Monday, 21 December 2015

Geoff Brocklebank. A tribute from a friend....Me........






It was with much sadness that i learned of the passing of my good friend and fellow Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research fund raiser Geoff Brocklebank .

I first met Geoff shortly after my own diagnosis of Chronic Lympocytic  Leukaemia (CLL) in late 2006. He offered me a lot of reassurance and constructive advice at a time when , to be brutally honest, i felt that my life was effectively over.

I spoke many times to Geoff about my own situation, and even more times about my ideas to raise money for various charities , including Leukaemia Research, as it was known at that time.

I remember him telling me that I was "More likely to die with CLL than due to it".....a short but powerful sentence that gave me hope and courage to fight this illness and to try to help others to do the same.

We spent many hours over the years discussing various topics, thoughts and ideas over copious amounts of Tea and Coffee , often accompanied by a slice or 2 of cake made by Trish his wonderful and generous wife.

Geoff and Trish lost their Daughter to Leukaemia in the early 80's, and at that point they pledged to dedicate their time and effort into raising money and being part of Leukaemia Research .....which they did for many, many years, in fact Geoff's "other Identity" as the town Crier for Sleaford was yet another method of fundraising as he gave his fee's to the charity....something that many did not know.

I can't share with you the content of every conversation i had with this lovely chap, but if you watch the video below of him accepting his Sleafordian of the year (2015) award only a few months before his passing, you will get an idea of what a courageous and eloquent man Geoff was. And I think that his comments in it about how you can get even with a disease say a great deal about his tenacity and spirit.

Don't get mad...get even.

RIP Geoff. Top fella , you will be greatly missed my friend.

http://www.sleafordstandard.co.uk/news/local/video-tribute-sleafordian-of-the-year-geoff-brocklebank-dies-aged-67-1-7122679



..

  

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Fallout 4 PipBoy Limited edition ebay scam, rip off ,con,




Oh dear!. It appears that yet again I may have been ripped off by an unscrupulous seller on Ebay :-(

Why?

Because i had been naive enough to think that being unable to buy my son the Fallout 4 Pipboy limited edition (pre order) from GAME, due to greedy others buying the whole bloody lot within hours to sell for inflated prices on... yep... ebay!! :-/

All seemed well until the release date was upon us. We had received a tracking number from the seller a few days earlier and were assured that the item would be posted on the 10th November to be with us (special delivery) on the 11th....It never arrived. I checked on the Royal Mail website for progress using my tracking number and was asked to "come back later" as there was nothing to track.

Unfazed  I wrote to the seller via both email and via ebay messenger inquiring as to if the item had been sent and if not could they advise as to the status of the order....Nothing.

Eventually i tried to call the number they had provided on both the Paypal and ebay account details...unknown or incorrectly dialed number i was informed by the robotic female voice...Bollocks!!

I did get to speak to Paypal who informed me that i would get a refund...eventually, if it was a scam....but could take some time.

I asked if they checked their members address details were genuine...apparently not...obviously!!.

So when i asked how they intended to recoup the lost money (which amounted to several thousands of pounds) and they told me that "We will if necessary appoint a debt collection agency".....i pointed out that if the address that the paypal member supplied was false....were exactly are you going to send the debt collection company too   ?  I did not get a believable answer :-)

Seller is in Wendover near Aylsebury in Buckinghamshire. Put picture of invoice from GAME on the advert which showed he (allegedly) purchased 10 of these items for £999 in June...or did he?

Been Affected ?

Please leave me a comment

Thanks :-)

UPDTAE 14/11/2015

Details known about the thief.

Different addresses were used as business addresses.

