Monday, January 19, 2015

Why Muhammad Matters

Seeing prophet Muhammad, peace be with him, is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons again, I am reproducing here in full a chapter I wrote for the book Mystics, Scholars and Holy Men (Edited by Troy Southgate), first published in 2014 by Black Front Press, London.

Reforms to the UK school curriculum since the 1970s changed the teaching of history from a focus on facts about people and events to one of concepts relating to socio-economic processes and societal conflicts. This deconstruction of history has sometimes been taken to an extreme where it is claimed that historic developments could be simulated and predicted provided all the right input variables were known or available. Reality, however, does not match those expectations. In fact, in spite of the curriculum shift, history itself tends to cling very closely to the inherent meaning of “his story”, in other words, events are shaped by people, and individuals matter well beyond the circumstances in which they were found. Looking at history through the people who shaped it therefore remains a valid approach.
An individual’s reach or realm of influence differs both in geographic extension and in time. Some have made more of an impact on the wider world than others. I would argue that as religion is a key ingredient of human identity and frequently overrides other aspects of an individual’s personality, leaders of religion, in particular their founders, have had more of an impact on the lives of people than their secular political leaders, although the roles do frequently overlap. The influence of the founders of major world religions extends over centuries and even millennia, whereas that of secular political leaders, even the greatest military conquerors or strategists, often struggles to leave a mark for more than a few centuries beyond their own lifetimes.
Some religions have tribal, some have regional and a few have global appeal. A universal claim is more often found amongst monotheistic traditions which, due to their common unification of the godhead share a principal understanding as well as many derived features. Their leaders are often seen as having come in succession of each other at different stages during human historical development.  Of those traditions, prophet Muhammad is the last chronologically, but his influence exceeds that of his predecessors. For those who follow his teachings, his relevance needs no further elaboration, but why should followers of other religious paths, or those who claim to be able to do without religion, be interested in his words and actions?
The religion he brought, Islam, literally translates as finding peace through submission, and does not claim to be a new religion as such but a continuation of the call for exclusive devotion to the one god. What is unique in its call is that from the outset it has been addressed to mankind at large rather than a tribe, nation or region. This universal call meant that the spread of Islam was not limited by any boundaries of race or territory. Of the monotheistic traditions only Christianity has a similar universal claim, but it was the result of political events after the lifetime of its founder, Jesus Christ, who himself only claimed to have been sent to the Israelites. The claim of Islam to universality was pronounced by Muhammad himself and within the scripture he brought, and the rapid spread of the Muslim empire during and after his life bears witness to this understanding by him and his followers alike.
A world religion which is two billion strong and gaining even after one and a half millennia since the death of its founder deserves serious investigation by any historian or person wanting to have a deeper understanding of human development. Its two key ingredients are the Qur’an and the life example of the prophet Muhammad; thus it cannot be understood without a study of his life. Irrespective of the religion itself, however, if the case  made above holds true that people shape history, then this individual has shaped the history of mankind for longer and more deeply than any other to this date. In any comparison between influential historic personalities, he will come out on top on more than one count. Thus in Michael Hart’s 100 ranking of the most influential persons of history he tops the list.
Hence, a study of his life is not only of benefit to religious followers, but ought to be instrumental to anybody who wishes to understand the ingredients and dynamics of lasting success with relevance for both the understanding of human society and psyche as much as for, let’s say, leadership training. After all, we study the methods of successful scientists even if we want to apply them to a different scientific discipline than their own, or the war strategy of successful campaign leaders even if we profoundly disagree with their objectives or politics. There are, of course, numerous aspects to the prophet’s success, and thus his life can usefully be studied from several angles, be it religious devotion, temporal leadership, oratory and power of persuasion, military strategy and so on. Hence it should not come as a surprise that amongst the disciples of Muhammad are some of the greatest minds of our time who confessed to having learnt from his teachings without having followed him religiously, such as Goethe, Kant or Napoleon, to name only a few.
This short contribution is no place for an extensive analysis of a complex biography. Nor is it intended as an exemplary list of achievements of my chosen hero. Rather, I would like to pick specific traits of his personality and events in his life from which I believe important lessons or even universal truths can be derived.
Let me start with his birth. Although of good lineage, Muhammad was born an orphan – proof that “misfortune” of birth or even the lack of a standard stable family setup is no impediment to subsequent success and greatness. Out of the window goes the lament of those who wish to continually put their lack of achievement down to the social conditions of their birth.
Good upbringing, on the other hand, matters. To protect him against disease and in order to learn a good standard of Arabic, Muhammad was sent out of town as a baby to be nursed by a desert tribe famed for their skills of teaching eloquent speech and good manners. And good character as well as polite speech is what the prophet was known for throughout his life. Before opposing him for his message calling to good morals, justice and a rejection of all kinds of idols and corrupt practices, the inhabitants of Mecca valued his honesty and nicknamed him the Trustworthy (al-Amin). Even when they had declared war against him and his followers, some still entrusted their property to him for safekeeping.
Let me list some of the character traits which made this man a great example for humanity of all times:
First and foremost, modesty and humility. Even as the leader of the largest army hitherto known in Arabia he did not live in pomp, did not put any distance between himself and his people and continued to do his own domestic chores. A stranger once came to the mosque of the prophet where he was sitting amongst his companions and had to be directed to who he was as he could not distinguish him from the rest by his clothing or by virtue of any special position within the mosque.
