First There Was the Word

May 30, 2014 § Leave a comment

I and lots of other writers participated in this BBC radio 4 programme on ‘British Muslim writing’. The programme is written and presented by Yasmin Hai. Those interested in this may also be interested in Clare Chambers’s book “British Muslim Fictions“.

Royal Bodies

February 20, 2013 § 1 Comment

Here’s the lecture by two-time Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel that’s causing all the controversy. For the full text, visit London Review of Books.

The Archbishop, Oedipus, and the Golden Ass

September 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

The British Labour Party is in the process of rehabilitating Tony Blair. In my latest for Al Jazeera, I follow Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s shot across the bow with one of my own, presenting irrefutable evidence of exactly what Blair knew before he joined Bush’s war against Iraq.

It is a fact that by early 2003, British intelligence had established that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction or a weapons programme. In several secret meetings in Amman with Iraqi intelligence chief Tahir Jalil al-Habbush, the head of MI6 for the Middle East Michael Shipster had already received detailed reports on the absence of Iraq’s weapons.

This story was confirmed by former MI6 chief Richard Dearlove to Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Ron Suskind who recounts it in considerable detail in his book The Way of the World. According to Dearlove, the meetings happened with the full knowledge of Bush, Cheney, George Tenet and Tony Blair. After the war, Suskind reveals, Habbush was resettled by the CIA and paid $5 million in hush-money to prevent him from undermining the official narrative.

The second claim – that Saddam had to be removed because he was a murderous dictator – would be less incredible if the person making it were not Tony Blair. Blair’s affinity for tyrants is well-documented. His cozy relations with Muammar Gaddafi are well-known; and it has now emerged that at the time Blair was contemplating war on Iraq, he was also considering a knighthood for Syria’s Bashar al-Assad.

You can read the rest here.

Drones: the west’s new terror campaign

September 27, 2012 § 2 Comments

by Clive Stafford Smith

Living Under Drones, a new report from Stanford and New York universities, was a difficult piece of fieldwork – I was with the law students in Peshawar as they tried to interview victims of the CIA’s drone war. But it has made an important contribution to the drone debate by identifying the innocent victims of the CIA’s reign of terror: the entire civilian population of Waziristan (roughly 800,000 people).

Until now, the most heated dispute has revolved around how many drone victims in the Pakistan border region are dangerous extremists, and how many children, women or men with no connection to any terrorist group. I have been to the region, and have a strong opinion on this point – but until the area is opened up to media inspection, or the CIA releases the tapes of each hellfire missile strike, the controversy will rage on.

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Which side are you on?

September 19, 2012 § 2 Comments

Ken Loach’s documentary about the 1984 UK Miners Strike and the Tory government’s vicious campaign of violence which finally subdued it. The film features the miners and their families experiences told through songs, poems and other art.

London in the Age of Inequality

June 29, 2012 § Leave a comment

From Christopher Lydon’s outstanding Radio Open Source: A fascinating conversation with John Lanchester, editor of the London Review of Books and author of the new novel Capital.

Lydon writes:

John Lanchester has written a sprawling neo-Dickensian novelCAPITAL about London in the age of funny money and the crash of 2008. He got the germ of it five years ago, noticing a parade of “florists, dog-walkers, pilates instructors” on his own once-modest street south of the Thames, being radically made-over for bankers and the blooming investment-services class — “manifestly symptomatic,” as he says, “of a boom that would turn into a bust.” Like Bleak House or Our Mutual FriendCAPITAL has what the Brits call a “state of the nation” feel, delivered in the voice attributed to Dickens of the “special correspondent for posterity.” But of course he’s illuminating an affliction gone global by now, describing life as lived in New York, too, or Shanghai, or Boston for that matter. One moral that Lanchester has given his tale is: “We are not in this together,” inverting the Tory slogan. In conversation he adds a touch from the Gospel of Mark: “To them that hath shall be given.” I marvel at how casino capitalism and its costs come clearer, stranger, more ridiculous, more destructive, more outrageous in fiction than in fact – how the right novels can feel truer than the news.

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Privatisation of the Police Force

March 4, 2012 § 1 Comment

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie poke fun at the privatisation of the police force.

Accoding to The Guardian, West Midlands and Surrey police are offering a £1.5bn contract under which private firms may investigate crime and detain suspects:

The joint West Midlands/Surrey “transformation” programme, which has strong backing from the Home Office, looks set to completely redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.

The programme has the potential to become the main vehicle for outsourcing police services in England and Wales. It has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has just moved to the Metropolitan police from the post of Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.

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NHS reform: Private health industry lobbying

February 21, 2012 § Leave a comment

The government’s proposals to radically reform the NHS are being strongly opposed by doctors, nurses, unions and a majority of the public. Who then is behind them, pushing for these reforms? This short film by SpinWatch takes you on a tour of the offices of just some of the private healthcare companies, lobbying agencies and think tanks surrounding Parliament, all of which are circling the NHS, wanting a much bigger slice of its £100billion budget.

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The League of Gentlemen

October 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

 

A 1992 documentary by the brilliant Adam Curtis about the rise of Monetarism during Britain’s economis crisis in the 1970s. As countries accross Europe bow to the seemingly inexorable logic of austerity and the European Union attempts to lock in a neoliberal model of economic governance, it has lost none of its relevance.

In his most recent blog post, Curtis unearths yet more wonderful archival gems and documentery evidence of what Stuart Hall calls the ‘long march of the neoliberal revolution’.

British Muslim Fictions

October 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

By Claire Chambers

What does it mean to be a writer of Muslim heritage in the UK today? Is there such a thing as ‘Muslim fiction’? If so, is it cultural background or belief that makes writing (or identity) Muslim?

My book, British Muslim Fictions: Interviews with Contemporary Writers (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), is the first in a two-part book project, which seeks answers to these complex questions. It is a collection of conversations with writers who live or work in Britain and have an intimate relationship with Islam, whether they are religious, cultural, or even – paradoxically – atheist Muslims, and whether South Asian, Arab, African, or European.

Over thirteen interviews, I talked to Anglophone writers including Aamer Hussein, Fadia Faqir, Hanif Kureishi, Leila Aboulela, Abdulrazak Gurnah, and PULSE’s own Robin Yassin-Kassab. This is a group of writers who are highly diverse but, like a loosely connected and often discordant family, they have much in common, through their connections both to Islam and the United Kingdom. As well as discussing their literary techniques and the impact that their Muslim heritage has had on them, I became increasingly persuaded that this body of writing shares certain preoccupations (relating to gender, class, the war on terror, al-Andalus, the Rushdie Affair, and a cosmopolitan outlook), and is some of the most important and politically engaged fiction of recent years.

As you can tell from my name, I am not from a Muslim background myself, although I was fortunate enough to grow up in Leeds in West Yorkshire, surrounded by many South Asian Muslim friends. As clichéd as it may sound, my worldview has also been crucially shaped by my gap year, 1993-94, which I spent teaching English in Peshawar, Pakistan, at the age of eighteen. I went on to specialize in South Asian literature in English as a postgraduate student, and continue to fuel my interest by return visits to the Indian subcontinent and by working with diasporic communities.

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