155 Witchell
Wendover
Aylesbury
Buckinghamshire
HP22 6EG
United Kingdom

AND


29 Maunder Road
Wendover
London
London
W7 3PN
United Kingdom

155 Witchell and 29 Maunder road do NOT EXIST. According to Zoopla the house numbers only go up to 19 on Maunder and 41 on Witchell!!. Although on both occasions Wendover is included in the address.
The Postcode is in London but the address places the location in Wendover several miles North West.
The telephone Number 01296 340428 when dialed returns an "Incorrectly dialed number" message.
The Email danielcooper55@outlook.com WAS valid a few weeks ago. I spoke to a seller who sent an order via email to this address.
I have contacted GAME and the Royal Mail to see if they can identify the invoices or the postal details (sender). Game may be able to identify the buyer by the Date/Time/Amount on the invoice. Assuming that the con artist actually made the purchase in the first place their can't be many people who went into a GAME store or visited a GAME wesite on the 16th June 2015@ 1.24 and spent £999.90 using a card. Worth an inquiry and so i have sent a copy of the invoice to GAME to see if they can validate the details.

Is this a coincidence? Either this is the seller or the seller is using this guys info to defraud a lot of people!

Check out this link:  http://ukbizcheck.com/company/09209562/warlord-brewing-limited


The very likely bogus Tracking number was AE803127387GB. I would guess this was sent to ALL buyers?

If all those buying got nothing then this scam artist cleaned up a cool £8000+ from his little sting....and even though Paypal have suggested they will refund me.....I don;t think scum like this should get away without me making some effort to catch him(her!).

This individual increased their positive feedback by BUYING 5 STAR feedback via Ebay! This type of sale needs shutting down NOW as it is exactly the sort of mindless selling that allows scammers to flourish and extort money from other ebayers!!

Positive feedback ratingExcellent eBayer!!!Buyer:
5***e ( 17Yellow star icon for Feedback score between 10 to 49) 
During past 6 months
5 star feedback (#252035085316)£0.99


They also purchased of a REAL ITEM (which would have had to be posted to their address) from a seller callled Reptileshopper about 6 months ago, So it follows that somewhere along the line a genuine address has to have been provided if the item was actually sent!!

Positive feedback ratingThe item was great! Fast to send. Exceptionally ideal packaging. Recommended. A+Buyer:
5***e ( 17Yellow star icon for Feedback score between 10 to 49) 
During past 6 months
Last Action Hero (DVD, 2004) Brand New (#252006065244)£5.00




Update 17/11/2015

eBay

As per usual they are working hard to erase all traces of this disastrous sale!

Record of the ENTIRE listing has been erased
eBay messages too and from the seller have been erased and his account although still viewable is no longer registered with eBay. Not had ANY correspondence from eBay to date.....seems they prefer to keep this sort of scam quiet and probably don't want the Police Involved.....I DO!!

GAME

Spoke to the manager of a local GAME store who examined the "invoice" and suggested it was actually a screen shot from their web page on-line order facility. And the order never got any further than the basket (Not to the checkout!)

Thinks that the scammer has a GAME account as he appears to have used a known credit card.
Appears to have received an email from the site so could be legitimate email address.
May be able to search GAME on-line order records and cross reference DATE/TIME and TOTAL which are STORED even if the transaction is canceled :-) (Stores IP Address in case of attempt to use a stolen credit card!  Might prove VERY useful :-)

Royal Mail

I spoke to the Royal mail to try and establish how the scammer managed to supply a bogus TRACKING number which it appears was sent to all of his victims. It was a GENUINE number which was probably purchased on-line using an ESTABLISHED account with Royal Mail. She suggested that they could backtrack the tracking number to the account with which it was purchased :-)...Result !!

