Archive for December, 2010

EU HRC: Austerity budgets will cause further child poverty

December 21, 2010

Bismillah. From the EU HR Commissioner.

Read Thomas Hammarberg’s latest Human Rights Comment:

Austerity budgets will cause further child poverty

While the European Union promoted 2010 as the “European Year Against Poverty,” several member states presented austerity budgets which will inevitably push more people into destitution. There are already large numbers of children among the poor, and it is obvious that the struggle against child poverty will now face further difficulties.

The War You Don’t See – John Pilger’s latest film, tonight on UK TV

December 14, 2010

Bismillah. John Pilger’s books, such as “Hidden Agendas,” and his documentaries such as “The War on Democracy” and several about the Palestinian struggle, are excellent. His latest film is on UK television tonight:

‎”The War You Don’t See” – Tuesday 14 December 2010, ITV1, 10.35pm-12.25am. John Pilger investigates the media’s role in war, tracing the history of ’embedded’
and independent reporting from the carnage of the First World War through to the destruction of Hiroshima, the invasion of Vietnam and the current wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As the nature of war has changed, who is the real enemy today? Is it the people at home watching TV? And is the journalist’s job to
normalise the unthinkable? The film contains shocking, never-before-seen footage from Iraq and Afghanistan and revealing interviews with former BBC reporter Rageh Omaar, former CBS anchor Dan Rather and Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks.Subtitled.

Watch a trailer here:

The Road to Bethlehem

December 9, 2010

From Leila Sansour:

My new film The Road to Bethlehem is finally complete. I would like to thank all of you who have contributed and helped in the making of this film and to invite you to join forces with me when we take the film to the wider audience in US and Europe.

This film is my own personal story so it is very different to all other films I have ever made but it is also a tribute to Bethlehem and, I hope, a real plea for Palestinian freedom. Many of you have followed my progress with this film over the course of the last 5 years. My road to Bethlehem has been a very long one but I am finally there.

The film will premier at the Dubai International film Festival next week and we intend to take it to other international festivals then the wider public throughout 2011. I hope the links below will give you all the information you might need.

You can see our new trailer on Youtube, here:

If you are in Dubai on Thursday 16th or Saturday 18th December, here’show to buy tickets:

http://www.dubaifilmfest.com/index.php/en/movie_details/the-road-to-bethlehem/8904/2010/1_a-t_i-313

And if you want further information – or want to help the outreach campaign and the film’s theatrical release, go here:

http://www.tippingpointfilmfund.com/projects/road-to-bethlehem/

Film news

December 9, 2010

Bismillah. From the Tipping Point Film Fund:

Project News

The Road to Bethlehem is selected for Dubai International Film Festival

We are thrilled to announce that Leila Sansour’s film has been selected for the Dubai International Film Festival, with screenings on 16 & 18 December. This is a great opportunity to show the film to distributors who attend from all over the world.

Additionally, the film has also received an award from the Dubai Entertainment and Media Organisation, which is now a co-producer on the film. Leila and TPFF are now busily planning the festivals and distribution strategy, as well as the campaign outreach to accompany the film on its release.

The film would not have been completed without support from our funding partners, in particular Trocaire (Ireland), Development and Peace (Canada) The McCabe Educational Trust (UK), CBA-DfID (UK) and many other individuals around the world.

You can still support the film and the campaign outreach by donating now or by hosting your own fundraiser screening of Leila’s first film, Jeremy Hardy versus the Israeli Army.

Just do it

TPFF joined with many others to donate to Emily James’s recent and very successful effort to raise £20,000 for her new film Just do it. With Cancun at the fore of climate talks, this film will show just why activism makes a difference. Released in Spring 2011, free to watch and free to share.

When China met Africa

Recently screened at Sheffield DocFest, IDFA and CPH:Dox; it was the winner of best film at the Margaret Mead Festival in New York. This Marc and Nick Francis film, to be released next year, gets beneath the skin of the relationship between China and Africa – in particular Zambia. Be sure to find out about the release date by joining the Facebook Fan Page.

