Monday, 28 February 2011
Friday, 25 February 2011
Thursday, 24 February 2011
Wednesday, 23 February 2011
Tuesday, 22 February 2011
Monday, 21 February 2011
Comment: Renta-Gob Taj Hargey (the imaginary imam) and his minions at it again. However TJ do need to step up their game, sitting on the sidelines and being apolitical will not save you from the attacks.
An Islamic group fighting to keep its east London mosque, near to the Olympics site, has been described by opponents as a "supremacist movement" that encourages isolationism from wider British society.
Tablighi Jamaat, a global proselytising movement with tens of thousands of members in the UK, is trying to overturn an enforcement notice on its mosque, called the Riverine Centre, after temporary planning permission expired in 2006.
A planning inquiry at Newham town hall will determine whether the group can continue to use the modest collection of buildings. On Thursday it heard that followers of Tablighi Jamaat were taught to "shun integration with all unbelievers in order to be uncontaminated Muslims and to isolate themselves from wider society".
According to evidence from Dr Taj Hargey, an imam who runs a progressive Islamic educational centre in Oxford, the "isolationist dynamic" of Tablighi Jamaat has caused the growth of a "separatist Muslim enclave" in the streets around its Dewsbury headquarters.
Hargey was called as a witness by Newham Concern, a local campaign group which has long opposed Tablighi Jamaat and its ambitions to expand its facilities. The group is behind plans to build a much larger facility at the site, dubbed a "megamosque" by the media, although it currently has no planning application in place.
Hargey told the inquiry that Tablighi Jamaat had "achieved very little for the community" and rejected the group's assertions that closing the mosque would lead to the marginalisation of Muslim youth.
He said: "Over the past 14 years that TJ has occupied the site it has furnished no proven track record of opening their facilities to the wider Muslim community, let alone non-Muslim community. In that time they have not even managed to create any facilities for women. The facility itself currently contributes substantially to marginalisation". He described it as a "supremacist movement with adverse implications for the government's community cohesion policies".
Newham Concern also called Tehmina Kazi, from the group British Muslims for Secular Democracy, as a witness.
Kazi, speaking in a personal capacity, said the government's national planning policy sought to promote "mixed and balanced communities" and that Tablighi Jamaat was "particularly inward-looking" because it only engaged with other Muslims. "The main issue is not that they are a socially conservative movement, but the fact they have been reluctant to engage in dialogue with people who are different."
Newham council has said it wants to shut the mosque down over concerns about traffic levels, land contamination and visual impact.
The inquiry continues.
Saturday, 19 February 2011
"Massacre – it's a massacre," the doctors were shouting. Three dead. Four dead. One man was carried past me on a stretcher in the emergency room, blood spurting on to the floor from a massive bullet wound in his thigh.
A few feet away, six nurses were fighting for the life of a pale-faced, bearded man with blood oozing out of his chest. "I have to take him to theatre now," a doctor screamed. "There is no time – he's dying!"
Others were closer to death. One poor youth – 18, 19 years old, perhaps – had a terrible head wound, a bullet hole in the leg and a bloody mess on his chest. The doctor beside him turned to me weeping, tears splashing on to his blood-stained gown. "He has a fragmented bullet in his brain and I can't get the bits out, and the bones on the left side of his head are completely smashed. His arteries are all broken. I just can't help him." Blood was cascading on to the floor. It was pitiful, outrageous, shameful. These were not armed men but mourners returning from a funeral, Shia Muslims of course, shot down by their own Bahraini army
A medical orderly was returning with thousands of other men and women from the funeral at Daih of one of the demonstrators killed at Pearl Square in the early hours of Thursday.
"We decided to walk to the hospital because we knew there was a demonstration. Some of us were carrying tree branches as a token of peace which we wanted to give to the soldiers near the square, and we were shouting 'peace, peace. There was no provocation – nothing against the government. Then suddenly the soldiers started shooting. One was firing a machine gun from the top of a personnel carrier. There were police but they just left as the soldiers shot at us. But you know, the people in Bahrain have changed. They didn't want to run away. They faced the bullets with their bodies."
The demonstration at the hospital had already drawn thousands of Shia protesters – including hundreds of doctors and nurses from all over Manama, still in their white gowns – to demand the resignation of the Bahraini Minister of Health, Faisal Mohamed al-Homor, for refusing to allow ambulances to fetch the dead and injured from Thursday morning's police attack on the Pearl Square demonstrators.
But their fury turned to near-hysteria when the first wounded were brought in yesterday. Up to 100 doctors crowded into the emergency rooms, shouting and cursing their King and their government as paramedics fought to push trolleys loaded with the latest victims through screaming crowds. One man had a thick wad of bandages stuffed into his chest but blood was already staining his torso, dripping off the trolley. "He has a live round in his chest – and now there is air and blood in his lungs," the nurse beside him told me. "I think he is going." Thus did the anger of Bahrain's army – and, I suppose, the anger of the al-Khalifa family, the King included – reach the Sulmaniya medical centre.
The staff felt that they too were victims. And they were right. Five ambulances sent to the street – yesterday's victims were shot down opposite a fire station close to Pearl Square – were stopped by the army. Moments later, the hospital discovered that all their mobile phones had been switched off. Inside the hospital was a doctor, Sadeq al-Aberi, who was himself badly hurt by the police when he went to help the wounded on Thursday morning.
Rumours burned like petrol in Bahrain yesterday and many medical staff were insisting that up to 60 corpses had been taken from Pearl Square on Thursday morning and that police were seen by crowds loading bodies into three refrigerated trucks. One man showed me a mobile phone snapshot in which the three trucks could be seen clearly, parked behind several army armoured personnel carriers. According to other demonstrators, the vehicles, which bore Saudi registration plates, were later seen on the highway to Saudi Arabia. It is easy to dismiss such ghoulish stories, but I found one man – another male nurse at the hospital who works under the umbrella of the United Nations – who told me that an American colleague, he gave his name as "Jarrod", had videotaped the bodies being put into the trucks but was then arrested by the police and had not been seen since.
Why has the royal family of Bahrain allowed its soldiers to open fire at peaceful demonstrators? To turn on Bahraini civilians with live fire within 24 hours of the earlier killings seems like an act of lunacy.
But the heavy hand of Saudi Arabia may not be far away. The Saudis are fearful that the demonstrations in Manama and the towns of Bahrain will light equally provocative fires in the east of their kingdom, where a substantial Shia minority lives around Dhahran and other towns close to the Kuwaiti border. Their desire to see the Shia of Bahrain crushed as quickly as possible was made very clear at Thursday's Gulf summit here, with all the sheikhs and princes agreeing that there would be no Egyptian-style revolution in a kingdom which has a Shia majority of perhaps 70 per cent and a small Sunni minority which includes the royal family.
Yet Egypt's revolution is on everyone's lips in Bahrain. Outside the hospital, they were shouting: "The people want to topple the minister," a slight variation of the chant of the Egyptians who got rid of Mubarak, "The people want to topple the government."
