No precedent

A respected scholar writes,

“We are at a very critical juncture in the history of Islam. There is no precedent for the spectacle that is created around the atrocious crimes, killings and murders of takfirist movements.”

But of course there is precedent, isn’t there? One only needs to pick up and read a history book to find that these kinds of outrageous crimes have been perpetuated throughout history by our coreligionists, from the very earliest days.

This approach of romanticizing the past is part of the problem.

Those perpetuating these despicable deeds know there is precedent for their behaviour, both in the actions of their predecessors and in their literary inheritance.

The job for those that condemn them is to first condemn the evils of the past, acknowledging that they were also wrong. To proclaim with loud voices that ours is a diverse tradition and that such unspeakable wrong has been committed in our name before, just as much as the breathtakingly good.

But that is a dangerous road few wish to travel down. The stakes are too high: a precipice on one side, rock falls from above on the other.

Whitewashing history and covering the truth are always preferable… but fool no one. Least of all the barbarians we must condemn.


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To be noticed

The lesson of the week for those seeking to influence public opinion is to not publish gory photos of children killed in war.

Ten thousand child deaths in Syria might have been avoided had there been an iconic photo capable of going viral (unfortunately most injuries were just too graphic for that).

The hundreds of children killed by Saudi Arabia in Yemen or by Israel in Gaza had no hope of reaching the masses and provoking global demands for change.

We must be pushed outside our comfort zones, yes, but not too much. The informed have known for years about the brutality of these wars and the desperate refugee crises caused by them.

Some hoped Angelina Jolie’s face would go viral to raise consciousness – and indeed she did an admirable job advocating on behalf of the destitute. But not even a pair of starving children eating breadcrumbs from the ground had the power to effect real change.

Only this photo could have gone viral. Gruesome but not offensive. Horrific yet sanitised. A peaceful babe in aweful circumstances. An angel that could speak to the masses.

Pity the thousands of other tragic children who could not speak and be heard either in life or death, whose unspeakable wounds were seen but never noticed.


Why do Tradtionalist Sheikhs insist on publicising the dreams of unknown individuals on Facebook as if it is certain proof of something? This evening it is the grandson of the Prophet, peace be upon him, telling an unnamed student that the coming of the Dajjal is near at hand. Perhaps it is so, but have some wisdom: stop causing despair and hysteria with these foolish Status Updates. Unchallenged apocalyptic eschatology has already laid waste to most of Syria and beyond. These teachers just need to stop and read some history: every generation has seen itself living amongst signs that herald the end of days. It has been thus for over a thousand years, since the earliest days. And every generation has been exploited by the tale bearers too. Won’t the Traditionalist scholars just desist?

Talking to power

A government may argue, as the Turkish government inevitably does, that it must curb freedom of expression in order to protect the State from meddling outside forces.

It may have a point, for the National Security Archives at George Washington University are replete with examples of popular uprisings dreamed up in the corridors of Whitehall and the Pentagon. The United States’ Operation Ajax and Britain’s Operation Boot spring to mind.

Even so, this argument barely washes with loyal supporters, let alone political opponents. As mere observers, to the normal man and woman on the street, it looks suspiciously like untamed megalomania. Trust is waning.

Turkey has two problems here. The first is that outside forces are indeed meddling in its affairs, and trying their very best bring it to its knees. Gezi Park was supposed to be Turkey’s Tahrir Square; we all remember the manipulation of images in the world Press and on Social Media in its favour.

But the second problem is that ostentation and self-absorption really does appear to have taken hold in the ruling party. It appears incapable of accommodating the pluralistic society it is charged with serving, so much so that anyone that criticizes its present strategy is automatically considered an enemy force.

I don’t know if the present Turkish government will recover when snap elections are held in November. The current wave of unrest and violence, though blamed once more on outside forces by the government, looks just too suspicious to ordinary voters. Will Nationalist voters, appalled by their party’s refusal to form a coalition, return to the Justice & Development Party in large numbers, or will their trust have been shaken by the seemingly convenient hard line all of a sudden taken by a party that was absolutely committed to peace with their sworn enemies?

Difficult times lie ahead. If I was eligible to vote in Turkish elections, my heart would probably lead me to choose one of the Leftist parties, apparently more egalitarian, dynamic and fair. But my head, mindful of what the government has achieved against what it inherited, would say: play it safe, don’t turn back the clock to the dark days of militant secularism, where religious practice was severely curtailed and sometimes criminalised. Credit where it’s due.

