20th April, 2011

EDL’s Guramit Singh responds to ultimatum with hypocrisy

by Jai at 8:00 am    

Further to the recent Pickled Politics article highlighting the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh’s admission of hatred towards other South Asians, some further information about Guramit himself is continuing to come to light.

Doublespeak in action

A new Youtube video focusing specifically on Guramit is an excellent compilation and definitely worth watching in full. The repeated juxtaposition of Guramit’s disingenuous assertions about the EDL compared with the ugly reality demonstrates the point particularly effectively. You can watch the video via Youtube here.

“I consider the Guru Granth Sahib to be my Guru”

In response to the recent ultimatum, Gurmait subsequently released a public statement on the EDL’s main blog declaring that he refuses to leave the EDL irrespective of the ultimatum and threatening retaliation (including making a sinister threat to involve unspecified supporters from “outside the Sikh community”) if any attempts were made to excommunicate him.

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18th April, 2011

EDL’s Guramit Singh admits hating other Asians, ridicules God of Sikhism & Islam

by Jai at 2:00 pm    

Further to the joint statement by numerous major British Sikh & Hindu temples and organisations condemning the EDL and any Sikhs who join them, followed by the recent ultimatum issued to the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh, some more facts about Guramit himself are coming to light.

“I f****** hate the Pakis”

As can be heard in the Youtube clip below, a BBC Three documentary about the EDL included audio footage of Guramit Singh secretly referring to other South Asians as “Pakis” and describing his hatred of them. Perhaps it’s time Guramit actually looked in the mirror.

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4th April, 2011

EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh faces excommunication by global Sikh authorities

by Jai at 9:00 am    

Further to the recent joint statement by multiple British Sikh and Hindu groups condemning the English Defence League (EDL) and any Sikhs who support them, the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit Singh has been given an ultimatum by the Sikh signatories involved: He must publicly renounce the EDL by the end of the major Sikh festival of Vaisakhi on 14 April 2011.

Failure to do so will result in the matter being formally escalated directly to the most senior global Sikh authorities at the Golden Temple complex in Amritsar, India, who will be requested to issue an excommunication order to permanently expel Guramit Singh from the worldwide Sikh faith. As an ultimate sanction, this could result in him being formally declared a pariah to be ostracised by the world’s entire Sikh population, including being formally stripped of his right to be called a Sikh, along with being permanently banned from every Sikh temple in the world.

As confirmed by the extensive list of signatories involved, this action is endorsed by the British Sikh population, including numerous influential Sikh temples & organisations across the United Kingdom, particularly in London and Birmingham. This includes the two largest Sikh temples outside India — one of which involves the Guru Nanak Nishkam Sewak Jatha, which was given an award last year by the Queen for its exceptional humanitarian activities and is run by “Bhai Sahib” Mohinder Singh, one of the most senior and respected Sikh figures outside India. Bhai Sahib was previously discussed on Pickled Politics here and here, and has been involved in interfaith bridge-building activities on an international scale, including efforts to counteract the increasing bigotry towards ordinary Muslims in Britain in recent years. Bhai Sahib was also responsible for escorting the Queen around the Golden Temple during her visit to Amritsar in the late 1990s.

In complete violation of core Sikh tenets, Guramit Singh has been heavily involved in the EDL’s persecution of ordinary Muslims en masse whilst explicitly representing himself as a Sikh and claiming to be acting in the name of Sikhism, including deliberately modifying & grossly distorting sacred verses by the Sikh Gurus in order to “inspire” EDL members present during his foul-mouthed public speeches demonising Muslims, Islam and the Prophet Mohammad. Guramit Singh’s excommunication would therefore be entirely in line with historical precedents during the time of the Sikh Gurus along with the temporal authority permanently bequeathed to the Khalsa by the 10th Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. As recently discussed on Pickled Politics, it has also been confirmed that one of the EDL’s founders is a convicted criminal for downloading child pornography, and that the EDL itself has multiple links to international terrorists.

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15th March, 2011

The British monarch who could write Hindi and Urdu

by Rumbold at 2:03 pm    

I have been enjoying the latest research by Shrabani Basu into Queen Victoria and her relationship (almost certainly non-sexual) with her Indian tutor, a young Muslim named Abdul Karim who arrived in the UK aged 24:

That Mr Karim inspired the empress of India could be seen not just by her newfound love of curry. Her eagerness to learn Urdu and Hindi because of his teaching was so strong that she even learned to write in both languages – and gave him a signed photo written in Urdu.

