covers challenges to a number of organisations.

Dec2016: After seeing their books pop up on BFTF's FB timeline, sent a on-line feedback message to asking if their books were printed on sustainably sourced paper (e.g. recycled or FSC certified)


Oct 2014 : After seeing their books pop up on BFTF's FB timeline, sent a on-line feedback message to asking if their books were printed on sustainably sourced paper (e.g. recycled or FSC certified)
Oct 2014 : Chased up via email
Oct 2015 : Chased up via email
Jun 2016 : Chased up via email
Dec 2016 : Chased up via email


Update 2014?
About a year later, BFTF was exiting a mosque and a well known Islamic organisation was handing out political leaflets. A leaflet was thrust into BFTF's hands and BFTF was all set to launch into a sustainable paper spiel when another leafleteer came over and said "It's ok, this guy doesn't need a leaflet" and took the leaflet out of my hand. Turned out it was the same person I had been talking to by the stall a year earlier!

Which just goes to show that challenging people on this issue does change their behavior. Now imagine if, instead of just one person challenging them, the leafleteers had had 20 or 40 people challenging them, and not taking leaflets - BFTF suspects that the organisation would think very seriously about changing their paper sourcing policies!


Back in 2013, BFTF was walking past a stall promoting literature from an Islamic organisation today and one of the people at the stall offered BFTF a leaflet.

There then followed a conversation, part of which went something like this:

BFTF: Is this leaflet made from sustainably sourced paper?

Stall: I don’t know, there is a website you can contact if you want to find out.

BFTF : My understanding is that Islam teaches that we should care for the environment, and part of that is ensuring that the paper we use is sustainably sourced. I don’t really want to take a leaflet that is made from unsustainably sourced paper - instead I'll check the info out on the website. Also I’ll do what you say and contact the organisation. But do you think this is an issue that needs to be addressed?

Stall : It is a matter of priorities. The priority now is to stop the spilling of blood. It isn't Haram to use unsustainably sourced paper so this isn't an important issue.

BFTF : You know, we can do more than one thing at a time. I can (and have) challenged the government on double tap airstrikes and I can (and have) also challenge organisations on the use of sustainably sourced paper. Now that I have explained the issue, do you think that this is something that needs to be addressed?

Stall : No, I don’t.

BFTF : Can you challenge the organisation on their policy regarding paper sourcing?

Stall : No, you are one who is concerned, you contact them.

So BFTF sent the following email to the organisation in question:

I was offered a leaflet by [organisation] and asked them whether, in line with Islamic principles, it was printed on sustainably sourced paper (e.g. recycled or FSC certified). They did not know and told me to contact you, which, as you can see, is what I am now doing....Hoping you can advise on [organisation] policy on this issue.

There was no response from the organisation.

Friday, 24 May 2013

1933 - Letter D

…The manufactures include silk, cotton, hosiery, laco, articles in Derbyshire spar, iron casings and porcelain; and the principle engineering works of the Midland Railway are here.

NB : This post is, obviously, not finished yet.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The BFTF Word Cloud

BFTF recently found out that the lovely "Word Clouds" that can be found on the Internet are not the results of some clever design work but can instead be made very easily using online Word Cloud generators.

Perhaps ineveitably, it turned out that No1 and No2 son were already well aware of this and already had experience of using these cloud generators.


So, anyway, BFTF has taken the text from all the posts in 2012 (having stipped out common words such as "the", "from", "it" etc) and then bunged the resulting file into two popular generators : Wordle and Tagxedo.

The results are shown below (click on images to enlarge)

A Wordle Wordcloud

 A Tagxedo Wordcloud

Saturday, 18 May 2013

A short history of Wahhabism

A short history of the Wahhabi sect, drawn primarily from the content of “God’s Terrorists” by Charles Allen (Abacus). The book deals with the spread of Wahhabi ideology in Arabia and in India, although only the former is dealt with in this post.

In an attempt at clarity, the information is presented, as far as possible, in a chronological format…

7th Century
After the Battle of Badr (624 CE)the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) said “we are finished with the lesser jihad, now we are starting the greater jihad”. Over time this began to be viewed as meaning that the outer physical struggle was over and the inner moral struggle had begun. This view was adopted later by all the major Islamic schools of thought.

13th Century
In the wake of the Mongol invasion Islamic civilisation became centred on Persia and was mainly Shia. This was an anathema to 13th century Sunni Ibn Taymiyya who declared himself qualified to be a mujtahid (one qualified to makes interpretations via informed reasoning) and yet he also wrote strongly against bida (innovation). The consensus at the time was that the Muslim community should be united under a single Caliph. But Taymiyya argued against this and said that the local emir governed with the aid of the imam and it was the imam who gave authority to go to war. Taymiyya also defined jihad as a strictly literal physical struggle.

According to Allen, Taymiyya’s ideology “classified the enemies of Islam into four distinct groups” including “those who declared themselves Muslims but were not carrying out Islam’s rituals properly, and were therefore to be killed without mercy”. These views were not accepted by many Ulema at the time.

