Monday, 17 January 2011

Reflecting on Tunisia - 1 Week Later

When I wrote my article a week ago today regarding the protests in Tunisia and how we can support our brothers and sisters, I would never have imagined that in just 5 days from that article Ben Ali would have to flee the country, and all praises to Allah(Swt) for this, who answered my dua’ and I am sure the dua’ of millions. Here was Ben Ali, Tyrant of the region ( a title which is well earned in such an area of despots ), forced to flee with his hangers-on to, as it turned out , Saudi Arabia. I thought it was important for not only myself, but also perhaps the two people that actually read my scrawls, to reflect on what we’ve learnt not only about Tunisia, but also about the capitalist governments and of course their puppets in the region, and perhaps most worringly about ourselves.

I’d like to initially focus on the achievements of the Tunisian people. For it was their achievement and their achievement alone. We can retrospectively speculate upon the power of twitter, wikileaks and all the other social media, as well as to convince ourselves that after 2 decades of ignoring them we suddenly influenced them with changing our avatar, but to do so is to miss the point. Youtube has been banned from Tunisia for years, as well as any semblance of a “free” press that would report revelations such as wikileaks or twitter updates. It could be argued that facebook was accessible in the region, however anything more seditious than reaching level 10 in Farmville would result in the account owner being questioned and their account closed ( though not before Tunisian associates were also recorded). Instead, I would like to think that the Tunisian people did this themselves, pushed to the limit from decades of ruthless oppression, facing a monolithic big brother state but refusing to take it. It is impossible to comprehend fully how subjugated you must have to be to walk down a boulevard shouting against a regime when you know that if it fails then you and your family face the rest of your years in a medieval dungeon.

And what dungeons they were, and indeed still are. Institutions of state rape, torture and isolation. A few quotes from what happened to dissidents from the words of testimony that I have received were enough for me to feel absolute euphoria when I read that prisoners had escaped. I can’t possibly understand the joy that these inmates would have felt. I know of one inmate who was serving a 47 year sentence for the crime of fighting in the Bosnian War, and yet another who lost his sight in prison.

However, a lot of what was going on in Tunisia is perhaps a shock to us now. Only now do we read of lists being kept of who was to be visited for attending the masjid or wearing a niqab. Protests in the past where police would open fire on demonstrators without a moments hesitation. Everything someone said on the phone or on their email recorded and used against them. Perhaps we didn’t see this because we were a part of it. The budget holidays, 5 star hotels, great beaches, were all carefully cultivated by the Tunisian regime to provide Ben Ali and his pirate family with hard currency. This hard currency now safely tucked away in French and Swiss banks, as well as the 1.5 tonnes of Gold which he took with him on the flight to Saudi Arabia.

Which perhaps brings us onto the role of the capitalist governments in the Tunisian peoples repression. As of now, at least 100 political dissidents of Ben Alis regime are in various Italian prisons. Italy co-operated fully with the Tunisian government in arranging for them to be sent back, in some cases such as that of Walid Kammoun arranging for their detention, rape and torture on their return. The French government acted as advisors towards the regime, hence why Ben Ali initially tried to return to France as if they were old friends, which of course without the glare of the media and an angry Tunisian diaspora they would be. Belgium and the Netherlands also co-operated with the regime, seeking to return political dissidents to that tyrant. The United Kingdom and the United States also do not have an unblemished record, the UK at one point arranging for a “memorandum of understanding “ for Tunisian dissidents to be sent back if the political situation allowed. The United States for all their blustering about democracy and human rights now, stayed quiet and supported fully the Ben Ali regime and its torture of political opponents. Only now, when the wind is blowing a different direction, do they seek to control it.

Indeed the wind is howling at a frightening speed, and making its way all over the middle east and the maghreb region. Algeria, Libya, Egypt and Jordan have all been hit by protests, as well as Saudi Arabia for hosting the murderer of thousands. Of course, it is clear that what is often dismissed as conspiracy theory and paranoia has proven to be correct : Saudi Arabia dn the Arab regimes are not independent but instead sing exactly in tune with the capitalist powers and their wishes for the region. How else can a revolutionary state of Libya, a socialist state of Algeria, a ba’athist state of Syria, a repressive monarchy of Morocco and an allegedly “Shariah-compliant” Saudi state all suspiciously align with the wishes of the puppet masters?

