Posts Tagged ‘Sunnis’

A Liberal Muslim’s Journey through Islamic Britain and the Dangers of Muslim Separatism

June 30, 2022

Ed Hussain, Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain (London: Bloomsbury 2021)

Ed Hussain is a journalist and the author of two previous books on Islam, the House of Islam, which came out in 2018, and The Islamist of 2007. He’s also written for a series of newspapers and magazines, including the Spectator, the Telegraph, the Times, the New York Times and the Guardian. He’s also appeared on the Beeb and CNN. He’s an adjunct professor at Georgetown University and has been a member of various think tanks, including the Council on Foreign Relations. The House of Islam is an introduction to Islamic history and culture from Mohammed onwards. According to the blurb, it argues that Islam isn’t necessarily a threat to the West but a peaceful ally. The Islamist was his account of his time in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a militant Islamic organisation dedicated to restoring the caliphate. This was quoted in Private Eye, where a passage in the book revealed that the various leaders Tony Blair appealed to as part of his campaign against militant, extremist Islam weren’t the moderates they claimed to be, but the exact type of people Blair was trying to combat. Among the Mosques continues this examination and critical scrutiny of caliphism, the term he uses to describe the militant to set up the caliphate. This is an absolute Islamic state, governed by a caliph, a theocratic ruler, who is advised by a shura, or council. This, however, would not be like parliament as only the caliph would have the power to promulgate legislation. Hussain is alarmed at how far this anti-democratic ideology has penetrated British Islam. To find out, he travelled to mosques across Britain – Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham and London in England, Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, the Welsh capital Cardiff, and Belfast in Northern Ireland. Once there, he goes to the local mosques unannounced, observes the worshippers, and talks to them, the imams and other local people. And he’s alarmed by what he sees.

Caliphism Present in Mosques of Different Sects

The mosques he attends belong to a variety of Islamic organisations and denominations. Dewsbury is the centre of the Deobandi movement, a Muslim denomination set up in Pakistan in opposition to British imperialism. Debandis worship is austere, rejecting music, dance and art. The Barelwi mosque he attends in Manchester, on the hand, is far more joyful. The Barelwis are based on an Indian Sufi preacher, who attempted to spread Islam through music and dance. Still other mosques are Salafi, following the fundamentalist brand of Islam that seeks to revive the Islam of the salaf, the Prophet’s companions, and rejects anything after the first three generations of Muslims as bid’a, innovations. But across these mosques, with a few exceptions, there is a common strand of caliphism. The Deobandi order are concerned with the moral reform and revival of Muslim life and observance, but not political activism, in order to hasten the emergence of the caliphate. Similar desires are found within the Tableegh-e Jama’at, another Muslim revivalist organisation founded in Pakistan. This is comparable to the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Christianity, in that its method of dawa, Muslim evangelism, is to knock on lax Muslims’ doors and appealing to them become more religious. It’s a male-only organisation, whose members frequently go off on trips abroad. While the preaching in Manchester Central Mosque is about peace, love and tolerance as exemplified in the Prophet’s life, the Barelwis themselves can also be intolerant. Mumtaz Qadri, the assassin of Salman Taseer, the governor of the Punjab, was a member of the Barelwi Dawat-e-Islami. He murdered Taseer, whose bodyguard he was, because Taseer has dared to defend Pakistani Christians accused of blasphemy. Under strict Islamic law, they were gustakh-e Rasool, a pejorative term for ‘insulter of the Prophet’. The penalty for such blasphemy was wajib-e qatl, a mandatory death. Despite being tried and executed, Qadri is regarded by many of the Pakistani faithful as a martyr, and a massive mosque complex has grown up to commemorate him. In his meetings with various imams and ordinary Muslims, Hussain asks if they agree with the killing of blasphemers like Taseer, and the author Salman Rushdie, who had a fatwa and bounty placed on his life by the Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran for his book, The Satanic Reverses. Some of them give evasive replies. One imam even defends it, claiming that Rushdie deserved death because he insulted love, as represented by Mohammed and Islam. A Muslim female friend dodges answering by telling him she’s have to ask her husband.

In the mosques’ libraries he finds books promoting the Caliphist ideology, denouncing democracy, immodest dress and behaviour in women, who are commanded to be available for their husband’s sexual pleasure, even when their bodies are running with pus. Some are explicitly Islamist, written by Sayyid Qutb and his brother, the founders of modern militant Islamism. These mosques can be extremely large, serving 500 and more worshippers, and Hussain is alarmed by the extremely conservative, if not reactionary attitudes in many of them. In many, women are strictly segregated and must wear proper Islamic dress – the chador, covering their hair and bodies. The men also follow the model of Mohammed himself in their clothing, wearing long beards and the thawb, the long Arab shirt. But Hussain makes the point that in Mohammed’s day, there was no distinctive Muslim dress: the Prophet wore what everyone in 7th century Arabia wore, including Jews, Christians and pagans. He has a look around various Muslim schools, and is alarmed by their demand for prepubescent girls to wear the hijab, which he views as sexualising them. Some of these, such as the Darul Ulooms, concentrate almost exclusively on religious education. He meets a group of former pupils who are angry at their former school’s indoctrination of them with ancient, but fabricated hadiths about the Prophet which sanction slavery, the inferior status of women, and the forced removal of Jews and Christians from the Arabian peninsula. They’re also bitter at the way these schools did not teach them secular subjects, like science, literature and art, and so prepare them for entering mainstream society. This criticism has also been levelled Muslim organisations who have attacked the Darul Uloom’s narrow focus on religion. The worshippers and students at these mosques and their schools reject the dunya, the secular world, and its fitna, temptations. One Spanish Muslim has immigrated to England to get away from the nudist beaches in his home country. And the Muslim sections of the towns he goes to definitely do not raise the Pride flag for the LGBTQ community.

Hussain Worried by Exclusively Muslim Areas with No White Residents

Hussain is also alarmed at the way the Muslim districts in many of the towns he visits have become exclusively Muslim quarters. All the businesses are run by Muslims, and are geared to their needs and tastes, selling Muslim food, clothing, perfume and literature. Whites are absent, living in their own districts. When he does see them, quite often they’re simply passing through. In a pub outside Burnley he talks to a couple of White men, who tell him how their children have been bullied and beaten for being goras, the pejorative Asian term for Whites. Other Whites talk about how the local council is keen to build more mosques, but applications by White residents to put up flagpoles have been turned down because the council deems them racist. Hussain objects to these monocultures. Instead, he praises areas like the section of Edinburgh, where the Muslim community coexists with Whites and other ethnicities. There’s similar physical mixture of Muslim and non-Muslim in the Bute area of Cardiff, formerly Tiger Bay, which has historically been a multicultural cultural area. In the mosque, however, he finds yet again the ideology of cultural and religious separatism.

The Treatment of Women

He is also very much concerned about the treatment of women, and especially their vulnerability before the sharia courts that have sprung up. A few years ago there were fears of a parallel system of justice emerging, but the courts deal with domestic issues, including divorce. They have been presented as informal systems of marriage reconciliation. This would all be fine if that was all they were. But the majority of the mosques Hussain visits solely perform nikah, Muslim weddings. Under British law, all weddings, except those in an Anglican church, must also be registered with the civil authorities. These mosques don’t. As a result, wives are left at the mercy of Islamic law. These give the husband, but not the wife, the power of divorce., and custody of the children if they do. Hussain meets a battered Muslim woman, whose controlling husband nearly killed her. The case was brought before the local sharia court. The woman had to give evidence from another room, and her husband was able to defeat her request for a divorce by citing another hadith maintaining that husbands could beat their wives.

London Shias and the Procession Commemorating the Deaths of Ali, Hassan and Hussain

Hussain’s a Sunni, and most of the mosques he attends are also of that orthodox branch of Islam. In London, he attends a Shia mosque, and is shocked and horrified by the self-inflicted violence performed during their commemoration of the Battle of Karbala. Shias believe that Ali, the Prophet’s son-in-law, was the true successor to Mohammed as the leader of the early Muslim community. He was passed over, and made a bid for the caliphate, along with his two sons, Hasan and Hussain, who were finally defeated by the Sunnis at the above battle. This is commemorated by Shias during the month of Moharram, when there are special services at the mosque and the jaloos, a commemorative procession. During the services and the processions, Shias express their grief over their founders’ martyrdom by beating their chests, matam, faces and whipping themselves. They also slash themselves with swords. All this appears to go on at the London mosque, to Hussain’s horror. He is particularly disturbed by young children beating their chests and faces in the worship the night before, and wonders how this isn’t child abuse.

