Archive for October, 2009

Concerns about the Amnesty International Lecture 2009 and Noam Chomsky’s views on the Bosnian genocide

October 30, 2009

Bismillah. Professor Chomsky is an inspirational figure and needs no introduction.  His contribution to knowledge is vast, especially linguistics (including computational linguistics or natural language processing, a branch of AI that I’ve studied a little and am therefore very grateful to the prof.) and politics (US hegemony over Latin America, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, etc.).  He is often called, “the most important intellectual alive,” which might well be true if he also has strong faith in God, for intellection originally meant to know the Divine.

I was particularly inspired by his comment once that when he first campaigned against the Vietnam war, he often spoke in halls where only a handful of people turned up, sometimes just two or three, and occasionally he even had an audience of just one person.  But he and others kept going, and eventually the campaign snowballed.  We often remember this when trying to get people motivated about matters like preserving the environment or reforming our usurious banking/financial systems.

But, to adapt a traditional Islamic saying, we might say, “We love Noam Chomsky, but we love the Truth even more.”  So, here is a long message from Owen Beith, who worked with the City Circle and others in promoting the work of Hasan Nuhanovic, one of the few survivors of the Srebrenica massacre and a key eyewitness to the events there. (Nuhanovic’s book, “Under the UN Flag” is a sobering must-read.)

1. INITIAL MESSAGE FROM OWEN BEITH

Hello all,

Amnesty International have failed to come up with a convincing explanation
why their invitation to Noam Chomsky to deliver the Amnesty International
Annual Lecture should not be considered an endorsement of or at least a
blind eye turned towards Chomsky’s denial of the substance of the
atrocities perpetrated in Bosnia.

Chomsky denies the reality of Ed Vulliamy’s experience of Omarska and
Trnopolje while supporting the alternative version offered by LM.  He does
not challenge Diana Johnstone’s views concerning the reality of the
Prijedor camps, the genocide at Srebrenica and the systematic use of rape
as a weapon of war in Bosnia but describes her scholarship as “outstanding”
and her work as “serious, honest”.

Ed Vulliamy has written an open letter to Amnesty in response.  I’ve
prefaced this with a background summary.  If you feel happy to publish this
at your blogs, it would hopefully remind Amnesty that sitting on the fence
over the denial of human rights abuses is not a place we should expect to
find them.  If you prefer simply to circulate this to anyone you think
would be interested please do.

All the best

Owen

[28 October 2009]

Owen Beith – Translations FR/SP/PT>EN
70 Sewardstone Road, London E2 9JG
+44 (0) 20 8981 9879
*********************************************************************
Holding the international community accountable –
“Under the UN Flag” by Hasan Nuhanovic: how the Dutch state and the United
Nations abandoned the people of Srebrenica to genocide in July 1995 –
http://www.undertheunflag.com/
and
“The UN’s Toxic Shame”: the poisoning of Roma children in lead-contaminated
refugee camps in Mitrovica (Kosovo/a) –
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INy1Svn8bo8&feature=channel_page /
http://www.toxicwastekills.com

2. Preface to Open Letter from Ed Vulliamy to Amnesty International

Noam Chomsky has been invited to give the annual Amnesty International Lecture in Belfast. This is the second time in four years that Chomsky has been invited to give an Amnesty International Lecture (following Dublin in 2006). To celebrate Chomsky’s forthcoming Lecture appearance Amnesty gives him a respectful and uncritical platform for his views over three pages of the latest Amnesty (UK) Magazine.

Amnesty appears oblivious to the controversies that surround some of Chomsky’s views on human rights, and in particular the support that he has offered and continues to offer to polemicists who deny the substance, scope and authorship of atrocities perpetrated during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

In recent years Chomsky has caused particular controversy through his support for the author Diana Johnstone, known for her “revisionist” views on Bosnia , in particular concerning the Prijedor concentration camps, the Srebrenica genocide and the existence of the Bosnian rape camps.  Chomsky salutes her “outstanding” scholarship and defends her “serious, honest work”.

He represents his support for Johnstone as a defence of her right to freedom of speech while at the same time he denigrates the testimony of The Guardian’s reporter Ed Vulliamy whose eyewitness account of the reality of the Omarska and Trnopolje camps forced the horror of what was happening in Bosnia onto the attention of the rest of the world and saved the lives of many of the prisoners detained in them.

Without explanation Chomsky describes Ed Vulliamy’s description of Omarska and Trnopolje he describes as “probably” wrong while endorsing the claim by Thomas Deichmann and LM magazine that Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams gave a false account of the situation in the Prijedor camps as “probably” correct.  Chomsky disregards the finding of a High Court libel action which – following the evidence of a doctor detained in one of the camps – confirmed that Vulliamy and his colleagues had told the truth.

When asked why Amnesty offers a platform to a man who challenges the reporting of human rights abuses that Amnesty itself substantiated and champions the seriousness and honesty of individuals who try to deny those abuses, Amnesty’s response was to observe that invitees are not representatives of Amnesty International nor expected to deliver an Amnesty International policy position within their lecture, but rather they have been invited as having something interesting and thought-provoking to say about human rights in the world today and Amnesty International does not necessarily endorse all their opinions.

When Ed Vulliamy was asked to comment on Amnesty’s invitation to Chomsky he wrote the open letter below.  The language expresses his depth of feeling, not only on his own behalf but also on behalf of the friends forced to suffer “the ghastly, searing, devastating impact” of Chomsky’s denial of their experience.