Perhaps the most worring message is what I feel I’ve learnt about each other. I have read the most disgusting comments from the muslim diaspora about the Tunisian people, such as they “only rebelled because they were hungry”, as if this is not a reason. We need to move beyond just changing our facebook picture or some empty slogans and look at how we can effect real social change and come down from our ivory towers. If you don’t think the direction the people are taking is Islamic enough for you, then you need to take responsibility for it and learn about the people of that country. We need to look at the role that we all play in supporting these regimes with our hard currency, our cheap holidays, or positive spin about the regimes of Saudi Arabia and Jordan, and allowing the Palestinian issue to be manipulated and played by these regimes so the focus is on Israel and not on the tyrants. Israel cannot commit the atrocities they do without the compliance of these states, who perform an anti-semitic pantomime for naïve individuals whilst they murder and repress their own people. We need to learn more about the states that we call muslim, about their concerns and their struggles, and look at how we can help them instead of aiding the oppressors.

For my final reflection, I’d like to say how refreshing it is to see individuals on the street who are truly representative of the population and for whom their first thought is how they can remove oppression and corruption and build a better society. I would urge everyone to support the Tunisian people in their search for a free society, and to aid in the instigation of a similar wave of change across the muslim world. Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Mauritania, Uzbekistan, Algeria, Syria, Jordan, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are just 10 dictator states that I want to see removed in my lifetime. Lets all make it so!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Tunisia, Les Damnés de la Terre

Tunisia is now in the grip of a protest movement that is sweeping across the country and threatening not only that particular despotic regime, but also those in the immediate area.Like a wild sandstorm this is spreading through the Maghreb, and shows no signs of abating. Sadly 21 protestors (and counting ) have lost their lives in the protests, and that total is still rising. Though Algeria has received some coverage, it can be argued that the demonstrations in Tunisia are far more brazen as that country is in the grip of a despot who even the United States has on occasion had to reign in for its wickedness. When the devil himself says “too much for me”, then you know that Ben Ali is a monster of biblical proportions. He is also a monster who claimed support of 99.52% of the population when they voted him “president for life”. I put the case this is an unsophisticated charade perpetuated by Ben Ali and his western backers.

For some of my work with, I wrote about the prison system in Tunisia and the injustice that the brave people of that country suffer daily. Imagine a world where a word against the leader will get you 2 years in prison, and if you happened to discuss the law in the Islamic context of Shariah and Khilafah, then you can fully expect never to be seen again. Indeed, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Witness and others are full of stories of peoples wives, daughters sons and parents being horrifically abused by a regime that knows no bounds. In my contact with prisoners in Italy, they would rather spend their lives in imprisonment in Italy rather than to be returned to Tunisia. Anyone who has read about Italy’s prisons would know what a statement that is.

However away from the prisoners issue, daily life in Tunisia has become unbearable. There is no free press, all opposition parties are controlled by the state, and both tv stations are state-run by relatives of Ben Ali. Ben ali also issued a directive that anyone who criticises Tunisia in the international media will be considered “A traitor to the country”.

There is the oppression against Islam itself, with Ben Ali fearful of its tenets dealing with supporting the oppressed and supporting just rulers. The Hijab has been banned since 2006, all mosques since 1988 have been prevented from having anyone not appointed by the government leading them, mosques are open only at prayer times, police stations are built next to mosques, and so on. Imagine living as a muslim in such an environment. Even stranger when 98% of the population are muslim.

The root of most grievances has traditionally been the economy, and indeed the roots of dissent in Tunisia may play a part, though it is likely that all the factors mentioned above are playing a more significant part than commentators would like to admit. Unemployment is at 15%, however unemployment in parts of Scotland is 30%, yet I have not seen any demonstrations or protestors being shot in Glasgow. It is however the corruption and mismanagement of the economy that I believe the focus should be on. Whole state industries have been “sold” under favourable loans to Ben Ali’s cronies and in-laws, as well as the tourism deals for which Tunisia is famous, whilst the ordinary person on the street has seen inflation, prevention of their business that they’ve run for generations because they don’t have a “licence”, harassment from the police and security services, and so on. This seems to have come to a head on 17th December when a man in an act of desperation set himself on fire in protest at the police confiscating his market stall, and who knows what part that man and those zealous officers in Sidi Bouzid. Amazingly, this was repeated by another individual on 8th January.

Can we possibly imagine how far these individuals have been pushed to the point where they set themselves on fire, or protest with their faces uncovered and knowing that any picture which identifies them can get them 30 years in prison? For many this is the last throw of the dice, a struggle for liberty, for work, for justice and for an end to the oppression that they’ve suffered for decades.