The problem for the Justice & Development Party is that young voters have little or no experience of the political repression and economic stagnation which preceded its rule, so cannot appreciate the change it brought. Older voters, meanwhile, do remember those dark old days — and contemporary curbs on freedom of expression and belief are all too reminiscent of them.

The government claims it is taking a difficult path in order to protect the State from meddlesome external forces. But this just won’t wash with the electorate. It desperately needs to rethink its strategy; it needs to connect with its citizens, whoever they are and whatever they believe. It needs to listen as much as it demands to be heard.

Democratic Reforms

Turkey is in need of many democratic reforms, but first amongst them must be to restrict a Prime Minister’s tenure to no more than two terms.

A party which began by doing so much good — yes, bringing both justice and development as promised — seems to be rapidly spinning out of control in its efforts to maintain power.

The Prime Minister turned President should have retired years ago, when his legacy was one to be proud of. Now it is just a tragically unfolding spectacle too painful to watch. It is like the Blair years on repeat.

Nobody remembers any of the positive reforms the early Blair government presided over — the Peace Process, SureStart, improved NHS care — we only recall the long, bitter wars and economic collapse that followed.

I fear for Turkey these days. Power, once it has been tasted, is too delicious to abandon, too addictive to give up. It is a drug too powerful for the soul. The next government needs to self-medicate: introduce a cap on the number of terms a leader can serve.

Let the honourable leave office honoured and respected. Don’t wait until you’re despised, and verging on the brink of insanity.

DeenPort Runaways

It’s a long time since I’ve had the ability to post comments on the DeenPort forum. I deleted my account over five years ago and though I sometimes feel compelled to join again in order to respond to a particular thread, it appears that MAMA (the automated moderation system) is set to immediately auto-ban me. So instead I look on from afar, checking in now and then to see what people are talking about these days. Continue reading DeenPort Runaways

Of Ice Cream, Apples and Lollipops

I respect your right to boycott companies you believe to be supporting Illegal Occupation. But some consistency please.

The other day I was asked to forgo a delicious serving of top quality ice cream on a day out because it was manufactured by a local subsidiary of a massive Anglo-Dutch multinational, which up until two years ago had another local subsidiary operating in Illegal Settlements in Occupied Territory.

Bowing to international pressure from the boycott movement, that multinational has now closed its subsidiary’s plant in Occupied Territory and ceased operations there. So congratulations, problem solved: a success story for the movement.

Of course that outcome makes no difference to the army of activists ready to pounce on every ill-considered purchase, suspect barcode or teatime treat. I still don’t get to eat my ice cream, because though the parent company of this local subsidiary has ceased operations deemed illegal, it nevertheless continues to invest in a state which is engaged in an Illegal Occupation.

And this is where I start to get agitated by the inconsistencies of the activists. Believe me, I’m not just bitter at being deprived my sugar and fat fix for that day. I’m really not that big an ice cream junky. It’s the selectiveness at play.

Why am I asked to forgo a fruity ice cream worth a few pennies, but activists are willing to make an exception to principles in order to get their hands on Apple’s new iPhone 6, worth several hundred pounds? Indeed, isn’t it at all problematic that there’s a clever iPhone App for the boycott movement, given that Apple is such a big investor in the state?

Of course it’s not just Apple: Intel, Microsoft, Google, HP, Motorola, Qualcomm, Broadcom, HP, Cisco Systems, eBay, Facebook, Amazon, SanDisk, VMware, IBM and many more tech companies we rely on daily are all big investors in the state.

The technologies we rely on daily are the elephant in the room. It’s easy to tell people to buy different jam or eat a different cheese, to avoid this detergent or that brand of carbonated sugary water. But who’s willing to jettison Android, iOS or Windows in favour of some technological homebrew, untainted by the unparalleled Research and Development of an advanced colonial state? Very few.

The other day we abandoned our quest for oh-so-tasty ice cream in that breezy garden on a hill. Instead we sat in a hot car outside a supermarket on a busy road in the city centre and ate a poor substitute on lolly sticks. Clearly even that was a luxury given that the victims of the Occupying State mostly live in abject poverty, affected constantly by water shortages, discrimination and extreme brutality on a daily basis.

But I must confess that I was not a willing participant in that act of boycott: I was a participant in hypocrisy, looking up details on the alleged sins of the ice cream company via a Google search on an Android smartphone with a Qualcomm chip. It was gesture politics at its worst.


Others are tested by their circumstances. I am consistently tested by myself. And consistently fail. The battle with the nafs is unending. Success always illusory. Disappointed by myself but evidently not disappointed enough to change.