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Look Who’s Talking?

Tony Blair Iraq1

Look Who’s Talking?

Look who’s talking? The man who lied to his people to justify a war that killed over a million people speaks again. He wants the West to ignore the crimes of Russia and China and unite with them to suppress “radical Islam”. What does he actually mean by “radical Islam”? It is clear that “radical Islam”, to him, means the political aspect of the religion. He doesn’t care about singing, dancing, praying, chanting, and fasting Muslims. He only sees “political Muslims” as a threat to the world peace, as if he himself is the biggest practitioner of peace on earth. Tony Blair has again expressed his discontent with the largest and the most visible part of the Islamic history: the political legacy of Islam. He doesn’t seem to understand that the Muslims had politically dominated much of Asia Minor, Europe, North Africa, South Asia and the Middle East for centuries. This political hegemony was not due to some distorted, radical or extreme understanding of Islam on the part of the Umayyads, Abbasids, Ottomans, Memlukes, Mughals or Ayyubids. Rather it was due to their accurate understanding of the teachings of the Quran and the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him). The Ottomans, generally speaking, were not radical extremists; the Ayyubids were quite tolerant; the Memlukes were great architects and the Mughals were avid patrons of literature and arts. One thing, however, was common about them all. They, as active political players, generally upheld Islam as their religion and appealed to the Quran and the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) for political authority (see Quran 4:59). They used the example of the Prophet Mohammad as a ruler to assert their political rights. To label political dimension of Islam “extreme” or “radical” is to deliberately distort the picture of Islam and Muslim understanding of it.

The neo-conservative ex prime minister of Britain – turned Middle East “peace envoy”- delivered a keynote speech at Bloomberg London on the “threat of Islamist extremism”. Before I comment on the contents of the speech, it will be very apt to briefly discuss the currently prevalent Islamophobic hysteria among the political elite, backed by mainstream media, in Britain. This will put Blair’s speech into perspective.

It is very evident from mainstream media reporting that Muslims are targets of an aggressively active smear campaign and one will struggle to find anything positive about Islam and Muslims on the mainstream news channels. This demonisation has been going on unabated for a while. Most prominent Muslims, if not all, have been attacked by newspapers as well as mainstream TV channels. Shaikh Haitham al-Haddad was attacked by Sunday Times and Daily Mail in December 2013 for being an “extremist”. Lauren Booth, a prolific Muslim journalist and the very sister in law of Blair, was accused of “stealing a husband” by the Daily Mail on 11 May 2013. Hamza Andreas Tzortzis was maligned for being an “extremist” and lecturing in over 200 UK universities by the Telegraph on 12 January 2013. Dr Imran Waheed was accused of being an “extremist working as psychiatrist for NHS” by the Telegraph on 6 May 2014. Even a quite, down to earth, Cambridge University scholar like Abdul Hakim Murad (Tim Winter) was not spared. On 2 May 2013, he was accused of “attacking homosexuality” in a video filmed almost 17 years ago. There are many more examples of unjustly targeted Muslim figures such as Uthman Latif, Abu Usama at- Thahabi, Murtaza Khan and the list doesn’t seem to be decreasing, as if all extremists are among Muslims. Amazingly, none of the news reporters find any extremists amid other religious communities. It is very clear that this consistently aggressive and degradingly de-humanising smear campaign is taking place according to a well calculated strategy and there are certainly very powerful people behind it.

This neo-conservative right wing Islamophobic campaign doesn’t stop at individuals. Entire Muslim communities have been accused of launching a “Trojan Horse” style conspiracy to “occupy” schools in the Birmingham area. Almost all major news papers have been reporting on this alleged “Islamic takeover plot”. Even an anti-Islam website, jihadwatch.org, has jumped on the bandwagon and is claiming a conspiracy on the part of the Muslims. Some of the non-Muslim governors of schools in question have categorically denied the existence of any such “plot”. David Hughes, a governor at Park View School for 15 years, wrote an open letter to the government and condemned “the witch-hunt against the most successful school of its characteristics in Birmingham … under the pretext of concerns about extremism and threats to the education of our pupils” (for details see Salma Yaqoob, the guardian, 17 April 2014). The Islamophobic industry is not interested in truth, however, and continues to report on the alleged plot. Daily Mail reported on 23 April 2014 that Ofsted is currently conducting an investigation into the “matter”. Whether the plot exists or not is not important here, the point has been made: suspecting Muslims is normal. Islamophobia has been normalised.

Whether its grooming of young white girls; cheating the benefit system; forcefully segregating genders in universities; honour killings; cannibalism (BBC, 14 April 2014) etc, one will not fail to find the word “Muslim” in the reports. These ills may be found in other communities, potentially more so, but when someone with a Muslim name commits a crime the word “Muslim” is magnified often in the title or headlines. Even the Muslim dress code is debated on mainstream media platforms such as LBC radio. Hijab and Niqab will often be the subject matter of public debates; Muslim method of slaughtering animals is also under scrutiny; even circumcision has been discussed. The result of this extremely active anti-Muslim media campaign is a drastic increase in attacks on innocent Muslim citizens. It appears that the British media is out to cause another Holocaust in Europe. If one was to do a comparison between Nazi reporting on Jews and the current media campaign against Muslims, one would find striking similarities between the two.