Will be passing all this info onto the Police at the end of this week. You never know..maybe this fella might get caught yet :-)

UPDATE 18/11/2015

Reported to Police Fraud Unit :-)



Update 21/11/2015

It appears that Mr Cooper is heavily involved in the Brewing industry...but is this the fraudster or is he a victim of identity theft? As you can see from the address and details below a lot of the info supplied by dvdandvideogames2015 appears to match!
Cooper'S Brewery Limited
Register Address15 Witchell, Wendover, Aylesbury (area code: HP22 6EG)
Company number08259594
StatusActive
Incorporation date2012-10-18
Company age3 years 1 month
TypePrivate Limited Company
SIC Code11050
SIC CategoryManufacture of beer
I was also contacted by the Fraud department of GAME today. I have sent them a copy of the "invoice" to assist with their investigations.....watch this space :-)

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Mansfield boy given Life saving Leukaemia drug

http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/leukaemia-wonder-drug-cures-british-6576878

Friday, 25 September 2015

Revolutionary new CLL drug developed in Leeds


25/09/2015



A revolutionary new cancer drug designed by researchers in Leeds could change the way the disease is treated.
What makes it different is this drug doesn't require chemotherapy - it's an oral drug which has today been licenced for the NHS by NICE - the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence
The treatment, for Leukaemia patients, could pave the way for a new methods of tackling the condition.

Friday, 10 July 2015

0151 231 6785 01512316785 Liverpool. Nuisance Calls.



If, like me, you have had the misfortune to be called by persons (Currently unknown, but I am working on it!...watch this space :-) ), you will know how bloody irritating and annoying being called several times a day and then having them cut you off when you answer is!

The good news is that as we speak, an ex employee who recognised the number has decided to supply me with Names, addresses and WORKING land line numbers for these awful, rude people. So shortly I will be publishing them on EVERY FORUM i can :-)

REVENGE WILL BE SWEET as they receive phone calls, junk mail and other annoying stuff to give them a taste of their own medicine !

CAN'T WAIT Lol :-)

By the way. If you send a standard letter through the post with a VERY heavy load of blank paper in it (Second class stamp only), the person who recieves it will be asked to pay the difference before it is delivered....Just thought i would leave that here.......for you annoyed people to consider :-)

Have a nice day...and watch this space !!

http://www.experienceproject.com/stories/Hate-Myself-And-I-Want-To-Die/2379116


Friday, 12 June 2015

KO56 NJT . Apparently i was involved in an accident...but this registration number does not exist !(DVLA)

Having spoken to Adrian Flux insurance services today whilst arranging a new policy for my Scirocco, I was rather alarmed to find that, according to their data base, I had been involved in an accident with someone(unknown) on September 15th 2011 driving a vehicle (unknown) which had a registration which does not exist!.

After some Googling ,calls to DVLA and checking on the ASKMID site I have now come to the conclusion that this is some sort of mistake...but why then does it show up on my insurance claim history?

Anyone else had a similar experience?

So far have spoken to MID (Motor Insurance Database) and DVLA

Just waiting on a call from IDSL (08451652803
idsl)......hope they can throw some light on this mystery :-)

UPDATE 02/07/2015

Interesting facts. The Reg number is almost identical to that of the lorry which collided with me in April 2014 (Except that 2 of the letters in the Reg number have been reversed!)

The Entry onto my Insurance record was made (according to IDSL) by Ecclesiastical Insurance services (with whom i had a policy a few years back) . Having called them today to ascertain how a false entry was made, i am yet again awaiting an anwser.


Saturday, 30 May 2015

Microsoft Computer Support Scammers ALERT !!

I got a call from a spoof "Computer support" line at 08:15 this morning. THE EXACT same call as the one in this video below, except that it was a lady (loose term).

The number (probably false) came up on the phone as 02199474577.I did record a little of the conversation which i have saved. I let her rattle on a few minutes before i told her to get stuffed and hung up smile emoticon

PLEASE SHARE this information. These people try to charge between £85 and £150 to "Fix" your "Faulty" computer....they do not! IT IS NOT BROKEN! The instructions regarding pressing keys CAUSES THE ERROR MESSAGES!!

Stay safe. Share and enlighten to stop these scumbags ripping off people :-/

http://www.musicamoviles.com/V95cNx7Fhbo/scamming-the-scammers-how-to-handle-fake-tech-support-calls-reupload/http://www.musicamoviles.com/V95cNx7Fhbo/scamming-the-scammers-how-to-handle-fake-tech-support-calls-reupload/

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

13 months later. and STILL no settlement for the accident !!

