Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Dancing Muslims



Now here's something to be encouraged - British Muslims having fun and thumbing their noses, metaphorically speaking, at the men in beards who declare that signing, dancing and generally letting your hair down is forbidden by the Koran.


Dancing Muslims’ YouTube hit attacked as ‘sinful’


By Robin Henry - The Sunday Times
The video, involving more than 60 people, aims to be ‘joyous’

A VIDEO featuring British Muslims dancing and miming in the street has become a surprise internet hit.

The video, which shows Muslims lip-synching to the hit song Happy, by Pharrell Williams, has had more than 1.4m views since it was posted on YouTube less than two weeks ago. However, it has also been attacked by some Muslims who say it demeans their religion.

The film was the brainchild of the Honesty Policy, an anonymous group of seven young British Muslims who have set up a blog where people are encouraged to talk freely about Islam.

More than 60 people, including friends of the group, their families, children, a Muslim scholar, social commentators, community leaders and artists took part in the shoot for the video, at locations ranging from Oxford to Wembley stadium.

Last week the video, titled Happy British Muslims, inspired an American spin-off filmed around Chicago.

“The idea was to take a different approach to how young people engage and discuss Islam. The video was supposed to just be a side project to show British Muslims as individuals, coming together in a way that was positive and would make people smile,” the Honesty Policy said.

The group enlisted video-savvy friends to film around the country and wrote to prominent British Muslims, including Timothy Winter, an Islamic scholar at Cambridge University also known as Abdul Hakim Murad.

“Within the first few hours of uploading it we had more than 60,000 views, at that point we realised it was going viral,” the Honesty Policy added. However, although the response to the video has been largely positive some Muslims have attacked it as “sinful”.

In one comment posted on YouTube, Esam Ahmed said: “This singing, dancing and lack of respect for the hijab and how it is to be worn is very sad. None of this is from islaam [sic], islaam is free from this stupidity.” Other commenters claimed music is haram — forbidden — by the Koran.

Mo Ansar, a Muslim commentator who appears in the video, said much of the criticism came from a “narrow and hardline” interpretation of the Koran that did not truly represent Islamic culture.

“For the last 120 years or so there have been some hardline views on music, which do not represent the part it has played in Islam for more than 1,000 years,” he said.

Hannah Habibi Hopkin, a pop artist who also appears in the video, said commenters were divided into those who saw it as a positive attempt to combat stereotypes and those who “argued that it is a sinful, covert attempt to secularise Muslim youth”.

“People seem to feel that they have to come down on one side of the fence or the other,” she said. “I don’t think of it like that . . . it’s a cute thing, and innocently joyous.”

@robin_henry

Look Who's Talking


Here's a gem of an article from The Independent which reports that various member countries of the United Nations have taken the opportunity to criticise the human rights record of Norway - while blatantly ignoring their own track records as totalitarian states.

Now I lived and worked in Norway for a while, albeit some years ago, but I would say it is generally speaking a very civilised place to call home - whereas I could never see myself or my family trying to settle down in somewhere like Russia or Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia criticises Norway over human rights record

Gulf state calls for all criticism of religion to be criminalised


FELICITY MORSE - The Independent

Saudi Arabia has criticised Norway's human rights record, accusing the country of failing to protect its Muslim citizens and not doing enough to counter criticism of the prophet Mohammed.

The gulf state called for all criticism of religion and of prophet Mohammed to be made illegal in Norway. It also expressed concern at “increasing cases of domestic violence, rape crimes and inequality in riches” and noted a continuation of hate crimes against Muslims in the country.

The Scandinavian nation came under scrutiny during the United Nations' Universal Periodic Review, in which 14 States are scheduled to have their human rights records examined.

Russia meanwhile called for Norway to clamp down on expressions of religious intolerance and and criticised the country’s child welfare system. They also recommended that Norway improve its correctional facilities for those applying for asylum status.

Norwegian Foreign Minister Børge Brende was in Geneva to hear the concerns from 91 other countries. He told Norway's NTB newswire prior to the hearing: “It is a paradox that countries which do not support fundamental human rights have influence on the council, but that is the United Nations,” reported The Local.

Human Rights Watch last report noted that in 2012 Saudi Arabia "stepped up arrests and trials of peaceful dissidents, and responded with force to demonstrations by citizens."

