Category Archives: Politics

Ahmadi Muslims gather in Hampshire to pray for peace

More than 38,500 Ahmadi Muslims from 115 countries poured into Oaklands Farm near Alton in Hampshire. They gathered to hear their leader’s message about true Islam, to recommit themselves to working for the good of humanity and to promote peace, tolerance and unity at home and abroad. This message is best captured by the motto of the Ahmadiyya Community which is: “Love for all, hatred for none.”

Paul Scully who is MP for Sutton and Cheam has a lot of Ahmadi Muslims in his constituency. He has known them since he was a councillor. He said: “The motto does just run through everything they do.”

Ahmadi Muslims
Paul Scully MP for Sutton and Cheam

Mr Scully remembered that after the massacre at the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, the Ahmadis threw open their Mosque in spite of the cartoons of the Prophet. They were among the first at the vigil in Trafalgar Square after the Westminster terror attack. He said: “It is practising what they preach, especially now in these febrile times. Anti-semitism, Islamaphobia, regional conflicts. Despite being a community that is persecuted, they still reach out to achieve their motto which is peace around the world… All they want is the ability to worship freely with respect.”

Ahmadi Muslims believe in the Messiah and accept Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, a 19th century spiritual reformer from India, as the Messiah awaited by all major religions. Other Muslims disagree.

Ahmadiyya
Farooq Aftab is the UK Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Youth

Farooq Aftab is the UK Vice President of the Ahmadiyya Youth. He said: “There is no contradiction between being Muslim and being British. There is no religious freedom in Pakistan, the UK is more Islamic than Pakistan because the foundations of society are more in line with true Islam. Islam teaches tolerance, respect for others and serving humanity. No Ahmadi has ever been radicalised anywhere in the world.”

Ahmadi Muslims
Bernadette Khan, Mayor of Croydon and Mr Khan

Councillor Bernadette Khan is the Mayor of Croydon. She has worked with Ahmadi women as a social worker and has friends in the community. Mrs Khan said: “I think we (human beings) create the barriers in any town, village or setting (workplace etc.) Croydon is very diverse, it’s also very rich, and it benefits from the diversity, all of our communities benefit. For us diversity is a way of life.”

Anthony Williams is the Chairman of East Hampshire district. He has lived in Hampshire for 42 years, been a parish councillor for 21 years and is the longest serving councillor in the district at the moment but he had not visited the Muslim convention called the “Jalsa Salana” until he became chairman.

It feels as if the Jalsa is one of Hampshire’s best kept secrets, now in its 13th year. Entry to the convention is open, you don’t need to be an Ahmadi Muslim nor wait for an invitation to attend. You do need to register your details and let the organisers know you are on site.

Williams
Anthony Williams, Chairman of E Hampshire District

Mr Williams said: “Everyone is welcome, there’s no trouble. It’s so well organised, more than 35,000 people, it’s delightful to be able to see it from the inside. I wish more people knew about the Ahmadis. It’s not well known, we hear about the controversy but you don’t hear the good news. It’s an uphill struggle because the media like drama.”

Councillor Mike Parsons, Mayor of Guilford, said he was impressed by the amount of charitable work the Ahmadiyya Community do including finding water in Africa. He said there is a widespread lack of understanding of Islam. Mr Parsons said: “It was a no brainer to come along. The Ahmadis are kind hearted. They volunteer from such a young age and take a pride in it. People realise how humble you should be. The work is absolutely amazing and delegates remembered my name.”

Ahmadi Muslim Councillor and former Mayor of Runnymede, Iftikhar Chaudhri was the first non-Christian mayor ever in that area. He talked about his motivation: “My father said change hearts and minds and work for communities that make the world better.”

He worked hard to organise 5000 Ahmadi Muslims and non-Ahmadi people in a walk for peace which raised £1 million for charity including St Peter’s hospital.

Councillor
Councillor Iftikhar Chaudhri, former Mayor of Runnymede with Mayor of Rushmore, Steve Masteron

Explaining his approach to his work, he said: “I never thought I was better than anyone else as mayor. I raised money for the Red Cross. Islam is everything I do and it only teaches good and respect for others. There is a major problem with the portrayal (of Islam) in the media. We have no other Muslim councillors. People that opposed me, later shook my hand. Whatever we do should be good for society.”

Leader of Runnymede Councillor Nick Prescott said the Ahmadi Muslims raised more money for charity than all the others put together. When there was a flood in the area, the Ahmadis provided food and distributed sand bags alongside a group of Hindus.

Derek Gardner, Mayor of Alton, said: “It’s absolutely enthralling. This is my first visit, it will not be my last.”

Mayor
Derek Gardner, Mayor of Alton with Atif Malik

Nasser Ahmad Khan, an Ahmadi Muslim convention delegate volunteers with Humanity First, the community’s disaster relief programme. He believes that the UK is one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries would not allow it.”

MP for Kingston and Surbiton Ed Davey said: “I have had many Ahmadi Muslim friends over many years. I am privileged to work and campaign with them. They represent the best of British society.”

As a visitor to the Jalsa Salana for the second time, I was struck by how much Ahmadi Muslims contribute to the economy and yet how humbly they serve as volunteers. It takes a team of 7,000 people to organise, and staff the convention but I was told firmly that no one is indispensable. And volunteering is not confined to the Jalsa. Their disaster relief charity, Humanity First, is also run by volunteers who give up annual leave and pay their own air fares to travel and help communities in need around the globe. Ahmadi Muslims know what it means to serve humanity, not just their own people, and they are always on the lookout for ways to contribute positively to society.

You can find out more about the Ahmadiyya Community in the UK here or by tuning into Voice of Islam Radio and by following events on social media @jalsaUK, #jalsaUK or #jalsaconnect.

Extracts from this article were published by the Alton Herald.

Education sets Ahmadi Muslims apart

For Ahmadi Muslims serving humanity means being an active citizen in society and honouring the government in their host country. I was invited to find out more at their annual convention, “the Jalsa Salana” in Hampshire, which welcomed more than 38,500 people from 115 countries.

Ahmadi Muslims
Press team at the Jalsa Salana 2018

Many of the people I met are British born: second or third generation and very grateful for the freedom of religion and freedom of speech which Britain affords, given their experience as a persecuted minority at home.

His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, the worldwide leader of the Ahmadiyya Community, had to leave Pakistan and move his headquarters to London in the 1980s because theological differences set him at odds with the majority of Muslims in Pakistan.

Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims as Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.

But in Britain the Ahmadi Muslims have prospered through hard work and respect for the country they now call home. Many are investment bankers, traders, property developers, IT consultants, even Nobel Prize winners, leaders in their field, because education is of paramount importance to them. If the government analysed the economic contribution of the Ahmadiyya community I think they would be amazed.

Nasser Ahmad Khan volunteers with Humanity First which is the Ahmadis’ disaster relief charity. He believes that the UK is still one of the greatest countries in the world, even post Brexit, because of the level of diversity, thought and tolerance. He said: “Our home countries wouldn’t allow it.”

education
Nasser Khan with his son

He agreed that the secret to the Ahmadis’ success is education. He said: “Our religion compels us to further our knowledge for the benefit of humanity. The Prophet Mohammed himself said every piece of knowledge is the lost property of a Muslim.”

Abdus Salam is perhaps one of the best examples of an Ahmadi Muslim serving humanity. I met his son, Ahmad Salam and grandson Osama Abdus Salam. They told me their father/grandfather was a physicist who studied in Cambridge where he became a fellow of St John’s College and he was appointed as the first professor of theoretical physics at Imperial College, London. He won the Nobel Prize for physics by proving that the weak nuclear and electromagnetic forces were actually one. He also worked extensively in hisnative Pakistan as chief scientific adviser to the President from 1961 until 1974.

