Friday, 24 June 2016

Brexit - The Ugly Fallout

23 June 2016. The United Kingdom votes to leave the European Union, ending a 43 year membership of the trading and political bloc. And the fallout begins...

The inevitable politic landscape shift has begun. The Prime Minister, David Cameron, has resigned. Calls for the Leader of the Opposition, Jeremy Corbyn, to stand down have been issued, due to the insipid campaign he ran. A motion of no confidence has been issued against him.

The economic and socio-political standing of the United Kingdom is unknown. Truth is it didn't matter which way the vote went. Economics and politics are always unpredictable. If you voted on that, either way, then you're a fool. That was a red herring that both sides were willing to use.

There is an immediate aftermath that needs addressing though.


The above graphic isn't the only one to advocate the notion that the older people have dropped the younger generation in it. The Independent was broadcasting such statistics and implying that pensioners should not had the right to vote this way.

Let that sink in. We have a national newspaper comfortable sharing the idea that a section of society should have their democratic rights diminished. That would be the group who have been in it the longest, contributed to it the longest and have the most experience of living in the EU. What the actual hell?! Could you imagine if the graphic suggested black people had dropped white people in it? Or that women's votes should be less valid than men's votes? All because the outcome has not gone the way that you wanted it. Scandalous.

This is a one way ticket to fascism, which is a grand irony because a lot of Remain voters have accused some Leave voters of that very same sin. The UK is a democracy. One person, one vote. To preach anything else is an enemy of equality.


When I woke to find out the result of the EU referendum, my next stop was social media to see the reaction. It wasn't good. It was downright ugly. I am astounded at how comfortable people are to label those who voted Leave as xenophobes, racist or Islamophobic. There is no evidence to support this. All people who say this have is anecdotal evidence from social media. I'm amazed that I have to explain to them that you shouldn't believe everything you read on Facebook.

Xenophobes, racists and Islamophobes have a common trait. They are okay with saying hateful or disparaging things against a group of people without merit. If you are engaging in calling Leave voters these things, you are no better than them. A friend of mine put it better than I ever could. He said "The intolerance of the 'liberal' elite who preach tolerance has always amazed me."

Vicious name calling might be the freedom of speech, a democratic right, but it certainly doesn't uphold the sanctity of the right to vote. It is bullying. If you think that is how political arguments are won, then you are Project Fear & Hate personified.


Scotland and Northern Ireland (and London, although that will be irrelevant in this section) voted overwhelmingly to Remain in the EU. The Brexit win has already led to calls for a second Scottish Independence Referendum, one that has been put "on the table" by Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, already. There are some who are suggesting that people were foolish to vote Leave because now those nations will leave the UK.

Firstly, to vote one way in an effort to pander to one tenth of the UK population is the very antithesis of democracy. It is a completely fallacious argument.

Secondly, why is that a bad thing? Are we honestly against the idea of democratic self determination? If you voted Leave, surely you're fine with Scotland or Northern Ireland deciding whether it wants to be part of another union or not?


You may hear the scare stories of the value of pound sterling plummeting. It really doesn't make much difference, contrary to what most people believe. The pound will recover. In the mean time, a weaker pound is better for exports, which brings more money into the country. Sure, if you're planning to go abroad, foreign currency will cost more. In the grand scheme of things, it is another red herring monies gained and lost in swings and roundabouts fashion. It will fluctuate and it will stabilise. Don't let the City or the FTSE trick you into thinking it holds our way of life in its hands.


The Brexit success has led to a string of similar possibilities. France, The Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Austria are all pushing for their respective in-out referendum on the European Union. There are some who would shame the Leave voters with a 'look what you've done' attitude.

Let me put this very simply about the possibility of such referenda happening in other countries: It's not our problem and it is nothing to do with us!

I've branded a majority of these hideous reactions from Remain voters as the actions of 'sore losers' and I've been told that had Leave lost I would be a sore loser too. Maybe but I'd like to think that I would respect the vote, whichever way it had gone. I didn't vote Tory in the last General Election but I accepted the outcome. I certainly didn't label the people who did vote Conservative as hateful people, who were only invested in protecting their own interests.

