First Iraq, now Iran?

The United States has announced its harshest action against Iran since 1979 by instituting a raft of unilateral sanctions designed to cut international financial support to Iran. Condoleezza Rice (US Secretary of State) said that the unprecedented steps, which include outlawing Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, were a response to “Teheran’s support of insurgents in Iraq and its refusal to abandon its uranium enrichment programme”. 

There are two alleged reasons for the sanctions:
1) Teheran’s support of terrorists.
2) Weapons of mass destruction.
 

Does this sound vaguely familiar? Saddam Husain was responsible for 9/11 and for having weapons of mass destruction – neither of which were proved. Follow this conversation with Brig. Gen. Kevin J. Bergner, who said that two important militants who were captured in Iraq, “have acknowledged during interrogations that senior leadership within the al-Quds* force knew of and supported planning attacks on US soldiers(The al-Quds unit, the foreign operations branch, within Iran’s elite revolutionary guards corps is accused of supporting fighters in Iraq that has led to the deaths of US soldiers.) 

First, Mr. Bergner’s assertion: “Our intelligence reveals that senior leadership in Iran is aware of this activity.”Now, the follow-ups:
Question: Can you define senior leadership?”
Mr. Bergner: I think I’ll leave it at that.”
Question: Would you exclude the supreme leader?”
Mr. Bergner: “I’ll leave it at senior leadership in Iran?”
Question: “Put it this way: Do you think it’s possible that he doesn’t know?”
Mr. Bergner: ‘’That would be hard to imagine.”

A tough question indeed: from intelligence to imagination in four steps.

The Iranian government has repeatedly denied supporting militants or stirring up trouble in Iraq, and has said that, ‘it only wants the country to be stable and peaceful.’ But Britain and France don’t think so, and have sided with the US, with Brown going as far as pledging to lead the campaign for new EU and UN sanctions. It seems Gordon Brown is to Rice as Blair was to Bush. Rice says Iran is pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Palestine, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israeli off the map.”

It may not mean much but both China and Russia are not supporting the US. Rice has urged China, Russia and India to back the sanctions against Iran. President Putin of Russia warned strongly against sanctions on Iran, saying they would lead to a dead end. He said the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program should be resolved through talks, pointing at North Korea as an example. “Why worsen the situation and bring it to a dead end by threatening sanctions or military action. Running around like a madman with a razor blade, waving it around, is not the best way to resolve the situation.” the Russian leader said.

Predictably, the Prime Minister of Israel (a state that repeatedly defies international law, that has nuclear weapons, and still has full support of the US administration) Mr Olmert said: “Economic sanctions are effective. They have an important impact already, but they are not sufficient. So there should be more. Up to where? Up until Iran will stop its nuclear programme.”

This is insane. In no uncertain terms, he is calling for a war against Iran. Now if he made this statement in Hebrew, and the western media had to translate it, would it be translated as him calling for Iran to be wiped off the map?

So, what will the sanctions do? Remember Iraq? As John Pilger wrote a while back, before 1990 and the imposition of sanctions, Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East.”

And now, after sanctions at least 200 children died every day from malnutrition, lack of clean water and lack of medical equipment and drugs to cure easily treatable diseases. Morphine, the most effective painkiller has been banned by the Security Council.
 In 1990 Iraq had one of the highest rates of literacy in the world. For all its evil, the government still built schools, trained teachers, and distributed free textbooks and other school supplies.

And after sanctions this system was gradually destroyed over a short period of 10 years. Iraqi teacher salaries fell from $400 to $3 per month. There were no school supplies: books, pencils and paper are all banned under ‘dual use’ considerations. We are told that pencils are forbidden because carbon could be extracted from them that might be used to coat aeroplanes and make them invisible to radar. I am not a military expert, but I find it very disturbing that because of this objection, we cannot give pencils to Iraqi school children.” (Farid Zarif, deputy director of the UN humanitarian program in Baghdad. New York Times, 3 January 1999)

But what is the real reason for the sanctions and threats against Iran? Surely no sane person will believe that these ridiculous claims are accurate – especially anyone who followed the ruckus that went on before Iraq was unjustifiably attacked. The question is – Is all this just about oil?

