Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Accept to be bullied, we’ll support you! So says our William Hague to the Palestinians

Israel-Palestine is perhaps the longest running and the most significant of International Conflicts of our time. Not only Middle East peace and stability depends on it, world peace, prosperity and stability rests on an amicable solution to the Middle East problem too. From the global super-power, the United States of America (USA) to Europe, Russia and other regional powers are equally involved. In fact, probably no other conflict has ever raised so much emotion as does this.

With Palestinians set to move for greater recognition and topping their status at the UN, certainly global powers, like the UK, is keen not to be seen to be on the wrong side. In desperate move, therefore, they push to save face with their ally, Israel, while maintain their influence over others. But the bottom line is, Israel has shown to be a blood thirsty aggressor with little regard for international law. As recently as early this month, we have seen yet again the eagerness on Israel’s part to wipe out an entire nation that is already under siege. Irony is, when the some self-appointed leaders of the world justify Israel’s heavy-handedness citing that Israel is under an existential threat from her neighbours, what they overlook, and I say deliberately, is that only Israel of any states in the modern time have demonstrated consistent willingness to subjugate neighbouring states, threatened their viability and deliberately obstruct their emergence as Independent nations though they have those rights at international law.

Coming back to my heading, I was ashamed, as a British Citizen, to see our Foreign Secretary, Mr William Hague, to come up with this most absurd line of reasoning – provide guarantee to return to negotiations unconditionally and assurance that you [Palestine] will not seek to extend Jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – and we [UK] will support you. Shame that despite our claim to be a nation of values, justice and fairness, our Mr Hague adopts the most unjust, unfair and irrational line. When ever you have seen justice requiring the oppressed providing guarantees?

I am afraid, my emotions like millions of other people, rise fast when it comes to Israel-Palestine/Middle East Conflict issue. But I shall refrain from making it too long. Let recite though this – Islamists are enemies of west, so we have heard, therefore prevent them from coming to power. But today, North Africa is ruled by the so called Islamists. West is keen to be in bed with them. We heard, Hamas was terrorist, so strangle them, but they are thriving, once PLO was terrorist organisation so was Mandela and his ANC. But justice may take longer to emerge victorious, but it certainly is the ultimate victor. Palestinians have a just cause and a rightful claim for which they have paid heavy price. Make no mistake, some day they will emerge as an Independent, viable and proud nation. Question is, are we ready to be on the part of justice or not? For Israel, the question is even more significant – Is Israel ready to accept a just settlement to the Palestinian cause or is it going to continue acting in its self-destruction? Only time will tell who ultimately has the wisdom to make the right, just and fair choice!

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Death of US Ambassador in Libya must not be met by knee-jerk response

Controversy over a film allegedly insulting the prophet Muhammad (peace by upon him) sparked demonstrations most notably in Egypt, Libya and Yemen. In Egypt, the demonstrators stormed into the US Embassy but no casualty, while in Benghazi in Libya, the demonstrators fired rockets into the US Embassy killing, among others, the US Ambassador to Libya. Both these incidents are utterly disgraceful, wholly unnecessary, outrageous and must be condemned in the strongest terms. The respective governments of Egypt and Libya must also take responsibility for failing to understand the mood of their respective population, or rather a segment of their population and putting in place adequate measures to ensure security of the diplomatic establishments.
When I first flagged a news item on Facebook with my status indicating my disapproval of the storming of Egyptian Embassy, I was told that I was being na├»ve and not sufficiently understanding the hurt caused. Do not get me wrong, in recent years there seems to be an escalation – deliberate in my view – of materials designed to offend, insult, humiliate, provoke, outrage and incite anger among the world’s Muslim population. Too often, Western governments have put a blind eye and regularly defending such actions as necessary and essential in democratic society in the name of freedom of speech, thoughts and expressions. But the truth, as we all know, is that Islam and Muslims have been dominating the global airwaves in media, politics and international relations. Most of the time they are given airwave for the wrong reasons. Due to naivety, ignorance and often prejudice of many leading global media establishments – none, it’s worth noting, are driven and inspired by Islamic faith – put up coverage which are at best flawed, insensitive and often insulting. Take the Channel 4, the British Broadcasting organisation, who recently aired a “documentary” which questions the very historic foundations of Islam. While we ought to respect the right of creative minds to speculate, a documentary must be a documentary based on evidence, reason and logic. Unfortunately, the program on Channel4 lacked all of it. This shoddy, irresponsible, half-cooked mockery of history will not be tolerated about any other religion and particularly of the Jewish religion. Yet, this is normal when it comes to Islam and Muslims. Moreover, it appears clear that the broadcaster now cancelled the screening of further work on the series citing security threats received without providing any specifics or obtaining Police Advise. It seems not unreasonable to at least suspect that Channel 4 is capitalising on the prevailing anti-Muslim hatred and is fuelling such hatred for its own ego, commercial or other gains.
Therefore, let me be very clear – Freedom of expression should not and must never be an instrument or a cover for bigoted, prejudicial and phobic mind to insult, humiliate, undermine or otherwise cause hurt in the minds of people simply because of the faith they are associated with. Such action is utterly condemnable.
Does this mean that people can be so outraged that they may storm Embassies and kill diplomatic stuff? Of course not. Violating diplomatic establishment is a violation of international law and is also a violation of Islamic values, spirit and practice. What has happened in Benghazi and previously in Egypt are wrong and a disgrace no matter how sincere and innocent the motive behind the demonstrators were.
The question then is, what should the response be to such horrific development? Brining killers to justice, making those violating diplomatic premises account for their wrong action and learning lesson to ensure such incident can never happen again are right things to do. The two governments involved are relatively new and are still finding grounds beneath their feet. Understandable, that they may have lacked the right capacity, mettle and expertise to pre-empt the situation or to contain it. However, lesson must be learnt and this must never be allowed to happen again.
It must also be said that while the acts of violence are inexcusable, this must not be used to undo the changes that has taken place in the Middle East. This should not impede the development of closer relationship between parties in the Middle East. It is encouraging to see that President Obama strikes, broadly speaking, a conciliatory, measured and wise tone. That indeed is the right way. However, to conclude that this shows the danger the “Islamists” presents, and that a Western style secular government is the answer and therefore set up programs to achieve this is wrong and will be counterproductive. In the instance matter, there will be temptations to wrap up sooner, kill a few more, perhaps use the unmanned spy planes to locate and assassinate suspect will be completely the wrong thing to do.
Our hope is that newly liberated societies understand that freedom has a price and that to uphold freedom they need to pay a premium which often is restrain, calm and measured expression of anger. No matter how outraged we feel, we must learn to reflect, ponder and strategies. The purpose of anyone’s response in the circumstances must be to address the problem, bring about solutions with very little interruption.
We hope that restrain prevails and that parties find an amicable solution.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Problems Facing Muslim Nations

