#BentBritain: #UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications!

UK admits unlawfully monitoring legally privileged communications ~ and , The Guardian, Wednesday 18 February 2015.

Intelligence agencies have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for past five years, government admits

Abdul Hakim Belhaj and Sami al Saadi
The admission comes ahead of a legal challenge brought on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, over allegations that security services unlawfully intercepted their communications with lawyers.  Photograph: PA & AFP

The regime under which UK intelligence agencies, including MI5 and MI6, have been monitoring conversations between lawyers and their clients for the past five years is unlawful, the British government has admitted.

The admission that the activities of the security services have failed to comply fully with human rights laws in a second major area – this time highly sensitive legally privileged communications – is a severe embarrassment for the government.

It follows hard on the heels of the British court ruling on 6 February declaring that the regime surrounding the sharing of mass personal intelligence data between America’s national security agency and Britain’s GCHQ was unlawful for seven years.

The admission that the regime surrounding state snooping on legally privileged communications has also failed to comply with the European convention on human rights comes in advance of a legal challenge, to be heard early next month, in which the security services are alleged to have unlawfully intercepted conversations between lawyers and their clients to provide the government with an advantage in court.

The case is due to be heard before the Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT). It is being brought by lawyers on behalf of two Libyans, Abdel-Hakim Belhaj and Sami al-Saadi, who, along with their families, were abducted in a joint MI6-CIA operation and sent back to Tripoli to be tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in 2004.

A government spokesman said: “The concession the government has made today relates to the agencies’ policies and procedures governing the handling of legally privileged communications and whether they are compatible with the European convention on human rights.

“In view of recent IPT judgments, we acknowledge that the policies adopted since [January] 2010 have not fully met the requirements of the ECHR, specifically article 8 (right to privacy). This includes a requirement that safeguards are made sufficiently public.

“It does not mean that there was any deliberate wrongdoing on their part of the security and intelligence agencies, which have always taken their obligations to protect legally privileged material extremely seriously. Nor does it mean that any of the agencies’ activities have prejudiced or in any way resulted in an abuse of process in any civil or criminal proceedings.”

He said that the intelligence agencies would now work with the interception of communications commissioner to ensure their policies satisfy all of the UK’s human rights obligations.

Cori Crider, a director at Reprieve and one of the Belhaj family’s lawyers said: “By allowing the intelligence agencies free reign to spy on communications between lawyers and their clients, the government has endangered the fundamental British right to a fair trial.

“Reprieve has been warning for months that the security services’ policies on lawyer-client snooping have been shot through with loopholes big enough to drive a bus through.

“For too long, the security services have been allowed to snoop on those bringing cases against them when they speak to their lawyers. In doing so, they have violated a right that is centuries old in British common law. Today they have finally admitted they have been acting unlawfully for years.

“Worryingly, it looks very much like they have collected the private lawyer-client communications of two victims of rendition and torture, and possibly misused them. While the government says there was no ‘deliberate’ collection of material, it’s abundantly clear that private material was collected and may well have been passed on to lawyers or ministers involved in the civil case brought by Abdel hakim Belhaj and Fatima Boudchar, who were ‘rendered’ to Libya in 2004 by British intelligence.

“Only time will tell how badly their case was tainted. But right now, the government needs urgently to investigate how things went wrong and come clean about what it is doing to repair the damage.”

Government sources, in line with all such cases, refuse to confirm or deny whether the two Libyans were the subject of an interception operation. They insist the concession does not concern the allegation that actual interception took place and say it will be for the investigatory powers tribunal hearing to determine the issue.

An updated draft interception code of practice spelling out the the rules for the first time was quietly published at the same time as the Investigatory Powers Tribunal ruling against GCHQ earlier this month in the case brought by Privacy International and Liberty.

The government spokesman said the draft code set out enhanced safeguards and provided more detail than previously on the protections that had to be applied in the security agencies handling of legally privileged communications.

The draft code makes clear that warrants for snooping on legally privileged conversations, emails and other communications between suspects and their lawyers can be granted if there are exceptional and compelling circumstances. They have to however ensure that they are not available to lawyers or policy officials who are conducting legal cases against those suspects.

Exchanges between lawyers and their clients enjoy a special protected status under UK law. Following exposure of widespread monitoring by the US whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, Belhaj’s lawyers feared that their exchanges with their clients could have been compromised by GCHQ’s interception of phone conversations and emails.

To demonstrate that its policies satisfy legal safeguards, MI6 were required in advance of Wednesday’s concession to disclose internal guidance on how intelligence staff should deal with material protected by legal professional privilege.

The MI6 papers noted: “Undertaking interception in such circumstances would be extremely rare and would require strong justification and robust safeguards. It is essential that such intercepted material is not acquired or used for the purpose of conferring an unfair or improper advantage on SIS or HMG [Her Majesty’s government] in any such litigation, legal proceedings or criminal investigation.”

The internal documents also refer to a visit by the interception commissioner, Sir Anthony May, last summer to examine interception warrants, where it was discovered that regulations were not being observed. “In relation to one of the warrants,” the document explained, “the commissioner identified a number of concerns with regard to the handling of [legal professional privilege] material”.

Amnesty UK’s legal programme director, Rachel Logan, said: “We are talking about nothing less than the violation of a fundamental principle of the rule of law – that communications between a lawyer and their client must be confidential.

“The government has been caught red-handed. The security agencies have been illegally intercepting privileged material and are continuing to do so – this could mean they’ve been spying on the very people challenging them in court.

“This is the second time in as many weeks that government spies have been rumbled breaking the law.”

#Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the #West’s modern crimes!

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes ~ Ben White, The Nation, February 14, 2015.

Like many children, 13-year-old Mohammed Tuaiman suffered from nightmares. In his dreams, he would see flying “death machines” that turned family and friends into burning charcoal. No one could stop them, and they struck any place, at any time.

Unlike most children, Mohammed’s nightmares killed him.

Three weeks ago, a CIA drone operating over Yemen fired a missile at a car carrying the teenager, and two others. They were all incinerated. Nor was Mohammed the first in his family to be targeted: drones had already killed his father and brother.

Since president Barack Obama took office in 2009, the US has killed at least 2,464 people through drone strikes outside the country’s declared war zones. The figure is courtesy of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which says that at least 314 of the dead, one in seven, were civilians.

Recall that for Obama, as The New York Times reported in May 2012, “all military-age males in a strike zone” are counted “as combatants” – unless “there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent”.

It sounds like the stuff of nightmares.