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the private bank known as the Federal Reserve, discloses in his book the public secret that, the motive for the war against Iraq was rooted in oil: “I’m saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: The Iraq war was largely about oil. I thought the issue of weapons of mass destruction as the excuse was utterly beside the point”. To what extent history will repeat itself now that it’s not oil-rich Iraq (but its oil-rich neighbour Iran) is being accused of producing weapons of mass destruction by the same people that invaded Iraq on the basis of arguments and accusations which may quite possibly be false?

After ‘democracy’ was declared in Iraq. John Pilger wrote that “the main reason was oil. Under a law written by American and British officials, the Iraqi puppet regime is about to hand over the extraction of the largest concentration of oil on earth to Anglo-American companies. Nothing like this piracy has happened before. Across the Shatt al-Arab waterway the other prize: Iran’s vast oilfields. Just as non-existent weapons of mass destruction or facile concerns for democracy had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq, so non-existent nuclear weapons have nothing to do with an American onslaught on Iran.” It appears evident that this war is not about terrorism, WMD, or any other ridiculous claim, but about money. This is an excerpt of his statement to US Senators who accused him of corruption in 2005:

“Now, Senator, I gave my heart and soul to oppose the policy that you promoted. I gave my political life’s blood to try to stop the mass killing of Iraqis by the sanctions on Iraq which killed one million Iraqis, most of them children, most of them died before they even knew that they were Iraqis, but they died for no other reason other than that they were Iraqis with the misfortune to born at that time. I gave my heart and soul to stop you committing the disaster that you did commit in invading Iraq. And I told the world that your case for the war was a pack of lies 

I told the world that Iraq, contrary to your claims did not have weapons of mass destruction. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to al-Qaeda. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that Iraq had no connection to the atrocity on 9/11 2001. I told the world, contrary to your claims, that the Iraqi people would resist a British and American invasion of their country and that the fall of Baghdad would not be the beginning of the end, but merely the end of the beginning.”

Will the same happen to Iran? Are the children of Iran going to suffer? And is the world going to sit by quietly while this happens? What will you do?

National Pink Hijab Day

Sounds weird doesn’t it? I first found out about this event on Facebook when a friend invited me to attend “National Pink Hijab Day” – The title itself was so amusing that I was tempted to click on the link and find out more; and I’m glad I did.

Today’s event hopes to raise awareness about breast cancer; an illness that touches the lives of millions of women every year. In the UK, breast cancer is now the most common cancer, with over 44,000 female sufferers and around 300 males. The disease has increased by more than 50% over the last twenty years and predominantly targets women over 50 years.

Although fundraising for a US-based charity, this event not only hopes to raises awareness for breast cancer as part of the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, but the organisers of this specific event have gone one step further in the hope to also raise awareness about Islam and hijab. They have used it as an opportunity for daw’ah*, and see it as a way for Muslim women who wear hijab to be active in their communities.

What an original idea to raise awareness about the world’s fastest growing deadly illness and the world’s fastest growing religion -Genius. I wonder if us Brits could learn a trick or two!

You can visit the Foundation web site here: /www.komendonations.org and yes, I confess to having a worn a bright pink pashmina today! 🙂

* Dawah = Invitation to learn about Islam

Brown plan to extend terror limit

The article below is from the BBC news site. It identifies the main arguments very well on a highly controversial topic .

The last time the government tried to introduce extended detention without trial, MPs overwhelmingly rejected it. Not to show their solidarity to Muslims. But to protect hard fought for civil liberties. 

Whats most concerning is that there is no evidence that it would be useful. I have to admit, I didn’t realise policy making was a speculative affair. Appears I was wrong.

The question I would ask is how do Muslims protest this?…

Article…………………… 

Gordon Brown will push for an extension to the time terror suspects can be held without charge in a bill to be included in next month’s Queen’s Speech.

 But Downing Street is playing down reports he wants to double the current time limit to 56 days. The prime minister wants to head off a potential backbench rebellion by stressing new safeguards to protect civil liberties.

He has promised greater judicial and Parliamentary oversight of detention.

