Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Genocide politics

As often happens, two contradictory stories hit the news simultaneously, in this case the clearing of Serbia of "direct responsibility" for genocide against Bosnians by the International Court of Justice in De Hague, and the filing of details of war crimes in Darfur by the chief prosecutor before the International Criminal Court, also in De Hague. Nobody argues that genocide is morally wrong or that war crimes should go unpunished. It is immediately obvious, however, that there is a serious flaw in how we deal with these issues as a society. Courts are not neutral institutions fully independent from the political realities of the environment in which they operate. The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. The United Nations are controlled by the Security Council giving undue influence to a small number of dominant states of the majority of members in the General Assembly (leaving aside the even less palatable fact that the land on which its administrative offices are established was donated by the Rockefeller Family). For the court to find that Serbia was responsible for the horrible crimes committed during the Bosnian conflict and that reparations were to be paid would set a dangerous precedent under which reparations might subsequently also be sought by the Palestinians or Lebanese against the State of Israel or by Iraqis and Afghans against the US and UK. To ignore the evidence of a genocide, on the other hand, would give a green light to any group of people furthering their political agenda through the use of terror.

As courts frequently do, the International Court of Justice came up with a compromise. They declared that the massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica (under the "watchful" eyes of UN observers, by the way) was genocide, but that Serbia was not directly responsible as a state. They found that Serbia didn't do enough to stop genocide from happening, but found no evidence that they directly ordered the crime. The countries dominating the UN may have saved their own skin by this ruling, but it compounds an already complex issue even further. Based on this judgment it appears a waste of time to continue gathering evidence against Sudan for the atrocities committed in Darfur. What point is there in spending large sums of money and time to establish what everybody knows anyway, that crimes were committed? It will be equally impossible to prove that the Sudan government directly ordered the action and thus it cannot be held directly responsible. And will Israel now repay all the money it received in reparations to Germany? After all, it is also an established historic fact that not a single piece of evidence exists that Hitler or the government of the Reich directly ordered or authorised the extermination of Jews. By way of logical deduction, the judgment in favour of Serbia means that Germany, too, should now be exonerated and no longer held responsible.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Rumi buried in concrete and smoke

I had been to Konya some 15 years ago during an election campaign of the then Turkish Welfare (Refah) Party, the Turkish Islamic Party which frequently had to change its name due to being outlawed by the secular establishment and now runs the government under the new name of Justice and Democracy Party. The Konya region is the early cradle of humanity since the days Noah landed his ark on mount Judi in the Ararat range. The shrine/museum of Rumi houses some interesting and precious artefacts and Qur'anic scripts, and when I first visited still had a traditional shoe-keeper who took one look at you and your shoes when you handed them in before entering, and gave them back to you upon exit - an amazing application of memory power.

The shoe-keeper had gone when I visited this time, and visitors were given plastic covers to slip over their footwear. The once provincial town had grown into the fifth largest city of Turkey and changed beyond recognition. It has a flourishing wheat and sugar industry, besides the traditional Turkish carpets made there, and three years ago was given its own airport. Like all Turkish airports it is of shiny marble and makes UK airports look cheap and dirty (not to mention the more recent "security" measures which turn UK airports into the laughing stock of the world - my advice to travellers: walk around in flip-flop beach sandals and don't take anything with you - you can buy it all abroad for a fraction of the price anyway).

For Konya, and other Turkish cities, the new development has, however, been a mixed blessing. The current government has been successful in preventing another military takeover and in attracting investments, but the once critical stance on the issue of interest-based financing has gone since the Islamic Brotherhood movement and the Islamic banking fraternity took control of the party. Turkey is heavily indebted to the IMF and desparately begging the European Union to grant coveted membership. Whilst the airports and tourist areas are clean, environmental awareness is scarce elsewhere. A major building boom has turned much of the beautiful Turkish landscape into concrete wasteland whose inhabitants suffer major pollution problems.

I arrived at night and the snow-covered Konya landscape was lying under a thick blanket of smog with a heavy smell of choked wood fires. Konya is high on the list of sulphur dioxide and smoke particle concentrations in Turkish cities. According to the locals, the sugar beet factories are the main culprits, but because they provide employment and revenue, nobody dears taking the matter further.