18th Century
In 1703 Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab was born in the Nejd, the son of judge. He was a devoted student of religion and, in his twenties, studied at Medina where he adopted the views of Taymiyya. Returning home, there were few scholars able to stand up to Al-Wahhabs rhetoric. According to Allen, Al Wahhab was able to :

“construct and apply almost unchallenged a brand of holier-than-thou, confrontational and heartless Islam the like of which had not been seen since the days of Mahmud of Ghazni, the butcher who led twelve loot-and-destroy raids through northern India in the eleventh century…”

Wahhab wrote that:

“The only way…is by love to those who practice Tawhid of Allah, by devotion to them, rendering them every kind of help, as well as by hate and hostility to infidels and polytheists” and also that “any doubt or hesitation” on the part of a believer “deprives a man of immunity of his property and his life”

According to Allen, Al Wahhabs theology threw out the checks and balances that hundreds of years of Islamic Jurisprudence had put in place. He adds that nowhere in Al-Wahhabs main works “The Book of Unity” or “The Book of Struggle” is there any reference to any of the many verses in the Quran that refer to non-violent means of defending Islam or propagating the faith.

His local community were not impressed, and he was ordered to leave his home village. He eventually had to leave his next home, Huraymila, .for similar reasons and then moved to Uyainah where he also gained notoriety for violent acts (including inciting a mob to tear down a tomb of a Companion of the Prophet) and had to leave.

He then moved to Dariya, where he won the support of a local chief Muhammad Ibn Saud, leader of a branch of the Aneiza tribe. Ibn Saud adopted Al-Wahhabs beliefs and married his son Abd Al-Aziz Ibn Saud, to al-Wahhabs daughter. In 1744 a ceremony formalises Ibn Saud takes the role of Emir, with al Wahhab as his Imam.

Muhammed Ibn Saud was assassinated in 1766 and succeeded by his son Abd Al-Aziz Ibn Saud.

Attacks on Muslim villages and tribes in the Arabian Penninsula continued, with the targets initially being given a chance to “convert” and threatened with being labelled as heretics and fought to the death if they did not submit.

By 1773, the Wahhabis has conquered Riyadh and Al-Wahhab resigned the office of Imam - and the title was assumed not by one of his followers but by Abd Al-Aziz Ibn Saud himself. Over the next 20 years he enlarged his Chiefdom considerably. Burckhardt, a writer of the time, wrote that :

“A country, once conquered by the Wahaby enjoys under him the most perfect tranquillity. In Nejd and Hejaz the roads are secure and the people free from any kind of oppression. The Muselmans are forced to adopt his system, but the Jews and Christians are not molested in excersising the respective religions of their ancestors, on condition of paying tribute”

In 1792 Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab died, leaving twenty widows and 18 children. Five of these became respected Wahhabi teachers in their own right and formed a dynasty known as “Aal-as-Sheikh” (family of the sheikhs), with the most senior male members assuming (even today) the title of chief judge of the Wahhabi Ulema.

Shrines in the Al-Baqi Cemetary in Median (destroyed in 1925)

19th Century
In 1802 a Wahhabi raiding party led by the Emirs eldest son Saud ibn Saud attacked the Tomb of Hussein in Karbala - a revered place to the Shia. Lieutenant Francis Warden wrote that :

“They pillaged the whole of it and plundered the Tomb of Hussein… slaying in the course of the day, with circumstances of peculiar cruelty, above five thousand of the inhabitants… “

In 1803 Abd Al-Aziz Ibn Saud obtained permission from the Sharif of Mecca to perform Hajj. According to writer T.E Ravenshaw, the Wahhabis
“killed many Sheikhs and other believers who refused to adopt Wahaheeism, they robbed the splendid tombs of the Mahomedan saints who were interred there; and their fanatical zeal did not even spare the famous mosque, which they robbed of the immense treasures and costly furniture to which each Mahomedan Prince of Europe, Asia and Africa had contributed their share”

In 1804 Wahhabi army destroyed tombs in Medina, and threatened to destroy the tomb of the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH)

In 1805 the Wahhabis entered Mecca for a second time and claimed it for themselves

A series of battles resulted in the Egyptians, acting on the instructions of the Caliph, recapturing Medina in 1812, but their ill disciplined troops looted Jeddah, causing local chiefs to side with the Wahhabis once again.

In 1806 Abd Al-Aziz Ibn Saud was assassinated. He was succeeded by his son Saud Ibn Saud who continued his fathers policies

In 1814 Saud Ibn Saud died from fever. He was succeeded by his son Abdullah ibn Saud, who lacked his forebears military skills.

In 1815 Wahhabi forces were crushed by the Egyptians in a decisive battle. The Pasha has promised a reward of 6 silver coins for each head brought to him, which resulted in piles of heads being palced before the headquarters. Allen adds that:

“the lives of 300 prisoners were deliberately spared, but only so that they could be impaled on batches before the gates of Mecca and Medina and at ten staging posts in between “

In 1818 some 500 surviving Wahhabis surrendered after a siege at Dariyah. The Egyptian Pasha staged a theological debate with them to demonstate the error of their ways, but by the fourth day his patience wore out and he ordered them all killed. Abdullah bin Saud and other senior members were sent to Constantinople where they were beheaded

In 1815 Jeddah was also taken by the Egyptians

In the early 1820s one of the few remaining Wahhabis, Turki Ibn Saud, retreated to the desert and began to slowly rebuild the tribal alliances of his grandfather.

By 1842 the Wahhabis had regrouped somewhat under Faisal Ibn Saud, who had retaken Riyadh, but a succession battle on the death of Faisal resulted in his surviving sons and grandson having to go into exile.

