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Posts Tagged ‘ISIS

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

Terror across three continents

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If you’re anything like me, you were expecting to have the Friday feeling as soon as you left work. The anticipation of the weekend was unfortunately blighted by the horrific news that terrorists attacked sites in France, Tunisia and Kuwait.

In Tunisia, a gunman opened fire at a beach resort, killing at least 37 people before security forces shot him to death. In France, an attacker stormed the a chemical plant near Lyon, decapitated one person and tried unsuccessfully to blow up the factory. The suspect was identified as Yassine Salhi.

And finally, in Kuwait City, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in one of the largest Shiite mosques, killing nearly 30 people. The suicide bomber was identified as Khalid Thamer Jaber Al-Shamri, a Saudi citizen born in Kuwait.

My heart goes out to all those people who have lost a loved one in these barbaric attacks.

After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January, many commentators predicted that it would not be long before we would see another terrorist attack in Europe.

The Institute for the Study of War predicted earlier this year that IS would launch global offensives a year after declaring a caliphate. Unfortunately, they have all been proven correct.

Progress at last

SCOTUS APRIL 2015 LGBTQ 54663

While some people are determined to keep us in the Middle Ages, others are keen for us to progress. Well done to the US Supreme Court for ruling same-sex legal nationwide.

In a landmark decision, the court ruled, 5-4, that the Constitution requires same-sex couples be allowed to marry in all 50 states.

On a day where there were three separate terrorist attacks, this was the light at the end of the tunnel.

Children should not be fasting

Barclay Primary School in Leyton, east London, issued a letter to parents informing them that it would not allow children to fast in order to ‘safeguard the health and education of the child’. In the letter, the headteacher said children would not be able to fast without meeting with him first.

Some Muslim groups were in an uproar, and said schools should support parents instead of ‘blanket enforce’ their own rules when it comes to religion.

I am with the school on this. They are put in a position where they are responsible for the child’s welfare and all heath and safety matters.

Children should not be fasting. True, only healthy adults are required to fast during Ramadan. And I appreciate that  the school felt it had to consult with Islamic scholars in order to win round some Muslim parents. But at the same time, it is not within the remit of a secular school to decide what is or is not Islamic, and I fear this will be heading into dangerous territories.

On the BBC Asian Network (15 minutes in) the father of one 11-year-old was happy that his son was fasting because it’s “a challenge”. I’m not sure about you, but ‘challenge’ is not quite the word I would use to describe a child being deprived of food and water for 19 hours.

The children being interviewed said fasting is difficult, with one feeling guilty because he was unable to for half the month. This comes down to parenting. One teacher, a Mr Ishmael, said the children feel pressured by the parents to fast. Parents should not be encouraging their children to fast. Even if they do not actively encourage them, they will not discourage them, citing ‘choice’ as a reason.

My mum forbade me from fasting when I was in primary school, after I came home one day insisting I had to fast because one friend of mine was doing so. But when I saw my friend being very sick the next day, I decided perhaps it wasn’t for me! Children, naturally, want to copy what adults do and this is no different in Ramadan. When one of my young cousins insisted he was going to fast, my aunty played along and said that of course he could fast – between breakfast and lunch! He was none the wiser and thought he was sharing in the Ramadan experience.

Tahir ul Qadri – an ideological salesman?

Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, of Minhaj-ul-Quran International, is a respected figure in the West. He gained widespread media attention when he issued a 600-page Fatwa on Terrorism, in which he said that “Terrorism is terrorism, violence is violence and it has no place in Islamic teaching and no justification can be provided for it”.

Earlier this week, MQI  announced the launch of the first Islamic ‘counter-terrorism curriculum’ (aka this has nothing to do with Islam), which was welcomed by both the counter-extremism think tank the Quilliam Foundation and Faith Matters.

There’s just one problem. As the ever eloquent Pakistani journalist Kunwar Khuldune Shahid pointed out in Left Foot Forward, Qadri proudly takes ownership of formulating Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which has been abused to intimidate and incite the murder of religious minorities through mob violence.

He goes on to write:

Qadri is renowned for saying whatever sells, whether it’s anti-government fascism through his politics and a bigoted version of Islam back home, or apologism in the garb of Islamic ‘moderation’ in the West.

With Islamist terrorism reverberating all over the world and over 700 British citizens having fled to fight along with ISIS, the need for reform among Muslims around the globe is evident.

However, ideological salesmen who change their ideas to suit the audience’s demands can never be reformists.

If the aim is to counter extremism, why invite the man responsible for one of the most abused laws in the world? Surely that is counter productive?

