Friday, 26 December 2014

Let us not challenge - Trojan Horse schools were doing their best!

Many times if opinions and comments are left unchallenged they are perceived to be accepted as genuine outcomes of issues. A month ago I met a lady who works as a teacher in one of the local primary school not far from the Park View School in Birmingham. She firmly believes it was unjustifiable to label the schools inadequate which were investigated after the letter with details of plans seeking to introduce Islamist was leaked. Her opinion rests on the presumption that some of the schools helped under-achievers gain the required higher grades necessary and this outcome in due time would have helped in raising the standard of the school too. She sympathized with the teachers who came under scrutiny after the OFSTED carried out inspection and also felt it was grave injustice to widen the investigations as some were labelled wrongly to be part of this plot.

Due to the seriousness of the outcomes, rightly or wrongly the nature of the investigations and media scrutiny were overwhelmingly extensive and broad based. Those who already believe that racism occurs from deliberate targeting of alien beliefs in society, view this negatively. And many commentators were quick to point out on twitter and in newspapers that schools introducing Islamic ethos are no different from other faith schools where Catholicism and Jewish faith are introduced to children in order to enhance their religious knowledge. Similarly many have argued that there is nothing wrong with segregation which was encouraged in the Trojan Horse schools because old independent schools like Eaton and Harrow have been practising it over much longer period of time and producing overall best results academically and nurturing students of high calibre.

For a gullible person these reasons will seem arguably justifiable enough to believe there was some deliberate attempt to derail the schools encouraging Islamic ethos. But let us examine the opinion that Trojan Horse schools are no different from other independent schools where girls and boys are taught separately. My ten year old daughter out of her own admission wants to go to a ‘girls only’ school, because she believes boys are aggressively competitive which makes it harder for girls to outshine. This view cannot be a deliberate enforcement of religious dogma. If many of the independent schools in Britain are Christian faith schools too, the evidence of discrimination towards pupils of other faiths is hardly there. Ethos of religious education taught in these schools does not give rise to mindset which is extremist, dogmatic and narrow-minded. Islamic education system taught in schools world over have yet to match parallels with British education system where direct religious teachings are not conflicting with principles of independent thinking and progressive outlook.

If Islamic education is based on the teachings of Quran and Haadith, how is it possible to separate the concept that non-Muslims are inferior in status and virtuosity is superior to intelligence!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Islamic state within a state—can it happen!

If one was to ask ‘what makes headlines for New Zealand?’ The obvious answer would be world class cricket team and the rugby players who mesmerize the crowds with their haka dance at the beginning of every match. But Te Amorangi Kireka-Whaanga has other ideas to boost the image of the egalitarian country well-known for its wealth of natural and scenic landscapes. The young man who heads the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association mentioned in a recent Facebook post that he has changed the organisation’s name to the Islamic State of Aotearoa.

Considering the violent reputation of the Islamic State in Middle East, one would imagine refraining from being considered as an ideologue of what the state proposes as common sense. But Kireka-Whaanga remains sympathetic towards the ISIS which conducts massacres and beheading of hostages. ‘IF you practice your religion then of course you’ll be 100 per cent behind Islamic State,’ he said while also claiming that he was not a violent person. His bizarrely warped claims include maintaining a desire to be ‘a peace advocate trying to achieve my goal of winning a Nobel peace prize.’

Mr Kireka-Whaanga is one more ‘lone wolf’ eager to Islamicize the community and society because somehow the principal of Western society are falling short of providing justice and peace to the world. This perception eagerly grasps the young men and women who are led to believe by the jihad-seeking religious teachers and community leaders that assimilation and integration is threatening the cohesion of Islamic values. The propagation to adopt religious principles which are largely alien to European values is now giving rise to ideas of new nations with hopes to supersede Christian nations. Across Germany, France and England the population of conservative Muslims are encouraging ethnic/religious separatism which in other terms means benefiting from immigrating without having to assimilate into society. The rise of unemployment and violence cannot be overlooked. Some level of violence has the advantage of ensuring separation from the outside world and can be used as a bargaining tool with the authorities to get more de facto autonomymeaning that Muslim enclaves are ruled only by Muslims according to Islamic lawas well as to obtain more funding. This kind of attitude  also serves  as a social control tool against liberal-minded Muslim individuals, for conservative Muslim leaders can easier exert pressure on liberal-minded Muslimsfor instance to compel females to don the veil.