Anyone who shares these concerns can express their views for the attention of Irene Khan, Amnesty International’s Secretary General, at

http://www.amnesty.org/en/contact

or Kate Allen, Director of Amnesty International UK (AIUK), at sct@amnesty.org.uk

3. Open Letter to Amnesty International

To whom it may concern:

I have been contacted by a number of people regarding Amnesty International’s invitation to Professor Noam Chomsky to lecture in Northern Ireland, a place he knows as little about as most others.

The communications I have received regard Prof. Chomsky’s role in revisionism in the story of the concentration camps in Northwestern Bosnia in 1992, which it was my accursed honor to discover.

As everyone interested knows, a campaign was mounted to try and de-bunk the story of these murderous camps as a fake – ergo, to deny and/or justify them – the dichotomy between these position still puzzles me.

The horror of what happened at Omarska and Trnopolje has been borne out by painful history, innumerable trials at the Hague, and “most importantly by far” searing testimony by the survivors and the bereaved. These were places of extermination, torture, killing, rape and, literally “concentration” prior to enforced deportation, of people purely on grounds of race.

Prof. Chomsky was not among those  (“Novo” of Germany and “Living Marxism” in the UK) who first proposed the idea that these camps were a fake. He was not among those who tried unsuccessfully (they were beaten back in the High Court in London, by a libel case taken by ITN) to put up grotesque arguments about fences around the camps, which were rather like Ferdnand Leuchter’s questioning as to whether the thermal capacity of bricks were enough to contain the heat needed to gas Jews at Auschwitz.  But Professor Chomsky said many things, from his ivory tower at MIT, to spur them on and give them credibility and energy to spread their poisonous perversion and denials of these sufferings.  To use the analogy of Holocaust denial, he was more David Irving than Leuchter – the man with acadamic pretentions, doing it all from a distance, and giving the  revisionists his blessing. And the revisionists reveled in his endorsement. In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Chomsky paid me the kind compliment of calling me a good journalist, but added that on this occasion (the camps) I had “got it wrong”.

Got what wrong?!?! Got wrong what we saw that day, August 5th 1992 (I didn’t see him there)? Got wrong the hundreds of thousands of families left bereaved, deported and scattered asunder? Got wrong the hundreds of testimonies I have gathered on murderous brutality? Got wrong the thousands

whom I meet when I return to the commemorations? If I am making all this up, what are all the human remains found in mass graves around the camps and so painstakingly re-assembled by the  International Commmission for Missing Persons.

These people pretend neutrality over Bosnia, but are actually apologists for the  Milosevic/Karadzic/Mladic plan, only are too pathetic to admit it. And the one thing they never consider from their armchairs, is the ghastly, searing, devastating impact of their game on the survivors and the bereaved. The pain they cause in immeasurable. This, along with the historical record, is my main concern.  It is one thing to survive the camps, to lose one’s family and friends – quite another to be told by a bunch of academics with a didactic agenda in support of the pogrom that they never existed. The LM/Novo/Chomsky argument that the story of the camps was somehow fake has been used in countless (unsuccessful) attempts to defend of mass murderers in The Hague.

For decades I have lived under the impression that Amnesty International was opposed to everything these people stand for, and to defend exactly the kind of people who lost their lives, family and friends in the camps and at Srebrenica three years later, a massacre on which Chomsky has also cast doubt. I have clearly been deluded about Amnesty. For Amnesty International, of all people, to honour this man is to tear up whatever credibility they have estimably and admirably won over the decades, and to reduce all they say hitherto to didactic nonsense.

Why Amnesty wants to identify with and endorse this revisionist obscenity, I do not know. It is baffling and grotesque. By inviting Chomsky to give this lecture, Amnesty condemns itself to ridicule at best, hurtful malice at worst – Amnesty joins the revisionists in spitting on the graves of the dead.  Which was not what the organisation was, as I understand, set up for.  I have received a letter from an Amnesty official in Northern Ireland which reads rather like a letter from Tony Blair’s office after it has been caught out cosying up to British Aerospace or lying over the war in Iraq – it is a piece of corporate gobbledygook, distancing Amnesty from Chomsky’s views on Bosnia, or mealy-mouthedly conceding that they are disagreed with.

There is no concern at all with the victims, which is I supposed what would one suspect from a bureaucrat. In any event, the letter goes nowhere towards addressing the revisionism, dispelling what will no doubt be a fawning, self-satisfied introduction in Belfast and rapturous applause for the man who gives such comfort to Messrs Karadzic and Mladic, and their death squads.  How far would Amnesty go in inviting and honouring speakers whose views it does not necessarily share, in the miserable logic of this AI official in Belfast?  A lecture by David Irving on Joseph Goebbels?

Alistair Campbell on how Saddam really did have those WMD? The Chilean Secret Police or Colonel Oliver North on the communist threat in Latin and Central America during the 70s and 80s?  What about Karadzic himself on the “Jihadi” threat in Bosnia, and the succulence of 14-year-old girls kept in rape camps?

I think I am still a member of AI – if so, I resign. If not, thank God for that. And to think: I recently came close to taking a full time job as media director for AI. That was a close shave – what would I be writing now, in the press release: “Come and hear the great (and highly paid) Professor Chomsky inform you all that the stories about the camps in Bosnia were a lie – that I was hallucinating that day, that the skeletons of the dead so meticulously re-assembled by the International Commission for Missing Persons are all  plastic? That the dear friends I have in Bosnia, the USA, the UK and elsewhere whose lives were broken by Omarska and Trnopolje but which they now try and put together again are making it all up.

