Monday, 29 December 2008

Who will ever break the silence on Israel?

Deeply saddening, appalling is indeed the violence in Gaza, as our world leaders have called it. Events which stir our emotions intensely. But more than emotion, we all feel a view, have an opinion as politics doesn't just conjure feeling, it conjures thought and viewpoints as more than anything its about how we look after mankind in the world we live in. And in this present world we live in, it has to be said not only is the Palestinian conflict one of the most saddening, but is one which conjures the most political voice. For even the most apolitical amongst us, we all have a view about whether those people who claimed their homeland after around 2000 years, were right to do so, or wrong.
I remember some years ago, before I came to Islam, I was travelling in Morocco with a young Jewish girl who told me about how her parents envisaged settling in Israel one day from the UK, as their ultimate dream. At that time all I knew about Israel was, that it was a place in the middle east which came up in the news now and again, but didn't really know why and I wasn't that bothered either. When I returned to the UK, I ambled through some news pages in a vague attempt to maybe find out about this Israel. All I read was Israel was suffering at the hands of Palestinians and Palestinians were suffering at the hands of Israelis. Seemed like another classic conflict situation with some sort of history I'd never get but I hoped, as a passing thought, that both sides would meet in the middle somewhere. Thats classic conflict mediation isn't it, even in marriages, it's all about meeting somewhere in the middle; compromise. Both sides had to do their bit.
A couple of years later, my attachment to my Muslim brethren, urged me to read up on the history of Palestine and Israel. I read about a group of people homeless in Europe. I read about them set their eyes on a land they not only wanted to live in, but rule over. I read about them coming into Palestine and throwing people out of their homes, bulldozing them down and making people refugees in their own land. I read about bloodshed, I read about their domination, occupation spreading like a infectious disease. I read about their sophisticated missiles and tanks, whose design, manufacture was aided in Britain and America; massacre families, and the resistance of the Palestinians named as terrorism. Palestinians who grew up generation after generation in the muddy squalor of refugee camps in their own land attempted to fight this occupation with whatever they had. I read it all. Then came the wall, the blockades and the intense attacks of the last few days.
This was Israel. This was occupation, domination and suffering to the nth degee whilst the world watched, calling it deeply saddening and terribly appalling, but never wrong.
There have been many demos over the last few days, asking Israel to stop the attacks - and despite news reports saying that they won't until Hamas does, we must be slightly loopy if we ever believe they will put an end to their agenda which has been ruthlessly undertaken over the past century. And the West - they will never verbalise Israel's cruelty, as they are the ones who set the cannon loose and gave the go-ahead all those years ago. It's a silence that will never be broken in Washington or London, and if we don't own up to this, we continue to leave the suffering Palestinians stranded in a problem which has been sugarcoated and sold to us as a solution through roadmaps and ceasefires.
The solution lies in a place which we don't always look. Like a action-packed thriller, where the director misguides you into thinking who the killer is, masking the real one in order to create that all breath-taking twist, the Muslims will also face their twist. The realisation that sustainable change can only come from the solution Allah SWT gives us for our politics. Lobbying MPs, pressuring Israel, all these things serve to divert us from the real solution - the armies of the Muslim lands - who did they stand to defend? The thousands and thousands of people, weaponry who make up the Muslim armies - where and for what reason do they stand idle?
Allah SWT will ask the rulers of the Muslim world, where were their ears and their eyes as the missiles fell, one after the other? These rulers we know prefer to shake the hands of the perpetrators than straighten them, in order to keep their seats of power. But Allah Almighty is the owner of the Heavens and the Earth, and it is He who can destroy all 50+ of them and their kingdoms in a fell swoop and one day InshaAllah He will. There will come a day, as Allah SWT has promised where just Islamic rule will return to this Earth and liberate all the oppressed. This is the only solution which can pool together the resources of the Muslim world, and create the unity to enable a resistance which stands to the likes as those of Israel. This is the solution which doesn't accept a few Palestinian homes being returned, or a few Palestinians being allowed to work - This is the solution which will return an uncompromising rule of law which favours no race, only justice, to the Arabian plains. I pray that we are strong enough to remember this and become part of its return, instead of busying ourselves with fruitless actions which actively ensue its delay.

Monday, 22 December 2008

A Cruel Parallel

Imagine a 32 year old educated and mature woman being thrown into a vehicle, gagged by human hands to the point of an unbearable sense of suffocation and fearing that the tin roof of that van was possibly the last sight her eyes would ever see. Then imagine a 20 year old new bride, adorned with gold and glittering reds, still glowing with excitement and her fresh coyness, feel her skin turn wet, burn slowly and then unimaginably intensely, scorching and searing till it resembled black leather. Both images may make you sigh, or as it did for me, make your stomach turn. But both women I can now tell you were Bangladeshi, oppressed, tortured and victims of a situation where they had no control.

