Wednesday, 20 June 2007

To suggest Rushdie debate a ‘justification for Suicide Bombing’ is Unfortunate and utterly irresponsible

The award of Knighthood to Salmaan Rushdie reignited the old rifts between nearly two billion strong global Muslim community and the ‘defenders of free speech’. When I wrote my last entry on the matter, I hoped that I will never again need to write about this wicked man. But the latest diplomatic ‘war of words’ between Pakistan and Britain and the subsequent coverage of the matter forced me to invest my time to shed light for once again on this matter.

The row begins with an alleged comment of Ijazul Haque, Pakistan’s religious affairs ministry. What he said, as clarified by him on more than one occasion afterwards goes much way to clearly show the depth of anger and offence this decision to knight Rushdie will cause around the Muslim world. Unfortunately however, by the time it has been reported on the British media, the language pretty much became something like ‘the Pakistani Minister justifies suicide killing’. This spinning of a simple matter into a complex ‘war of words’ is utterly unacceptable and extremely unfortunate. We should not be surprised however for the British media and the certain quarters of the political arena to blow the whole issue into an entirely new dimension, distorting the main thrust of the debate. They only vindicate the minister and many others who believe that this was a calculated decision aimed at offending Muslims.

UK is among the most sophisticated of countries in the west, here every word matters. NO decision in this country taken at the state level without major thinking by various spin doctors, quangos and other bodies. The government wing responsible for awarding honours is no different. It would be inconceivable that the learned and wise people sitting in the decision making process who confirmed Mr. Rushdie’s honour were unaware of the potential for a backlash. Nor would they be in darkness about the past full with painful memories caused by inflammatory, irresponsible and blasphemous work of Rushdie. And it is for this reason that when some bunch of white collared people decide to confirm knighthood on Rushdie, it is only natural for the Millions of Muslims worldwide to take offence and rightly so. There is no room, and I repeat absolutely no room for those who wants to argue that this was merely a decision influenced by the literary contribution of Mr. Rushdie. Even if we are to accept that the decision was not one aimed at picking fight with Muslim communities, we would still have to conclude that the decision was an extremely irresponsible act and those made the decisions are incompetent and na├»ve. Either way, it is a bad decision which should have been redressed much long ago.

Going back to the row between Pakistan and UK and now Iran, it is indeed regrettable that British government, the Conservative Party and the British media decided to play spin with a matter of such importance. The role of the media, the conservative party and the other quarters involved in it only goes to show the lack of understanding towards Islam and the Muslims, to say the least. Of course, it would not be untrue, illogical to say that a large number of influential individuals within these mechanisms are deeply prejudicial about Islam and Muslims and always seek for opportunities to spoil the relationship developed over a long period of time, thanks to hard working individual who dedicated their life to bringing better understanding between Islam and the west.

Here in the UK and indeed the Muslims world over never wishes to pick a fight, nor do they have appetite for playing spin and politics with issues that run the danger of igniting violence and create hard feelings between citizens within and beyond states. We the Muslims merely expect to be treated with respect, curtsey and dignity; we deserve it. To disrespect values and person that Muslims hold dearer than their own lives in the manner that Salmaan Rushdie and others do is to disrespect and deny the right of Muslims and Islam to exists in its entirety. It is therefore our hope that common sense will prevail and decent, peace loving sensible people of this great nation, and indeed all over the world will rise to take the hate mongers and prejudicial ‘free speech defenders’ head on.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Honouring Salmaan Rushdie is an act of provocation

It is with regret and great sadness that the Muslims community worldwide receives the news of knighthood being confirmed on an infamous writer, Salmaan Rushdie. The decision to honour him with the knighthood amounts to a clear provocation and utter disrespect for the feelings and sentiments of the second largest faith community of this country. Given the circumstances in which British Muslims find themselves at this moment of time and considering the relationship between establishments and the British Muslims community, it perplex us to think that such decision can reasonably be taken by responsible people.

The name of Rushdie represents a hasty, a past in the life of British Muslims which brings with it emotions and strong feelings. The insane and blasphemous work in the name of literature carried out by Mr Rushdie caused a lot of anger, sadness and shock within the wider Muslims community around the world. The distaste shown towards decency in his book, Satanic Verses, amounted to nothing less then contempt and hatred. The responses of the British Muslims were clear and unequivocal. On the face of the history, the known obvious that honouring such an irresponsible, prejudicial person will cause enormous offence to the large British Muslims community should have been enough of a reason for the authorities to veto such decision. When the acts of governments and other establishments fail to respect the sensitivities, feelings and emotions of British Muslims, we are entitled to interpret this act as a deliberate provocation aimed at testing the resilience and good spirit of our community.

The time now has certainly changed as has the mindset and the approaches of Muslim community in the UK. The values and principles on which our faith stands have not changed. The ground on which Rushdie’s work deemed deeply offensive has not changed either. This latest irresponsible act by the establishment may not cause the outpouring of people on the streets, but shall cause bloodbath of disappointment, sadness and helplessness within the hearts of British Muslims. We express our deepest sadness and ask the authorities to rethink their decision.

