Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Tony Blair can talk the talk but can he walk the walk?

Yesterday, Tony Blair spoke very eloquently, vowing not to "give an inch" to terrorism. It was a rousing speech, and one likely to win much praise on the other side of the atlantic. However, it appears that a lot of Americans are beginning to see through the rhetoric.

A recent article in the Weekly Standard, shows just how disenchanted American conservatives are becoming with Blair. Entitled, "Letter from Londinistan", it describes how Britain behaves as though it's pre 9/11:

British culture now dictates a confused response to terrorists. Start with the unwillingness of the majority of the British people to recognize that they are indeed in a war....Britain has insisted on applying the law and procedures of the criminal justice system to terrorists. The entire panoply of legal procedures that prevent detention, deportation, and arrest of Muslim clerics calling for the blood of Britain's infidels is available to the as-many-as 3,000 terrorists whom the authorities estimate live in Britain, many trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, or with actual battle experience in Iraq. Whatever rights U.K. law doesn't confer are available to the fledgling jihadists as a result of Blair's decision to sign on to Europe's Human Rights Act. Britain makes available to terrorists and preachers of mayhem, often at government expense, an entire industry of human rights lawyers and support groups. These resources will remain available to those who challenge the new powers the government will seek to curb the preaching of violence.

It attacks Britain's Immigation policy:
The consequences of this equation of multiculturalism with the virtue of tolerance began with a refusal of the Blair government to get control of Britain's borders. As a result, there are hundreds of thousands--no one, including the government, knows for sure just how many--of illegal immigrants roaming around Britain. And many of these are not at all like the Mexicans who come to America to find work. They are attracted by the generous welfare payments to which they seem to have immediate and unrestricted access, and in many cases by the freedom to preach jihad.

It attacks the Human Rights Act:
More important to radical Muslims is the unwillingness of the Blair government to extradite illegal immigrants and terrorists who are wanted by the authorities in their home countries. London is known in international security circles as Londonistan because of the haven it offers international terrorists--men who in some instances entered Britain illegally but cannot be deported because the Human Rights Act prohibits extraditing wanted criminals if they might be treated harshly in their home countries.

And it attacks Britain's multicultural mentality combined with it's failure to integrate Muslims with their host country:
... continued belief in multiculturalism by the elites suits many Muslims just fine. Unlike immigrants who come to America in pursuit of the American dream, many Muslims come to Britain and other European countries determined not to assimilate into cultures they despise. They insist that neither British food is served, nor traditional British tolerance practiced, in the schools their children attend, demands the authorities find reasonable. Many of those children, unlike first-generation Americans, hold to their traditional ways with greater tenacity than their parents. This is especially true of young Muslim men eager to maintain their traditional dominance over women, a role threatened by the fact that Muslim girls are outperforming boys in school and in the workplace.

A time bomb has been ticking away for some time now and Blair has failed to act. His problem has been his desire to be all things to all people: He wants to be tough on terrorism so he sends troops to Iraq, he wants to be humane with criminals so he signs up to the Human Rights Act. In his desire to promote multiculturalism, he is unwilling crack down on failed asylum seekers, and in a bid to be seen as tolerant, he allows Islamic extremists to enter Britain.

Blairism has always been a paradox, a belief that you can somehow combine the best of liberalism and conservatism. It was always bound to end in tears, the result being that no one on either the left or right is entirely sure of what he believes in. To put things in perspective, if Americans had a leader like Blair, they would end up with a President supportive of gay marriage whilst simultaneously trying to outlaw abortion.

There will soon be a golden opporunity for Blair to show everyone what he actually stands for. The extremist cleric Yusuf Qaradawi (who in the has past praised suicide bombings and condoned wife beating) is due to attend a conference in the UK in August. Blair can prove to everyone that "he won't give in inch" by refusing this hatemonger entry. If he fails to act, he will have proved that nothing has changed. If Blair's past record is anything to go by, I am sceptical.

There are a lot of Americans who wish their President could express himself as eloquently as Blair. I on the other hand envy the Americans for having a President who has the courage to act on his words!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Do American Muslims have something to teach us?

There were two contrasting articles this week, one in the Spectator (registration required), and the other in the Saturday issue of the Daily Telegraph which compares the attitude of American Muslims to their host country with that of Britain's Muslims.

The article in the Specator asked why Britain was the first developed country in the world to produce home grown suicide bombers, and argued that in their hatred of Britain, the terrorists were in one sense very British: self loathing is the national disease. As the Spectator warns:

Britain’s self-loathing is deep, pervasive and lethally dangerous. We get bombed, and we say it’s all our own fault. Schools refuse to teach history that risks making pupils proud, and use it instead as a means of instilling liberal guilt. The government and the BBC gush over ‘the other’, but recoil at the merest hint of British culture. The only thing we are licensed to be proud of is London’s internationalism — in other words, that there is little British left about it.