TPFF Film Club

Our Film Club kicked off in July to a full house for Oliver Stone’s film South of the Border. Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength, screening Life and Debt, Inside the Revolution, Jeremy Hardy versus the Israeli Army and Robert Beckford’s Channel 4 documentaries, The Empire Pays Back and Great African Scandal. A very big thanks to our partners The Lexi Cinema, Inn on the Green and The Bernie Grant Arts Centre.

If you’re in London, watch out for alerts about our new year screenings. In mid-January in association with Jubilee Debt Campaign, we’ll mark the 50th anniversary of the assasination of Congo’s first democratically elected post independence leader, Patrice Lumumba – venue and date tbc. We’ll also be screening at The Lexi Cinema in February (new release – watch this space!) and early March to mark Fair Trade fortnight.

Newly Released Films – TPFF recommends

This Prison where I Live follows German comedian Michael Mittermeier as he embarks on a journey across Burma to try to understand and get closer to Maung Thura (better known as Zarganar), a Burmese comedian victimised by the military junta and now in prison.

In Enemies of the People the men and women who perpetrated the massacres of the Cambodian Killing Fields – from the foot-soldiers who slit throats to the party’s ideological leader, Nuon Chea aka Brother Number Two – break a 30-year silence to give testimony never before heard or seen. Due for release 10 December – find out if it’s screening near you.

Campaign Spotlight

Tax Justice

Find out about Action Aid’s new report Calling Time, which argues that Grolsch beer owner, SABMiller is dodging its taxes around the world – tax income that could provide education for up to 250,000 African children.

Climate change

The 2010 United Nations Climate Change conference is currently under way. Find out what’s going on right now and how you can have your say, check out tcktcktck.org

Fighting the Occupation

Check out War on Want’s new website disconnectnow.org, set up to highlight and demand an end to British Telecom’s alliance with Bezeq International – a telecommunications service operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

A Christmas gift idea … Fairly Traded Palestinian gifts

For an excellent selection of Fairly Traded Palestinian goods – foods and crafts – that enable you to help boost the Palestinian economy at the click of a mouse, check out The Co-operative supported OliveCoop.com. And on that note … we want to send a very big THANKS to The Co-operative for their continued support throughout 2010. And to our supporters – donors and regular givers!

Education cuts – demo tomorrow

December 8, 2010

Bismillah. From the UCU:

I am writing to update you with the latest information regarding our joint actions with the National Union of Students (NUS) on Thursday 9 December. All members are invited to join the lobby of parliament at 1pm.

All members are also invited to join me at the peaceful mass rally from 3pm on Victoria Embankment in the shadow of the Westminster clock tower and Big Ben for a host of speeches and a ‘candlelit vigil’: http://bit.ly/dPPAdL

The list of speakers already confirmed is set out below, with more adding their names daily. The vigil will begin at approx 4:30pm when we intend to create 9,000 points of light to symbolise the proposed higher tuition fee. Please bring warm clothes.

To get to the rally please if possible travel by public transport –Victoria Embankment is very easy to reach. We have agreed with the police to recommend that you use Charing Cross or Embankment tube stations as we anticipate that Westminster tube may need to close.

If you are unable to be present, please contact your MP in advance of Thursday’s vote and urge them to vote against the fees increase using: http://www.writetothem.com – thank you to everyone who has let me know that they have done this.

Speakers confirmed so far for the UCU/NUS rally:

Sally Hunt, UCU
Aaron Porter, NUS
Rt Hon John Denham MP
TUC speaker – Brendan Barber/Frances O’Grady
Rt Hon Peter Hain MP
Bob Crow, RMT
Lisa Nandy MP
Lilian Greenwood MP
Jeremy Dear, NUJ
Emily Thornberry MP
Paul Noon, Prospect
Jon Trickett MP
Nina Franklin – Senior VP NUT
Carly McKenzie, UJS
Paul Blomfield MP
Jeremy Corbyn MP
Katie Dalton, President NUS Wales
Billy Hayes, CWU
Caroline Lucas MP
Zita Holbourn , PCS National Executive
Paul Farrelly MP
Sharon Holder, National Official GMB
Luciana Berger MP
Kevin Brennan MP
Nabil Ahmed,FOSIS
Unison speaker
BYC speaker TBC
Jonathan Reynolds MP
John McDonnell MP
Teresa Pearce MP
Rt Hon Frank Dobson

It promises to be a day to remember. I hope you can join me to help defend education. Full details, including advice about attendance, are available here: http://www.ucu.org.uk/rally_9dec10

Unions unite to save EMA – national day of action, 13 December

I’d like also take this opportunity to tell you about the Save EMA day of action.

