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, theguardian.com

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, huffingtonpost.co.uk

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, independent.co.uk

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


London Police

Armed police on Borough High Street in London last night

I was originally intending to do a blog post about how Islam is portrayed in the media, especially after the horrors of the recent Manchester bombing by one Salman Abedi. I was hoping to highlight how this whole blood soaked issue is far more complex than the digital soundbites that are so prevalent all across Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. That was my intention. But then the attack in London happened.

In the late hours of Saturday 03rd June 2017 a white van deliberately mounted the pavement at London Bridge and ploughed into several pedestrians. The van then carried on to nearby Borough Market, where three Muslim men emerged from it and, armed with large knives, went running around the area killing indiscriminately. As I write this seven people, not including the three men, were reported dead. What happened to the men who brought this carnage to the streets of central London was that police officers shot them dead on those very streets. Within just a few hours the act had been officially declared by the Metropolitan Police as a terrorist incident.

As events still unfurl, as facts still disseminate, here are a few thoughts I would like to make…

Theresa May is 100% correct…

In the early hours of Sunday morning British Prime Minister Theresa May, emerging from an emergency COBRA meeting, made the following statement, which is worth watching in full:

We cannot and must not pretend that things can continue as they are. – Theresa May

This evil ideology is all about division…

May quite rightly pointed out that recent terror attacks are motivated by “the single evil ideology of Islamist extremism that preaches hatred, sows division, and promotes sectarianism.”

That last point regarding sectarianism is scarily true, as recently pointed out by journalist Robert Fisk in a recent Independent article. In the article Fisk says the purpose of Trump’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia “is simple: to prepare the Sunni Muslims of the Middle East for war against the Shia Muslims. With help from Israel, of course.” It’s not just Trump and his cohorts who want to see this war (war does indeed equal big profits) but it’s also what ISIS desire.

This evil ideology really is a perversion of Islam…

May goes on to say that this ideology is one “that claims our Western values of freedom, democracy, and human rights are incompatible with the religion of Islam. It is an ideology that is a perversion of Islam and a perversion of the truth. Defeating this ideology is one of the great challenges of our time.”

She continues to say that the only real way to defeat this twisted ideology is “to turn people’s minds away from this violence and make them understand that our values, pluralistic British values, are superior to anything offered by the preachers and supporters of hate.”

I am happy to have those “difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations…”

She also made the following statement: “While we have made significant progress in recent years, there is – to be frank – far too much tolerance of extremism in our country. So we need to become far more robust in identifying it and stamping it out across the public sector and across society. That will require some difficult, and often embarrassing, conversations.”

I personally have yet to meet one Muslim who espouses such hateful views as ISIS. Having said that, there do seem to be plenty who harbour these views (three of them were shot dead last night). I know in my heart that, if confronted by such an ideology, I would be more than confident in having the required “difficult and often embarrassing” conversation.

If I could have a conversation with the three men who did what they did I would ask them if they achieved what they were hoping for. Did they increase the status of Islam in the right direction? Are they now surrounded by the 72 virgins their evil twisted masters promised would be waiting for them?

We are all enemies of this enemy…

She ends her statement by saying: “It is time to say enough is enough…We must come together. We must pull together. And united we will take on and defeat our enemies.”

Those last two words are very interesting. The three men rampaging through London streets were all of our enemies. When they mounted the pavement they would not have cared if the group being mowed down were all Muslim. They were not asking anyone before stabbing them to clarify what religion they were. They were just killing as they saw fit. Muslims and non-Muslims alike are therefore equally at risk. They consider most Muslims in the West to be non-Muslims because we vote and we are immersed in the culture of the West.

I shall ignore the fact that most of these jihadi-wannabees are more than happy to claim benefits from the wretched British government they wish to overthrow, they are more than happy to send their kids to school, they are more than happy to use the full services of the NHS, and they are more than happy to push the limits of free speech offered to them by British law.