Some Press Release that would have been. Along with the owner of the site of the Omarska camp, the mighty Mittal Steel corporation, Amnesty International would have crushed it pretty quick.  How fitting that Chomsky and Mittal Steel find common cause. Yet how logical, and to me, obvious.  After all, during the Bosnian war, it was the British Foreign Office, the CIA, the UN and great powers which, like the revisionists whose champion Chomsky is, most eagerly opposed any attempt to stop the genocide that lasted, as was encouraged by them and their allies in high politics, to last, for three bloody years from 1992 until the Srebrenica massacre of 1995.

Yours, in disgust and despair,

Ed Vulliamy,

The Observer.

4. On the heels of its announcement of the Chomsky lecture Amnesty published a report on the ongoing search for justice by the victims of rape in Bosnia.

http://www.amnesty.org.uk/news_details.asp?NewsID=18431

Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty International’s Europe Programme Director, acknowledges that “During the war, thousands of women and girls were raped, often with extreme brutality. Many were held in prison camps, hotels and private houses where they were sexually exploited. Many women and girls were killed.

To this day, survivors of these crimes have been denied access to justice. Those responsible for their suffering – members of military forces, the police or paramilitary groups – walk free. Some remain in positions of power or live in the same community as their victims.”

Alisa Muratcaus of the Association of Concentration Camp Torture Survivors, Canton Sarajevo, insists that people who deny that the mass rape of Bosnian women was a strategic element of the war are talking “nonsense”.  Her Association, composed of Muslim, Croat, Serb, and Romani members, many of them victims in camps and prisons throughout Bosnia of atrocities including rape and other forms of sexual torture, works closely with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague which has established beyond doubt that rape was used in Bosnia as a weapon of war.

5.  Message from Daniel of the “Srebrenica Genocide” website:

There is a growing build of genocide denial and leftist-apologist garbage on the internet.
We need some kind of media web site that will publish counter arguments in widely read sources, such as Google News. I will start building up such a web site and hope to finish it in about 2 weeks.  The attack on the truth and memory is getting out of hand. We need to stand up with Ed and we need to stick together to defend unquestionable truth and memory of genocide and concentration camps in Bosnia. I ask you to send me your ideas what type of web site would you be interested in. This takes a long time to build, but I am willing to do several suicide shifts to get this thing working. Let’s call this project “a counter-response.” Thank you Ed for the letter, but this time we need to strike deniers where it hurts the most. Please send me your suggestions.

6. Related links, etc. – by Owen Beith

Anyone circulating the message about Chomsky’s invitation and Ed’s open letter to Amnesty couldn’t do better
than to accompany them with a link to all the wealth of Balkan Witness’s material dealing with the activities of the denial lobby.

Roger of “Balkan Witness” has given links to two specific pages:
http://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Articles-deniers.htm and
http://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Articles-Bosnia.htm.

The following links within those pages provide information that’s
particularly relevant to Chomsky’s reluctance to acknowledge the reality of
Prijedor and Srebrenica and his wilful challenging of Ed’s veracity.
http://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Articles-Bosnia.htm#ChomskyInterview and
http://www.glypx.com/balkanwitness/Articles-Bosnia.htm#Trnopolje.

It is difficult to believe that anyone in the UK with the slightest
awareness of the unremitting campaign to distort the reality of the human
rights violations that took place in Bosnia would be unaware of this
controversy, let alone Amnesty International.

If Amnesty really are as incapable of referring back to their own
experience as they seem,  they couldn’t find a better place than Balkan
Witness to start reacquainting themselves with the subject.

Thanks for all the invaluable work, Roger.  And also a thank you to Dan for
all his relentless and unstinting work refuting the campaign of
misinformation pursued by by deniers and apologists, including members of
Karadzic’s defence team.

http://srebrenica-genocide.blogspot.com/

7. Open letter from Tilman Zülch to Noam Chomsky and Amnesty International (AI)

On the occasion of the Annual Amnesty International Lecture being given today, Friday, in Belfast

Göttingen/Belfast, 30 October 2009

You are a genocide denier, Professor Chomsky!

Dear Professor Chomsky,
Dear Friends of Amnesty International,

Once again you find yourself invited to appear in a public forum, this time in Belfast. In the past, Belfast was a city with a long-standing reputation for discrimination against the Catholic population, but today those of us who are familiar with the city’s past history of conflict, crime and disorder are pleased and relieved that the Protestants and Catholics of Northern Ireland have finally emerged from a long dark tunnel.

The focus of our human rights organisation’s work is the support that we give to minority groups who have been the victims of genocide and dispossession. The two guiding principles inspiring us are that firstly we work with the people “Von denen keiner spricht” – the people no-one talks about, and secondly we are “Auf keinem Auge blind” – never turning a blind eye.  We believe that “persecution, extermination and expulsion, the establishment of concentration camps and rape camps are always and everywhere crimes, now just as they were in the past.  Irrespective of which government is responsible and on which continent and in which country those crimes are being perpetrated. The legacy bequeathed to us by all the victims of yesterday is an obligation to come to the assistance of the victims of today”.