20th Century
In 1901 Ibn Saud took over the title of Emir. Backed by his host at the time, Mubarek the Great, Sheikh of Kuwait, Ibn Saud and a small force infiltrated the governors residence in Jeddah, killed the governor and his guards ; and then declared the restoration of the House of Saud, During his struggle of bring the rest of the country under his control he turned to two Wahhabi tribes who called themselves the “Ihkwan” - the Brotherhood. According to Allen, these tribes signalled their rejection of a nomadic lifestyle by discarding the traditional headband and wearing their robes short to leave the ankles exposed.

Ibn Saud encouraged other tribes to also abandon their nomadic life and instead settle at oases. He ensured that they were supplied with houses, schools and religious teaching. In addition, and amongst other unions, he married the daughter of the then head of the Wahhab clan. This marriage produced a son, Prince Faisal who would later become a leading proponent of Wahhabiism.

However, even pro-Wahhabi Harry Philby commented that the most remarkable characteristics of the Wahhabis was their

“uncompromising hatred of their Muslim neighbours… The Shias are frankly condemned as infidels or polytheists, but it is for the orthodox congregations of the four Sunni churches …that the Wahhabis reserve the undiluted venom of their hatred”

Harry Philby (in Jeddah)

As far as the British were concerned, the only legitimate ruler of Arabia was Sharif Husain Ibn Ali, Emir of the Hijaz, guardian of the holy cities of Mecca and Medina, protector of the Hajj.

And when the Ottoman empire threw in their lot with the Germans in WW1, the British became keen to have allies who could fight with them against the Ottomans. Husein seemed to fit the bill very well and agreed to help the Biritsh in return for support after the war as ruler of Arabia.

In 1918 Ibn Saud was told that the British would support Husein and, in revenge, attacked Husains forces and pushed them back to the outskirts of Mecca.

By 1921, further advances by Ibn Saud left Husain with only the Emirship of the Hijaz, and yet Husain still expected the British to honour their promise to make him ruler of Arabia.

Sherif Husein of Mecca

In 1924, Husein responded to the creation of secular rule in Turkey by claiming the title of Caliph of Islam for himself and banned the Ikhwan from making the Hajj. The Wahhabis then attacked and took Mecca, Medina, tearing down the tombs of many Muslim saints, including that of the Prophets daughter, Fatima. Ibn Saud paused at the gates of Jeddah.

At this point, Harry Philby resigned his government position and met Ibn Saud on the Red Sea coast, giving him details of Jeddahs weak defences. Ibn Saud took Jeddah three weeks later, taking the title of “Emir of the Hijaz and keeper of the Two Holy Places”. He gave Philby the former Turkish Government residence in Jeddah as thanks for his help.

Ibn Saud now began to work hard to rein in the Ihkwan so that he could convince Muslim and European powers that and the wider Muslim world that he was not an extremist.

By 1929, observers including the likes of TE Lawrence felt that the Wahhabi regime was likely to collapse. The Wahhabi Ulema were resisting attempts by Ibn Saud to introduce technologies such as the telephone and the car, saying that these were innovations. In addition the Ikhwan were carrying out unauthorised raids into neighbouring countries

Ibn Saud dismissed the most wayward Ihkwan leaders, resulting in a revolt by their troops. Negotiations failed , this was followed by troops loyal to Ibn Saud, backed up four British aircraft and two hundred armoured cars and troop carriers, taking on and defeating the Ihkwan rebels.

By 1930, the nation state of Saudi Arabia was close to formation. In return for accepting some innovations, the Wahhabi Ulema were given free reign to impose Wahhabi Sharia in mosques and law courts

Philby, meanwhile was not popular with the British government (due to his friendship with Ibn Saud). He became a Muslim in 1930, declaring that he was keen to follow “…especially the statements of Shaikh Ibn Taimia [ibn Taymiyya]”…

In 1932, Ibn Saud united the Nejd and the Hijaz to form the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Ibn  Saud (1945)

In 1953, Ibn Saud died and Imamship passed to his eldest sons, first Saud then Faisal

In 1975, Faisal was assassinated by his nephew, who was angry because his brother had been killed while leading a Wahhabi demonstration against the introduction of television

In 1979, several hundred men took over the Grand Mosque in Mecca and took it over in the name of the Mahdi. The takeover ended violently

The story after 1979 will have to wait for another day...

Ajyad Fortress, Mecca (destroyed in 1982)

A footnote
Incidentally, lest you think that the hate was all one way, Allen mentions a fatwa (around 1860) issued by hundreds of Ulema in India against the Deobandi sect. Part of the fatwa reads:
The Deobandis…because of their contempt and insult in their acts of worship towards the saints, prophets and even the Holy Prophet Muhammed and the very Person of God himself, are very definitely apostates and infidels. Their apostasy and heresy is of the worst kind so that anyone who doubts their apostasy and heresy even slightly is an apostate and infidel…

Update Oct 2014: BFTF notes that one of the first acts of the "Islamic State" on reaching Mosul and Aleppo was to distribute books by Muhammad bin Abdel-Wahhab, making clear just how poisonous Wahhabi thinking can be when implemented.

And also that many, many Islamic Scholars around the world have signed an open letter to the "Islamic State", detailing how its brutality go against Islamic teaching.

