Tuesday, 20 September 2016


Members and staunch supporters of the 
Norfolk Humanists


but still independent freethinking anti-racist bloggers 
so all mistakes are our own


Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Friday, 4 March 2016

T-shirt legend

From photos taken at National Secular Society meeting in October 2012:

The delusion of pure Englishness

From Another Angry Voice by Thomas G. Clark:

The rise of hate-fuelled Facebook pages like Britain First and the sheer number of extreme-right ranters who see any online discussion thread as a suitable vessel in which to spew their noxious anti-immigrant bile makes it seem that Britain is becoming a more intolerant place, where people like racists, fascists and xenophobes feel ever more empowered to spread their hateful ideas.

An awful lot of the people who hold these extreme-right views seem completely impervious to stuff like facts, logic or critical analysis, thus simplistic tropes like "close the borders" or "send them back to where they came from" become their easy answers to all of societies' ills.

Stupid policies

Take Britain First's proposal that the word "racism" be completely banned from the English language. Not only is the idea of completely banning a word bizarrely impractical, it also reveals a severe authoritarian streak. These people are so dictatorial that they want to control people's thoughts and ideas by restructuring the English language to proscribe any term that could be used to criticise their own ideology.

Their thinking is that if people accuse them of being racist, they can solve the problem by banning the word racism! Thus, if anyone accuses them of being corrupt, incompetent or fascistic, they will simply ban the words "corruption", "incompetence" and "fascism" too.

The idea of a fascistic political party attempting to ban words from the English language is like some kind of George Orwell inspired satire, except that it's not a satire, it's a real ideology that well over a million people follow on Facebook!

Pure Englishness
It's not just the policies of the extreme-right that are laughably incoherent, a lot of their ideology is nonsensical crackpottery too. This article is about the ludicrous extreme-right concept of "pure Englishness".

In one discussion on the Another Angry Voice Facebook page someone made the point that there is no such thing as "pure Englishness", because if any English person looks far enough back in their ancestry, they're going to find an immigrant in there somewhere. Maybe an Irish migrant worker, a French Hugenot, a Norman lord, a Viking warrior or someone from some part of the Roman empire.

I thought that pointing out the fiction of "pure Englishness" was a good point to make, but a counter-argument was raised by a "Pure English" ultra-nationalist. This was his argument:

"I checked my family tree. I am english. Pure english. My family were here before the nation state of england existed as were many other families."

This might seem like a fair claim on the face of it, since there were indeed many English families living in England in the 10th Century (when the various Anglo-Saxon kingdoms unified into the kingdom of England), however the slightest amount of sensible consideration shows this statement up as utterly delusional nonsense.

Any genealogist will tell you that the further back you go, the harder it is to find all of your ancestors, because the number of them doubles with every generation. We have two parents, four grandparents, eight great grandparents, sixteen great great grandparents and onwards in an exponential growth pattern.

If we add the generations together we get this sequence:

1 generation (parents) = 2
2 generations (parents + grandparents) = 6
3 generations (parents + grandparents + great grandparents) = 14

4 generations (parents + grandparents + great grandparents + g. g. grandparents) = 30

The formula for this progression is x = 2n+1 - 2 with n being the number of generations and x being the total number of ancestors to be checked for Englishness.

It's difficult to know how many generations to go back to measure this claim of pure Englishness from "before England existed as a nation state", but since the Kingdom of England came into existence in the 10th Century, 1,000 years seems a fair estimate. Genealogists tend to use 20 years for a familial generation for historical periods, and 25 years for the modern era, so a claim to be "pure English" since the 10th Century suggests that something like 50 generations must have been thoroughly checked.

If we put the number 50 into our genealogy equation it turns out that our right-wing "pure English" fellow is claiming to have checked somewhere in the region of 2,251,799,813,685,246 ancestral connections and found them all to have been English born. The idea that our "Pure English" right-wing nationalist has checked all of two quadrillion ancestral connections and found every single one of them to be English is utterly absurd. If he spent just one second checking each of his two and a quarter quadrillion ancestral connections for Englishness (without any breaks for sleeping or eating), the task would have taken him 71,404,103 years to complete!

What our "pure English" nationalist is expecting us to believe is that he has spent millions of years checking all of his quadrillions of ancestral connections, and that every single one of them was English born!

Even if we let him off with such an obvious exaggeration, and reduce the magnitude of the task from fifty generations to just ten generations, that still leaves a huge number of people to be checked for Englishness (2 + 4 + 8 + 16 + 32 + 64 + 128 + 256 + 512 + 1,024). So in order to prove that you're "pure English" for ten generations, you'd have to research 2,046 ancestral connections and find conclusive proof that every single one of them was English born.

Extreme xenophobia

One branch of my family tree has been traced back for hundreds of years to a small village in Yorkshire. I was also born in Yorkshire, so I feel like if anywhere is my home region, it is Yorkshire.

On the other hand it doesn't take me many generations at all to find ancestors who were born outside of Yorkshire, and outside of the United Kingdom for that matter.

Does the existence of non-Yorkshire ancestors make me any less of a Yorkshireman? Of course it doesn't.

The only way it could ever make a difference is if I was such a xenophobic nationalist that I loathed myself for the fact that some of my ancestors were born overseas, rather than being fascinated, as I am, by my family heritage.


The idea of ethnic purity is absurd enough in its own right, but the idea of ethnically pure Englishness is staggeringly delusional given that the English people derived from a mix of various pre-Roman cultures, people from all over the vast Roman empire, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Vikings, Normans and countless other waves of migration.

I pity anyone who is xenophobic enough to think that "pure Englishness" is a trait to be proud of, and delusional enough to think that it's even possible to prove "pure Englishness" beyond a few generations.

