Posts Tagged ‘Pilgrimage’

‘I’ Columnist Wants MPs to Defend Palestinians After Joining Anti-Semitism Smears against Labour

November 28, 2018

The I’s Yasmin Alibhai-Brown is one of the few Fleet Street columnists, who I respect. She writes about racism, but acknowledges that it is not confined to Whites hating Blacks, but affects people of all races and colours. She’s also a genuinely moderate Muslim, fiercely critical of the bigots and preachers of hate in her religion, and condemns the White, non-Muslim politicians who pander to them in the hope of garnering votes.

Tweezer’s Denial of Asylum to Asia Bibi, Pakistani Persecuted Christian

A few weeks ago, she attacked Tweezer for refusing sanctuary to Asia Bibi, the Christian Pakistani woman acquitted of blasphemy in Pakistan. Other companies have offered to take Bibi in, but not May, who feared that it would upset this country’s Muslims. Alibhai-Brown then described the case, showing how dubious the accusation was, and the prejudice and hatred Pakistani Christians face. She also stated that the country was also unsafe for Shi’a Muslims like herself. Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, had intended it to be a secular state with separation between state and mosque. But this had swiftly been overturned, most notoriously by the military dictator General Zia ul-Haqq, who ruled the place in the 1970s. Everything she said was correct. The Beeb has also screened documentaries about the arrests of people in Pakistan for blasphemy. It’s a crime that carries the death penalty, and Bibi has spent over a decade on death row. Most of those accused, however, are Muslims, and it looks very much like the majority of accusations are false, being used as a weapon in family and clan disputes. In the case of Bibi, she was accused of blasphemy by a group of women with whom she was working. They sent her to fetch water for them to drink. She stopped to take a drink herself, so they accused her of ‘polluting’ it before going to accuse her of blasphemy. Everything about it says to me that this is all about caste. Islam in Pakistan has a caste system like India, though not as severe. Many of Pakistan’s Christians are sheikhs, one of the lowest castes, working as bonded labourers in the brick kilns. It looks like Bibi was one of these low caste workers, and the Muslims for whom she fetched the water were outraged at her taking a drink from it because they believed that the touch of a low caste person polluted it. Just like high caste Indians at one time would throw away their food if even the shadow of one of the Dalits, the Untouchables, fell on it.

There’s more to be said about the case, but Alibhai-Brown was right to attack the vicious, murderous bigotry behind the accusation and Tweezer’s own cowardice in refusing to give Bibi asylum. I’d go further, and say that while there is a danger that the preachers of hate in British Islam would try to capitalize on Bibi being given asylum, that’s no evidence for not admitting her to Britain. And it also shows Tweezer’s low view of British Islam, if she thought the intolerance of bigoted minority was worth capitulating to. Not all Muslims are fanatics and bigots by any means, but Tweezer’s refusal to take in Asia Bibi suggests that she feels that nevertheless, enough of them are. It’s a decision which would delight the Islamophobes, who believe that all Muslims are a threat to traditional British religious freedom, and that liberal governments are too afraid to confront them.

Alibhai-Brown on Israel’s Persecution of the Palestinians

In yesterday’s I for the 27th November 2018, Alibhai-Brown tackled the plight of the Palestinians and their oppression under the Israelis in an article entitled ‘The Holy Land needs some goodwill: Plight of the Palestinians should be remembered by all’, on page 15. She began the article by stating that Christmas is the time when devout Christians turn their minds to the places where Christ lived, preached and died, and that there is a massive tourist industry in the Holy Land. It is a country which contains sites sacred to all three of the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and that for centuries the religions coexisted in peace.

This is true no longer, as Israel increases its dominance. She states that Bethlehem has been turned into an open air prison, and that last year Palestinian Muslims were denied entrance to the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam. Netanyahu’s oppression of the Palestinians is supported by Donald Trump and American Christian fanatics, whose decision to move the American embassy to Jerusalem shows that Muslim Arabs mean nothing to him and his government.

Shalhoub-Kavorkian and Dimbleby on Oppressed Palestine

She then goes on to quote Professor Nadera Shalhoub-Kavorkian of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, on the routine brutality and second class status of the Palestinians. The prof. wrote

Violence is central to the political logic of the Israeli state and its occupation of Jerusalem. Enacted in the hundreds of daily acts of harassment perpetuated by heavily armed soldiers, police, settlers, and undercover security personnel belonging to the state of Israel, much of the violence occurs routinely and it goes largely unnoticed by the rest of the world.