Abdus Salam
Ahmad Salam, son of the late Abdus Salam

Mr Salam was appointed to head up science and technology at the United Nations and he was tasked with setting up an incubator to bring together the best brains in the world. As a result, an institute (ICTP) opened in Italy in 1964 which has trained 300,000 scientists from around the world including Vietnam, Brazil and Rwanda. It was founded on the conviction that without science and technology countries can’t grow and prosper economically.

serving humanity

Others volunteer with Humanity First which is a charity set up by the Ahmadiyya Community originally to provide disaster relief. However, its purpose has evolved and it now also focuses on longer term sustainable projects. It’s registered and active in 52 countries promoting healthcare, education, vocational training, water and safeguarding orphans. It builds and runs secular schools in disadvantaged areas where literacy is low and provides equal access irrespective of gender or social standing. The charity provides an opportunity for Ahmadi Muslims to use their skills and knowledge to serve humanity.

Brighton celebrates refugee week by creating a culture of welcome and safety

For twenty years Brighton and Hove has celebrated refugee week with events highlighting refugees’ contributions, resilience and creativity. It starts next Saturday 16 June.

However, Sanctuary on Sea’s own Crossing Borders Festival of music by refugees and asylum seekers has been running for several centuries. Sanctuary on Sea is a member of City of Sanctuary, a grassroots movement of local people and about 100 organisations across the UK who are committed to creating a culture of welcome and safety, especially for refugees seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.

People are invited to celebrate Refugee Week’s 20th anniversary by doing one of 20 Simple Acts, which are simple actions everyone can do to stand with refugees and bring people together in their communities. One of these is to define the word ‘refuge.’

After New Orleans was hit by hurricane Katrina back in in 2005, there was lots of talk about whether people who lost their homes should be called ‘refugees’.

Some thought that the word should only be used for people escaping war in ‘foreign’ countries. Others argued that by describing hurricane victims as refugees we would become more understanding of people facing hardship.

When Refugee Week launched Simple Acts in 2009, they invited people to create their own definitions of refuge. Organisers hoped that by thinking about what refuge means to each of us, they might help form a fresh perspective on the word ‘refugee.’

“Music of the Dispossessed,” is a concert that kicks off Refugee Week, at 7:30 pm in St Mary’s Church, Kemptown on Saturday 16 June. It will feature works by Arnold Schoenberg and Tchaikovsky.  Schoenberg was labelled as a degenerate by the Nazis and fled to America. Tchaikovsky spent much of his life travelling abroad, terrified of being exposed as a homosexual in his native Russia.

On 24 June hundreds of people from Brighton & Hove’s communities are expected to join a “Refugees Welcome” parade and come together for a free day of music, art and fun at the Dome and Museum called ‘Together.’ (This is not to be mistaken with the event in East Brighton and Hangleton and Knoll last month that celebrated random acts of neighbourliness.)

refugee week
Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas

‘Together,’ is a free day of art, music and theatre workshops, activities, film-showings, board games, table tennis and spoken word, which will be held at the Brighton Dome and Museum between 11am and 4pm. The day will start with a glittering parade through central Brighton led by the Hummingbird Project, with the support of Same Sky. To join the parade, meet outside the Jubilee Library at 9.30am.

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas will join the parade and speak at the “Together” event. She said: “The message of Refugee Week is more important today than ever. This is the reverse of the hostile environment and shows the Britain we aspire to be. The events taking place in Brighton and Hove this week once again demonstrate that here we have a long tradition of welcoming people to our city and celebrating the contribution they make.”

Between Saturday 16 June and Sunday 24 June, Sanctuary on Sea, the Sussex Syrian Community, the Hummingbird Refugee Project, EuroMernet, Refugee Radio, the Social Engaged Arts Salon and others will be presenting exhibitions, discussions and performances across the city.

Siriol Hugh-Jones, the Festival’s curator, said: “In setting up the festival I wanted to remind audiences that many of the composers they love to listen to were themselves displaced at one time or another, but we don’t think of them as refugees, we think of them as great composers.”

Other concerts at St Mary’s Church include “Travels of Song” at 7.30pm on 17 June and “Calcutta” at 7.30pm on 21 June. The first of these will feature recent songs written by detainees at Yarl’s Wood, the infamous immigration detention centre and early music by Catholic composers exiled under Elizabeth I.  “Calcutta”, the second concert, explores the cultural melting pot in 18th century Calcutta through story, song and puppetry.

Monika-Akila Richards, co-organiser of Refugee Week, said: “We are celebrating Refugee Week with a fantastic range of events and we’d love families and communities to join us. Everyone is particularly welcome to come to ‘Together,’ our free, flagship event in the Dome and Brighton Museum on 24th June. It’s an opportunity to come and enjoy being together and make Brighton and Hove proud.”

Hove MP calls for fuss-free travel for Pride and greater investment in Southern Rail with the Conservatives

Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade has written to Charles Horton who is the chief executive of Govia Thameslink to make sure the rail company puts on enough fully manned trains for Pride. Brighton and Hove’s Pride festival is probably the most important date every year in Brighton’s calendar, bringing millions of pounds into the city over the weekend and in the surrounding weeks.

Peter Kyle wrote: “Efficient, reliable and comfortable travel will be key to ensuring an enjoyable weekend. I have no doubt that you and your team fully understand this and are committed to getting the transport arrangements right over the Pride weekend, but I wanted to add my voice and emphasise how important this is for the organisers, for our city, and for the thousands of people taking part in Pride.

Please do keep me updated as the weekend approaches, and do let me know if there are any issues. I will of course offer whatever support I can to ensure that Brighton and Hove Pride 2018 is the joyful celebration we all want it to be, and if there’s anything I can do to help ensure there is fuss-free travel please don’t hesitate to contact my office.”

Pride
Peter Kyle with Ben Bradshaw MP

Mr Kyle’s voice is an important one because he co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Southern Rail with Conservative Sir Nicolas Soames MP. Mr Kyle and Mr Soames wrote last month to Joanna Whittington, Chief Executive of the Office of Road and Rail (ORR), emphasising the need for greater investment in the South East rail network. Plans for the future funding of the network are currently under consideration by ORR.

Mr Kyle and Mr Soames’s joint, cross-party letter stated: “Despite its importance, the service provided on the South East route is not currently able to meet passengers’ expectations, due in large part to the years of under-investment that the route has suffered.

“For many years, the South East has received disproportionately low levels of investment compared with other regions, and in Control Period 5, the route was allocated just 15% of national railway funding, despite carrying almost 30% of all passengers.

“Unsurprisingly, performance has suffered severely, and passenger satisfaction is very low. As MPs for the South East, we see the misery this causes to thousands of our constituents on a daily basis, and we are troubled by the damage done to the local economy.

“To address this historic imbalance, and in order to deliver the modern and reliable service passengers expect and deserve, we hope you will agree that sustained investment is the only solution.”

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton MP to stand down as co-leader of the Green Party

Caroline Lucas, Britain’s only Green MP, has announced that she will stand down as co-leader of the Green Party. Mrs Lucas, who has co-led the party for the last two years, says she is showing the ‘power of letting go’. The Green Party currently has a record number of councillors – and has overtaken UKIP to become the fourth party of England and Wales.

Mrs Lucas led the Green Party through the General Election last May. She took part in successful televised leaders’ debates which many commentators said she won. Along with her co-leader Jonathan Bartley, she then went on to spearhead the Greens’ local election campaign this year – seeing the party win seats across the country and breaking through onto an additional 6 local councils.

