Monday, March 30, 2015

At the NSS Awards

Speaking at the National Secular Society's Annual Awards, Saturday March 28 

YouTube video of speech.

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Blood results last 6 months

25.03    2.03  21.01 24.12 26.11 29.10    Normal
Hb 98      98     101   104   109    100 130 - 180
WBC 3.15   3.36    3.52    4.0   3.02     3.1 4.5 - 10.0
Neutrophils 1.57   1.78     1.6   1.8  1.16   1.43 2.0 - 7.5
Plt 369    449    494   551   391    427 150 - 450

Platelets well inside normal range. They deal with clotting and if they get too high they cause thrombosis. Haemoglobin rather low but hydroxycarbamide dose, now 500 mg 5 days a week, stays the same. If it was lowered it would tend to improve Hb, but possibly reverse the Plt trend. WBC apparently on a downward trajectory, no comment on that, or on Neutrophils.

Lualua TV

Interview with Lualua TV

Alcohol duty

Osborne has reduced alcohol duties in this budget to the tune of £920 million over the next Parliament, on top of the much bigger loss of revenue from the earlier cancellation of the alcohol duty 'escalator' see Not only do these concessions have to be paid for by equivalent cuts in public services, but they also increase the burdens on the health service and criminal justice system. It is the height of fiscal irresponsibility to encourage the consumption of alcohol when it already costs society £19 billion a year.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Progressio seminar March 17

With Bernie Morgan, Business Development Manager; Vanessa King of The Fire Inside; Mark Lister, Progressio CEO, and Safiye Ozuygun, founder of WAM Microfinance

Sunday, March 15, 2015

With my old friend Dr Charles Tannock MEP, also a staunch supporter of the Ahmadiyya Muslims, at their National Peace Conference

Ahmadiyya Muslim National Peace Conference at the Baitul Futuh Mosque, Morden, March 14, 2015

With Idris Ahmad Bhatti, Vice President Ahmadiyya Muslim Association Slough and Idris Bowden from Burnham Park Academy in Buckinghamshire.

My speech:

It is always a great privilege to attend the National Peace Symposium of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, an event which enables us to come together under the wise leadership of Your Holiness, and speak out for the forces of peace and of tolerance, across the boundaries of politics and religion. The Buddha said:

Hatred never ceases by hatred, but by love alone is healed”

A statement that is echoed by the principle of the Ahmadis of Love for all and Hatred for none.

Yet we are having to confront forces of hatred and aggression that believe in promoting hatred and inciting violence against anybody who disagrees with them. I am concerned about the relentless campaign against religious minorities in Pakistan, and particularly the organised incitement against the Ahmadis by the Khatm-e-Nabuwwat, which is condoned by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Muslim League Nawaz Party. 

Ahmadis are already denied all the rights of citizenship, but fanatics and terrorists want to exile or exterminate them. They say so, and when they murder Ahmadis they openly declare their responsibility on the social media. 

The Foreign Office lists Pakistan as a Country of Concern in its world human rights report published earlier this week in which it specifically condemns the religiously motivated murder of at least 11 Ahmadis in 2014.

Increasingly, commentators are looking at hatred and its ideology on a wider international basis. The Khatm-e-Nabuwwat has branches all over the world including the UK where they try to persuade other Muslims to boycott Ahmadis and to organise against Ahmadi candidates at elections.

The terrorists who murder Ahmadis in Pakistan are also killing Shia, Christians, and Hindus. Their ultimate objective is to religiously cleanse the state of all who disagree with their brand of fundamentalism, which is similar to that of the Daesh, and the Daesh has announced its plans to extend their so-called caliphate into Pakistan and Afghanistan, naming individuals who were formerly leading figures in the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban as the local leader and deputy leader.

But the existence of a territory described as the reincarnation of the 7th century caliphate and operating a system of governance and law based on how the nascent Islamic state was ruled under the rightly guided caliphs who succeeded the Prophet has a powerful romantic attraction. It cannot be overcome solely by military force, but requires an alternative vision of Islam such as the Ahmadiyya faith provides. 

