Everybody wants the world to be black and white, with the good folk on one side and the bad on the other: a simplistic binary world we can easily align ourselves with according to our disposition. Unfortunately the world is not like this at all. Continue reading “Conspiracy”

Agitated faith

I wonder. Should I be envious of my fellow converts who know themselves to be rightly guided? Should I be envious of their fanaticism, which enables them to declare others heretics with such certainty? Should I wish for a faith like theirs?

Daily I rebuke myself for my sins. Daily I measure myself against truer believers, clothed in their righteous garb, and see how far I fall short. Constantly I question my own faith, and my sincerity, praying for guidance despite myself. And when, momentarily, that fleeting thought crosses my mind, suggesting for an instant that I am rightly guided, my inner voice quickly admonishes me: ‘Why would a sinner like you be blessed so?’

Sometimes, it is true, I am envious of the pious ones, with their self belief and constancy. But in truth: I despise the fanaticism which blinds us to possibilities beyond ourselves: to insist on the absolutely preposterous, in the face of all evidence, simply because we have convinced ourselves that it is part of faith. No, leave me to my agitated faith that might, one day, carry me home.

Obscure outliers

How satisfyingly simple the world of Islam must appear from outside: just those two big groups of Sunni and Shia Muslims, and a scattering of obscure outliers.

How peculiar is reality, once you’ve passed through the door and find yourself in that claustrophobic room looking out. Here are the multitudinous sects and sub-sects, each one rejoicing in what they themselves have, as they declare all others than themselves outside the fold. Continue reading “Obscure outliers”

Reopen the books

It is always astonishing to encounter people who describe themselves as libertarians advocating for a final solution to deal with a group of people they have convinced themselves are a threat to us all. Remarkable all the more when they present themselves as historians, well versed in apparently obscured narratives of the distant past. If you can’t recall recent European history — horrors witnessed by our grandparents’ generation — how can you possibly judge tales of the ancients and claim yourself an undisputed expert, with the solution to all our problems? Open those books and read your history all over again.

Strange advocates

I don’t have a problem with ordinary people campaigning for the release of a charged suspect held in pre-trial detention. However I do find it peculiar when the campaign is taken up by the news channel of the public broadcaster of a country which is holding 50,000 people in pre-trial detention for alleged membership of a banned organisation and which, furthermore, recently passed a law allowing the period of pre-trial detention to be increased to seven years. Does the accused really need advocates such as these?


Not for nought was all of this created

I will be the first to admit that I have not blasted into space on a rocket to see first hand, with my very own eyes, that the earth is spherical. However I have walked by the sea and seen the gentle curvature of the horizon far off in the distance.  Continue reading “Not for nought was all of this created”

Our problem

Is the problem this: that we don’t do our own research? That we just parrot whatever we are told? That we don’t study history, so can’t put things in context? That we don’t look into things deeply, to probe and reflect? That we repeat what we are told without verifying it for ourselves? That we choose to trust those who tell us what to think, without asking whether they are trustworthy at all? Is this our problem?


The so-called crisis in Muslim leadership is nothing new. It is cyclical. Ten years ago it was the turn of the followers of the celebrity sheikhs of the Levant. A decade earlier witnessed the demise of the Salafi mission in North America. The characters change, but the same broad storyline recurs: charismatic figures are granted status far beyond their due, and in turn begin to abuse and exploit those that put them there, preying on the weakest amongst them, until ultimately a schism occurs between the most fanatical followers and those whose sincerity has been severely tested by the conduct of those they had believed were their guides. So don’t be alarmed by the latests crisis: they come around like clockwork. 1997, 2007, 2017. Mark my words, we’ll be here again in 2027 too, lamenting the fall of another great sage from amongst us, jolting the next generation out of their complacency, and hopefully creating that necessary inner inertia for renewed repentance and reform.

Caution in an age of fakery

It is of course true that in modern times absolutely everything can be faked. Photos can be faked, video can be faked, audio can be faked, testimony can be faked, hmm, probably even memories can be faked. And while advances in forensic investigation techniques enable experts to detect and highlight fakery, the masses are still easily fooled. So, yes, exercise caution when news comes to you. It is okay to be suspicious and to probe. But better to adopt a position of “I don’t know” than an absolute, “I am convinced” one way or the other. There is always a possibility that a mass of evidence has been fabricated in its entirety; on the other hand, it may be absolutely legitimate. Caution is a good thing, but we must exercise it equally on all sides and not just when it favours our friends.