Students, staff and trade unions are uniting for a day of action as part of their campaign to save the education maintenance allowance (EMA) – a means-tested allowance for 16- to 19-year-olds who stay on in education. UCU has joined with NUS, NUT, ATL, Unison, Unite and the GMB to call a national day of action on Monday 13 December. Colleges and sixth-forms around the country will be holding lunchtime protests against government plans to axe financial support that can often be the difference between some students being able to afford to continue their studies.

A new joint website has also been launched with all the latest materials, which you can view here: http://www.emacampaign.org.uk/

WHAT YOU CAN DO:

• Please contact your branch to see what is being organised for the day and find out how you can help. Make contact with colleagues in other campus unions and the Students’ Union or student reps to discuss local ideas for the day

• Sign the petition: http://emacampaign.org.uk/sign/.

• Contact your local MP via http://www.writetothem.com to ask them to sign the petition, attend and/or publicly support the day and the campaign

• Download and print out the new campaign materials: http://www.emacampaign.org.uk/

Yours,
Sally Hunt
UCU general secretary

PS: Travelling by coach or car? Due to expected numbers the police are now advising the following drop off points – in order of preference:

• York Road (SE1) – which is a short walk across Hungerford Bridge, turn left for easy access into Victoria Embankment.

• Lambeth Palace Road (SE1) – which is a short walk across Westminster Bridge, turn right for restricted access into Victoria Embankment (as the stage is at this end of the Embankment and will restrict the access we do not recommend that colleagues approach the Embankment from this end). ===

New: Cordoba Movement

December 8, 2010

Bismillah. From Feisal Abdul Raouf, Imam of the “Ground Zero Mosque”:

Dear Friend,

I’m writing to inform you that tomorrow I am formally launching the Cordoba Movement: a multi-national, multi-faith organization dedicated to improving understanding and building trust among people of all cultures and faith traditions.

The new organization has grown from my work over the past 25 years leading my Muslim congregation in New York City and from the overwhelming expression of support Daisy and I have received for our defense of the planned construction of the Park 51 community center and mosque in lower Manhattan this past summer and fall.

The messages of the Cordoba Movement are simple:

We must retake the discourse among religions and cultures from the hands of the extremists around the world who benefit from hatred and violence.

We must stop this downward spiral of hatred, mistrust and misunderstanding if our world is to have a peaceful future.

Through the Cordoba Movement, I am broadening the work on our existing programs to expand learning and understanding among Muslims, Jews, Christians and people of all faiths, including the programs of which you may already be familiar — the Young Leaders program, the Women’s Empowerment program, the Cordoba House and the Shariah Project.

As part of the Cordoba Movement launch, I will be speaking with journalists this week in New York City. From there, I will expand my speaking tour around the United States and the world to spread our message of peace.

It is my belief that the Cordoba Movement is creating a new paradigm. From my perspective, the global battle isn’t between America and Islam. Instead, it is a battle between the 95 percent of people in the world who want peace and the extremists on all sides who benefit from hatred and violence. For too long, the 95 percent of people in the world who want peace have sat in the stands watching the extremists battle it out in the arena. We must enter the arena ourselves and retake control of this important global discussion. It is my fervent hope that you will continue to support this new and expanded effort, as you have loyally supported us in the past. If you would like more information about the Cordoba Movement, its mission and its programs, you may find it at http://www.CordobaMovement.org.

I look forward to hearing from you as I embark on this new and most important journey.

May God bless you and your loved ones during this special holiday season,

Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf
http://www.cordobamovement.org

Chechen translators needed

December 8, 2010

Bismillah. From SCC:

To commemorate World Chechnya Day 2011, the Save Chechnya Campaign shall be producing a retrospective on the music of Imam Alimsultanov.

We’re urgently seeking translators with an excellent mastery of the Chechen language to help translate the lyrics of his songs into English. The translations need not be in perfect English. However they should capture the full meaning of his words/lyrics which we can then work on together. Even if only one song can be translated then that would still be very helpful in moving this project forward.