So. It appears that AVIVA have decided to continue this ongoing  farce in trying to defend the HGV driver that ran into the rear of me and wrote off my beloved Scirocco last April!

After providing diagrams, statements, photographs and even video's of the crash scene i still have to wait for ANY evidence to be submitted in the others drivers defence......yet they are seemingly prepared to go as far as at least agreeing to go to court in their attempts to "out wait" me ,perhaps hoping that i will fold at some point and accept their claim that I was somehow 50% responsible for their clients apparent inability to judge distances and control his 40 tons of wheeled destruction on that fateful day!

Dear AVIVA:

Go to Hell! Stop wasting my time and court time in your pathetic time wasting efforts. You WILL lose, and if /when we do go to court i will relish in the chance to show how you have made something out of nothing and made yourselves look stupid and incompetent by your actions.


Saturday, 7 March 2015

Arctic Blast- Making Tracks 2015. Picture travelogue of the Greer brothers journey so far :-)

Ok. So tomorrow (8th March) , the Greer brothers are aiming to arrive at Nordkapp, after an amazing 2500 mile, 7 day drive from the UK :-)

Here then are a selection of pictures i have "borrowed" from their Facebook page...hope they don't mind too much :-p














Friday, 30 January 2015

Jak Trueman. A real cancer hero. Respect to you for your amazing courage :-)




Last week Scottish teenager Jak Trueman received the devastating news that his rare form of T-cell lymphoma was terminal.

 Jak is determined to help patients in the time he has left and last night made a moving appearance on STV Newshttp://bit.ly/1DckeYZ

Jak has raised more than £20,000 to help beat blood cancer in less than a week since hearing the news and his selfless courage and bravery is an inspiration to us all. Show your support for Jak by sharing this post, leaving a message of support in the comment box below and making a donation to his JustGiving page: http://bit.ly/1Dckkjk

http://news.stv.tv/east-central/308253-jak-trueman-fulfilling-life-wishes-after-told-cancer-is-terminal/?utm_source=FacebookPost&utm_medium=social&utm_term=Jak%2BTrueman&utm_campaign=General%2BNews

What an AMAZING young fella :-)
.

Arctic Blast 2015...Another Scirocco adventure soon to be underway :-)







I heard some great news today that another pair of brave souls are planning on setting off on an epic adventure a la Scirocco on the 1st March this year :-)

Here are a few details from their facebook "About" page:


  • In March brothers Tony and Paul Greer will undertake a daunting driving challenge. Having bought a car for under £1000 they will attempt to drive in a 5000 mile round trip to Nordkapp, the most northerly point in Europe it's possible to reach by car. Nordkapp is 2500 miles away from London on the northern tip of Norway, 700 miles inside the Arctic Circle. The brothers want to raise money and awareness of two charities that have personal importance to them. These are Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research and the Antony Nolan charities who special in blood diseases and manage the national bone marrow register.

    You can follow their preparations including a frantic hunt to find a suitable car (This was recently confirmed to be a Mk2 Scirocco!) and get everything organised before departing on Sunday 1st March.




  • Making Tracks - Arctic Blast has been supported by sponsors helping the brothers achieve their goal. You can help to by donating on our Justgiving Team page.

Their facebook page can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/ArcticBlast2015/info?tab=page_info






Saturday, 24 January 2015

Tragic and pointless Leukaemia death of a child

What a sad story :-(

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120823/canada-lets-makayla-sault-die-leukemia-over-religious-sensitivity

Tragic, and possibly preventable :-/

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Charlie Hebdo. An open letter by Olivier Tonneau.

