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For over a decade and a half the world has witnessed a dramatic rise in a distinctive kind of violent militancy. Much about it is controversial, including how it should be understood, described and addressed. There is even little, if any consensus, about how it should be labelled. Terms currently employed include: ‘violent jihadism’, ‘jihadi terrorism’, ‘violent Islamism’, ‘violent Islamic extremism’, ‘Islamist terrorism’, to mention but a few.
But two characteristics cannot be denied: it is violent and Islam is invoked as the justification by those who resort to it. However, the precise nature of this relationship is hotly disputed. Some claim that the connection is purely contingent and has no real significance because, while Islamic terminology is employed, the motives and goals of those involved have, in fact, little or nothing to do with Islam. By contrast, others maintain that it is nothing less than the logical extension of Islam given current conditions and recent developments. Of the many positions in between is the view that the conception of Islam invoked is an utterly debased and distorted misunderstanding of the faith, totally at variance with its true, best or better interpretations.
Recently the public and media became aware, through one image across Europe (and the world) of the plight of people fleeing for their lives. Within the UK this image produced an awakening after months and years of warnings about the consequences of policy failures, wars and discrimination against migrants. Evidence of the catastrophic failures of UK and EU migration policies, which are based solely on immigration control, borders and ‘security’, have been disbelieved or treated with scepticism by policy makers, officials and many academics.
Repeated reports of deaths in the Mediterranean were ignored or seen as someone else’s problem, the public having been fed a relentless ‘diet’ of poisonous ‘news‘ and rhetoric about migration in general. Institutional racism and discrimination was further embedded as asylum seekers (including children) in the UK were detained, portrayed as troublesome, instead of being welcomed and offered protection. Furthermore, the consequences of austerity are continuously blamed on migrants.
There is a crisis of democracy, as well as policy and a humanitarian crisis, which has been fuelled by the action and inaction of our government.
The US-instigated invasion of Iraq in 2003 continues to have profound and disastrous consequences for the region, including the partial disintegration of Iraq itself and the fuelling of a wider war in the Middle East aimed at dividing Sunni and Shia into crudely polarised identity groups. Central to the ongoing conflict are regional power politics between key players such as Saudia Arabia and Iran, and the involvement and influence of external actors including the US, Russia and China.
In terms of how Britain and the US came to initiate such an ill-thoughtout war, the British public remain, to a significant degree and probably more than they realise, in the dark.
Dr Piers Robinson, Senior Lecturer, School of Social Sciences The University of Manchester
The Chilcot Inquiry panel has thus far failed to deliver its report and there remains uncertainty as to the extent to which it will get to the truth.
From the perspective of the British public and political system, however, there has been a persistent and widely held view that some level of deliberate deception occurred in order to mobilise support for the invasion of Iraq. For many, perhaps most, the British and US Governments set about a policy aimed at removing Saddam Hussein through force for undeclared reasons and misled their publics by disguising the war as a defensive act aimed at protecting the world from Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
Last week the UK’s Supreme Court held that the police owed no duty of care to a victim of domestic violence whose murder could have arguably been prevented had the police not acted negligently in handling and responding to her 999 emergency call. Michael v CC of South Wales is just the latest of a growing line of cases in which the UK courts have denied such claims.
By contrast, a number of other countries whose legal systems are significantly based upon English common law principles have recognised the possibility of law suits against the police in similar circumstances. For example, in 1998, a Canadian court held the police liable in negligence for failings in relation to the investigation of a serial rapist. The claimant, Jane Doe (Doe v Metropolitan Toronto (Municipality) Commissioners of Police) successfully argued that had the police not been negligent in investigating similar earlier allegations, she might not have been raped. In South Africa in 2001, the victim of a brutal attack by a man on bail for attempted rape and with a known history of serious sexual violence successfully sued the police and the prosecution service (Carmichele v Minister of Safety and Security).
On 11 January, unity marches were held across France following terrorist attacks which killed 17 people in Paris, including an attack on the headquarters of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. One of the key debates to have taken place since the attacks has focused on the issue of free speech, given the controversial nature of some of the material published by the magazine.
Tariq Modood Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy
Tariq Modood argues that while there is clearly no possible justification for the violence that took place, there is nevertheless an important responsibility which accompanies free speech and we should stop short of celebrating images that reinforce social divisions.
If we needed further proof that the Coalition’s policy of charging claimants to bring cases to the Employment Tribunal (ET) posed a serious threat to access to justice in employment disputes, the latest ET statistics published by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) provide it.