It's easy to feel sorry for people who suffer this kind of warped xenophobic delusion of their "pure Englishness" on an individual basis, but as George Carlin once said, it's important to "never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups".

Monday, 29 February 2016

Frightening the fash

From ebfblogger:

They’ll tell you they go where they want.
They’ll tell you they’ll never surrender.
They’ll tell you they’re not scared.
They’ll tell you they’re popular.
They’ll tell you all sorts of silly things but the truth is embarrassingly different.

Today saw the culmination of literally months of hard work and undercover ‘espionage’ by British fascists trying to fool Antifa about their whereabouts.

It was a strategy with only limited success. On the one hand they managed to fool several of their own number who turned up at the wrong venues in pathetically small numbers…

They went to Newcastle

They went to Manchester…

They went to Walsall…

All this misdirection backfired on the fash who might have managed to double their turnout to something approaching 150 if they’d been more honest. The problem with paranoid groups like these is that they can’t even trust their own members enough to tell them the truth. The result was obvious.

Fortunately for them the Antifa information was more accurate and so the opposing forces (that the fascists were so unafraid of) turned up at the right place, after all. Once again the courageous patryoots were surrounded and terrified in Liverpool.

These brave fascists who go where they want (as long as nobody minds) were thoroughly terrified by the Antifa, who apparently don’t scare them a bit. They stayed safely behind police lines whilst the opposing numbers grew until several hundred Antifa made it clear just what they thought of them.

Their cowardly cowering surely didn’t impress the handful of Polish Nazis who had made the trip in solidarity with their British counterparts. Apparently the spirit of solidarity doesn’t stretch both ways as the fine, brave British boys left their Polish mates to get a really good kicking from Antifa. The cream of English white trash were too busy hiding behind Liverpool’s genuinely brave police to offer their international comrades any assistance. NFSE, eh? We think not!

Where were the Biffers whilst all this was going on? You may well ask. They were in several places.

Their illustrious leaders began the afternoon in Bromley police station where they were required to answer bail. Of course, they’d much rather have been in Luton but the law is the law and they’re getting more and more frightened of breaking it. So much for their oft-asserted disregard for the corrupt rules of an Islamist British establishment!

Then they moved to an undisclosed location (not too far away actually) to direct proceedings in Luton where the rest of their ‘band of brothers’ were causing trouble out of uniform. They’re scared of breaking the law too.

They might not have been all that scared though. Apparently Pieman Lewis has been arrested for assaulting a woman. The news of his arrest is still unconfirmed and it may not be true but it’s plausible enough.

He has a history there, as do all the Biffers. They’re much more likely to have a go at women than men. It was Lewis, after all who bravely intimidated a tiny, middle-aged anti UKIP activist in Margate last year. It was Lewis who thought nothing of attacking a group of mainly female performance artists in London and it was Lewis who bravely surrendered the original Britain First banner to male Antifa in Trafalgar Square. These brave white folks really are impressive, aren’t they?

The really interesting thing about the Biffers in Luton today is the lack of political uniform though (unless you count a Smurf costume as ‘uniform’). The transparency is obvious to everyone except the Biffers themselves who still seem to think this sad handful of ‘paytrioots’, now stripped of even their cherished uniforms are actually doing something constructive. In reality they’re just as scared as the rest of Britain’s racist, fascist groups.

Bloody entertaining though!

Sunday, 28 February 2016

50 Shades Of Grey VS Nigel Farage

From usvsth3m by Rob Manuel:

50 Shades Of Grey VS Nigel Farage – which bear makes you feel sexier?

Capitalism is a wonderful thing, answering our basest needs with products we didn’t know we needed until we saw them advertised.
50 Shades of Grey bear:

Yep, this is a real product.

Nigel Farage bear:

Again. We are not kidding, it's a real product.

But which do you find sexier?

Friday, 26 February 2016

EDL - a spent force

From Exposing Racism and Intolerance online

The pathetically small turnout to the EDL rally in Preston last Saturday, 20th February

Photo by National Police Air Service Warton, Lancashire

Thursday, 25 February 2016

So let's get this straight -

The #OscarsSoWhite debate raises the question of who gets to be human

From New Humanist by Reni Eddo-Lodge:

Each film and TV race controversy shows that we are nowhere near a “post-racial” society.

This article is a preview from the Spring 2016 edition of New Humanist. You can find out more and subscribe here.

It was April Reign, a former lawyer, who created the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag back in January 2015. That year’s Oscar nominee shortlist revealed each acting category consisted solely of white actors and actresses. Reign’s hashtag caught on quickly. This was the year after Steve McQueen’s incredibly powerful 12 Years a Slave won three Oscars on the same night, after being nominated in nine categories, and the difference in diversity between the two years was palpable.

Fast forward one year, and the hashtag, accompanied by widespread debate, has resurfaced. The academy, noted UCLA academic Darnell Hunt, is 93 per cent white, 73 per cent male, and has an average age of 63. His research showed that films with diverse casts tend to make more money at the box office. As well as being narrowly exclusive, an overwhelmingly white accolades list is counterintuitive to the money-making nature of Hollywood. This year, there was one key difference in the conversation. Whereas, in 2015, some of the industry’s most revered actors and actresses had stayed largely silent on the issue, in 2016, everyone seemed to be scrambling to have something to say on the topic. Former Oscar nominee Viola Davis said that the problem was less to do with awards and more to do “with the Hollywood movie-making system”, whilst 2016 nominee Charlotte Rampling revealed her ignorance when she told French radio that the #OscarsSoWhite debate was “racist to whites”.