The week after Mohammed’s death, on February 5, Mr Obama addressed the National Prayer Breakfast, and discussed the violence of ISIL.

“Lest we get on our high horses”, said the commander-in-chief, “remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ.”

These comments prompted a (brief) media storm, with Mr Obama accused of insulting Christians, pandering to the terrorist enemy, or just bad history.

In fact, the president was simply repeating a point often made by liberals since September 11, namely, that all religions have blots on their copy book through the deeds of their followers.

One of the consequences, however, of this invocation of the Crusades – unintended, and all the more significant for it – is to seal away the West’s “sins”, particularly vis-à-vis its relationship to the Middle East, in events that took place a thousand years ago.

The Crusades were, in one sense, a demonstration of raw military power, and a collective trauma for the peoples of the regions they marched through and invaded.

In the siege of Jerusalem in 1099, a witness described how the Europeans ordered “all the Saracen dead to be cast outside because of the great stench, since the whole city was filled with their corpses”.

He added: “No one ever saw or heard of such slaughter of pagan people, for funeral pyres were formed from them like pyramids.”

Or take the Third Crusade, when, on August 20, 1191, England’s King Richard I oversaw the beheading of 3,000 Muslim prisoners at Acre in full view of Saladin’s army.

Just “ancient history”? In 1920, when the French had besieged and captured Damascus, their commander Henri Gourard reportedly went to the grave of Saladin, kicked it, and uttered: “Awake Saladin, we have returned! My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

But the US president need not cite the Crusades or even the colonial rule of the early 20th century: more relevant reference points would be Bagram and Fallujah.

Bagram base in Afghanistan is where US soldiers tortured prisoners to death – like 22-year-old taxi driver and farmer Dilawar. Before he was killed in custody, Dilawar was beaten by soldiers just to make him scream “Allah!”

Five months after September 11, The Guardian reported that US missiles had killed anywhere between 1,300 and 8,000 in Afghanistan. Months later, the paper suggested that “as many as 20,000 Afghans may have lost their lives as an indirect consequence of the US intervention”.

When it was Iraq’s turn, the people of Fallujah discovered that US forces gave them funerals, not democracy. On April 28, 2003, US soldiers massacred civilian protesters, shooting to death 17 during a demonstration.

When that city revolted against the occupation, the residents paid a price. As Marines tried to quell resistance in the city, wrote The New York Times on April 14, 2004, they had “orders to shoot any male of military age on the streets after dark, armed or not”.Months later, as the Marines launched their November assault on the city, CNN reported that “the sky…seems to explode”.

In their bombardment and invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US and UK armed forces rained fiery death down on men, women and children. Prisoners were tortured and sexually abused. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died. No one was held to account.

It is one thing to apologise for the brutality of western Crusaders a thousand years ago. It is quite another to look at the corpses of the victims of the imperialist present, or hear the screams of the bereaved.

In his excellent book The Muslims Are Coming, Arun Kundnani analysed the “politics of anti-extremism”, and describes the two approaches developed by policymakers and analysts during the “war on terror”.

The first approach, which he refers to as “culturalism”, emphasises “what adherents regard as inherent features of Islamic culture”. The second approach, “reformism”, is when “extremism is viewed as a perversion of Islam’s message”, rather than “a clash of civilisations between the West’s modern values and Islam’s fanaticism”.

Thus the American Right was angry with Mr Obama, because for them, it is about religion – or specifically, Islam. Liberals, meanwhile, want to locate the problem in terms of culture.

Both want to avoid a discussion about imperialism, massacres, coups, brutalities, disappearances, dictatorships – in other words, politics.

As Kundnani writes: when “the concept of ideology” is made central, whether understood as “Islam itself or as Islamist extremism”, then “the role of western states in co-producing the terror war is obscured”.

The problem with Mr Obama’s comments on the Crusades was not, as hysterical conservatives claimed, that he was making offensive and inaccurate analogies with ISIL; rather, that in the comfort of condemning the past, he could mask the violence of his own government in the present.

The echoes of collective trauma remain for a long time, and especially when new wounds are still being inflicted. Think it is farfetched that Muslims would still care about a 1,000-year-old European invasion? Then try asking them about Guantanamo and Camp Bucca instead.

Ben White is a journalist and author of Israeli Apartheid

Obama’s ‘Crusaders’ analogy veils the West’s modern crimes
Pep Montserrat for The National

| Woolwich attack: If the whole world’s a battlefield, that holds in Woolwich as well as Waziristan!

Woolwich attack: If the whole world’s a battlefield, that holds in Woolwich as well as Waziristan ~

    • Denying a link between western wars in the Muslim world and the backlash on our streets only fuels Islamophobia and bloodshed.
    • The videoed butchery of Fusilier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich barracks last May was a horrific act and his killers’ murder conviction a foregone conclusion. Rigby was a British soldier who had taken part in multiple combat operations in Afghanistan. So the attack wasn’t terrorism in the normal sense of an indiscriminate attack on civilians.

      The killing of an unarmed man far from the conflict, by self-appointed individuals with non-violent political alternatives, isn’t condoned by any significant political or religious tradition. Quite apart from morality, the impact was violently counter-productive for the Muslims that Rigby’s killers claimed to be defending, as Islamophobic attacks spiked across Britain.

      But the determined refusal of the political establishment to recognise the link with the wars they have been waging in the Muslim world is toxic and dangerous. Echoing the recycled nonsense of his predecessors, David Cameron claims Woolwich was “an attack on the British way of life”.

      The answer, he insists, is to “confront the poisonous narrative of extremism”, ban the “hate clerics” – anything but mention the war. More than a decade after the launch of a campaign that has delivered mass slaughter, torture, kidnapping and destruction across the Muslim world, such deceitful inanities are simply designed to hide the political elite’s role in the violence.

      There can’t, after all, be the slightest doubt about what Rigby’s killers thought they were doing. Michael Adebolajo spelled it out on the streets and in court. This was a “military attack”, he claimed, in retaliation for Britain’s occupation and violence in “Muslim lands”, from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond.

      “Leave our lands and you can live in peace,” the London-born Muslim convert told bystanders. The message couldn’t be clearer. It was the same delivered by the 2005 London bomber, Mohammed Siddique Khan, and the Iraqi 2007 Glasgow attacker, Bilal Abdullah, who declared: “I wanted the public to have a taste” of what its government of “murderers did to my people”.