And many in the crowd said – as the Egyptians said – that they had lost their fear of the authorities, of the police and army.
The policemen and soldiers for whom they now express such disgust were all too evident on the streets of Manama yesterday, watching sullenly from midnight-blue armoured vehicles or perched on American-made tanks. There appeared to be no British weaponry in evidence – although these are early days and there was Russian-made armour alongside the M-60 tanks. In the past, small Shia uprisings were ruthlessly crushed in Bahrain with the help of a Jordanian torturer and a senior intelligence factotum who just happened to be a former British Special Branch officer.
And the stakes here are high. This is the first serious insurrection in the wealthy Gulf states – more dangerous to the Saudis than the Islamists who took over the centre of Mecca more than 30 years ago – and Bahrain's al-Khalifa family realise just how fraught the coming days will be for them. A source which has always proved reliable over many years told me that late on Wednesday night, a member of the al-Khalifa family – said to be the Crown Prince – held a series of telephone conversations with a prominent Shia cleric, the Wifaq Shia party leader, Ali Salman, who was camping in Pearl Square. The Prince apparently offered a series of reforms and government changes which he thought the cleric had approved. But the demonstrators stayed in the square. They demanded the dissolution of parliament. Then came the police.
In the early afternoon yesterday, around 3,000 people held a rally in support of the al-Khalifas and there was much waving of the national flag from the windows of cars. This may make the front pages of the Bahraini press today – but it won't end the Shia uprising. And last night's chaos at Manama's greatest hospital – the blood slopping off the wounded, the shouts for help from those on the stretchers, the doctors who had never before seen such gunshot wounds; one of them simply shook his head in disbelief when a woman went into a fit next to a man who was sheathed in blood – has only further embittered the Shia of this nation.
A doctor who gave his name as Hussein stopped me leaving the emergency room because he wanted to explain his anger. "The Israelis do this sort of thing to the Palestinians – but these are Arabs shooting at Arabs," he bellowed above the din of screams and shouts of fury. "This is the Bahraini government doing this to their own people. I was in Egypt two weeks ago, working at the Qasr el-Aini hospital – but things are much more fucked up here."
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) recited: "My servants who have transgressed against their souls (through sinning should) not despair of God's mercy, for God pardons all sins." (Quran, 39:53)
Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 745
The Prophet also quoted the devil as saying to God: "I shall continue to lead Thy servants astray as long as their spirits are in their bodies." God replied: "(And) I shall continue to pardon them as long as they ask My forgiveness."
Al-Tirmidhi, Hadith 742
Thursday, 17 February 2011
We recite to you with truth some news of Moses and Pharaoh for people who believe. Pharaoh exalted himself arrogantly in the land and divided its people into camps, oppressing one group of them by slaughtering their sons and letting their women live. He was one of the corrupters. (Qur'an, 28:3-4)
Pharaoh said, "Council, I do not know of any other god for you apart from Me…" (Qur'an, 28:38)
Pharaoh called to his people, saying, "My people, does the kingdom of Egypt not belong to me? Do not all these rivers flow under my control? Do you not then see?" (Qur'an, 43:51)
No one believed in Moses except for a few of his people out of fear that Pharaoh, and the elders, would persecute them. Pharaoh was high and mighty in the land. He was one of the profligate. (Qur'an, 10:83)
So We seized him and his troops and flung them into the sea. See the final fate of the wrongdoers! We made them leaders, summoning to the Fire, and on the Day of Rising they will not be helped. We pursued them with a curse in this world and on the Day of Rising they will be hideous and spurned. (Qur'an, 28:40-4
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
As-Salamu `Alaykum. I would like you to shed some light on the concept of oppression in Islam, for we need to expose hidden aspects of this issue for others to know who are the real oppressors. What are the forms of oppression from Islamic perspective?
Wa`alaykum As-Salaamu Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh.
In The Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
All praise and thanks are due to Allah, and peace and blessings be upon His Messenger.
Dear questioner, thank you very much for having confidence in us, and we hope our efforts, which are purely for Allah's Sake, meet your expectations.
First of all, we would like to stress the fact that all forms of oppression are condemned in Islam. It is high time that broad-minded Muslims and non-Muslims understand this fact, which is highlighted in the following:
Concept of Oppression:
"Contrary to the common misconception that Islam is an oppressive religion, Islam explicitly forbids all forms of oppression.
Hisham Ibn Al-Hakim Ibn Hazim happened to pass by some people, the farmers of Syria, who had been made to stand in the sun. He asked: What is the matter with them? They said: They have been detained for (not paying) the Jizyah (tax on non-Muslims in an Islamic state). Thereupon, Hisham said: I testify that I heard Allah's Messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, saying: “Allah would torment those who torment people in the world.” (Reported by Muslim)
Jabir Ibn `Abdullah, may Allah be pleased with him, quoted the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, as saying: “Be on your guard against committing oppression, for oppression is a darkness on the Day of Resurrection...” ( Reported by Muslim)
It is also reported that Prophet Dawud, peace and blessings be upon him, said: “O Allah, You know that I love You and I love all those who love You, but how may I endear You to Your servants? Allah said: Remind them of My Favors, My trials and My anger. O Dawud, any of My servants who helped an oppressed person and stood by him in his oppressed state, I’ll keep his feet firm on the Day when all feet will be shaken.” (Reported by Al-Bayhaqi, Al-Ahadith Al-Qudsiyyah)
In another Hadith Qudsi, Allah Almighty says: “I shall take revenge on the oppressor in this life and the next. I shall take revenge on someone who saw a person being oppressed and was able to help him but did not help him.” (Reported by Tabarani)
Different Forms of Oppression:
It is worth stressing here that Islam not only condems doing others oppression and justice, but it goes far to condemn oppression against one’s self. When the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, came back from the battle of Tabuk, he laid a greater emphasis on the Jihad against the soul or nafs.
One of the many shortcomings which has arisen in the West, is judging Islam by the conduct of a minority of its people. By doing this, segments of Western society have deliberately played off the desperate actions of many Muslims, and have given it the name of Islam. Such behaviour is clearly not objective and seeks to distort the reality of Islam. For if such a thing was logic (judging a religion by the conduct of its people) then we too could say that all Christianity is about is child molesting and homosexuality, whilst Hinduism was all about looting and breaking up mosques.
Generalising in such a manner is not seen as being objective, yet we find that the West is foremost in propagating this outlook on Islam. So what is the reality of Islam? How does one dispel the myths which have been created and spread so viciously?
Where is the Truth then?
The only way to examine Islam is to simply examine its belief system. Look at its sources, the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and see what they have to say. This is the way to find the truth about what Islam says about terror, terrorism and terrorists.