Prompted in part by this swath of opinions, the academy’s first black president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, announced big changes to how Oscar voting will work from 2017. Measures include limiting voting terms to 10 years, in comparison to the current lifetime voting rights. The academy also pledged to run a targeted campaign to recruit new members in a bid to increase the diversity of voters.

The #OscarsSoWhite conversation speaks to an imbalanced tug-of-war happening across the entertainment industry in recent years – one that involves actors, writers, directors, producers and the all-important audience. Neither group has a monopoly on either side of the rope. Politically, there has been a push from audiences over the past few years for protagonists that aren’t mired in sexist and racist stereotypes. Some filmmakers have responded positively. The Bechdel test – which asks audiences to interrogate whether the women characters in a film ever talk to each other about something other than a man – successfully shamed the industry into recognising its marginalisation of women. But, as some creators have moved away from whiteness and maleness as a “relatable” default, they have been angrily confronted by audiences and critics who are so used to seeing themselves represented in all media they consume that they have had trouble coping with new presentations of what counts as “normal”.

When the cast of the upcoming play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was announced in late 2015, it was a shock to many that the grown-up Hermione would be played by black actress Noma Dumezweni. Such was the fervour, anger and confusion that JK Rowling herself came out to support the casting decision, tweeting “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione.” When the much anticipatedStar Wars: The Force Awakens saw black British actor John Boyega cast as a main character, some angry people on the internet encouraged sci-fi fans to boycott the film, calling it “anti-white propaganda”.

The idea that casting black people as lead characters is inherently controversial reveals a political struggle over who gets to be human. This affects every area of our lives. Although movies are fiction, each film and TV race controversy shows us that we are nowhere near a “post-racial” society. A diverse set of characters can bring greater meaning to stories, both old and new.

With a strong and complex female protagonist, Netflix’s recent series Jessica Jones was a superhero story not just about Jones’s predictable superpowers but also about her building up emotional strength after an abusive relationship. A black or mixed-race Hermione Granger suddenly throws the Harry Potter books’ language of “Mudbloods” and “pure-bloods” into a politically uncomfortable new place, providing young readers with a crash course in understanding fascism.
The beauty of embracing difference is that it reveals our fundamental sameness, while introducing perspectives that have the possibility to expand narrow horizons. That, in itself, can never be a bad thing.

This article was brought to you by New Humanist, a quarterly journal of ideas, science and culture.  Support New Humanist, share this article with friends  -  Twitter    Facebook

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

"Islamophobic" claims carry no water

Four years ago I was called an "Islamaphobe" for arguing for free speech on Hay Hill. even though the crazed cleric concerned was insulting me as a secularist as well as insulting numerous other religions besides Islam. 

Hay Hill, Norwich Photo B. Suzuki
My argument for tolerating a certain amount of insults in the name of Free Speech (and Care in the Community) was seen by Islamophobia Watch as defending a "democratic right to incite hatred against Muslims".  

It's true Clifford was handing out leaflets that contained some vile insults.  For example Clifford wrote in "Season's Greetings" in December 2008:
The West especially is threatened by all that denies the unique wonder of the authentic biblical revelation of God in Christ - atheistic secularism, self-indulgent & debt-driven hedonism, ethical relativism, Islamic jihadism, pseudo-Christian Roman Catholicism and anaemic, effeminate charismanic evangelicalism. 
So Clifford insulted secularists, atheists, people in debt, hedonists, Roman Catholics, Islamic "jihadism", and indeed many other religions but his own. 

No, wait a moment, he also insulted those within his own religion for their "anaemic, effeminate charismanic evangelicalism"!  

Clifford also insulted thLGBT community, the local council, and the government, and was probably going right off Spot, the neighbour's terrier.

Islamophobia Watch called me an Islamophobe for supporting Clifford's right to peaceful free expression that did insult Islam, but dishonestly failed to mention that the Reverend Clifford was a serial insulter, a generous insulter, an indiscriminate insulter, a cornucopia of insults.  Who can deny his capacity to insult?

I wrote in my Hay Hill article: 
There is literally no limit to the number of things that give offence to someone or other, and are we then to complain to the council about each and every one of them? Is this the way grown-ups in a secular democracy behave?
Islamophobia Watch concluded:
The explanation for this disgraceful position can be found on Suzuki’s Facebook page, which shows that she is an active supporter of the National Secular Society, an organisation that staunchly defends the right of racists to attack Islam – not least because a number of prominent NSS members share their views.
This is an outrageous insult to the NSS, but as far as I know the NSS did not respond and certainly did not form a "Secularphobia Watch" website to whine about it in retaliation.  

And now I read Nick Lowles of Hope not Hate, the anti-racist organisation that prompted the start of this blog, has himself been called an Islamophobe! 

Nick Lowles of HnH in 2010 Photo B. Suzuki
Nick writes:

My crime, it seems, has been to repeatedly call on the anti-racist movement to do more to condemn on-street grooming by gangs and campaigning against Islamist extremist groups in the UK and abroad.

I make no apology for either position. We need to be consistent in our opposition to extremism - from whatever quarter it comes - just as we need to be more vocal in our condemnation of child sex grooming.

These accusations of "Islamophobia" are becoming so common and indiscriminate they are losing all meaning.  However, there is no doubting the intent to hurt and damage the person being so singled out. 

There is an irony in all this.  Isn't calling someone an Islamophobe also a vile insult designed to invoke hatred?

My unexpected consolation prize for being insulted was a mention in Rational Wiki.  Now that was a real honour!  You deserve as much and more, Nick Lowles, for your years of work combating fascism from the far right, from the far left, and from religious fanatics alike.   

Norfolk group of anti-fascists at HnH HQ in 2010 (photo B.Suzuki)

Tuesday, 23 February 2016

From Norfolk LGBT Project, Hate Crime & Reporting:

Hatred is a strong phrase that goes further than causing insult or resentment.

