Category Archives: Politics

Why Sukk really does Suck!(Especially in Burma)

Okay, cheesy headline but there is a good reason for it.

The lovely people at the Mule Newspaper in Manchester have uncovered some murky going-ons with the latest energy drink that ‘SUKK!’.

If you happen to live in Manchester, you would have had trouble avoiding this new jelly-based drink. SUKK were on local radio, on Spotify if you tried to avoid them, they wanted to be your friend on facebook and were being promoted all around town.

Well it turns out that the Tata Group, which is currently on the  Burma Campaign for human rights and democracy blacklist for selling services and equipment to the Burmese government,  has been using a subsidiary company called Clever Jelly to sell its latest drink in Manchester. Yep, you guessed it- Sukk.

According to the local Ethical Consumer Magazine, Burma is ruled by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes and has even used forced labour to prepare the country for tourism.  War Resisters International have a page dedicated to the  company’s seriously messy history and its role in violating human and labour rights and environmental standards, as well as their involvement in financial scams.

These include deadly conflicts with indigenous groups for mineral resources, pollution, supporting Hindi fundamentalist groups and setting up its military activities with a $50m investment from Israel to manufacture Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), electronic warfare systems, missiles, radar systems and security systems.

But that’s not all. It turns out that they have been using local grassroots organisations such as the alternative and quirky Afflecks Palace as well as the local cycling organisation ‘I Bike Mcr’ to promote their product.

I Bike Mcr unaware of SUKK link to Burma

Nes and Ed from the cycling group told the Mule: “If we had known who it was we wouldn’t have done it. The marketing company that approached us, Mad Media, said it was the Clever Jelly Company who wanted the promotion doing. They offered us £350 and as we’re in debt we took the money.”

“Initially they had tried to hijack Critical Mass but we were clear to them that this wasn’t appropriate. In the end we only had to send out an email and sort out a route and we refused all joint branding with them. In the past we’ve turned down corporate sponsorship. Red Bull approached a while ago but we said no,” continued Nes.

Afflecks Palace image via Christopher Ellison

After talking to MULE, Bruntwood the company which owns the Afflecks building said that SUKK material would be taken down from the website and added that Afflecks would not be participating in anything similar again.

“If we’d have known beforehand we wouldn’t have gone ahead with the promotion…” explained Tony Martin of Bruntwood.

Its seems that the above were well and truly duped but apparently Manchester’s Key 103 is currently taking part in an online promotion with Tata and declined to comment after the MULE informed them they were  supporting a company that had known links to military dictatorship.

Key 103's online promotion

Typical.

Maybe someone should email them and politely tell them to think about it again and maybe change their mind. Here’s their email in case you were in that way inclined 🙂

Email: Clare.bostock@key103.co.uk

Phone: 0161 288 0103 – Studio Phone Number
0161 288 5000 – Reception

Postal Address: Key 103,
Castle Quay,
Castlefield,
Manchester,
M15 4PR.

It states on their website that “If making a complaint, please include your full name, postal address and telephone number so that we can contact you to discuss your comments. We reserve the right not to process complaints that do not include this information.”

Nes and Ed from the group said, “If we had known who it was we wouldn’t have done it. The marketing company that approached us, Mad Media, said it was the Clever Jelly Company who wanted the promotion doing. They offered us £350 and as we’re in debt we took the money.”

“Initially they had tried to hijack Critical Mass but we were clear to them that this wasn’t appropriate. In the end we only had to send out an email and sort out a route and we refused all joint branding with them. In the past we’ve turned down corporate sponsorship. Red Bull approached a while ago but we said no,” continued Nes.

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Eco-Mosque donates over £50,000 to community project

Image of Mosque dome via Atomicjeep

In a time when public sector funding has all but run dry, a mosque has dug deep to donate £52,000 to save a neglected church and transform it into a community centre in Levenshulme, Manchester.

Since hitting the headlines back in 2008 as the first eco-Mosque in Manchester, the mosque’s Bohra community have sought to support the local community and were happy to become one of the largest investors in the ambitious ‘Levenshulme Inspire’ project.

Centre Director Kate Chappell was thrilled by the generous investment, “It’s wonderful to see the community pulling together to make Levenshulme a better place for us all and this level of support has by far exceeded our expectations. Levenshulme Inspire exists to celebrate the diversity of the area and bring people together….”

Envisioned as a multi-use centre, it will include a cafe, space for clubs and groups to meet, a media enterprise centre, a church, a range of business and enterprise advice as well as fourteen social housing apartments.

Levenshulme Inspire has come about due to the vision of local church members and Ed Cox, Church Leader, said: “The mosque’s investment symbolises the strength of inter-faith relationships in our community. The relationship between the church and the mosque began with plans to develop a joint youth club which we hope will now come to fruition when the centre opens later this year.”

