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The French way

9 November 2005

Today, I received a hasty message from Dyab Abou Jahjah, head of the Arab European League, a movement which started in Belgium and spread to the Netherlands and France. I interviewed him for openDemocracy and occasionally after that, he came into our discussion forums. I remember him telling us about his most recent book, which has some themes that might interest Women Making a Difference bloggers. He wrote:

“Honestly, I am disgusted by extremists on both sides. More and more I am aware of the necessity of a democratic alternative, a radical democratic alternative. This society as it is today, locally and globally, is going nowhere.

I am writing a book now that is focused on the Arab world and Islam. I will be looking at history, and advocating a new Arab nationalist left project for the future. I will consider Islam and call for reformism, a protestant Islam, an Islam that gives religion back to the people - taking religion away from the multitude of churches and popes.

I will be defending the right of religious practice like the hijab out of a democratic analysis, but I will be attacking the hijab itself and proving that it is no Islamic obligation but rather a social-stratification tradition that turned theological. I recently said in an interview that the veil is not an Islamic obligation, that I will educate my daughter not to wear one, but that if one woman “believed” that it is part of “her” religion in her own interpretation of that religion that that woman has the democratic right to practice “her” religion as “she” understands it and not as I do. Now that I am expressing these views, fundamentalists and extremists on both sides attack me. But I think that this is the price to pay and it is one I am happy to pay.

I am glad to exchange ideas and views, in openDemocracy and elsewhere. Please let me know what you think of all this.”

Today he wrote to say that events in France are hectic at the moment, but that we might like to have a look at a recent comment piece by him on that subject.

If you would like to find out quite a lot more about Dyab's philosophy, campaigns and experience, you can read my interview with him. 

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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