It continued "Authorities continue to suppress or fail to protect the rights of 9 million Saudi women and girls and 9 million foreign workers. As in past years, thousands of people have received unfair trials or been subject to arbitrary detention. The year has seen trials against half-a-dozen human rights defenders and several others for their peaceful expression or assembly demanding political and human rights reforms."



Putin's Russia (19 July 2013)

Here's an excellent article from the BBC's web site which tells a sorry tale of what it's like to be a critic of President Vladimir Putin - in modern day Russia.

Political opponents and dissidents may no longer be sent of the salt mines in Siberia - yet a wide array of Russian citizens find themselves facing long jail sentences or worse - if they stand up to President Putin and what is widely regarded as a corrupt Russian state.
Just last week a man who has been dead for several years - Sergei Magnitsky - was  convicted after a bizarre 'show trial' which would not have been out of place under one of the Imperial Russian Tsars.
Magnitsky (an accountant and auditor) blew the whistle on President Putin and his allies - alleging massive financial corruption at the heart of government - yet Magnitsky found himself arrested and was later found dead while in the custody of Russian prison authorities.        

The latest target, Alexei Navalny, a well known blogger in Russia, planned to contest the forthcoming election to become Mayor of Moscow - and by a strange coincidence he finds himself banged up in jail for five years just as he becomes a significant threat to President Putin's continued rule.   

Alexei Navalny convicted: The fates of Putin's enemies



Russian opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny (C, front),  and supporters
Russian opposition leader and blogger Alexei Navalny (C, front) and his wife Yulia (R, front)

Putin's Russia
Russian anti-corruption blogger and opposition politician Alexei Navalny has been jailed for five years for fraud, after a trial he says was politically motivated.

Mr Navalny could now be barred from running in the Moscow mayoral election set for September. He also joins a growing list of opponents of President Vladimir Putin who have ended up on the wrong side of the law or in exile, or have met their deaths in suspicious circumstances.

Oligarchs 

When Mr Putin first became president in 2000, he immediately set about curbing the power of the oligarchs - the group of billionaires who exerted huge influence over Russia's political system and media.

His first victim was media magnate, Vladimir Gusinsky, the owner of NTV, a station that at the time was highly critical of Moscow's war in the breakaway republic of Chechnya and was home to the satirical puppet show Kukly, which mercilessly mocked the new president.

Mikhail Khodorkovsky
Mikhail Khodorkovsky could face further charges

When Mr Gusinsky refused to allow the Kremlin to influence NTV's editorial policy he quickly found himself charged with fraud in June 2000, and fled the country shortly afterwards.

Within months, he was joined by his fellow media magnate and political fixer Boris Berezovsky

Mr Berezovsky is believed to have played a key role in helping Mr Putin into power in 2000. But he quickly fell out of favour with the new regime and sought refuge in the UK.

Mr Berezovsky continued to plot against Mr Putin and to be held up as a bogeyman by the Russian media until he was found dead in the bathroom of his Berkshire home in March this year. Police have said that there is no evidence of anybody else being involved in his death.

Perhaps most famously Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the former head of the now defunct oil company, Yukos, was targeted when (like Mr Navalny) he accused Mr Putin and his associates of conniving in massive corruption. 

He has subsequently been convicted in two trials of tax evasion and fraud. Following his second trial in 2010, Amnesty International recognised Mr Khodorkovsky and his co-defendant, Platon Lebedev, as "prisoners of conscience".

Mr Khodorkovsky is due for release in 2014, but there are signs that he could face further charges.

Politicians and protesters 
Pussy Riot performing
Pussy Riot protested against President Putin's running of Russia's oil industry

Political opposition to Mr Putin is becoming an increasingly risky business, with numerous activists facing charges or in jail.

Two members of feminist band Pussy Riot are serving two-year prison sentences for "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" after performing an "anti-Putin punk prayer" in Moscow's main Orthodox cathedral in February 2012. A third member of the band had her sentence suspended on appeal.

Meanwhile, criminal charges of affray, incitement to violence and assaulting police officers are pending against more than 20 activists involved in disturbances at a demonstration in Moscow on the eve of Mr Putin's inauguration as president for a third term in May 2012. 

