Tony Blair partners with HKU on “Faith and Global Engagement initiative course”

All blog posts 2012 + Original, from 2006 to 2012

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15th June 2012

[Cross-post] The real story on Tony Blair at Hong Kong University

Conflict and compassion | Tony Blair discusses the two faces of religion

HONG KONG : Tony Blair, Former UK Prime Minister, speaks at University of Hong Kong, Thursday, 14 June, 2012

Today Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation, delivered a key note speech and answered questions on the impact of faith and globalisation on Hong Kong and the wider region, at a lecture held in the University of Hong Kong (HKU).

This lecture inaugurated the partnership between the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s global network of leading universities, the Faith and Globalisation Initiative (FGI) and HKU’s Faith and Global Engagement Initiative.

Tony Blair spoke of the significance of the partnership between his Foundation and the Faith and Global Engagement Initiative at HKU.

Addressing an audience of HKU students and professors Tony Blair, Founder and Patron of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation said: “The initiative is very timely. This part of the world is one of the fastest areas of growing Christianity as well as many other faiths. HKU has a steadfast commitment to scholarship and freedom. The basis for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalisation Initiative is similar. I am delighted and honoured to be partnering with HKU, I could not think of a better partner or a better part of the world.”

“My vision for the Faith and Global Engagement at HKU is to change the nature of the debate – I want people to see that you have to take religion seriously and I want to help build interfaith understanding.”

Professor Daniel Chua, Director of Humanities at HKU said: “Leaders should be intelligently engaged with the questions of faith and the global impact. We formed the Faith and Global Engagement programme to initiate a conversation in the spirit of hospitality. Whoever you are and whatever you believe in we want to engage with you about religion.  Our initiative here at Hong Kong University has much in common with the principles of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation. For this inaugural lecture on Faith and Global Engagement, “I am honoured to welcome Tony Blair”.

Tony Blair stressed the urgency of understanding the impact of religion in the modern world:

“Just look at the news and you see the impact of both everywhere; in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan and the debate over whether or not orthodox Jews should serve in the military in Israel. The face of religion in this environment is two-fold: conflict and compassion. Much of the news about religion is about conflict. However, religion is also capable of great compassion. For example, much of the improvement in health for continental Africa is as a result of religious centred endeavours.

“We can promote this face of compassion by firstly, treating religion as religion. There is a temptation to view religious problems as political problems, especially for politicians. If the heart of the matter is religious, than the religious element must be understood for what it is: religious. Secondly, by building platforms of inter-faith dialogue and action. Thirdly, through research and scholarship. Religion has much to say from many perspectives on many issues. What is required is proper, in depth and rigorous research into these issues. This is where these programmes and the work of HKU can help.”

The Tony Blair Faith Foundation’s Faith and Globalisation Initiative (FGI) is a network of leading universities around the world, collectively exploring the relationship between religion and globalisation. Through the Faith and Globalisation network, the Tony Blair Faith Foundation is supporting policy makers, and future leaders, equipping them to appreciate religion’s presence in the world and its relationship to decision-making and public policy.  Significantly HKU is the ninth university in the world and the second in China (following Peking University) to join FGI. In collaboration with other FGI partner institutions, HKU’s Faith and Global Engagement Initiative will explore topics including religion and conflict, religion in public life, and human rights bringing critical analysis to the forefront of global debate.

The new Faith and Global Engagement initiative course at HKU will bring a unique perspective to the academic and policy analysis of the relationship between faith and globalisation. Hong Kong’s position at the nexus of East/West relations, adds an important voice to this global debate.

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Statement from the Office of Tony Blair: Sunday Telegraph expenses story

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13th January 2012

It seems the Telegraph has received this statement from Tony Blair’s office. I’m not sure when – today or days ago.  But it is worth noting and keeping an eye out. Let’s see if and when the Telegraph retracts any of its ‘story‘ in the light of this. As soon as I notice they have published an apology I promise I’ll post it here. On that you can really ‘count’!

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Friday, Jan 13, 2012 in Office of Tony Blair

On 8th January, the Sunday Telegraph ran a story under the headline, Tony Blair and the £8million tax ‘mystery’. The following statement from the Office of Tony Blair was sent to the newspaper following publication of that story:

“Even by the standards of the Sunday Telegraph campaign on Tony Blair’s post Prime Minister career, your story was a shocker.

