Home' Greymouth Star : September 12th 2015 Contents Greymouth Star
4 - Saturday, September 12, 2015
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uLetters to the editor
1910 - The world’s first recorded female
police officer, Alice Stebbins Wells, is
appointed to the Los Angeles Police
1977 - South African black
student leader Steven Biko dies
while in police custody, triggering an
1999 - Indonesia says it will accept
a peacekeeping force in East Timor,
ravaged by Indonesian-controlled
militias after residents voted for
2003 - Johnny Cash, country music’s Man in
Black, dies aged 71.
2012 - A mob armed with guns and grenades
launches a fiery attack on the US Consulate
in Benghazi, Libya, killing the US ambassador
and three other Americans.
2014 - Olympian Oscar Pistorius is found
guilty of culpable homicide. Ian Paisley, a
Protestant firebrand who devoted his life
to thwarting compromise with Catholics in
Northern Ireland only to become a peacemaker
in his twilight years, dies age 88.
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Richard Jordan Gatling, inventor of the multi-
barrelled machine gun, (1818-1903); Herbert
Henry Asquith, British prime
minister (1852-1928); Maurice
Chevalier, French actor-entertainer
(1888-1971); Jesse Owens, US
athlete (1913-1980); Linda Gray,
US actress (1940-); Barry White,
US singer (1944-2003); James
Frey, American writer,(1969-), Paul
Walker, US actor (1973-2013); Yao Ming,
Chinese basketball player (1980-); Jennifer
Hudson, American actress and singer (1981-).
“In politics, an absurdity is not a handicap. ”
— Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821).
“For you, my God, have revealed to Your
ser vant that You will build a house for him;
therefore Your ser vant has found it possible to
pray before You. ” — (1 Chronicles 17:25).
Dr Ver woerd’s
Maori from the 1967
tour by the All Blacks to South Africa has
attracted worldwide interest and most people
have definite views about it. A number of
Greymouth citizens were asked their opinions
and most had one view in common — that
Maoris should not tour.
A prominent company director had this to
say; “If that ’s the ruling of the South African
Government, we must respect it. But if I was a
member of the touring side pride wouldn’t let
A young woman thought that it was wrong
for Maoris to go to South Africa because they
would be treated the same as the Blacks over
there. The views of a keen league supporter
were that if he was a Maori he would not want
to go because of the discrimination but, he
concluded, it would be best not to send anyone.
Whether or not a tunnel will be built under
the Copland Pass to link South Canterbury
and South Westland would depend on may
factors, intimated resident engineer of the
Ministry of Works, Greymouth, Mr H A
Grigg today. Mr Grigg said among the features
to be considered would be the economics of the
work required and the demands for finance in
other parts of the country. As the work would
involve millions of pounds in expenditure, it
would seem likely that the tunnel will not be
given the “green light” in the immediate future.
This move — advocated by Waitaki MP Mr
A D Dick — would provide a further access
from major South Island tourist resorts, in this
case linking the Hermitage at Mount Cook to
the Westland glaciers.
uFood for thought
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Secretary of State
John Kerry has just
phoned Russian Foreign
Minister Sergei Lavrov
warning him not to
“escalate the conflict ”
by increasing Moscow ’s
military support for
the beleaguered Syrian
regime. He stamped
his foot quite hard, telling Lavrov that
his government ’s actions could “lead
to greater loss of innocent life, increase
refugee flows and risk confrontation with
the anti-Isil coalition operating in Syria.”
What the Russians have actually done,
so far, is to send an advance military team
to Damascus of the sort that is normally
deployed to prepare for the arrival of
a much larger miltary force. They have
also sent an air traffic control centre and
housing units for its personnel to a Syrian
It suggests that Moscow is getting
ready to go in to save President Bashar
al-Assad’s regime. It has given Assad
diplomatic support, financial aid and
some weapons over the course of the
four-year-old Syrian civil war, but it will
take more than that to save him now. That
would include at least an airlift of heavy
weapons, but maybe also direct Russian
air support for Assad’s exhausted troops.