Imam Alimsultanov was assassinated in 1996 in a political killing widely blamed on the Russian Security Services. His works – more than and unlike any other – vividly express the aspirations, ideals and sorrows of the Chechen experience in their long struggle for freedom. The ballads draw heavily on the verse of classical Chechen poets such as Umar Yarycheva and Musa Geshaev in an evocative style that’s deeply engaging. The sentiment expressed in Imam Alimsultanov’s work are quintessentially Chechen. Their translation would make the defining emotional experiences of Chechens accessible, and thereby more understood, to the wider world.

Interested translators should email:

info@savechechnya.org

===================
Save Chechnya Campaign
===================

TravelPak in TimeOut

December 8, 2010

Bismillah. From Sohail Azhar:

Hi, all. Hope all is well. Just wanted to share with you the article that came out after our latest trip in September when we were accompanied by a journalist from Time Out.

http://www.timeout.com/travel/features/705/pakistan-big-skies-warm-hearts

All the best,

Sohail
PS – check out our facebook page and join up for all the latest good/fun/happy/quirky/interesting news stories of Pakistan as well as the latest events and fundraisers:

http://www.facebook.com/travelpakuk

Sohail Azhar

W: http://www.travelpak.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/TravelPakUK

On Panorama, from John Ware (dated 1st Dec 2010)

December 8, 2010

Dear Usama

Thanks for pointing this out. We were already aware that our Saudi undercover man was summarising what he was able to read at first glance
having just emerged from the weekend school. We then took the full text to Neal Robinson who put it in its proper context. He even went as far as to say that he personally would have been happy to teach this text but emphasised the importance of taking great care over it, in a way that the Saudi text book has not.

Here’s the relevant part of the film:

COMMENTARY

Saudi officials often complain these are Qu’uranic passages taken out of their historical context.

So we showed the lesson to an academic known internationally for his expertise on the Qur’an.

Prof. Neal ROBINSON SYNC

Q: “Is it wise to draw the attention of children to these passages?

A: I would do it, but I would spend a long lesson talking round this. To present it cold as it seems to be here just part of the teaching of Islam, no it’s not wise.

In the wrong hands I think it is, yes, ammunition for anti-Semitism.”

Furthermore, when we showed the passage in its full and accurate context
to Michael Gove he was clear that this text was unnacceptable in a British classroom.

Michael GOVE SYNC

“You could have a long theological argument in which you say um, that these things should be seen in an historical context. Fair enough, that’s a matter for other countries. To my mind it doesn’t seem to me that this is the sort of material that er, should be used in English schools.”

Whilst I accept there is a difference between Jews who “look like monkeys … etc” (Our Saudi U/C’s translation) and Jews being “transformed into apes” I’m not sure this difference constitutes what you have described as a “major mistake.”

It’s also important to set this passage into the context of the Saudi national curriculum as a whole. For example, as we set out in the film, the same text book asks children to list what it describes as “the reprehensible qualities of the Jews.”

It is because several speakers (e.g. Sheikh Hussein Yee, Sheikh Abdul Rahman Al-Sudais, Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris, Sheikh Muhammad Al-Saleh Al-‘Athimein to name but some) have adapted the historical texts referring to apes and pigs to make racist remarks about Jews today – likening Jews metaphorically to apes, and sometimes even literally – that Prof Robinson emphasised that unless taught in the right hands, the passages are fuel for anti Semitism. Presumably this also explains why the Secretary of State concurred and said that it was better not to have them in any British classroom.

In any event, as you can see, in the commentary we dealt squarely with
the view – as advanced by the Saudi ambassador – that such texts can be taken out of their historical context, though in this case we do not accept that we did because of the nature of the questions to the children at the end of the lesson. It seems to us and others that the questions were designed to have a contemporary relevance.

This is further butressed by other parts of the Saudi curriculum where, (as you yourself acknowledged in the translations you kindly did for us), there are racist references to Jews where no “historical” or “contextual” claim could possibly be made because the passages refer to 19th, 20th and 21st century. For example, in Grade 10 Students are told
that Zionists are plotting to take over the world for Jews, with 15 year old Saudi schoolchildren being taught that the “plot” continues to the present day. There are “many proofs” of the Protocols’ “veracity” the text book says.