 The 28-day limit came into effect in July 2006 after rebel MPs defeated plans for 90-day detention.

The government has said that there have been no cases since then where a suspect has been released when a higher time limit would have led to a charge.

‘Not enough’

 But it argues that there may be cases in the future where more than 28 days will be needed for charges to be brought.

And it is hoping that by stressing new safeguards it will be able to quell any backbench rebellion on increasing the upper time limit.

 The government wants each seven-day period of detention beyond 28 days to be approved by the Director of Public Prosecution before being decided by a High Court judge.

The home secretary would also be required to make a statement to Parliament and there would be greater oversight by the government’s independent reviewer of terror laws.

In a speech on Thursday, Gordon Brown said: “In future 28 days may not be enough and we are also considering other proposals including post-charge questioning”.

He added: “There will be – and must be – greater protection for the individual, both greater legal or judicial safeguards on executive decisions and more intensive scrutiny of them by Parliament”.

‘No evidence’

Mr Brown did not mention 56 days in his speech but he has suggested in the past that the current 28-day limit could be doubled.

 Downing Street earlier distanced itself from newspaper reports Mr Brown would push for 56 days.

An aide told BBC News no decision had been made on an upper time limit.

The government has said it wants cross-party agreement on anti-terror laws.

But the Conservatives and Lib Dems both insist they will not back any extension of detention until the government can provide evidence it is needed.

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said: “We have always said that if there was evidence to support this we would look at it carefully.

 “So far, not only have we not had a shred of evidence to support this, but we have had an admission from the home secretary that there is not one new iota of evidence to support it and that any proposal to extend the term is because ‘they can imagine circumstances under which it would be necessary’.

“Gordon Brown has promised to ‘write the next chapter in British liberty’.

 “It would be a tragedy if this chapter proved to be an ill-thought through, politically motivated, curbing of the liberties that thousands, if not millions, of British citizens have died to defend

Climate change and Terrorism – The Keys to Utopia

Climate change is the new bogeyman, if you hadn’t heard that is. It’s hiding under your bed secreting global catastrophe as you sleep. It’s billowing above your head as you travel to work, swarming around you as you enjoy your lunch, sucking your future away before you get to enjoy it… 

Well let’s look at it from another angle. In fact, let’s look at the world from another angle. It is the year 2050, Al Gore is the new “religion”, his words treated as gospel, his actions and efforts have saved us from the global catastrophe which threatened our very existence, climate change has been eradicated, carbon emissions are now down to zero, and London is once again cold in winter…What a great future we will be preserving for our children, a future which at present amounts to the following:

  • 20% of the population in the developed nations consume 86% of the world’s goods.
  • Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day.
  • According to UNICEF, 30,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”  That is about 210,000 children each week, or just under 11 million children under five years of age, each year.
  • War and famine cover two thirds of the globe.

 From where I am standing, it doesn’t look like much of a future to preserve for my children. The western world, funding puppet regimes and corrupt despots manipulates global activity. We all know about the political situations across the middle east, Africa and asia, we know who the caused them. We know whose colonial theft and assimilation practices treated non-whites as second and third class citizens as enslaved whole nations. 

My first question is, why would we want to preserve this current state? I am not laying the blame at one nation, one religion or one state. Man is culpable, self interest has worked to exploit and manipulate millions to benefit the few. Who or what will change this situation? Centuries of warfare, colonization, civilization and politicisation have come and gone and in the twenty first century this is what we are left with.  

Maybe global warming is the key. Seismic shifts in the concept and reality of global humanity can only come about as a result of seismic shifts in humanity’s physical situation. A mass catastrophe and churning of the status quo may give those in the “developing world” (a guilt free term for oppressed/enslaved people) the chance to grab some global power, resources and might that have been denied them for so long… 

Back to basics though, if climate change isn’t the cure for humanities ails, then how are we going to combat it? After all, the highest polluters are the richest nations, those nations who are currently fighting the “war on terror” to keep us all safe from the now deposed bogeyman Osama.