Interview with Muslimah Media Watch: Fatemeh Fakhraie

Founder of the smart and sassy  website Muslimah Media Watch, Fatemeh Fakhraie is talented US writer who is definitely one to watch.  She launched the site back in 2007 to tackle inaccurate portrayals of Muslim women and has become a vocal representative of the diversity of the Muslim women ever since. I caught up with her to talk about her website, “hijab reduction” and why Muslims need to make the most of the spotlight they were put under after 9/11.

What motivated you to set up MMW? Was there a tipping point like 9/11 or the Hijab debate in France?

I have always been very uncomfortable with the way that mainstream media portrays Muslim women, because it’s usually in one of the three dominant stereotypes: exotic sex slave, oppressed woman, or dangerous terrorist. But, as a feminist, I also was very dissatisfied with feminist media portrayals of Muslim women, which often centered on the “oppressed woman” narrative. In 2007, I became more conscious of the blogosphere, and I realized that I could set up a media platform of my own. So I created Muslimah Media Watch as a response to all of this.

How do you feel about the success of MMW?

One of the things that gives me pride is knowing that MMW’s articles are often used in university-level gender and ethnic studies classes. The opportunity to teach students about Islamic feminism feels wonderful because this wasn’t something that I felt was represented or discussed when I was in school.

But success is a subjective term. I feel very ambivalent about whether MMW is successful, and I have a complicated relationship with that success. On one hand, I get so much support and encouragement from members in the Muslim community, and I believe that MMW is changing some people’s viewpoints and perspectives. And on the other hand, I am somewhat dissatisfied because we are very limited in our capacities— MMW is volunteer-based, and as a writer, I feel very frustrated that I can’t pay my writers or hire people to expand our multimedia presence so that we can reach more people.

Why do you think Muslim women face stereotyping?

In the West, Muslims and people from specific geographic regions or ethnic heritages are subject to more stereotyping because of a heightened global narrative of terrorism perpetrated by Muslims. So, as Muslims, women will be included in this mass profiling. Louise Cainkar’s book Homeland Insecurity: The Arab American and Muslim American Experience After 9/11 highlights the fact that many Muslim women are more visibly Muslim due to the headscarf, and are thus more likely to attract that type of attention that leads to stereotyping.

Why is it important that Muslim women (as opposed to Muslim men) respond to these media stereotypes?

Having other people speak on behalf of Muslim women isn’t only unnecessary (as we’re capable of thinking and speaking for ourselves), but it reinforces the stereotypes that Muslim women are silent creatures who aren’t allowed to have opinions or speak up.

It’s also important to speak up because it highlights the diversity of thought and opinion we have—when it comes to Islam, men and women are often put into huge, monolithic groups: “Muslim women wear this…” and “Muslim men believe this…” Speaking out reminds everyone that we think and act differently from each other.

Why do you think that Muslim women are speaking out now? What has changed now? What was holding them back before?

Muslim women have been thinking and writing and participating since the beginning of Islam. But I don’t think anyone’s been listening until now.

In the last 30 years especially, plenty of female scholars have been discussing issues and publishing books on feminism and media representation and religious interpretation. But, again, no one was paying attention.

I do think there’s a wonderful influx of differing Muslim women voices in the last ten years. I believe that some of this has been in response to 9/11 and the fact that, as Muslims, we have been forced into a spotlight. So now we’re under this spotlight, we may as well make the best of it and try and get people to understand who we are.

what is the role of the Internet?

The internet has played a wonderful role in Muslim women’s public spheres. While the internet helps disseminate plenty of harmful stereotypes, it also allows Muslim women to connect with families and like-minded men and women, it allows us to share our unique selves through blogs and other social media, and it helps connect us with resources that give us the tools to resist oppressive power forces.

Do you feel that sometimes Muslim women and their experiences are simplistically linked to the hijab?

Definitely. I think a lot of Muslim women are actually completely tired of talking about hijab (and I’m usually one of them), but everything we do seems to get linked back to this piece of cloth somehow. As much as we’d like to avoid the subject, we cover this “hijab reduction” a fair amount on MMW because it keeps on happening.

Inspired by Muhammad… to protect the environment

Inspired by Muhammed is a new campaign hoping to show a different side to Islam to the UK general public. It coincides with a national poll which found that whilst more than half the British population associate Islam with extremism (58%) and terrorism (50%), only a mere 6% believe that Islam promotes active measures to protect the environment.

So with that,  they launched a media campaign of the profile of three Muslims- one who cares about women’s rights, social justice and the final one looking at the environment by Kristiane Backer.

Muhammad emphasised the Quranic decree of treating the earth as a trust, and humankind its guardians. Likening our planet to a sacred place of prayer, “All of the earth has been made to me as a mosque,” Muhammad promoted respect and responsibility towards the environment amongst his companions. He encouraged water conservation, instructing them not to be wasteful even if they were next to a flowing river, and stipulated the importance of keeping public places tidy: “One of the branches of faith is to remove litter from the street,” he said.

