LOSING FAITH IN AN AGE OF EXTREMES

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, guardian.co.uk

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, stylist.co.uk

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, stylist.co.uk

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.

‘BIG UP’ THE RAMADAN MUSLIMS

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

WE NEED TO PRESS THE RESTART BUTTON

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

ENOUGH HAS BEEN ENOUGH FOR FAR TOO LONG NOW

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

THERE ARE MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF HATE…

Sun Manchester

Hate comes in many different shapes, sizes, colours, and beliefs. We have a Libyan Muslim killing 22 at a pop concert in Manchester. We have ISIS killers shooting 28 Coptic Christians in Egypt. We have another ISIS rampage in the Philippines killing at least 19. We have the US admitting that an air strike on Mosul in March 2017 killed well over 100 civilians. Just a few days ago another US-led air strike, this time in Syria, killed at least 35. Whilst this list is by no means endless, we now also have 2 people stabbed to death in Oregon, Portland, in America.

Whilst on a commuter train, these non-Muslim men came to the defence of 2 Muslim women, one wearing a hijab, who were being verbally abused by a white supremacist, who is now being referred to by authorities as a ‘domestic terrorist’ with ‘extremist ideologies’.

It can be seen from the above videos that hate does indeed take many forms. Arguably the most news worthy of these recent incidents was the suicide bombing in Manchester. When 22 year old Salman Abedi decided to blow himself up at an Ariana Grande concert, an unfortunately repetitive news cycle was kicked into motion, a cycle we have gone through after bombings in London and attacks in Paris.

Sadiq Manchester

During a memorial for the victims of the deadly Manchester attack, Muslim man Sadiq Patel comforts Jewish woman Renee Rachel Black, who broke down next to a floral tribute in Albert Square on May 24, 2017.

It goes a little like this: horrific incident occurs where a Muslim kills many, queue outrage at the Muslim community at large, some cry out for all Muslims to condemn the incident, some Muslims do whilst others resist and say they should not as they did not do this, etc.

Whilst this issue of condemning is something I have written about previously, in order to shed some more hopefully objective light on this media cycle, please find below links to 2 articles, one from a Muslim and one from a Christian, that detail why perhaps we (the larger Muslim population) should not feel an urge to condemn something that we find just as horrific as non-Muslims. Whilst I have selected certain quotes from these article, both are worth reading in full.


Don’t Ask Muslims To Condemn Terror: Our Outrage At Atrocities Ought To Be A Given

Daila Mogahed, nydailynews.com, 24 May 2017

I cannot begin to fathom the motivation behind this monstrous violence, but because of my faith and the color of my skin, many suspect me of condoning it…

Anyone with an internet connection and a search engine will find that Muslims have and continue to condemn terrorism. Muslims have issued thousands of public statements, held conferences, seminars, lectures, workshops, created organizations, penned op-eds, written books, taken out full-page ads, held rallies, created television series and even developed video games, all to condemn terrorism.

There isn’t a mode of communication through which Muslims have not tried to communicate to the world their disgust with terrorism in their name.

But is this a reasonable expectation?

…As we mourn the loss of Saffie and the others murdered, let us not allow our pain to be exploited in the service of prejudice.


Why We Must Never Hate Islam, Or Muslims, Because Of The Violence Of Its Fake Followers

Shaun King, nydailynews.com, 23 May 2017

We must always resist the urge to throw an entire race of people under the bus…It’s an easy temptation to oversimplify our emotions into dangerous generalizations, but we must resist such urges…

We should all be upset at what happened in Manchester, but what happened there is no excuse to slide into Islamophobia. Whoever did this is no more a Muslim than those who lynched African Americans during Jim Crow were Christians. Wearing the garb of a faith no more makes you a follower of that faith than me wearing a Steph Curry jersey makes me a Golden State Warrior.

From the beginning of time, people have perverted religions to justify the worst possible behaviors imaginable. This man who decided to blow himself up at the exit doors of the concert venue just as families exited was not a Muslim.

Suicide itself is forbidden in Islam. Well over a billion Muslims believe this. Murder, doubly so of innocent women and children, is forbidden in Islam. This is commonly understood and peacefully observed by everyday Muslims all over the world. These terrible, ignorant violent betrayers of Islam who blow themselves up in the names of causing such carnage are not Muslims. Their acts are fundamentally un-Islamic. They not only violate the letter of Qur’an, but violate the spirit of it as well.