“Mr Blair does not only pay £315,000 in tax. The tax you refer to is not Mr Blair’s personal tax but that of the company through which he administers the costs of his different activities worldwide. There was a surplus in the company at the end of the accounting year of just over £1m. It paid £315,000 tax on this. That has nothing whatever to do with Mr Blair’s income, nor his personal tax, nor the profits or revenues of his business.

“The £12.005m you refer to are not his earnings, nor the earnings from his business. It is the money allocated to cover the costs of administering all the various things he does in the world. So to elide costs with earnings and then use a tax figure that has nothing to do with Mr Blair’s earnings, and implying it is all Mr Blair pays personally in tax is completely misleading.

“For the record, on Mr Blair’s actual earnings he is a 50% top rate taxpayer and his businesses pay full UK corporation tax.

“He also supports, from his earnings, the charities he has established as well as making other donations. There are more than 120 people working on all his activities around the world. He actually spends the majority of his time on unpaid pro bono work in the Middle East, Africa and elsewhere.”

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Original source – ‘Statement from the Office of Tony Blair on last week’s Sunday Telegraph story’

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Harry Langford also mentions this, and says to his fellow Labour party members:

” Shame on the members of The Labour Party that use false stories put out by The Sunday Telegraph and other papers of a similar political nature to discredit the most successful Labour leader ever.”

Well said, Harry. As I think I may have mentioned before – we should recognise our friends, so that we may better identify our enemies.

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Comment samples follow from the Ban Blair-Baiting petition

1. I completely agree with everything that has been said on this website. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair worked tirelessly and selflessly in the interests of the people, and continues to do so today. He is primarily a humanitarian, and doesn’t deserve any of the vitriol that has been levelled at him. He was a great Prime Minister, is a thoroughly decent man; and should in my opinion, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his outstanding work. – David Miliband (New Labour’s heir) for the next PM!

2. Best politician in Britain by a long way.

3. Fully support the petition. The criticism of Mr Blair has gone way beyond anything acceptable and seems to be carried out mainly by those who are looking to wash their hands of any involvement in supporting the Iraq war at the time. It is very easy to be ‘wise after the event’ and to make assumptions about how much Mr Blair knew or did not know before the war. In these people’s eyes, the former PM is guilty whatever the evidence.

4. An excellent petition this for a very undervalued PM. A PM who is not only the best in my lifetime but my parents lifetime too!

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Twitter fails to act over Ed Miliband lookalike’s anti-Israel death threats

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5th January 2012

This is a crosspost (very cross) from The Jewish Chronicle Online (original source)

I’ll let the article speak for itself.  With sincere thanks to Martin Bright

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Twitter fails to act over Ed Miliband lookalike’s anti-Israel death threats

The social networking site, Twitter, has provoked fury after refusing to act against a user responsible for a stream of death threats and antisemitic abuse.

Shereef Abdallah, who advertises himself as an Ed Miliband lookalike and claims to have worked on the Labour leader’s election campaign, began by targeting people identified as supporters of Tony Blair. He has since widened his online attacks to anyone who challenges him.

As the violence of his language escalated, Mr Abdallah turned his fire on a young British Israeli woman, “Rachel”, who had criticised his description of his opponents as Nazis.

Using often explicit pornographic language, Mr Abdallah made direct threats such as: “I will hunt you down & fight you min by min. hr by hr. day by day. wk by wk. month by month. year by year for the rest of yr life.”

He later threatened to beat her to death, noting that this was “a promise” he would carry out. The police have now taken up the case after a former Labour Party press officer intervened – only to be threatened with having his throat cut.

Mr Abdallah, who has worked as a volunteer at the office of Glenda Jackson and blogged for the Labour Party affiliate organisation Young Fabians, started his campaign with attacks on “Julia”, a young woman who runs the Blairite blog Julie’s Think Tank. The JC has been advised not to reveal the identity of the women involved as there is a risk that Mr Abdallah may turn his violent, often sexual fantasies into real acts of violence. Many of his tweets end with the sign-off “R.I.P.”

