The British Asian Blog

Life as it is @tbablog

24 Hour Internet Ban – Every Week

Late last year, around late November, there was a new trend afloat around within my crew. Internet ban for 24 hours.  From seven of us in the crew, one had been toying with the idea to self-impose an Internet ban for at least 24 hours during the week, or rather, for one full day and night every week.  At the time when this was discussed, I brushed aside the idea, thinking that I, out of all the people, was in control of when and how I access the internet, be it on my laptop/PC, tablet or mobile phone.

I was wrong.

Two weeks ago, the same idea, was adopted by an acquaintance of mine.  She casually mentioned it during a late night, unplanned meal, and she and this whole self-imposed Internet ban got be thinking.

Now, I know the era we live in today is regarded, probably unofficially, as the Information Age.  I guess, others may call it Computer Age, Digital Age or New Media Age.   Information surrounds us whether we choose to acknowledge it or not.  What makes this possible is how digital/electronic devices have, it seems, embedded themselves permanently into our lives. 20 years, or so, ago, technology evolved gradually.  As a toddler I remember, In our household and I guess in any other household, you’d find a telephone, TV, audio player with radio and a video cassette player as devices capable of providing information – and that would be all.  The only time you’d replace one of these items would be when the old one broke and the old bloke at the local repair shop said it was beyond repair.  That’s right; you’d literally have local shops that specialised in repairing electronic devices.

Technology is now evolving at a far greater pace than one can and could have ever anticipated.  Everyone, and I literally mean everyone from children, teenagers to adults are exposed to Information Overload.  Infobesity and Infoxication is a reality and people are suffering from this, whether they’re aware or not.  People are finding it difficult to break away from this Information Overload and thus, I believe, have difficulty in understanding how to make decisions which can be caused by the presence of too much information.  By this I mean, people of all ages fail to understand how important it is to make decisions in real life and away from this artificial reality.

The idea for a 24 hour internet ban is to divert your attention and energy into something else.  It’s an idea that, if adhered to religiously, means that you may begin to (re)discover, life around you again.  Life that isn’t lived or viewed through technology or the Internet.  I must admit, I’m not a heavy user of technology and Internet on the move, but at times, I do find myself so immersed that I fail to see the world moving around me.

So, I’ve decided to implement this idea on a trial basis.  See how it works for me and see if it actually makes a difference of some sort.

But, it won’t be easy.

At least, it won’t be easy in selecting which day of the week I have an Internet ban on.  My extra curricular activities and social get together are, all pretty much, arranged via my digital devices – which – I also use to work on and run my businesses.  How and where do I draw the line?

On paper, Wednesday, seems to be a good day to introduce a 24 hour Internet ban.  It will be interesting to know how this works out, and whether I am able to adhere to it, and begin to focus and put more energy in other parts of my life – which currently – is a mix of life-work-Internet-technology.

I hope to provide a regular update on how this turns out, and what impact (positive or negative) it is having.

Would you consider adhering to a 24 hour Internet ban?

Do you think it’ll change anything?

BBC Coverage of Snooker

I am currently overwhelmed with life, especially between life and work balance, and more often than not, I find myself stupendously busy all-round.  People have often said “You’re insanely busy” and others often say “How do you do it?”.  One of the therapies I use to help keep sane and keep going is to follow Snooker on the BBC and/or play Snooker.

Snooker is one of the top two sports I follow.  The other being Cricket.  I’ve been a fan of snooker ever since I was a child.  Not only do I follow Snooker on the BBC I play the game allot.

While at University, playing Snooker, was one of my favorite pass times.  During stressful times, it proved to be a therapy to overcome assignment/projects and exam depression and anxiety.

Live coverage of Snooker on the BBC is outstandingly the best sport commentary programme I have ever heard.  To compare this to almost any other sport programme is like comparing Charles Dickens with some car wash leaflet that came through your letterbox.

The talent lies in knowing what to say next.

The game, football, only lasts 90 minutes and commentators frequently have to resort to clichés, but a single snooker match, it doesn’t last 90 minutes, the contest can go on for a day or even two.  In Snooker, the game has to go on, there isn’t any interruptions like rain or bad light, and so, the people (both men and women and during match play or pre/post match analysis) who commentate on it have to keep going.