      To say these attacks are about “foreign policy” prettifies the reality. They are the predicted consequence of an avalanche of violence unleashed by the US, Britain and others in eight direct military interventions in Arab and Muslim countries that have left hundreds of thousands of dead. Only the wilfully blind or ignorant can be shocked when there is blowback from that onslaught at home. The surprise should be that there haven’t been more such atrocities.

      Mainstream Islamic teaching supports the right to resist foreign occupation, while rejecting violence against non-combatants or outside the battlefield. But it is the US and its closest allies in the war on terror who have declared the whole world to be a battlefield, in which they claim the right to kill whoever they deem to be a threat.

      British and US special forces have been doing that in Somalia. The US routinely kills large numbers of civilians in drone strikes across the Muslim world – 12 were reported incinerated last week in Yemen. By waging a war without borders, often against unarmed or unidentified victims, they have fatally blurred the boundaries and invited their enemies to do the same. That was Adebolajo’s view of the Woolwich attack, his brother Jeremiah told al-Jazeera TV: “The geographical location of the battlefield, since this war on terror, has basically disappeared.”

      What is clear is that denying the role of US-British wars and killing in fuelling domestic terror attacks can only inflame Islamophobia – and absolve politicians from their responsibility for years of bloodshed and backlash. Unless the pressure grows to halt the terror war abroad, Woolwich certainly won’t be the end of it at home.

    • Michael Adebolajo
      ‘The impact of the Woolwich murder was violently counter-productive for the Muslims that Rigby’s killers claimed to be defending.’ Photograph: Handout/Reuters
    • _______________________________________________________________


| Spain’s Forgotten Muslims – The Expulsion of the Moriscos!

Spain’s Forgotten Muslims – The Expulsion of the Moriscos ~ Lost Islamic History.

One of the truly tragic events in Islamic history is the loss of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain. For centuries, the Iberian Peninsula was a Muslim land with Muslim rulers and a Muslim population. At its height, Iberia had over 5 million Muslims, a majority of the land’s people.

Muslim rulers built an advanced civilization based on faith and knowledge. In the 900s, the capital of Muslim Spain, Cordoba, had paved roads, hospitals, and street lights throughout the city. At the time, Christian Europe’s largest library had only 600 books, while Cordoba’s calligraphers were producing 6000 books per year.  The society was a peaceful mixture of European and African cultures, represented by Muslims, Jews, and Christians living in harmony side by side.

This almost utopian society did not last forever. As the so-called Reconquista, or Reconquest, of Spain by Catholic monarchs progressed through the 11th to the 15th centuries, Spain’s Muslims became a marginalized group. In 1492, when the last Muslim state of Iberia, Granada, fell, Spain’s Muslims faced a new reality: genocide.


After the fall of Granada in 1492, most Muslims expected it to be a small setback. They thought Muslim armies from Africa would soon come to redeem the loss of Granada and re-establish a Muslim state. The new Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella, had other plans, however.

They made their religious intentions clear early on. In March 1492, Spain’s monarchs signed an edict that effectively forced every last Jew out of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Jews were forced out, with the Ottoman Empire accepting many of them. Sultan Bayezid II of the Ottoman Empire sent his entire navy to Spain to pick them up and bring them to Istanbul, in order to avoid the mass killing that awaited them in Spain.

The Spanish policy towards the Muslims was not much different. In 1492, there were about 500,000 Muslims throughout Spain. The Catholic Church made it a priority to convert them all to Christianity now that they did not have the protection of a Muslim state.

The first attempts to convert Muslims to Christianity was through bribery. Converts were showered with gifts, money, and land. This approach proved to be unsuccessful, as most of these “converts” quickly returned to Islam after getting such gifts.


When it became clear in the closing years of the 1400s, that the Muslims of Spain were more attached to their beliefs than to wealth, Spain’s rulers took a new approach. In 1499, Francisco Jimenez de Cisernos, a cardinal in the Catholic Church was sent to southern Spain to “speed up” the conversion process. His approach was to harass the Muslims until they converted. All manuscripts written in Arabic were burned (except for medical ones). Muslims who refused to convert were arbitrarily sent to prison. They were tortured and had their property confiscated in an attempt to convince them to convert. This was all part of Cisernos’ policy that “if the infidels [Muslims] couldn’t be attracted to the road of salvation, they had to be dragged to it.”

His oppression and harassment soon had unintended consequences for Spain’s Christian kings. Spain’s Muslims, in order to resist the oppression began an open rebellion. Granada’s Muslims especially openly protested in the streets and threatened to overthrow the oppressive Catholic rule and replace it with a new Muslim state. Spain’s king and queen quickly intervened along with Cisernos. They gave Granada’s rebels a choice – conversion or death. Almost all of Granada’s citizens chose to convert on the outside, but secretly kept Islam as their true religion.

In 1502, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella officially made Islam illegal throughout Spain

In the countryside, the Muslim towns throughout Granada rose in revolt. They took refuge in the rocky Alpujarras Mountains in Southern Spain, making it difficult for the Christian authorities to root them out. The rebels had no clear plan nor one central leader. They were united in their belief in Islam and resistance to Christian rule.

Since almost all of the population of Granada was Muslim, the rebellion took a defensive form. Christian soldiers regularly attacked Muslim towns in an attempt to force its residents into conversion. The Muslim rebels, not as well equipped or trained as the Christian soldiers, were not always able to rebel the attacks. Massacres and forced conversions of villages were common.

By 1502, the rebellion had petered out and Queen Isabella officially declared an end to toleration for any and all Muslims in Spain. Thus, all Muslims had to officially convert to Christianity, leave Spain, or die. Many did in fact flee to North Africa or fight to the death. However, most officially converted to Christianity, while still keeping their true beliefs hidden.

In Hiding

Spain’s Muslim population went underground in 1502. They had to hide their faith and actions from the Spanish authorities to avoid being killed. These “converted” Muslims were known as Moriscos by the Spanish, and they were intently watched.

Spanish government officials placed strict restrictions on the Moriscos to try to make sure they were not still secretly practicing Islam, which many were of course doing. Moriscos had to leave the doors to their homes open on Thursday nights and Friday mornings, so soldiers can pass by and look in to make sure they were not bathing, as Muslims are supposed to do before the congregational prayer of Friday. Any Muslim caught reading the Quran, or making wudu (ablution) could be immediately killed. For this reason, they were forced to find ways to practice their religion in secret, constantly in fear of being found.

Even under such difficult circumstances, the Moriscos retained their beliefs for decades. While the community activities of Islam such as congregational prayer, alms giving, and pilgrimage to Makkah were restricted, they were able to continue to practice in secret.