Most incentives seeking government control over Muslims through establishment of organizations fail because orthodox Muslims see autonomy of religion as in direct opposition of what Sharia law states. The separation between the state and the religion overwhelmingly accepted by the European countries has not been accepted by the supporters of the Sharia law, who argue that religion is intrinsically interwoven with the affairs of the state.

In UK the growing concern and dismay about the rise of Islam is now brushed aside as racism and the sense of victim hood decapitate the purpose to examine the underlying intrinsic issues. Nevertheless it will become necessary to enforce the law of the state in a wise and gentle way to avoid a state within a state scenario.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Junaid Jamshaid – when misogyny is preached

If music is celebrated as having a soul, giving wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gayety to life, it is also irredeemably disapproved as fitna by many Muslims who believe that its promulgation misleads from Allah’s path. The profession of music and creating songs is perceived as a destroyer of morals and according to the Islamic scholar Imaam Shaafi the one who creates music ‘is an incompetent fool whose testimony is to be rejected.’ Such strong opposition is always a matter of debate and the ones who are adherent to follow Islam in the original form in order to uphold injunction that no invention can be allowed in Islamic laws, will always challenge perception that creativity, music and art are expression of humanity.

In the early nineties no one knew how best to view the emergence of a boy band, one of its kind in Pakistan. Five young men came on the television with version of pop songs in Urdu which instantly revived the interest in listening to local music. In a country where art and culture is always sliced, chopped and discarded away as irrelevant to national interests, the opposition against the group Vital Signs was huge. It was distraction, waste of time and very risky to promote the band which has learned nothing from the traditions of classical Urdu singing, that is a blend of classical instruments, poetry and highly rehearsed form of singing. But the group also gained wide acclaim from the youth and young people because of their popular lyrics, catchy tunes and persona of group members who were far better placed than the middle aged pop singers of the eighties.

Pinups, posters and teen magazines circulated in my college grounds, all containing images, gossip and news of the five group members known as, Junaid Jamshed, Rohail Hyatt, Shahzad Hasan and Nusrat Hussain. These guys became heartthrobs who mesmerized girls because of their talents and looks. Tickets to their concerts in those days cost a bombshell and as they were held in halls of five star hotels. With some deliberation the college council decided to approach the principal with the idea of arranging for Vital Signs to come and sing in the college hall. While the decision was being considered by the principal, the delay of the outcome worried us. There will be lots of people who would raise objections. Finally a day arrived when the whole college was summoned to the hall. The principal, a woman of steely frame of mind, in a stern and solemn voice explained to us the background of the rumours and reasons for the delay. A delegation of clerics along with the local imam met the principal and voiced their concerns for inviting over a boy band to perform in a college for girls. They issued a strong warning to the principal that she would be promoting sexual promiscuity among girls by inviting the band and everything she was doing was going against the teachings of Islam. In a milieu where opinions sway between common sense and illogic, the individuals who take right actions are the real gems. The principal decided to forgo all objections which were raised by the clerics and the concert was to go ahead as planned. We were made to promise that at no time during the concert we would get up from our seats, scream and shout in order to make the whole idea of having the concert in the college acceptable. The concert did take place. We got to see the group, heard their songs and enjoyed the scenario of being part of an entertainment where enjoyment matters.

Vital Signs went from strength to strength. Every album they produced was a bestseller. The quality of their songs matched by their music videos pioneered the interest in creating music for young people in Pakistan. But these days the lead singer Junaid Jamshed does not agree with these views! Junaid Jamshed now appears on the telly screens in religious talk shows expressing his regret that his interest in music led him to become a pop idol. He is keen to let the viewers know of the story of his transformation from pop idol to a religious redeemer. He is at ease to express his dislike for girls who screamed and shouted with excitement when he was a pop idol and he believes it is objectionable for women to drive altogether.

His religiosity tainted with misogynistic traits has rendered no services to his fellow countrymen and yet his fame has soared. By appealing to the sentiments of adopting austerity and humility as derived from the strict interpretation of Quran and Sunnah he has managed to remain in the limelight. The same kind of fame is not enjoyed, these days by other members of the Vital Sign group.