Sergei Udaltsov, a left-wing leader of the protest movement, is under house arrest after being charged with incitement to mass disorder on the basis of video evidence shown on Russian TV. If found guilty, Mr Udaltsov (like Mr Navalny) could face a substantial prison sentence.

Some members of the Russian opposition, such as former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, continue to defy Mr Putin despite regular harassment and detention for public order offences.

Sergei Udaltsov appeared in court in May 2013
Sergei Udaltsov appeared in court in May 2013

Like Mr Navalny, Mr Nemtsov is a member of the opposition's alternative parliament, the Coordination Council. He is also co-author of a report accusing Mr Putin of leading Russia to ruin.

Another member of the Coordination Council, former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, has joined the growing list of Russia's political emigres.

But, as the fate of former FSB (Federal Security Service) officer Alexander Litvinenko showed, even exile carries risks for Mr Putin's opponents.

Mr Litvinenko died in London in 2006 after being poisoned by radioactive polonium.
Media.
  
It is not just oligarchs and politicians who have to fear Putin's disfavour. Journalists and TV presenters, too, have to be wary of offending the Kremlin.

Ksenia Sobchak, whose father Anatoly was Mr Putin's political mentor, was a familiar face on light entertainment shows on Russia TV until she joined the protest movement following the disputed parliamentary election in 2011.

Ksenia Sobchak  Ksenia Sobchak

Since then, her lucrative contracts on mainstream TV have dried up and her appearances have been confined to the niche liberal channel Dozhd - a refuge for several dissident journalists.

Mr Putin makes little secret of his hostility to journalists who challenge his authority.

Shortly after the murder in 2006 of Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter with opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta and fierce critic of the Kremlin's policies in Chechnya, Mr Putin dismissed her political influence as "negligible".

Ms Politkovskaya is one of five Novaya Gazeta journalists who have been murdered or died in suspicious circumstances since 2000.


'Justice' - Saudi Style (13 October 2013)


More dispiriting news out of Saudi Arabia - the price of a young life (a girl's life) is only 8 years in prison and 600 lashes which sounds painful, but is as nothing compared to what this maniacal bully did to little 5-year-old Lama al-Ghandi.

I suppose it's much better than walking away Scot-free which is what was originally going to happen to Fayhan al-Ghamdi - until a Saudi Twitter campaign intervened to demand proper sanctions for violent crimes against women and children.

What kind of paranoid religious view suspects a a 5-year-old child of losing her virginity - and then punishes that child by literally beating her to death?

I take my hat off to the Saudi women who campaigned for a life sentence for this thug, but I was struck by the notion of Fayhan al-Ghamdi receiving a lighter sentence because he paid 'blood money' to Lama's mother - which just goes to show that men in fundamentalist Islamic countries not only control all the financial assets in a relationship - they also make up and interpret all the laws. 

Saudi preacher jailed over daughter's death

By Sebastian Usher
BBC News
Fayhan al-Ghamdi appeared on religious satellite TV channels as a preacher

A Saudi preacher accused of torturing his five-year-old daughter and beating her to death has been sentenced to eight years in prison and 600 lashes.

The case of Fayhan al-Ghamdi made headlines around the world earlier this year when it was suggested that a Saudi court might let him walk free.

Activists began a campaign named after his daughter, "I am Lama", to press the authorities to prevent that happening.

Al-Ghamdi is not recognised as a cleric by the Saudi religious establishment.

The horrific details of the abuse that Lama al-Ghamdi suffered were revealed in medical records from the hospital where she was treated for 10 months before she died.

Her ribs were broken, a fingernail was torn off and her skull crushed. She had been beaten with a cane and electric cables. She had also suffered burns.

The abuse had happened while she was with her father, who was separated from her mother.


Lama's death triggered a Saudi Twitter campaign to criminalise violence against women and children

It was reported that al-Ghamdi had suspected his daughter of losing her virginity and had beaten her and molested her in response.

It was even suggested that he had raped her himself, although this was denied by Lama's mother.

The outrage over the case intensified earlier this year when activists suggested that he might walk free, despite having confessed to having beaten Lama.

The judge in the case suggested that one reading of Islamic law meant a father could not be held fully accountable for the death of his children.

Activists warned that it looked like he might be released if the mother accepted blood money.

The story grabbed headlines across the world.