You, Professor Chomsky, choose to ignore those precepts.  You call genocide when it suits your ideological purposes.  Who could condone the murkier aspects of American foreign policy or fail to condemn the way that policy has supported and encouraged crimes against humanity? But you express your criticism of the crimes of the recent past in a perverse way, that makes genocide the almost exclusive prerogative of organisations with close links to the US. It is only then that you consider it to be genocide.  And it is only your political/ideological friends who are apparently incapable of committing genocide.

That was the situation in Cambodia.  While the international press was reporting how the genocide of the Khmer Rouge had eliminated one in every three or four of that country’s inhabitants, you were laying the blame for those crimes at the door of the US.  That was shameful and in any reasonable person stirred memories of Holocaust denial elsewhere in the world.

In the same way you have denied the genocide perpetrated in Bosnia-Herzegovina by Serb forces who killed not only Bosnian Muslims but along with them Bosnian Serbs and Croats as well who had chosen to remain alongside them, in the besieged city of Sarajevo for example.

To deny the fact of genocide in Bosnia is absurd, particularly when both the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague and the International Court of Justice, also in The Hague, have had no hesitation in confirming that genocide was perpetrated in Bosnia, above all at Srebrenica.

For the benefit of the apparently unpolitical and ideologically uncommitted Friends of Amnesty International we are prepared once again to provide a summary of the facts of genocide in Bosnia and Herzegovina. And we should like to remind you of them, too, Professor Chomsky, in your denial of genocide:

1. 200,000 civilians interned in over one hundred concentration, detention and rape camps.

2. Many thousands of internees murdered in concentration camps including Omarska, Manjaca, Keraterm, Trnopolje, Luka Brcko, Sušica and Foca.

3. Members of the non-Serb political and intellectual elites systematically arrested and eliminated.

4. Approximately 2.2 million Bosnians displaced, exiled and scattered to the four corners of the globe.

5. Many thousands of unrecorded deaths still missing from the official statistics, including children, the elderly and sick and wounded refugees.

6. 500,000 Bosnians in five UN so-called “safe areas” (Tuzla, Goražde, Srebrenica, Žepa, and Bihac) and other, fallen, enclaves such as Cerska besieged, starved, sniped at, shelled and many of them killed over a period of as long as four years in some cases.

7. A four year-long artillery bombardment of the sixth UN safe area, the city of Sarajevo, killing approximately 11,000, including 1500 children.

8. Massacres and mass executions in many towns and municipalities in northern, western and eastern Bosnia (the Posavina, the Prijedor area and the Podrinje).

9. Hundreds of villages and urban areas systematically destroyed.

10. The entire heritage of Islamic religious and cultural monuments, including 1189 mosques and madrassas, destroyed, and extensive destruction of Catholic religious monuments including as many as 500 churches and religious houses.

11. Remains of approximately 15,000 missing victims still to be found, exhumed and identified.

12. 284 UN soldiers taken hostage and used as human shields.

13. Over 20 thousand Bosnian Muslim women raped, in rape camps and elsewhere.

14. 8376 men and boys from the town of Srebrenica murdered and their bodies concealed in mass graves.

The history of Kosovo is familiar to people who know Southeastern Europe: in 1913, following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and against the will of the Albanian majority, Kosovo was handed over to Serbia and occupied. Following the original occupation and then again in the 1920s, 1930s and 1950s Yugoslavian and Serbian governments expelled the Albanians to Turkey where well over one million people of Albanian origin live today. After the gradual dismantling of Kosovo’s autonomy, proclaimed too late by Tito, Slobodan Milosevic’s army and militia killed some 10,000 Albanians and forced half the population – roughly one million people – to flee. The NATO military intervention, some specific aspects of which must certainly be condemned, halted the killing and expulsions.

Someone like yourself, Professor Chomsky, who on various occasions has shown himself unwilling to acknowledge genocide and goes so far as to deny it forfeits all credibility.  That is why we question your moral integrity and call on you to stand up before the public in Belfast and apologise for those hurtful comments of yours concerning the Cambodian, Bosnian and Kosovar victims of genocide.

Yours sincerely,

Tilman Zülch

President of the Society for Threatened Peoples International (STPI)

8. For inspiration and guidance on issues of justice, injustice, oppression and resistance in the world, I recommend reflecting upon the relevant verses from a chapter of the Koran such as “Abraham” (Ibrahim, Surah no. 14)

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Mrs. Wasim Akram passes on

October 27, 2009

The Pakistani newspaper Jang reported today that the great cricketer Wasim Akram’s wife Huma, 42, departed for the next world yesterday. She was on a flight from Pakistan to Singapore, going for an operation on a brain tumour. Emergency landing in Chennai/Madras when she fell further ill. Admitted to hospital there but died. She leaves two sons with Wasim, Taimur and Akbar. May Allah accept her good deeds and admit her into Paradise.

The same newspaper interviewed a top Singaporean neuro-surgeon a few weeks ago when he visited Karachi. I’m wondering if Mrs. Akram was headed for the same hospital where this chap is based?

In that interview, Dr. Priyam Palay (?) said that:

* Brain tumours were becoming more frequent across all age groups, worldwide. (U: better diagnosis may be at least a partial explanation here.)

* Job-satisfaction is very high when helping to save lives. He met a Karachi girl whose tumour he’d removed a decade earlier.

* Pakistan has some very good neurosurgeons but not the latest technology nor always the awareness of it.

* The US, UK, Germany, Japan and Singapore are the best countries for the treatment of brain tumours.