Junaid Jamshed appeals to those who are fettered in their sense of right and wrong and have taken to believe that matters can be resolved by the direct intervention of religion in daily matters. Even though the idea of bludgeoning opinions with the charge of blasphemy is abhorrent, I can’t help noticing that once again Junaid Jamshed’s misogynistic psyche is not questioned by his countrymen. Time and again he has considered women incapable of making sound decisions and judgements.

Age old views made fourteen hundred years ago in the land of Arabia are the bases for the rule of law for many in Muslim societies. And for as long as men like Junaid Jamshed are supported and admired for their ignorance in discriminating women, the suffering and injustice in the Muslim world will not end.

Monday, 15 September 2014

When wars don’t matter

 In my bookshelf rests an old file. The contents inside the file include typed papers, letters, some photocopies of articles taken from military digests and old newspapers cuttings. To sum in one sentence ‘the file contains story material of a soldier who fought in Malaya during World War II.’

Our desires to narrate occurrences and events, clear misunderstandings, mention some undisclosed facts lead us to write our experiences. The guiding principle for every writer is to be discovered by the stories he writes. My grandfather must have been led by the same purpose to have believed his experiences in Malaya as a soldier and then as a POW would make a good story to be shared with others. Life was full of upheavals and happenings and he never got a chance to write a book he intended to share with others.

He used to sit on his desk and write without ever lifting his head up if one was to come inside his study.  In those days you could hire a typist and he found one in the local bazaarone who never managed to get the spellings of his name right. Afterwards bundles of typed papers he distributed to his daughters and sons for proofreading. Few days later they would return the papers and complained of their inability to make it read like a story and not a report. The papers never went to a printing press or desk of editor but rather they lay forgotten in a shelf along with his other numerous filesmostly records of the small gypsum factory he owned.

When you express the intention to become a writer it is amusing how the relatives are the first ones to remind you they saw the budding writer in you anyway. In one of my trips to Pakistan this file was thrust in my hands and on my return journey to England I sat in the plane recalling the hopes attached to my ability to write his story by the old comrades and officers who knew him. I have yet to decipher how I build a momentum to a story which starts in Singapore where he was sent soon after he left the military academy in Dehradun to the time he was planning to escape the Japanese prison camp on the day the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. There are too many angles to the story, lots of facts to be verified and many loose and unexplainable ends to be put together. I struggle to envision the fear in his mind when a Japanese soldier rested the gun on his temple and was about to pull the trigger if it had not been for another Japanese officer who was passing by and stopped the soldier from firing the shothe wanted grandfather’s assistance to translate some maps written in English. I cannot fathom what inspired him to read the entire works of Shakespeare during his solitary confinement in the camp. Nor can I understand his emotions when he discovered, after leaving the prison camp that his father died a broken-hearted man. The Japanese severed all forms of communications for him and he could not write letters back home when he refused to do the Japanese drills. His father assuming he had been killed in action became ill and could not survive the emotional strain.

In all the human drama surrounded by the harsh world of war and strife there is one story which stands out for me. The English and Indian officers left to fend for their own lives came to form special bonds. Some kept in touch through writing letters long after the war was over. In 1971 the direct military confrontation between India and Pakistan led to a full fledge war. It was a year before my youngest uncle graduated from the Pakistan military academy. He became a POW during the war and was sent to a camp in India. With no forms of communications existent between the two countries the only source of information was the BBC radio for the families concerned about the welfare of soldiers and officers fighting far away from home. The news of a scuffle between Indian officers and Pakistani soldiers in a prison camp sent a wave of panic and apprehension. There was no way to ascertain who was alive and who was dead. The uncertainty worsened the frail health of my grandmother who had to be put on medication. My aunts and uncles recall the agony of seeing their mother every day becoming weak from the added concern of not knowing if her son was alive or dead. The scenario must have flooded memories of the war in Malaya because it was from the past grandfather dug out an old connection. Colonel Web an English officer who passed his retirement days in Essex was the company commander of his military unit in Malaya. A telegram was sent to him requesting his assistance in finding out about my uncle’s state. The wait was crucial but a telegram did arrive from England. Colonel Web sent a letter to General Jagjit Singh Aurora, another officer who was also stationed in Malaya during the war days and was serving as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Command of the Indian Army. He confirmed Colonel Web that my uncle was safe and well in a prison camp.