Palestinians, native to and residing in Jerusalem, are categorized by Israeli law as ‘permanent residents’ or as foreign residents who hate to prove to the Ministry of Interior that their ‘centre of life’ – where they live, go to school, get medical care and pay for utilities are all taking place in Jerusalem.

She then moves on to discuss a ‘poignant’ book on Palestine, published by Jonathan Dimbleby, now the presenter of Question Time in 1980. This was when he was the maker of foreign documentaries, and the book was accompanied with photographs by Sir Donald McCullin. The book apparently shows the great diversity of Palestinian life and culture as well as moving tales of dispossession and pain. Re-reading it now, she realized how much worse their plight had become. She quotes the book as saying

The struggle is still presented in a woefully lopsided fashion: a small embattled, occasionally obstinate but usually admirable democratic state (Israel) under challenge from a despicable, occasionally pathetic, but usually brutal gang of desperadoes (the PLO).

Defending Palestine and Anti-Semitism Smears

She is very aware that simply discussing the plight of the Palestinians is met by accusations of anti-Semitism. She writes

Now the reporting of Israeli injustices brings on instant accusations of anti-Semitism.

Unfortunately, she also swallows the line that Israel was created in response to the horrors of the Holocaust in Nazi Germany. It wasn’t. Jewish colonization began long before, after the Balfour Declaration during the First World War. She states that Israel exists and must exist as a safe homeland, before going to make the point that the horrors of the Nazis’ persecution don’t give Israel the right to break international laws and violate the human rights ‘of those whose land was taken to create their homeland’.

Pro-Palestinian Pilgrimage to Jerusalem

The article then goes on to discuss the book, Walking to Jerusalem, by Justin Butcher, a playwright and activist, whose launch she attended. This is the record of a pilgrimage made by hundreds of ordinary people, who went on foot to Jerusalem, funded by a small charity, the Amos Trust. The pilgrims arrived just before the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, in order to ‘change the record of a hundred years of injustice to the Palestinian people.’ She states that the marchers included Jews, which should surprise no-one, who knows how very many Jews are critical of Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians and the crimes committed in their name by Netanyahu’s thugs.

She also notes that over 200 Gazans were killed by Israeli forces, some of whom were medical workers and journalists. Settlers were stealing more land and homes. Although some Israelis were also wounded and killed, and too many live in fear, this was an unequal clash.

Alibhai-Brown’s Call for the Public to Contact their MPs

She concludes the article

Maybe one thing we can all do this Christmas is to ask our MPs to be more openly critical of Israel and do what the walkers did – support peaceful Palestinian men, women and children who have for so long been denied rights, livelihoods and dignity. Sometimes goodwill is the best present.

Alibhai-Brown and the Anti-Semitism Smears against the Labour Party

It’s a good article, but marred by Alibhai-Brown’s own behaviour towards Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party. When the Israel lobby and Conservative media and Jewish establishment once again attacked Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour for not signing up to the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, Alibhai-Brown was one of the hacks denouncing the Labour party as full of anti-Semites. But this article suggests she know how false at least some of those allegations must have been. But there is no retraction. The Fleet Street Groupthink about the Labour party, and the bias of the I’s editor and proprietor apparently appear to be too strong.

She also must realise that with the Israel lobby holding power in both the Tories and the Labour party through their ‘Friends of Israel’ groups, and the Jewish Labour Movement in the Labour party, any chance of MPs stepping out of line to risk their careers defending the Palestinians is remote. Not while there’s a chance that someone at the Israeli embassy will pick up where Shai Masot left off and start deciding that they’re a person, who shouldn’t be in the next cabinet. And although the media may claim that the affair’s all over, their haste to do so shows that the conspiracy – and the accusations of anti-Semitism against people like Mike who correctly called it that – has had the desired effect. MPs aren’t going to risk being sidelined or thrown out as anti-Semites if they dare confront the lobby.

The Israel Lobby and the Suppression of Pro-Palestinian Reporting

As for Dimbleby and his book, I very much doubt there’s much chance of anyone at the Beeb now being so courageous in criticizing Israel. Ten years ago Peter Oborne made his documentary on the Israel lobby for Channel 4’s Despatches. This showed not just the extent of the lobby in the parliamentary parties, but also how they bullied and intimidated journalists with accusations of anti-Semitism. This included Graoniad editor Alan Rusbridger, and several very well respected Beeb journos, who dared to describe the atrocities committed by Israel and the massacres by its allies, the Lebanese Christian phalange, in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps. These accusations were found by the broadcasting regulatory bodies to be without foundation. But that tactic is still being used by the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the other thugs and bully-boys in the Israel lobby.

