Monday, June 22, 2009

IRAN: Maz Jobrani's serious reflections on Iran ...

Maz Jobrani is an American comedian of Iranian extraction who has toured with the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour.

He has also visited Australia.

Here are his personal reflections about the current situation in Iran ...

Dear Friends,

The recent events in Iran have had me glued to the TV, the internet and anything else that can give me updates on what is going on in the country of my birth. When I was 6 years old in Iran, the revolution of '78-'79 happened. I remember having to have our lights off by a certain time for curfew and how the police would drive by and flash their lights into our homes to make sure we weren't causing any trouble. I also remember one time running into our basement when we heard gunfire coming form a protest close to our home. At the time I was a kid and had no idea what was going on. I just thought it was cool to be hanging with my mom and family in the dark in the basement. For a 6 year old it was an adventure - like being in the Bat Cave.

30 years later I am being bombarded with images and clips from the protests in Iran that remind me of my youth. As someone who is not in the country and watching from overseas I must say that I am emboldened by what the people of Iran are doing these days. No proof has come out to show that the election was actually stolen, but the obvious signs do point to voter fraud. In breaking it down on some of my shows I've been saying that it seems in a country of 70 million people, Ahmadinejad got 75 million votes. Voter fraud? Divine intervention? You be the judge.

Anyway, I am writing this e-mail to express my solidarity with those within the country struggling to have their voices heard and their votes counted. It has been too long that the people of Iran have had to live like 5 year olds being monitored by "adults" who tell them what to wear, how to act and what they can and cannot do. The last time I was in Iran was just over 10 years ago and I remember leaving my mother country feeling depressed. I remember coming back to the US and making sure I appreciated the freedoms that we have here. I remember thinking that the people of the world should be guaranteed these basic freedoms which do not exist in Iran.

I hope that you will keep this struggle in your mind and support them in any way you can. I have changed the image on all my facebook and myspace accounts to the image attached here. Please do support by at least using this image on your facebook and myspace pages. I also know that many peaceful rallies are taking place around the world in support of this movement. If you have the time please do join in these marches.

Last, but not least here are a few links that I found interesting and helpful:

1. This video comes from Iran where at night the reformists are yelling "God is Great" in support of the movement. The woman speaking on the video breaks down towards the end and she keeps asking "where is this?" Responding to herself "This is my country Iran." It's actually very moving if you can have a farsi speaking friend translate.

[I think the translation is as follows (this isn't mine by the way; I found it next to the YouTube video).

Tonight the sound of God is Greater can be heard louder and louder than previous nights
Where is this?! Where is this place where everything has been blocked?
Where is this place where people are just shouting the name of God?
Where is this place where the sound of God is Greater can be heard louder and louder?
Everyday Im just waiting to see if there will be more and louder voices at nights?
My body trembles
...and I wonder if God trembles too?
Where is this where weve been imprisoned so innocently?
Where is this where no one gives us a helping hand?!
Where is this place, where we are getting our voices heard worldwide through our silence?
Where is this place where the blood of its young people is shed on the streets..., where people stand and pray on their blood?
Where is this place where its people are named Gangsters & Thugs?!
Where is this?
This is Iran. This is my land and yours!
This is Iran]

2. This video is a Brazilian expert on Iran who breaks the situation down very well.

This last one is a song that a friend of mine put together. It has some explicit lyrics, but I hope you enjoy.

All the best,


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Thursday, June 18, 2009

CRIKEY: Your unpronounceable surname could cost you that job ...

You know, the problem with them migrants is that they just won't integrate. They come to our country and expect to have everything their way. They want to have their own religious schools in our suburbs, something they have no right to do even if we've been doing it for decades. And when they won't integrate properly, they wonder why they get murdered or bashed. And what really cheeses me off is that they just come here and go on the dole. And them Lebanese are the worst of all. Biggest dole bludgers on the planet. I mean, what's to stop them from applying for jobs?

Actually, there's not much to stop them from applying, though it may not take them very far. Why? The answer might be found in a new study published by three researchers from the Economics Program of the Research School of Social Sciences at the Australian National University (ANU).

That study was based on:
... several large-scale field experiments to measure labour market discrimination across different migrant groups in Australia.

