How I became a Muslim Extremist

On Panorama, BBC1, this Monday at 8.30 p.m.:How I became a Muslim extremist
What is it like to actually be an extremist and serve the political goals of radical Islam?

What is it like to think like an extremist and adopt an ideology that demands you abandon all aspects of your former life - including your friends and family?

On Monday’s Panorama Shiraz Maher exclusively tells his story.

He is a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT), a radical organisation campaigning for the creation of caliphate - an Islamic state. It operates in many countries.Shiraz makes the case for a re-think of how the government should de-radicalise people like himself.

He tells how after 9/11, he had a chance conversation with a HT member at a mosque and within weeks became a member of the cell.

The cell thought that democracy was incompatible with Islam, that the state of Israel should be destroyed, and that Shariah law should be imposed over the entire world with violence being used to achieve this.

Shiraz rose through the ranks to become a regional leader of HT.

It soon dominated his whole life - from refusing to go to family weddings because the women were not segregated, to recruiting as many people as possible to the cause.

While at Cambridge University he even tried to recruit Kafeel Ahmed into HT, who was later alleged to be part of the attack on Glasgow airport.

Shiraz has now ‘come-out’ and now wants to expose HT for the organisation it is.

HT Britain is trying to market itself as a conciliatory and moderate organisation that condemns violence as a means to achieve political ends.

With access to other former HT insiders, and HT literature the group wanted to keep hidden, Shiraz will reveal that HT Britain’s conciliatory approach is merely a crude facade that conceals the same radical and extreme views.

Update (1 October):

The BBC Panorama documentary on Hizbut Tahrir on Shiraz Maher (former Hizbut Tahrir senior) aired today and can be seen here. The documentary is essential viewing and will disabuse anyone of the illusion that the Hizbut Tahrir is a “benign, progressive Muslim organisation”.

Free Arif

Free Arifur Rahman

I join the bloggers who call for the immediate and unconditional release of 23 year old cartoonist Arifur Rahman. Arif was arrested by the Bangladesh military government for drawing a harmless cartoon that was published in the leading Bengali language newspaper Prothom Alo. He was not allowed legal represention and was sent to jail without any due process.

Bloggers campaigning:

  • Shourobh
  • Mash
  • Third World View
  • Dhaka Shohor

Join the facebook group.

Foxy Racist!

SURPRISE!

Bill O’Reilly the FOX-News pundit, who’s on record for having made more than a few arse-cringeingly inappropriate comments during the Hurricane Katrina broadcasts has done it again.

He started out by praising the staff and largely black clientele of the restaurant for being “very, very nice” and “tremendously respectful”. Warming to his theme, he said: “I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no difference between Sylvia’s restaurant and any other restaurant in New York City. I mean, it was exactly the same, even though it’s run by blacks.”

Cue the ‘taken out of context’ contextualisations from FOX News.

Charles Protests Brick Lane

Prince Charles has pulled out of the Royal Premiere screening of Brick Lane scheduled for October 29. From AIM:

A spokesperson for Clarence House admitted to the Times today that Prince Charles was unable to make it because of the controversy surrounding the film as well as the royal couple’s busy schedule.

“Obviously there has been quite a lot of controversy about that film which everyone was aware of. … The appropriateness of the film chosen is important but so is the date. It is a mixture of both reasons.”

The controversy that the Royals are fleeing from refers to last year’s protests which prevented location filming on Brick Lane. The protests, organised by thugs operating from a sweet shop on Brick Lane, received so much publicity at the time that the film producers had to change the location to somewhere else. As AIM reported at the time:

Abdus Salique is quoted in the Guardian today, warning that “nobody can come with a camera and make a film about that book here”, adding that Monica Ali was “not one of us” and had “insulted us”.

Mr Salique hinted at a potential outbreak of violence. “Young people are getting very involved with this campaign. We had more than 100 people attend yesterday’s meeting. They are willing to blockade the area and guard our streets.”