This bastardization of Islam is not unique. One of the early ships in the Trans-Atlantic slave trade was actually known as the “Good Ship Jesus.” The very people who were capturing, chaining, then selling human beings for a life of slavery saw absolutely no conflict of interest between such actions with their Christianity. Early leaders of the KKK, including those who lynched black bodies, were regularly deacons and church leaders. I’ve literally been called n—-r on Twitter by actual people who describe their Christian faith in their social media bio.

Of all the friends I have, none are more consistently warm, peaceful, supportive, and kind than my Muslim friends. They are actual Muslims, though. In a day and age of fake news and fake politicians, perhaps nothing is more dangerous than fake Muslims and Christians — who cloak themselves in the accouterments of religion but do so for the asinine and insincere reasons.

It’s sad that this must be said, but you must find a way to be angry at what happened in Manchester without hating Islam and its more than 1.5 billion adherents. Blaming all of Islam for what this idiot, or for what the few hundred other idiots like him have done, is not just simple, it’s both dumb and dangerous. You are better than that.

RAMADHAAN 2017 – SOME USEFUL RESOURCES

Kaba pic

We are nearly at the end of the month of Shabaan (moonsighting.com), which means Ramadhaan is just around the corner. Preparations for Ramadhaan should therefore ideally begin now. With this intention, I am hoping the list of resources below can help us all to make the most of this blessed month, insha-Allah…


Information about the month of Shabaan…

Please see the following PDF file about the month of Shabaan, from the excellent book The Best Of Times by Muhammad Khan. Please read this in order to get the best out of this blessed month.


Islamic lectures…

An excellent lecture about Ramadhaan is one called Preparing For Ramadan by Shaykh Zahir Mahmood (scroll down the page please in order to get to this particular lecture).

Another excellent lecture is from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf called Ramadan Advice.


Useful websites…

A useful website with loads of really good practical hints and tips is http://productivemuslim.com.

I came across a really good website where if you type in a post code it will show you the qibla direction from that place: http://www.qib.la/.


Useful files…

Four files that will insha–Allah provide some good information:

Complete Guide To Ramadhan

Laylatul-Qadr – guide

Ramadhaan checklist

Ramadhaan preparation pack


OVERALL…

Know that you will only get out of Ramadhaan what you are willing to put in. Therefore please make time to read the Shabaan article, to read the pdf files and the Word doc, and to listen to the lectures before Ramadhaan begins.

To hopefully inspire further, here are 4 quotes related to Ramadhaan and fasting:

We have become like gerbils in the dunya, chasing after things…The job of the dunya is to make you unstable…the more you become immersed in this dunya, the more you become invested in this dunya, then the more unstable you become…Some scholars have said that jahiliya is to see something and to perceive it as something else, that this is ignorance…in Islam true knowledge is to perceive something as it really is, as best you can…people who immerse themselves in this dunya have immersed themselves in a lie, and they are getting played like a piano on Sunday school, and that is why they are not stable…this dunya calls you to become people who are completely insecure with themselves…Fasting and Ramadhaan call us to be stable. – adapted from a speech by Imam Suhaib Webb

Ramadan is not a temporary increase of religious practice. It is a glimpse of what you are capable of doing every day. – Shaykh Abdul Jabbar

The less fasts certain people keep during Ramadhaan, the more eager they seem to be to celebrate Eid. – Anon

This month of Ramadan is about asking “Where is your heart?” Is your heart with God? Is your heart with your own ego? Is your heart with your lust? Is your heart with your passion? Is your heart with your greed? Is your heart with your pride? Is your heart with your envy? Is it with your resentment? Is it with your desire for revenge? “Where is your heart?” That is the question this month is asking us: “Where is your heart?” And this time that we have been given, a few days of reflection, this is the time when you can actually go into yourself, and dig into yourself and ask that question: “Where is your heart?” Because as Sayyidina Ali said “A man lies hidden under his tongue”, because the tongue expresses what is in the heart…“Whoever loves a thing does much remembrance of it”. If you love Allah, God is on your tongue. If you love the world, the world is on your tongue. That is the question: “Where is your heart?” This is the time to return to God, to give the heart back to the One who possesses the heart… – Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, from a speech entitled Ramadan Advice