* The quality of medical training in Singapore is on a par with the US, the best in the world.

U: Often, the priority for developing countries is not superficial religion or politics or unwanted, usurious billion-dollar loans from outside that enslave entire nations for decades. What they really need is sustainable healthcare, education and employment.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve learnt about charities helping to build children’s cancer units in Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Malawi and other places: very worthy causes.

IUF – latest news from Pak/Iran/HK/Indonesia

October 26, 2009

Unilever, IUF Settlement Resolves Conflict over Precarious Work at Lipton Pakistan

A negotiated settlement between Unilever and the IUF has resolved the long, difficult conflict over the rights of precarious workers at the company’s directly-owned Lipton/Brooke Bond tea factory in Khanewal, Pakistan.

http://www.iuf.org/den6281

Sugar Union Leaders Sentenced to Prison in Iran – Act Now!

In a drive to destroy the independent union established last year by workers at the giant Haft Tapeh plantation/refining sugar complex in southern Iran, a court on October 12 sentenced 6 union leaders to immediate prison terms on charges stemming from October 2007. Three leaders convicted for their union activity last year for “endangering national security” in connection with worker action in 2008 had their sentences overturned on appeal in September.

Two union officers, president Ali Nejati and communications officer Reza Rekhshah, both of whom face lengthy prison sentences, were still awaiting the outcome of their appeal when the court in the city of Dezful sentenced the six leaders on the similar 2007 charges.

Send a message to the government of Iran – freedom for the Haft Tapeh leaders!

http://www.iuf.org/den6280

Nestlé Hong Kong still refuses union recognition, steps up casual hiring

Eight months after strike action against union-busting forced Nestlé Hong Kong management to agree to union recognition and formal negotiations, the IUF-affiliated Hong Kong Nestlé Workers Union is still denied these basic rights.

http://www.iuf.org/den6279

Death by outsourcing

http://www.iuf.org/den6276

Support the Nestlé Indonesia workers!
http://www.nespressure.org

Ron Oswald
General Secretary, IUF

International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF) 8, rampe du Pont-Rouge 1213 Petit Lancy, Switzerland

Tel: +41 22 793 22 33
Fax: +41 22 793 22 38

web-site: http://www.iuf.org

Reflections from Bosnia – by the UK Christian Muslim Forum

October 26, 2009

Bismillah. A piece of hope here, as the trial of the rabid killer Radovan Karadzic, butcher of Srebrenica, is delayed by his spoiling tactics. Let’s hope he gets his just desserts, as have Hitler, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Ceaucescu, Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam before him.

Reflections from Bosnia

This is the most recent news item posted on our News and Events page. It never ceases to amaze me, the human ability to forge strong and sustainable friendship between strangers. Our journey to Bosnia was a testimony to this, both as a group of Christians and Muslims from the UK and among the Christians and Muslims of Bosnia.

Travelling to Bosnia was both a pleasure and a challenge to us all and a test of our faith. Bosnia, like many other countries that conflict and war has visited, is surely one of the most beautiful countries I have seen. War and genocide does not discriminate along lines of aesthetic beauty, it appears where it likes, making use of existing tensions and conflict. This is certainly true of Bosnia where unresolved conflicts of the past resurfaced during the war between 1991-1995. I would like to be writing here that those wounds caused by war are being treated sufficiently by those who have the ability and power to do so, but this is not always the case, and more needs to be done at both national and international levels to heal those wounds.

However, we as a group certainly witnessed the highest sort of faith, manifest in those wishing to heal the wounds between communities and make strong and lasting friendships. I witnessed this ability and desire to reconcile many times whilst in Bosnia, but those most memorable to me are an Imam and an Orthodox priest telling ‘Imam and Priest’ jokes whilst travelling with us. To be accompanied by an Orthodox Priest, an Imam and a Friar whilst visiting various different places of worship is certainly a picture of hope for Bosnia, a picture of hope that needs to be shared not only in Bosnia but among our culturally diverse world.

Our belief in forgiveness is often challenged as people of faith, and I would like to take this opportunity to present a challenge given to us as a group whilst visiting Srebrenica. A mother who had lost all her family in the Genocide in Bosnia asked “how can we forgive if no one is asking for forgiveness” one of the answers might be found in the fact that this courageous mother had returned to Srebrenica and was living among those people that might ask her for forgiveness.

What follows is an inscription found in the cemetery at Srebrenica:

In the name of God, almighty, merciful and compassionate, we pray that sorrow may turn into hope, that revenge may turn into justice, that mothers’ tears may become prayers, and that nowhere and never again will there be a Srebrenica.

Daniel Edge
Peace Worker

Other members of the group also wrote about their experiences. You can read the reflections of Catriona Robertson in her blog which contains many photographs from the week. We hope to add more from the others and invite them to let us have links that we can add to this piece.

Christian Muslim Forum
70 South Lambeth Road
Vauxhall
London SW8 1RL
Telephone 0207 820 0444
http://www.christianmuslimforum.org
Company Registration 5461960
Registered Charity 1114793

Nubians in Kenya

October 25, 2009

Bismillah.  I was born in Nairobi, hence the interest when a friend told me about his people there, the Nubians who live in the Kibera district of the Kenyan capital.

He says, “This is the link to our website Nubians in Kenya. In this page are pictures of my father (Councillor Ali Ramathan el-Ali) in the 50’s.”

