Tameka Epsom, Melvin Odoom, the BBC and Strictly Come Dancing

Posted 11 Oct 2016 by Walaa Idris


I love Strictly and think the BBC is a national treasure and one of our proudest exports. Thanks to Sky+ these days I hardly watch anything live but also never miss a thing because I record almost everything.

Watching, a recording of Strictly Come Dancing the Results last night I was saddened and shocked to see Tameka Epsom eliminated. Saddened because she was great fun and a delight to watch. Shocked because she improved 100 % in her elimination dance thus showing she is a diverse dancer with huge potential plus the ability to deliver witty and serious in equal measures.

To be honest when the judges eliminated her my first reaction was “darn the second black contestant in as many weeks, let’s hope this doesn’t turn into a race row.” So, it is safe to say I was not at all surprised this morning to read race did become the central issue of her elimination. When it could and possibly is a matter of taste, abilities plus a host of non-race related reasons.

Those focusing on race should maybe shift their attention to fairness and justice. The week before Tameka Epsom was eliminated Melvin Odoom lost his place on Strictly and became the first contestant to leave the show. The poor man left without even getting a chance to dance his elimination dance. Why? Because Anastasia, the other contest on the bottom two that week, before preparing for the dance off told the judges “I am not sure if I can dance with my injury.” Of course on hearing that no BBC lawyer worth his salt will allow her to dance again. Understandably in this situation her health and well-being must come first and she should get the all clear from doctors before doing more dancing. I would go even further and say why was she even allowed to dance with an injury on the first place?

Having said that, what I have a problem with here is fairness.

Both contestants where on the bottom of the leader-board after the public vote and judges’ marks were tallied. The only thing left for them to do then was the dance-off. Since Anastasia was unwell, she was unable to dance again. So, why didn’t the BBC, in the spirit of fairness and equal opportunity forgo the elimination for that week and maybe had a double elimination later in the season?

That would have been kinder and nicer. It would have been a welcome and just change. And dare I say it would have avoided this unnecessary race row.


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The day civility lost and terror won!

Posted 27 Aug 2016 by Walaa Idris

Police in Nice

The west is known for its tolerance and acceptance of others and their values and believes. It is for that reason those fleeing oppression and prosecution choose refuge in a western country over a safer neighbouring state. Most who make it this far tend to reciprocate by obeying their adopted home’s laws. They willingly respect the traditions and the general sentiments and values of their host nation. To many migrants, the freedom and the self-worth, they gain by moving west is their biggest and most valuable achievement, and they tend to guard it with everything they have. Because in most cases it is a dream they worked hard and long to reach.

But of course like with most things in life, there are a few exceptions and they should be regarded and treated as such.

I believe in the saying “When in Rome, do as Romans do!” Because harmony can only be archived when two sides meet in the middle. That is why I have a problem with some of the appeasements and allowances I see today. Tolerance and acceptance are one thing, but shifting the balance to one side at the expense of the other causes disharmony, which breads resentment and ultimately unrest.

Not only that, sometimes ‘progressive’ appeasement goes as far as endangering the majority to pacify the minority. That might sound a little OTT, but ask yourself why are bikers, for security and safety of others, banned from wearing their hamlets in many public buildings? Yet a burka wearing woman is allowed to drive a car, go shopping and enter any bank?

In our current security environment, Europe and the west should ban all types of face cover from being worn in public. Same as bikers are not being allowed to enter buildings or a public space with their face covered, the same should apply to women. Observing women can wear long garments, cover their whole body and hair but not their face – because face cover disguises the person’s identity.

We are at war today with an enemy that will stop at nothing to deeply hurt us. Therefore, protecting the majority at the inconvenience of the minority is a measure we should welcome and support. Unlike some people, I am not going to cite what they do to women in Saudi Arabia, Iran or Afghanistan nor I am going to say “they force our women to cover up so we should ask theirs to …….” Why? Because we are better than them. We are civilised, empathetic and accepting. Because they look up to us and copy us not the other way round.

That is why this week I was horrified and embarrassed by the actions of the French police in Nice. To see four clothed gun currying policemen standing over a woman, forcing her to undress in the middle of the beach…., was incredibly shocking.

I understand France and particularly Nice is hurting. I also understand that hurt is still raw. Yet, as a civilised, evolved and cultured society, the sight of four armed men with the weight of the law behind them, standing over a woman and ordering her to undress in public was crass, barbaric and lacked civility.