[…]

Another local resident, Abdul Goffur, told AIM magazine that the protest was “blown out of proportion”.

“It’s a minority and they’re trying to make themselves known,” he said. “But I live in Brick Lane and we’ve got a thousand guys who are in support of this. This film will be helpful in opening up our community and helping us progress as a community as a whole.”

The irony is that a tiny, reactionary and potentially violent contingent of protesters claimed to speak on behalf of the entire Bengali community in the East End and yet complained about the lack of authenticity of Ali’s book! The range of opinion of the book that exists within the Bengali community is wide, knowledgeable and heterogenous. But you wouldn’t know that from the news coverage which focused on these thugs who hadn’t even read it.

Predictably a certain section of the British liberal intellegentsia sided with the reactionaries. Germaine Greer showed us how they are unable to move beyond the “noble savage” perception of East End Bangladeshis.

Prince Charles thinks nothing of sharing the dais with the clerical bigot Maulana Delwar Hussain Sayeedi at the East London Mosque, but finds it prudent to avoid controversy by cancelling the Royal Film Premiere. You couldn’t make this up!

Make it a point to see the film in spite of Prince Charles, Germaine Greer and the book burners of Brick Lane.

No Ray of Sunshine

It is never difficult to distinguish between a Khilafist with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.

That’s my reworking of P.G. Wodehouse’s memorable line. Of course, he wasn’t referring to Hizbut Tahrir, but the sentiment remains the same.

antisemitic
Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Yesterday thousands of “activists” from Hizbut Tahrir in Bangladesh marched the streets of Dhaka to protest the publication of a cartoon which was not in the slightest offensive to Muslims, no matter what the Khatib of Baitul Muqarram would like us to believe.

Most of these HuTs are young men who have been recruited from private universities and this means that they are the products of relatively privileged backgrounds. There are many life and death issues which you would think would offend the sensibilities of Khilafa-glorifying students that would compel them to hit the streets in protest. A cursory glance at their literature would suggest that they would be protesting the parlous state of the schooling system, the lack of wealth distribution, the lack of jobs for graduates, secularism, usury in the banking system and so on. All of which, I would have thought, would rate highly in the ‘Offensive Charts’ if you were a Khilafist.

But no. Instead, they’re protesting a minor cartoonist’s affectionate parody of Muslim naming customs. This was the offence to the Prophet Muhammed and Muslim-majority Bangladesh to some and an example of “evil forces out to destabilise the country” to others high up in Authority.

And who are at fault behind these offences according to the HuT? The Jews of course, if the banner pictured above (which reads “Close down Prothom Alo - Friend to the Jews”) is anything to go by. The Jooooos are behind it!

Fine Young Cannibals
Photo: Amirul Rajiv

Compare and contrast these fine young cannibals with the nobility and courage of the Burmese monks. There on the streets of Yangon are the penniless sons of peasants who are putting their lives on the line for their countrymen, peacefully facing the guns of a military government who have killed dissenters indiscriminately in the past and will no doubt kill again.

Whereas our private-university-educated firebrands solemnly carry out the pretence that they are religious elites. See how they strut in their Khilafa-chic, all fists, t-shirts and black Shahaada bandanas.

They would like us to think that it takes bravery to be Khilafa-poseurs in Muslim-majority Bangladesh and agitate for the installation of the Blasphemy Law, censorship and for the jailing without trial of journalists. Yes, brave as cockroaches in the dead of night.

Queer Nation

In Iran we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon, I don’t know who has told you that we have it.

So said Ahmadinejad at Columbia University.

Well, you could have fooled us Mahmoud. Who’s the hotty you’re sucking the face off?

Queer as Folk

Perhaps what he means is that he’s doing his best to rid the nation of gay people.

Burma: Religious Support for Democracy

Myanmar (Burma) has been under the kosh of a brutally repressive military junta since 1962 but the tide might finally be turning.