To do this, they have to have best knowledge of their subject.  They have to analyse individual players from head to toe, understand and explain their psychology, their strategy including their strengths and weaknesses.  They have to explain what the player (at the table or sat waiting his opportunity) is thinking, what shot selection(s) will be or are being made, including identifying which ball(s) on the table the player will position himself to pot two to three shots ahead.  More importantly, the commentators have to possess certain amount of verbal adroitness.  They have to be able to talk about things that have nothing to do with Snooker, when required.

The period of Overwhelming-ness that I am currently experiencing in my my life is not the first.  During an earlier one, I heard John Parrot say the following about referee Jan Verhaas.

“Jan was nicknamed ‘James Bond’ from fans during 2002 China open due to his suave demeanor, since then, he is just as big of a star in China as any top 16 world snooker ranked players.”

Never mind the fact that Ronnie O’Sullivan has the most maximums of 147 in the professional game with 13, or Stephen Hendry who holds the record for most 100’s by one play in a tournament (16 in 2002 World Championship), or Cliff Thornburn’s victory over Terry Griffiths in the 1983 championship was completed at 3:51 am (the latest ever finish for a match at the Crucible), the latest finish for a final was 00:54 am between John Higgins and Mark Selby.

The stuff about referee Jan Verhaas known as ‘James Bong’ has kept me sane and kept me going.

While you are commentating on Snooker, you are also keeping people alive and sane.

Leeds 26.04.2016

I wasn’t supposed to be in Leeds today.  I should have been travelling to Kings Cross London then to Knightsbridge.  I’m glad I decided to postpone my travels.

Not sure how the weather has been around where you are but the weather here in Leeds has been remarkable.  In the space of, at least 4 hours, I’ve witnessed snow, hailstone, thunderstorm, rain, high winds and now sunshine.

It was and has been beautiful!

It was poetic.

 

Dear Daughter Your Father’s Back is Broken

In November 2014, I came across, somehow, an article/blog post titled “Dear Daughter Your Father’s Back is Broken“.  After reading it I was extremely taken back by how a Father wrote about his love for his daughter.  It is a moving piece and after rereading it again over the weekend, I felt, I need to share and re-blog it.  See below:

Dear Daughter,

We Just attended our Third Family Therapy Session together. You aired your grievances against us. We are here to talk about issues that are causing problems in the family. Your mother responds to your comments, it’s like a battle scene between the two of you, emotions are running high. Your brother is not here. I sit there with my broken back, staring at the plush carpet. Dear Daughter, this carpet is so clean, so beige.   Therapist tells us you’ve made a remarkable improvement in four months.  Your responding well to therapy and your divorce.

I come home and search for recovery tips on Google. I close my eyes, and this is what I want to tell you Dear Daughter.

I accept I failed in many areas of life- and I failed as a father as well.

But Dear Daughter listen to this:-

I work as a cab driver, because it helps me to pay off our mortgage. I should have been home more often. I should not have been too controlling about our future. I should not have looked too far ahead into future, your universities, weddings and this big mortgage.

As you started to grow up, the size of my wardrobe shrunk. We had to update your and your brother’s wardrobe three- four times a year. You kids were growing up so fast. Looking at you in colorful outfits with matching accessories filled me with pride. I became arrogant, Yes I can provide the best for my Children.

When Festivals came, I sometimes would get tempted to buy a new shirt or new pants, but then I would recycle my old clothes and wear them at Eid and Weddings.

When you were 10, there was a skiing trip to Alps Mountains. You wanted to go. I was saving up for a trip back to Pakistan to visit my Abba ji, who had made a spontaneous decision to go and spend his retirement years in Pakistan with his widowed sister. I thought doesn’t matter, I’ll go next year, Pakistan can wait, but your trip can’t.

 When you were 13, you wanted a new bedroom with new furnishings, new wardrobe and new shelves. I was saving up that money to fix our broken home in Pakistan, but doesn’t matter. Your Grandfather said, give her the room of her dreams.

 When you were 14, you wanted more stuff, more money. Now I was struggling, so my Taxi Hours increased from 12 a day to 16 hours a day. Breakfast was just a cup of tea, lunch was a quick sandwich and dinner was usually at 1am in the morning. I would heat the left overs in microwave, ping the noise of microwave would bring me out of deep slumber of sleep, and I would tirelessly make my way through the meal. You would be upstairs tucked into your princess canopy bed . All nice, safe and warm.