The main experiment involved:
... sending 4,000 fictional resumes to employers in response to job advertisements.

And the result?

We found economically and statistically significant differences in callback rates, suggesting that ethnic minority candidates would need to apply for more jobs in order to receive the same number of interviews.

The findings showed a person with distinctly Chinese-sounding name had to submit 68% more applications to get the same number of interviews as a person with an Anglo-Saxon- sounding name.

In the case of a person with a Middle Eastern sounding name, the figure was 64%. The results were tabulated by gender, by city (Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane) and according to the nature of the job (waitstaff, data entry, customer service and sales).

The study cites the experience of one Ragda Ali from Sydney who says that she:
... applied for many positions where no experience in sales was needed -- even though I had worked for two years as a junior sales clerk. I didn't receive any calls so I decided to legally change my name to Gabriella Hannah. I applied for the same jobs and got a call 30 minutes later.

After reading all this stuff, I wondered how many times in my own working career I'd been denied an interview because of an employer making assumptions about my ethnic background. Or perhaps I should have Europeanised my name? Maybe I'll change my name to Ivan Albrechtsen- Bolt and try my luck applying for a job at, say, News Limited. Heck, at least they'll be assured I'm not one of those people with genetic defects arising from cousin-marriage.

That such structural discrimination persists across the workforce in a nation where 1 in 4 people was born outside Australia is a disgrace. In our 21st century allegedly globalised Australian economy, people with chink and rag-head sounding names still find it much harder to get a job.

First published in Crikey on 18 June 2009.

UPDATE I: Gabriel McGrath writes on Crikey:

The study Irfan Yusuf that linked to makes me ashamed to be an Australian. Yes, that's a cliché, but WOW is it true in this case. "The findings showed a person with distinctly Chinese-sounding name had to submit 68% more applications to get the same number of interviews as a person with an Anglo-Saxon-sounding name." That -- is -- disgusting. With over 4000 resumes sent out - "margin of error" doesn't come into it. Nor, it seems, was there a "margin of decency"... from many employers.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

HUMOUR/COMMENT: Just how hard is it for us wogs to get a job?

Seriously, migrant people need to learn to integrate, speech English and adopt Australian values. At least that's what we're so often told. But does integration extend to changing one's name?

Well, some ANU researchers have found that having a non-Anglo name can make it much harder to get a job.

The study, conducted by ANU economists Professor Alison Booth and Professor Andrew Leigh from the Research School of Social Sciences, in conjunction with researcher Elena Varganova, estimated discrimination by sending over 4000 fake CVs to employers in response to job advertisements in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

“By varying the names on the CVs, we were able to estimate precisely the extent of hiring discrimination,” said Professor Booth. “Because all other characteristics are held constant, we can be sure that we are really measuring discrimination.

“To get the same number of interviews as an applicant with an Anglo-Saxon name, a Chinese applicant must submit 68% more applications, a Middle Eastern applicant must submit 64% more applications, an Indigenous applicant must submit 35% more applications, and an Italian applicant must submit 12% more applications.

You can read the full 47-page paper here. I'd love to see how the ayatollahs of ethnic and religious chauvinism, the Bolts and ALbrechtsens and Blairs and Akermans and Sheehans of our media, will get around this evidence in their attempts to prove Australia is a racism-free zone. Or maybe they could try and get a job in India ...

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

COMMENT: The Oz gives space to nonsensical analysis ...

Some years ago, I had an interesting exchange in Crikey with a former opinion editor of The Australian concerning what I saw as his refusal to allow space on his page for those who looked beyond his narrow binary view of a world divided into:

... two allegedly monolithic entities of ‘conservative Islam’ and ‘Western modernity’.

Could this judgment also be made about Mr Switzer’s successor? Certainly her choice of author to comment on President Obama’s recent address in Cairo about relations between the United States and Muslim-majority states seems curious to say the least.

Former Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Magaan has visited Australia on a number of occasions. I myself had the opportunity to interview her when she was the guest of honour at the Sydney Writers’ Festival some years back. Hirsi Magaan is a strident critic of Islam, her ancestral faith. She herself is an ardent evangelical atheist of the Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens mould.