But what is our role in this, the English speaking, ummah-centric muslim community of the diaspora? What practical steps can we take to help our brothers and sisters in Tunisia? I have some suggestions and would welcome more.

a. Stop Visiting

Tunisia relies on foreign support, foreign currency, and the recommendations of others. “its cheap for a reason” has never been more appropriate, as that reason is the oppression and destruction of muslims in that country. As we enjoy the sun and the stories of Carthage, millions are living in fear for their lives from a regime that knows no bounds. Withdraw your investments and take a vacation to a country that doesn’t oppress its own people. Hard to find in this day and age I know, but keep looking.

b. Circulate news about Tunisia

Let people know whats going on. Get informed yourself. There are youtube videos regarding the recent protests, paste them to your friends, family and on forums. Make the world understand that Tunisia is a country of injustice.

c. Write to the Tunisian Government, their embassies and their State media

Inform these despots that you in the west are aware of their crimes, and inform them that you will be telling others. Make sure they understand the impact that their crimes will have on their economy, by making it a life goal of yours to dissuade others from visiting or investing in that country.

d. Take part in Protests

If you are aware of any people conducting either online or offline campaigns against Tunisia, participate in them. Sign the petitions, sign the letters, attend the demonstrations, send those emails.

e. Finally, make Dua; for the protestors

The protestors will undoubtedly suffer if the regime succeeds in their crackdown, so make Dua’ to Allah(swt) that their regime fails. You can help stop Ben Ali by making dua’ against him and the other taghut that infest the muslim world like a virus, stopping the rot and sending a message to the other “leaders” that if they don’t care about the muslims, then the muslims don’t care about them.

I ask Allah(swt) to make the protests a success, to Remove Ben Ali and to give the Tunisians a just government that can be a beacon for the world to follow.

Victims of State Terror : Khaled El Masri

Imagine if you had arranged for a short holiday to escape the drudgery of unemployment on the recommendation of a friend, getting a cheap bus ticket and looking forward to some time away. Imagine then if you are seized from the bus once it crossed the border, violently interrogated, shipped off to a destination thousands of miles away, subjected to horrendous abuse, then when it is realised a mistake has been made thrown on a deserted road in a foreign country and left for dead without explanation or apology. This is not a film starring Matt Damon, this was real life for Khaled El Masri for five terrible months.

Khaled was an unemployed car salesmen from Germany, who is married with six children. His friend suggested he take a cheap holiday to Skopje in Macedonia after he had noticed his friend feeling down and depressed due to the poverty he was suffering in Germany. The El-Masris at that time lived in a single room for the whole family, a situation which would test anyone.

Once he crossed into Macedonia on this bus, armed police arrived on the bus and took him away at gun-point. He was taken to a hotel room where he was searched and subjected to questions about “Islamic organisations”, of which there were none other than attendance at his local Masjid. He was also told that if “he admitted to being a member of Al Qaidah, he can get sent back to Germany straight away.” He was told it was just “administrative reasons” that they would have to say this. After he refused to go along with this ridiculous assertion, he was bundled into a car and taken where he was told he would be sent to germany after a medical exam. Once he got into the room at an airport of some sort, the beatings started. They stripped him naked with a knife or scissors, hitting him on all limbs before taking photos and subjecting him to a violent cavity search. After this, he was dressed in a nappy and jumpsuit, with his ears plugged and nose clipped. He was then strapped down in an aircraft and given an injection. When he landed he was thrown into a boot of a car, before taken out and thrown into a cell with just a blanket and a bottle of putrid water. To say he was disoriented would be the understatement of the millennium.

After taking stock of the writing on the walls, the dress of the guards, he established he was in Afghanistan, and well away from the consciences of the public. He was interrogated by Americans through a Palestinian translator. He was told repeatedly he was in a country without laws, and they can do what they want to him and no one will know. From the voices in the cell corridor there were Pakistanis, Yemenis, Arabs and Africans presumably in the same predicament. He began a hunger strike, lasting 37 days before he was forcefed by a tube being shoved up his nostrils. He was then taken to see a german native speaker, who would not state whether he was from the German government, however suspicions are that the government knew about his torture and false imprisonment.