She also used his briefings on political developments in India at the turn of the 19th Century to berate successive viceroys, her representatives in India – much to their displeasure – on measures they could have taken to reduce communal tensions. “At a time when the British empire was at its height, a young Muslim occupied a central position of influence over its sovereign,” Ms Basu said.

He was sacked by her son Edward VII a few hours after her death, and efforts were made by the royal court to destroy all records of him.

10th March, 2011

Why did the MCB and MINAB take so long to support Usama Hasan?

by Sunny at 5:21 pm    

As I pointed out yesterday, both the Muslim Council of Britain and MINAB have now sent out statements condemning the threats against Usama Hasan.

This is to be welcomed. There’s a letter in the Guardian today too, titled ‘We need freedom to speak about Islam‘.

But the question for the MCB and Mosques And Imams National Advisory Board (Minab) should be why they took so long to speak out. This issue kicked off after I blogged about it. Then the national media jumped on the story and then, belatedly, Muslim organisations released statements in support.

But lots of people knew about the campaign against Dr Hasan before I blogged about it. They knew a prominent imam was being threatened by fanatics, and yet they remained silent about it.

This isn’t just me saying it: a lot of Muslims are also privately saying this. So why didn’t the MCB and Minab act earlier? Their response has been far too late in this matter and seems to indicate they only act if the national media spotlight shines on particular incidents.

Filed under: Muslim,Organisations
4th February, 2011

Now Christians protect Muslims in Egypt

by Rumbold at 2:11 pm    

After the uplifting scenes in Egypt during Coptic Christmas, when Muslims formed human shields to protect their Christian brethren at mass after terror attacks on Copts, Christians have returned the favour during prayers, protecting Muslim protestors who were worried about attacks from pro-Mubarak thugs.

(Via: Maylor)

3rd February, 2011

British Sikh and Hindu groups release joint statement condemning EDL

by Jai at 9:00 am    

A number of the largest Sikh and Hindu organisations in Britain have formally released a joint statement forcefully condemning the EDL and any Sikhs who join them. The latter is of course particularly applicable to the EDL’s “Sikh” spokesman Guramit (sometimes known as “Amit”) Singh; he was also one of the EDL members interviewed by BBC’s Newsnight as part of a documentary about the group which the programme showed earlier this week. As previously discussed on Pickled Politics, Guramit himself is currently being prosecuted by the police for “intentionally causing religiously aggravated harassment alarm or distress, under Section Four of the Public Order Act 1986”, following a public speech by Guramit which included the following remarks:

“I’m going to tell you precisely right now what threat of Islam is. Muhammad and Islam is not a religion… Muhammad was a paedophilic pirate… Islam, in not just this country but around the world, has been using their disgusting threat, their threat has been going on for 1400 years, “if you do not bow before Muhammad and his so-called Allah, you are to be beheaded”… Hitler had fuck all on Muhammad.

The Koran and the Hadiths is written in Arabic. Muslims are not allowed to be taught Arabic in the mosque. Muslims are told, “do not question what your Imam says, although they don’t even know what the Imam’s saying, because the Imam’s just a “Allah, fuck it”. Stick your Allah up your arse, you cunt. Fuck em, fuck em, fuck em. I’m not being funny, fuck em. I may get arrested for this shit, but fuck em, fuck em, I’m not having it, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em, fuck em.”

The speech is available on Youtube. Guramit has also previously boasted on his Facebook page about his murderous hatred of Muslims:

“the muzzies wanna keep away from me im just looking for an excuse im fucked off at the mo fuck the pakis … i just think we shud burn the cunts now!!”

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28th January, 2011

Bulleh Shah, “blasphemy”, and Pakistan

by Jai at 9:00 am    

Shehrbano Taseer, the daughter of Salman Taseer (the assassinated Pakistani Governor of Punjab), recently wrote a poignant Guardian CiF article about her father’s murder which also mentioned Bulleh Shah:

“My father was buried in Lahore on 5 January under high security. Cleric after cleric refused to lead his funeral prayers – as they had those of the sufi saint Bulleh Shah – and militants warned mourners to attend at their own peril. But thousands came to Governor House on that bitterly cold morning to pay their respects. Thousands more led candle-lit vigils across the country. But the battle is not going to be over any time soon.”

