Archive | September, 2013

Media Representations of Crime and Cultural Stereotypes

29 Sep

This blog is in reference to an article published in the Sunday Times on the 15 September 2013, by Camilla Cavendish.

In the article, Ms. Cavendish wrote about the horrific failings to protect Daniel Pelka, the little boy, who was beaten and starved to death by his parents. And who would have probably survived his horrendous ordeal, if Coventry Council’s Social Care Child Protection team had properly carried out their duty to protect him from the harm inflicted upon him by these wicked and pitiful excuses for parents.

In the article, Cavendish makes particular reference to the fact that Daniel’s parents are Polish.

What relevance does the fact that his parents are Polish, you may ask? The answer, is none! That Cavendish was quick to point this fact out, only serves to smear and damage relations between the English and Eastern European immigrants.

Although, I believe unintentional on Cavendish’s part; making reference to the ethnicity or cultural identity of an individual or individuals charged with a particular crime, only serves to perpetuate cultural and ethnic stereotypes. The only exception to making such a reference, is when identity is indeed relevant to the crime; which in this case, it is not.

Cavendish is not the only journalist guilty of this cultural stereotyping. In fact, most journalists do so. Whether intentional or not; I do not know. But, the fact of the matter is, perpetuating cultural and ethnic stereotypes is the outcome, when making reference to an ethnic or cultural identity when identity is not relevant to a particular crime, is damaging to intercultural relations and therefore society as a whole.

It is like saying that all members of the clergy or paedophiles; or that all Muslims are terrorists; or that all football goers are racist hooligans; or that all Black people are muggers; or that all unemployed people are work-shy. Do you get where I am going with this?

All media and journalists have a duty to report the news, but they should do so morally and with consideration to the negative impact their reporting has, or may have, on a particular ethnic, religious or cultural community.

If the media and journalists continue to perpetuate such stereotypes, the misinformed sheep and incapable of society- who continue to believe everything that they read in the newspaper or hear on the tv or radio- without scepticism or independent thought to challenge- will never change their views of those who are culturally or ethnically different. This does not sit well for society and certainly not for inclusion, participation and acceptence of those who are somehow different.

If, as a society, we wish to effect change and aspire to greater equality in challenging prejudices and discrimination, we must remember this. However, as readers and viewers, we also must take responsibility for the media that we digest daily. Sadly, for many of us; this will not happen, because we are more inclined to follow and be led than challenge and lead the case for change. Unfortunately, such unthinking and reckless reporting only serves to breed mistrust. There is much evidence to support the view that a large proportion of people do believe what they read and hear in the media. It is not just a case of the great unwashed, but the great brainwashed, falling into the abyss like lemmings of the cliff. Sad times.

Author: Jason Schumann

Cultural Analysis, Debating Culture, Freedom of Expression, Ethics of Journalism, Moral Panic, identity, Human Progress, Media, Crime and Ethnicity, Politics, Stereotypes, Daniel Pelka, Camilla Cavendish, Sunday Times News Review, racism,

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UK Snoopers’ Charter: Big Brother and Human Rights Ruling

29 Sep

Theresa May.jpeg

[Source: Google Images]

 

In November 2016, Britain’s Parliament passed legislation to expand state surveillance of private individuals.

Dubbed the “snoopers’ charter” by civil liberties and Human Rights organisations, the law was intended to require telecommunications companies to keep records of all customers’ emails and web activity for a year, and gives public authorities and officials wide-ranging access to such information.

In effect, this law – had it been left unchallenged and successful, in its enactment – would have also allowed any public official or authority to access any individual’s personal data, whether in the privacy of his/ her home, such as internet browsing history; or mobile phone data; and even medical records and financial transactions.

The law would also allow for computer hacking and of mobile phones.

(The Met police have already admitted to indiscriminately collecting private data, by covert means, under the Regulatory Powers Bill (RIPA)).

 

Her Majesty’s government has stated that the law will help its authorities in the fight against terrorism and crime.

By this statement, one can assume that the law would target members of Britain’s Muslim communities in particular, as with the Government’s PREVENT strategy, which has previously targeted children as young as five.

However, on Wednesday, the 12 December 2016, the European Court of Justice ruled that governments must not (be permitted to) indiscriminately collect and retain people’s emails and electronic communications.

Presumably, this is because instruments like this, are intended to drive through all citizens’ Universal Human Rights laws, including the right to privacy and data protection rights.

The UK government is said to be disappointed — of course, it would be!

Via the Home Office, it has also stated that the Government intends to appeal the ruling.

Some years ago, the UK Government announced plans to repeal and water down the Human Rights Act, and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.

This is entirely a Tory plan, led by Charlie Elphicke, that does not have the full support of any of the other major political parties in the UK.

