Posts Tagged ‘Iraq’

Britain: appreciation for Obama’s nuanced view of ‘Muslim-majority countries’

‘The absence in his speech of any bellicose threats to Iran stands in stark contrast to his predecessor,’ says a Muslim politician in Birmingham.

By Ben Quinn | Contributor 06.04.09 |Christian Science Monitor

LONDON – In Britain, home to one of Europe’s largest Muslim communities, as well as many members of the Arab diaspora, there was a mixed but generally positive reaction to President Obama’s speech.

“I think he has good intent but people do want to see action,” said Yahya Birt, a trustee of the City Circle, a London-based networking group whose members are mainly young British Muslim professionals.

“He has to show that he really is an honest broker with regard to Israel and Palestine. People here are going to be talking about the speech, because he has been a transformative president and people had been looking forward to the speech,” added Mr. Birt, an editor at a publishing house.

“One concern I would have would be in relation to this call for democracy. He was making that appeal in Cairo, in a country whose regime has been unelected for decades and is very repressive. Does realpolitik of security still trump the push for democracy?”

In England’s second-largest city, Birmingham, a cultural melting pot where more than 16 percent of the population identify themselves as Muslim, the speech also received a cautious welcome from Salma Yaqoob, a city counselor for the left-wing, antiwar Respect Party.

“The absence in his speech of any bellicose threats to Iran stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, George W. Bush, as do his comments about the ‘intolerable’ situation facing the Palestinians,” she said.

Many Muslims in Britain are of South Asian origin and are alarmed at how the US intervention in Afghanistan is also destabilizing Pakistan. “The sooner there is progress to redress the injustice of the Palestinians and end the occupation of Afghanistan, the quicker a new chapter can be written,” Ms. Yaqoob added.

Ajmal Masroor, a London imam involved with the Islamic Society of Britain, said that Obama’s address was a step in the right direction, commending the president for adopting a “reassuring tone.”

“He made it very clear that the suffering of Palestinians must end. On balance, the speech was very fair, so I think that Muslims will now be prepared to give him a little more time to see if he can walk the walk as well as talk the talk,” Imam Masroor said.

If he had a criticism, however, it was that Obama had failed to address the poor record on human rights and democracy by many Arab “dictators and despots,” including the government of Egypt itself.

The speech also went down well among an invited audience at the US Embassy, according to Riazat Butt, religious affairs correspondent for the Guardian newspaper.

“I think that people were impressed and the reaction was generally positive, because he was basically doing something that Bush would never do,” she said.

“For much of the first half of the speech, there were a lot of comments which were very general in nature, but then he started to talk about Al Qaeda, then about Israel and Palestine, and about Iran, which I thought he would not do.”

Overall, she expected that British Muslims would take notice.“I think that people here on the street will be talking about it because it has been very eagerly awaited. But how people judge what he had to say will ultimately come down to whether he follows through on his words with actions.”

The Quilliam Foundation, a London-based counterextremism think tank made up of former Islamist activists, described the speech as “groundbreaking and courageous.”

Welcoming a “nuanced but significant change” in Obama’s language, it added that he “avoided any use of the term ‘the Muslim world’ and instead adopted ‘Muslim-majority countries’ and ‘Muslim communities.’ ”

The statement continued, “There is no monolithic ‘Muslim community,’ nor is there a singular homogeneous entity known as ‘the Muslim world,’ rather there are diverse and distinctive Muslim communities that need to be reflected in our discourse. Using the term ‘the Muslim world’ only serves to bolster the Islamist and Al Qaeda narrative of ‘the West’ against ‘Islam’ – of a battle of ‘us’ versus ‘them’ or ‘good’ versus ‘evil.’

“By omitting this, Obama has taken a positive step in the battle of ideas and in realizing his promise that America is not fighting a war against Islam.”

Source article here.

Salma Yaqoob on Obama speech: ‘Words welcome but action needed’

Salma Yaqoob reflects on Barack Obama's speech

Salma Yaqoob reflects on Barack Obama's Cairo speech

President Obama has given his first major speech on relations between the United States and the Muslim world.

Birmingham Councillor and Respect party leader Salma Yaqoob gave her response:

“President Obama’s call for a ‘new beginning’ in relations between the United States and the Muslim world is very welcome.