The war on terror, perpetrated by our governments to save us from terrorism, the very same governments who in not acting quickly enough to bring shipping, air travel and heavy industry to heel in the crucial reductions of carbon emissions are saving our lives with one hand, and paradoxically killing us with the other.  Friends of the earth point out that the UK Government’s current carbon emissions targets do not take into account the effects of cumulative carbon emissions. They assert that if, as the government suggests, we were to stop all carbon emissions by 2050, we would still be in trouble as carbon emissions stay in the air for a hundred years, so the emissions from now until the year 2049 would be enough to sink us, both figuratively and literally, even if when we hit the year 2050 all carbon emissions suddenly stopped.So what can we do to drastically reduce these emissions?

The following suggestions is in no way advocating terrorism. The killing of innocents is diabolical in any circumstance. But, if, as we are led to believe by recent pronouncements in the UK, terrorist groups and incidents are our greatest threat, then is there a slightly perverse beneficial side effect to be had from this war on terror? Friends of the earth have highlighted that that the only time since the industrial revolution that the west has been able to significantly reduce carbon emissions has been in the aftermath of September the eleventh when all air travel was halted…

‘As soon as the fresh air touched my hair I began to cry’ …and your point is?

Browsing the Guardian web site earlier this week, I came across a picture of four hijabis*. I don’t know what it is about me, but as soon as I see a veil / headscarf / bearded bro / muslimah / anything related to Islam / Muslims – I can’t help but click on the link. Often, I am faced with another damning article about how unjust Islam is as a religion; but this article wasn’t so much damning, as it was pointless. The article, written by one Fadia Faqir was about a feud that took place between her and her father twenty-three years ago. The clash was as a result of her refusal to wear the veil.

Is it me or has the media become obsessed with telling a tale about how much young Muslim women suffer because of the veil? Every community has their troubles, but by concentrating on this issue yet again the media blinds itself with a fallacy that somehow Islam condones the forcing of the veil – it does not. While I recognise that there is a problem in the Muslim community surrounding the veil (wear it / don’t wear it), I don’t think this article had any purpose behind it whatsoever. There are instances where Muslims are unable to practice their religion as they see fit, because it is socially unacceptable, but then no one really focuses on that story – because in the end, dirt sells. And what could be more interesting than getting your hands muddy in the apparent grim, dark waters of Islam? The issue of being forced to do anything should be tackled by acknowledging the root cause of that problem – and in this case, what Fadiq experienced was a cultural problem and not a religious one. Forgive my whiny approach to this, but I could not see the purpose of this article.

Fadiq Faqir seems to have told the wrong story – I was more intrigued by the fact that she got divorced at the age of 28 and lost access to her son. I mean surely there is a lesson in that for every woman? By telling the story of yet another “free” ex-hijabi Fadia Faqir has limited her article to an audience concerned with (or not) veiling women. She has done nothing for the plight of Muslim women who are actually struggling against an injustice or for those women who are a champion of their own success (irrespective of religion). It is a shame to have read such a pointless and insignificant story this week, and that too in the Guardian.

Hijab = From the root word “hajaba” meaning partition or screening. It is often referred to as the headscarf commonly worn by Muslim women.

Return of the Muslim other

An interesting articles in this mornings Guardian – opinions section. I have to admit, I wasn’t aware these rallies were about to take place. The debate is interesting enough though, and definitely affects us and worth getting involved in…

Return of the Muslim other

The far right is reviving the prejudices that used to dominate mainstream European politics

Soumaya Ghannoushi

Wednesday October 24, 2007

The Guardian 

In a few days time a cluster of far-right groups under the name the Stop the Islamisation of Europe alliance will hold rallies in London, Copenhagen and Marseilles to demand an end to what they call “the overt and covert expansion of Islam in Europe“. Although the events are likely to attract no more than a handful of protesters, their message resonates widely. On Saturday the rightwing People’s party, notorious for its virulent hostility to ethnic minorities and Muslims, emerged as the victor in the Swiss elections, taking 29% of the vote, the best electoral performance by a party in the country’s elections since 1919.

