Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Crusading Cameron

It seems David Cameron's Neocon minders have asked him to safeguard his career prospects by weighing into the popular politician polemics against Muslims, talking of the threat of Shariah law and the oppression of Muslim women. In a speech at a church in Birmingham he went as far as suggesting that Muslims groups were mirror images of the BNP, people who divided society into us and them, which by the way was exactly what Cameron was doing. And whilst he was trying to say that when faced with Muslim extremism one shouldn't blame the whole of the Muslim community, he was actually just adding his voice to the long list of politicians - David Blunkett, John Reid, Jack Straw, Ruth Kelly - focusing on Muslims as the alleged source of all problems of our society. And like those on the government benches before him, he never once mentioned British foreign policy as a contributing factor in alienating young British Muslims.

One sometimes wonders whether these career politicians actually read the speeches handed to them by their script writers or consider the impact of their words before they are in the public arena. Whilst talking about bringing down barriers, Cameron is putting them up and is making dialogue more difficult. And he certainly is stopping British Muslims from considering the Conservative Party as a viable alternative to the Muslim-bashing Labour government. It is almost as if both parties want to create self-fulfilling prophecies by pushing Muslims into the non-British corner from which there is no retreat.

More interesting than Cameron's uninspiring speech is the way the media manipulated it further. The Tory Telegraph carried the story and included the replies by two Muslim organisations: The Muslim Council of Britain and the Islamic Human Rights Commission. Local BBC radio talk shows - two of which interviewed me on the topic - then characterised those two organisations as being the kind of undemocratic extremist groups whom Cameron was warning against. The two organisations have little in common, the former being a previously government-sponsored pretentious umbrella body of Muslim organisations, the latter a pressure group successfully highlighting human rights abuses against Muslims, including in Muslim countries. What they have in common is their refusal to take part in the Holocaust Remembrance Celebrations which Ruth Kelly lately wanted to make the litmus test of Muslim loyalty. Their valid argument for refusal is that since those celebrations do not recognise the genocide against the Palestinian people they elevate the suffering of some people over others and are therefore perpetuating rather than solving a problem.

As the voice of moderate Islam the Telegraph quotes the Conservative-sponsored new kid on the block, the Sufi Muslims Council, their new chosen self-styled representative of the "silent majority of Muslims", just as the Muslim Council of Britain once was the voice of Islam favoured by the Labour party (the all seem to have an infatuation with Councils). Just to show that party divisions in the UK are fake, when this latest Necon creation from Washington was launched in the House of Commons in the UK, Ruth Kelly attended, and Jack Straw is also a fan.

What is transpiring is that British politics is not made in Britain. The British people do not have a say in what the major political parties stand for. Whitehall politics is decided by those parties' financial backers. The crisis of democracy goes deeper than just the cash for honours scandal. The two major parties and their spokespeople are indebted to Jewish financiers with Zionist leanings. When Cameron is joning the anti-Muslim ranting club, he is paid to do so by Lord Steinberg, the gambling magnate who is betting on the Conservatives as the potential winners in the next election, and the media mogul Michael Green, whilst Lord Levy (also known as Lord Cashpoint) and Mr Cohen continue to back the Labour horse. Everywhere else but in Britain it's called corruption, but never mind, keep blaming the Muslims.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Special Branch corruption continues

A report by the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman has just been published and confirms what many already knew: the murky world of secret services and special branch police activity is deeply entwined with unlawful and criminal behaviour. Informers for Special Branch committed murders and other serious crimes whilst officers protected the killers and ensured that they would not be caught. Prosecutions of those responsible are unlikely to follow because documents needed to proescute were deliberately destroyed.

Commenting on the report which he said made for "very uncomfortable reading" the Northern Ireland secretary Peter Hain assured us that "these things - murder, collusion, cover-up, obstruction of investigations - could not happen today, not least because of the accountability mechanisms that have been put in place over recent years". Rather than even attempting to deal with the serious implications of this report this government minister is putting a gloss on it and trying to explain it away as a thing of the past, when in fact the report covers a period no longer ago than the last decade of British politics under this very government.

Since then the government has given the police and Special Branch unprecedented new powers under various anti-terrorism laws, powers they are bound to use in order to protect their own interests. Power corrupts, and acting outside the law and secretively has become easier, not more difficult for the police under the current climate of fear-mongering and misinformation, where the British public are told that radioactive material found in BA planes after the killing of Alexander Litvinenko posed no danger, whereas people taking baby milk or toothpaste on board were a serious security risk.