  Three days ago, a horrid assault was perpetrated against the French weekly Charlie Hebdo, who had published caricatures of Mohamed, by men who screamed that they had “avenged the prophet”. A wave of compassion followed but apparently died shortly afterward and all sorts of criticism started pouring down the web against Charlie Hebdo, who was described as islamophobic, racist and even sexist. Countless other comments stated that Muslims were being ostracized and finger-pointed. In the background lurked a view of France founded upon the “myth” of laïcité, defined as the strict restriction of religion to the private sphere, but rampantly islamophobic - with passing reference to the law banning the integral veil. One friend even mentioned a division of the French left on a presumed “Muslim question”.

            As a Frenchman and a radical left militant at home and here in UK, I was puzzled and even shocked by these comments and would like, therefore, to give you a clear exposition of what my left-wing French position is on these matters.

            Firstly, a few words on Charlie Hebdo, which was often “analyzed” in the British press on the sole basis, apparently, of a few selected cartoons. It might be worth knowing that the main target of Charlie Hebdo was the Front National and the Le Pen family. Next came crooks of all sorts, including bosses and politicians (incidentally, one of the victims of the shooting was an economist who ran a weekly column on the disasters caused by austerity policies in Greece).  Finally, Charlie Hebdo was an opponent of all forms of organized religions, in the old-school anarchist sense: Ni Dieu, ni maître! They ridiculed the pope, orthodox Jews and Muslims in equal measure and with the same biting tone. They took ferocious stances against the bombings of Gaza. Even if their sense of humour was apparently inacceptable to English minds, please take my word for it: it fell well within the French tradition of satire – and after all was only intended for a French audience. It is only by reading or seeing it out of context that some cartoons appear as racist or islamophobic. Charlie Hebdo also continuously denounced the pledge of minorities and campaigned relentlessly for all illegal immigrants to be given permanent right of stay. I hope this helps you understand that if you belong to the radical left, you have lost precious friends and allies.

            This being clear, the attack becomes all the more tragic and absurd: two young French Muslims of Arab descent have not assaulted the numerous extreme-right wing newspapers that exist in France (Minute, Valeurs Actuelles) who ceaselessly amalgamate Arabs, Muslims and fundamentalists, but the very newspaper that did the most to fight racism. And to me, the one question that this specific event raises is: how could these youth ever come to this level of confusion and madness? What feeds into fundamentalist fury? How can we fight it?

            I think it would be scandalous to answer that Charlie Hebdo was in any way the cause of its own demise. It is true that some Muslims took offence at some of Charlie’s cartoons. Imams wrote in criticism of them. But the same Imams were on TV after the tragedy, expressing their horror and reminding everyone that words should be fought with words, and urging Muslims to attend Sunday’s rally in homage to Charlie Hebdo. As a militant in a party that is routinely vilified in the press, I don’t go shoot down the journalists whose words or pictures trigger my anger. It is a necessary consequence of freedom of expression that people might be offended by what you express: so what? Nobody dies of an offence.

            Of course, freedom of speech has its limits. I was astonished to read from one of you that UK, as opposed to France, had laws forbidding incitement to racial hatred. Was it Charlie’s cartoons that convinced him that France had no such laws? Be reassured: it does. Only we do not conflate religion and race. We are the country of Voltaire and Diderot: religion is fair game. Atheists can point out its ridicules, and believers have to learn to take a joke and a pun. They are welcome to drown us in return with sermons about the superficiality of our materialistic, hedonistic lifestyles. I like it that way. Of course, the day when everybody confuses “Arab” with “Muslim” and “Muslim” with “fundamentalist”, then any criticism of the latter will backfire on the former. That is why we must keep the distinctions clear.  

            And to keep these distinctions clear, we must begin by facing the fact that fundamentalism is growing dangerously and killing viciously. Among its victims, the large majority are Muslims who would surely not want to be confused with their killers. So I return now to the question: what is the cause of the rise of fundamentalism?