They need it. Since the fanatical fighters
of “Islamic State” (or Isil, as the US State
Department calls it) captured Palmyra in
central Syria in May, they have advanced
steadily westward from their new base.
One month ago they captured the
mostly Christian town of al-Qaratayn,
north-east of Damascus. (The inhabitants
fled, of course). And now IS forces are
within 30km of the M5, the key highway
that links Damascus with the other parts
of Syria that remain under government
The jihadis captured Palmyra, by the way,
because the “anti-Isil coalition” — the US
Air Force, in practice — did not drop a
single bomb in its defence. It made at least
a thousand air strike to save Kobani, the
Kurdish city on the border with Turkey
that was besieged by IS fighters, because
the Kurds were US allies. Whereas
Palmyra was defended by Assad’s soldiers,
so the US let Islamic State have it.
One can imagine Kerry’s (and Obama’s)
horror at the idea that by defending
Palmyra they would be seen as protecting
Assad ’s brutal regime, but if Islamic State
troops manage to cut the M5 it will be
seen as a sign of the regime’s impending
defeat. At that point, up to half the people
who still live in government-controlled
areas — around 17 million — may
panic and start trying to get out
They would obviously include the
religious minorities (Christians, Alawites,
Druze), some five million people who
have good reason to fear slavery, rape and
murder at the hands of Islamic State.
The millions of Sunni Muslims who have
served the Syrian government and its
army would also be at risk. So let us say
four or five million more refugees pouring
out across Syria’s borders, to join the four
million who have already fled.
What they left behind would be a Syria
entirely controlled by the extremists.
The only remaining question would be
whether they roll on through behind
the refugees, overrunning Lebanon and
Jordan as well, or whether they fall to
fighting among themselves.
All three major Islamist groups —
Islamic State (which Turkey and Saudi
Arabia no longer support), and the al-
Nusra Front and Ahrar al-Sham (which
they still do) — are virtually identical
in their ideology and their ultimate
goals. However, they have some tactical
differences, and Islamic State and al-
Nusra fought a quite serious turf war last
year, so maybe they will get distracted
again. But even if they do, Syria will be
This is what the Russians see coming,
and they may be willing to try to stop
it. When asked on Friday if Moscow
intended to get involved directly in
the Syrian fighting, Russian President
Vladimir Putin would only say that
the question was “premature”. Nobody,
including the Russians, likes Assad’s
regime, but it is the least bad remaining
Indeed, it is the only alternative left to
a jihadi victory. Most of the “moderate”
anti-regime rebels went home or fled
abroad years ago, unable to match the
jihadis in firepower, in money or in
frightfulness. The notion that the US can
now create a moderate “third force” able
to defeat both the jihadis and the Assad
regime is a shameful face-saving fantasy.
Moscow used diplomacy to save the
Obama administration from itself two
years ago, when Washington was getting
ready to bomb Assad’s forces in response
to a (possibly spurious) allegation that
they had used poison gas on civilians.
The only way Russia can avert disaster
this time, however, is to put its own air
force into the fight — and maybe its own
ground troops too.
If it does, the key question will then be
whether the United States lets Russia do
the job that it is too fastidious to do itself,
or whether it gives in to the clamour of
its Turkish and Saudi allies — and they
would be clamouring — to “stand up” to
the Russian intervention.
Since the United States does not actually
have a coherent strategy of its own, it ’s
impossible to predict how it will respond.
For all Kerry’s bluster, they do not know
yet in Washington either.
Gwynne Dyer is an independent
journalist whose articles are published in
Syria: Russia to the rescue?
WORLD IN FOCUS
with Gwynne Dyer
President Bashar al-Assad, of Syria meets with Russian leader Vladimir Putin.
