Immigrants! Immigrants! IMMIGRANTS!

Kevin Bridges

Immigration is one those nuanced issues that can be very hard to understand. Many viewpoints are put forward, and whilst you are trying to understand these along come a horde of counterpoints, making confused matters very confusing indeed. In such cases it is often a stand-up comedian who will provide some much needed clarity to the topic in hand.

Take for example American Indian comedian Rajiv Satyal who, in just over 8 minutes, tackles issues of immigration, racism, Pakistan, India, Kuwait, the American dream, and more:

As Americans I feel like we are dicks about immigration. I feel like, you know, we wonder why people want to come here and yet we say it is the greatest country in the world. Well of course the advertising campaign is working, people want to come here. And of all things, we put a state called New Mexico on the border. Of course Mexicans want to come here! It’s newer! That’s just a dick move. “And this is Old Mexico, by the way, so that is really, really uncool.” I’m just saying that if there was a New India and Pakistan my parents would have gone to check it out, you know what I mean. It just sounds like a good deal. “Same price, newer. Okay, we’ll go.” – Rajiv Satyal

And here is the always brilliant Russell Brand who needs only 92 seconds to explain the concept of immigration in terms of our global economy all via the medium of Fox News:

Not only is Fox News bigoted, it’s also misleading. I once watched it for 12 hours and there was not one story about foxes. Just stories about immigrants, really. Not even stories, just shouting. “Immigrants! Immigrants! Immigrants!” All right. What? “IMMIGRANTS!” You know that an immigrant is just someone who used to be somewhere else. “Aaahh! Have you always been there?” “No, no, no, I used to be over there.” “Aaahh! Keep still! I can’t relax with people moving around. Keep still on this spherical rock in infinite space. Keep still on the spherical rock with imaginary geopolitical borders that have been drawn in according to the economic reality of the time. Do not pause to reflect that free movement of global capital will necessitate free movement of a global labour force to meet the demands created by the free movement of that capital. That is a complex economic idea and you won’t understand it. Just keep still on the rock. And don’t be gay on it!” – Russell Brand, from his live show Messiah Complex

Another comedian who has tackled this thorny subject is Scottish stand up and author Kevin Bridges. I recently finished reading his excellent autobiography We Need To Talk About…Kevin Bridges, in which he does indeed talk about immigration. Please find below an extract from this book and, just to provide some context, Kevin is referring to a then recent trip he made to London with his older brother John in 2005, and the Festival mentioned at the start is the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Anyways, not only do I hope you enjoy this extract, but I also hope it provides a wee bit of a fresh perspective on how you think about immigration. Enjoy!

Kevin Bridges Book

Just a month before the Festival started, the London 7 July bombings took place. I watched all of the footage on TV, and I recognized places where I’d been with John.

I recognized Tube stations and streets, and London seemed much closer to me now that I’d visited and felt a connection with the place.

It was a tragic loss of life. As I watched the reaction over the weeks that followed, I started to write down some things I’d noticed. I’d watch the fear and the hysteria being perpetuated by some media sources. Then, two weeks later, the shooting by the Metropolitan Police of the innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, in Stockwell station, blew my mind.

The story of what had actually happened was unclear in the immediate aftermath, but it was commonly accepted at the time, although since proven false in court, that Jean Charles de Menezes had been running, was told by police to stop, but kept on running, presumably to catch his train.

There were also tabloid articles reporting that he had been ‘acting suspiciously’.

I’d hear people say how they ‘sympathized’ with the police officers and the stress they were under, how they ‘couldn’t take any chances’, and making other statements like that which wouldn’t have been alarming if we were in the Deep South of America.

‘He was acting suspiciously in a train station. Who doesn’t act suspiciously in a train station? If you need a piss or have an itchy arse in a train station, you act suspiciously,’ I’d say, and act out edgily looking around, uncomfortable and trying to have a scratch without anyone noticing.

‘You’d maybe expect people to walk away from you, but not seven fucking bullets in your head.’

Comedy could be social commentary as well, and I’d enjoy it when the audience would laugh and then applaud, recognizing there was more behind the joke. I liked getting into a ranting style and giving what I was saying some conviction.

This was coming with confidence and experience, and if I could keep my writing up to the same level, I’d be on my way to becoming a good comedian and a professional comedian.

London had recently been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games, and it led me to make a joke about an Olympic city where people are shot for running.

I’d never go into a subject as dark as a terrorist attack purposely looking for a humorous angle, but it was through watching comedians like Richard Pryor and Chris Rock that I saw comedy could also make a point, as long as it was funny.

Articles I read about the ‘true cost of asylum seekers to the UK taxpayer’ also caught my eye, around about the same time, with certain newspapers rinsing everything they could from the racial tensions and anti-Islam feelings that followed on from the 7 July bombings.

I’d listen to people, guys in pubs, guys in the bookie’s, guys on the bus, guys on radio phone-ins or being vox popped on current affairs shows — always guys, guys who’d read tabloid newspapers at face value, taking every headline entirely as fact — ranting that the country was being taken over.

I’d never say anything, but I’d listen and wonder what the real reasons were for what they were saying, what their real problems were.

There was no point engaging in a one-on-one debate with someone who had no real weight behind their claims other than that they wanted to believe them. They wanted to believe that every foreigner who arrived in the UK was immediately given a luxury penthouse apartment and a Premiership footballer’s wages every week on benefits.

They wanted to believe that ‘this country’s lost its identity’ because it’s an easier way of saying, ‘I preferred it when it was all white people.’

Challenging or questioning these outlooks would maybe make people consider looking at the issues in a different way, but only until they met someone who agreed with them and reassured them that they were right, that immigration had destroyed everything.

On stage, though, I could make light of these flawed but increasingly popular viewpoints and maybe offer some sort of defence for people unfortunate enough to be born in a war-torn hellhole, who had managed to make it out, to start a new life.

I’d done some research and found that the majority of asylum seekers, at the time, were fleeing from Iraq and Afghanistan and their ‘true cost’ to the UK taxpayer was a fraction of the cost of the two wars the UK was needlessly involved in, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We were the ones dropping the bombs on them, so we couldn’t complain when they were looking for a place to stay.

