News

Hong Kong minorities ‘marginalised’ in school

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Ethnic minorities in Hong Kong are “marginalised” by the education system, says a university study.

It found children of minority families do not get enough support to learn Cantonese – putting them behind in school and causing long-term problems in the jobs market.

Read the whole story on BBC News here.

Sacred or Sham: Interfaith marriage in the Sikh community

My husband and I had a Sikh marriage ceremony (Anand Karaj) in a Gurdwara in Hong Kong earlier this year.

Clinging tightly to the ends of the red cloth draped between us, we walked around the Guru Granth Sahib four times.

interfaith-marriage-comp2

Photo: Davinder Chohan / Chohan Photography

With each round, a verse detailing the soul’s journey towards God was read aloud.

But according to guidelines recently released by the Sikh Council UK, some might consider our wedding to be a sham, as I’m not a Sikh.

Based on the Sikh code of conduct, the Sikh Rehat Maryada of 1932, the guidelines advise: “Persons professing faiths other than the Sikh faith cannot be joined in wedlock by the Anand Karaj ceremony.

Yet many Sikhs feel that this form of Sikhism is a hard line version of the faith they hold dear.

Sikh scholar Davinder Singh Panesar says, “Sikh teachings don’t see faith as a differentiator, but as something that enables people to come to common ground, common humanity.”

Guru Nanak, who founded the faith, emphasised heavily on the ‘oneness of humanity’.

“If the Gurus don’t accept division in faith, caste or gender, why is it being enforced on the Sikh community? It doesn’t make sense and contradicts Sikh teachings,” Davinder echoes.

Many of Sikhism’s practices are aimed at bringing equality to all types of people.

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“Recognise all of mankind as a single caste” – Guru Gobind Singh Ji

In every Gurdwara’s langar hall, where visitors are served food, everyone must sit on the floor as equals, regardless of their background, wealth or status.

Every Sikh is given the surname Singh, for men, and Kaur, for women, in an attempt to reduce the long-standing practice of caste discrimination.

Guru Tegh Bahadur, the 9th Guru, was executed for opposing the Mughal’s forced conversion of Hindus to Islam.

Non-religious option

Retired civil servant Gurmukh Singh, who was invited by the Sikh Council to comment on the guidelines, believes that people of different faiths are on different religious ‘ladders’.

“Though a non-Sikh can understand the universal teachings of Gurbani (compositions of the Gurus) and also those of other religions; they are on their own chosen religious ladder.”

According to Gurmukh, the Sikh Council’s guidelines don’t oppose interfaith marriages, only against them happening in Gurdwaras.

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Sri Guru Singh Sabha, the largest Gurdwara in London. Photo: bethmoon527/Flickr

“The alternative of a civil marriage is there. If they are so compelled by their residual faith in religion, both sides can visit each other’s places of worship,” he explains.

Rachel and Iqbal Channa from London decided to do exactly this for their wedding.

“Neither of us sees ourselves as religious so we knew we didn’t want a religious ceremony,” Rachel explains.

The couple had a civil marriage ceremony in 2012 at Pinewood Studios in Slough.

A few months before, close family gathered with them in a Gurdwara, as prayers were read for the couple’s wellbeing.

Love bridges the cultural divide for Rachel and Iqbal, “It’s not really a big issue for us. Perhaps it makes things a bit more complex, but I’ve learnt so much.

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Minority faith

The Sikh Council guidelines propose that if a non-Sikh adopts Sikhism, the Gurdwara should assess their genuine intention to follow the faith.

But journalist and author Sunny Hundal, who grew up in a Sikh family, feels that this is hypocritical and discriminatory.

“Many Sikhs wear a turban and grow their hair for the ceremony and then cut it off the day after. But the Gurdwaras turn a blind eye to that.”

Some non-Sikhs are in the process of learning about the Sikh faith, like myself.

“The definition of a Sikh is a student, someone who is learning, who is on the way to enlightenment, through self-discovery, ethical work and selflessness,” Davinder explains.

Confident that the guidelines will provide clarification, helping to protect Sikh values, Gurmukh says:

“There are certain core socio-religious values of communities which should be defended. The married life of a householder, and bringing up of children in a harmonious one faith environment.”

But Davinder feels that the guidelines have had a negative affect, “It has divided the Sikh community, misrepresented Sikh teachings and will inevitably risk disenfranchising many in the coming generations.”