Bulleh Shah (1680 – 1757) is one of the most famous and revered Sufi Muslims in South Asian history; he was also one of the historical role models of the late Pakistani Sufi Muslim singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan and his family, who have themselves been Sufis since the medieval period. The saint’s shrine is in the Punjabi city of Kasur, now in Pakistan, and can be seen in the photo at the top of this article.

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20th January, 2011

Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 2

by Jai at 9:00 am    

This article follows on directly from Part 1, which detailed the Mughal crown prince Dara Shukoh, his philosophy and his interpretation of Islam. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below.

Shah Jahan temporarily fell ill during the late 1650s. False rumours spread, claiming that he had died and that Dara Shukoh was now the Mughal emperor. Aurangzeb exploited this as an opportunity to grab power by mobilising his own military forces, ignoring his sister’s urgent correspondence confirming that their father was indeed still alive and that Aurangzeb was therefore committing an action of treason, and eventually imprisoned Shah Jahan opposite the Taj Mahal. During the resulting war of succession, Dara Shukoh was given some military assistance by the 7th Sikh Guru during one of the battles, but the prince was ultimately defeated later in the conflict, as Aurangzeb had greater experience as a military commander and was a far more ruthless individual. Dara’s weakened wife had already died while the family had been attempting to reach the safe haven of Persia, and Dara sent her body with an armed escort to Mian Mir’s shrine in Lahore for burial nearby.

The 44-year-old Dara Shukoh and his 15-year-old son Sipihr Shukoh were captured after being betrayed by an Afghan “ally” they’d sought refuge with (ironically, Dara had previously saved the Afghan from being executed by Shah Jahan). A few days later, Dara was humiliatingly paraded through the Mughal capital of Delhi, resulting in a huge outcry from the city’s inhabitants due to his immense popularity. He wouldn’t even survive for a single day afterwards, because Aurangzeb could see that Dara’s popularity amongst the mass population posed a severe risk of a huge uprising against the fanatical regime attempting to engineer a political coup, and Dara was also a clear final barrier to his own desire for the imperial throne.

Aurangzeb had access to some ultraconservative mullahs sympathetic to him, and rapidly had his brother impeached, declared an “apostate”, and sentenced to death on trumped-up charges of “heresy”. On the night of 30th August 1659, Dara Shukoh was unceremoniously beheaded in his prison cell, in front of his young son Sipihr, although Dara had put up a fight to try to physically defend himself. Dara’s older son Suleiman Shukoh was also eventually captured; as per Aurangzeb’s instructions, over an extended period of time the incarcerated Suleiman was gradually poisoned by being fed large quantities of opium extracts which, after effectively lobotomising him, ultimately killed him.

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19th January, 2011

Dara Shukoh and the fate of Pakistan: Part 1

by Jai at 9:00 am    

The recent murder of the Governor of Punjab in Pakistan, Salman Taseer, and the increasing escalation of visible religious extremism in that country brings to mind a notable historical precedent, involving a major figure in South Asian history who was also the governor of Punjab for a time. There are some serious implications for both Pakistan and the rest of the world if history is allowed to repeat itself.

The painting at the top of this article, commissioned circa 1650, depicts the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, meeting the crown prince Muhammad Dara Shukoh (sometimes also spelt “Shikoh” or “Shikuh”). Dara Shukoh is the figure standing on the right.

Dara Shukoh, born in 1615, was Shah Jahan’s favourite son and nominated heir. Like most of the major Mughals during their reign in India, Dara was a liberal patron of music, dancing and arts (an example of an album of pictures he personally painted as a gift for his wife Nadira Banu can be viewed via the British Library); Dara was also closely affiliated with the Qadiri Sufi order, especially the Muslim saint Mian Mir, who had been invited by one of the Sikh Gurus to lay the foundation stone of the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The land for the temple complex and the city of Amritsar itself had been granted to the Sikhs by Dara’s great-grandfather, the Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, justifiably known as Akbar the Great.

Dara Shukoh himself was similarly heavily involved in promoting religious moderation, friendship and understanding between people of different faiths; with the assistance of some Hindu Brahmin priests, his activities included translating more than 50 of the most important ancient Hindu scriptures (especially the Upanishads) from Sanskrit into Persian so that Muslims could understand them better, with the intention that this would prevent unwarranted prejudice based on ignorance. Dara’s translations later proved invaluable in helping colonial-era Europeans understand the Hindu texts concerned, as they were originally more familiar with Persian than Sanskrit.

