Sayeeda Warsi and the Selling Out of Palestine

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Lady Warsi was asked yesterday about the exact moment she made up her mind to resign from the Tory-led government over its policy (or perhaps more accurately, non-policy) on Gaza. She replied:

“There were many moments. Every time a school was bombed. Every time you saw a picture of Gaza with no lights at night. Every time a child about the age of my own children was killed. The moment when young boys playing football on the beach were suddenly there no longer.”

It was a heartfelt and powerful response from a gutsy lady who has repeatedly shown over the years that she is nobody’s poodle.

I first met Sayeeda Warsi in 2006, just a year after she had very narrowly failed to win the Dewsbury seat in the 2005 General Election. She had come down to East London to attend a Muslim event. Sitting next to her for dinner I was impressed at how outspoken she was in her comments. She came across as bright and sassy.

The last time I saw her was just a few months ago. I was on a train to Reading on my way to fix an issue with a Cisco switch there (we had lost management access to it so I couldn’t do it remotely). While on the train I heard an unmistakeable Yorkshire accent just behind me across the aisle. I peered over, and sure enough, it was Lady Warsi chatting away with a civil servant. She motioned me over and explained that she was on her way (to Bristol I think) to talk about women and faith. It was part of her brief as a Minister in the Foreign Office. We chatted for a bit. I expressed sympathy for the attacks she had suffered a couple of years ago when some Tory big guns were clearly out to boot her off her then position as the Co-Chair of the Conservative Party. I wrote about those attacks here on this blog at the time. She said that those attacks had now died down after they had managed to get her demoted. We then discussed some personal matters we had in common.

So, it was heartening to see her speak out so clearly and forcefully yesterday saying that the government’s position on Gaza was “morally indefensible.” It is absolutely inconceivable that the Prime Minister David Cameron would have responded in the mealy mouthed way he has to date about the horror in Gaza if it had been over two thousand Israelis that had been killed instead of Palestinians. The government’s response to the situation in Gaza has been transparently racist.

The good news is that Lady Warsi’s resignation has led to other politicians now coming out much more vocally to distance themselves from Cameron’s shameful response to Gaza. The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, has called for an arms embargo on Israel. Closer to London, the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has sided with Lady Warsi, and has said he agrees with her call to ban arms licenses to Israel.

Lady Warsi was arguably able to stand up to the government because she is not dependent on the government for her career. Prior to being ennobled in 2007, she was a successful solicitor.

The contrast with some of today’s Muslim organisations is clear. I mentioned here a couple of years ago how some Muslim organisations had effectively sold out their independence in exchange for grants from the government. They had full-time ‘Chief Executives’ whose salaries were being paid by the government. Some of their leading figures sent messages to their members about how excited they were about meeting the Queen. One of them even posted a twitter message just two weeks ago (now apparently deleted) asking why Hamas were firing rockets at Israel. It could have been straight out of an Israeli propaganda manual: do not focus on actions of the oppressor but ask ridiculous questions of the oppressed. Others have re-branded themselves as ‘Counter Extremist’ specialists and have begun launching unfair attacks on the MCB. How desperately sad.

They should take a leaf out of Lady Warsi’s book and go and get themselves a real career so that they do not need to debase themselves in such a shameful way.

On a more positive note, the demonstrations for Gaza over the past few weeks have been incredible. It has been so inspiring to see a younger generation of Muslims actively using social media to rally others and demand that the government adopt a more even-handed and just policy.

After Britain so disgracefully signed away the land of the Palestinians to the Jews in the infamous Balfour Declaration – it is the very least that we could do.

Posted in Extremism, Islam, islamophobia, Zionism | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Is Judaism The Most Racist of the World’s Great Monotheistic Religions?

Richard Dawkins famously said that:

The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.

A lot of the world’s religions have some extremely unpleasant characteristics (in addition to many very pleasant ones I should hasten to add).

Is Judaism the most racist of the world’s three great monotheistic religions?

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Right To Renounce Faith

Apostasy

Last month there was huge global news coverage of the case regarding a Sudanese lady that had been sentenced to death for converting to Christianity. I commented on the grossly warped version of ‘justice’ at the time and argued that:

“…Ultimately, the issue of apostasy is part of a far wider question that much of the Muslim world is still struggling with – how to reconcile traditional Islamic doctrine with modern notions of human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of association and sexual freedoms.”