Final Expulsion

Despite the best efforts of the Moriscos to conceal their practice of Islam, the Christian kings suspected them of continued adherence to Islam. In 1609, over 100 years after the Muslims went into hiding, King Phillip of Spain signed an edict expelling all Moriscos from Spain. They were given only 3 days to completely pack up and board ships destined for North Africa or the Ottoman Empire.

During this time, they were constantly harassed by Christians, who would loot their belongings and kidnap Muslim children to raise as Christians. Some Moriscos were even killed for sport on their way to the coast by soldiers and regular people. Even when they got to the ships that would take them to their new lands, they were harassed. They were insultingly expected to pay their own fare in their exile. Also, many of the sailors raped, killed, and stole from the Moriscos they were carrying on their ships. This example religious intolerance can effectively be classified as a genocide and terrorism. The Spanish government made very clear their desire to harass and make life miserable for Spain’s Muslims as they were on their way out.

In this environment, however, the Moriscos were finally able to be open about their practice of Islam again. For the first time in over 100 years, Muslims prayed openly in Spain. The adhan (call to prayer) rang in the mountains and plains of Spain once again, as its Muslims were on their way out of their homeland.

Spain’s Muslims were given 3 days to leave their homes and board ships destined for foreign lands in 1609.

Most of the Moriscos wished they could stay in Spain. It had been their homeland for centuries and they did not know how to live in any other land. Even after their exile, many tried to sneak back into Spain and come back to their former homes. These efforts were almost always failures.

By 1614 every last Morisco was gone, and Islam disappeared from the Iberian Peninsula. Going from over 500,000 people to zero in 100 years can only be described as a genocide. Indeed, the Portuguese Dominican monk, Damian Fonseca, referred to the expulsion as an “agreeable Holocaust”. The effects on Spain were grave. Its economy suffered greatly, as a large part of the labor force was gone, and tax revenues dropped. In North Africa, Muslim rulers attempted to provide for the hundreds of thousands of refugees, but in many cases, were unable to do much to help them.  The Moriscos of North Africa spent centuries trying to assimilate into society, but still kept their unique Andalusian identity.

To this day, neighborhoods in major North African cities boast of their Morisco identities and keep alive the memory of Muslim Spain’s glorious past. They remind us of the illustrious history of the Iberian Peninsula, as well the tragic story of their expulsion from their homes in the one of the greatest genocides Europe has ever seen.


Carr, Matthew. Blood and Faith: The Purging of Muslim Spain. New York: The New Press, 2009. Print.

Ochsenwald, W., & Fisher, S. (2003). The Middle East: A History. (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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| Nobel prize winner Suu Kyi rejects allegations of ethnic cleansing in Burma!

Suu Kyi rejects allegations of ethnic cleansing in Burma ~ , DVB Multimedia Group.

British Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi  in London on 23 October 2013 (AFP).
British Prime Minister David Cameron talks with Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in London on 23 October 2013 (AFP).

Opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi has rejected allegations that an “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims is taking place in Burma.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC on Thursday, the democracy icon responded to questions about a spate of communal clashes which have rippled through the country and appear to be increasingly targeting the country’s Muslim minority.

“It’s not ethnic cleansing,” she said. “What the world needs to understand [is] that the fear is not just on the side of the Muslims, but on the side of the Buddhists as well.”

Almost 140,000 Rohingya Muslims, who are denied citizenship in Burma, have been stranded in displacement camps in Arakan state since two bouts of clashes with local Buddhists last year.

A Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released in April accused security forces and extremist groups of committing crimes against humanity in a campaign of ethnic cleansing against the minority.

The violence has since spread to other parts of Burma, claiming 250 lives, including those of 20 Muslim children who were hacked to death by a Buddhist mob in Meikhtila in March.

The unrest has been linked to the rise of an extremist Buddhist movement, called 969, which advocates for religious segregation in Burma. Its lead proponent, monk Wirathu, has likened Muslims to “mad dogs” and often been described as a hate preacher.

“I condemn any movement that is based on hatred and extremism,” said Suu Kyi, but insisted that it is the government’s responsibility to hold Wirathu to account.

“Instead of asking us, the members of the opposition what we feel about it … you should ask the present government of Burma what their policy is.”

Suu Kyi also dismissed allegations that Muslims have borne the brunt of the violence, adding that “many, many” Buddhists are confined to refugee camps in Burma and abroad.

“The reaction of Buddhists is also based on fear,” she said. “I think [you] will accept that there’s a perception that global Muslim power is very great, certainly that is a perception in many parts of the world and in our country too.”

The Nobel laureate, who spent nearly two decades under house arrest, has come under fire for her perceived failure to condemn abuses against the Rohingyas, who are considered to be among the world’s most persecuted minorities.

Suu Kyi is currently on a diplomatic tour of the UK, where she has met with Prime Minister David Cameron, as well as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. On Thursday, she travelled to Northern Ireland for a brief visit, where she met with politicians and local school children.

The opposition leader, who was released from house arrest in 2010, currently holds a seat in parliament and has expressed hopes of running for the presidency in 2015.

Many analysts say she is reluctant to speak up for Muslims in Burma, because she fears losing her core electorate in the Buddhist-dominated country.

“Burma now needs real change,” she told the BBC. “We need to make our people confident that we truly are going to be a democratic society.”



| Reflection: Why I Think Islamists Are Anti-Islam ~ Dr. David Liepert.

Why I Think Islamists Are Anti-IslamHuffPost.

The first Muslims, following after Muhammad, fought for a world where Islam was allowed, not imposed. The world they won was a world with religious liberty, not a world with one faith was forced on everyone else.

The religion of Islam, the Faith of Abraham as proclaimed by Muhammad — peace be upon them both — is all about relationships: our relationship with our Creator who made everything informing the way we relate to everything. Muslims are God’s servants, tasked to live our lives for the sake of you all.

So how does the so-called Islamist world-view, one that puts promoting Islam (and generally, one specific sort of Islamic ideology alone) ahead of egalitarian justice, or freedom, or sometimes human life itself — one that’s shared by those misguided criminals behind the killing of innocent Christians in Pakistan, innocent Muslims in the Middle East, innocent believers of every faith anywhere, innocent shoppers in Kenya, for God’s sake! — make any sense, from an Islamic perspective?

It doesn’t.

I’ve read a vast array of definitions for what “Islamist” really means, just as I’ve read a vast array of ideological descriptions for every group of Muslims currently killing each other (and others too, compounding the tragedy) over who should be in charge of our beliefs and real estate. And while each group believes they’re fundamentally different, I think they’re really the same, and fundamentally opposed to the Islam proclaimed by Muhammad.