In one of the most bizarre twists of the war against Islam has been that the American Government actually claimed that they have made a “mistake”, agreeing to release him. He was told by the German that the Americans realised this was a mistake but were trying to remove any trace of him ever having been there at that prison. He was also told never to tell anyone of his release. This then led to him being bundled again into a car blindfolded, taken to an airplane, then after a long flight still blindfolded was driven through winding roads which seemed like mountains. Then, taken out the boot, handcuffs cut off, was on a deserted road at night was told” to walk straight and don’t look back.” Believing he was about to be shot in the back of the head, he walked hysterically till he rounded the bend, and amazingly instead of a bullet greeting him, there were members of the Albanian border guards, who immediately demanded to know who he was and why he was in Albania. Having been provided with his passport, he was able to arrange to be deported to Germany.

If we take stock of the above five months, can we imagine the terror that the United States Government, The Afghanistan Puppet Regime, The German Authorities and the Macedonian Authorities put this person through? To be kidnapped, tortured, and then abandoned is surely one of the most callous acts in modern times, it is the actions of criminals, not of governments. To then read on Wikileaks that the US Government then threatened Germany to stop investigating ( surely in no way coincidental that his case regarding complicity was thrown out of the German Court ) is proof that the dispossessed of society can expect no justice through the fourth reich and its supporters.

Now, the psychological effects and physiological effects of such treatment were felt the minute he was returned to Germany and continue to this day. He lost 40 pounds, and worse was his family had returned to Lebanon believing that he had abandoned them. He engaged in a campaign to tell the world his story, even travelling to the United States as part of an ACLU delegation, and it is only through his bravery that we were able to compile this story. Of course, in a culture where the word “sorry” is hard to come by with substance, all his legal claims have been thrown out of court, with the usual array of “national security considerations” being quoted. The German Government shamefully dropped their claims towards the United States, and it seems that Khaled is expected to “just get on with it”.

Unfortunately, he has been unable to do this since his return, experiencing hallucinations, paranoia that he is being followed constantly, and this eventually took his toll when he was committed to a psychriatic hospital following an altercation at a shop. Early last year he was involved in another altercation this time with the mayor of Ulm, who he believed was responsible for agents trying to “recruit him”. He has been sentenced to two years in prison whilst his kidnappers and the state supporters continue to walk free.

This is War on Terror Justice, and we should never forget.

Write to Khaled El-Masri

Khaled El-Masri
JVA Memmingem
Gaswerkstraße 23
87700 Memmingen

About the “Victims” Series

When we use the word victim, we think of a weak, dishevelled, cowed creature who cannot defend themselves and is subjected to the most brutal attacks and violence. Clearly those who have suffered torture and ill-treatment yet remain stoic in adversity do not fit into this category as their bravery knows no bounds.

However, its important to remember that however a brave face has been put on a matter, their experience will have long term physical and mental implications for the rest of their lives and it is still fair in spite of their bravery to be considered victims justifiably.

Through reclaiming this term, we also reclaim the responsibility for it and we direct the responsibility not to a government with weak apologies and photo-friendly expressions of regret, but instead to a series of governments who wilfully and deliberately tried to rob men and women of their futures and have demonstrated nothing to show that they would not do so again. Indeed, many such cases of kidnapping, violence and murder are still carried out in the name of freedom : the extrajudicial killings are one aspect, yet the secret prisons continue to exist and the families continue to suffer. believe that only through understanding the past and remembering the past can we get angry about the present and motivate ourselves to have the confidence and the will to challenge this oppression.

Who radicalised Roshonara?

Recently, the sister Roshonara Choudhry was convicted of an attack against Stephen Timms, a serving Member of Parliament. This attack was slowly built up by the media from being one in which she was described as perhaps having psychological problems to suddenly being Al-Qaeda’s sleeper cell in the United Kingdom. Headlines ranged from the sensational (“Brainwashed by Al-Qaeda into stabbing MP”) through to the downright preposterous (“From Spider-man to a Web Fanatic”). In all articles however, there is one thing noticeably absent : the facts into why a young woman would take matters into her own hands.

One can gain an insight into her mindset, through the police interviews that are allegedly from her and conducted by a DC Hussain as reported by the Guardian, that this was clearly a woman troubled immensely by her conscience and what she perceives as the numerous injustices perpetrated against the muslim community both in this country and around the world.