Yesterday, The Economist looked at this issue again and their article can be read here.

Posted in Extremism, Islam | Tagged | 2 Comments

“There is no life without Jihad”

Some British Muslims who have travelled to Syria to take part in the ISIS group currently battling the regimes in Syria and Iraq have appeared in a video encouraging other British Muslims to follow in their footsteps.

The video entitled “There is no life without jihad” can be viewed on YouTube as per the above link but it may not be there for much longer as the BBC reports that the UK government is working to have the link taken down.

The voices of a number of Muslims with clearly British accents can be heard encouraging Muslims to leave their ‘big houses and fast cars’ to take part in what they describe as a ‘jihad’.

They appear to regard the territory that ISIS are said to control as a ‘Khilafah’ and one of them is heard sending a message to the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi saying “the hope of this ummah is on your neck.”

There have appeared a number of groups amongst Muslims in recent decades seeking to re-establish the Khilafah and what they refer to as the ‘rule of Allah’.

It is easy to imagine the thrill for someone who is young and idealistic and wants to help overthrow cruel despots in other parts of the world by joining groups like ISIS. In practice though, these groups have invariably demonstrated huge intolerance of others who are not in their group and their actions are often synonymous with terrible human rights abuses.

 

Posted in Extremism, Islam | Tagged | 4 Comments

Birmingham’s al-Hijrah School Governing Body – All Sacked

 

 

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Andrew Gilligan of the Sunday Telegraph has been keeping an extremely close eye on events in Birmingham in relation to the alleged ‘Trojan Horse schools plot’ and has written extensively about events there in recent weeks.

Yesterday, Gilligan informed us that the entire Governing Board of the al-Hijrah Islamic school has now been disbanded by Birmingham Council following concerns about alleged mismanagement and the “potential diversion of public funds paid to run the school”.

According to Gilligan:

“…In a letter to al-Hijrah’s sacked chairman of governors, Waseem Yaqub, seen by The Sunday Telegraph, the council’s director of children’s services, Peter Hay, said: “The time for debate is over. The children in al-Hijrah need governors that govern the school properly.”…Mr Yaqub, the sacked chairman of governors at al-Hijrah, was seconded as a “consultant” to Saltley School at the same time as its respected non-Muslim head teacher, Balwant Bains, was removed, though he denies any involvement in Mr Bains’s departure.”

“Until around 2012, according to sources close to the school, the council paid only a peppercorn rent to the Al-Hijrah Trust, of £1 a year, for the use of the school buildings. Then, however, the rent was raised to £300,000 a year, above market value for Victorian premises in a run-down area of Birmingham. School sources said they were not told how the figure had been reached. Despite the huge sums extracted from the council, however, the school has a deficit of around £400,000, according to Mr Hay’s letter. “

““The council were concerned about this large amount of money demanded for rent and were not sure where it was going,” said one person closely connected with the school. “It certainly wasn’t all going to the school – it has a massive deficit. It is possible that it was going to Tahir [Alam’s] training academy, although I cannot prove that.”

“An official audit commissioned by the council found “a number of concerns about the way governors manage financial matters,” according to Ofsted. Another person closely involved in the issue said: “We are investigating the worrying possibility that the entire Trojan Horse plot was subsidised by public money.”

“Al-Hijrah has been visited by Ofsted five times in the past fourteen months, with the inspectors growing more deeply concerned each time. Mr Yaqub took unsuccessful legal action to prevent publication of their reports.

“At the school on Friday, two burly security guards were stationed outside the main entrance to the school building. The Sunday Telegraph was told not to take any pictures and was sworn at by the guards.

“Mr Yaqub described the action against the school as a “witch-hunt” based on racism and said that he had received no formal notification that it had been taken over, something the letter from Mr Hay appears to contradict.

“Mr Yaqub said that the rent to the Al-Hijrah Trust was paid “under a formal written tenancy agreement of which the local authority is aware”. He strongly denied mismanagement or dishonesty and said none of the rent had been paid to the training academy or to Mr Alam, who he said was no longer involved in the trust.”

The tale of the alleged “Trojan Horse schools plot” has been an extremely murky one with lots of very serious allegations being made but very few smoking guns being found to date.

