RIP Maya Angelou

It is odd how that as one of our era’s more inspirational women – Maya Angelou – dies, a woman in Pakistan is stoned to death, outside a court of law no less. Two women, two deaths. One who fought for justice, one who suffered a grave injustice. God Almighty have mercy on them both and raise their rank, amen.

This is one of my favourite quotes from Maya. And it is dedicated to every person, man, woman or child who I have come across, who have given me a positive feeling and memory. To feel inspired, to feel alive, is a wonderful thing, and for any person to bless anyone else with that feeling, may they too be raised in rank by the Grace of God, amen.

Haram-ness Of Boko Haram

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The clue should have been in it’s name which, when translated from the northern Hausa language means, ‘Western education is a sin.’ But for the handful of delusional men (and perhaps even women) who have formed a group whose primary objective is to fulfill the Quranic verse (2:11): “When it is said to them, Do not cause mischief in the world, they say, We only want to create peace.” they do as the Quran states in the next verse (2:11) “For sure they are the ones who make mischief, but they do not realise it.”

In an act of such audacity, Boko Haram have kidnapped over 270 school girls, married some off, and now claim to ‘own’ them as ‘slaves’ with a view of ‘selling’ the rest in local markets, all in the ‘name of Allah.’
As a Muslim I happen to wonder if such practice was ordained by Allah, why have we Muslims been so flippant with our duty to our Creator? After all, surely we all want to be the best and most obedient to our Creator? But another clue comes in the form of it’s targets, not just Christians, but other Muslims as well.

Prophet Muhammad once said, he who harms a non-Muslim living under a Muslim land, it is as if he has harmed me directly. All these criminal acts committed against Christians (and indeed Muslims) are genuinely at odds with the substance and spirit of what Islam preaches. Worse their leader perpetuates another common misconception held amongst Muslims stating ‘I will marry off a girl at the age of nine,’ proving again that the more absurd a claim is based on – in this case, the false belief that Prophet Muhammad a man in his 40s married a 9 year old – the greater the delusion.

Prophet Muhammad once said that a person who has been in authority over people will arrive on the day of judgement shackled, and it will only be justice in the way they conduced their affairs that will loosen the chains and set them free, or lead them to destruction.

Going into a school, kidnapping children, forcibly marrying them off, these are not the actions of the righteous. The irony in all of this is that the the ultra conservative Boko Haram who opine that the ‘hijab,’ covering the hair is a ‘protection’ for a woman have demonstrated that a piece of cloth is no such thing. The only protection for a woman (or man) is the conduct of other men and women, and how society enforces rules and regulations.

For Boko Haram to insist on an ‘Islamic society’ with a particular set of rules and customs, only to then breach the very conservative rules they themselves espouse, can be summed up in another verse from the Quran (2:44), “Would you encourage people to be righteous but fail to practice it yourselves? And you recite the book of God? Have you no sense?.” Sadly the question is not rhetorical, simply a statement of fact: like their education (Western or otherwise) they have none.

Which is why is it is the duty for us, the international community, men and women, irrespective of our faiths, to band together and tackle threats to all of our safety, starting by finding these school girls and returning them to their parents, safely.

Recognising Muslim Women

Noor Inayat Khan (1914 - 1944)

While Muslim men squabble on Newsnight demonstrating once again why so many Muslim men simply cannot hold a respectful debate-discussion, Royal Mail bypasses the politics and releases a new stamp collection of 10 famous people born in 1914. It includes Noor Inayat Khan (1914 – 1944).

Noor was a British-Indian (Muslim) secret agent, who served during World War Two. She was dubbed the “Spy Princess”. She worked as a wireless officer for the British Special Operations Executive in Paris during 1943 (she had escaped to Britain after the fall of France in 1940). She evaded capture by the Nazis and continued to send important messages to London for far longer than expected. She was captured, imprisoned, tortured and eventually shot after being sent into occupied France to help the resistance. Noor was awarded the highest honour, the George Cross, by Britain. France awarded her the the equivalent, the Croix de Guerre.

