Saturday, June 30, 2007

Escaping the UK straight jacket

After the discovery of a London van which had tried very hard to get noticed before its cargo exploded, leaving the UK via any of its airports was like being processed through a prison camp. The heightened security alert level meant that already pointless security measures were stepped up and staff simply couldn't cope. Even at a provincial airport like Luton at normally quiet times a traveller was greeted with excessive check-in queues resulting in long waiting times with no other distraction but regular security announcements and television screens on which an animated single woman was walking robot-like through the security protocol of an otherwise completely empty airport. It felt surreal and bizarre.

The added security measures meant that travellers were only allowed a single piece of hand luggage, and through the intercom system they were constantly told that a separate camera or a food bag would count as a second item of luggage and was thus not permitted. People were agonising what to do with their camera or their child's teddy bear. From a security point of view I guess it makes perfect sense: if it doesn't fit into a single bag, or the bag you've brought is too small, then you are obviously not sufficiently prepared and security-conscious and thus a risk to the travelling public. And before you know it, somebody slips a Mercedes van packed with nails and gas cylinders into your handbag. My suspicion, however is that there is also a commercial interest involved. Signs pronounced everywhere that once past the departure checks you could, of course, carry as many duty free bags on board as you wished. I think you shouldn't bother though. Just turn up in your night shirt and plastic slippers and buy whatever else you need at your destination. There isn't a place in the world where you get ripped off as well as in Britain.

The only speedy movement was through passport checks. Her Majesty's officers only wanted to see boarding passes, not passports, which kept delays to a minimum and demonstrated the case made by government that we all need to carry identity cards, provided we don't show them to anyone. To be fair, passports had been looked at when reporting to the various airline check-in desks, but airline staff are not government employees, nor do they have the facility to read or analyse the biometric data our passports now contain.

Things slowed down again at the approach to the X-ray machines. First people were stripped of any liquid items they might carry, bare a few essentials. In the past, airport staff handed out clear plastic bags to put in toiletries - like hand cream and toothpaste - now you have to buy the bags from a dispensing machine, four for a pound. That's good value for money, since you are only allowed to take one such bag on board and can keep the others as a souvenir or gift for people you might meet in far-off destinations.

I watched a granddad emptying his cooling bag he had carefully packed before leaving home: the ice packs in it obviously contain liquid and are therefore far too hazardous to carry on an aircraft. Next he was asked to part with a fruit yoghurt as this was also a prohibited item. Rightly so, we can't allow carelessness to endanger the lives of crew and passengers with exploding fruit yoghurts, especially if they haven't got a say in what flavours they would like. Mind you, there are devious ways around the prohibitions: if you carry your yoghurt as filling in a chocolate bar you're allowed to take it, provided it fits in the single bag of hand luggage allocated to you as your ration. You are also not allowed any sharp items, plastic knifes or nail clippers for example, but I suggest the pins of electric plugs for your laptop or mobile phone are a lot more lethal. Oops, now they'll have to outlaw those as well, together with nylon stockings which could be used to strangle an air hostess and hold her hostage.

After leaving heaps of shampoo, drinks bottles, aftershave and other terrorist accessories behind, which they had inadvertently discovered in their hand luggage, passengers proceeded to the X-ray machines. Even after taking everything off and placing it on the belt, metal buttons or earrings would nonetheless set off the beeps of the walk-through X-ray frames, which meant they had to be given a rub-down search, resulting in never-ending queues again. At the end of such a search the staff in attendance would ask people to show them the soles of their shoes. Finally, the moment of revenge for the terrorists plaguing the British Isles had come. For Arabs it is an insult to point the soles of your shoes at anybody, and they must have revelled in delight to be able to swear at British officials whilst at the same time only doing as they were told.