It is easy for us all to say no to homophobic abuse but how do you do it and what does it involve?
The only way to begin to tackle homophobic hate is to report every incident, if left unreported; the individual may suffer further attacks which could also result in serious hate crimes amongst the LGBT community.

What is the difference between hate crime and hate incident?

Hate crime is any offence committed against a person or property which is motivated by the offender’s hatred of people because they are seen as being different. You don’t have to be from a minority community to be a victim of hate crime.

A hate incident is any incident which may or may not constitute a criminal offence, which is perceived by the victim or any other person as being motivated by prejudice or hate.

As part of their commitment to the LGBT community, Norfolk Constabulary have dedicated Gay Liaison Officers, the role of the Gay Liaison Officer (GLO) is a voluntary position which is open to all officers and Police Staff across the organisation. Currently the Force has 11 volunteer Gay Liaison Officers from a diversity of operational and support roles, including Diversity, SNT, Special Constabulary, Investigation, Road Traffic and Contact & Dispatch.
The role of the Gay Liaison Officer is twofold:
To liaise with LGBT communities, support groups and organisations to increase confidence in the police and reduce the fear of crime, and to encourage the reporting of hate incidents/crimes.
To promote internal awareness of the needs of LGBT people, and act as a point of reference for the rest of the Constabulary on any related issues.

Officers and Staff carry out their duties in a variety of different ways committing a percentage of their duty time each month to this work. Some GLOs work primarily with the victims of hate incidents/crimes supporting individuals through the sometimes difficult and traumatic experience of reporting it. Other GLOs offer advice on policing services to members of the LGBT community on the Police Service in Norfolk. All engage with the LGBT community in a variety of ways, attending gay and gay friendly venues and events and through the local Gay Press.

To contact a Gay Liaison Officer please call our non-emergency number 0845 456 4567 (remember in a emergency always dial 999).

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Barely-veiled anti-migrant racism

From the Friendly Atheist by Lauren Nelson

"Islamic Rape of Europe” Magazine Cover Highlights Racism Behind Anti-Immigrant Sentiment

The Syrian refugee crisis prompted many European nations to open their doors to those displaced by the raging civil war. Though most regarded the influx of refugees with compassion, there were others who responded with intense anti-Muslim bigotry and xenophobia. There has been pronounced opposition to the resettlement of refugees across Europe, with protests in Germany, Denmark, Greece, and beyond.

Riding this wave of vitriol, ultra-conservative Polish magazine wSIECI, or The Network in English, released a deeply disturbing cover for its latest edition, featuring a distraught young white woman draped in the flag of the European Union being groped by three men with brown skin. The headline reads, “Islamic Rape of Europe.”

Behind the incendiary cover were even more outrageous stories. With headlines like “Does Europe Want to Commit Suicide?” and “The Hell of Europe,” authors lambasted the refugee policies of European nations as a death wish for Western civilization. As Breitbart (yes, Breitbart) reports:

Outlining the fundamental differences between eastern Islam and western Christianity — “culture, architecture, music, gastronomy, dress” — the editorial explains these two worlds have been at war “over the last 14 centuries” and the world is now witnessing a colossal “clash of two civilisations in the countries of old Europe”. This clash is brought by Muslims who come to Europe and “carry conflict with the Western world as part of the collective consciousness”, as the journalist marks the inevitability of conflict between native Europeans and their new guests.

To be fair, it cannot be denied that large influxes of refugees can and do present security concerns for their host nation. Massive brawls in refugee camps and reports of crime sprees linked to refugee populations have become common stories in the media, generating no small amount of concern among citizens living near camps. On New Year’s Eve, these concerns were amplified by a shocking number of attacks and thefts carried out by 73 men in Cologne, mostly migrants of North African and Arab origin. When reports of these attacks were met by Muslim groups blaming perfume for sexual assault and calling for a ban on alcohol to prevent additional crime, outrage reached a fever pitch.

That said, the headlines are more disturbing than reality. The vast majority of refugees are peaceful and law-abiding. The actual scope of crime committed by migrants relative to total migrant population in a given area is consistently tiny, but that’s not how it’s been portrayed. For instance, though a good deal of the discussion on the Cologne attacks has been couched in criticism of Syrian refugees, only three of the attackers that night were of Syrian origin. Three.

How many Syrian refugees has Germany accepted? Roughly half a million.

The response to what is a relatively small amount of criminal activity is, quite frankly, far more disturbing. Consider the spike in arson and other vicious assaults against perceived refugees, the vigilantes roaming Sweden targeting North African and Arab children, and the rise of political parties with roots in the neo-Nazi movementwho call for bans on mosques and rail against the “threat” of multiculturalism. And there’s something truly unnerving in the video of thousands of Germans chanting nationalist slogans in a square that used to be named after Adolf Hitler.

Yes, the magazine cover presented by The Network drives home just how out of control the backlash against refugees has become, but it also reveals just how racially charged it is. The opposition to refugees may use language condemning Islam and extolling its incompatibility with European culture, but when you hear comments from political leaders like, “We want Sweden to stay Swedish,” it becomes clear that this battle has more to do with how people look than how they pray. The invocation of anti-Muslim bigotry has rapidly become a placeholder for overt white supremacy, and these tactics illustrate that in pointed fashion.