Davinder and his wife Shanta had an Anand Karaj in a Gurdwara, although Shanta was born to a Christian Mother and a Hindu Father. She has gone on to be ‘baptised’ into the Sikh faith and bring her children up as Sikhs.

Sunny is certain that the guidelines are pushing people away from the faith.

“If no Gurdwara is willing to host the religious ceremony, the couple will undoubtedly feel that the Sikh community has ex-communicated them. What are the chances they will now bring up their children as Sikhs? If you have a minority faith, you should be integrating, not turning people away.”

grandma

Though my husband and I aren’t devoutly religious, we do plan to keep the Sikh faith at the core of our children’s upbringing.

My acceptance into the community has been reflected in the warmth of my family-in-law, showing the exact love and kindness that made me fall in love with Sikhism to begin with.

Hong Kong refugee welfare changes ‘disappointing’

Reugees sit on a ledge overlooking the city

Photo: SoCo

Long-awaited welfare changes to affect thousands of refugees, have come into effect today in Hong Kong. 

Increases in rental and food assistance, utility expenses and help with rental deposits are among the improvements.

But the policy still doesn’t include the right to work, even after residing in the city for a long period of time.

A Central African lawyer-turned-charity worker, who came to Hong Kong to seek asylum in 2004, is among many who say it’s not enough. 

Robert, who fled civil war and persecution in his country, says, “It’s not at all enough. In fact, in Hong Kong there’s no way you can get a room for HK$1500. It’s just a kind of cave, a place where you put your bed, nothing more.”

The value of the food bag given to refugees and asylum seekers, three to six times a month, has increased to HK$1200, working out at HK$13 per meal (£1 / US$1.7).

Financial help towards utilities has gone up a mere HK$40, though research from the Refugee Concern Network shows that 88% of refugees are unable to afford the utilities they require.

African migrants

Photo: J.Castle

Somali journalist Ibraahim Jeekey, who claimed asylum in Hong Kong around 5 months ago, says, “If I tell you the truth, 5 months and above, I am not calling my children. So I don’t know if they’re alive or dead. But the problem is that you cannot get $1 in Hong Kong to buy a [phone] card.”

The Government argues that their assistance to refugees is aid, not welfare.

But Albert Ho, democratic legislator and member of the panel on Welfare Services, explains that, “The Government says they don’t want to send a signal to the outside world that Hong Kong welcomes refugees.”

“In other words, if you want to come [here] you have to lead a very difficult life. It’s inhuman, it’s uncivilised.”

The Hong Kong Government set a poverty threshold in late 2013.

Cosmo Beatson, co-founder of refugee advocacy group Vision First, says, “the previous refugee welfare package oppressed them at 37% below that rate. And even with the increase, they remain at 20% below the poverty rate.”

Julee Allen, manager of Christian Action in Hong Kong, explains, “they struggle they really do. I see people who come and sell their belongings, their jewellery, piece by piece, to bring in a bit of additional income.”

The waiting game

The People’s Republic of China signed the Refugee Convention in 1951. But it was never extended to include Hong Kong, which currently has no refugee laws.

The city signed the Convention on Torture in 1992, yet has a near to zero acceptance rate.

Asylum claims are currently assessed by the UNHCR before a decision is made by the Immigration Department, who also deal with torture claims.

As a result, both asylum seekers and torture claimants often wait many years for a decision to be made on their status.

Research by the Refugee Concern Network shows that 13% of asylum seekers wait 7-8 years and 29% wait more than 9 years.

Ibraahim says, “Here is a community of 75 Somalis living in asylum. Really they become crazy because they sit here in the same place for 3 years, 4 years, 7 years.”

Photo: BillyHCKwok

Photo: BillyHCKwok

“Your pockets are empty. Really we are sleeping and eating only. We go to the mosque to pray, and we go to our home.”

Currently, around 1,900 asylum seekers and 4,200 torture claimants are still awaiting decisions on their claims, according to the Hong Kong Refugee Advice Centre (HKRAC).

“We see a lot of depression from the months and years of waiting. The people we see are former professionals. Not being able to work is enormously demoralising,” Julee explains.

“They want to give back to Hong Kong, but the laws set up around their status forbid it. They can’t work, they depend on the state, they’re not even allowed to volunteer.”

Neither recognised refugees or asylum seekers are allowed to work in the city, and face 22 months in prison for taking part in work illegally.

Cosmo points out that, “Robbery in Hong Kong, gets 7-8 months [in prison], for prostitution you get 2-3 months, so these policies are actually forcing criminality.”

