Thursday, 28 March 2013

Cambridge mosque: the madrassa and child protection law

I don’t think I’ll be the only person awaiting Cambridge City Council’s publication of its latest East Area Committee minutes, given the arresting first paragraph of Chris Havergal’s article for the Cambridge News:

Muslims have been allowed to worship in an extension which nearly doubles the capacity of Cambridge’s main mosque despite councillors claiming they had “no confidence” rules controlling use of the building would be observed.

As I’ve said, I know nobody who wants mosque-users to be leant on more than other worshippers in Cambridge. We just want the law of the land applied consistently across all communities.

Amid talk of threats and abuse towards local residents, what is also concerning is that the mosque has (without permission) been running a madrassa for children during Friday prayers.

Given Khalid Mahmoud MP’s warning about 40 madrassas in Birmingham where volunteers weren’t subject to oversight or CRB checks, I must ask: to what statutory body does the madrassa in the Mawson Road mosque answer? Have the volunteers been CRB-checked, recognising that, in the words of the Cambridgeshire Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual, "abuse from staff, carers and volunteers…can occur in any setting"?

This isn’t an academic question. 18-year-old Adil Rashid was recently convicted of raping a 13-year old girl he met on Facebook after learning in his Birmingham madrassa that a woman resembles “a lollipop that has been dropped on the ground”, ie fit for disposal once perceived to be soiled.

Child protection is meaningless unless it applies to every child within these shores. I hope Cambridge City and Cambridgeshire County councillors will be more perspicacious in pursuing the interests of children in the Mawson Road madrassa than they have been in looking after those of voters affected by the mosque – whose votes, they seem to think, are fit for disposal.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Cambridgeshire Local Safeguarding Children Board Procedures Manual:

Cambridge mosque extension allowed to remain in use despite noise concerns - Cambridge News

Fears raised over 40 madrassas operating in Birmingham without checks - Birmingham Mail

Muslim abuser who 'didn't know' that sex with a girl of 13 was illegal is spared jail - Daily Mail

Saturday, 23 March 2013

give and take: the council, the mosque and the locals

I’m sure ministers of religion worldwide can empathise with the leaders of Cambridge’s Mawson Road mosque when they say they can’t control all of their worshippers all the time.

The mosque was in the Cambridge News because of problems arising from the use of an extension without planning permission.

However, mosque leaders aren’t asked to control all behaviour all the time among their congregation. They are asked to deal with nuisance and intimidation before, during and after prayers on Friday evening. The nuisance is mainly illegal parking and noise, but locals claim they have been threatened when they have tried to raise this directly in the face of police inaction.

Cambridge City Council has a sterling reputation when it comes to dealing with places of worship that inadvertently create disputes: mainly parking problems caused by further development of the area after the church etc was built. I can think of a Christian church in south Cambridge that was contacted because of this. The entire church community got together and devised solutions including laying out traffic-cones before services to prevent worshippers parking inappropriately - which, when done by the police on Mawson Road, has had "limited impact".

I don’t know a single person who wants the mosque community to be treated worse than any other worship community. All people want is to see the laws of the land applied consistently across all religious groups. The City Council shows a lot of give when dealing with religious communities, but it seems all give has been taken with precious little reciprocation.

This is too big a burden to lay on the mosque leaders. Is something preventing sections of the communities of mosque-users from working together to find a solution? If solutions aren’t found on Mawson Road, these problems will be carried over to the other side of Mill Road and magnified when the mega-mosque is built with, for one thing, proportionally less parking space.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Development Control Forum, Wednesday, 16th January, 2013 10.00 am - minutes of the meeting between Cambridge City Councillors, mosque representatives and local residents: please read through for an understanding of the issues underlying the tensions.

'Noisy' mosque extension set to get green light - Cambridge News

Claims of 'disorder and noise' at mosque - Cambridge News

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

letter to Daily Mail: "ignoring Savile's crimes"

As the BBC tries to tough out its complicity in Jimmy Savile’s sex crimes in the hope that the storm will blow over, a letter appeared in the Daily Mail of Tuesday 19 March that hasn’t made it to the website. I think it deserves to speak for itself to a wider audience.

Every day we are subjected to more revelations and accusations that nothing was done about Jimmy Savile, with all declaring ‘We didn’t know’. We’re all told he might have been actively abusing as early as 1964.