While so many Muslims squabble and continue to squabble, it is refreshing to see other Muslims being actively engaged in, involved with and contributing to society. And in the case of Noor, a British Muslim woman, fighting for the freedoms we enjoy today. – Peace be upon those who have gone before us and those who follow, ameen.

Misogyny Of Abu Eesa et al

Pardon

As I sit here enjoying the simple pleasure of truffled scrambled eggs for breakfast, I wonder at how the beauty of faith can be reduced to ugliness, no better represented by events of late. Apparently, some guy named Abu Eesa (who I never heard of prior but) who is a religious teacher at a religious institution (which I have also not heard of), spoke a series of misogynist comments. I’m less interested in what he said, as I’ve heard such commentary before but this is what it means to me:

1. There are men conversant in the Quran and Prophetic sayings whose attitude to women reflect neither the values taught by the Quran nor the Prophetic example.

2. When such men make anti-women statements they demonstrate that their religious knowledge is ‘learnt’ not ‘understood.’

3. When men, and it is predominantly men, make excuses and support such men, they are not protecting him from being the subject of criticism, nor are they ‘hiding his faults.’ Rather, they are simply covering over a real issue – some men’s unIslamic attitude towards women – and by defending them, imply that such is an acceptable norm.

Faith is often used (mostly by men) to enforce deep rooted prejudices and this is just another example of how Muslim society has transformed away from the holistic message of justice and fairness which was preached by the Prophet, which, incidentally doesn’t matter as much, after all, God Almighty says in the Quran that the Prophet is just a reminder and not an enforcer (c 88: vs 21-22). Though the irony is that such men ignore the reminder (of being fair and just towards half of humanity) and instead enforce injustice (misogyny and more).

I stopped paying attention to most Muslims years ago as I found these misplaced values almost everywhere. It does not matter how many platitudes one serves to remembering God, or speaking in God’s name, ugliness is ugliness and I have no desire to take my understanding of faith from any ‘teacher’ whose attitudes towards women is so flippant and unpleasant.

If such men cannot get their attitude towards half of humanity right, then nothing else they say, no matter how truthful, is of meaning to me. Much the same way that shaitan is described: speaking partial truths while misguiding the people en masse.

We all make mistakes, it is part of being human but this doesn’t excuse the under lying attitude, which, through his expression, he revealed. And for any person to hold such feelings towards half of humanity – despite many of his positive works – it’s a glimpse of their ugliness of which I want no part of.
As a Muslim however, I strongly believe in the Prophetic statement, that a person does not have faith until they want for another what they want for themselves, so I will say a prayer for guidance for myself first and for everyone else.

As God Almighty says in the Quran, guidance is a mercy and kindness from God, which God can give or take at God’s discretion, so I will not trouble myself with trying to convince such men of their religious obligations, nor will I mix in environments where such people exist. Instead I leave it to God to inspire them (and the rest of us), amen.

RIP Tony Benn

Tony Benn

Photo Credit: ‘Perfect Cup Of Tea’ at the Royal Society of Chemistry

As news breaks of Tony Benn’s death, with so much good to say about this man, to me, he can be summed up as simply Quintessentially English: all of the values of honour, dignity and integrity, that so many of us lack and so many more of us need. May God Almighty have mercy on those who have gone before us and those who follow, ameen.

A Burnt Pendant Doesn’t Kill Allah

Katy Perry Allah Pendat

Katy Perry’s recent video which included a pendant depicting the name Allah, that was burnt has caused outrage amongst Muslims.

But I am reminded of the words of Abu Bakr on the death of Prophet Muhammad, “Whoever among you is worshiping Muhammad, know that Muhammad is dead. And whoever among you was worshiping Allah know that Allah does not die.” – The same goes for this pendant which burnt to dust. Are you worshiping God, or a pendant?

My belief in God, as a Creator and Sustainer of the Universe is a far cry from the depiction of God on a pendant, an a piece of paper, etc. Whether intentional or otherwise, all this episode shows to me is poor planning and bad manners. And at best the Muslim response should simply be a reminder that mutual respect should be a cornerstone of expression.