‘If somebody blew your house up, you’d expect them to at least put you up. If my house was bombed, I’d be asking questions. Did you just fucking bomb my house? I’ll be crashing on your couch for a bit, then.’

 – Kevin Bridges, from his autobiography We Need To Talk About…Kevin Bridges (chapter 60, pages 428-430)


Frankie Boyle NWO

Whether we like it or not we are bombarded with information daily, hourly, minute-by-minute. This makes it virtually impossible to cut through all that digital data and get to the true heart of the matter. I am therefore always in admiration of anyone who can achieve this no mean feat of providing clarity in our world of ever increasing confusion.

Frankie Boyle is such a person. The author and stand up comedian has for many years been commenting on everything from religion to politics to gender identity and beyond. He is someone I have blogged about many times before (for example here). A recent example of this ability to clarify are comments he made as to why people are so intrigued by the upcoming much hyped boxing match between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor:

It’s about time we found out whether a non boxer can beat the world’s best boxer at boxing…Don’t get me wrong, I think someone trying to beat possibly history’s best defensive boxer purely by being a mad cunt is actually beautiful. – Frankie Boyle, 12 Jul 2017, from his Twitter feed

Not only is he active on Twitter with over 2.6 million followers, but he also does things like discuss philosophy for 70 minutes with another inquisitive mind, Russell Brand, on a recent podcast entitled Is It Possible To Live A Moral Life? (well worth listening to if you get the time).

Another example comes from the 4 glorious episodes of his TV show Frankie Boyle’s New World Order, aired recently by the BBC and with each episode well worth watching if you can find them on YouTube or BBC iPlayer.

Below are some of my favourite quotes taken from these programs. They come not only from Frankie himself but also from some of the special guests he had on each episode, and they cover topics as varied as Trump, Obama, technology, the state of the world, class warfare, racism, and much more. Enjoy!

Politics is a sort of class warfare. You have a political class engaged in arms deals, profiteering, and corruption, ranged against a public who have been educated out of any understanding of the situation and trained to despise each other. And that’s how we end up with Theresa May. Therese May is the first Nazi in history who can’t get the trains to run on time. – Frankie Boyle, Jun 2017, a few days before the general election

Putting shit through someone’s letterbox has always been a very ironic tactic used by racist people, because they will be like “We’ve got to get them because they’re like monkeys.” “How do we show them that they’re monkeys?” “Well, we’ll shit in our hands and throw it at them.” At some point does no one say “Look, white power and everything, but I’m carrying no shit.”? – Dane Baptiste

None of us know what’s going on with anything. I have a mobile phone contract that is 89 pages long. I don’t know how much of my soul is owned by EE. We don’t know anything about anything. Why should Brexit be any different? – Katherine Ryan, June 2017

I just think this is a genuine moral thing. Sir John McDonnell was in trouble for saying this was like social murder, or whatever the phrase was. But I think it is worse than that because if you set out to murder someone in a moment of passion, that’s one thing. But if you set up a whole series of circumstances that will probably lead to people dying, and then you just let them die like bugs on your windshield, that’s a different level of immorality. – Frankie Boyle, June 2017, speaking about the fire at Grenfell Tower

Brexit will be Christmas for racists. People said after the Brexit vote that British people don’t trust experts anymore. I don’t think that that’s the problem. I think the problem is that British people have strong opinions based on fuck all. And while there are a lot of perfectly valid reasons to want to leave the EU, the people who were most empowered by the result were, let’s be honest, racists…Yes, Brexit will be Christmas for racists. A proper Christmas where all the shops are shut because there aren’t any Muslims who don’t care about Christmas to work in them. – Frankie Boyle, June 2017

It takes quite a bit of work to be the black sheep in the Trump family. – Frankie Boyle, July 2017, referring to the unveiling of Donald Trump Jr and his Russian meeting in 2016

We live in a world where foreign policy norms seem to lack any kind of morality, where neo-colonial policies make our military adventures abroad little more than licensed murder, where Britain thinks of itself as having a special relationship with America but America thinks of Britain as somewhere that it stores its missiles, somewhere a bit like a shed. We live in a world with an encircled Russia, with a North Korean leader firing missiles into the sea of Japan raising the very real risk of waking Godzilla, and with a US president so deranged you could form a better president from the meat in his colon. – Frankie Boyle

Say what you like about Trump he has proved a lot of people wrong, sadly not George Orwell, Margaret Atwood, or whoever wrote the Book of Revelations. – Frankie Boyle

One of our main problems is that we don’t really understand the moral problems of how we act in other countries. We think that we target militant people with missiles with precision targeting. You can’t do that. You can’t target something specifically if you are going to blow it up with high explosives. There is no point finding the clitoris if what you find it with is an uppercut. – Frankie Boyle

Trump is not going to be assassinated because the assassinators are on his side. You are not going to have a vegan shoot him in the face. – Katherine Ryan

The assumption is that Obama was not a violent president but Trump has highlighted, by his idiocy and madness, how dangerous the times are we live in. That is a positive thing about Trump. That is a thing about him that is better than Obama. – Romesh Ranganathan

Our lives are being ruined by technology. Technology has consumed what happiness we once had. I was sitting in the park the other day, reading my phone, and everybody else was sat there on their phones, and a guy came along and you know what he did? He stood around in the park just looking at the trees, like a fucking serial killer. – Frankie Boyle

Technology could be a good thing but it exists within the constructs of capitalism. YouTube could be good but it is ruined by adverts. What is it about me spending 5 hours watching pensioners falling over that suggests that I am in the market for a brand new Lexus? – Frankie Boyle

I love technology. It has enhanced my life in every way. I am very lazy. Sometimes I will ignore my own child just to look at photos of my child. – Katherine Ryan


Suhaiymah Manzoor Khan

One of main reasons I started this blog was to show Islam and Muslims from a different perspective, different from the mainstream media who frame certain issues in ways I do not really agree with. I am therefore always on the lookout for like minded people who can help us to see things in unusual ways.

Which neatly brings me on to slam poetry, which is a type of poetry performed at a poetry competition known as a slam. At a slam poets perform original work alone or in teams before an audience, which serves as the judge, so the judges don’t even have to be poets themselves. Poets perform without props, costumes, or music. In other words, just their raw selves. After performing the work is judged as much on the manner and enthusiasm of its performance as its content or style.

