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Terror in Manchester

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Pic Credit: PA

This is a cross-post from Sedaa

 

A terrorist attack in my own city is the last thing I expected to wake up to on Tuesday morning. There were several messages on my phone from concerned friends and acquaintances urging me to contact them as soon as I could. I wondered what had happened, until I went online to read the news.

At least 22 people were killed and 59 injured after a terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena on the evening of Monday, May 22. Thousands of gig-goers were packed into the city centre venue to see American singer Ariana Grande when the explosion shook the arena.

Photos and videos were uploaded showing innocent young people fleeing the scene — scared, worried and confused. Some had been separated from their friends and parents. Some, unfortunately, did not make it out alive.

The youngest victim is thought to be eight-year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos. The others confirmed dead are Georgina Bethany Callander and John Atksinson. One can’t imagine what their friends and families must be feeling at this difficult time.

Salman Ramadan Abedi, a 22-year-old Mancunian of Libyan descent, was confirmed as the man responsible for this atrocity, which has claimed the lives of many children. He died at the scene. I doubt there will be many people shedding tears over him. A 23-year-old has also been arrested in Manchester in connection with the attack.

“Evil losers” is how Donald Trump described the attackers behind the attack. And, surprisingly, I agree with the US President. Describing Abedi as a monster would be glamourising him; an evil loser seems much more suitable. I expect more information will come out about him soon; it is highly unlikely it was a ‘lone wolf’ attack, for these people are usually part of a wider network.

 

Victims and missing people from Manchester Arena attack

 

It was heartwarming to see Mancunians rallying round and offering their rooms to stranded people, bars/restaurants doling out hot drinks for the emergency services and taxi drivers taking children home for free. This is why I am proud to call Manchester my home; this is why I love this city so much. No matter what atrocity strikes, we often forget that people are, by and large, compassionate and will help others in their times of need. Thank you to everyone who messaged me to ask if I was safe.

While calls for unity and calm are appreciated, we should stop saying that this is the “new normal”.  If normal means regular terrorist attacks against innocent people, then we must not “go back to normal”.  As nice as they are, candlelight vigils and “Pray for….” messages are not going to solve the problem of extremism.

In due course, I expect the usual suspects will condemn the attack while simultaneously blaming western foreign policy and victim blaming. The attack was driven by a brutal ideology that abhors any enjoyment of life. For that is what these young people were doing — they were enjoying a music concert, living life to the full. Their pleasure had nothing to with global wars.

As Pakistani journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid said previously:

“Modern-day jihadism breeds on two ideas, neither of whom is vocally refuted by us Muslims. First, that West is to blame for Muslim world’s volatility. Second, that Islam is a superlative doctrine, and ideologically self-sufficient to govern the world.”

Some people are more interested in scoring points or being so politically correct that we hear the same debate and the same outdated views being espoused by the usual suspects on both sides. Some on the right will not differentiate between ordinary Muslims and terrorists, choosing to attack mosques or women in hijabs as retaliation, while those on the left and even within Muslim communities will deny any role that ideology or religion has in such attacks.

There will be another terrorist attack, perhaps in a different city, prompting the same debate. Have we not had enough? It is one thing to read about attacks in far-away places but when it is in your own city it is different. It is much closer to home. I, for one, have had enough.

 

 

* In the meantime, police have urged those who are concerned about loved ones who were in the area to call the National Casualty Bureau on 0800 096 0095.  Anyone who was in the city centre between 8pm and 11pm on Monday night and has dashcam footage is being urged to submit it to the National Police Chiefs’ Council image appeal site.

Dreams of romance and redemption lure young women to jihad

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Originally published for The Sunday Times on 22/11/15
As you can imagine, there was a lot I had to say on this subject. There are certain parts of this article that I felt needed elaboration, so I have inserted an asterisk at the end of the relevant sentence and expanded below the main article.