The depiction of the dark-skinned man ravaging the light-skinned woman, as seen on The Network‘s cover, is not new, nor is it unique to Europe. Indeed, throughout history, the caricature of men of color as the “brute” has been used to foster fear and discrimination. In America, this characterization was justification for racism and violence against black men in particular. As Dr. David Pilgrim, professor of sociology at Ferris State University, explains:

The brute caricature portrays black men as innately savage, animalistic, destructive, and criminal — deserving punishment, maybe death. This brute is a fiend, a sociopath, an anti-social menace. Black brutes are depicted as hideous, terrifying predators who target helpless victims, especially white women. Charles H. Smith (1893), writing in the 1890s, claimed, “A bad negro is the most horrible creature upon the earth, the most brutal and merciless”(p. 181). Clifton R. Breckinridge (1900), a contemporary of Smith’s, said of the black race, “when it produces a brute, he is the worst and most insatiate brute that exists in human form” (p. 174). George T. Winston (1901), another “Negrophobic” writer, claimed:
When a knock is heard at the door [a White woman] shudders with nameless horror. The black brute is lurking in the dark, a monstrous beast, crazed with lust. His ferocity is almost demoniacal. A mad bull or tiger could scarcely be more brutal. A whole community is frenzied with horror, with the blind and furious rage for vengeance. 
The “terrible crime” most often mentioned in connection with the black brute was rape, specifically the rape of a white woman. At the beginning of the twentieth century, much of the virulent, anti-black propaganda that found its way into scientific journals, local newspapers, and best-selling novels focused on the stereotype of the black rapist. The claim that black brutes were, in epidemic numbers, raping white women became the public rationalization for the lynching of blacks.
Lynchings were necessary, argued many whites, to preserve the racial purity of the white race, more specifically, the racial purity of white women. White men had sexual relations — consensual and rape — with black women as soon as Africans were introduced into the European American colonies. These sexual unions produced numerous mixed-race offspring. White women, as “keepers of white racial purity,” were not allowed consensual sexual relations with black men. A black man risked his life by having sexual relations with a white woman. Even talking to a white woman in a “familiar” manner could result in black males being killed. 
There were black rapists with white victims, but they were relatively rare; most white rape victims were raped by white men. The brute caricature was a red herring, a myth used to justify lynching, which in turn was used as a social control mechanism to instill fear in black communities. Each lynching sent messages to blacks: Do not register to vote. Do not apply for a white man’s job. Do not complain publicly. Do not organize. Do not talk to white women. The brute caricature gained in popularity whenever blacks pushed for social equality.
Lovely, right? But it didn’t have to be a black man for the sexually deviant brute caricature to feature in white supremacist rhetoric and campaigns. Any man existing outside the sparkling white racial ideal was portrayed as dark and dangerous, particularly in relation to white women. For example, during World War II in the U.S., propaganda showed what was supposed to be a Japanese soldier with a menacing look preparing to assault a white woman. It described the man as a “horror.” But despite the implied nationality, the man was still portrayed with dark skin and many of the features associated with the archetype of the black brute.

Across the ocean, fascist governments invoked similar imagery to support their own causes. As folks on Twitter were quick to point out during the firestorm that followed The Network‘s cover release, their depiction had more in common with Italian and German war propaganda than it did anything remotely resembling civilized discourse.

It’s easy to look at magazines like The Network and the spreading violence in Europe and speak in tones of consternation, but the reality is that these battles are not confined to the continent. We’re living in a time when a presidential front runner in the U.S. has built his support upon similar sentiments.

It’s easy to say this is about opposition to a problematic religion while tying that faith to terrorism or assault, but the reality is that this verbal wrapping paper cannot hide the ugly racism behind current anti-refugee sentiment. Though millions of Muslims around the world are what people refer to as white, they are not the ones being targeted by street gangs or blamed for nonexistent widespread crime.

It’s easy to soothe ourselves with assurances that these hateful opinions are not the norm, but the reality is that their popularity is increasing. And even a small portion of a population can do a great deal of damage to a nation and its people.

This is about more than Syria. This is about more than Islam. This is about whether or not society gives in, once more, to a politics of fear driven by skin colour.

About Lauren Nelson:  Lauren Nelson is an advocate and aspiring ally focused on intersectional justice. When she's not gabbing on social media or chasing after her precocious seven year old, you'll find her researching and writing extensively on the subjects of politics, policy, culture, neurodiversity, and faith for The Friendly Atheist and Rethink the Rant.

Friday, 19 February 2016

LGBT history month

Since humanist author James Baldwin's time, much has changed for LGBT people around the world - particularly in Europe and the Americas. It was a long road getting here.

It's important that we celebrate that long history, that struggle for equality - one that in many ways, and in many parts of the world, is is still ongoing. History can teach us a lot. If we listen, it can tell us how to avoid the mistakes of the past. It can teach us about human nature, and show us the way to future successes.

Our vision for the future is of a world free from discrimination, in which everyone is treated equally before the law - no matter their race, ethnicity, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability status, or religion or belief. This month, we celebrate a major plank of that journey towards recognising the equal dignity of every member of the human family.

Britain First: delusion and confusion

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

An Assessment of the PEGIDA UK rally

From The Rambling Infidel by buffalosoldier 96:

On a rainy Saturday 6th February, Pegida UK launched its inaugural demonstration in Birmingham, with similar rallies happening across Europe. An estimated 200 protesters attended the demonstration, which took place on a barren industrial estate miles from the city centre.

The march was peaceful and went smoothly without incident. No thugs, no fights, no Nazis, no inflammatory speeches. However, the rallies in other European countries did see some trouble with a fight in Dublin and some arrests in Calais.

