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.

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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?

Charlie Hebdo — Clarifications and Questions

It’s been an incredibly stressful week for Muslims around the globe. The horrific shootings that took place in Paris last week seem to have dominated the news agenda. Despite 2000 people being killed in Nigeria, and Muslims killed and driven out of their homes in CAR, the 17 lives lost in Paris seems to be what everyone wants to talk about. When I say everyone I mean non-Muslims. Muslims are pretty fed up of the hypocrisy, Mehdi Hasan sums it up pretty well in his piece this week. The backlash since the shootings has been extortionate. From mosques being vandalised in France to people like Rupert Murdoch (perhaps one of the most powerful people in the world) stating Muslims are collectively responsible — Muslims are really feeling the brunt of this. We’ve heard condemnations from many Muslim scholars and organisations but what does it all mean and what are we really thinking? Here are some clarifications that I feel need stating.

  1. Murder is a sin. It is haram (not permitted) in Islam. Blasphemy is a punishable crime in Islam. But the punishment can only be carried out within a legitimate Islamic state, after a fair trial has taken place and only then by the appointed executioner. The shootings were unislamic on so many level. For a start France is not a Muslim country nor does it have Islamic laws. Secondly a normal citizen is not under any circumstance permitted to go and murder people they believe have committed blasphemy. I hope I’ve cleared that up? So if you hear Muslims condoning the shootings then they are ignorant of Islamic teachings and have let their emotions run away with them.
  2. Just because I think Charlie Hebdo is a blasphemous publication, doesn’t mean I want the writers/cartoonists dead. I hate the rubbish that Charlie Hebdo print in the name of satire. I AM NOT Charlie. For me Charlie Hebdo represents racism, Islamaphobia, anti-semitism and vulgarity. 
  3. The Prophet Muhammad NEVER responded with violence to anyone who hurled abuse at him verbally or physically. Examples of how he dealt with haters are can be found here.
  4. Depictions of any prophet of Islam are not looked at favourably. I have blogged about the reasons why. To explain further, the Prophet Muhammad is as important to us as a parent. He is our role model, we emulate him and live our lives by following the Quran and using his examples as our moral compass. He was kind, humble, patient and tolerant. From how to eat to how to pray, his example dictates a Muslim’s daily activity. To then go and insult, make crude jokes about him, you can begin to see why Muslims would get upset. Upset, frustrated and provoked are some of the feelings you would feel if somebody kept mocking and insulting your loved one over and over again. Out of 1.8 billion Muslim some will lose their mind and commit violence. Not justified but it should explain why we get so upset. Also note not all Muslims care, some do and some don’t. We are a diverse bunch. The cover of Charlie Hebdo after the shootings showing an upset Prophet Muhammad stating ‘you are forgiven’ and ‘I am Charlie’ didn’t offend me. The actual depiction may offend some people — the image shows Prophet Mohammad with beady eyes and a big nose. Not flattering but then caricatures never are.
  5. There is no such thing as true freedom of speech or expression. In Germany, it is a crime to deny the holocaust, in France pro-Palestinian marches were banned this year after so many Palestinians were killed by Israel, and in the UK a man was convicted for burning a poppy. There are many examples. Many things are distasteful and offensive and editors make decisions every day about what they should print and what they shouldn’t. They don’t want to offend anybody deliberately, which leads to my next point. 
  6. We are British, and the one thing British people don’t like doing is offending. We maintain a stiff upper lip if we don’t like anything. That’s not to say we should always be politically correct, but be mindful of people’s sensibilities. Why is that such a bad thing? Why should we seek out to offend a minority? What is one going to gain out of it? It’s not British and it’s not clever. Perhaps the French don’t have this in their culture? This is not a curtailment of freedom of speech. As journalist and novelist Will Self said on Newsnight — ‘Freedom of speech is a right, and with every right comes responsibility.’ Absolutely spot on, just because we are allowed to make disgusting jokes about somebody, does that mean we should just for the sake of it, without thinking about how it will affect thousands of people?
  7. The media has really whipped up a frenzy with the continuing news coverage of the Paris shootings. Giving attention to terrorists is what they want and we are giving them exactly that. Who were the killers? Were they just evil men who hated the West or was it more to it then that? Finding out what drove them to commit such a dreadful act is important and relevant. Writing them off as evil enemies of freedom is not helpful. The root cause of their actions must be examined. Their background and their upbringing all count.
  8. Stop asking Muslims to apologise. The more you ask ordinary Muslims to apologise the more cheesed off they’re going to get. Christians weren’t asked to apologise for Christian fundamentalist Anders Breivik who killed 77 people so why the double standard? The impression I’ve got over the years is that if I don’t say anything as a Muslim it means that I condone it. Where does this logic come from and why does it apply to Muslim crimes only? 

I’m going to leave it there for now and hope to have a weekend free from terrorism talk. More next week!