            A friend told me that it was “the West bombing Muslim countries”. I am deeply suspicious of a statement that includes two sweeping generalizations and is reminiscent of Samuel Huntington’s theory of the “clash of civilizations”: the western world vs. the Muslim world. The only difference between George W. Bush and a leftwing stance would be that whilst Bush sided with the western world, the leftwing activist sides with the Muslim world. But to reverse Huntington’s view is a perverse way of confirming it. So let us try to address the issue otherwise.

            It is obvious that the rise of fundamentalism is intertwined with the complex series of tragedies that unfolded from colonialism to the present times, including the Israel/Palestine conflict. Yet I think we should recognize one thing. Just as the Christian religion caused an enormous lot of problems in the West for centuries, problems which were not always peacefully resolved, Islam has caused enormous problems in the Muslim world to a lot of people, too. Anywhere in the world, the space for individual rights has always had to be opened by rolling back religion a few miles. And this is something that the Muslim world has begun doing as early as the nineteenth-century, with difficulties not dissimilar to those experienced in the Christian world – for those who would like to explore the parallel, I recommend reading Sami Zubaida’s excellent book Beyond Islam.

            Few people even know today that there was a period, beginning in the mid-ninetieth century to the mid-twentieth century, called the Nadha (Rebirth, or Renaissance), which saw a wide-ranging process of secularisation from Morocco to Turkey. Few people care to remember that, in the 1950s and 60s, women wearing the veil were a small minority in Tunis, Algiers and even Cairo. This does not mean that they were not Muslims, mind you. Just as in the West, where a lot of Christian girls started having sex before marriage or taking the pill, principles were evolving, with some inevitable tensions.

            Much as it offends the Edward Saïd vision of cultures as bound to devour or be devoured, the Nadha was fuelled by ideas developed by European thinkers and enthusiastically endorsed by local students and intelligentsia – and before you accuse me of Western paternalism, let me stress two things. First, “ideas developed by European thinkers” are not “western ideas”. The anti-colonial movement referred to Marx, Freud and Robespierre, who had – and still have – fierce critics in the West. Second, at the very same time as the anti-colonial movement was drawing inspiration from the history of struggles in Europe, Claude Levy-Strauss was transforming the Western understanding of civilization by studying other cultures, just as Leibniz had extensively studied Chinese language, law and politics in his quest for Enlightenment. Peoples are neither homogeneous nor self-enclosed units: within peoples, people organize themselves and oppose themselves around principles and ideas.

            It is on the ashes of the Nadha that fundamentalism as we know it emerged. I say “emerged”, because we should not be fooled by the fundamentalists who claim to restore Islam in its original purity. The ideology they promote – literal, violent, legalistic, narrow-minded, other-worldly – is a radical novelty in the history of Islam. It is the dramatic perversion of a culture. So how did such a perversion take place? This is where the story gets complex – more complex than that of the West vs. the Muslim world.

            Anti-colonial movements in France’s former colonial empire (in Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco but also in Egypt) were secular (which of course does not mean that their members were atheists): they intended to create modern nation-states independent from the tutelage of Western exploiters. Thus in Algeria, the Front de Libération Nationale was fighting for the creation of a Democratic And Popular State of Algeria (note the distinctly communist touch). Yet the chaos that emerged during and after independence wars (for which the West clearly has a serious responsibility) provided an excellent opportunity for fanatics of all sorts, who had deeply resented the evolution of their countries, to return to prominence with a vengeance. Thus in Algeria, an extremist wing that had already subverted the FLN during the war eventually came into power after decades of political and economic instability, only to unleash atrocious violence. I have friends of Algerian origins who deeply resent to this day the fundamentalists who robbed them of their secular state and persecuted them to the point that they eventually migrated to France. I am not an expert on “the Muslim world” – if such generalization even makes sense – but I think a similar sort of process took place in many other countries.

            So France is home today to many Arabs, some of them Muslims, who were chased away from their home country by fundamentalists as early as the 1960s. They were exposed to racism of course, especially in the workplace – it’s the story that goes back to the Middle Ages of workers who fear the threat of outsiders – and also bullied by the police and treated like second-class citizens. They fought for equality and justice, with the support of many on the left of the political spectrum, for instance during the 1983Marche des beurs. Believe it or not, none of the protagonists of the march were making religious claims; they were not walking as Muslims but as French citizens who demanded that France truly provides them with Liberté, Egalité and Fraternité.

