The Voting Dilemma

In the run up to the next General Election it’s always interesting to see how people will vote. This year’s surprise election looked like it was a forgone conclusion that Theresa May would hold on to the keys to 10 Downing Street. But as the weeks went along, people started realising that the Conservative Party aren’t as ‘strong and stable’ as they pretend to be. With the ‘dementia’ tax on the manifesto and Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity rising in the polls, it was clear Labour was a real contender. Then the Manchester attack happened. People felt worried and Labour started losing a bit of ground. Then the London Bridge attack happened over the weekend just six days before the general election, leaving us scared about the future of our country.

Both the terrible attacks where in total 29 innocent people died and many were injured, has caused vulnerability and fear amongst many. A lot of voters who were thinking about voting for another party because of the Conservatives hard Brexit approach, austerity, dementia tax to mention a few, are tempted to sway back to them because of this.

What really struck a chord with me was following the London Bridge attack, I watched Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan speak. You could see in both their demeanours, voices and body language how grief stricken they were. You could tell they were upset like anybody would and should be. I also watched Theresa May speak, and all I saw was anger, revenge and harshness. ‘Enough is enough’ she said whilst forgetting that she has been Home Secretary for five years followed by Prime Minister for two years. This happened on her watch. The last ten years have shown how the government’s counter extremism policy and foreign policy has NOT helped lessen extremism. It’s been a failure — if it had worked we wouldn’t have had these attacks. To do more of the same is not going to stop terrorism. A new approach is needed, a new leader is needed.

In one of the televised debates Jeremy Corbyn spoke about diplomacy and how the peace process in Northern Ireland came about with dialogue and a lot of hard work. This is the kind of leader we need. Somebody who has the experience and sincerity to really want to achieve peace. As Corbyn has said in the past, ‘ISIS didn’t come out of nowhere, somebody funds them, somebody buys their oil, somebody gives them arms. You’ve got to ask questions about the arms sales we’ve made to the surrounding states, you’ve got to ask the banks how this oil money is able to go in and out.’ These are the questions that need answering. Corbyn is well aware that you need to find the root of the problem before you can find a cure. It’s all well and good saying we need to clamp down on extremism but how are our young British people becoming radicalised? You have to look deeper into their psyche and delve into where their information is coming from and why. But that’s a discussing for another blog post.

If you look back at Corbyn’s voting record you’ll see he’s always been on the right side of history. Whether it’s voting against the Iraq war, against ID cards, voting for parliamentary reform, greater autonomy for schools..the list goes on.

It’s a tragedy that whilst most people recognise that Corbyn is a sincere and genuine politician — (something that we have been crying out for for years) but are still hesitant to vote for him. We have been disenfranchised by our politicians for years. As an electorate we have been moaning about MP’s and their corruption and untruths. And then when someone truly heartfelt and outspoken stands, we still won’t vote for him. We need somebody like Corbyn to take us into this global age of terrorism. We know Theresa May’s track record, why do we think anything will change? She sells arms to Saudi Arabia and actually says ‘this keeps people on the streets of Britain safe’. Huh? She will increase the defence budget and send our troops into yet another wartorn country, breeding more terrorism.

Yes it’s a risk but what is the alternative? A bad deal or no deal on Brexit? I trust that Corbyn will negotiate a softer Brexit so we stay in the single market, ensuring the best deal for us. The NHS is in turmoil and will only get worse with cuts and underhanded privatisation. For me there is no other choice except Corbyn. I have never voted Labour before and yes as a family we will have to pay more tax, but I am happy to do that because I know I’m voting for the right person for the right reasons. He is the only leader with genuine intentions to make our society better. The day we forego sincerity for something else, is a sad day for our country. It’s also tragic that we let high emotions dictate who we vote for rather than their credibility as a leader.

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The Syrian Problem

Talk of bombing Syria breaks my heart. Syria which used to be a beacon of culture and history in the Middle East is now a place of destruction and war. With 11 million of its citizens fleeing, Syria is in a mess. In order to solve any  problem we need to look at the root cause.