Under the current co-leadership of the Green Party, Mrs Lucas has pioneered a number of bold policies, and continued to offer an alternative to the establishment parties. Mrs Lucas and Mr Bartley have championed a shorter working week, trials of a Basic Income and reform of Britain’s outdated and ineffective drugs laws. She’s also cemented her position as a leading constructive critic of the Government’s environmental programme – which she says is little more than a ‘green veneer.’

co-leader
Brighton’s Green MP Caroline Lucas

Nominations for the Green Party leadership open this Friday 01 June – and the election will run over the summer. The new leadership team will be announced in September.

Mrs Lucas, co-leader of the Green Party, said: “I’m really proud of the party’s progress under our co-leadership. We have more councillors in more communities than ever before, we’ve put forward our boldest ever policies and we’ve challenged and weakened this callous Tory government. We’ve also started an internal party review that is already paying dividends – and will make the party more inclusive in its makeup and an even more successful electoral force.

“I won’t be seeking nominations to be a candidate in this year’s leadership election when the process starts on Friday – but instead will be focusing even more on work in Parliament and in Brighton. I believe that Jonathan and I have shown the power of working together, and that it’s now time for me to show the power of letting go.”

Hove MP supports stronger workplace protections for the terminally ill

Peter Kyle, MP for Hove and Portslade, has signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter this week, to support and protect any of his employees who become terminally ill.

The Dying to Work campaign was set up by the TUC following the case of Jacci Woodcook, a 58-year-old sales manager from Derbyshire, who was forced out of her job after being diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The campaign is calling for a change in the law to prevent the same thing happening to other working people.

Hove MP Peter Kyle said: “Workers should be able to expect support at an incredibly distressing time, and I am proud to have signed the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ charter to protect my employees. I will also be encouraging businesses in Hove and Portslade to follow suit and sign up to the TUC’s voluntary charter.

“In addition, I will be pushing for the Government to take action to ensure that every individual with a terminal illness receives the protection and support they deserve.”

terminally ill

Since its launch in April 2016, the TUC’s ‘Dying to Work’ Voluntary Charter now protects over half a million employees in companies such as Santander, Co-Op, Rolls Royce, Weetabix, Royal Mail and E.On. A number of public sector bodies including NHS trusts, police authorities and many local authorities have also signed up alongside trade unions and charities.

TUC Deputy General Secretary Paul Nowak said: “Serious illness is tough enough without having to put up with extra hassle at work. Everyone can surely agree that terminally-ill workers deserve protection.

“That’s why unions, MPs, employers and charities are coming together to ensure that workers get the support and protections they need when times are toughest.”

A Survation poll of over a thousand people found in March last year that 79% of respondents support a ‘protected period’ for terminally ill workers where they could not be dismissed as a result of their condition. Only 3% opposed the ‘protected period.’

Under the Equality Act 2010, employees in the UK cannot be dismissed because of their age, disability, race and pregnancy & maternity etc. These are known as ‘protected characteristics’ and the TUC proposes adding terminal illness to the list to prevent discrimination and unfair dismissal.

The TUC Dying to Work Voluntary Charter states:

  1. We recognise that terminal illness requires support and understanding and not additional and avoidable stress and worry.
  2. Terminally ill workers will be secure in the knowledge that we will support them following their diagnosis and we recognise that safe and reasonable work can help maintain dignity, offer a valuable distraction and can be therapeutic in itself.
  3. We will provide our employees with the security of work, peace of mind and the right to choose the best course of action for themselves and their families which helps them through this challenging period with dignity and without undue financial loss.
  4. We support the TUC’s Dying to Work campaign so that all employees battling terminal illness have adequate employment protection and have their death in service benefits protected for the loved ones they leave behind.

You can read more about the campaign and how to sign your employer up here.

Brighton MP calls for People’s Poll to reverse ‘calamitous Brexit’

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas is backing a second referendum as only a “people’s poll” will stop the government “marching us towards a national calamity” that is a hard Brexit.

The Greens’ joint leaders, Mrs Lucas and Jonathan Bartley, plan to spell out their message to colleagues today (Saturday 3 March) at the party’s spring conference in Bournemouth.

Mrs Lucas intends to accuse the government of “playing politics with peace in Northern Ireland” and she will urge Prime Minister Theresa May not to “sacrifice the Good Friday Agreement on the altar of an extreme Brexit”.

She is expected to tell the conference: “We win when we stand up for what we believe in – from the smallest issues in a local ward to the biggest issue of the day – Brexit.

Mrs Lucas will say: “Conference, we win when we stand up for what we believe in – from the smallest issues in a local ward, to the biggest issue of the day – Brexit. Let’s not forget that the EU was originally a peace project, forged in the wake of the destruction and devastation of the Second World War. Rising from the rubble left by bombs and armies. The principle that nations who share resources will value peace above war. And the cause of peace is at stake again today.

“The way this Government is playing politics with peace in Northern Ireland is reckless and indefensible. So our message to Theresa May is very clear: Sacrificing the Good Friday Agreement on the altar of an extreme Brexit is nothing short of criminal, and it must not be allowed to happen.”

Caroline Lucas
Caroline Lucas MP

In his leader’s speech, co-leader Jonathan Bartley will criticise Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn for pursuing a Brexit that will “hit poorest communities hardest,” and call on Labour to stand with Greens for a people’s poll on the final deal.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May made a key speech about Brexit at Mansion House. She said: “Reciprocal commitments to ensure fair and open competition, an independent arbitration mechanism, an ongoing dialogue, data protection arrangements and maintaining the links between our people.”

Mrs May said she wanted no tariffs and only one set of regulatory checks for goods (between Europe and the UK.) She repeated an earlier commitment to leave the customs union while avoiding a hard border in Ireland. She wants to limit barriers to movement of labour but to mirror free movement without signing up to it.

In response to Theresa May’s speech on Brexit today, Jonathan Bartley will say: “The Green Party will not give up on staying close to Europe. We are proud to be campaigning for people’s poll on the final deal that explicitly includes an option to remain part of the European Union. Because as we march towards the national calamity of Brexit, we know there is an alternative.

“But, far from acting like an official opposition, Labour risks being complicit in an unfolding disaster, and one felt first and foremost in those very communities it seeks to represent. Both Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are committed to a Brexit that will hit poorest communities hardest.

“And that’s why today I want to make a direct plea to the Labour frontbench. Show some leadership, put the national interest above your party interest, stand up for free movement, stand up for young people. And stand with all of us campaigning for a people’s poll on the final deal.”

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News yesterday ahead of the Green Party spring conference.

Almost a hundred Hove residents gathered to hear about a masterplan

A masterplan is to be drawn up for an area near Hove Station after a £70,000 grant was awarded to Brighton and Hove City Council.

The money will be used to create a masterplan and try to turn it into reality on land labelled the Conway Street Industrial Area.

Approximately 70 people turned out to hear about and share ideas for the masterplan – and to learn more about a masterplan for the surrounding area – to include hundreds of new homes as well business units.

They crowded into the Honeycroft centre, in Sackville Road, Hove, today (Saturday 17 February) where information boards were on display with visuals and commentary.

The masterplan aims to ensure that the regeneration is coordinated, not piecemeal. This will mean improving connectivity around the station and actively considering the design of public spaces, community facilities, community hubs, conservation and transport. It will form part of Neighbourhood Plan Part One which is a statutory document subject to inspection by a planning inspector and a referendum.

 

Look out for the Hove Station Area Improvement Group which is a subgroup of the Forum that will be meeting in March. If you want to get involved, email Hove Station Neighbourhood Forum for details.

Several residents raised the issue of school places. Liz Hobden, Head of city planning at Brighton Council, announced that they are introducing a community infrastructure levy (CIL) which will be a tariff for strategic infrastructure such as schools and roads. She explained the new tax will sit alongside developer contributions (section 106) but it will not be tied to a particular development. The Forum will be able to access a percentage of this money for local projects.