Today, we are encouraged to recycle, conserve, and care for the world around us. If Muhammad was here today, he would echo the same ecological concerns that he did over 1,430 years ago. Current ‘plant a tree’ campaigns sit well with Muhammad’s credentials. He organised the planting of trees and date groves, and turned forests into conservation areas called  ‘hima’ or sanctuaries for thriving ecosystems.

Hopefully I’ll be able to link to their videos and it also worth checking out the animal welfare video by Sarah Joseph of Emel Magazine.

Friday’s Foraged Blog Finds!

As I am supposed to be writing my dissertation at the moment, I find myself entertaining myself during breaks reading the most random blogs, articles and visiting some really cool sites . Now, I know they will come in handy one day and (I am trying to convince myself) they are contributing to my academic research in some way but for now, I am going to dump them on this blog! Enjoy!

#Eggs and Israelis

I absolutely looooveee the blog eyeteeth which is by Paul Schmelze,  a former editor at Adbusters and he recently posted a really great little blog about a Jerusalem street art stencil. Here’s what he says:

I’m not entirely sure what to make of the message. One Flickr user translates the text as “War isn’t cookies.” That is, it’s not a cake walk, a piece of cake, easy as pie. But the more direct read is that, like cookies chewed up and spat out by a hasty ravenous monster, soldiers are victims of war, too. In spite of the fact that, as an institution, the IDF is one of the world’s best-funded, most sophisticated fighting forces, the individual soldiers are, well, fragile. The sentiment brings to mind a speech by Haruki Murakami I often quote here. He used an egg and and a wall in a metaphor for the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. One way to read the metaphor, he says, is that unarmed civilians are the eggs, while tanks, guns and white phosphorus shells are the wall. But he also offers a more nuanced interpretation:

Each of us is, more or less, an egg. Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable soul enclosed in a fragile shell. This is true of me, and it is true of each of you. And each of us, to a greater or lesser degree, is confronting a high, solid wall. The wall has a name: It is The System. The System is supposed to protect us, but sometimes it takes on a life of its own, and then it begins to kill us and cause us to kill others – coldly, efficiently, systematically.

#Why getting ripped off is really annoying

This was one of those rare interviews which had the right proportions of freedom and control to really bring out interesting stuff. It was in SEED Magazine which is a random science magazine which has some absolute gems of articles every now and then. Here are snippets of the interview with the Yale University psychologist Paul Bloom about   “essentialism”—a belief that there’s a deeper nature to things that makes them what they are.

Seed: You begin the book with an incredible story from the art world that, you say, illustrates the concept of essentialism.
Paul Bloom: Yes— the story of a famous Nazi, Herman Goering, who was Hitler’s favorite. Goering and his boss had this perpetual competition going over who could steal the most art. They went throughout Europe and pillaged, taking art from the people they conquered. Goering was a tremendous snob, and he bought a Vermeer from this art dealer, van Meegren. After the war, van Meegren was nabbed by investigators who discovered that he had sold all this art—including great Dutch treasures—to the Nazis. And they put him in prison. When van Meegren realized he was going to be executed for treason, he confessed. He said that he did sell the artwork to the Nazis, but that it wasn’t treason, because they were not actual Vermeers….He had defrauded the Nazis, he explained, because he’d painted them himself!

Now van Meegren, as you may know, was an absolute jerk. He was beset with petty jealousies; he was an alcoholic and a drug addict. He never got the respect he felt he deserved, so years earlier he had decided to start faking art as a way to get money. Not surprisingly, nobody believes his “I jipped the Nazis” story. So in court, while he was in detention, he offered to do another painting of the Vermeer, as a way to prove his innocence. As one Dutch tabloid put it, “He Paints for His Life!” His new work turned out far superior to the one he had sold Goering, and in the end, van Meegren was given a much lighter sentence. I like that story because it illustrates that who painted the artwork really mattered. And it mattered to everyone involved: It mattered to Goering—a guy who was responsible for the murder of millions and yet, according to his biographer, this was the first time in his life that he looked “as if he’d truly seen evil.” It mattered to all of the art critics who loved the Supper at Emmaus and several other paintings that turned out to be painted by van Meegren. They were horrified to discover that the paintings weren’t by Vermeer at all.

He also goes on to talk about this  syndrome called Capgras Syndrome, where people think that people they love have been replaced by exact duplicates because (proposes V.S. Ramachandran) the part of the brain responsible for intuitive feeling and familiarity doesn’t work.

“So you look at the person and you think, They have the same face as my wife or my boyfriend, but I don’t feel anything, so it can’t be them.”

So wierd. And kinda heart-breaking.


