Tag Archives: EU

A Counter to Prof A C Grayling on Brexit


This is a response to A C Grayling’s article: Referendums, Elections and Democracy. I am surprised it has not received a rebuttal or counter. For it suggests that members of parliament should only take heed of election results as to action rather than an advisory referendum. This view, played out, would undermine any sense of popular legitimacy parliament might claim when it deliberately ignores the freely expressed opinion of citizens. Who were promised by their elected government that whatever the result of the referendum, they would carry it out, in a leaflet sent to all households.

For those that stand for parliamentary sovereignty over the plebs, the best advice to be given is never agree to ask the people what they think if you do not trust them to come up with the right answer. If the decision is too complex, please shelter us simple folk from having to think. On any matter beyond the great unwashed, burn the constituency mail bag without opening. Appear to listen at meetings, nod and even tilt your head to one side sympathetatically. Just ensure you do not have a microphone on when you jump into your car and say what you really think.

Grayling and I would perhaps agree if you live in a parliamentary system, then let them make the decisions and be accountable to us at election time, having given some indication before they were voted into the Commons how they would act. Referendums bring up the notion that the public might actually have a say in the running of the country. The fools.

The EU countries that have had referendums on various treaties have shown that one way of responding to citizens whose answer you do not like, is to hold them again till they give the right answer. This might work for a professor telling a student to do their homework again. In a democracy of equal citizens the facade of equality is broken. The elite is created to serve the country. The guardians, with learning and advanced information, know what is  best for you. Your job as a citizen is to empower them at an election to get on with it.

Such a view is why the far right have taken advantage of the democratic deficit in Europe. Using popular sentiment on immigration they are beginning to take power in Eastern Europe. In mainland Europe, we hold our breath to see if this could happen there too.

The main irony for me is Grayling hopes parliamentary democracy can keep populism in its place. Yet where fascism has ever won at the ballot box it is because of the contempt of what ordinary people might think by their betters. Democracy ends when you no longer trust citizens to act as citizens. 

That is more dangerous than leaving the EU. But to misquote John Cleese in “The Life of Brian” the British public may have told us to fuck off – but how do we fuck off out of the EU? There, parliament has a moral duty to be involved. 

Please, no more referenda. But an election over whether to accept the deal government as hammered out or an opposition manifesto to stay in EU would be parliamentary democracy at its best. I suspect A C Grayling and myself would be shoulder to shoulder then on the streets.  

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No Charlie Hebdo Did Not Publish That Mediterranean Drowning Cartoon

[NB if you were after Charlie Hebdo cartoons regarding Aylan Kurdi click here]

The cartoon of drowning immigrants (above) is by Ali Dilem, published by Liberte in Algeria. He has recently joined the staff of Charlie Hebdo – but they have not published this particular cartoon. That has not stopped many people on Twitter sharing the image as if they did.

[Edit: to explain: “regroupement familial” is the title of the French immigration policy for non-EU residents in France being joined by other family members from abroad. This requires 18 month initial stay (12 if Algerian) before they can come, income status etc. You can read about the policy in a English google translation here. The cartoon above is saying that the policy is contributing to deaths in the mediterranean by families desperate to be reunited.]

Charlie Hebdo did however have this front cover (below):

“A Titanic each week” is the headline – about 1,500 died following the collision with an iceberg in April 1912. The warning is without action many more will die each week trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, equivalent to one of the most shocking of maritime disasters.

The National Front’s response to refugees from a war zone seeking safety at huge risk – is to have a deterrent policy (see their “Drama in the Mediterranean: a deterrent to immigration policy“) to prevent fleeing across a treacherous sea in overcrowded unseaworthy vessels. The joke here is the deterrent policy may as well be Celine Dion singing ([“Shut up!”]) for all the good it will do, let alone patrol boats to send them back. The satire is on her and also the National Front policy on immigration. She is singing the title song to the blockbuster film “Titanic”, which ties in with the headline.

Fleeing a war zone like Libya or Syria, we are not dealing with immigrants, but refugees. Maybe it makes it easier for people like Le Pen and Katie Hopkins to imagine them as illegal immigrants or like “cockroaches” or “norivirus.” Maybe cartoons for some are not the best way to point out that families are being united over time in the cemetery that is the ocean floor, or to poke fun at anti-immigration parties with scorn and derision.

Rather than the outrage directed at Charlie Hebdo for a cartoon they did not publish, or misunderstanding the one they did,  how much better to use our anger at such deaths at the EU that has not done enough to prevent the humanitarian disaster that has befallen Libya and Syria. Let alone the cutback in rescue operations in the Mediterranean, as a “deterrent” for people facing far worse than a perilous journey on the cruel and deep blue sea. It was predictable the deaths at sea would increase.