Another history
Destruction of Early Islamic Heritage
The Ottoman Ajyad Fortress (destroyed in 2002)
Independent article on desctruction in Mecca
BFTF challenging the Saudi Government on their policies

Image Sources
Ajyad Fortress, Ibn Saud, Harry Philby, Sherif Hussein, Al Baki

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Lord Macaulay on India in 1835

BFTF received a post on Facebook recently that contained a newspaper clip claiming to be from 1835 and with the following quote from Lord Macaulay, which he alledgedly gave to the British Parliament on 2nd Feb 1835 :

"I have traveled across the length and breadth of India and I have not seen one person who is a beggar, who is a thief. Such wealth I have seen in this country, such high moral values, people of such calibre, that I do not think we would ever conquer this country, unless we break the very backbone of this nation, which is her spiritual and cultural heritage, and, therefore, I propose that we replace her old and ancient education system, her culture, for if the Indians think that all that is foreign and English is good and greater than their own, they will lose their self-esteem, their native self-culture and they will become what we want them, a truly dominated nation!"

Scary stuff and if true BFTF would be keen to publicise this as much as possible.

But a picture on Facebook is hardly what one could call "robust evidence" so, with a critical thinking hat on, BFTF wondered how one could check that the quote was real.

As it was allegedly given to Parliament, a good first step would be to consult Hansard - which said that there was no sitting in 1835 until 19th Feb (link here)

Okay, so perhaps he gave it in some kind of meeting etc that is not in Hansard. So BFTF checked some other resources on Lord Macaulay and found that, according to Columbia University, he was in India at this time (link here)

The quote is now starting to look pretty dodgy - perhaps it has already been investigated as a fake. Time to put "Lord Macaulay myth" into Google, which throws up this link and this link both of which confirm that Macaualay did not make the comments stated.

Ironically, during this search, BFTF stumbled upon this article on a book called "Churchill's Secret War" which alleges that wartime policies caused large numbers of deaths in the famine of 1934 - a famine whose worst effects could have been avoided had the British Government sent food aid there (or even diverted some of the food laden vessels passing by from Australia to the UK.

And then, of course, there was the Great Famine of 1876-78 in which the British Administration in India behaved in a shameful manner

"In part, the Great Famine [of 1876-1878] may have been caused by an intense drought resulting in crop failure in the Deccan Plateau. However, the commodification of grain, and the cultivation of alternate cash crops also may have played a role, as could have the export of grain by the colonial government; during the famine the viceroy, Lord Lytton, oversaw the export to England of a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat.

The famine occurred at a time when the colonial government was attempting to reduce expenses on welfare. Earlier, in the Bihar famine of 1873–74, severe mortality had been avoided by importing rice from Burma. However, the Government of Bengal and its Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Richard Temple, were criticized for excessive expenditure on charitable relief. Sensitive to any renewed accusations of excess in 1876, Temple, who was now Famine Commissioner for the Government of India, insisted not only on a policy of laissez faire with respect to the trade in grain, but also on stricter standards of qualification for relief and on more meager relief rations. Two kinds of relief were offered: "relief works" for able-bodied men, women, and working children, and gratuitous (or charitable) relief for small children, the elderly, and the indigent."

Grain awaiting loading onto ships for export, Madras, 1877

Image Sources
Grain for Export

A rare pic of BFTF in Lycra

BFTF, in Lycra, yesterday

Recipe - Easy tasty tomato sauce

BFTF has made this rather simple, hugely flavoursome sause a few times and it has always received a good reception. The only challenge is making enough!

Easy tasty tomato sauce
3-4 onions, chopped
3 tins chopped tomatoes (slightly drained)
100-200g tomato puree
1.5 teaspoon Salt
1.5 teaspoon Black Pepper Powder
Some cooking oil
a) Bung the onions in a large frying pan and fry in a little oil until golden brown
b) Add chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and pepper and continue to cook until most of the liquid has evaporated

In south asian cooking, there is no such thing as too much onion

Onions now ready for the tomatoes to be added

The final, flavoursome, sauce. Nice!

The dish rates as "EASY" on the BFTF Washing Up Index

See also the RECIPES post for other easy recipes to try, both sweet and savoury.

Hatefilled sectarian leaflets in the UK

There was a recent incident in London where a scuffle broke out between Salafi protesters in London and at least some Shia passers by. BFTF is not sure who provokes who, what caused the fight etc, but was heartened to see a very quick response from the Muslim Council of Britain saying :

"The Muslim Council of Britain today affirms the unity of Muslims, particularly in the UK. We are a community with plural traditions and viewpoints, but united in our faith in Allah and his last Prophet. This is a view held by the vast majority of British Muslims.

Our affirmation comes after small but isolated incidents of hateful sectarian messages being imparted on the streets of Britain. We condemn the antics of Anjem Choudary and his (un)merry-band of publicity seekers who last Friday took to the streets of London to spew their hate-filled message and attack people they thought to be from the Shia tradition. We will speak out against anyone fostering division in our community, from whichever quarter it comes from. We urge the media to be vigilant and refrain from stoking up tensions where they do not exist.

Sunnis and Shias remain united in the UK and have a long-established history of intra-faith co-operation. We are acutely aware that the complex situation in the Middle East and Muslim world has the possibility of threatening that tradition. We are also aware that those from without the community will seek to exploit these divisions for their own nefarious ends.

We call on our scholars, leaders and institutions from all traditions to stand firm and be vigilant, speak out against sectarianism and ensure the forces of unity prevail. We should avoid hate and condescending speech and literature in our midst. Finally we should respect each other and the personalities, places and events that any group among us holds in esteem, abiding by the Islamic manner (adab) of disagreement that is neither inflammatory nor insulting."