 Three soldiers from different backgrounds separated by circumstances of war and ideology did not uphold their differences when the matter was to build bridges for the sake of compassion and humanity. We need individuals like Jagjit Singh Aurora and Colonel Web who made it possible for us to believe our differences have no place to foster humanity.   

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Can we question Hamas without outrage?

So where do you begin when trying to understand the hostility of the Muslim world towards the state of Israel. There are so many angles to it that one gets muddled in the end and wonder if there is any logic to trying to negotiate peace in that region. But it is a matter of seeing a ray of light in the dark tunnel to save the lives of the civilians and innocent children on both sides which cannot be overlooked and for that purpose alone I will analyse the seething anger in the Muslim world against the Jewish state.

There is less of outpour of anger against Baghdadi the self-proclaimed caliph whose comments sparks fear that he is bent upon annihilating those who would disagree with his ideas of caliphate and he particularly sights his targets towards the Shias and the Jews, which makes him a dangerous character. This is by and large an example of state of amnesia which freezes a sense of liability to be defensive towards those regimes and extremist groups who want domination and control for undemocratic purposes. The condemnation of the US operation Desert Storm in 1992, against the forces of Saddam Hussein was widespread; the outpour of concern to allow the US to send forces in the region could not be matched by the machinations of Saddam Hussein who was a dictator with a reputation of relying on violence against his own people.

The build-up and escalation of the situation in Israel/Palestine has once again unleashed an out-pour of anger, rage and theories of harsh actions to compel Israel to back down. The sentiments of a young Muslim girl living in the suburbs of Connecticut and a boy living in the small town of Pakistan is pure rage and only directed towards Israel who is he aggressor in this conflict. The religious zealots are calling for Muslims to come and offer collective prayers to rid the pain and suffering of the people of Palestinians and some are chanting anti-Jewish sentiments. I found myself speechless when I cam across a young Pakistani boy’s comment on Facebook, stating that it is essential to ‘send Pak forces to Palestine for fight,’ and the greedy politicians wont do it because they are interested in earning dollars for themselves. He was bitter and angry that there is no chance for the soldiers to fight a just war because the state won’t agree to send the forces to Palestine. Today is Malala Yusoufzai’s birthday and to commemorate the occasion in order to highlight the importance of educating young girls can be overlooked, as I gathered from this comment on twitter, ‘Why are you supporting Malala? Why don’t you support children of Palestine?’ I remember three years ago asking a young Pakistani banker his opinion on the situation in Syria and he replied, ‘it is their problem, not ours.’

If Baghdadi is a lone crusader trying to establish a Sharia state in the desert lands of Iraq and the end of the bloodshed of Syria is not an immediate concern than why Palestine/Israel conflict an issue to provoke huge outrage in the Muslim world?  The religious zealots have long ceased to see the insanity of Hamas to create human shields and encourage little children to learn the art of weaponry. They are drawing their conclusions from medieval frame of mind when scriptures determined the purpose to create nations. Hamas is firing rockets on Israeli civilians and the military actions in Gaza are one of retaliation. The Palestinians suffered embargo because they amassed a cache of weapons and never focused on building infrastructure which could lead to a proper state. There can be no state of truce if one cannot see the damage and destruction done with the purpose to avenge and destroy the enemy without trying to analyse ones own wrong doing.

The rage in the Muslim world towards the Israeli retaliation has to be matched by rational debate which makes it visible that the tactics of Hamas to terrorize the people of Israel is also leading to the death of innocent Palestinians. The real question is who is ready to make that debate?

Saturday, 28 June 2014

MsSolidarity's blog : My Work

MsSolidarity's blog : My Work: As freelance writer I contribute articles on wide variety of topics on local and international politics.     I fo...

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Abduction of 3 Israeli teens to escalate tensions.

The imploding situation created by the ISIS and Syria is unleashing human misery requires immediate actions and those earnestly hopeful of ending the violence through political means are not getting the message.  Middle East is smouldering in flames but the tragedy unfolds rather sinisterly when children are used as shields to make gains and negotiate deals, possibly to swap prisoners who maybe wanted in some serious terror related crimes. When besieged by likelihood of defeat, the attacking and mutilating of human instincts and emotions becomes a winnable formula for the militants.

