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Once upon a time, there was this thing called 'Multiculturalism'. 
I write about those turkeys who've voted for Christmas.

Sunday, 27 July 2014

Boko Haram, and the sin of Western Education

It befits our brethren, may Allah Ta’ala give them strength, to not:
·         Hate a single field of knowledge among all knowledge,
·         Shun a particular book among books,
·         Bear prejudice towards a certain faith from among the faiths [of the world].

Indeed, our philosophy and our faith engulf all faiths and encompass all knowledge.

Imam Abdullah al-Mahdi (SA) d. 322/934 Mahdiyya, Tunisia

Boko Haram are the latest militant group coalescing under an Islamic banner, to puncture the consciousness of the Western world. Whilst their insurgency has cost 10,000 lives since 2002, it is their night time raid on a boarding school to kidnap 230 schoolgirls in April 2014 - and thus ‘save them from the sin of Western education’ - that has led to global infamy. 

In a world already well-drilled on Jihadi violence, this was a new low. The story captured – confirmed - just about every suspicion re. the true face of Islam: violent, misogynistic, anti-Western, anti-education.

Whilst the reaction from the usual roll call of protagonists/antagonists/apologists was but a set-piece affair, some valid points persist, and demand addressing:

  • For many a Western liberal, approaching a mixed environ somewhere between cultural relativism, to a full-on embracing of multiculturalism, Boko Haram shatter the ‘live-and-let-live’ maxim. Historically, they’d have derided the Far-Right’s frothing re. Islam, and now here are Muslims themselves, hand-delivering the same message on a plate.
  • For others, Boko Haram come at the end of a long roll-call of infamy: Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Al-Shabab, ISIS, FGM, forced marriage, child marriage, ‘honour’ killings,… It is, surely, reasonable to ask, “At what point do the dots join up, to paint the whole picture”? 

This post is an attempt to answer some of the above…

So, is Western education (of girls) a sin? Firstly, at a personal level, it bears no reflection to my own experience. My Father, who paid handsomely to have my sister privately educated, left me to fend for myself in the state education system. Thanks, Dad… But the question remains – is caring for a daughter’s education, unusual in Muslim families?

Undoubtedly, certain strands of Islam consider it anathema. The TTP have threatened girls’ schools in parts of Pakistan, and it is they who shot Malala Yousufzai, after stopping her bus on its way to school. Perhaps the frothing of the Far-Right may not have been so hallucinatory, after all…

But let’s refocus on Boko Haram. Is their conclusion re. Western education and the education of girls – when approached from an Islamic framework – correct? What would they think of my Father, and his obsession with his daughter’s education? They would surely see him as someone who, as a son of Empire, had been beguiled by ‘foreign ideas’. And to some extent, that is true. He admired – coveted – much about the British: their business prowess, as well as various norms and codes of conduct. And, of course, their education. Indeed, for a long time his axis revolved around that of his British masters.

But is that a bad thing? It’s impossible to answer objectively, but from the days of Empire there have been undercurrents shaping the wider world, convincing North and South to fall in line, to move in one direction; to paraphrase the film Avatar, to want ‘light beer and blue jeans’:

(After embarking on his mission with purpose, the hero of the piece, Jake Sully, eventually 'goes native', and in a Video Log he explains his change of heart with the following words...):

"...They're not going to give up their home. They're not going to make a deal. For what? A light beer and blue jeans? There's nothing that we have that they want. Everything they sent me out here to do is a waste of time. They're never going to leave Hometree..."

...And so as 'light beer and blue jeans' steadily colonise the world, it could be argued that indigenous cultures have concomitantly been reduced; stripped down to but a theatrical veneer, a fa├žade atop a Pax Americana base. And that with the demise of Communism and Socialism, Islam stands alone as the sole detractor. And moreover, that the global Islamic resurgence in all its forms – good, bad and vomit-inducing – is but an expression of that resistance...  

But back to Boko Haram, and their violent rejection of all things Western. Is everything ‘non-Islamic’, by definition a threat? Is Boko Haram’s concern that Western education is but a Trojan horse, leading inevitably to their own culture/values/religion being swept away, valid? Side-stepping the issue of whether Boko Haram’s religion is worth preserving at all, their general concern has some resonance. The French, for example, loathe that the Lingua Franca is actually now English, and that the nuances that make the French ‘French’, are slowly being flattened by an Anglo-American juggernaut. But the French haven’t bombed Tesco HQ. Is Islam’s only way to vent its instinct for self-preservation, violence? Must the whole world be reduced to a binary: either submit to light beer and blue jeans, or wage war?

According to Imam al-Mahdi (SA), there is another way. Firstly, on that which defines him, a true believer will preserve his inner beliefs, and the external manifestations of the same. Regardless of where he lives, or in what age, whether everyone around him believes or no-one does; whether he is left alone to practise in peace or mocked and hunted down, it matters not – he won’t compromise on that which expresses who he is. But from his/her firm base, (s)he will actively reach out, looking for opportunities to learn, to take something good from his fellow man.

From this perspective, the seeking out of education in all its forms, and from any source - Muslim or non-Muslim - is both legitimate and worthy. All knowledge - maths, English, French, Yoga,... - is to be sought out and absorbed. It is all simply learning, from which one can benefit. And thus my Father was right - Islamically justified - in seeking to learn from the British...  