That said, I’d like to put on record Usama how genuinely grateful we are to you for your important contribution, your generous time and your advice.

With every good wish

John

On the BBC’s Panorama – British Schools, Islamic Rules – Monday 22 November 2010

December 1, 2010

Bismillah.  Some thoughts:

1) Editorial balance

The programme was understandable perhaps, given the anxiety about Islam in UK society.  But for editorial balance, maybe the BBC should also investigate other faith schools and communities, e.g.:

a) Judaism. The most senior Rabbi (Sephardi) of the Shas movement in Israel appears to have revolting, bigoted views: for example, recently wishing plague and death on all Palestinians (retracted later after an international outcry, it seems) and declaring that Goyim (Gentiles) exist only to serve Jews. (Both stories are from the Jerusalem Post.)  The Shas is part of the Israeli coalition government.  Just as we in the UK are right to question the impact of overseas-based Islamist (political Islam) groups such as AQ, HT, JI & MB in Britain, we should also be worried about the influence of Shas’ leading rabbi amongst British Jews.  We assume and hope that such influence is minimal.

Further, the ideology of right-wing Israeli settlers needs to be explored and challenged, along with its connections in the UK.  Some of these settlers appear to be violently extremist and racist, wishing to live “a pure way of life according to the Torah” in such a way that they must live in Jewish-only neighbourhoods and settlements, i.e. making peaceful coexistence with Palestinian, mainly-Muslim but also Christian, neighbours extremely difficult.  The settlements are a major obstacle to ME peace as is well-known, and it’s about time that settler ideology and its UK links was examined more closely.  See Robi Damelin, a brave Israeli woman, challenging some of these Jewish extremists in the remarkable film Encounter Point that also features Ali Abu Awwad, an equally-courageous Palestinian man. (Watch the trailer on the film’s website, and excerpts here.)

Oh, and a US-based rabbi and Tea Party activist (enough said) spoke recently at an EDL rally in London.

b) Christianity. Children attending fundamentalist churches in the UK have been spotted wearing T-shirts glorifying Terry Jones, the infamous US pastor.  Not good.

c) Hinduism.  The problem of Hindu extremism is well-known in India, with the Gujarat massacres (2002) a recent example.  Some Hindu extremists are even known to argue that their worship of Shiva, their god of destruction, entails using nuclear weapons on their enemies, such as Pakistan.  Again, Hindu and Sikh communities in the UK are known to reflect subcontinental problems here, just like Muslims of South Asian origin.

It’s fair to say that over the last decade, Muslims have been at the forefront of tackling the extremism within.  We have been setting an example in that regard, and would encourage friends of other faiths to follow suit.

2) On fundamentalism

I was surprised some years ago to find Sheikhs such as Hamza Yusuf and Abdal Hakim Murad talking about “Muslim fundamentalists.”  The Prince of Wales also talked about fundamentalism at the opening ceremony of the Tent at St. Ethelburga’s in London.  After years of reflection, I realised that I had been a fundamentalist for most of my life and that Muslim discourse is often dominated by fundamentalism. (Hey, YM even used to have T-shirts saying, “YM – Putting the Fun back into Fundamentalism” :-))  I came up with my “definition” of fundamentalism that was quoted by the Daily Telegraph last year (31 Dec 2009) and by Panorama: “reading scriptures out of context,” i.e. out of their historical and normative-faith context.  Note that this applies to all faiths, not just Islam, as shown by the examples given above.

3) On the term kafir (pl. kuffar), meaning non-believer

The Panorama quote said it all.  I also took part in a 1-hour discussion with Prof. Tariq Ramadan and others on Press TV last year.  As I said there, and to Panorama (not shown), many Muslims don’t realise how offensive the term “Kafir” can be to Westerners: many are immediately reminded of the white racists of apartheid-era South Africa who used the Afrikaans term “Caffer” for coloured people, and “Caffer” seems to have been borrowed from the Arabic.

By the way, the Jewish community has exactly the same issue with the Hebrew word Goy (pl. Goyim) meaning Gentile or non-Jew.  Just over 20 years ago, I was part of a group of 4-5 young activists led by Abu Muntasir who tried to attend an Israel Expo at Alexandra Palace in between our Sunday circles at various London venues.  We were dressed in Arab robes and turbans and were correctly prevented by security from entering the Expo, on the grounds that our presence would have probably provoked serious disorder.  We had a polite chat with the security and police about the matter, but a group of Jewish youths chanted “Goyim, Goyim” at us.  Who taught them that?