When you were 16, you walked out with 7 A’s, we celebrated. It was a trip to New York for you and your Mother and Brother. I confess dear daughter, I was a selfish thrifty man, who realized that with his ticket money and hotel money, he can pay off another installment of mortgage and pay off your brother’s one month of university rent.

Family Trip to NY

You all Visit NY

ny2

NY3

I look at my finances. I haven’t been home in 10 years now. I think of my father. I no-longer enjoy playing snooker with my friends and I have not boxed in years.

I haven't been to small Vilage in 10 years Dear Daughter

I haven’t been to small Village in 10 years Dear Daughter. It calls me.

You said, No Muslim clothes, No covering of Head, No Hand stitched Village Clothes.  I said that’s fine.

So I said to you- No low necklines, No sleeveless and No showing of Legs.  You agreed with your old man. I stood tall, and proud.

Every Father’s Worst Nightmare

Dear Daughter, As a Taxi Driver, I would drive my Taxi around at wee hours of the morning, picking up semi conscious girls sitting on the side pavements with shortest of shortest skirts, waiting for some cab company to pick them up. Dear daughter, my blood recoiled, my fists clenched, as I would look at those bad-boys inappropriately touching those girls. I would ask God, Please never put me in this position.

There’s a grapevine, you’re seeing someone. I tell your mother and we ask you and you deny it. ‘Don’t tell me those illiterate Taxi Drivers are feeding you lies about me?’. You scream at us. Dear Daughter you can’t hide anything from Taxi Drivers. Tabloids come second, Taxi Drivers know all the in’s and out’s of the community before anyone else.

Dear Daughter me and other Cab Drivers would put our heads down and debate and argue whether we should  allow our daughters to date every Tom Dick and Harry, so she can find her Prince Charming. We all agreed unanimously that we would lose it, if our daughters brought home a bad-boy. We all know too well about the influence of a bad boy on girl.

Your 18. A-level results are out. Time for another celebration.

“I’m in Love” You tell us in a mater of fact tone.

‘Over my dead body she’s marrying him,’ I tell your mother. I’ve had him investigated, he’s 25 and she’s only 18.  He’s a school drop out, an ex drug addict, every father’s worst nightmare.

We try to reason with you, but we fail, your uncles fail, your aunts fail. I tell you  he spent 45 days in jail following an assault. You tell us your love has changed him. He loves you and appreciates you for who you are. You’re on hunger strike. after three days, we give in.  If I had known what was going on I would have put a stop to it, but I didn’t find out about your special friend until you were already at a marrying age.

Devastating Moment, You leave home never to come back.

Now your father walks around with lower gaze. I just can’t look other men in the eye. I’ve got a broken back. My friends look at me with pity. Some call me spineless, a man who could not control his daughter.

Your older brother doesn’t want to know you.  Your mother just cleans one bedroom after the other. She spring cleans, autumn cleans and summer cleans the house. Do you remember how well dressed your mother was? Do you remember the famous joke, we need an extension to accommodate your mother’s wardrobe? Dear Daughter, We no longer need an extension. She donated 3/4 of her wardrobe, her shoes, hand bags, jewelry to Islamic Relief.

One day we get a phone call from hospital. Your ill. Your not eating and your putting up a fight.

We go to hospital and we see a bag of bones, lifeless eyes and jutting collar bone.

Your brother is furious. ‘Let the love of her life take care of her. She’s not coming back home.’ He yells.   I tell your brother,  ‘she’s coming home with us.’, I chose you over him.

She needs to eat and then we’ll have therapy sessions, your doctor tells us.

I learn all there is about your Anorexia. I tell your treatment team, forget six months waiting list, We’ll treat her at home and we’ll go private.

I become a hated enemy, as I sit through one meal after other with you. You think I am trying to control you, punish you, but Dear Child, I’m merely supervising your meals. You need to eat to live. I can’t let you have your way with meals, it’s as simple as that. What am I going to tell Abba ji, that I failed to feed my daughter? Under my roof, I’m binded by an oath to protect you, and that means protecting you from the demon of Eating Disorder.

You coming home creates tension in our family circle. Your uncles are furious. Your mother cleans obsessively now. I think of my father in a small village in Pakistan. Family whispers grow louder. I walk with a hunch back now. ‘He’s spineless, he has no dignity. How can he bring her back home?’ Look Dear Daughter, How your Brother speaks to me? I used to be a man, strong, powerful and proud man. Today I am a man of very very few words.

