Posts Tagged ‘Islam’

Salma Yaqoob: The real debate we should have about Afghanistan

Salma Yaqoob, chair of Birmingham Stop the War, says If we are genuinely concerned about the troops, as we are about the Afghan people, we must have an open debate about why we are in Afghanistan and whether we should pull out.

Wootton Bassett

Crowds watch as the hearse carrying the body of the 100th soldier to die in Afghanistan returns home.

By Salma Yaqoob | guardian.co.uk | 5 January 20105 January 2010

When I was invited to appear on Question Time at Wootton Bassett, I did feel a hesitation because of the programme’s location. I was very mindful of the fact that this is where every soldier who has been killed is honoured and where respects are paid.

Regardless of where you stand politically, their loss is a very real and human tragedy for their families.

But these are more than personal tragedies. Our soldiers and military families put their trust in the politicians who send them into battle. They trust them to tell the truth.

The political tragedy is that, once again, we are fighting a war that is based on lies and that will not make us safe.

So it is necessary to hold our politicians to account for their decisions. And that debate should not be silenced.

There is a subtext that if you support our troops, then you have to support the war itself; because if you question the purpose of the occupation, then you are accused not only of being unpatriotic, but also even of endangering the troops by undermining morale.

That silencing of debate leaves a huge vacuum in our politics, because all three parties back the line that we have to get behind the troops and “finish the job”.

There is also a double standard also about deaths in Afghanistan. On the one hand, with the parades in Wootton Bassett we congratulate ourselves that we’re so civilised that no loss goes unmourned; yet, if you’re Afghan, no one even counts your death.

Afghan suffering

From British politicians there’s absolutely no acknowledgment of Afghan people’s suffering, or the fact that their lives are not better-off because of the west’s intervention – although that is the lie that continues to be told. Thousands have been killed and seven million made refugees, but that’s not on anybody’s radar.

Anjem Choudary

Anjem Choudary

This dignified and serious debate is the last thing on the mind of Anjem Choudary and Islam4UK. He is a bigot whose goal in life is to provoke division. He engages in these provocations because he is deeply hostile to any coming together of Muslims and non-Muslims. For him, the fact that a majority of the British people – Muslim and non-Muslim – oppose the war in Afghanistan is not something to be celebrated, but is something to be feared.

If we are genuinely concerned about the troops, as we are about the Afghan people, we must have an open debate about why we are in Afghanistan and whether we should pull out. Instead, the airwaves are dominated by the rantings of a marginal provocateur.

My experience on Question Time confirms to me the need for a genuinely open political debate, conducted with seriousness and sensitivity. I wasn’t surprised to be received at first in silence, given the programme’s pro-war bias, but by the end, people were saying that the majority was behind me.

I do trust the conscience of ordinary British people, even if I am cynical about our political leadership.

Original article (The Guardian) here.

Stop the War Coalition (STWC) article here.

NEWS: Birmingham EDL Protests – 08.08.09

Multicultural Birmingham comes out in full force against far-right troublemakers

Multicultural Birmingham comes out in full force against far-right threat

Below are a few useful links to news stories relating to last week’s English Defence League protest in Birmingham City Centre and Unite Against Fascism’s counter-protest, in which Respect party leader and Birmingham City Councillor Salma Yaqoob spoke against racism and fascism.

Councillor Salma Yaqoob commented:

“The instigators of this demonsrtration are fascist thugs. They are coming to our city with one intention only;  to sow racist division by stirring up anti-Muslim hatred.

“One of their ringleaders made their intentions very clear when he publicly stated his opposition to ‘all Muslims practising their faith in Britiain’, and admitted links with the BNP.

“The police have assured me that they will deal with any troublemakers. I am concerned, though, that the West Midlands Police are playing down the racist nature of this protest, and the links the protesters have with far-right organisation. Everyone has a right to voice their opinions, but no-one has the right to incite hatred against others on the grounds of race or religion. It is very important that the West Midlands Police act firmly to deal with any incitement to racist hatred.

“Birmingham is a multi-cultural city and proud of it. It is also important that people of all faiths and cultures stand together in the spirit of peace and unity. We must show these people that they are not wanted here, and that Birmingham will not be divided by race or faith”.