In Elphicke’s version of a British (nee Tory) Bill of Rights, the law would allow the Government to avoid its Human Rights obligations; to respect the rights and freedoms of man and woman, effectively placing it (the Government) above the law.

It would also allow the Government to tell the judiciary how to apply this proposed law. Alan Richards explains it in some considerable well researched detail here:

https://thinkinglegally.wordpress.com/2014/01/31/conservative-bill-of-rights-the-state-v-the-people/

 

In what is, or should be considered, equally as suspicious and contemptible, the Government also proposes to free itself from its Human Rights commitments against foreign nationals and war crimes, including acts of genocide.

In response to the UK Government’s proposed derogation of the from the European Convention on Human Rights regarding military operations, the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) has called for evidence and submissions.

This proposal, is designed to negate, and deny culpability, of the Government and military personnel, in Human Rights abuses; including, acts of rendition, funding of terror (White Helmets), regime change of foreign heads of state (Libya, Iraq etc), and other covert operations.

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The JCHR’s call for submissions (of no more than 3,000 words) are invited from interested groups and individuals, focusing on the following issues:

  • What evidence supports the Government’s view that “our legal system has been abused to level false charges against our troops on an industrial scale”?
  • What evidence supports the Government’s view that the extra-territorial applicability of the ECHR undermines the operational effectiveness of the Armed Forces?
  • Are the substantive requirements of Article 15 ECHR likely to be satisfied in the circumstances in which the Government intends to derogate?
  • Are there alternatives to derogation which would achieve the Government’s objective of protecting the armed forces against unfounded legal claims?
  • Are there any wider implications of the UK derogating from the extra-territorial application of the Convention in military operations, such as effects on other countries or on the European system for the collective enforcement of human rights?
  • Should the derogating measures be contained in primary legislation?
  • Is it appropriate for the Ministry of Defence to have lead responsibility for a policy the purpose of which is to protect the MoD from legal claims?

 

Interested parties can submit views through the Government’s proposed derogation from the ECHR inquiry page.

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Source: Link above.

 

Ultimately, the Government’s intentions here, which are both to repeal and lessen the impact of the HRA (including judgments of the European Courts of Justice and Human Rights); and excuse its humanitarian duties and abuses whilst involved in military operations abroad, are to make itself less accountable to and diminish the rights and freedoms of British citizens, as well as those who are or become victims of the Ministry of Defence’s interests and actions in other countries.

If you allow this to happen, kiss goodbye to whatever delusional thread of liberty you thought you ever had in the first place.

 

By Jason Lee, of the family: Schumann.

 

The Niqab Debate: A Religious Right or Cultural Freedom

24 Sep

The wearing of the niqab has been debated in Europe for the last two decades. More recently, it has become the topic of political rhetoric of the Far Right and Liberal society. Some of the more serious issues around Muslim women wearing face-coverings, such as the niqab, are as broad as matters that focus on ‘gender quality’, the ‘perceived Islamization of Western identities’, ‘security risks’ and ‘threats of terrorism’, as well as the perceived coercion of some Muslim men in more strict, patriarchal societies, such as in Wahabist countries like Saudi Arabia. In contrast to the religious conformity of some Middle Eastern countries- where wearing face-coverings is often proscribed and enshrined in law and obligatory in most aspects of daily life- in European nations, individuals enjoy relative religious and cultural freedom and the law tends to focus on social conduct rather than religious observance.

In Europe, it is those who say that they align themselves to the views of liberal and secularist society, who believe that antiquated notions of patriarchy and gender inequality, are valid reasons for being prescriptive in regard to the wearing of the veil in public spaces. The argument goes, that prescription should apply if wearing the veil appears to disempower a Muslim woman’s right to self-determination, autonomy and full participation in mainstream society (See Dr Sarah Wollaston, MP’s recent tweets, September 2013).

In a particular reference to young girls in school; Wollaston, a Conservative MP, suggests that she believes the veil is a barrier to communication, which can drastically affect equal participation in ‘an open, modern society’ and that schools have a duty to prepare young people for participation in wider society. In analyzing Dr Wollaston’s comments further, it could also be argued that by suggesting that young girls should not be wearing the veil in schools; young girls are placed at a disadvantage and may be ill-prepared for participation in society- which, if that was the intended meaning of the comment- could also mean Wollaston’s comment is biased to a more feminist viewpoint- and the wearing of the head or face-covering is not conducive with an ‘open, modern and secular society’- in which men and women are equal. However, the fact is, that many women who do wear the veil, choose to do so to set themselves apart from the mainstream of society, in asserting their own sense of identity in affirmation of their Islamic commitment. Interestingly, it is women who account for the majority of Muslim converts in the UK.

