Sunday, June 18, 2006

Multiculturalism and mangoes

The mango season is upon us again and the enterprising Pakistanis of Bradford will be flying in tons of the sweetest and most delicious of fruits from Karachi and Lahore for the next few weeks. Yet, so many English people have yet to discover this open secret. It's an open secret because there have now appeared piles of mango boxes across many Bradford groceries. Many non-multicultural cities miss out on this wonderful fruit. So, five mangoes for about three pounds. Hurry, only a few weeks left.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Mistah Kurtz, he dead.

Apocalypse Now: As Captain Willard approaches Colonel Kurtz's compound deep in the Cambodian jungle, he walks past heads on poles. The civilised man - the third generation West Point-trained soldier - turned leader of the savages. Heads on poles.

And so, the whole world has seen the head of Zarqawi just as we did with the sons of Saddam Hussein. Proof that even the postmodern can achieve some level of barbarism.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Release of two men

The two men arrested last week in Forest Gate have been released without charge in the last few hours. This is very good news. Primarily because innocent men are now free but also because the police had the strength to own up to a mistake. This should increase Muslim confidance in the police after what appears to have been a very big and awful mistake.

No doubt people will call for culpable persons to accept responsibility here. I am not so concerned with the individuals concerned. My concerns centre on the system. Several serious questions have been raised by this raid (not for the first time) and checks need to be introduced and the quality of the game (to use the Prime Minister's metaphor) needs to be raised. These questions are:

i) who are the experts that distinguish between some young lads mouthing off before they watch a football match and a definite terrorist threat? What is their knowledge and experience in this area? Do they have a conflict of interest?

ii) what are the exact circumstances of the shooting? What needs to be changed in raid procedure to prevent another disaster?

iii) who controls spin exercises in the press? What recourse do innocent men have now (like these two) against the lies printed against them over the weekend?

iv) are early morning raids necessary? Is it possible to think up more intelligent ways of apprehending suspects?

v) who is holding this whole anti-terrorist operation to account?

The figures on raids speak for themselves. They do not help the cause. The problem with the raid that happened last Friday is that it severely damages trust especially in the core constituency that needs to be kept on side. From my experience, it is quite clear that Muslims are fully willing to co-operate with the police either on moral grounds or because they realise that it is in their best self-interest. However, such co-operation is predicated upon sound, trustworthy and robust anti-terrorist operations that lead to convictions on terrorism-related offences.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More on these raids

When the Prime Minister was arguing for 90 days detention, for which our local MP Marsha Singh voted, one of his arguments was that the judges would keep a very close eye on police procedure. That is, that they would not allow detention up to 90 days without being provided with strong arguments by the police. Well, we have a test case in front of us. The law says that the two brothers arrested last Friday in East London can be held for up to 14 days after repeated petitioning of a judge. The first such petition was applied for today and the judge granted it. But we already know that this particular case is looking flimsy. So, let's see how the judge scrutinises the police's request over the next few days.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Questions on anti-terrorism policing

The raid on Friday morning which led to the shooting of a young man has again brought to the fore certain central questions on anti-terrorism policing. These include:

i) the quality of the intelligence or expertise that the police and security services are relying on. First of all, I don't know why they're called 'intelligence' services when they are in fact gathering information. And how does one gather 'intelligence'? Instead, the should be called information services. Anyway, I do worry about the quality of information that is being handed over to police and I also worry about the kind of person who evaluates this. Having now met a few experts in the academic world and thereabouts, I would like to ask who are the actual 'experts' making the judgements on the inside? There needs to be an audit of their capability. At the least, sending in 250 officers to arrest a young 23 year old should raise some eyebrows on the inside? Were 78 police officers not enough to arrest one 23 year old man? It does bring the whole thing into disrepute.

ii) there is an obvious question mark over the use of fire arms which is new to British police practice i.e. it's not very British. Now that someone has been shot again after the anger of last year's shooting at Stockwell tube station, are procedures going to remain the same or will the services consider a change? If this man proves to be innocent, then that means that on both occasions, innocent people have been shot. Does this mean that capital punishment has now been re-introduced to British law, except through the back door?

iii) we now have the dishonourable spectacle of the face-saving spinning exercise (including through the News of the World!). Time will tell about the exact circumstances but are there any procedures in place to protect against prejudicing the outcome of any future trial and against spinning in general as happened after Stockwell when the British public was fed a whole series of incredible lies?

iv) there is something really frightening and disgusting about the violence of the early morning raid against innocent people. How many houses have been raided since 2001? What happens after the raid? What happens if the whole house has been turned upside down? What happens if the family of the accused is present in the house? What happens if after everything the 'intelligence' was stupid? What recourse do the innocent have?

v) who assesses some of the claims that come out of anti-terrorism policing? When the police say that three plots have been foiled in the last six months, what do they mean? Which expert verifies that this is in fact the case? It's time for some answers.

vi) in short, to borrow a phrase from the Home Secretary, after the catalogue of errors since 2001 including the alleged ricin plot, the alleged Mancheter United plot, the shooting of Jean Charles, the shooting on Friday morning, and worst, the failure to prevent last year's bombings, is British anti-terrorism policing 'fit for purpose'?