Being an atheist and an ex-Muslim shouldn’t disqualify Hirsi Ali from commenting on the speech of a politician. But one wonders how seriously we should take someone quite happy to make remarks like this:

Nowhere in the world is bigotry so rampant as in Muslim countries.

How do we define and measure bigotry? How does Hirsi Magaan measure it? Does it include making crude generalisations about hundreds of millions of people? And what evidence does she have of widespread chronic bigotry across over 50 Muslim-majority states? The examples Hirsi Magaan provides are: Saudi Arabia , al-Qaida, Al-Azhar University and Iran ’s leadership. A monarchy, a terrorist organisation, a university and a country whose political establishment is at war with itself. Imagine if people judged the West and/or the "Christian world" by pointing to the KKK, Fox News and Moore Theological College.

And what about Indonesia ? How is it that Hirsi Magaan, a former Dutch MP, doesn’t regard a former Dutch colony as significant enough to mention in her column? Is Ms Hirsi Magaan prepared to convince Indonesia’s religious authorities, not to mention science teachers in pesantrens (traditional religious boarding schools), that there are “edicts of sharia law that reject scientific inquiry”? Or will she tell this to Malaysia ’s imam-cum-astronaut with a straight face? Or will she ignore developments in Iran relating to embryonic stem cell research as shown in the video below?

The Oz's opinion editor, back in February 2007, gave a most generous and uncritical profile of Hirsi Magaan, suggesting that her hysterical views – including that “Islam … discourages the work ethic that is the motor for economically successful societies” – were views that “have added weight because they are not those of an outsider or a dilettante”.

One wonders what kind of editor would give credence to a suggestion that 14 centuries of religious and cultural heritage have discouraged a work ethic and deterred economic development. One wonders how Hirsi Magaan and Weisser would respond to the paper of Chris Berg and Andrew Kemp published in the IPA Review in 2007 entitled Islam and the Free Market.

And as for the notion that former "insiders" always make good sources, should I take for granted the words of a jaundiced ex-Jew about Judaism just because she too isn’t an outsider?

People’s beliefs, cultures, communities, leaders and/or countries can and should and must be subjected to scrutiny and criticism. But there is a difference between criticism and ill-informed bigotry. By providing space for even such extreme and jaundiced opinions, certain segments of our national broadsheet are doing disservice to their readers.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

IRAN: Post-election situation ...

If I was able to read and understand Farsi, I'd be able to provide a more comprehensive analysis. Instead, like most readers, I'll have to rely on English-language sources.

An excellent summary of analyses can be found at the Huffington Post website here. You'll find video of opposition protests in various cities of Iran as well as the various messages being sent out by Iranians on the ground via blogs and twitter. Here is a brief summary:

[01] Incumbent president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad has claimed victory. His main rival, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has rejected the claim, alleging mass vote-rigging.

[02] Mousavi and other opposition figures have apparently been placed under house arrest.

[03] The Iranian authorities have closed down twitter and other social networking facilities that have been used throughout the campaign to great effect, mainly by the opposition.

[04] There is talk of the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamanei, being overthrown.

[05] Ahmedinejad claims the election was free and fair, and accuses forces outside and inside Iran and subjecting the country to "psychological warfare".

[07] Check out this video from MSNBC/ITV showing protestors and reporters being attacked by police:

[08] Demonstrators are shouting the slogan of "Allahu Akbar" (trans: God is greater). No, they're not terrorists. It will be interesting to see how neo-Cons in the US respond to this, especially given that a fair few of them were supporting Ahmedinejad.

[09] Iranian groups in the US are asking the US government and lawmakers to refrain from openly commenting on the Iranian election result for fear that the Ahmedinejad camp will use US support to discredit the opposition.

[10] Videos are being placed on You-Tube showing a veritable intifadeh by Iranian protestors against police, the latter behaving in a similar manner to Israeli troops. It's not a good look.

[11] Here's an excellent report from Channel 4. Mousavi describes the election as "a dangerous charade". Protestors are screaming out "death to the government", not "death to America".

[12] Here's an excellent analysis from Juan Cole.

[13] One more video report from MSNBC including a short interview with their correspondent in Tehran.

And another video ...