Just type in ‘slam poetry’ in YouTube and you will be inundated with results. I have chosen a few of my favourites and presented them for your delectation below. Because this is a type of performance art, many slam poems are not intended to be read silently from the page. Despite this, I have tried to transcribe some of my favourite quotes from the selected poems.

The poems are performed by a variety of people: an American marine, a British Hollywood actor, young girls on Eid day, and others. They speak honestly about personal experiences, feelings of heartache, and hopes for the future. Some are Muslim, some not (I think). Anyways, I hope you find each poem interesting as well as entertaining. Enjoy!

Hersi – Terrorism Is Not A Religion

I know it was your people who blew up the World Trade. So every time I see a towel head that prays the way you pray, I’m reminded of that day. I’m not racist, all I am is afraid…

I understand atrocities caused by people like me, so let me start with apologies for those inhumane nineteen so you don’t constantly blame me…What type of a country will take the actions of a few and blame it on a whole civilization? I mean, thank God we don’t live in that nation!…

In school they teach us to be outspoken but that’s not what I’m shown. I fear if I speak out I’d be the next on a no-fly zone…

I feel for the brothers named Mohammed cuz only God can give them a job…

At first they would ask me questions like if we went to war today would you shoot us or shoot them? And such radical quotes are usually taken as a joke by how long can a joke go before you start to think is this the only thing they know?…

Listen, there is terrorism and there are terrorists living. But the last time I checked terrorism and terrorists are not a religion. So for the last time what do you want me to say? Because you refuse to see eye-to-eye with me. If you want to know the truth look at the foundations of my belief, in one dialogue you’ll hear it in my greeting: upon you I wish Salaam. Which means peace.

Amina Iro And Hannah Halpern – A Muslim And Jewish Girl’s Bold Poetry Slam

We both live in a country that swears up and down that all people are equal. Our hands should be cupped together, fists raised as one, fighting against the stereotypes that this country has put upon my people…

This Jewish girl and this Muslim girl are far more similar than our religions would like us to believe, because I bet you didn’t realise that we have the same favourite movies, and that we both love…hummus! And we keep being asked the same darn questions every time we fall head over heels. Is he a respectable Muslim boy / Jewish boy? Did you meet him at the mosque / synagogue?…

Boonaa Mohammed – Kill Them With Love

Prejudice takes time but my time is business. And this just makes big dollars and sense. Why would you hate when love just costs less?…

Your ignorance leads me to believe that you really just need a hug…

Whether you like it or not, I am your brother…Yeah, you’re a racist but I’m gonna still hold the door open for you…This respect thing is just what I do…

So tell me what you’re gonna do when the love come for you? Insult my heritage? We’re both from Adam and Eve, fool!…

I ain’t impressed by money, cars, clothes, or fame. I am a Muslim, so the trinkets of this world don’t mean a thing…

I invite you all to join me in this jihad of love, and see first hand why fundamentalism still begins with fun. And if you don’t agree, I won’t even judge. I just kill you all…with love!

Suhaiymah Manzoor-Khan – This Is Not A Humanizing Poem

Write a humanizing poem, my pen and paper goad me. Show them how wrong their preconceptions are. Be relatable. Write something upbeat for a change. Crack a smile. Tell them how you also cry at the end of Toy Story 3, and you’re just as capable of bantering about the weather in the post-office queue. Like everyone you have no idea how to make the perfect amount of pasta still…

Tell them comedies as well as tragedies, how full of life we are, full of love. But no, I put my pen down, I will not let that poem force me to write it because it is not the poem I want to write…This will not be a ‘Muslims are like us’ poem. I refuse to be respectable. Instead love us when we’re lazy, love us when we’re poor…love us when we aren’t athletes, when we don’t bake cakes, when we don’t offer our homes or free taxi rides after the event when we’re wretched, suicidal, naked and contributing nothing. Love us then. Because if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human…

My mother texts me too after BBC news alerts. Are you safe? Let me know you’re home okay. And she means safe from the incident, yes, but also from the after-effects…

I wonder when you buy bombs is there a clear difference between the deadly ones that kill and the heroic ones which scatter democracy?…

That rather breathtaking line ‘if you need me to prove my humanity, I’m not the one that’s not human’ for some reason reminded me of the following quote from a Disney song:

You think I’m an ignorant savage, and you’ve been so many places, I guess it must be so. But still I cannot see, if the savage one is me, how can there be so much that you don’t know you don’t know? – lyrics from the song Colours Of The Wind, from the Disney movie Pocahontas (1995)

Sakila And Hawa – Why Are Muslims So…?

Just because a Muslim threatened you, you give us all the cold shoulder, knocking us out like we’re the pins and you’re the bowler…

May peace be upon you who let the hijabi girl sit alone during lunchtime. All she got was stairs like she’s a suspect of some crime. She was innocent but they would always whine that the hijab on her head was an ISIS sign. She was the butt of every joke, at the end of every punchline, yet you didn’t talk to her once. Couldn’t save her, not one time…

You say you are fighting terrorists from behind your computer screen, but can’t see that you’re the one terrorising me…No graffiti artist is gonna tell me to go home. No Call of Duty player is gonna threaten me. No overprotective bigot of a mother is gonna ruin my day. No ignorant bystander is gonna leave me feeling left out. No tumblr post is gonna scare me away. And no biased Border Patrol is gonna stop me from seeing my family…

Rudy Francisco, Natasha Hooper, And Amen Ra – Islamophobia

When Dylan Roof killed 9 innocent black people, we did not question his God. He wore flags of apartheid Africa. We did not question his allegiance. He committed the crime alone. We did not question his people. When Adam Lanza shot a classroom full of first graders at Sandy Hook Elementary, we did not ask him to leave the country. When Timothy McVeigh killed 168 people in Oklahoma, we did not call this a crime against every American. When the KKK killed thousands of black people, while swearing to uphold Christian morality, we did not ask them to remove their robes, we did not call all Christians bigots. Do you see it? How we don’t label all white men based on the sins of a few. Do you see it? How we don’t have to condemn a whole class of people based on the actions of some. Do you see it?…

We should not condemn all Muslims for the radicalism of a group…Do your research. Islam is not synonymous with terror. It is literally submission. It is devotion. It is peace. Terrorism is actually forbidden and Jihad does not mean “holy war.” It means struggle. It means survival. It means standing face-to-face with everything that wants to put you in the ground, and choosing to be alive. Do your research and stop listening to CNN! Stop trading humanity for hypocrisy! Stop staring at Muslims at the airport! Stop letting your fear drag you into ignorance! Stop supporting billionaire Republicans who want to scare you into murdering the innocent, and start supporting leaders who speak peace in their native tongue! Instead of burning down the mosque, burn down the walls around the pulsating muscle in your chest and realize that we all have one. And lastly as the customary greeting goes, As’Salaamu ‘Alaikum: “Peace be upon you.” Wa ‘Alaikum As’Salaam: “And upon you be peace.” Do you see it?