And if one is to argue that there is a ‘true’ version of Islam, what would stop the extremists from preaching that theirs is the authentic one?

Written by Iram Ramzan

June 26, 2015 at 7:33 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

Tagged with , , , , ,

A weekly round up: Fatwas, nude photos and sensationalist reporting

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Sensationalism in the British press

I was about to go to sleep when my Twitter timeline erupted with the news  about the brutal murder of 82-year-old Palmira Silva in her home in Edmonton, north London.  Nicholas Salvadore, whose identity was revealed later, has since been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Police were initially called out yesterday to investigate a man dressed in black, who neighbours said had decapitated a cat with a foot-long, machete-like blade, and who was running through rear gardens banging on doors and windows.

The Sun newspaper decided to go with a front page claiming “‘Muslim Convert’ beheads woman in garden”. Someone apparently told The Sun journalist that the alleged murderer had converted to Islam, though this cannot be verified.

This is sensationalist and shoddy reporting for several reasons. Firstly, detectives say they have ruled out terrorism as a motive. By putting ‘Muslim Convert in the headline and on the front page, alongside the letter to ISIS caliphate Baghdadi (see below) in the paper, The Sun is forcing its readers to link the stories together. Yes, beheadings have been in the news thanks to the barbaric actions of the so-called Islamic state, but if the police are not describing this as a terrorist crime then why is The Sun making readers think otherwise?

Secondly, as an arrest has been made, publishers and broadcasters have a duty to report news in a responsible way and in a manner in which will not create a real risk that the course of justice in proceedings may be seriously prejudiced. I work at a local newspaper so I know that I could not get away with writing that and nor would my editor publish it. However, The Sun can afford to be in contempt of court as it is a national paper, therefore they can choose to flout certain rules and guidelines.

Thirdly, the Press Complaints Commission code states that the “details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.” As we do not know what the motive of the suspect murderer was, it is irresponsible of The Sun to mention the man’s religion.

What we seem to have forgotten in all this is that an innocent elderly woman was murdered in such a horrific way. What must her family be going through? The Sun has demonstrated that it does not care about victims, rather it uses such victims to make a wider, political point to push its agenda.

I said as much on BBC Asian Network earlier today, which should be available to listen to on iPlayer soon.

 

Speaking out on abuse

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Nazir Afzal

What has happened in Rotherham for over a decade has shocked us all. The Times claimed (£) that details from 200 restricted-access documents showed how police and child protection agencies in the South Yorkshire town had extensive knowledge of the grooming of young girls  for a decade, yet a string of offences went unprosecuted. I hope journalist Andrew Norfolk wins some awards for his brilliant investigative work.

People have come out and said that “victims should speak out” and those who know must tell the police. Ann Cryer, former MP for Keighley, tried to do just that. She claims that West Yorkshire police did not want to do anything when she told them about the abuse of young girls in her town. She then went to “community leaders” who told her that it was nothing to do with them. We also read, in Rotherham, that victims‘ evidence would go “missing” and police would not take their claims seriously. So it’s no good telling people to speak out, because at the end of the day, many in positions of power neither listened nor took any action.

Louise Mensch suggested that with a Muslim – Nazir Afzal – as the chief prosecutor of the Crown Prosecution Service for the North West in England, children would remain unsafe, which is an inflammatory statement that prompted some to reply with anti-Muslim sentiments. Never mind the fact that he was responsible for securing successful prosecutions for Asian men who were part of a grooming gang in Rochdale. Some have suggested that he is in denial over the religions of the men involved, who were all of Muslim heritage. Perhaps Afzal – a devout Muslim – is correct that religion was not a factor, as drinking and prostituting girls is hardly one of the five pillars of Islam. It could be because, as a chief prosecutor for the CPS, he has to be more careful with what he says. Regardless, one can hardly accuse him of remaining silent on abuse.

In an article for the New York Times a year ago, Afzal knows just how hard it is for women to speak out against barbaric cultural practises, stating: “Women have been talking about these issues for a long time,” he said. “I’m not the first person to take up this fight in this country, I’m just the first man, and that makes it a lot easier. I come from these communities. I understand their patriarchal nature. I can challenge them. And because I am a man, the men in the community are more likely to listen to me.”

While Muslim reformers do attract a lot of negative attention from those within their own communities, it is worse for women, who often have to put up with misogynist remarks as well as accusations of blasphemy or heresy.