The recent incident of three Israeli teenagers abducted in the West Bank has escalated the tensions between Israel and the new Palestinian government. The distraught face of Naftali Frenkel ’s mother trying to give hope to her son that very soon he will come back home is troublesome to watch. Like any other mother the first and foremost concern for her will be the safety of her son when he leaves home. To forcefully withhold and keep away any child from the safety of his/her home and family environment is a tactic which sends a message of fear and intimidation by the perpetrators. People in Israel are worried not only for the safety of those three boys; they are concerned as to how the situation in an already precarious environment where so much uncertainty exists will unfold for them, as the days will pass by.

If Hamas is behind these kidnappings it is a tragedy for those Muslims who want to live alongside the Jews and have nothing to do with the tactics of intimidation. It is every child’s right to acquire education but religious extremism indoctrinated to support extreme measures of violence has turned many children into Jihadist fighters. To be used as instruments to support Islamic ideologies which encourage individuals to accept fighting as a just cause is now blatantly accepted by the radicals who indoctrinate young minds to take up arms and weapons and chant Quranic verses. So many young children are being robbed of their childhood because chances of peace are hijacked by the terrorists who will mastermind extreme acts to suit their own vested interests.

AT a time when options for peaceful settlement between the Palestinians and the Israelis should have exceeded this incident will create repercussions which will further divide them and will lead to tensions, fear and uncertainty in the region.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Iraq War legacy---why is it so blurred!

The article was previously published in on 3 March, 2013.

So it is ten years after the invasion of Iraq by the coalition forces. The speculation that the decision to go to the war was a disastrous mistake which ultimately eroded public trust in the politicians and gave rise to sentiments that intervention can only lead to protectionism and safeguarding of self-interest still reigns down heavily against the judgment that Saddam Hussain was a brutal dictator involved in the genocide of Kurdish people and severely suppressed freedom of speech among his own people.

Any argument in favour of replacing the regime to uplift the economic conditions of the country which by the year 2003 had a weak and deteriorating economic structure, despite being ranked seventh in the list of oil producing nations, is proven weak by the anti-war protestors and the peace activists who rally around the argument that economic sanctions were enough to remove Saddam Hussein.

Leaving aside the statistics, various available data analysis and the reports on the build-up of the decision that war was inevitable there can be little validation to the fact that there is no accountability of the objectives and methods employed by the single entity of power to establish the rule of law which infringes human rights. Dictatorship thrives on absolute power and an individual who wants total control over social and economic organizations will rely on a highly developed ideology to justify doing so. And if Islamization is supported as the rule of law it is the women who suffer the most.

Whether it is the right to drive a car without the need of a chaperone or the ultimate necessity to give protection to the victim of rape and not demand witnesses to prove that the crime had been committed, if the basic argument rests against the need to change these practices because the principles of a faith interpret it differently than it cannot lead to an equal status of women in society. Strict interpretation of Quran in many parts of the world has become an exception to morally validate the case that women should apply a social code which was established in the advent of Islam. With no laws in place to allow freedom of speech and open debate very little can be achieved to make women feel secure and safe. A dictator will choose any law that gives him immunity from leaving power and time and again in the Muslim world the ideals of sharia law have been upheld by totalitarian regimes.

Let us not be deluded by the belief that an organized system of governance brings prosperity where voices which seek change are suppressed and made to remain silence. Iraq has seen its share of tragedy, much need to be done to keep it stable and away from the chaos of a civil war but then for the first time people have the right to vote in general elections. Every war has its ugly consequences but then can we justify the emergence of dictators! The cries to silence the support for the intervention in Iraq blur the objectives----lamenting the reasons for the overthrow of dictatorship is intellectual laziness which hinders taking responsibility for change. 

Monday, 9 June 2014

Trojan horse plot—what should Muslims do.

Some are not only questioning the facts behind the Trojan horse report, they are blaming it as a smear campaign against those members of the Muslim community of Birmingham, who want their children to be educated so as to be better informed about knowledge of Islam.