Riz Ahmed – The Roots Of Terrorism…

This last video is something I recently blogged about, but it is so good I feel like sharing it again…

In these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
Hey yo I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines
Guantanamo – sorry bro?
Nah, nothing, it’s fine

And in this post 7/7
Why they calling it that?
They’re trying to link it to New York
Like we’re all under attack from the same big bad guy
But it’s taking the mick
Because the truth is Al Qaeda hardly even exists
There ain’t no super villain planning these attacks from some base
The truth is so much scarier and harder to face
See, there’s thousands of angry young men that are lost
Sidelined in the economy, a marginal cost
They think there’s no point in putting ballots up in the box
They got no place in this system, and no faith in its cogs
They’re easy targets, that be getting brainwashed by these knobs
Who say that spilling innocent blood is pleasing a God
Well, it sounds good when you don’t see no justice or jobs
The gas bills are piling up, but all the oil’s getting robbed
So David’s taking out Goliath, and his wife and his dog
Segregated, castrated, now we see who’s on top!
So see, it ain’t religious faith that’s causing these crimes
It’s losing faith in democratic free market designs
It’s no coincidence that bombers came from ghettos up north
And the way that Bush and Blair talked gave a lost boy a cause
Then double standards get ’em angered, both at home and abroad
There’s a monopoly on pens that’s why they forge their own swords
They’re misguided, turned violent, strapped themselves up with bombs
But they’re still cowards, ’cause they ain’t here when the backlash is on

So in these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
Hey yo I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines
Abu Ghraib – sorry mate?
Nah, nothing, it’s fine

So all the mans that wanna say that my religion has to change
That we’re stuck in a bygone age
It’s time to set the vinyl straight
Don’t you think it’s kind of strange that all this terror outrage
These last gasp castaways
These bastards that will blast away
Turned up in the last decade?
When Islam has been the way for millions
From back in the day?
Instead of thinking that we’re crazed
Investigate just what it says
Fast, help the poor, and pray
Go Mecca, be steadfast in faith
That’s the basics, that’s the base
So how did we get here today?
Well, interpretations always change
Today, they’re read with rage
Been jihad-ened up
Desperation’s kinda fucked
Makes you use a book of peace as weapons in Iraq
So listen, terrorism isn’t caused by religion or an old school vision of Islam
It’s against the Qur’an, it’s a new innovation caused by mash-up situations
That’s what makes them turn to arms
The problem is modern and it’s all local factors
Dictatorships, injustices and wars cause fatwa’s

So in these sour times
Please allow me to vouch for mine
Bitter taste in my mouth, spit it out with a rhyme
Hey yo I’m losing my religion to tomorrow’s headlines
But it’s fine


Donald Trump

I wasn’t going to do another blog post for a good few days, however Trump did a speech yesterday and I just feel it in my bones to get this one out, so here goes. Wish me luck…

When Trump recently went to Saudi Arabia he unsurprisingly dropped the term “radical Islamic terrorism”. For a brief moment I thought maybe this was the softening towards Islam that I hoped Trump would eventually have. How wrong was I.

A few months later he holds no iftar dinner at the White House (thus breaking a 19 year old tradition), he implements a partial version of his Muslim travel ban, and he brings back my favourite phrase. With a vengeance.

I was worried that the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” was now confined to the Trump bin of history but, much to my pleasure, it has made a comeback. On Saturday 1st July 2017, Trump made a speech at the Celebrate Freedom Concert which took place at the John F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington. During another awesome speech he made the following remarks:

In every positive thing his mouth said about Americans, I felt his beady little eyes seemed to say “…except Muslims”. Anyways, in honour of the return of Muslim-hating Trump (welcome back sir!) please find below 15 funny-ish quotes about the leader of the free white world. And yes, that first quote does contain a veiled reference to 9/11. Enjoy!

PS For more funny-ish Trump quotes please see here.

I get why Trump hates Muslims. If I owned a very tall tower I’d be pretty nervous too. – Reem Edan

Trumps stupid travel ban went into effect. As of last night people from the Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, and Iran can forget about that dream vacation to Dollywood. And yet Saudi Arabians on the other hand are free to board any plan and fly into a building of their choice. But Trump says he will not have foreign nationals coming here and killing innocent Americans. That’s what the health care plan is for. – Bill Maher, 30 Jun 2017

Our capacity to be shocked has already been so worn down by the Trump presidency. He’s like your druggy cousin who can no longer surprise you. – Seth Meyers

It’s like there is a horse loose in a hospital. I think everything is going to be okay but I have no idea what is going to happen next, and nobody else does either. We’ve all never not known together. It’s not good. And it’s confusing because everyday we just have to follow the horse and some days it’s like “The horse used the elevator.” And there are days when you say “Wait, is the horse smart?” And we’re all like why hasn’t the horse catcher caught the horse? And the horse is like “I have fired the horse catcher.” That shouldn’t be a thing. – John Mulaney

Trump has taught America a valuable lesson: you can never be too rich to be white trash. – Bill Maher

We can’t just wait for moral leadership from a guy who thinks shooting people on 5th Avenue is an applause line. – Samantha Bee

Trump does not make his voters feel stupid, he makes them feel smart, like Joey on Friends. – Bill Maher