The civil war in Syria started during the Arab Spring where groups of normal Syrians started protesting about the dictatorship of Bashar Al Assad. As Assad’s army started becoming heavy handed with its own citizens, shooting and killing them because they were rebelling against the government, groups started forging, and fighting against Assad’s forces.  Free Syria Army was one of the groups armed with weapons from America and Britain. Another one of those groups were Daesh (Islamic State) who were also fighting against Assad’s oppression and force. Fast forward three years and Daesh have conquered areas in Iraq and Syria, and putting it simply have lost the plot. With their violent tactics they’ve somehow managed to make Assad look like a good guy. When in fact he is not. He’s slaughtered more Syrians than Daesh have, and also used chemical weapons.

This is one of the main reasons I object to air strikes in Syria. In essence we are helping Assad (aka the Butcher) because we are trying to defeat his enemy too. Let’s not forget David Cameron wanted to wipe Assad out in 2013 because of the sheer butchery he’d imposed on his own people.

Another reason is that thought Cameron says there’s an end plan and strategy, he hasn’t said what. He’s acknowledged that we need to get rid of Assad after they’ve dealt with Daesh, but let’s be realistic, how will that happen with Russia supporting him? Will we have the resources? How can that happen without ground troops? We’ve been bombing Iraq for over a year and all that’s happened is that Paris, Tunisia, Beirut and Mali to name a few have been targets, not forgetting the Russian passenger plane departing Sharm El Sheikh.

I still believe dropping bombs will not only be counter productive, it will be a waste of money, not to mention the ‘collateral damage’ ie. more Syrian deaths. It’s a symbolic act of alliance to France, America and now Germany too to go ahead with the bombing. Taking a chance with our security just so our PM can join in with the big boys is irresponsible. There is no evident terror threat from Daesh in the UK. That’s something that has been confirmed, the evidence is insufficient. Yes Paris happened, but Paris is in France, who has been involved in military action in Syria and Iraq for a while now.

I fear that an attack will take place here after Britain join in with air strikes in Syria. I really hope I’m wrong but this move will make it inevitable.

So if we don’t bomb Syria, what should we do?

My answer is that we should withdraw all our troops from Iraq and Syria. In fact withdraw them from all Middle Eastern lands. If Daesh’s war is about reestablishing a warped version of the caliphate then let them. Because in reality they’re not going to get very far — the people don’t want their version of a militant, violent Islam, it just won’t happen. Kurdish fighters from Turkey are already fighting them on the ground. Let Turkey fight them. If they look east let Iran deal with them. On the other side is Jordan, Lebanon,  Saudia Arabia, Israel and Egypt— all countries that are equipped to deal with them. They all have armies, why does Britain and the Allies have to meddle and be involved? Let them have it out. It’s this meddling for decades that has led to the uprising of Daesh.

It may seem radical to suggest such a thing but it’s the only way to make this country safe, long term. If you want to preserve our security here in Britain then get our troops out. Their beef with the West is all about this — occupation.

The other solution is a diplomatic one or one which cuts off their supply to arms and money. Who is buying oil from Daesh? If it’s Turkey, then talk to Turkey. If it’s Saudi supplying weapons then talk to Saudi, after all they’re an Ally.  If it’s not their governments but individuals, then apply pressure on those governments to get that intelligence and do something to stop it. The reality is that there are solutions but the Conservatives want to go to war. They want the kudos and they want benefits which come from war — defence contracts and another foothold in the Middle East.

Tomorrow the government will hold the vote to see how many MPs in Parliament will back air strikes in Syria. If they vote yes which seems to be what is predicted then this is sending the wrong message to Daesh, one of violence and revenge, one that is inviting them to come and retaliate here on our soil.

War should always be the last resort, not the first.

 

 

 

To bomb or not to bomb?