Alan Gillam raised concerns about the impact of development on local businesses, some of whom have been forced to close. Ms Hobden acknowledged the need to protect industrial spaces but she said the area is changing and there will be a displacement effect on businesses and people who work there.

masterplan

Another Hove resident, Amanda said: “It’s a really good exhibition but a real shame that there isn’t more affordable housing. It’s a real missed opportunity. It looks like it will be high end housing and gentrification.”

Others expressed concern about the density of housing but Carrie Hynds, Lib Dem parliamentary candidate for Hove, thought the industrial area on Conway St west of the station was an ideal place for high rise housing. She said the new homes must be affordable to local people, if they are unaffordable, they will make the housing crisis worse.

Ms Hobden said the council was trying to bring rents down in line with the local housing allowance which is 70% of market rates. Councillor Jackie O’Quinn said the government needs to stop the right to buy of council housing and reduce the discounts.

This article was also published by Brighton and Hove News.

PM Theresa May and UKIP threaten our democracy (radio interview)

Voice of Islam found a blog I wrote in 2014 about Nigel Farage: foe not friend and invited me to do a live radio interview. I believe that Mr Farage has appealed to prejudice and xenophobia and is responsible, with David Cameron, for Brexit. Mr Cameron couldn’t get his own house in order and Mr Farage said: “Take back control of our borders” which means retreat from the multiculturalism that makes Britain great and become Little England. It means less regulation, US monopolies dominating our markets, the British government having no legal defence i.e. TTIP, trading with nations regardless of their human rights record and less environmental protection.

I would far rather befriend Angela Merkel than Donald Trump. Unfortunately, Prime Minister Theresa May does not agree.

If you don’t have time to listen to the full interview, here are a few extracts of what I said:

First about Nigel Farage

The media in some way is complicit in painting a rosy picture of Nigel Farage as a self-made man prepared to stand up for Britain. He is provocative but smooth which makes for good television.

Part of the appeal of Mr Farage and Donald Trump is that they speak their mind and do not spin their message to what they think electors want to hear. However, they divide, exploit and can stir up prejudice and resentment, against immigrants, for example (cue the poster.) Mr Farage used to work buying and selling commodities in the city. He pretends to be “everyman,” which is disingenuous, and he likes a pint. He may like a pint but he is not everyman.

There is a lie at the heart of Farage’s politics, he says he is sticking up for ordinary people against the establishment. Would he do so if he really was living on the breadline? Very little attention is paid to the fact he is a wealthy self-made man pitching for popularity.

Political parties need to attack Mr Farage on his policies. (Mr Trump spared no punches when debating with Hillary Clinton in the US election.) For a long time, UKIP has been regarded as an eccentric side-kick. After the European elections in 2014, they were taken more seriously by the media but their policies have not been debated with the rigour of the other parties. UKIP’s appeal is insidious, appealing to the heart not the head. It should be tested by the heart, with cool logic and a forensic eye. One Parliamentary Candidate who failed 7 times to become an MP, should not get so much media attention.

At the moment, the EU are investigating whether UKIP misspent £400,000 of taxpayers in the EU to fund its electioneering in addition to the Conservative accounting fraud. The European Parliament has separately reported that funding meant for EU business was being diverted into funding UKIP in the UK and the UK referendum campaign. The Independent ran this article yesterday. Mr Farage said in their defence: “Every single eurosceptic party and group is wilfully being victimised by a system that really reminds me of the Soviet inquisitors.” I reported UKIP expenses under investigation in my 2014 blog. Their expenditure should be transparent and without the EU, we wouldn’t even know.

About Nigel Farage and Donald Trump

“And now he stands next to the president-elect of the United States, a man who got the job apparently because he wasn’t part of the establishment, because he wasn’t a politician, because he promised to break the system rather than play it.”

(Rebecca Nicholson, Guardian, 13.11.16)

This goes to the heart of my mistrust of Nigel Farage. Like Donald Trump his appeal is that he presents as anti-establishment. Mr Farage does not have a road map or he would have been elected by now, he has failed 7 times to become a Westminster MP but has hinted he may stand again… or he may be better received in America. It is interesting that Mr Farage stood down as leader after the EU referendum victory and it has become clear that the “Brexiteers” have no plan. They all jumped ship leaving Theresa May, a “remainer,” to take up the poisoned chalice of negotiating withdrawal from the EU. Shame on them, they would rather bully her than lead.

Number of living wage employers in Brighton reaches 350

Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce and the Living Wage Campaign are celebrating signing up 350 local businesses and organisations to pay employees a living wage.

At the moment, the Living Wage is £8.45 everywhere except London. The new rate will be announced on Monday (6 November.)

Five years ago Brighton Chamber started the Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign to encourage local businesses to pay employees the living wage which is slightly higher than the minimum wage.

The campaign aims to make the living wage the norm in the city, with social enterprises, charities and public sector organisations joining the campaign as well as businesses.

Apprentices and interns are exempt. The rate is calculated annually by the Centre for Research in Policy funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation to be the amount you need to have a decent life.

The mandatory minimum wage, now called the National Living Wage, is set by the government. This is currently £7.50 for people aged over 25. It is paid at a slightly lower rate for young people.

In October 2011 Councillor Bill Randall headed up a Brighton and Hove Living Wage Commission.

Brighton Chamber then agreed to lead the campaign, initially for two years in April 2012. It is still going strong.

Sarah Springford, director of Brighton and Hove Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are delighted to have reached 350 employers who have all signed up to the Brighton and Hove Living Wage Campaign. It shows what a unique business community we have here.”

This week the campaign has signed up the digital start-up SomeoneWho.

SomeoneWho co-founder Andrew Saffron said that he joined “simply because it’s the right thing to do”. He said: “You have to treat people as you would wish to be treated. That’s all there is to it.”

SomeoneWho staff (Photograph taken by Simon Dack)

Asked about morale and employee well-being, he said it was important to recognise that we’re all human beings.

He said: “We have good days. We have bad days. The best we can do as employers is to create an environment in which your team can have as many good days as possible and to show understanding and support them when they’re having a bad day.”

Juliet Tzabar, chief executive of the digital agency Plug-in Media, will be speaking at Brighton Chamber’s pop-up breakfast next Thursday (9 November) about her work and why she has chosen to be a living wage employer.

Her experience ranges from directing television dramas to producing interactive content. Under her leadership, the company has won four BAFTAs.

Tickets for the breakfast are already sold out but it should be possible to follow proceedings on Facebook and Twitter and support the campaign.

This article was first published in Brighton and Hove News.

Faith leaders including the Ahmadi Caliph pave the way for peace (radio interview)

I am the first speaker on a live drive time programme considering the impact of faith leader Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslims. The Evening Standard has identified him as the most inspirational faith leader in London in 2017 after the Queen and I try to explain why.

The Caliph had a very strong message for terrorists and any other extremists that love of your country is part of your faith. He said integration was about being an asset to your country, it was not about the hijab or alcohol.

Fathe Din, a member of the Ahmadiyya community explained to me what the Caliph meant. He said: “The jihad is misinterpreted by mullahs and extremists. The jihad is a fight within yourself. It is a fight to be good human beings. Give up your time to do something good. Not everyone is prepared to do that.”

At the Jalsa Salana which is the community’s annual convention, the Caliph told delegates that Islam is the guarantee of security in the world. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

At the annual Peace Symposium last March the Caliph said the arms trade was a very clear example of how business interests and wealth take priority over peace. He said the arms trade fuels warfare and has trapped the world in a perpetual cycle of violence. Last year the peace prize was given to  Ms. Setsuko Thurlow because of her lifelong campaign for nuclear disarmament.

He gave a solemn warning: “Always remember that if we seek to pursue our own interests at all costs, the rights of others will be usurped and this can only lead to conflict, wars and misery. We must all reflect and understand the precipice upon which we stand.”