Most other countries that accept refugees allow them to work if a decision hasn’t been made on their status after a year. But refugees in Hong Kong can wait 10 years or more in limbo.

Photo: BillyHCKwok

Photo: BillyHCKwok

A right to dignity

A case being heard at Hong Kong’s highest court includes three recognised refugees and one successful torture claimant, who are fighting for the right to earn a living

All of them have been in Hong Kong for more than 10 years.

If successful, the outcome of the hearing may be a watershed moment for refugees and asylum seekers in the city, allowing many more in desperate situations to work.

Mark Daly, the lawyer who is fighting the case, says, “The arguments that we’re running are based on basic law and the International Human Rights Convention – the right to privacy and the right to avoid cruel and degrading treatment.”

“So it’s really an indicator of how far Hong Kong courts will go to uphold human rights.”

At the discretion of the Director of Immigration, Robert was recently granted the right to work and spends his days helping other refugees in need.

“I have recovered part of my dignity and my privacy.  I really felt lost on one hand, and on the other hand I was feeling useless. Because I couldn’t get any opportunity to use my talents, my energy and my strength.”

“The Government should think how they can make use of this community. Among them there are many talented people and they can contribute to society in Hong Kong.”

Belly of the Tantra (Review)

This revelatory documentary by Indian filmmaker Pankaj Purohit will keep you on edge as it unveils some of the most rarely seen moments of Hindu cult rituals.

Pankaj Purohit and producer Babita Modgil travel to the different parts of rural India and Nepal that are inhabited by a secretive, ancient cult, seeking the reasoning behind their egocentric mentality and “primal” ways.

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The film explores the life of a mysterious and eccentric group of people, the Aghori, whose ancient traditions challenge the modern perception of morality.

The Aghori are part of a Hindu sect who worship Shiva, known to dwell in cremation grounds and believed to have a spiritual connection to the dead. The majority of the Aghori population are sadhus (holy men), who have many devout followers and believe that they are all-powerful – even able to raise the dead.

“They have no boundaries,” says Pankaj, “they try to live outside modern society’s boundaries, they are limitless.”

Cannibalism, vagina worship, animal and even human sacrifice are common practice for this group of mysterious Sadhus. And not a frame of vivid imagery short, it’s no surprise this film is censored in India.

Their practices are illegal by Indian law, but deep into the Indian wilderness, far from any governmental control, these people can continue their ways.

An unbound approach

The director’s intentions for the film were of a curious nature, searching for understanding, rather than to expose controversial rituals that continue in modern India.

“I tried to go into the filming with an open mind, without all my preconceptions of what’s right and wrong,” explains Purohit.

Belly of the Tantra was made Gonzo-style, reeling the film crew and director into many of the rituals. “We had to drink with them, smoke what they were smoking and do what they were doing, otherwise they would have suspected us,” Purohit says.

As an artist more than a documentarian, Purohit wasn’t bound by journalistic principles, giving the film complete freedom to delve deep into this sensitive topic. This artistic license is reflected in the piece’s editing style, as well as narration style.

The film’s UK Premiere was this month’s Cine Rebis Underground Film Festival at the Horse Hospital in Russell Square, London, where its full, uncensored version received much support.

The director’s next piece will expose the use of cheap, hormone-inducing drugs on child prostitutes in India.

NOW Who’s the Illegal Immigrant?

English Defence League leader Stephen Lennon has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for illegally entering the USA.

The irony of this is just too sweet. The leader of a group that spends half their time complaining about the problem of illegal immigrants to the UK, has been caught for doing exactly the same thing in the United States.

Having been refused entry to the US in the past, when he travelled to the US in September he decided to use Andrew McMaster’s passport instead. If that’s not illegal immigration, I don’t know what is.

Stephen Lennon, also known by his pseudonym Tommy Robinson, pleaded guilty to the offence for which he was caught when he was fingerprinted at JFK airport in New York, adding yet another criminal conviction to his collection.

His personal assistant Helen Gower has said that Lennon is likely to be released early with a tag on good behaviour, and their leader is “well chuffed at the result today.”

Who are the EDL?

For those of you who don’t hail from the UK, the EDL (English Defence League) are a right-wing, nationalist group who claim to be “peacefully protesting against militant Islam”. But its followers are all too happy to go on Twitter rants about their hatred of non-white ethnic groups, and to tell everyone in Britain who is not white to go back to their ‘own countries.’ At times they sound like frustrated children whose toys were taken away by their invisible Muslim enemy, hash-tagging #thicko at the ends of their sentences.

