“Have you ever tried a miniskirt?” a pub regular asks the hijab-clad server who has spent the day serving soft drinks behind the bar. When she protests that she doesn’t want to, he assures her she would “look bloody lovely in a miniskirt,” giving her knee a stroke to make his point.
The regulars take two slightly contradictory views: that Asians should conform to British ‘ways’ and that Britain’s superiority over the East as a tolerant and free society is to be defended. “When Asians come over here”, the knee-stroker argues, “do we say, ‘get it off kid, get a miniskirt on, get your tits out’? No. But when you go to an Asian country, women are told: ‘cover up’.” Another states: “When I go to Pakistan…I dress like they dress, out of respect. So at the end of the day, show some respect here.”
The scene is from ‘Make Bradford British’, a two-part documentary on race in Britain in which one phrase, repeated in various forms, seems to sum up the real source of resentment: “They use their color to get what they want…” The show does not delve into this line of thought, which might raise questions about council housing queues or benefits. Nor does it look very deeply at old fashioned Jens’ defense of his racial humor as “just a joke”, propping up that all-purpose shield for offensiveness: ‘banter’. The introduction sets out the premise that mutual tolerance and understanding is really entirely about getting to know and respect each other better as individuals, moving away from the big political ideas and solutions which have apparently failed. Taiba Yasseen and Laurie Trott, the two ‘diversity and community experts’ managing the project ask, “can people of different races, different religions, really live together, and define what it means to be British?”
‘Yes’, or ‘it depends on the people’, apparently do not suffice as answers. Fear not though, these can be uncovered by putting together a group of people of different backgrounds, cultures and convictions, in a city infamous for its race riots, and filming the ensuing chaos. Racio-cultural ‘wife swap’, if you like.
When asked about her road to publication, Amanda Hocking politely launches into the stock narrative of her success story. Though distilled by repetition into the few key events of a feel-good story of overnight success, the Hocking story draws more on resilience, hard work and ambition than luck – something all students can draw from.
The common narrative which has come to define her image begins nearly two years ago with a Muppets exhibition. She was a care-worker in a nursing home for severely disabled people at the time and had been writing and trying to interest agents in her work for nine years. Words like ‘frustrated’ and ‘penniless’ are often thrown around at this point, but the author prefers a simpler and less dramatic approach to her own story: “I was really focusing on trying to get published and it wasn’t working.”
Fast forward a few years and Hocking, along with several other ‘self-publicists’, are forging new paths in the literary world.
The digital self-publishing phenomenon rapidly gained ground in 2011, with a group of bestselling authors including John Locke and Karen McQuestion, as well as Hocking herself, generating much hype as inspirational figureheads for other aspiring writers.
That the circle of successful authors remains small has fuelled recent speculation that the self-publishing bubble may eventually burst, but has not stemmed the flow of thousands of fresh amateur efforts appearing on Amazon each month.
Amanda Hocking’s story is one of determination and commitment, which ultimately bore fruit. Yet the success stories, such as Hocking’s own, have attracted criticism from more traditional literary quarters. Jonathan Franzen’s argument that the transient nature of digital eBook content fails to deliver the ink-and-paper permanence suited to the nature of great and enduring literature, could almost have been directly aimed at the simple sentences and characters of Hocking’s paranormal young adult romances. The 27-year-old has spent recent days and weeks speaking to journalists about her sale of over 1.5 million self-published eBooks since April 2010, garnering her almost double that amount in revenue. Yet she confesses to worrying about the spelling and grammatical errors that riddle her work, whilst admitting that she finds the editing process exhausting.
Originally posted at Kabobfest
The deep and long-term nature of the relationship between South Sudanese groups and Israel makes current talk of a ‘new’ alliance between the two, noting their lack of any shared borders and the distance of more than 3000 kilometers between their capital cities, seem a little misleading. Prompted by the visit of Salva Kiir, President of South Sudan, to Jerusalem in late December, recent headlines give little indication of a friendship stretching back over five decades, which culminated in Israel’s prompt recognition of the new state of South Sudan when it gained its independence from Sudan in July 2011. ““Israel is like a big brother to South Sudan”, Deputy Parliamentary Speaker, Daniel Akot, aptly commented in August.