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14th December, 2010

The ‘model minority’ issue

by Rumbold at 10:41 am    

One of the Daily Mail’s main stories today concerns a new study which examines what they call “the lifestyle of a typical Middle Briton.” This study looked at a number of different factors to produce a picture of a typical middle class household. The Daily Mail’s take on it was interesting, as it headlined the piece:

How Sikhs and Hindus became the bedrock of middle Britain

The actual article spends very little time on this, but it is telling that the Daily Mail chose such a headline, which suggests a clear ‘endorsement’ of Sikhs and Hindus, and recognition that you can be British without being white. This should be all the more welcome coming only months after the same paper said that second and third generation British Asians couldn’t be considered British.

There are a few problems here though. The main one is that such an approach once again resorts to stereotyping. Not in a negative way with regards Hindus and Sikhs, but in a way that lumps them all into one group: both religions contain masses of very different individuals, from professors to convicts, so to suggest they form a monolithic group is wrong.

This idea feeds into the notion of the ‘model minority’, which is difficult to tackle because it is viewed in a positive way. Often applied to Sikhs (amongst others), the notion of a ‘model minority’ suggests a well-integrated, hard-working ethnic/religious group whom few have a bad word to say about it. For many first generation immigrants who experienced severe racism in the 1960s and 1970s, being in such a group is seen as a great advantage, and understandably so.

The problem with this though is twofold: Firstly it encourages members of that group and those dealing with this group to view them as a single monolithic block, which discourages individualism and perpetuates the old colonial mentality of ethnic groups being apart from mainstream society. Secondly it leads to competition between different minority groups, who use the praise given to them as a ‘model minority’ as a way of showing that their ‘community’ is superior to other ones. In this case, that would mean the Muslims. Some white people will make the same comparisons, leading to bigotry against groups seen to not be model minorities, rather than treating people in those groups as individuals.

Filed under: EDL,Hindu,Muslim,Sikh
14th October, 2010

Shariah council story in the Indy today

by Sunny at 11:00 am    

The Independent have picked up the Sharia Council leader story I blogged yesterday. I hope the Muslim cleric has to resign – his views blatantly contradict UK law and should not be tolerated by an authority that claims to dispense justice.

Filed under: Muslim,Organisations
13th October, 2010

President of Islamic Sharia Council claims there ‘cannot’ be rape in marriage

by Sunny at 10:30 am    

This is astounding. The excellent blog The Samosa have done an interview with the head of the UK’s Islamic Sharia Council, Sheikh Maulana Abu Sayeed. Note – this isn’t an official body, they just call themselves that. Nevertheless, they do handle case where both parties have agreed to have their civil dispute dealt with by a Shariah court in the UK.

Chaminda Jayanetti reports:

I asked Sheikh Sayeed whether he considered non-consensual marital sex to be rape. “No,” he replied. “Clearly there cannot be any ‘rape’ within the marriage. Maybe ‘aggression’, maybe ‘indecent activity’.”

He said it was “not Islamic” to classify non-consensual marital sex as rape and prosecute offenders, adding that “to make it exactly as the Western culture demands is as if we are compromising Islamic religion with secular non-Islamic values.”

The Islamic Sharia Council handles very few cases of alleged marital rape – Sheikh Sayeed said there had only been two or three such cases since the Council was founded in 1982. It is therefore unlikely that the Council’s views on this issue, or those of Sheikh Sayeed himself, directly impact upon a significant number of marital rape victims.

He claims there have only been two or three cases, but there may have been more, which are quietly buried. And this is the problem I have with Shariah courts: unless they at least mirror national criminal and civil law on the important issues, there will be abuses like this.

A Muslim woman raped within marriage, especially one afraid to go to the police or to courts, could be pressured to just go to a Sharia court where the offence may be buried. And who would know or do anything about it?

Sayeed goes on to say:

Because within the marriage contract it is inherent there that man will have sexual intercourse with his wife. Of course, if he does something against her wish or in a bad time etc, then he is not fulfilling the etiquettes, not that he is breaching any code of sharia – he is not coming to that point. He may be disciplined, and he may be made to ask forgiveness. That should be enough.

I’m sorry but regardless of his interpretation of Islamic law – British law is clear that even within marriage, a man does not have automatic right to have non-consensual sex with his wife. Such a stance is in blatant contradiction of British law. The head of the Sharia Council needs to resign.

28th September, 2010

The escalating extremism of Fox News’s Glenn Beck

by Jai at 11:45 am    

This article follows directly from the PP article yesterday focusing on Newt Gingrich. Readers are therefore advised to read that part first before continuing below.