Separatist Attitudes and Political Activism in Mosques

He is also concerned about the political separatism and activism he sees in some of the mosques. They don’t pray for the Queen, as Christians and Jews do, but there are prayers for the Muslim community throughout the world and funeral prayers for Morsi, the former Islamist president of Egypt. He finds mosques and Islamic charities working for Muslims abroad, and activists campaigning on behalf on Palestine, Kashmir and other embattled Muslim countries and regions, but not for wider British society. Some of the worshippers and Imams share his concern. One Muslim tells him that the problem isn’t the Syrian refugees. They are medical men and women, doctors, nurses and technicians. The problem is those asylum seekers from areas and countries which have experienced nothing but war and carnage. These immigrants have trouble adapting to peace in Britain. This leads to activism against the regimes in the countries they have fled. Afghan and Kurdish refugees are also mentioned as donning masks looking for fights. Some of the worshippers in the mosques Hussain attends had connections to ISIS. In London he recalls meeting a glum man at a mosque in 2016. The man had toured the Middle East and Muslim Britain asking for signatures in a petition against ISIS. The Middle Eastern countries had willingly given theirs. But an academic, a White convert who taught at British university, had refused. Why? He objected to the paragraph in the petition denouncing ISIS’ enslavement of Yazidi and other women. This was in the Quran, he said, and so he wouldn’t contradict it. This attitude from a British convert shocked the man, as usually objections to banning slavery come from Mauretania and Nigeria, where they are resented as western interference. And in another mosque in Bradford, he is told by the imam that he won’t allow the police to come in and talk about the grooming gangs. The gangs used drugs and alcohol, which are forbidden in Islam and so are not connected to the town’s mosques.

Islamophobia against Northern Irish Muslims

But Islam isn’t a monolith and many Muslims are far more liberal and engaged with modern western society. Going into an LGBTQ+ help centre, he’s met by a Muslim woman on the desk. This lady’s straight and married, but does not believes there’s any conflict between her faith and working for a gay organisation. And in reply to his question, she tells him that her family most certainly do know about it. He meets two female Muslim friends, who have given up wearing the hijab. One did so after travelling to Syria to study. This convinced her that it was a pre-Islamic custom, and she couldn’t find any support for it in the Quran. She also rejected it after she was told at university that it was feminist, when it wasn’t. In Belfast he visits a mosque, which, contrary to Islamic custom, is run by two women. The worship appears tolerant, with members of different Muslims sects coming peacefully together, and the values are modern. But this is an embattled community. There is considerable islamophobia in Northern Ireland, with Muslims sufferings abuse and sometimes physical assault. One Protestant preacher stirred up hate with a particularly islamophobic sermon. Many of the mosque’s congregation are converts, and they have been threatened at gun point for converting as they are seen as leaving their communities. Travelling through Protestant and Roman Catholic Belfast, Hussain notices the two communities’ support for different countries. On the Nationalist side of the peace walls are murals supporting India and Palestine. The Loyalists, on the other hand, support Israel. But back in London he encounters more, very modern liberal attitudes during a conversation with the two daughters of a Muslim women friends. They are very definitely feminists, who tell him that the problem with Islam, is, no offence, his sex. They then talk about how toxic masculinity has been a bad influence on British Islam.

Liberal Islam and the Support of the British Constitution

In his travels oop north, Hussain takes rides with Muslim taxi drivers, who are also upset at these all-Muslim communities. One driver laments how the riots of 2011 trashed White businesses, so the Whites left. In Scotland, another Muslim cabbie, a technician at the local uni, complains about Anas Sarwar, the first Muslim MP for Scotland. After he left parliament, Sarwar left to become governor of the Punjab in Pakistan. The cabbie objects to this. In his view, the man was serving just Muslims, not Scotland and all of its people. During ablutions at a mosque in Edinburgh, he meets a British army officer. The man is proud to serve with Her Majesty’s forces and the army has tried to recruit in the area. But despite their best efforts and wishes, Muslims don’t wish to join.

In London, on the other hand, he talks to a modern, liberal mullah, Imam Jalal. Jalal has studied all over the world, but came back to Britain because he was impressed with the British constitution’s enshrinement of personal liberty and free speech. He believes that the British constitution expresses the maqasid, the higher objectives Muslim scholars identified as the root of the sharia as far back al-Juwaini in the 11th century. Jalal also tells him about al-shart, a doctrine in one of the Muslim law schools that permits women to divorce their husbands. The marriage law should be reformed so that the nikah becomes legal, thus protecting Muslim wives with the force of British law. And yes, there would be an uproar if prayers for the Queen were introduced in the mosques, but it could be done. Both he and Hussain talk about how their father came to Britain in the late 50s and early 60s. They wore three-piece suits, despite the decline of the empire, were proud to be British. There was time in this country when Muslims were respected. In one factory, when a dispute broke out, the foreman would look for a Muslim because they had a reputation for honesty. The Muslim community in these years would have found the race riots and the terrorist bombings of 7/7 and the Ariana Grande concert simply unbelievable. Had someone told them that this would happen, they would have said he’d been watching too much science fiction.

Muslim Separatism and the Threat of White British Fascism

Hanging over this book is the spectre of demographic change. The Muslim population is expected to shoot up to 18 million later in the century and there is the real prospect of Britain becoming a Muslim majority country. In fact, as one of the great commenters here has pointed out, this won’t happen looking at the available data. If Scotland goes its own way, however, the proportion of Muslims in England will rise to 12 per cent, the same as France and Belgium. For Hussain, it’s not a question of how influential Islam will be in the future, but the type of Islam we will have. He is afraid of Muslim majority towns passing laws against everything the Muslim community considers forbidden. And as politicians, particularly Jeremy Corbyn and the Muslim politicos in the Labour party treat Muslims as a solid block, rather than individuals, he’s afraid that Muslim communalism and its sense of a separate identity will increase. This may also produce a corresponding response in the White, Christian-origin English and Brits. We could see the rise of nationalist, anti-Islam parties. At one point he foresees three possible futures. One is that the mosques will close the doors and Muslims will become a separate community. Another is mass deportations, including self-deportations. But there are also reasons to be optimistic. A new, British Islam is arising through all the ordinary Muslims finding ways to accommodate themselves within liberal, western society. They’re doing it quietly, unobtrusively in ordinary everyday matters, underneath all the loud shouting of the Islamists.

The Long Historical Connections between Britain and Islam

In his conclusion, Hussain points out that Islam and Britain have a long history together. Queen Elizabeth I, after her excommunication by the Pope, attempted to forge alliance with the Ottoman Sultan. She succeeded in getting a trading agreement with the Turkish empire. In the 17th century, the coffee shop was introduced to Britain by a Greek-Turk. And in the 8th century Offa, the Anglo-Saxon king of Mercia, used Muslim dirhams as the basis for his coinage. This had the Muslim creed in Arabic, with his head stamped in the middle of the coin. Warren Hastings, who began the British conquest of India, opened a madrassa, sitting on its governing board and setting up its syllabus. This is the same syllabus used in the narrowly religious Muslim schools, so he’s partly to blame for them. During the First World War 2.5 million Muslims from India willingly fought for Britain. Muslim countries also sheltered Jews from the horrors of Nazi persecution. He’s also impressed with the immense contribution Muslims gave to the rise of science, lamenting the superstition he sees in some Muslim communities. He really isn’t impressed by one book on sale in a Muslim bookshop by a modern author claiming to have refuted the theory that the Earth goes round the sun.

To Combat Separatism and Caliphism, Celebrate British Values of Freedom and the Rule of Law

But combatting the Muslims separatism is only one half of the solution. Muslims must have something positive in wider mainstream society that will attract them to join. For Hussain, this is patriotism. He quotes the late, right-wing philosopher Roger Scruton and the 14th century Muslim historian ibn Khaldun on patriotism and group solidarity as an inclusive force. He cites polls showing that 89 per cent of Brits are happy with their children marrying someone of a different ethnicity. And 94 per cent of Brits don’t believe British nationality is linked to whiteness. He maintains that Brits should stop apologising for the empire, as Britain hasn’t done anything worse than Russia or Turkey. He and Imam Jalal also point out that the Turkish empire also committed atrocities, but Muslims do not decry them. Rather, the case of a Turkish TV show celebrating the founder of the Turkish empire, have toured Britain and received a warm welcome at packed mosques. He points out that he and other Muslims are accepted as fellow Brits here. This is not so in other countries, like Nigeria and Turkey, where he could live for decades but wouldn’t not be accepted as a Nigerian or Turk. And we should maintain our country’s Christian, Protestant heritage because this is ultimately the source of the values that underlie British secular, liberal society.