They often pick and choose their ‘evidence’ against Muslims, ignoring anything that shows Muslims in a good light, and giving a pedestal to anything they do wrong. A good example of this would be using the Rochdale grooming case, involving 9 Muslim men, to pin the blame on all Muslims and immigrants, while ignoring the 7 white men who did the same thing in Derby.

They have even gone as far as to cheer when tragic events happen. One follower commented that he was glad when the 2 year-old boy and 10 year-old Muslim children were killed in a hit-and-run in Leeds (though the comment has slyly been deleted by now). His justification was that Muslims kill innocent people all the time. What kind of person smiles at the death a child?

But it’s not just Muslims and immigrants they hate. Their followers, such as @CommonSense4Now, have mocked me on Twitter in the past for having a Master’s degree, which to them implied that I am rich and upper class (though I’m much the opposite). And he accused the University of Westminster as having a “Muslim extremist problem”.

edl convo

Anybody who bears at left of the extreme right on the political scale may also become victim to the group’s hatred. This picture posted on Twitter summarises their views on just about everybody but themselves:

edl rant

A Double Standard of Terrorism

When a right-wing extremist kills people in the name of his ideology, is that terrorism?

A clearer picture of the Gurdwara shooting gunman’s intentions have emerged since my last post. It turns out that Wade Page, who was responsible for killing 6 people in a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, US, was a white supremacist neo-Nazi.

Witnesses claimed that the gunman walked into the temple as if he knew exactly where he was going. Put together with his membership in white power bands and his research into white supremacy, it is clear that his intention was simply to kill non-white people.

White power bands usually just play songs with hateful and racist lyrics. But there are bands who are renowned for committing racially-aggravated crimes. The Hammerskins is one of them, a group that Wade Page knew very well.

White supremacy is an ideology that basically says  that white people are better than everybody else, and should therefore be the ruling power.

When Wade Page entered the Gurdwara last week, his message was to all non-white people – we (white people) will regain the country.

Double standards

Page’s attack on the Sikh temple certainly does fulfill the textbook definition of terrorism, which has two criteria; an act of violence, with a political message.

Yet politicians and journalists in the US seem to be very reluctant to label this an act of terrorism.

As international human rights lawyer Arsalan Iftikhar has pointed out – if a South Asian man had walked into a Church and shot 6 people, it would instantly be called a terrorist attack. But when the tables turn, it is a “pointless act of violence” as Mitt Romney has said.

In a way, this double standard of terrorism is somehow condoning white supremacist violence, as they are then able to avoid the stigma and condemnation that is associated with terrorism from other groups.

The US government has cut back on it’s surveillance of right-wing groups in order to watch Muslim fanatics more carefully. But there has actually been a dangerous rise in the number of white supremacist groups since 9/11, according to research by the Southern Poverty Law Centre.

Ku Klux Klan: One of the more famous terrorist,white supremacist groups. Photo: Arete13 / Flickr

More examples of Terror from the Right can be found here.

Heart goes out to the families of Prakash Singh, Suveg Singh, Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka and Sita Singh and Paramjit Kaur. May they rest in Peace.

Sikhs are the latest victims of cultural ignorance

Many suspect that the man responsible for the shooting in a Wisconsin Sikh Temple in the US had mistaken them for Muslims.

6 people, including both the Temple’s President and Priest, have died after being shot by Wade Michael Page, who launched an attack on the Sikh place of worship on Sunday morning.

Though the gunman’s intention has not been confirmed, the former member of the Armed Services has been related to racist groups.

This tragedy is somewhat reminiscent of the 1984 riots in India. Tens of thousands of Sikhs were killed in retaliation to the assassination of Indira Gandhi, who was murdered by one of her Sikh guards.

Confused attackers

Since 9/11, Sikhs in the US and UK have reported a sharp rise in violent attacks against them.

As many Muslims and Sikhs wear turbans, those who are unfamiliar with the Religions often confuse them with one another.

Of course, whether the gunman had meant to do the same to Muslims in a Mosque, the act would be equally as outrageous.

The Sikh turban was born out of defiance, during a time in which only the ruling Muslim majority were allowed to wear them.

Guru Gobind Singh Ji had ordered all Sikhs to wear turbans as a sign of their moral standards. In the Religion that is strongly based on teachings of equality, the turban also served to dispel the belief that turbans were only for the upper classes.