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Friday, June 12, 2009

COMMENT: More thoughts on free speech and hate-speech

Geert Wilders, a Dutch far-Right wacko recently elected to the EU parliament, was invited to speak at a number of synagogues in the United States, his tour partly organised by the Middle East Forum with which this chap is associated. And what is the agenda of Wilders' party? Well, part of it includes ...

The PVV wants to close the borders to people who belong to one particular religion, and ban the houses of worship and schools for one population group. Wilders once told De Limburger newspaper that he wants to "tear down the mosques". He told HP/De Tijd newsweekly that "it is okay for the Netherlands to have Jewish and Christian school but not Islamic schools". In other words: pure discrimination.

Wilders has also said that his utopia is a Netherlands without immigrants, and that it is unacceptable that Dutch cities could one day have a majority of non-white people. He is also anti-democratic. He is the only member of his private party. PVV parliamentarians are not elected by the party but appointed by Wilders himself. The PVV meets behind closed doors in meetings where no one has the right to vote. So the main defining characteristics of an extreme-right party - nationalist, anti-democratic and racist - are all found in the PVV.

The party also likes to flirt with violence. Wilders has referred to his own parliamentary group as a "motley crew marching into parliament". He has said Moroccan football hooligans ought to be knee-capped, and that race riots are "not necessarily a bad thing".

... In the Netherlands, the Anne Frank Foundation researched the PVV and concluded that it was indeed an extreme-right party.

Janet Albrechtsen defended Wilders' right to free speech in a recent column, though she did acknowledge:

The Dutch MP with the flamboyant hair style has opinions that are surely offensive, perhaps hurtful and even hateful. You may say Wilders is wrong. Indeed, feel free to do so.

She didn't feel free to do so. Funny that.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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VIDEO: Some interesting responses from Jerusalemites to Obama's recent Middle East tour ...

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

OPINION: Repressive rule losing lustre in Iran?

It's not often the leader of the free world publicly acknowledges his country sabotaged the democracy of another country.

Yet this is exactly what United States President Barack Obama did during his speech in Cairo, billed as an address to the Arab and wider Muslim world.

And which country deserved this honourable mention? Why none other than Iran, referred to by Obama's predecessor George W. Bush as one of three nations making up the "Axis of Evil".

For many years, Iran has defined itself in part by its opposition to my country, and there is indeed a tumultuous history between us. In the middle of the Cold War, the United States played a role in the overthrow of a democratically elected Iranian government. Since the Islamic Revolution, Iran has played a role in acts of hostage-taking and violence against US troops and civilians.

It's little wonder the self-styled Islamic Republic of Iran has defined itself by opposition to the United States.

As Obama states, the US played a key role in the royalist coup that overthrew Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mosaddeq in August 1953.

US and British agents installed Iran's Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The West resumed its near unfettered access to Iran's oil.

The Shah was at first an enlightened monarch who focused on education and economic development. However, he succumbed to more dictatorial instincts, his ruthless secret police unleashing a brutal crackdown on any opposition, whether from leftist parties or from religious scholars led by the late Ayatollah Khomeini.

Not even the full backing of the United States could keep the Shah in power and he fled Iran in January 1979. Since the establishment of the Islamic Republic, Iran and the US have fought each other using proxies.

America's main agent was former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, who began a decade-long war against Iran in September 1980.

I was a teenager in Sydney at the time. The internet was not widely available, and our access to news was limited to whatever we were fed by local media.

We were told it was Iran that had invaded Iraq, and Saddam Hussein was a moderate democrat fighting the good fight against Iranian theocratic extremism.

There were other myths. Iran was just one Islamic hotspot in the world. The other was Afghanistan, where theocratic-minded tribal warlords were battling the military might of the Soviet Union.

America and the West were opposing Islamic theocracy in Iran and yet were supporting it in Afghanistan.

In mosques and Islamic centres across the Western world, including New Zealand and Australia, young Muslims were taught that the Iranian-style Islam was evil and anti-Western.

Meanwhile the Islam of Saudi Arabia and the Afghan mujahideen was presented as good and pro-Western. Iran's main proxies have been various Islamist political movements and militias that have struck US interests both directly and indirectly in various parts of the Middle East.

These include Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories and more recently the dominant faction in the democratically elected Government of Iraq.