He also identifies six key values which Britain should defend and celebrate. These are:

  1. The Rule of Law. This is based on Henry II’s synthesis of Norman law and Anglo-Saxon common law, to produce the English common law tradition, including Magna Carta. This law covers everyone, as against the sharia courts, which are the thin end of an Islamist wedge.
  2. Individual liberty. The law is the protector of individual liberty. Edward Coke, the 17th century jurist, coined the phrase ‘an Englishman’s home is his castle’. He also said that ‘Magna Carta is such a fellow he will have no sovereign’ It was this tradition of liberty that the Protestant emigrants took with them when they founded America.
  3. Gender equality – here he talks about a series of strong British women, including Boadicea, the suffragettes, Queen Elizabeth and, in Johnson’s opinion, Maggie Thatcher. He contrasts this with the Turkish and other Muslim empires, which have never had a female ruler.
  4. Openness and tolerance – here he talks about how Britain has sheltered refugees and important political thinkers, who’ve defended political freedoms like the Austrians Wittgenstein and Karl Popper.
  5. Uniqueness. Britain is unique. He describes how, when he was at the Council for Foreign Relations, he and his fellows saw the Arab Spring as like Britain and America. The revolutionaries were fighting for liberty and secularism. There was talk amongst the Americans of 1776. But the revolutionaries didn’t hold western liberal values.
  6. Racial Parity. Britain is not the same nation that support racists like Enoch Powell. He points to the German roots of the royal family, and that Johnson is part Turkish while members of his cabinet also come from ethnic minorities. Britain is not like France and Germany, where Muslims are seen very much as outsiders.

Whatever your party political opinions, I believe that these really are fundamental British values worth preserving. Indeed, they’re vital to our free society. On the other hand, he also celebrates Adam Smith and his theories of free trade as a great British contribution, because it allowed ordinary people and not just the mercantilist elite to get wealthy. Er, no, it doesn’t. But in a book like this you can’t expect everything.

Criticisms of Hussain’s Book

Hussain’s book caused something of a storm on the internet when it was released. The peeps on Twitter were particularly upset by the claims of Muslims bullying and violence towards Whites. There was a series of posts saying that he’d got the location wrong, and that the area in question was posh White area. In fact the book makes it clear he’s talking about a Muslim enclave. What evidently upset people was the idea that Muslims could also be racist. But some Muslims are. Way back c. 1997 Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote a report for the Committee for Racial Equality as it was then on anti-White Asian and Black hatred and violence. Racism can be found amongst people of all colours and religions, including Muslims.

People were also offended by his statement that in the future there could be mass deportations of Muslims. From the discussion about this on Twitter, you could be misled into thinking he was advocating it. But he doesn’t. He’s not Tommy Robinson or any other member of the far right. He’s horrified by this as a possibility, a terrible one he wishes to avoid. But these criticism also show he’s right about another issue: people don’t have a common language to talk about the issues and problems facing Britain and its Muslim communities. These need to be faced up to, despite the danger of accusations of racism and islamophobia. Tanjir Rashid, reviewing it for the Financial Times in July 2021, objected to the book on the grounds that Hussain’s methodology meant that he ignored other Muslim networks and had only spoken to out-of-touch mullahs. He pointed instead to an Ipsos-Mori poll showing that 88 per cent of Muslims strong identified with Britain, seven out of ten believed Islam and modern British society were compatible and only one per cent wanted separate, autonomous Muslim communities. It’s possible that if Hussain had also travelled to other towns where the Muslim population was smaller and more integrated with the non-Muslim population, he would have seen a very different Islam.

Intolerant Preaching Revealed by Channel 4 Documentary

On the other hand, the 2007 Channel 4 documentary, Undercover Mosque, found a venomous intolerance against Christians, Jews and gays being preached in a hundred mosques. A teacher was effectively chased out of his position at a school in Batley because he dared to show his pupils the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a class on tolerance. He is still in hiding, fearing for his life. Hussain cites government statistics that 43,000 people are under police surveillance because political extremism, 90 per cent of whom are Muslims.

These are vital questions and issues, and do need to be tackled. When I studied Islam in the 90s, I came across demands in the Muslim literature I was reading for separate Muslim communities governed by Islamic law. This was accompanied by the complaint that if this wasn’t granted, then Britain wasn’t truly multicultural. More recently I saw the same plea in a book in one of Bristol’s secondhand and remaindered bookshops, which based its argument on the British colonisation of America, in which peoples from different nationalities were encouraged to settle in English territories, keeping their languages and law. It might be that the mullahs are preaching separatism, but that hardly anybody in the Muslim community is really listening or actually want the caliphate or a hard line separate Muslim religious identity.

Conclusion

I do believe, however, that it is an important discussion of these issues and that the sections of the book, in which liberal Muslims, including Hussain himself, refute the vicious intolerance preached by the militants, are potentially very helpful. Not only could they help modern Muslims worried by such intolerant preaching and attitudes, and help them to reject and refute them, but they also show that a modern, liberal, western Islam is very possible and emerging, in contradiction to Fascists and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson.

White British Woman Harassed for Wanting to See Movie about Mohammed’s Daughter Fatima

June 14, 2022

Rafida+ is a Muslim YouTuber, and I would guess, a Shia, who’s staunchly behind the British movie Lady of Heaven. This is about the life of Mohammed’s daughter, Fatima, as told to a young girl fleeing from the horrors of ISIS’ regime in Iraq. It was written by Sheikh Habib, a respected Shia cleric, and its executive produce, Malik Shlibak, is also Muslim. Nevertheless, Cineworld were forced to withdraw it from cinemas last week following protests in Bradford, Birmingham and other cities. The protesters ranted that it was blasphemous and causing sectarian hatred. The real issue, it appears, is that it presents the story from the point of view of the Shia. Fatima was married to Ali, who is revered by the Shia as the first Imam and the true leader of the Muslim community after the Prophet’s death. One of the most important works of Shia Muslim theology and jurisprudence it the Kitab al-Irshad, or Book of Guidance. This includes the legal decisions made by Ali. Cineworld pulled the movie because they felt they could not protect their employees. This is the underlying threat presented by such protesters. The teacher at a school in Batley,, who was at the centre of protests after he showed his class the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in a lesson about free speech, is still in hiding. And in Britain these protests can be traced back to the campaign against Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses in the 1980s. This was accompanied by cynical, opportunistic fatwa demanding Rushdie’s murder by the Ayatollah Khomeini. As a result, the author was forced into hiding for years.

Rafida+’s video presents the opposite case for the showing of the film. In it, a White British woman explains that she wants to see the movie because she works for the oil company, Saudi-Aramco. As a result, she’s been around Muslims, knows something about the religion, and would like to know more. A security guard at the mall or wherever then walks over to her to rant about how it’s blasphemous, ‘there isn’t an inch of truth in it’, and that it shouldn’t be shown. He keeps walking away and coming back. You can see in the background women dressed in the all-enveloping chador, and there are women’s voices off camera reassuring her that she’s right and the security guard most definitely isn’t and should mind his own business. I’m sure that these are Shia women, who also want to see the movie, and who appreciate the White woman’s interest in their religion.

Normally I’m very much in favour of people’s right to protest, but this right ends when there’s a threat to people’s lives. The protesters have a right to voice their opposition to the movie, but not to the extent that the cinema manager and chain feel their lives and those of their employees are at risk. And just as they have a right to protest, so others have the right to see the movie. If the protesters want to show their opposition to the movie, they are free to make their own movie presenting their point of view, just as they are free to produce books, pamphlets and video material doing the same. This is free speech.

What they should not be doing is demanding the suppression of a film that contradicts and challenges their views with masked and tacit threats.

In doing so, they are the ones trying to stop people learning more about Islam and communities coming together through the movie.

Stop the War Coalition Organises Protest Against Blair’s Knighthood

June 5, 2022

Yesterday I got the latest email newsletter from the Stop the War Coalition, detailing their forthcoming protests against the war in Ukraine, the government’s increased funding for the British military, which is particularly noxious given the government’s lukewarm response to the cost of living crisis, and their protest against Blair being granted a knighthood. The Coalition’s assembling a demonstration at Windsor on the 13th, when Blair is due to join the others being inducted into the Order of the Garter. Blair’s a war criminal through his illegal invasion of Iraq, which killed 100,000 people and displaced a further two million. The same invasion wrecked the country, destroying its relatively secular, welfare state. This was replaced by sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shias, women may no longer work outside the home as they formerly could under Saddam Hussein’s regime, and the mercenary troops brought in as part of the occupation amused and enriched themselves through running drugs and prostitution rings and shooting innocent Iraqis for sport. Not all of this carnage is Blair’s responsibility. A large part of it is his mate’s George W. Bush. But he was actively complicit, and, as books have argued, deserves to be up before the Court of International Human Rights or whatever on charges of war crimes. And this is quite apart from his role in the similar destruction of Libya, which has resulted in the Islamist nutters there opening slave markets again. They are also calling on their supporters to organise protests in their local community on the 25th of this month. I won’t be able to attend any of these demonstrations, but I’m putting up notice of them for those who may.

