Stuart Broad in action on the second day of the second Ashes test at Lord's. Photograph: Getty Images
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Wounds from a hard campaign, visiting Lord’s with my sons – and Malala the Great

Imran Khan's diary.

Battered but not broken

For the last two months I’ve been in a terrible state physically. After my accident, when I fell from a stage during an election rally in Lahore in May, I spent two weeks in bed. I’ve never done this in my life. It was potentially a very serious injury: three vertebrae broken, cracked ribs, head injuries, and so on. Then I spent another three weeks in a brace, walking slowly. Finally I had the brace off after seeing a specialist here in England and doing physiotherapy. It’s been a testing time for someone who’s always been fit (I played international sport for 21 years) and has not known what it is like to be in a prolonged state of unfitness.

Now I’m out of my brace and on the mend. I’m ready once I go back to provide a proper opposition in Pakistan, which we haven’t had. More importantly, the one province – Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa – where we have a Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government is a golden opportunity for us to show what good governance is all about.

The reckoning

Looking back, I have mixed feelings about the election. On the one hand, my party did extremely well. Here was a party with zero seats in the last election, which we boycotted, and before that only one seat in parliament, and it has become the second-biggest party in Pakistan. We fielded 80 per cent new candidates – this was a movement against the status quo. The challenge was not winning the elections but to bring a change. If we had gone for winning the elections, we would have just picked tried and tested old political faces who were dying to join us, because we had these massive rallies and everyone knew the young were with us.

But these were the status quo politicians, against whom my whole movement was fighting. Of our candidates, 35 per cent were below the age of 40. We wanted to bring in young leadership. We put our party through trial intra-party elections. No other political party in Pakistan has ever held intra-party elections so they’re basically family parties – it’s son taking over from father or mother. Benazir Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, basically inherited a party as a 19-year-old after his mother was killed. The husband produced a will and said the party had been inherited by the son!

Bearing in mind we had all these new candidates and only a three-week campaign, we achieved what no other party could have hoped to achieve. We got almost eight million votes, and it’s a party that is now all over Pakistan, a federal party; the others are restricted to provinces. You need 140 seats to form a government and we got about 40 seats – but in 123 constituencies we came second. It means the party is poised for the next election, whenever it is. For now, we have time to organise our party properly.

To the streets

The downside was that this was the most rigged election in our history. Every political party that participated claimed that it was rigged. With each election, the rigging has increased because no one ever gets caught. We’ve accepted the result – Pakistan has too many crises to face a fresh election –but what we want is for the Supreme Court to do a detailed investigation of four constituencies out of 272. Then, with all the wrongdoings exposed, at least the next election should be free and fair. Our whole idea with insisting on this investigation is that we do not want a repeat of election-rigging. At the moment, I’m afraid we’re being resisted, but we are determined, even if it means a street movement. We will go on the streets to insist that there should be an investigation and that electoral reforms should take place in Pakistan.

Terror surge

Right now, the issue of terrorism in Pakistan is serious. In a year, we have had more than 300 terrorist attacks in the country. Pakistan is more radicalised thanks to the US war that we were forced to enter into by Pervez Musharraf, a military dictator. The state has got weaker at controlling terrorism and the army is stuck in the tribal areas. Some 50,000 Pakistanis have been killed, many times more than the British and Americans have lost in Afghanistan. The worst thing is that we still don’t have any solutions, because the government doesn’t have the will to pull us out of this war, which was never Pakistan’s war in the first place. There were no Pakistanis involved in the 9/11 attacks and the Taliban were in Afghanistan.

So how did we get stuck? I’m afraid it’s down to a ruling elite’s lust for dollars. They first took dollars to create the jihadis in the 1980s against the Soviets, and now they’re taking dollars to kill the same jihadis. The people of Pakistan have paid the price.

Mighty Malala

After she spoke, I read Malala Yousafzai’s speech at the United Nations. This 16-yearold girl, shot by the Taliban for her campaigning work on education, has touched everyone – and in Pakistan, too. She’s become a symbol, standing up for education. If there’s one thing a country needs, besides security, it’s education. Pakistan has an appalling record of educating its people and its female literacy is one of the worst in the world. My government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa is spending more than any other province ever has on education. We’ve made education a priority – especially female education.

Ashton, Prince of Ashes

Aside from seeing a specialist about my injuries, I’m also in England to see my boys. I love watching cricket with them because they both enjoy it. We are going to the Test match at Lord’s. The first Test was unexpected. I did not think Australia would be able to put up such a fight but they surprised everyone. The young debutant Ashton Agar was very impressive; he’s got a great future.

