This is a presentation that I put together for the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) website:
In the aftermath of the politically motivated discrimination by Rotherham Council of UKIP supporting foster parents there has been much speculation about a shadowy organisation called Common Purpose. Richard Pendlebury asked some important questions about that organisation in a recent article in the Daily Mail. If what has been said about Common Purpose on a great many websites is true then it would certainly explain some of the things that happened to me.
Back in December 2011 Leeds City Council stated that the reason for my suspension from my job was as follows:
“…the council has received allegations that you may have engaged in political activities, which could be viewed as improper activities for an employee of the council to be engaging in, and contrary to the councils values and equal opportunities policies.”
Leeds City Council has never provided me with evidence that this was indeed the case. Perhaps “which could be viewed” just meant that the political activities that I was accused of engaging in were based on views that senior managers did not agree with. Of course if senior managers are allowed to determine the political views of their subordinates then democracy is rendered obsolete. Perhaps this is what Common Purpose means when it refers to a ‘Post Democratic’ society?
After 7 months of investigating my case all they could come up with was the following as a reason for sacking me:
“The council has concluded that your behviours and values are so different from the council’s values, that this is a fundamental breach of your employment contract.
The council strongly believes in its values and exists to serve the citizens of Leeds, your own beliefs and behaviours are in opposition to what the council stands for and because of this, the council has chosen to dismiss you without notice and without right of appeal.”
In other words you are sacked because we say so – is this what is meant by the common purpose phrase “Leading Outside Authority”. In terms of the values referred to, who decides what they are – Common Purpose? I certainly do not remember my local Council asking the public what the Council’s values should be! In any event, Leeds City Council did not even tell me which specific values were so different to their own. Perhaps if they had, many Council Tax payers in Leeds would have spoken out in my favour. Could it be that Council values are developed behind closed doors by a group of people who are both anonymous and unaccountable? If values are kept secret or not clearly defined then they are certainly not open to public scrutiny. Perhaps such values allow for open discrimination of people who are members of political parties such as UKIP or campaign against sharia on the basis of human rights!
The equivalent position in the private sector would be for the owner of a company to sack people for belonging to a trade union or socialist political party. It could be argued that the values of both are at odds with the values of the capitalist system on which the private sector is based. Of course there would rightly be an outcry if this sort of logic was applied and people were prevented from earning a living as a result. Should private sector employers be free to bully their workers into sharing their political views? Should employees of such companies be forced to become Conservatives?
Common Purpose does not seem to like Conservative ideas. What if a group of people who did not like socialism decided to set up a work based network designed to develop future leaders? What if members of such a group worked together to ensure that anyone who challenged their world view was made to fear for their livelihood, liberty, or ability to play a full and active party in society? What if people were sacked from their jobs for being unpatriotic? People would rightly call such a regime a tyranny and demand immediate change.
When I turned up for the meeting at which I would eventually be dismissed a Police Chief Inspector was present and intending to be present at the meeting even though it was an internal meeting. Did this police officer and the Council officer meet as part of the Common Purpose ‘old boy’ network. Unfortunately the Chatham House rules that Common Purpose applies means that I will probably never find out.
Thankfully I turned up to this meeting with a lawyer and it was acknowledged that the police officer had no right to be in the meeting. I can only assume that the police officer was there to intimidate me, or to use a phrase that they often use themselves – to cause alarm and distress. As it turned out the sole purpose of the meeting was to dismiss me and only lasted a few minutes – goodness knows what had actually been planned prior to my lawyer changing the game!
Fear seems to be something that public bodies increasingly use against the people they are supposed to serve. The aims of those responsible for the Rotherham scandal undoubtedly wanted frighten those who were naturally opposed to their agenda and did not anticipate such a vociferous reaction. Their approach is a classic scenario involving the demonization of ‘the other’.
