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Monthly Archives: October 2013

Pakistani bride Najma Khalil folds her hI’ve written a feature for the November issue of the New Internationalist magazine. It looks at the phenomenon of women, sent to the United Kingdom for arranged marriages from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, who are then subjected to domestic slavery. It is a distressing but important topic, and I spoke to campaigners – including Southall Black Sisters – about the progress that has already been made, as well as to two women who managed to escape from this nightmarish situation.

Campaigners say that around 500 women every year face a similar situation. Brought to the UK as the wives of British citizens, these women – primarily from India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan – face brutal domestic violence and enslavement. Domestic violence is always under-reported, but in this instance this is compounded by the uncertain immigration status of these women. If someone has come to the UK on a spousal visa, the marriage must last for two years before that person automatically has the leave to remain in the UK.

Here’s the cutting, and I’ll post a link when the piece is online.

new internationalist cutting 1new internationalist cutting 2

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BNP graffiti near the central mosque in Luton.

BNP graffiti near the central mosque in Luton.

I’ve written a long feature for the New Statesman exploring anti-Muslim prejudice in modern Britain. What do we mean when we use the term “Islamophobia”? Has there really been a rise in anti-Muslim hate crime after the Woolwich attack? And why, two years after Sayeeda Warsi warned that this prejudice had “passed the dinner table test” and become socially acceptable, are we still debating whether it exists at all?

For the piece, I spoke to representatives from several mosques that have been attacked in recent weeks, to victims of hate crimes, and to experts. You can read the full piece over at the New Statesman website, and here is a short excerpt.

While arson attacks and petrol bombs at mosques are at the most extreme end of the spectrum, smaller incidents still create an atmosphere of fear and distress. “When I speak to people up north, they say that if there is something negative in their local press about Muslims, in the next few weeks there’ll be an attack or something happening in the street,” says Akeela Ahmed, a member of the government’s working group on Islamophobia. “Sometimes these things are at a low level – flour thrown at the mosque, or graffiti. I don’t think it was until Woolwich that people at a national level took notice.”

I also appeared on the Nick Ferrari Show on LBC on 26 September, talking about similar issues; namely, this BBC survey which found that “a quarter of young people don’t trust Muslims”.

 

Members of the Free Syrian Army.

Members of the Free Syrian Army.

I’ve had a really busy few weeks back in the UK, so thought I would share a few links to some of my recent work.

New Statesman

Why are we still relying on decades-old stereotypes when we talk about the Middle East?

This blog looks at the stereotype of the “angry Arab”, arguing that such media narratives matter because they shape the way the world understands events.

Ending child marriage

On 30 September, I took part in a New Statesman/World Vision fringe event at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester. It was an interesting panel discussion, at the Town Hall, and I’ll post audio when it’s available.

New Humanist

I’ve recently started blogging regularly for the New Humanist, which is the magazine of the Rationalist Association (and hosted at their website).

Britain’s fear of being seen as a soft-touch has led to inhumane asylum policies

This post, written after my trip to the Tory conference in Manchester, looks at Theresa May’s new immigration bill.

Pakistan bombings are an attack on everyday life

After the fourth bombing in Peshawar in just a few weeks, I wrote a piece about Peshawar, the targeting of polio vaccinators, and the aims of terrorist violence.

Middle East Monitor

I blog regularly for MEMO, but here are a couple of longer pieces I’ve written recently.

What is there in common between General Musharraf and General al-Sisi?

This piece compares the 2013 Egyptian coup and the 1999 Pakistani coup.

“In a sense, the continuation of the Palestinian Authority has itself become an obstacle”

I interviewed Alvaro de Soto, the former UN special envoy to the Middle East whose leaked “end of mission” report in 2007 caused a stir.