Monday, 10 January 2011

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.

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