One who is sincerely searching for the truth, will do it no other way. The very name Islam comes from the Arabic root word 'salama' which means peace. Islam is a religion, which is based upon achieving peace through the submission to the will of Allah. Thus, by this very simple linguistic definition, one can ascertain as to what the nature of this religion is. If such a religion is based on the notion of peace, then how is it that so many acts done by its adherents are contrary to peace? The answer is simple. Such actions, if not sanctioned by the religion, have no place with it. They are not Islamic and should not be thought of as Islamic.
Anyone who knows the early history of Islam, will know that all those nations and empires which came under the fold of Islam were indeed previously oppressed. When the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, went out for the offensive Jihad against the Egyptians, the Persians and the Romans, we find that the people did not resist against them at all. Rather, they accepted Islam on such a scale, that it is inconceivable that the Jihad of Islam could be anything other than a liberation for these oppressed people; a liberation from centuries of tyranny.
In fact, with the Byzantine Egyptians and the people of Spain, the Muslims were even beckoned to come and liberate these lands from the oppression of their kings. This is the glorious track record of the Islamic Jihad.
Compare this with the brutal track record of warfare in the Western world over the centuries. From the crusades against the Muslims to the days of colonial warfare, the Western world has killed, destroyed and plundered everything, which has come in its way.
Even today this merciless killing goes on by the Western nations. While claiming to be about world peace and security, Western nations are ready to bomb innocent civilians at the drop of a hat. The classic example of this is the recent bombings of Afghanistan.
Without doubt this was the reason for such terror from the American military upon innocent people. This is the same American military which claims to enter the worlds trouble spots under the guise of being peace keepers. But "… when it is said to them; 'Make not mischief on the Earth', they say; 'We are only peace makers'. Indeed they are the ones who make mischief, but they perceive it not.” (Al-Baqarah 2:11-12)
The Role of the Media in Distorting the Islamic Image
By going through the teachings of Islam, it is clear that such a religion has only come to benefit mankind and not to destroy it. So why is there so much hatred for this noble religion in the West?
The answer is simple, the media. It is the Jewish influenced media of the West which has portrayed Islam to be something that it is not. A number of years ago, when the Oklahoma City bomb went off, a headline in one of the newspapers, 'Today', summed up this attitude. With a picture of a fire fighter holding a dead child in his arms, the headline read: "In The Name of Islam". Time has of course proven that this bigoted assumption was incorrect, as Timothy McVeigh, a right wing radical now faces the death penalty for the crime.
Likewise, the bombs which went off in the Paris metro in 1995, were also blamed on Muslim fanatics. It has now emerged that the Algerian secret service who having routinely bribed many European journalists and MPs, were actually behind it. The desire to throw a veil over Islam is immense by these people:
Allah Almigty says: “They intend to put out the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will complete His light even though the disbelievers hate (it).” (As-Saff: 8)
Whilst trying to destroy Islam through this instrument of the media, the Jews clearly try to portray an image of themselves as being the oppressed people. Every year, we are reminded as to how many Jews perished under the Nazis in World War II. We are made to feel sorry for these same people who have gone on to commit so many crimes upon the Palestinian people. Some may say that this is a racist and biased viewpoint.
But we say; If this media was not run and orchestrated by the Jews and was truly neutral, then why are Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, two former Israeli prime ministers, not held aloft as being terrorists? Anyone who knows about the history of the Palestinian occupation will tell you that these two men were members of the Stern Gang and Irgun, two notorious Jewish terror groups who killed many innocent people.
If this media was truly impartial, then why does it not tell about the extent of the Israeli bombardment and illegal occupation of Southern Lebanon and its people? And if this media really had nothing against the religion of Allah, then why does it not inform the people that every day hundreds are entering the religion of Islam? Such things will never be highlighted in the Western media, simply because to do so would be against their very interests."
The above quotation is excerpted with slight modifications from www.thetruereligion.org
It is clear from the above that Islam and true Muslims have nothing to do with oppression. The issue can’t be generalised as done by the Western media. A clear separating line between true Muslims and those who trade in the name of religion has to be drawn. Those who have a moderate view of Islam have a big role to shoulder. This role should be enhanced especially in the period ahead in order to quench the thirst of those non-Muslims who are eager to accept Islam as well as those Muslims whose vision about the true Islamic teachings are not clear.
If you have any further comments, please don't hesitate to write back!
May Allah guide you to the straight path, and guide you to that which pleases Him, Amen.
Tuesday, 15 February 2011
Narrated Al-Mughira bin Shu'ba (Radi Allah Anhu): The Prophet (sal-allahu- alleihi-wasallam ) said:
"Allah has forbidden for you:
(1) to be undutiful to your mothers,
(2) to bury your daughters alive,
(3) to not to pay the rights of the others (e.g. charity, etc.) and
(4) to beg of men (begging).
And Allah has hated for you
(1) vain, useless talk, or that you talk too much about others,
(2) to ask too many questions, (in disputed religious matters) and
(3) to waste the wealth (by extravagance) ."
[Sahih Bukhari: Volume 3, Book 41, Number 591]
Muslim also records the above tradition and gives another version with a different isnad:
It is reported from Abu Hurayrah that he heard God’s Messenger as saying: Avoid what I forbid you to do and do what I command you to do to the best of your capacity. Surely the people before you went to their doom because they had put too many questions to their prophets and then disagreed about them. (Muslim; this hadith has been narrated on the authority of Ibn Shihab with the same chain of transmitters.)
Muslim gives a similar hadith, in which the words of the Prophet are connected with a specific question:
It is reported from Abu Hurayrah: God’s Messenger gave us a sermon, saying, “O people! Hajj has been made obligatory for you, so perform it.” A man asked: “Every year, O Messenger of God.” He kept silent until the man asked him three times. He then said: “Had I said ‘yes’, it would have become obligatory for you and you would not have been do it.” He then added: “Leave me with what I leave you. Surely the people before you went to their doom because they had put too many questions to their prophets and then disagreed about them. So when I command you something, do it to the best of your ability and when I forbid you something, abstain from it.”
The Holy Qur'an 5:101 states: "Believers, ask not questions about things which if made plain to you may cause you trouble when the Qur'an is revealed. Some people before you asked questions, and on that account lost their faith."
Maulana Maududi, in his commentary, The Meaning of the Qur'an, explains: "The Prophet forbade people to ask questions or to pry into such things."
Monday, 14 February 2011
The cops shot 16-year-old Mariam in the back on 28 January, a live round fired from the roof of the Saida Zeinab police station in the cof Cairo's old city at the height of the government violence aimed at quelling the revolution, a pot shot of contempt by Mubarak's forces for the homeless street children of Egypt.
She had gone to the police with up to a hundred other beggar boys and girls to demand the release of her friend, 16-year-old Ismail Yassin, who had already been dragged inside the station. Some of the kids outside were only nine years old. Maybe that's why the first policeman on the roof fired warning bullets into the air.
