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It was never about them and us. It’s just us.

September 12, 2011 3 comments

I feel it’s quite fitting that I’m sat here writing this just after Ramadan: a month of reflection and prayer. The more I think about how the world has changed in the past decade, the more I feel that there were lessons to be learnt that weren’t.

Before 9/11, I felt that most people simply looked at Islam as another religion. After 9/11, this has changed considerably. Still, I have found that my Islam has been strengthened by the increased media spotlight on Muslims in the West. Like many Muslims, I felt the need to defend my religious identity that has been under constant attack ever since. Muslims on campuses and in society at large have been saying: “We are like you. Islam is peaceful. Complex socio-political factors have driven some fringe elements to commit barbaric acts. But they don’t represent us. This is not our religion. Please don’t judge a billion and a half people on the actions of a few.”

I have felt the need to educate myself about Islam first. How can I tell others if I haven’t got the answers myself? Time and time again, I read comments under YouTube videos and blog posts about how the moderate majority of Muslims have not been vocal enough in their condemnation of terrorism. I always think to myself, why should I have to prove that I am against terrorism more than anybody else? I have nothing to do with those 19 hijackers. I’m telling you that Islam does not teach that and then I still have to apologise? Apologising implies that I have to take responsibility for their actions. More Muslims have died at the hands of extremists than non-Muslims. Mini 9/11s happen regularly in some countries. Muslims also died on 9/11. And think about the thousands of civilians who have died in the War on Terror in Afghanistan and Iraq. Do we even know their names? I am not trying to take anything away from the losses suffered by the families of 9/11 victims. I just wish that we didn’t have so many double standards. Why have their legacies been allowed to be used for such politicised agendas?

That’s not the point anyway but these are just some of the things that pop into my head when Muslims are looked at with suspicion in the post-9/11 world. Starting my studies at University in 2004 was when I began to feel like I needed to do something. Being part of the Islamic Society on campus made me aware of the work that needed to be done. There were no two ways about it. Islam had a bad rep. As I have said before in a previous post, Islam is and always will be beautiful but it is Muslims who have managed to make something beautiful into something so misunderstood. Thankfully, I have never had any verbal abuse directed at me but I have read about hate crimes against people, sometimes just because people think they look like Muslims.

Another thing has really bugged me. Since when has every man and his dog been an expert on such complex aspects of Islamic jurisprudence as jihad and the Shariah itself? And why do the most misinformed and sensationalist “experts” get all the airtime? Because it sells in this post-9/11 age. It’s as if extremists on both sides have hijacked (for want of a better word) the discourse. I’m not a religious scholar but even I can refute the rubbish that you hear in the media about Islam. At first, I could never understand how so many people could all believe the same lies. But it makes sense really. If you have had no real-life experience of dealing with Muslims or if you don’t know any Muslims, it’s kind of understandable. But non-Muslims should not believe everything they read about Islam in the media. Especially when the people putting forward the “facts” are sensationalists.

At the same time, I’m not ignorant enough not to realise that Muslims themselves have a lot to answer for. Why did it take something tragic like 9/11 for us to start coming out and engaging with our wider communities? Before 9/11, Muslim immigrant families were happy to just go about their daily lives and keep their heads down. Now we’ve more or less been forced to come out and educate people about Islam. I have been lucky in that I grew up mainly around non-Muslims: our neighbourhood, the school I went to and thus my best friends. For this reason, I would like to think that at least the people that know me well have a more positive view of Islam. If everybody had a Muslim friend and therefore had a positive experience with Muslims, the islamophobic drivel out there would fall on deaf ears. So Muslims, go out and speak to your neighbours. Stop treading water and make a difference in your communities. Muslims need to be socially relevant here in the West. Come out and support the issues that matter. It is part of our religion to be on the side of justice; be it with the Muslims or against them. Campaign for issues that are affecting us all in our communities here in the UK. Whether it’s student fees, NHS cuts, your local youth club losing funding or feeding the homeless. Come out and show your communities that they are gaining by having Muslims as neighbours. Community spirit is part of our faith. It’s high time we started to show it.