Going back the event in question, while it would be unfair to necessarily pin the blame for a scuffle on the organisers of an event, BFTF is much more concerned that a Shia website has an image that alleges to be from the flyer for the event and says "The Shia enemies of Allah and Muhammed(PBUH)"

If truly of the flyer for the event, then this is pure premeditated, poisonous, demonisation. It is unacceptable and the MCB should perhaps have commented on the premedidated nature of the hate this implies.

With friends like the people who drafted this flyer, the Muslim community has no need of enemies.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

Some Wonderful Artists

A few months ago, BFTF attention was drawn to a wall calender at work in which each month was illustrated by a, often beautiful, painting.

Finding common ground with the wider artistic community is not something that Muslim organisations tend to devote any time towards, which is a shame as it means that this important avenue to finding common ground is left unexplored,

BFTF noted that many of the paintings were landscapes and so should be perfectly acceptable from an Islamic viewpoint- so made a list of the artists for later blogging.

This is that blog post...

Simon Bull
Simon gained recognition early on in his career for his detailed etchings and watercolors, but in the early nineties the artist developed and began using bold colors and a more gestural painting style. This transition signaled a major turning point for Bull who has since been characterized as a colorist. He has held exhibitions throughout Great Britain and in cities ranging from Amsterdam to Hong Kong and currently lives and paints from his studio in the Monterey Bay area of California.
Bright Morning Dew (used with permission from

Bob Rudd
Sufoolk born artist Bob Rudd paints beautiful landscapes, and has been exhibited in the new parliamentary buildings at Westminster and the House of Lords.

Carole Baker
Carole trained as a Graphic Designer and ran her own business in design and marketing for 18 years before becoming a painter full time in 2002. Her vibrant landscapes have been exhibited in gallery shows and open exhibitions throughout the UK.

"Bright Secret",  used by kind permission of Carole Baker

Peter Graham
Peter's work is often related to the Modern Scottish School but Peter has a flamboyant style which is unique, - detailed brush work combined with loose fluid strokes creating vibrant contrasts of pure colour, line and tone.

Jeremy Barlow
Jeremy Barlow paints evocative scences of subjects ranging from sun-dappled avenues to busy boulevard cafes, weathered and intriguing shop fronts to quiet provincial villages. He has been exhibited at the Royal Academy and numerous major art galleries.

Ann Blockley
Ann is inspired by flowers and nature, inspired by the gardens and countryside close to her Cotswold studio. Her work is exhibited in galleries throughout UK.

"Foxglove Cottage", used with kimd permission of Anne Blockley

Godfrey Tonks
Bright, bold landscapes are the signature works of Godrey Tonks.

Bryan Ryder
Former architect Brian nearly always paints landscapes using a distinctive style combining an impressionist and semi abstract technique, trying to capture his passion for an atmospheric feel to his work. He has exhibited in many Galleries in East Anglia, the Cotswolds, Isle of Wight and London. Originally from North London Brian now lives in Wells-next-the-Sea in North Norfolk.

Lachlan Goodie
Lachlan paints some hautingly beautiful landscapes and cityscapes, somehow conveying a great deal of emotion in a very few brushstrokes.

'Summer day's harvest' (click to enlarge) Image by kind permission of Lachlan Goudie

Other Art related content
Non Sign II
Jeffer M Garib
Pictures of the Sky
Nottingham - Tiltshifted
Some Wonderful Artists
Graffiti Walls
Shonaleigh at Nottingham Storytellers
Great programme describing how some of Turners paintings covered key changes in the Industrial Revolution.
Piero Gilardi and John Newling at Nottingham Contemporary
God bless our libraries
Light Night 2013
The Chair
Himmah Eid Festival
Great Comedy on Radio 4
How art can affect you
Tour of the Theatre Royal
Fantastic Snow Art by Simon Beck (see also here)
Jean Genet at Nottingham Contemporary
Rick Davies and Michael Hansmeyer

Friday, 10 May 2013

Facebook : The power of a positive message

BFTF happened to chance upon a conversation on Facebook in which some very negative stereotypes of Muslims were being protrayed.

So BFTF posted a few links to postitive Muslim stories, and saw the conversation take a very unexpected turn (BFTF is greem, the person BFTF is talking to is blue)...

Some nasty stuff here (click to enlarge)

BFTF pipes in with some positive Muslim stories... (click to enlarge)

...and the conversation takes a very unexpected turn! (click to enlarge)

It just goes to show that postive stories and politeness can work wonders.

Talk : Seeing Muslims : Identities, Visibilities, and Islamophobic Violence in Canada

Nottingham Trent University hosted a fascinating lecture by Dr Barbera Perry, Professor and Associate Dean of Social Science and Humanities at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology.

Dr Perry is an expert in hate-crime, and as written many books and papers in this area. Dr Perry has long standing connections with Universities in the Midlands, hence her presence at NTU.

The title of her talk was "Seeing Muslims : Identities, Visibilities, and Islamophobic Violence in Canada" and forms the bais of the report below...