National Meeting of the Changing Face of Britain programme on Saturday 7 November

October 24, 2009

Bismillah. From the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ), http://www.carj.org.uk with slight editing- their thought-provoking discussion paper is appended below. Comments welcome, here or at the CARJ site.

National Meeting of the Changing Face of Britain programme on Saturday 7 November at Westminster Cathedral, Victoria Street London, SW1

This programme marks the 25th Anniversary of the Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ). The Celebration is an Inter-Faith event and we would welcome the participation of more different community members, so please feel free to circulate the flyer among your networks.

PROGRAMME
10.30 – 11.00am Tea/Coffee in Cathedral Hall (CH)

11.00am – 12.45pm National meeting on the CFB programme, speakers include:

 Rt Hon John Battle Member of Parliament for Leeds West, Chair of the All Party Group on Poverty, Member of the International Development Select Committee

 Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, Church of England Vicar at Holy Trinity Dalston and All Saints Haggerston and Chaplain to Her Majesty the Queen

 Dr Usama Hasan, Senior Lecturer at Middlesex University and Imam at the Al-Tawhid mosque in Leyton (CH)

12.45 – 1.30pm Lunch in Cathedral Hall

2.00 – 3.30pm Mass in Cathedral with Most Rev Vincent Nichols, Archbishop of Westminster, other Bishops and clergy

3.30 – 4.00pm Tea/Coffee in Cathedral Hall

4.00 – 5.00pm Event hosted by Young People on the Changing Face of Britain theme, with music, presentations, debate (CH)

We have invited all communities to participate in the Celebration including people from parishes, religious communities, other Christian denominations, other Faith communities, schools, civil society, politicians and the media.


The Changing Face of Britain Discussion Paper

1. The Changing Face of Britain Programme

During 2009, to mark its 25th Anniversary, CARJ is organising a Programme of local events culminating in a national celebration at Westminster Cathedral on 7 November 2009. The Programme will explore the theme: The Changing Face of Britain.

The Programme will have a twofold aim, relating to the theme. It will:

 celebrate the ways in which the Church and the wider society have changed for the better over those 25 years
 attempt to read ‘the signs of the times’ and discern in our the new situation the challenges that we are called to address in the future.

The Programme will also include a 25th Anniversary Appeal for funds for the future work of CARJ.

The Programme was launched at the celebration of the feast of St Martin de Porres on 1 November 2008.

2. Celebrating What Has Been Achieved

CARJ wishes to acknowledge and to celebrate all that has changed for the better over the past 25 years and the progress that we have all made toward becoming ‘a truly diverse Church in a truly diverse society.’

 overt discrimination has been made illegal and largely banned from mainstream society

 people of different backgrounds live and work in all sectors of society

 educational disadvantage is being steadily overcome

 our churches and schools are communities of every language, nation, colour and culture.

 The Race Relations Act 1976 and the CRE are being replaced by a new Single Equalities Act and the newly formed Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

3. Future Challenges We Face

Some of the challenges we face in the coming years may seem obvious. However, we need to look below the surface, to read the signs of the times and to discern what role we are called to play in our developing society. The following are some of the issues we will wish to reflect upon and the groups who may need our support:

Second and third generation black British
The riots of the early 1980s, which were examined in the Scarman Inquiry, suggest something of the situation 25 years ago – alienated black youth, racism in the police, over-representation in prisons, high incidence of mental illness, educational under-achievement, the emergence of black consciousness, black power and black pride. Some of this remains, but there has also been positive development. Second and third generation black British today need our support to resist becoming alienated and to achieve their full potential.

Islam in British society

The Muslim community are currently in the forefront of public attention, partly because of terrorism but also because they are visibly committed to their faith and culture which some see as alien. Some second generation Muslims are becoming westernised under their traditional clothing – making their way in school and into jobs across society. Others are experiencing varying degrees of alienation and are sometimes under attack by groups like the British National Party (BNP). Issues of community cohesion often focus around divisions between Muslim communities and others. In some places, Muslim communities are residentially segregated and their physical and geographical separation reinforce cultural differences. Some schools are more segregated than their local neighbourhoods.

New Migrants

Migrants arriving in the UK since 1990 come from many parts of the world – Africa, Asia and Latin America – but especially from Eastern Europe. Some are undocumented. Others are from new accession countries in the EU. They come with a variety of needs and contributions to make to both the church and wider society. Many are not visible but they suffer from sporadic prejudice – including stereotyping and media criticism.

Asylum seekers and refugees

Asylum seekers and refugees are sometimes among the poorest and most vulnerable in our society. They suffer from the memory of past traumas, the current danger of being returned, lack of work or benefits, a variety of prejudices and other problems. There are a growing number of church projects to cater for their needs, but the situation is patchy and sometimes uncoordinated.

Dalits

The Dalit diaspora communities in the UK reportedly number some 200,000; and they experience caste prejudice and caste discrimination (often reinforcing poverty) in a variety of partially hidden forms.

Gypsies and Travellers

The communities of Gypsies and Travellers are said to be similar in size to the Bangladeshi community in the UK. They are culturally separated because of their life-style and they often suffer very serious levels of prejudice, discrimination and disadvantage. They experience problems accessing health care, problems with the police, educational under-achievement and difficult relations with local resident communities.

Poor, white, vulnerable and marginalised communities

This is not a single group but together make up a very vulnerable and fairly sizeable section of the white population. They are a breeding ground for the BNP and for the growth of the everyday racism of ordinary people. They are seen by some to be the ‘neglected poor’ as compared to black and minority ethnic groups.