You don't have to like it but you do have to accept that it is the democratic will of the people. It has not been skewed by a quirk in an electoral system. It was a straight shootout and Leave won. Do not try to twist democracy because it didn't suit you. Trying to set up a petition for a second referendum or trying to shame people for voting the way they did is a flat out assault on democracy.

The vote is done. The decision has been made. It's time to accept that, drop the hateful rhetoric in both directions and move on.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

LGBT & Islam - The Test of Tolerance

When news of the Orlando shooting came, it shook the world. To put it into context, it was the 136th mass shooting incident in the USA in 2016, a fact that I worry we've become desensitised to. What made it stand out was the horrifying body count: 50 dead, 49 wounded. Add on top that it was targeting the LGBT community, a group that has made such leaps and bounds in acceptance and societal equity in the past decade, and it becomes a gaping wound in the efforts to make a tolerant and diverse civilisation.

This could be dismissed as a lone wolf incident, mainly because it is. This is, however, a reminder that, in Western society, we are trying to blend collectives that have very opposed ideologies and cultural roots. That causes friction. A tension found in people's habits, behaviours, beliefs and characters. Such things won't be easily harmonised.

We have recognised the manner in which LGBT people were treated was unfair and we're on the path to redressing that imbalance. As such, the LGBT community enjoy far more freedom and, with that, an increased presence, voice and visibility.

We have also recognised the plight of thousands of Muslim migrants and refugees. These people have been chased from their homes. Their countries have been ravaged by war. The West is the only place they can flee and we stand as the only people who can truly help them.

That means the West, a largely Christian/Atheist collective is due to get a huge influx of Islam into the mix. That doesn't mean we're inviting fundamentalists or radicals into our lands en masse. The extremist elements of ISIS et al have been dismissed as just that. To call all Muslims ISIS would be to call all Christians the KKK; a frankly ridiculous notion. Yet, Islam brings with it an uncomfortable reality in light of the Orlando shootings.

The fact is that homophobia and Islam are bedfellows. Tolerance is not part of that mix. Nine Islamic countries attach the death penalty to homosexuality. Those nine being Afghanistan, Brunei, Iran, Mauritania, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen. In 57 Islamic countries, homosexuality is a crime in 37 of them.

To further illustrate the point, in 2013 the Pew Research Center conducted an investigation into opinions on whether homosexuality should be accepted among Islamic nations. The outcomes were pretty clear on where the consensus is. Taking one country in the study, Malaysian people over the age of 50 scored the highest, with 11% thinking that homosexuality should be accepted. When the same question was put to the 18-29 year olds of Malaysia that figure dropped to 7%. No Islamic country scored higher than that and the patterns suggested that attitudes did not necessarily improve with the younger generations.

Now we have a real test of tolerance in society. We are tearing down the barriers for LGBT people, while opening our doors to more and more Muslim migrants. Western society has prided itself on being progressive, bringing groups that stood in opposition together and finding some kind of harmony. It's certainly not perfect but, for example, relations between opposing genders and different races have improved from where they were a century ago. For those who say we have a long way to go, I'd remind them of how far we have come.

I say all this because I want to warn people. Orlando will not be the last time we see an assault on the LGBT community by an Islamic radical individual or fundamentalist group. People fear change and plenty are willing to kill in an effort to stop it. Lincoln was killed because he wanted to change slavery. Martin Luther King was killed because he wanted to end racial segregation and oppression. Every worthy cause has come at the cost of innocent blood.

Does that mean we should back down from the test? No. Absolutely not. Shoving every Muslim we can find back into Islamic nations would only breed extremism. We're certainly not going to tell gay people to dial it down. We've come too far to be taking backwards steps now.

What we have to do is show tolerance to all that keep the law. Islam may condemn homosexuality but they have the right to not like it, as long as they allow others to live it and love it. The two sides can have completely opposing views. That is the liberty and right of citizens in Western society. We can condemn with words and ideas, not bullets. We can support with love and compassion, not hate. If we can do that, one day, we might have a harmonised society.

The uncomfortable truth is such change can't be done by hashtags and memes. History has taught us that it will cost blood and tears. But every principle worth living for is also worth dying for. Hopefully, our children and children's children will look back in years to come and see how we stood firm with the LGBT and moderate, tolerant Muslim communities, saying to those who would use violence and death to polarise us that nothing unifies like a common enemy: the enemy of a tolerant society.