In Europe, it has long been the tradition of separation of state and religion. Religion is considered a private matter that should not enter into the public sphere. The French ban on the veil wearing in public; for example, is a clear delineation and an assertion of secularism over freedom and right of religious expression. Indeed, former president, Nicolas Sarkozy is on record as having stated publicly, that the veil has no place in French society. Other European countries are to follow suit, and I have no doubt that this will result in further marginalization of the Muslim presence in Europe; and entrenchment of a perceived persecuted, minority consciousness. That more and more women are choosing to wear the head-coverings, would seem to suggest that they are happy to live outside apparent models of uniformity.

But it is members of Far Right organizations, who have hijacked the niqab debate and assert that Muslims must always conform to Western notions of society and cultural identity. They (the Far Right) argue that this is because Europe is slowly being Islamized, that Muslims are synonymous with terrorism; and therefore, pose a security risk to the safety of Europeans. It is those linked or associated with the Far Right, such as UKIP, the BNP, EDL, and the PVV, who also perceive Islam as a threat, considering the veil ‘an affront to European values’ and identity. Tommy Robinson, after his recent departure from EDL, restated his view and belief that the niqab should be banned in all public places. This conflict, represents a modern power struggle to suppress Islamic identity in general, and protect an increasingly, fragmented European/ Western conception of identity.

Let’s just make it clear here; the Qur’an states that ‘both’ men and women should cover their modesty. As Ramadan (2004) noted, modesty is one of the three major endeavours of Islamic thought. The Qur’an, however, does not state specifically how and to what extent the body should be covered, only which parts of the body should be covered. Importantly, this does not include mention of covering of the face or the hair. The covering of head and face, is a modern interpretation that and; until recently, was largely influenced by male-led interpretations of religious doctrine. Of course, we can add to this, the influence of male conceptions of gender-roles.

This is in no way meant to imply that this is a Muslim issue. As in Western societies, we need only look to the Church of England as an example; and its view of the role of women in religious practice. We can add to this, Western, male notions of women looking pretty and attractive when wearing high-heels, bonnets, mini-skirts, corsets, and other items of adopted, female regalia. Even the way men and women button their shirts differently and the colours and patterns of their clothing. These examples represent some of the parallels that may be drawn between all males- in every society- concerning how all men believe women should dress- and their views on the positions and roles and entitlements of all women within any society.

I fully agree, however, that wearing the niqab or burqa, is and should always be a matter of personal choice- without undue male influence- in the same way as wearing a bra or low-cut dress. In my own view, of which there is much evidence to lend support, it is Western governments and individuals who now seek to dictate how Muslim women should dress, and less so Muslim men living in the West. It is also one of proscribed conformity to Western values, with the tiresome, default excuse constantly regurgitated by us Westerners, is that Muslim women are suppressed by Muslim men, because of the perceived male influence in the way Muslim women dress. There may be some element of truth in this in more closed and less integrated European Muslim communities- and some Muslim countries- but it is clearly evident that such views have changed significantly. Interpretive reasoning and a redefining of cultural and religious identity in a European/ Western context have influenced this change.

I do agree that one of the key exceptions to choice, occurs when the individual meets or represents the state and there is a need to affirm, approve or establish identity in order to justify our presence or viewpoint, and for security purposes. I also agree that there are some elements and individuals within Muslim communities who pose serious security risks and threaten Western society through attacks on our public spaces and the taking of lives. This means- and I support this view- that any women wearing a head-covering should be required to identity themselves and affirm their identity in an identifiable manner; whether at an airport, in a court of law, or at a police station. This is clearly a given, and Muslims should in no way perceive that this is a threat or discriminatory.

We should also consider the human element- the social interaction- the fact that we gauge trust and honesty, compassion and other emotions from gazing upon the face and into the eyes of an individual. This is not to say; however, that because some women choose to cover their faces, that they are any less human or sincere. The very act of putting on and wearing the veil requires great resolve in the face of adversity. It is truly an expression of Muslim cultural identity, which is increasingly worn by more and more women as a form of empowerment. Remember: something is only ever sexist and oppressive if we allow it to be. As Rose Kinchen notes, in the Sunday Times News Review, 22 September 2013, the fear and hostility towards the presence of Muslims is increasing symbolized by the wearing of the veil. She also asserts that it is often terrifying for women who wear face-covering due to the abuse and degrading treatment they receive from passersby.

What we must never do and should be extremely careful of is not to create further cultural and religious divide. If we traverse this route, we are at risk of denying all fundamental rights, instead of protecting them. This will lead to totalitarianism and sweeping powers of the state to dictate and control all aspects of our lives, whether we are Muslim or not. And then we will be just like countries such as Saudi Arabia. Ultimately, any state imposition of such uniformity and conformity; in a socalled secularist society, is hardly a free and open secular society.

Author: Jason Schumann

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