David Cameron is at it again, trying to get support from the House of Commons for dropping bombs in Syria. This time to fight Daesh —previously known as ISIL, ISIS or Islamic State. I am calling them this because the word disassociates itself from the word Islamic and the religion of Islam. Some commentators have begun calling them Daesh which I applaud and to me it just makes sense.

It was only 2013 when David wanted to bomb  Syria’s president Bashar Al Assad but didn’t get enough votes to go ahead. So now he wants to bomb Daesh in Syria and not Assad, even though Assad also wants to get rid of Daesh, as do the Russians, the French and the Americans. Practically everyone, so why does our PM want to get involved too? His appetite for bombing Syria has been there for over 2 years now and I worry it’s more to do with his street cred in the big wide world than anything else. I think it may be just so he can look like a big boy with all the other big boys in the playground. Let the world know that he’s no wimp, he is tough, powerful and important and has the balls to take on Daesh on their turf.

He claims it is because there is a real terrorist threat to Britain, and somehow bombing Syria will lessen that threat. For me that doesn’t make any sense at all. France have been bombing Iraq and Syria for a while and we all know what happened there. Russia is also heavily involved with arming Assad and intervening and their passenger plane was blown up in Egypt killing over 200 of its countrymen. How will it make our country safer? It won’t. I fear it will make the threat more urgent and real.

Britain dropping bombs in Syria is going to kill more Syrians civilians who have already endured over 4 years of war and persecution, creating a bigger refugee crisis which Europe has to deal with — the more bombs that are dropped, the more Syrians will want to leave. It will anger Daesh and spur them on to commit more atrocities most probably in Britain.

In the last ten ears or so, no military intervention by Britain in the Middle East has been successful. Be it Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya, lets face it, its been a shambles. The consequences have left a hot bed for breeding extremism and violence which has only escalated across the region since the invasion of Iraq. In a country like Pakistan, Islamic terrorism was almost unheard of prior to 9/11, but after the invasion of Afghanistan it too has become a breeding ground for extremists, and even has its own Taliban. How many  more countries are we going to bomb? With no exit strategy, you’d think history has taught us what not to do. But no, here we are again debating the same issues that we always debate after terrorist attacks.

The interesting thing is the value of defence companies in the FTSE 100 has gone up this week by 2%. Hmm so who is benefitting from dropping bombs? Not the Syrians, and certainly not us in the West who will be more vulnerable to the terrorist threat.

When Tony Blair went to war with Iraq in 2003, it was only two years later on July 7th when London was attacked by suicide bombers. Coincidence? I think not. The attacks and locations are planned and carefully thought out, they don’t just choose random cities. There is always a political cause with a specific target.

Bombing Syria will be counter productive and will only cause more death and destruction, and make our world a far more dangerous place.

 

 

Paris 13/11

In the aftermath of Paris, where 129 innocent people have been killed in bomb attacks the world seems to have come to a standstill. Whilst watching the coverage as it was happening, me like most Muslims were hoping and praying that ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) were not responsible. But deep down in our hearts we knew, and unsurprisingly ISIL have since claimed responsibility.

We are now expecting the backlash and reprisal attacks. One Muslim woman was already bottled in Fulham, London within 24 hours of the attacks in Paris, and a Muslim woman was abused whilst praying in Australia. This is just the beginning for when Muslim terrorists strike, life becomes increasingly difficult for all other Muslims, especially covered women who are not only identifiable as Muslims but also deemed as easy targets.

The hate on Twitter was immediate and immense, where I read many tweets like ‘Kill all Muslims’ and ‘Get all Muslims out of my country.’ Emotions are running high understandably but whenever an attack like this occurs some people think it is an opportunity to incite racial hatred. We’ve seen it before after 9/11, 7/7, Charlie Hebdo, innocent people die and then Muslims get the brunt of it.

What happened in Paris was sheer horror, it was gruesome and it was bloody but it also happened in Lebanon the day before. It also happened in Baghdad two days ago. Why don’t we care about these lives? Same group, same motives but different lives. Lives that aren’t white, lives that aren’t European or American, why do they matter less?