4) Advice to the Saudis

Please learn more about the Ahl al-Kitab and stop writing nonsense in your school textbooks.  So, for example, please stop distorting the Qur’anic criticism of Bani Israil (Children of Israel or Israelites) into your vilification of all Jews.  So, for example, “list the reprehensible qualities of the Jews” should read, “list the reprehensible qualities of the Israelites” (in the Qur’anic account).  You could also teach in that section that the Qur’anic account echoes the Ahl al-Kitab sources themselves (the Old and New Testaments), where the faults of the Israelites are exposed by Isaiah, Jesus and other prophets, peace be upon them. Of course, the Qur’an also praises the merits of the Israelites, such as the large number of Prophets that were chosen from them. More below on the specific Qur’anic criticism of Judaism & Christianity.

5) A major error by Panorama

It is unfortunate that you relied on your undercover Saudi, whose English was clearly poor, for translation of a complex passage written in neo-classical Arabic, about 23 min into the programme.  He totally mistranslated it as “Jews look like monkeys and pigs” which became headline news around the world.  The failure to check his translation with experts is an error of judgment on your part, which perhaps merits an apology and/or a correction from the BBC, due to the highly-inflammatory nature of the mistranslation.  What do you think the reaction would have been, had you broadcast a mistranslation of a Hebrew text used in Jewish schools to say that “all non-Jews are dogs” or such like?  The only mitigating factor in this case is that the correct translation of the Arabic text is not pretty, although it is nowhere near as bad as the mistranslation broadcast to millions of viewers.

The two paragraphs are almost entirely visible in the Panorama close-up, and my translation of the relevant parts is as follows:

The Jews were given knowledge of the Book of God (The Torah and Gospel) … yet they believed in falsehood such as the worshipping of idols, fortune-telling, magic, following Satan, opposing the Truth out of envy and transgression.  In this there is condemnation of them and a warning for us, not to do as they did.

… [In reference to Qur’an, 5:60] God Most Glorified says to His Prophet: shall I inform you of those who will attain the worst reward with God on the Day of Resurrection?  They are the Jews, whom God has cursed and will never be pleased with them.  Those who violated the Sabbath amongst them were punished by being transformed into apes and pigs.

In both paragraphs, “Jews” should read “Israelites,” as discussed above.  The word “Jews” does not occur at all in the relevant Qur’anic passages, but the Saudis have used it instead of “Israelites” due to their ignorance about the Ahl al-Kitab.  The  “worshipping of idols” is a reference to the golden calf, another story that is found in all Abrahamic sources.  The Ashab al-Sabt (lit., “People of the Sabbath”) is a famous Qur’anic term for those who violated the Sabbath in the well-known story (Qur’an 2:65, 4:47, 4:154, 7:163-6).

Once one is well-grounded in the Qur’anic discourse, it is relatively easy to present these Qur’anic stories in an authentic and balanced way.  By the grace of God, I was able to present the easily-misunderstood “apes and pigs” Qur’anic story on the Guardian Comment Is Free online forum earlier this year, where I wrote the following:

As an example, take the story about an Israelite fishing village tested by its local fish only coming near on the Sabbath (2:65, 5:60, 7:163-167). Some of the villagers fished indirectly on the Sabbath and thus mocked the law by sticking to its letter whilst violating its spirit. They were punished by “becoming apes and pigs”. The traditional commentary is that they were literally transformed into lower animals. However, Asad follows the rationalist commentators and has them becoming like apes and pigs, i.e. losing their intellectual capacities and becoming dominated by greed.

The above was written on an overwhelmingly leftist, anti-religious, secularist forum but not a single one of the commenters, who are usually harsh and aggressive, could even claim that this was objectionable, xenophobic or anti-Semitic.

6) On the Qur’anic criticism of Jews and Christians

Yes, there is plenty of this.  The Qur’an and the Prophet (peace be upon him), echoing Isaiah, Christ and other prophets (peace be upon them) set out to critique the errors of Judaism and Christianity, seen as having departed from the true path of submission to God.  A major aim of this critique is to regain the balance between the Mosaic Law and the Christian Spirit, between the outer and inner aspects of faith, i.e. between exoterism and esoterism.