“The absence in his speech of any bellicose threats to Iran stands in stark contrast to his predecessor, George W Bush, as do his comments about the ‘intolerable’ situation facing the Palestinians.

“However, in view of the damage done to the United States’ reputation across the Muslim world, actions not words will be required to really mark a new beginning.
“Many Muslims in Britain are of South Asian origin and are alarmed at how the US intervention in Afghanistan is also destabilising Pakistan.

The sooner there is progress to redress the injustice of the Palestinians and end the occupation of Afghanistan, the quicker a new chapter can be written.”

Salma Yaqoob on BBC Question Time

Salma Yaqoob on BBC Question Time

Salma Yaqoob appears on BBC Question Time tonight

Birmingham Respect councillor Salma Yaqoob will again appear on BBC political panel show Question Time tonight, alongside fellow politicians and analysts answering questions and concerns from the British public.

The leader of the Respect Party and Chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition will be joining presenter David Dimbleby and airing her views alongside Birmingham Hodge Hill Labour MP Liam Byrne – who failed to speak out against the recent attacks in Gaza, Conservative MP Justine Greening, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, and television gardener and writer Monty Don.

The show will be broadcast from Bath at 10.35pm on Thursday, 12thFebruary 2009 on BBC 1.

BBC link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/question_time/7878952.stm

Salma Yaqoob will feature on The Politics Show on Sunday

Salma Yaqoob will feature on The Politics Show on Sunday

Salma Yaqoob will also appear on the West Midlands edition of BBC current affairs programme the Politics Show, which will be broadcast at 12.30pm on Sunday 15th February 2009, following the main national show at midday.

BBC Link: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/politics_show/regions/west_midlands/default.stm

Images: BBC

Public Meeting: Pakistan in Crisis

  Report by Abu Jamal and Adam Yosef

George Galloway MP in Birmingham

George Galloway MP in Birmingham

A public meeting entitled ‘Pakistan in Crisis’, held by Respect at the Birmingham Central Mosque in the Highgate area of the city on Saturday (18th Oct), was attended by over 250 people.

Salma Yaqoob, city councillor for Sparkbrook, set the tone for the meeting by condemning the recent US military operations in Pakistan which have created numerous civilian casualties; and spoke of the hypocrisy of the British media for failing to report these attacks “on a sovereign nation”.

“We care about every single human being, whether they’re in Birmingham, Baghdad or Pakistan. We do not have the double standards of the British government and media,” she said.

She called for a genuine democratic Pakistan that would not tolerate US military attacks on its own people and explained the current crisis in Pakistan could only be resolved by ordinary people struggling for peace, justice and equality.

Salma Yaqoob speaks about Pakistan

Salma Yaqoob speaks about Pakistan

“I want to see a democratic Pakistan, a peaceful Pakistan, free of all corrupt influences. We need a Pakistan without religious intolerance, that’s what most Pakistanis want. They don’t need Western leaders lecturing them on religion.”

George Galloway, Respect’s MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, spoke at length on the recent history of Pakistan and Kashmir, and received a rousing reception upon declaring the “people of Kashmir have every right and dignity to fight for the freedom of their land.”

He briefly focused on “The Hangman” Zia-Ul-Haq (a reference to General Zia’s execution of former PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto in 1979), highlighting how Zia became America’s favourite in a line of ‘dictators’. Galloway went on to challenge the corrupt nature of General Pervez Musharraf and how his craven support for US policy in the region had not protected the Pakistani people but exploited them for financial gain.

The outspoken Member of Parliament told a diverse audience that recent bombings in the south Asian state were a direct result of the unstable war in Afghanistan. He also claimed the ‘War on Terror’, which has recently spilled into the country with US bombing strikes frequently targeting South Waziristan, was being allowed due to the complacency of British Pakistani MPs.

Audience at Birmingham Central Mosque

Audience at Birmingham Central Mosque

“I love Pakistan, all my life I have loved it, even before it became two countries,” he said. “We are reminded that there are four Pakistani MPs in Parliament. A fact I nearly forgot as none of them has raised a finger or voice against the US-led attack on Pakistan. They’re just there to be reeled in when their political leaders want to justify an attack on Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia or Pakistan.”