The great irony of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime was the power vacuum was soon filled by America's sworn enemy.

American troops maintain security in a country effectively administered by Iranian proxies.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Iran's Islamic revolution. Iran has become a regional superpower, one of the few Middle Eastern nations with some kind of functioning democracy.

Yet the battle for Iran's future wasn't won by the religious elite in 1979. This week, reformists will battle the eccentric conservative President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad.

The reformists want to see a return to the liberal days of former President Mohammad Khatami.

Most Iranians are under 30. They are an educated generation that knows only a repressive revolution whose Basij or morality police regulate their lives.

Iranian Muslim youth aren't the only ones disillusioned with theocratic politics. Many young Muslims in the West like myself, once attracted to political Islam, have now become disillusioned in it.

At the same time, we feel disenchanted with Western attempts to manipulate it, then demonise it when it suits. When politicians attempt to co-opt religion, both religion and politics lose in the end.

* Irfan Yusuf's book, Once Were Radicals: My Years As A Teenage Islamo-Fascist, was published last month by Allen & Unwin. This article was first published in the New Zealand Herald on 11 June 2009.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

CRIKEY: Iranian elections: of mullahs, women and Jews

If you believe everything you read in the op-ed pages of The Australian or watch on Fox News, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Iran is a nasty dark country ruled by dark-skinned mullahs and populated by repressed dark-skinned women wearing dark burqahs chased by religious police everywhere they go. Only the Koran is read in school ... woops ... maddressas and each Friday citizens are drafted to participate in marches shouting chants of "Death to America" and "Death to the country Rupert Murdoch is no longer a citizen of".

But if you live in the real world, you’ll know that things in Iran are a little more complex. Iranians are currently going through a process both they and we take for granted -- an election campaign. Iranian elections aren’t exactly perfect and neither is Iranian democracy, but Iran is far more democratic than other “moderate” states (as in pro-Western) in the Middle East, most of whom are ruled by paramilitary dictators, presidents-for-life, kings and emirs happy to torture and kill terror suspects (especially domestic political opponents) at Washington’s behest.

Iran’s presidential election campaign has involved plenty of verbal biff. The main presidential rivals had a televised mass debate in which insults were thrown all round. Conservative candidate and incumbent Mahmoud Ahmedinejad accused centrist Mir Hossein Mousavi of being backed by a corrupt clerical cabal that have enriched themselves.

The head honcho of that cabal, former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, entered the campaign by writing an open letter to Iran’s Supreme Head Honcho, Ayatollah Khamanei, attacking him for not attacking Ahmedinejad for attacking Rafsanjani. Okay, it sounds better in Farsi.

But forget the mullahs. What about Iranian ladies? Which way will they vote?

Well, the electoral authorities may have ruled out even the most conservative female presidential candidates, but this hasn’t stopped many Iranian women from rallying around Iran’s first female university chancellor since the 1979 revolution, who goes by her maiden name and has been described by some as Iran’s future Michelle Obama. Dr Zahra Rahnavard, wife of opposition candidate Mousavi, has been happy to address huge rallies, often speaking on her husband’s behalf and calling for greater freedom for Iranian women.

What about that anti-Semite Ahmedinejad’s worst enemies and biggest victims? According to a leading Israeli newspaper, the vast majority of Iran’s 25,000 Jewish voters will support the man famous for allegedly calling for Israel to be wiped off the map.

Finally, if you’re really interested in the campaign, you can watch full coverage of the Iranian election from your PC at the state-funded but allegedly independent Iranian Press TV Channel. Or you can focus attention on a contest many Iranians will perhaps be far more interested in.

First published in Crikey on 11 June 2009.

Words © 2009 Irfan Yusuf

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Tuesday, June 09, 2009

VIDEO/POLITICS: Miscellaneous reports on the Iranian Presidential Election ...

Iranian reformists try new media to win votes

Political reformists in Iran have long accused Irib, the state-run broadcaster, of biased reporting against their organisations.

With the fate of the presidency up for grabs, many have turned to new media outlets including social networking sites and text messaging as a way of making themselves heard in a closely-fought campaign.

Al Jazeera's Alireza Ronaghi reports from Tehran on the race to master new technology and win Iranian votes.