Let us talk about the racism which is killing people – our EU government’s response to conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa and the people killing one another in the actual conflicts causing the refugee crisis. Oh wait, someone drew cartoons which offended you. How dreadful – but at the last count the people killed by them were the cartoonists.

Please consider signing this petition to the EU Commission President. But do lobby your government too, which in the UK you can via this petition.

[Read my Huffington Post article Charlie Hebdo and PEN: When Free Speech Is Cheaper Than A Gala Dinner For Some]

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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My Huffington Post Blog

*Conversation I had with a french follower on twitter did not contradict my assertion in French it was Le Pen. Happy to correct if I am wrong. [Edit: Originally post said “The woman in front is Le Pen*, leader of The National Front (FN).” It seems it is Celine Dion and so have removed that line. Also changed singing Le pen to Celine Dion.]

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EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief

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The most striking thing about the “EU Guidelines on the promotion and protection of freedom of religion or belief” published June 24 is the lack of any mention of the word secularism. The word needs reclaiming from those that would besmirch it because the document is steeped in the principles of the political theory (see my recent essay on a crucial distinction between secularism and secularisation).

The guidelines include not just domestic policy but foreign policy for a unified approach to how member states respond to for example the criminalisation of apostasy.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) mentioned can be read here.

Some choice highlights:

State Neutrality

7. In doing so, the EU focuses on the right of individuals, to believe or not to believe, and, alone or in community with others, to freely manifest their beliefs. The EU does not consider the merits of the different religions or beliefs, or the lack thereof, but ensures that the right to believe or not to believe is upheld. The EU is impartial and is not aligned with any specific religion or belief.

    Right to have a religion, to hold a belief, or not to believe

11. Theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief are protected under article 18 ICCPR. The terms “belief” and “religion” are to be broadly
construed and the article’s application should not be limited to traditional religions or to religions and beliefs with institutional characteristics or practices analogous to those of traditional religions. States should not restrict the freedom to hold any religion or belief. Coercion to change, recant or reveal one’s religion or belief is equally prohibited.

12. Holding or not holding a religion or belief is an absolute right and may not be limited under any circumstances

    3. Primary role of States in ensuring freedom of religion or belief

21. States must ensure that their legal systems provide adequate and effective guarantees of freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief to all, which are applicable to their entire territory without exclusion or discrimination, and that these provisions are properly enforced.

22. States have a primary duty to protect all individuals living in their territory and subject to their jurisdiction, including persons holding non-theistic or atheistic beliefs, persons belonging to minorities, and indigenous peoples and to safeguard their rights. States must treat all individuals equally without discrimination on the basis of their religion or belief.

23. States must put in place effective measures in order to prevent or sanction violations of freedom of religion or belief when they occur, and ensure accountability.
24. Moreover, parties to the ICCPR have an obligation to prohibit any public advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. States should condemn all acts of violence and bring perpetrators to justice.

Religious justifications for discrimination

26. Certain practices associated with the manifestation of a religion or belief, or perceived as such, may constitute violations of international human rights standards. The right to freedom of religion or belief is sometimes invoked to justify such violations. The EU firmly opposes such justification, whilst remaining fully committed to the robust protection and promotion of freedom of religion or belief in all parts of the world. Violations often affect women, members of religious minorities, as well as persons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Apostasy and Foreign Policy

38. Limitations to the absolute right to change or leave one’s religion or belief are among the most common violations of freedom of religion or belief. These limitations can have a severe impact on converts and individuals leaving their religion or belief and their families, both due to state actions (e.g. imprisonment, loss of child custody, disinheritance, loss of property rights) and due to violent acts by non-state actors, such as “honour killings”.

39. The EU will:

• Call on states to repeal legal provisions penalising or discriminating against individuals for
leaving or changing their religion or belief or for inducing others to change a religion or belief especially when cases of apostasy, heterodoxy, or conversion are punishable by the death penalty or by long prison terms.

• Condemn the use of coercive measures against individuals in their choice or exercise of religion or belief. States must impartially apply measures against coercion in religion or belief.

The guidelines leave it to member states regarding establishment of state religion and exact nature of secularisation in society, leaving France to ban the Hijab and the Church of England to remain the state religion. Blasphemy laws are still allowed by members, though in foreign policy the EU is to encourage other nations to decriminalise.

It also leaves scope to allow restrictions on free speech should disturbance to the public peace be threatened. One hopes this will not be a loop hole to silence critics if opponents can muster enough vim to threaten the peace and thus control the narrative.