The last 4 days have seen protest by tens of thousands of monks marching to Yangon; and their lines are growing.

Burmese Monks

Burmese religionists leading the popular uprising against an anti-democratic, totalitarian, military dictatorship!

The irony is that in neighbouring Bangladesh, the religionists have always been hand-in-glove with the military in robbing the people of democratic rights.

Bangalis could look east for religious and political inspiration. And a golmalist can but dream.

The New Age is Yellow

Following the wake of the ‘Muhammad cat’ cartoon controversy, a number of depresing events have transpired:

No lawyer has dared come forward to defend the cartoonist Arifur Rahman from the charge of sedition and blasphemy.

No newspaper or journal has defended Prothom Alo’s freedom to publish the cartoon. Instead opportunistic journos with personal axes to grind have condemned the cartoon as “anti-Islamic” and an “insult to the Prophet”.

The New Age, for example. Once known as a liberal and progressive organ, has got caught up, it seems, in the journalistic tragedy of selling-out to clerical fascists with the publication of this Khilafist capitulation:

Alpin’s controversial cartoon seems to have been a product of the pseudo-liberal minds and the editorial authorities of the daily have rightly offered unqualified public apology for hurting the ‘religious sentiment’ of the Muslims at large. And that the Prothom Alo authorities do not subscribe to the pseudo-liberal idea of the cartoonist was also apparent, at least for now, in the administrative measures that they took against the person/s responsible for publishing the cartoon. The government, on the other hand, has justifiably confiscated the particular issue (September 17) of the fun magazine, and taken legal steps as regards the cartoonist. The matter should end here, while the cartoonist, already arrested, should be ensured justice within the framework of the law of the land.

The New Age is happy to follow the path of least resistance and prop up the fallacious assertion that the Alpin cartoon was anti-Prophet (SAW). Anyone with even a fleeting knowledge of Bengali Muslim culture knows that this is spurious. For New Age to support this view is simply cheap pamphleteering.

We know of the simpatico of New Age’s Farhad Mazhar towards Hizbut Tahrir. Perhaps they should publicly admit to these ersatz “liberal” alliances. It might help to dilute the deep yellow colour of its journalism just a little.

My fear is that the future of the rest of Bangladeshi journalism is as yellow as the New Age because not one has yet denounced the jailing of the cartoonist nor called for his release. Arifur Rahman must not be made a scapegoat and must be freed.

Muhammad cat: Clerical Hypocrisy

A controversy which spontaeously combusted in Bangladesh on Wednesday, following the publication of a cartoon deemed “offensive to Muslims” has blown over into a national crisis, involving freedom of speech and a power struggle between clerical political forces harboured within the existing Caretaker Government.

It started off with an innocuous cartoon published in Alpin, a magazine supplement of the Daily Prothom Alo, the largest mass-circulation Bangla-language daily in Bangladesh.

The cartoon strip depicts a conversation between a boy and a man, and you can take a look at it here. The speech bubbles in the cartoon go like this:

Man: Hey boy, what’s your name?
Boy: My name’s Babu

Man: It is customary to say “Muhammad” before saying a name.

Man: What is your father’s name?
Boy: Muhammad Abu

Man: What’s that in your lap?
Boy: Muhammad cat

In any other time, this cartoon would have been ignored as a simple satire of the Bangladeshi custom of prefixing ‘Muhammad’ before every (Muslim male) name.

Only the most fatuous taqfirist with political ambitions would wish to use that to take offence on behalf of the the Prophet Muhammad and the Muslim Ummah. Unfortunately, in Bangladesh, it is exactly these kind of taqfiri-merchants who are enjoying their political star in the ascendent.