Then he shot Mariam. She was taking pictures of the police on her mobile phone, but fell to the ground with a bullet in her back. The other children carried her to the nearby Mounira hospital – where the staff apparently refused to admit her – and then to the Ahmed Maher hospital, where the bullet was removed. Ismail was freed and made his way to Tahrir Square, where the pro-democracy protesters were under attack by armed men. He was wandering up Khairat Street – drawn towards violence like all the homeless of Cairo – when an unknown gunmen shot him in the head and killed him.
They are everywhere in the capital, the 50,000 street children of Cairo, Mubarak's shameful, unspoken legacy, the detritus of the poor and the defenceless, orphans and outcasts, glue-sniffers, many of them drug-addicted, as young as five, the girls often arrested and – according to the children and charity workers – sexually molested by the police.
Egyptian government statistics claim that only 5,000 beggar children live on the streets, a figure which local non-governmental organisations and Western agencies say is another Mubarak fantasy to cover up a scandal 10 times as big.
Children interviewed by The Independent on Sunday, however, have also revealed how Mubarak supporters deliberately brought children to the outskirts of Tahrir Square to throw stones at the pro-democracy supporters, how they persuaded penniless street kids to participate in their pro-Mubarak marches. Swarms of other children forced their way into the square itself because they discovered that the protesters were kind to them, feeding them sandwiches and giving them cigarettes and money.
According to one local Egyptian charity, as many as 12,000 street children were caught up in the opposing street demonstrations of the past three weeks.
"They were told it was their duty – a national patriotic act – to throw stones at the demonstrators, to do violent actions," said an Egyptian doctor in Saida Zeinab. According to the same woman, many children were hit by police rubber bullets when they found themselves on the side of the pro-democracy demonstrators. At least 12 from this district alone were taken to hospital with wounds caused by police weapons.
Ahmed – he is not sure if he is 18 or 19, but is probably much younger – saw Mariam shot. Dressed in an orange T-shirt, faded jeans,plastic sandals and a blue baseball hat, he was shy and frightened, even though the Saida Zeinab police station was burned down by angry crowds later on the same night of 28 January – when the cops fled.
"It was just before Friday prayers and we heard the police were beating people in the street," he said. "I went out and saw lots of people throwing stones – so I started throwing stones at the police.
"Everyone was throwing stones, my family, every family, because everyone hated the police.
"Mariam was taking pictures on her mobile and the police were on the roof. She had her back to the police station, but they shot her anyway. People took her to the hospital and she came out bandaged, but she said the wound still hurt and she thought someone had stolen one of her kidneys. I saw her on the street afterwards, in the Abu Riche area. Now I don't know where she is."
Children's hostels – operating with British as well as other European donations – have tried to find Mariam, but to no avail.
Ahmed was in Khairat Street when Ismail Yassin was shot. "I was beaten and hit by a 'cartouche' from a police stun gun. A lot of the young people went into the streets to steal – from houses or anywhere. They hit the people in the houses and took whatever they wanted."
Ahmed cleans cars for money – at traffic lights, in traffic jams and at blocked road intersections – and sleeps on the streets, staying awake at night in case thieves assault him, snatching a few hours of sleep after sunrise. Ahmed's parents, like those of many other street children, are alive, but he fell out with them long ago and refuses to go home.
Mohamed is only nine and has confused memories of the revolution that overthrew Mubarak. He and another child were assaulted by three men who threw them into a sewer – apparently in an attempt to take money from them. Then, with his brothers, he went to watch the demonstrations in the Gayar district of Cairo.
"I started throwing stones at people who said 'no' to Hosni Mubarak. I went on my own with people who said they wanted Mubarak.
"They told me to throw stones. The people were older than me." Mohamed is originally from Guena in upper Egypt, from a family of three sisters and three brothers.
"I went back to stay with a friend who was sleeping in a garden," he said. "Then another friend started living in Tahrir and told me to come there. So I went with Karim and Ali and Mohamed and we got food there and we sat with the people. I liked going there. I sometimes begged from the people. And the soldiers always said 'hello' to me and sometimes they gave me food."
These children – often much younger than they claimed – sometimes avoided questions about police behaviour; they were obviously still afraid. Hostel workers spoke of policemen forcing female street children to sleep with them, even stealing money from the girls. Several children said that most of their friends were on drugs. One young man was clearly addicted and spoke almost incoherently of police violence, of carrying knives, of being repeatedly beaten in the Saida Zeinab police station by two cops, whose full names were given to The Independent on Sunday.
Many of the children were sucked into the vortex of the revolution, following crowds out of excitement and a sense of adventure.
"People started walking in demonstrations and I just started walking with them," said Goma. He is barefoot and in filthy trousers, and claims to be 16. He is originally from the oasis city of Fayoum and admitted that he didn't know at first whom the people supported.
"Then they started saying they liked Mubarak and they walked to Tahrir," he said. "But when we got into Tahrir, some other people came and threw stones at us. I just threw stones with the Mubarak people. They told me that I should like Mubarak because if he went, some people would come from other countries and become president of Egypt. I got hit by a stone in my back it still hurts. The enemy threw the stone" – presumably democracy protesters – "so I left because I didn't want a stone in my face or my eye."
The street children of Cairo move in packs, turning up for free lunches with their friends when hostels open their doors, adopting puppy dogs and trying, like well-educated children, to learn how to use computers donated by foreign charities.
But none I met could read – most did not know how to write their own name in Arabic. Some were obviously orphans or semi-abandoned by their parents, but there was a strong theme of fathers forcing their sons and daughters to work the streets for money to buy drugs.
The sick go largely uncared for. The dead don't matter. The body of Ismail Yassin, now a martyr of the Egyptian revolution, remains in a hospital mortuary. Unclaimed.
Sunday, 13 February 2011
Saturday, 12 February 2011
When Zainab Salbi was in Afghanistan this summer she met a woman whose story she could not forget. Married at 15 and widowed by 16, Zarqouna was banned, like all women, from working or even leaving her house unaccompanied during the Taliban regime of the 1990s. One day, needing food for her baby, she defied the law to sell hats in the street, only to be caught by local Taliban members and beaten with the one pair of shoes she possessed.
When the allies invaded in 2001 and the Taliban were toppled, Zarqouna's life was transformed. She started work, sent her daughter to school and is planning to send her to college. But her new-found freedom and that of many Afghan women could be at risk if, as Salbi – founder of Women for Women International, an organisation that supports women in war-torn countries – and other campaigners fear, the allies pull out from Afghanistan without insisting on guarantees for women's rights.
This year will see the 10th anniversary of the US and UK's military intervention in the country. After a decade of war, and with no sign of the insurgency ending any time soon, western governments are talking about bringing their troops home as early as next year. Meanwhile, with the Taliban still controlling parts of the country and unlikely to be defeated, the Afghan government is making plans for reconciliation and reintegration with the hardline militia. This, fear Afghan women, could mean a reversal of all the hard-won improvements of the last few years.