UNESCO has declared the year 2007 as "World Molana Rumi Year" commemorating the 800th anniversary of his birth. There is a hope that many Sufi visitors from around the world will come to visit in the summer, when the winter smog has gone, and events are planned to be held in a newly built grand conference hall, like demonstrations of the "Sema", for example, the dance of the Whirling Dervishes. Even without the smog, however, tourists in search of a spiritual quest are likely to be disappointed. Like the shoe-keeper, the religious orders are a relic of the past, and a visit to the museum of Rumi is no different to a visit to a cathedral in any major European city: take a few snapshot pictures and go back into the huzzle buzzle of modern secular life.

Although hoping to attract income from religous tourists, Turkey wants to be seen as a secular nation, and even the traditional Anatolia region wants to shake off the Muslim heritage. Whilst in Istanbul, a number of people recounted to me how they found life in Konya stifling as students because of the conservative attitudes of the local populace. They, too, would be surprised at the change. In the Özkaymak, a major hotel in Konya, they still have separate swimming hours for men and women, unlike in Istanbul where swimming pools, sauna baths and the Turkish hamam are mixed, but they prevent women wearing full body Islamic swimming costumes from entering the pool just in case it might offend the more scarcely clad Western ladies. If European politicians are worried about letting a strict Muslim country enter their club, they needn't be concerned.

The Turkish "Islamic" government has gone for a compromise it might still live to regret. They stood up half-heartedly to the Americans when asked to allow troop movements through their country to aid the invasion of Iraq, and only granted them access to airspace, but this was more in order to not unnecessarily antagonise their own citizens. In return the Americans keep threatening them with setting up an independent Kurdish state in Iraq. The US carry out regular large-scale exercises in Turkey (including near Konya), and the Turkish prime has just played host to two major advocates of the war on Islam: Paul Wolfowitz in his capacity as President of the World Bank and the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. Meanwhile Europe will ask them to prostrate even lower and accept even more conditions.

Turkey is a huge country with an army whose size almost matches that of the United States. Its greatness derives from its proud history as the seat of the Islamic caliphate for many centuries, making the secular interlude since the Freemasonic crypto-Jewish (Dönme) takeover by Atatürk a mere blip of an interlude. If Turkey remembered her past she could be destined for a great future at a time where the strength of the American Empire is in rapid decline to be replaced by the influence of China rather than that of Europe. If Turkey expanded eastwards through alliances with Iran and the former Soviet Muslim republics and entered into strategic treaties with China and India, soon the Europeans would come bearing gifts as they did at the time of the Sultans, begging to be considered worthy enough by this important bridge country between Europe and Asia. It's not too late, but the Turkish people and their government need to wake up to reality pretty quickly, or like other countries before them they will only be left with the price to pay for out-of-bounds development: perpetual debt slavery whilst their real estate is sold off to outsiders.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Aisha in Wonderland

On the same day the British public woke up to the the announcement that two of the people arrested during the latest Birmingham razzmatazz terror raids were released without charge and without even having been questioned about the alleged decapitation of a Muslim soldier, a story which had provided ample fodder for media hacks to spill their venom, the government announced that it is throwing millions of pounds at trial schemes to help Muslim communities from being radicalised. Doesn't the "Department of Communities and Local Government" realise that the best way for innocent young Muslims to become radicalised is by receiving a knock on the door in the early hours of the morning, then being villified in the media whilst held at a police station, only to be released without charge and without even being told what they were supposed to have done wrong? An unsuspecting Muslim visitor to this upside-down world of modern Britain could easily be sufficiently amused at such stupidity to sit down and write a satirical story called "Aisha in Wonderland".

On this strange island innocent people are being terrorised by the police in order to keep other innocent people afraid of terrorism. Day in and day out travellers boarding planes take out their aftershave, toothpaste and sun protection lotion and place it in a clear plastic bag because some Mad Hatter running the home office decided that if you told the British public that a handful of people were going to board several planes without tickets or passports and blow them up with a mixture of beverages carried in Lucozade bottles, they would be either uneducated enough to believe it or disinterested enough to ask questions. A retired British Army intelligence officer with plenty of explosives experience called the Heathrow Blitz allegation a complete fiction engineered for political reasons., but was cause neither for passengers nor the airlines to protest to the government over the ridiculous "precautions" still in place. When reading a blog asking cats their opinion about the alleged terror attack, one finds that they are a great deal more sophisticated in their judgments than the politicians at the helm of these Deceptive Isles.