 

IT seems baffling: why would any young woman from a free and liberal society choose the barbaric death cult that is Isis? Yet some women in Britain are actively recruiting for a group that orders women to cover themselves from head to toe and takes non-Muslim women as sexual slaves. To call these women “brainwashed” absolves them of any responsibility for their actions.

Some have suggested these women have vulnerabilities that are being exploited. Forgive them, for they know not what they do. Or do they?

There is no single pathway to becoming an extremist or terrorist, and women are just as susceptible to this toxic Islamist ideology as their male counterparts.

Some Muslim women are marginalised and disenfranchised. But my parents’ and grandparents’ generation were racially abused quite publicly and had fewer opportunities than we do today. Why did they not blow themselves up on buses or trains?

If anything, women face more pressure and oppression within their own families and communities than from the state.

For some there is the chance to be fighters and slay infidels themselves. A study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue found evidence that these women “revel in the gore and brutality of the organisation”.

For other young women – and some are very young – there is a jihadist Mills & Boon element to it, as a friend of mine put it.

Kalsoom Bashir, co-director of the anti-extremist group Inspire and a former Prevent officer in Bristol, told me that after Yusra Hussein fled Bristol to join Isis in Syria last year, a teacher claimed some schoolgirls were more excited by Yusra’s marriage to a jihadist fighter than anything else.

“They seemed to think it was exciting and romantic,” Bashir explained. “One teacher told me that she was concerned some girls might think going to Syria was a form of redemption. A few had come out of relationships with boys who had used them badly. They felt dirty and that they had been bad Muslims, as sex outside marriage is considered a sin.”

This is not a surprise. From a young age Muslims are taught that too much interaction with the opposite sex is haram (impermissible). In many of the Islamic societies in British universities, the “brothers” and “sisters” are kept apart. No wonder these young women are tantalised by the prospect of marrying a young, attractive fighter.

Much has been said about Hasna Ait Boulahcen, the “party girl” suicide bomber who blew herself up in Paris last week*. She had a sad childhood, we are told. She never really practised her religion and had boyfriends, her friends and neighbours said.

Yet this is typical behaviour from terrorists. Women such as Aitboulahcen believe they will get their rewards in the hereafter.**

Condemnation alone is not enough when this poisonous ideology is not being tackled and it is ideology that is the root cause.

People from my generation have been taught to divorce Islam from culture; told that our south Asian heritage was oppressing us whereas Islam would liberate us and deliver all our God-given rights.***

This alone does not create terrorists but it certainly contributes to a victim narrative that prevents Muslims from tackling this ideology and instead blames western foreign policy for the creation of Isis.

There is widespread distrust of the government’s Prevent strategy, with university student unions actively pledging to work against it.

Speakers with extremist views are regularly invited to universities to whip up hysteria and spread false information. This must stop or we will continue to see more women, and men, going to Syria.

 

* Of course it has now emerged that she was not a suicide bomber at all.

**By this I mean that many Muslims – and those of other religions – are nominal Muslims. It is rare that you will find a Muslim who will practise everything that is expected of him and him and her, for example praying five times a day, because we’re all hypocrites. Therefore it is no surprise that jihadis have dabbled in drugs and alcohol or committed various “sins” before “repenting” in the hope that they will be forgiven in the afterlife. If anything this demonstrates the powerful role that ideology plays in recruiting would-be jihadis or so-called jihadi brides.

***This may require a separate article/blog but I shall explain as briefly as I can here. What I mean by this is what we are constantly told to avoid mixing culture and religion. Culture, we are told, is what has oppressed us. People ‘confuse’ culture for Islam, therefore we need to follow ‘true’ Islam.  This led to some good things – inter-race marriages being one – but this meant that it is difficult for young people to identify with their parents’ culture, or Britain, and Islam is put before everything – that being a very austere, black and white form of Islam that leaves no space for colour. When you consistently hear that Islam will liberate us, that the Caliphate is what we need, it is no wonder we have ISIS.

