Monthly Archive for December, 2007

Eid Mubarak! (and date controversy)

(Belated) Eid Mubarak to all readers.

Those of you who celebrate Eid are probably aware there’s been controversy over the date of Eid again. My own views have been settled on this topic for a while now. Personally I think we should move beyond Ludditism and accept the (scientific) astronomical calculations. But this has to be by consensus: unity is more important. I’m not going to celebrate Eid on the ‘right’ day (scientifically) if most of the community is doing it on the ‘wrong’ day (based on reports of when someone claimed to see the new moon).

The thing people seem to forget is that consensus is not needed simply at a local level. Eid-ul-Adha, in particular, is when many Muslims will feel a spiritual bond with the pilgrims performing Hajj. It is, after all, supposed to be the day after Arafat, when the hujjuj return to Mina and being the days of tashreek. Celebrating Eid on a different day is just ridiculous. And once you accept that principle for Eid-ul-Adha, you really have to be consistent and accept it 12 months a year, including for the start and end of Ramadan. For better or worse that position means acceding to the rulings of the Saudi authorities since they basically control the Hajj. (I was there last year, supposedly we went to Arafat on the ‘wrong’ day – but surely no-one would suggest breaking with with everyone else and doing it on the ‘right’ day instead?)

So, in short, I support the decision of the London Co-ordinating Committee of Mosques (basically London Central Mosque, East London Mosque and the other big non-sectarian ones) to follow the decisions of the Umm-ul-Qurah in Makkah. There may be a few occasions when we should celebrate Eid the solar day before them (as we are about 3 hours west) but we should never be celebrating the day after. Those who feel passionately about celebrating Eid on the astronomically correct date should seek to engage in an educational dialogue with the Muslim world beyond these shores so that a new consensus can be reached.

Proceeds of privatisation

I was a little surprised to hear talk of privatisation on the Today programme this morning. With the iconic sales of British Airways and the utilities well in the past, it’s easy to forget that there are still many public corporations and that long after the downfall of Mrs Thatcher, and throughout the Blair years the government has continued to privatise state owned enterprises. Only last week it was finally announced that the government would go ahead with a trade sale of the Tote.

I don’t disagree with privatising companies that no longer need to be owned by the state. It’s good for both the state (the realisation of capital tied up in the public corporation which can be put to better use) and the company (the opportunity to flourish without the constraints of public ownership). Nevertheless, I was a little disturbed to hear that there are concerns in the Treasury regarding a shortfall of funds as a result of privatisatons being cancelled/postponed due to market conditions. Source: Brake put on £6bn UK sell-offs [FT.com].

Why on earth is the Treasury dependent on income from privatisation? I can see some ideologues might argue that the nature of the state is that over time it will expand and incorporate unnecessary components; and so a concerted effort towards continual privatisation is needed to keep it in check. There may be something in that but even so, we should not see privatisation as a reliable source of future income. Surely the income from the sale of state assets should be saved as a fund for the future, not on annual expenditure. This is no worse than Nigel Lawson’s use of privatisation proceeds to fund tax cuts.

I’m sure the government would argue that they are spending the money on schools, hospitals, etc. and so are investing for the future. I consider that sloppy accounting. The cost of putting aside a little every year to fund future renovations should always be included in the education, health, etc. budgets. Otherwise we’ll always end up in a position where after 20 or 30 years we find buildings crumbling apart and in need of repair. Proceeds from one-offs such as privatisation should be additional to these basic requirements.

Apologies for black out

Apologies for the black out of this site for some readers. I was caught out by a failure with Bad Behaviour (the WordPress spam/robot blocker I make use of). You should be able to read and post comments again now.

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