25 people were arrested at that time and the Bank of England published the names of 19 whose funds it had frozen thus providing the media with easy targets of their sensational reporting. Some of them were later released without charge, just as the brothers in East London's Forest Gate whose homes had been raided at the cost of more than 2 million pounds for allegedly trying to make a chemical bomb which proved to be as illusive and non-existant as Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. To prevent having to face the public totally red-faced the police then invented child porn charges for one of the brothers as a diversion, which were subsequently also dropped. As a consequence the Muslim community of East London are now likely candidates for the expensive government schemes to eradicate radicalisation and build bridges, as are Brummy Muslims.

But why blow up the bridges in the first place? The kidnapped and beheaded Muslim soldier in the British armed forces is likely to be as fictional a character as the exploding toothpaste, but to keep a semblance of propriety, some will be charged with those newly created offences of glorifying terrorism or possessing articles likely to aid in the preparation of acts of terrorism. Like books on Jihad, for example. Seeing a Muslim bookshop was amongst the raided premises in Birmingham it shouldn't be too difficult for the police to find something suitable. If they try a bit harder they might also find some toothpaste or aftershave in some of the 18 properties searched. Maybe one or the other of the subjects was already sufficiently radicalised to get involved in politics and possess references like The Times Guide to the House of Commons which could easily be made out as a list of potential targets.

For those unfortunate enough to own freely available items whilst at the same time being Muslims the ordeal may last a long time. Since books and toiletries in the wrong hands amount to a very serious crime indeed, and such cases require plenty of time and money, their trials will not take place until the circumstances of their arrest will have long been forgotten by the British public whilst some other diversion will captivate their minds. As long as the media feed their viewers and readers the red pill and government ministers keep shouting "Off with their heads", there's no need for real concern, since all is well down the rabbit hole.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Islamophonic: The Guardian makes a difference

The nature of mass media is changing, mainly due to advances in technology affecting both broadcast and print media. "Broadsheet" newspaper had to change their format to a less cumbersome size long ago as well as their content, since the news they revealed in the morning would already be an old story for those who accessed it on television, radio or the internet. Whilst the titillating gutter press tabloid newspapers could continue their mix of sex, crime and prejudice, more serious newspapers had to diversify and focus more on background and analysis. With podcasts they also tried to venture into broadcasting, effectively producing community radio for selected sections of listeners who were less catered for by the large corporations like the BBC.

"Islamophonic", recently launched by the Guardian, is such an attempt to provide meaningful listening for educated middle class British Muslims. The show goes out once a week on a Wednesday and is presented by Riazat Butt who during her inaugural session initially sounded like the proverbial DJ talking to an imaginary audience in an empty room, but soon began to master the task admirably. The 25 minute show is a mixture of reporting, comment and interviews tackling topical stories relevant to Muslims in Britain together with a "Fatwa Focus", attempting to give guidance on questions of what might or might not be the correct Islamic approach to everyday issues, and a highlight of media stories in a selected Muslim country each week.

It is apparent that the Guardian producers are not quite sure yet who their audience is going to be, since they venture rather cautiously and even conservatively into this newly discovered world of Muslim listeners. The rather strict and dogmatic answers obtained from the Saudi-orientated Shariah Council for the Fatwa Focus, prohibiting Muslim women from plucking their eyebrowes (most Pakistanis do it) or shaking hands with men (a common practice in Turkey and the Levante countries) and declaring it as "haram" (forbidden) to listen to music intentionally sits uneasy with the normally Liberal leaning of the Guardian and gives the false impression that Islam is over-prescriptive, ingnoring the fact that in Islamic jurisprudence there is not always just one right answer. An exploration of the meaningful attempts of Muslim scholars to tackle moral dilemmas, e.g. stem cell research, and the often differing approaches taken to arrive at solutions would be infinitely more useful to educated Muslim listeners, helping them to understand the methodology of the Shariah, rather than confronting them with the dictates of "safe" foreign scholars.

On the other hand, by interviewing Muslims from organisations not usually represented in the mainstream media as well as ordinary people at universities or in the street the podcast empowers Muslims by giving them a voice. Unfortunately, exposure is limited to those "dialling in". To change the uneasy relationship between Muslims and the media, the latter frequently accused of being sensationalising and prejudicial - a charge admitted patially by the Guardian's own media editor Matt Wells -, genuine Muslim voices will have to be encountered more frequently in the publications and broadcasts targetted at the mainstream. A select programme for Muslims only is not going to achieve that momentus task, but it is a worthwhile start. Well done Guardian!