She talks firstly of how her local MP, an MP who is meant to represent 1000s of muslims and people of conscience in his borough, voted unrepentantly for the war in Iraq, perhaps to further his political career as part of the “Blairite Revolution” (after all, we know it wasn’t on evidence of WMD). This was a war in which over 100,000 have been killed through the actions of the United States, UK and other States, and a war which was carried out for no reason but greed of the rich and powerful. The price of civilian death was a price which was borne mainly by the Muslims of Iraq, with Blair and Bush free to write their memoirs whilst families grow up without their father, mother, daughter or son.

She then talks of her University, which chose to honour one of the butchers of Qana in Lebanon, Shimon Peres. This person was given an honorary doctorate in Law from Kings College for “Services to Peace”, and mirrors his Nobel Prize received just 2 years after the shelling of Qana where 800 civillians died.

Roshonara then talks of her sympathy with the muslims in Palestine, a sympathy that is shared with muslims and non-muslims around the world. Palestine, a country where they survive in an open concentration camp called Gaza, with an embargo on trade and their so-called “brothers” of Jordan and Egypt actively starving them to death. All this whilst the world looks on.

She then mentions oppression, again an issue noticeably absent by both the journalists, and I’m sad to say the muslim organisations, who have stayed silent in this sisters cause with a few exceptions. This oppression is something that reads about and tries to address every single day. Not a week goes by without a brother mentioning the beating he received in an Italian Jail, or the harassment of the police towards his family, or the denial of basic materials in their cells, and so on. This is just in the microcosm of prison, but what about outside?

Is the government oblivious to the impact that picking up the newspaper every morning, seeing a “pundit” condemn immigrants, foreigners, muslim womens dress, a new community centre, a new mosque, might have on the muslim community? To be constantly bombarded with blatant racism and anti-muslim sentiment, to the point of physical violence on the part of right-wing extremists under the guise of “supporting our boys” will obviously play on peoples minds.

Then to be accused of “not integrating”, not doing enough to “condemn extremism”, having CCTV targeted on muslim areas exclusively, having constant pressure put on you about how you dress, how long your beard is, how many times you pray, what schools you send your children to, the books you read, the conversations you have, the general suspicion of a public hyped up through diatribes in the Daily Mail, what effect does the government and the Police believe it will have on the growing muslim community?

Then we have specific laws targeted towards muslims. Laws that allow men already acquitted of terrorism offences to still carry that label for the rest of their lives, living out a meagre existence under harsher house arrest conditions than Aung San Suu Ki, with the threat of deportation to torture hanging over their heads every day. Situations where not even a prima facie case has been presented to a court yet we have brothers awaiting extraditon to a country they have never set foot in with evidence they have never been presented with facing life imprisonment in a US Supermax prison. Where we have sisters being framed, tortured for years then given life sentences with evidence that holds no water. Where we have brothers kidnapped from the streets of Milan or Sarajevo, and shipped off to underground torture chambers where the governments remain unrepentant of the suffering they caused. Where we have a government that tries to cover up torture of those who were meant to be under their care.

Despite all of this, the constant bombardment, harassment, intimidation and oppression of the muslim community both in the UK and worldwide, through the media, the government, and elements of the population, we instead blame a distant sheikh in a far-off land for the “radicalisation” of Roshonara Choudhary, a sister who to the point of extreme mental anguish could clearly take the paradox no more. Perhaps rather than blaming others, its time the UK looked closer to home.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Remembering Srebrenica

Today, on the 11th July 2010, marks 15 years since the worst massacre to take place in Europe since World War II. It is a date that the United Nations and NATO in their new war-on-terror guise would like to forget, for it is the date of the genocide of Srebrenica. Many of us were too young to see it, and some of us like myself were not even muslim at that time and as such would have casually commented on the violence before changing channels. This is an attitude that the west seems to have ingrained in a lot of muslims nowadays, that of switching off from the horror and devastation that the enemies of Islam have caused in the name of nationalism, finance and foreign policy. Its important for all of us to be aware of what happens when we demonstrate indifference and “switch off”, and no more pertinent an example of that is present than the massacre of Srebrenica.