The probation officers’ union, Napo, which is running a campaign to toughen up the laws on stalking, referred the tweets to a psychological profiler who helps the police identify violent offenders. She concluded that there was a 30 per cent chance that Mr Abdallah would turn his threats into real acts of violence.

When a Twitter user known as @blairsupporter reported the abuse received from Mr Abdallah, Twitter responded: “We have investigated the reported account and have found that it’s not in violation of the Twitter rules at this time. We have a policy against violent threats, but the content of this account lacks the specificity to meet the criteria of an actionable threat.”

A spokeswoman from Twitter’s “Trust and Safety” department suggested contacting dealing with the matter locally. She continued: “Websites do not have the ability to investigate and assess a threat, bring charges or prosecute individuals.”

But the Community Security Trust spokesman, Mark Gardner, said Twitter’s position set a dangerous precedent: “These tweets are a clear example of racist intimidation and threats. We cannot have a situation where modern media is exempt from basic legal protocol.”

Harry Fletcher, who is running Napo’s campaign on stalking law reform, said: “The threat to these women is real, frightening and could escalate. Social media companies need to wake up to their responsibilities and deal with this as a matter of urgency.”

John Mann MP, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, said: “Individuals continue to peddle hate online. This highlights the ever-emerging problem with Twitter and it is very troubling that they refuse to act.”

Mr Abdallah, who has used the names @Sheik74k and @LFCSheikKD on Twitter, bombarded “Julia” with messages such as: “Your nightmare is just starting, Julia, it will only get worse for you every day 24/7 till you leave twitter”; “Zionists can’t save you, Julia, the only way to stop it is to leave twitter. Racist tory anti Islamic scum”; “I fear nothing not even death so will fight you and your ilk to my last breath.” Most chilling of all was the message: “… are you still alive FFS? You will be next after I end [Rachel]…. that’s a promise. sleep tight”.

The young blogger became seriously concerned when Mr Abdallah turned up at her university.

To “Rachel”, he wrote in capital letters: “I WILL BEAT YOU TO DEATH… R.I.P; THIS IS NOT A THREAT… THAT IS A PROMISE.”

The Fabian Society said Mr Abdallah had falsely claimed to be a member of the Young Fabians when he posted as a blogger on its website. His post was subsequently removed.

Mr Abdallah refused to answer the JC’s questions.

● A Jerusalem-based lawyer has claimed that Twitter is providing services to groups such as Hizbollah.

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who specialises in cases against terror groups, said that the company could be violating US law.

Although Hizbollah does not have an official Twitter account, that of the Al-Manar TV network, which Hizbollah controls, has 7,500 followers.

● Twitter users in Israel are only able to select “Palestinian Territories” when listing their location.

Users can choose a location using their mobile phones. But anyone wanting to choose Israel finds a drop-down menu which offers only “Palestinian Territories”.

Twitter says: “We list countries where we’ve launched SMS with at least one operator. We’ve been in touch with operators in Israel but haven’t yet been able to launch SMS there. So it’s not included on the list.”

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NOTE: To whomsoever it may concern, I have several days  of Mr Abdallah’s tweets saved and able to be viewed or forwarded on request.  These include printscreens going back several weeks of many particularly virulent, violence-threatening tweets.

Click to Buy Tony Blair’s ‘A Journey’

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Comment samples follow from the Ban Blair-Baiting petition

1. I completely agree with everything that has been said on this website. As Prime Minister, Tony Blair worked tirelessly and selflessly in the interests of the people, and continues to do so today. He is primarily a humanitarian, and doesn’t deserve any of the vitriol that has been levelled at him. He was a great Prime Minister, is a thoroughly decent man; and should in my opinion, be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his outstanding work. – David Miliband (New Labour’s heir) for the next PM!

2. Best politician in Britain by a long way.

3. Fully support the petition. The criticism of Mr Blair has gone way beyond anything acceptable and seems to be carried out mainly by those who are looking to wash their hands of any involvement in supporting the Iraq war at the time. It is very easy to be ‘wise after the event’ and to make assumptions about how much Mr Blair knew or did not know before the war. In these people’s eyes, the former PM is guilty whatever the evidence.

4. An excellent petition this for a very undervalued PM. A PM who is not only the best in my lifetime but my parents lifetime too!

See full signature list