"Power" is "the ability to impose a definition of the situation, to set the terms in which events are understood and issues discussed, to formulate ideas and define morality, in short, to assert hegemony"

"Hate Crimes" involve acts of violence and intimidation, usually directed towards already stigmatized and marginalised groups. As such, it is a mechanism of power and oppression, intended to reaffirm the precarious hierarchies that characterise a social order"

Dr Perry then described how enforced visibility (e.g. by a constant stream of negative stories in the media)can be used as a disciplinary technique on a particular group and then listed some of the ways in which visibility can act:

i) Media Type : repeated, often distorted and disproportionate visibility of a group in mainstream media
ii) Control Type : where legislation is targeted at a particular community
iii) Empowering Type : where the minority uses the visibility to portray a positive image of themselves

Click to enlarge this map of Canada

The Muslim Experience
Dr Perry commented that, although she had worked with many minority groups before, she had "never seen so many references to the role of the media" in portraying negative stereotypes.

In addition, Dr Perry commented on how (even as they were under media scrutiny) they were denied the chance to portray positive Muslim stories on local radio and print media.

This intense media spotlight had significant adverse effects on the ability of the community to engage with society, with one parent telling their children to stay away from the Muslim Student Organisations, even though the parent felt the Student Orgs were good people and did good work, because of a fear that they could put their kid in danger.

Visitations by the CSIS, the Canadian Security organisation, also caused great anxiety. Visits to people at work were particularly disturbing, with Muslims becoming very worried that friends and colleagues would take the view that there was "no smoke without fire".

One Muslim described how neighbours were constantly watching her father because he spent a lot of time in the garage - they had the perception that he was "up to something".

Dr Perry commented that in the case of most communities who feel they are under the public gaze, it is the males who are overwhelmingly the victims of hate crime. In contrast, in the case of the Muslim community it is the females who are most often attacked - because they are the most visibly Muslim.

Gatineau Mosque in Hull, Quebec

The Muslim Response
Dr Perry described some of the ways in which the Canadian Muslim community had responded to the spotlight that had been placed on them.

Some Muslims began to consider when and where they should be visibly Muslim, and where being visibly Muslim was not a bad idea. Some parents encouraged their children to "look less Muslim" so that they would be less likely to be targeted (either by people or by the Government).

In contrast, other Muslims began to become MORE visibly Muslim, as an act of defiance. Indeed BFTF's own beard is partly a 9/11 reaction, and BFTF also noticed that many relatives (in Pakistan !) grew beards at that time. Relevant to this are also the words of Israeli peace activist Robi Damelin who commented that:

"I am not all religious but I promise you that if someone said tomorrow morning that I could not wear the star of David I would go out and buy a star of David the biggest size I could find and I would walk around with it hear (on my chest) because you are pushing me into a corner - tell me I can't do something and I immediately feel threatened and that's when I'll immediately do it"
Often the sentiments felt by these visibly Muslim, er, Muslims was that they wanted to be recognised as Muslim AND Canadian.

Some Muslims called for better engagement and involvement in media, while others made efforts to befriend non-Muslims to show them that Muslims were not scary people.

Dr Perry showed the comments of one young Muslim who mentioned that, at colleges, the wearing of the Hijab had become so normal that non-Mulims were starting to chat up Hijabi Muslim girls. The young Muslim commented that this was a postive sign that these Muslim women had finally become accepted into society, and that the non-Muslim students did not view the Hijab as a barrier to engagement.

It's a post about Canada, what did you expect?

Other Comments
A few other little snippets of information from the talk are perhaps worth mentioning...

A TV programme that Dr Perry felt had gone a long way towards reducing tension was Canadian sitcom "Little Mosque on the Prairie" which focused on a Muslim community in the fictional fictional prairie town of Mercy, Saskatchewan.

Dr Perry commmented that there had been more bombings, robberies and attacks performed by the far-right in recent years that by any other group. Statistics show 306 people killed in attacks by the far-right since 2001 and added that, since the end of the Cold War, there has been a need for the US to find a new enemy.

The compere for the event, Mike Sutton en encouraged the audience to find read the available research and use it as a basis for further work or to influence policy.

Two examples that he gave of relevant work that the department relate to the BNP and to retention of BME Police officers.

Identity Crisis? Negotiating Blackness in the British Police Service: a Regional Perspective

Politicking the personal: examining academic literature and British National Party beliefs and wishes about intimate interracial relationships and mixed heritage.

Finding the Far Right Online An exploratory study of white supremacist websites,

Image Sources
Gatineau Mosque, Hockey, Map

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Home-made Yogurt

BFTF has been waiting excitedly, for the results of Mrs BFTF's first attempt at home-made yogurt and finally had the chance to taste the result today - and can report that it wasn't bad at all!

Mrs BFTF reports that the procedure was as follows:

i) Warm a litre of milk (perhaps to the boil?)
ii) Add a table spoon or two of a good quality yogurt, such as Onken
iii) Put the mix in a bowl, and the bowl in a hotpot. Then put some boiling water in the hotpot
iv) Leave in a cupboard for 1-2days!

And this is the result :

Mrs BFTF's home made yogurt - is there no end to her talents?

Monday, 6 May 2013

Graffiti Walls

BFTF happened to take some small people to the wonderful Ashcroft Road Recreation Ground in Luton recently and was intrigued by the "Graffiti Wall" that was present there. BFTF took a picture of it on the Saturday:

How the wall looked on Saturday

Returning to the park on Sunday, BFTF was surprised to see that the kids had stopped dead in their dash for the playground and were watching a chap spraypainting graffiti on the parks graffiti wall.