 

Written by Iram Ramzan

November 24, 2015 at 9:21 pm

The hypocrisy of Maajid Nawaz’s critics is hard to swallow

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Originally published for Left Foot Forward on April 13, 2015

Can you be a feminist and visit a strip club?

That is the question some people are asking after footage obtained by the Daily Mail showed Maajid Nawaz, the Lib Dem candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn and co-founder of the Quilliam Foundation, on camera allegedly harassing a dancer in a strip club.

The Mail has described Maajid as a married father-of-one, but it is worth pointing out that he was not married at the time. His child is from a previous marriage. He got married in October and the ‘stag do’ took place in July. His wife, Rachel Maggart, took to Twitter to defend her husband and said she was fully aware of his actions.

Yesterday Maajid took to Twitter again to blast the ‘hatchet job’ against him.

It would seem as if a Muslim can own and manage a strip club, just cannot visit one. The club owner Abdul Malik said he wanted the video to be seen by the public because of the way Nawaz portrays himself as a feminist and a family man:

“He’s always talking about religion on TV and I thought, what a hypocrite,” he said.

Mr Malik claimed ‘arrogant’ Nawaz acted like a ‘spokesman for Islam’ but visited the club during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Thank goodness we had Mr Malik defending the honour of Islam and the dancers in his club. So concerned was he that he waited nine months before speaking out. The timing of this story is very suspicious. Why wait until now to release the video footage unless the intention was to damage Maajid’s political campaign?

Maajid has openly said he is a ‘non devout Muslim‘ and he has said on several occasions that there are no spokespeople for Muslims. But he does still identify as a Muslim. As a friend of mine told me upon hearing of the scandal:

“You can never escape the Islam police. Like being caught with a Marlboro light as a teenager by a friend of your third cousin’s neighbour. And suddenly it’s all around the community that you are a chain smoking junkie. Its that – amplified.”

Whatever you think about strip clubs, it was very stupid of Maajid to have gone to one, and in East London of all places. He is fighting an election; he should have known better and he has handed a gift to his enemies on a plate.

His spokesperson said he denied touching the dancer ‘inappropriately’ and added that his reputation for advocating women’s rights was ‘in the context of Islamic extremism’. What does that mean? This needs clarifying.

The frustrating part of the strip club controversy is the hypocrisy. Maajid’s enemies are suddenly declaring ‘concern’ for the vulnerable women in the sex industry and discussing issues of consent.

Yet some of these are the same people who, for example, would not challenge the Muslim scholars who refuse to condemn domestic violence or female genital mutilation. The same people who were happy to blame Western culture for the groomers who sexually abused and exploited children. Any woman who does not conform to their standard of Islamic modesty are treated with contempt.

Take Dilly Hussain, deputy editor of 5 Pillars, who has been enjoying the drama unfold. He was exposed last year for comments towards a blogger of Muslim origin whose timeline he stalked, then copied and pasted pictures of her (which had been edited) with the words ‘pisshead, drunken liberal garbage’. He also apparently views Ahmadi Muslims as lower than monkeys.

Opinion is divided over this story. Some deem it not to be newsworthy because visiting a strip club is what most men do – what’s the big deal? – and others, including Tory Nadine Dorries, have called for Maajid to resign.

I’ll be honest – Maajid’s behaviour has really disappointed me; I expected better from him. Perhaps that is my own issue, because I place too much faith in people and will inevitably be let down when they fail to live up to my (impossibly high?) standards.

At the end of the day, though, it is up to the public to make up their own minds over this story. Those who support Maajid can only hope that the accusations of harassment are revealed to be tabloid sensationalism. I doubt this will make much difference to his chances in Hampstead and Kilburn, as the odds of him winning that seat were slim anyway.

But has it damaged his reputation in the long run? Maajid’s work is indispensable; it would be a shame if this were to distract us from the good work he has done.

Written by Iram Ramzan

April 20, 2015 at 10:10 pm

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