He taught by example. Never did he issue an instruction which he did not also comply with himself. As a result, his followers loved him dearly and were prepared to sacrifice everything for him. He was known to spend long periods in prayer and reflection, often praying all night, yet another important aspect of good leadership was that he never asked of anyone more than they could reasonably do. When he led prayer in public he often kept it short if women or children were among the congregation. He also taught that the sermon during congregational prayers on a Friday should be kept short and to the point, a lesson sadly not adhered to by many preachers of our time.
Nor was he a leader who would simply give orders. When the Muslims were digging a trench around Medina to fortify the town against attack, he was digging with them. When decisions were to be made, he consulted them. In battle, he was within their midst, not ordering them from behind.
Rarely did he get angry, and never without cause, nor did he indulge in frivolous pastime and excessive laughter. He was serious at most times, but always welcoming and offering a smile. He had a listening ear and time for people in spite of huge responsibilities. Naturally, he did not drink, gamble or waste time with other trivial pursuits. Most people with great potential today are prevented from developing it because of “killing time” with useless entertainment.
Muhammad was not interested in power or wealth. He did not seek to advance his own family at the expense of others. He did not use the office of state to enrich himself personally. His key concern was to build a just society and leave a legacy of having taught his followers thoroughly in the knowledge of the Divine and the practice of good conduct.
Justice and fair treatment were important to him. When it came to judging disputes, he did not automatically give preference to the adherents of his own religion over those who rejected his message. He decided cases on merit, irrespective of whether the antagonists were Muslims, Jews, Christians or polytheists, and with no regard to their social standing or possessions. The bias of many a judge or jury today was alien to him.
The city state of Medina was the first in history which gave legally protected status to minority communities through a contract between the dominant Muslim and the remaining other belongings. Long before Magna Charta, which was issued by a ruler under duress, Muhammad gave his new state a written constitution voluntarily. The rights of citizens of all types were subsequently further detailed in the ninth chapter of the Qur’an.
Islam also, for the first time in history, insisted that all business dealings ought to be recorded in writing rather than be trusted to the reliability of a handshake alone. And, of course, the revelations of the Qur’an and the teachings of the prophet were also written down, leaving no room for dispute of their authenticity, and they have since formed the basis of a complex legal system governing all aspects of life, known as the Sharia, a term sadly misunderstood due to the ignorance of anti-Muslim polemics.
The prophet was an exemplary family man. All his family members were full of adoration for him, both during his life and after his death. It is those we live with, who know us best, and their testimony speaks of a kind and caring husband and father. Domestic violence had no place in the prophet’s household.
He taught to respect the elders and be merciful to children. Yet even here, he put right before status. In today’s Muslim societies, leadership is held by people due to their age, excluding the youth. Contrary to that, in the second battle against the Romans dispatched to Syria the prophet put a young man, the twenty-year old Usama bin Zayd, in charge of a large army which included some of his long-standing companions more than twice his age, purely on account of his excellent leadership qualities. On another occasion, whilst he was having a meal with some people, there was an elderly man sitting to his left and a young boy to his right, and as it was customary to pass food to the right and not wanting to offend the person senior in age, he asked the young boy’s permission to pass the food to the older person first, and when the boy declined the request, he observed the correct custom and passed the food to the youth.
A lot has been said about Muhammad’s polygamous marriages. Leaving aside that multiple marriages were nothing unusual at the time – and nobody seems to want to chastise the old testament prophets for the same practice –, the fact is that he was married to a single woman, senior in age to him, for most of his life, and for the most part his marriages after her death were for strategic reasons to make peace between certain tribes or to take care of widows without support. His youngest wife, Aisha, was chosen to be a teacher of the nation through her attentive observations on their domestic life, since the teachings of Islam were not only to govern the public domain but also the private conduct of Muslims within their homes. Notwithstanding all the outrage uttered by orientalists and other polemicists against Islam, she was happy in her marriage according to her own testament, something that cannot always be said for many emancipated women of the modern age.  And, of course, he gave all his women the security of marriage, none of them being short- or medium-term or even casual relationships as is the order today.
Much can be learned from Muhammad’s skills in nation building, the way he formed alliances, the way he fostered unity of the state, the way he provided his people with aspirations to do their utmost for the common good and to focus on the future, indeed the life hereafter, rather than on the status quo or temporary affluence and success. He did not create a personality cult around himself, he was first amongst equals. Nor was he vindictive. When his army conquered Mecca, from which the Muslims had been exiled for many years and by whose inhabitants they had been fought viciously, he forgave them wholesale once they had offered peace and support.
Another outstanding quality of the prophet’s character was his generosity. Whatever he had, he shared. When anybody asked from him, he gave without fear of poverty. He taught his followers that the upper hand is better than the lower and encouraged them to give openly in charity even if they were often needy themselves. He also taught only to give what is good, as simply discarding unwanted goods does not count as charity.
Muhammad’s prophethood commenced when he was forty years old. He died at the age of sixty-three, so in the short span of twenty-three years he so completely transformed a whole nation that within another two decades they became a dominant global force on the planet, supplanting the long-established and mighty Persian and Byzantine empires and spreading rapidly into the Far East, Africa and Europe. This amazing achievement was founded on revelation and exemplary character. About the prophet, the Qur’an testifies that “you are of an amazing character”, and he himself stated that he was sent to perfect good conduct as well as that his mission was that of a teacher. For anybody wanting to succeed, in this life or the next, there are valuable lessons to be learned from him during all the varied situations life confronts us with. There are brilliant teachers and role models in all walks of life, but as a perfect all-rounded role model for how to become a good, successful, beneficial and content human being with the correct balance of the mundane and the spiritual, Muhammad, God’s final prophet stands apart like a lighthouse in a dark, stormy sea. To see its light, which has remained undiminished through the ages,  and to follow it implies salvation, and in that Muhammad matters not only to me, or fellow Muslims, but to mankind at large.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