Is it because we think the Middle East is some medieval part of the world which we can’t identify with? Have we become desensitised to the deaths in the Middle East? Whether they die in Palestine, Iraq or Syria, why don’t we care as much? These are questions we all need to ask ourselves.

Is it because Paris is in Europe, which is geographically near to us or that we all hold special memories from our holidays in Paris? What about those who have family in Beirut or in Baghdad, what condolences have we offered them? Or is it simply because a white life is much more valuable than any other?

In October alone the UN says 717 people died and thousands were injured from acts of terrorism in Iraq. In our heads we can’t even comprehend such a number but this is the reality.

So why France? France along with the UK and USA are involved in air strikes in Iraq against ISIL. ISIL has said in its statement – this is a revenge attack for the military intervention in Iraq and Syria. Make no mistake and please do not believe the politicians who want you to think ‘ This is an attack on our freedom and our way of life.’ No it’s not, it’s revenge for joining Putin and Assad in attacking a shared enemy.

What is almost laughable if it wasn’t so ironically tragic is that Bashar Al Assad has killed more people than ISIL, yet we continue to ignore Assad. Assad has the backing of Putin so we are also indirectly assisting him in trying to destroy our shared enemy. The biggest powers in the world are trying to defeat ISIL and like with any war the enemy will strike back. And it has.

Things are bleak, for all we can do really is hope that the politicians in France, the US and UK don’t make any knee jerk decisions. Like George Bush did after 9/11 and invaded Afghanistan only to find Bin Laden many years later in a different country. Whatever they do decide, and chances are it will involve increased military intervention and violence in the region, only more bloodshed is to follow. Whether it’s our military sending drones to Iraq, or ISIL attacking European cities no one really knows the end game. No one really understands how to overcome the problem of ISIL and how it was created in the first place.

The only thing we can do is try and understand each other and unite against violence whether it’s in Baghdad, Beirut or Paris. Murder is murder regardless of the skin colour or religion of the victims, or the motives of the perpetrator.

Who will you vote for?

With only a few weeks left until the General Election 2015, the media is awash with election talk. With all the televised debates and interviews, the same old pledges and contradictory statistics…the coverage is making a lot of people confused about who to vote for. Not everyone of course, many of us have deep rooted alliances with particular parties but despite this it’s worth knowing what your local candidates stand for.

On the other hand whilst I love Russell Brand and agree with a lot of what he says, in reality a revolution in electoral terms will only come if nobody votes, like zero people. As that’s not going to happen we really need to get out there and stop crazy loons from being voted in, mainly I mean UKIP.

First of all for those who think it is unislamic to vote in the UK, do check this video where some scholars have said why it is not only ok to vote but why we must.

Going to the MEND conference a few weeks ago I learnt about how important social justice is in Islam and how it is at the core of being a Muslim. Even before revelation (of the Quran), the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was involved in decisions and events that took place against injustice. The Hilf al-Fudul treaty regarded as the ‘Alliance of Excellence’ was a pact for the Meccans and non-Meccan travellers for fairness and justice, the main point being no one inside or visiting Mecca will be treated unfairly or in an oppressive way. A pact like this was unheard of in the 7th century and it was an alliance that the Prophet was very proud of. Summarising this Tariq Ramadan draws three principles from this:

  • Islam embraces values derived from the human conscience, that are outside of the Islamic tradition. This is because Muhammad (pbuh) had acknowledged a pact before revelation, in the pre-Islamic era.
  • Islam acknowledges the righteousness of non-Muslims. In this case, the non-Muslims had defended justice and the oppressed.
  • Islam, instead of building allegiance to a closed community, requires allegiance to a set of universal principles. The message of Islam is not a closed value system, or at variance or conflict with other value systems.

This really shows us  how important it is for Muslims to take part in society even if that society is non-Muslim.