Paul Kemp had already been busy for some time on Sunday morning

BFTF was equally mesmerised and asked the artist whether he had and kind of Facebook page etc showcasing his workabout his work. It turned out that his name was Paul Kemp and he did graffiti purely as a form or recreaction, with his day job being Creative Director at the "Dephect" clothing company.

Paul commented that there were quite a few graffiti walls around and that artwork on this particular one would usually last longer than works on some other walls, especially in London.

BFTF asked him whether he wasn't gutted to find that someone else had painted over his rather groovy designs after only a day or two. Paul shrugged his shoulders and said that was just part of the game. BFTF is not sure he would be so relaxed !

Paul's, rather awesome, finished wall

A detail from the wall

A bit of digging on the Interweb suggests that graffiti walls have recently been banned in Nottingham (!)

Some other links worth looking at if this had piqued your interest in graffiti (it has certainly made BFTF wonder where he could have a go) are :

Urban Canvas - who create street art

Street Art in London - some great stuff here

Urban Damage -examples of some very high quality street art and graffiti

Update May 2014
Happened to visit the Ashcroft Rec Graffiti Wall this Bank Holiday Weekend and saw these examples of artistic awesomeness, although BFTF has not been able to figure out what any of these actually say, and hopes it isn't anything post watershed. Respect to the artists (whoever they are!):

Update Jun2014
Saw this rather awesome mural at the Great Notts Bike Ride....

Awesome mural at the 2014 Great Notts Ride

Update May 2016
Been meaning to get a picture of this mural in Forest Fields for a while now....

Mural in Forest Fields, Nottingham

Ashcroft Road Rec, Luton

Luton is a town that usually gets into the news for all the wrong reasons, but BFTF has recently spent two very pleasant aftenoons at the Ashcroft Road Recreation Ground (in the Stopsley area of town) and has to say that it is perhaps one of the most perfect parks that BFTF has visited for some time. An assortment of sons and nieces thoroughly enjoyed themselves on the play equipment while BFTF was able to lie on the grass and read a book. Not only that, but the ice-cream van parked next to the playground did a mean 99. Check out the pictures below which show that the park has....

Wonderful green spaces for a game of footy

A lovely playground for younger children

An equally lovely zip line, trampoline and mini-diggger equipped playground for older kids

An assault course (which is tougher than it looks)

A basketball court

A graffiti wall

A park this good deserves a compliment, so BFTF sent one to Luton Parks Department.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Nestle and Danone STILL marketing baby formula unethically

BFTF was gobsmacked to read an article in the Guardian that described how Danone were marketing their baby formula unethically in Indonesia (definitely worth reading the comments section of the article as it gives an interesting spread of views and links for further information).

A little more digging reveals that Save the Children are so concerned about the practices of Danone and Nestle that they have set up a petition to call for the companies to abide by the WHO code of practice on Formula Milk marketing (which BFTF urges you to read). One example given is the marketing of Nestle formula in Egypt in 2010 with the words 'Strengthening the immune defenses and reducing the incidence of diarrhea in the crucial first year of life.' whereas the truth is that babies fed on baby milk are proven to be more likely to suffer diarrhoea and short and long-term illnesses than breastfed babies.

Another organisation campaigning in this area is Baby Milk Action. BFTF used the email form there to send the following (words crafted by BFTF, btw) to the Head of Marketing at Nestle:

"What is the matter with you people at Nestle? Why are you STILL incapable of following the WHO code of conduct on Formula Milk marketing? I had recently started buying your Fairtrade chocolate products - but having heard of your continued flouting of thre WHO code of conductI will be taking my business elsewhere and will encourage others to do so as well."
Nestle have prducts across many sectors, including Cereal, Chocolate, Coffee and Dairy

Similarly, sent the following to Danone via their website

"What is the matter with you people at Danone? Why are you STILL incapable of following the WHO code of conduct on Formula Milk marketing? Until you do, I won't buy any of your (many) products and will encourage others to do the same."
Danone products include Activia, Actimel, Danio, Oykos, Shape, Evian, Volvic, Aptamil, Cow & Gate and Nutricia.

Avaaz also have a campaign in this area

Finally, to finish on a positive note, it is worth noting that progress has been made since the dark days of the 1980s. Isla Fisher reported to Save the Children that, in Brazil, breastfeeding rates have risen dramatically from 3.6% to 40% since 1986. Which goes to show that campaigning (both local and international) really does make a difference.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Mad Pepsi pricing at Tesco

BFTF happened to pop into a Tesco supermarked recently with the intention of buying a relatively small amount of Pepsi / Coke for Mrs BFTF.

Being conscious that cola isn't good for you, and that an opened bottle quickly drains itself, BFTF wanted to buy about a litre - and was gobsmacked to find that a 1 litre bottle of Pepsi cost £1.49, whilst a 2 litre bottle - that's twice as much - cost only 89p.

What kind of pricing madness is this?

It certainly flies in the face of attempts by many people (and indeed of the government) to try and limit intake of sugary drinks.

There is such a thing as human nature - and Tesco are playing with it in a very cynical fashion here.

BFTF is not impressed and has asked Tesco to either double the price of the two litre bottles, or half the price of the 1 litre ones. Either measure is likely to have a positive health outcome.