A pious Sikh man in the Golden Temple, Amritsar. Photo: Nick Leonard / Flickr

Cultural ignorance

If you think about it, on TV, there is hardly ever a mention of different Religions, or Religion at all, unless they are being blamed for something. And in the public arena, it has become so sensitive, that people are scared of talking about it.

As President Obama reminded the US, though it may have been a little late, the Sikhs have done a lot for the nation.

Broadcasters and publishers need to make religious people more visible in positive contexts. And religious leaders need to be more active in sharing the true meanings of their Faiths.

Ultimately we need to strive towards building an atmosphere in which all people, religious or not, can share and learn from each other.

Gun Legality

Just over 2 weeks ago, similar images flashed across our screens as 12 lives were claimed by the “Batman shooting” in Colorado.

But US Politicians, who currently seem to be overlooking the issue of gun control in the fore-run to the elections, may no longer be able to ignore it after Sunday’s violence.

Olympic Medalists Reflect Multicultural Britain

The endless debate about whether Multicultural Britain is working was silenced tonight as 3 Olympic gold medalists showed the value of a diversity.

3 Olympic Athletes from 3 different backgrounds win 3 gold medals.

Photo: adifansnet / Flickr


Jessica Ennis held her gold medal high for the Heptathlon, Greg Rutherford for long jump and Mo Farah became the first British man to win the Men’s 10,000m.

All three of them, including Somalian-born Mo Farah, were proud to represent Great Britain. “This is my country,” Mo Farah answered to a rather silly question – “Would you have been prouder to have done it for Somalia?”

The medalists visually and metaphorically symobolise how people from different backgrounds can flourish in the UK.

Most of the British public are feeling a great sense of pride over tonight’s victories, regardless of the ethnic backgrounds of the athletes.

And hopefully that pride will bring people in Britain closer together, long after the Olympics finish.

Is Bombing Bigots Justified?

My initial reaction to the alleged plot of the three men from Birmingham to bomb the EDL was, “good, they deserve it.” But as my morality and logic kicked in, it became a little more complicated.

The men had been stopped in Sheffield for a routine check and later arrested in possession of guns and explosives. What gave away their alleged plan was a little note on the weapons which said “English Drunkards League.” You can join the dots.

The wrong message

The very definition of Terrorism is an act of violence with a political message behind it. But the only message behind bombing the EDL is “we’re exactly like you think we are”. The worst case is that it actually helps the EDL to gain more supporters by justifying their own existence.

It makes me shiver when the odd few Muslims irresponsibly lash out in response to controversy.

The perfect example of this was after the publishing of the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. Those who seemed intent on making the lives of ordinary Muslims a misery waved banners which read ‘Al-Qaeda’ and ‘bomb the West.’ Why on earth would any sane Muslim feed the very fire which causes Islamophobia in Europe?

I more than anybody would like to see an end to the hostility that Muslims in Britain have to put up with. But these fundamentalists are bent on achieving their ridiculous goal of eradicating the West, no matter how much Muslims suffer on the way.

Terror vs. Terror

They are the two polar ends of an abstract war between the far right and extremist Muslims. In simple terms, nutters against nutters.

The EDL aren’t exactly non-violent themselves. In true EDL style, members beat an Asian boy up and ran another over at a protest in Lancashire last year. On the same day, they had trapped MEP Sajjad Karim inside his own house along with his wife and children, and hurled abuse at them.

The group was originally a bunch of angry football hooligans who formed on anti-Islamic principles. Co-founder Tommy Robinson has apparently thought about stepping into politics. But there really is no need. Bigotry is already more than fairly represented by the British National Party.

It is one of the thorns that comes with the rose of Democracy that fascist and racist groups must be allowed to exist and express their views, as everybody else can. Even if they are violent thugs.

See my original story on TheBowlerHat.co.uk.

Balwant Singh death penalty stayed

Khalistani separatist Balwant Singh’s execution, which was due to take place at the Patiala Central Prison this Saturday, has been halted.

A state-wide general strike, or bandh, was held on Wednesday. Following the submission of a petition against Balwant Singh’s execution from the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the hanging was put off.

Many Sikhs regard Balwant Singh Rajoana to be a fighter for justice for the Sikh peoples. But under Indian law, he had committed the crime of the murder of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh in 1995.

Beant Singh, who was blamed for many atrocities against suspected Khalistani separatists during his time in office, died in a car bomb that also killed 17 others. The family of Beant Singh have also asked for the Balwant Singh’s pardon, for the greater good.

Worldwide protest

Since Balwant Singh’s sentence was announced, there had been protests raging throughout Sikh communities worldwide, demanding the calling off of the punishment.