I was lured into reading an article by its name, “The Problems Facing Muslim Nations”, published at the Arab News, a leading English Daily in Saudi Arabia. I thought perhaps a person with insight of the Muslim Countries’ affairs would shed light on identifying key factors adversely affecting growth, prosperity, pluralism and good governance within the Muslim land. However, I was disappointed. In fact, disappointment perhaps is an understatement. The author not only failed to grasp the challenges facing the Muslim nations, his analysis of the issues are frankly demeaning, dispiriting and devoid of realism.
In brief, the piece identified five issues – education framework not fit for purpose; our obsessions with the past; like for abstract at the expense of concrete; obsession with angels, demons, God and satan and finally, lame and illogical dislike for arts.
When one read the article and the five factors identified, it becomes apparent that the writer feels that the Islamic faith as it is practiced by the most is responsible for much of the backwardness, irrationality, illogicality and superficiality. He feels that much of our nations’ adherence to the faith is blind, literal and therefore not rational and logical. Of course, he was at pain to stress that Islamic faith need not to be blamed, and no harm can arise from study of faith but it just needs not to be at the expense of others.
For a start, the author fails to understand the Muslim nations even on the basics. While Saudi Arabia, presumably the country of the Author and may be Iran, are the only two exceptions where faith may have some kind of dominance in the governance of the state. Countries such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt and Turkey, nations with most Muslim population, enjoy a political culture and class in which faith has very little direct and visible effect. People with real authority and power who has been dominating policy making and state operation are predominantly western educated, secular minded and often with little visible devotion to faith. Why then have they not adopted the curriculum, created the context for recognition of the present as oppose to dwelling in the past? As for the love of arts, we know that many of these governments had almost irrational degree of love for art – music, film, fine art etc. There is also no evidence to suggest that these governments were threatened by the “religiou fanatics” to the extent that they had to compromise in their policy making. Other than in Afghanistan, none of the other nations had much rational fear of being ransomed by religious fanatics.
The argument thus that faith and a blind obsession with it is at the heart of our demise is nothing but an irrational, illogical assertion without factual and evidential basis. Further, it serves to the prevailing global policy to scapegoat faith, and in particular Islam. It also overlooks the reality on the ground.
Now that it is clear I disagree with the piece, what then are the issues with Muslim nations? Well this is too big a question to be answered in one article by a small individual like me. However, I shall seek to briefly identify several factors that I think are important.
Firstly, education curriculum, practice and framework in our countries are a problem and no, not because of their obsession with religion, far from it. The problem at the heart of our educational systems are two fold – firstly the lack of a conceptual basis which does not provide a vision behind our educational strategies and secondly, and perhaps as a consequent of the first, that our education’s emphasis is not on analytical, critical and intellectual development of the students. Curriculum in most Muslim countries seems to emphasise on recollection, memorisation and not on critical evaluation, analysis and problem solving. This is true of the science, arts and religious curriculum. Shockingly, this is true at all level of education – primary to the university level.
The second challenge in the Muslim countries is a lack of culture to debate competing ideas. Muslim countries are notoriously polarised along political and ideological lines - whichever ideology we hold dear, we reject the notion that others are also entitled to hold their own ideology. As a result, the secular minded rejects any notion that faith and those with an ideology inspired by faith has a stake in the affairs of the state and vice versa.
Third and final issue that I would highlight is the lack of patronage of religion by the state. I know some will find it surprising and many may well see that it is the opposite. But that is not so. Yes, there are states that provide huge funds and influence to religious institutions and scholars. But my point is that state should take a pro-active role in creating an environment in which scholars, students and public take an active interest in exploring faith in its totality, engage in debates and open discussions where difference is respected, celebrated and not condemned. That will only happen if states provide patronage to research based on religion which seek to explore finding answers to modern questions that Muslims and non-Muslims alike are facing. This will create a level playing field in which dogmatic, literalist and traditionalist scholars will not dominate exclusively the sphere of religious decision making.
But at the heart of all the above must be a realisation that faith, as a separate, independent and parallel entity to daily life cannot exists and must not exist. From an Islamic perspective, faith is intertwined with a person’s belief, action and though process. Attempt to separate state from religion, Islam from life, is an artificial separation which will only create confusion, chaos and often disunity. The question that ought to be at the top of our mind-set is how we can be true to our faith while embrace the spirit of innovation, creativity, objectivity and pluralism. After all, Islam has championed these values for centuries while the present western civilisation was in darkness.