Indeed, as per this POV on Islam, there is no such thing as ‘Western education’. Rather it is all just education; and thus maths, French and Yoga simply become different ways to delve into God’s glory. (Hence ‘…our philosophy and our faith engulf all faiths and encompass all knowledge’).

Well… I hope that addresses some of the questions that Boko Haram’s existence legitimately raise.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Suffocating Embraces: Palestine and the Muslims; America and the Jews

We all have a sense of our own. If our mother or child is hurt in some way, it affects us more than the same happening elsewhere. This extends into shaping communities: be they based on nationality, language, race, politics, religion or culture more broadly, identifying with a subset of humanity needs no explanation. We all get it.

But across the fault line between Jews and Arabs over the state of Israel, two alliances are looking increasingly ridiculous from the outside – that of Muslim solidarity with the Palestinians, and Anglo-American solidarity with the Jews.

As per the stream of news flowing from the major networks, the current round of violence began when three settler teenagers were abducted and killed whilst hitch hiking in the occupied West Bank. 

Leaving aside the telling ‘Why?’, (i.e. of ‘Day One’ being marked with an Israeli death), the focus on the essential human-ness of the deceased Jews, and the visceral loss and pain of their family and friends, is most instructive. Here’s Channel 4 news, sharing with us that ‘…Gilad, 16, was a movie buff and amateur pastry chef, whilst Eyal was a good cook, who loved his sport, too…

The idea that a slain Arab would be considered in terms broader than ‘+1’ on some dead Wog count is, frankly, laughable – and therein lies the rub. Indeed, Western media has consistently driven home two, inter-related themes: the Jew as an eternal and uncomplicated victim, and the Palestinian as an eternal and uncomplicated villain. Here’s the New York Times from 2nd July 2014, distilling these essential ingredients on one page:

The BBC, too, have fallen over themselves to downplay the massive disparity in military might and scale of loss, between the two sides. On the 10th July, after a night of bombing which led to 50+ Palestinian deaths and 0 Israeli deaths, the BBC chose a collage of four pictures to capture the state of play: one of the four was of Jihadis and zero were of bombed Gazans:

Later in the week, BBC radio ran the headline '...Palestinian officials say at least 192 people have been killed by Israeli air strikes over the past week, whilst Israel says more than 1,000 rockets have been fired from Gaza.' 

192...1000... One presumes a headline stating 192 Palestinian deaths and 0 Israeli deaths, would simply have been unacceptable. Who could blame the casual listener for concluding that Israel was under existential threat? And yet, to give some perspective, 28 Israelis have been killed by Gazan rocket fire since 2001, whereas in 2013 alone, there were 303 traffic fatalities in Israel. So much for the existential threat… 

Furthermore, what has *not* been reported by the mainstream media, is just as telling. Whilst we are all familiar with pictures portraying the indoctrination of Palestinian kids, images showing the degree of hatred of Israelis for Palestinians, have, poignantly, not been widely picked up:

To be sure, the 2nd photo is of an Israeli girl signing a missile destined for Gaza, and the 3rd is of Israelis eating popcorn as they watch the 'show' of bombs falling. 

All this begs the glaringly obvious question – ‘Why?’ Why is Israel’s account credited with a blank cheque of Anglo-American support, no matter what?

A similar question can be asked of the Muslim Ummah – Why the tsunami of rage over Palestine, when barely a ripple registers on violent death being meted out in far greater numbers, by Jihadis? Muslims the world over have taken to the streets and marched in protest over Gaza, but where is the same outpouring over, say, Boko Haram’s insurgency which, in the first half of 2014 alone, led to over 2000 civilian deaths across 95 separate attacks? 

ISIS are, at the time of writing, busy expunging Iraq of its millennia-old Christian community. Yes, there has been some response, but nothing like the same global outcry, as over Gaza. Thus whilst Muslims are rallying under the banner of Human Rights, it is largely the Jewish context that is heating up emotion.

This anti-Imperial (rather than pro-Human Rights) stance becomes more obvious, when considering the case of Pakistan. Since 2004, the war between the Pakistan army and various Jihadi factions has cost nearly 50,000 civilian lives and displaced up to 3.5m people. According to the Pakistan Ministry of Finance-issued Economic Survey 2010–11, "Pakistan has never witnessed such a devastating social and economic upheaval in its industry, even after dismemberment of the country by a direct war with India in 1971." And yet, Pakistanis get more inflamed over an American drone strike inflicting ‘collateral damage’.

And in probably the best example ever of small-penis complex, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif saw fit to side-step the myriad problems at home and assume the delusional role of Global Muslim Champion, (one which presumably excludes the Muslims he is killing at home, in Balochistan and FATA). 

In Pakistan today, there are madrassa ‘graduates’ who await their reward of 72 virgins to fuck till eternity, and all for blowing up a police station, hotel or disco. One hopes that whilst basic education is, admittedly, not as macho as saving Palestine, perhaps some of Mr Sharif’s concern – and the Ummah’s energy and rage - could be invested in that..? 

Since the July 2014 Israeli land incursion into Gaza, much international sympathy has flowed towards the Palestinians. They would do well to use this goodwill, and not wed their future to the black flag of the Jihadis. For whilst the Ummah remains unmoved unless blood is spilt by Americans or Jews, their rage becomes easy to dismiss; and they can offer no traction. Similarly, unless Anglo-Americans stop prostrating themselves before Israel, their claim to hold the moral high ground, to be on the side of ‘right and not might’, is beyond risible.