The extremist character of the schools originated because there was a demand for a system of education that is to make children well aware of a certain Islamic character which can sometimes conflict with the secular curriculum. To make a clear definition of what exactly constitute as a conflict between secular education and religious Islamic education I found the answer in the bloghtt:// conclusive. The author of the blog is a Muslim mother who gives home-schooling to her five children because she believes this method of teaching ‘freely interlink’ secular education with religious beliefs. Among other preferences for giving home schooling, she also highlights the freedom to choose not to study Evolution Theory or teach it in light of ‘our religious belief.’ She goes on to explain that she has set aside a dedicated amount of work for Islamic Studies which includes reading Quran, its commentary (tafsir), books of hadith and explanations from scholars as part of the lesson plans for her children. The blog has all the relevant information for anyone interested in starting home-schooling with emphasis on Islamic educationfrom Muslim home-school planners to Home Education UK and necessary text book to teach children maths, literacy, religion the web-links are there. What I find distressing is the mother’s preference for English Grammar pages where worksheets of nouns, verbs, articles, conjunctions, syllables, suffixes, prefixes, prepositions have images of characters with no physical features and some showed little girls wearing head coverings. The strict interpretation of Islam forbids drawing images of human beings and animals and many families readily accept material for children where drawing of physical features is omitted. Surely a child who is given to accept this belief will find it hard to assimilate with the secular world around him or her later in life. The division between the world confined to religious interpretation and the outside world will lead to extremist thoughts and sense of seclusion since no interplay between cultural influences from the society have been allowed to penetrate.

I doubt the reasons would be any different for some of the parents, governors or teachers who allowed the schools to overly adopt the local Muslim culture in the schools involved in the inspection which led to the Trojan horse report in Birmingham. ‘Localism’ cannot be confused with religiosity and schools should not be allowed to nurture young minds on the ideas which only lead them to the understanding that an identity based on belief and faith is what essentially matters.

In secular societies faith is a personal matter and Britain’s secular outlook has never been a challenge to Muslim communities all over the country. The debate culminating from the  ‘Trojan horse’ plot is not about immigration, Islamophobia or education secretary’s insistence that institutions should be under a centralist control. It is time for Muslim community to rise above ethos and sensibilities which create division with the secular world.      

Worksheets with faces without expressions and little girls in head scarves.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Pakistani Woman Stoned to Death Another Victim of Honour Killing

Hearts are pounding, blood pressure is rising and anger is building at the sight of a woman lying lifeless on the ground of Lahore High Court in Pakistan. She is one more casualty or victim of honour killing that we get to read about-----many incidence of are never reported to the authorities. Cries of condemnation and protestations are muffled for the sake of keeping up the pride of the family and a crime is not seen as a crime anymore. Soon it becomes acceptable to see women as perpetrators in trying to bring shame to their families by making a choice to either marry someone they love or refusing to marry someone they don’t love. Being of Pakistani origin I often come across questions to determine whether my environment connotes a situation where choices have been forced on me. Although I am fortunate to have a partner who supports me but each time someone inquires me a part of me wrenches back to recall stories of friends and cousins who were made to realize they had no right to make their own choice in the country of my origin.

If open and democratic societies are to function in an environment where civil liberties and freedom of choice is to be given to all, isn’t it the duty of every democracy-loving political party in Pakistan to stage similar protest to condemn honour killings like they do to protest against TV channels whose views are considered unacceptable because they support forces with agenda working against the national integrity, or to highlight drone attacks in the Northern region. If Islam is a religion to uphold the honour of a woman will this incident bring some condemnation from religious scholars and commentators like Dr Farhat Hashmi, Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Aamir Liaquat who have always highlighted Western ideologies as the root cause of moral degradation and immorality in societies!

The reason why Shafilea Ahmad was killed by her own parents is 2003 in Bradford are no different from what caused the death of Farzana Iqbal. In both cases parents killed their own daughter. While Mr Iqbal who married Farzana claims that nobody came to help his wife when she was being attacked by her own family members, it is believed that Shafilea Ahmad’s parents were helped by others in disposing off her body. Misogyny which leads to crimes of honour killings is aided and supported by feudalism or interpretation of a belief which considers women as inferior and dependant on male support to exist in society.