At the height of the war in Bosnia-Herzogovina, in which the Bosnian Serbs heavily backed and supported by Serbia were committing what we now understand as ethnic cleansing, Srebrenica was also affected from near enough the start of the war. In one description :-javascript:void(0)

“Between April 1992 and March 1993, Srebrenica town and the villages in the area held by Bosnian Muslims were constantly subjected to Serb military assaults, including artillery attacks, sniper fire, as well as occasional bombing from aircraft. Each onslaught followed a similar pattern. Serb soldiers and paramilitaries surrounded a Bosnian Muslim village or hamlet, called upon the population to surrender their weapons, and then began with indiscriminate shelling and shooting. In most cases, they then entered the village or hamlet, expelled or killed the population, who offered no significant resistance, and destroyed their homes. During this period, Srebrenica was subjected to indiscriminate shelling from all directions on a daily basis. Potočari in particular was a daily target for Serb artillery and infantry because it was a sensitive point in the defence line around Srebrenica. Other Bosnian Muslim settlements were routinely attacked as well. All this resulted in a great number of refugees and casualties”

Eventually, the United Nations under considerable pressure elected to act, designating Srebrenica a “safe area” in 2003 where refugees could congregate. This stayed this way until early july 2005, when the Serb forces elected to attack those in the refugee area, after gathering from a meeting with the French commander of the UN in Bosnia that they would not attack.

The Dutch Soldiers, as expected, offered no resistance as serb forces ransacked the town. Indeed, some dutch high-command were captured drinking with the serb war criminals by TV cameras. It was however to get far worse as the refugees fled from Srebrenica to Potocari. In Potocari women were raped and babies killed whilst the dutch UN peacekeepers looked on, presumably as part of the “turn the other cheek” philosophy. Men were separated and marched to their deaths across the hills. They were herded into football stadiums or warehouses, and executed en masse. Women and children were taken to the notorious “rape camps” where some were murdered and others released to walk to government-held territory. Whilst this was happening, the UN and NATO forces continued to refuse to intervene even though they were well aware a massacre was occurring.

Eventually over 8000 persons were killed, more than 30,000 displaced, and countless homes destroyed.

So what has happened since then? Sadly no-one has learnt their lesson from such events, as we have seen many massacres committed by troops around the world, with no intervention ever taking place unless there is money and oil involved. We have seen NATO and the UN acting as the worlds peacemakers in Afghanistan, bizarrely dispensing with their propaganda as the “worlds saviour” to instead massacre thousands of civilians in Afghanistan. Though not anywhere near the scale of Srebrenica, this is more due to a lack of people in Afghanistan (a country ravished by decades of war ) rather than any concern by the occupying NATO Forces.

We have also seen the Bosnian government quick to forget the debt and gratitude they owe to those who fought the serbs in the war, without whom it is unlikely that NATO, fearing a genuine Islamic state, would have intervened. Indeed one of the conditions of the Dayton Accords was that “foreign” ( ie. Muslim ) fighters leave Bosnia immediately. The Bosnian government have tried to deport brothers for years whose crime was to help muslims when the whole world would not. They have also handed brothers over to the Americans who were then tortured in Guantanamo Bay for many years. They have harassed the families of Ex-Mujahideen, making their desire for European Membership supercede their responsibilities to the ones to whom they owe their very survival.

Perhaps most tragically is the attitude of the muslims, whom now see NATO and the “west” as people who believe in the right to life and in human dignity when their actions in Srebrenica and many other areas of Bosnia show that they were never to be trusted then, and they should not be trusted now. We see muslims ignoring the plight of the other bosnias around the world, the slow death of Gaza, the rape of Kashmir, the Conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and of course the abject poverty of the central African countries coupled with the political terror by dictatorships in the Maghreb and Middle East.

Srebrenica should teach us the dangers of indifference, and I pray to Allah(swt) that the muslims wake from this sleep and remember our past, ameen.

Umar Abdullah,12th July 2010

Saturday, 5 September 2009

So why do you write to extremists?

Whenever I’m asked this question, it always amazes me. This ummah, who are 2 Billion strong and obsessed ( and I mean this quite literally ) with the concept of Freemasons / Secret Societies, and conspiracies, when it comes to our brothers and sisters in prison we accept the words of the Sun or the Daily Express without hesitation. To even accept the word “Extremism” is to accept a loaded term which is entirely concocted by the enemies of Islam in order to create fear and suspicion within muslim communities. Much like the term “islamist”, this term is one which many on a government payroll propagate, but few can define it or understand what it means.

Let me give you the example of one brother. He is Algerian, and was arrested under a flood of publicity and pomp in connection with the “ricin” trial. His case lacked any solid basis, but this did not stop the press worldwide condemning this brother ( and others ) to a trial by media. Tony Blairs administration seized on this and would reel out soundbite after soundbite about “those who hate freedom”, which became quite ironic when this brother and others were detained for over two years before being acquitted.