Fox News anchor & Tea Party icon Glenn Beck, who has described himself as a “borderline schizophrenic”, increasingly reminds me of Ron Perlman’s “right-wing media icon” demagogue in the 1995 film The Last Supper. Anyone who has seen that movie will understand exactly what I mean. And like his fictional counterpart, Beck has even started holding huge rallies with exactly the type of audience Perlman’s character was shown as being such a dangerous influence on. Life disturbingly imitating art, 15 years later.

A selection of examples focusing on Glenn Beck, Fox News and the Tea Party

· Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly has stated that Glenn Beck is the leader of the Tea Party movement. Beck has repeatedly declared that his aim is to oppose progressivism, which he calls a “cancer” in American society. Beck has also repeatedly claimed that there is currently a vast, secular, liberal, progressive conspiracy underway to seize control of America and destroy the republic in its present form by manipulating the democratic system and subverting the Constitution.

· As previously discussed on PP, an in-depth investigation by Jane Mayer of the New Yorker has revealed the huge scale of the Right-wing billionaire Koch brothers’ involvement in bankrolling & manipulating the Tea Party movement from the very start, with the deliberate intention of furthering their own agenda (also summarised by the New York Times). The Koch brothers have direct links to both Fox News and the Republican Party. Not only have the Koch brothers been doing everything they can to destroy Obama’s presidency, but one of their main aims is to destroy progressivism itself.

· Glenn Beck has an extensive history of extremely violent rhetoric. He has also openly stated that he is going to spend the rest of his life hunting down and “exposing” progressives. Furthermore, he has repeatedly made bizarre comments about his opponents potentially “shooting him in the head”, along with suggesting that the Obama Administration plans to kill 10% of the American population and is deliberately pushing the US towards a civil war.

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27th September, 2010

The escalating bigotry of Newt Gingrich

by Jai at 11:45 am    

Tea Party icons Newt Gingrich and Glenn Beck have recently been going into overdrive in terms of the scale of their extremism. During the past few weeks, there has been considerable controversy over Fox News contributor, senior Republican politician, and potential candidate for the 2012 presidential election Newt Gingrich in particular due to the following remarks he made about US President Barack Obama:

Via Media Matters for America:

Citing a recent Forbes article by Dinesh D’Souza, former House speaker Newt Gingrich tells National Review Online that President Obama may follow a “Kenyan, anti-colonial” worldview. Gingrich says that D’Souza has made a “stunning insight” into Obama’s behavior — the “most profound insight I have read in the last six years about Barack Obama.”

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18th September, 2010

Deepak Chopra writes a new book about Muhammad

by Jai at 8:00 am    

The musician Salman Ahmad (from the Pakistani Sufi rock group Junoon; previously discussed on PP here and here) and Deepak Chopra, who has previously written the bestselling books Buddha and Jesus, will be discussing his latest book Muhammad: A Story of the Last Prophet, where he shares the life and insights of Muhammad.

Dr Chopra was recently interviewed by the New York Times about the book’s contents and his motivations for writing it. It’s a very interesting article, and indicates that as a “semi-fictionalised biography”, the nature of the book may not necessarily be quite what many people may expect. The article also includes some comments about Sufism and current issues such as the ongoing controversy surrounding the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative’s Park51 (the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”). Three quotes in particular stand out:

Are you concerned someone will issue a fatwa against you?

I wrote the book factually and with respect. Beyond that, I can’t control anyone’s reaction.

You refer to Feisal Abdul Rauf, who is overseeing the planned Islamic center in Lower Manhattan. Are you saying Sufism represents the reform branch of Islam?

Yes. Traditional Islam is a mixture of all obedience to Allah, and if that requires militancy, so be it. Whereas Sufism exalts beauty, intuition, tenderness, affection, nurturing and love, which we associate with feminine qualities.

If someone asks what religion you are, what do you say?

I say God gave humans the truth, and the Devil came and said, “Let’s organize it, we’ll call it religion.”

15th September, 2010

American church in Memphis welcomes neighbouring Islamic Centre

by Jai at 11:45 am    

As is now known worldwide, there has been a huge amount of publicity about the now-cancelled “Quran-burning” by Terry Jones, a pastor in Florida who not only attempted to link his own anti-Islam agenda to the ongoing “Ground Zero Mosque” issue involving Park51/Cordoba House in New York, but also views Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism as being literally “from the Devil”. In fact, if he’d wanted to “send a message to radical Islam” as he’d claimed, it would have made far more sense for him to burn a bonfire of photos of Osama bin Laden instead. It’s also worth remembering that by far the largest numbers of victims of Islamist militants have actually been ordinary Muslims; tens of thousands have been killed during the past decade alone.