Whilst most people I know personally are going to vote, I do wonder how much we actually know about the people who we vote for. I am guilty of this, I have no idea what many of the candidates stand for but I’m ready to find out. YourNextMP.com is a great site for finding out about potential candidates, you just need to put your postcode in and all the candidates standing will be displayed.

Every constituency holds hustings which are small gatherings where all the local candidates are invited and anybody can turn up and ask them questions. These are being held as we speak, and if you just search online for your local hustings you should be able to find out the time and venue – some may require prebooking. Different organisations set them up, in fact you can set one up yourself. Then you can meet the candidates and ask them those burning questions that affect your life.

For example as a British Muslim I want to know what the candidates think of foreign policy in the Middle East – if they are an existing MP,did they support the Iraq war? Did they vote for intervention in Syria? Did they vote for an independent Palestinian state? And if they’re not an MP but are hoping to become one, do they support military intervention against ISIS? Do they want to spend your money replacing Trident? On a local level…do they agree that Islamaphobia should be taught in schools alongside anti-semitism and racism? Would they vote to ban the veil if an Early Day Motion came up?

So why does the Muslim vote matter? We may only be 5% of the UK population, but Muslims are densely packed in 50 – 60 towns across the country. In many constituencies if all the Muslims voted for a particular party it would swing the vote the other way, and some of those are target seats for both Labour and Conservative. This matters and politicians should know this, so it’s important you meet the candidates who want to represent you.

Here are some stats from MEND

  • Given the percentage of the population we should have 32 Muslim MPs but currently there are only 8.
  • Average UK voter turnout is 65%, with Muslims it’s 47%.
  • Tories have 80 target seats, 45 of which are 100% of the swing.

The rise of extreme Right-wing parties can be seen across Europe. Fascist and anti-Islam parties are gaining more and more support across France, Germany and other European nations. So even if you hate politics just go to vote against Nigel Farage and his cronies. Please.

A wealth of information can be found on mend.org.uk which are an organisation focused on Muslim development and engagement with society. They have developed getoutandvote.info especially for the election.

Do You Want To Be Interrogated By The Thought Police?

This June will mark the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta — yes that bill of rights that gave every man the right to a fair trial. Now in 2015, the Government is trying to sneak through the CTS Bill which is an infringement of the Magna Carta.
 
There are many organisations that are thankfully making noise and trying to spread information about the CTS Bill so that the public are aware of it. Reading the letter addressed to the Government will help understand how ridiculous it is, you can read and sign the petition against the CTS Bill here. It’s extremely important everyone does this, because it seems like everyone has the right to a free trial, unless you’re Muslim in which case, evidence by association is enough to detain you. I discussed this in my last post as well, but this CTS Bill is moving us closer and closer to being governed by the thought police.
 
The CTS Bill will give the rights to doctors, teachers, nursery staff and other non-legal professionals to be able to detect ‘radical’ behaviour and report it according to their definition of ‘extreme’. People who don’t know Muslims and only know what they see on the news, will be able to judge what extreme views are. It’s really worth checking out the Stop The Bill website and have good look through the articles and evidence against the bill. Another good article written by Dilly Hussain also highlights the problem with the CTS Bill.
 
Speaking of moving closer to a police state, I read an article this week, which describes how authorities in the US are monitoring Muslims — one way is by seeing who opts for a ‘Muslim’ meal on an airline. Perhaps the way to get round this is to order a Kosher meal (which is permissible to eat) or a vegetarian meal — what nonsense! And this pretty much sums up the fear I and many other Muslims have, being interrogated, arrested or criminalised for being a Muslim who practices their faith, which is what all this legislation is leading to.
 