But he concluded: “My message to the world is to look at tomorrow, and not just today.  Let us leave behind a legacy of hope and opportunity for our children, rather than burdening them with the horrific consequences of our sins.”

The Ahmadi motto is “Love for all, hatred for none.”

This extract was broadcast live on Voice of Islam radio channel on Monday 23 October and you can listen to the full podcast below.

Hundreds gathered at Brighton’s “Stop Brexit” rally

Britain for Europe and Brighton and Hove for the European Union hosted a “Stop Brexit” rally with speeches, a panel debate chaired by Polly Toynbee, comedy and music at Brighton Dome last Sunday 25 September.

Professor A C Grayling was the keynote speaker and he opened his remarks by criticising the Labour Party for not singing the right song. Already, he said, Britain is losing funds from the EU and businesses who are relocating, finding better infrastructure and better working conditions in Europe. He said: “We must stop Brexit sooner rather than later. Europe cherishes civil liberties, progress and a rational cooperative way, the EU is a wonderful model of cooperation.”

Mr Grayling said the alternative is less money for public services, “a low tax, deregulated, offshore economy.” He said people who voted leave had very few reasons, they don’t have reasons so much as feelings. He urged the remain camp to tell their story and win back the Brexiteers, to fill the bins of MPs with letters, to stay determined.

“Brexit is politically illegitimate and constitutionally improper,” said Mr Grayling. “The franchise excludes 16-17 year olds, expats living abroad and EU nationals living in the UK. They should have had a voice, only 37% of the electorate voted leave. That is not a mandate for a major constitutional change.”

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas spoke next and said Britain must remain welcoming. “We are here to say Britain is better than that.” She said the Prime Minister has no mandate: “She went to our electorate and she lost and we must never let her forget that.”

She said she was furious about the EU Withdrawal Bill because it takes sovereignty away from the people and Parliament.

And she had a message for the Labour Party: “You cannot be in favour of leaving the EU and in favour of ending austerity.

“Freedom of movement for young people is a precious gift, she said, to travel, live, work, fall in love with people from 27 countries. I am truly sorry for our young people, whom Brexit is betraying.”

She concluded by saying it is not migrants who are responsible for austerity, it is the Government that is responsible.

Caroline Lucas MP

Guardian Columnist Polly Toynbee then chaired a panel debate with questions. Seb Dance is a Labour MEP representing London, Johnathan Bartley is co-leader of the Green Party, Catherine West is Labour MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Ian Dunt is an author editor of and Darren Jones is Labour MP for Bristol North West.

Mr Dance opened the debate by saying: “We won’t get anywhere by lying to the electorate.” As evidence he cited the depreciation of sterling and goods, EU nationals leaving the NHS and companies relocating. “A two year transition gives them time to move.

“We have to be ones to tell the truth. Be honest about the problems linked to Brexit, there is no shift in attitude yet,” Mr Dance said.

Mr Bartley said we have to change attitudes, particularly around migration. He said: “It’s so desperately sad, the whole agenda around migration has been hijacked. The Green Party is an insurgent party, we shift agendas… Both Labour and the Tories have failed with migration, their hostile environment. I have visited Calais, Dunkirk and UK detention centres where instead of welcoming migrants, people are detained indefinitely. You have to say very clearly, ‘no, no, no!’”

Mr Dunt said that Tony Blair could be useful in helping make the case for remain even if some people dislike some of his policies. He said up to 50% of the electorate are soft Brexit or soft Remain voters and these are the people the campaign should target.

Labour MP Ms West said civic education was critical to counter the negative narratives in the right wing press.

Mr Dance said: “How do you change the rules of the club if you leave the club and spent the last six months telling the club it was wrong?”

Panel discussion chaired by Polly Toynbee

Explaining about his roots, Mr Jones said his constituency includes the council estate where he grew up: “Every Friday at surgery it breaks your heart: people stuck in awful housing and nurses going to foodbanks.

“Labour can’t help them in opposition, we need to be in government,” according to Mr Jones.

He said economic prosperity is required to fund the NHS. He thinks people voted leave out of desperation but said: “This self-harm will hurt them the most.”

Linda Dalgleish asked a question about the need to respect the will of the people who voted leave in the referendum.

The message from the EU referendum was clear, Mr Dunt said: “People don’t like the way things are, so they give the whole system a damn good kicking.” Later he said: “We need another referendum, another popular vote. Popular votes are not frozen in time. But people who give easy answers to difficult questions cannot be trusted.”

Since the Scottish independence referendum, Mr Bartley said, people are becoming more politically mature, using YABE campaigning, there are ground for optimism.

Ms West said that EU families are being split up, she said tell their stories to win the arguments.

Peter Harbet from Abingdon asked if European Citizenship would be an option for people left out and unable to work. He said: “If I fall ill in my old age how will I get to my family in Europe?

European citizenship is complex to introduce because most member states don’t want it, according to Mr Dance, and they will see it as yet another benefit for Britain, the country that is leaving.

Ms West said she fears realignment with America and a denial of climate change. She said we need to reframe the debate, giving people the facts about the NHS: “It’s about how we educate people who ignore the wonderful history since the Second World War. We need to teach our own history again. My uncle is buried at Passchendaele. We must reframe the question of fear.”

Mr Jones said: “We must make the emotional, economic case to protect jobs, increase wages and fund public services.”

Partners sponsoring the event included Brighton and Hove for the European Union, Britain for Europe, the European Movement UK and Scientists for the EU.

This article was also published in Brighton and Hove News.

Labour’s rally resembled a pop concert with Jeremy Corbyn as the headline act

Yesterday hundreds of supporters gathered at the Level to hear Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn set out his pitch for a more equal Britain. He outlined his commitment to end austerity, save the NHS, protect refugees and homeless people and bring the railways, water industry and post office back under public control.

But Shadow Chancellor John Mc Donnell opened the rally saying Labour was about hope not fear which appealed to 65% of young people at the last election.

He said Labour offers: “Decent education, education is a gift from one generation to another, not a commodity to be sold off.” He said the Labour Party will scrap tuition fees if they win the next election.

He also said every Tory government tries to get rid of the NHS.

Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell

Second to take to the podium was Amal Bidair, a young, Muslim activist originally from Eritrea who was involved in helping people after the fire at Grenfell Tower.

She also campaigns about Police stop and search which unfairly targets BAME people, Islamaphobia and she supports Mr Corbyn’s stance on recognising the state of Palestine. She said Labour made their politics legitimate.

Later Martha Osamore, mother of Kate Osamore who is in Mr Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet, explained that she came from Nigeria to London in 1963.

In his keynote address, Mr Corbyn said that although Mrs Osamore had many personal problems, she never asked for anything for herself, she talked about her neighbours and community facing racism from the National Front.

Mr Corbyn said: “So many people came together, young and old, black and white.” He said they were stronger for being together.

Mr Corbyn praised the organisers of the Club of Sanctuary for refugees (also known as Brighton Table Tennis Club.) He said the club gives sanctuary, hope and unity to refugees, people with learning difficulties and travellers.

“One fundamental thing is the inequality within our society. The rich majority live at the expense of the poor,” said Mr Corbyn. He criticised the Conservatives because their priority is to stay in office and he ridiculed Prime Minister Theresa May’s “strong and stable” government.

He said the Conservatives will: “Turn this country into an offshore tax haven on the shores of Europe” and he guaranteed to protect the rights of EU nationals living in the UK.

Mr Corbyn reaffirmed Labour’s commitment to an NHS free at the point of need which he described as a basic human right and he criticised the Conservatives for selling off land and services and then taking the profits offshore.

When talking about homeless people in many of Britain’s cities, he said: “They are not the cause of this housing problem, they are the symptom.” He said he was determined to help and to fight for them by building one million more homes and to lobby for proper regulation of the private rented sector.