The prolonged security procedures inevitably resulted in boarding delays which in turn caused take-off delays and lost take-off slots. Chaos all around, just because of some crazy van driver in London. You don't need to set off a bomb to destroy the British way of life and economy, you just have to do something silly, and the official response will take care of the rest. When the plane got airborne it finally felt like real freedom, not the fake one we're allegedly defending, gold-plated with rules and regulations. Unfortunately, most air travellers neither have the money nor courage to emigrate from these bigoted and narrow-minded isles for good, and thus will have to come back to the same sad old story. At least that bitter pill at the end of their holiday is sweetened by the fact that nobody will try to take their mineral water bottles or toothpaste away from them when they board their flight back to Britain from exotic locations. Only the British government and those who follow it blindly are smart enough to actually believe that you can bring down a Boing 707 with toothpaste or lemonade.

Friday, June 29, 2007

False-flag operations

I should have read this book a long time ago: Christian Faith and the Truth behind 9/11 by David Ray Griffin is amongst the best titles ever written on the subject. The author is a theologian with a razor-sharp analytical mind which he turns to the evidence suggesting that 9/11 was a US government-led false-flag operation. He does not write as an enemy of America, but a concerned citizen, worried that the good faith the American people place in their government has been shamelessly exploited. His treatment of the subject, however, is not emotional, as one might expect of somebody writing from a religious perspective, but rational. He begins by a brief historical summary of false-flag operations to demonstrate that governments, including democratic ones and not exempting the USA, have used engineered events to manipulate the public mood in support of ulterior war aims. He moves on to show that in doing so the US government and secret services did not, in the past, shy away from hurting their own allies and their populations in the process, nor did they indeed shirk from contemplating to bring about a disaster on their own soil. Much of the recently declassified CIA documents corroborate Griffin's account.

Having evidenced that the US government was capable of such a monstrous act, Griffin analyses the evidence that has come to light about 9/11 to whether there has been a cover up and whether the official account of events could possibly be true. His conclusion is unequivocal: "The evidence suggests very strongly that it was a false-flag operation orchestrated by domestic terrorists." He discounts the possibility that foreign terrorists would have had the necessary access, nor would they have ensured a course of events which ultimately favoured only played into the hands of the government. Griffin knows that this truth is uncomfortable: "The implications are indeed disturbing", he says, " disturbing to the American psyche, the American form of government, and global stability, that [many people believe] it is better to pretend to believe the official version." However, he argues, "Far more devastating to the American psyche, the American form of government, and the world as a whole will be the continued rule of those who brought us 9/11".

After the first part of the book thoroughly destroys any remnant of credibility in the official version of 9/11, it concludes with proving US government culpability since "Bush-Cheney administration, and only it, had both the means and the opportunity to bring about the attacks of 9/11". Part two of the book shifts the focus from an examination of the facts as if in a court of law to a Christian critique of 9/11 and American Imperialism or Pax Americana. After describing the agenda of the want-to-be rulers of the world, viewed by themselves as benign and beneficial appeasement, he compares this American Empire to the Roman Empire it often is said to have been modelled on and which also mercilessly subjected its vassal colonies through military might and terror.

"Christians in America today have two reasons to know something about the Roman Empire", he says. Firstly, it helps the understanding of what America has become and really is. Secondly, it was during the heyday of the Roman Empire that Christianity rose and became what it is today. Griffin sees the gospel essentially as containing an anti-imperial message and considers the later support of empire by the Christian Church as a deviation from it. In his understanding the belief that God would bring about His Kingdom unilaterally gradually replaced the emphasis on the need to work for justice in order to bring about Divine blessing. To explain this shift delves deep into the theology of trying to explain the Divine and the Demonic. As a Muslim I obviously do not share the author's "process theology", but it makes interesting reading nonetheless, and whilst readers less familiar with religious matters may find it quite difficult to understand, it establishes the writer as an honest seeker of the truth whose characterisation of America as a demonic empire has not been reached without proper thought.

It is because of this demonic and evil nature of the proponents of the Pax Americana that they cannot perceive the objections of others to their ideal of world hegemony. A recent example of this doctrine of "benign empire" exporting values like democracy rather than imposing direct rule and stealing other people's wealth came only today in George Bush's incredible statement that in spite of all the devastating violence Iraq might one day turn out as successful as Israel - blinded to the fact that Israel has dominated world events as a key problem and obstacle to peace for over half a century.