UK weather warning: thought crimes and imminent immigrant terror on the rise

I've almost grown tired of writing about it, but when and where will it all stop? Can't we have an early election to save ourselves from more aerial bombardment (via the airwaves) with rhetoric intended to frighten the British public into supporting an incompetent and untenable government? Of course, it's not the unnecessary and excessive national debt or the bail-out to the banks on which tax payers' hard-earned money was spent which resulted in spending cuts elsewhere, it's immigrants who come here for the sole purpose of cashing in on those generous benefits that have already been taken away from us all! Of course, it's not the spy cameras expensively installed every hundred metres of road network with a view to trying to make motorists pay more than their fair share into local and national government coffers that we should be afraid of, it's terrorists endlessly scheming to take away the freedoms our government has already curtailed! The coming election is fought by a bankrupt Tory party on UKIP territory, and since both Labour and Liberals have been completely discredited by their contribution to the previous and this government respectively, a Tory-UKIP coalition may well be the likely outcome, so Cameron, that patronising public schoolboy face reading his worn-out script might be able to cling to a slice of power after all.

Whilst he might be able to salvage some of his personal fortunes, the damage to British society will be irreversible. The Department of Education, following on from its Trojan Horse fiasco, issued new guidelines that schools must actively promote British values, and names these as "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, and mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs". Democracy - it would be nice if we could have some please! A simple right of veto of the most unpopular government policies would even do. Rule of law - the court system is in shambles and most people can no longer afford justice whilst increasingly laws are being replaced by administrative orders and cases are being decided in camera. Individual liberty - not even at home with "my home is my castle" being replaced with encouragement to "spy on your neighbour", after all, they might be illegal immigrants, benefit frauds or potential terrorists. Finally, mutual respect and tolerance for those of different faiths and beliefs - who writes this stuff? The whole country is on a witch hunt demonising Muslims. The entire security industry is built on suspicion and fear of the other. So if these are core British values, then the British Isles are adrift in the ocean and about to sink for good.