By Thursday, a group called the Khilafot Andolon (”The Khilafa Movement”) were protesting outside of the Central Mosque in Dhaka. The object of their ire was the newspaper Prothom Alo, and in particular the editor, Matiur Rahman and the cartoonist Arifur Rahman. Here they are displaying their hatred of newsprint:

bdcartoon_01.jpg

Instead of ignoring a silly satire of a naming custom, the Ameer of Khilafot Andalon saw his chance and grabbed it with both hands. For him, it was “a disgrace of the Muslim prophet by naming a cat ‘Muhammad’. Similar to the Danish cartoons, Muhammad has been defamed in Muslim-majority Bangladesh”. But most important of all he demanded the Prothom Alo editor to apologise “to the nation” and called on the Government to “take strong action against Prothom Alo”

That’s when it got beyond a joke.

* Cartoonist Arifur Rahman was arrested.

* Prothom Alo withdrew all issues of the Alpin magazine and sacked its editor. In effect, the editor Matiur Rahman issued a public apology and quickly transferred the blame to his underlings when he should have busted a gut to protect his employees and his co-journalists.

* Three cases were filed against the newspaper, including a blasphemy(!) charge against the cartoonist. In addition, a madrasah official has brough the charge of sedition(!) against the editor Matiur Rahman and publisher Mahfuz Anam and the cartoonist, Arifur Rahman.

Events started to escalate. Matiur Rahman was then made to grovel uninhibetedly and beg for apology from the leader of the group, Khatib Obaidul Haque to ask for an end to protests by Muslim fundamentalists at the location of the central mosque, Bait-al-Muqarram. Present at the “apology ceremony” was the Information Advisor of Bangladesh and unofficial Grandee of the CTG, Moinul Hussain (in the centre, pumping hands for glory), and of course TV news cameras. It has been claimed that the peace-initiative was brokered by the chief editors of two pro-Government (far-right), Islamist-friendly newspapers, Manabjamin and Amader Shomoi. Both of whom are known to be highly-critical of the secular stance of Prothom Alo.

bdcartoon_02.jpg

Has this placated the good Khatib and his fiery mob of rent-a-Muslims?

Hardly. More protests took place in Dhaka as Islamic activists defied emergency rule and ran amok in violent spillovers in protest of the Muhammad cat cartoon. Violence was urged, newspapers burned, death threats chanted, fists waved. As ever, the over-compensating display of the conspicuously offended. The usual thing, the usual suspects.

bdcartoon_06.jpg

The governement is now being seen as doing the work at the behest of the Islamists:

  • The government (under pressure from Islamist forces that they are now pandering to) has asked Prothom Alo to suspend publication of the newspaper’s weekly supplement, Alpin,
  • The Dhaka district magistrate asked the publishers to explain within two weeks why the publication of Alpin would not be banned and legal action would not be taken against the publisher.
  • In one of the three cases filed Thursday, a blasphemy charge has been brought against the cartoonist, Arifur Rahman in Dhaka.
  • A madrassah official in Chittagong brought sedition charge against editor Matiur Rahman, publisher Mahfuz Anam and the cartoonist while a lawyer in Comilla accused the three of violating emergency power rules.

The inconsistency of ‘offence-taking’ by the Islamists is redolent of hypocricy. A cartoon with a very similar joke was in a magazine published by Chattro Shibir, the student wing of the Islamist party, Jamaati Islami. This was back in 1998, yet no cartoonists were arrested and charged with blasphemy, no editors were threatened with death and no one was made to make a public apology. Why have Shibir not been charged with blasphemey and ‘disgracing the Prophet’? We put that question to the Khatib himself.

Some very disgusting political opportunism has been demonstrated by the bullying tactics of the Islamists over this very shoddy issue. Groupuscules are crawling out of the woodwork to get a piece of the action. Here is a poster produced by our old friends, Hizbut Tahrir in Bangladesh. This little leaflet, distributed openly in central Dhaka agitates for protests at the Central Mosque and calling for journalists to be silenced.

bdcartoon_03.jpg

Some of the Bangla text reads:

In the name of the Prophet (SAW), in the holy month of Ramadan, join with us and raise our voices in the demand for:
* The arrest of editor Matiur Rahman (Prthom Alo) and publisher Mahfuz Anam (Daily star).
* The closure of the Prothom Alo newspaper

HizbuT Tahrir, Bangladesh [Movement for the Freedom of Mankind]

The editorial line of Prothom Alo has long been welcomed as a stentorian voice for secularism and pluralism in Bangladesh and has often been critical of the violence and stupidity of the Islamist parties. The fact that Matiur Rahman and the paper has been lined up in the cross-hairs of the Islamists for some time now is very well known.