Young Sikhs in support of Balwant have managed to make quite an impact in the Social Media world. They have been posting extensively on Facebook, Youtube, Twitter and various blogs.

Some Balwant supporters have even compared Balwant Singh to the influential revolutionary Bhagat Singh, who led the Hindustani Socialist Republican Association, which fought against British cononial rule during the 1920s and 30s.

But many other Sikhs consider this comparison to be disrespectful to Bhagat Singh, who was an Indian nationalist, not a separatist.

Capital punishment debate

Nobody has been executed in India for many years now, leading to Sikh suspicions of discrimination on the part of the court.

But even though the court had reduced the sentences of the others who were responsible for the assassination upon appeal, Balwant Singh had chosen not to appeal. He refused to be legally represented.

Mr. Singh has expressed his outrage at the disproportionate response to various events. He highlights that many responsible for the murder of thousands of Sikhs in 1984 have still not so much as faced trial.

The BJP has said that capital punishment should be scrapped altogether, although its approach to the issue has been ‘selective’, according to the Dal Khalsa. The ruling Congress Party has not taken a hard stance for or against the death penalty.

Many, including Mumbai bomber Mohammed Ajmal Kasab and Thenmozhi Rajaratnam, responsible for the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi, have been on death row for many years now. This leads to the question of psychological damage done to those languishing in prison.

The controversy over Balwant Singh’s punishment has led to a renewal of the debate on capital punishment in India, and indeed a renewal of many pro-Khalistani sentiments worldwide.

Human Traffic

Photo: Ira Gelb / Flickr

Photo: Ira Gelb / Flickr

Between 100,000 to 800,000 people are still being trafficked into the European Union annually. As policy-makers are busy thinking up new ways to control immigration in the UK, Jody-Lan Castle asks whether enough is being done to tackle human trafficking.  The Metropolitan Police’s specialist Human Trafficking unit was closed down in 2010. As the exploitation of men, women and children continues, this documentary asks Baroness Kennedy QC, Paul Donohoe from Anti Slavery and Sarah Walker from the English Collective of Prostitutes, where is current trafficking legislation going wrong?

The featured image is by Ira Gelb / Flickr.

Turks likely to become criminalised for genocide denial

France’s large Armenian community are likely to help push the law through, which makes the denial of genocides a criminal offence.

The French Senate has been asked to drop the proposed law by Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu. Following last month’s passing of the law by the National Assembly, Turkey’s relations with France had ceased.

France’s ethnically Armenian population numbers at around half a million according to the BBC. Turkey speculates that the move to approve the controversial law is an attempt at gaining more votes.

The bill could mean that Turks in France may be forced to admit to the Armenian genocide due to fear of a 1-year imprisonment and hefty fines. The topic remains one of the most controversial topics in Turkey, which allegedly led to the assassination of Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007.

France’s move denotes a sense that not all European countries are keen on Turkey’s accession to the European Union. There remain three key factors that Turkey must improve upon, including admitting to the Armenian genocide, treating the Kurdish population equally and giving up Turkish Cyprus. If this new French law is passed, it will seem like Turkey’s European dream is getting further and further away.

A stab in the back for the Gurkhas

The Ministry of Defence’s new wave of cuts will make more than one in ten Gurkha soldiers redundant, most likely from the older generation.

Photo (Jody-Lan Castle) : Here the Mayor of Folkestone, Susan Wallace, says Namaste to members of the Nepalese Community.Over 45,000 Gurkhas have died in battle to date in the name of Great Britain. They fought bravely alongside British troops in conflicts such as Kosovo, the Falklands, Afghanistan and the World Wars. But now, only 3 years after winning the Gurkha Justice Campaign, the Gurkhas are set to bear the brunt of the Ministry of Defence’s second round of cuts. The announcement came on Tuesday that the British Armed Forces will shed an extra 2,900 soldiers, including 400 Gurkhas, in its attempt to save £4.7billion.

Former Councillor of Folkestone in Kent, Dhan Gurung, has accused the Ministry of Defence of discrimination due to the disproportionate number of Gurkhas to be axed compared to their British counterparts. But according to Defence Minister Philip Hammond, the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR) is necessary to clean up after the preceding Labour government’s overzealous defence spending.

The Defence Minister also commented that the review is likely to affect mostly Gurkhas who have already served for 6 years or more. The move also seems to intentionally target the older Gurkhas. The changes in the maximum years of service for Gurkhas, from 15 years to 22, mean that Gurkhas will remain in service until much older ages. So ironically, it is those who have served this country the longest that will be made redundant.