Afzal revealed a more personal side to himself. When bullied in school, his father told him to “get used to it”. He also stopped posting on Twitter because, he said, the abuse got to be too much. This does not surprise me. Many Muslims, including myself, have been heavily criticised and insulted when choosing to speak out. All I can say is that when you manage to piss off both the far right and the Islamists, you are doing something right. I hope that Afzal returns to Twitter although I understand he probably has better things to do than respond to those on there who simply want to hurl abuse at him.

I have heard some Muslims say that the whole of Catholicism is not to blame for child abuse by priests, so why do we expect Muslim to defend their faith whenever any perpetrators of a Muslim heritage commit crimes? Perhaps we do not blame the whole faith but we do examine whether the requirement of celibacy is a factor in the abuse of young boys by Catholic priests. Earlier this year, Pope Francis met victims of abuse and asked for forgiveness for the crimes, which shows that in order to solve a problem, one must first acknowledge it.

 

What the Fatwa

 

Letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

Letter to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi

 

Just over a week ago, a group of British imams and scholars issued a fatwa condemning Islamic extremist group ISIS. The fatwa represents the British Muslim community’s strongest denunciation of ISIS yet, calling the extremist group “heretical” and “an oppressive and tyrannical group.” It came after Britain’s terrorism threat was raised last week from “substantial” to “severe”. Clearly the government wants to be seen to be doing something though personally I think we should not give in to these terrorists by showing that we are afraid of them.

Fatwa

I can see both the upsides and downside of this fatwa. On the one hand, I am not keen on the use of the word ‘heresy’ as extremists themselves use it as a justification to kill those they deem as behaving in an “unIslamic” way. What exactly is ‘Islamic’ behaviour anyway? Furthermore, only those who follow those particular leaders are bound by the fatwa, meaning it is not applicable to everyone and can be ignored by many.

On the other hand, we have had many people in the media complaining about the lack of Muslim leaders coming out to denounce ISIS and the behaviour of its jihadis.  Fatwas serve those people who still seek the advice and ruling of their sheikhs and imams. Chairman of Quilliam Foundation Maajid Nawaz wrote in the Independent:

Understandably frustrated cynics could claim that this is far too little, too late. Such a stance fails to appreciate that this can only be the start, not the end. The Isis brand will only be weakened by a full-on assault from all angles.

If theological “get out clauses” are not provided for vulnerable young minds, if all vulnerable young minds hear is silence from every other Muslim Imam on the subject, this will look precariously like consent.

Similarly the above letter, featured in Friday’s Sun newspaper, speaks to self-styled ‘caliphate’ Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in his language and on his terms. Al-Baghdadi does not believe in secularism or western democracies, so what better response than from a group of practising and devout Muslims. My only criticism of the letter is that there are more than twice the number of men than women though that may have been down to not being able to get enough responses from people in such a short time.

Also in the news was the Muslim Council of Britain, who raised concerns about the prime minister’s anti-terrorism strategy. They claimed that the “crackdown” on British-born extremists will “push marginalised young people further towards radicalisation”. While I think the government’s strategy is only focused on those who have already become extreme – with not enough focus on counter extremism narratives – the MCB have to acknowledge that they cannot keep using this as an excuse. Some Muslims are being brainwashed and we need to address that, rather than using apologetic language. Some Muslims are already marginalised and no longer identify with Britain or British identify, hence why some chose to leave to fight in Syria and Iraq. At the end of the article is a quote from Saleem Kidwai, the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Wales, who said:

I would say to the government, you must talk to the Muslim Council of Britain because it is the largest organisation. You can talk to thinktanks but they are not the grassroots groups – the MCB has got the mandate from 500 organisations who represent Muslims from all walks of life. I know they would love to help rather than obstruct.

Gosh. I wonder to which thinktanks he is alluding…

 

The two faces of Asghar Bukhari

Sometimes people forget that what they post online is available for all to see. Recently, author Jeremy Duns decided to debate, or rather attempt to, with Asghar Bukhari, of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which describes itself as the UK’s “leading movement for empowering Muslims to focus on non-violent Jihad through political activism”.

Bukhari is regularly invited on to Sky News or the BBC. On air he is very calm and composed. But his Twitter account shows a darker side.

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As you can see irony is lost on Bukhari who calls other people “bullies” yet constantly insults and demeans those with whom he debates. Not only does he use rather colourful language, he is misogynist towards women with whom he disagrees and even believes it is a “fact” that European  Jews have no DNA linking them to Palestine. Perhaps media organisations should have a look at his Twitter account and his blog – where he likens Lee Rigby’s murderer Jeremiah Adebolajo to a “revolutionary” – before inviting him on air?

 

Don’t drink?

Retired judge Mary Jane Mowat was criticised by women’s campaigners after she said that the rape conviction rate would not improve until women stopped drinking so heavily.