Islamists — no matter whether they belong to al-Qaeda, the Taliban, Iran’s Ulema and Republican Guard, Egypt’s Army, or the Muslim Brotherhood or any other Muslim group with aggressive political aspirations — want to be in charge, and they think that when they are then their own version of Islam must be imposed. Muhammad — on the other hand — didn’t think he was in charge (because he knew God was) and he lived his life as a leader of equals.

And once he began following the path of Islam he didn’t impose it on anyone.

Now, I know there are some who will take immediate issue with that statement, because of the actions he was forced to take in Medina, after Medina’s diverse communities (defined by tribe, blood and religion) joined together in a sovereign constitutional state with Muhammad at their head.

In a nutshell, what happened is that some — not all — of Medina’s Jewish tribes betrayed that state to outside forces, and were punished for it.

However, like it or not, the punishment inflicted upon the Banu Qurayza wasn’t decreed by Muhammad, or Islamic law.

Instead, it was decreed by Sa’d, an arbitrator requested by the Banu Qurayza themselves. And as he’d already warned them ahead of time, when asked, Sa’d declared that because they were Jewish, they should be punished according to the Torah.

At Hudabiyyah when Muhammad first returned to Mecca, he could have conquered it then and there. Instead, he accepted the terms the Meccans offered and humbly left, because he knew God had a plan. And for the rest of his life he promised to protect the rights and freedoms of non-Muslims too, and declared that Muslims who followed after him should do the same. He created a place where Islam was allowed — not imposed — and he allowed and protected other faiths besides: Christianity for Christians and Judaism for Jews. He politely discussed religion with anyone, even those who disagreed with him, and he followed a faith that honored the faithful observances of others. In fact, Medina’s Constitution even made provisions for the inclusion of polytheists and unbelievers!

When Muslims took over Jerusalem, they left the Christians in charge and only forced them to let the Jews they’d evicted back in. In Egypt, they made sure Christians received the same rights, freedom and justice as Muslims. In Persia, faced with a tribe that followed sexual practices condemned by the Quran as sinful, Muslim judges declared that since they weren’t Muslim, Muslim laws couldn’t be applied to them. And in the Middle East, when villages that had pretended they’d joined Islam — thinking they’d gain an advantage, which they didn’t — wanted to change back without consequence, they did.

For decades now, as a convert Muslim –who joined because I know it’s right, and because I truly love and honor Muhammad, his example, and the example of those who knew and followed him– I’ve watched Muslims here, there and everywhere struggling with freedom, and the fact that freedom sometimes means choosing to do things you know are wrong. I’ve always asked them a simple question: If God didn’t intend us to have the right to make even bad choices, why did He give us free will at all?

I’ve listened patiently to others who struggle with what they perceive to be their responsibility to impose their choices upon others, things like the Hijab: and while no-one has ever been able to explain to me when Hijab became a head-scarf (in Islam’s earliest history it wasn’t an article of clothing at all. Instead, it was an attitude of modesty, or a curtain) I’ve always pointed out that even regarding the Islamic principle of modesty, the Qur’an‘s not telling us to make other people do good things, it’s telling us to do good things ourselves.

Perhaps the reason why the Qur’an condemns coercion in matters of religion so explicitly is because anytime you try to impose something — even something good — you make sure that it’s opposed. Human nature being what it is, imposing “good” actually promotes the opposite.

However, as I watch our world devolving, my questions have become more urgent:

  • How is God served by condemning, opposing or killing people who aren’t actively trying to condemn, oppose or kill you? Especially when the Qur’an so clearly specifically condemns violence, murder and killing? It even condemns unkind words, feeling too much suspicion of others, and mean-spirited argumentativeness!

  • If God wants someone dead, don’t you think He’s more than capable of looking after that Himself?

  • When the Qur’an so specifically commends the protection of Mosques, Churches, Synagogues and each individual person’s religious freedom, don’t you think that means Muslims should do the same?

I think that the reason why Islam’s so unpopular today when it was so popular back when it began is simple: If Muslims are supposed to be the defenders of life, liberty, freedom and justice as we tell ourselves, then looking at our impact on the world today, I think it’s pretty obvious we’re just doing it wrong.


Medina under Muhammad was a marketplace for more than goods and services, it was also a marketplace for ideas. Muhammad’s Islam flourished there because people thought it was better, not because they were afraid to do anything else. Under him, the rules were simple, and the same justice, freedom and rights linked to responsibilities applied for everyone.

Back then, if Muslims knew they had to do something they knew was wrong — like killing, oppressing or coercing other people, or lying, cheating or stealing — in order to achieve a worthy goal they just didn’t.

Muhammad and the first and best Muslims who followed after him lived their lives to serve the common good, and left things they couldn’t control — things like the lives of others, and the future — up to God, because in their Islam power, ultimate authority, ultimate responsibility, and glory belonged to God alone. Perhaps the greatest Islamist tragedy is just how many Islamists today honestly believe that those things should belong to them because they think God gave it to them.

My Islamist brothers, if you really believe that’s true, then I think you need to know more about a wonderful man I know, named Muhammad.


| Message to Richard Dawkins: ‘Islam is not a race’ is a cop out!

Message to Richard Dawkins: ‘Islam is not a race’ is a cop out ~

A focus on the academic distinction between religion and race is often used as a fig leaf for prejudice and outright bigotry.

Richard Dawkins

‘[Richard] Dawkins himself dedicated a large part of his riposte to a dissection of whether race is a biological or social construct.’ Photograph: Murdo Macleod

Of late, a new variation of the old chestnut “I’m not racist but …” has emerged. It goes: “I’ve got nothing against Muslims, it’s Islam I hate”. Otherwise known as the “Islam is not a race” argument.

After I wrote about Richard Dawkins’s snide attack on the supposed dearth of Muslim scientific and cultural achievement, some critics hit back along these lines. It is acceptable to criticise and belittle Islam because it is a religion, not an ethnic grouping – and therefore fair game.

Technically, they are right – Islam is not a race. But too often, those who deploy the argument, are borrowing from the Bill Clinton school of sophistry: “I did not have racist relations with that religion”.

Dawkins himself dedicated a large part of his riposte to a dissection of whether race is a biological or social construct. The argument over Islam and race was a “simple semantic disagreement”, he said, before proceeding to define race according to the dictionary.

So what does the dictionary say? Racism, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior”. But what does this mean in practice?