The application of fear was applied in my case, not just to me but to any other person who wanted to oppose sharia yet at the same time work for a local authority. The message sent out was clear – if you work in the public sector and oppose sharia then you will be sacked. Why local authorities want to encourage something like sharia is beyond me – perhaps it is a case of high officials not bothering to do due diligence about what sharia actually is! It is clearly not something that promotes equality of opportunity. In Rotherham the intended message was also clear. If you are a member of UKIP, which we do not like, then you cannot be foster parents! There are certainly parallels in both cases with the anti-communist ‘witch hunts’ organised Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s against those deemed ‘unpatriotic’.
Of course it is very easy to dismiss justifiable concerns by labeling people ‘conspiracy theorists’. There seems to be a lot of such labeling going on in relation to Richard Pendlebury’s Daily Mail article.
However, if everything is a conspiracy theory then how can actual conspiracies that are working against the public interest be revealed? How can the powerful be held to account when bad behaviour is explained away as a mere conspiracy theory? If there is a shadowy network operating behind the scenes how can we be sure that inquiries into matters of public concern are anything other than cover-ups? The Rotherham scandal is probably not an isolated case, but the inevitable cover up is probably more likely than solving the problem of politically motivated discrimination across the public sector. Common Purpose does appear to be an organisation that should be subject to an independent inquiry, but is such an inquiry even possible if key positions are occupied by Common Purpose ‘graduates’?
It seems that if you don’t share the political views of senior managers you have no right to work for or even benefit fully from the public sector organisations that they control. Those who hold high official positions may claim to represent the whole community but clearly many of them do not. There definitely seems to be a politicised agenda at work in the public sector in the UK. This is an irrefutable abuse of power and is quite sinister.
When it comes down to it, as the Rotherham issue demonstrates, it is the senior officials themselves who cannot leave their politics at the office door. They are the ones with the power to sack their subordinates, even without a proper hearing! Indeed it seems that they are in fact employed specifically for their politics. These are people who can and do significantly influence decisions and determine what services people receive – unlike lowly administrators like me. Yet the senior officers get away with such abuses of power and these abuses actually seem to be official policy. When the furore over the Rotherham scandal dissipates after the forthcoming by-election then things will probably settle back down to business as usual in which modern day Torquemadas can do their work.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more information contact: Chris Knowles: Email: email@example.com Tel: +44(0)7805 185214
Anti-Sharia Activist Takes Leeds City Council To Tribunal
5 November 2012, Wakefield, UK: Chris Knowles a human rights activist from the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) has confirmed that he has initiated Employment Tribunal proceedings against Leeds City Council. Mr Knowles’ case for unfair dismissal is scheduled to be heard by the Employment Tribunal on 13 March 2013. Mr Knowles who is assisted by the United States based The Legal Project, an activity of the Middle East Forum, said:
“The action taken against me by Leeds City Council is an outrageous and unacceptable attack on my fundamental human rights. The right to freedom of expression is an essential part of any democratic society. Leeds City Council conducted itself in the manner of a tyrant engaged in Star Chamber justice. The Council’s action is both vindictive and politically motivated. It is the equivalent of being dismissed for engagement in Trade Union activities.”
Mr Knowles began his work with the Council in February 1996. He worked in the Governor Support Service from 1 September 1997 until his dismissal on 2 August 2012. He was not employed in a politically restricted post and until his dismissal he had no disciplinary charges or findings against him. He was suspended from work in December 2011:
“because the council has received allegations that you may have engaged in political activities, which could be viewed as improper activities for an employee of the council to be engaging in, and contrary to the councils (sic) values and equal opportunities policies.”
Sam Nunberg, Director of The Legal Project, sees Mr. Knowles’ s eight month suspension as faulty. “The Leeds City Council suspended Mr. Knowles based on shoddy journalism and mere innuendo. The Council had no qualms with keeping Mr. Knowles in limbo and unaware of his financial future all because he exercised his universal right of peaceful assembly and association,” said Mr. Nunberg.
After his eight month suspension, Mr. Knowles was summoned to a meeting to hear the results of the Council’s investigation on 2 August 2012. He expected either to be told he could return to work or to be presented with a specific disciplinary charge supported by evidence. Instead he was summarily dismissed without due process – and without the right to appeal. On 3 August he received a letter giving the following explanation for his dismissal:
“the council has concluded that your behaviours and values are so different from the council’s values, that this is a fundamental breach of your employment contract.”