The new Pegida UK was keen to dispel allegations of racism or of being the EDL 2.0 but without the booze. They placed warnings on pre-protest information, saying Neo Nazis would not be accepted at the demonstration. Likewise, Tommy Robinson in his speech talked about meeting a man with swastika tattoo on his finger on Friday night, and then said (in an obviously frustrated voice): 

six years on and I’m still having to tell you: if you’re a Nazi, if you’re a racist, and you’re watching this – you’re not welcome on the streets in the UK with us.
Moreover, the people who attended the demonstration were not a singular, unitary, monolithic bloc. One protester NOTA Network interviewed said he came because he was worried about English identity and culture being threatened by Islam. Another one said he was not against "all immigration" but wanted "limited immigration". And another protester said he was here to "defend free speech". It would be slightly unwise to arrogantly dismiss them all as racists and xenophobes, though that doesn't mean they were liberal democrats either.

There was not anything that struck me as worryingly racist in the interviews we did or at the rally generally. I say this as a black man who was with my friend Sam Sholli, who is of Iranian stock. We did not feel like we were in danger or anyone was racist towards us. They just seem to be people that are fed up with a status quo that is not working for them and their communities.

Their claim to being a multi-racial movement is questionable, because aside from me and Sam Sholli (my NOTA Network colleague) there was only one other non-white person at the rally. So they do still have that obstacle to overcome where ethnic minorities would feel comfortable associating themselves with Pegida UK. I doubt this this will change anytime soon.

Yes, there was no racism (at least in its common understanding). BUT.....

That doesn't quite get them off the hook. There were still illiberal sentiments present at the rally. For example, many protesters held placards featuring Donald Trump's image saying: 

'Trump is right' 
This possibly is an implicit endorsement of the hopeful presidential nominee's call to halt all Muslim immigration into the United States. If this is the case then this is simplistic and objectively bigoted, because it views Muslims as a monolithic bloc who all think in the same way. There were other sorts of unsophisticated propaganda, like other placards saying 'Rape culture is being imported' and 'Islamism = Nazism'.

Beforehand, NOTA Network interviewed the Pegida UK leadership; Tommy Robinson, Anne Marie Waters and Paul Weston. Tommy surprisingly was open to the idea of creating a buffer zone in Syria in order to keep Syrian refugees safe. But he was not in favour of military intervention in Syria against the Assad regime. He also said he wanted British embassies in the Middle East to give women and children fleeing a chance to leave. However, he would not extend this to young men because he feels "they should be fighting".

Weston was asked whether he would stand by previous comments where he suggests Muslims should be banned from public office. He defended his comments. When he was asked if this would even apply to liberal Muslims like Maajid Nawaz, he stood by his comments again even as he admitted it was "discriminatory", because he felt it would be for the "greater good". This is clearly an illiberal, bigoted, anti-democratic belief contradicting the very values Pegida UK is claiming to defend.

Anne Marie Waters was asked for her opinion on Weston's views on Muslims not being allowed to hold public office, something which is not believed to be Tommy's position. Her slippery, cowardly reply was "that's Paul's opinion....I don't agree with it, but I don't passionately disagree with it...I don't have an opinion, I never thought about it, I will now." The fact she couldn't give a clear answer to what was a very fair question is telling.

The above picture shows a speaker who has been ignored by mainstream media outlets, like The Guardian, Telegraph and Huffington Post. This is telling given that he asked the media not to "edit me out" and to "report this fairly". His name is Mohammed Fiaz, an ex Muslim, Christian. He was very keen to defend Tommy Robinson and Pegida UK from accusations of racism, though he weirdly claimed that if you call Tommy or Pegida far-right you are playing into the hands of "the Muslims". He even asked the rain-soaked crowd to raise their hands if they were far-right or anti-Asian. As expected, no one raised their hands. Mohammed then told the tragic story of a friend, a fellow apostate who was hated, had his knee smashed and his kids spat at by a neighboring Muslim family when they found out he was an apostate.

Tommy Robinson claimed that a "seed has been planted" with the inaugural protest that could grow into a worldwide, popular protest movement, mobilising against the 'Islamisation' of Western civilisation. Likewise, Paul Weston felt they would be able to muster "100,000 people" for a future protest. Not going to happen. Despite the tense atmosphere currently engulfing Europe and even if a 9/11 style terrorist attack were to happen again, I really doubt Pegida UK would be able to get 100,000 people to attend a rally of theirs. 10,000 is possible but nowhere near 100,000.

Above all, while Pegida UK are clearly not Neo-Nazis and it's a good thing that they try a peaceful methodology and don't have that hooligan aura that the EDL had. However, the fact that the three leaders cannot agree on something as simple as whether a Muslim can run for public office does weaken their claim to be defending liberal democracy, as Weston's suggestion is plainly anti-democratic and bigoted.

Likewise, the endorsement of Donald Trump's illiberal views and defending of 'Christian culture' also is not going to win them many friends in the mainstream. They don't have an ideology or a positive alternative worldview to present to oppose the status quo. They are just an unguided, incoherent, reaction to the very real problem of Islamism and a residue of Cologne. Despite the fact Tommy Robinson wants to start anew, I believe the already tainted brand of Pegida will be a detriment, not a help to him.

When will they learn?

These far-right groups are notorious for their money-making scams schemes. 

Anyone who gives them direct debit details needs to seek help - soonest:

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Pegida group demonstrate at Birmingham business park

From Birmingham Mail:

One counter-demonstrator arrested for public order offence say police

Former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson addresses a rally in Walsall in September 2012.

Up to 200 supporters of the controversial Pegida organisation joined a march to a remote Birmingham business park today.

The far-right anti-Islamic group, which has been condemned by Birmingham’s community leaders, held their protest near to Birmingham International Rail Station.

Police were out in force for the event, as well as a counter demonstration by the Unite Against Fascism group.

A police spokesman tweeted: “Around 150 Pegida protesters mustered at Birmingham International train station ahead of rally. Police managing crowd of 60 counter protesters.”

There were no reports of serious disorder or injuries. A 39-year-old man from East London was arrested at the counter demonstation for a public order related matter.