Protest: No Knighthood for Tony Blair – 13 June

Tony Blair should be heading to The Hague. Instead, on 13th June he will be heading to the castle at Windsor where he will be knighted by the Queen.

Despite the disastrous legacy of Blair’s foreign policy the British establishment has learnt few lessons. Blair has blood on his hands and is personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians as well as servicemen and women in Afganistan and Iraq. He is the least deserving person of any public honour.

Join the Stop the War protest at the annual Garter Day procession in Windsor and let the world know there is only one court that Blair should be attending, and it’s not the royal one.

We’re assembling at 1pm at the Queen Victoria Statue on Castle Hill, Windsor, SL4 1PD to say ‘Jail Blair! No knighthoods for war criminals’.

For those traveling from London we will be meeting at Paddington Station at midday for the 12:20 train. Changing at Slough at 12:36.

Yes, I’ll be there

18 June: Peace & Anti-War Bloc – TUC ‘We Demand Better!’ March

Boris Johnson is set to announce further unprecedented increases in the UK’s military budget despite his woefully inadequate response to the biggest cost of living crisis in our lifetime. We believe that taxpayer’s money should be prioritised for our public services and protecting people’s livelihoods rather than new technologies of mass killing.

Stop the War is supporting the TUC’s ‘We Demand Better’ demonstration against the soaring costs of living on June 18th to say ‘Cut War Not Welfare’. Let’s get on the streets and make our voices heard.

I’m Joining the Anti-War Bloc on 18 June

International Day of Action – 25 June

We are asking all our groups to organise a local protest on the International Day of Action on 25 June. In the run up this we need to be broadening and deepening the movement everywhere. We ask every group to put together an action plan including:
– Stalls every weekend to build for 25 June, leafletting, collecting signatures and building a local base of activists.

– A public meeting/rally if you haven’t held one, a follow up meeting if you have.

– A systematic campaign to get our resolution passed in trades councils and trade union branches.

– Banner drops and stunts.

– Cultural events – music nights, spoken word events, film screenings etc.


There is a wide range of people and organisations who can help build a Stop the War group, including trade unionists and trades councils, peace movement activists, local churches and mosques, Labour Party activists, Momentum groups, environmental campaigners etc. Please make sure you approach all of these as you organise the campaign.

I’m Organising An Event on 25 June

Arise Festival Online Events against Blair and NHS Privatisation

February 4, 2022

I got an email today from the Arise Festival of Labour Left Ideas about a number of forthcoming online events. Two were about Latin America and Cuba, but the two that really interested me were against Blair’s knighthood and NHS Privatisation.

The brief notices about these events ran:

“1) FORUM: No to Blair’s Knighthood – No Return to Blairism

Thursday 10 February, 18:30. Register here // Share & invite here // Retweet here to spread the word.

With: Steve Howell (Deputy Director, Strategy & Communications for Jeremy Corbyn in 2017) , Rachel Garnham (Campaign for Labour Party Democracy) & Sami Ramidani (Iraqi anti-war campaigner.)

Tony Blair’s knighthood has provoked a massive backlash – come & find out more about Blairism – & what it represents & means today. With plenty of time for questions & discussion.

Hosted by Labour Outlook. Kindly streamed by Arise – A Festival of Left Ideas.

2) DIARY DATE: Ending NHS Privatisation – For a National Care Service.

Monday, 21 February 2022, 7pm  Register here 

The Second of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs online policy seminars being organised throughout 2022 – in partnership with the Labour Assembly Against Austerity and Momentum – looking at the key policies we need to be raising and how we build the movements to win these policies.”

I haven’t registered for them yet, but I think I probably will as I strongly support both these causes. Blair took us to war against Iraq on a lie, a lie intended to justify the plundering of Iraq’s oil and state industries for the benefit of the American and Saudi oil conglomerates and American multinationals. There’s footage of Gorgeous George Galloway angrily telling one of the New Labour women who cheered and organised the Labour benches for this war that she’s responsible for the deaths of a million people in Iraq. I’ve got mixed feeling about the Glesgae bruiser. Sometimes he says things that are absolutely brilliant, at other times he acts like a self-centred publicity seeker. This time I think he was spot-on. Innocent people died, including our best and bravest in the armed forces, not to defend our great nation from a real threat to be get the already bloated rich even richer and more bloated. It destroyed what was, by middle eastern standards at least, a relatively secular welfare state. A society where women could safely pursue careers outside the home. It created a monstrous society instead where Sunni and Shia Muslims had to be separated in Baghdad by peace walls, as in Northern Ireland. There were sectarian deaths squads running amok with the connivance of the American proconsuls running country, and the mercenaries brought in as peacekeepers ran drugs and prostitution rings. Oh yes,, and they killed ordinary Iraqis for sport. The situation was so dire that one American diplomat went home and gave public interviews denouncing the occupation.

A million or two severely normal Brits marched against the invasion. I think it was the biggest mass protest ever. One of those was one of my parish priests at the time. The satirists Bremner, Bird and Fortune attacked the warmongering prior to the invasion. The Tories opposed it, which was a first. I suspect this was simple opportunism, but in some cases it was genuine. The right-wing journalist, Peter Hitchens, continued to attack Blair for wasting the lives of British servicemen and women. A friend of mine even read the Spectator for a time because of its anti-invasion stance.

And Blair ignored it all. The result was a wrecked country, which allowed the expansion of Iranian influence there and, with the rest of the Neo-Con policy in the Middle East, created the conditions for the emergence and expansion of Daesh and their campaign against civilisation.

Millions of people have either died or been forced to flee their homes, contributing to the migrant crisis. The economy was destroyed, people thrown out of work, women forced back into their traditional role and businesses destroyed. But Starmer wants to bring Blairism back, telling everyone that it’s going to be a vote winner.

It ain’t. Blair’s popularity at the time declined and its suffered even worse in the intervening years as more people have woken up to how harmful so many of his policies were. Not just in Iraq, but on the economy, industry and the NHS. Because Blair shared the Tory desire to privatise the health service.

If this country is ever to have a government that genuinely respects and cares for ordinary people, and which pursues a sane, just, humane policy in the Middle East, it’s only going to be through genuine socialist values and the vision of Jeremy Corbyn.

The Tories must go, and Blairism must be consigned to the dustbin.

Nigel Farage Interviews Iraq War Army Officer about Blair’s War Crimes

January 8, 2022

Oh Heaven help me! I’ve just agreed with something arch-Brexiteer, former Kipperfuhrer and founder of the Brexit party, Nigel Farage, has said on right-wing satellite/cable broadcaster GB News. The Fuhrage was criticising the recent award of a knighthood to Tony Blair. Blair has not been forgiven by very many ordinary Brits, both on the right and left, for taking this country into an illegal war and occupation of Iraq. Three quarters of a million people, according to Farage, have now signed a petition against the honour. Farage points out that every prime minister automatically becomes a member of the Order of the Garter with which comes either a knighthood or an earldom. In this video from his show on GB News, posted on the 5th of January, not only does Farage himself criticise its award to Blair, asking if he is a fit and proper person to receive it, but he talks over the phone to one of the veterans who served in the war. This is Colonel Tim Collins, OBE, who led the Royal Irish Regiment.

Farage begins with the news that one of Blair’s former cabinet ministers, Jeff Hoon, is writing a book that claims that Blair’s chief of staff, Tony Powell, burnt a document of legal advice concerning legality of gong to war provided by the Attorney General Lord Geoffrey Goldsmith. The newspapers report that the story came out in 2015, but Farage states that he has never, ever seen it before to his recollection. He states that Blair had the backing of parliament to go to war, and asks Col. Collins if there are really legitimate reasons for refusing him the Order of the Garter. Collins replies by going even further, contradicting the story that it was Blair who was responsible for the peace settlement in Northern Ireland. Not so. According to Collins, it was largely the work of John Major and the Irish government. Blair took over the process, but added celebrity spin, which had the effect of watering the agreement down, hence producing the conditions for the mess Ulster is in now. The colonel then goes on to remind the viewers that Blair took us into the war on the dodgy dossier. We acted as bit-part players, not pulling our weight and giving the coalition good advice. He recalls that the crucial piece of advice he saw when he was a member of Special Forces at their HQ before he joined the RIR was that we needed to retain the Iraqi army to hold Iraq together until a democratic replacement for Saddam Hussein could be found. The disbandment of the Iraqi army unleashed a form of terror that cost many lives, both Iraqi and British. Farage responds by stating that down the centuries British prime ministers in crisis have made both good and bad decisions. This decision was very bad, but should it disqualify Blair from getting the accolade all other prime minsters have received? Collins response to this question is to point out that it’s ironic that the honour is in the gift of the monarch, whom Blair did so much to undermine. He describes how she was used as a prop for Blair, Cherie and New Labour at the millennium celebrations. He now has to come cap in hand to Her Maj and say ‘You are right.’ And Farage fully agrees.