Michael Holden and Sara Ledwith
irmingham school principal
Kamal Hanif recently
gave a group of parents a
presentation about how
extremists use social media
to recruit young people.
When he mentioned Facebook, some
of the parents, mainly Muslim mothers,
raised their hands to show they had never
heard of the site.
For extremists, he told them, that
ignorance is a weapon. “If you’re not
speaking to your child and being very
open with them, they have got no one to
Hanif is in a good position to know. A
decade ago, he became the first Muslim
head of a high school in Birmingham.
Over that time, Britain’s second largest
city has generated the United Kingdom’s
first al Qaeda convict and a hacker who
was allegedly part of the Islamic State
group which killed American journalist
Under Hanif, Waverley School has been
commended by inspectors for keeping
young people safe, even though it sits in
a deprived community that was ranked
one of the “most vulnerable to violent
extremism” in the city by police in 2013.
Last year, Hanif was called in to help
reform other local schools after an alleged
plot by hard line Islamists to take them
over from within.
As teachers in Britain return to school
this month, they have a new legal
obligation to keep an eye out for potential
extremists. Hanif has been touring the
country to share his experiences. His story
shows how the new law could help, but
could also prove counter-productive.
The UK government estimates at least
700 people have travelled to support or
fight for jihadist groups in Syria and Iraq.
Polls show fear of Muslims is on the rise.
In a speech in July, Prime Minister David
Cameron said the country had to confront
“a tragic truth that there are people born
and raised in this country who do not
really identify with Britain — and who
feel little or no attachment to other
Under the new law, schools must have
“due regard to the need to prevent people
from being drawn into terrorism.” Critics
of the policy, who include students,
teachers, academics, civil liberties groups
and members of parliament, say it unfairly
targets Muslims and will aggravate the
sense of alienation of 2.7 million Britons.
“There has sadly, over the last six years,
been a policy of disengagement from
British Muslim communities,” said
Sayeeda Warsi, a Muslim and a former
chairman of Cameron’s Conservative
Party. “Successive governments have
seen more and more individuals and
organisations as being beyond the pale
and therefore not to be engaged with.”
Rob Ferguson, a teacher at Newham
Sixth Form College in east London,
worries that the law is leading to paranoia.
A friend of his, whom he declined to
identify, was told his son was “talking too
much about Palestine.” “It ’s a real example
of the climate,” Ferguson said, “a sort of
self-policing on the one hand, a fear of
open discussion on the other.”
Hanif shares these concerns, saying the
law seems to single out Muslims. “It ’s
almost as though it’s the race equality
debate coming back again,” said the
clean-shaven 44-year-old in his cluttered
first-floor office, teaching awards on the
windowsill behind him.
Nonetheless, he says that if schools take
the right approach, the new law can help.
“It ’s how the school deals with it,” he said.
“If the approach is to ‘spot the signs’ ... it ’s
not going to work.”
Hanif ’s landowner family served in
the British military and migrated from
Kashmir to the Birmingham suburb
of Bordesley Green in the 1950s. He
was a student at the school he now
He thinks adults should keep an eye on
children and teenagers. At the seminar for
parents, he enlisted students to show why.
One put up a slide listing around 25 apps
that strangers can use to contact children
Hanif then outlined the grooming
techniques radicals use. First, he said,
recruiters present images of success. Then
they offer sympathy and friendship to
soothe an individual’s sense of isolation,
rejection or disgust with society. Some
send gifts. Others appeal to a sense of
personal duty — so targets feel obliged to
defend victims like the children of Syria,
or to return favours.
A key stage, Hanif said, is to “share a
secret ” and encourage the person to cut
themselves off from friends and family.
Parent Fayaz Ali said the meeting was
eye-opening. “I think I’m going to watch
a bit more what (my children) do,” she
said. “It ’s actually made quite clear how
their vulnerabilities are worked on.”