It shone a light on child abuse in Saudi Arabia where rights activists say strict codes of family privacy and a patriarchal tradition make it a serious problem.

The Saudi authorities set up a child abuse helpline in response.

Now, a verdict has been reached in the same court and with the same judge.

One of the activists involved in the campaign, Aziz al-Yousef, told the BBC that she was disappointed that Fayhan al-Ghamdi did not receive a life sentence.

But Lama's mother had in the end accepted the offer of blood money, despite having once said she would never take it.

She said she needed it to help support her surviving children. That ruled out a life sentence.

Another campaigner who fought for a longer sentence, Manal al-Sharif, told the BBC that she did not believe the penalty was enough.

But she does feel that the I am Lama campaign - with the international pressure it brought to bear on the authorities - was instrumental in leading to the recent introduction of an unprecedented new Saudi law against domestic violence.

However, she added that she still has deep reservations over how effectively this will be enforced in practice.

More the Merrier

Three more NLC equal pay meetings are in the process of being arranged - two in Airdrie (one for former APT&C workers) and one in Kilsyth, the last time I checked.

If people want to arrange something in their own local area, then drop just me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

I'm happy to do as many as necessary, the more the merrier in some respects.

NLC Meetings (26 April 2014)


The demand for equal pay meetings in North Lanarkshire is taking off and lots of people have still to get back to me with suggested arrangements regarding dates and venues.

Now I'm happy to do as many meetings as are required although as yet the following areas have still to put something in place:
  • Cumbernauld
  • Motherwell
  • Airdrie
  • Kilsyth
  • Coatbridge
Seems like more of the outlying NLC areas have got out of the traps first, but if anyone wants to take the initiative in the areas listed above (or any others), then just drop me a note at: markirvine@compuserve.com

As far as I'm concerned these are 'open door' meetings and I'm happy for anyone that's interested in equal pay to come along including the trade unions, local councillors, MSPs and MPs.

And wouldn't it be wonderful if one of the Council's senior officials offered to attend? 

Red Devil Flip Flops


Jonathan Northcroft writing in The Sunday Times takes the lid off the ugly sacking of the former Manchester United boss, David Moyes.

No one comes out of the business very well, but having given Moyes a six year contract and making it clear he was there for the long haul with a mission to rebuild the team - it seems clear that the Manchester United board behaved with an astonishing lack of integrity at the end.     


Football's ugliest sacking: the truth

The Manchester United board continued to re-assure their embattled manager right up until the day the axe fell


By Jonathan Northcroft - The Sunday Times
Moyes had no idea Manchester United were on the verge of sacking him until friends, family and journalists began to phone him on Easter Monday (John Powell)

ONE more humiliation. One last trial. Manchester United knew they were on the point of sacking David Moyes but still made him walk the gauntlet of Goodison Park.

The possibility of the axe had been discussed in United senior circles since February’s miserable defeat at Olympiakos. Swinging it became a probability after excruciating home losses to Liverpool and Manchester City in March. When United were knocked out of the Champions League by Bayern Munich on April 9, the blade went into the air.

The natural time to follow through was then. United’s season was effectively over. A fixtures quirk meant there were 11 days until the club’s next match, Everton away: plenty of time to remove the manager, finesse the PR, re-establish calm and give Ryan Giggs — lined up as caretaker from a long way out — the best scope to prepare the team.

And then the human element: going back to Goodison was always going to be Moyes’ worst ordeal as a United boss. Everton supporters, embittered by his departure and United’s clumsy pursuits of Marouane Fellaini and Leighton Baines last summer, planned a reception.

Everyone knew it. Goodison was the one ground Moyes had avoided on his endless round of United scouting trips, having not been to the stadium since leaving as a hero the previous May. But still, as a condemned man, deep breath and get ready for the stocks, he had to go.

Jeered off the bus. Enduring awkward handshakes with frosty former staff. Facing that walk, into air thick with booing, through the tunnel to the pitch. Manning the away dugout, taking ridicule from the famously caustic denizens whose seats are near the technical areas in the Goodison Road stand.

