Heightened Senses

Hello. I'm Imraan. This is the only thing I own outright; and yes, I'm wearing a T-shirt.

Month: September, 2012

A brilliant edition of ‘The Stream’ speaking of the cartoons and the rage that followed it; is such a shame that more voices of moderation aren’t given this kind of exposure.

That said, I think the discourse lets-off too easily the greater power-play here – I read it as classical orientalism – a way of subduing the Eastern man because he is quick to murderous rage, necessitating condemnation from Western Governments and schooling in what it is to live in the ‘modern world’ (thank you President Clinton, you very wicked man).

Nouman Ali Khan was particularly excellent – speaking of the moral imperatives as opposed to the legislative ones which are important. And I think that that moral space should be recognised; as a person of ‘belief’, I wonder if it is a failing on the part of the faithful that this has been allowed to be perpetrated; our world today seems to be blinded by the notion of rights that extend even to the bigoted (which is fine in principle), the only problem being that we are so individualistic that we block out moral voices and moral instruction as soon as it interferes with our whims and desires – isn’t the point of morality (and I speak of universals here) that it should be able to shape or control our impulses for wickedness?

It’s an unpopular view to have, no-doubt, in today’s world. What do you think?

The Accidental Theologist

Great conversation on Al Jazeera’s The Stream yesterday:  I was with Lisa Fletcher and Anushay Hossain in the studio — I love her blog Anushay’s Point  — and Omid Safi, Nouman Ali Khan, and Michael Muhammad Knight joined in on Skype.  Plus an excellent video comment from Hind Makki in Chicago, which led to a lively post-show discussion, starting at the 25.15 mark, on reclaiming the narrative from both ‘Islamist’ extremists and Islamophobic bigots.

It’s a good thing Nouman Ali Khan wasn’t in the studio, because I’d only have totally embarrassed him by leaping up to give him a huge hug.  I really do have to figure out how to be cool on TV…

Like I say, hang around for the post-show segment — the silent majority is silent no longer!

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30 things about meme – my invisible illness

30 things about meme – my invisible illness.

This is a great contribution for M.E-Awareness by Dannie, a severely-affected M.E patient who is bedbound. It’s incredible that she has such a positive outlook and leads a pretty full life (in the sense that it is possible to have one from bed). Do have a read if you can.

Love to you all,

Piers Morgan meets Ahmadinejad

I think that this is a fantastic interview – for the most part, Ahmadinejad was very clear, very forthright. Whatever you make of his politics (and I’m considerabely more ‘Leftist’ than he is), I must give him credit for being one of those few political leaders who speaks honestly, makes no apologies for his beliefs and isn’t polemical in the way you see Western Leaders are.

If you have the time to spare, do watch this interview, please! The translator did a very good job too.

Best,
I.

PS – I know some will not watch this because they’re not fans of Piers Morgan (I don’t like him much, but prefer him to Larry King in a way because he’s more honest about what he doesn’t know) – but this was a fairly sympathetic and friendly interview. Just wait for the bit where Ahmadinejad tells him off (in his usual quiet fashion) for demanding answers based of what the former believes are false premises!

Seen it…? What did you think?

Attack of the ‘Hysterical’.

My dear three readers:

Though I will not spend too much time arguing the case, and my brainfog is rather severe tonight; if the sentences don’t flow into one-another I apologise – I’ve been piecing this together over several days.

Nevertheless something is becoming increasingly apparent to me. Following the ‘riots’ and killings since the release of what they tell me is a terrible video depicting the blessed Prophet Muhammad in the most overt and pernicious way, the responses to these protests, especially in our press, have been less than satisfying.

Firstly, let me state what my position is – I embrace freedom of speech as a policy – it is the only way a democratic system can flourish. Does that mean that I think that I should say whatever I want to, because I’m free to do it? That’s a slightly different question. No-doubt such a video was supposed to generate a rather dramatic response, who wouldn’t have thought that it wouldn’t?

The best argument I have read that tries to explain something of the sentiments of those who killed the American Ambassador to Libya in Benghazi is Myriam Francois-Cerrah’s assessment of the situation, which was published on the Huffington Post blog and her own. She writes about the anti-imperial overtones as well as the stripping away of the dignity of those who live in the Muslim world, which has been perpetrated by us, the imperial powers who for years have (in my words) savagely oppressed these people through political, economic and military means.