Farage goes on to ask the colonel, as a veteran of the Iraq war, whether he and his colleagues feel bitter about being sold that war on a falsehood. Collins replies that he feels sorry for the people of Iraq, who have been pushed into their unfriendly neighbours, Iran. He believes they will rise again, but it will take a long time. There are thousands of people dead, who didn’t need to die, including our own people. Farage then asks him if he’s saying that Tony Blair shouldn’t get the knighthood. Collins replies that he should got to the Queen and tell her that he cannot accept it, because he is not a fit and proper person to receive it from the monarchy he has done so much to demean.

I think the colonel is rather more concerned about Blair’s undermining of the monarchy as much as, if not more, than British troops being sent into Iraq to fight and lose life and limb, and destroy an entire country on the basis of a lie. Blair did indeed appear to use to Queen as a prop for his own self-promotion during his tenure of 10 Downing Street. He was widely criticised by the right-wing press for his ‘presidential’ party political election film. He’s not the only one, however. Thatcher seemed to being her best on many occasions to upstage Her Maj while at the same time trying to bathe in the monarchy’s reflected glory.

The colonel’s statement about the Northern Ireland peace process being largely the work of Major and the Irish government is subject to doubt, but I can well believe it. Thatcher had begun secret talks with Sinn Fein and the IRA years before, while at the same time showing her massive hypocrisy by loudly denouncing the Labour party as traitors and supporters of terrorism for openly saying that it was precisely what we should do. Going further back to the beginning of the Troubles in the ’70s, Ted Heath had also opened talks with them, only to have them collapse because of the intransigence of the Loyalists.

The colonel also has a good point when he states that they shouldn’t have disbanded the Iraqi army. Bush and Blair had no real idea what to do after they’d won. Bush was taken in by the lies of Ahmed Chalabi, a fantasist who claimed to be the massively popular hero of resistance movement. He would take over the government of the country, and the coalition forces would be met as liberators by a grateful Iraqi people. None of which was true. What is also true is that Iranian influence has expanded into Iraq despite the hostilities of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. Iran is a Shia country, and there is a sizable Shia minority in Iraq for whom Iran is, no doubt, a liberator and protector.

What the Colonel and Farage don’t mention is the real, geopolitical and economic reasons we invaded Iraq. The American-Saudi oil companies wanted to get their hands on Iraq’s state oil industry and its reserves, American multinationals wanted to acquire the country’s other state enterprises. And the Neo-Cons had the fantasy of turning the country into some kind of free trade, free market utopia, with disastrous consequences for the country’s economy.

Native Iraqi firms couldn’t compete with the goods dumped on them by foreign countries. Businesses went bankrupt, unemployment soared to 60 per cent. The country’s relatively progressive, secular government and welfare state collapsed. Sectarian violence erupted between Sunni and Shia, complete with death squads under the command of senior coalition officers. Women lost their ability to find careers outside the home. And the mercenaries hired to keep the peace ran prostitution rings, sold drugs and shot ordinary Iraqis for sport.

This is what you’re not being told on the mainstream news. The people reporting it are journalists like former Guardian hack Greg Palast in his book Armed Madhouse and alternative media outlets like Democracy Now! and The Empire Files on TeleSur. And there is plenty of evidence that Blair is a war criminal because of the war.

I’m well aware that some of the great commenters on this blog will object to my giving a platform to Farage and GB News. But I do feel that Farage is actually performing a valid service here questioning a senior army officer and veteran of the war about the issue of Blair’s knighthood. Even if his criticisms come from him as a man of the right.

There has been controversy about the New Years Honours system for a long time because so many have been awarded to very questionable people. Especially as the Tories have used it as a way of rewarding their donors.

But the destruction of an entire nation and the killing and displacement of millions of citizens for a lie made on behalf of further enriching the multinational elite is surely excellent reason for denying any honour to Blair.

Petition to Strip Blair of His Knighthood Gets Over Half A Million Signatures

January 5, 2022

You can say one thing for Tony Blair and his inclusion on this New Year’s Honours list, it’s united the British people in a way that’s rarely been done. Right across the political spectrum, from Corbynist left to Tory right, people despise him as a warmonger. The petition on Change.org to have him stripped of his knighthood has reached 650,000 signatures. Which I think means that it has to be debated in parliament. Unfortunately, as the mad right-wing internet broadcaster Alex Belfield has said in one his videos, there’s little chance of the politicos taking notice of it or doing what nearly three-quarters of a million people want.

Mike has pointed out that the people want him denied the honour because he took the country into an illegal war with the Iraq. The charitable interpretation of this is that Blair believed the fake information that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. But rather than wait for a UN resolution authorising military action, Blair put pressure on his advisers to state that he could launch an invasion,, and then went ahead and acted according to the advice he’d decided he should be given. Nearly a million people have died as a result of the war that followed.

Less charitable individuals might follow instead the information in Greg Palast’s book, Armed Madhouse, which showed that the real reason behind the invasion was economic. The Neo-Cons wanted Hussein out the way because he occasionally sent aid and support to the Palestinians. The American and Saudi oil industry wanted to loot Iraq’s state oil industry and oil reserves, which are the largest outside Saudi Arabia. Western multinationals also wanted to get their mitts on the country’s state enterprises. And the Neo-Cons also had a plan to turn Iraq into the kind of free trade state with precious few tariff barriers against imports they wanted for America. The result was that Iraq’s oil is now in the hands of foreign countries, a situation authorised by the new constitution written for the country. Many Iraqi businesses went bust as a result of the lowering of tariff barriers, as the world dumped their surplus goods on the country at cheap prices. The country’s own businesses couldn’t compete and went out of business. The unemployment rate skyrocketed to 60 per cent.

The country had been relatively secular with a welfare state and, I believe, free healthcare for its citizens. This has vanished. Women were also safe on the streets and could follow a career outside the home. That vanished too. One of his Hillary Clinton’s female officials tried telling a crowd that things were actually better for Iraqi women during a diplomatic tour of Turkey. She was very definitely told the contrary by a group of annoyed Iraqi ladies. And domestically the country collapsed into bloody chaos. In Baghdad, peace walls had to be erected between Sunni and Shia Muslim areas. Sectarian death squads roamed the country looking for the wrong kind of Muslims to kill, with the cooperation of the American military authorities. The mercenary companies also employed as peacekeepers were also out of control. They ran drugs and prostitution rings, and their soldiers shot ordinary Iraqis for sport. One American diplomat to Iraq was so shocked that he came back to the Land of the Free to the tell the media all about it, including the Nazi regalia sported by some US squaddies.

Over 2 million severely normal Brits marched against the Iraq invasion. One of the priests at my local church was one of them. They were ignored. Just as Blair’s successor, Keef Stalin, is also keen that the government or Her Maj not rescind Blair’s knighthood. Apparently he gave some kind of speech listing all the good things that Blair had done, like winning three elections. Blair’s administration was responsible for some good policies. He would have liked to have privatised the health service, but under him it was still properly funded and he had some success in tackling poverty. But he was also responsible for the Work Capability Tests that have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of disabled people wrongly judged fit to to work, and thrown off the state support they desperately need. All too many have died of starvation and neglect as a result.

And that still doesn’t remove the fact that Blair launched an illegal war and on that account is viewed as a war criminal by many. I bought a book a while ago, written by a lawyer, which made that very case. It went through the relevant international legislation and showed through repeated examples how Blair and Bush had violated it. There were even attempts by Canadian and Greek human rights activists to have the two arrested and tried for their crimes against humanity. This failed as it was successfully blocked by politicians and other officials.

The war also further destabilised the Middle East, setting up the conditions for the expansion of Iranian power into the Iraq, while at the same time radicalising parts of the country so they were taken over by Daesh. Who then went on to smash the monuments and sacred buildings of Christians, Shia and other religions they didn’t tolerate, and destroy priceless antiquities going back to ancient Babylon. This, along with the civil war in Syria, has also fuelled the refugee crisis. I’ve no doubt many of the channel migrants, or ‘dinghy divers’ as they’ve been dubbed by anti-immigrant right-wingers like Belfield, are people fleeing the chaos in Iraq. I am definitely no fan of Barbara Barnaby, the head of the British branch of Black Lives Matter. But she made a good point at a Corbynite Labour meeting last year when she said that Britain should admit these refugees because of our responsibility for the wars that forced them to leave their homes.

I’ve also heard the other side of the argument, that Blair should have got the knighthood after leaving office, as was customary for all prime ministers. He wasn’t. This has also caused a further problem, in that apparently they have to be granted to prime ministers in order. This has meant that Cameron hasn’t got one either and Tweezer hasn’t been made a dame or given some equivalent honour. The insult, on this view, is that it already has taken so long to grant Blair his honour.