Although Afghan women's rights were a prominent part of the rhetoric of invasion, today the treatment of women under the Taliban is increasingly being dismissed as part of local culture. This apparent change in attitude in the west is seen as a consequence of the British and US governments' desire to extricate themselves from a messy, expensive and time-consuming war. In November, David Cameron stressed he was taking a more "hard-headed" approach to the country. "We are not there to build a perfect democracy, still less a model society. We are there to help Afghans take control of security and ensure that al-Qaida can never again pose a threat to us from Afghan soil."
Today, according to Salbi, who has testified before the US senate, there is little appetite among US politicians for protecting women in the region, despite support from the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton. Instead, she says: "There is a clear, clear opinion that women's rights were a) not that relevant and b) irreconcilable with peace in Afghanistan."
Samira Hamidi, director of the Afghan Women's Network – an umbrella organisation for more than 600 women's rights groups and NGOs – has also noticed this increasing lack of interest and fears that once the troops pull out, the west will turn its eyes away from Afghanistan, even though "the insurgents still kill children, they still put poison in the food of school girls, they throw acid in the face of school girls, they burn schools. They still exist."
"Something most American male politicians have said – 90% of them – is that it's just their culture and we can't do anything about it," adds Salbi.
Deniz Kandiyoti of the School of Oriental and African Studies' gender studies department disputes these claims that the culture is to blame. "These people have been tossed to the wind and displaced, the old society has been eroded. Girls being given away to pay for opium debts, that's hardly traditional. Now it is the people with the guns, the money, and the drugs runners who have power," she says.
Few would argue that improvements have been made in women's rights in the last decade. On a recent visit to the UK, Hussan Ghazanfar, Afghanistan's minister for women's affairs, outlined the progress made: 57% of women and girls now go to school, and 24% of health sector workers and 10% of the judiciary are female.
Yet activists say improvements are patchy and far from ideal – with healthcare, social care and freedom unavailable to many poverty-stricken rural women, many already living in Taliban-controlled areas. Even Ghazanfar admits: "Life is different in the countryside – the literacy level is different, traditional customs are stronger, and women have no financial or economic freedom there."
Hamidi says most women she speaks to "are tired of war and killing", and fearful of the future. "If the situation goes bad again the women here have nowhere to go."
A suicide bomb attack in Kabul last weekend that killed Hamida Barmaki, a law professor and commissioner at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, along with her husband and four children, illustrates the everyday danger in Afghanistan, while the release of footage showing the stoning of a couple in Kunduz province reveals the extent of the plight of women in areas controlled by the Taliban.
Politician Malalai Joya, dubbed the "bravest woman in Afghanistan" for speaking out against the warlords in the government after being elected to the Afghan national assembly in 2005, warns: "The situation of women is a disaster. Men and women today are squashed between three enemies – the Taliban, the warlords and also the occupation forces who are bombing from the skies and killing civilians, women and children. Now the Taliban are being invited into the government – there is no question the situation of women will be more disastrous and more bloody."
Orzala Nemat, a human rights activist who risked her life to set up a secret network of literacy classes for girls under the Taliban regime, agrees that the situation has worsened since 2006 with the revival of the Taliban. "Places which were very safe last year are very unsafe now," she says. "If this conflict is not winnable, we need a political settlement."
Last summer, the Afghan government created a peace council to pursue talks with the Taliban. Ghazanfar says there are safeguards to protect the women in any deal, with the government of Afghanistan insisting the Taliban abide by the country's constitution, which enshrines women's rights.
But Kandiyot is among those worried about the direction negotiations are taking. She points out that the Taliban continue to reject the constitution, and that the document includes a clause that says no law can contradict the principles of Islam. "And who decides what these principles are?" she asks. "It is the supreme court, which is full of hardline clerics."
Salbi, meanwhile, says informal, closed negotiations have already begun between a small group of politicians and the Taliban, with women's rights being traded as collateral. She describes one of "the advisers in the process" talking of women's "mobility and attire" being an area for "compromise".
The government itself has appeared keen to promote what it sees as improvements in the Taliban's hard line on women, possibly in a bid to make negotiations seem more palatable. Earlier this year the education minister, Farooq Wardak, insisted the Taliban leadership was prepared to drop its ban on girls' schools.
Yet Rachel Reid, Human Rights Watch's Afghanistan researcher, says: "There may be some low-level Taliban leaders who negotiate with communities that want girls' education, but there is no evidence to suggest that the leadership has done a U-turn."
She points out that the ministry's own statistics show that 20 girls' schools were bombed or burned down between March and October 2010. At least 126 students and teachers were killed in the same period – an increase from the previous year. Meanwhile, night letters – missives containing terrifying threats – are still being sent to working women in Taliban-controlled areas. One sent to a teacher in a girls' school read: "We warn you to leave your job as a teacher as soon as possible otherwise we will cut the heads off your children and shall set fire to your daughter."
President Hamid Karzai's government has traded women's rights for political power in the past. The Shia personal status law in 2009 was only toned down after women took to the streets in protest, sparking an international outcry. If implemented it would have meant women from the Shia minority sect could not leave their homes without their husband's permission or refuse them sex – making rape within marriage effectively legal. Other campaigners point to the president's pardoning of two men sentenced by the supreme court for brutally gang-raping a woman in public.
The Taliban are not the only group in Afghanistan keen to destroy women's rights, says Nemat. "Westerners think the only enemy Afghan women have is the Taliban, and when they go we will be liberated. But Afghan women have many men who are scared of women having power. These are warlords, conservative clerics, many powerful authorities sitting in key government positions."
In this anti-female environment violence against women in general is rising daily, fuelled by the war, the poverty it brings, and the conservative values it leaves behind, according to Hamidi. Refuges are attacked in the media, while anecdotal evidence suggests that self-immolation, domestic violence and suicide among women are increasing.
In December, a UN report on "harmful traditional practices" revealed that 57% of Afghan marriages are child marriages (where one partner is under the age of 16) and cited the case of an orphaned 13-year-old girl who was bought by a 65-year-old man for $3,000 (£1,895).
Then there are the honour killings and the fact that women and girls who run away – to escape forced marriages or violence – are often arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned, usually under a charge of attempting to commit zina (sex outside marriage).
Campaigners say the only hope for women is to give them a chance to fight for their rights at the negotiating table. But with little political will among Afghan politicians, pressure for this must come from abroad, says Hamidi. "If we are going for a negotiation involving insurgents who don't believe in women's rights and there is no commitment from the international community [to help women] . . . we may go back to the years when Taliban were ruling this country." And even Ghazanfar seems to echo this when she says: "Afghan women need and require peace with justice. This is our request to the world and international communities."
The alternative could be terrifying, says to Salbi. "'One Afghan woman said to me, what would it take for the allies to know that by abandoning us, it will hit them later on? That violence that manifests itself with us will spread. The Taliban started with us, then Afghan men, then America, and the world."