As Moyes sat during the match, a goon wearing a Grim Reaper costume and waving an imitation scythe stood at his back in the front row: a tacky stunt by a bookmaker. United players ambled through the motions; for Everton, a straightforward win. The experience left Moyes “destroyed”. He would have felt worse had he suspected — even a bit — what was coming. Not once had Ed Woodward, United’s executive vice-chairman, communicated to Moyes that results and performances needed to improve. Their many conversations were mostly about transfers and players in the existing squad, and the revamp of football operations behind the scenes, which Moyes had worked so hard at overseeing.

Sir Alex Ferguson, now a United director privy to the club’s thinking, had not warned the successor he chose that his job was under threat. Moyes knew the team needed big improvements but clung, naively — he now knows — to the six-year contract and long-term planning brief he was given upon his appointment.

In any case, on the pitch there had been an upturn: 4-1 and 4-0 Premier League wins against Aston Villa and Newcastle set up brave home and away performances against Bayern and, over the course of a two-legged quarter-final tie, United were 33 minutes away from knocking the holders out.

Six-year contract. Long-term. Rebuilding. These seeming bedrocks helped Moyes regather himself the day after Goodison and, though it was Easter Monday and he was trying to spend some time with Pamela, his wife, in their rural home near Preston, Moyes did a little work on transfers, including the £27m bid United are preparing for Southampton’s Luke Shaw. But in the early afternoon, his phone started ringing; friends, agents, family, journalists, all with the same question: “What is going on?” The daily newspaper specialists who cover United were suddenly reporting, en masse, via Twitter and in their online editions that Moyes was about to be sacked.

There was no briefing as such, just good, old-fashioned, persistent digging by reporters. They managed to elicit from elevated Old Trafford sources a signal that Moyes’ demise was imminent. The previous night, Woodward had done a ring around, putting it to other directors, including Ferguson, that now was the moment for United to sack a manager for the first time in more than 27 years. The directors knew the Glazer family, who own United, were firmly behind a change and when Woodward speaks it is with the Glazers’ voice. Still, that Monday, Moyes knew nothing. Embarrassingly, when the calls and texts rained in, he had to reply that he was in the dark. He expected Woodward to ring to clarify things. Nothing. No word from United except a bland reassurance from a press officer. Finally, around teatime, Moyes rang Woodward himself and in a short conversation was told “some of the directors aren’t happy”.

Moyes suggested that if he was going to be fired, the two should meet that evening and quietly, quickly, with civility and without cameras, get things done. Woodward replied that it was Easter, things were difficult, and Moyes would have to wait. He said they would meet at Carrington the next morning.

Moyes would just have to deal with a few more hours of phone calls, news headlines, wondering, speculation, pain.

Moyes tried Ferguson and when, after several calls and texts, he could not get his former patron on the line he knew the game was up. Ferguson subsequently explained he knew a decision had been reached and did not want to have to lie to Moyes on the phone. Moyes appreciated that position, also the sadness at seeing him go that Ferguson expressed — and holds to the belief that he always got support from his predecessor.



Six-year contract. Long-term. Though upset at how things were unfolding, especially the leaks about his demise, Moyes remained fastened to the notion that there might yet be a plan in place for United to ‘do things the right way’. He wondered if the delay was because one of the Glazers was flying in to be present at his dismissal. Yet at 7.40am on Tuesday when Moyes met Woodward, the reaper had come alone.

Woodward said the board had started having “a few doubts” after the 2-0 away defeat by Olympiakos. Moyes pointed out he had actually turned that tie around with a 3-0 win in the home leg and said he would have turned United round generally, given time. Woodward said the team had not been showing enough “spirit and fight” to suggest a revival was going to happen. Moyes noted that if there was one thing he had been associated with as a manager at Everton, it was producing sides with “spirit and fight”. Was, therefore, the lack of it in United down to the manager? It is a question he left Woodward to ponder. Some, of course, have a simple theory on such matters: if players do not give their best, it is really not the poor souls’ fault. It is all down to their gaffer.

Moyes, in fact, did not feel he had “lost the dressing room” at Old Trafford. He accepts some in United’s squad may have been pleased to see him go but he was poised to make substantial changes in the summer — and players on the way out or on the fringes of any team are seldom the fiercest soldiers.

Despite slurs about Moyes’ relationship with the group, a number of players were upset. Wayne Rooney was particularly regretful and called Moyes later on Tuesday to thank him for mending bridges between himself and United. Moyes inherited a Rooney troubled by a feud with Ferguson and ready to leave for Chelsea; now Rooney is United’s top scorer and tied by a five-year contract renewal.