Seeing that image, I asked myself – why didn’t they just arrest her? Why didn’t they treat her like any other lawbreaking criminal by removing her, in handcuffs, from the beach!?


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Is Donald Trump America’s Arab Spring or Brexit?

Posted 6 Aug 2016 by Walaa Idris


We all remember Brexit. It’s that referendum the government told us it will plunge the world into turmoil, starts wars, shuts industries and end humanity as we know it – if we dared to vote to leave the European Union. Because if we did then life as we know it will cease to exist. Remember? We are close to two months since we voted to leave, the skies are still blue and the sun still rises on the east.

On the other hand, the Arab Spring was a different affair. Wasn’t it? The same establishment and mainstream politicians were elated and impressed by the people of Arabia for finally having enough courage and gumption to stand up to tyrants that maligned and oppressed them. It began in November 2010 in Tunisia and quickly swept the Arab League from Tunisia to Bahrain. The wave of demonstrations and protests sped across the region carpeting it with civil unrest. In Tunisia, Egypt and Libya it resulted in regime change but to date only Tunisia moved to constitutional democratic governance. Libya and Syria are facing their nations’ worst civil war and turbulence in history and Egypt is right behind them.

When Donald J Trump decided to run for president of the United States, many laughed at the idea and didn’t pay it much attention. Yet, for over a year he pushed on and systematically defeated every opponent to secure the Republican nomination. From the start he was not a conventional candidate and some would say his style is somewhat outrageous. But, he kept on gaining support.

Trump is a phenomenon fuelled by the media and the Republican Party’s fear of him winning the nomination. This ‘self-fulling prophecy’ might look like it came out of nowhere, but like Brexit and the Arab Spring before it, the Trump phenomena is the result of bubbling disquiet in the grassroots and too much media sensationalism. The more the media and mainstream politicians berate him the stronger his appeal to activists became.

People of Europe and the US are not that different from Arabs or even Africans. Feelings and sentiments wise they are the same, the difference is in the manner they express these emotions.

From the start of the campaign, every week in almost every state, ordinary folks backed Trump in droves. The more the media berated him the stronger Jo Public backed him. Yet, the elite with their sophisticated polls, accomplished analysts and broadminded commentators did not see the link between his growing support and their criticism of him!

There is no doubt in my mind Trump is a clever businessman and a smooth media operator, plus his unorthodox ‘speak your mind no matter how it sounds like’ makes him unique and to some even a brave man of conviction. And here is where many went wrong with the Donald. Brave conviction politicians who speak from the heart without a polished, focus group tested, teleprompter delivered speech are extinct. When Trump gives a speech you can see his brain working, feel his heart racing and sense the passion in every word, and that is rare.

The political world might not think Trump is presidential material, but regular folks find him down to earth, relatable and funny. They are tired of unapproachable leaders who follow scripts and sound the same.

As the ordinary people’s choice, Donald J Trump might not win the 2016 US elections, but he will forever change the way America and the rest of the developed world do politics.


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Open Letter To Conservative MPs

Posted 30 Jun 2016 by Walaa Idris

Tory Leadership 2016

Dear Conservative MPs,

A week ago our country voted to leave the European Union. This momentous event was bitter sweet; just as the majority of Britain was celebrating democracy our leader and the Prime Minister of our nation resigned and triggered a leadership election. Unlike his own leadership election in 2005, this time for obvious reasons the election is run on a very tight schedule. The country and its economy need stability and surety hence the short campaign. However, we can efficiently achieve both in the timetable set while fully involving the membership.

As it stands, members have no input until the final two are selected by you, our elected representatives. In 2005 that was fine. However, today in 2016 this is a potential challenge. Grassroots who pound the streets, stuff envelopes, hold gardens fetes to raise fighting funds and travel the width and length of the country to get you elected will not stand for it.

We don’t need to look too far to see the fallout of internal political disharmony. A quick glance across the chambers’ floor and you will see the Labour party is in disarray due to disconnect between its Parliamentary Party and membership. The PLP don’t want their current leader because he doesn’t share their vision even though he was elected with an overwhelming mandate. In life we learn from mistakes, those made by ourselves but also the ones made by others. That is the purpose of this letter.

The next leader needs to unify both the party and our great union. I am positive I speak for many in the Conservative family when I say grassroots members must have a say in selecting the two finalists. That will be the first step towards unifying Brexiter and Remainers in our party.