It may be true that the likelihood of Special Branch illegality in Northern Ireland has somewhat reduced, but Special Branch have found a new playing field to home their skills. Interestingly, a lot of noise surrounds the various revelations emerging in the trial of the young men allegedly involved in the foiled July 21 London bomb attack, almost as if to cover up the fact that not a single shred of evidence has yet been presented for the culpability of the youths on whom the fatal July 7 bombings have been blamed. The fact that the train they were said to have taken from Luton to Kings Cross was actually cancelled on that day has never been satisfactorily explained any more than numerous other inconsistencies, and the government is refusing to even hold an enquiry, probably fearing that even an attempted whitewash would be too dangerous to their credibility. Pictures of of the July 21 suspects abound even showing them camping in the Lake District, whereas not a single image from the plentiful London CCTV cameras has yet been shown to prove that the alleged July 7 bombers ever boarded those underground trains.

What is known, however, is that the alleged mastermind of the July 7 bombings, Rashid Aswat, was a Special Branch informer whom they had protected from prosecution and helped escape before. In reality, therefore, nothing much has changed other than the replacement of Irish terrorism with Islamic terrorism as the threat served up to the British public in order to justify increases in police power and excessive controls and inconvenience for ordinary British citizens. If anything, the government has helped Special Branch to avoid detection for their illegal activities, and has made it easier for them to become a law unto themselves. Add the cancellation of the inquiry by the Serious Fraud Office into the corrupt arms deal practices of BAE Systems in the "national interest" and the cash-for-honours scandal, and it is plain to see that the New Labour government has greatly enhanced the international standing of the UK to be first amongst equals: a high-tech modern Banana republic.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

EU Charter of misunderstanding Muslims

Those who, like our prime minister, want to engineer a so-called "moderate" Islam probably look with admiration to Sam Solomon's "A Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding" published in December 2006 with a foreword by UK Independence Party MEP Gerard Batten (but without featuring an impressum or stating a publisher or printer as normally required by law for publications in the UK). An colleague of Mr Batten, Ashley Mote MEP, sent a copy to the Islamic Party of Britain for comment, informing that the document had been launched in the European Parliament. To save other politicians wanting to follow suite from embarrassment (the old saying applies that it is better to keep you mouth shut and give the semblance of intelligence than to open it and remove all doubt), I am reproducing my reply on behalf of the Islamic Party of Britain.

Dear Mr Mote,

may I first thank you for affording us the opportunity to comment on the Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding you sent us; an open and frank discussion and exchange of ideas is the best way to achieve mutual understanding even if, in the end, we may only agree to differ.

Sam Solomon's proposed charter of Muslim understanding is quite extraordinary both in its content and, maybe even more so, in its very existence. The European Parliament purports to represent the people of Europe (via their member states) irrespective of their religious or ideological beliefs. That the parliament should be asked to enter into a separate agreement with a sub-section of its own constituents appears unprecedented. Is there also going to be a charter of Catholic understanding, Protestant understanding, Jewish understanding, Humanist understanding, Atheist understanding, Hindu understanding, Sikh understanding, Scientologist understanding etc. etc.? Or is the very belief in Islam as a religion considered so outlandish to Europe that Muslim constituents are to be treated as a separate and outside entity apart from the rest of the citizens of Europe?

It is on the basis of this aberration that we could not support such a charter even if the content was agreeable. In his foreword to the charter Gerard Batten MEP is trying to differentiate between fundamentalist and moderate Muslims, a very common attempt amongst politicians today, although those terms are meaningless simplifications given the complexity of any religious or ideological belonging. There is no doubt that amongst the citizens of any nation there are people who might not agree with all or some of the principles upon which the respective nation is built. There will also be people with divided loyalties. However, this is not a Muslim phenomenon. The UK Independence Party to which Mr Batten belongs, for example, has members in the European Parliament whilst at the same time being in disagreement with the various treaties and the legal framework upon which the European Union is built. Such is the nature of democracy.