What then became completely absurd is that this brother was then arrested under immigration bail, the basis being “involved in the ricin plot” and other “secret” evidence that he has never been able to challenge or question in an open court. He is now located in a Chateau-D’if style existence under virtual house arrest. The muslim community on the whole have completely shunned this brother, he went from being a popular businessman to one who appreciates any contact however slight. His area is one devoid of muslims, and he spends every Iftari alone with the threat of deportation to torture hanging over him every day. There is no family here, no friends for 50 miles, and who knows what impact a small letter or phonecall would have on one so isolated?

Then there is the example of the brother serving an indeterminate sentence for organising paintball trips and doing dawah stalls in London. Some of the key “evidence” were items such as “The way this individual is cutting a watermelon is exactly as they kill hostages in Iraq.” This brother is a grandfather who is in his 50s. He went from having over 200 people knowing him and speaking to him regularly to having one or two brothers who write to him. Who knows what one letters impact will have towards that brother?

There is also the case of the brothers in Italy. The Egyptian brother, acquitted in Spain yet jailed in Italy for exactly the same charges (“terrorism”), even though the Spanish authorities (Not one known for being favourable to Islam) say that Italy mistranslated his intercepted phonecalls ( the only evidence). He has spent over 3 years imprisoned and has suffered terrible abuses including physical attacks by guards on three separate occasions. He faces at the end of his sentence indefinite detention in Egypt at the end of his sentence. He wept tears when he heard that one muslim in the UK wrote to him. What impact would another have?

Or what of the Moroccan brother, arrested last year and held in such isolated conditions on the island of Sardinia that he is cut off from his own family, sons and daughters, who cannot afford the travel to the region. He has not seen his family for six months, and has no realistic chance of seeing them anytime soon after being moved to the isolation wing of a new prison in the deepest mountains of Nuoro. He has recently been found to need kidney dialysis, which in Italy means that you have to pay some costs of the treatment.

What about the revert brother, attacked with boiling water in his cell whilst the guards stood back and let it happen. A cowardly attack that left him with burns all over his scalp and torso. What about the Tunisian left in -3 degrees celcius without even a blanket in the depth of winter. What about the other Tunisian whom was arrested and his wife suffered such a mental breakdown that their own children were taken into care? What about the brother left to nearly die when he was refused medical treatment from an asthma attack after the prison block caught fire? There are hundreds of examples like this.

As a final example there is Farid, another Moroccan brother who spent over 6 years imprisoned without a trial to assess his innocence or guilt. He was extradited to a Spanish prison where he was threatened and intimidated, where he knew no-one and where he did not even know a word of Spanish. How comforting to have letters from those in the UK who at least could offer him some support, however small.

I wish I could tell you from the above that it was all a bad dream, and really hundreds of thousands of muslims accepted their obligations and responded to all the above pleas of help. Sadly those who helped I can count on two hands from the muslim community. These brothers were all in need, and many more continue to be in need, and we fail them.

It is an obligation for us to support each other in times of difficulty and ease. The prophet(saw) said , “A Muslim is the brother of a Muslim. He does not wrong him, forsake him or despise him.”, as well as “The faithful believers are as a brick structure, each supporting one another”.

So, to answer the question “Why do I write to extremists?”, I would respond that I do not. I write to human beings, my fellow muslims, who request my (or any other muslims) support and help to allow them to prove their innocence or serve their sentence in peace, to stand firm against oppression and injustice.

I leave you with the words of the prophet (saw), then ask yourself to imagine yourself in those same shoes as those worn in the examples above. “No man forsakes a Muslim when his rights are being violated or his honour is being belittled except that Allah will forsake him at a place in which he would love to have His help. And no man helps a Muslim at a time when his honour is being belittled or his rights violated except that Allah will help him at a place in which he loves to have His help”.

Saturday, 27 June 2009

Sarkozy, The Burkha and the French war on Humanity

When the vertically-challenged president of France Nicholas Sarkozy made an attack against the clothing that some women choose to wear, it re-ignited the debate about the womans’ role in Islam and society. This debate was of course mostly one-sided, with the tabloids and broadsheets combined making various inflammatory statements through their columnists.