LATEST NEWS:

Right wing rioters threaten more protests in Birmingham city centre – Birmingham Mail, 17.08.09

Anti-Extremist protests in Birmingham: racism takes to the streets – Charlie Salmon, The Sikh Times, 11.08.09

Salma Yaqoob condemns racist protesters – Pakistan Daily, 10.08.09

Battle of Bimringham: 35 held after riots – Louisa Pilbeam, The Mirror

City of Birmingham in UK sees anti-fascist action – Pakistan Daily, 10.08.09

Birmingham sees anti-Fascist action – The Stirrer, 09.08.09

‘Patriot League’ plans more clashes with anti-fascist activists – The Guardian, 09.08.09

Police review anti-Islamic rally – BBC News, 09.08.09

35 arrests in Birmingham after rival protesters clash – The Telegraph, 09.08.09

Arrests at Anti-Islamic protests – BBC News, 09.08.09

Salma Yaqoob: Tackling the ‘cancer’ of BNP fascism

Nick Griffin: the leader of the BNP has admitted defeat after failing to find enough far-Right allies to form a new bloc in the European Parliament

Nick Griffin: the leader of the BNP has admitted defeat after failing to find enough far-Right allies to form a new bloc in the European Parliament

The election of two BNP MEPs has removed the cover on a political sewer that should have been sealed for all time. Nick Griffin, a man with a history of anti-Semitism and holocaust denial, now calls for “chemotherapy” against the Islamic “cancer” in Europe (1). The echoes of the past are deliberate. The choice of words is chilling.

Griffin’s election has given the BNP unprecedented access to the media, and he is using it to promote the most vicious racism. His genocidal rantings towards Muslims followed his call (2) for the sinking of ships carrying migrants from Africa to Europe – in other words the premeditated murder of men, women and children on a desperate voyage to escape poverty and oppression.

We should remind ourselves that almost 1 million people voted for the BNP in the European Elections. If there is a cancer in Europe, then it is the cancer of racism. Yet the response from the political establishment to Griffin’s remarks has, so far, been less than overwhelming.

Defensiveness and political compromise has marked the response of mainstream parties to the rise of the BNP. It should be clear enough by now. This is not a temporary blip before we return to business as usual. Ignoring the BNP or playing down their successes will not make them go away. It is time for the anti-fascist movement to go on the offensive.

Griffin’s Nazi-style outbursts cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant excess by a marginal figure. He knows what he is doing. He wants to make legitimate what was once illegitimate. He aims to shift the centre of gravity of political debate sharply to the right. He knows that his more extreme rhetoric is in tune with his party’s membership, and large swathes of his voters. But he also knows that every time mainstream politicians bend to his agenda in an attempt to occupy ground he is staking out, that the racist argument is strengthened.

It is a pattern we have seen all too frequently in recent years. Faced with a rise in racism, politicians seek to ride both horses at once: deploring racism while conceding ever more political ground to the far right.

Isn’t this exactly what Gordon Brown was doing when he called for “local homes for local people”? (3). Concerns about housing are undoubtedly genuine. There are too few affordable homes. But that is because successive governments have relied on the market to provide what it patently cannot do. What should be done is to tackle this policy failure, which would provide affordable homes for all those in need. Furthermore, the Equality and Human Rights Commission has revealed that 9 out of 10 social housing residents were born in Britain, giving a lie to the BNP myths bout “local people” losing out to immigrants and asylum seekers (4). Instead of focusing on these realities, voters are told that their prejudices are justified and that the government will do what the BNP cannot. It is a tactic that is both cynical and ineffective.

Let us be clear. The response to Griffins call to “sink the boats” cannot be one of pledging to do everything possible to keep out immigrants short of launching missiles at defenceless people. His call for “chemotherapy” against Muslims must be met with robust challenge, and not by conceding that fears of Islam in Europe are justified. The alternative is to accept that ever more extreme and dangerous fascist rhetoric will define the nature of political debate in our society.

Those who promote fear and hatred of African immigrants knocking at our door, or of the Muslims already within the gates of Europe, have to be openly and directly confronted. Their arguments have to be dealt with head on.