Darren Fletcher was another to give Moyes a message of thanks. Adnan Januzaj was said to have been emotional when Moyes announced his departure to the squad. Giggs went to see Moyes privately and told him he was a good man. The warmest memory Moyes will take, though, is of United’s supporters — perhaps the one group who fully lived up to the image United project keenly of themselves, of being a “special club”. He knows results were disappointing and, given that, he felt, inside Old Trafford and at away grounds, they stayed foursquare behind him and the cause. Late on Friday he texted Andy Mitten, editor of the influential United We Stand fanzine, to say, “Andy. Would you please let it be known how much I appreciated the support I got from the real United fans. They were incredible. I am sorry I couldn’t give them the results they are all used to. Thanks.” The only thing from supporters Moyes could have done without was the Chosen One banner, hung at the Stretford End from the beginning of his reign: he would have preferred to earn rather than be granted such an accolade.

That last game at Goodison will be his coldest memory. Why was he put through it? Woodward — who has a different version of events to those already outlined here — says it was simply because a final, final decision on Moyes was not taken until after that defeat. Others suspect it was to let United’s rulers get their ducks lined up — and their dollars.

The ducks: De Telegraaf, Holland’s biggest newspaper, reported yesterday that United have struck an agreement making Louis van Gaal their next permanent manager and two weeks ago carried allegations of a meeting, two days after United lost in Munich, between Van Gaal, Woodward and one of the Glazers. United vehemently deny both.



Not disputed is that on the Tuesday before the Everton match Woodward had separate meetings with Giggs and Rio Ferdinand. Both players were there to talk about their plans for next season and it has been suggested that, in at least one of the tete-a-tetes, there was an attempt to explore the topic of Moyes. Woodward categorically denies this.

If true, it would be a bitter irony for Moyes, who set up the summits, wanting to give senior players the chance to clarify their futures well before the summer.

The dollars: Woodward prides himself on his negotiating talent, especially when it comes to contracts and getting United the best deals. Barring miracles, United were not going to qualify for next season’s Champions League but only the Everton defeat made this arithmetically certain. And that had a happy consequence for the Glazers, who have sucked £700m from United to service debt since their takeover in 2005, and talk — through Woodward — of being willing to “throw money” at football problems, but do not always act that way.

Missing the Champions League, for certain, meant Moyes could be given a reduced pay-off and the settlement agreed with United on Friday left him walking away with £3.5m, a year’s basic salary. He might have been entitled to £4.5m were United still contending for the top four.

Richard Bevan, chief executive of the League Managers Association, of which Ferguson and Moyes are committee members, released a statement contrasting Moyes’ “integrity and professionalism” and United’s “rich tradition” with the “unprofessional manner” in which his departure was handled. Shock at United’s behaviour was registered in the European press and top boardrooms elsewhere. “Unsavoury” was the verdict of one of England’s more important football executives. “Sackings aren’t easy but when you sack someone you get them inside the building first and tell them before the world knows it is going to happen.” Another £1m, however, is now available to service United’s debt.

Did money-saving doom him from the start? Another neat fiscal manoeuvre — or happy accident for the Glazers — involved announcing Moyes as Ferguson’s successor last May, but not starting him as manager until July 1. This meant Everton were not entitled to any compensation for a manager they had nurtured for 11 years. It presented, though, immediate difficulties for Moyes.

The first issue he had to address was his backroom staff. Mike Phelan and Eric Steele, two of Ferguson’s trusted assistants, were coming out of contract and Moyes felt he had to make a decision on them, out of fairness, before meeting the pair. He wanted Rene Meulensteen, Ferguson’s chief coach, to stay but because Moyes was still an Everton employee he was unable to go to Carrington, spend proper time getting to know the Dutchman to establish a basis to work together.

Meulensteen — with his own management ambitions — decided to go. Even now, Moyes’ detractors portray him as having “sacked” Meulensteen but he finally admitted this week it had been his decision to quit. “It became evident to me after a few meetings with David Moyes about the upcoming season that he wanted to bring in his own people and do things in his own way, and I felt very strongly that things would change dramatically for myself, so I couldn’t carry on,” Meulensteen said.

