Red lines

Personally it doesn’t bother me if a Muslim government wants to buy sophisticated weapons systems from Israel or sign energy deals to benefit from their Eastern Mediterranean gas fields.

But if you’re going to condemn me for eating ice cream manufactured by a global multinational which has a subsidiary that once traded in Israel, I should at least be allowed to wince at the gross hypocrisy when you constantly celebrate the President’s popularist platitudes regarding Israel.

While you were busy checking the barcodes on jam to make sure it wasn’t made in Israel, the government of the self-appointed saviour of the Muslims has been busy courting billions of dollars worth of bilateral trade with the very nation it condemns in public.

You must forgive my bitter cynicism, but I see all of these bold proclamations simply as part of the perpetual electioneering strategies of those desperate to cling hold to power at whatever cost.

Red lines may appeal to the masses, but as they say: actions speak louder that words.

Even angels ask

Most of us start with a position and then collect all of the available information to support it. In life, we are like undergraduate students who decide on a conclusion for their essay, and then set about gathering the data to prove their contention. Anything that does not conform to or support our position, we jettison and throw away. Anything that does support our position, no matter how spurious or contentious, we champion as incontrovertible evidence that must not be questioned. Continue reading “Even angels ask”

Laws of the universe

There are many laws of the universe I don’t like very much, but my liking or disliking them has no impact on them. We can choose where we stand, but our choice does not change the law.

I don’t very much like the incredible violence and energy that led to the creation of our sun and solar system billions of years ago, or the brutal tectonic forces which nevertheless maintain the integrity of our planet, or weather systems capable of both nurturing life and smashing it to pieces. If you smoke, there is a high probability that you will develop lung cancer; naturally we dislike such laws, but they are a reality.

Ultimately, my opinion of the laws of the universe have no bearing on their continuing existence. Perhaps that is why I have difficulty answering the questions of one who comes to me demanding to know what I think: because what I think is immaterial to its reality.


It is funny when you discover that things you believe to be true are not true at all. I have been walking this path nearly twenty years. To me, my Islam is self-evident. But it is not so. Rarely do others link my behaviour, my utterances or my associations to my beliefs. Even when I have been spotted praying in a mosque, people must jump to all manner of preposterous conclusions to explain away my presence. It is funny: I thought my faith was self-evident, but it turns out it is not so. No, I’m still just that odd eccentric I always was, traversing two worlds, but never really a part of either.

Old maps

It’s true that on old maps published a hundred years ago, there is no Israel, only Palestine. But then there’s no Pakistan, either. Another colonial misadventure that displaced 15 million people and left up to 2 million dead, spawning conflict and distrust that lasts to this day. Old maps can tell us lots, but you have to be prepared to examine them with open eyes. Often they bear witness against us.

Populist causes

These days I find myself puzzled by so many issues which animate my brethren. The truth is, I am too much detached from the populist causes which many raised in a Muslim culture imbibe as essentially religious matters. To me, such issues are often overwhelmingly political — and the legacy of the politics of past empires at that. Caliphs in the dim and distant past legitimised political decisions by coopting the sanctity of religion, and so here we are hundreds of years later championing the same cause as a measure of piety and belief.

Most of us don’t have any inkling of Muslim history further back than the European colonial period, except for a very whitewashed version of it. If we adopted the same moral stance that we take towards our enemies today, we would condemn most of the actions of the Muslim imperial forces of old. If we had to adopt the same moral stance, might we have to reconsider the actions of our own conquerors, whom we conveniently call “liberators”? At some point would we need to reconsider the 9th century dogma that makes our position exactly the same as the enemy we decry?

How is it that when our people transgress boundaries, we pass over it, whereas when our enemy does the same thing, we are suddenly animated in the cause of law, justice and morality? Isn’t it simply about whose side you are on? We champion what is sacred to us, just as our enemies do. We may have the moral high ground today, but it is built of the shaky foundations of the past — and who dares reexamine such foundations, when popularism has transmogrified politics into deeply held faith?


Peoples have been fighting over this city for 4000 years. From Canaanites to Egyptians to the Jewish people to Assyrians and Babylonians, from Persians to Romans to Arabs, and Turks, and Europeans. Empires have claimed it theirs for millennia, its inhabitants sometimes granted peace and security, and sometimes subjugated, exiled or put to death. Continue reading “Jerusalem”

Lamentations of the heart

May God forgive me for what is in my heart; for entertaining suspicions and doubts, negativity and assumptions. God knows that I feel bad that my heart harbours ambiguity about the innocence of a man well respected and admired.

Many of my friends frequently recommend his writing and laud his insight. Other friends know him personally and have spent quality time in his company. I once gave him a lift in my old banger and thought him a decent chap. When I listen to his speech, I think to myself, “This is a good man.” When I read what he has written, I think to myself, “He is wise and true.”

For those reasons, and many others, I have every reason to think the best of him, and to dismiss the allegations made against him as preposterous inventions, borne of malicious intent. I ought to be of those in the “benefit of doubt” or “innocent until proven guilty” camp.

Continue reading “Lamentations of the heart”

Not my place

Here in my ivory tower, it’s true: Islamohobia is one of those words I flee from. To me, it is like the term Anti-Semitism, which particularises racism, when there appears to be no real need to. Of course one can argue that both Muslims and Jews are not necessarily targeted because of their ethnic backgrounds, but simply for their adherence to a particular faith. But then that argument could be made for vast swathes of humanity, for whom we have not adopted a designation to describe particularised hatred. But we are where we are, and these labels are here to stay.

Continue reading “Not my place”

Due process

It is quite normal that, despite the presumption of innocence, a person under investigation can be considered potentially dangerous and preventive measures are thus put in place.