Under British law, Jewish people are classified as belonging to a race (something that Dawkins, incidentally, disagrees with) since they are deemed to have a shared culture and history that goes beyond the religious sphere. Do I share history, culture and other reference points with Muslims around the world that go beyond the practice of Islam? Definitely. But it is a loose, secular feeling.

Does this make me immune to discrimination that Muslims face? Certainly not, given the long hours I have spent in immigration queues, undergoing extended background checks and visa processing times. So clearly, in that sense, Islam is not a race, but Muslims are. It’s entirely legitimate to question and interrogate Islam as a religion. It is not fair to do so against Muslims based on their religious or cultural identity.

Equally, it is disingenuous to claim that Islam has no colour. There is actually quite a strong racial dimension to Islamophobia. Muslims in the UK are predominantly brown, Asian or Arab, and there have been instances where non-Muslims from Asian communities have been lumped together with Muslims and discriminated against.

After the 9/11 attacks, some bearded and turbaned Sikh men found themselves coming under hostile scrutiny. Following the more recent Boston bombings, some media outlets described suspects as being of “Muslim appearance” – whatever that is. In the wake of Theo Van Gogh murder, racist targeting of Muslim immigrants increased.

When discrimination against some eastern Europeans in the UK is called racism, you don’t hear cries of “Polish is not a race” to justify plain prejudice. The fixation on terminology and not the reality suggests a society that does not want to come to terms with the creeping ugliness of hatred. The likes of the BNP and EDL lack even a basic grasp of the rudiments of Islam, let alone an ability to parse religion and race.

Racism is behaviour, not an informed academic position. I doubt that anyone abusing Muslims in the street, or defacing a mosque, or snatching a veil off a woman’s face, has paused to examine their premise beforehand. The argument that Islam is not a race is a cop out. It’s time that we dispensed with it once and for all, because it prevents us from identifying acts motivated by hatred for what they really are. Islam might not be a race, but using that as a fig leaf for your unthinking prejudice is almost certainly racist.




| Have you ever met a woman in a niqab? Has one ever harmed you?

Have you ever met a woman in a niqab? Has one ever harmed you? ~ AISHA GANINew Statesman.

As politicians call for a “national debate” on the niqab, Aisha Gani speaks to women who choose to wear a full-face veil to discover why they do so.

A veiled woman in Cairo. Photo: Getty
A veiled woman in Cairo. Photo: Getty

Struggling politically? Want to fill columns? Start a debate about the niqab. It’s another opportunity to roll out the veil puns and plaster that stock image of a Muslim woman in a black niqab, her heavy eye make-up emphasised.

Sometimes I think that we are obsessed. Why do we insist on telling woman what they should and shouldn’t wear? As a British Muslim woman who wears the hijab (headscarf), I don’t think covering my face in public would be safe, appropriate or is necessary for me. But I have close friends who wear niqab, and I don’t want to judge them. I am no scholar. What other women believe and wear is up to them, they don’t have to justify themselves to me. There is so much hostility based on what we think the niqab represents. One of the first things that came to mind when Jeremy Browne made his comments was this: has anyone actually spoken to any of the women who choose to wear niqab? So I decided that I would talk to as many as possible.

It’s been argued that women who wear a full-face veil are excluding themselves from society. Psychology graduate Nadia, who started wearing niqab a few months ago, tells me that opportunities are not taken away by a piece of cloth, but by how other people react to it. “From my understanding of feminism, women should be able to do want they want to do. The niqab isn’t imposed by men. I do it for God.” Tayabbah, 20, is an English student at King’s College London and tells me that no one should take her right of wearing a niqab away. “I’m not harming anyone. It is a choice I made and a choice I have to deal with.”

These are determined young women. And they are hardly conforming – they are a minority within British Muslims, and no one forced them to wear a niqab. Several say they are the first ones to wear the niqab among their family and friends.

“I found niqab liberating,” Muslim convert and mother-of-two Khadija Sallon-Bradley tells me. “When I turned 12, I started wearing make-up. There’s this notion that is if you’ve got it, you flaunt it – and it’s driven into you that if you don’t look good, you won’t be spoken to by boys. So much has to do with appearance and you are bombarded with images of perfect and skinny girls and it makes you very self-conscious. I had so many insecurities.”

She started to question her role in society, what was expected of her, and went through a feminist phase as a teenager. Khadija adds that although she converted at 18 and started wearing hijab at university, she couldn’t “ditch the concealer”. By wearing the niqab, she felt right and that people wouldn’t judge her just by her face any more, and that there are many ways to communicate.

LSE Sociology student Rumana, 24, has dreams of being a social worker. “I want to work with vulnerable women, deal with victims and inspire other niqabis. I don’t want to cut off my career choices. I don’t want to accept that.” Although Rumana concedes that physically she has put up a barrier, her intention is not to be cut off from society. She does not deserve to have “letterbox” shouted at her, she says. “You can’t see me, but I make sure you hear me. I make sure my character and personality comes through. I’m not just a walking Qur’an.” She tells me that she makes an extra effort to contribute to seminars, to say hello and so on. She does compromise when she has to and has given evidence in court. I can’t help thinking, is this chatty young Muslim someone who should be excluded and shunned for what she chooses to wear?

If these women didn’t want to be a part of society, you wouldn’t see them in the street in the first place, would you? In the past, I didn’t understand why some Muslim women would wear extra covering, but that’s because I never asked. These women have done their research, and feel compelled to wear the niqab. In most cases, they deal with the situations they are in pragmatically and with courage. When it comes to security and identification, whether they are sitting exams, going to the bank or travelling abroad, women who wear niqab have either worked out an accommodation or have compromised.

When I go out to eat with a friend who wears niqab, we’ll choose a restaurant where she feels comfortable. It’s not an issue. The first thing I associate with my friend with is her love of baking, her football obsession and the way she laughs, not what she wears. She has never imposed her way of doing things on me.

Women who wear the niqab shouldn’t be dehumanised or othered. I am sure that my friends who wear it don’t appreciate how (largely) white middle-class MPs and commentators – who have little interaction with those who wear niqab – feel as though they have to act as a knight in shining armour to liberate Muslim women from their oppression. The women I spoke to don’t need a saviour, nor do they want anyone to view them with a patriarchal eye, as though Muslim women are meek creatures without agency. The fetishisation of a covered woman and the language of de-veiling is not only orientalist, but it can be creepy. I am reminded of the recent leak of Lady Gaga’s Burqa lyrics. It’s so wrong.