Today, a 35-year-old woman in Luton has been jailed in excess of 5 years for posting opinions and pictures on facebook. She was charged with "terrorism" offences after an undercover police officer encouraged her to boast a little more about what she might want to do as part of her jihad fantasies. The judge decided that she was guilty of radicalising others, more so given that she had pictures with her children posing with toy guns and swords. Meanwhile mothers up and down the country are busy buying guns and war games for their children as Christmas presents. Better not take pictures with them holding those! You never know who gets hold of them and how they might be used against you.
The hypocrisy of it all - was the undercover police officer charged for radicalising this woman? Will the British government face charges for having covertly and openly intervened in Syria as a sovereign nation state and having encouraged people to get involved until the tide turned against them? Are the media going to be charged for the gruesome pictures of weapons in action they show us daily in order to keep us on our toes? But justice has been done, and the tax payer can foot a bill in excess of £200k to keep a woman locked up who did not pose any real threat to anyone, whilst burglars, sex offenders and pedophiles (including within the echelons of power), murderers and other criminals go unpunished due to a lack of police resources which have all been allocated into criminalising motorists, because that's where the revenue is, and Muslims, because it pays political dividends.

Don't get me wrong. Extremism and radicalisation exist in every community. As Muslims we have our sad share of hotheads and narrow-minded fanatics, many of whom make life unbearable for ordinary worshippers at the mosque by appointing themselves as a kind of religious thought police instructing women on their dress code and men on the length of their beards. We have learnt to ignore them, but the media love to put them back on a pedestal and give them publicity. And the police and their failed Prevent strategy thrive on them as it allows them to justify their own existence: look, see, there are people with terrorist minds and inclinations in our midst, so when you pay our salaries to keep you safe it's money well spent.

In fact, this kind of extremism is state-sponsored. It is sponsored by the Saudi-financed Salafi movement working for dominance in Saudi-financed mosques. It is sponsored by the CIA (don't mention torture, it's an anti-terrorism device and hence cannot be a crime) who created the movement in first place as a useful tool to create strive in countries in whose politics they want to interfere. And it is sponsored by the British government with many of them on the MI5 and MI6 payroll in order to keep the terror threat alive by means of entrapment. Once you remove the terror convictions which were due to either thought crimes or incitement by undercover agents or the guilty pleas achieved by the threat of extradition to the United States the actual threat diminishes into insignificance. Hang on, they will say, people have lost their lives or been injured in attacks inspired by Islamic extremist views. Leaving aside whether 7/7 was an inside job or not, we're talking a handful of casualties. IRA attacks caused slightly more casualties than that, but dear not call it Catholic or Christian terror. Our armed forces are responsible for an even larger number of casualties in wars in places most people can't even pronounce as well as the deaths of uncountable foreign civilians - state terror comes to mind. Following that, ordinary muggings resulting in death are much higher up the list as are death due to alcohol-related crimes. If we look at road accidents, the numbers go through the roof, but are in themselves dwarfed by diabetes and cancer. I'm not trying to trivialise ideologically motivated crimes, but for anybody looking at the real world it should be shamefully apparent that the excessive focus of politicians and media on so-called Islamic terror threat is highly imbalanced and disproportionate. So not only has our government lost British values, it has also lost touch with reality.

But there is, of course, system to their madness. This focus channels the frustration of British citizens against an perceived external threat, the immigrant, and an enemy within, the Muslim, rather than the government or its employers, the banks. And amidst repeated calls for making cuts and the reality of unemployment and eviction from their own homes, Brits will turn to the demagogues with the strong words to protect them against those aliens at the gates and in their midst. This is election campaigning on a grand scale, which brings me back to the beginning: if we can't democracy anyway, can we possibly bring the elections forward and save ourselves all that drama?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Gassing in Israeli perpetrated holocaust

Victim turned perpetrator:

BBC caption:
"Israel has used gas to clear tunnels it says were dug by Hamas in order to infiltrate Israel"

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Evicting the bailiffs

There is a quiet revolution brewing in England. For years, banks, having defrauded the public through bailouts, also have defrauded ordinary people of their lives' savings by repossessing their homes under various pretences. But now, people are fighting back.