Here is a teaching of the Prophet Muhammad ( صلى الله عليه وسلم) that I want people to know:

قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم: انصر أخاك ظالما أو مظلوما. قالوا: يا رسول الله، هذا ننصره مظلوما، فكيف ننصره ظالما؟ قال: تأخذ فوق يديه

“The Prophet ( صلى الله عليه وسلم) said, ‘Help your brother when he is the oppressor and when he is oppressed.’ His Companions replied, ‘O Messenger of God, we do understand helping him when he is oppressed, but how can we possibly help him when he is the oppressor? The Prophet replied, ‘Seize him by his hands!” – Sahih al-Bukhari, narrated by Anas bin Malik

Shibli Zaman from SuhaibWebb.com summarises the implications for this nicely:

(As a Muslim in the West) I will do as my Prophet has taught me and do everything I can to protect you, but I will not allow you to oppress me and blame me for a deed that was not mine.

Those flying angels, flying out of the World Trade Center and to the next world, deserved more than to be used for the opportunistic political gain of fear mongers. They deserve more than bumper stickers emblazoned with over-marketed slogans of “Never forget” and “Support our troops”. Those slogans are meaningless without action. Let us truly “never forget” and love one another, for the murders of 9/11 were the illegitimate child of hate bred with fear.

Collective punishment is immoral and unjust. I am sorry that such a barbaric act was done in the name of my religion but that is not my religion. If somebody is a lunatic, it doesn’t matter what religion or race or culture they profess to come from, they are still a lunatic.

I’d like to end with a quote from Obama’s speech that he gave on the eve of the 9/11 anniversary last year (David Cameron doesn’t quite have the same effect when he speaks):

From a national security interest, we want to be clear about who the enemy is here. It’s a handful, a tiny minority of people who are engaging in horrific acts, and have killed Muslims more than anybody else.

The other reason it’s important for us to remember that is because we’ve got millions of Muslim Americans, our fellow citizens, in this country. They’re going to school with our kids. They’re our neighbours. They’re our friends. They’re our co-workers.

And, you know, when we start acting as if their religion is somehow offensive, what are we saying to them?

I’ve got Muslims who are fighting in Afghanistan in the uniform of the United States armed services. They’re out there putting their lives on the line for us, and we’ve got to make sure that we are crystal clear, for our sakes and their sakes, they are Americans, and we honour their service.

And part of honouring their service is making sure that they understand that we don’t differentiate between them and us. It’s just us.

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For crying out loud!

April 5, 2011 4 comments

There are certain topics that really, really get to me. One such thing is the image of Muslims portrayed in mass media. Sometimes it makes me feel totally helpless but then I realise that the only way to counter some of the complete bull written by pseudo-experts on Muslim affairs, is to try and show people otherwise.

The specific thing that got to me this morning was a video on the BBC website entitled Muslim brother’s ‘dirty’ handshake. I was quite disappointed by it because the BBC is still an organisation that I am proud of due to its international reputation but this is not on. In said video, there’s a nutter who shakes the hands of non-Muslims with his left hand simply because they’re not Muslim. Now, we all know that every community has its bad apples. Why oh why do Muslim crazies always make it onto our screens and pages? Have Muslims cornered the market on lunatics? If you don’t know any real-life Muslims, I would not blame you for thinking that all Muslims are completely nuts if all you are going on is this drivel in the press. But if you get to know Muslims, you will realise that they’re we’re not all that bad. We are just like everybody else in that most of us are normal with a few loose cannons on the edges. Just because Muslim-bashing is the flavour of the decade doesn’t mean that you have to believe everything you read or hear. Go and do your own research or better still: Muslims, go and show people what you’re really like so all this crap falls on deaf ears.

Obviously the linked story below didn’t make it this far west but this is how true, normal, everyday Muslims believe we should be living our lives: helping our neighbours when they are in need and playing a constructive role in our communities and wider society. After all, if you’re clinically a loser, it doesn’t matter if you’re a Muslim, Christian, Jew or anything else; you’re still a complete loser.

Currying flavor: town gets food aid | The Japan Times Online.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , ,

The beauty of Ramadan

September 3, 2010 4 comments

This is my first post in absolutely ages. I’m sure nobody has missed my largely pointless ramblings but I felt the urge to write about this beautiful month we find sailing past us.

