Socialist Worker

Letters

Issue No. 1992

Why are newspapers offering cash to spy on Muslim students? (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Why are newspapers offering cash to spy on Muslim students? (Pic: Guy Smallman)


How we nailed the Mail

The Mail on Sunday newspaper has been exposed for offering students cash to spy on Muslims. Journalists from London Student were approached by the newspaper and offered £100 per meeting to spy on student Islamic societies on campuses around London.

Glen Owen, the Mail on Sunday’s education correspondent, said to us, “If they say something in secret about ‘We need to insist that women wear the burqa’, or ‘We need to withdraw cooperation from the university’, or any of these sort of plots that they’ll be hatching… bring that into the open, then that’ll be interesting… See what you can sniff out.”

We were offered further cash rewards for finding such “evidence”. Our reporters did not attend any Islamic society meetings or receive any money from the newspaper – but we did turn the tables on them by pretending to comply with their suggestions in order to expose their tactics.

When we finally told the Mail on Sunday our true intentions, their response was, “Do you want to get into national newspapers? My advice to you would not be to criticise them and to cooperate with them. That’s all I’m saying, it’s all well and good being worthy, but…”

This affair exposes the Mail on Sunday’s agenda for what it really is – fanning the flames of Islamophobia by offering bribes to students. Associated Newspapers, the company that owns the Mail on Sunday, has a long history of attacking minorities.

Most recently it has led the witch-hunt against London mayor Ken Livingstone over his alleged “anti-Semitism”. From the company’s open support of Hitler in the 1930s to their savage attacks on asylum seekers more recently, these newspapers wish to see a divided society. This time they have been exposed. You can read the full story on www.london-student.net

Patrick Ward, Editor, London Student


Babar’s fate hangs in the balance

Babar Ahmad is currently waiting for a date for his High Court appeal against attempts to extradite him to the US on terrorism charges.

Following last month’s High Court ruling against David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby – the three former NatWest bankers also threatened with extradition to the US – we fear that Babar’s case will suffer the same fate.

If Babar loses his High Court case and leave is not given for an appeal to the House of Lords, he could be extradited within 28 days of the ruling. In practice this usually equates to a few hours.

The Extradition Treaty 2003 was debated in the House of Commons on Monday of last week, during the second reading of the Police and Justice Bill.

Boris Johnson, who is the constituency MP for David Bermingham, has put forward amendments to this bill to safeguard the rights of those facing extradition to the US.

All those concerned about Babar’s fate and the injustice of Britain’s extradition arrangements with the US are urged to lobby their MPs to support these proposed amendments.

Mrs Ahmad, www.freebabarahmad.com


Election victory for Dutch left

The left won a landslide victory in local elections across the Netherlands held last week. If it had been a general election, the current right wing government would have lost and left wing parties would have won a parliamentary majority for the first time in history.

Two parties made major gains. One was the Labour Party, a mainstream social democrat party. For many people voting Labour was their way of showing their disgust for the hardline neo-liberal policies of the Dutch government.

The other big winner was the Socialist Party, the most left wing party in Dutch politics. The International Socialists, sister organisation of the Socialist Workers Party, is an active part of the Socialist Party.

Much has been made in the Dutch media of the great support for left parties among immigrants. This should come as no surprise. Most immigrants are part of the working class – and they expressed their anger in the same way as the majority of the white working class.

But the most spectacular feature of the elections was the rise of the Socialist Party. In total the Socialists won 5.9 percent of the votes, double its figure at the last municipal elections.

The Socialists only stood candidates in a quarter of municipalities. If we look at the figures in cities where the we stood, the party won 11.7 percent of the vote. We topped the poll in seven municipalities and came second in ten others.

The Socialist Party has a strong record of campaigning against neo-liberal policies like the Bolkestein directive and against war. We took a principled stand against sending Dutch troops to Afghanistan, an issue that caused a major crisis in Dutch politics a month before the elections. The party also led the victorious campaign for a no vote against the EU constitution last year.

The local election results have thrown the ruling parties into crisis and hugely increased the standing of the Dutch left. This has set the stage for a further advance of the Socialist Party in next year’s general election.

Pepijn Brandon, Amsterdam, Netherlands


Detained for taking photos of Sellafield

In the context of the recent debate about climate change and the future of energy production, I have been photographing various power stations for a community arts project.

Last weekend myself and friends visited Cumbria to photograph several wind farms, as well as the nuclear fuel reprocessing centre at Sellafield. We had no problems photographing the wind farms – we were able to walk right up to them.