The removal of the governors of al-Hijrah school is an interesting new development though. I have had very worrying personal dealings in the past with an individual who is now on the (sacked) board of governors and it horrifies me to think that he had anything to do with the receipt of huge amounts of public money.

Let’s hope that Birmingham Council are able to investigate fully and swiftly any allegations of possible financial impropriety.

 

Posted in Extremism, Government | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Sudan Death Penalty and the Apostasy Issue

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This week’s court ruling in Sudan sentencing Dr Meriam Yahya Ibrahim to death for abandoning Islam is highly regrettable but should come as no surprise to observers of the Muslim world.

It seems unlikely that the Sudanese authorities would proceed with carrying out the death sentence in the face of global outrage. The sentence has already been postponed for two years to allow Dr Meriam to give birth and wean the baby – she is currently eight months pregnant. However, the terrible damage to the image of Islam has already been done and keeps being done repeatedly because similar cases arise in different parts of the Muslim world on a regular basis.

At the heart of this is a major issue facing the Muslim world.

I provided the following quote to the Sunday Times which today reports on this story.

“It is so tragic that in the 21st century, someone can still be sentenced to death for wanting to change their religion. We can only hope that the Sudanese authorities come to their senses and recognise the disservice they are doing to the way Islam is viewed by the rest of the world and rescind this death sentence. Ultimately, the issue of apostasy is part of a far wider question that much of the Muslim world is still struggling with – how to reconcile traditional Islamic doctrine with modern notions of human rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of association and sexual freedoms.”

There is some debate in the Muslim world about these issues, though the retrograde influence of conservative Muslim ‘scholars’ is sadly still very strong.

Europe benefited immensely through drastically curtailing the baleful influence of the Church, leading to greater freedoms in virtually every area from the social sphere to the sciences. It is difficult to see how the Muslim world can make similar progress without also reducing the influence of conservative teachings.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | 1 Comment

More Developments in the “Muslim Plot to Take-over Schools” story

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The past twenty-four hours have seen additional developments in the story involving the alleged plot involving a leaked document purportedly describing how some Muslims are planning to take-over schools in heavily Muslim populated areas using some highly unethical methods.

Tahir Alam – whose name is mentioned in the leaked document – gave a statement to the Guardian on Saturday describing the letter as “a malicious fabrication and completely untrue.”

He has now issued a much longer press statement  reiterating why he believes the document to be a hoax. It is worth reading in full.

Meanwhile, the Birmingham Mail yesterday published a story featuring Balwant Singh Bains, a former head of Saltley School who resigned last November. The Birmingham Mail story claims that he was “bullied and intimidated” by some governors after opposing their plans to ban sex education.

And the Daily Mail (inevitably) today publishes another story featuring yet more claims that other headteachers  in the Birmingham area have been targeted by some Muslims – including a Muslim lady almost twenty years ago – because she says she was seen as “too moderate”.

Where lies the truth? Two good friends of mine who have long worked to challenge Islamophobia have written to me to say they are convinced that the leaked document is a forgery.

My view? I am sadly not so sure – I think we should wait and see. Overall, I pretty much agree with this editorial that the Birmingham Mail published on Friday:

The claim that Islamic fundamentalists are seeking to take over the running of several city schools, imposing their primitive world-view, will cause massive alarm.

We make no judgment on the truth – or otherwise – of these very serious allegations.

But it is clear that they need thorough investigation, that the inquiry must be transparent and that appropriate action must be taken if the claims are proved.

However, it is also clear that this situation shines a spotlight on the risks of giving our schools greater independence.

By doing so, they are potentially at the mercy of all sorts of groups with hidden agendas.

Are there adequate safeguards against this?

Update:  The Times published a story on Tuesday March 11 2014 raising questions regarding the authenticity of the leaked document. This is all the more interesting because the original story was published in its sister paper, the Sunday Times. Interesting Times! We await further developments…

Update 2: The Guardian has also now published a story in today’s paper saying that the police are ” investigating whether a document outlining an alleged Islamic fundamentalist plot to “take over” schools in the city was a hoax connected to an employment tribunal involving one of the schools named in the plot.”

Update 3: The Guardian has also published an accompanying story featuring quotes from headteachers saying they recognise the tactics described in the leaked document as having been employed against them.

Posted in Extremism, islamophobia | Tagged , , | 7 Comments