Ramadan is beautiful. Now, I could end this post there and I wouldn’t feel like I’ve missed anything. However, for the sake of making up for lost time, I’ll continue. While I fast (during daylight hours) I naturally feel at peace. I remember a friend once told me a couple of Ramadans ago that I’m different when I fast. He said that I seem at ease and more content.

The wisdom behind having this period of holding back your desires is substantial. Hunger and thirst are not in themselves the purpose. Rather, the purpose is what follows the hunger and thirst i.e. weakening the desires, extinguishing anger, subduing the soul to a reassured state. If this purpose is not achieved, then fasting is useless as it has no effect besides making you hungry and thirsty.

These days you have close to 1.6 billion people not eating and drinking in the daytime. That’s powerful and it gives Muslims worldwide a sense of family and kinship that underlines the feeling of all Muslims being one family. And when you see people smiling at you whenever you meet them because they feel at peace when fasting, you really don’t want Ramadan to end.

All the ways that I find to waste time the rest of the year simply don’t appeal to me during this month. I feel at peace and I have time to reflect. It’s a blessing that Ramadan was totally during the summer holidays this year. But it’s leaving us so soon. This month when all our Muslim friends become so generous and kind and spend their quiet times praying for forgiveness. A prophetic saying instructs: if somebody shouts at you or insults you, rather than replying, you say “I’m fasting” and you show tolerance and patience.

… I wish every month could be Ramadan.

Mother Teresa knew what she was on about

April 27, 2010 2 comments

This is probably the only actual Mother Teresa quote that I know but it’s one of my favourite quotes full stop. Found written on the wall in Mother Teresa’s home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

A December in Japan // WP slideshow test

April 2, 2010 2 comments

Just a select few of the shots I took during my stay in Japan at the end of last year.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

So the new slideshow feature works too…

Booked to go to Jyapaan

October 11, 2009 2 comments

So, tickets are purchased, language skills need a bit of brushing up but I’m soooo looking forward to it. It’s my first voyage back to the land of Gatsby body paper since my working holiday in 2004. As soon as the xmas holidays begin, I’m off for just over 2 weeks.

I love the feeling of going to Japan. The only thing I don’t like, if I remember correctly, is… the actual going bit. The 12 hour trek across the world is a bit on the unbearable side of things as it just screws with your mind. However-many long-haul flights I have taken, it doesn’t really get any more pleasurable. I do generally like flying, I just wish it was faster.

This time, I thought I’d give Virgin Atlantic a try. Well, actually the decision was made for me really as I used my Virgin Flying Club mileage to get a bit of a discount and compared to other direct Heathrow-Narita flights, it was a good £100 cheaper. I flew JAL last time so I’m not expecting Virgin to be better as Asian carriers generally have a better service but past experiences with a good old British airline (BA and their limited legroom) means that if I have space, I’ll be happy. Plus now that I’m a little older, I’ve come to expect to be treated a little better for the money you have to fork out to sit in a metal tube for half a day.

A big plus this time around is that because I will be entering Japan with a simple 90-day tourist stamp on my passport, I can actually use the Japan Rail Pass!! Score! It means that I can use the Shinkansen unlimited for 7 days so I can go and see friends all over the place. My current plans include using it to head West to Nagoya, Kansai and Fukuoka to see as many of my JapSoc friends as possible. One of the main reasons I chose to go in December is because some of my Leeds buddies are out in Japan for their year abroad so meeting up with our Japanese friends will be just like old times.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m currently spending this fine autumnal Sunday afternoon in bed with a case of the dreaded Freshers flu. I leave you with the bombshell: “aiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii can give you GATSBY”

I just wish that we could have a Matsudo Legends reunion. See you in the Toke!

A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me

October 10, 2009 Leave a comment

I just thought a lot of people need to read this so I posted the link. Lazy, I know, especially since I haven’t blogged for a while but whatever.

A Letter to the Culture that Raised Me

By Yasmin Mogahed

From Suhaib Webb

Posted using ShareThis

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