A worthwhile document, with some glaring omissions.

One reason I will continue in my support of the National Secular Society.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

Follow @JPSargeant78

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali is protected

Good news – the interior ministers of EU countries have unanimously agreed at a meeting to protect people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, with the host nation paying the costs. The right to freedom of speech

However the UK government is raising “practical” objections to providing such immediate protection. In which case perhaps it should be sorted out exactly how we are going to operate such protection procedures.

Franco Frattini, the the European commissioner for justice and home affairs commented:

“This is a new decision,” Frattini said, declaring that no new laws were necessary to try to guarantee the safety of Hirsi Ali and others in similar situations. “If we need a law to guarantee the right to life, we’re in a difficult position. We have the decision based on mutual trust.”

While the Members of the European Parliament petition to create a universal fund for protection may have helped in this decision (only one MEP got back to me out of seven saying he would sign the petition) it has to be born in mind this decision is one of intent.

While I am sure that there are issues that the UK may be right to highlight, if the EU is going to really guarantee the freedoms of its member citizens to move around without risk to life because they are targeted, these obstacles can be overcome with enough political will.

It would be a shame if the fear of the anti EU lobby in the UK scuppered this agreement. This measure is one that is needed. It shows the benefits of co-operation where enlightenment values can be defended by nation states. But it may help that there is a legal obligation of member states to offer such immediate protection.

The moral case may not be enough.

Quote from The Guardian that can be found here.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali Response by MEPs

My Labour MEP is getting back to me by post, but the Conservative one has e mailed thanking me for telling him and saying he will sign the petition today in the European Parliament to protect people like Ayaan.

Still waiting for a response from the Liberal Democrat MEP. These were the only ones to give their e mail addresses. Need a new printer which I shall get tomorrow for the others that do not list them.

You can see the comments on the richarddawkins.net site here.

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Ayaan Hirsi Ali and EU Parliament

Reposted from BBC NEWS website: 

Ayaan Hirsi Ali with French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levi (R)

Ms Ali says the threats to her life have not subsided but increased

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the former Dutch MP and outspoken critic of Islam, has appealed to the EU to create a fund to help protect people in her position.She told the European Parliament in Brussels her life was in greater danger because the Dutch government had stopped paying for her security.

“I don’t want to die, I want to live and I love life,” she said.

Ms Ali added that the cost of her bodyguards was beyond anything a private person could raise.

The Somali-born former MP has been living under police protection since the murder of Dutch film-maker Theo Van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in 2004.

Europe needs to defend her because she has defended Europe
French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy

She was threatened in a note left on his body for writing the script for Van Gogh’s Submission – a highly controversial film alleging that women were being abused under Islam.

But she left the Netherlands for the United States in 2006 after a political row in which she admitted lying in her Dutch asylum request.

She now works for a conservative think-tank in the US and the Dutch government has said it can no longer justify paying for her security.

Full-time job

Ms Ali said she had been working full-time on raising funds.

Dozens of MEPs have signed a declaration backing the creation of a fund.

But for the initiative to become official, half of the parliament’s 785 will have to back the petition.

Earlier this week she announced she was seeking French citizenship.

She said the campaign for her to receive honorary French citizenship was being spearheaded by a group of French intellectuals and was supported by the country’s political leaders.

“Europe needs to defend her because she has defended Europe,” French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy told MEPs.

To contact your Member of European Parliament (MEP) follow this link:

http://www.europarl.europa.eu/

choose language and at the top there should be a “Your MEPs” at the top which will let you find your representive.

I have just e mailed three of my MEP’s for my region. Will publish their replies (should I get any!). My e mail was:

As a resident of the East Midlands I am writing to you about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and people in similar circumstances in Europe.
 
She was the screen writer for the Dutch film “Submission” that examined women and Islam; the director Van Gogh was brutally murdered and attached to his chest was a note saying Ayaan would be next. The Dutch Parliament have backed out on a promise to pay for her security, and she recently appeared before the European Parliament to advocate a fund that would help to protect people like herself who are under threat.
 
When I was in Washington DC in the fall last year I had the pleasure of meeting her, and her attendance at the conference there was nearly cancelled due to the death threats being issued. As a private citizen she does not have the means to pay for her security, and while I hope France will be able to take on the charge to protect her if she obtains honorary citizenship the need for such funding for individual’s security should be available if it is not forthcoming when the need is a matter of life and death.
 
I would strongly urge you to back the petition before the European Parliament in the creation of such a fund.
 
More on the story can be found on the BBC News link
here.

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