65 percent of Republicans don’t even believe that Russian hacking took place. Remember Linda Blair in The Exorcist? I honestly think that if Donald Trump came out and his head spun around 360 degrees and exploded with green projectile vomit, 65 percent of Republicans would say it was brilliant performance art. And this is the challenge that we’re up against. – Charlie Sykes

Let’s be honest, Trump’s presidency is basically doing the exact opposite things Obama did. It’s a series of control-z’s punctuated by golf weekends. That’s all it is. Every single thing is anti-Obama. In fact, he is so anti-Obama he is probably resubscribing to every spam list Obama unsubscribed from. He’s just sitting there, like “Yes I would like more information about Group On, thank you.” – Trevor Noah

Trump promised to bring back mining jobs, yet Trump barely gets what mining is. He may well think it is just running up to things he wants and yelling “MINE!” That’s possible. – John Oliver

It’s worth asking why do Trump and his fans care so much about some jobs and not at all about others. We know that coal mining is 95% male and 95% white but I’m sure that’s not it! No, maybe it’s Trump’s view of the economy. Being like a five-year-old child he only likes coal miners and truck drivers and construction workers, you know, the kind of jobs you see on Sesame Street. – Bill Maher

It is undeniably terrifying that at this moment of such intense gravity for the planet this figure of such extreme stupidity has risen to power. – Naomi Klein

That sense that Trump has that everybody out there is so stupid is a sign of how stupid he is. – Rebecca Traister

I feel like I am binge watching The Fall Of The Roman Empire, set to the music of Benny Hill. – Bill Maher

I have become very over dramatic since the election. Everything to me is now loaded with symbolism. Like whenever it rains now I’m just like “Huh! Metaphor!” I ordered a sandwich on the inauguration, it was supposed to come on wheat bread but it came on white bread and I was like “Hello! It’s already happening. This is how it starts, with the bread.” – Aparna Nancherla


Trump Fear

I recently came across two short but very interesting articles by journalist Lucy Mangan. The first sees Lucy bemoaning her own lack of faith, whilst the second is about how we now live in an age of constant extremes, especially politically.

At first glance these two articles may not appear to be directly linked but upon further analysis I think they are, more than it would seem. In a society where people are becoming less religious and more secular, a society where faith in political leadership is waning daily, it is clear that the once safe middle ground no longer holds any mass appeal.

Votes for Trump and Brexit clearly showed large swathes of the population feeling let down by the middle ground, a place where they have gravitated towards for most of their adult lives. Having lost that faith (both spiritual and political), people have become unmoored from their middles and now find themselves drifting more easily towards the extreme edges. As the common saying goes, those who stand for nothing will fall for anything, and I guess with the world becoming less religious people are now falling a lot more than they were standing.

The notion of moving away from your own common ground was one of Trumps campaign rhetorics. He appealed to all those lost and fed up with the current swamp of Washington. At one point he even asked “What have you got to lose?” It seems many voters agreed with him and, having voted traditionally with the political status quo decade after decade, and with no improvement in their lives to show for it, they decided to leave that well trodden safe middle ground and head elsewhere, in this case straight into the extreme lying orange arms of the Donald.

Fatihah Path

Qur’anic calligraphy, taken from Surah Fatihah (The Opening), Chapter 1, Verse 6.
The Arabic reads: Ihdinas-siraat-ul-mustaqeem.

The middle ground is something central to the Muslim faith. Islam has in its theology a concept known as siraat-ul-mustaqeem, the straight path, the path that leads to that elusive eternal salvation. Islam not only encourages you to seek the straight path and do your best to stay there, but it also encourages you stay in the middle of that path, not to drift too close to the edge, simply because you may wander beyond the edge, you may go too far and find it hard to get back to where you were and where should be.

This anger that seems to be so prevalent now in our societies is something that author Pankaj Mishra addresses in his recent book Age of Anger: A History Of The Present. In a recent Guardian article he explained the global reach of our collective feeling:

The election of Donald Trump as president of the United States is the biggest political earthquake of our times, and its reverberations are inescapably global. It has fully revealed an enormous pent-up anger – which had first become visible in the mass acclaim in Russia and Turkey for pitiless despots and the electoral triumph of bloody strongmen in India and the Philippines. The insurgencies of our time, including Brexit and the rise of the European far right, have many local causes – but it is not an accident that demagoguery appears to be rising around the world. Savage violence has erupted in recent years across a broad swath of territory: wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, insurgencies from Yemen to Thailand, terrorism and counter-terrorism, economic and cyberwar. The conflicts, not confined to fixed battlefields, feel endemic and uncontrollable. Hate-mongering against immigrants and minorities has gone mainstream; figures foaming at the mouth with loathing and malice are ubiquitous on old and new media alike. – Pankaj Mishra, Dec 2016,

Here is Mishra in a short video explaining how 18th century ideas of self-empowerment may have led to our current age of anger:

The brilliant journalist Owen Jones also referred to this age of anger in a recent article in New Humanist magazine:

We live in an age of insecurity, of fear, of bigotries and deceits that are indulged, of rights and freedoms that are imperilled. Building societies that maximise human freedom and well-being, that allow us to develop our potential unencumbered, that emphasise our common humanity rather than the artificial barriers that divide us: these are aspirations we must realise. It will be a struggle, but social change always is. In the decades ahead, future generations will look back at these turbulent and difficult times, and they will ask what we did…The illusion of every age is that it will last for ever. – Owen Jones, Mar 2017, New Humanist magazine, Spring 2017 edition

New Humanist Age

Angry drifters or not, as we all bullishly charge to the edges of our extremes we should perhaps heed the warning of Mick Jagger who, as the lead singer of the Rolling Stones, is no stranger to travelling to the great beyond:

It’s all right letting yourself go, as long as you can get yourself back. – Mick Jagger

Jagger Letting

Wise words indeed. Anyways, here are those two articles, well worth reading in full as always. Enjoy!

Why I Regret Losing My Religion

Lucy Mangan, 03 May 2017,

I’m a lapsed Catholic. For those of you who don’t know what this means, it means I feel namelessly guilty all the time but have no way of offloading it onto a handy divinity. The best I ever feel is bad that I don’t feel worse.

