Why Muslims are mourning

The events of 15th March 2019, where 50 innocent men, women and children were murdered in cold blood will go down as one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Like all terrorist attacks of this calibre we go through extreme emotions of shock, anger, sadness and grief. Over whelming grief. Yes we are a community in mourning. Why has this particular terrorist attack shaken us to our core? Let me explain.

Muslims are mistreated and killed day in, day out because of war and terrorism. Whether in Kashmir, in Syria, in Pakistan, in Yemen, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Myanmar, or China  we endure it. Sometimes they also die in mosques. We feel sadness, me may donate money or sign a few petitions. We say prayers for the victims. We do what we can sitting in lands far away. But this grief, following New Zealand, is new and it’s raw and I’m trying to work out why.

It seems that most non-Muslims on Facebook and Instagram are not affected by it like Muslims are. This may seem unfair but the fact that very, very few non-Muslims in the public eye and just regular people in Britain have shared anything about the New Zealand terror attack, really hurts. Words matter, and support through a difficult time is always appreciated. The notion that ‘now they know how we feel’ which I’ve seen in comments under many posts is not as hurtful as those people simply not acknowledging it. Even Facebook hasn’t offered me a filter for my profile photo or a flag, like they did for the Manchester or Paris attacks. 

Please don’t think for a minute that Muslims are immune to terror attacks. Don’t for a minute think this is a first for the Muslim community. Don’t for a minute think that the ‘shoe is on the other foot’. No. According to the Stop the War coalition, the US led war on terror has killed two million Muslims since 9/11. That’s right two million, so don’t for one moment think that Muslims don’t know about death.

When 7/7 happened and 52 people were killed on the London Underground we were upset and angry as much as anybody else. Remember Muslims die in all terror attacks in non-Muslim lands. We are not exempt. We go to concerts, we use public transport so we are a target too. But in this case we were targeted exclusively. Like the nine black Christian worshippers in Charleston, South Carolina, these people were murdered whilst praying. When we’re praying we are vulnerable and detached from our surroundings. To target a group of worshippers is so cowardly and so personal to me. My husband and son go to Friday prayers. It’s such a normal thing to do. One of the victims, fourteen year old Sayyad even looks like my son. So yes it’s personal and yes I feel it. And I know the majority of Muslims who live outside of Muslim countries feel the same.

The truth is Muslims are battered from every angle. Whether it’s from groups like ISIS or Al-Qaeda or from white supremacists, we are in the firing line every time. And if not a target for violence we are spoken about on social media like a worthless community. Too long the media with their inflammatory headlines have gotten away with demonising an entire religion and it’s followers.

Many young Muslims, born in the era of post 9/11 have felt victimised, experienced racism and anti-muslim hatred all their lives. With headlines like ‘Muslim schools ban our culture’ to ‘Muslim plot to kill the pope’, is there any wonder why some of the general public fear and dislike Muslims? These headlines are fuelling white supremacists and legitimising Islamophobia. According to the Cambridge University Press “For every one moderate Muslim mentioned, 21 examples of extremist Muslims are mentioned in the British press”.

Says it all really, and if you want to see the hatred from the comfort of your home then you just have to go on to a tabloid newspaper’s Facebook page under any article to do with Muslims and you will see it clearly. You only have to go on Twitter to see how many proud ‘Islamophobes’ there are who put in their bio that they are Islamophobic, and this is their main purpose and what their tweets are mainly about.

Thankfully I’ve also found solitude in Twitter where so many tweets from non-Muslims have shown me that people do care and there are many who realise the subliminal anti-Muslim sentiment that some of the press has been espousing. Whilst it is being acknowledged, things need to change. It’s time that not just Muslims, but others call out the anti-Muslim sentiment that is present in our society today. Because there hasn’t been the Facebook and Instagram outcry that usually follows a large-scale terror attack, extremists have been inspired to attack Muslims in London and one outside a mosque. It’s time to stand up to anti-Muslim rhetoric and treat it in the same manner as other types of hate speech. Don’t let it go unquestioned, don’t ignore it, because people need to be held accountable for their words. 

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 discussion 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.

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.




Ramadan Day 25!

