Pro-sharia campaigners march through Walthamstow

You can tell Muslims Against Crusades are a tiny groupuscule because all their placards are done by a single person, there’s no report from yesterday’s mini march on their site, and their Media page doesn’t load. They’re expensive clowns and tossers, though – a lot of police, a lot of verbal (though the EDL mostly remained in the pubs), two arrests. Things are getting a bit bigoted round here.

Against religious bigotry stand – among others – the National Secular Society, One Law for All, Quilliam, the British Humanist Association, and British Muslims for Secular Democracy:

Against the far right of various stripes, Searchlight and Hope Not Hate but I should remark that I was recently told in infuriatingly sanguine tones that Hope Not Hate cannot treat the Islamists as they treat the BNP types because they will be called ‘Zionist’ and their credibility will suffer. The point was that HnH are better off sticking to fighting the white far right. If true, this is a disappointing kind of anti-fascism which will tie its own hands (though HnH is excellent at analysis and the absolutely crucial job of getting the anti-racist vote out – both indispensable), and why I will always appreciate Harry’s Place, which researches and fights all the authoritarian, racist, fascist or proto-fascist fuckers regardless of hue, don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world to be taken for a Zionist, and make surprisingly few mistakes while they’re about their business – LibbyT excepted (tosser). There’s also the Guardian’s Matthew Taylor who has been undercover with the EDL and recognises that they can’t be dismissed as thugs:

“At each demonstration I attended, I was confronted by casual racism, a widespread hatred of Muslims and often the threat of violence. But I also met non-white people, gay rights activists, disaffected working class men and women, and middle-class intellectuals. I came to the conclusion that the EDL is not a simple rerun of previous far-right street groups.”

Basically, fighting an anti-Muslim alignment like the EDL entails disrupting anti-Muslim views, and there is plenty of material via the links above. Depending on whether policing is sensitive to the communities targeted by the EDL, it can require some bodily obstruction to prevent EDL types intimidating Muslim communities. It also entails arguing and lobbying against sharia – not because Muslims Against Crusades are any good at what they do – they’re an embarrassment to Muslims – but because the authoritarian and chauvinistic religious right – Christian, Muslim and the rest – feed on each other and the work to keep them from taking power is never done. Harder, it requires circumstances in which a moderate majority exists and turns out to vote to keep the far right out of the seats of power.

For every privilege granted to religion, others’ rights are betrayed

For anybody worried about the advance of religion on civil rights, it has been a bit of a week.

The Equalities and Human Rights Commission, fronted by Trevor Phillips, is intervening in the cases of Lillian Ladele, the registrar who refused to fulfil her duties with same-sex partnerships, and Gary McFarlane of Relate who wouldn’t give counselling same-sex couples. If their religion prevents them from doing this, then they have chosen a homophobic religion. I’m an ardent defender of freedom of worship, but if the law finds these people entitled to enact their prejudices in the workplace then the law is an ass.

Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society comments

“Mr Phillips should realise that by encouraging these worthless cases he is putting at risk the rights of gay people and others to live free from discrimination and injustice. For every privilege granted to religious people, someone else’s rights are diminished. The fight for equality for gays has been long and hard, and now we see this campaign putting them at risk as religious believers fight for the right to legally enforce their prejudices against LGBT people.”

And alarming news from Maryam Namazie, whose organisation the Council of Ex-Muslims – mutual support for apostates from Islam – was denied charitable status by the Charity Commission. She writes in a mail-out

In its refusal letter the Charity Commission says:  “Under English law the advancement of religion is a recognised charitable purpose and charities are afforded certain fiscal privileges by the state. The prohibition of any such financial privilege as called for in the demand made in Manifesto would require a change in law. Similarly a separation of religion from the state and legal and education system would appear to require both constitutional reform and change to the law.”

“There is something fundamentally wrong when the Council of Ex-Muslims of Britain can’t get charity status but the Sharia Council legislating misogyny in its sharia courts can. And how absurd that defending secularism is not a charitable object but advancing religion is.”

Pretty disappointing then that the best inter-faith organisation I know of, Faith Matters, doesn’t seem to be engaging with secularism at all.

If I can find any, I’ll post details of any campaigns to remove charitable status from organisations advancing religion, or extend it to organisations advancing secularism.

Bonus link: One Law For All.

Update: the Pink News reports that the National Secular Society has gained permission to intervene in four cases – including those referred to above – to come before the European Court of Human Rights. And after strong criticism, the Equality and Human Rights Commission seems now unlikely to argue for reasonable adjustments for religious adherents. Sanity breaks out.

Clifton Mansions – home was where the house is

As far as the residents of Clifton Mansions, Coldharbour Lane, Brixton, were concerned, Lambeth Council left 22 beautiful flats to rot. Squatters – families, friends -  moved in and took care of it, pretty well by all accounts. They formed a community of long standing and that deserved some respect.

By the time they were evicted onto a closed-off street this morning by many riot police, it was clear that Lambeth ‘zero-tolerance-on-squatting’ Council wasn’t intending to renovate Clifton Mansions for social housing. Worse, it opted to pay Camelot to prevent the building being reoccupied while a buyer is found at auction. There’s a general supposition they’ll soon be luxury flats, though the Estates Gazette wonders if an earlier idea of a creative industries cluster might happen. I guess the council would have been happy enough to announce that if it had still been on the cards.

Balthazar writes on his photo blog, “People were so upset. Evictions are terrible. Lives dumped on the pavement like rubbish.” OK, so the council suddenly woke up to an unexploited asset – certainly it should take control of it. But even if they couldn’t respect these homes and offer the Clifton Mansion residents their flats for a reasonable rent (and I’m not sure how these things work, how council housing places are allocated), why couldn’t they be added to Brixton’s drastically under-numbered social housing stock?

  • Carl Loben cross-posted on the Squash Campaign lists celebrity former squatters including Richard Branson (where are they when you need them?)
  • Shelter on the shortfall in affordable, secure housing, and what it means for some of the 1.8 million people on the waiting list in England alone.
  • Inside Housing, a very good site with a forum to ask landlord-related questions, interviews with people on social housing waiting lists, and a petition to free up land to build social housing
  • Defend Council Housing
  • The Independent on some of the Clifton Mansions residents.
  • Demotix, with photographs of the eviction
  • Urban75 on how the era ended not with a whimper but a shower of piss.
  • Squatted – a blogging project to counter the bad media publicity of squatters.

Thanks to my other half I have a spacious home, and there isn’t a night goes by when I get into my comfortable bed that it doesn’t occur to me how fortunate I am.

Consultation on criminalising squatting

According to emptyhomes there are 2186 empty homes in Redbridge, which by coincidence happens to be about 2.18% of all homes. We also have a hideously high waiting list for affordable housing and a huge shortfall in building the things. Something’s clearly gone very wrong.

And then the Government comes along and sets about criminalising squatting. See this post on t’local blog – in particular note the link to SQUASH at the bottom.