Rod Liddle you’re a …… (fill in your preferred adjective) Election 2019

At a recent event, Margaret Attwood spoke about her book ‘The Handmaids Tale’ and made it clear – that if we don’t like the dystopian societies she describes then we need to do something about it as they can very easily happen. Hearing this, then reading Rod Liddle’s Spectator piece, stirred me to write this blog. His piece yet again effectively demonstrating what a hate monger he is . Whilst it came out a couple of weeks ago, I find myself seething every time I look at social media and see some troll spouting the same hate filled nasty rhetoric his commentary legitimises. Having written blogs before the elections of 2015 and then again in 2017,  I had made the decision that I was going to steer clear of writing yet another blog about why we must use our democratic right and vote, by placing an X beside the name of our choice on the 12thDecember 2019.

However, having read the vile diatribe produced under the guise of ‘journalism’ I felt compelled to say my piece. Considering he does have a reputation for writing such tirades vilifying certain groups, I think the vitriol he has had hurled at him, is well deserved.

Mr Liddell it appears, was having a bad day when he wrote his article. His ‘sense of humour’, unsurprisingly, seems to have gone over most people’s heads. His column was little more than an excuse to vent his resentment and fury at anybody he could take aim at. Politicians being described as mentally ill, students lazy, pig ignorant junkies, he showed utter contempt for women who have been sexually abused and made light of the #metoo movement. Nevertheless his commentary would have been incomplete had he not included Muslims in the torrent of abuse his supporters have claimed was merely ‘satirical’ ‘humorous’ and ‘taken out of context’. His article was not exercising his freedom of speech; under its’ guise, his Fascist anti-Muslims anti-women hate filled comments were morally and ethically abhorrant. The language adopted by Lidell and his ilk have a damaging effect on our society especially when aimed at those already marginalised.

In the run up to a general election, anyone who uses such hateful polarising language must be called out for the damage their divisive language has on society. The free will to elect our political leaders in this country is one of the freedoms we should value about living in Britain and being British. Everyone has the right to have their say in the electoral process. Whichever party you support, whichever party you agree or disagree with, voting is one of the fundamental freedoms of expression we have as British citizens. Think about some of the images we’ve seen on our TV screens from elections across the world. People who are forced to vote one way or another amidst threats of having family members kidnapped or murdered.  Others queuing for hours, votes being forged and others never even having the opportunity. There is a level of dishonesty that exists amongst individuals who want to live in Britain, enjoy the freedoms and benefits that being British citizens affords them, but not being prepared to fulfil their own obligations.

As a Muslim, this is something I am particularly aware of. I have grown up with an understanding of a principle that exists within Islam called “Shura” meaning consultation. This, in its simplest form is a way to harness the views and opinions of those individuals most affected by any decisions that may be made. The Prophet Muhammad would, as instructed by God in the Quran, consult his companions;  “And consult them in the affairs and when you have taken a decision, put your trust in God, certainly, God loves those who put their trust in Him” [Aal-’Imran, 159]. For those individuals who argue that the electoral choices presented to them do not represent the ideals of their faith in its purest form, there are always alternatives available. I can think of several theocratic dictatorships that they may like to consider as places of residency. For the rest of us, let’s make the most of the democratic freedoms afforded to us as British citizens. By voting, we are not violating any Islamic laws. We are making a decision as to who we feel is the best to govern the country we call home.

I am under no illusions that unlike other elections, this one is different. There are all sorts of factors at play, issues that will affect every single citizen depending on the outcome. The noise surrounding this election is toxic from whichever angle you look at it. However, we must and should make our decision based on those things that matter the most to us. Education, healthcare, housing, environment, domestic policies, foreign policy, social inequalities and yes even Brexit. Make the decision about who you will vote for based on which party you belief has the best interests of the things that matter to you.

However we must not let anti-Muslim hatred, anti-Semitism, prejudice and bigotry in any of its form, be turned into the battleground for this election. Nisa-Nashim, A Jewish and Muslim women’s network have this week launched a campaign to challenge those who use hateful and discriminatory language and have pledged to call out politicians, media outlets and users of social media who are generating this hate rather than acceptance and polarisation rather than social cohesion. They are asking everyone to #WatchYourLanguage.  We know that when unchecked, hate has the potential to ultimately turn to violence. So to Rod Lidell and those who support him, I ask, do we really want European history repeating itself?

Dear Mr President Trump

Dear Mr President

21st January 2017 marked the day when you officially became the most powerful man in the world and I find myself saying three words that in my wildest dreams I never thought I would hear myself say, let alone write. But I’ll come back to that at the end.

The result on the morning of  9th November was one that I was not expecting to hear, any more than I expected the result of the referendum in the UK on the 24th June. Brexit in June and your success in November saw the second half of 2016 taking a curious turn and one, as we know, you yourself were not expecting.

Your country, Mr President, is made up of over 325 million individuals, of which 72% are white, 13% are black, 5% are Asian and the remainder are American Indians, Hispanics and other races. 1% of Americans (that’s over 3 million people) also happen to be Muslims, just like me. Americans are proud of their diverse heritage, where not everyone is white, not everyone is a Christian and not everyone speaks English. However, everyone believes in hope and the American dream. It is your responsibility Mr President to make that hope and the American dream a reality for everyone. I am not sure about you, but that’s a task that would give me sleepless nights.

