Honeytrap

Yes, there is a conspiracy against you. It’s terrible, awful. But note that there would be no conspiracy against you, had you not been engaged in a conspiracy of your own. I think of you a bit like a bee that stings in defence, only to rupture its own abdomen, causing sudden death.

Lived history

Prior to the autumn of 1993, I knew nothing of Islam. It wasn’t on my radar. I may have heard mutterings of the Satanic Verses saga from a teacher one cold morning in 1988, but it meant nothing to me. From those first Muslims I ever came into contact with as I entered sixth form college, I only learned two things: Muslims don’t eat pork and shouldn’t drink alcohol. The first time I ever saw somebody wearing the hijab in real life was in 1994. She was an English student, the daughter of a convert, and the only person in the college to dress that way.

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The blank cheque

Every spoken word has context. Nothing said endures in isolation. You can speak the truth, but still have an ulterior motive. You can be both good and bad, both sincere and insincere, depending on the urge of the moment. You can be both a voice in the wilderness and the wilderness. You can be both a hero and a demon. As the poet says: To good and evil equal bent, and both a sinner and a saint!

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Those who ask no fee

I just came across a Facebook post lamenting the apparent lack of support for religious institutions amongst the faithful. I’m not exactly sure how true that is, for our communities seem to be forever reaching into their pockets to finance new institutions.

In any case, these are the thoughts that sprang to mind: perhaps people recall that fellow in the oft recited Surah Ya-Sin, who came running from the farthest end of the city, saying:

“O my people, follow the messengers. Follow those who ask of you no fee, and who are rightly guided.” — Quran 36:20-1

We all know of teachers who work by day in trade and academia, who give of their free time to the service of others, in the spirit of that prophetic refrain found throughout the Quran…

“No reward do I ask of you for it: my reward is only from the Lord of the Worlds!”

If it is really true that people are worried about paying for sacred knowledge, perhaps this is the reason. Though I suspect, if the weekly collection bucket at Jummah prayer is anything to go by, that it may be more down to saturation. I don’t think anyone could doubt the generosity of the faithful when asked to dig deep.

To the one we wronged

I’m sorry. I’m sorry that we drove you out of the religion. I’m sorry that we drove you from the path you once embraced with sincerity and passion. The one you once pursued with all that inner strength of yours, that forced you to sit at the feet of those you thought would guide you, enlighten your soul and raise you to great heights. I’m sorry that instead we trampled you under our feet, and slandered your name and spoiled your reputation everywhere we went.

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On white saviour complexes

As a youngster, at around the age of 15, I became interested in the field of sustainable development. An article in the magazine of a Sunday newspaper about life in Burkina Faso had particular influence on me. From that moment on, I was convinced that my future lay in working on rural projects in central Africa that aimed at alleviating poverty amongst some of the world’s poorest people.

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Weapons of mass distraction

Leave me, if you must. I will not rush to rehabilitate the reputation of a predator, however highly he is held in esteem, or however eloquent his speech, or however wise he seems. The silos have been opened, an assault has been launched, the incendiary payload delivered: distraction for the masses, in the latest skirmish to regain ground lost in battle. But I will not join this campaign.