Half of the game of cricket is fought in the mind, the other half on the field. Australia’s attitude in the next matches will be different. People had written them off, but they will now be mentally much more ready to face England. Having said that, England will still win the series and retain the Ashes.

This article first appeared in the 22 July 2013 issue of the New Statesman, How to make a saint

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France’s burkini ban could not come at a worse time

Yet more legislation against veiled women can only further divide an already divided nation.

Since mayor of Cannes David Lisnard banned the full-body burkini from his town’s beaches, as many as 15 French resorts have followed suit. Arguments defending the bans fall into three main categories. First, it is about defending the French state’s secularism (laïcité). Second, that the costume represents a misogynistic doctrine that sees female bodies as shameful. And finally, that the burkini is cited as a threat to public order.

None of these arguments satisfactorily refute the claims of civil rights activists that the bans are fundamentally Islamophobic.

The niceties of laïcité

The Cannes decree explicitly invokes secular values. It prohibits anyone “not dressed in a fashion respectful of laïcité” from accessing public beaches. However, the French state has only banned “ostentatious” religious symbols in schools and for government employees as part of laïcité (the strict separation between the state and religious society). And in public spaces, laïcité claims to respect religious plurality. Indeed, the Laïcité Commission has tweeted that the ban, therefore, “cannot be based upon the principle of laïcité”.

While veils covering the entire face such as the burqa or niqab are illegal, this is not to protect laïcité; it is a security matter. The legal justification is that these clothes make it impossible to identify the person underneath – which is not the case for the burkini.

 

By falling back on laïcité to police Muslim women in this way, the Cannes authorities are fuelling the argument that “fundamentalist secularism” has become a means of excluding Muslims from French society.

Colonial attitudes

Others, such as Laurence Rossignol, the minister for women’s rights, hold that the burkini represents a “profoundly archaic view of a woman’s place in society”, disregarding Muslim women who claim to wear their burkini voluntarily.

This typifies an enduring colonial attitude among many non-Muslim French politicians, who feel entitled to dictate to Muslim women what is in their best interests. Rossignol has in the past compared women who wear headscarves through choice to American “negroes” who supported slavery.

Far from supporting women’s rights, banning the burkini will only leave the women who wear it feeling persecuted. Even those with no choice in the matter are not helped by the ban. This legal measure does nothing to challenge patriarchal authority over female bodies in the home. Instead, it further restricts the lives of veiled women by replacing it with state authority in public.

Open Islamophobia

Supporters of the ban have also claimed that, with racial tensions high after recent terrorist attacks, it is provocative to wear this form of Muslim clothing. Such an argument was made by Pierre-Ange Vivoni, mayor of Sisco in Corsica, when he banned the burkini in his commune. Early reports suggested a violent clash between local residents and non-locals of Moroccan origin was triggered when strangers photographed a burkini-wearing woman in the latter group, which angered her male companions. Vivoni claimed that banning the costume protected the security of local people, including those of North African descent.

Those reports have transpired to be false: none of the women in question were even wearing a burkini at the time of the incident. Nonetheless, the ban has stood in Sisco and elsewhere.

To be “provoked” by the burkini is to be provoked by the visibility of Muslims. Banning it on this basis punishes Muslim women for other people’s prejudice. It also disregards the burkini’s potential to promote social cohesion by giving veiled women access to the same spaces as their non-Muslim compatriots.

Appeals to public order have, occasionally, been openly Islamophobic. Thierry Migoule, head of municipal services in Cannes, claimed that the burkini “refers to an allegiance to terrorist movements”, conveniently ignoring the Muslim victims of recent attacks. Barely a month after Muslims paying their respects to friends and family killed in Nice were racially abused, such comments are both distasteful and irresponsible.

Increased divisions

Feiza Ben Mohammed, spokesperson for the Federation of Southern Muslims, fears that stigmatising Muslims in this way will play into the hands of IS recruiters. That fear seems well-founded: researchers cite a sense of exclusion as a factor behind the radicalisation of a minority of French Muslims. Measures like this can only exacerbate that problem. Indeed, provoking repressive measures against European Muslims to cultivate such a sentiment is part of the IS strategy.

Meanwhile, the day after the incident in Sisco, riot police were needed in nearby Bastia to prevent a 200-strong crowd chanting “this is our home” from entering a neighbourhood with many residents of North African descent. Given the recent warning from France’s head of internal security of the risk of a confrontation between “the extreme right and the Muslim world”, such scenes are equally concerning.

Now more than ever, France needs unity. Yet more legislation against veiled women can only further divide an already divided nation.

The Conversation

Fraser McQueen, PhD Candidate, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.