However as some of you may have already recognised, indeed for my first example the ending was a happy ending - the law successfully intervened and returned 32 year old Dr Humayra Abedin back home to the UK earlier this month - From the safety of her family who had duped her, and then imprisoned her in order to force her into a marriage with Dr Khondokar Mohammad Abdul Jalal, whose proposal she had declined earlier this year. Together with the pressure from a Bangladeshi Human Rights Group, as well as more importantly the pressure of the British Court, the Bangladeshi police were able to track Dr Abedin down on 15 December. The Dhaka court immediately ruled that she be freed and allowed to return to Britain. Indeed Dr Abedin has returned and after a painful period in her life, is still free to pursue her plans of becoming a trained GP in East London.

However the story of my second victim, does not have an ending that sits as well. On the 18th January 2007, Sabina Yasmin in Dhaka was married to Khairul Islam. But instead of her auspicious wedding day being the beginning of a more blessed and auspicious new life, it was a day that would prove devastating. Sabina that day, fell prey to the vengeance of some neighbours of her husband's family who had a long dispute with them and on her wedding day, she became another statistic in Bangladesh's shocking acid burning record. She was admitted into Dhaka Medical College hospital with 55% of her body mangled and melted by lethal acid from treacherous hands. After 22 long days and nights of suffering the agony of such burns, Sabina passed away. The police did not arrest anyone in relation to her assault, despite having strong evidence about the perpetrators and the campaigning of a human rights group.

The painful suffering and eventual death of Sabina is difficult to swallow, when set aside the new lease of life Dr Abedin has to now begin her life again and follow her ambitions to train as a GP. But what is more difficult to contemplate is how the life and wellbeing of Dr Abedin was worth more than the young life of the new Dhaka bride. For her, courts across the Atlantic and of course Dhaka set loose all possible efforts, to ensure her safety was restored and protected. Yet for Sabina, her life was left to wither away in a hospital and justice and the law did not just dust their hands of her, they forgot her from the very beginning. A hollow statistic to be brushed under the carpet as soon as she was gone. To even find the news article on her was an investigative feat.

I don't feel comfortable with reeling off statistics now for you all to picture the context of what the situation for women such as Sabina in Bangladesh is really like. Because any statistics I come across, on UNICEF, from Bangladeshi Government Records, just cannot reflect the real picture. Firstly with almost half the Bangladeshi population living in abject poverty with token access to statutatory assistance and unable to report crimes properly, in addition to the actual government institutions being corrupt and grotesquely pervasive when it comes to recording actual crime and injustice in the country, looking at any statistics is as good as not. But I'll give you some anyway, save you thinking I write and speak from a cloud above. 8.76% of the burns treated in Dhaka University in a four year period were as a result of acid throwing (, and most of these victims were young girls. More than 14% of pregnant women's deaths are associated with injury and violence they are subjected to ( and according to the Bangladesh police, registered cases of cruelty to women topped over 12 000 to 20 000 every year between 2003 and 2007, compared to around 1000 recorded cases of robbery each year from 2003 and 2007 (

Women like Sabina are withering away in hospitals and homes across Bangladesh, daily. The system does not care and does not want to care, as they are not worth the efforts of the police or court of law. But for the Bangladeshi court, pressure from world media and moreover the routine desire to appease Colonial Father Britain, urged them to relentlessly seek protection for Dr Abedin. Interestingly, Dr Abedin's message to women in her situation was 'come forward and don't give hope.' Sadly, hope is a step too far for most women in Bangladesh who do not have the royal visas of Britain to fight for them, or the wealth or influence of the ruling elite. For those who have been born into the average family in Bangladesh, struggling to survive, justice and the promise of protection from the State is nothing but a dream which will never manifest itself into reality.

For a country which has been praised for its corruption clean-up, and more recently its impressive democratic election process which was deemed as possibly 'fairest' in the world by American Presidential candidate McCain, it would seem that justice and human rights records in such a country should be as dazzling. But this obviously could not be further from the truth, where justice is conditional to how high profile you are and whether helping you would bring the Government any benefit. Clearly for Dr Abedin, pursuing justice for her was unavoidable as the eyes of the world and the British Government impinged on it.

To be able to protect women in Bangladesh, not a select few women, it is evident that we need a Government that will believe in this and pursue this. Throughout the short history of Bangladesh, never has there been a time where oppression, subjugation and a failure to protect people have not been the absolute norm. It's therefore time we stop looking to the political options in Bangladesh that have been handed to us pre-prepared, but call for a new type of politics which will uphaul the rotten current system to replace it with one that places justice at its heart.