Tom Crawford's case in Nottingham is one which has brought a lot of this to the fore. In a desperate YouTube message he asked for help when he discovered that after having paid off his mortgage for a quarter of a century he did not own a penny in his home because the building society had, without his knowledge, converted the mortgage from an endowment mortgage to an interest only product. And now they wanted him out of the home where he brought up his children and at a time when he was looking forward to retirement after having just recovered from cancer. To his shock he also discovered that there almost 250 such repossession actions a week going through the court in his medium-sized home town of Nottingham alone.

Nottingham, of course, is known to most people for the story of Robin Hood who with his "merry men" fought the injustice of an oppressive tax collecting regime. Today it is not royalty who extract the last pound of flesh from hard-working citizens, but the banking system, with courts and governments at their knees to assist them. And a new band of merry men and women has emerged who travel the country to stop bailiffs from taking possession of homes and also assist those threatened with eviction in fighting the banks in court, using every legal loophole available and, increasingly, challenging the courts themselves under common law.

Although the bailiffs were due to arrive early in the morning, people travelled from all over the country, as far as Scotland hundreds of miles away even to send a clear message to the banks and building societies, courts and local governments, and their bailiff stooges that enough is enough. The usually quiet cul-de-sac in which Tom lives was filled with about 250 people united by having made the journey purely to support Tom in his plight and prevent the bailiff from getting anywhere near his property.

The police are usually on the side of the oppressor, but faced with large crowds they only drove past a number of times in a riot van to assess the situation, and the bailiff never turned up, scared of a public show-down. Some of the supporters left after mid-day, but many stayed on until the evening, just in case the bailiff would still try to force entry.

A lot has been written about the victims of the banking crisis, but here people had begun to fight back, using alternative media as the means to communicate and spread the message, and succeeded in preventing an eviction.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Setting Gaza up for destruction

Western governments and media are guilty of abominable complicity in the genocide and ethnic cleansing carried out by Israel under the pretence of being under threat. They are trying to sell to a repulsed public the unpalatable slaughter of innocent and defenceless men women and children. The true voice of the people, expressed through the only democratic tool available to them, demonstrations, is being hidden and played down. Many demonstrations have been banned, most notably the one scheduled for Paris, but also others for "purely administrative" reasons, and those which take place receive minor coverage, if any, in spite of huge turnouts.
As with the terror threat, hyped through high profile cases of potential planned attacks which on closer inspection frequently turn out to have been instigated by the intelligence agencies and the police themselves in order to produce a crime they can subsequently "discover", the territorial expansion of Israel is supported by shameless propaganda. Military intervention has previously been justified in many Arab countries (and now the Ukraine) for "human rights violations" which pale into insignificance compared to the cold blooded murder of Gaza inhabitants by the Israeli "Defence" Force. Having brought about a Israel-phone government in Egypt after much turmoil, the likely scenario is that Gaza refugees will eventually be pushed across the border, making room for a further land grab by Israel. Meanwhile the ISIS threat is being created in the Levant to give Israel an excuse of intervention.
A letter from a Norwegian surgeon in Gaza's As-Shifa hospital gives a graphic depiction of the Satanic inhumanity of Israel's indiscriminate and overwhelming fire power and the Palestinians' dignity in coping with the impossible consequences. But this is not the story the oh-so-independent and balanced Western media want to tell. They want to show us images of dangerous fanatic guerrilla fighters threatening to march all the way to Washington, London and Paris after annihilating peace-loving Israelis whom they deny the right to exist! I've just been alerted to this interesting image being used in making us scared of militant Palestinians:
This AFP (Agence France Press - the French are really at the forefront of Zionist propaganda in this most recent Israeli operation) was used, for example, in a BBC online special report on the Middle East "crisis" and Hamas.
Now I don't know who is fooling whom here - a blurred background prevents us from obtaining any clues as to where the photo was shot - but judge for yourself, how representative are the blond and blue-eyed and Afro-Caribbean faces under the masks and the white hand on the trigger of your average Palestinian? Worthy of Hollywood, but disgraceful when used to justify the extermination of helpless people.