The far right is on the ascendancy in many parts of Europe. Beyond its explicit party political expressions, this assumes a more worrying form. What had been traditionally confined to the margins of dominant political discourse is progressively penetrating its mainstream, with parties of the centre absorbing much of the far right’s populist rhetoric. This underlies the complaint by Jean-Marie le Pen, leader of the racist National Front, that Nicolas Sarkozy had “stolen his clothes”. Across the Channel, the Tory candidate for the London mayoralty, Boris Johnson, believes that “to any non-Muslim reader of the Koran, Islamophobia – fear of Islam – seems a natural reaction”.

We are witnessing a reversion to the type of cultural essentialism that dominated political and academic discourse until the mid-1900s. Its central theme, the purity and superiority of European culture, was dealt a powerful blow by the tradition of post-colonial studies and radical critique of Orientalism. The trend brought together progressive, leftist voices from Europe and the US with others from the south amid the dismantling of modern-day empires and the rise of developing world liberation movements.

The same discourse is reconstructing its terms today by substituting the classical east-west bipolarity at its core with one of “Islam” and “west”. The west’s rationality, tolerance, individualism and freedom are now contrasted with Islam’s superstition, fanaticism, fatalism and repressiveness. In the history books, this trend has manifested itself in the resurrection of the myth of the benevolent empire, championed by figures such as Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts.

September 11, the emergence of violent radical Islamic groups, and the war on terror have created fertile ground for the revival of this tradition. Its spirit permeates much of the language current in the political sphere and many sectors of the media. What had once been cause for disrepute now goes unquestioned and barely remarked upon. The vocabulary is various, from immigration, integration and citizenship to terrorism, radicalism, Islamism and an endless chain of -isms. But the referent is consistent: Islam and Muslims. It is a game of insinuations, of codes, in which meaning is readily conveyable without need for explicitness or directness.

Beyond all the noise about Europe‘s “Muslim problem” lurks a growing unease about the changing texture of European society. Gone are the days of pure white, Christian Europe. Now Europe is multi-ethnic, multireligious and multicultural, a fact which many find hard to swallow. Muslims are part of this evolving reality, but the idea that the continent is being Islamised is a figment of the right’s imagination.

In a European population of some 540 million, Muslims number between 20 million and 25 million, or about 4%. The majority are underprivileged, and socially, economically and politically marginalised. Whatever the scaremongers say, Muslim armies are not at Europe‘s gate preparing to conquer.

Obsession with the question of Britishness in the UK and with les valeurs de la République in France reflects a state of anxiety about identity. The collapse of empire, globalisation and flow of immigrants from the old colonies brought new peoples into Europe‘s bosom. The Muslim other – the Saracen or Turk, in opposition to whom Europe defined its imaginary geographic and cultural borders – is now located within its frontiers, a sort of internal outsider. From the periphery of the empire in distant overseas colonies in Lahore or Algiers, it has moved to the periphery of capitals and industrial cities in London or Paris. The borders of identity and culture are overlapping, making it impossible to draw rigid boundaries between east and west, Europe and Islam, white and black.

At the heart of Europe‘s “Muslim problem” is an impotence and perhaps unwillingness to extend the norm of tolerance to newcomers from the Muslim world. Tolerance is not an abstract concept but the child of a specific historical context. In Europe it was the product of the religious wars, which ended in France, for instance, with the Edict of Nantes in 1598. Following the horrors of the Holocaust, the norm was widened to include Jews. And with the civil rights movement in the US, this was further extended to black people and other ethnic minorities – legally and theoretically, though not in practice. There is still resistance to the norm’s broadening to encompass Muslims, something evident in the controversy over the building of mosques in northern Europe, as well as in the “veil problem” in France, Germany and other countries.

Some quasi-liberals continuously ask how we can be tolerant with people who preach intolerance – by whom they mean, of course, Muslims. A better question could be: to what extent are those who profess tolerance really tolerant?

· Soumaya Ghannoushi is director of research at IslamExpo
soumaya@islamexpo.com

Live8 – Mullah style!

Last night I found myself at Wembley arena again. The last time I was here was to listen to a Shakira concert. Back then, I found myself surrounded by a plethora of people out to enjoy what promised, and indeed turned out to be, a mesmerising performance. All around, people were jumping, screaming and shouting like only Latins can, which the gifted minority successfully able to emulate the movement of Shakira’s “un-lying hips”.

