Paris Airport Bars Muslim Staff

How’s this for a misleading headline from the BBC?

Paris Airport Bars Muslim Staff 

More than 70 Muslim workers at France’s main airport have been stripped of their security clearance for allegedly posing a risk to passengers.

The staff at Charles de Gaulle airport, including baggage handlers, are said to have visited terrorist training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

At first glance I, and others it seems, read this to mean that the airport had introduced a blanket policy on Muslim staff.  Far from it.

The BBC’s headline is a shame, because it distracts from the questions that should be raised by this important story – the most important of which relates to the sheer number of staff involved.

72 is a massive number of staff.  Either Charles de Gaulle was infiltrated on a massive scale by terrorists (which, lets be honest, is unlikely), or the authorities have made a huge mistake by putting two and two together to reach 72, or the authorities are taking an ultra-cautious line and suspending anyone who they think might pose even the merest possibility of a risk.

Which brings me to the oddest part of this story:

However, about a dozen other workers who have been identified as security risks still have access to sensitive areas of the airport because under French law they must be allowed an opportunity to respond to the charges before they are suspended.

I really find it hard to believe that, faced with a real and immediate security threat to their skies, the French would allow the niceties of French employment law to hinder their security operations.  Which leads me to believe that, actually, these employees aren’t actually any kind of real and immediate threat.  The fact that none of them have been arrested would seem to add to my suspicions. 

I wonder how many staff there are at the airport in total, and how many of those are Muslim.  I’d be very interested to know what percentage of the workforce, and in particular what percentage of the Muslim workforce this affects.  I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see a mass of lawsuits in the coming weeks and months from disgruntled employees.   

Mozart opera cancelled for fear of offending Muslims

A Berlin opera house has cancelled performances of a Mozart opera, Idomeno, because of fears that it might offend Muslims, and that they could not guarantee the safety of their audiences.

In the ‘offending’ scene which already caused audience walk-outs mainly amongst Christians when it was premiered almost three years ago, King Idomeneo produces the heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Mohammed from a bloody sack, and displays them on four chairs.

Fascinating that they don’t fear offending followers of Jesus, Poseidon or Buddha. 

Anyway, Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has shown some backbone and roundly criticised their decision:

“We must be careful that we do not increasingly shy away out of fear of violent radicals,” Merkel told the Hannover Neue Presse. “Self-censorship out of fear is not tolerable.”

Which will be equally fascinating news for those who regularly condemn Europeans for being lily-livered appeasers.

(By the way – Idomeno is set in Crete.  I’m going to Crete in a few days.  Which is why posting this has, oddly, put me in a holiday mood).

Pope told not to promote Catholicism

The Pope, apparently, should not be allowed to say that Catholicism is superior to other religions

Yahya Pallavicini, vice-president of one of Italy’s main Islamic organisations, the Islamic Religious Community […] expressed a fear that the Pope’s comments demonstrated a “Christian Catholic exclusivism” – a belief that Catholicism was superior to other religions.

In the words of Rebecca, who sent me the link – “He’s the POPE for gods sake – if he can’t think Catholicism is a superior religion, then the world has truly gone nuts”.

Euro terrorism not dead yet

Basque separatist and terrorist organisation ETA shows that home grown European terrorism is still alive and kicking:

“Until we achieve independence and socialism in the Basque country, we reaffirm our commitment to keep taking up arms firmly.

The fight is not a thing of the past. It is the present and the future.”

They’ve also demonstrated that they’ve learnt very little from the Madrid train bombing. 

Riots in Budapest and the Middle East

Riots have broken out in Budapest, following the Hungarian Prime Minister’s admission that his government had consistently lied to the country since their election. 

The BBC reports that more that 50 people have been injured in the riots, and protestors smashed their way into the state television headquarters, causing the station to go off the air overnight.

The people of Hungary have every right to be furious at their government, which has betrayed them.  It’s right that they are able to take to the streets to express their anger.  But recourse to violence by some elements of the crowd is unacceptable when so many other options are open to them.