Is it reasonable to hope that Muslim scholars and commentators in Britain will be forthcoming in highlighting honour killings and crimes against women which take place within their own community; because they do happen! Surely saving a human life is of more value than blasphemy charges on creating cartoons and debating segregation in universities. 

The Next EU President

With the rise of the far-right parties in Europe is it possible to turn the tide and save the EU commission from disintegration! The results of the recent elections were far from being unpredictable as Cameron himself admitted that he ‘absolutely understood and received the message,’ of voters disillusionment with the future of EU.

However the seemingly simple message from UKIP leader Nigel Farage that immigration is the real issue behind sluggish economy and unemployment is non-existential and not true. In the globalized world of ours economy and trade seeks no boundaries and Britain can achieve sizable gains from investment and business opportunities offered by other European countries. EU provides the mobility to debate climate catastrophes and youth unemployment and it can also be the corridor to offer faith and democracy to closely co-operating states like Ukraine, because in the complex global society it is not divisions, but the soft power of negotiating agendas, relations and economic advantages which matter.

The resounding message of the European elections is that the anxieties around unemployment, austerity measures and immigration from within the EU are proving to be a fertile ground for xenophobic, divisive, and exclusionary forces. In order to send the message across that European Union is a platform to debate and restructure new policies, the political leaders will need to focus on creating a sense to connect with the ordinary citizens, in order to prove that there will be genuine political participation and representation which will lead to debate.

Politics is about personality and if EU members are deciding on whom to elect as the next EU president it is essential that they chose someone who can establish optimism that EU Commission offers meaningful answers to the problems of economic growth and supports the values of an open society. The next president should be able to understand the need to build alliances which will lead to formation of liberal free market blocks. How the eurozone to be made robust and sustainable is what the EU leader should be focused on achieving. Questions on maintaining or abandoning austerity policies should lead to serious debates in the parliament. So far the rise of the far-right parties has undermined the parliament’s claim to democratic legitimacy and the next president will have to convincingly work to prove that the EU has more to offer in terms of participation in lawmaking. 

This obviously requires someone who has worked over broad spectrum successively and has a statesmanlike personality with important portfolios on the international diplomatic stage. If the contenders for the election have to be really well-grounded in understanding the dire need to campaign against the withdrawal from euro and crackdown on immigration the message has to be resounded clearly. The message from the UKIP party does not resound diversity of globalization which creates opportunities and cannot be blamed for giving rise to disengaged societies burdened by the collapse of benefit and health system. A disintegrated Europe will not work in favour of Britain to exercise weight and influence in the world.

The voters have to be won over and EU members must realize that the next leader has to address the democratic debate that ‘Brussels,’ has to change to gain popular support and legitimacy in the longer term.

Sunday, 27 April 2014

Is it acceptable to allow inclusion of faith teaching in schools?

As soon as Trojan Horse made headlines many voices are trying to brush it aside by agreeing that this is yet another plot to malign the ideals of social cohesion which is dependant on religious education.

It is up to an individual’s interpretation as to what role religion can play in modifying their views and ideas. However it becomes problematic when ideals of faith are taken too seriously as to undermine the existing social structure. If schools are teaching ethical values of sharing, supporting their class fellows and obeying the rules, along with understanding how to deal with bullying it encompasses to some extent the necessary character building values for children. It should not be frowned upon as deficient and not enough to make Muslim children feel they have no essential grasp of what it takes to being a good Muslim.

Creativity which allows you to think and create using imagination and emotions has never been best friends with religion. Many Islamic schools of thoughts encourage drawings of faces without features and restrict artistic exploration within the confines of what is termed as Islamic Art. Music so essential in promoting sensory perceptions and sometimes the best aid for children of special needs can no longer be something to be taught and learned in academies and after school clubs. Dialogue to challenge ideas and question them has never been a role model for those who will frown upon the littlest disparities when it comes to following a religion.

I would like to ask families whose overriding concern is to educate their children in the best of Islamic ways, can the essentialness to wear head coverings, eating halal food and offering prayers regularly benefit their children in the practical world! Academics and a proper grounding in trying to live and exist with everyone else are compromised by trying to lay extraordinary emphasis on the religious character building.

In a globalize world is it right to expect deferential treatment on the basis of your beliefs or should you learn to live along with others without causing too much mayhem by drawing lines to portray your individual identity.