Nemat is more sanguine about the possibility of western troops pulling out soon, believing the only hope is for women to fight for themselves. "As someone who has worked under the Taliban, I don't believe there will be a return [of their rule] in the same way as in the past," she says. "They won't silence our voices. We will not sleep and stay passive in our homes. We will continue to struggle."
Friday, 11 February 2011
The old slogan from the 1960s has come true: the revolution has been televised. The world is watching the Bastille fall on 24/7 rolling news. An elderly thug is trying to buy and beat and tear-gas himself enough time to smuggle his family's estimated $25bn in loot out of the country, and to install a successor friendly to his interests. The Egyptian people – half of whom live on less than $2 a day – seem determined to prevent the pillage and not to wait until September to drive out a dictator dripping in blood and bad hair dye.
The great Czech dissident Vaclav Havel outlined the "as if" principle. He said people trapped under a dictatorship need to act "as if they are free". They need to act as if the dictator has no power over them. The Egyptians are trying – and however many of them Mubarak murders on his way out the door, the direction in which fear flows has been successfully reversed. The tyrant has become terrified of "his" people.
Of course, there is a danger that what follows will be worse. My family lived for a time under the torturing tyranny of the Shah of Iran, and cheered the revolution in 1979. Yet he was replaced by the even more vicious Ayatollahs. But this is not the only model, nor the most likely. Events in Egypt look more like the Indonesian revolution, where in 1998 a popular uprising toppled a US-backed tyrant after 32 years of oppression – and went on to build the largest and most plural democracy in the Muslim world.
But the discussion here in the West should focus on the factor we are responsible for and can influence – the role our governments have played in suppressing the Egyptian people. Your taxes have been used to arm, fund and fuel this dictatorship. You have unwittingly helped to keep these people down. The tear-gas canisters fired at pro-democracy protesters have "Made in America" stamped on them, with British machine guns and grenade launchers held in the background.
Very few British people would praise a murderer and sell him weapons. Very few British people would beat up a poor person to get cheaper petrol. But our governments do it all the time. Why? British foreign policy does not follow the everyday moral principles of the British people, because it is not formulated by us. This might sound like an odd thing to say about a country that prides itself on being a democracy, but it is true.
The former Labour MP Lorna Fitzsimons spoke at a conference for Israel's leaders last year and assured them they didn't have to worry about the British people's growing opposition to their policies because "public opinion does not influence foreign policy in Britain. Foreign policy is an elite issue". This is repellent but right. It is formulated in the interests of big business and their demand for access to resources, and influential sectional interest groups.
You can see this most clearly if you go through the three reasons our governments give, sometimes publicly, sometimes privately, for their behavior in the Middle East. Explanation One: Oil. Some 60 per cent of the world's remaining petrol is in the Middle East. We are all addicted to it, so our governments support strongmen and murderers who will keep the oil-taps gushing without interruption. Egypt doesn't have oil, but it has crucial oil pipelines and supply routes, and it is part of a chain of regional dictators we don't want broken in case they all fall taking the petrol pump with it. Addicts don't stand up to their dealers: they fawn before them.
There is an obvious medium-term solution: break our addiction. The technology exists – wind, wave and especially solar power – to fuel our societies without oil. It would free us from our support for dictators and horrific wars of plunder like Iraq. It's our society's route to rehab – but it is being blocked by the hugely influential oil companies, who would lose a fortune. Like everybody who needs to go to rehab, the first step is to come out of denial about why we are still hooked.
Explanation Two: Israel and the "peace process". Over the past week, we have persistently been told that Mubarak was a key plank in supporting "peace in the Middle East". The opposite is the truth. Mubarak has been at the forefront of waging war on the Palestinian population. There are 1.5 million people imprisoned on the Gaza Strip denied access to necessities like food and centrifuges for their blood transfusion service. They are being punished for voting "the wrong way" in a democratic election.
Israel blockades Gaza to one side, and Mubarak blockades it to the other. I've stood in Gaza and watched Egyptian soldiers refusing to let sick and dying people out for treatment they can't get in Gaza's collapsing hospitals. In return for this, Mubarak receives $1.5bn a year from the US. Far from contributing to peace, this is marinating the Gazan people in understandable hatred and dreams of vengeance. This is bad even for Israel herself – but we are so servile to the demands of the country's self-harming government, and to its loudest and angriest lobbyists here, that our governments obey.
Explanation Three: Strongmen suppress jihadism. Our governments claim that without dictators to suppress, torture and disappear Islamic fundamentalists, they will be unleashed and come after us. Indeed, they often outsourced torture to the Egyptian regime, sending suspects there to face things that would be illegal at home. Robert Baer, once a senior figure in black ops at the CIA, said: "If you want them to be tortured, you send them to Syria. If you want someone to disappear, you send them to Egypt."
Western governments claim all this makes us safer. The opposite is the truth. In his acclaimed history of al-Qa'ida, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright explains: "America's tragedy on September 11th was born in the prisons of Egypt." Modern jihadism was invented by Sayeed Qutb as he was electrocuted and lashed in Egyptian jails and grew under successive tyrannies. Mohammed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker, was Egyptian, and named US backing for his country's tyrant as one of the main reasons for the massacre.
When we fund the violent suppression of people, they hate us, and want to fight back. None of these factors that drove our governments to back Mubarak's dictatorship in Egypt have changed. So we should strongly suspect they will now talk sweet words about democracy in public, and try to secure a more PR-friendly Mubarak in private.
It doesn't have to be like this. We could make our governments as moral as we, the British people, are in our everyday lives. We could stop them trampling on the weak, and fattening thugs. But to achieve it, we have to democratise our own societies and claim control of our foreign policy. We would have to monitor and campaign over it, and let our governments know there is a price for behaving viciously abroad. The Egyptian people have shown this week they will risk everything to stop being abused. What will we risk to stop our governments being abusers?
Thursday, 10 February 2011
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: "He who alleviates the suffering of a brother ... God will ease his ... suffering on the Day of Resurrection. He who finds relief for one who is hard pressed, God will make things easy for him in the Hereafter ... "
Sahih Muslim, Hadith 1245
Wednesday, 9 February 2011
David Cameron will today signal a sea-change in the government fight against home-grown terrorism, saying the state must confront, and not consort with, the non-violent Muslim groups that are ambiguous about British values such as equality between sexes, democracy and integration.
To belong in Britain is to believe in these values, he will say. Claiming the previous government had been the victim of fear and muddled thinking by backing a state-sponsored form of multiculturalism, the prime minister will state that his government "will no longer fund or share platforms with organisations that, while non-violent, are certainly in some cases part of the problem".
In a major speech to a security conference in Munich, he will demand: "We need a lot less of the passive tolerance of recent years and much more active, muscular liberalism."
He will say that "some organisations that seek to present themselves as a gateway to the Muslim community are showered with public money while doing little to combat extremism. This is like turning to a rightwing fascist party to fight a violent white supremacist movement."
Cameron's aides, aware the speech may prove highly controversial, refused to identify the organisations in his sights, but it is clear one target is the Muslim Council of Britain.