Griffin's book is not only an analysis but also "A call to reflection and action". He proposes that irrespective of one's faith background that there are universal morals, which Christians should promote, e.g. "Don't murder other people; don't cause other people to starve; don't steal other people's natural resources, such as their land, water , and oil; don't deprive others of their basic freedoms; don't cause others needless pain; don't terrorize other people; don't rape other people; don't humiliate other people". Clearly, those values are not espoused by American imperial policy, and Griffin gives some examples of foreign policy to illustrate that the American Empire is, therefore, anything but a force for good, followed by a catalogue of suggestions about the discussions Christians should have in their congregations and the actions they should take to re-establish a moral prerogative and wrestle power back from a government which had deceived them.

The book, published last year by Westminster John Knox Press, is a great eye-opener for people who placed too much trust into their politicians' claims of defending Christian values in the face of Islamic terrorism. Which brings me to another likely false-flag operation: Isn't the find of a car bomb in central London the day after the new cabinet was announced just a little bit too convenient to help focus the new British prime minister's mind on the "serious and ongoing threat"? Expect renewed calls for the strengthening of anti-terrorism legislation - or anti-tourism legislation, as I tend to call it, since it stops people from wanting to fly in and out of Britain.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Hitchens is not smart

I've listend to Hitchens on the radio promoting - or mumbling to promote - his new book "God is not Great", a fairly uninspiring attack against all things religious with the most vicious venom spewn in the direction of Islam. After Richard Dawkin's attempt to ditch religion in "The God Delusion", which was also given plenty of airtime, the secularists seem to be really on the advance - or are they?

There is a noticeable unease amongst those defenders of secularism compelling them to write about the subject. The very fact that they see the need to go on the offensive indicates that they are beginning to lose ground, and their attacks are, consequently, becoming more and more fanatical. If religion was a relic of the past, they would not need to convince us that it does not matter.

Hitchen, also an ardent supporter of the war in Iraq, is not so much worried about religious traditions and ritual, after all he admits to wanting a passover ceremony for his little daughter in spite of his Jewish wife not being too fuzzed about it. What worries him is that people should take religion seriously, believe in Divine revelation and be guided by it in their daily lives and politics. Islam is his greatest fear because Muslims have refused to have their religion emasculated by a foul compromise with secular overloards.

Just as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are turning out to be as disastrous and untenable as many an imperialist war before, the secular fundamentalists are beginning to lose the intellectual argument. A fish out of water will flap violently, but it will soon be snuffed out. The American empire is past its decadent stage and disintegrating fast even without having been attacked by any formidable enemy from the outside. Instead they had to create one in al-Qaedah. Meanwhile Russia and China sit on the sidelines watching the erstwhile giant fall and bleed to death, overstretched in too many military adventures far afield.

The need to find fault with religion is an admission of failure by the secular protagonists. Every now and then they are trying to poke a little to get a reaction in order to demonstrate the irrationality and violent nature of their enemy, be it the publication of offensive cartoons in Denmark or knighting Salman Rushdie for having written Satanic Verses, a book described by the late author Roald Dahl as unreadable, which had been prefinanced in order to begin the last crusade against Islam and religion which later culiminated in the war on terror. The mechanism of this kind of subversion is described very well in the response written by the leader of the Islamic Party of Britain at the time in his book "Satanic Voices Ancient and Modern", a book as poignant today as it was then. At the time, Muslims over-reacted and fell into the trap. Now, they seem to have matured sufficiently to sit back and watch the secularists burn themselves out.