3 COMEDIANS AND A GOVERNOR WALK INTO A BLOG POST…

Teenage Cancer Trust concerts 2015 - London

The very few regular readers of this blog may note that I am a huge fan of the stand-up Frankie Boyle. Boyle is arguably one of the finest satirists and comedians in Britain, so much so that the Independent newspaper recently referred to him as “Britain’s biggest cynic”, going on to add:

Boyle’s tireless cynicism and blistering takedowns have left few unscathed. The Glaswegian writer is well known for his assiduously outrageous, dark and acerbic sense of humour which tightrope walks the fine line between funny and offensive. – Maya Oppenheim, Apr 2017, Independent

In an interview with Max Keiser, on the news channel RT, Boyle commented on how the general population of Britain needs to be at a certain level of stupidity in order for the minority rich to continue getting richer at the expense of the majority poor:

You need a really stupid population. The banks cannot really rip people off like they have done and continue to do if those people have any information. So you don’t just need a stupid population, you need a really stupid population. You need 50 million people a week watching a dancing dog, people who just sit there eating junk food watching TV. That is what you need if you want to get away with this. – Frankie Boyle, adapted from an interview with Max Keiser

When Boyle talks of people “watching a dancing dog” he is referring to the TV program Britain’s Got Talent, a show I generally do not like, so much so that I end up berating anyone else who watches it. However, having said all that, my family and I were having lunch one weekend and this show happened to be on (clearly I was not in charge of the TV remote at the time). The usual display of the untalented were being paraded one after the untalented other, until out walked on stage a comedian by the name of Daliso Chaponda. Chaponda, originally from Malawi, did about 5 minutes and ended up getting a well-deserved standing ovation all round. If you watch the clip further below you will see why.

Another comedian I recently came across that really impressed was the Indian comic Vir Das who appeared recently on Conan O’Briens self-titled TV show. As with Chaponda, I am sure you will agree that Das is a comedian that looks likely to have a bright future in the comedy world.

The third comedian featured below is a Christian from the American south. Jeremy McLellan is a stand up whose brand of liberal-advocacy humour finds him playing both Muslim festivals as well as Libertarian conferences. A recent Vice article said about McLellan that:

Muslims love him. Trump supporters want to kill him. That’s South Carolina comic Jeremy McLellan’s schtick. With more than 100,000 followers on Facebook, McLellan has become a staple at Muslim festivals and events around North America. – Samar Warsi, vice.com

Watch the short video below and you will see why a typical Trump support would want him killed.

The final video I would like to draw attention to features an interview between Trevor Noah and the Governor of Ohio John Kasich. Kasich, one of the few good ones in American politics, makes some interesting points about faith, community, and how we need to get out of our silo thinking. Again, an interesting interview that is well worth listening to.

As usual, I have transcribed my favourite quotes from each clip. Enjoy!


Daliso Chaponda on Britain’s Got Talent…

I am from Africa. I moved here ten years ago. And immediately I moved here, I heard a lot of British people talking about the financial crisis, the recession. I’m from Africa. What are you maniacs talking about?! You call that a crisis? If that’s a crisis, where’s UNICEF? Where is Bono? I have not seen one Save The UK Concert. You can tell me it’s a financial crisis when there are planes flying over Birmingham tossing fish and chips out of the window. It will be a financial crisis when there are ads on television saying, ‘This chav has to walk five miles a day to get a bottle of WKD Blue’ And 100%, you have got a financial crisis when India starts opening call centers here. Can you imagine some poor guy in Mumbai calls his bank and ends up talking to a Brummie? – Daliso Chaponda


Vir Das on Conan…

Everybody is complaining too much. You have to work this out, guys. Everybody is like “Man, we didn’t choose this guy. Now we gotta live with him? We didn’t vote for this guy. Now we gotta live with him?” To you Americans that’s your president. To most Indians that’s a marriage. That’s what Donald Trump is, he’s your arranged marriage. Because in the most literal sense, your parents picked this guy out for you. – Vir Das