No information was provided to Mr Knowles outlining what exactly he was alleged to have done that was in breach of his contract of employment. On 10th August 2012 a Barrister acting on behalf of Mr Knowles sent an email to Leeds City Council asking the following questions:
- Precisely what “behaviours” does Leeds City Council allege that Mr Knowles has engaged in that the Council regards as incompatible with employment by the Council? Please specify dates and places
- Precisely what part(s) of Mr Knowles contract of employment do you allege he has broken?
- Under what part of the disciplinary code applying to employees of Leeds City Council do you claim to have dismissed Mr Knowles?
- What, if any, part of the Staff Code of Conduct do you allege Mr Knowles has breached?
- What are the “values” held by Mr Knowles that Leeds City Council allege are so different to the values of Leeds City Council as to constitute a fundamental breach of his contract of Employment?
- What are the “values” of Leeds City Council which the Council allege are so different to the values of Mr Knowles as to constitute justification for summary dismissal of Mr Knowles ?
- In what part of Mr Knowles contract of employment, or elsewhere, are the “values” of Leeds City Council set out?
- Where in Mr Knowles contract of employment does it specify that his “values” as opposed to his actions have to conform to the values of Leeds City Council?
The email was acknowledged but the questions have never been answered. Is this Leeds City Council’s approach to transparent local governance? While Mr Knowles has not been afforded any proper explanation as to why his position was terminated, helooks forward to receiving answers during the Employment Tribunal proceedings.
Censored works shown for the first time in the City of Freedom – London.
For the fourth time the annual festival will take place at the Unit24 Gallery on London’s South Bank. Artists from 30 countries around the world have entered their work into the competition this year. During the festival the works of 36 artists will be shown from countries spanning the globe including Cuba, Pakistan, China, Poland, Afghanistan, UK, Italy and USA.
“Artists using mediums such as video, installation, painting and sculpture openly debate issues that are usually swept under the carpet.’ It is important to remember that our society takes freedom for granted. Being interested in ‘the next big thing’ we forget that what we have was fought for and has to be protected.” – says Agnieszka Kolek, KM Curator.
The exhibition’s message comes across strongly with Sarah Maple’s work “Inaction is a weapon of mass destruction”. Invited to be a Special Guest Artist, Sarah decided to confront the viewer with their own reflection. ‘It is like everyone can be an activist in their everyday lives through small acts.’ – says Sarah.
“Real change comes about by challenging and dissenting not by appeasement and silence. It comes about by breaking taboos and pushing aside that which is deemed sacred and art is such an important way of doing this. As Ai Wei Wei says, “if we don’t push, nothing changes.” says Maryam Namazie, One Law for All’s Spokesperson.
‘We should have no illusion that Twitter or Facebook will free us.’ –says Marianna Fox, Assistant Curator. ‘On Friday, 9 November there is a special screening of “Ai Weiwei Never Sorry” documentary by Alison Klayman. It shows how even in a global village connected through social media Chinese authorities could persecute the artist by beating him up in secret detention, bulldozing his newly built studio and limiting his access to the outside world. Artists, such as Ai Weiwei pay the highest price for making meaningful art. ’ – comments Marianna.
The Festival does not only promote art dissidents from aboard. ‘There is an eminent danger that our society is censoring itself without obvious totalitarian states imposing laws upon us.’ – says Agnieszka.
‘Many galleries were afraid to exhibit my installation “PO. Box to Allah” in their spaces. I have never given up hope to make a statement on freedom of religion and freedom of speech wherever on earth people will be.’ – says Johan van der Dong, artist from Holland.
This year’s festival has got a strong video presence. To highlight a few Liz Gascoigne’s ‘No Spring without Women’ is hypnotic while Paul Harrison’s work “The Sea of Parity”, who graduated only in 2011, leaves the viewer with the strongest image possible.