Last night some Muslim groups criticised the prime minister for making the speech on the same day that the English Defence League is holding its biggest ever demonstration, in Luton.
Cameron will also make clear that his tougher stance extends to unambiguous support for the democracy movement in Egypt: "I simply don't accept that there's a dead-end choice between a security state and Islamist resistance."
His remarks suggest that a Home Office-led review into the government Prevent programme, being overseen by Lord Carlile, is going to lead to major changes.
It also suggests that he has sided unambiguously with figures such as Michael Gove inside his cabinet rather than his party chairman, Lady Warsi, who has complained of fashionable Islamophobia.
Cameron will argue many young men have been drawn to extremism due to a rootlessness created by the weakening of a clear collective British cultural identity.
He will say: "Under the doctrine of state multiculturalism we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. We have failed to provide a vision of society to which they feel they want to belong.
"We have even tolerated these segregated communities behaving in ways that run counter to our values. So when a white person holds objectionable views – racism, for example – we rightly condemn them. But when equally unacceptable views or practices have come from someone who isn't white, we've been too cautious, frankly even fearful, to stand up to them."
He will warn his audience: "Europe needs to wake up to what is happening in our own countries. We need to be absolutely clear on where the origins of these terrorist attacks lie – and that is the existence of an ideology, Islamist extremism."
This ideology he says, is entirely separate from Islam, and "at the furthest end includes those who back terrorism to promote their ultimate goal: an entire Islamist realm, governed by an interpretation of sharia".
But he adds: "Move along the spectrum, and you find people who may reject violence, but who accept various parts of the extremist world-view including real hostility towards western democracy and liberal values.
"If we are to defeat this threat, he says, its time to turn the page on on the failed policies of the past. So first, instead of ignoring this extremist ideology, we as governments and societies have got to confront it in all its forms."
Echoing Tony Blair after 9/11, he rounds on the soft left that "lump all Muslims together, compiling a list of grievances and arguing if only governments addressed them, this terrorism would stop".
Inayat Bunglawala, chair of an anti-extremist group called Muslims4Uk, said: "Mr Cameron's remarks are ill-judged and deeply patronising. The overwhelming majority of UK Muslims are proud to be British and are appalled by the antics of a tiny group of extremists and so will hardly be pleased with his lecture on integration.
"Ironically, the PM's comments come on a day when the viciously Islamophobic English Defence League are to stage their biggest demonstration yet on our streets. Integration works both ways and we would expect Mr Cameron and his government to be openly challenging these EDL extremists. Instead, he and his senior ministers have to date remained totally mute. It is disgraceful."
In opposition the Tories began considering the policy on Muslims, which critics say risks branding many as extremists even though they do not espouse violence.
Critics say it is based on flawed neo-Conservative thinking and risks backfiring, while supporters say it is necessary to tackle those who are fellow travellers with violent extremists.
Tuesday, 8 February 2011
Monday, 7 February 2011
Saturday, 5 February 2011
Asian men are targeting white girls for 'fun' because of unhappy arranged marriages, says Muslim peer
Unhappy arranged marriages are leading some Pakistani men to prey on white girls for sex, a Muslim politician has warned.
Lord Ahmed said Asian men who are forced into loveless marriages – often with cousins from overseas – may seek out white girls for ‘fun’.
But last night, the senior Labour peer was accused of encouraging the stereotyping of Pakistani communities with his comments.
The senior Labour peer is the first politician to make a direct link between first-cousin marriages and sex crimes by Pakistani men.
He said it was time for the Muslim community to ‘wake up’ to the issue, and do more to promote UK-based marriages.
Earlier this month, former home secretary Jack Straw caused a furore when he said white girls were seen as ‘easy meat’ by some Pakistani men.
He spoke out after Mohammed Liaquat, 28, and Abid Saddique, 27, were jailed for a minimum of 11 and eight years respectively for grooming and abusing 26 girls in Derby, 22 of whom were white. The seven other members of the sex gang had already been jailed at a previous trial.
Last November, five Asian men were jailed for grooming white girls as young as 12 in Rotherham, South Yorkshire. Lord Ahmed, who grew up in Rotherham, said many young Asian men suffer from loveless cousin marriages and called for an end to the practice. He said: ‘They are forced into marriages and they are not happy.
‘They are married to girls from overseas who they don’t have anything in common with, and they have children and a family.
‘But they are looking for fun in their sexual activities and seek out vulnerable girls.’
He said they resort to abusing girls because they do not want meaningful relationships with women. ‘An adult woman – if you are having an affair – would want your time, money and for you to break up your marriage,’ he said.
‘I get a lot of criticism from Asian people who ask: “How can you say this about Asian men?” But they must wake up and realise there is a problem.
‘I am deeply worried about this as it has happened in my own backyard, and in Rochdale and Bradford. This didn’t happen in my or my father’s generation. This is happening among young Asians.
‘While I respect individual choice, I think the community needs to look at marriages in the UK rather than cousin marriages or economic marriages from abroad.’
But Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said the comments could lead to stereotyping of Pakistani men.
‘I don’t think this is a problem with a particular community,’ he said. ‘There is a criminal element across all communities.
‘These comments could lead to stereotyping. Lord Ahmed should have been more careful in how he dealt with this issue.
‘But it is important to add that we should never excuse these crimes on the basis of arranged marriages. They should all be prosecuted.’
More than half of British Pakistanis marry their first cousins,
usually from abroad. In Bradford, the figure reaches 75 per cent.
Muslims from Bangladesh or India are far less likely to marry their first cousins.
The practice is legal in the UK but health experts have warned that cousin marriages have led to high levels of genetic birth defects in the Pakistani community.
Since 1997, 56 people with
an average age of 28 have been convicted of offences related to on-street grooming of girls aged 11 to 16. Of these, three were white and the rest Muslim Asians, with the majority British Pakistani.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1352076/Asian-men-targeting-white-girls-fun-unhappy-arranged-marriages-says-Muslim-peer.html#ixzz1Cc0TBOlD
Friday, 4 February 2011
By Bob Pitt
Labour Briefing, February 2011
"The Islamophobia Myth" was the title of an influential article by Kenan Malik published in the February 2005 issue of Prospect magazine. It argued that violence, hatred and discrimination against Muslims were at a very low level and that the threat of Islamophobia had been invented or at least greatly exaggerated, mainly by religious leaders hoping to suppress legitimate criticisms of their beliefs and to enhance their own status as community representatives. Malik's thesis was welcomed in some quarters at the time, including among sections of the left.
Six years on, far fewer people would buy that argument. Hostility towards Muslims and their faith has reached such a pitch that to deny this represents a major threat is simply untenable. When the racist hooligans of the English Defence League take to the streets in towns and cities across the UK brandishing placards with slogans such as "We will never submit to Islam", chanting "Burn a mosque down" and on occasion breaking through police lines to rampage through Muslim areas smashing shop windows and assaulting passers-by, who could seriously claim that Islamophobia is a myth?