4. Issues arising from these and other developments

These and other developments have substantially changed the environment of race relations in the UK since 1984. The following are only a few of these developments:

New equalities legislation

The Race Relations Act 1976 and the CRE are being replaced by a new Single Equalities Act and the newly formed Equality & Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This legislation and the new Commission will deal with discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief, sexual orientation and age.

Community cohesion

Community cohesion has emerged as an important concern at local and national level. How do we construct a common identity and citizenship while welcoming and appreciating our diversity? What place do local parishes and schools play in reinforcing divisions or in promoting cohesion.

Segregation

In some places faith and ethnic communities are residentially segregated and their physical and geographical separation reinforces other differences. Some schools are more segregated than their local neighbourhoods.

Policy on immigration, asylum, terrorism and human rights

Legislation on immigration and asylum is the subject of constant debate. The tension between human rights and protection from terrorism is becoming more and more serious, and in times of recession especially, migrants and asylum seekers are likely to be stereotyped as outsiders and as competition for employment.

Educational underachievement

Many from black and minority ethnic groups, along with white working class boys, suffer educational underachievement, which locks them into disadvantage and inequality and leads to alienation.

Caste discrimination in the UK

Voice of Dalit International (VODI) and Castewatch UK are only two of the organisations working to highlight the often hidden prejudice and discrimination which Dalits face in this country particularly from within South Asian communities.

Cultural and religious diversity and marginalisation

Some ethnic and religious groups find themselves marginalised, partly by choice and partly by prejudice, cultural segregation and economic disadvantage. This is especially true of Gypsies and Travellers and of some groups in Muslim, black Christian, Jewish and other communities.

Action for local groups

With all these developments and vulnerable groups in mind, the question we wish to ask of one another during our year of reflection and discernment is what role can we best play and what specific initiatives can we take to support vulnerable and marginalised groups, to encourage dialogue and to bring about a fairer and more equal society, where all live together as good neighbours and work together for the common good?

This paper is intended as a discussion starter. This and other materials produced by CARJ will be used to initiate a process of discernment (trying to read the signs of the times) in local groups. Local groups are invited to make the process their own by reflecting on their local situation. The discussion will then have to move on to how the situation is to be addressed.

Above all the aim of these discussions is to enable local groups and the Church nationally to begin fashioning a vision of how we want to work in the coming years to build a truly inclusive church in a truly inclusive society.

5. Get involved

For more information and to find out how you can participate in the 25th Anniversary programme of events and the special Appeal for the 25th Anniversary, please contact:

Rosie Bairwal
Catholic Association for Racial Justice (CARJ)
9 Henry Road, London N4 2LH
020 8802 8080
info@carj.org.uk
http://www.carj.org.uk

Islam in British Stone

October 21, 2009

http://www.islaminbritishstone.co.uk/

Islam in British Stone is a web-based project that seeks out and promotes Britain’s most significant Muslim heritage sites and greatest Islamic influenced buildings. It was developed as a response to our work with young Muslims. It emerged that there was a gap in knowledge with regards to British Muslim/Islamic history and this could be a significant factor in the disenfranchisement of young British Muslims. This project aims to tackle this issue by highlighting the historic relationship between Islam and Britain in a positive manner.

The project focuses on the heritage of the Muslim community in Britain and its use, affect and influence on the built environment. Historically significant buildings like these can provide a way for a community to connect to its past and help establish a sense of place within society. These buildings have played a significant role at the heart of the Muslim community in Britain for generations and they deserve to be recognised as important monuments in its modern history.The learning and promotion of the history and heritage of the Muslim community in Britain is still at its very early stages. A huge amount of work to research, document and archive is required and we hope that in our own little way this project will help stimulate this sphere of work.

We are currently promoting and celebrating the 120 year anniversary of the Shah Jahan Mosque in Woking, the first purpose built mosque in the UK, opened in 1889 and a Grade II* listed building. By using the latest internet-based computer games technology we have created a 3-D environment that allows anyone to ‘virtually’ visit the mosque with a few clicks of a mouse and a broadband connection.

Any thoughts, suggestions and advice or potential links, partners and support would be very much appreciated.

Please be aware the site is ‘work in progress’.

Please feel free to pass on to any interested parties.

Website – http://www.islaminbritishstone.co.uk/

Twitter – http://twitter.com/MuslimHeritage

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/pages/Islam-in-British-Stone/152425907498

Flickr – http://flickr.com/IslaminBritishStone

40 Hadith from 40 Hadith Collections, by Imam al-‘Ajluni

October 10, 2009

Bismillah.

The Hadith scholars have the lovely tradition of composing short works comprising about 40 Hadith.  Often these are about specific subjects.  The most famous and influential such collection is of course by Imam Nawawi, because his 42 ahadith covered the major principles of Islam.

Here is a beautiful work by Imam Isma’il b. Muhammad of ‘Ajlun, Syria, who lived 1087-1162 H, i.e. about 75 lunar years.  The Gregorian dates would be 1676-1749, roughly.  His teachers included the Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ghani of Nablus.