I am, according to new research, one of an increasing number of ‘nonverts’ in the nation. This is not as painful as it sounds; it refers to the people who grew up with a faith but do not adhere to it any longer. The report, analysing data from the annual British Social Attitudes Survey and the biannual European Social Survey, revealed that nearly half the population of Britain now professes itself secular, and 60% of them grew up in Christian households. Another 2% come from other religions and the remainder grew up in homes that didn’t practise any religion in the first place.

But it is a little bit painful. I wish I believed in God. Any god. The older I get and the more chaotic the world gets, the more I wish I could trust in a higher power. This is partly a variant on the imposter syndrome most of us suffer from to some degree; just as I can never believe it when my pay packet arrives each month (HOW have I not been found out yet?), I can’t believe that I’m supposed to deal with the world all by myself.

This is surely some kind of hoax. And it is partly that all the traditional authorities, all the old, protective layers between mankind and our worst instincts seem to be disappearing fast. The idea of trusting your government was risible even before an actual orange actual madman was elected to the actual White House. The monarchy? Please. We lost faith in our “betters” even before we did politicians. They even took The Great British Bake Off away from us. Even the rightness of our Victoria sponges is a matter of mere opinion once more.

It would be such a relief to feel that there was someone, anyone, in charge. Someone in true all-embracing authority and with the unerring moral compass to go with it. My own gyrates so wildly (in the last few weeks I have found myself discussing whether I could kill a paedophile, a suffering animal and/or a parent with dementia – and I became very frightened by myself indeed) that the idea that humanity is in sole charge of itself becomes utterly untenable. There is a basic, natural human urge to believe in something bigger than ourselves, whether it’s a god or self-certified guru with a bunch of healing crystals. If you don’t have that, life can feel at times – and often for very long times – quite comfortless. You have to believe in people instead and bloody hell, people make that hard sometimes.

But maybe like any faith we nonverts (and secularists-from-birth, if they are plagued by the same yearnings) have to work at it. I recently helped judge the Prix Clarins award, which (in partnership with this here magazine) offers money and mentoring to a charity founder who is helping make a difference to the next generation. And by the end of the day spent interviewing the shortlisted candidates, I felt better than I had in years. They were all amazing, outward-looking, compassionate, ambitious women who saw a need in the world and stepped up to fulfil it. They renewed the faith in human nature that I habitually let headlines, horror stories and Twitter trolls erode. Hallelujah! Now I just need to stop feeling bad for feeling good.

Lucy Mangan Is Exhausted By The “Age Of Extremes”

Lucy Mangan, 28 Jun 2017,

I offered my six-year-old a choice between half an hour of telly and half an hour of being read to the other day. “Can I have a bit of both?” he said. “I like things to be medium.”

‘God, mate,’ I thought. ‘So do I. So do I.’

I am utterly exhausted, nearly broken, by the age of extremes in which we now seem to live. Everything must be not just black and white, but the very blackest black, the very whitest white. It must be all or it must be nothing.

We must have not just Brexit – quite an extreme thing in the first place, the decision to leave the European Union – but hard Brexit. We must not have healthy eating but ‘clean’ eating, when whole food groups are rejected and the others must be forced into narrower and narrower forms of acceptability; raw, organic, juiced, shredded, spiralised, only eaten in conjunction with certain seeds, or standing barefoot in a natural rock pool under a hunter’s moon. We mustn’t just have controversial columnists, we must have people who actively seek to inflame, demoralise and harm. Every misstep or unfortunate facial expression by a politician or celebrity must damn them, their work and everything associated with them for all time. And of course it seems like almost every day there are more people using extreme interpretations of religion to carry out acts of extreme violence.

Why? Why must we always be polarised – or polarise ourselves – in this way? Beyond perhaps some short-term and briefly lucrative notoriety for the columnists, it does no-one any good.

Why was there ever a ‘choice’ between hard and soft Brexit? Why is there not just “the best Brexit” option? Why can’t we admit that a healthy diet, for all those of us who don’t have genuine allergies or medical conditions, just means eating everything in moderation? Why can we no longer listen to people and see what they have to say about lots of things and then take a view on the whole, rather than working off split-second soundbites and images that make good memes?

Is it because the middle way is unappealingly undramatic? Are we such children that we would rather feel we were following a soap opera than have our political, cultural and media institutions operate responsibly?

I feel like my mind is constantly being yanked in one direction then the other. It’s not about whether I end up believing one or the other – it’s about the fact that the increasing amount of energy we all have to put into resisting the pull of each is becoming unsustainable.

I want a passionate advocate of the middle way – of compromise as a sound working principle, not of fatal weakness. In real, day-to-day life, we compromise all the time. With friends, with colleagues, with partners, with commuters on the train (shuffling to make room is the greatest and most vital of all British traditions) because it’s the only way things work in the long-run. It’s the thing that brings the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people – or at the very least, the smallest amount of harm to the smallest number. It’s not flashy, it’s not soundbite or Twitter-friendly. But it works. Quietly, softly – it works. I would like us to embrace it. Extremely.


Grenfell Cuts

In my last blog post I showed a video from the always astute musician Akala, speaking about his views on what happened and why at the recent tower block fire in London.

Living as we do in this multi-digital platform world we have seen many other videos being added to YouTube about Grenfell Tower, from victims, politicians, journalists, local residents, conspiracy theorists, and the rest. I would like to point your stretched attention to the following 4 videos. All these videos are rather short and, as usual, are worth watching in their entirety. Each one has something new to add to the many discussions taking place around this horrific tragedy.

First up we have journalist Owen Jones interviewing comedian Frankie Boyle, someone I have admired for his original thinking for several years now. In less than 14 minutes Frankie explains, among other things, how Tories are broken sociopaths who profit from crisis after crisis, how getting rid of Theresa May will not really fix anything, how what happened at Grenfell Tower takes things to an “absolute different level of immorality”, and how we all create a faux morality.