‘Come to England, Abba ji.’ I tell him. ‘Why do you insist on staying in a country with no electricity, no running water and no technology.’ ‘I’m happy my Son, he tells me, you take care of your family’.

You gain weight, treatment team is happy. You’ve been with us for 8 months now. But then you want to go back to your husband. ‘He’s changed,’ you tell us.

You leave, and me and your mother, we simply stare into empty air.

 I want to go and visit my Abba ji. Me a man of 48 wants an escape.

I go home to my Abba ji. ‘Look my Son is here, light of my eye is here,’ my elderly aunt wails and hugs me tightly. A little sneaky tear rolls down my cheek, betraying my manliness. I am no longer ashamed of my tears.

My Father, My Abba Ji

My Proud Father

The house needs fixing. Abba ji’s sister , so old now cooks for me.  I work too hard she scolds me.

She Cooks for me- My Dear Aunt

My Aunt Cooks For Me

My House Needs Slight Fixing

Our House Needs Fixing

At night, so many people gather in Abba ji’s house. They are his cousins, his relatives. Some relatives have walked for miles to come and see me. I am treated like a king. Everyone drinks Fresh Milk with fresh Honey and Cardamoms.

Next Day, we take a stroll across our village. It’s so quiet and so peaceful.  Everyone is so happy. They are so poor, but so happy. No latest phones, no laptops, no Apple brands here, no Anorexia, no Children Yelling at their parents.

We walk around our Village

How we walk away from such peace is beyond me, but man has desires that need to be satisfied.

We go and pray at the mosque and Abba ji prays for you Dear Daughter.

We pray at Village Mosque

We visit Amma ji’s grave. Abba ji prays for her soul. We visit other ancestors graves.

 You’ve changed my elderly relatives tell me. Now  you are drinking water from our local Well. We don’t have to buy you a bottled water anymore. They smile at me.

‘Come back home’, your mother sends me a message. Our daughter is back.

I’m home, I think to myself. I’ve only been here for 15 days. I think of 14 hours of taxi. I think of bills, mortgage, mocking glances from family members and I slowly rise to my feet. I straighten my bent back and I say good bye to my Abba ji, to all his animals, to his sister. I kiss her hands and thank her for taking care of my father.

My FAther's AnimalsMy father's animals

My Village33

I come back. ‘Dear Wife, Dear Daughter, I will work long hours in Taxi. I will support my family. I will pay off the bills. But When I die, don’t bury me here in cold grey climate. Take me back to my small rural, backward village in Pakistan.  Bury me among my ancestors. I know someday, people in that village, children in that village will come and visit my grave and will pray for my soul.’

I look at time: 12:30pm. I bring my divorced daughter out of her bedroom.We eat Lunch. It’s Moroccan Today.

Her Favorite

Her Favorite

‘It’s going to be OK,’ I tell her! She looks at me with haunted look in her eyes. I walk around to her side, and I put my hand on her head and kiss her forehead. ‘Your safe here, your father is here. I’ll protect you here.’ I look into her eyes, ‘remember this will be all water under the bridge in few years, these people will get bored and they’ll find something else to gossip about.’  ‘Humanity is fallible, we all make mistakes. We will fight this together and you’re going to come out of this stronger.’ She squeezes my hand, I know she believes me.

[original article]

British Asian Bloggers List – Resurrection

I have resurrected the ‘British Asian Bloggers List’ on my site.  Now is probably a good time to bring this section up to date.

So, if you’re a British Asian Blogger or an International Asian Blogger, for that matter, and want your blog(s) to be discovered then visit ‘British Asian Blogger List’ above or click here

All you need to do is fill out a small form and I’ll add you to the repository.  You can also help by getting others (and like minded bloggers) to submit their blog details.

Thank You!

 

2015 In Review

It is 17th of February 2016 now, about a month and a half since 2015 as a year slipped into the times of yore.  I had intended to right a more meticulous and scrupulous review for 2015, but, time is of the essence and time is for sure, thus not on my side.

So instead I’ve opted for a safer approach in my review, and indeed, an extremely short one by my blogging principles and standards.

There are three words that perfectly sum up 2015 for me:

Recuperation, Realisation and Appreciation.

Like every year for the past 5 to 6 years, allot has happened in 2015, much more than what I can afford to write about.  Key and significant events, or rather key triggers, that have occurred in 2015 will have a colossal, life changing (or so I hope) results in 2016, such as:

Simren and I will be getting engaged in 2016.  A dedicated post about this is on the horizon.