This is Britain, and pluralism is something to be celebrated. I have come to appreciate the diversity in Islam, and Muslim women are not homogenous. We have different inspirations and different styles. There has been a huge fuss about the niqab, and I think it would be more helpful to understand and appreciate the contributions of these women instead of marginalising and scapegoating them. Will it make us feel better to ostracise them?

Perhaps we should question ourselves and what makes us feel so insecure about difference. Have you ever met a woman in niqab? Has a woman in niqab ever harmed you?



| Gitmo prison guard converts to Islam because of the living faith of Muslim detainees!

Guantanamo Bay prison guard converts to Islam because of the living faith of Muslim detainees ~ Kay Campbell, religion reporter for The Huntsville Times.

HUNTSVILLE, Alabama – Terry Holdbrooks Jr., 29, wears the beard of a bald Amish guy, the tattoos of a punk kid, and the twitchy alertness of a military policeman. Take him to a restaurant, and he’ll choose the chair with its back against the wall. Take his photo, and he’ll prefer to look away from the camera.

Part of that wariness Holdbrooks learned while guarding detainees from 2003 to 2004 at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. holding tank for military prisoners on the southeastern point of Cuba.

And part of that wariness he developed after he converted to Islam while stationed at Guantanamo. That was after months of midnight conversations with the Muslim detainees, and his conversion prompted several of his fellow soldiers to try several times to talk some “sense” into him so he wouldn’t “go over to the enemy,” as they put it.

Holdbrooks told the story of his conversion and of his observations of the controversial detention center to an audience of about 80 people at the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville Saturday night, May 25, 2013. The camp, he said, tramples on every human right the U.S. has said it supports. The current hunger strike by 102 of the 166 prisoners has crossed 100 days. Many of those men were cleared to go home five or six years ago, Holdbrooks said. Their home countries tell their lawyers the U.S. won’t release them, and the U.S. tells them their home countries won’t receive them.

“They’ve lost hope. They’ve decided it’s better to die,” Holdbrooks said. “One of them is down to 70 pounds.”

Holdbrooks is traveling with Khalil Meek, a co-founder and executive director of the Texas-based Muslim Legal Fund of America. They are raising money for that non-profit civil rights organization, which helps pay for legal help for Muslims who are American citizens and who have been accused of vague crimes or placed on no-fly lists and other restrictions under the increasingly broad “anti-terrorism” provisions.

Terry Holdbrooks jpg.jpg
“Traitor?” by Terry Holdbrooks Jr.

Even more than raising money for legal defense, Holdbrooks said, he wants to stir Americans to action. Holdbrooks’ self-published account of his experience at Guantanamo, “Traitor?,” was published this month — a 164-page single-space account whittled by an editor he worked with from his 500-page manuscript.

It’s available for sale online at www.GtmoBook.com.

“I tell this story and I wrote the book so idiot-simple that anyone could read and understand that the existence of Guantanamo is something to be ashamed of,” Holdbrooks said. “I just want to share information with people in depth and then let them make up their mind.”

“I may have become a Muslim, but I am not a traitor.”

12-year-old ‘terrorist’

At Guantanamo, Holdbrooks mulled over the information Army instructors had taught about Islam as he’d watched the so-called terrorists day after day. What he’d been told wasn’t lining up with what he observed. The detainees read their Qurans. They kept the daily schedule of prayers. They remained undiscouraged under horrendous pressure.

One of his duties was to escort prisoners to interrogations and then return them to their cells. He knew the kind of stresses and tortures they were undergoing in repeated questionings. He had dodged their thrown poop when anger ripped down the row of mesh wire cages. When detainees were punished with the “frequent flier program,” he’d moved men from one cell to another every two hours, round the clock.

“How can you wake up in Guantanamo and smile?” Holdbrooks asked them. “How can you believe there’s a God who cares about you?”

“I am happy to have spent time in Guantanamo,” said one detainee, the man who became his mentor, after his release. “Allah was testing my ‘deen’ (faith). When else would have I have five years away from all responsibilities, when the only thing I had was my Quran, and I could read it and learn Arabic and mental discipline?”

“Fortunately for us,” Holdbrooks said. “Most of them are bigger men than some of us would be.”

As Holdbrooks got to know the detainees, as he learned their stories during his long night shifts, he came to see the detainees as individuals. Many were men who enjoyed talking about the same things he does: Ethics, philosophy, history, religion. Many let him know what they thought of the 9/11 attacks: That they violate the teachings of Islam.

“Here, I had all the freedom in the world, and I’m miserable,” Holdbrooks said. “They have nothing, and they’re happy – it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out something’s going on.”

Terry Holdbrooks Jr.jpg
Former Guatanamo Bay Army prison guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr. addresses an audience in the fellowship hall of the Huntsville Islamic Center in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday, May 25, 2013. (Kay Campbell / KCampbell@al.com)

Tough kid

Terry Holdbrooks Jr. grew up a troubled kid with junkie parents who dumped him at 7 on his ex-hippy grandparents to be raised. By 18, he’d finished both high school – a year early – and trade school. He loved drugs, sex, rock-and-roll and tattoos – his ink would eventually cover his arms from shoulder to wrist. His earlobes have been stretched to so that they can hold a plug that a thumb could pass through.

So when Holdbrooks walked into an Army recruiter’s office in Arizona a year after 9/11 saying he wanted to “join the Army, go kill people and get paid for it,” the recruiter looked up briefly and turned back to his computer. “No, thank you,” the recruiter said.

“This was still right after 9/11,” Holdbrooks said. “The Army was flush with recruits, and they could take the cream of the crop.”

It wasn’t until his fourth visit to the office — when he took the ASVAB, the military’s aptitude test — that the recruiter realized Holdbrooks was worth pursuing.

Holdbrooks signed up for military police because it offered a bonus. When his unit was transferred to Guantanamo, the sergeant detoured through New York to take them to Ground Zero.

“Remember what Muslims did to us,” the sergeant told the soldiers. “Remember who you’re protecting.”

So Holdbrooks arrived at the hot, seared base expecting hulking killers in every cell. What he found were doctors, taxi drivers, professors. One scary “terrorist” was 12. Another was in his 70s and dying of tuberculosis. Holdbrooks identifies himself as antagonistic, questioning, independent person. He is naturally suspicious – and found his suspicions turning in a surprising direction.

“You start thinking, ‘Was I lied to?’” Holdbrooks said.

In this March 30, 2010 photo reviewed by the U.S. military, a U.S. trooper stands in the turret of a vehicle with a machine gun, left, as a guard looks out from a tower at the detention facility on Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

Priceless gift

In the time he had off from his escort and cleaning duties at the prison, Holdbrooks began reading more about Islam online. The prisoner he talked the most to, a former chef from England, gave him his own copy of the Quran.