The PR from United was all about Moyes being Ferguson’s appointment, an almost sentimental choice, the manager the great man believed was in his own image. This was nice, for the successor, in a way — and Ferguson certainly did his bit by taking to the pitch at Old Trafford and, via a microphone, commanding the faithful: “Your job is now to stand by our new manager.” But there were no great pronouncements from the Glazers and with Woodward starting in David Gill’s old role, also on July 1, no way Moyes’ immediate boss could be held accountable for his actual appointment.

To some observers, this always created “wriggle-room” for the ownership to make a rapid change if things were not felt to be working out. Woodward would contend searching for a new manager, now, is the last thing he needs, with so many transfer deals to progress. These, incidentally, will continue to be worked on, and perhaps even completed, before Moyes’ successor is appointed. Early on in his new job, Woodward spoke of the “all-powerful manager” model United followed, in contrast to clubs who have directors of football: signing players then presenting them to a coach who comes later feels like another breach with Old Trafford’s past.

Last summer’s transfer window, when a manager was in place, was frustrating, however. A flawed pursuit of Cesc Fabregas left United nowhere. Woodward tried to gazump Real Madrid on Gareth Bale but, despite offering more than the £85m he moved for, it proved too late. Interest in Cristiano Ronaldo also came to nothing. Moyes cautioned against Woodward pursuing a complicated strategy to snare Baines and Fellaini in a double-transfer — it ended merely with United getting Fellaini but paying £4m more than the Belgian’s expired £23.5m get-out clause. Deadline day, when efforts to sign Ander Herrera and Fabio Coentrao fell through, was frantic and hollow.

Both Moyes and Woodward feel the other one was responsible for the poor window. Moyes was not helped by the failure of Fellaini, hampered by injuries and, perhaps, a shy nature, to live up to the status of being United’s only significant signing. Ferguson did bequeath Moyes a £15m signing but, even now, Wilfried Zaha, on loan and used mostly as a substitute by relegation-fighting Cardiff, has yet to establish himself in the Premier League.

A horrible fixture list — Chelsea at home, Liverpool and Manchester City away — in his first five games made building early momentum difficult. Robin van Persie, the difference in so many games the previous season, when United won the title, was in and out of the team through injury. There was a home defeat to West Brom but nevertheless results picked up — until successive home defeats, in early December, to Newcastle and Everton, rocked confidence. In both, United had reasonable possession but played too slowly and were hit in second-half counterattacks. Moyes’ Everton had always been so resilient but, with the core of the 2012-13 title-winners nearly all older than 30, a frustrated Moyes told confidants: “I just can’t get any energy into this team.”

Some players would say training, involving longer sessions and more fitness work, did not help. Moyes would point out his Everton nearly always got stronger throughout a season, often finishing like a train. Moyes’ championing of Rooney, and the renewal of the striker’s contract, in a complex deal that could net him £300,000 a week (but guarantees a lot less) is alleged to have caused some players resentment. It is not known if Ferguson was overjoyed. However, in a season where so few players have produced their expected output, Rooney has scored 17 times and was in good form before a toe injury. If Moyes backed him, it is because Rooney reciprocated on the pitch.

Did other players? Moyes changed his line-up 51 times in 51 games and a fault may have been too much faith in that six-year contract. Moyes was forever trying combinations out, looking for indicators he could take into the summer and apply to the “rebuild”. Perhaps he made too clear, too early, to some players that they would not be part of the future, making it difficult when, because of injuries, he suddenly had to call on them again. Even in the Everton game he was not prioritising immediate results: he chose Nani, for whom he would have listened to offers, to put him in the shop window before the summer.

Giggs, in his pre-match press conference for Norwich, said he had already discovered the manager’s office at Carrington can seem lonely. Revamped after Ferguson left it is an austere place, cloistered in a corner of the building with oak panels, no big windows out on to the training pitch like Moyes had at Everton’s Finch Farm complex and the feel of a discreet hotel suite, not a football hub.

It is unlikely Moyes will miss the vibe. Taking a break in Miami this weekend, he is looking forward to his next chapter: clubs both in England and Europe have been in contact to register interest but he also has thoughts of taking a sabbatical for a year. As an inveterate student of coaching, he has a notion to travel to South America and spend several months looking at coaching methods and how clubs operate in Argentina and Brazil.