Newspapers are not alone in this systematic demonization of Muslims, some politicians are also actively seeking popularity in the eyes of “king makers”. Insulting Islam and Muslims has become a fashionable enterprise among some politicians. If a politician needs media coverage, he/she would simply pick on anything Islamic. The Telegraph reported on 15 September 2013 that Jeremy Browne. a Home Office minister as well as a Liberal Democrat, said ‘Britain should consider banning Muslim girls and young women from wearing veils in schools and public places’. He found the British media to be very interested in what he had to say. David Cameron, the current British prime minister, had already stretched his liberal muscles by stressing the need to assert “muscular liberalism”. He didn’t quite explain what that meant but the threat he was pointing at was “radical Islam”, as is clear from his February 2011 Munich speech. Then came Jack Straw with his “straw man” statement that Muslims must accept Britain’s “Christian values” (The Telegraph, 21 April 2014). He didn’t quite explain as to what those Christian values are. One must question whether Britain herself accepts the British “Christian values”, whatever the term means? I guess many Anglican clergy would disagree. Why would senior politicians make such ill-conceived provocative statements about Muslims and their beliefs? It seems it is open season in attacking Muslims. Islamophobia among British politicians and media is an undeniable reality. It is in this “open season” when Tony Blair attempts to warn the world about the growing threat from “radical Islam”. He is aware that the only way the Muslims can defend their geo-political interests globally is by a revival of the Islamic political system in the Muslim world. This is what he deems the threat of “radical Islam”.

His Bloomberg speech was nothing but another Islamophobic, charmingly presented, attack on the political interests of Muslims. He appealed to the West to abandon differences with Russia and China to focus on “radical Islam”, also known as political Islam. It is not surprising to see Blair propose such an alliance with major tyrannical powers in the world, with much innocent blood on their hands. He appears to be suggesting an intimate illegitimate relationship with the devil himself in order to curve the threat of the rising Islamic political revival in the Muslim world. He even had the audacity to “take sides” with a mass murderer such as Abdel Fatah al-Sisi of Egypt and his Middle Eastern Gulf supporters. He openly encouraged the West to “take sides”, not with those who have the best human rights record but with those who have some of the worst abuses recorded on their CVs. Why is Blair so worried about political Islam? Why would he justify siding with monsters to curve a “threat” that doesn’t exist in Britain or Europe? It appears the Middle East “peace envoy” is out to destroy the peace of this world. He is clearly not fit for the job and doesn’t understand what peace is. Or is he employed by those who themselves are not peace makers? The Quran makes a very interesting point about some pretenders in this regard:

And when it is said to them, “Do not cause corruption on the earth,” they say, “We are but peacemakers.” [Quran 2:11] 

Blair and co are anything but peacemakers and Tony Blair a “peace envoy” is an oxymoron. It is evident that it is open season to attack Islam and Muslims. Even the language on mainstream news channels is no different to what the Nazis would say about the Jews. Everyone is united in condemning the Holocaust but those who justified it by spreading anti-Semitism via news papers and radio were the biggest culprits. Same crime is taking place today, perhaps on a bigger scale. Muslims must wake up and unite to curve the threat of neo-Nazism or neo-Fascism. If we fail to detect the rising tide of Islamophobia, there may be another Holocaust in Europe, God forbid. The accumulation of lies spread by politicians, newspapers, TV channels, anti-Islam websites/blogs (funded and supported by neo-conservative activists), a covert media boycott of intelligent Muslims, the media appearances of non-representative Muslim spokespersons, and neo-conservative think tanks has poisoned the minds of millions of people. This hate campaign has actually affected many people. It is now up to the Muslims to unite and counter this vicious and destructive attempt to undermine our freedom. Following are few potential ways to put things right:

1. Muslims must learn, read and understand the Quran very carefully.

2. Muslims must invest in educating their children on their history.

3. Muslims must invest in media production such as news papers and news channels.

4. Muslims must play an active role in the politics of the country.

5. Muslims must invest into academia and produce major academics in all fields.

6. Muslims must form think tanks and fund them.

7. Muslims must form international alliances with legitimate Muslim organizations to avoid isolation.

8. Muslims must appoint intelligent sincere people to represent them on mainstream media.

9. Muslims must get involved in social work and establish a positive relationship with the non-Muslim masses.

10. Muslims must not let the Islamophobes bully them.

As much as Blair and co would like us to forget our history, we would never hide away from the achievements of our predecessors. The Civilisation of Islam, that produced major results in fields such as science, literature, arts, philosophy and education, was a political reality and it was not based upon some misconstrued version of Islam. Rather the entire Islamic history testifies to the fact that Muslims looked to the Quran and the Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) for political guidance. Terms like “Islamist” or “radical Islam” won’t deter Muslims from admiring their history, which they wish to revive for a better future of their children. If it was not for the political hegemony of Islam in Spain, much of the European Renaissance wouldn’t exist. What Blair and Cameron call “Islamism” gave the world values such as tolerance, justice and intellectual prosperity (please see Hittin Institute’s publication “Islam’s War on Terror” for details). That said, we do not accept terms such as “Islamism” or “radical Islam” as valid representations of the political teachings of Islam. To us Islam is Islam and it comes complete. We cannot pick and choose. Just because Islamophobes (and their stooges) would like us to accept everything from Islam except its political system, we won’t abandon anything from our faith, as it comes from God. So when we talk of a shepherd to protect the flock, we are labelled as “radicals” or “Islamists” etc. A wolf would never find the sheep to be a threat, it is the shepherd the pack of wolves wish to unite against. So when the shepherd stands to protect the sheep, the wolves accuse him of intolerance, radicalism, extremism etc. So, it is the wolf who is an intolerant coward, not the shepherd. It is the shepherd who is open-minded and tolerant, not the mass murdering wolf. So when wolf talks of peace, we say: look who’s talking?

Adnan Rashid.