My family (parents/siblings) will be seeing more of me, particularly when I’m not travelling abroad, as some changes I made in late 2015 going into the present means delegating and entrusting some UK based business/entrepreneurial responsibilities and overseeing to a personal assistant I have been forced to have, albeit, at the moment on a 4 months trail period.  That’s right; I’ve finally given in to peer pressure from the crew and took on a 22 year old personal assistant.  Again, a post about this will be up soon.

Anyway, 2016 I hope, for us all is a better year and a more fruitful one too.

Stay tuned for more regular posts from me and shenanigans I go through in my life.  As always I write my posts as on ‘life as it is’ and it is, indeed, the best way.

From A Broken Heart : Tumhe Dillagi Bhool Jaani Padegi

A broken heart sent this song/video link to me via WhatsApp.  I guess her objective was or is to make a heart made of stone realise, understand and connect to the suffering.  After hearing this video, one which I haven’t heard in years, got be hooked – thus wanted to share it here with you folks.

Enjoy!

Note:  Apologies in advance for those who don’t understand the language.  Allow me to explain in a nutshell:  This song lyrics are universal (and is from and or applies to any gender who’ve experienced a broken heart).  The person with the broken heart is tired of the world making fun and mockery out of her/him.  The broken heart is telling the world in return, come and see, for yourself how a broken heart lives, suffers and survives  then when you, in return, will have a broken heart you won’t dare laugh and make mockery of me, or anyone else, ever again.

British Election 2015 Results

It’s been a little under two weeks that the results for the British Election 2015 became clear. I had to give myself a few days to allow the dust to settle, to gather my thoughts and be able to construe them into words. I must admit, since the results I have been feeling deflated and dispirited. I have never concerned myself with polls, and to be honest, I don’t believe polls give a true reflection of the election build up, and certainly the percentage of voters does not correspond to how the system works – first past the post.

Even the exit poll, which suggested Conservative would be able to form a government by full majority, didn’t even seem accurate, and to some extent confirmed my belief that polls were not to be relied on. That said, I certainly didn’t expect them to be so damn completely wrong.

To the run up of the election my thoughts played through a couple of scary scenarios. The worst outcome I dreaded was for the Conservatives to return with enough seats to form a government with full majority. At the time, this seemed impossible.

The second scariest scenario was a re-run of events from 2010. A LibDem coalition yet again with the Conservatives would be an unpleasant outcome but one I could agree to be the worst case outcome, after all, we had seem them run this country for the last 5 years so we could, as I said in the worst case scenario, live with it for another five years.

Despite the polls agreeing with my thoughts, the worst outcome never really played on my mind until Friday the 8th of May, and boy oh boy, did it shock me or what.

Confirmation that Conservatives are predicted to be able to form a government absolute immediately rattled me, let alone the entire election debate. Immediately it became clear, Mr Cameron, had indeed, played the fears of those voters who were undecided and held back from voting Labour purely on the basis that Labour is totally depended on the SNP. Despite Labour’s clear stance on this and this not to be the case, much of these, undecided voters, were forced to vote for Conservatives.

It has now started to sink in.

Another five years of an absolute Conservative government is a scary thought. We will, of course, have another chance of getting rid of the Tories in five years, but with the likely departure of Scotland, a worrying referendum on our European Membership, and with the changes in boundary, it’s actually quite hard to see how that’s going to happen.

When someone asked me ‘what the result and absolute Conservative government means?’ I couldn’t help tweet the following, which I believe, sums up my feelings towards this government.

Labour did badly in England and Scotland. The SNP wiped the floor with Labour, and although many political analysts didn’t want to admit this is likely to happen pre-election, it was probably the price Labour had to pay for siding with LibDem/Conservatives in aligning themselves with the No campaign. It’s hard to accept what Labour could have done different to prevent this outcome.

In my view Labour under Ed Miliband was too left wing, thus abandoning centre voters (who otherwise would have voted for Labour) leaving them undecided. It was these undecided voters who then scrambled to either give their vote to UKIP, Green Party or Conservatives. The challenge now for Labour, in amongst the turmoil of selecting a new Leader, which in my view needs to be done sooner rather than later (September), is to bring them back to the centre.

Now that the 2015 general election is over, it is time, indeed to move on. I do, however, feel nervous in what five more years of absolute Conservative government will bring. I really do hope Labour can bring forward a new leader, who understands the mistakes of the past, and can bring about a real change, more importantly, who can really stand up to the Conservatives and challenge them on their governing policies.