In relation to the Quran-burning issue in particular, Pickled Politics recently discussed the inordinate weight that many sections of the mainstream media have given to the extremists on all sides; the need for moderates everywhere to oppose the latter has also been emphasised by the Sufi Imam Rauf of the Cordoba Initiative. Readers may also be interested to hear that Imam Rauf was interviewed at great length by CNN last week, and a wide range of relevant issues were discussed in considerable detail (full transcript here).

There are some horribly ironic facts in this situation: Not only has Imam Rauf been actively assisting the US Government with anti-Islamist-extremism efforts for a number of years (both the Bush Administration and now the Obama Administration), but Salafi-Jihadists like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban actually violently hate Sufi Muslims, because they regard Sufis as “heretics” who are “excessively liberal” and “excessively benevolent” towards non-Muslims. Therefore, we now have Sufis being persecuted by fundamentalist Christians, the American “conservative Right”, and militant Islamist extremists, aided and abetted by Fox News and their allies in the Republican Party.

However, a more encouraging development in America which has unfortunately received comparatively little publicity is the following: During the course of the past year, members of a church in Memphis, Tennessee, have gone out of their way to welcome the presence of a neighbouring Islamic Centre which is in the process of being built. This has very recently been covered by CNN and MSNBC as a positive counterexample to the rising wave of anti-Muslim bigotry in other sections of American society.

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11th September, 2010

Qur’an burning: Where does Freedom of Speech fit in?

by guest at 11:32 am    

This is a joint post by Shamit and Rumbold

Global news media have had one common headline over the past few days – a Christian pastor wanting to burn the Qur’an. World leaders, including the Vatican, have condemned the proposed event in Gainesville Florida, yet violent protests have erupted in parts of the Muslim world.

Pastor Terry Jones is an unpleasant individual. The minister behind the now-suspended Qur’an burning lives in luxury, yet forces his followers to live in accommodation he owns and work long hours for his business unpaid. His own daughter labelled his group a ‘cult’ which had no more than fifty followers until this whole controversy got the oxygen of 24×7 media publicity around the globe.

Book burning is never right. It is not only vulgar, but also invokes memories of totalitarian regimes trying to destroy ideas they do not approve of. Furthermore, it indicates a failure of the burner to combat what is written, leaving them with no option but to try and erase what they could not challenge intellectually. And, in secular societies, such as the United States, a man of god should respect rights of others to practice their religion as they see fit.

This proposed Qur’an burning has been widely condemned by plenty of prominent people; no doubt many of those share the aversion to book burning. But some have condemned the proposed actions of an unknown, leading a handful of people, not because of the hurt it causes to ordinary Muslims worldwide, but the expected violent reactions of a small community of criminals within the Muslim world that would attack and kill innocent people.

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10th September, 2010

Eid ul-Fitr and Rosh Hashanah

by Jai at 10:00 am    

Muslims and Jews around the world will currently be celebrating Eid and Rosh Hashanah respectively. Islam and Judaism, along with Christianity, are of course from the same “Abrahamic” group of religions.

Eid marks the last day of Ramadan (or “Ramzan”, as we South Asians pronounce it), and is a major public holiday in India due to the country’s large Muslim population. Non-Muslim Indians often join in the festivities with Muslim friends. In the subcontinent, the night before Eid is called “Chand Raat”, meaning “the night of the moon”, and it is upon the sighting of the new moon that Eid is declared.

Rosh Hashanah marks the start of the Jewish New Year. The majority of Indian Jews (many of whose ancestors had been there for thousands of years) migrated to Israel after the formation of that country, but there are still small communities of Jews in India. Historically they frequently lived in the same residential areas as Muslims. India is still a popular tourist destination for large numbers of Israelis every year.