Moving on to more discerning news related to Muslims, a halal abattoir is being investigated after Animal Aid planted secret cameras there. Bowood Lamb abattoir in Thirsk, North Yorkshire has dismissed one of their workers and revoked three mens’ licences after they were caught kicking sheep and treating them in an appalling manner. If you want to see videos of this click here. This is completely against Islamic principles as halal meat also covers the welfare of animals and treating them kindly. Disgusting behaviour by these men and of course they should be prosecuted accordingly. This meat actually will not be halal because of the inhumane treatment of the animals, and it’s quite sickening to know that we are eating this meat. I am 100% sure that this kind of behaviour towards animals takes place in regular abattoirs too, and the meat being ‘halal’ has little to do with it. It’s despicable that irresponsible and ignorant Muslims can behave this way and give everyone yet another excuse to have a go at Islamic practices.The Food Standard Agency are investigating a number of abattoirs now, not just halal but regular ones too.

This week will also see the much loved and much hated (if you’re a friend of Israel) George Galloway appear on BBC Question Time (Thursday 10.45pm).This week QT will take place in Finchley, North London which has the biggest Jewish community in the UK. Obviously it was a move cleverly crafted by the BBC to attract controversy in the media especially in the Twittersphere. It will be explosive, and an entertaining hour of telly no doubt.

Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

Most of you will be aware that the British Government is trying to pass a new anti-terrorism bill, which really is a slap in the face of ‘freedom of speech’ and everything else the mainstream media have been shouting about post-Paris shootings. The freedom to express our thoughts and the freedom to criticise and question the Government and their foreign policies is a key part of our British values. However the Counter-terrorism and Security Bill (CTSB) proposes quite the opposite. In response to the number of Brits joining ISIS, these are the main points of the proposed bill: (taken from iengage.com)

  • Police officers or border officials able to seize passports for up to 14 days (with renewal up to 30 days via Magistrates’ court) 
  • Temporary Exclusion Orders (TEOs) that can ban a British citizen from entering the UK for up to 2 years and leave them effectively stateless during that time 
  • Relocation of 200 miles enforced on individuals subject to TPIMs raising concerns about mental health and family life
  • Government seeking power to intercept communications raising grave privacy concerns
  • Airlines and carriers forced to adopt ‘authority to carry’ scheme which can effectively enforce ‘no fly’ lists on entire nationalities 
  • ‘Prevent’ to become a statutory requirement in Councils, schools, universities and more 
  • Universities required to operate an ‘extremist’ speakers policy 

Whilst some of these proposals may seem acceptable in the light of characters like Jihadi John the worry is that the wrong people will be targeted. We have seen this time and time again, just looking at some of the prisoners who have and have not been released from Guantanamo Bay and the number of innocent Muslims whose homes have been targeted by terror raids. Frankly I have little faith in our Government or the secret service to be able to differentiate between a religious Muslim and a violent extremist Muslim. And of course then we come back to the same question ‘How do you define extremism?’. Ask ten different people and they will give ten different answers.

It scares the hell out of me to think one woman Theresa May, and further down the road we could have a UKIP Home Secretary, could have the power to implement such divisive policies which are so vague, open to interpretation and could be easily misused. My definition of what constitutes extremism will be different from even my parents’ definition for example. This excellent article summarises the possible consequences and what murky road Britain may be heading down  You can write to your MP and ask him/her to vote against this bill in its current form by clicking here.

Also this week the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles sent a letter to over a 1000 mosques and Islamic organisations, asking them in a nutshell to catch extremists. This obviously annoyed many Muslim leaders and Imams who have been working incredibly hard over the last 10 years to flush out hate preachers and extremist interpretations of Islamic literature. Not only was the letter patronising it was pointless and badly timed. While Muslims are still reeling after the Charlie Hebdo incident, this is the last thing they need. I think the Government needs to get real. Mosques do not radicalise young people anymore. The Internet and social media plays a much bigger part. Chances are if you go to the mosque regularly, or to an Islamic school you will not be taught violence extremism. You will be taught everything but that. However if you leave your Islamic education to the Internet then you can be influenced by anyone from anywhere in the world. My advice to young Muslims would be to go an seek knowledge from mosques, from Islamic books and not from ISIS videos.

To end I will leave you with a story from The Daily Star. In France, the same country that champions freedom of speech and expression, banned a couple from naming their child ‘Nutella’ today. So much for freedom of expression eh?