Thursday, 25 March 2010

A leader fit for the Time

British Muslim community comprises of diverse ethnic, social, economic and political groups coming from many parts of the world. But at its heart, our community still is one that lags behind in education, health, employment, socio-political engagement. Our leadership in the community still held by largely first or second generation immigrants who are often unable and perhaps unwilling to fully comprehend the challenges of our time. Not surprisingly, often some confident and rather 'unclassic' ambitious individuals take a swipe at our leaders controlling mosques and community organisations.
However, the reality is this: our elders, religious and community leaders have done a great deal. They lived in conditions where took their turn to sleep, worked hard to earn pennies and went out for bathing. Yet, they have set an excellent example of philanthropy. Hundreds of mosques across the country are largely their contributions. It is them who has given a voice to us when we had none, a place to gather when we had no where to go. They have limitations and served their purpose but we must positively assert their rights to be recognised for the goods they have done.
Of course, many Muslims have made success of their lives reaching senior positions in government, private corporations and businesses. In achieving success, they have gained important skills and experiences. Their experience and knowledge can play important role in the advancement of our community. We need to engage these successful people in manners which will build a happy and effective partnership between the traditional grass root community leaders and professionally successful people of our community.
Challenges we face in going about our daily lives are multi-facet. And every day these challenges become more complex in nature. Organisation like the MCB is in place precisely to identify these challenges and to find ways to not just face them but to keep up to date with their changing nature. However, ultimately, the MCB is an organisation of the Muslim Community. The strength of MCB is the strength of its constituent communities. As a result, MCB needs to keep its constituents happy. For this reason, new leadership of MCB needs to be one who has a track record of meaningful involvement within the community while reasonably able to understand and deal with the challenges posed at us by external entities. To lean stronger in one direction would mean loosing the other yet we need to succeed both in facing the challenges before us while also keeping our constituents faithful and confident on us.
The MCB will have its 11th AGM on the 20 June this year. In this AGM we must find a new leader, one who is capable of capturing the mood of the Muslim Community. He must be able to articulate the concerns and aspirations of the Muslim Community to the mainstream society in fighting against anti-Muslim hatred, discrimination in employment, inadequacies in education and the alarming health concerns.
Finally, we are a community bound together by a common faith. We have many traditions but our foundation is one. We have many opinions but our fundamental sources are same. We are a community identified, above all, by our commitment to our faith. It must, in my opinion, be a condition that our leaders ought to have sound knowledge and understanding of our traditions, our sources of inspiration.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Misplaced optimism over US Anger on Israel

Joe Biden, the Vice President of the US, has expressed his displeasure at the latest plan by an Israeli Local Authority to build hundreds of new settlement homes in the Occupied East Jerusalem. In particular he criticises the timing of the declaration hinting at its effect on the eminent resumption of peace initiatives. Yesterday, the US State Department let it known through the press that Mrs Clinton has expressed her displeasure at the plan while talking to the the Prime Minister of Israel. It must be noted however, that Mr Biden appreciated the response of Mr Netanyahu, who criticises the local Jerusalem Municipality which approved the plans.
Given the close relationship between US and Israel and the strong political influence that Israel enjoys in the US, this latest expression of displeasure by the two major figures of US Administration come as surprise to many. Already, some commentators has began to express hope that perhaps time has come when US may be just about willing to harden up over Israel. They hope that US will finally show courage and free herself from pro-Israeli bias to bring genuine pressure on Tel Aviv to play fair.
However, this apparent harshness of US and the glimmer of optimism seems to be misplaced and premature, to say the least. For Israel has expressed no desire to call of the announced plan to build new settlement homes neither has the US demanded that it must stop. Furthermore, the Palestinian side remains divided and deeply engaged in internal power-fighting. The Global community, in particular EU and US is taking advantage of the disunity on the Palestinian sides to further their own ideological and hegemonic interests.
There are, of course, other more pressing issues which would make is almost impossible to reach a settlement. Million of Palestinians remain in refugee camps for three generations or perhaps even more denied of minimum standards of life. No body seems to be concerned of their conditions nor willing to play fair on their rights to return. The Palestinian Authority is weak and frail, totally dependant on the Masters in Washington, Brussels and Riyadh. Israel, for their part, is determined not to recognise Israeli Arabs living in Israel as equal to other citizens let alone allowing any more return to their homeland. The world community, for its part, seems to be too happy to forget the Palestinian refugees for now. That leaves aggrieved Palestinians convinced that only armed struggle can ultimately ensure justice for the oppressed and occupied people of the Holy Land of Palestine.
In the light of the situations on the ground, given the geo-political dynamics of our world and considering the complexity of the issue, a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine living side by side in harmony, peace and prosperity seems ever more illusional. Indeed, I, like many others, are now convinced that two-state solution is in fact impractical thinking and has always been an unrealistic expectation. Besides, a two-state solution defies established values of humanity, civility and justice. What's more is that two-state solution is an insult on the good people of Israel and Palestine where Jews, Christians and Muslims has lived for centuries in peace and harmony.
If a solution is to be achieved in the Middle East Conflict which we must, we need to redefine our values and re-formulate our strategies. We need to commit ourselves to achieving justice, human dignity and freedom for all people of the divine land. We then need to insist all the players that they accept these values and commit to them. Those who fail to live up to this demand must be confronted in all ways necessary. What this practically means is that we need to recognise the legitimate expectation of people to get back their own land, ensure equality of all citizens, establish system of governance representative of all people. Only then and then alone will we find a solution to a problem which has spanned over almost a century.

Published on The Financial Express on 20 March 2010.