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Times of Trojan Horses

I must have done something right: that neocon "think" tank (they can't really think for themselves) in the United States called Gatestone Institute had singled me out for its venom in an article about radical prison imams although I've been on parole for more than a decade now, but it was my anti-Zionist views broadcast on various media channels that really vexed them. I first heard of it when the Mail on Sunday wanted to run with the story and then, after I had supplied them with the facts, thought it better not to. Then The Times jumped onto the band wagon, and today, in spite of having obtained my prior comments and thus knowing all too well about the falsehoods peddled in her sources, Katie Gibbons penned her front page article "Prison imams linked to radicals", then picked up in the lead article inside the paper called "Inside Islam". It's part of the vilification of Islam of late where the public are asked to believe that the country is at the verge of a Muslim take-over, with Trojan horses packed with jihadi warriors hiding in schools, prisons, and many other places we never suspected to be used for the subversion of the state, maybe hospitals next, or GP's surgeries (there is a large number of Muslims GPs and surgeons and they might also harbour radical ideas: material for your next article, Katie!).

The Times did, of course, the decent thing to avoid libel action: they asked for my comments beforehand, only to ignore them in their entirety (although Katie texted me: "Thank you very much, you raised some very interesting points that I will include in my article") and then added the word "allegedly" and the disclaimer that I denied ever having held the views attributed to me. This is what press freedom is all about: you can slander people provided you do it right. Not expecting to be invited to write a response, I reproduce my email to Katie below and the articles in today's edition of The Times for reference.

This is what I sent to Katie Gibbons after publication:
"Dear Katie,
I read your article on prison imams in today's "The Times" together with that on the archbishop's comments and the lead article trying to tie the two together. It's a real pity that you didn't have the courage to buck the trend. There was little chance of coming up with much useful and truthful when using discredited sources like the Gatestone Institute or Quilliam, politically funded propaganda tools designed to decry every Muslim who does not support the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine as extremist, leaving indeed very, very few moderates amongst the adherents of Islam wordwide. I suppose, the Times can now also proudly join the ranks of these hate-mongerers who are "often in error but never in doubt".
Of course, your article played technically save by adding "allegedly" to the views ascribed to me and acknowledging that I denied ever holding them. Between colleagues, however (I've been a card-carrying journalist for some four decades now), let me tell you it is never good practice to smear someone's reputation against better knowledge, and I hope you will never find yourself at the receiving end of such treatment. My Hindu colleagues at the prison chaplaincy would have warned of bad karma having been incurred as a price of landing this front page piece, whilst my Christian lead chaplain would have prayed for your guidance.
You and your editor may want to argue that you are doing this in order to stem the tide of radicalisation, but indeed you are doing the exact opposite: the tiny minority of highly vociferous radicals who are finding it difficult to obtain a supportive audience for their rhetoric amongst Britain's mosques thrive on such publicity. Often this scurge has been groomed and planted by our own security services (e.g. Morten/Murad Storm, recently serialised in one of your sister publications) as agents provocateurs, and just as often they are financed by Saudi Arabia, a regime rarely criticised because it is counted among our allies and a lucrative business partner - hypocrisy reigning supreme as always. By giving those elements the exposure they crave you are lending them a louder voice instead and by lumping everybody else together with them you are suffocating the voice of the bulk of ordinary Muslims. As for the "moderate" Muslims you wish to create and support, in the understanding of Gatestone and Quilliam they can only be the ones who consider the Qur'an outdated and Islam a cultural remnant of bygone times and, of course, bend over backwards to support Israel in everything she does, Muslim Zionists effectively to join the ranks of the Christian Zionists so dominant in neocon policy circles . If these are your ideal Muslims, I'm afraid you are woefully out of touch, not only with Muslims but also with the British public and British values: next Saturday's national demonstration will give you an idea of how the British people do not want to the lend their name to the holocaust waged against a defenseless population in Gaza just because their democratically elected government is portrayed as radical and that Israel finds the threat of peace a hindrance to her territorial ambitions.
Back to the good work done by chaplains of all persuasions and denominations in prisons: they are there not to proselytise but to give pastoral support and aid rehabiliation, and with the prison system already bursting at the seams, to pull the rug from under them as your article has done is highly irresponsible, as without their platinum work your front page would soon again have to be dealing with prison unrest, not radical imams.
Kind regards,