Now one of the questions you might ask is – so who bears the responsibility for the death of the American Ambassador? Much of the media has now come to the conclusion that it was probably Salafist militants that had staged the attack in response to the death of one of their leaders; that the inflammatory video was merely an excuse to be manipulated, and subsequently carry out the intended assassinations under that pretence, their plans having been already drawn for an attack on the Consulate.

Moreover, the press praises those Libyans who stood up against these militants and drove them away through protest. My question is – why should the Libyan people bear the responsibility of driving away those that have manipulated that abhorrent video and since carried out the killings? Who created those monsters in the first place? And why should the many be judged for the actions of the few? These are important moral questions seldom asked.

No-doubt, the men who perpetrated those crimes behaved in the most barbaric of ways (and I don’t mean to sound like an orientalist here, Arabs are not barbaric) – in murdering a man who was far-removed or completely detached from the atrocious film’s production. And though it is great to see some sort of outward anger to that particular brand of ‘resistance’ or violence, is that merely enough? Could this all be something of a red-herring in terms of subverting our attention from the increasing likelihood of a war with Iran, among other things?

Does reporting such stories not ignore the fact that a sacred right of free-speech was violated, manipulated, subverted for poisonous intents? Isn’t the point of a right that it should be cherished, rather than abused or misused? Or employed in such a way that would no-doubt alienate the rights of those elsewhere who seek to respond?

Secondly, could not some of the blame be redirected elsewhere? You see, the trouble with our idea of the universal, near-inalienable right to free-speech or free-expression comes with a caveat; that is, our right to publish obscene materials comes at the cost of the rights of those who are offended to protest. Moreover, the ‘legitimate’ deaths that occur in response to, say, a terrorist threat are fine, even if innocent civillians are killed (the recently Hit List policy is a testament to it); the deaths that occur as a (initially perceived) result of such a video  are not okay. States and governments can be violent, but people can’t be.

Why is that the case? What makes governments immune to the same criticisms that those who are violent face? Why are some deaths acceptable to people whilst others aren’t, even though both are driven by ill-founded rogue ideologies? Truly, in a secular world, why is death even so important to the ‘West’? This conception of death is based on a [militant] secular argument rooted in an ideology that sees itself as threatened by (militant or peaceful) religious ideology, and extremism (excuse the orientalist overtones please), yet does not see itself as the reason for the flourishing of that sort of thinking.*

As I wrote in a comment on the Huffington Post’s site,** that though I abhor violence in principle (whether carried out by militants or nation-states), it is a sad state of affairs I think when Christians, Jews, Hindus etc., don’t react more strongly and protest their point of view when they are attacked, [and when Muslims don’t stand up for the rights of other faiths, of the rights of God’s word to be heard in the world, through whatever authentic religion and medium].

The world has lost its sense of the sacred – the only thing that seems to matter any more are the socio-economic imperatives that govern us – don’t do anything that might affect the economy and we’ll all get on fine – and I don’t like that. All that seems to matter is our ‘rights’. Religious space is being increasingly encroached upon; it is the duty of the faithful of whatever religion to speak out against the violation of the sacred space.

Humanity is at a loss, and I think because we’ve lost that sense of the sacred. How many of us roam ‘free’ and fed whilst most of the world starves; how much freedom do we have whilst propping up dictatorships elsewhere? How many ‘rights’ do we uphold for ourselves whilst systematically violating the rights of others; yet we rain fire from the skies, slay millions (Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan) or let others do it whilst we look away (Romania, Indonesia, Latin America).Where is the sacred duty of feeding and clothing the poor, trying to make peace, sincerly liberating people from tyrants and occupation, of preserving the lives of innocents?

Back to the point  – what are the moral obligations of those who produced such a film, knowing full-well that the fury of the Muslims world would be unleashed in the form of demonstrations outside of the US Embassies or local governments, and by a very small minority, these protests would inevitably turn into a violent spectacle. And oddly enough, this violence didn’t occur in the ‘West’, for obvious reason, but such a film is another orientalist tool to make the people of the East appear more violent than the civilised West, even though more have died in the name of secular nationalism, communism, and capitalism than have died at the hands of such protesters.