And yes, the opening chapter of the Qur’an (al-Fatiha) mentions “those who receive anger” and “those who go astray.”  To refer these two terms to the Jews and Christians respectively is well-known in Qur’anic commentary, and is transmitted from many of the Followers, Companions and even the Prophet himself (peace be upon him).  But the Prophet (pbuh) famously also prophesied that Muslims would follow Jews and Christians in their mistakes, every step of the way.  Therefore, to quote such verses and commentary in a xenophobic way, in our times, is arrogant and pathetic, and forgets the warning to us, not to repeat the mistakes of others.  In fact, it should be noted that all the Qur’anic criticism of the Ahl al-Kitab (“People of Scripture”) applies also to Muslims, who are Ahl al-Qur’an or People of the Qur’an, which is also Scripture, of course.

The great Qur’an-commentators understood this well: Imam al-Alusi, when discussing verses mentioning Jews and Christians, usually if not always, gives the deepest or innermost meaning as “exoterists” (ahl al-zahir) and “esoterists” (ahl al-batin), respectively, including those amongst the Muslims.  In other words, religion must not be reduced to hollow, soulless and pedantic legalism, ritualism and literalism, nor must it become a vague “spirituality” without practical form and social order.  These verses must therefore be read as internal criticism of Muslims as well as external criticism of religious mistakes in general, and this has always been the enlightened Islamic way.  Balancing the inner and outer aspects of faith is the supreme achievement of the great men and women of God, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, Mary, Jesus Christ and Muhammad, peace be upon them all.

7) Advice to those exposed on British TV as preachers of hate (or HaTe)

This includes Riyad-ul-Haq, Murtaza Khan and others.  Please read the points above on understanding scripture, and take them to heart.  I have more years and experience than you in such matters, especially inter-faith discussions and Scriptural Reasoning. I have met some of you since the media first described you as “hate-preachers”, and trust that you have retracted your comments, learnt from your mistakes and moved on. What you should do is issue public statements, e.g. via your websites, blogs, organisations, press releases etc., stating that you regret and retract any offensive comments made in the past.  There is no humiliation or loss of face in admitting one’s mistakes, and we have the example of Prophet Moses in this regard.  When the Pharaoh reminded him of his accidental killing of an Egyptian, Prophet Moses replied, “I did that then, when I was amongst those away from the path.” (Surah al-Qasas, of course)

I have been through this process.  Soon after 9/11 and the subsequent, illegal NATO invasion of Afghanistan, I wrote a strident article, “Recapturing Islam from the Pacifists.”  I retracted the extremist and offensive parts of that later (and repeat the retraction here, since the occasional hostile people still mention the article), most notably when I chaired the RMW event in London after 7/7 where Shaykhs Hamza Yusuf and Abu Muntasir were the guest speakers.  Detailed interviews with journalists such as Paul Cruickshank and Johann Hari also helped to clarify publicly the fact that I had moved on.  (Sheikhs HY and AM had already made their own public retractions after 9/11 and 7/7).

Unfortunately, there are also hate-preachers who appear not to have retracted their offensive views and/or comments.  To those who defend such people by saying that they are religious and good people, consider this: many people who support the BNP, EDL and other dubious organisations are otherwise decent, family-oriented, hardworking people.  However, they may have some racist, anti-Semitic and Islamophobic views which they sometimes state in public.  There are other people who pray and fast, are otherwise decent, family-oriented and hardworking people who have xenophobic (anti-“kuffar”) views, including towards Jews, Hindus, etc., which they sometimes state in public.  What is the difference, if any, between the two cases?

8. Contact the BBC

If you’d like to have your say, do contact the BBC.  The Complaints page is here, see also their short response about the above programme.  Or you may wish to write to John Ware (Reporter) or Mark Alden (Assistant Producer).  BBC email addresses are well-known to be of the format: forename.surname@bbc.co.uk

May God grant us the courage to engage in difficult dialogue and deal with thorny issues with objectivity, truth and fairness in these troubled times.

Usama Hasan

London, 1st December 2010