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Filed under: Muslim,Religion
1st September, 2010

Fox News confirmed as bankrolling Republican Party

by Jai at 11:45 am    

As recently discussed on Pickled Politics, last week Jon Stewart and The Daily Show brilliantly exposed the fact that the unnamed person Fox News had been repeatedly claiming was allegedly financing Park51/Cordoba House (aka the “Ground Zero Mosque”) and with implied ties to radical Islamist extremists was actually the Saudi Arabian Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the second-largest shareholder of Fox News’s parent company News Corp and an individual closely affiliated with News Corp’s primary owner Rupert Murdoch himself. Fox News have subsequently completely dropped their stories about the shadowy “unnamed financier”, and are apparently also refusing to respond to post-Daily Show queries about the matter. Nevertheless, the issue raises the following questions:

· Why is Prince Al-Waheed continuing to work closely with an American news channel which is a) actively involved in pandering to negative stereotypes about Muslims en masse and b) is simultaneously playing an active role in damaging relations between the West (especially the United States) and Muslim populations overseas ?
· Why are Fox News violating the principles of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and Article 11 of the Treaty of Tripoli, considering that the latter was signed in 1797 directly by the Founding Father & 2nd US president John Adams and ratified & unanimously approved by Congress, and explicitly states that “as the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion….it has in itself no character of enmity towards the laws, religion, or tranquillity of Musselmen [ie. Muslims]” ?
· Why are Fox News effectively promoting militant Wahhabism as the “default” version of Islam ?
· Why are Fox News persecuting Sufis, the Muslim group which is the most forcefully opposed to Islamist extremism (particularly militant Wahhabism) and whom both Al-Qaeda and the Taliban have a murderous level of hatred for ?
· In summary, why are Fox News effectively doing Al-Qaeda’s dirty work for them ?

Some further facts about Fox News have also subsequently come to light. Despite the channel’s claims of being “fair and balanced” and their repeated denials of any bias towards, or association with, any of the major American political parties, the channel’s parent company, News Corp, has now been confirmed as making a $1 million donation to the Republican Party. This is actually the single largest donation by any corporation, and has a number of ramifications, as summarised in the extracts below:

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27th August, 2010

Alleged “Ground Zero Mosque” financier is Fox News co-owner

by Jai at 11:45 am    

Fox News have recently been at the forefront of whipping up hysteria about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. This is actually quite a major turnaround for them, considering that Fox had previously interviewed both Imam Rauf (the head of the Cordoba Initiative) and his wife Daisy Khan, and their attitudes towards these individuals and their efforts were very positive indeed. Park51/Cordoba House was even explicitly discussed with Daisy Khan during an interview in December 2009, and the Fox anchor at the time stated “I can’t find many people who really have a problem with it….I like what you’re trying to do.”

With the exception of the upbeat interview with Daisy Khan on Fox News after the New York Times published a detailed front-page article on 9th December 2009 about the plans for Park51/Corboda House, there was no reaction from the “conservative Right” and no newspaper articles about the subject at all for the next five months…..until Fox News began taking a stridently hostile view towards the building in May 2010.

Someone who has been a particularly vociferous opponent – and an individual who has subsequently been provided with considerable public exposure by Fox News — has been Pamela Geller of “Stop the Islamization of America”, who is allied with racist white supremacists in South Africa and has also openly praised the English Defence League/EDL on a number of occasions, to the extent that she’s repeatedly been in contact with the EDL’s leadership; apparently she also firmly believes that US President Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim.

Fox News’s own promotion of consistently anti-Muslim stories has of course become an established characteristic of the channel. And most recently, Fox News have run multiple news segments making sinister insinuations about a shadowy Saudi Arabian figure with alleged ties to radical Islamist extremists who owns the “Kingdom Foundation” (aka Kingdom Holding Company) and has allegedly been a major financier of Park51/Cordoba House. Fox News have never named this person on-air.

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24th August, 2010

Junoon’s Salman Ahmad interviewed on BBC HARDtalk

by Jai at 4:45 pm    

This is a follow-up to the previous PP article discussing the Pakistani Sufi rock group Junoon and its founder/current lead singer Salman Ahmad (recently also interviewed by Rolling Stone magazine). As discussed previously, Junoon have been heavily involved in opposing Islamist extremism along with promoting pluralistic interfaith understanding & friendship; Salman himself is also a UN Goodwill Ambassador for HIV/AIDS, and has worked in conjunction with both the Clinton Global Initiative and Dr Tahir ul-Qadri’s Sufi organisation Minhaj ul-Quran, along with giving a concert at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in 2007.