Friday, 1 June 2007

West has no monopoly over human rights

In recent years the words ‘Democracy’, ‘Human rights’ and ‘civilised’ has become a very common. Often these words are used by the self proclaimed ‘righteous’ guardians of our world to attack the ‘enemies’ of the ‘civilised nations’ who form the axis of evil. Two leaders who use these words most are two staunchest allies, Tony Blair and George W Bush, The prime minister and president of the United Kingdom and the United States respectively. The country who felt the most heat from the use of these words and often been subject of Anglo-US wrath is none other than the Islamic Republic of America. What strange however is that often the Iranian regime have been criticised for ‘suffocating’ the people of Iran and curtailing their freedom through ‘undemocratic’ regime in Tehran. Interestingly enough never has there been any clear and elaborate explanation for such exertion and no serious attempt has been made to undertake an objective study of the matters. Interesting too that our great media institutions who pride in themselves for their objectivity never questioned the validity of such assertion, never has they given opportunity to the Iranians either to defend themselves.

It is important that we do not lose our sight of the need for objectivity. With this in mind, I shall attempt to present my views which I hope would be the views of many others here in relation to some of the issues that Iran is accused of instigating.

The most powerfully used phrase against the Iranians is often the power of the Ayatollahs and as such the regime is often being labelled as ‘theocratic’. As a result in the views of some, Iran is a nation without democracy in which individuals, the ordinary men and women have no freedom. How true is this assertion? Let us analyse and make our mind.

The Iranian system of governance is slightly unique in that it has an elected parliament, an elected president and a supreme leader who is not directly elected. On a day to day basis, the president runs the country with his cabinet, the group of ministers while parliament keeps the government accountable by scrutinising and legislating. The supreme leader rarely gets involve in the running of the government and only on issues of great national importance he intervenes. In most cases however, the role of the Supreme leader is one of a guardian protecting nation’s socio-cultural religious identity and values. And it is on issues of cultural, social and religious matters or other matters with socio-religious and cultural implication the supreme leader steps in to reflect the mood of the people and to unite fighting factions. Where is the wrong in having a figure that remains extremely popular in the position like that of the supreme leader of the Iran? Many other countries have such arrangements in the form of monarchy etc.

The president, arguably the chief executive, elected directly by the people in secret ballots and there has never been allegation of fraudulent activities involving the ballots. Why is it than the Iranian president than should be seen as anything less than democratic? The parliament has a decisive role and the parliament is elected too. Most of the municipalities have elected leaders or representatives of the people, why should Iran than be labelled as anything other than democratic? If we compare Iranian democracy with that of the US, what can we say? We see in the US a system in which money and Brand determine leaders who will govern the people of the United States; we see the grip of corporate big fishes having most part of the ‘pie’. Even on election, the system is marred by allegation of manipulation. President Bush came to power in the first place when clearly he lost the popular vote and that was excluding the votes that then were declared invalid due to systems designed to favour the republicans. Millions of people even now are deprived of their right to vote either through administrative hiccups, or using draconian laws. How can than the US of all the states claim an upper and morally superior position on issue of democracy?

With regards to Human rights, where is the clear proof that Iran falls short on its commitment to human rights than those who attack them? Take the example of the ‘custodians’ of human rights world wide, the US and the UK. United States is still a country deeply divided along the racial lines where colours of skin play major role as to what kind of treat should a person get. We have seen after the events in New Orleans, in relation to the American Muslims and Arabs and others that USA is far from being a country in which freedom flourishes without violation of human rights. Still there are draconian roles that victimise its own citizens and undermines equality of all people. Of course, I have not yet mentioned the appalling and disgraceful Guantanamo which is a scar in the consciousness of the world. How than the United States has the right to criticise anyone else of violation of Human rights? Even if we compare, can we find an equivalent of Guantanamo in Iran? Are there laws that discriminate among its people? Is there such neglect, prejudice or negative measure in Iran against any part of its population? I doubt very much.

There are other allegations such as people are forced to cover in specific ways. But which country does not have limitations? There are cultural and social requirements unique to each nation, people who cannot accept such cultural realities just have to live with it, and that is life. We cannot have unlimited freedom, we must exercise our freedom responsibly without showing contempt for others, their ways of life. True we cannot imagine a lady wearing mini skirts in the Iran, but why should we expect such freedom where sexually implicit and culturally alien matters Iranian society? And even if we are to criticise Iran, why should we not look at others too who have similar draconian measures? Jack Straw found veil not conducive to British society and unhelpful to integration and community cohesion, France finds Hijab at schools contrary to its secular values, Turkey finds Hijab not compatible with their values and tradition, why have we not criticise them for their anti-freedom attitude? Answer is simple, the west lead by the US and European powers are not interested in justice and equality, they are not bothered about respect for others, they have a specific agenda, an agenda in which they wants to see they, and them alone prevail. In the words of a great scholar, writer and thinker, Muhammad Asad, the western views regarding Islam is one of the following: ‘instead of liberating the human spirit from the shackles of obscurantism, Islam rather tightens them; and, consequently, the sooner the Muslims peoples are freed from their subservience to the Islamic beliefs and social practices and induced to adopt the western way of life, the better for them and for the rest of the world…’ These words may have been written long before our current time, never the less the views and attitudes of the western governments towards Muslims is precisely that. When such are the views held by the western powers, not just Iran, any country that rise up in its own right without recourse to western nepotism, they will be criticised, marginalised and where possible destroyed by forces or otherwise. I hope however, that the views of the people of the west are one of mutual respect, and it is time to challenge the prevailing thoughts of our politicians in the west.