And these are the articles all that relates to:

Sunday, July 06, 2014

On caliphs and holy war

Let's start with a proviso: these observations are written on the assumption that what we are told about developments in Iraq and Syria are at least partially true. This is not always a safe assumption to make. Britain, that self-styled peaceful post-imperial nation is at war and has been on numerous battle fields uninterrupted since the First World War she now celebrates (and upon which occasion her prime minister now wants Muslims to sell poppies for Remembrance Day), and being an experienced belligerent her propaganda machine is well oiled. Her former colony in the Americas is cut of the same cloth. Both nations are also experts at undercover and clandestine activities to further their ends. We remember some lies, such as Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction or the Kuwaiti incubators, but most lies we are dished up as news go undetected.

When today's super powers were fighting proxy wars all over the place, in Afghanistan, Syria and Ukraine, to name a few of the battle locations, we are told on this side of the conflict that we are defending freedom, sponsoring democracy and assisting populations under attack. The Arab Spring was sold to us as a spontaneous war of liberation by Arab nations tired of tyranny in order to justify intervention, and all that Western military assistance brought them in Egypt, Libya and now Iraq and Syria is untold suffering, chaos and more tyranny. The dangerous Talibans and al-Qaida whose brands have become a household name were created, trained and marketed by the same mindset and people who sell us MacDonalds and CocaCola. Words and deeds rarely match when it comes to power politics. As a Hadith of the prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, states: War is deception.

So here we are presented with another Islamic bogie man: the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (as-Sham), variably abbreviated as ISIL and ISIS. Leaving aside such confusion about its short name as a minor trademark problem whilst developing this new brand, here are its key selling points [with brief comments in brackets]: it started as a break-away faction from al-Qaida since al-Qaida has lost the pure Islamic way and got corrupted [in other words, Muslims all over the world have since realised that al-Qaida was a set-up to justify military intervention]; it is a militant Sunni group which loves killing Shia even more than it loves killing infidels [in other words, it is yet again a means of dividing rather than uniting Muslims]; it disrespects traditional borders and wants to create an Islamic state spanning multiple Muslim countries, starting with Iraq and Syria [and incidentally those borders drawn up by the West after the First World War no longer serve its purpose any more either whilst opening the border between Iraq and Syria allows the United States to bring in additional support from its bases in Iraq into Syria where its war with Russia hasn't been going all too well]; it has a self-declared caliph who demands unconditional support from all Muslims [and has never been elected or appointed by them but rose to fame out of ignominy after having been incarcerated in a US prison in Iraq]; it represents the uncompromising face of Islam which harshly squashes any opposition [and continues to present Muslims as barbaric and the Shariah, a complex legal system of statute and case laws, as limited arsenal of gruesome punishments].

Now there are a couple of ways to cut through the fog and get to the truth in most matters. Firstly, actions speak louder than words, or as Jesus said: by their fruits you shall know them. Secondly, go with where the money is, or the old Latin adage Qui Bono - who benefits? Looked at from those angles, most ideologically justified wars we are asked to support with our ever increasing taxes and concurrent cuts in services are strangely related to economic interests, more often than not oil, be it in Iraq, Afghanistan or even Sudan. They also frequently serve perceived strategic interest, first and foremost the protection of that so-called only democracy in the Middle East, Israel, that outlying member state or colony of Europe [did you ever wonder why a country in Asia takes part in the European song contests and is handled at by the European desk of travel agents?]. Here is the picture of an Israeli coin showing a map of "Greater Israel", encompassing the Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, Kuwait and parts of Saudi-Arabia.
It illustrates why removing traditional borders is maybe not quite the threat to the New World Order it is supposed to be. And seeing that America the Great is so powerless in the face of this massive advance of Muslim jihadists, maybe our well armed friend and ally Israel can be asked or enticed to stem the tide for us?