Iranian women barred from presidential contest

Iran's president is being accused of lying to win votes with just four days to go before the country's election.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, one of the main challengers to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, says the incumbent is trying to sabotage his presidential campaign "unethically".

But women in Iran can only dream of contesting the presidential election. Alireza Ronaghi reports.

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Tuesday, June 02, 2009

UK/POLITICS: My, what charming people the BNP are ...

MP's from major British parties might be using taxpayers' money to pay for mowing their lawns or draining their moats. But when it comes to emulating neo-Nazis, they don't get much better than the far-Right British National Party (BNP).

The UK-based anti-fascist group Searchlight has exposed the ugly views of many BNP activists. Here is how the Observer reported Searchlight's findings:

... a Salford-based BNP candidate in the European elections had set his Facebook status to read "Wogs go home". Eddy O'Sullivan, 49, wrote: "They are nice people - oh yeah - but can they not be nice people in the fucking Congo or... bongo land or whatever?" O'Sullivan, who also joined an internet group called "F*ck Islam", denied that the comments were racist and insisted they were made in private conversations between individuals. "I also may have had a drink at the time," he added ...

... the anti-fascist organisation Searchlight has spent months infiltrating the far right's network of websites and chatrooms and found that many BNP activists share O'Sullivan's views.

They include:

• Jeffrey Marshall, senior organiser for the BNP's London European election campaign. Following the death of David Cameron's disabled son Ivan, Marshall claimed in an internet forum discussion: "We live in a country today which is unhealthily dominated by an excess of sentimentality towards the weak and unproductive. No good will come of it."

Later, in response to comments made by others on the site, Marshall is alleged to have written: "There is not a great deal of point in keeping these people alive after all." He said the comments were private and some had been paraphrased and taken out of context. He admitted making the former comment, but said he could not recall making the latter one in an email to the forum, a copy of which is in the Observer's possession.

• Garry Aronsson, Griffin's running mate for the European parliament in the North West, posts an avatar on his personal web page featuring a Nazi SS death's head alongside the statement, "Speak English Or Die!" Aronsson proclaims on the site: "Every time you change your way of life to make immigrants more comfortable you betray OUR future!" He lists his hobbies as "devising slow and terrible ways of paying back the Guardian-reading c*nts who have betrayed the British people into poverty and slavery. I AM NOT JOKING."

• Barry Bennett, MEP candidate for the South West, posted several years ago under a pseudonym in a white supremacist forum the bizarre statement that "David Beckham is not white, he's a black man." Bennett, who is half-Jewish according to the BNP's deputy leader, Simon Darby, continued: "Beckham is an insult to Britishness, and I'm glad he's not here." He added: "I know perfectly respectable half-Jews in the BNP... even Hitler had honorary Aryans who were of Jewish descent... so whatever's good enough for Hitler's good enough for me. God rest his soul."

• Russ Green, MEP candidate for the West Midlands, posted recently on Darby's web page: "If we allowed Indians, Africans, etc to join [the BNP], we would become the 'British multi-National party' ... and I really do hope that never happens!" Darby said he echoed Green's sentiments.

• Dave Strickson, a BNP organiser who helps run its eastern region European election campaign, carried on his personal "Thurrock Patriots" blog a recent report of the fatal stabbing of a teenager in east London beneath the words "Another teen stabbed in Coon Town". The site also carried a mock-up racist version of the US dollar entitled "Obama Wog Dollar". Darby said the BNP did not endorse these comments and described them as "beyond the pale".

When confronted in the past about the extreme views of some of its members, the BNP senior hierarchy has often tried to dismiss them as unrepresentative of the party's core membership. But it appears that they run right to the top of the party.

Lee Barnes, the BNP's senior legal officer and one of Griffin's closest allies, has posted a video on his personal blog of a black suspect being beaten by police officers in the US and describes it as "brilliant". Barnes adds: "The beating of Rodney King still makes me laugh."

Barnes told the Observer his comments were "nothing to do with colour" but were merely a reflection of his belief that the police should have more powers to punish perpetrators of crime by "giving them a good thrashing".

Charming stuff. Time will tell if the Conservative Party goes down this path. As for the NSW Liberals ...

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