Galloway also noted the political silence of another MP, Labour’s Roger Godsiff, whose Parliamentary Hall Green seat Salma Yaqoob intends to challenge at the next General Election. His views were echoed by Yaqoob herself, who urged Muslims from the region to increase pressure on Asian councillors or deny them their vote.

“We need to tell these people who come to our homes asking for our votes, and there are over twenty Asian councillors in Birmingham, we need to tell them they will not get our votes unless they do something to help the people of Pakistan,” she explained.

“They [US/UK coalition] haven’t learnt from the past and are taking their war into Pakistan. As people from all backgrounds, and I stand here as a proud British citizen, we cannot allow this to happen in our name.

“We have that special responsibility as British citizens to pressure our government to stop bombing Afghanistan. If Afghanistan hadn’t been bombed, Pakistan would have never been bombed,” she added.

The meeting was primarily attended by members of the Pakistani, Somali and Arab community, many of whom identified with the political climate in Pakistan. Galloway also touched on the crisis in Somalia, reminding the audience their taxes contributed towards the conflict in the African country.

“In Somalia, the country is occupied by Ethiopian armed forces, paid for by you. Perhaps you didn’t realise the British government is supplying and paying for a foreign army to occupy Somalia.

“They’re doing so using your money while children still suffer a famine on both sides.”

He concluded by imploring those in attendance to support Salma Yaqoob’s campaign to become MP for the Birmingham Hall Green constituency, in an effort to highlight, challenge and resolve many of the issues that had been discussed.

George galloway in Birmingham Central Mosque

George galloway in Birmingham Central Mosque

“Can you imagine if Salma Yaqoob was standing in Parliament as an MP. You might not see her in Downing Street but you’d see her in Parliament day after day speaking out against the oppression of the downtrodden people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Pakistan. So you have to support and raise funds for Salma’s campaign so she can become the MP for Hall green in Birmingham.”

His appeal was reiterated by fellow speaker and activist Yvonne Ridley.

“There are many reasons to support Respect and for supporting Salma Yaqoob. We need as much help as we can get to continue holding rallies like this and getting Salma Yaqoob into Parliament is going to cost money.

The Birmingham Respect team with George Galloway and Yvonne Ridley

The Birmingham Respect team with George Galloway and Yvonne Ridley

“We don’t have corporate fat cats throwing money towards us and that’s a good thing. Please dig deep and give generously. You have a fantastic candidate in Salma Yaqoob, someone who cares about issues locally, nationally and internationally.”

The gathering was chaired by Councillor Mohammed Ishtiaq. Other speakers included Councillor Naeem Ullah Khan, local activist Richard Hutcher and Pakistani political commentator Choudary Tasadiq Arvi.

National STWC demonstration tomorrow

Five Years On in Iraq

Iraq: Five Years On

Labour lie – one million die
The Bush-Brown war on terror is making the world more unstable. Over 1 million have died in Iraq, war rages in Afghanistan, Iran is threatened with attack, Gaza is under seige, and Pakistan is destabilised.
The Stop the War Coalition have organised a demonstration to mark the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We urge everybody to attend:

Join the global protests – demonstrate 15 March

Assemble 12 noon, Trafalgar Square, London
Assemble 11.30, Blythswood Square, Glasgow.

 

Map of demo route

Troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan

Don’t attack Iran

End the siege of Gaza

“I really hope that on 15 March people will join the demonstration in Trafalgar Square at 12. To march against the war and march against the continued occupation which has come from this war. It had a rotten basis and nothing good will come of it.”
Nick Broomfield, Documentary film maker

For more information, contacts, speakers list and to see a map of the demo route, click here.

This month marks the fifth anniversary of the invasion and occupation of Iraq. What has followed has been five years of catastrophe for the people of that country.
It also marks the fifth birthday of the global anti-war movement.

On March 15th 2003 two million people took to the streets of London,
and another eight million did around the world, to protest against the
impending disaster.

Respect was born out of that movement as the voice of opposition to war and
neo-liberalism, which in today’s world go together hand in hand. Join Respect and the STWC at tomorrow’s national and international demonstrations.

Contact the numbers below to book tickets from Birmingham.

Kings Heath 07748 264 668
Sparkhill 07815 995 974
Stirchley 07958 109 648
Handsworth 07771 623 426
Sutton Coldfield 07775 942 841
other areas 07977 057 902