Though many Gurkhas currently fear for the future of their careers, there are attempts at keeping UK-Nepal relations strong on a local and national level. Nepalese Artist Ajaya Deshar is holding his exhibition In Search of Peace in Folkestone, Kent, home to over 350 Nepalese families and the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Royal Gurkha Rifles. The exhibition’s opening ceremony brought the local and Nepalese communities together to share in the Nepalese culture.

Racial relations in Folkestone, Kent

Amid all this discussion about racism in the UK, here is a look at how Folkestone in Kent is doing in terms of its racial relations.

Folkestone is a multicultural town, including large groups of Nepalese, Bangladeshi and Eastern European people.

These graphs show that the number of White British people has gradually declined over the past 10 years, and the number of ethnic minorities has risen.

The Nepalese Community is probably the most prominent ethnic group in Folkestone. In 1997, when the Gurkhas’ base was moved from Hong Kong to the UK, Folkestone became home to the Royal Gurkha Rifles. Now, over 350 Nepalese families live there. Here’s Susan Wallace, the Mayor of Folkestone, telling us about the Gurkhas.
In January 2011, an Afghan teenager was stabbed and killed by another Afghan boy. The cause was said to be a tribal feud. This incident polarised the public in Folkestone, and racial relations became tense. The newspapers at the time said that some parts of Folkestone were becoming ghettos.This is Barbara Witham, Events Organiser for Folkestone Town Centre Management and one of those responsible for Folkestone Multicultural Festival, commenting on the stabbing of an Afghan teenager in Folkestone last year.As the Economy worsens and unemployment stays high, the relations between ethnic groups in Folkestone will be strained. Hopefully, Folkestone will remain a peaceful seaside town.For a more detailed report, including public opinion and an interview with Bijay Hitan from the Nepalese Community of Folkestone, listen to this.

Racism issues at the forefront of British Media

Racism is becoming a part of everyday dialogue in Britain. The stories that have made the headlines are making us aware of the problems at hand, but are racial relations getting better in the UK?

Britain is a multicultural country, a melting pot of cultures and ethnicities. But economic hardship, a majorly biased Media, and general ignorance cause relations that were already tense to be strained even further.

The 23-year old Indian student Anuj Bidve, who was shot dead in Salford, is the most recent victim of racial discrimination in the UK. And 18 years after Stephen Lawrence was stabbed to death just for being black, his racist killers have finally been sentenced. Debate continues over the Metropolitan Police’s disproportionate number of stop and searches of black youths, which may have led to London’s violence in the summer of 2011.

The issue of race has even become a serious topic in the world of Sports. The Commons culture committee, made up of MPs, is set to start its inquiry into racism in Sport following the increasing number of racism allegations against key sports figures. England captain John Terry is currently still being investigated for allegedly shouting racist remarks at Anton Ferdinand.

A recent survey carried out by thinktank British Future and the Observer newspaper found that people living in Britain who were not born there identify as strongly with Britain as those who are British-born. But the YouTube sensation ‘racist tram lady’, from South London, whose racist ranting has split opinion among Brits online, has renewed the bigoted idea that non-white people can’t be British. The most disturbing thing is that some people agree with what she said on the tram.

The Daily Mail and the Sun continue feed the general public with anti-Immigration propaganda, giving the impression that it is foreigners who are ‘stealing our jobs.’ The previously mentioned Observer survey also found that British people feel that people born outside of the UK, who reside in Britain, are having negative influences on crime levels, the availability of housing and jobs and the National Health Service. Yet, they did admit that those born outside Britain were having a positive influence on the Food Industry. Not surprising considering that most Brits see curry as their national dish.

As unemployment, funding cuts and a threatening recession strain the country further, and the Olympics just around the corner, the coming summer could prove a difficult and tense time for Britain. 2011 saw the Student protests, the London riots and the ‘Occupy’ movement. The last thing London needs during its year in the light of the Olympic torch is a repeat of last year’s civil disobedience and a discontented citizenry. Changes need to be made.

Article also published here: http://www.wespeaknews.com/world/racism-issues-at-the-forefront-of-british-media-15081.html

Another one bites the dust

A Nation is weeping at the death of their not-so-beloved leader Kim Jong-il, as he has died of heart attack, just months after the world was rid of Muammar Qaddafi.