That is why school teachers who have had allegations made against them are normally suspended, even though those allegations may be totally unfounded and even vindictive.

They may well be exonerated at a later date, but it would be extraordinary for an institution to allow them to remain in post — or to speak in public — during an investigation into serious misconduct.

We shouldn’t allow our personal biases and attachments to cause us to treat cases involving those we respect and admire any differently, if we truly care about the protection of vulnerable people, as we claim we do.

Identity politics

It is a pity that Muslims have been coopted into supporting the hyper-capitalist and ecologically destructive agendas of Muslim governments, while leftist atheists, with their inherent anti-establishmentarianism, stand in defence of the environment and the poor.

A heavy weight

Every night when I head to bed, a voice within says, “Be quiet.” Speak good or remain silent. Restrain your tongue and typing fingers. As I lay my head on my pillow, these inner thoughts recur: “Disappear. Withdraw.” And each morning when I arise, I ask myself whether today will be the day when I respond to the inner petition: will I find the courage to vanish; to keep my thoughts to myself; to be like the commoners of old who had no reach or influence beyond their village or family.

But then the day wears on, and another voice says, “Express yourself. Speak good. Say what needs to be said.” And once more I am hammering on the keyboard, convinced for a moment that my words are important. That my words must be freed. And for a while it seems to be so. But by nightfall, that inner voice will return, petitioning me to withdraw. To free myself of these burdens. To become the nobody who walks unknown, influencing only his family and close companions.

Day and night, it has become a heavy weight on me, rending me in two.

Seeing the past in the present

It is not difficult to see how the pathway has been mangled over centuries and millennia. Just witness the behaviour of the powerful in their battles to maintain their grip of control. Watch how they crush their opponents, mobilising armies of fanatical followers to their own cause, to do their bidding in silencing all dissent. Continue reading “Seeing the past in the present”

Why are muslims…

Google Search is contextual, delivering specific results to its audience, based on what it has already learnt about you and your confirmation biases. Continue reading “Why are muslims…”


And then I ask myself, “Why do you write all these things?” And: “Wouldn’t it be so much better if you would just fall silent and disappear?” And: “Isn’t it all just self-deception: thinking to yourself that you are doing fine, as you head full steam into oblivion?” And I think to myself: “All the world thinks they have something important to say, to which they must give voice, believing themselves rightly guided.” And I wonder: “Am I just deluded?” And I wonder still: “Should I vanish now?”


“Being a candle is not easy,” says the preacher, with words he attributes to Rumi, “for in order to give light one must burn.”

Indeed so. But there’s another problem with being a candle: you easily disorientate and confuse a swarm of moths, which might otherwise have calibrated their flight to the light of the moon.

As Shakespeare has Portia say in The Merchant of Venice:

“Thus hath the candle singed the moth.
O these deliberate fools! When they do choose,
They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.”

Facing the enemy

A community under attack always goes into defensive mode, and with attacks and hostility rising exponentially that defensiveness will only increase. Which is a tragedy, really, because there is so much we need to talk about internally. We so desperately need to hold ourselves to account for a whole litany of abuses, injustices and crimes. Continue reading “Facing the enemy”


Every problem, anything: it is a Zionist plot, the Illuminati, the Rothschilds, the Americans, the Jews. Someone doesn’t like what you say: you’re a government agent. Something terrible has happened: it’s a false flag operation. Someone’s accused of a crime: he’s been framed.

Tired of this pseudo-religion. Our Book speaks of those who have wronged their own souls. Our Book says turn in repentance. Our Book says don’t attribute purity to yourselves. Our Book says be just, take yourself to account. Our Book says Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what’s in themselves.

Our Book presents us a rational worldview: a means to fix ourselves and our communities. But as for this tiresome pseudo-religion: I’ve had enough of it. I’m tired of the perpetual refrain of victimisation, in which everyone else is to blame, and never ourselves. So tired.

Peculiar morality

When we fail to practice what we preach, all of a sudden we’re moral relativists. When others fail to practice what we preach, they’re transgressors who must be shamed by all. What a peculiar morality.


It is wonderful that you see dreams which predict the future and through which all things are made clear. I am envious, for my dreams are ever of the mundane. Friends of mine see themselves flying in theirs; at most, I only see myself struggling with hills. Yes, dreams teeming with apparent meaning are a wondrous thing.

But remember that the entourage around Mohammed Abdullah al-Qahtani, who laid siege to Masjid al-Haram in 1979, also had lucid dreams, in which they believed him to be the Mahdi. At first they did not believe the dreams. But as they became more vivid, and all of them began to see similar dreams, so they became convinced that their dreams were true. Sadly, that escapade resulted in 255 deaths next to the Kaaba.

So be careful, oh dreamful one. Keep your dreams to yourself. Dreams may indeed be part of prophecy, but for certain you are not a prophet. Be careful with your dreams, dear friend, for no matter how real and true you think they are, they are best kept between you and your Lord. And God knows best. Sweet dreams.


Everybody said that the refutation was irrefutable, so I thought I would give it a chance. But all it told me was that half the protagonists were Zionist Jews and the other half deluded psychotics. Beyond racism and contempt for people suffering from mental illness, there was no substance to the refutation at all. As usual, pervasive prejudice supplants the need for a persuasive argument. Is this what our intellectualism amounts to?


Without fail, every time I resolve to reform my soul, I almost immediately become preoccupied with new matters that do not concern me, which become an obsession, undermining my good intentions. In short, I replace one set of sins with another, and find myself entangled in a completely new web of my own making. It is a constant struggle.