Returning to foreign policy, he said: “Refugees have human rights. Victims of war have to be supported and wars of the future must be prevented.”

Lucy Anderson-Jones is a lifelong Labour supporter. She said: “I just vote Labour because it is the only way to destroy austerity and support people.

“I don’t want the NHS sold off. My husband had a liver transplant last year. I am part of an American forum where people are dying because they can’t afford the treatment or the transplant. We are not even watching the NHS quietly being sold off.”

She said Tony Blair didn’t listen to people: “It’s easy to encourage people to be generous, he (Mr Blair) was always keen to steal votes from the Conservatives.” On Friday a charity shop gave her a blanket for the homeless person sitting outside.

Lucy Anderson-Jones

Four students from Sussex University explained why they voted Labour. Serena Vaughan who is studying politics, said: “Jeremy Corbyn knows how to access particular (groups of) people.

“The Tories have no policies for young people. Jeremy Corbyn is the first politician that has identified with young people. I shunned politics until I found a politician that is interested.

Helena Bow-Ader said her family were Labour supporters but it was when she went to University and got the right to vote that she began to take a real interest in politics.  She said: “Jeremy Corbyn is so focused on students, he has completely swung me.”

Molly Dawson felt it is important to take an interest. She has always been Labour but joined the party to vote for Jeremy Corbyn before his first leadership election.

Scarlett Walker comes from Worcestershire which is a very conservative area. She has taken a particular interest in politics since she was 16-17. She likes Labour and the Greens.

Students from the University of Sussex

A head teacher from Brighton and Hove who does not want to be named has always voted Labour but is not a confirmed supporter of Mr Corbyn. He said: “I haven’t always tuned into his message without anything else in the way.”

His wife voted Green because she lives in Pavilion constituency. She said: “I am here to see if it (the rally) will change my mind.”

This article was also published in Brighton and Hove News.

New Brighton and Hove wardens tackle business crime

Wardens are being deployed across Sussex to deter and disrupt criminals who are targeting businesses.

Six community guards sponsored by Sainsbury’s and Mitie are now being deployed in Brighton and Hove alongside the current Business Improvement District ambassadors.

The wardens take the task of reporting crime away from businesses, securing physical and digital evidence and preparing statements for Police. Their role has been supported by Sussex Police and the Sussex Police & Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, who praises this partnership approach to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.

Business wardens

Mrs Bourne said: “The feedback from business communities about the value and impact of wardens has been excellent.

“It is vital that local organisations and the police work together to reduce business crime and help to create a safe and secure county in which to live and work.

“Because wardens are trained to secure the best physical evidence and take statements, they are helping businesses save time and reducing demands on police. They are also able to provide services beyond security like first aid, counter-terror awareness and emergency planning.”

Nationally business crime accounts for up to 25% of all crime. In Sussex that figure is 19% and Mrs Bourne is keen to encourage more firms to report it so this percentage continues to fall.

Sussex sees 28.3 crimes per 1,000 businesses, putting it 12th from the bottom of all 43 forces across England and Wales. Shoplifting accounts for 45% of all business crime in Sussex while criminal damage is just under a fifth; crimes at a convenience store represent 8.7% of the total number of business crimes.

Since 2015 business and community wardens have been introduced in Hastings, Eastbourne, Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and Haywards Heath. They were initially hired for an 18-month pilot jointly funded by the Home Office and the Southern Co-operative.

The existing business wardens in Sussex have powers to seize alcohol thanks to a community safety accreditation scheme which allows organisations and their employees to be given targeted police powers by the Chief Constable. These powers mean wardens can seize alcohol from under-18s or people drinking in designated spots, deal with begging and request the name and address of someone they believe has committed a relevant offence.

You can read more about the PCC’s activity and sign up for her weekly newsletter here.

 

Britain must remain “welcoming and compassionate” to defeat terrorists (PM May)

Last Friday 15 September commuters ran from a homemade bomb on a crowded train at Parson’s Green underground station in London. This is the fifth terrorist attack we have faced in the last six months and the fourth in London.

Three of the attacks involved vehicles mowing down pedestrians by lone terrorists but yesterday an IED bomb failed to detonate correctly and most commuters were spared. The explosion caused life-changing burns and a stampede to leave the underground but no deaths. We should be grateful.

Yesterday Prime Minister Theresa May upgraded the risk of a terror attack to critical suggesting another attack may be imminent. An 18 year-old man has been arrested and held at Dover and another man has been apprehended in London.

Mrs May was right to say we need to carry on as normal: if we overreact, the terrorists win. However, ignoring them also means resolutely avoiding the temptation to introduce more draconian anti-terror legislation.

Terrorists attack free people everywhere including Muslims coming out of a mosque most recently at Finsbury Park in June during Ramadan. On this occasion the attack was motivated by Islamaphobia and carried out by Darren Osborne, a white Welshman.

After the Finsbury Park incident Mrs May said: “There has been far too much tolerance of extremism in our country over many years, and that means extremism of any kind including Islamophobia…”

But if the Prime Minister wants to be the protector of our freedom and democracy as well as law and order, she must be careful.

In the same speech Mrs May said it was diversity that made London great: “This is an extraordinary city of extraordinary people, it is home to a multitude of communities that together make London one of the greatest cities on earth, diverse, welcoming, vibrant, compassionate, confident and determined never to give in to hate.” She must hold onto this conviction.

We live in a liberal democracy, not a surveillance society, and this is what we must protect: freedom from terrorists and freedom to live, work and travel around the United Kingdom safely.

Join budding young estate agents at Brighton Metropolitan College to pursue a lucrative career

Brighton Metropolitan College, formerly City College, is the second in the country to offer a new course for estate agents giving young people an advantage when seeking work.

It is a Level 3 business course applied to the property sector which provides formal qualifications, transferable life skills and progression into apprenticeships for young people aged 16 and over. You can still apply to join this course by contacting admissions-brighton@gbmc.ac.uk.

The course is unique because it has been designed and led by people in the industry. Chris Sawyer, Director of Sawyer and Co. Estate Agency in Hove met Jan Hytch, partner at Arnold Keys, an estate agency in Norwich who wrote the course for professionals new to the sector. He was interested because he said the industry has a problem with recruitment. For both of them, the purpose of the course is to drive up standards in the industry, create jobs and equip young people with life skills.

Jan Hytch who wrote the course

He said trainees joining the firm are often confined to the back office because it takes a few months for them to master basic protocols. He said: “The course enables them to hit the ground running. A job in an agency is often sink or swim and sometimes if the environment is wrong, it might not work out.”

Mr Sawyer is the dedicated agent liaison person and will provide support as an industry expert by tutoring at college about leasehold properties, enfranchisement and other technical issues. He was also the president of Brighton and Hove Estate Agents Association in 2016.

If estate agents are interested in collaborating, they should contact Jane Miles who is curriculum coordinator at Brighton Metropolitan College to get involved:  jane.miles@gbmc.ac.uk or Mr Sawyer for sector specific information: chris@sawyerandco.co.uk.

Head of Business and Industry Services at Brighton Metropolitan College, Helen Curtis, said work placements are key: “Students will do a minimum of 30 hours work experience, ideally much more, where they will be inspired and encouraged to get involved.”

She said: “Some vocational courses at the college have tenuous links with employers but in this case we have been working closely with industry from the outset and businesses remain on board. It never happens to have so much support locally” (for a course.)

For several students A-Levels are not the answer and they want a direct route into employment. Others want transferable life skills while they work out their next step.

Day two for students at Brighton MET

Reana Muca is combining the estate agency course with an accounting Level 3 that she started last year. Ms Curtis said this could set her up well if she wanted to become a financial advisor in the property sector. She came to the Brighton MET from BHASVIC to learn skills that will prepare her for work. She said: “I am interested in property and there are always jobs.”