Fifty Shades Of Grey

How close to the truth is this.  For my life…

…I mean, I’ve heard about Fifty Shades Of Grey the book and all (who hasn’t) but never took much notice – until now, when my acquaintance from South Asia sent me a link to the trailer.

As a guy, this for me is just too close for comfort

My heart was in my mouth…

 

Am I Charlie? The Problem of maintaining a moderate view

Source: Nury Vittachi

[Author]

‘Je suis Charlie’I am Charlie – is the rallying call in Europe and even around the world but … am I Charlie? Can I really identify with the men who died and what they stood for? And if not, then who do I identify with?

We were all, quite understandably, shocked and appalled by the massacre at Charlie Hebdo and the subsequent murders which took place in Paris. Every form of media outlet was awash with stories, claims, opinions and debates and the social media busied itself with endless shares of cartoons from around the world. Overnight #JeSuisCharlie became a household term and the largest march of solidarity in French history took to the streets of Paris joined by many of the world’s most important people.

No one, to my knowledge, is condoning the attacks (bar the rants of radical extremists)but the sound of reason is certainly being drowned out by those who would have us believe it is right to point the finger at Muslims and condemn them in every conceivable way. We seem to believe that ‘incitement to hatred’ is a one-way affair – that only Muslims are – and can be – guilty of this. If you’re white, Western and (preferably) atheist then it is quite reasonable and acceptable to mock, jeer and call for an end to whole ways of life for billions of people. My aim in this post is to highlight some of the important articles on the internet which tell a different story in the hope (possibly vain) that this might redress the balance a little.

Although I have, of course, been following the news regarding the murders last week and their effect on whole communities of people, it was after reading a post on Facebook by writer Nury Vittachi that I felt the urge to add my contribution. Nury asserts that though it is right to condemn the barbarity of the attacks this doesn’t mean it is right to condone the actions and beliefs of Charlie Hebdo itself. He points out that it is a lie to believe we have the right to uncensored free speech:

EVERY country implants limits on free speech. Most commonly, defamation is banned… Hate speech is banned in almost every country. Material that can be seen as incitement to violence is banned… The publication of matter which violates “the offense principle” is prohibited to stop people causing a significant degree of offense to society or segments of society.

Does the material published by Charlie Hebdo violate any of these principles, in France, or in YOUR country, or in other countries? The answer is almost definitely yes.”

I shared his post on my Facebook and was immediately engaged in discussion with someone whose views worried me immensely. This man made it clear he considered all religious beliefs – particularly the concept of blasphemy –  ‘ridiculous’ and was offended that people are ‘required to respect these fairy tales’. He spewed out commonly cited extremes of religious thought to back his claims and would not accept my argument that, for many people who have a faith, insulting their God or prophet(s) is the same as abusing a family member. ‘How would you like it,’ I argued, ‘if someone called your wife or daughter a whore and jeered at you publicly day after day, encouraging others to do the same?’ Call my wife a bitch and sooner or later I’m going to snap I said – and his response was chilling: “If you do commit murder because of it, you’ll rightly go to prison. That said, at least your wife is real…if you can’t see the difference, there’s no helping you is there?”

His intolerance towards religion is chilling because I see comments like his repeatedly – incensed and violent in language – all over the internet on every media platform and daily wherever religion is discussed. Atheists have taken such a stronghold in every social and political stream that people seem to be blind to their own intolerance. It’s a given fact that religious people hold silly, made-up beliefs and no argument to refute this is accepted.

A friend, over Christmas, shared a link to a small news item where an English church minister blurted out to children during a service that ‘Santa Claus doesn’t exist’. My friend was angry at her cruelty but then labelled her a hypocrite because of her own beliefs. I was a little shocked that he equated a belief in the words of Jesus (a man rooted in history) with the fairy-tale of the fat man who climbs down several billion chimneys every Christmas Eve. I was stunned that a woman telling the truth (for no adult believes in Santa to my knowledge) was condemned for it on the basis of her own faith alone. It was a silly thing to say – no argument there – and the article made it clear she regretted her words the moment she said them, giving an apology straight away. It was an offhand remark and one that drunken uncles are guilty of every year at family gatherings. It is, after all, nothing but a story to entertain small children with and adults forget this sometimes.