Giggs has pledged to return United to a traditional way of playing: wingers, midfielders ahead of the ball, pace, attack. Moyes would have liked that too but felt the squad needed younger, and in some areas much better, players to make it possible. His legacy will be the number of high-quality scouts, analysts and systems men he brought with him, like John Murtough, the Premier League’s former head of elite performance.

Having traversed Europe and personally scouted more than 20 players United might target this summer, he has shaped the list Woodward is working on, which includes Shaw, William Carvalho, Marco Reus and Toni Kroos. The next boss might inherit more than Zaha.

What kind of dressing room will they take over? The anti-Moyes spin of recent days suggests it must be managed carefully. Several United players employ publicists. There are stars of foreign national teams, with ardent presses in their own countries behind them.

Then there is the “Class of 92”, who need nobody’s help to get their views across given their status and platforms in the media. They were the soul of Manchester United once and, with one of their number, Giggs, in charge, may have a brief window in which to show they can be the soul of Manchester United renewed.

Soul? One player was going to put out a supportive tweet when Moyes was sacked but checked with his entourage and thought, nah. He pressed delete.

Religious Fascists


I read something the other day in which the writer drew attention to the enormous worldwide effort expended in trying to find the 239 passengers and crew from the Malaysian airliner MH370, all of whom have been presumed dead for some weeks.

Yet 190 girls abducted from their school in Nigeria last week fails to generate anything like the same outpouring of concern or determination to find out what happened to the people involved - and rescue them, if possible. 

I don't use the word 'fascist' very often but it seems to me that the term is appropriate for groups like Boko Haram who completely reject any notion of democracy and the concept of a live and let live society.

Boko Haram's aim is to impose an fundamentalist Islamic state in part of Africa through the use of murder, violence and kidnapping which has all the hallmarks of 'religious fascism', if you ask me.      
   

Chibok abductions: Nigeria vows to find schoolgirls

The girls were seized from their hostel late at night

Nigeria's government has vowed to do all it can to rescue some 190 girls abducted from their school last week, following a crisis meeting in Abuja.

Security chiefs, ministers, state governors and religious leaders met to discuss the growing insecurity.

One governor said the abduction was the "issue of the moment" and said the government and army were doing everything they could to rescue them.

But one of the girls' fathers said he just wanted to see his daughter safe.

"We will only say the meeting has achieved something tangible when we see our children back home," the man, whose identity is being protected for security reasons, told the BBC Hausa service.

Footage from inside the school

The government has been widely criticised for its muted response after gunmen abducted some 230 girls from a school in Chibok, Borno state last week. About 40 girls have managed to escape.


Political wrangling

The students were about to sit their final year exam and so are mostly aged 16-18.

No group has said it was behind the kidnapping but Islamist group Boko Haram has been widely blamed.

It has staged a wave of attacks in northern Nigeria in recent years, with an estimated 1,500 killed this year alone.

Earlier in the day that the girls were abducted on 14 April, some 71 people were killed in a rare Boko Haram attack on the capital, Abuja.

After Thursday's security meeting, Ekiti state Governor Kayode Fayemi described the abduction as "the issue of the moment".

"We must do everything to ensure that these abducted children are retrieved and protected. And the military assured us they're doing everything in order to achieve this objective," he said.

Defence Minister Aliyu Gusau said the meeting had also discussed the wider Boko Haram insurgency, as well as a spate of deadly attacks between mainly Muslim cattle herders and Christian farmers in central parts of the country.

BBC Abuja editor Bashir Sa'ad Abdullahi says the major achievement of the meeting was to get political leaders from different parties speaking with one voice.

In recent weeks, the fight against the insurgency has been marred by political wrangling, with officials from the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP) accusing opposition leaders of links to Boko Haram, while the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) has condemned the government for failing to end the unrest.

The three worst affected states are all run by APC governors and political tensions are rising ahead of elections next year.

Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden", is fighting to establish Islamic law in Nigeria. It often targets educational establishments.

It is thought that the militants took the girls to the Sambisa forest near the Cameroonian border.

Parents and vigilante group have gone there to help search for the teenage girls.

Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states in north-east Nigeria have been under emergency rule since last May.