Grenfell Crime Scene

The second video features an interview with grime artist AJ Tracey and his brother Mickey. In just over 5 minutes both brothers, who live close to Grenfell Tower, explain how Kensington, where Grenfell Tower sits, is the richest borough in Europe with the average salary being around £100,000. So how come it was the poorest in that borough who burned to their deaths in that tower? Mickey also makes a very positive comment about the Muslim response to the fire:

The real thing that I’ve seen the in last couple of days, we’ve seen no central government response, I’ve seen no local government response. Like I have to big up the Muslims here, the Muslim response has been epic. It’s on an unimaginable scale. Muslims have been coming down from Birmingham, from Leicester, from Luton, to come and help us here and the government can’t even get off their arse and send anyone in. If this was a flood in a Tory constituency, somewhere in Hampshire, right, there would have been the army sent in. – Mickey, brother of grime artist AJ Tracey, speaking about the recent fire in Grenfell Tower

The third video features another comedian, Russell Brand, who reads out a heartfelt piece he wrote in the wake of this fire.

The last video echoes some of the points on the second video. Local residents openly praise Muslims for their efforts during and after the fire. For me, their comments say it all really.

Owen Jones Meets Frankie Boyle | ‘Grenfell Tower Residents Were Treated As Less Than Human’

Grime Artist AJ Tracey On Grenfell Tower Fire: ‘We’ve Seen No Government Response’

Grenfell: A Symbol Of All That Is Wrong? Russell Brand The Trews (E427)

Sometimes there is a news story that has a power that reaches beyond the material facts, even if those facts are themselves potent. Hillsborough was one. The drowned Syrian toddler another. The discernible reality alludes to a deeper truth and invites us to consider the real meaning.

Grenfell is such a story. The image of a burning tower is loaded with significance both modern and ancient. The facts, the deaths, the suffering are in themselves appalling yet the meaning of this story, due perhaps in part to its timing, is quickly becoming revealed.

We already know that residents had organised to protest about the dangerous conditions of their homes. We know that the building was masked by a deadly facade that likely hastened the conflagration. We know that the conglomerate that owned the building had been negligent. We know that we have a government that refused to responsibly regulate housing for the poor. We know that we live at a time where poor people are being continually maligned by austerity. Austerity is not frugality, it is brutality. It is violence.

Whilst the Conservatives are in government they are not in power. They are allied with an extremist, minority group with whom their increasingly unacceptable agenda is now shared. The election result and the success of Corbyn’s Labour, I believe is the beginning of an awakening. This fire, at this time, is a grim omen indeed.

We know that firefighters have long been saying they are not adequately funded to do their job. We know that public services are being deliberately eroded and we are beginning to understand that for many years power and wealth has been seditiously syphoned upward. It began in its contemporary form with Thatcher and has continued with successive governments, under a variety of banners ever since.

They lied about Hillsborough, they lied for decades but the truth was revealed. Ineptitude, prejudice and corruption killed the 96. We recognise that the contempt of refugees and gleeful printed cruelty lead to the death of little Alyan Kurdi.

Grenfell has portent beyond even the unthinkable suffering of its victims. It was a pyre of ordinary people whose voices and needs had been ignored. Whose cause had been maligned. The flames of the fire fanned by the constant damnation of this government and its media partners.

If it proves true that the edifice applied to conceal the decay of the building and improve the vista of newly erected luxury apartments exacerbated the fire then we can succinctly decode the meaning of this awful event. The Grenfell residents were sacrificed for greed and comfort. This burning tower and the screams of its residents are a call for urgent change.

When I first saw the image, like a well-trained citizen, I thought ‘terrorists’. And of course, in a way, it was. Surely for the occupants it felt like terror. Like a horrific assault that they could do nothing about in spite of trying to prevent it. I don’t imagine that as they were immolated they thought “Well at least this fire was caused by corrupt landlords and complicit governments”.

These terrorists can only be beaten by defiance, disobedience and solidarity. By direct involvement in politics and by supporting progressive leaders that want real change and are willing to confront the powerful. Perhaps then this tragedy may have a meaning beyond corruption and neglect, it could be a chance to tear down the facade and face up to the reality we are living in.

 – Russell Brand, speaking about the recent fire in Grenfell Tower

Grenfell Locals ‘Thank God For Ramadan’ After Muslims Raised The Alarm About Fire


Tower Fire

As always we live in strange days indeed, especially if you are Muslim. No sooner had we seen Muslims play the role of mass murderers in Manchester and London, we now find them playing the roles of innocent victims and heroes at Grenfell Tower in London.

The first victim from this horrific inferno in Kensington was named as Mohammed Alhajali, a 23 year old Syrian refugee. Many of the victims named so far (30 and counting) were Muslim, and many of the families who have lost their homes and their entire belongings were also Muslim.

The Muslim world is currently in the second half of the month of Ramadhaan, a month of patience, where you try your damnedest to control your anger, to keep your emotions in check. I find it gut-wrenchingly difficult to do that whilst watching the carnage on my TV screen. Allah only knows how hard it must be for the families involved. Hearts all over the world have gone out to the victims of this tragedy. The heat of the fire may have been felt a few blocks away, but the after-effects are still being felt throughout the world. Only today we had scenes of local residents storming the local town hall chanting ‘We want justice’. This one is definitely not over.

The fire in the tower block was also a chilling reminder of scenes from the 9/11 tragedy: bellowing black smoke, raging out of control fires, distressed onlookers, exhausted fire fighters, trapped victims calling for help from windows, and people jumping out of windows to avoid the heat. Except this time many victims were Muslim and many of those trying to help were Muslims coming back from their nightly Ramadhaan prayers. Another 9/11 effect has emerged from conspiracy theorists asking why this tower block in London has not fallen despite burning for well over 24 hours, yet the tower blocks in New York fell within just a few hours. Not really sure how to respond to such stupidity.

Tower Looking
Local residents watch as Grenfell Tower is engulfed by fire.

The government, essentially a bunch of very rich white people, has called for a full inquiry into why some very poor people (many non-white) needlessly lost their lives in one of the most affluent areas on planet earth. We wait with baited breath to read the white washed findings. And whilst legal phrases like ‘corporate manslaughter’ are being bandied across the media landscape, here is the rapper Akala giving his reasons and analysis as to what happened and why:

Despite the fact that Muslims are currently seen in a sympathetic light due to this fire (even Piers Morgan had some nice words to say about us on morning TV), racism and Islamophobia continue to dramatically increase in the western world. Allah alone knows just how much of it there is out there right now, and it only seems to be getting worse. I myself am subject to it at the moment but, with the help and patience provided to me by Allah, I am hoping it will be okay in the end.