But let's not jump the gun quite yet. Let's look at the new Muslim caliphate from an Islamic perspective. Of course, ever since the old Ottoman Turkish caliphate was destroyed by the plotting of First World War victors, Muslims have yearned for a common state, for re-establishing unity, for having Islamic principles represented rather than national interests [which in turn were more often than not sold and surrendered to outsiders]. Is this newly declared Islamic state the new Medinah for Muslims to which every individual should make Hijra (migrate) similar to the Jewish migration to their promised land under the right of return? Naturally, Muslims in other parts of the world remain cautious since he who lives by the sword will die by the sword, and with this new caliphate having emerged out of factional warfare, the dangers are tangible. But it is not just out of cowardice that the Muslim masses aren't flocking to pledge their allegiance to the new caliph of Baghdad, once the seat of an Islamic caliphate under the Abbasides prior to the Ottomans.

Surah an-Nisa' (the Women) of the Qur'an lays out some of the key guiding principles for warfare as sanctioned by Islam. Incidentally it also set down inheritance and other rights of women one and a half millennia ago at a time the women of the British Isles could not dare dream of emancipation or even civilisation. One of the reasons why Western media seem obsessed with only acknowledging Muslim women when they are either allegedly being oppressed or stoned to death for adultery is that to provide information about the real status and dignity Islam affords them would inevitably embarrass them greatly: women's liberation in the West is a myth - yes, they are now allowed, or rather compelled, to work like men, but they also continue to be exploited by an industry selling its products through undressing them for potential buyers and forcing them to live up to an unnatural and unhealthy image of what their advertising agencies perceive as model beauty. Whilst Britain contemplates to emulate French laws forbidding Muslim women to cover up, she neglects her own. When England (inevitably) loses in football, there is a concomitant rise of domestic violence against women by a third. Incidentally, Surah an-Nisa' also talks about orphans and institutes, one and a half thousand years ago, child protection rights, whereas here we are only starting to find out how much child abuse has gone unnoticed and unreported in recent decades.

But since this post will become far too long if we were to start comparing the Islamic and the "democratic" way of life in more depth, let's keep to matters of belligerence. Verse 75 of Surah an-Nisa' provides us with the justification for "jihad", stating: And what is the matter with you that you do not fight in the way of Allah and for the weak amongst the men and women and children who say: our Lord, take us out from this town of wrongdoing people and assign us a protector from You and assign us a helper from You? The justification for applying military force in Islam is to protect the weak amongst men, women and children suffering from oppression. It is for this reason that in the early days of Islam the conquering Muslim armies were welcomed as liberators. It is the same justification, Western governments want to now appropriate for themselves when they try to justify military intervention in the name of freedom and democracy.

Against this reality, the new caliph's ISIS perform miserably. Their actions increase fear and terror amongst innocent men, women and children and make them flee from their advance. Furthermore, warfare in Islam does not only have to be justified in its objectives, it also must follow clearly pronounced moral principles. For example (verse 92-93): And it is not permitted for a believer to kill a believer except by mistake. ... And whoever kills a believer deliberately, his reward is hell where he remains forever, and Allah is angry with him and curses him and has prepared for him tremendous punishment.  Of course, the British-sponsored Wahhabi and American-sponsored Al-Qaida movements got round this prohibition by the instrument of "Takfir", declaring that somebody not sharing their own interpretation of Islam is not really a proper believer and may therefore be killed. As if in anticipation of this diversion, the next verse of the Surah, verse 94, provides a direct answer to such connivance: Oh you believers, when you  go out in the way of Allah then make sure and do not say to anyone who offers you peace 'You are not a believer', desiring the offering of this world when with Allah there is plenty of gain; you yourselves were like this before, then Allah bestowed His favours on you, so make sure, for Allah is aware of what you do.

Again, this is not the place to write a detailed study "On War and Peace" as ordained by Islam. But based on this cursory inspection of Qur'anic injunctions and not even having touched the wealth of advice given by the prophet of Islam on the matter, the new group allegedly spearheading the Islamic revival has failed the test. By your fruits you shall know them. Now back to "Qui Bono". Who benefits when Islam is given a bad name? Who benefits when Muslims are driven out of their homes and add to the sea of refugees already consisting of 70% Muslims? Who benefits when there is suddenly a renewed interest to support the failing interventions of the USA and Britain in Iraq and Syria? Who benefits when the countries surrounding Israel get further destabilised? Who benefits when Western security agencies are given more powers due to renewed security concerns, forgotten that only very recently they were found out to having been spying on their own people? Who benefits from a permanent state of war?

The jury is out but it shouldn't take all too long to reach a verdict. Provided, as I said at the outset, evidence and information we have so far is reliable.