And this tactics will continue to be made, unless more people stand up to it. Corbyn and his supporters aren’t anti-Semites, but they were smeared as such simply because they defended the Palestinians. The Israelis are afraid that there just might be a foreign prime minister, who doesn’t defer to them, and won’t tolerate their persecution of the indigenous Arabs. Alibhai-Brown must surely realise this, but she joined their attacks on Corbyn and Labour anyway.

And those attacks on Corbyn and politicians like him will continue, unless journos like Alibhai-Brown practice what they preach and actively support and defend him and other Israel-critical politicos in their columns against such mendacious and false accusation of anti-Semitism.

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ISIS’ Destruction of Muslim Cultural Treasures in Timbuktu

March 17, 2015

Yesterday I put up a number of pieces on ISIS’ destruction of irreplaceable cultural treasures, seen in the smashing of ancient Assyrian artefacts in a museum in Mosul and the destruction of an Islamic shrine of Adam’s son Seth, revered in Islam as the prophet Sheth. The Islamist terror group hasn’t confined its destruction of items and monuments of immense cultural heritage to Iraq.

This is a report from Euronews from 29th January 2013, reporting how, when they were expelled from Timbuktu, they smashed one of the important local graves, and set fire to the local library, in the hope of destroying the priceless books and manuscripts within.

ISIS’ Attack on the Graves of the Sufi Saints

This was a calculated attempted to destroy Mali’s peculiar Islamic culture, and its rich intellectual heritage that is only just beginning to be discovered and truly appreciated by Western scholars. And it shows clearly what ISIS would like to do to other Muslim nations and their cultures, including those in the West, simply for not following what they consider to be the correct interpretation of Islam.

The desecration of the ancient grave looks to me like an attempt to destroy an aspect of Sufi worship, which is strongly rejected in Wahhabi Islam. Sufism is a form of Islamic mysticism, in which the practitioner attempts to achieve union with the Almighty through a series of spiritual exercises. These can include singing and dancing. There are a number of different Sufi orders, some of whom may differ widely from orthodox Islam. The famous whirling dervishes of Turkey are one Sufi order. These orders are under the guidance of a sheikh, the term given to their spiritual head. The orders’ founders are revered as saints, their graves are frequently the sites of veneration and special ceremonies.

I was taught at College that most Muslims in fact belong to a Sufi order. Sufi mysticism was practised not only in the Near East, but also amongst European Muslim communities in the former Ottoman Empire. Many of these communities were converted to Islam through their preaching, and in particular that of the Bektashi order, who served as the chaplains to the Ottoman forces. Unfortunately, this aspect of the traditional Islamic heritage of the Balkan nations has been under attack, not only from Non-Muslim nationalists, but also from Islamic fundamentalists from elsewhere in the Dar al-Islam. I can remember reading years ago in the Independent how graves in Muslim cemeteries in some of the Balkan countries had been destroyed as part of a fundamentalist attack on monuments and practices they considered non-Muslim.

There are British Muslims, who perform religious rites to venerate the graves of religious leaders in this country. If ISIS had their way, the worshippers and mystics at these shrines, who follow the traditions of their orders, would find their beliefs and practices banned and suppressed. Just as ISIS would kill and maim their non-Muslim friends and fellow citizens.

Timbuktu’s Ancient Heritage of Learning

As for the destruction of the library, Timbuktu was one of the richest towns in West Africa during the Middle Ages because of its position on the major gold trading route. So rich was the country, that when the ruler of Mali went on the pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, in the 12th century, he took so much gold with him that it sent Egypt into recession.

Mali was not only rich, but cultured. Timbuktu was a university town, where the Islamic texts and doctrines were studied and copied. Not only that, but its scholars were also interest in the secular sciences that were pursued by Muslim scientists during the Middle Ages. One of the books shown to the Beeb’s Aminatta Forna in her programme on Timbuktu’s lost library was a scientific text arguing for a heliocentric model of the solar system. That’s the same model as proposed independently in Europe by Copernicus, in which the Earth goes round the Sun, rather than the usual medieval notion of the Sun and the planets going round the Earth.

Forna’s programme was a fascinating documentary on the sheer wealth of the city’s and Mali’s medieval culture and learning. It’s also on Youtube. Here it is below. It’s nearly an hour, so not short, but well worth watching.

The modern Arabic word for literature is adabiyyat, which I understand is derived from adab, meaning manners, but also ‘culture’. ISIS in their destruction of the world’s cultural heritage and learning have shown themselves to be its enemies, both those of Muslims and non-Muslims. And if they continue, the world will be a much poorer place.