Well, I still don’t think he deserves one. Just as I don’t think Cameron and Tweezer deserve honours either. Cameron held the vote on Brexit thinking it would fail and he’d defeat the Eurosceptics in the Tories. It didn’t. It narrowly won. However, it divided Britain. England largely supported it, while the Welsh, Scots and northern Irish rejected it. It’s breaking up the union and has particularly betrayed the people of Ulster. Both Loyalists and Nationalists wanted the border with Eire to remain open. The loyalists, as you might expect, also didn’t want a tariff barrier separating the Six Counties and the rest of the UK. An open border with Eire was one of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement that ended the war in Northern Ireland. With Britain leaving the EU and the imposition of a hard border, instability and sectarian violence have returned. Speaking on the BBC comedy show, Room 101, Jeremy Paxman nominated Cameron to be sent into the room containing all the most horrible stuff in the world. Cameron was, declared the former bane of politicians on Newsnight, the worst prime minister we’d had since Lord North. He was the PM who lost us the American colonies.

My guess is that Blair will still get his knighthood. But millions of severely normal Brits will still hate him as a warmonger, the man who lied to us to get the illegal war he wanted, and sent Britain’s courageous young servicemen and -women to fight and die in decades of pointless war. I think Blair will still get the honour, but millions will still remember him as war criminal, and further resent the honours system that has rewarded him.

Bush and Blair were subjects of satire and ridicule when they started the war. Someone on the Net cut footage of various speeches and press gatherings by the duo to show them singing Electric Six’s ‘Gay Bar’. Which has the fitting lines ‘Let’s start a war. I want to start a nuclear war’. Let’s hope Blair and the world’s other politicians never do.

A 17th Century Anglican Plea for Religious Toleration

November 21, 2020

Jeremy Taylor was the chaplain of King Charles I and the rector of Uppingham. After the royalists were defeated in the British Civil War, he fled to Carmarthenshire in Wales, where he wrote his book arguing for religious freedom, The Liberty of Prophesying. After the Restoration he was appointed bishop of Down and Connor. He was also the author of a number of devotional works and sermons, but it’s his defence of religious freedom that I find particularly interesting. He said ‘they were excellent words which St. Ambrose said in attestation of this great truth, that the civil authority has no right to interdict the liberty of speaking, nor the sacerdotal to prevent speaking what you think.’

See the article on him in John Bowker, ed., The Oxford Dictionary of World Religions (Oxford: OUP 1997) 958.

I’m very much aware that throughout Christian history there has been very little freedom of religion and conscience, and that the Anglican church’s toleration of Dissenters was very limited until the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in the 19th century. Until then Protestant nonconformists were excluded from the grammar schools, universities and government, and could only hold their services five miles away from towns. Atheism and Roman Catholicism were illegal again until the 19th century. But it was clergymen like Taylor and his fellows in the Nonconformist churches, like the Quaker William Penn and a number of Presbyterian ministers, who laid the foundations for the British and American tradition of religious tolerance. The most famous of the works calling for religious freedom from this period is Milton’s Areopagitica.

Despite the passage of the centuries, their message is still acutely relevant. Many countries still don’t have freedom of conscious or religious liberty in the 20th century. The Communists attempted to destroy religious and viciously persecuted people of faith, while the Nazis, apart from trying to exterminate the Jews, also sent their other religious opponents, especially Jehovah’s Witnesses, to the concentration camps.

We have recently seen a French teacher murdered for showing schoolchildren the Charlie Hebdo cartoons of Mohammed in a class about free speech, and mass demonstrations against France for permitting the cartoons in Muslim countries. To many people, their calls for legislation against such disrespect seem like demands for Muslim blasphemy laws. Christians and members of other religious minorities, such as Shia and Ahmadiyya Muslims have been murdered in Pakistan as well as orthodox Sunni Muslims because of supposed blasphemy. This is banned in Pakistan and punishable with the death penalty. The only permitted religion in Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi Islam, and a few years ago the Saudis declared that atheism was terrorism. This was just atheist unbelief itself, regardless of any act of genuine terror, such as killing people or destroying property.

I’m sympathetic to Muslims regarding the Charlie Hebdo cartoons. I don’t like the way Christianity and Christ are mocked by certain sections of the media and the entertainment business either. I’ve also heard the argument that Charlie Hebdo is a nasty rag. It’s not left-wing, but right, apparently, and its targets also include Roman Catholicism and immigrants.

But there’s a greater principle of free speech and the sanctity of human life here. All religions and ideologies, including atheism, should be up for debate, with people free to choose as they will. They’re fundamental human rights, the violation of which either leads or is part of tyranny.

Before We Go to War with Iran, We Should Listen to Michael Moore and Neil Young

September 22, 2019

Yesterday I put up a piece commenting on Secular Talk’s video about the drone strikes on the Saudi oilfields. The host, Kyle Kulinski, stated that he believed the media would start lying and claim that these attacks were completely unprovoked. The reality is that they were committed by the Houthis in Yemen in retaliation for the genocidal war the Saudis are waging against their country. Kulinski also predicted that the media, including the Beeb, would tell us all that Iran, and only Iran, was responsible. He states that it’s possible that the Iranians have helped them, and that elements in Iran do support and celebrate it. But he fears a push for war, and doesn’t trust any of the actors – Trump, Netanyahu or the Saudis – to draw back.

I share his fears. And so, I believe, do very many other people. On my YouTube page the other day I found the video below from that old rocker, Neil Young. It’s of him playing ‘Rocking in the Free World’. I think its from the Michael Moore documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11. In it the Capped Crusader showed how George Dubya, the American-Saudi oil interests and the military industrial complex pushed for war in the Middle East following the terror attack on 9/11. Wars that they were very careful not to let their sons or daughters become physically involved, while actively recruiting the working class, and particularly the Black working class, to be their cannon fodder.

The film ends with Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’.

I know people, who don’t like the song because they think it’s actually a celebration of the capitalist west. So did the late Radio 1 DJ John Peel. He chose it as one of his favourite tracks in an interview on Radio 4 I can remember listening to in the ’90s. He didn’t like it for the same reason, until he listened to it properly. It’s an angry, bitter song, and as flag-wavingly patriotic as Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Born in the USA’. They’re both about how America gives working people nothing but poverty while sending them to fight wars.

Consider the lyrics to Young’s song:

There are warning signs on the road ahead

Some people are saying that we’re better off dead….

That’s another kid,

Who’ll never go to school,

Never fall in love,

Never get to be cool….

We got a thousand points of light

for the homeless man.

We got a kinder, gentler machine gun ham. 

The tunes played over footage of demonstrations in America against Bush, Young and his band in concert, recruiting sergeants going round Black neighbourhoods, and the chaos, grief and warfare in Iraq and the Middle East.

The clip begins with Dubya stumbling his way through the saying ‘Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.’ But he couldn’t remember it properly, and so ends with stating the saying’s message ‘Don’t get fooled again’. To which Moore adds, ‘For once, we agree’. Then into the song.

Moore’s absolutely right, as has been corroborated by the former Guardian journo, Greg Palast, in his book, Armed Madhouse. In it he provides copious proof that the Iraq invasion was started, not because Saddam Hussein backed Osama bin Laden, or to liberate the Iraqi people from his dictatorship, but because the Saudi and American oil interests wanted the Iraqi oil reserves. The multinationals wanted to get their grubby hands on Iraqi state enterprises, the Neocons wanted to remove another source of support for the Palestinians, and create the low tax, free market utopia of the kind they want to introduce in the US. The result was absolute chaos. Apart from the carnage of the war, the Iraqi economy was decimated under the impact of foreign imports. Iraqi domestic firms couldn’t compete and collapsed. There was 60 per cent unemployment.

This is what will happen to Iran if we get fooled by the right-wing political elite, the oil industry and the military-industrial complex. It won’t be to liberate the Iranian people from their despotic government, nor to defend an innocent Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are Wahhabis – militant Sunnis – who despise and fear the Shi’a. That’s why they invaded Yemen: the Shi’a Houthi had overthrown the Sunni government. A few years ago one high-ranking Saudi cleric, the Sharif of Mecca or Grand Mufti, declared that Shi’a Muslims were ‘heretics and worthy of death’. Iran supports the Shi’a nations in the Middle East, hence Saudi determination to destroy the country’s regime. Israel and its supporters here also wants the Iranian government overthrown, because they are intensely hostile to Israel, expressing their hate in genocidal language, and support the Palestinians. Western oil interests want to get their hands on the Iranian oil industry, because we used to own it before Prime Minister Mossadeq nationalised it briefly in the 1950s before we had him overthrown, and it was nationalised against during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Our multinationals want to seize Iranian industries, as under current Iranian legislation they cannot be invested in or owned by foreign companies. And this includes the 51 per cent of the economy held by the state or the bonyads, the Islamic charitable funds. In fact, Forbes was whining about how unfree Iranian industry was, meaning that westerners couldn’t get their mitts on it, a few years ago.

