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Archive for October 2014

Afghanistan according to Yvonne Ridley

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Yvonne Ridley

(Yvonne Ridley. Photograph: Free Gaza Movement in 2005)

On Monday, the last British soldiers were airlifted out of Camp Bastion,  a day after the end of Britain’s war in Afghanistan.

This prompted many debates and discussions around the tumultuous thirteen years that have claimed the lives of many soldiers and civilians, British and Afghans alike.

But according to Muslim convert and Respect party activist Yvonne Ridley, the war in Afghanistan was a total failure. On Twitter, she said: “So Taliban undefeated, no career women emerging from rubble & only success story is the rapid growth of opium in Afghanistan.”

While the situation in Afghanistan is far from ideal, there are some good things to have emerged since the western intervention, one of them being the the education of women, which I pointed out to her (see below).

Ridley denied this, saying that there were girls in school when she was in Afghanistan. She said: “I was there with the BBC in February 2002 recording a [BBC] R4 show”. There may well have been girls in schools in 2002, but Ridley failed to acknowledge that her visit was several months after NATO’s intervention in Afghanistan and the overthrow of the Taliban. Not once during our exchange did she refute the statistics pointed out to her as published in Monday’s edition of The Times.

Afghanistan Fact box in The Times on Monday October 27

Afghanistan Fact box in The Times on Monday October 27

Ridley then boldly claimed: “Girls were educated under the Taliban and I know people who ran girls schools during that period.” Either Ridley is naive or blatantly spreading untruths. It is a well known fact that the Taliban banned women’s education. Women seeking an education were forced to attend underground schools, where they and their teachers risked execution if caught. If you continue to read the Twitter exchange, Ridley posted this link to prove her point, but the article states, “under the Taliban regime, girls were not allowed to have education at all levels” which contradicts what she said earlier!

Ridley was correct when she pointed out that women were attending universities in 2002 – but that was after western troops went in to Afghanistan. Yet the Taliban and their supporters were determined to sabotage education for women. So if there is a reason why things are not perfect in Afghanistan, at least in regards to women’s education, is is certainly not the fault of the west. It is the  fault of the insurgents who are determined to keep females in what they deem is their rightful place – illiterate and under the subordination of men.

Why would Ridley try to downplay the barbarity of the Taliban? Perhaps she feels a sense of gratitude towards them for freeing her, after they captured her in September 2001.

I can’t say her views surprise me. The company that she keeps is highly dubious. She is a patron of former Guantano Bay detainee Muazzam Begg’s CAGE, an organisation that has shared a platform with well known Islamist speakers such as Adnan Rashid from the Islamic Education and Research Academy (a charity being investigated by the official watchdog), Anas al Tikriti, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood in Britain, and Female Genital Mutilation advocate and anti Semite Haitham al Haddad. Great company.

I am not suggesting that life for women (and even men) is ideal in Afghanistan, far from it. According to Government figures from 2013, only 26 per cent of Afghanistan’s population is literate, and among women the rate is only 12 per cent – a dismal figure. But it is a damn sight better than it was under Taliban rule, where girls were officially banned from having an education. Perhaps Ridley needs to remember that, unless she seriously believes the Taliban weren’t so bad after all?


Written by Iram Ramzan

October 27, 2014 at 9:08 pm

The Sun’s ‘Unite against Isis’ campaign divides opinions

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When I previously wrote a blog post about The Sun newspaper’s front page it was because it was tasteless and extremely provocative.

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The tabloid has gone for another striking front page today and it has created dialogue, but for different reasons. The headline says “UNITED AGAINST IS”, with a large photo of a Muslim woman wearing a headscarf in the colours of the Union Jack.

“The Sun urges Brits of all faiths to stand up to extremists,” the paper says. Gone were the bare breasts on page three (sorry India from Reading), and instead there was a Union Jack that was meant to be cut out, with which snap-happy Sun readers could take a selfie and post on to social media.

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Some Muslims and even non Muslims came out and condemned it, saying that it was absurd to ask British Muslims to apologise for the actions of the Islamic State. What are the odds that those people have even looked past the front page, opened up the paper and read the leading editorial and articles inside? The paper does not ask Muslim specifically to apologise for IS. It does not even ask them specifically to condemn or stand against IS. It asks all people to take this stance, although I was slightly disappointed that they had not appealed to those who do not subscribe to a particular religion – I am certain that they are united against IS, are they not?

One you get past the front page you will see that there are comments from Home Secretary Teresa May, Sun columnist Louise Mensch,  Labour leader Ed Miliband, Prime Minister David Cameron – those well known Muslims! I would have liked more comments from Muslims but if that had been the case then there would have been even more complaints that only Muslims were being asked to condemn IS. People will moan either way.

Others were slightly miffed that the paper had chosen a hijab to represent all Muslims. I don’t think anyone would suggest that all Muslim women do wear a hijab. But let us not forget. It is a front page, which means it has to convey the message in one photo or headline and unfortunately, whether we like it or not, the hijab is a symbol of Islam. When one thinks of Islam or Muslims, the hijab is one of the first things that comes to mind. A front page has to get the message across in one go which is why the story has to be more nuanced. Perhaps a better idea might have been to show people of all faiths and none together to convey the idea of unity. But that image would not have had as much of an impact as this one does.

Oh and IT’S THE SUN! What do you expect?

“But why The Sun?”, you may ask. Like it or not, it is Britain’s most-read newspaper by a long stretch. What better way to publicise a cause than to include it in the country’s number one newspaper?

Besides, some people are probably not aware that this is not The Sun’s campaign (though they have now hijacked it), but one started by Inspire, a counter-extremism organisation which, by the way, was created by a Muslim woman.

It was Inspire who launched the #MakingaStand campaign to ” reject the barbarism of the so-called Islamic State, to reject extremists and radicalisers including Boko Haram and Al Shabaab, who prey on our children and those who groom them for terrorism.”

Sara Khan, the director, wrote the leading piece on page 2 urging more and more people, Muslims and non Muslims alike, to make a stand and unite in the face of this barbarity.

Yes, I understand that the entire British Muslim population should not be blamed for what IS is doing but let us not forget that hundreds of Muslims from this country have gone abroad to join IS and commit all kinds of atrocities. They are a British problem – we helped create them. The aim of the front page was to get people to sit up and take notice, which it has done.


Written by Iram Ramzan

October 8, 2014 at 6:56 pm

Posted in islam, Press

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