My suggestion therefore is for MPs to hold a sounding meeting in their constituencies before the first elimination. By each MP polling their association on whom they want as the future leader, and reflecting that view in the final selection, the final two presented to the grassroots for election will be a truer reflection of our party’s membership and not a coronation by MPs.

This move will unify the two sides plus strengthen the position of the newly elected leader by giving them the mandate of an appropriate and comprehensive election. Recently, there has been a growing feeling of disconnect between the membership and leadership, there is a sense amongst the grassroots that power is mostly led from the centre rather than the broad.

By fully involving members in the selection process, the Conservative Party will heed any feelings of disconnect while also bringing closer and empower both sides.

Many thanks for your time

Sincerely yours
Walaa Idris


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Brexit is the beginning not the end

Posted 24 Jun 2016 by Walaa Idris

As someone who campaigned passionately to leave the EU I am beyond delighted with the result. However I have to admit there have been moments, even as late as yesterday, when I doubted our side can win. At times, during the campaign, the tone from the other side was dark and even disturbing; that made me think people will vote Remain out of fear and a desire to not rock the boat, not out of conviction. After pulling an all-nighter at the Kensington and Chelsea count, were my side lost, I then stayed awake until it was clear Leave has won before sleeping for a couple of hours.

Sadly, woke up to find David Cameron has resigned. His swift resignation epitomises all that is Cameron, honourable, honest and fair. It is painful to see such a brave leader step down for keeping and delivering a manifesto promise. As the only British Prime Minister to promise and offer the British people a referendum on our membership with the EU. He will also be remembered for stepping aside to allow for a fresh leadership to negotiate the country’s new relationship with the European Union.

A new dawn has broken today. As a naturalised Brit I feel enormous privilege to have taken part in this momentous referendum by campaigning and voting to leave the EU. This is an exciting time full with pride, anticipation but also some nervousness. Particularly for someone like me who grow up in an autocratic country were voting and having a say on such matters never happen. Therefore, unlike others of my vintage, I have nothing to compare this day to. I lived in the UK since 1991 and before that I was a citizen of the Sudan studying in the US. Besides my late father’s government (in the Sudan) being overthrown by a military coup, yesterday marked the most significant domestic political event of my life.

As someone who cut their political teeth in the US, my politics tend to be a tad tribal and my African Arabian blood adds passion and some heat to that tribalism. Despite that I sat on the fence for some time regarding the EU question. I did it mostly out of respect to David Cameron and his efforts; I didn’t want to pick a side until he completed his renegotiations. Once he was finished it became very clear the only way forward is to vote leave because the undemocratic EU had no intention of democratising, listening to reason or respecting the British public’s wish.

All night, despite knowing that we did everything to convince the electorate, there have been moments when I doubted we will win. As the results kept coming, in the early hours of the morning, it became clear Remain were losing.

Leave winning is just the beginning; it’s the start of a new relationship with the EU and the rest of the world. Despite the UK voting to leave very little will change overnight. Having said that, there will be some bumps in the road, change is not easy and not everyone likes or knows how to manage and adapt to it, but it will be temporary and will not have a lasting effect.

Like most who voted Leave I did because I love Britain, respect her democracy and trust her people. As I mentioned before, change is not easy and can at times be challenging, but our conviction and resolve can overcome both. Now, what we need is to stay united as a nation, as parties and work as one for the UK’s best interest. As the fifth largest economy, the fourth strongest security and the home of the biggest financial industry add to that our track record in overcoming adversity we have the foundation to become even bigger and stronger than we are today.

So celebrate this momentous day and look to the future, Britain is great and is about to become even greater.


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The quiet man leaves with an enormous roar

Posted 19 Mar 2016 by Walaa Idris

Iain Duncan Smith

Neither shocked nor surprised but incredibly saddened by Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation. Besides being a formidable social reformer and the last former Conservative leader in this cabinet, by losing him the frontbench has lost a very important voice in the Eurosceptics camp. With him gone from government, even after suspending collective responsibility, the scales are now tipped towards the Europhiles’ camp, thus making the government unbalanced. At this stage of the campaign, tilting the balance either way is unfortunate for both the government and Britain.

On both sides of the political divide people are saying IDS resigned “because he’d get sacked after the referendum” or “he quit to fight for the Out camp” or in some outrageous cases “because he is ashamed of his own reforms” all are wrong assumptions, all gravely misunderstand the man.