Another protest against the group under the Birmingham Unites banner was held in Victoria Square in Birmingham city centre.

Previous demonstrations, by Pegida’s predecessor group the English Defence League, have resulted in violent clashes in Birmingham City Centre.

Solihull Police Commander, Chief Supt Alex Murray, said: 
We’ve been planning the operation for months; the collective efforts of our officers, Solihull Council, partner agencies, protest organisers and community groups helped ensure the event passed off without any serious disorder.

We had a large police presence on the ground, including protest liaison officers, in order to deal effectively with any issues. But we were confident the rally would be peaceful: our negotiations with Pegida representatives were positive and they stressed their intentions to express their views lawfully.

Disruption was kept to a minimum – Bickenhill Lane was closed temporarily to allow for protestors to walk from Birmingham International to the demo point but hopefully it didn’t hugely inconvenience motorists or local businesses.
West Midlands Police & Crime Commissioner David Jamieson, added: 
I would like to thank the police for their thorough, sensible planning which has helped ensure the event remained peaceful.

Protests like this have a knock-on effect on the force's ability to deliver non-emergency policing. I sincerely hope this is the last protest of its sort that we see here for a good long while. The West Midlands is a place where people live side by side happily…it is sad when people from outside the region try to undermine that.

Saturday, 6 February 2016

We can’t afford to laugh and dismiss anti-Islamic group Pegida

From The Journal by Julien Mercille:

Two protests are taking place this Saturday – there is bound to be a clash of ideas - 

PEGIDA IS A European anti-Islamic group that originated in Germany in October 2014 and that now has branches in 14 European countries. This Saturday, Ireland will become the 15th such country—an honour we should seek to reverse.

The establishment of the Irish branch will coincide with anti-Islam demonstrations in all of Pegida’s European branches, including at 3pm in front of the GPO on O’Connell Street.

However, there will be a counter-demonstration at 1.30pm at the same place, organised by the Anti-Racism Network Ireland and migrant support groups.

Protests on Saturday

There will certainly be a clash of ideas there.

Pegida stands for “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident”.

Initially a small amorphous right-wing populist movement, it has grown to 30,000 members. It is on the rise, manipulating fears associated with the daily influx of refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and other Middle Eastern countries.

Last year, it made its first electoral gains by capturing nearly 10% of the vote in mayoral elections in Dresden, Germany.

Pegida’s founder, Lutz Bachmann, provoked a scandal when photos of him allegedly impersonating Hitler were circulated on social media. He has also reportedly described foreign immigrants and asylum seekers as “cattle”, “riff raff” and “a pack of dirt”.

Source: Lutz Bachmann/Twitter

His latest stunt was to pose with a t-shirt saying “Rapefugees Not Welcome”, the slogan of an anti-immigrant march organised in Cologne, Germany in the wake of the sexual assaults against women in the city on New Year’s Eve.

A few days ago, representatives from ten European countries hammered out a manifesto called the “Prague Declaration”.

It states that “the thousand-year history of western civilisation could soon come to an end through the Islamic conquest of Europe”. And it pledges to “not surrender Europe to our enemies. We are prepared to stand and oppose political Islam, extreme Islamic regimes and their European collaborators”.

Source: Markus Schreiber

Disconnect from reality

The group’s strong racist and Islamophobic tendencies are thus easy to see. Its total disconnect from reality is also laughable, given that Muslims remain a clear minority in Europe. Its claims of the impending end of western civilization is so ridiculous that one wonders whether some of its leaders, reportedly linked to neo-Nazi ideology, might not be using such fears to mobilise people for more sinister objectives.

Right-wing group Identity Ireland, which launched last July, is led by Peter O’Loughlin. He spoke at a press conference where he introduced Pegida UK co-ordinator and former English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson.

Identity Ireland favours EU withdrawal, ditching the euro and stopping mass immigration. O’Loughlin will run in Cork North Central in the upcoming general election.

Last year, he won 930 votes for Identity Ireland in the Carlow-Kilkenny by-election.

All this being said, one important point should be noted. For all its erroneous statements and despicable attitude toward ethnic or religious difference, it may not serve progressives well to simply make fun of Pegida or dismiss it as a gathering of idiots.

Police officers observe a demonstration of Leipzig's Europeans against the Islamization of the West (LEGIDA), a group linked with the PEGIDA movement, in eastern Germany
Source: Markus Schreiber

Rise in far-right movements

Rather, it would be more productive to understand why such far-right movements have emerged in many locations in the wake of the economic crisis.

Think Donald Trump in the US, the Front National in France, Golden Dawn in Greece, among others.

Their common denominator is the rise in deprivation and unemployment over the last few years caused primarily by austerity and the accompanying cuts in public services. When things go that bad, it’s easy for opportunist political figures and the media to blame foreigners, immigrants and minorities for the country’s every ill.

For example, Pegida’s Prague Declaration mentions that “the regulations of the global elites have brought us poverty, unemployment, corruption, chaos and moral collapse. It is time this came to an end”.

It’s easy to see why this line is appealing to a certain segment of the population.

Therefore, progressives have much educational work to conduct to present the real causes and solutions to the economic and social problems we face. Those who follow Pegida are clearly angry at something, but have got their causes and solutions wrong.

Don’t laugh and dismiss, but reach out and organise.

Julien Mercille is a lecturer at University College Dublin. Twitter: @JulienMercille.

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Rebels wanted!