I see a parallel here to the Islamic world’s violent response to the perceived offenses of the Pope last week, and those Danish cartoons of a few months ago.  Many in the blogosphere were quick (and correct) to condemn this violent reaction, but some went further, saying that such riots were not a part of European and US political discourse. 

It’s difficult to condemn people for rioting over their religious beliefs, when the citizens of one of Europe’s capital cities are smashing their way into TV stations because their belief in the power of democracy has been betrayed.

I wonder how bloggers will react to yesterday’s riots in Budapest, and whether any will see any similarities to Islamic riots?

Euro elections

It’s been a busy weekend for election watchers around Europe.

Sweden voted in a new centre-right alliance, their (very) narrow victory breaking 12 years of Social Democrat control.  A Fistful of Euros has covered the election with not one, not two, but three posts – here, here and here.

The German regional elections brought an unexpected success for the far-right, where the National Democratic Party (NPD) won 7.3% in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.  That takes them comfortably over the 5% needed to get a seat in the regional parliament.  Germany isn’t all far-right extremists, though, and the SDP managed a comfortable win in the Berlin elections.  The local SDP are led by Klaus Wowereit, who just happens to be gay, which has prompted A Fistful of Euros (who else?) to ask is Germany is ready for its first gay Chancellor? 

And, finally, the big news from Moldova is that the citizens of breakaway republic Trans-Dneister have turned out in overwhelming numbers in a referendum on the future of their statelet.  More than 97% of those who voted hated Moldova so much that they  so much that they would like to form a political union with Russia.  The Moldovan Foreign Minister clearly thinks the vote was rigged, and has refused to accept the result of the referendum.  Sensible man – it’s safe to say that any result of more than 90% in an election can automatically be discounted by people who know how to count.  Russia has remained rather tight-lipped.  Not all that surprisingly – the prospect of political union with a dirt-poor criminal statelet isn’t exactly something to be shouting about.

Hungarian PM admits lying – and writes about it on his blog

Refreshing honesty from a politician – Ferenc Gyurcsany, the Hungarian Prime Minister has admitted that his party not only lied in order to get elected, but had failed miserably while in office.  Here’s what he had to say at a meeting with fellow Socialist MPs:

“There is not much choice. There is not, because we screwed up. Not a little, a lot. No European country has done something as boneheaded as we have.

“Evidently, we lied throughout the last year-and-a-half, two years. It was totally clear that what we are saying is not true.

“You cannot quote any significant government measure we can be proud of, other than at the end we managed to bring the government back from the brink. Nothing. If we have to give account to the country about what we did for four years, then what do we say?”

The Prime Minister has posted the entire transcript of the entire meeting on his own blog (in Hungarian, of course), a move which some cynics are claiming demonstrates that the PM himself was behind the leak. 

So, good press for honesty, and for blogs, but not so good for Hungarian Socialists. 

Bush admits CIA prisons around the world

George Bush has admitted that the CIA has detained terrorist suspects in prisons around the world, although he didn’t go so far as to admit that many were in Eastern Europe.  Bush explained:

“Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. By giving us information about terrorist plans we could not get anywhere else, this program has saved innocent lives.”

That’s good.  Hard to argue with a positive outcome, so I wont. 

Instead, I’ll ask – what is it about global CIA prisons that makes them a better choice than US prisons?

I can only surmise that CIA prisons in Europe are a better choice because they are further away from the arms of the US justice system.  Prisoners in these shadowy jails can be interrogated in a somewhat more liberal manner than they could be back in the States.

Out of sight, out of mind, as it were.

Polish potatoes

Via the Independent:

No person shall, in the course of business, import into England potatoes which he knows to be or has reasonable cause to suspect to be Polish potatoes

Don’t believe me – go check the government’s website for the full law, which was passed way back in 2004.

What has the Polish potato ever done to hurt Johnny Englishman???

(Oh, and while you’re busy sniggering at the stupidity of it all, consider this – in Tony Blair’s government has created a staggering 3,000 new criminal offences during its nine years in office).