The most recent figures, which cover April to June 2014, show that the downward trend in the number of claims brought, which has been recorded for every quarter since fees were introduced in July 2013, has continued. Single claims have fallen by 70% compared with the same period in 2013, with multiple claims down from 1500 to just 500. Furthermore, the introduction in April 2014 of Acas’s early conciliation scheme has had an impact on the number of claims lodged.
Under the scheme, there is a mandatory requirement that Acas must be notified of any dispute before an ET claim can be made. This is to facilitate efforts to settle the dispute. One effect of this is that cases which do end up with the ET now face a time lag of about a month while Acas has an opportunity to intervene. Another effect is that the statistics for April to June 2014 are not directly comparable with the same period in 2013. Nevertheless, there is still a significant reduction.
Dr Benoit Pelopidas, Lecturer in International Relations, School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
What is the nature of the responsibility of a nuclear scholar and how can we ensure we are up to the mark?
Given the destructive potential, secrecy, technicality, cost and limits of command and control over nuclear weapons, those are crucial and surprisingly unaddressed questions. The context of Trident renewal and the possible independence of Scotland make them even more pressing. In this, I urge those nuclear scholars among us to broaden our definition of policy-relevant scholarship and to rethink our responsibility vis-à-vis the public. That responsibility must not be confined to communicating the existing terms of the elite policy debate. In other words, I urge us to think beyond the narrow notions of deterrence and non-proliferation, to go back to the problem of nuclear vulnerability, and to engage with the public as well as policymakers beyond the terms of the policy debates of the day. I finally urge us to always be explicit about the ethical underpinnings of the policies we advocate and to resist the temptation of overconfidence.
It’s been a year since the government introduced fees for workers making a claim to an employment tribunal. The most recent statistics show that this has led to an 81% decrease in cases. This has profoundly worrying consequences for the future of employment law. Workers who have been unfairly dismissed, subjected to unlawful discrimination, or who have simply not been paid for work they have done now have severely limited access to justice.
So why has the sudden drop happened? Have employment relations in the UK suddenly improved? No. The reason is simply that the vast majority of workers who find themselves in dispute with their employers (or ex-employers, since many claims relate to dismissal) can no longer afford to seek justice.
The coalition government introduced the fees regime largely thanks to unsubstantiated assertions that employment tribunals provided a charter for workers to make unmerited claims and vexatious appeals. The restriction of access to justice on the basis of ability to pay may seem like a contradiction in terms, and the level at which fees have been set is far higher than those for making a comparable claim in the County Court.
In order to even submit a form which enables a claim to be lodged in the system, a worker must now pay between £160 and £250 depending on the nature of the claim. If the claim goes to a hearing, the aggrieved worker must pay a further £230 or £950. This means that in order for many serious claims to be resolved, alleged victims must pay £1200 alongside any other related costs. It is hardly surprising that four out of five people now decide not to proceed.
This blog was originally posted on The Conversation on 23rd June.
Gerry Conlon, wrongly jailed for a 1975 IRA bombing in which he had no part, died on June 21 at the age of 60. The case of the Guildford Four remains one the most famous miscarriages of justice in Britain – but more and more cases of wrongful imprisonment are coming to light around the world.
On June 18, it was widely reported that Jonathan Fleming, who in April 2014 successfully overturned his conviction for the murder of Darryl Alston in 1989, had begun a lawsuit against the City of New York for the 25 years he spent wrongly incarcerated.
It is alleged that prosecutors knowingly manufactured a case against Fleming, even dropping criminal charges against a key prosecution witness in return for false identification evidence. Fleming was on a family holiday in Disneyland at the time of the murder. He is now suing the city of New York for $162m.
An incredible story, we might think, but one that is becoming increasingly commonplace. And the growing awareness of cases like this is now fostering a global social movement to help innocent victims of wrongful convictions.
I consented to being sterilised.
Why was this?
Because I was repeatedly offered the opportunity to consent to being sterilised by the National Health Service. No doubt the British state has its reasons for wanting to sterilise me (I might have too many children for some people’s liking, for example; I live in an area of social deprivation, and my political affiliations are pretty easy to ascertain from the Internet). Nevertheless, a truth remains: I was offered at least three opportunities to consent to be sterilised, and I gave my consent three times, verbally and in writing. I was given time to think it over. I walked to the neighbourhood clinic, had my tubes cut by a friendly surgeon, and hobbled home to bed and a bag of frozen peas.