“You’ve got to realize the significance of that,” Holdbrooks said, his tough bravado breaking for a moment. “He’s in this cage for 23 and a-half hours every day. If you lose your Quran, you’re out of luck. That’s it. You’ve lost everything.”

It took Holdbrooks three nights to read it. As a restless seeker in his teens, he had studied Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and never saw much sense in them. Monotheism, he decided, was responsible for a lot of misery, and he renounced religion.

But in the Quran, for the first time, he found a religious text that meets his criteria of logic.

“It made sense from beginning to end,” Holdbrooks said. “It doesn’t contradict itself. There’s no magic. It’s just a simple instruction manual for living.”

After three months of intense study and conversation, one night Holdbrooks told the detainee that he wanted to become Muslim.

“No,” the man said.

“Whoa,” Holdbrooks said, stirring laughter during his talk in Huntsville. “The guard wants to embrace Islam, and the bad guy says ‘no’? I must really suck.”

The detainee explained what he meant. Converting to Islam meant Holdbrooks would have to change his life. Change his diet. Quit drugs. Quit drinking. Stop profanity. Quit getting tattoos. And be prepared for his relationships to everything – wife, Army, government – to change.

Little by little, Holdbrooks made the changes. Holdbrooks found a measure of health, discipline and peace of mind he’d never had before. And he found a family.

“Every little step I took toward Islam, Islam was taking more steps toward me,” Holdbrooks said.

One night in December 2003, he was ready to stumble through the declaration of faith in Arabic. He read from a card on which the detainee had transliterated into English syllables the Arabic words for, “There is no god but God, and Muhammad is the messenger of God.”

“I knew I’d finally said it right when their faces lit up,” Holdbrooks said.

Guantanamo protest.jpg
Holding a single flower each, two protesters wearing black hoods and orange jump suits take part in a demonstration in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2013, calling for the closing of the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The protest was organized by a coalition of groups including Witness Against Torture. Former Guantanamo Army guard Terry Holdbrooks Jr., who spoke in Huntsville, Ala., on Saturday, May 25, 2013, is among those calling for a swift closure for the prison. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

After Gitmo

But after Gitmo, when he rotated back to the States, he lost his grip on both peace and discipline.

He was honorably discharged early — for “generalized personality disorder,” the Army told him, although Holdbrooks wonders if his new faith influenced the decision. He and his wife divorced. He began trying to drink away his memories of Guantanamo.

“But you can’t drink away things like that,” Holdbrooks said.

By the end of 2008, he found himself wondering, “When was I happy?” The answer, he realized, surprised him: When he was in Guantanamo – because there he was being a good Muslim.

Holdbrook has been clean since 2009 – a victory he credits to following Muslim dietary codes, including daytime fasting several days a week all year, not just during Ramadan. Last fall, he married a nurse he met at his mosque. They had spent a year of careful getting acquainted in accordance with Muslim guidelines – which meant a lot of chaperoned visits, he said. He’s finished a bachelor’s degree in sociology. He spends most weekends traveling with the Muslim Legal Fund of America to tell his story and to encourage Muslims to become involved in pushing for policy changes.

Holdbrooks is part of a small, but growing, number of former Gitmo guards who are speaking out about conditions at the center. But in addition for adding to the chorus calling for the camp’s closure, he has a message for fellow Muslims.

If the Prophet Muhammad were to come back to Earth today, Holdbrooks said, he would find the best examples of Islam in the United States. American Muslims have a responsibility to live their faith so others can see a true example, not the perversions of the terrorists or the tyranny of corrupt governments in some majority-Muslim nations.

“You can’t be afraid to be a Muslim in public,” Holdbrooks said. “Tell your neighbors you’re Muslim. Invite them into your home. Invite them to visit the masjid to see our secret bomb factories.”

“If it’s time to pray – pray. The whole world is an acceptable place to pray.”

Note for further reading: A book just published by the University of Florida Press:“Selling Guantanamo: Exploding the Propaganda surrounding America’s Most Notorious Military Prison” by Berry College associate professor of government John Hickman, takes the idea of its prison back to its original justification.

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| Muslims must not apologise for terror – they are no more responsible than the rest of us!

Muslims must not apologise for terror – they are no more responsible than the rest of us ~  ,  Politics.co.uk.

It is too early to know exactly what happened in Woolwich this afternoon, but it seems very likely it was a terrorist killing of a British soldier by Islamic extremists.

Shortly after it emerged it could be a terrorist attack, a hashtag appeared online: #notinmyname. The Muslims who expressed this sentiment had honourable motives, but it is a mistake. They do not need to condemn what has happened. This killing has no more to do with them than it does with the rest of us.

Doing so suggests Muslims are somehow more responsible for the attack than other Brits. It vindicates the central message of Islamic extremists: that we are not, ultimately, British. We are Christians, Muslims and Sikhs, endlessly divided by race and faith and culture.

This is false. It has always been false. We are Brits first.

When World War Two began, many intellectuals openly wondered how long it would take for British society to collapse into civil chaos. People assumed a society so strained by inequality and competing political groups could never withstand such pressure. To a very important extent, France failed to do so. In Britain, the essential solidarity of the people prevailed. 

It prevailed during the Blitz. It prevailed during the IRA strikes. And it prevailed after 7/7. This is as diverse a society as any in the history of mankind. But it is British, and united, regardless of race or religion or even income. There is no reason to mention such things in day-to-day life. But on days like today, we should proclaim them proudly.

Muslims have nothing to apologise for and nothing to justify. They are no more culpable for what happened this afternoon than I am for the insane rants of Nick Griffin.

ITV today showed footage of a black man dressed in western clothes, his hands covered in blood, talking to the camera. “In our land our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe,” he says.

And yet he speaks in a London accent. This is his land.

Now we will have to undertake the solemn, confusing, despairing process of understanding how people who live in our society could do this to other people in it. That is the debate which should take place. How can Britain still be so beset with alienation that these events could take place?

But that is a question for Brits to answer: not for British Muslims alone. In so far as anyone outside the killers is culpable, we are all culpable.

And when we answer this question, we should remember the following piece of information: After they dragged his body into the road, a group of women crowded around the body and protected it from the assailants. That’s why he mentioned the women in the first place. Because they were brave enough to stand between thugs and their victim.

Those women represented Britain too.

The opinions in politics.co.uk’s Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.


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