8 months later, and there I am again, almost in the same seat, with the same person next to me. Only this time, provocatively dressed Latin ladies are replaced by modestly dressed Muslim sisters, and the macho latino’s are replaced by Molvi’s and other bearded brothers. The screams from last time persist, only this time it’s the youngsters they have brought with them. All around me, children, as young as 5, are screaming at the top of their voices. “Sami! Sami! Sami!”.

What everyone was hear for was the much awaited, and equally well publicised Muslim Live8 – a concert for peace in Darfur. And there I was, offering my small hands and the little change I had in my pockets as support towards a cause I have felt particularly strongly about for several years now.  

So whats happening in Darfur? Put simply, its not too dissimilar to Iraq. Only the Muslim on Muslim fighting can’t even be blamed on divides within Islam like the Sunni/Shia divide. The conflict in Darfur is very much political, not religious, and is between the janjaweed, supposedly supported by the Sudanese government, and coming from the Arab Baggara tribes, and a variety of non-Baggara rebel groups. The conflict has been ongoing since 2003, and has left the Darfur region in Sudan as one of, if not the most acute humanitarian crises today.  

So there you had it. All in one place. A fantastic line up, including, as supporting acts, no less than the Danish outfit, Outlandish, the even more impressive Muslim country and folk singer from the US (yes, he is the only one!), Kareem Salama. Add to this an energised crowd, contributions from 2 Muslim ministers from the current government, and messages from mssrs Brown and Cameron themselves, as well as the headline act, Sami Yusuf (who I admit I hadn’t actually heard of until this point) and you had a great evening in the making. And true to its word, the evening did not disappoint. 

Several things struck me through the course of the evening though. The first is the obvious, which still deserves to be said. A sell out crowd of 12,000 mostly bearded men, and veiled women, making a statement; “WE ARE NOT EXTREMISTS…… WE DON’T SANCTION VIOLENCE…… WE DON’T CARRY BOMBS……… WE ARE BRITISH AND PROUD OF IT”. Interpret it as you will, but for me the statement was clear. We are Muslim, but we are not so different to everyone else in Britain.  

Even more encouraging was learning of the backgrounds of some of the headlining acts. Outlandish are one Pakistani, a Moroccan and a Cuban. Kaleem Salama grew up in Oklahoma listening to country music artists at the county fair and watching his favorite cowboys at the rodeo every year. And Sami Yusuf, the headlining act, himself studied at the Royal Academy of Music in London.  

The statements coming from all of these clear. Being Muslim does not stop one integrating from western society. Even more, that each one of these 12,000 Muslims were standing up to say the same thing, and that they had something huge in common with the rest of western society – support for peace in Darfur. What a shame there weren’t more non-Muslims in the crowd to see a truer face of Islam that is generally portrayed in the media!  

What else struck me? Again, contrasting back to the last time I was in the same seats, I was surrounded by hoards of happy people, more than a few who had been drinking, and a minority who had been drinking heavily. Now for someone who stands at the (not so) impressive height of 5’7’’, and has an ability to fight or defend himself equivalent to one of the teletubbies, not being surrounded by the few yobs, who having drunk too much, end up looking for fights, was great just in itself.  

Earlier this year, the London School of Economics Students Union became the first university in the UK to organise a freshers week event that was truly inclusive to Muslims i.e., Alcohol free. I say bring on more music concerts where Muslim needs are catered for! Why don’t we have alcohol free sections during mainstream pop concerts? Its as much good commercial sense as it is having an inclusive society.  

The final thing to strike me. The whole concept of this concert was initiated by a group of students! For people like me, who claim to be Young British Muslims, the gauntlet was thrown down – If you get out there and try to do something constructive in the community, it can be done! 

The first Muslim Live8 concert turned out to be huge success for me, and combined with the money raised for Sudan, it was a huge success all round! My only wish is that the next time such an event takes place, it is attended by more non-Muslims. Now that would be real cultural integration!