But when we tried to do the same at Sellafield, three police vans pulled up and police officers questioned me and my friends about why I was taking photographs.

We were told we had been stopped under the Terrorism Act. We were all detained while our details were taken and our records checked. Eventually we were allowed to leave.

This incident brought home to me the insanity of the government’s plans to build more nuclear power stations that would pose a huge and unquantifiable danger to both the population and the environment.

I’m not the only photographer who has been stopped by the police under the Terrorism Act. Several colleagues of mine have been prevented from taking photographs of industrial sites and city banks. This atmosphere of state paranoia threatens both freedom of speech and artistic freedom of expression.

Angela Stapleford, East London


‘Community’ focus can be misleading

I enjoyed reading the article on inequality by Richard Wilkinson (Unequal Britain, 4 March) and agreed with most of what he said.

However, I disagree with his suggestion that the main way in which inequality impacts on health is through increased stress levels and the “decline in community” this gives rise to.

Even in wealthy countries, material factors such as unemployment have an important impact on health. The danger in emphasising a “decline in community” over these factors is that it potentially lets our rulers off the hook.

It gives them a reason to suggest that what working class areas lack is not material resources, but supportive communities.

While I’m sure this is not Richard’s intention, we only have to look at New Labour’s emphasis on “community renewal”, or the way in which working class communities are stigmatised as dysfunctional, to see the danger.

The issues that Richard Wilkinson highlights are very important for socialists to address – but we shouldn’t lose sight of their roots in material inequality.

Andy Gibson, Chesterfield


Who needs an Asda boycott?

I note that the GMB union, which represents workers at Asda depots, is considering calling for a consumer boycott of the company’s stores. This comes as Asda workers are balloting for strike action.

Any moves against Asda, which is run by the rapacious US corporation Wal-Mart, should be welcomed. But the idea of a consumer boycott seems unnecessary.

Asda, like all major supermarkets, relies on “just in time” methods, rushing goods from depots to the shelves of stores as they are sold.

Globalisation makes multinationals seem all powerful, but it also creates new vulnerabilities. The relatively small number of workers in the depots have enormous power.

If the union held an all-out national strike of depot workers, Asda would be forced to shut down in days – consumer boycott or no consumer boycott.

We are far more powerful when we organise collectively as workers than when we organise individually as consumers.

Chris Lester, Telford


Calling time on the bosses

I work in the call centre industry. Workers like myself have to put up with appalling treatment from our bosses, who constantly bully and harass us.

Their contemptuous behaviour towards us just adds insult to the injury of poor pay and almost non?existent employment rights. But we’ve stopped moaning – and started organising.

A few weeks ago, one guy came up to me in a break and said we should do something about pay. I said I was up for a chat.

We expected maybe one other colleague to turn up – but 12 people showed and we had a great discussion.

All of us agreed that we needed to fight for a decent wage that we could live on. We also resolved to challenge the harassment that exists in these 21st century factories.

We also agreed that the only way to do that would be to unionise. There’s a long way to go yet – but the journey is well worth it.

Call centre worker, London


Guantanamo and hypocrisy

Last week Channel 4 aired a film by Michael Winterbottom that highlighted the horrific experiences of Guantanamo Bay detainees.

Yet the press reaction to the film has been vitriolic. Times columnist David Aaronovitch strongly implied that the “Tipton Three” had fought for the Taliban – although neither torture nor the British police could unearth the slenderest shred of evidence for this.

Nick Cohen in the Evening Standard berated the journalist Rowan Pelling for saying she had been “radicalised” by the film. Liberals, he fumed, were “in bed with radical Islam”.

What does it tell you when those who attacked the anti-war movement for “appeasing” Saddam Hussein’s brutal regime can’t bring themselves to discuss torture by the US without smearing and impugning its victims?

Richard Seymour, West London


How Churchill starved Bengal

Thank you for Ian Birchall’s article on the real Winston Churchill (When the iron curtain was drawn, 11 March). I’m astonished how people – including many on the left – still idolise this brutal racist.

One thing Ian didn’t mention is Churchill’s role in the 1943 Bengal famine, which was triggered by rice stocks being requisitioned for the British army. Four million Indians died as a result of this policy.

Churchill was fully aware of the catastrophe in Bengal, but refused to lift a finger to help. He made no mention of the famine in his history of the Second World War, instead claiming that he had “protected” Indians from the horrors of war.

Jiben Kumar, East London


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Letters
Sat 18 Mar 2006, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1992
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