Mowat, who stood down in August, said it was often difficult to secure a rape conviction as it was “one person’s word against another”.

She was not, she insisted, saying that drunk girls deserve to be raped, but that drunkenness has implications for juries attempting to establish the reliability of witness testimony.
What do you think – was she right?

 

Women’s bodies

Earlier this week,  several intimate photographs of celebrities were published online. Apple confirmed that some  iCloud accounts were hacked into. Copies of the images spread to other services, including Reddit, Imgur and Twitter, from which they were subsequently deleted by administrators.

Fleet Street Fox wrote a brilliant piece on this in the Mirror that sums up exactly how I feel on the issue.  It amazes me that we still live in a world where what a woman does with her breasts or vagina can make the news – note that no nude photos of men were posted.

Jane Moore, writing in The Sun, said that the best prevention is not to take such photos in the first place.  I take it that Ms Moore has absolutely nothing on her phones or computer that would make her feel embarrassed were it to be seen by the public?

Her paper also ran the headline “How bare they”, supposedly sympathising with the female victims. This is the same paper that published semi nude photographs of journalist Tasmin Khan, bought from her ex boyfriend. In a statement to Mail Online, Khan said the incident had left her devastated by someone whom she had trusted. A bigger betrayal is from The Sun who chose to publish photos they knew were not obtained with Khan’s permission and could have ruined her life. As an Asian woman, one can only imagine what her family’s reaction could have been if they had not supported her.

 

The Ahmadi Muslims – a question

In a Twitter debate, I asked a few people why it is that Ahmadis, despite being widely persecuted, seem to be the most progressive of most Muslims in the world. After all, they believe in the same Qur’an as all other Muslims, so what makes them so different?  My theory is, as they believe that the Messiah has already been – in the form of founder of the faith Mirza Ghulam Ahmad – this has marked the beginning of a new chapter and allowed them to progress and move forward. Other Muslim groups, however, are either doing nothing in the hopes of the arrival of a hoping for a messiah to solve their problems, or they are willing to do anything they can to can to prompt the arrival of the messiah. Certainly the latter is the view of the Evangelical Christians who  believe that the return of the Jews to Israel is a prerequisite for the Second Coming of Jesus.

As I said, this is just a theory, but I would be interested in your views.

 

Sayeeda Warsi, Iraq and the conflict in Gaza: A weekly round up

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“Morally Indefensible”

Baroness Sayeeda Warsi at a Hindu temple

 

There she was, the first Pakistani, Muslim woman to become the chairman of the Conservative party and also the first Muslim woman to sit on the front bench of a British party.

An outspoken woman, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi could certainly have been seen as an inspiration to many women who thought that their gender and skin colour were factors that would prevent them from becoming involved in politics or any other industry/sector so heavily dominated by white men.

I think it is so ironic that only now Lady Warsi has resigned that she has gained respect from Muslims in the UK – where were they all before? Too busy calling her a sell-out, I suppose. In 2009, she was pelted with eggs by a group of Muslims during a walkabout in Luton. The protesters accused her of not being a “proper Muslim” (what is one of those?) and of supporting the death of Muslims in Afghanistan. Warsi told the BBC that these men were “idiots who did not represent the majority of British Muslims”. Only now that she has resigned over Gaza has Warsi gained respect from her own people.

However, while I can appreciate the symbolism of it all, just what legacy has she left behind? She spoke out against the Asian grooming gangs, stating: “There is a small minority of Pakistani men who believe that white girls are fair game. And we have to be prepared to say that. You can only start solving a problem if you acknowledge it first.” When other commentators were in complete denial she spoke out and for that she must be applauded.

Douglas Murray said she could have done more for Gaza by remaining in her position, but in her resignation letter Lady Warsi hinted at the change in the government’s direction, which suggests that she felt as though she was not being taken seriously. Her party could have used her ideas and background to their advantage in order to to try to reach out to more voters. A former solicitor with her own law firm, there is no doubt that she is an intelligent woman and she was once named the most powerful Muslim woman in Britain.  I doubt that many in her party were very supportive of her –  an Asian woman will always find it more difficult to fit in a white man’s world.

Let us for one moment take her resignation at face value. Let us believe she resigned solely over the government’s “morally indefensible” stance on Israel. Yes, our government could, and should, be doing more to end the violence in that region and stop the killing on both sides. But do you know what I find “morally indefensible” Lady Warsi? I find it morally indefensible that only Palestinian lives seemed so important to you that you felt you had to resign. What was your position on the Syrians being either slaughtered or fleeing their country to live as refugees, not knowing when the conflict is going to end? What was your position on ISIS slaughtering thousands of people in Iraq? What was your position on the Ahmadis who were murdered in the Punjabi city of Lahore, the country from which your parents came to England?