As I’ve said before, hate comes in different shapes and sizes…

Before anyone cries “false equivalency” I am in no way trying to justify or equate the actions of last night by deferring attention to other groups. However, it should be said that hate is everywhere and it does indeed come in all different shapes and sizes (as I mentioned in my last blog post). Just to give one example, check out these disturbing pictures from a recent pro-Nazi rally in America, where there seems to be a real right wing storm brewing all thanks to Trump.

This really happened…

If you go on YouTube and type in ‘false flag’ and filter it to ‘Today’, you will see there are already plenty of opinions that say this is indeed a false flag operation, i.e. the government did this for some nefarious reason. My wife was telling me there are many Muslims on her Facebook feed who agree to this notion by suggesting Theresa May planned this event just before the election in order to get more votes.

Let me categorically say that this happened and no amount of self-denial will distract from the fact that three Muslim men murdered several innocent people, all in the name of Islam. We Muslims need to move away from conspiracy theories and deal with the truth. Maybe our weakness for conspiracy theories is a reason why some of us so easily fall prey to these twisted ideologies.

This really isn’t about Islam…

For those wanting to blame Islam itself, I would argue that Islam is a victim in all of this (how can a victim also be the perpetrator?). A good example of how such a conversation goes down took place on Friday evening, a day before these attacks, when American talk show host and atheist Bill Maher, on his talk show Real Time, again strongly inferred that the terrorist threat we all face in the west comes from Islam itself, which apparently has some form of death spiral built into its ideology. Thank Allah that author and journalist Rebecca Traister was there to counter this narrative. Traister responded thusly, implying that the fundamentalist threat applies to more than just Muslims and Islam:

The threat is human beings who have an impulse toward oppression, violence, and bias, and who look to all kinds of fundamentalist religions to offer them a framework to justify it. – Rebecca Traister

I would add to this the views of journalist Thaslima Begum who in a recent article made the following points about ISIS and the people they kill:

How many Muslims do Isis, al-Qaeda, the Taliban and others need to kill for us to realise that perhaps Islam isn’t the problem?…There will be no one minute silence to pay tribute to the victims of Isis’s latest murder rampage. No “I heart Baghdad” captions or #JesuisKabul hashtags. But the atrocities that struck both of these cities are just as devastating as the attack that recently took place in Manchester…This week’s latest terror attacks remind us that most of Isis’s victims in fact belong to the religion it claims to represent. It is important to note that the vast majority of Muslims not only condemn Isis but bear the brunt of its brutality. There is a sad irony in how the group which has the largest number of victims of terrorism are often blamed for it. – Thaslima Begum, independent.co.uk, 01 Jun 2017

Us Brits have seen this all before…

For those of old enough, cast your minds back just a few decades. Back then Britain was also under terrorist threats, but these threats emanated from Ireland under the guise of the IRA. Back then the British populace was smart enough to realise that not all Irish people were terrorists, not all Catholics were twisted, and Catholicism itself was not the root cause of the issues.

Many British families back then new Irish people, or lived next door to Irish people, or were part Irish, or had Irish people in their families. Is this modern wave of terrorism not similar? Replace Irish with Muslim and Catholicism with Islam.

Most Brits at least work with or know a Muslim. And what about Muslim icons like Mo Farah, Amir Khan, and London mayor Sadiq Khan? Surely there is enough of Islam and Muslims in modern British society to remind us that ‘we’ (the majority) are not the problem, instead it is ‘them’ (the twisted minority) who are.

Let Riz Ahmed rap some sense into this…

I was originally going to blog about this Riz Ahmed rap, and I think I still will as it seems more poignant than ever. Ahmed is no stranger to openly speaking about politics. Just last month Time magazine put Ahmed on its cover, listing him as one of the one hundred most influential people currently alive. High praise indeed.

Riz Ahmed Time

Anyways, I will end this lengthy blog post with the always brilliant Riz Ahmed listing the subtle complexities involved in this dark and murderous issue…

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