Saturday, 25 September 2010

A brief word on the Labour Leadership

Today it was announced that Ed Miliband is the new leader of the Labour Party.

Some have hailed this as a success for the left – a return to the socialist roots of the party and a leader that will address social injustice, help the poor, rebuild Britain and create a ‘progressive’ government.

By nature, I’m not a cynic, but I can’t share the optimism of others. In 1997, Tony Blair was elected with a strong mandate (400 MPs in the House of Parliament from the Labour Party!) – if social justice and Labour policies were ever to be enacted in this country – 1997 was the time. Yet Tony Blair’s legacy is not one to be proud of. The Iraq War still causes unimaginable suffering and even domestic policy didn’t solve long standing problems.

Likewise – Obama elected in the USA in 2008. ‘Change We Can Believe In’ apparently, yet the change was not so significant. Yes, the USA has not invaded any foreign countries yet, but that isn’t quite a measure of success. The rhetoric from Obama is the same as his predecessors, republican or otherwise.

Essentially it comes down to this – politicians don’t change the world. The less we look to politicians to make a difference, the better. They are public servants, fulfilling a role necessary for the maintenance of the state.

If we want a fairer society, we need fairer people. If we want ethical foreign policy, we need ethical politicians to begin with. No amount of government legislation will ever replace human goodwill.

Which for me, emphasises the role of faith leaders in the UK. They are able to cultivate individuals with social awareness and responsibility. After all, it was the Christian Church that taught Britain to read and write, it was the Christian community which led the way for social justice well before the political left through the Social Gospel movement.

Today, now that Britain is a country of many faiths, it falls upon all of them to address social injustice and poverty.

Edit (26/09/10): Just realised that the above might be taken as an argument for 'Big Society'. It really isn't. Government is part of society.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Another Islamophobic Non-story

If you happened to see Saturday's Daily Express headline, it ran: “MUSLIM PLOT TO KILL POPE”.

Millions would have seen the sensationalist headline. It goes without saying the story is a flunk, and the BBC have confirmed that the plot was nothing more than a few street cleaners joking in the work canteen.

It was barely a story from the beginning. There were no formal allegations, nothing about the motivation of the individuals or even their identity other than nationality.

Yet the Express, like a rabid dog, jumped at the story and made it headline. And not only that, they associated it with a whole faith - ‘Muslim plot’. I’m not sure if it’s better or worse that The Telegraph and others who went as far as to identify them as ‘Islamists’.

And despite the prominence of the news story on Saturday, there will be no front page headline saying “CORRECTION – NO MUSLIM PLOT TO KILL POPE” in the Sunday Express. The damage will be done and the public (at least those gullible enough to trust the Express) will consume another morsel of fake-news that adds to the existing Islamophobia.

Muslim communities in the UK (and indeed elsewhere) must engage with the media. First, to contest inflammatory and inaccurate reports. Second, to encourage more positive reporting of Muslim communities and finally, to begin producing media and news outlets that paint a more unprejudiced and unbiased picture.

The burden of responsibility also falls upon level headed journalists to ensure they at least do not add to the problem, and work to counter it - I've been told that the journalist who reports not for a pay cheque but due to a sincere belief in informing the public still exists (or perhaps they're all bloggers now).

And finally, there is much to be expected from our politicians; members of parliament as well as assembly members, to protect their communities against the growing tide of Islamophobia in the UK.

Rant over.