In my humble opinion IDS resigned from his post as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions because as a compassionate and principled Conservative reformer he had enough. He stepped down because he felt his reforms – which are designed to protect the poorest in the society, and put social justice at the heart of political policies – were yet again mistranslated. He left because he found it unjust to keep burdening the younger generations to appease pensioners and the middle classes and because he could not assent to tax cuts at the expense of the most vulnerable in the society. Of course savings need to be balanced. However, as compassionate conservatives and all of us being in it together; balanced cuts cannot be at the expense of the most disadvantaged in the society.

His reforms aren’t the problem; the problem is where the savings come from and where they are used.

What I find puzzling is government members expressing their puzzlement, and after all these years of working with IDS not understanding him and his vision of matching funding and spending decisions with social reforms!

After six years as the head of DWP, Iain Duncan Smith left a remarkable legacy which consists of changing the incentives structure and a reformed simpler and fairer welfare system that in a short time saw historic increases in the number of people in work and fewer than ever before children living in workless homes.

That is an awe-inspiring thunderous legacy to leave behind.



Why I will #VoteLeave and why you should too

Posted 21 Feb 2016 by Walaa Idris

The EU

After being on the fence for years, and at times even considered playing it safe by voting to stay “better the devil you know…. ”, in recent weeks the difference and benefits between staying and leaving the EU became very clear.

But first I would like to pay tribute to the Prime Minister and our party leader David Cameron, for delivering on two promises – negotiating a better deal for Britain and holding a referendum. Both are historic events and though he is not the first prime minister to promise either, he is the first to deliver both. Furthermore, he has negotiated with resolve and courage and got the country the best possible deal. Yet, I think Britain deserves better and would be much stronger outside the EU.

Thank you Mr. Cameron for being a man of your word and a great leader!

Because of his leadership in a few months we will all have the opportunity to decide whether Britain should stay in the European Union or leave it. I believe our nation will be freer, fairer and better off outside the EU.

That is why on June 23rd I will vote for Britain to leave.

Because I believe the decisions which govern all our lives such as the taxes we pay and the laws we obey must be made in the UK. They must be debated and decided at home by representatives of the British electorates, by the people we choose and elect. These fundamental decisions and powers cannot be dictated by outsiders, by European autocrats who aren’t accountable to the British electorate.

For me the most crucial aspect of my decision is accountability. I want the people who decide daily how we live our lives in Britain to be accountable and answerable to Britons. This way when a law doesn’t work or an official is corrupt the people who appointed them can vote to change or remove them.

But as things stand now, our EU membership prevents us from changing a number of important laws. Laws that have direct consequence in our economy such as how much VAT we should pay, which industry we can subsidise, where and when we can build, how much and what we can fish and farm, what size our fruits and vegetables should be and who in the world we can or cannot trade and do business with.

The ability to choose what laws govern us, who makes them and the freedom to change either, MUST solely rest within these shores and be determined by the citizens of these islands.

Our Parliament is the Mother of all Parliaments. Our democracy stood the test of time; we showed the world what free people are capable of achieving when allowed to govern. We can’t now give our sovereignty to a failing experiment that created economic chaos, mass unemployment and flawed and dangerous immigration policies. We cannot afford to be a member of a vanity test that is a source of massive border instability and security risks.

As the fifth largest economy, with the best armed forces in the world, by leaving we can take full control of our nation. But most of all we can also lead the way and show other European nations how they too can take control.

This referendum is an opportunity of a lifetime, a chance that may never come again, because of that I will not be true to my values and beliefs if I played it safe. For my country, my children and their children in the future, this June I will vote to leave the European Union and so should you.


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Is sexual assault the latest ISIL weapon?

Posted 9 Jan 2016 by Walaa Idris


I ask because sexual assault has been used throughout history as a weapon by attackers and invaders to humiliate subjugate and imprison their captives.

Last summer when hundreds of refugees filled boats docked in the Continent loaded with young and healthy men from North Africa and the Middle East many asked: if all the young men are coming to Europe who is staying back to fight ISIL?

Despite that and talk about ISIL supporters and fighters infiltrating genuine asylum seekers to enter the EU, and in spite of the risk and the danger the journey to Europe’s shores, Germany opened its doors and unconditionally welcomed all comers. The German people offered their homes, gave up their spare rooms, extra cloth, toys, and books, they opened their school halls and asked the rest of Europe to do the same.

Only six month after that selfless welcome, on New Year’s Eve, over one hundred women, while celebrating in the streets of Germany, were sexually assaulted by what was described as Middle Eastern looking men. The streets of the same Germany that opened its doors and hearts in kindness to people they thought were in dire need.