To add to the confusion surrounding how people think of Muslims, over in America we have Trump accusing the Qataris of funding terrorists and then a few weeks later selling them $12 billion of weapons. I wish that Trump, who John Oliver recently described as “a walking logical paradox”, would make his mind up. One minute he’s trying to ban Muslims from coming to America, the next minute he’s in Saudi dancing with a sword.

Another incident in the States that is causing me much annoyance is the recent shooting where a middle aged white guy named James Hodgkinson opened fire on a group of Republican congressmen as they played baseball on the outskirts of Washington. As per usual, no mention of the word ‘terrorist’ due to the light hue of the shooter. Must. Remain. Calm. It is Ramadhaan after all.

In order to counter this rising Islamophobia and the messy portrayal of Muslims in the media please find below proof, as if any more proof were needed, that what happened in Manchester and London has nothing to do with Islam.

Whilst it is always better to read the full articles, below we have quotes from three articles, one featuring Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, another brilliantly listing why Muslims hate extremists more than non-Muslims, and the third asking why the recent shooting in America is not deemed a terrorist act. I know these quotes are a lot but I hope you read them as I feel they add much needed nuance to all the mis-dis-information swirling around out there…

Britain Needs To Reset Relations With Its Muslims, Insists Warsi

Mark Townsend, 11 Jun 2017,

When things go wrong with an iPhone or a coffee machine, pressing the restart button is usually a good, safe place to start. Right now, Britain’s relationship with her Muslims is within that frozen, overloaded, splurging episode – we need to press the button. – Sayeeda Warsi

There are far more Muslim doctors in Britain than terrorists, yet the community is not defined by the reputation of its daily life-savers, it’s defined by the reputation of ad hoc life-takers. – Sayeeda Warsi

The Muslim community might be seen as the enemy within now, but it’s only the latest in a long list of others that have been seen as such, starting with Catholics, Jews, blacks, the Irish, the miners, socialists. We’re just the latest in a long line. – Sayeeda Warsi

Why British Muslims Hate Extremism More Than You Do

Aaliyah Hussain, 06 Jun 2017,

Let’s get one thing straight – British Muslims hate terrorism and extremism as much British non-Muslims, if not more, and we talk about it a lot more.

Firstly, we are just as likely to be caught up in a terrorist incident as non-Muslims, and so are no less afraid of terrorist attacks and no less horrified by them.

We are more likely to be part of the medical teams that help save lives of victims, as we make up a large proportion of NHS workers.

However, we are the ones who are blamed for being ‘part of the problem’, as this is how the government presents the issue. What they don’t say is that we are also the victims of terrorism, and to a much larger extent than non-Muslims.

It is our children that are being targeted for recruitment, to blow themselves up, to fight and die in wars abroad, to commit crimes that will end up in their death or incarceration.

It is our children who are being treated like criminals at younger and younger ages, by teachers, social workers and the culture of mistrust and paranoia fostered by the PREVENT programme.

British Muslims are much more likely than non-Muslims to be affected by terrorism abroad; we have relatives living in places facing far worse terrorist attacks, on a much more regular basis and bigger scale.

What many people don’t realise it that 95% of people killed by ‘Islamic’ extremists are Muslim. So how is it conceivable that we are somehow ok with it? We are more scared, more sad and more angry.

Not only are we victims of ‘Islamic’ extremism at home and abroad, but we also have to contend with racism and right-wing extremism on our doorstep. It is our faith that has been conflated to such an extent with terrorism that now identifying as a Muslim comes laden with stigma and fear of being discriminated against, or worse, accused of being an apologist for terrorism.

We are the ones who feel the full force of a racist backlash each time a terrorist attack happens. We are the ones who are made to feel guilty, on the defensive, anxious that our children will be picked on in the playground, or that our colleagues are whispering behind our backs. We are the ones who are abused, sworn at, spat at, pushed, punched, kicked, beaten and even killed on British streets. Our homes and places of worship are petrol-bombed and have faeces posted through their doors.

These acts are no more a universal British problem than terrorism is a Muslim problem. So please understand this – we are even more gutted than you are when a terror attack happens. We don’t just have the fear of terrorism, but the fear of collective punishment as well.

We are as British as you so are please feel our pain, and not make us the enemy. We have a common enemy, one that is hard to fight, and it is scary. But we are even more scared than you.

Why Didn’t Donald Trump Call The White Man Who Shot Congressman Steve Scalise In Virginia A Terrorist?

James Moore, 16 Jun 2017,

Trump repeatedly criticised Obama for failing to use the phrase ‘radical Islamic terrorism’, yet today he was reticent to use the term ‘terrorist’ for politically motivated violence. The truth is that James Hodgkinson had a lot in common with Isis-inspired terrorists. – James Moore

Everyone knows that you only need to scratch someone with a Middle Eastern background to find the terrorist lurking within. That’s why it’s necessary to ban them from travelling to the US, and the judges need to realise that. Unless they hold Saudi passports. The Saudis are our friends, you see. – James Moore

What is notable about the lamentable James Hodgkinson is just how similar elements in his background are to some of the Isis-inspired terrorists who have perpetrated attacks on the West in recent months, and also to some of those on the opposite side of the political divide who have done the same. Like them, he was a misfit. A man with a record of petty criminality, and of domestic violence: a feature strikingly common to those engaging in terrorism, or whatever kind. – James Moore

President Trump repeatedly criticised former President Obama for failing to use the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism”. Yet he seems strangely reluctant to use the term “terrorist” when the perpetrators of politically motivated violence are white, regardless of whether they are on the left or the right. I’m not seeking to downplay the threat posed by Islamist-related political violence. I abhor it, and its apologists. I think we are too tolerant of those that fund the ideology that gives birth to it, and entirely too keen to distribute weapons to some of those who quietly support it around the Middle East. I’d simply point out that it is not the only form of political violence at large in the world today. So why is Donald Trump – and often the media too – so quick to label some people terrorists, and to tar millions of entirely innocent people with the same brush in the process, but strangely reluctant to do it with others? – James Moore