However, a few pertinent questions must be asked of Mr Matiur Rahman, Prothom Alo editor:

What happened to the much-touted journalistic integrity in the face of pressure from calls of censorship? Why did you wash your hands of the two journalists and throw them like meat to the dogs in the face of the ridiculously out-of-proportion offence taken by these insidious political clerics when a robust defence would have been suffice to see them off? Was there any other pressure (namely from the Ministry of Information) that forced your hand?

It is now imperative for sane, humane voices to seek the release from jail of the cartoonist Arifur Rahman as quickly as possible. It is time to face down the forces of obscurantism because they wish to use force and fear to break long-cherished liberties: like butterflies upon wheels.

Comrades who are gunning for the forces of secularism and pluralism:

E-Bangladesh
Dristipat here and here
Mash
In the Middle of Nowhere
Dhaka Shohor

Bloggers United Against Alisher Usmanov

Here’s another example of British libel laws used by wealthy foreign plaintifs to silence comment in Britian. Craig Murray and Tim Ireland’s blogs have been pulled as a result of libel pressure by the UK lawyers of Alisher Usmanov following articles published by Murray on his blog.

On 2 September 2007, Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, referred to Alisher Usmanov’s conviction for various crimes in the former USSR, for which he had been jailed for six years during the 1980s, as well as making further allegations of criminal activity. Usmanov’s lawyers claim he was a political prisoner pardoned under Mikhail Gorbachev’s administration, though Murray claims the pardon was actually the work of Uzbek President Islom Karimov. The article was subsequently removed by Murray’s web host under pressure from Usmanov’s legal team, who also contacted independent Arsenal blogs and websites warning them to remove any references to Murray’s allegations, and any reproduction of Craig Murray’s weblog posting.

Says David T:

The background, according to Tory blogger Iain Dale, is this:

Tim and Craig Murray (former Ambassador to Uzbekhistan) recently wrote something about the Russian/Uzbekh billionaire, Alisher Usmanov, who is trying to buy Arsenal FC. As I am writing this on my Blackberry I can’t go into all the details but suffice to say not only his site, but those of Craig Murray, Bob Piper and Boris Johnson have all gone too, as they are run from Tim Ireland’s webhost’s server.

Says Iain Dale:

If a webhost pulls the plug on a blog or website merely because they receive a lawyer’s letter from Shillings, a leading London law firm, then we all ought to be very worried indeed. So in this, at least, I find common cause with Tim Ireland. Despite the fact that a large part of his front page is taken up with wholly unjustified smears against me, I defend his right to say what he wants about me. It’s called freedom of speech. And if he do it to me, why should a Russian Oligarch be any different?

Bloggers from across political divides are united against the use of the bullying tactics of defamation law and rich plaintiffs to silence blog comment.

Also on: Pickled Politics, Hamster, Blairwatch, Mike P, David T, Iain D, TC, David S, 10%, Suesam, Tim W, Dizzy, Jailhouse, Cartoonist, Falco, Monitor, Expat, Arseblog, Tom, Wonko’s World, Roll a monkey, Caroline H, Gracchii, Chris K, Anorak, Mediawatchwatch, Nich S, Chris P, Indymedia, Obsolete, Tom W, Mr Eugenides, Morningstar, ourKingdom, Leon G, Tygerland…

Note: Craig Murray’s articles on Usmanov can be found by typing the oligarch’s full name followed by blogspot.com.

Under the golmal, the serious golmal