‘Ajluni’s most famous work is probably his Kashf al-Khafa’ wa Muzil al-Albas ‘an ma-shtahara min al-Ahadith ‘ala Alsinah al-Nas (“Unveiling the Hidden Truth and Removing the Confusion about the Ahadith that are Widespread upon the Tongues of the People”), in which several hundred popular ahadith are listed in alphabetical order with his comments (of variable length) about the sources (takhrij) and authenticity of each hadith.  He confirms that many widely-quoted and popular ahadith are not, in fact, authentic as genuine statements of the Prophet, peace be upon him. Many others are, of course, and still others have slightly different wordings than their popular versions.  The Kashf was almost unique and the reference work in its field until the Shaykh al-Albani came along!  However, the Kashf is still an extremely valuable resource in addition to Albani’s works.  Some readers will remember that I quoted several times from the Kashf, in addition to Albani’s books, when I wrote the Introduction and Appendix to my father’s An Introduction to the Science of Hadith (Al-Quran Society, London, 1990’s – later republished and distributed widely by Darussalam, Riyadh).

One matter mentioned by Imam ‘Ajluni in the Kashf is that, contrary to the popularly-held belief, the head of Imam Husain, the revered grandson of the Prophet peace be upon him, is not buried in Cairo.  The site has a major mosque and shrine there currently, known as al-Husainiyyah.  Imam Husain was martyred at Karbala’ in Iraq, and in fact there are one or two other shrines in different countries where it is claimed that his head is buried.  I was rather bemused by the fact that the esteemed, pioneering and inspirational Prof. Seyyed Hossein Nasr mentions in his autobiography that, out of all the places he had ever visited, he found his spiritual centre at the alleged burial-place of Imam Husain’s head in Cairo.  One can understand its significance if one believes the story to be true, but surely the place cannot be more sacred than Medina and Mecca, whether you’re Sunni or Shia, Sufi or not?

Anyway, back to the current work which collects 40 hadiths from 40 different Hadith collections.  (Most of us would probably be hard-pressed to name 10 Hadith collections, let alone 40).  The hadith in each case is often the one which opens the relevant book.

The Arabic title of the book is ‘Iqd al-Jawhar al-Thamin fi Arba’in Hadithan min Ahadith Sayyid al-Mursalin (“A Necklace of Precious Jewels: Forty Traditions of the Chief of the Messengers”).  It is described as a sanad (chain of narration) for the books of Hadith, so that a student of Hadith would have sanad in 40 books by gaining a sanad for this book.  The later Hadith scholar Jamal al-Din al-Qasimi, also of Syria, wrote an excellent commentary on the ‘Iqd called al-Fadl al-Mubin (“The Clear Grace”).

The book is available here, only in Arabic, in Word and PDF formats, and would be a lovely one for someone to translate, even a list of the 40 Hadith books and an indication of the relevant hadith in each case, since some of the 40 hadiths are quite long.  I’d be very grateful if someone could do this for the sake of God and for the benefit of non-Arabic readers.  I’m very grateful to Ibrahim Ali for sending me these files.

Iqd al Jawhar_Ajluni_Mutii al Hafiz_another edn (Word format)

Iqd al Jawhar_Ajluni_Mutii al Hafiz_another edn (PDF format)

A beginner’s guide to learning about astronomy

October 9, 2009

Bismillah. Some recommendations:

1) All knowledge comes from God, so continually pray to him to teach you more. This Koranic prayer is great: rabbi zidni ‘ilma(n) – “My Lord, increase me in knowledge.”

2) The first and last learning resource for astronomy is the sky itself, especially the night sky. Get into the habit of watching the movement of the sun and moon, where and when they rise and set etc. (Never look directly at the sun.) Sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times are widely-available online and in good daily newspapers.

The apparent movement of stars and planets would be the next thing to learn. Make sure you know your N-E-S-W directions wherever you are. Learning about the North Star helps here! Binoculars are good for viewing the moon and fainter stars.

3) Visit the Royal Observatory Greenwich (ROG), http://www.rog.nmm.ac.uk – free entry with brilliant learning resources, planetarium shows and a good shop for books, software and telescopes.

4) There are many observatories and planetaria around the UK – do try to visit those.

5) Watch “The Sky at Night” on BBC1, it’s a monthly programme. Has a good website, too.

6) There are several national and international astronomical associations and astronomy magazines. The latter include “Astronomy Now” and “Sky and Telescope.” There are hundreds of websites.

7) Software: free, shareware or fairly cheap, and will show you on your PC screen what the night sky looks like at your location, at any time. “Starry Night” is about £10 at the ROG shop, and is excellent. Skyglobe is good shareware, available online. Others include Stellarium, but I’m not familiar with them. A good way to learn to recognise and name the planets, stars and constellations.

8. Many observatories, including ROG, run short courses with weekly sessions, teaching astronomy at beginner and more advanced levels, as do many adult-learning colleges. For children, there are GCSE and AS-level courses in astronomy.

9) My blog (https://unity1.wordpress.com) has a section on astronomy and Islamic astronomy.

10) There are many books on Islamic astronomy. Good websites include ICOP, the Astronomical Societies of Jordan, the UAE and Qatif in Saudi Arabia (qasweb.org) and various moonsighting ones.

London – police and communities together

October 5, 2009

Please check the Metropolitan Police Services’ new community messaging service on: http://www.neighbourhoodlink.met.police.uk

You can receive free text & email messages from the Metropolitan Police Service about incidents and issues that may affect you locally or as a member of the wider London community.

Communities Together Helpline: 0800 0282390
Communities Together Minicom: 0800 0286522
Email: CommunitiesTogether@met.police.uk