But surveillance has its limitations. A
group of head-scarved teenage girls said
they stay up late using apps including
Snapchat, Twitter, Whats App, BBM,
Tumblr, Vine and Instagram. If anyone
tried to track or oversee them, they said,
they would find a way to keep their
Under the new law, teachers must refer
any case they are concerned about to the
government ’s deradicalisation programme,
which includes police and is known as
Channel. Nationwide, nearly 600 under-
18s were referred last year.
In the decade Hanif has run Waverley,
he said, he has referred just two cases to
the scheme. One involved a child who
had undiscovered mental problems, and
was taken into care. The other — a pupil
who wrote a deliberately provocative
essay about terrorism in a religious
education exam — was not followed up
after authorities agreed the child was not
seriously at risk.
Hanif says two steps are more effective
than policing children: First, giving
students and their families exposure to the
views and beliefs of others, and second,
ensuring they have confidence and skills
to stay safe on-line.
The first step sounds simpler than it
is, especially in cities like Birmingham,
which writer Kenan Malik has described
as a patchwork of “ethnically defined
fiefdoms.” Hanif was shopping in the Bull
Ring mall a few years ago when extreme
far-right groups charged through, sending
him and his children running for cover.
When Hanif became head at Waverley,
he said, he had struggles with staff. H e
had to convince them he would not
impose an Islamist agenda, and to show
them that the local community was not
as insular as some felt. “It was quite a
difficult scenario to come into,” he said.
His solution was to make diversity a
school motto. Now Waverley — which at
the last intake had 1217 applications for
180 places — employs 46 nationalities,
introduces beliefs including Paganism
and Rastafarianism, and has gay rights
posters in the corridors. The school holds
“Diversity Days” to teach about different
cultures and has set up links with France.
Hanif, who obser ves Ramadan, plays
Santa for the younger children.
Pupil Dhanish Shaukat, 15, who has
cerebral palsy, said Hanif had helped him
beat bullies by picturing his own future.
The head told him the people who were
bothering him now would mean little to
him in a few years. When he thought that
way, he said, the bullies lost their power.
In social media, the head compensates
for adult limitations by encouraging
pupils to share their know-how in
discussion groups. Teachers help them
analyse grooming techniques used both by
anti-Muslim groups and Islamists.
But outside Waverley ’s tall black gates,
the message of diversity and resilience is
a harder sell. One staff member who lives
in a nearby town says he often dodges
anti-Islam protests on his commute from
work. And recently, fundamentalist Islam
has started to have a direct impact on the
In 2014 an affair known as “ Trojan
Horse” made headlines when an
anonymous letter claimed an Islamist
conspiracy was afoot in some schools. The
city’s education commissioner has since
said some were following practices like
those the letter described.
According to media reports, these
included compulsory Arabic from age
four, segregated physical education,
no discussion of sexual orientation, no
Christmas, and no French lessons because
that country has banned full-face veils
in public. School leaders were allegedly
threatened and intimidated.
For a few months afterwards, Hanif
helped oversee some of the affected
schools. Inspectors say improvements have
been slow. At Waverley, Hanif blames the
crisis for difficulties recruiting staff.
Colin Diamond, interim director
for education at the city council, said
Birmingham’s recruitment pattern is no
different to the national picture — which
has shortages in some subjects. The city
is launching a network of head teachers,
more than 300 of whom have signed
up, which means no school will ever
be isolated in the way they were under
Trojan Horse, he added.
Now Hanif is also coming under
pressure from outside. An anonymous
blog which says the Trojan Horse scandal
was a hoax has started to publish attacks
on him, saying his support for the
government ’s anti-extremist policies is
Diamond said the blog has attacked
other school leaders and government
officials, including himself. “It is
regrettable that the authors of this blog
choose to hide behind anonymity,” he
said. “I would challenge them to come out
and talk in public.”
Teachers tackle extremists
Kamal Hanif, principal of Waverley School, outside the school in Birmingham.
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