Hitchens' and Dawkin's ramblings are the last attempt of the advocates of a failed social experiment to survive whilst more and more people are turning away from the wishy-washy uncertainties of dogmatic liberalism to find fulfilment in religious belief and devotion. Hitchens is not smart, and God is indeed great!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Fes festival of sacred music

Under the motto "Essence of Time, Spirit of place" the 13th Fes Festival of Sacred Music has just drawn to a close, featuring a whole range of spiritual musical performance from the Whirling Dervishes to Sephardic Songs of Spain, from Pakistani Quawwalis to Gospel singers from London. For a week the medieval old town of Fes was alive with an afternoon concert at the Batha Museum and an outdoor evening concert at the splendid Bab Makina palace courtyard every day, plus free taster sessions for the general public by the same artists, and the attendants were as varied as the performers. The musical programme was complemented with lectures about contemporary issues. Without presumption, the city of Fes, the ancient spiritual capital of Morocco, taught the world a lesson about the truth of Islam, available to anyone willing to listen or see.

There are those who claim that music has no place in Islam. There are others who want to make us believe that giving the devotional expression of religions other than Islam a platform somehow diminishes Islam. The truth is that fanaticism is a sign of repressed doubt and that true Islam is grounded strongly enough in its own tradition in order to be tolerant to the traditions of others. Only when Islam is a mere theory in the heads of holier-than-thou hotheads with little knowledge and totally divorced from the culture of its people will it feel threatened. Only when the deeper meaning of Islam enters the hearts of people and finds expression in their literature, poetry, music and general culture will it survice and leave a lasting legacy.

In Fes, a new town has sprung up alongside the old Medina, and it has recently been transformed by the creation of palm tree boulevards with water fountains and gardens into a location rivalling California for sheer beauty. But the attraction of modern Fes lies not in its latest development projects. It is found in the absence of bigotry. In the modern Morocco under the rule of the new King Mohammed VI modernisation is not at logger-heads with tradition but both are at ease with each other. Without wanting to gloss over problems the Moroccon society, like any other, has, the acceptance of change without abandoning roots is an important accomplishment. Morocco's King was certainly right when he pointed out in his speech opening the festival season that without the modern the sacred would wither and without the sacred modernity would be soul-less. A brief look around the Muslim world as well as the Western world throws up endless examples of both unfortunate situations.

In the interest of the greater good and to saveguard humanity Muslims need to re-establish their role of leading a spiritual revival, and this can never be accomplished by petty-minded dogma. The only way to invite others to cherish what Islam has to offer is by welcoming them. A visit to Fes airport at the start and the end of the festival could have proved the point. Tourists arrived inappropriately dressed for a Muslim country in revealing Western attire and departed adorned with henna, long robes and scarves around their necks. Something of the spirit of the place had most certainly rubbed off on them and maybe, for a while, they tasted the essence of time.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Tax freedom day

Today should be a public holiday. We should celebrate our partial freedom (or mourn our partial enslavement). Today (1 June) is tax freedom day in the UK, the day when we stop working to fill the coffers of government through taxation and begin working for our own benefit. The concept of Tax Freedom Day was developed and copyrighted in 1948 by Florida businessman Dallas Hostetler, who calculated it each year for the next two decades. He then transferred the copyright to the Tax Foundation who has calculated Tax Freedom Day for the United States ever since, using it as a tool for illustrating the proportion of national income diverted to fund the annual cost of government programs.

In the UK the Adam Smith Institute does the same since 1991 and established June 1 as tax freedom day for 2007, observing that the day is arriving later and later over successive years with the tax burden ever increasing through both direct taxes and stealth taxes. In some countries of Western Europe the situation is even worse. Germans work another extra month for the tax man before filling their own pockets, and in Sweden it is another two months until August, meaning the government takes more than Swedish workers receive themselves every year.

Government, once intended to be the servant of the people, has become their master. In turn, they serve the Mammon, or the financial industry, and are inventing every more subtle ways of squeezing a little more out of the working population in order to pay the interest on the national debt. This debt is totally unnecessary if the treasury created the nation's money supply instead of borrowing it from banks who, in turn, create it out of thin air.

The national debt is, of course, not the only yoke placed on hard working people. In addition, there is mortgate debt and consumer debt, extending the enslavement of the individual well beyond the tax freedom day marker. Added all together, we keep very littel of our hard earned money, if anything at all. Many people have to borrow in order to pay their taxes, demonstrating just how unsustainable the system heralded as market economy has become.