As a child in the Fifties, my school friends and I were more than aware of the shenanigans at the Mecca ballroom in Leeds. Older, racier girls told us lurid tales of ‘the room behind the curtain’ and ‘the mattress on the floor’. There was no suggestion of underage sex, but every girl who went behind the curtain knew exactly what was expected of her. in return, they received free tickets into the Mecca, drinks and cigarettes.

The lady who posted on the BBC obituary web page 'He was notorious in Scarborough, I wouldn’t let my son sit on his knee' was absolutely correct. He was equally notorious in Leeds. Our parents warned us to stay away from him.

On his visits to the Leeds General Infirmary, the nurses and staff regarded him as a nuisance, getting in the way by demanding special attention. Many nurses asked to take their breaks when it was announced that he was coming to a ward, rather than be around when he was there.

The few staff outside the LGI when his cortege passed had been told to stand there. The absence of Leeds citizens of a certain age who knew about his past, and the absence of other celebrities at his funeral, spoke volumes. It wasn’t hidden – everyone knew. They just chose to do nothing.

Click to go to Daily Mail website

Friday, 15 March 2013

anti-Jewish murmurings in Labour again?

As the 2010 General Election approached, there was a hate campaign against Labour’s Prospective Parliamentary candidate for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner, originating from his own party. The core of the campaign was that he was Jewish.

I’m glad he outlived the campaign to be confirmed as Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for the next election, because I’ve experienced a hate campaign and know how soul-destroying it can be. But a question remains: what would be so wrong in being Jewish?

In addition, Zeichner was accused of being a member of Labour friends of Israel in the Stop the War Hustings in the city’s Friends Meeting House. He denied it, and if it’s not true he’s right to. Again, though: what’s wrong in being a member of Labour (or any party’s) Friends of Israel?

click for article in Cambridge News
The pressure was showing: beforehand he was photographed giving a Nazi salute in the Cambridge Union, and defended this by telling the Cambridge Union he was illustrating the Conservative Party’s decision to join with a Eurosceptic grouping in Brussels which included the Polish Law and Order Freedom Party, whose members he described as "fascists".

It would be unwise to reject his comments out of hand – post-WWII Poland continued to persecute Jews: witness the Kielce Pogrom of 1946. But might Zeichner not have explained this to the Cambridge News in describing his gesture as "a fully reasonable" action?

This comes to mind because Labour peer Lord Ahmed has blamed his imprisonment for dangerous driving – resulting in the death of Martyn Gombar – on "pressure placed on the courts by Jews 'who own newspapers and TV channels'".

As much as I condemn Zeichner’s use of the Hitler salute, at least he made an attempt to justify it. Will Ahmed try to justify his claim? Let’s hope he does so before the Levenson Enquiry and Labour shut down our free press.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words

Click for minutes of the 2010 Stop the War Hustings - see exchange at top of p5

Daniel Zeichner's homepage

Sunday, 10 March 2013

smart drugs: Limitless?

Anna Friel: click for IMDB biography
Tonight Channel 4 showed Limitless with Bradley Cooper, Anna Friel and Robert de Niro. The film’s about a down-at-heel writer, Eddie Morra, who hasn’t managed to put a single word on a single page.

A former drug-dealer introduces Eddie to a new "smart drug", NZT-48, that changes the way he synthesizes disparate pieces of information while under its influence to produce insights and predictions people not on NZT can’t match. To cut a long story short, he overcomes his problems and by the end of the film has customised the drug to minimise the side-effects that has caused others to fall after sudden rises to fame, thus freeing himself from the need for a supplier.

click to read reviews on Amazon
It’s a story that would have warmed the hearts of those Enlightenment philosophes like Condorcet and Bentham who, in their different ways, believed humankind was endlessly improvable. Grumpier and more realistic individuals like Hume and Voltaire, however, would be more satisfied with the book on which the film is based. In Alan Glynn’s The Dark Fields, a sinister thread of growing conflict between the US and China is threaded through the book and, at the point of dying through withdrawals, the protagonist sees the US President on the TV, gorged on the drug, announce a war.

Smart drugs exist. Oxbridge Biotech argues that popping a pill to help you access more of your brain-power is no different from paying for private tutors. I disagree. Passing an exam - tutors or not - involves engaging your own mind and working hard to learn, because that is how to organically lay down neural connections that didn’t previously exist. The brain is the universe’s most complex machine, and boosting its performance with even the most smartly-engineered chemical is fraught with peril.