There is religious phobia because I believe the world is changing and religion can’t keep up. I feel like we need to update every major religion in the world. Just take every religion and give it to the company Apple. Every 6 months Apple can update and relaunch the religion to the world. How nice would that be? That’s what we need. We need Islam 6S. We need Jesus Pro. You would slow terrorism down. Can you imagine how much you would slow terrorism down if every time some nutjob wanted to commit a jihad, you first had to sign a new online agreement with Apple. So first you have to get a jihad ID. Then you have to synch all your bombs and your devices to the same jihad ID. Except that one bomb didn’t work with the old version of iTunes and now you have to download the new version of iTunes. And you are all set to go up to heaven and get 72 virgins but your iCloud only holds 6 virgins, so now you have to upgrade. – Vir Das

You don’t appreciate your American luxury. I went to your supermarket the other day. You have an aisle for cereal. An aisle for cereal. You’re complaining about a president, you have an aisle for cereal. It is 60 feet by 10 feet. That’s 600 square feet. In Bombay that’s a school. – Vir Das


Jeremy McLellan…

I think that more the purpose of comedy is to make people feel like they’re not going crazy, to make people feel like they’re not as alienated, even though they’re being oppressed, even though they’re being mistreated or misunderstood, that there is someone who understands them, that is trying to understand them, that is trying to address their concerns and laugh at the world and at the ridiculousness of their situation. And I think that no matter what situation you find yourself in comedy can help you do that. It can make you feel less lonely, it can make you feel like somebody’s trying to understand you. – Jeremy McLellan

I love Uber because Uber is not just a corporation. Uber is also a sign of peace, it’s also a sign of religious coexistence, because Uber is an app that was invented by a Jew so that when a Christian gets too drunk he can call a Muslim to come pick him up and take him home. It all works out very very perfectly. – Jeremy McLellan

I’ll get messages from people saying that I should not do a show because “You can’t trust Muslims.” And I’m like “Okay, why can’t I trust Muslims?” And they’re like “Because they’re allowed to lie about whether they’re Muslim.” That’s true, people say that, like ‘taqiyya’ or whatever. They’re like “They’re allowed to lie about whether they’re Muslim.” And I’m like “Really?” And they’re like “Yeah!” And I’m like “Are you Muslim?” And they’re like “No.” And I’m like “How do I know? Maybe you’re…” – Jeremy McLellan

(For a very interesting article on taqiyya please see Playing The Taqiyya Card – Evading Intelligent Debate By Calling All Muslims Liars)


Trevor Noah

John Kasich on the Daily Show…

And this is part of the problem. It’s almost like rooting for a sports team. You wear your uniform and you’re always for your team regardless…But this is part of the problem we have in the country. Everybody’s sort of dividing themselves. If you’re a liberal, you read liberal editorials, you watch liberal television, you go to the Huffington Post. If you’re a conservative, you do conservative television, you do Rush Limbaugh and conservative editorials. So people are all locked in these silos and we only consume what we want. Frankly, we’re all affected by it. Think about Facebook. Put something up there I don’t like, I unfriend you. I mean, we’re to the point where people are not listening to each other and being able to hear what you have to say and show you a little respect…It’s throughout our culture now. We have become so self-absorbed and we’re not willing to put our hearts with others. And we have to get this back. – John Kasich

We live in a society today where you want a bumper sticker solution or you take a pill and everything’s gonna be great, immediate. This problem in this country of growing divisions has been going on for decades. Decades. And we’re not gonna pull out of this overnight. – John Kasich

Getting together with common humanity can allow us to begin to talk to one another again…We need to drive the change up to solve problems in this country and recapture our culture…People need to live a life a little bigger than themselves, that we all have to help one another. – John Kasich

I do want to talk, just for a second, about faith. And I’ll tell you why I say that. I think sometimes people in religion have given religion a bad reputation. Let me tell you what religion is for me. Religion is: honor God because that gives me humility; and secondly, love my neighbor, connect me with my community, put me in somebody else’s shoes, learn to help somebody get up, and live a life bigger than myself. That to me is what religion is about. And if you’re a humanist and you want to change the world, I’m all for you. But let’s not throw out the fact that values matter and that we have a responsibility for what we have been given. And that gets back to the issue of no one’s better than anybody else. Because I believe in the eyes of the Big Guy, we’re all equal. And we all have talents and we need to use it to change and heal this world. – John Kasich

I ain’t that great a guy. I just do the best I can. Wake up the next day and do a little bit better. – John Kasich