These are the forces pressing for war with Iran.

They fooled many people 18 years ago after 9/11. But not everyone. One million people in Britain marched against the invasion of Iraq, including our local priest. Since then, I’ve no doubt more people know how spurious the cause for war was. More people realise that the two chiefly responsible for the war, George Dubya Bush and Tony Blair, are liars and war criminals.

Don’t let them fool our people again!

Not one courageous squaddie should be sent to his or her death killing ordinary Iranians, just to make the oil industry and the multinationals rich!

 

 

 

Secular Talk on Media Lies and Push for War with Iran after Saudi Attacks

September 21, 2019

I don’t share Secular Talk’s religious views. I’m neither a secularist nor an atheist, but when host Kyle Kulinski talks about politics, I believe he’s correct. In this video from the 16th September 2019, he talks about the attacks on Saudi Arabia’s oil fields, and predicts the media’s and American government’s response.

He believes that, although the Houthi rebels in Yemen have claimed responsibility, Trump and the media, and even the Democrats, will claim that the strikes are solely the responsibility of Iran. And they will not supply any context for the attacks. Like actually telling them it’s in response to the Saudi war against them. Saudi Arabia attacked Yemen after the Houthis overthrew the Sunni Muslim government and installed a Shi’a regime. Saudi Arabia is Wahhabi, and militantly anti-Shi’a. They responded by invading and waging a genocidal war. They have deliberately targeted schools, hospitals and mosques. Thanks to them, the country is gripped by a famine and cholera epidemic. One has affected 85,000, the other perhaps a million. But despite the fact that the Houthis have claimed responsibility, all the lamestream news channels, Kulinski predicts, will claim that the strikes were unprovoked. And those lying news agencies include the Beeb.

He also notes that some in the Iranian regime have also claimed responsibility for the attacks and celebrated them. He doesn’t deny that it is entirely possible that the Iranians did give the Yemenis weapons and assistance. But the media, he claims, and Trump’s government will claim that the Iranians are solely responsible and a demand a war with Iran. Netanyahu wants a war with Iran. Saudi Arabia wants a war with Iran. Trump’s adviser, John Bolton, wants war with Iran. Even though he’s now gone, it looks like he’ll get his wish. The Democrats have said they’ll back a war with Iran. And Trump will want a war with Iran, because he doesn’t want to look weak. He’s said previously that Saudi Arabia should fight its own wars and that they were responsible for 9/11, but this won’t matter after these attacks. Kulinski concludes that we are the closest to war with Iran as we have ever been, but he doesn’t trust any of the actors to deescalate.

I don’t know if he’s right about the mainstream media not providing any context for this or not. I’ve been avoiding the mainstream news recently because I don’t trust them to report anything objectively. It could be that they have provided some context. But there are powerful forces at work demanding that we go in and attack Iran. Iran’s been on the Neocons’ list of countries, whose governments they want overthrown since 1995. I don’t know what’ll happen in Israel, because of the way the elections resulted in a tie between Netanyahu’s murderous coalition and their equally nationalistic rivals. But Netanyahu and the Israeli right have also pushed for war with Iran, because Iran backs the Palestinians and wants to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth. And America backs Israel, despite opposition from pro-Palestinian groups, including a sizable and growing number of Jewish Americans.

An Iranian gent, Reza Cage, left this comment pleading for peace on the YouTube page for this video. Here it is.

I am an Iranian living in Tehran, this terrifies me. For you guys it’a not big deal because your families and children will be safe not our.. most iranian just want peace we are not that different from you.. Edit: thank you my brothers and sisters for your support, I am overwhelmed by your (mostly) kind messages it gives me a tiny bit of hope in this time of chaos.I know our government in Iran is not good they are a minority with guns and weapons controlling a country mostly youth who are pro west and liberal to stay in power. That being said everything was peaceful under the nuclear agreement even American navy members were captured and immediately released this Trump has ruined this and our already right wing government has become aggressive. I want change in our country but it must happen from the inside not through war and killing this will only make majority of youth on your side despise you because no doubt their lives will be ruined.
His thanks to the other commenters for their replies is due to them having posted something like 355 replies when last I looked, mostly supporting him. And I don’t doubt that Agha Cage is right. There are right-wing hawks in the Iranian government, who’d love to push the country even further to the right by engaging in a war with America and the West. And of course, if we did invade, most of the Iranian young people would hate us. Because however much they hate their government, they, like everyone else, loves their country. The late Corinne Souza, whose father was an Iraqi dissident, said pretty much the same about our invasion of her father’s country. Before we invaded, there were Iraqis willing to work with us to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime. But this stopped after we invaded, because we were the aggressors. And it’ll happen again if we invade Iran, along with all the other horrors we’ve seen in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East.
I’ve made it very clear that I have little time or sympathy for the Iranian government. They are oppressive theocrats,  impoverishing their people and plundering their country to enrich themselves. But the Islamic revolution which installed the current regime came about because we oppressed and exploited them. We overthrew the last of the Qajar shahs in the early 20th century and installed the Pahlavis as the Qajars couldn’t repay the loans we’d given them to modernise the country. When Mossadeq nationalised the Iranian oil industry in the 1950s, we arranged a coup to overthrow him as Prime Minister. This led to the Shah’s ‘White Revolution’ in which the monarchy seized absolute power, ruling through torture and fear. I’ve met Iranians over here, whose friends vanished, thanks to the Shah’s murderous secret police. Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, was active in the British protests in the 1970s against Britain’s support for murderous Fascistic tyrants like the Shah. If we join the Americans in an invasion of Iran, it won’t be to liberate the Iranian people. It’ll just be like the Gulf War over again – done so that the Saudis can seize their oil reserves, the Neocons can remove another enemy of Israel, and western multinationals can loot the country and its state enterprises.
We got no business sending our courageous young women and men to lose life and limb in the Middle East again, murdering people who’ve never invaded us, simply to make the likes of Boris, Trump and the Bush family even more obscene amounts of money. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corbyn Is Quite Right to Demand Evidence against Trump’s and Tories’ Warmongering Accusations against Iran

June 16, 2019

A further two oil tankers have been destroyed by mysterious explosions in the Persian Gulf in addition to those that were blown up a week or so ago. As I write  nobody has come forward to claim responsibility. But Trump and the Tories already know who’s responsible: Iran. According to Mike’s account of this, the evidence for this is that the Iranians removed a mine that had attached itself to a tanker. Oh yes, and the United Arab Emirates claimed that the explosions were the work of a ‘sophisticated state actor’. And that’s it. Now it seems contrary to commonsense to me that the Iranians would be responsible for the bombings, if they had helped get rid of an explosive device. But as the saying goes, ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. Against this monumental lack of evidence, Corbyn has been one of the few voices of sanity against Trump and the Tories screaming that the Iranians must be responsible. He’s asked for more evidence and for Britain to ease tensions, rather than join the military escalation after Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement with Iran. So the usual right-wing loudmouths, hypocrites and warmongers, like former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, have immediately denounced him as siding with the Iranians. According to them, he’s some kind of traitor working for them against us, because he appeared several times on Iran’s Press TV.

Well, as Mike pointed out in his article about this, Corbyn did appear on Press TV. But as various people on Twitter have pointed out, he stopped going on it and taking their money in opposition to its ‘anti-West bias’. And far from turning a blind eye or worse to Iran’s atrocious record on human rights, he called 51 early day motions against the Iranian government on this issue. He is the seventh in the number of MPs, who have made the most condemnations of Iranian human rights abuses, ahead of 648 other members of the House. See the tweets reproduced in Mike’s piece by Tory Fibs. And the peeps on Twitter have also supported Corbyn’s call for more evidence by pointing out how their previous accusations of responsibility for attacks by various countries have also been false. Jewish Voice for Labour reminded people about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in which the Americans claimed that the Viet Cong had attacked an American warship as a pretext for entering the Vietnam War. The truth was that they hadn’t. It was an outright lie. Chuka Umunna’s Flip-Flops pertinently tweeted

The people slagging off Jeremy Corbyn for this tweet are the same people who cheered for the Iraq War when Tony Blair, George W Bush and John Bolton insisted Saddam Hussein had WMDs. Don’t be fooled again.

A war with Iran will make the war with Iraq look like a pillow fight.

And Nadeem Ahmad tweeted

Jeremy Corbyn was right about Iraq, Libya, Syria, Palestine and he is right about Iran.