In the Islamic ruling system, the Khilafah State, justice for the oppressed is not conditional to how much wealth they have, their status or particular situation, rather any oppressed citizen deserves justice by the State. This is because the ruler in Islam must abide by the principle that he is responsible for the wellbeing of all his citizens by the hadith of the Noble Prophet SAW: "Each of you is a shepherd, and all of you are responsible for your flocks." [Bukhari, Muslim]. Rather than fearing their colonial masters in the West in how they execute their rule of law and justice, the ruler in Islam fears his accountability to Allah on the Day of Judgement according to how he looked after and protected the flock he was entrusted with. In addition to this, crimes against women would be something which would be far from tolerated. Rather the viewpoint towards women in an Islamic State is one of high stature and honour. As the Prophet (SAW) said, "The world and all the things in it are precious but the most precious thing in the world is a righteous woman" . He SAW also said: "Whoever has three daughters and shelters them, provides what they need and shows compassion towards them, will certainly deserve paradise." Finally he SAW very famously said, "The best of you are those who are best to their wives." Clearly an Islamic society would build a strong respect for women, where oppression and subjugation of any kind would be abhorred. The rule of law would support this, with strict punishments for even accusing falsely a chaste woman.

It is conclusive that it is only the Islamic rule of law and its correct implementation which can secure real justice for women in Bangladesh, irrespective of their social standing or situation. Without this, justice will be just like a lottery, if you get a winning ticket then the Bangladeshi Government will pull out the highest of stops for you, but if you happen to get a losing one, expect a dark and devastating road to despair.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

A Notun Din?

For those who have been born and bred in the UK, a prospective Bangladeshi election and political change means nothing more I'm sure than rain. It comes every other day (especially if you're from sunny Wales) and you don't really batter an eyelid at it. Bangladeshi politics always seems to be an impassioned issue, heated all the time whenever our parents would surf the Bangla news so we all grew a type of immunity towards it. Whether it's some Awami League or BNP, BJP - one of the two?! None of it really makes sense. And as I have recently tried to decipher the politics of Bangladesh, I feel (sorry to burst any bubbles) that it still doesn't really make any sense.
American Presidential candidate McCain after a recent visit to Bangladesh claimed that the upcoming election was possibly one of the 'fairest' of the world. With the caretaker Government's astringent clean-up process across the political world and the massive programme to register over 80 million people, McCain was truly wowed by this rags to riches story.
But before people get carried away by his sweeping claims, I'd really like to question what type of future this free and fair election will give Bangladesh? Will it free them from their deeply ridden problems of crime and corruption? Will give return fairness for all the poor and destitute? Rather than just praise a process, what the real issue is what this process will achieve.
And first and foremost if this is a model of democracy, with the people driving the politicians and politics they want representing them, then why is it that the caretaker Government is astringently screening who can even stand as a party or contestant? Less than half the parties who initially applied for registration have been given the go ahead to actually partake in the process, with Islamically inclined parties being thoroughly scrutinised due to liberalist pressure. Even the widely known party Jamaat e Islam narrowly just made it. Is that democracy?
The fairness that the caretaker Government claim to have created across political culture in the last two years, will no doubt bring a smirk to many a face. Newspaper editor and political analyst Shyamal Dutt said that the anti-corruption drive has failed to stop many bad people from entering the election, in his opinion. Corruption has been straightened out when wanted and to whom wanted, often sporadic. The fact that the two former Prime Minister's, who even the most politically illiterate know were entrenched in corruption, received a year in prison rsp with one out on bail and the other on medical parole, itslef says alot about what the intentions behind their imprisonment really were. Forget financial embezzlement, the fact that both during their terms were never able to attempt to deal with the impoverished people they ruled over, but could fulfil massive plans for India, America or their ruling elite, is itself I feel a crime that deserves more than endless years in prison. And indeed the destination for the ruler who mistreats his people, is no short of hellfire. Thus it makes me wonder who the 'clean-up' act was really for - the people of Bangladesh, or to achieve the nodding heads in America and Britain and for comments like those of Mc Cain.
The reality is this democratic election, in all its hype, will in the end come to be a moment of deja vu for Bangladesh. If you sleep through this election, don't worry you will have seen the result at some point during Bangladeshi history - Either Awami League or the BNP. This is the people's choice dished to you on a plate pre-arranged. And whichever comes to power, it will always be the Capulet-Montague style battle which dominates political headlines - Which party or family did what against whom, over what policy will improve the quality of life for Bangladeshi people.
How can we aspire for change from politics which has been proven as failed? The discussion has to develop outside of the box handed to us.
What we want is real, sustainable change for Bangladesh. Change which shakes the etablishment down to its roots, and actually uproots it! Discarding the deeply-entrenched corruption, injustice to replace it with a system of governance which holds the wellbeing of its citizens and justice for them as its cornerstone, absolutely uncompromisingly. Where everyone, including the ruler and his bandwagon, are all subject to the law and no one is above the law. Where justice is enshrined in an independent judiciary and the authority lies with the people.Where there is a very clear and distinct measure for what the ruler has to abide by, with removal as the consequence of not doing so. And where the sole sovereignty lies with the one Being who deserves it - Allah SWT.
A big vision, a crazy vision you may think. But in this crazy world we live in, big revolutionary change is the only change which will do. Nobody thought the Berlin Wall would change. Nobody thought the Cold War would change and nobody ever thought that occupied America in the 18th century would rise to become the world's superpower. But as a brother not so long ago said, big change can happen. And what I'd like to leave you with is a plea, to believe it and work for it.