It is not legitimate to blame migrants or refugees for the recession. They were not the ones who became rich beyond anyone’s dreams while gambling away our economy. It is not legitimate to blame immigrants for rising unemployment. They did not close our factories and devastate our manufacturing base. It is not legitimate to blame ‘outsiders’ for the housing crisis (5). They are not the ones who passed legislation that strangled the ability of local councils to build new housing on the scale we need.

And it is not legitimate to scapegoat Muslims, who represent just 3% of the population, for any supposed threat to British identity. The recent Gallup poll on Muslim integration (6) revealed that while only half the UK population very strongly identifies with being British, 77% of Muslims did so. And only 17% of British Muslims wanted to live in an area consisting mostly of people of the same religious and ethnic background as themselves, compared to 33% of the population as a whole.

This is the positive side of our multicultural society. Being ‘different’ is not a sign of alienation from society as a whole. Yet while Muslims increasingly identify with Britain and value its mix of people and faiths, more and more people conclude that Muslims are a breed apart. There is a gulf between the reality of our lives and the perception that is created by a constant stream of horror stories.

Today, it is anti-Muslim racism that is at the cutting edge of the fascist strategy. It is effective because it feeds on the suspicion and prejudice that is the theme of so much mainstream discussion of our lives as British Muslims.

Its consequences are real. Already, there are signs that attacks on mosques and individual Muslims may be rising (7). The police are warning of the danger of far-right terrorism (8). And, earlier this month we saw an openly racist provocation in Birmingham city centre, under the guise of a protest against “Islamic extremism” – a label that the organiser made clear applied to all Muslims (9).

We, as British Muslims, have a direct and immediate interest in defeating this fascist threat. The anti-fascist movement must reach out to Muslim communities who are at the sharp end of BNP attacks. But the rise in racism is not only a threat to Muslims. The BNP may be playing down their anti-Semitism and anti-Black racism in order to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of society. But to the BNP we are all “racial foreigners”, (10) our very existence as British people denied.

We have to not only unite all those targeted by the BNP, with every possible ally who rejects racism and fascism. We have to also positively assert our multicultural and pluralist society. It is a message of hope that is in tune in an increasingly interconnected world. It is a source of strength and vibrancy. We are one society and many cultures. And we will only remain so if we are prepared to stand up and be counted.

Salma Yaqoob is councillor for Birmingham Sparkbrook, Leader of the Respect party and chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition.

Salma Yaqoob rejects 7/7 conspiracy theories

Salma Yaqoob rejects 7/7 conspiracy theories

Salma Yaqoob rejects 7/7 conspiracy theories

The BBC2 programme The Conspiracy Files, broadcast yesterday on 30th June, examined the spread of conspiracy theories about the 7/7 bombings, and the arguments contained in the DVD The Ripple Effect.

Dr Mohammed Naseem

Dr Mohammed Naseem

The programme included scenes of a meeting held at Birmingham Central Mosque in which Dr Mohammed Naseem argued that “The Ripple Effect is more convincing than the government statement”.

Respect party leader and Birmingham City councillor Salma Yaqoob rejects these conspiracy theories:

“We do not need conspiracy theories to understand the 7/7 bombings. Two of the bombers left video messages explaining exactly why they carried out this terrible atrocity. The government may be in denial about the fact that its war in Iraq encouraged terrorism at home. But we have to face facts.

“Four young men, angry at our government’s foreign policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, lost any sense of humanity and inflicted terrible suffering on innocent people. We have to confront and challenge those who justify and encourage these crimes, and we have to put an end to the injustice caused by our foreign policy that creates such a well of bitterness and hatred.

“There is a growing tendency throughout the world for many people to doubt anything that they are told by official sources. Trust in political institutions has been eroded and few people believe that those in power are honest and truthful. Many Muslims feel that almost everything they read about themselves in the media is false or hostile. And we know that the government lied about something as serious as the reasons for going to war in Iraq.  This is fertile ground for the growth of conspiracy theories.

“An open and public enquiry into the Iraq war, that does not seek to protect the reputations of those who led us into this disastrous conflict, might go some way towards undermining these conspiracy theories and focussing attention on the real issues.”

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.”