My own view is rather cynical. She was never really popular with many Muslims, or other ethnic minorities, so resigning over Gaza could prove to be a huge PR boost for her. Nor was she very popular within her own party and instead of progressing in her political career, she seemed to be fading in the background. Her hint at Cameron’s leadership might be a revelation of her providing support to another prospective candidate who will listen to her concerns. She has since criticised her party for not attracting enough ethnic minority voters,  which is a bit rich coming from her seeing as she stood for as a candidate in the 2005 elections and lost. Whatever her reasons for resigning, I do not doubt that she will do well from this and it is certainly not the last we will hear from Lady Warsi.

 

Israel and Gaza

Pro-Palestinian march

If there’s anything that unites Muslims around the world it is the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine.

I vowed not to write about this issue, as it is very divisive and guaranteed to piss off one group of people or another. But I cannot remain silent. My analysis will not be on the conflict itself but rather the reporting of it and the reaction of some communities on this particular issue.

In my area, there was a protest outside a Tesco Express store, at which demonstrators were holding up signs calling for a boycott of Israeli goods and chanting “shame on Tesco”. I believe the protest was largely peaceful although some shoppers did claim to feel “intimidated”.

I believe an arms embargo should be imposed on Israel, as Conservative MP Andrew Mitchell said this week. But what will boycotting Israeli goods achieve – to me, that  is a form of collective punishment and we must not punish people for the actions of their governments or armies? Nick Cohen wrote a brilliant piece on London’s Tricycle Theatre banning the annual Jewish Film Festival this week because they received a small sum of money from the Israeli embassy. Do we boycott goods from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan or India? After all, their countries routinely violate the human rights of their citizens, yet we hold Israel to a different standard.

Reports have suggested that anti-Semitism has increased in the UK and in Europe. I don’t think this conflict has made more people anti-Semitic, but rather it brings out the anti-Semites, reaffirming their dislike and hatred of Jews. I rarely agree with Mehdi Hasan but he was spot on when he said that anti-Semitism is still a problem in Muslim communities. That is not to say that being pro-Palestinian equates to being anti-Semitic – to suggest that is untrue and outrageous. But it shames me to admit that it has certainly “passed the dinner table test” (thanks Baroness Warsi) in the conversations in some of the homes at which I have been present and even on a radio discussion earlier this week. And unfortunately, some of those people do use certain Qur’anic verses to justify their dislike or mistrust of the Jews, claiming that Muslims can never trust the Jews. I understand not all Muslims engage in these discussions, I am simply recalling what I have seen and heard – I do appreciate that many Muslims have nothing but respect for Jewish people.

We don’t like it when Muslims are expected to denounce the extremist behaviour of Muslims or distance ourselves from the barbaric Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, so why do we expect Jews to condemn the behaviour of the Israeli army and government, as though being Jewish=Israel.  And people constantly point out that many Jews are against the actions of the state of Israel, as though that should matter, as though the only “good” Jews are those who go on marches alongside pro Palestinian protesters, unlike those “bad Jews” who do support Israeli policies.

 

The ongoing crisis in Iraq

 

Kurdish fighters

US air strikes have successfully carried out four air strikes to defend those of the Yazidi faith from being indiscriminately attacked near Sinjar, in northern Iraq.

On Newsnight, Sindus Abbas of the Iraqi Turkmen High Representative welcomed the US air strikes in northern Iraq and said this should have happened “months ago”.

But who cares what the Iraqi people want when left-wing commentators here in the UK think we should not intervene. In a Twitter exchange with journalist David Aaronovitch, Owen Jones said that ISIS “will only be stopped when it is eradicated”. Not a vague statement at all. How exactly must ISIS be stopped? Simple – by “dealing with Sunni resentment” and, most importantly, NOT intervening militarily. Yes, there needs to be a long-term solution and there I will agree with Jones, but right now we can do something to help.

The Iraq war may have caused resentment within some Muslims around the world –  that is debatable – and I, too, was against the 2003 invasion, but sitting idly by while people are being slaughtered – the same people who are asking for our help – will surely cause more resentment.

It is easy to solely blame the West for the ills in the Middle East today. Yes, colonialism left a terrible legacy but for how long can we all continue to blame others? I think it is easy for people to blame the US or Britain because if they have no one else to blame they will have to accept the reality that the blame lies within themselves. And that is too uncomfortable for them to contemplate.

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