Britain needs Corbyn to be our Prime Minister. #Iran

They’re absolutely right. As Greg Palast pointed out in his book, Armed Madhouse, the Gulf War and the invasions of Iraq have had precious little to do with protecting democracy or advancing human rights. Saddam Hussein had zero weapons of mass destruction. It was purely about advancing western multinational corporate interests. The Neocons wanted to seize Iraq’s state industries and remove its tariff barriers, in order to create the kind of low tax, free trade economy based on absolute private industry they want for America. And the Americans and Saudis both wanted to seize Iraq’s oil reserves. The Neocons also wanted him gone because he supported the Palestinians against the Israelis.

The result of this has been absolute chaos and carnage. Before Hussein’s overthrow, Iraq was one of the most prosperous and secular states with the highest standard of living in the Middle East. Christians and other religious minorities were tolerated and had a higher degree of equality than in other Arab states. Healthcare and education were free, and women were also free to pursue careers outside the home. After the invasion, Iranian industry was comprehensively devastated as the state enterprises were privatised and sold to the multinationals and the Americans and Saudis seized the oil industry. They had it written into the country’s constitution that the oil industry could not be renationalised. The removal of the tariff barriers meant that the country’s domestic industry was deluged by cheap foreign products dumped on their markets. Their businesses could not compete, and there was a wave of bankruptcies. Unemployment shot up to over 60 per cent.

The secular state collapsed, so that women once again found it difficult and dangerous to pursue a career. Healthcare has been privatised. And there was civil war between Sunni and Shi’a to the point where Peace Walls of the type used to separate Loyalist and Republican communities in Northern Ireland had to be put up for the first time in Baghdad. The American army and mercenary companies ran amok. The mercenaries ran prostitution rings and shot Iraqi civilians for sport. The American army collaborated with Shi’a death squads in killing Sunnis. The invasion created the conditions for the rise of Daesh and their creation of an extreme theocracy. They destroyed precious archaeological and cultural monuments and treasures, including historic mosques and churches. This is apart from the destruction caused by the American forces, including Babylon when they occupied it. In Mosul Daesh filmed themselves destroying the pre-Islamic artifacts in the museum. They also went on a reign of terror killing Sufis, Shi’a and oppressing Christians and Yezidis, as well as executing gays and ordinary Muslims, who wanted to live in peace with those of different faiths. The Yezidi women were seized and sold as sex slaves. At least a quarter of a million people were killed as a result of the allied invasion, and seven million displaced.

And this is all set to repeat again in Iran. Only it may very well be worse, as Chuka Umunna’s Flip-Flips has pointed out.

Iran is a mosaic of different peoples. The majority religion is Twelver Shi’a, and 51 per cent of the population speak Farsi, the country’s official language. But there are also Kurds, Baluchis and Arabs, as well as other ethnic groups speaking languages relating to Turkish. Three per cent of the population are Christian Armenians, and there are also Zoroastrians, who practise the ancient monotheist religion of the Persian Empire, and Jews. There are also Baha’is, a religion founded in the 19th century, but which is regarded as a heresy by many Muslims and viciously persecuted by the regime. There is also an Anglican church in Tehran, whose clergy and congregation are indigenous Iranians.

Now I have absolutely no illusions about the Iranian regime. It is a theocracy, which limits women’s roles and rights. There is massive corruption, and trade unions, strikes and political opposition are all banned. The oil workers in the Arab-speaking part of the country are kept in conditions described as those of concentration camps, and kept docile by drugs supplied and distributed by the Pasdaran, the Revolutionary Guards.

But the country does have a democratic component. Four seats in the country’s parliament, the majlis, are reserved for the non-Muslim minorities, and women possess some rights. Below the Supreme Leader, the religious head of state, is an elected president. Before the Islamic Revolution, Iran was the most industrialised and advanced economy in the region, and I have no doubt that it is still one of the leading nations in the region today. And there is growing popular discontent against the theocrats and their corruption.

And the American Neocons would dearly loved to invade the country. Some of this doubtless comes from the Islamic Revolution of 1979 and the overthrow of the Shah, who was the West’s ally in the Middle East. The Shah had gradually become an absolute monarch after the overthrow of the country’s democratically elected Prime Minister, Mohammed Mossadeq, in the 1950 in a CIA and British backed coup. He was overthrown because he dared to nationalise Anglo-Persian Oil, which later became BP. I don’t doubt that the Americans,  Saudis and general western oil interests want to seize the Iranian oil industry, just like they wanted Iraq’s. I also don’t doubt that they’d like to get their mitts on the 51 per cent of the Persian economy controlled by the state and the bonyads, the Islamic charitable foundations. They and the Israelis also wanted to topple the Iranian state because they are vehemently hostile to Israel and support the Palestinians.

And you can’t trust anything the Israelis says about Iran either.

A few years ago, Netanyahu was jumping up and down in front of the UN and anybody else, telling them that the Iranians were close to creating nuclear weapons to be used against them. It was all a lie, as even the head of one of Israel’s spy agencies, the Shin Bet, and several of their generals said. And despite the propaganda, Iran actually treats its Jewish citizens quite well.

And the American Neocons very definitely want to invade Iran. 

In the 1990s the Neocons drew up a list of seven nations they wanted to overthrow, including Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, and Iran. It’s a plan that’s been carried out by successive American leaders, including Barack Obama and the ‘Queen of Chaos’ herself, Hillary ‘Killary’ Clinton.

If the West invades, the result will be exactly the same as the invasion of Iraq. There will be massive economic dislocation, the state and bonyad sector will be privatised and seized by multinationals. The oil industry, once again, will be looted and seized by the Americans and Saudis. The economy will collapse and there will be massive unemployment. And the country will also descend into a massive civil war between the various ethnic groups. The Kurds in the north have been fighting a war of independence in the north since before the Islamic Revolution. And some of the nomadic, Turkic-speaking peoples have also fought similar wars after their ancestral lands were seized for Farsi colonization. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, will die or be forced out of their homes. Jews, Christians and other religious minorities will also be persecuted in the religious backlash.

And the country’s immense archaeological and cultural heritage will be placed in danger.

Iran is an ancient country with a history going back almost to the origins of civilisation itself. This was shown in the 1950s with the excavation of Hasanlu, a settlement that dated back to the 9th century BC.

The ancient settlement of Hasanlu.

For centuries the Persian Empire was one of the superpowers of the ancient Near East, conquering the Babylonian and Assyrian Empires and challenging Egypt. The conquests of the Persian emperor, Cyrus, including Babylonia and Jerusalem, are recorded in the Cyrus Cylinder. This is in the British Museum, but was loaned to the Iranians a few years ago.

The Cyrus Cylinder

Among other monuments are a series of reliefs celebrating the exploits of the ancient Persian emperors at Behistun. These include a depiction of Darius receiving foreign dignitaries.

Iranian Relief showing the Emperor Darius

Other reliefs show the symbols of Zoroastrianism, the country’s ancient, indigenous religion, and its god, Ahura Mazda.

Persia continued to be a major centre of culture, art, science and literature after the Islamic conquests. Great literary works include the Shah-Nama of Firdawsi, his epic of the country’s mythic history, the poetry of Sa’adi and the Rubaiyyat of Omar Khaiyam. But Khaiyam was also a leading mathematicians and scientist. Persian artists also excelled in the miniature and book illustration, as the illustration below shows. It’s of the Prophet Mohammed attended by angels. Islamic law forbids the depiction of the Prophet, so Persian artists showed him with his face veiled.

Iran also has some of the most spectacular and holiest mosques in Shi’a Islam, which include similar depictions of Mohammed and Ali, the First Imam. Iranian art was also major influence on the Moghul art of India, and for centuries Farsi was also the language of diplomacy in parts of India.

It’s possible to go on and on about Iran’s rich culture and heritage, which is threatened by Trump’s and the Tories accusations, accusations which seem to be leading up to a pretext for war.

The Iranian state is perfectly capable of terrorism. In the 1990s they bombed a cafe used by Kurdish nationalists in Berlin. And more recently they attacked a British warship, and captured its crew before releasing them.

But there is no evidence they’re behind these attacks. It looks like the Americans and the British Neocon right in the Tories are trying to foment a war fever against Iran. But every opportunity should be taken to prevent a war, which will lead to further, massive carnage and bloodshed in the Middle East, the destruction of the Iranian economy and industry, and what democratic freedoms the Iranian people do possess. As well as the destruction of priceless archaeological monuments and treasures of art, literature and architecture, which will not only impoverish Iran, but also human culture globally.

Against these horrors, Corbyn is quite right to demand further evidence.

For further information, see:

Voxpoliticalonline.com/2019/06/15/hypocrites-challenge-corbyns-call-for-evidence-in-tanker-controversy/

All the illustrations with the exception of the Cyrus cylinder come from Royal Persia: Tales and Art of Iran, Carella Alden (New York: Parents Magazine Press 1972).