Of course, people like Mr Batten or Mr Solomon might want to differentiate between a mere disagreement of ideas and the so-called threat of violence and terrorism eminating from "fundamentalist" Islam. We reject indiscriminate violence and terrorism, but we cannot accept that they are a particular Muslim phenomenon. Rather they are the weapon of choice for the powerless objecting to political oppression and can therefore only be resolved by political means. Our government recognised this in the case of Irish terrorism which mainly abated once a political settlement of grievances was in sight. Our government's involvement in the illegal invasion of Iraq or unashamed partisan support for Israel in her quest to dominate the region through aggression against her Palestinian or Lebanese neighbours, on the other hand, is fuelling international terrorism.

At no time in the history of "the Troubles", however, has there been the suggestion that there ought to be a charter of Catholic understanding - since Irish Republicans confess Catholicism - or of Jewish understanding - since many Jewish citizens in the UK have dual nationality and loyalty and are even reservists in the Israeli Defence Force. Had such a charter, "allowing" - to paraphrase Batten - "Catholics/Jews from all strands of belief to make it plain that they reject those extremist interpretations of their religious texts that promote or excuse violence and bring Catholicism/Judaism into conflict with the modern world" been proposed, the Catholic Church or the Jewish Board of Deputies would rightly have rejected it as inappropriate.

Having hereby rejected the very notion of such an endeavour, I will still comment on some of the rather presumptious proposals contained in the charter document, for many secular politicians these days seem to arrogantly want to redefine religious beliefs for their own convenience. In his introduction Mr Solomon suggests that Muslim leaders should agree that anybody deviating from the path of his charter should be outcast from the religion of Islam as a non-Muslim heretic. Islam does not have a hierarchical church structure and does not afford anybody the right to give such an undertaking.

Mr Solomon would do well to at least study the religion of Islam before wanting to mandate the behaviour of its scholars. His demand for them to issue specific fatwahs is as presumptious as if he were to tell the Pope which edict to pass next. A fatwah or religious edict in Islam is not the mere expression of an opinion by an individual or a group, it is a well researched and referenced argument requiring the same level of scrutiny of source texts and precedents as a judgment passed in a court of law. In article 1 of his charter Mr Solomon demands the issuance of a fatwah prohibiting the use of force and violence against non-Muslim and in article 5 he demands that the notion and all teachings of violent physical Jihad be "regarded as invalid, inappropriate and irrelevant" and "hence inapplicable". Article 51 of the UN Charter, on the other hand, states that "nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations". What Mr Solomon is, therefore, effectively saying is that Muslims or Muslims nations should voluntarily surrender the rights afforded to them by the UN Charter. Whether Mr Batten or Mr Solomon like it or not, the Palestinian uprising is a legitimate expression of self-defence sanctioned under international law as long as Israel is in illegal occupation of Palestinian land. A similar case could be made with respect to many other conflicts in the world, yet here we are told that any Muslim supporting and defending such a right of self-defence should be excommunicated.

Moreover, Mr Solomon now also wants to play God by asking Muslim leaders to agree that "all Qur'anic Jihad verses encouraging physical violence, whether implicit or explicit, or any other quotations from the any Islamic source, be that Sunnah or the sayings of the Prophet or that of the learned scholars ... are to be regarded as inapplicable, invalid and non- Islamic; All Qur'anic verses that COULD (my emphasis) be of inciting nature religiously, ethnically or discriminatory in regard to gender are just historical and will be regarded as non-effective for today's world; These verses will be either deferred or suspended until such time as scholars find a solution for their interpretation." Here is Chutzpah par excellence. The only missing ingredient is that Mr Solomon might want to be appointed to Chief Mufti of all European Muslims and put in charge of a new revised edition of the Qur'an acceptable to his taste.

After asking for a commitment in article 7 to fully cooperate in spying on their co-religionist by watching and monitoring mosque sermons and other mosque teaching programmes for messages not in accordance with this Charter, monitoring all publications, and reporting on any secret and suspicious gatherings of youths, Mr Solomon treats us in article 10 to three pages of Qur'an verses which he would want to have revised or rendered invalid, hastening to add that the list is not exclusive. Amongst those verses are even some which declare the belief in the trinity to be mistaken, which makes me think that the Spanish Inquisition was a lot more honest than Mr Solomon's pretense at reaching an understanding; at least they spelled it out that conversion to Christianity was the only option available to Muslims in Europe.