The Common Lot are looking for actors, builders, singers, makers, costumers, ushers and other things to tell the tale of Ketts' Rebellion in 1549 - one of the most significant events in Norfolks' history. Written by Simon Floyd with Karl Minns of the Nimmo Twins it will tell the human story of the rebellion, using lots of chorus work, comedy, song and audience participation. 10 performances are scheduled, in and around the city's outdoor spaces this summer and it will form an important part of the Lord Mayor's celebration weekend. 

email: commonlotnorwich@gmail.com, take a look at the website and register your interest, or just turn up at the audition on March 6th at the Arts Centre, 1pm.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

Celebrating Louise!

From Norfolk Humanists:

I rediscovered this photo taken on Thorpe Road December 2015. There I met Louise who whilst waiting for the bus helped clean up the half-eaten takeaways, beer cans and other rubbish at the Cremorne Road bus shelter. Such simple acts of kindness for the community are to be celebrated - well done Louise!

Tuesday, 2 February 2016


Racist Law Enforcement in England

From Dissident Voice by Linn Washington, Jr.:

LONDON, UK — Police and prosecutors scheme to secure convictions of persons who did not participate in any crime. Racial minorities disproportionately bear the brunt of this improper practice.

Sounds like too many cities across the United States.

However, this practice of racist law enforcement is also rampant in three of the largest cities in England, including the capital city of London, according to a report released recently by the Centre For Crime and Justice Studies of Manchester Metropolitan University.
The key findings [indicate] the criminal justice system is more flawed than we might imagine,” states the conclusion of the report entitled “Dangerous associations: joint enterprise, gangs and racism.”
The study documents that despite claims by police in Britain that young blacks dominate gang membership and thus are demonstrably violent, black youth were not those who committed the most serious youth violence. In London for example, police list blacks as 72 percent of that city’s gang members. But official data collected for the report stated non-blacks committed 73 percent of the serious youth violence in London.

The report found that prosecutors during trials of youthful suspects seize upon on the gang label levied by police to create the perception of criminality and boost their chances of obtaining convictions. Prosecutors often push non-crime related ‘evidence’ such as listening to rap music and texting friends, particularly in cases where the defendant was not at the scene of the crime…or even where the defentant may not have known a crime would ever occur.

“The language of gangs is conflated with serious violence,” report co-author Becky Clarke said when presenting findings of the report during a presentation at Parliament attended by members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords. Clarke is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology Department of Manchester Metropolitan University.

Clarke’s co-author colleague, Patrick Williams, noted during an earlier presentation that “just because someone is from the same area and is a certain color does not make them a gang member.” Williams is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Manchester Metropolitan University.

The report leveled particular criticism at Britain’s infamous Joint Enterprise Law, an enforcement mechanism that is literally ‘guilt by association.’ Under this law imprisonment can occur for a crime that the person did not commit or even know about. While the report found disproportionate use of Joint Enterprise against blacks, JE is class-based and is being applied also against working-class and poor whites.

Center researchers Clarke and Williams called JE part of a “process of criminalization” that they said is rooted in race and class.

One often cited outrage under Joint Enterprise was the conviction of a blind teen whom friends took for a walk during which one person in the group scuffled with an older man, resulting the death of the drunken adult who, according to the evidence, had instigated the confrontation. Police and prosecutors asserted the blind teen, who is white, should have fled the scene by himself when he heard the fatal encounter escalating, despite his inability to see.

Patricia Brown knows the pain of flawed JE policing/prosecution. Her eldest son Tirrell Davis is serving a life sentence for a murder that occurred in March 2007 when he was at home. Davis saw a fight while walking home from high school but left the scene. A fatal stabbing later that day, which occurred during a continuation of that fight, led to Davis’ arrest and JE conviction despite his complete non-involvement in that stabbing.  
Brown said:
The head of the jury at my son’s trial was a police sergeant! How does that happen? 
Brown a member of Joint Enterprise Not Guilty by Association. JENGbA, which is an activist organization pushing for the repeal of JE.

During the presentation of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies report inside a meeting room in the Parliament building, both liberal and conservative members of Parliament criticized the law.

Robert Neill, a Tory Party member of Parliament’s House of Commons, said JE “does not operate justly.”

Stephen Pound, a Liberal Party MP, said, “
We haven’t said enough about the suffering of people swept up with this absurd law. [JE] is wrong at every level. This is injustice writ large.
Liberal Party member Andrew Slaughter stressed that even families of murder victims are critical of JE. 
Victims want to see people punished but they want the right people punished, not just convictions of anyone and everyone.
Over 3,000 persons are serving JE sentences, a spokesman for the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies stated. JE sentences range from a low of three years to life in prison. Surveys returned by 241 inmates during the Centre’s study found 21 persons under the 17-years-old age of majority who are serving JE sentences.

Investigative committees of Parliament have twice issued reports critical of JE. During that presentation of the Centre’s report, Lord Beith, who served on one investigative committee, said evidence indicates that JE reforms promised by the Crown Prosecution Service have been inadequate.  
House of Lords member Beith said:
Police officers are telling the public that you can be convicted whether you know of a planned crime or not. That contradicts claims by prosecutors and the government that [JE] needs knowing foresight. Joint Enterprise has inherent and dangerous weaknesses.
Centre researchers Clarke and Williams presented findings of their report at a community meeting in the Tottenham section of North London the night before their presentation in Parliament. Tottenham is where an August 2011 fatal police shooting of a black man sparked rioting that spread from London to cities around England.

Stafford Scott, the veteran rights activist in Tottenham who hosted the community meeting, said reading the report gave him the sensation of having seen such findings too many times before.  
Scott said.
Blacks and minorities are disproportionately effected by the way the state uses its power sources.  The young are given sentences longer than they have been on earth for crimes they didn’t commit. We need to get this Joint Enterprise law removed from the books.
Linn Washington, Jr. is a veteran Philadelphia journalist. His articles regularly appear at This Can't Be Happening! Read other articles by Linn.