I’m sure in the minds of some starving North Koreans, the thoughts, “Finally” or “Thank God” are going through. But of course on the outside they are putting on that over-dramatic staged outcry.

Every time an evil leader dies, I wonder if it is true. But that’s up to conspiracy theorists to ponder. More important right now is what is going to happen to North Korea.

Trouble to come

Asian stock markets plummeting give us some clue as to the unstable time that the country is about to go through. New leadership, nuclear arms and a poor citizenry are not a good mixture.

Kim Jong-un, who is supposed to the successor to the leadership, has only been in the public eye for around a year. It is not yet sure how the people will accept him or whether he is capable of leading at all.

As with many authoritarian states, internal strife leads to an attempted diversion of attention. This is usually by creating trouble externally. That is why especially the US, South Korea and Japan are on alert.

But as the situation is in the early stages, it’s near impossible to be able to decipher the moves of the most unpredictable state on earth.

 

 

Occupy Wukan!

While the world is participating in the mass hysteria of occupy protests, a little village in Guangdong, China is staging its own…only this time against local government officials.

The last straw for the 10,000 residents of Wukan, Guangdong, was when a member of the village was allegedly beaten to death by local police. After many years of putting up with corruption from local officials and police, they have had enough.

The villagers don’t blame the central Chinese government, and in fact still have a strong support for the Chinese Communist Party. However, they are blaming the corruption which they believe is rife locally.

Most of the tension between the local government and the residents of Wukan has been over land disputes, as the villagers’ land is slowly taken over by developers.

Probably due to government fear of ‘Occupy-style’ protests or ‘Arab-Spring’ revolutions starting in China, the village has been stormed by baton-armed police officers. Tear gas was also allegedly used.

Coincidentally, the villager who is believed to have been killed by police, though they deny it, was a spokesperson trying to sort out the land ownership causing the disputes.

As with the Arab Spring, citizens are starting to call for Democracy. They want to elect their local leaders. And with the power that the Chinese people have when unified, looks like the Chinese government has something to worry about.

Sea runs red with whale blood

The waves crashed with a red tint on the shore of the Faroe Islands today as hundreds of pilot whales were slaughtered for the annual tradition of ‘Grindadrap.’

The meat from the kill is divided up among the communities of the Faroe Islands, where they have consumed the whale meat for over a thousand years.

Pilot whales are not the only sea creatures killed as a part of their annual tradition; beaked whales and dolphins are also hunted.

The Faroe Islanders have been practicing the tradition carried down from their Viking ancestors for centuries, and show no signs of stopping.

But the way in which the whales die is troubling the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). They say that after the whales’ spines are severed, they are left to bleed to death slowly.

Though whaling is not permitted in Denmark, the Faroe Islands are self-governing and are therefore entitled to abide by their own laws on whaling.

 

Against Japanese whaling

The Bob Barker anti-whaling ship arrived yesterday at Hobart, Australia, in the lead-up to Japan’s whaling season.

The ship is manned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and is aiming to prevent the whalers from carrying out their hunt, which the Japanese government has given them another $30 million to carry out.

The Sea Shepherd’s leader Paul Watson says that the Japanese are no longer concerned with the act of whaling, but more about not backing down to the anti-whaling ship.

The same anti-whaling campaign carried out last year had forced the Japanese to return without killing any whales. But this year, they are determined.

The same kind of anti-whaling ship may be able to make a difference in Denmark if it embarked prior to ‘Grindadrap’ next year.

 

Photo: puttsk 

‘One Tiger Eight Breasts’ and yet another investigation

 

Looks like the Chinese government is intent on making Chinese activist Ai Wei Wei famous.

Every time he does something, they investigate him for it, and he jumps back into the headlines.

This time he has been taking his clothes off, joining four naked ladies, perching on little wooden stools and giggling, all the while being photographed.

All in the name of Art of course.

But the Chinese government doesn’t see it that way. And now he has found himself under investigation yet again.

The piece is titled ‘one Tiger eight breasts’. And is not the first piece in China in which an artist has posed nude in their own work.

He has only recently disappeared from the spotlight of paying a 15 million yuan tax bill along with the help of the Chinese people.

Of course, the Chinese government couldn’t give a damn about pornography, but are probably using it as a way to try to keep Ai quiet.

Though it doesn’t seem to be working.

Now that Ai has reached the eyes of the international community, thanks to the internet, they won’t be able to do much to stop him.

They may respond however, by cracking down harder and harder on internet users, and increasing internet policing.

They know the power of the web, and the potential threat it poses to the stability of China.