It wasn’t so much the news item as the unquestionable assertion that religion has no basis in reality which concerned me considering nearly 6 billion people on the planet believe in some kind of deity or spiritual realm. I maintain that it is this arrogance which is the root behind the religious motivated acts of terrorism more than any other factor. When your religiously-centred culture is under constant attack – in word and deed – from others who believe you ridiculous and even, at times, inhuman is it any wonder that some of the disenfranchised rise up and take matters into their own, bitter and angry hands?

Corey Oakley writes about these attacks specifically on Muslims:

“For the last decade and a half the United States, backed to varying degrees by the governments of other Western countries, has rained violence and destruction on the Arab and Muslim world with a ferocity that has few parallels in the history of modern warfare.

It was not pencils and pens – let alone ideas – that left Iraq, Gaza and Afghanistan shattered and hundreds of thousands of human beings dead. Not twelve. Hundreds of thousands. All with stories, with lives, with families. Tens of millions who have lost friends, family, homes and watched their country be torn apart.

To the victims of military occupation; to the people in the houses that bore the brunt of “shock and awe” bombing in Iraq; to those whose bodies were disfigured by white phosphorous and depleted uranium; to the parents of children who disappeared into the torture cells of Abu Ghraib; to all of them – what but cruel mockery is the contention that Western “civilisation” fights its wars with the pen and not the sword?”

Oakley goes on to assert that we ignore facts like the persecution of Algerian Muslims by the secular French (the two gunmen last week were Algerian) and other secular attacks. In fact, if we were to score secularist against religious terrorism in Europe the secularists would win hands down. What the press doesn’t like to admit is that just 2% of terrorist attacks in Europe were religiously motivated!

terrorism EU 2

This is a staggering statistic.

Beenish Ahmed asserts that Islamic-based terrorism in America is also all but non-existent:

“Charles Kurzman, a sociology professor at the University of North Carolina, has called Muslim Americans “a minuscule threat to public safety.”

In his most recent report tracking Islamist militancy in America, he included this startling figure. “The United States suffered approximately 14,000 murders in 2013. Since 9/11, Muslim-American terrorism has claimed 37 lives in the United States, out of more than 190,000 murders during this period.””

One could begin to suspect that there is a conspiracy here to ghettoize Muslims in a manner reminiscent of Nazi Germany. That far right groups are gaining political ground in Europe makes this more than mere rhetoric. It wasn’t for no reason at all that Le Pen wasn’t invited to the march in Paris last week.

Elizabeth Plank takes up exactly this theme when she revealed that the Charlie Hebdo attack was not the only terrorist action which took place over the same 24 hour period. Yet why was only the Paris attack given considerable air time? she asks:

“On Tuesday morning, the NAACP offices in Colorado Springs, Colorado, came under attack when someone who is believed be a balding white man in his 40s dropped an explosive device that went off a few feet from the building. And on Wednesday morning, news broke of a horrifying mass shooting at satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo in France that left 12 dead and several wounded.

Both acts were motivated by radical ideology, but only one of them is being covered by the 24-hour news cycle. What gives?”

She goes on to demonstrate how language is used completely differently to report the two attacks. The bomb planted by a white man was ‘isolated act of violence’ but the Paris murders was ‘an act of terrorism’.

It’s not the first time this has happened either, Plank points out:

“…after a white man in Texas purposely crashed his plane into a building known to house IRS staff and left a note describing his plans for mass murder in 2010, a police chief described his acts as “a criminal act by a lone individual” rather than terrorism. When Elliot Rodger espoused his radical anti-woman ideology and killed six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara last year, newspapers like the Santa Barbara Independent , described him as a “lone gunman.” And Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said Rodger’s acts were “the work of a madman.” “

It really does seem the media want us to believe separate things about similar acts. But it’s not just the hypocrisy of reporting terrorism (or not) but the blindness towards our own acts which concerns me greatly. As Jared Keller notes concerning the political leaders found ‘linking arms’ on the march of solidarity with 3.7 million others on the streets of Paris, many of them had no right to be there.

“But as Reporters Without Borders points out, their policies at home are far from compatible with the solidarity for free speech on display throughout France.

The organization said Sunday that it was “appalled by the presence of leaders from countries where journalists and bloggers are systematically persecuted such as Egypt (which is ranked 159th out of 180 countries in RWB’s press freedom index), Russia (148th), Turkey (154th) and United Arab Emirates (118th).””