Israel has taken an active interest in Sudan since the 1950s, when it sought contacts within Sudan’s nationalist Umma Muslim Party, which stood against closer relations with Egypt.
Israel has taken an active interest in Sudan since the 1950s, when it sought contacts within Sudan’s nationalist Umma Muslim Party, which stood against closer relations with Egypt. The ‘periphery’ strategy of the Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, sought friends amongst non-Arabs in outlying areas. In 1963 Israel began to instigate contact with the southern rebel group, Anyana, through its embassies in neighboring states such as Uganda, Ethiopia and Chad, putting its ambassador to Kampala in charge of coordinating the connection. The first Sudanese civil war in the 1960s saw Israel offer aid in the form of arms, advisers and training to the mostly black and Christian Southern Sudanese rebels against the majority Arab and Muslim government in Khartoum. Anyana mercenary Rolf Steiner testified before a military tribunal in Khartoum in August 1971 that Israel had reached an agreement with Uganda in 1970 on the use of Ugandan territory to aid Sudanese rebels.
The Addis Ababa agreement of 1972 ended the southern rebellion and with it, Israeli intervention, but Kiir recalled Israel’s support during his visit last month, saying: “Israel has always supported the South Sudanese people. Without you, we would not have arisen. You struggled alongside us in order to allow the establishment of South Sudan.”
Israel’s wider presence in the region is a long-standing affair.
Israel’s wider presence in the region is a long-standing affair. The country’s desire to cultivate a wider circle of friends among nearby non-Arab groups has helped to direct its actions in Africa since the late twentieth century, with current reports suggesting that Netanyahu may add a trip to South Sudan to the end of a February itinerary which already includes visits to Uganda, Kenya and Ethiopia. South Sudan is not the only area of the region with strong ties to Israel, whose involvement in the West Sudanese region of Darfur, during conflict between non-Arab groups and the Sudanese government, is unsurprising in this context. Reports of Israeli arms shipments to The Justice and Equality Movement, the strongest rebel group, sit alongside the fact that the several hundred refugees from the Darfur region of Sudan were one of the few groups of immigrants to be granted official refugee status in Israel in 2007.
Originally posted at the LSE’s Politics Blog
Politicians who genuinely seek to build trust between communities and in the political system will get nowhere by casting immigration as a threat
Patrick Diamond and Nabeelah Jaffer argue that politicians should be wary of legitimising ideas of immigration as a constant threat. Pandering to populist polemic will only raise expectations of a solution that Government cannot provide and does nothing to address underlying socio-economic problems.
Discussions on immigration are often accompanied by heated polemic. As Theresa May discovered, failures to deliver on tough populist rhetoric result in the depletion of public trust in both politicians and the political system. The controversy over decisions to relax border controls last summer centred as much on the Home Secretary’s pilot scheme, which reduced checks on citizens of EU countries, as it did on Brodie Clark’s decision to further ease controls in an attempt to deal with excessive queues.
Despite credible suggestions that May’s pilot scheme actually resulted in tougher policing, the level of public ire directed at both Clark and May signals a broader problem. In 1998 Ipsos MORI’s monthly sample found that no more than 7 per cent of Britons named immigration as a ‘most important issue’, but in 2008 this peaked to 42 per cent. The Conservatives have so far sought to appease rather than face up to growing negative perceptions of immigration which, as suggested by new research from Dr Lauren McLaern, are connected with a lack of trust in political institutions.
Policy Network’s recent project on Immigration and Political Trust explored the link between concern over immigration and low levels of public trust in the political system. It found that fears about immigration are not determined by actual levels of migrants, a point borne out by the more detailed examinations of concern over the control management of migrant admissions, the economic impacts, and anxieties about identity and community.
Originally posted at Kabobfest
Goodwill is not something the Taliban have found in short supply over the festive season. Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, agreed last week to the opening of a Taliban liaison office in Qatar, a week after Joe Biden set out to make it clear that ‘the Taliban per se are not our enemy’.
The Taliban’s new embassy is intended to speed up the peace process by establishing a base for reconciliation talks away from Afghanistan and its neighbouring areas. Picture Obama, Karzai and Taliban leaders sitting in air-conditioned rooms together and sipping fizzy water, (served by surly Taliban fighters with name badges). This hasn’t always seemed the likely prospect that it does today.