Where did I put that coffee?

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Check out reviews for Limitless on

Check out reviews of The Dark Fields by Alan Glynn on Smart Drugs: Are you Tempted? - Oxford Biotech

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

do Lib Dems know the difference between history and politics?

Liberal Democrat peer Lord Tyler has shown that in his party history is subservient to politics, by claiming in a debate that UKIP is "fuelling the same 'distrust' of foreigners which swept Europe before the outbreak of First World War".

click to read reviews on Amazon
I recommend he read David Fromkin’s A Peace to End All Peace, in which the US historian shows exhaustively that while WWI had several proximate causes – the Balkan Wars and the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, for example – these factors mushroomed into total war because of the systemic, slow-motion collapse of the Ottoman Empire. Waves of nationalism reaching from peripheral states like Bulgaria and Bosnia to the core territories of Turkey and Arabia triggered both an acquisitiveness in the British, French, Russian and German empires, and waves of paranoia about patriotic fervour spreading to their own vassal regimes.

That’s not to say there wasn’t a healthy distrust between states: this is and has always been a constant and is rarely a casus belli. But tales of Belgian nuns having their breasts hacked off and babies impaled on bayonets didn’t start until the war was underway, forced on a compliant press by a government propaganda machine.

This matters because another empire is disintegrating around us: elected politicians being replaced by Brussels technocrats smack of panic and weakness, and the slow-motion collapse of the Euro was not just inevitable but forseen by its creators at its inception. The only element we lack is a compliant press, but that’s what the Leveson Inquiry was set up to produce.

Lord Tyler’s attack comes because the Eastliegh result shows the Lib Dems fear their inevitable demise at the next election may come be at UKIP’s hands. I’d have more respect for him if he left history alone and set out the Lib Dem stall on how they informed the public about their contingency plans should the EU continue to collapse.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


UK Independence Party website

Check out reviews for A Peace to End all Peace at

Friday, 1 March 2013

at risk: our non-right not to be offended

click to go to the Core Issues Trust

Lead candidate for the author of the principle that "nobody has the right not to be offended" seems to be John Cleese, defending The Life of Brian. It’s been recycled to defend The Satanic Verses and Jerry Springer: The Opera.

learn about the OzSchoolkids Issue
Offence has an important history of breaking down barriers, sometimes with unexpected help: in 1960 during the Lady Chatterley’s Lover obscenity trial, the Establishment could scarcely have been lampooned more effectively than by prosecutor Mervyn Griffifth-Jones: "Is it a book that you would even wish your wife or your servants to read?" A decade later Charles Murray, defending his part in the "Schoolkids’ Edition" of Oz, identified a crucial ingredient of offence: it is "overtly radical work concerned with ideas".

Fast-forward to now: surely the inheritors of 1960s/70s cultural iconoclasm welcome more of the same?

But something’s changed – the self-appointed heirs of the liberal intelligentsia tell us there are areas too important for satire. OK: Ricky Gervaise’s jokes about paedophilia and Jimmy Carr’s quip about women enjoying rape were vile – but these two are lionised by liberal media outlets because of their material, and Frankie Boyle only had to tell a court he was an "antifascist" for it to accept his use of the n-word was "ironic", not racist.

What is The Innocence of Muslims but our generation’s The Love that Dares to Speak its Name? Why is Stonewall rightly allowed to campaign that "Some people are gay, get over it", but the Core Issues Trust’s message "ex-gay, post-gay, get over it" is banned?

Human-rights lawyer Paul Diamond is representing the above on the principle that there’s no right not to be offended. But those who stormed the Establishment on the self-same principle now constitute that Establishment and have pulled up the ladders. I wish him luck.

Gerry Dorrian
300 words


Click to read about the Lady Chatterley's Lover controversy at

Click for the text of The Love that Dares to Speak its Name

The Gay Poem that Broke Blasphemy Laws - Pink Times

Clickto watch The Innocence of Muslims on YouTube

A Paedophile Joke for Ricky Gervais - 300 words

Frankie Boyle sues Daily Mirror over "Racist Comedian" Line - Daily Mirror

Click to go to the Core Issues Trust