I am absolutely ashamed of myself for not blogging in so many days.
A thing called the summer holidays started ten days ago, and everything has gone downhill since then! I cannot believe we are almost approaching the end of Ramadan. Everyone says this, but this year it really has flown by. We are in the last ten days of Ramadan where the fasts are fractionally shorter, and for Muslims a very sacred time of the year, if not the holiest time of the year. The Quran was revealed in one of these nights, and this night is called Lailutul Qadr – The night of Power- where the future year is decreed for every individual. 
Surah 97 -Al-Qadr ‘Indeed, We sent the Qur’an down during the Night of Decree. And what can make you know what is the Night of Decree? The Night of Decree is better than a thousand months. The angels and the Spirit descend therein by permission of their Lord for every matter. Peace it is until the emergence of dawn.’
It is pretty self explanatory, and therefore every minute in these last ten nights is precious as the reward is multiplied greatly. It can be really hard to find some quiet time to try and make the most of these last ten days, especially after you’ve kept a long fast. All you want to do is sleep! If we can’t pray extra salah or read Quran, at least we can say this dua “Allahumma innaka ‘afuwwun tuhibbul ‘afwa fa’fu ‘annee” which means “O Allah You are The One Who pardons greatly, and loves to pardon, so pardon me.” The prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told his wife Aisha (ra) that this is what should be read on the night of Lailutur Qadr. So folks enjoy the rest of Ramadan, and use the time wisely 🙂

Ramadan Day 11

I hope I have the right day, I’ve kind of lost track of the days!
They are so long, that there’s little recovery time or time to rest. But I am loving it all the same, because it really is all about willpower and our relationship with Allah (swt). Fasting is a personal thing as only you know if you’re doing something that will break it. Most other forms of worship are more physical or visual, and no one is with you every second of the day. So in this sense it is all for Allah (swt), and for your devotion to your faith.
I was chatting to a non-Muslim friend and I was telling her about Ramadan, and she was surprised to learn that fasting is not just abstinence from eating and drinking. So I thought that is worth mentioning here, that fasting also includes abstinence from sex. The harder things to refrain from however which some Muslims tend to forget about, myself included is that we should not backbite, lie, slander, gossip or generally be bad tempered. Fasting is not just purification for the body but also the soul. These things can be harder to avoid than food!

Ramadan Day 6

Today I came to the conclusion that thirst is harder to bear than hunger.
Over a longer period I don’t know if that would hold true, but for fasting in July it’s definitely the case! Even until 9pm food was not appealing to me, but the thought of a really cold drink was. This is such a new experience for me as usually my stomach rumbles throughout the day in Ramadan. I’m sure this rings true for most people fasting. 
Another tricky aspect of Ramadan this year is sleep management. I find I’m not getting enough sleep what with Isha (night prayer) being so late and then also needing to stay awake for a while after opening the fast so late in the day. It doesn’t help when the baby decides to play up in that precious time between bedtime and Fajr!

If any of you switch on the TV at sehri time, please watch Islam Channel who are running various charity appeals at this time of night. One of the presenters is really engaging and makes lovely duas. He actually makes you want to donate money – what a great skill!

Ramadan Day 2

Why is it so hard to make time to read the Quran?
In Ramadan however it doesn’t seem as difficult, which I put down to priorities. While my baby had her morning nap, I took the opportunity to open my Quran and learn and reap the blessings of reading this wonderful book. As she has just turned one, it’s almost impossible to do anything for longer than one minute without her demanding my attention. I took the time out of my usual busy day and as a result I still have three lots of laundry to iron and put away. See the thing is whether you have five children or three or none, there is never enough time in the day to read Quran or do Dhikr-unless we put it on the top of our to-do list, with high priority.  Allah will not ask me if I kept up with the laundry, but he will question me on how much ibadat I did. So my thought for today is this: It’s wonderful that we are able to put Allah and our faith in the forefront of our day in Ramadan but how do we implement that after Ramadan? That’s the real test.
I am reading the Tafseer (extensive commentary) on Surah 24 An Nur. The beginning of this surah (chapter) is about slander, and it is amazing to learn how horrific a sin, slander is regarded in Allah’s eyes. In our daily lives we often talk about other people and exchange information (ok ok gossip) without knowing many of the facts at all. If only we understood the severity of slander. More on Surah An-Nur later!