Bonkers Pepsi pricing at Tesco

Shonaleigh at Nottingham Storytellers

Back in February, BFTF and No3 son attended a rather wonderful event at the Broadway cinema hosted by Nottingham Storytellers which featured professional stroyteller Shonaleigh

Shonaleigh is, amongst many other talents, a drut’syla (storyteller) from the Yiddish oral tradition. The stories in this tradition form a huge interlocking network, such that they do not really have a start and a finish, but rather a series of points at which they connect with each other.

As Shonaleigh told her stories, she would mention these points of connection, but add that the related stories they connected to were "stories for another time" - a phrase that the audience were encouraged to join in with.

The tales Shonaleigh told were mesmerising and included stories of the duel of minds that occurred between King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. The stories had many incredible scenes, perhaps the most memorable of which was where a young man fell asleep inside a dead cow and awoke to find that he, and the cow, had been transported to the top of a castle - the repercussions of which were very entertaining!

A constant companion, narrator almost, through the tales was the monotone voiced (but still very lovingly portrayed) Hoopoe bird, with one of the stories explaing how it obtained it's golden crown.

Should you every get the chance to hear Shonaleigh, grab it!

The Hoopoe Bird - a rather lovely recurring character in Shonaleigh's stories

Other Art related content
Non Sign II
Jeffer M Garib
Pictures of the Sky
Nottingham - Tiltshifted
Some Wonderful Artists
Graffiti Walls
Shonaleigh at Nottingham Storytellers
Great programme describing how some of Turners paintings covered key changes in the Industrial Revolution.
Piero Gilardi and John Newling at Nottingham Contemporary
God bless our libraries
Light Night 2013
The Chair
Himmah Eid Festival
Great Comedy on Radio 4
How art can affect you
Tour of the Theatre Royal
Fantastic Snow Art by Simon Beck (see also here)
Jean Genet at Nottingham Contemporary
Rick Davies and Michael Hansmeyer

Image Source
Hoopoe Bird

Nottingham Citizens at Karimia

BFTF attended a "Listening Excercise" held by Nottingham Citizens at Karimia recently.

The event was facilitated by Nottingham Citizens' professional organizer George Gabriel and aimed to consider what were the key social issues that affected the Muslim community. Participants were a number of volunteers at BMCC, Himmah and Wollaton Mosque and Community Centre.

Whilst BFTF was familiar with some of the ground covered by George as he explained the basics of community organising, there were some aspects that really caught BFTF's attention and which are probalby worth sharing more widely.

If at first you don't succeed, try again
A listening excersise in London some years ago found that low wages were a severe problem many who lived and worked in the city. Looking at the issue more closely, London Citizens decided to focus initially on the cleaners who worked at the large HSBC HQ. This was because HSBC had outsourced the cleaning of the building and the cleaners were only paind the minimum wage - which is simply not enough to live on in the Capital.

Numerous requests to meet with HSBC management received no response so London Citizens decided that they needed to do something a little more high profile.

So they got a bunch of people together, visited a branch of HSBC and queued up to change notes into coins. When they got the coins they queued again to change them back into notes again - repeatedly.

Meanwhile, a group of (God bless them) Nuns were also queuing up and aaking to open accounts. When they had opened the accounts they queued again to close the accounts - repeatedly.

Unsurprisingly, this caused chaos in the HSBS branch and the manager was soon out asking what the heck was going on. London Citizens asked the manager to get on the phone and tell the boss of HSBC to meet with them.

The manager did indeed get on the phone, but instead of calling head office, he called the Police. When they arrived the manager told them that the branch was being disrupted by people changing money and opening apeople nd closing acounts. The Police, with admirable restraint, pointed out that he was running a bank, what did he expect?

Which is all very entertaining, but did not get London Citizens any further forward in obtaining a Living Wage for the cleaners at HSBC.

So at this point, London Citizens had failed. The organisations that formed London Citizens had given their time and their people - all to no avail.

For any nay-sayers who wanted to point out that HSBC would never listen, that community organising was a waste of time, that there were other things which needed to be addressed - this could have been their hour of triumph.

But what actually happened was that London Citizens regrouped, had a think, and TRIED A DIFFERENT APPROACH. You can read what happened next here - and Citizens has since gone on to win some £210million in extra wages for some of the lowest paid people in the UK.

George asked the participants for the qualities that they felt a leader needed and received a long list of responses along the lines of trustworthy, charismatic, hardworking, principled etc etc. With some 20-30 of these written on a whiteboard, George then asked the participants who thought they were a leader.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, now faced with this impossible-to-meet set of criteria, no-one stood up.

George then explained that your didn't need all these qualities to be a leader. What you needed to be a leader was FOLLOWERS. Without followers, no matter how good a character you had, you were just "a nice guy out for a walk".

George then asked one of the participants, a teacher,whenther his pupils generally followed what he told them. They did.

He asked another participant, a parent, whether his children generally followed him. They did.

And it became clear that, in different ways, many of those participating WERE leaders !

And also that the followers were doing so because of a RELATIONSHIP between them and the leader.

Of course, the event also spent some considerable time discussing the issues facing the Muslim community and which of these could practically be addressed.

Keeping it Going
BFTF was concerned that this kind of event only happened because Nottingham Citizens suggested it, and that the Muslim community needed to take responsibility for organising its own community action groups and activities. BFTF discussed this with an Imam, who agreed, and it is hoped that the good start given by this event will light a flame that burns of its own accord, inshallah.

Related Content
PCC Accountability Assembly
Hope and Homelessness Commission Report
Tips on Community Organising - A MUST READ
Citizens UK and Himmah