Should not Muslims be enraged and protest (peacefuly) at such an insult to the figure they hold most dear in their religion? Should they merely learn to accept this sort venomous speech? Do they not have a right to be offended? To speak their minds? To affirm that though free-speech is an important part of living in the modern world, we should use it responsibly and in the interest for promoting cooperation between peoples, to promote an actual demoractic world? You see, you can’t blame peoples’ religious persuasion of creating discord among them – people are in my view, fundamentally religious or driven by ideology – whereas they can choose what it is that they say.

“The Church of the Nativity was besieged in 2002 whilst the Latin patriarch said : ‘the basilica is a place of refuge for everybody, even fighters, as long as they lay down their arms. We have an obligation to give refuge to Palestinians and Israelis alike.’

That is an example of the kind of human rights and humanity we need to get back to. Not the ones dicatated to us by the state.”

*Moreover, if you want another reading on it, this conception of a good deahth is rooted in capitalism – think about it, violence in a country, especially if people die, has adverse effects on that country’s economy – consumer confidence decreases, foreign investment lessens. Dead people cannot buy goods, cannot work and feed the system. And when these legitimate deaths are carried out through illegitimate wars and deaths, mechanisms are built so that these countries’ economic output are channelled toward the global capitalist networks.

As an example, why else do we militarily interveine in Libya and not Bahrain or Saudi Arabia or Egypt?

**(I don’t think I’ve given up any intellectual property rights here)

Demonstrating for dignity: why are Muslims SO enraged?

“I have not seen any excessive bounty which is not associated with a right which has been violated.” Imam Ali b. Abi Talib (A.S).
“Those who sought to bring winter to an Arab spring and possibly destabilise a US election, were keenly aware of the impact those words would have, situating the film within on-going tensions between Israel and the Arab world and stirring up the hornet’s nest of minority relations in a region where they remain unsettled….

“If you deny any relationship between the systematic discrimination of Muslims and stigmatization of Islam and the overreaction of the Muslim community to offensive jokes, or films, or cartoons, then you are only left with essentialist explanations of Muslim hysteria and violence. These protests aren’t about a film – they’re about the totality of ways in which Muslims have felt humiliated over decades.”

One of the better analyses I think I’ve read. This is a freedom issue, just not one that we, who live so well-off and comfortably, and relatively unopressed in the West, can recognise.

I love how every ‘liberal’ pundit has commented on preserving ‘our’ freedoms, yet so arrogantly forgets that our ‘freedom’ tends to systematically curtail theirs.

 

myriamfrancoiscerrah

A version of this article was published on the Index on Censorship website, you can read ithere or on my Huffington Post blog,here

Muslims eh, they just cant seem to take a joke can they? It would be very easy to cast, as many ‎commentators have, the latest riots in response to the islamophobic film, as another example of ‎intolerant Muslims lacking a funny bone. The Rushdie affair, the Danish cartoons, the murder of ‎Van Gogh – surely the latest saga fits neatly into a pattern of evidence suggesting Muslims are over ‎sensitive and violent. After all, critics will argue, Christians are regularly derided through the arts ‎and media and they don’t go around burning embassies and killing people. Only the situation is ‎hardly analogous. The power relations in which a dominant majority can be perceived as insulting ‎and humiliating a disgruntled and feeble minority, cannot be ignored…

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I seem to be more and more referring to this blog! In response to the events of the last couple of days, Hazleton writes a rather good piece.

The Accidental Theologist

Once again, the extremists have fed each other.  Once again, with other people’s blood.

The blood is that of one of the best friends the new Libya could have had:  US Ambassador Christopher Stevens, killed yesterday, the evening of 9/11, along with three of his staff as they tried to evacuate employees of the American consulate in Benghazi.  The evacuation was necessary because protestors had been whipped into violence by a 14-minute farce of a video attacking the prophet Muhammad.  Or, as now seems possible, the protest was used as an excuse for a planned attack, since RPGs and automatic weapons were involved.