He quotes the tweets of student Daniel Wickham which list the Human Rights record of 21 of the 40 world leaders who gathered in Paris for the march. The mind boggles at how easily we lay aside what we know about our leaders when we hear the rallying call to solidarity.

Human Rights records brings me back nicely to the issue of religion with which we started. The person who commented on my Facebook post seemed adamant that religion is responsible for so much inhumanity in the world and he’s right – it is. But what media and scholars rarely tell us is that secular states have Human Rights records just as appalling. Over half of the countries listed by the IHRRI at the bottom of the ranking are secular states. China, North Korea, Vietnam and many more have terrible records and we should not forget the awful death toll in communist Russia especially during Stalin’s time where some experts estimate more than 20 million people were killed in the name of secular government.

The final big lie we all seem happy to swallow is the one which implicitly suggests all Muslims are secretly condoning the terrorist actions of Islamic extremists. ‘Why don’t they speak out against it?’ we ask ourselves. ‘If they were really one of us then they would publicly condemn these actions. But they don’t’.

This, I believe, is our worst crime in many ways (speaking as a white westerner). As filmmaker Kamran Pasha reveals, every single major Muslim group in the USA has spoken out condemning terrorist acts. You can find a list of these here but Pasha’s article links to many other sources as evidence to his claims.

His addendum to the article fills me with despair. No sooner had he demonstrated that Muslims are active in their condemnation of terrorist attacks by Islamic extremists than he was then accused of it being nothing but empty words:

“In response to this article, the new meme is being promulgated: “Muslims condemn terrorism, but it’s all talk! Sure, Muslims say they condemn terrorism, but there’s no action!”

Where do I begin to respond to this kind of nonsense? There are 1. 5 billion Muslims living their lives in peace, trying to put food on the table for their families. Over six million of them live here in America as patriotic citizens. They work hard, pay their taxes, and have ZERO contact with the criminal underworld where these terrorists breed.

I have never, ever met a terrorist in real life (it is ridiculous that I even have to say this). If I met one, I would turn him in to the authorities, as would every other Muslim I know. Since I don’t have access to this shadowy underworld, I live my life on the surface in broad daylight, working in my community to promote interfaith cooperation, peace and prosperity. It is that grassroots effort that Muslims do to promote good in this world that receives ZERO coverage in the media. I could list every single good thing I and other Muslims have ever done to make the world a better, safer place, but people who hold this attitude don’t care. It will never be enough. If I listed 1 million positive things Muslims are doing in their daily lives today on this planet, they would respond: “Why can’t you name a billion things you’ve done? See, you’re not doing enough!”

So I ask those who are outraged at this supposed Muslim inaction: “What have YOU done to defeat racism in this world?” List every single thing you have ever done to fight the Ku Klux Klan. List it here, right now. Times, dates and hyperlinks please. The response would be that I am crazy — average Americans have nothing to do with the KKK, and don’t need to justify their daily actions in support of righteousness to me or anyone else. But that same common sense response is rejected when a Muslim uses it.”

Which brings me to my final point (which in turn brings us back to my initial questions). Can I say Je suis Charlie? For all I’ve stated above, I do believe in the right to free speech and the right to live our lives in peace without fear of violent action against us. But I also believe that it is human nature that when you throw stones at people sooner or later they will hurl rocks back. The cartoonists and journalists at Charlie Hebdo are being hailed as heroes because they knew their lives were at risk and persisted with their work. The latest edition out today has sold in millions rather than its normal circulation of tens of thousands in part as people pay homage to the men. But I can find only one hero among the dead.

While #JeSuisCharlie went viral around the world, so did #JeSuisAhmed and rightly so. That a Muslim police officer died protecting the rights of others to offend him has not been lost on the world. This is the only man to come out of this unblemished in my opinion. He caused no offence, killed no one, committed no act of insult or terrorism – and was executed for his pains.

I don’t know to what extent I can say I am Charlie or I am Ahmed for I am too distantly removed to truly say I stand in their place. I don’t know to what extent I want to, if I’m honest. But I do know that the claim of secularists that ‘at least we don’t kill people for our beliefs‘ is a stupid and dangerous one. For while we choose to ignore one side and build up the other, while we dismiss one opinion and overstate another, while we consider it our right to abuse, ridicule and offend but cry foul when some choose to retaliate – while all this continues whatever flag we choose to wave will have blood on it and we’re all responsible for that.

[source and reference]

[kenthinksaloud]

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