            The spirit of the Marche des beurs is that of Charlie Hebdo: justice for all citizens, including migrants and minorities. Now let me fast forward. Last year, a film was produced, commemorating La Marche des beurs. The producers asked famous rappers to collectively record a promotional number. One of the rappers threw in the verse: “I demand a Fatwa on the dogs at Charlie Hebdo”. He also contrasted “our virtuous veiled girls” with “the make-up wearing sluts”. Yet there were many women in the Marche; none of them were taking a religious stance and few of them were wearing the veil. How could a secular movement for equality be rewritten in religious terms? This raises the question of the rise of fundamentalism in France.

            Let us be clear: fundamentalism is not caused by immigration from Muslim countries. It is very easy to demonstrate this: Muslims migrated in France as early as the 1950s and the issue of fundamentalism only arose in the last fifteen years. Moreover, among the young men who enlist to fight for Daesh, many are actually disenfranchised white youth with no familial links to Islam. Fundamentalism is something new, that exercises a fascination on disenfranchised French youth in general – not on Muslims in general. In fact, the older generation of French Muslims is terrified by the phenomenon. After the killing of Charlie Hebdo, Imams demanded that the government take action against websites and networks propagating fanaticism. 

            That the emergence of fundamentalism is posing serious problems to Arabs also sheds an interesting light on the law banning the hijab – a law that is routinely mentioned as a proof of France’s anti-Muslim bias. I do not have a definite opinion on this law. I was, however, stunned when I read a very angry article by a writer I admire, Mohamed Kacimi. The son of an Algerian Imam, deeply attached to his Muslim culture yet also fiercely attached to secularism, Mohamed Kacimi lashed out angrily at white, middle-class opponents of the law, who focused on the freedom of Muslim women to dress as they please. They were not the ones, he said, who had their daughters in the suburbs called prostitutes, bullied and sometimes raped for the sole reason that they chose not to wear the veil – let us remember that many Muslim women do not consider wearing the veil as compulsory: again, we have here Muslims being persecuted by fundamentalists.

            France has a long tradition of secular Islam, fully compatible with the laws of the Republic, but at war with fundamentalists. In the nineties, the Paris Imam was shot by fanatics whose violence he denounced; more recently, the Imam of Drancy, who expressed displeasure with Charlie Hebdo’s cartoons but firmly denounced the fatwa issued against them by Al Qaida, was himself condemned to death by the terrorist organization and is living under the protection of the police.

            So the question is: how has a fraction of the French youth (of either white, black or Arabic origin) become so responsive to fundamentalism? The answer to this question cannot be directly traced back to “the West bombing Muslim countries”. I think it has primarily to do with the complete failure of the Republic to deliver on its promises of Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité. Here, there is an important point to make.

            I often read in the English press, or hear from British friends, that French laïcité is a “foundational myth” – as if France lived under the illusion that religion could be eradicated once and for all. This has nothing to do with laïcité properly defined. Laïcité does not deny anybody the right to express their religious beliefs, but it aims to found society on a political contract that transcends religious beliefs which, as a result, become mere private affairs. The beurs who marched on Paris in 1983 were performing a laïc demonstration. They were not the only ones to demand that the Republic be true to its own principles. In a beautiful book titled La Démocratie de l’Abstention, two sociologists trace the heartbreaking story (at least it breaks my republican heart*) of how the French citizens who arrived from the former colonies vote massively: they are proud of their right to participate in democracy. They try to convince their children to do the same; but the latter are not interested. Decades of social segregation and economic discrimination has made it clear to them that the word ‘French’ on their passport is meaningless – there is no equality, no freedom and clearly no fraternity.