Islam, like Christianity, has fragmented into different sects, the overwhelming majority of which believe in peaceful coexistence with other religions and beliefs. We have to be careful that in combating the Daesh we also deal at the same time with Islamophobia and acknowledge that the west contributed to the growth of extremism by military operations in Iraq and Libya which are widely seen as anti-Islamic. 

In the case of Afghanistan, as we remember the British servicemen who gave their lives for the creation of the present government of national unity, there is some hope that their sacrifice will ultimately lead to stability and to the elimination of the corrupt system of patronage that President Ghani is committed to removing.

The influence of the Ahmadiyya Jamaat in promoting peace in more than 200 countries, and through its aid organisation Humanity First in combating poverty and disease in the developing world, is immensely valuable and it is a matter of great pride to all of us that the international centre of the Jamaat is here in the UK. We are grateful to Your Holiness and your followers for the huge contribution you make to the welfare of humankind, and the example you set to the rest of us.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Bahrain Press Conference March 12, 2015

Video report see

My introductory remarks:

This press conference is being held to mark the fourth anniversary of the Saudi military intervention to help put down the uprising against the al-Khalifa autocracy that began in February 2011.

Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian feminist who lived in Saudi Arabia for six years between the ages of 7 and 15, condemns the hypocrisy of world leaders who flocked to pay their respects after the Saudi King Abdullah died in January. The Independent on Sunday reported her as saying

“I am horrified by the moral ambiguity that develops when a dictator dies”.

She says that Saudi Arabia is a “black hole of misogyny” that operates a system of “gender apartheid”, and that human rights abuses in the kingdom are ignored because of oil and because they spend billions of dollars on weapons.

She argues that if you want to cosy up to an ally, to do a business deal or to sell them weapons, say you will turn a blind eye to women’s rights and you will get what you want.

Saudi Arabia, unlike Bahrain, is listed as a Country of Concern by the Foreign Office. Their report is said to have been updated in January 2015, but the text refers entirely to events that happened in 2013 such as the expulsion of 150,000 unregistered migrant workers. There is no mention, for example, of the sentence of 10,000 lashes, a fine of $266,000, and ten years imprisonment passed on the writer Rauf Badawi in May 2014 for an article he published criticising the Saudi clerical establishment on his Free Saudi Liberals website.

Amnesty International reports that in 2014, the government severely restricted freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and cracked down on dissent, arresting and imprisoning critics, including human rights defenders. Many received unfair trials before courts that failed to respect due process, including a special anti-terrorism court that handed down death sentences. New legislation effectively equated criticism of the government and other peaceful activities with terrorism. The authorities clamped down on online activism and intimidated activists and family members who reported human rights violations. Discrimination against the Shi’a minority remained entrenched; some Shi’a activists were sentenced to death and scores received lengthy prison terms. Torture of detainees was reportedly common; courts convicted defendants on the basis of torture-tainted “confessions” and sentenced others to flogging. Women faced discrimination in law and practice, and were inadequately protected against sexual and other violence despite a new law criminalizing domestic violence. The authorities continued to detain and summarily expel thousands of foreign migrants, returning some to countries where they were at risk of serious human rights abuses.
Cornell University’s death penalty database records that the Saudis executed at least 87 people in 2014, and so far this year at least another 39.

Not a word of all this appears on the FCO website.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia a week ago, but the US, like Britain, has been largely silent about executions and other gross and persistent human rights violations carried out by the Saudi autocrats.

Mr Kerry wasn’t in Riyadh to discuss human rights, but to reassure Prince Saud al-Faisal, the world’s longest serving foreign minister and son of the late King Faisal  that the US administration “was not pursuing a broader rapprochement with Iran that could come at the expense of its Arab rivals. “ (now where have we heard of a similar case of a record-breaking minister closely related to a monarch ).

