What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.

Paris Shootings - The day after (22593744177)

“France is at war,” declared François Hollande, after last November’s attacks in Paris. Since then, he has had to declare it several more times. It is a strange sort of war. France fights not against a coherent, well-defined enemy, but against a pervasive ideology. The front line is now not just the streets of Paris but provincial cities and even the French countryside. Continue reading What causes someone to become a terrorist? The French debate.

To claim Corbyn is failing because he is unelectable is to miss the point

Jeremy Corbyn No More War crop

This article was published on Backbench

He is an honest and principled man, goes the refrain, with fresh ideas, but he’s just not a good enough leader. It’s not his ideas or his principles, just his inability to show more competence and do better in the polls. This has been Labour MPs’ critique of Jeremy Corbyn. The implication is that if there were a strong far-left leader who could get closer to winning, the soft left would support him. Continue reading To claim Corbyn is failing because he is unelectable is to miss the point

Book review: This is London by Ben Judah

UK Border, Heathrow

This article was published on Backbench

The arguments made in the media for and against low-skilled immigration normally come from the well-heeled opinion-forming professions, rather than from immigrants themselves. Thus there is a tendency to romanticise or demonise immigrants and their plight: the benefit scrounger, the job stealer, the self-made chaser of a British version of the American Dream. We rarely hear from those who constitute these supposed categories. The main strength of Ben Judah’s This is London is that it gives them a voice. Each chapter involves meeting one or more immigrant, from all over the world and in all sorts of jobs, from beggars to tube workers to carers. The point hammered home, from the title onwards, is that London is now a city of immigrants (the book tells us in the first few pages that at least 55% of Londoners are not ethnically British and that nearly 40% of Londoners were born abroad). Continue reading Book review: This is London by Ben Judah

Spain votes again

This article was published on Backbench

For a small impoverished region in the north-west of Spain, Galicia has a record of producing strong political leaders. Francisco Franco, dictator of Spain from the end of the country’s civil war in the 1930s until his death in 1975, hailed from Ferrol on the north-western tip of the region. Manuel Fraga, a Franco minister and later long-time First Minister of Galicia, was a fierce Galician. Current Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy was born in the region, as was the father of Cuba’s Fidel and Raúl Castro.

A more familiar stereotype of Galicians is that they are indecisive, and it is this characteristic which has extended across the Spanish electorate – if not the politicians – today. All the talk going into last December’s election was about the effect of two insurgent parties: far-left Podemos (“We Can”) and centre-right Ciudadanos (“Citizens”). Set up in the last few years, these parties threatened to break the stranglehold on Spanish politics – since the 1980s the centre-right Partido Popular (Peoples’ Party) and the centre-left PSOE (Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party) have swapped power every decade or so. Continue reading Spain votes again

thoughts on the Paris attacks

This article was published on Backbench and won IMPACT Article of the Month 

France starts a new week in a much more jittery state and darker mood than it started the last. It asks itself: why us? While Islamist terrorism is a much worse scourge in countries across Africa, the Middle East and Asia, in our Western bubble it is France that has suffered most: from Mohammed Merah’s murderous rampage in Toulouse and Montauban in 2012, to the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the beginning of this year, to Friday’s events. Continue reading thoughts on the Paris attacks

Bahar Mustafa is wrong, but should be allowed to speak

A version of this article was published on Palatinate

Bahar Mustafa, former welfare and diversity officer for Goldsmith University, has had charges against her dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service. She was going to appear in court on charges of “sending a threatening letter or communication or sending by public communication network an offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing message”. It relates to a hashtag she allegedly used – #killallwhitemen – although she has denied sending the tweet.

Mustafa hit the news earlier this year after a number of controversial statements. She asked men and white people not to attend an event – a protest against inequality and a celebration of racial unity – because it was to be a ‘safe space’ for women of colour. She also labelled someone “white trash” in an argument on Twitter. Continue reading Bahar Mustafa is wrong, but should be allowed to speak

Us and them

Catalonia Blanes Senyera
This short piece was published in SUR in English 

Catalonia has been plunged into uncertainty after last Sunday’s regional elections which gave the pro-independence groups a majority of seats but not votes. Plans to go ahead with the process of creating a new state have been complicated by the left-wing nationalist party CUP’s refusal to support Artur Mas as president. Meanwhile, the central government maintains that any independence bid or referendum is illegal. Under this reasoning, support for independence could be at 80%, 90% or even 100% and it would make no difference. Continue reading Us and them