In their reaction to the London bombings American Muslims could not be more different, The Telegraph reports...

"I cannot believe what imams in London have been preaching," said Eide Alawan, the chief adviser to Hassan Qazwini, the imam at America's largest mosque, which is part of the Islamic Centre of America in Dearborn.

Mr Alawan said: "If anybody preached in favour of bombing in this mosque, the community would be on top of them...They'd report it to the board [of the mosque] and he'd be fired...There's no room for a 'but' about condemning violence. If you kill me, you kill the whole of humanity...If you've got a problem about Israel, sure, bring it up. But bring it up another time. Don't relate the two...If I heard about any kids talking about America as the Great Evil, or planning something dangerous, I'd turn them in...I've seen angry kids here. They may hate what's going on in America but so do a lot of non-Muslims...I've never heard a kid say, 'I want to strap a bomb on me and blow up a lot of people'. ''

Most importantly Mr Alawan added: ''Our kids are American. They realise what this country has done for our people."

And that's what makes the US different from Britain. We may cringe at their flag raising ceremonies, but it's precisely those things that have reduced the risk of home grown terrorism. America believes in itself and its values, and expects those who emigrate there to believe in them too. It also means they can confidently ban the likes of Yusuf Qaradawi without worrying about alienating moderate Muslims.

Today Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in America, and a large proportion of Muslims are African American converts. Although comprising only 1-2% of the population (no one knows the exact figure as the US census doesn't include religion), they have become a significant political force, concentrated in key swing states and metropolitan areas, such as New York, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and California. But unlike Europe, Americans don't feel threatened by them.

As one American Muslim put it...

"I pledged allegiance to the flag in fifth grade. It's an honour," said Wissam Bazzi, 29, who works for a brand design company and came over from Lebanon in 1985.

He added: "This is my country. I follow its laws 110 per cent. I owe all my blessings to this country.

Isn't it about time we promoted a similar attitude in the UK? Sometimes, it takes an immigrants experience to open your eyes. My Father's family were able to come here in 1938 and escaped the Nazis by literally a few months, his cousins were not so lucky. I literally owe my existence to this country, it's something I feel proud of, yet now I find my existence threatened by a liberal establishment that has colluded unwittingly, but colluded nonetheless with Islamic extremists to undermine everything this country, and the west stands for.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Sometimes it's good to fail

The BBC website has reported that the Professional Association of Teachers wants to discourage the use of the word "failure" in schools in favour of "deferred success". Thankfully, the Education secretary Secretary Ruth Kelly has dismissed the suggestions, saying she gave the idea - "nought out of 10".

The person putting forward the motion, Liz Beattie, argues that repeated failure, such as in exams, can damage pupils' interest in learning.

"We have made so much development in recent years in making examinations more flexible, doing them in modules so you can concentrate on different parts of them at different times," she said.

"What happens when an exam is failed but, for example, three-quarters of it is perfectly satisfactorily done? It should be possible to do the other bits as add-ons afterwards and to defer the success of the exam."

"Elsewhere we applaud those who persevere, like marathon contestants who take days to complete. It's time we made the word 'fail' redundant and replaced it with 'please do a bit more'," he said.

There are times when you hear such utter stupidity, you have to ask yourself whether it's even worth arguing with such people. But argue you must, as there are more than a few who take these cranks seriously.

The Professional Association of Teachers seem to be living in parallel universe to the rest of us: Failure is part of life, which doesn't mean you've failed in life. Take for example Winston Churchill, who spent four years at Harrow, one of England's finest public schools at the bottom of his class. Even when he decided to go to Sandhurst, the Royal Military Academy, it took him three attempts to pass the entrance exam (An example of deferred success maybe?).

The fact is, not everyone finds themselves at a young age. It's only when you move into adulthood, free to choose your studies and your career, that you finally begin to grasp what your strengths and weakneseses are, and you find that out by occasionally failing. The Professional Association of Teachers have failed to understand what education is about, and worse, they suffer from that very British phobia, fear of failure, combined with an envy of those who succeed. Over the pond, there is a very different attitudes. You only have to look at the American business world. From Donald Trump to Steve Jobs there are numerous examples of entepreneurs whose initial failures have been a springboard for future success. There's an attitude over there that "if you don't at first succeed, try and try again", which goes to explain why so many more Americans are prepared to start their own businesses compared to Britons. They're prepared to take risks, and learn from their mistakes.

Whenever some daft organisation such as the Professional Association of Teachers comes up with a hare brained idea, you always hear the cliche: "it's political correctness gone mad!". That's an understatement. Political correctness IS mad. It not only holds back the very people it claims to be helping, but holds everyone else back too.