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 region, 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”