The EDL and its ideology did not emerge in a political vacuum. When its leaders claim that Britain is undergoing a process of "Islamification", that the existing legal system is being supplanted by sharia courts or that mosques are potential organising centres for terrorism, they haven't thought up these ideas by themselves. These are themes constantly promoted by papers like the Express, the Mail, the Sun and the Daily Star, and it is this mainstream right wing Islamophobia that inspires and legitimises the more thuggish forms of anti-Muslim bigotry practised by the EDL and other far-right groups. Indeed, Nick Griffin has openly stated that the BNP aims to "take advantage for our own political ends of the growing wave of public hostility to Islam currently being whipped up by the mass media".
While Islamophobia is predominantly a right wing political phenomenon, but by no means exclusively so. Because this campaign against a minority community is framed as an attack on their culture rather than their ethnicity, it has been able to win the backing of people with otherwise progressive political views who would recoil in horror from traditional racism based on skin colour. Liberal and leftist Islamophobia is typically couched in terms of a defence of Enlightenment values, secularism, feminism or gay rights, but the effect is to reinforce the right wing narrative of British Muslims as an alien presence and internal threat.
Islamophobes of left and right will often claim that they are not attacking Islam as such but rather "Islamism" – a term that is applied so broadly as to cover almost all Muslim organisations which involve themselves in political action, the aim being to blur the difference between those groups promoting peaceful change through engagement with mainstream politics and those advocating violence.
Some of the fiercest critics of political Islam have been supporters of the Iraq war like Observer journalist Nick Cohen, who suddenly discovered that Islamism posed an existential threat to western civilisation after the Muslim Association of Britain emerged as a leading force in the organisation of mass anti-war protests. For others, hostility towards Islamism stems primarily from the fact that politically engaged Muslims are vocal critics of the Palestinian people's oppression by the Israeli state. Here Islamophobia is harnessed to the Zionist agenda of delegitimising political support for the Palestinian resistance.
The result of all this is a mood of resentment and antagonism towards Muslims, their beliefs and their organisations that extends across the political spectrum and through all sections of society. There are clear and very worrying parallels with the rise of antisemitism in the early decades of the last century.
What has the Labour Party's response been to this rising tide of Islamophobia? "Mixed" is the best you can say. In some cases Labour has shamefully adapted to the prevailing anti-Muslim mood.
One example of this was the disgraceful propaganda put out by Phil Woolas in Oldham East and Saddleworth during the 2010 General Election, the purpose of which was to "get the white vote angry" by claiming that the Lib Dem candidate was in an alliance with Muslim extremists. A Labour campaign leaflet featured headlines such as "Straight talking Woolas too fair for militant Muslims" and "Lib Dems in mosque planning permission stitch-up". Woolas's election agent suggested privately that traditional Conservative voters who were unhappy about backing the Tories' Muslim candidate might be persuaded to support Labour rather than the Lib Dems "if we can convince them that they are being used by the Moslems".
During the by-election that followed the court decision to disqualify Woolas, Jack Straw made a further pitch for the white racist vote by endorsing the myth of Asian grooming. His accusation that some men of Pakistani heritage regard young white women as "easy meat" won him the admiration of the Daily Mail's Melanie Phillips who hailed his stand against "Muslim sexual predators". This was nothing new for Straw. In October 2006 he condemned the Muslim face-veil as a "visible statement of separation" and revealed that whenever a constituent visited his surgery wearing one he asked her to remove it. Predictably, Straw's remarks unleashed a vicious media campaign against veil-wearing Muslim women, with "Ban the burkha" headlines splashed across the front pages of the right wing press.
That same month the then Communities Secretary Ruth Kelly announced on behalf of the Labour Government that there would be a "fundamental rebalancing of our relations with Muslim organisations", which involved sidelining the Muslim Council of Britain with its 500 affiliates in favour of an obscure outfit called the Sufi Muslim Council that barely had five members. In 2009 Kelly's successor Hazel Blears took the opportunity to break relations with the MCB entirely, on the basis of an accusation that one of its leading figures, Daud Abdullah, had signed a document "advocating attacks on Jewish communities all around the world" – an accusation that was completely untrue.
The severing of links between the Labour Government and the MCB was partly due to the latter's refusal to remain silent about the role of British foreign policy in enabling advocates of violent extremism to get a hearing among disaffected Muslim youth. The Sufi Muslim Council by contrast was viewed favourably because it placed the blame on Islamist ideology and let the Government off the hook. (The same reasoning lay behind the decision to funnel large sums of public money into another divisive and unrepresentative organisation, the Quilliam Foundation.)
In repudiating the country's largest Muslim organisation the Labour leadership was also succumbing to pressure from an anti-MCB campaign conducted by John Ware in his 2005 Panorama documentary A Question of Leadership and Martin Bright in his 2006 Policy Exchange pamphlet When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries: The British State's flirtation with radical Islamism, both of which portrayed the MCB as a nest of Islamist extremists.
Last year we saw a similar capitulation by the party leadership to an anti-Islamist witch-hunt when the NEC blocked Lutfur Rahman from standing as Labour's mayoral candidate in Tower Hamlets. The decision followed a campaign by Telegraph journalist Andrew Gilligan to expose Lutfur as an ally of "Islamic fundamentalists" at the East London Mosque who had supposedly infiltrated the Labour Party as part of a plot to transform Tower Hamlets into an Islamic state. The people of Tower Hamlets delivered their verdict on the NEC's acceptance of Gilligan's paranoid fantasies by electing Lutfur as an independent mayor with a massive majority.
In the interests of balance, it should be added that the Labour leadership's record on Islamophobia has not been all bad. To its credit, the last Government did introduce the religious hatred bill in an attempt to provide Muslims and other multi-ethnic faith communities with the same legal protection as Jews and Sikhs (who are defined as mono-ethnic and covered by the law against incitement to racial hatred) – only to see the legislation sabotaged by an amendment drawn up by Lib Dem peer Lord Lester.
However, it is prominent figures on the Labour left who have set an example to the rest of the Party in taking a firm and principled stand against the upsurge in anti-Muslim bigotry. Jeremy Corbyn, for example, has established warm relations with the North London Central Mosque in Finsbury Park since Abu Hamza and his gang were ousted in 2005 and has rejected attempts by the likes of Gilligan and the Quilliam Foundation to smear the present management as dangerous extremists.
During his eight years as Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone worked closely with organisations like the MCB and the British Muslim Initiative in defending the capital's Muslim communities and he was uncompromising in his refusal to bend to the forces of Islamophobia, notably in resisting the hysterical attacks that followed the welcome he gave to Yusuf al-Qaradawi during his visit to London in 2004. The struggle to get the Labour Party to purge itself of Islamophobia and adopt a more sensitive approach towards representative Muslim organisations will be greatly strengthened if Ken is returned to City Hall in 2012.