The Taliban were once synonymous with evil, part of an axis of terror that had to be defeated in an epic battle with the forces of justice and freedom. They struck the mould for the Western image of women-hating, oppressive, violent Islamists and extremists. On September 20, 2011, President Bush announced a war on terror which would begin ‘with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.’ In 2008, he promised: ‘so long as the terrorist danger remains, the United States of America will continue to fight the enemy wherever it makes its stand.’ So what was it that led to the shift from casting the Taliban as the enemy in an ideological war to questioning their relevance to U.S. interests? Essentially, it became clear that American and British forces were fighting a losing battle.
It isn’t even necessary to reach back as far as Bush’s presidency, given that Obama’s campaign for election included an emphasis on shifting forces away from Iraq, ‘and taking the fight to terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan’. All of which makes Biden’s attempt to suggest the lack of ‘a single statement that the President has ever made…that the Taliban is our enemy,’ look a little like hair-splitting.
So what was it that led to the shift from casting the Taliban as the enemy in an ideological war to questioning their relevance to U.S. interests? Essentially, it became clear that American and British forces were fighting a losing battle.
Originally posted at Kabobfest.
“It’s quite simple: the Arabs hate the Blacks” says French scriptwriter Abdel Raouf Dafri in the middle of the second programme in Al Jazeera’s recent three-part series, ‘Muslims of France’. He is commenting on the tension between the existing population of Muslim migrants from the Maghreb and new West African arrivals in the 1970s. “It’s awful, but true,” he continues, “I’ve heard Arab friends say ‘I’d rather see my sister with a Gaouri, a Frenchman, than a Kahlouche’”.
The moment is characteristic of a documentary which refuses to shy away from the internal conflict and division that has played its part in the history of Muslim immigration to France since the late 19th century. In exploring an area which remains obscure to many within France, filmmaker Karim Miské teases out both the undeserved and the self-inflicted travails faced by Muslim immigrants over the last century. The programme delves into the emotive story of the men conscripted from Algeria to fight in both world wars, highlighting the way in which symbolic pro-Islamic gestures of hospitals and mosques could be used by the French state as much to control and define as to welcome and honour its growing domestic Algerian population. The neglect of the Harkis, those Algerians who served in the French Army during the Algerian War of the late 1950s and were deemed traitors by their countrymen, is equally condemned. Yet the outbreaks of brutal civil violence and assassination in the suburban cafes of Muslim immigrant communities which resulted in the deaths of more than 4000, during the war between rival Algerian liberation organisations, are also exposed. More painfully contemporary incidents are not ignored, including rounds of anti-Semitic attacks which have in part been extreme expressions of pro-Palestinian identification from identity-hungry and disaffected Muslim youth.
Yet is this balanced narrative of immigrant alienation any more than an interesting examination of troubles which belong largely in the past? Despite the recent high-profile clashes over niqabs, animosity towards immigration is not a pressing issue for many in France. The Transatlantic Trends survey released findings last week which showed that when asked what they would name as one of the two most important issues affecting the country, only 14% of those asked in France chose immigration in comparison to 15% of Americans, 21% of Italians and 30% of Brits.
The user guide to the Labour Force Survey, a quarterly sample of UK households providing information on the labour market, reveals a set of broad economic activity categories into which I’m not sure I fit as an unpaid intern. The only option besides ‘in employment’ and ‘unemployed’ is ‘economically inactive’, which seems misleading given that I am contributing labour on a daily basis. The net loss in this equation is not to our economy, but to my pocket.
The problems faced by unpaid interns seeking to enter industries ranging from law to government, publishing to finance, were not discussed at the launch last month of the Skills Commission’s new report, Technicians and Progress, which added another voice to the clamour for skilled young people in the advanced manufacturing and engineering industries. The Chair of the Skills Commissions Enquiry, Professor Alison Halstead, argued persuasively that those who wish to swap the academic bubble for hands-on training should be encouraged by a clear career path open to those as young as 14.
The message of the report was important and the development of technical skills deserves better support and status, but the wave of attention that skills-based learning has received in recent months is also indicative of a popular backlash against a market flooded with graduates who are both too qualified and not qualified enough. It points to the inference made by the range of programmes which have dominated the response to the unemployment crisis: young people cannot find work because they are lacking, and a focus on practical training is the answer.