Salman Ahmad, who is currently based primarily in New York, recently visited the UK and was interviewed at length by Stephen Sackur on BBC 24’s HARDtalk programme. They discussed a range of topics, including Islamist extremism, terrorism, Sufism, the West, and American Muslims, and you can see the full interview in three parts via Youtube below:

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21st August, 2010

The “Ground Zero Mosque”: Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 2

by Jai at 7:00 pm    

(This article is an immediate continuation of Part 1. Readers are therefore strongly advised to read that part first before continuing below).

Indian history and “the Sikh 9/11”

Firstly, during India’s “Great Mughal” era, the 6th Sikh Guru actually had a mosque built for the ordinary Muslims who had settled in the town he had founded in Punjab – despite the fact that his own father had been severely tortured over a period of several days upon the orders of the Mughal emperor Jahangir, and ultimately died of his horrific injuries. In fact, that same mosque was very recently jointly renovated by Sikh and Muslim volunteers in India as part of a major restoration project. There are even mosques in Amritsar itself, the “holy city” of the Sikhs. It’s certainly a far cry from Newt Gingrich’s “no mosques until there are churches in Saudi Arabia” rhetoric, given that he’s effectively recommending that the United States should duplicate fundamentalist Wahhabi Saudi Arabian attitudes towards places of worship; furthermore, the notion of holding your own country’s citizens hostage to – and penalising them for – the actions of a foreign government because they happen to be affiliated with superficially the same religion (despite being from very different “denominations”) isn’t just irrational and barbaric, it’s also morally bankrupt.

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19th August, 2010

The “Ground Zero Mosque”: Ignorance, Prejudice and Historical Precedents – Part 1

by Jai at 7:15 pm    

“It is rash to condemn where you are ignorant.”

Much has recently been said about the proposed Cordoba House facility in New York, dubbed the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque”. As is now widely known, CNN anchor and Newsweek editor Fareed Zakaria returned his award to the ADL and explained his rationale extremely well (he’s subsequently also summarised Sufism and the reasons for Al-Qaeda’s hatred of it); Alex Massie also recently discussed the issue and made a number of brilliant points. This article in the New York Times by the acclaimed historian William Dalrymple about the Cordoba Initiative’s Sufi connection is excellent too, as is this article by Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. This segment from MSNBC by Keith Olbermann forcefully argues against the escalating bigotry towards Muslims and also discusses the potential ramifications for America if these attitudes are allowed to continue. US President Barack Obama himself has now emphatically voiced his support for the right of the founders of Cordoba House to build the proposed centre (also see here). Even Christopher Hitchens has been demolishing the arguments of many of the people opposed to Cordoba House (including Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin) and has condemned their sectarian prejudice and often staggering level of ignorance. The quote at the top of this paragraph by the Roman philosopher Seneca clearly still has great resonance 2000 years later; coincidentally, the great man was born in Cordoba himself.

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7th August, 2010

Newsweek’s Fareed Zakaria returns ADL’s award over ‘Ground Zero Mosque’

by Sunny at 12:14 pm    

Good for him. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek has returned an award back to the Anti-Defamation League in the US after the Jewish group came out against the supposed ‘Ground Zero Mosque’.
He explains:

Bloomberg’s speech stands in stark contrast to the bizarre decision of the Anti-Defamation League to publicly side with those urging that the center be moved. The ADL’s mission statement says it seeks “to put an end forever to unjust and unfair discrimination against and ridicule of any sect or body of citizens.” But Abraham Foxman, the head of the ADL, explained that we must all respect the feelings of the 9/11 families, even if they are prejudiced feelings.

“Their anguish entitles them to positions that others would categorize as irrational or bigoted,” he said. First, the 9/11 families have mixed views on this mosque. There were, after all, dozens of Muslims killed at the World Trade Center. Do their feelings count? But more important, does Foxman believe that bigotry is OK if people think they’re victims? Does the anguish of Palestinians, then, entitle them to be anti-Semitic?

Spot on. I linked to an excellent piece on the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’ controversy by Alex Massie earlier.

In other news: The Guardian reports that the repulsive Iranian regime is trying to execute Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in secret, and want to do so because she’s a woman.

The answer is quite simple, it’s because I’m a woman, it’s because they think they can do anything to women in this country. It’s because for them adultery is worse than murder – but not all kinds of adultery: an adulterous man might not even be imprisoned but an adulterous women is the end of the world for them. It’s because I’m in a country where its women do not have the right to divorce their husbands and are deprived of their basic rights.

Well done to her for speaking out.

And lastly: Muslim group Minhaj ul-Quran runs ‘anti-terrorism’ camp

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