#Flourishing art scene but not one art gallery

Interesting (I use that word far too much) article on dissident art in Saudi Arabia published in Qantara.

Britain’s First Muslims: Yemen, Fred Halliday and British Colonial Rule

Although Muslims have been visiting the shores of Britain as merchants and traders for centuries, the Yemenis were the first Muslim community to settle  permanently in the UK back in the 1890s.

In his book, ‘Britain’s First Muslims: Portrait of an Arab Community’, Fred Halliday (who passed away in April 2010) chronicles the journey of this Arab community. I was particularly interested in this book as where I live (Eccles, Manchester) there is a sizeable Yemeni community and so it was great to read about those first sailors who left from Aden and decided to make a living in the harsh industrial cities of Britain.

The book is no masterpiece and didn’t have enough background information or personal insight for my liking but it is a historical record where before there was none.  It reads more like a collection of facts with interesting bits of information and explanations of the pull/push factors of migration into the UK.

Don’t get me wrong, all the major points are covered- such as the 1919 riots, workers organisations and the changing character of the community- but you only occasionally get a real glimpse of the community itself. This is all the more ironic as Halliday states that the Yemeni’s remain the ‘invisible Arabs’ of Britain as they have been clumped with larger migrants groups and have been known as everything from lascars, negroes, Adenis, Arabs, Mediterranean, Asians, Pakistanis and more recently as Muslims.

One interesting bit of insight was the Sojourner mentality of the Yemeni migrants- many of whom ironically lived and died in the UK- whilst this is accurate of the older Yemeni population, it doesn’t reflect the aspirations of second-generation Yemenis.

April 4 1967: A Northumberland Fusilier imposes order among Arab demonstrators during a disturbance in the Crater district in Aden, Yemen Photograph: Terry Fincher/Getty

One aspect which wasn’t covered in detail was the British rule of South Yemen.  Although it probably wasn’t part of brief of the book, I think it would have been interesting to get Yemenis view of the brutal British rule and the complex relationship of dependency and detestation that must have developed. Halliday was conspicuously silent about British rule and the resentment that many Yemenis must have harboured about the treatment of their fellow Yemenis back home.

Whilst it’s easy to forget, this absolutely must-see and quite shocking bit of great documentary dug up by Adam Curtis is a real testament the harsh realities of colonial rule.  When I first watched it, I was genuinely shocked about how British soldiers treated the locals and don’t think I’ll ever forget the repeated refrain of one Yemeni man who keep saying in broken english ‘I am  man’ as he gets a thorough kicking and beating.

Who told you America is imperialist? Tell me. Who?

Over the weekend I went to see The Time That Remains: Chronicles of a Present Absentee, a film by Elia Sulieman a Palestinian from Nazareth- it  was AMAZING.

Now this may come off a little unfair but films on Palestine don’t tend to be cinematic masterpieces as they expect the issue (ie. the Palestine-Israel conflict) to carry the film and in some ways that’s fine- because they are about getting the message across. But this is just a gem of a film with moments of bright brilliance.


The Time That Remains
is the third installment on Palestinians living in Israel and is the most personal so far- including Sulieman’s earliest memories as well as his father’s diaries to tell the story of the invasion of Nazareth in 1948 and the subsequent exile of his family. It’s darkly whimsical and without giving too much away, the first half follows his father’s story which gives way to Elia’s own experiences as  a silent observer into the absurd, paradoxical and nuanced complexities of being a Palestinian in Israel and returning from exile.

There are some really iconic moments such as Sulieman calmly pole-vaulting  across the Apartheid wall, stalking tanks, off-the-wall neighbours, blind-as-a-bat aunties whose plate of lentils are dumped straight into the bin but one scene which really stands out for me is Elia being scolded by his teacher in an Israeli  school who asks him:  ‘who told you that America is colonialist?  That it is imperialist?’

Doesn’t he know that kind of talk isn’t suitable for the classroom?

It’s a great scene which shows how the conflict and confusion starts at a young age and isn’t ever entirely shaken off. It also reminded me of an event I went to that was organised by the NUJ and the reaction of a Zimbabwean journalist Foster Dongozi- when he was asked about whether he was concerned about America’s imperial and colonialist agenda.

It clearly made him uncomfortable because for him, that was something that the Zimbabwean regime constantly spouts to hinder press freedom and so he wanted to clarify that they were routinely arrested for being the ‘running dogs of the imperial state of America’.  I guess Mugabe is going for the whole better-the-devil-you-know card…but just because it’s (ab)used as an excuse by an awful dictatorship does it become less valid? I don’t know.

Anyway, the whole film is littered with unfinished and silent scenes like this which recall events but leave  you to decide what to think. They seem to be waiting for the viewers reaction, their memory and attempts to make sense of it all.

If you get the chance, go and see this film!