Monthly Archives: September 2012

Africa. Continuing exploitation or partnership?

Whereas China’s foray into countries across the continent look suspiciously like a new colonialism, there has been little notice taken of another emerging giant. Brazil, the dominating giant in South America, has been developing relationships with countries that were part of the old Portuguese empire and so share language allowing economic advances.
Relationships between Brazil and the Portuguese-speaking areas was fostered by President Lula. His expressed view was that this would not be a replay of exploitation with no benefit to African people. Unlike China, Brazilian firms employ local labour.

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Droning on…

Imagine. You’re sitting at your computer strafing the “enemy” – which you’ve never seen, and know nothing about. The graphics just make it look nasty. Instead now you see on your screen images like Google Earth, and they are real places inhabited by real people. As in the game you’ve been playing the target is labelled. These are “terrorists” in your sights. You place your cursor on the supposed target and press the button.
The button, it turns out, is a trigger which fires real bullets, or something far nastier from the unmanned arial vehicle that you are controlling from your armchair.
For the politician the UAV, or drone, is a gift from heaven, No more body bags, as the 2000th US soldier dies in Afghanistan. You are fighting your war from the safety of home, thousands of miles away from the war theatre.
Nowhere is safe, drone warfare is part of the new face of war. Legality is a word ignored, as it has been for land mines, cluster bombs and depleted-uranium tipped bullets which account for the deaths and mutilation of men, women and children who might be at the view of your target, except you can’t tell if anyone else happens to be around apart from the supposed “terrorist”, or instead of.
Neighbouring Pakistan is not at war, supposedly, yet drones are habitually attacking targets here. Drones maybe popular with political leaders but their ungrateful constituents don’t like them and are saying so.
In the UK the fight is on with a week planned in October against drone warfare. The Israeli owned factory near Birmingham in the Midlands will once more be a centre of attention. The UK has spent £2bn since 2007 on researching drones.

Respect after Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob’s emergence as a Birmingham City Council came just as I left as a Labour member. My feeling at the time was here was a new and welcome force in both local, and then very quickly on the national scene. Ken Livingston invited her to partner him in a major debate in London in which Daniel Pipes provided the principal opposition. Now she has quit from Respect, so what will happen next?
Given the current climate that has built about Islam the ability of those like Salma to articulate the views and feelings of the community has been essential. Media coverage has powerfully drowned out day to day reality for most people and engendered hysteria seized on by groups like the English Defence League. The most obvious example of where this can lead occurred in Norway, the link with EDL laid bare.
Daniel Pipes tried to demonstrate that he was not anti-Islamic, yet where did he draw a line between what he saw as fundamentalist and acceptable (to him). Even Yaqoob was on the wrong side. This puts Muslims on the wrong side whoever they are and creates a situation where those even considered to look like “the enemy” vulnerable. Once again Sikhs in particular, with beard and turban have been targets for murder, but anyone appearing Asian or Arabic is fair game. Or as in Norway any group thought to be supportive of allowing Islam into Europe. While the EDL and far right might appear way out, press and “respectable” political groups purvey the same sentiments.
Hopefully Salma will continue to play a role and inspire other young people to involve themselves in the political debate, although Respect as a continuing platform for these views has been compromised by ill-judged comments by its former leader and Member of Parliament. Given George Galloway’s impressive stand and support for the Islamic world it is deeply disappointing that his comments have given cause for Salma Yaqoob to step aside.

Mental Health and the South Asian community in the UK

The Conference focussed on “attitudes to mental health and well being within the Sikh. Punjabi and South Asian communities ….. aimed at understanding and addressing the issues that often affect access to Mental Health services such as stigma, superstition and shame that are known to exist within these communities”. A desired outcome was “the development of a national prevention and early intervention strategy for addressing mental illness in these communities …….to develop best practice in mental health intervention for these communities”. (from Conference brochure).
The feeling seems to be that there is too little research into the situation concerning people originating from the Indian Sub-continent. A report “Mental Health care ‘fails’ Asians” based on Leicester believed that lack of involvement of the health authorities with the community was allowing an increase of suicide among women in particular. Lord Kamlesh Patel expressed the fear that mental health patterns would grow to resemble the situation for African, African Caribbean and dual heritage. He had found a stark lack of basic knowledge and understanding of languages, cultures and religions of Asian people he had spoken to, people who had been in care for many years. How, he asked, could a package of care be put together if this was the case? He noted that care pathways typically differed between different groups.
At the conference speakers referred to the “duty of care” that faith leaders had in educating themselves about mental illness and ns how it affects the community. It was acknowledged that 1 in 4 people were affected from all sections of the community, but cultural patterns of family life in Asian communities require understanding because of the barriers of stigma, superstition and shame stopping access to appropriate treatment: “The Eurocentric model of psychiatrically based mental health services need to fully appreciate and incorporate race, culture, faith and spiritual factors into their formulation of mental health difficulties.” (Sachdev Singh Sayan}.
Kamel Kaur Chahel spoke of current NHS provision in a group of London Boroughs with the introduction of talking therapies. There needs to be a partnership between the Health Service and community “to ensure they are more meaningful and effective to and for these communities”.
Professor Swaran Singh referred to the social context of mental health. Both he and the earlier speaker pointed out the differences between cultural concepts based on the individual in European societies and family structures in Asian societies, pointing out that they had different coping strategies. These are also present in Asian communities and factors exist that can help facilitate recovery as well as hinder.
The issues raised will be looked at in greater depth in the next stage of the Project.