Monday, September 12, 2005

Finally, the BBC casts the spotlight on Islamic extremism

A question of Leadership, the Panorama programme broadcast on the 21st August was a breath of fresh air. It's a relief to see that there are a small number of journalists who are willing to see the Muslim Council of Britain for what it is, an organisation in utter denial.

The Panorama programme was heartwarming in that it represented Muslims who were themselves critical of the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) for sheltering extremists. I actually came away from the programme with a much more positive view of British Muslims.

The MCB's main problem is that it suffers from the European tendency to over centralise, claiming to speak for everyone whilst elected by no-one. It is to some extent afflicted by the similar problems to our own Chief Rabbinate i.e. Progressive Jews don't feel represented by it, and neither do the Ultra Orthodox, but nevertheless, it's the public face of anglo-jewry (there is however one difference: the Office of the Chief Rabbi doesn't represent people who blow themselves up).

The MCB might do well to look across the Atlantic. In the States, Muslims have a healthier relationship with the society they live in, partly because they are organised at local rather than federal level. The communal representatives are organised from the bottom up rather than top down, so are more in touch with the people they are supposed to represent.

It's a shame the Guardianistas couldn't appreciate the arguments put forward by the Panorama programme. This wasn't mud slinging against Muslims, but an attack on their leadership.

The Guardian used to be a paper which attacked the establishment, unfortunately it seems the Guardian are determined to defend this establishment at any cost.

It's not the pub opening hours that are a problem, it's the price of alcohol!

Like so many of New Labours ideas, this one was half baked. Tony Blair thought he could solve the problem of binge drinking by extending opening hours of pubs. But as many now seem to accept, the Brits will just down their eleven pints in four hours instead of three. When you're that drunk, an hour or two of extra drinking time isn't going to change anything! As the debate on binge drinking continues, no-one seems to have mentioned the most obvious solution, raising the price of alcohol.

The current epedemic is fuelled partly by a binge drinking culture, partly by a lack of self-control (that Brits seem to excel at), and partly by the fact that alcohol in real terms is cheaper than it used to be. The drinks industry has shamelessly exploited all of this to maximise their profits. Unfortunately, if neither the drinks industry nor drinkers are able to excercise self-restraint, the Government needs to do it for them.

If people want to drink all hours, let them, but let them pay for it. If drinkers had to pay £5 for a pint of beer, or for a shot of spirits, they would think twice before ordering several rounds for themselves and their friends. And it shouldn't stop there. The drinks industry should pay a windfall tax on their profits. In much the same way as the tobacco industry have had to pay for the damage they've done to smokers health, it's about time time the drinks industry were made to pay for the havoc they have helped to wreak on town centres week in, week out.

And if people think all of this is unfair, maybe they should visit their local A&E department (or local police station) any Friday night. As alcohol related violence and alcohol related diseases continue to rise, someone has to foot the bill, it's only fair that those who drink the most should pay the most.