Like Reana, Ricardo Seaman took A-Levels but now wants a practical course. He enrolled because of the qualification in customer service. He used to work at Primark and in a call centre. He said: “I guess I just talk to people and I know how to sell.”

Autumn-Moon Chan-Garvey has already achieved applied law, sociology and psychology A-Levels but she wants to do an apprenticeship rather than going to university. She said she likes the course because it combines knowledge with practical skills and it’s her last year of free education.

Property course tutor Kerry Salkeld became an estate agent in Shoreham because it fitted in with her family commitments. She provides holiday cover at her old firm in the sales team to keep abreast of developments in the industry and brings real-life scenarios to college. She aims to build student’s confidence and give them industry specific knowledge and transferable life skills. She told the class estate agents don’t have to be loud.

Mrs Hytch is former president of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) which is now called Propertymark. She wants to remain in the estate agency business so Propertymark, which accredits the course, is helping her to roll it out across the country.

She said anyone interested in running this course should contact Propertymark’s Head of Qualifications Michael Smith: michaelsmith@propertymark.co.uk. Rightmove and TDS charitable foundation are also sponsoring the course.

Mrs Hytch wrote the course for professionals working in the industry. Ms Salkeld said her job is to simplify the information so that all students understand what an estate agent does and learn about customer service. They can then make an informed decision about whether the industry is for them. For Ms Curtis and her team, giving students choices and a future is what education is all about.

An edited version of this article has been published by Brighton and Hove News.

Brighton MP condemns immigration proposals as “economically illiterate and plainly cruel.”

Yesterday a Home Office document leaked to the Guardian revealed proposals that a new immigration system will end the right of EU nationals to settle in Britain (free movement) and restrict their rights to bring in family members. Europeans will need to carry temporary biometric residence permits which are a form of ID card.

According to the Guardian, work visas for EU nationals would be limited to two years if they were considered “low skilled” migrants and three to five years if they were “highly skilled.” You can read the full document here.

At this stage, these are proposals only which will have to be agreed by ministers and the EU but they reveal a worrying trend. They are part of a policy to put British residents first.

Brighton MP Caroline Lucas said: “The Government’s post-Brexit immigration crackdown isn’t just economically illiterate, it’s plainly cruel too.

“Ministers know that ending free movement will damage the British economy – yet they are ploughing ahead regardless. Now they’re also planning draconian rules on family members of EU nationals and harsh income requirements too.

“Britain has benefited from freedom of movement and from the enormous contribution of EU nationals.”

To introduce these harsh new migration rules for people coming from the continent is a profound mistake, and one I will be fighting at every turn.”

Caroline Lucas MP

Leader of the Lib Dems Vince Cable said:  “When I was Business Secretary there were up to nine studies that we looked at that took in all the academic evidence.

“It showed that immigration had very little impact on wages or employment. But this was suppressed by the Home Office under Theresa May, because the results were inconvenient.

“I remember it vividly. Overwhelmingly it has been the case that overseas workers have been complimentary rather than competitive to British workers.

“The exodus of trades people, NHS staff and tech industry workers shows the potential damage of an extreme Brexit.”

Paul Chandler, agent for the Brighton and Hove Liberal Democrats backed up Mrs Lucas saying: “This leaked proposal just proves how difficult it will be to find a fair, humane and workable alternative to freedom of movement.

“It’s a truly horrible dog’s dinner of a proposal that will be expensive to administer, widely abused and ineffective.”

Hong Dam and “the Butterfly’s Dream”

Another overcrowded dinghy drifts off Europe’s coastline. Another group of faceless migrants. Are we becoming immune to the suffering felt by those with little choice but to leave their homeland? Hong Dam asked.

In this context Hove artist and sculptor Hong’s work is a timely reminder of the emotional reality of living in exile.

Hong left Vietnam for Hong Kong on a junk in 1978, and did not return until 2012, 34 years later.

She studied fine art sculpture in 1994 but found she was naturally good at visualising in three dimensions.

Hong said: “I found the art world of the West too pretentious and too intangible for me; especially in the 1990s for a refugee girl. I needed to earn a living. Without money you have no status and no pride. I don’t see money as the answer to everything, but we all need it.”

Hong therefore took a masters in computer animation and visualisation at Bournemouth University before working in the special effects section of the film industry. She has been accredited for her work in the films Gladiator, Babe 2 and 10,000 BC.

However, it is since having her children that Hong has documented her own childhood in Vietnam and contrasted it with western industrialisation, using digital imaging techniques.

She said: “Having my own children brought me back to my own childhood. I start to feel that my daughters and I live in two parallel worlds – the contrasts and conflicts of East and West – the wants and needs are so different. I decided to document a visual diary for my two daughters and hopefully they will understand why I am saying no to gadgets and material things.”

Hong’s personal work is a journey of self-discovery, exploring the universal themes of love, loss, separation and hope. She said: “I have tried not to do art, but I always find myself going back to it. The passing of my father last year has made me realise that life is impermanent and intangible, perhaps what I am doing is documenting a small part of history, of many unsung heroes who sacrificed for their loved ones unconditionally in times of adversity.”

She has produced a painting called the “Promised Land” where she superimposes images on top of each other in layers. The painting has a turbulent skyscape, a dragon, a combination of the ramparts from the Great Wall of China and Hadrian’s Wall with the rushes of Vietnam.

In the foreground is London, the Gherkin and BT Tower are clearly visible but Hong has superimposed one of her sculptures and an image from Earnest Haeckel. She has added an alien dimension because this is how she feels. She said: “As a refugee, I am always searching for the promised land.” Hong’s late father was Chinese, making the dragon an important symbol in her art: she is a child of the dragon.

Hong layers digital images to create her art

She left Vietnam in 1978 and did not return until 2012, 34 years later. Hong spoke of the iconic image of the girl running naked and without clothes along the road during the Vietnam War. She said: “I recognise it and it made me shiver.”

Some of her art contains explosions and bombs but she said: “When there is destruction, there is new life. People had to start again. There is always a positive among even negative events.” In January 2013 Hong Dam wrote a visual diary called “Dreaming of Home.”

Scenes of the West are often dark and polluted, contrasting with the lush purity of nature in Vietnam, particularly in the painting “Childhood Memories.” Yet Vietnam has also now developed and is no longer the place of Hong’s childhood.

In her own words Hong describes her most recent work: “Trapped between the invisible glass of a fragile, expensive bottle; wanting to break free. The sea, the sky merged into one; a big crash of explosion forces the migration of 1000s of butterflies. A message in a bottle drifting across derelict lands in search of a new life. Change, adapt I will – in order to survive.”

“The Butterfly’s Dream is about a little girl living in a fragile world, that is, the glass bottle, the changes and adaptations she has to make after migrating. The fragile beauty of the perfume bottle versus the ordinary lives of another world: two parallel worlds of East and West.”

A woman is cocooned in a perfume bottle but an explosion shows it is not safe

The perfume bottle is significant because Hong said: “In the West women are conditioned to feel less capable. Some women feel fragile. In poor countries women do everything. There is a limitation here.” She said that in the film industry in 1990 men and women would do the same job but they would not get the same pay.

She thinks the conditioning is ingrained and asked: “Was it really worth the price?” Hong said there is a perception of worth and a vanity about being beautiful and elegant among western women. She thinks women use this to their advantage.

Hong’s mother blew up rocks and then shovelled them onto a truck in Vietnam. The rocks were then made into tarmac. Conditioning means that western women put limitations on themselves.

To conclude Hong said: “I always see the sky as the limit. It is how determined you are that matters, even if you don’t get there, you get further than you would if you didn’t have that dream. We should continue to dream, be content with the love, do not be afraid to dream but understand the present, the people you love where you are.”