As a man, I do not feel that it is my place to present arguments as to how the Islamic dress actually emancipates women, or the particular details of what constitutes Islamic dress. This is for the sisters to present, as they are the ones who choose to do so every day, facing the jeers and suspicions of many of those in the western society, and for that I have tremendous respect. I am sure that many of us have heard stories of sisters being insulted and attacked just because of their clothing they wear, and in a few cases the brothers have responded but on the whole the muslim vanguard in western countries is a fairly impotent bunch, which makes the sisters all the more stronger in my view.

Instead, I wish to concentrate on Sarkozy’s claim that “The burkha is not a religious sign, it's a sign of subservience, a sign of debasement.” He presumably has become enamoured with his public persona to such an extent that it has made him suffer amnesia about the actions of his own country in subjugating women and men in both its colonies and now with the “hidden French hand” in African affairs.

The French colonial experience was not a pleasant one, though of course colonisation for the colonised is never so, however there are often varying degrees of brutality. When France colonised Algeria in the early 1800s, they did so on a path of destruction. Alexis De Tocqueville gave this strategy to the colonising forces :-

“I personally believe that the laws of war enable us to ravage the country and that we must do so either by destroying the crops at harvest time or any time by making fast forays also known as raids the aim of which it to get hold of men or flocks. Whatever the case, we must say that all political freedoms should be suspended in Algeria.”

From these statements, which any Algerian who reads their history will tell you was followed to the letter, we can see that France revelled in its role of forcing subservience upon the population. To suspend freedoms of any kind is of course to debase and subjucate at the most extreme level. Of course, Sarkozy will claim that this was a long time ago ( though curiously the values of Liberté, égalité, fraternité as justification were then as now), there are more examples from recent history.

In Algeria, there was de-facto racial segregation in classrooms, with the Pieds-Noirs (French settlers ) being given access to the best education and employment. Algerian children in particular were prevented from attending school in rural areas.

In the 1950s, France found itself embroiled in a war of liberation by Algerian insurgents, the FLN. France (in a statement that will surely sound familiar ) denied that this guerrilla army was entitled to any rights as prisoners of war, and instead denounced the uprising as one of terrorism. The French forces collectively punished the Algerian population, and whether one was for or against the FLN in time no-one was safe from the excesses of the French forces. Rape, Murder and Torture were par for the course, men or women, young or old. One example from Verité Liberté states that :-

“first, the officer questions the prisoner in the "traditional" manner, hitting him with fist and kicking him. Then follows torture: hanging..., water torture..., electricity..., burning (using cigarettes, etc.)... Cases of prisoners who were driven insane were frequent... Between interrogation sessions, the suspects are imprisoned without food in cells, some of which wre small enough to impede lying down. We must point out that some of them were very young teenagers and others old men of 75, 80 years or more.”

With regards rape, the French army as protocol said that every female arrested must have their genitals inspected for evidence of sexual relations with relatives. This in effect legitimised sexual abuse and rape in the minds of the legionnaires and armed forces, and this command came directly from the French government themselves. A testimony by a former soldier in the book “Torture and the Twilight of empire” , states in one day he saw “one thirteen year old raped by three soldiers, a fifteen year old raped by seven, and a sergeant who had raped an eight year old.”

I apologise for these details, but it is essential that we understand that when france attacks women in Islam, it is in no position to do so. It is still rare to hear any Frenchman express regret over their actions in Algeria, and of course issues such as compensation are a non-issue as far as the French government is concerned.

And this is not to say that these matters are over with. Four French soldiers in 2005 were accused of rape by a child in the Ivory Coast, with similar events happening by French troops in Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Africa, Morocco and others. Examples include abuse of patients at a mental health facility, denying food and water to villagers for amusement, and many more atrocities.

It is perhaps then all the more bizarre that Sarkozy, diminutive though he may be, should make such grand statements as women who wear the burkha are debasing themselves. It is of course france that is doing the debasement of all those women in Africa and anywhere else which it tries to exert control.

In my own view, I believe that these women are subservient, to Allah(swt). If they believe that they should dress in the niqab, hijab or burkha, there is no doubt in my mind that they do so only with the intention to please Allah(swt). This is a direct challenge to the authority of the state that wishes all its citizens to rubber-stamp the murders, the rape, the theft of resources and the exploitation that characterises western foreign policy.

If Sarkozys’ concepts of freedom is to allow France to subjucate those weak and oppressed around the world, then I am pleased that we muslims are subservient to Allah(swt), al-humduillah. From a muslim perspective, he is as relevant as he is tall, and I would urge anyone to continue working for Islam, and to let the west know that muslims will not be intimidated.

Umar Abdullah, 26th June 2009