Or were they people in need?

In Islam rape is haram. True Islam condemns all kind of violence without exception. I know many will disagree with me. But as a Muslim brought up in an Islamic country by a Muslim family, I know what true Islam is. This, what ISIL is doing is not what most of us belief. A true Muslim will never attack his or her host. A true Muslim will show gratitude. Sexually assaulting random women on the streets of the country that opened its doors to you and housed you in your hour of need is not gratitude.

That is why I suspect earlier intelligence that said ‘ISIL fighters managed to infiltrate refugees to gain entry into Europe’ to be accurate.

Rape is a vile crime, and comes from a dark place were the attacker is hateful. So far everything ISIL did to fellow Muslims and non-Muslims is hateful and vile. So is it too farfetched to think they might use sexual assault as a weapon?


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EastEnders shows the true face of Islam

Posted 18 Nov 2015 by Walaa Idris


Last week’s Paris attacks were attacks on freedom, liberty and civility. And, though these barbaric and dreadful attacks were carried out by Muslims they do not represent or reflect the beliefs and feelings of the majority of Muslims.

But most of all those attacks are un-Islamic.

Despite of what the likes of Daesh, Al-Qaeda and Boko Harm portray, Islam is a religion of peace that teaches harmony, love and equality. In times like what we are experiencing now, it is paramount for Muslims to speak up against the atrocities wickedly carried out in the name of Islam but also openly speak about the true meaning of Islam.

Surprisingly, on Monday night, EastEnders (a popular long-running BBC weekly soap) beautifully highlighted the true meaning of Islam during that night’s episode. Now, while EastEnders is not your typical platform for religion education, it has a long history of sensitively addressing social issues. On Monday one of the characters Tamwar Masood played by Himesh Patel, explained to his girlfriend Nancy played by Maddy Hill what his favourite passage in The Quran meant.

“Do good to relatives, orphans, the needy, the neighbour who is near of kin, the neighbour who’s a stranger, to the companion at your side, and to the traveller.” He then added: “That to me is what Islam is about. Be kind to people, family and strangers alike, and love them.”

To Muslims, those words are not particularly revelatory, but the scene, its timing and the words are a very subtle reminder of the views shared by the majority of us. They also offer comfort at a very uncomfortable time, at a time when the religion is used as an excuse for barbaric attacks – and peaceful Muslims are wrongly targeted.

My thoughts and prayers are with those who lost their lives in Friday’s attack and their loved ones.

Thank you EastEnders!


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Has Netanyahu lost the plot?

Posted 22 Oct 2015 by Walaa Idris


Or is there something far more sinister behind his recent comments?

Benjamin Netanyahu insisting a Palestinian leader persuaded Hitler and the Nazis to carry out the Holocaust is an extremely dangerous and irresponsible allegation.

Particularly as every historical document, journal and historian confirms Hitler’s feelings towards the Jews were apparent from his early days in the army. What’s more, his plans for Europe’s Jewish population began in 1939 a whole two years before his meeting with the Palestinian leader.

Adolf Hitler did not meet the Grand Mufti Haj Amin al-Husseini until 1941, so how can he be the instigator of the most horrific event in that century?

Why then did Netanyahu blatantly lie?

Is it because he hates Palestinians so much he is willing to absolve Hitler from exterminating millions of innocent Jews? Or is there another reason for this calculated declaration?

Angela Merkel immediately responded to his comment by saying “Germany abides by its responsibility for the Holocaust. We are very clear in our minds about the Nazis’ responsibility for the break with civilisation that was the Shoah.”

Besides that, the timing of his remark is very peculiar. Some would say it is even reckless. With all the turmoil in the region not to mention the trouble in his own backyard…., his remark could not have come at a worst time. Historically the relationship between the two nations has always been volatile. However, recently they are the poorest they have been.

So I ask you again, what was the reason behind the comment?

For years Zionists have been trying to rewrite history. Change how Israel came about, redraw legal boundaries and renege on agreed promises. While failing to address how Palestinians are oppressed and terrorised in their own home and how Israel is an unkind neighbour.

The alarming thing is Zionists will stop at nothing to push every Arab out their own home. I say Zionists because most Jews inside and outside Israel accept and even welcome the two state solutions. Historically the two people happily lived side by side long before Hitler, World War II and Netanyahu came about.

So what can the reasons for this comment be? Please, someone, explain to me the one positive thing that can come out of this deliberate story.


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