It must be apparent, though, to Mr Kerry and Prince Saud that Iranian intervention in the military operation to clear the Daesh out of Tikrit, and later probably out of Mosul as well, helps enormously to accelerate the eradication of the terrorists from Iraq and Syria, and hence to eliminate the attraction of the so-called ‘caliphate’ to jihadists from all over the world, as well as its medium term threat to the whole region.
Returning to the Saudi intervention in Bahrain, the intention is clearly to help fellow hereditary autocrats to counter and extinguish the popular uprising that began four years ago and continues today. The al-Khalifas have no doubt learned some lessons from their Saudi big brothers about how to deal with bloggers, human rights defenders and peaceful opponents like Nabeel Rajab, President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights and holder of awards from the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, the Silbury Fund and Index on Censorship.. His appeal against a six month prison sentence for “denigrating government institutions” is being heard this coming Sunday, and he is facing a new charge of ‘inciting hatred against the regime’, which carries a three year prison sentence. These legal attacks on freedom of expression may well have been inspired by the Saudis, who enacted a law in February 2014 equating acts deemed to “undermine” or “destabilize” the state or society could   with terrorism.  
Nabeel’s plight, as well as the charges against Maryam and Zainab al –Khawaja, are ignored in the FCO Report mentioned earlier, and incidentally, we should note that as International Women’s Day was celebrated earlier this week, the Bahrain Center for Human Rights highlights the cases of 6 women activists out of the 300 who have been arrested, imprisoned, and tortured on false charges ranging from misuse of social media to harbouring fugitives to plotting terrorist attacks. We might suggest to the International Bar Association that they undertake a comparison of the laws criminalising the right to criticise the monarch or the government in Gulf states. 
Saudi Arabia’s ideology includes the doctrine that Wahabi Islam should have a monopoly of religious life in the kingdom, so Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and every other world religion is prohibited.  But since they can’t get rid of the one in five of their population who are Shia, they can only do their best to discourage and discriminate against their Shia subjects. The close alliance with Bahrain is based on that principle. Yesterday a new report on discrimination against the Shia in Bahrain was published by a consortium of human rights NGOs detailing the legal actions against Shia religious groups; the destruction of their mosques, and violence against their clergy.

Because the population of Bahrain is much smaller, however, its rulers think the problem can be solved by demographic engineering. Immigration of Sunnis from Jordan, Yemen and Pakistan is encouraged and the immigrants are given citizenship, housing and jobs, frequently in the security forces. Shia citizens are excluded from the public services, denied the rights of freedom of expression and assembly, subjected to arbitrary arrest, torture, extrajudicial execution and deprivation of citizenship, all under the protection of the Saudi armed forces.

This is not treated as a violation of the UN Charter, Article 2(4) of which prohibits states from using the “threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state”, because Bahrain is deemed to have invited the Saudis in. The Charter doesn’t envisage the situation that exists here, where the inviting state is governed illegitimately by an autocracy that is opposed by two thirds of the people. Nor is there anything in the UN’s Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which prohibits he demographic engineering being practised by the al-Khalifas. We can only say from a distance what would be treated as a serious criminal offence if we could say it in Manama, that the political and military link with Saudi Arabia is profoundly inimical to the freedom of the people of Bahrain, but ultimately, the freedom and democracy we hoped for in the Arab spring will prevail.

March 14, 2015

This is the 53rd anniversary of the Orpington byelection

Yesterday's debates on a fresh intrusion of religion into the business of local authorities:

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

UK and UNICEF help Syrian refugees

With Michael Sheen at UNICEF tea reception March 10

Monday, March 09, 2015

LibDems celebrate the passing of
Michael Moore's Bill requiring
future Governments to spend 0.7%
of national income on overseas aid.
March 9, 2015

Friday, March 06, 2015


02.03.15  21.01.15 24.12.14 26.11.1 29.10.14 Normal
Hb 98 101 104 109 100 130 - 180
WBC 3.36 3.52 4 3.02 3.1 4.5 - 10.0
Neutrophils 1.78 1.6 1.8 1.16 1.43 2.0 - 7.5
Plt 449 494 551 391 427 150 - 450

The latest results came from the GP, so I telephoned them to the cancer specialist nurse at Kings, to pass on to the haematology consultants in case they were minded to reduce the dose of hydroxcarbamide. This would halt the decrease in platelets over the last two readings, and increase the haemoglobin, which is now below the 100 mark. The next haematology consultation isn't until the end of the month.