            The process of disenfranchisement was gradual. Riots in the banlieues started erupting at the turn of the eighties, and gathered pace in the nineties. They had no religious subtext: they were expressions of anger at discrimination and police harassment. Yet the need to belong is a fundamental human need: if French youth of Arab descent could not feel that they belonged to France, what would they belong to? La Démocratie de l’abstention describes how the conflict between Israel and Palestine – which had been going on for decades already - suddenly caught the imagination of the youth: it was their Vietnam, their cause. They had found their brothers overseas. When, in the 2009 European elections, a bunch of crazed conspiracy theorists launched an anti-Semitic party which had strictly nothing to do with Europe or with the issues that these youth faced, they registered high votes in many suburbs. And as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict itself degenerated from a political conflict into a religious conflict, so did the French youth begin to read the world in religious terms.

            Youth is the age of self-sacrifice and revolutionary dreams. In the sixties, young middle class Frenchmen who felt alienated from their conservative milieu idolized Mao’s cultural revolution – no less nihilist than Islamic fundamentalism –, dreamed of throwing bombs and sometimes did so. But this case is different. The middle-class Maoists belonged to a privileged class. They were highly educated. They had the intellectual, economic and social means to move out of their nihilist craze and back into the world. The disenfranchised, ostracized youth are an easy target for indoctrinators of all sorts. Their world-view becoming ever more schematic, they endorsed a West Vs Muslim grid that apparently made some of them incapable of recognizing that a newspaper such as Charlie Hebdo, who was standing with Palestine, for ethnic minorities, for equal rights and justice, was on their side – a precious ally: the sole fact that Charlie Hebdo had poked fun at their faith was enough to make them worthy of death.

            And yet perhaps this narrative (which, be reassured, is nearing its end) helps you understand what Charlie Hebdo was trying to do. It was precisely trying to defend the republican ideals whereby it is not religion that determines your commitments but justice. It mocked not the religion that Muslims have quietly inherited from their fathers and forefathers, but the aggressive fundamentalism that demands that everybody defines themselves – ethically, politically, geographically – in religious terms. It stressed that a religion that lays a claim to ruling a society is dangerous and, yes, ridiculous, whichever religion it may be – Islam is no sacred cow.

            To conclude. I firmly condemn the bombing of Middle-Eastern countries (or any country for that matter) by Western governments. I vote for political parties that condemn it, and I demonstrate against it. I was shocked when such demonstrations were outlawed by the French government – but happy when the same government recognized the Palestinian state. In these demonstrations, I walk with people of all colours, origins and religious creed – we take a political, not a religious stand. And I despair to think that a fraction of the population of my country refuses to regard me as their ally because I am no friend of religions. Being aware of the root causes of the madness that took hold of these young people, I detest politicians who have done nothing to resolve the deliquescence of the banlieues, to fight routine discrimination and control police persecutions. These issues play as big a part in my view in the rise of fundamentalism in the French youth as do events in the Middle East; that is why, had I been in France today, I do not know if I would have wanted to march together with Angela Merkel and David Cameron – much less with Netanyahu and outright Nazis such as Viktor Orban.

            This is the difficult argument I am having with my French friends: we are all aware of the fact that the attack on Charlie Hebdo will be exploited by the Far right, and that our government will use it as an opportunity to create a false unanimity within a deeply divided society. We have already heard the prime minister Manuel Valls announce that France was “at war with Terror” – and it horrifies me to recognize the words used by George W. Bush. We are all trying to find the narrow path – defending the Republic against the twin threats of fundamentalism and fascism (and fundamentalism is a form of fascism). But I still believe that the best way to do this is to fight for our Republican ideals. Equality is meaningless in times of austerity. Liberty is but hypocrisy when elements of the French population are being routinely discriminated. But fraternity is lost when religion trumps politics as the structuring principle of a society. Charlie Hebdo promoted equality, liberty and fraternity – they were part of the solution, not the problem.

 

            With all best wishes,

 

            Olivier