One Law for All’s Passion for Freedom is non partisan and voluntary organization gathering professionals working in arts and media. The first edition of non-profit London Festival took place in 2009. The annual celebration of Freedom takes place in a spacious, contemporary gallery next to Tate Modern.
Shortlisted artists: Amiri Hangama, Osailys Milian Avila, Maureen Bachaus, Eskild Beck, Azadeh Behroozi, Eliza Bennett, Gary Betts, John Bonafede, Elisabeth Sarianne Breuker, Victoria Burgher, An Deceuninck, Fiona Dent, Johan van der Dong, Alice Eikelpoth, Ferri Farahmandi, Luciana Franzolin, Liz Gascoigne, Helen Gorrill, Georges Hala, Paul Harrison, Haleh Jamali & Monica de Ioanni, Joy Johnson, Matthew Lloyd, Peter Leigh, Michael Massaro, Wendy Nelson, Renato Niemis, Pacorrosa Cuevas Rosa, Abdullah Qureshi, Ricky Romain, Sausan Saulat, Schgor Francesca, Maria Strzelecka, Stephanie Taugner, Al Teleki, Matylda Tracewska
Private View: 3 November 6.30 – 9.30pm
Exhibition runs: 3 – 10 November
Opening times: Mon – Fri 9 – 6pm Sat 10-2pm
One Law for All http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/
Passion for Freedom www.passionforfreedom.co.uk
Yesterday I undertook an interview as part of the Personal Journeys Toward Difficult Truths: Understanding Islam, Understanding the West series. I was invited to appear in this series following my sacking from my job with Leeds City Council. It seems that I was sacked as a result of my human rights work in opposition to sharia.
You can register to gain access to the interview series at: http://www.worldtruthsummit.com/index.html
Worldtruthsummit.com says the following about the series:
“This teleseminar series features interviews with 20 people who have made major contributions toward a factual understanding of Islam – meaning, they have cared and dared to really look into the Qu’ran and Islam. They have also had to face facts about the West. And they have acted to increase awareness and to protect human rights, like the right to freedom of speech, like our right to flourish.”
In the interview I talked about my background, about why I became involved in opposing sharia, and about my sacking from my former job working with school governors in Leeds.
Many steadfast defenders of liberty feature in the series and it was an honour to be part of the same series of interviews.
An organisation with that I am significantly involved with will once again be standing up for freedom at a meeting organised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation (OSCE) in Warsaw. I have served as a Director of the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) and in 2009 I took part in this Annual Human Rights Conference.
The current conference in Warsaw, the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, opened yesterday and runs until 5 October. The conference is an opportunity for NGO’s to present ideas on an equal footing to the representatives of member states. This year it is even more important to ensure that we get our message for freedom and tolerance across. This year freedom of speech is in great danger. The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has been lobbying for a global blasphemy law for many years and now it seems that Western leaders are about to cave in and sacrifice our right to freedom of expression.
Attempts to further restrict freedom of expression are especially dangerous because the right to freedom of expression is what guarantees all other freedoms. If you can’t talk truth to power then you are living in a totalitarian tyranny. Since freedom of expression guarantees freedom of religion and not the other way around organisations such as the OIC, despite their rhetoric, are a danger to both freedoms.
I wish those who will be on the ground representing ICLA and its partners at the meeting every success in their important endeavours.
Information about ICLA’s current and past missions to the OSCE can be found HERE.
Last night I entered a discussion on LinkedIn the title of which was No to War with Iran. The article that introduces the discussion refers to a position put forward by the distinguished political scientist Kenneth Waltz that that if Iran had nuclear weapons it would become a more responsible international actor on the world stage. I must admit that back in my days as a socialist I myself toyed with such an idea – it would after all be a thumb in the nose to the Great Satan! With the coming of political maturity, my delusions on this matter have disappeared (socialist hostility toward America is perhaps a subject suitable for a future blog post).