Opinion: “Islam is the guarantee of security in the world” (Caliph)

On a cold, wet July day I joined the international Ahmadiyya Community to discuss peace, justice and security while wading through mud in our wellies at East Worldham (previously Oaklands Farm.) The event was the Ahmadi Muslim’s annual convention known as the “Jalsa Salana.” Unsure what to expect, I set off on an adventure.

My first stop was lunch masterminded by Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and using three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat. Volunteers, 5000 of them, made this event great.

I witnessed a reunion of two old friends, Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Deputy Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez. “Mr Parvez runs the marriage bureau, he is our very own love professor”, Councillor Malhotra joked. This means he makes introductions and helps families to resolve disputes. But seriously, I was told, in South Asian culture, a marriage is between two families.

Councillor Mukesh Malhotra, Mayor of Hounslow and Asif Ali Parvez

At 6pm I headed over to the Voice of Islam studio to take part in a fascinating live discussion about representations of Islam in the media and literature.

Sunday was a day of prayer and the mood was more sombre.

Delegates pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad who is the worldwide head of the Ahmadiyya Community. They made a century-old pledge of peace and loyalty and formed a human chain.

Pledge of allegiance

Islam is the guarantee of security in the world, the Caliph told delegates. Without exception, without any discrimination, all of the people are equal. It’s when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace.

As a Christian, I was struck by this message of peace and reconciliation. In our secular society the temptation for the media is to turn to religions for a negative comment. But these journalists are missing a trick.

Editors should not be afraid to publish good news stories about religions that promote peace and human rights.

In an age of global insecurity and terrorism, spiritual leaders may have the answer and the reach as they urge people to pray for peace and to respect one another.

The Caliph told us there is no superiority as a human being. A white person is not superior to a black person, nor is a black person superior to a white.

He said it is when people think they are superior, that they disturb the peace of the world. Lawlessness comes from a feeling of inferiority. Terrorists may take God’s name in vain, and they are not the only ones to do so, but they act in their own strength, cut off from God.

“Love for all, hatred for none” is the Ahmadi motto.

Some sects of Islam do not recognise Ahmadi Muslims because Ahmadis believe the awaited Messiah has already come: Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India.

Ahmadi Muslims condemn violence and pledge to be “servants of humanity” at their Jalsa convention

Ahmadi Muslims poured into Oaklands Farm in Hampshire in their thousands for the biggest annual Muslim convention in Britain called the “Jalsa Salana” last weekend.

Fifth Caliph and Worldwide Head of the community, His Holiness Hazrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad reminded his community that peace, brotherhood and loyalty to one’s country are the essence of Islam. He explained that Muslims should respect people of other religions and none because God loves all nations equally and no nation or group is superior.

Delegates then pledged allegiance to the peaceful teachings of Islam under the guidance of the Caliph.

Ahmadi Muslims form a human chain and take a vow of peace, obedience and loyalty

During the weekend, delegates were reminded of the words of the Quran: “Whosoever kills an innocent human being, it shall be as if he has killed all mankind, and whosoever saves the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.” Qu’ran 5:32

Barrister and QC Karim Khan explained what this means in practice. He said: “The divisions (in society) are artificial, we are bound together by that uniting “love for all hatred for none” (the Ahmadi motto). This is not an abstract concept. A smile is charity. You don’t need to be rich to be kind.”

He said the Prophet of Islam taught us to be kind to humanity because we are like servants of humanity. “How does the community manifest its love for God?” he asked. “By showing compassion and kindness regardless of religion, class and colour. That is the unifying message.”

Behind the scenes, 5,000 volunteers worked to make sure the event ran smoothly including Head Chef Rafi Shah who produced 300,000 meals for 38,000 people. Chefs worked around the clock, making 10,000 chapattis per hour and they used three tonnes of rice and nine tonnes of meat.

A special kitchen to make chapattis

Mayor of Waverley Simon Inchball attended the convention for the first time this year. He said the organisation was extraordinary and praised the Humanity First tent in particular. He said: “I had no idea that they were involved in so many areas (around the world.) “They want to put their hand to helping others. It has been a very inspirational visit.”

Councillor Marsie Skeete, who is the Mayor of Merton, came to the convention with her consort, Yeuton Crandon. She said: “It is very beautiful that we work closely with the Ahmadi Muslims. They are helping to fund, organise and publicise our peace walk on 17 September this year. At this convention, they preach a lot about peace.

“The togetherness that the Ahmadis bring into our lives is amazing. They don’t look at creed, colour, race or religion or anything. The highlight of my year is going to the peace symposium. I love the food but it is just the togetherness that is so special.”

Chris Thompson is the Community Sergeant in charge from Hampshire Police. He said it was a brilliant event that was exceptionally safe and well run.

Chris Thompson with a few of his team

Major Frankie Howell and Colour Seargant Phillip Eeren from the army came to experience the culture and to help people understand what the army has to offer. For example, during recent floods, Major Howell said the army were the first people on the scene and their vehicles are often deployed to help people in need. He said in the Welsh regiment they now have 22 Muslim soldiers.

Kaylie Smith from Basingstoke is a trainee RE teacher who came to the Jalsa with her son, Jackson. She said the convention was larger than she expected and she liked the open sense of community.

National President, Rafiq Hayat said: “Attending the convention strengthens our faith in God and our ties of kinship and fraternity. The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community instils a strong sense of community, family and respect for wider society from a young age.

“Our children are raised with the understanding that ‘Love for All, Hatred for None’ is not just a motto, but a way of life and that is how we have successfully shunned all forms of extremism and will continue to do so. The call of the day is to be of service to our communities and as members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, we will exert every effort to be exemplary role models within society.”

Harry van Bommel was an MP in the Netherlands for nineteen years and spokesperson for foreign affairs. He said: “I am worried. We see a world moving in a different direction with violent extremism, governments acting in the wrong way, tension building up not reducing and enhancing this extremism.” However he welcomed the theme of this year’s convention which is peace and justice, saying it is exactly what is needed.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State for Commonwealth and the UN, including human rights, has been a member of the Ahmadiyya Community all his life. He said: “The flag of the community is side by side with the UK flag. It is part of your DNA to be responsible, there is no conflict between faith, community and devotion and dedication to the country. The UK is the best place to be a Christian etc. or a person of no faith. We need to protect that, protect other faiths.”

Ahmadi Muslims came to the convention from 100 countries

Guests came from many different faiths and countries including the Sikh Community, the All Faiths Network, Scientology and Mr Muhammad Sharif Odeh who is the head of the Ahmadiyya Community in Israel and Palestine.

Jane Donnelly from Atheist Ireland said they had formed an alliance with the Ahamdiyya Community because they are all minorities in Ireland fighting for religious freedom. Jim Shannon MP from the Democratic Unionist Party commended the Ahmadi Muslims for giving a voice to the voiceless. Eamon O’Cuiv is an MP from the Fianna Fail Party in the Republic of Ireland. He said: “The commitment to peace is something I very much relate to and their (Ahmadi Muslims) openness to dialogue with all religions.” He said he liked the very strong friendships forged at the Jalsa.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community is the only Islamic organization to believe that the long- awaited messiah has come in the person of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908) of Qadian, India. Ahmad claimed to be the metaphorical second coming of Jesus of Nazareth and the divine guide, whose advent was foretold by the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad. The Community believes that God sent Ahmad, like Jesus, to end religious wars, condemn bloodshed and reinstitute morality, justice and peace. Ahmad vigorously championed Islam’s true and essential teachings of peace and self-reformation.

You can find out more about the Ahmadiyya Community in the UK here or by tuning into Voice of Islam Radio and by following events on social media @jalsaUK or #jalsaUK.

Delegates gathered to pray for peace ahead of the Caliph’s keynote speech