Opinion

Say it loud: hands off the hijab

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The government and its allies in the media are once again fuelling anti-Muslim attitudes, this time with their attack on the right of young Muslim girls to wear the hijab at school.

Following the chief inspector of schools Amanda Spielman’s call for primary schools to consider banning the hijab, Neena Lall, the head of St Stephens School in Newham, east London, imposed such a ruling. But after a meeting of more than 150 parents, she scrapped it, and apologised for her huge error of judgement.

Ambalavaner Sivanandan, 1923-2018

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Ambalavaner Sivanandan, who died on 3 January, was the director of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) and one of the most important anti-racist activists and intellectuals in Britain.

Sivanandan talked and wrote on all aspects of racism in an anti-imperialist, Marxist framework. He spoke out strongly against the idea of celebrating fixed ethnic or racial communities as the basis for fighting racism. He said that the fight must come out of “communities of resistance” — people who came together and thus defined themselves as a community in the fight against racism.

The art of resistance

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Gay activists played an important role in anti-fascist resistance. Noel Halifax tells the little-known story of the artist and writer turned freedom fighter Willem Arondeus, who was executed by the Nazis in the Netherlands 75 years ago.

Willem Arondeus was born in 1895, the son of theatre designers, and grew up in Amsterdam one of six children. At an early age he showed an interest in art and writing, which his parents encouraged, and in homosexuality, which his parents did not.

At the age of 17 he came out fully and refused to hide his sexuality. At the time homosexuality was legal in the Netherlands; nonetheless when he was 18 his parents kicked him out to fend for himself. He survived, but in impoverished conditions, continuing his interest in painting and writing.

Carillion lays systemic flaws bare

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The level of extortion made obvious to millions last month is a sharp illustration of the logic of capital.

Carillion was a creature of government cronyism and capitalist dysfunction. It was born in 1999 when parent company Tarmac sought to refocus on its core business of building supplies and span off Carillion, which inherited the facilities management and construction business.

The secret of Carillion’s early success was the manner in which the recently elected government of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown expanded the previous Conservative administration’s privatisation programme.

The enduring appeal of Marx

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Karl Marx was born two centuries ago. There have been ups and downs since, but he’s never gone entirely out of fashion. Sally Campbell introduces a monthly column looking at his life, work and relevance today.

The spectre of Karl Marx has never disappeared — a fact that will be reinforced when his bicentenary is celebrated this year on 5 May. A production at the National Theatre recently portrayed him as a lovable rogue. And a forthcoming film by Raoul Peck shows the young Marx, and his great friend Friedrich Engels, embedded in the revolutionary movements of the 1840s.

An open letter to Nick Cave

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Acclaimed rock band Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds played two shows in Tel Aviv in November in contravention of the international cultural boycott of Israel. Arts journalist and BDS activist Mark Brown has written the following open letter to Cave.

Dear Nick,
“Some people say it’s just rock and roll. Oh, but it gets you right down to your soul.” This lyric from your song “Push the Sky Away” could function as a shorthand expression of the relationship I have had with your work for much of my adult life.

As a theatre critic and arts journalist, I spend much of my professional life trying to find art works that transcend the banalities of everyday life and touch something profound in the human experience. Rarely am I as affected by the work I review as I am by your music.

Gordon Brown, bless him

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In his new memoir the former Labour prime minister Gordon Brown seeks to rebrand himself as a cuddly old leftie fit for the Corbyn era. John Newsinger recalls some of the evidence to the contrary.

While there were never any serious policy differences between Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, the conflict between the two men and their supporters was not just about personalities, or about who should be prime minister.

Welcome to the world of the plastic beach

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Modern capitalism’s throwaway society has created a crisis in the oceans. We must put blame where it’s due.

The BBC’s recent documentary series Blue Planet II, presented by David Attenborough, has kept viewers transfixed with its portrayal of the stunning diversity of wildlife in the oceans. It has also highlighted one of the world’s biggest environmental threats — plastic pollution.

Palestine and the Arab street

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Trump’s announcement that the US embassy will move to Jerusalem ignited protests across the world in solidarity with the Palestinians. On the steps of the Journalists’ Union building in Cairo demonstrators burned the American flag and brandished posters condemning Trump and his partner in crime, Egypt’s dictator Abdelfattah al-Sisi, while thousands took to the streets in Jordan, Lebanon, Algeria, Morocco, Iraq, Yemen and Syria.

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