While I have great respect of Waltz who was the founder of structural realism, a very rational strand of international relations theory, I disagree with him on this issue. In a world of rational actors his theories are correct, but today’s world is not rational, we have appeasement minded political leaders in the West combined with religious zealotry in the Middle East. This means that state actors are unlikely to behave as traditionally expected.
Waltz apparently cites Pakistan, a country that harboured Osama bin Laden, as a responsible nuclear power – a position that would even stretch the credulity of the hopelessly naive. Pakistan is an extremely unstable country on the brink of an Islamist takeover and if that finally occurs, nuclear proliferation will assume a scale and a horror hitherto unimaginable. The Cuban Missile Crisis would be a happy memory!
A key factor that Waltz obviously does not factor into his analysis is the bitter Sunni-Shiite schism that still plays a central role in the internal politics of Islam. When one recognises that religious attitudes in the region are similar to those of the Europe of the 16th century the danger is apparent. It must also be remembered that Shiite Muslims are often persecuted in the Sunni world – tensions between the two strands of Islam are very high indeed. Sunni Islam regards Shiites as dangerous heretics and we all know from Europe’s past where that can lead.
To that already dangerous position is added a worrying recent development – the Western backing of the Muslim Brotherhood via the ‘Arab Spring’. Ultimately this has created a situation where have an extremist Shiite Iran facing countries now run by the equally extremist Muslim Brotherhood. It is not unlikely that major conflict between these two grouping will take place. If Iran acquires nuclear weapons then it is inevitable that Saudi Arabia and the new Islamist states in North Africa will quickly acquire a nuclear weapons capability perhaps via Pakistan.
Add to this the rivalry between NATO and Russia and we have a very dangerous situation indeed. Proxy wars between NATO and the Warsaw Pact were common during the Cold War, but those did not involve nuclear armed proxies. Of course, it is quite possible that nuclear armed Third World countries would deter the practice of mounting proxy wars but this would not prevent escalation among the mutually antagonist Third World states themselves. Western interventionism in North Africa for the purpose of putting Russia at a strategic disadvantage has been a foolhardy move that may serve the interests of Western ‘elites’ but is severely detrimental to the Western public.
Added to the ‘Great Game’ of great power geopolitics we have the vulnerability of the state of Israel and the rhetoric of Iranian regime in relation to it. Iran has repeatedly threatened the very existence of Israel. As recently as August 2012 Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said:
“The very existence of the Zionist regime is an insult to humanity” (ynetnews.com)
As a rational actor Israel is obliged to take the Iranian President at his word – after all this is a matter of national survival. With its very existence so openly threatened it is highly likely that Israel will act before Ahmadinejad acquires the means to follow through with his ambitions to see Israel’s end. An Iran on the brink of acquiring a nuclear arsenal will mean war whatever appeasement minded Western governments may wish. The apparent abandonment of Israel by the Obama Administration will mean that American pressure will mean nothing to a state on the verge of non-existence.
The main problem with even a successful war against Iran would be that it would dramatically increase the power of the equally dangerous Islamist regime of Saudi Arabia. Of course that is probably the aim of Western elites given their fawning attitude towards that country. However, such a scenario is likely to cause Russia to intervene in such a conflict. It appears that war on a grand scale is highly likely unless Iran gives up its nuclear ambitions. The three things that create this inevitability are Israel’s natural desire to defend itself from extinction, the desire of Western elites to consolidate their vision for globalisation and impose it on the world, and Russia’s natural inclination to prevent the expansion of Western power and influence. In the end someone will have to blink or the inevitable will occur!
The good folks over at Tundra Tabloids republished the above article and it inspired a response in the form of another article from one of the people over there. The article entitled ‘The Rivalries Between The Shi’tes And The Sunni Muslim Brotherhood: A Major Conflict Waiting For The Right Time To Erupt……..’ Talks about the increased tensions between Shiites and Sunnis in the Middle East. As I mentioned before I believe that the level of tension at least has been caused by Western support for the Muslim Brotherhood. Western leaders are rather adept at deflecting blame on anyone other than themselves. It is not the aftermath of a poorly made film that is causing mayhem in the region but the policies of feckless Western politicians.