Al-Qaeda-type extremists are apparently the ones who pulled the trigger, using the insult to Islam as an excuse. But they could not have done so without the help of their partners — their Jewish and Christian brothers-in-arms right here in the United States. That’s who…

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A Truly Sad Day for the Left

Alas, my eyes are tearing at reading this. I’m not one of those people who’ll easily rally around a flag, and nor do I believe in the cult of personality – that’s usually (in my humble opinion) the way of the demagogue and their ilk and followers.

However I’ve just found out that Ms. Yaqoob has resigned from the Respect Party, of which I’m a proud member –  the reasons, though not stated below, are probably obvious to most – though we’ll see if this gets any news coverage in the next few days – if only to villify Mr. Galloway MP.

Finally, I had thought – there was a decent, straight-talking principled woman of colour and of a minority religion who might actually suggest decent policy ideas and be able to help rally a grass-roots and/or working-class movement in the UK (for those three of you who read me, you may or may not know that I’m fanatically Leftist!); I was hoping that she’d actually be able to help redress the imbalance of coverage and negative spin on Muslim women in the UK (Ms Warsi doesn’t appear to be making a positive impact, and her relegation in the latest reshuffle just goes to show how tokenistic her appointment in the Cabinet was in the first place…-plus, she’s a Tory – yeuch!) – and my hopes were that this was a positive step for British politics. Especially given the tone of ‘Muscular Liberalism’  from our Fearless Leader and the notion that multiculturalism had ‘failed’ in Britain  – she was supposed to be our saving grace.

A friend tells me that this is probably the end of Respect as we know it – they already lost Kate Hudson as the candidate for Manchester Central last week, and in the last few years the SWP and other movements haven’t appeared to get on with Respect proper… I’m wondering if I’ll have to shift my political allegiances…although that’s a pretty cheap thing to do in the end, as I still believe in the tenets and credo of Respct.

Back to the sordid, smarmy tripartite menage of UK Politics then. This just really sucks. If Respect is to collapse or lose momentum, it will set us, as the multicultural community (no, not just male Muslims of South Asian origin) back by several years; with the rise of the (might as well be) militant EDL (God help us!) and the BNP (some sort of cosmic joke?!) and the increasingly disenfranchised white working-class in Britain – this spells disaster….unless we can find some other voice that screams out in longing for the equality, respect, and community-spirit we so desperately need

Britain isn’t broken. Don’t get me wrong. But there are several interest groups seeking to widen the cracks, then create and deepen chasms in our society – moreover Government policy doesn’t help, and won’t help. This isn’t a problem with the various ‘cultures’ and ethnic groups in Britain – I think it has more to do with a fundamentally different approach to nation states (see my anarchism seep through?!) – that we are able to hold more than one allegience, with integrity.

One might think that the minorities were struggling to integrate  because they/we don’t have a voice or a plurality of them – but it is more a case  that up until recently, and at least and especially since 9/11, our voices were easy to ignore – so long as the Kebab shops remained open, Britain worked fine. And then Respect came along and gained a fair amount of positive coverage – its figures often asked to speak at televised debates/discussion programmes (better them than that Quilliam lot – egh!)

Now, there doesn’t seem to be a competing, dignified political platform for ‘us’ to join (Labour’s recent fielding a male Pakistani Muslim in the Bradford West by-election just goes to show how tokenistic and shallow Labour politics are).

All doom and gloom?! I pray that I’m wrong.

What a great post! How treacherous is it that the elite white men from the Global North are able to continue to escape from their guilt and turn a blind eye to their ongoing crimes.

Though the ability to forget can sometimes be a mercy, choosing to forget is quite the sin.

myriamfrancoiscerrah

An abridged version of this piece can be found over at my Huffington Post blog, here.

In a recent interview with the Evening Standard, William Hague argued that Britain needs to get over its feelings of “post-colonial guilt”, stating that we have a “new and equal partnership” with countries unburdened by our colonial past history. Apparently we all need to ‘relax’, because Britain’s empire history is “no longer an issue for the rest of the world.” Is that so? In what world do the populations of former colonies, British or otherwise, no longer consider the lasting consequences of decades of exploitation and oppression “no longer an issue.”

Presumably, all that post-colonial guilt was washed away with Jeremy Paxman’s incondite effort to portray colonial administrators as benevolent public schoolboys on a mission to improve healthcare and education for the darker folk, in his very establishment series “Empire”. Owen-Jones has already…

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