Dear Mr. Mote, the above cursory points might not be the response you were hoping for. It is a sign of the immaturity of debate and irrationality of approach by those wishing that Islam as a serious proposition within Europe would simply go away that such half-baked proposals even have to be discussed. I am sure that anybody proposing a charter suggesting that the European parliament legislate on the interpretation of the Talmud or the New Testament would be made a laughing stock rather than be given a serious rebuff by the Christian Churches or the Rabbinical authorities. I have endured the ignorant assumptions and presumptious insults emerging from the pages of Mr Solomon's charter and given them my attention only because I am all too painfully aware how little he and others like him know about the subject on which they speak. If there is to be more understanding between European citizens of different religious and ideological persuasions, maybe the first step should be to facilitate the education of European citizenry about what adherents to those religions or secular belief systems actually believe in. This would be a vastly more rewarding exercise than the current scare-mongering polemics against a sub-section of people within the countries of Europe, of which the document you asked us to comment on is a prime example.

Yours sincerely,
Dr Sahib M Bleher
general secretary
Islamic Party of Britain

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Wild West Wild Card

When Ronald Rawhide Reagan became president the Wild West moved into high office and the world of show bizz and politics started to become blurred. Terminator Arnie followed into his footsteps. With Bush junior, too dumb to make it in Holloywood since he would probably not remember even the easiest of lines, the scenario has taken an even more bizarre turn: forget the movies, reality is stranger than fiction, the whole world has turned into a grand theatre of playing out high-tech computer games and half-baked movie scripts.

Just like on the flickering screen the effects are short-lived and new releases are almost greeted with apathy. The directors want to make their mark in epic proportions whilst the overloaded public yawns through the uncomfortable feeling of deja-vue, the sequel. It's hard to get people to go to the movies these days, and even harder to make them play part in the grand game of power. The impressions of the twin towers (both the Lord of the Rings and the New York variety) have worn off; Desert Storm and Back to Baghdad (the video games as well as the two Iraq invasions) are gathering dust on the shelves of adolescents as well as politicians and journalists who would like to move on. The script writers have run out of ideas, and nobody is queuing up to buy preview tickets for Toppling Tehran.

The Wild West of old was a rough place where gunfighting outlaws competed with each other to make a killing in order to eventually retire as respectable saloon owners or even lawmakers. Turning the poacher gamekeeper has been an old custom. And, as the French say: the more times change the more they stay the same. Enter the world's self-styled sheriff, the United States of America, ready to shoot from the hip whenever anybody questions his absolute authority. I am the law, he says, the truth springs from the barrel of my gun. Yesterday he watched the hanging of his former deputy Saddam with glee. Today he is firing a few shots at Somalia, a far off rival who hurt him badly when he was still an ordinary bounty hunter.

Since the respectability of his office demands it, he attends church services. He loves the apocalyptic stories, but makes his excuses should the preacher talk about loving your neighbour or that those who live by the gun die by the gun. He thinks he's got it all under control. He manages the crime gangs to avoid a major show-down. All he has to do is to now and then sort out the odd wild card and make an example of a weak but foolish contender. Gone are the rough days and he's started to enjoy the trappings of office whilst, unbeknown to him, he is growing old and weak.

There is a new gang in town, the Alqaidas. He used to help organise and train them when he was young, but they have since gone separate ways. He used to overstate their courage and strength in order to spread fear amongst the people and enhance his own importance in keeping law and order. Slowly, the old sheriff is losing his touch and can't keep up with challengers to his undivided authority popping up everywhere. Some are just meekly testing the limits, but others have managed to wound him deep.

He's determined to show them who's the boss, yet for the town he's slowly becoming a liability. "It's pretty hard to quit our old trade and go into a business that don't pay any better than this", is what the old gunfighter and racketeer Sam Bass said when he found ordinary trade a burden and returned to plundering other people's resources - train robberies to be precise, ordinary gold in those days, not the black gold of which today's fortunes are made. His new gang (or coalition of the willing) was a bit of a flop and his game was soon up. Bush should have learned from his Texas forbear: Bass played it big and made history with the Union Pacific robbery, only to bite the dust soon after.

The world stage has become the playground of armchair cowboys firing missiles from afar. Their arrogance and over-confidence has made them unpopular anywhere but in their own minds. They're still trying to keep control in the neighbourhood, making more enemies than friends, and everybody knows that their days are firmly numbered. Maybe some day soon, when they've cleared the stage, we can all watch a blockbuster film about them.