Unfortunately, you did engage in some rather inflammatory oratory during your presidential campaign. From expressing your opinions about undocumented Mexican immigrants who you described as “rapists” and “drug dealers”, outlining your foreign policy; “…..if we kept the oil, you probably wouldn’t have ISIS because that’s where they made their money … so we should have kept the oil. But, OK, maybe we’ll have another chance“. And not to mention the most distasteful, misogynistic terminology and characterisations you have used about women. But maybe, ‘the odds were always in your favour’. Less than a week ago you solemnly swore to faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and to the best of your ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution that refers to “We the People”.

Sadly your inauguration speech has left me, a middle aged Muslim grandmother, even more disturbed, contemplating the world my children and grandchildren are going to inherit. I visited New York in 2014 and Los Angeles in 2016. The United States of America is a magnificent country made up of beautiful people of all faiths, beliefs, colours, shades and hues. Yet over three million Muslims will not sleep soundly for the fear you and your supporters have generated. A culture has been established where racism, Islamophobia, bigotry, anti-Semitism and homophobia are not only admissible but openly proclaimed. We have all been witness to the clips on social media sites of physical and verbal attacks on Muslims by those who proudly claim to be your supporters. I have heard many reports of Muslims receiving abuse on streets, in supermarkets, schools and cafes by people who have used you, Mr President, as the reason they can be flagrantly disparaging and abusive. Not quite the badge of honour I believe you want to wear.

Your patriotic speech spoke of the transferring of power back to the citizens of “our” country from a protected establishment in Washington and promised it was now all about making America strong, wealthy, proud, safe and great again. You have pledged to improve schooling, neighbourhoods, employment, defence, law enforcement and security. And you promised all this by placing your hand on not one but two bibles. Your own and the bible that belonged to Abraham Lincoln. The irony of which I am sure wasn’t lost on people. You took the oath of allegiance to ALL Americans by placing your hand on the bible that belonged to the President who freed slaves, abolished slavery and made them equal members of society.  As a consequence almost 150 years later we saw the election of the first black President of the United States. You spoke of a united America but America has never been more divided. Whilst your armed forces, your law enforcement agencies are made up of people of all faiths, colours, cultures and creed, you spoke of reinforcing old alliances and forcing new ones – uniting the ‘civilized world‘ against “radical Islamic terrorism“, “which we will eradicate from the face of the Earth“. That’s fine Mr President but what of radical Christianity, white supremacy and fascism? Terrorism has no faith, belief or religion and it is more pertinent to talk of eradicating hate, intolerance, bigotry, social injustices and discrimination in all it forms.

To say opening your heart to patriotism, leaves no room for prejudice is to not fully understand the power of emotion around patriotism.  Emotions that in fact encourage and permit prejudice to flourish. American citizens regardless of whether they are black, brown or white, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, do indeed bleed the same red blood and do most definitely and proudly salute the American Flag. Mr President do not disregard them. Do not dismiss over 3 million Americans because you believe they (and 2 billion adherents of the religion world wide) are all in some way associated with terrorism and the terrorist atrocities that have taken place in America, France, Germany, Australia, Pakistan,  indeed across the world. Do not forget that first, second, and third generations of American Muslims, men and women, have contributed to education, health, justice, defence, policing and government within America. America has been promised change but where is that change going to lead? The vocal crowds that gathered to oppose your inauguration will not go away. The women’s marches that have taken place in Washington, Detroit, New York, Chicago, London in fact in countries across the globe, have seen thousands upon thousands of women on the streets because they, like me, are fearful of what the future holds. This is real democracy in action. You have a long hard task ahead Mr President and unity is a long long way away.

However, you have made quite a transition,  from reality TV star to becoming the 45th President of the United States of America and if I may be so bold, I would like to end with a quote from the Quran and of course those three words I promised:

My people! Give full measure and weight with justice, do not diminish the goods of others,          and do not go about creating corruption in the land.” (11:85)

Congratulations Mr. President.

Dear Eliza – An apology

My dearest Granddaughter Eliza

There are few things in life that give us immense pleasure, this sense of absolute joy, this awe that life can never get any better than this. Your wedding day, the birth of your child, and beyond all imagination the birth of a grandchild.

You were born a mere forty nine days ago, just 99 days after Britain voted to leave the European Union. Just 120 hours ago America elected its 45th President Donald Trump. And suddenly the world feels like a very dark and dangerous place. The world you are going to inherit is no longer the relatively cosy world I have had the pleasure of inhabiting for the last 50+ years. It has not been perfect, but it seems to have taken a sinister turn. And for that I feel you are owed an explanation.

There have always been concentrations of wealth amongst the few but the plutocrats of today seem to hold absolute power over governments and the global political systems. Crony capitalism goes from strength to strength and the middle class is shrinking.  The vortex of minimum wage labour is relentlessly pulling everyone towards it – with the exception of the privileged few.

There has always been racism and discrimination in the Britain I grew up in. But over the last three years there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of violent, racist incidents. Levels of hate speech aimed at Muslims, indeed anyone ‘foreign’ have risen. People appear to be more interested in filming people being attacked or abused on their mobiles, rather than risking their own safety by intervening and stopping these events from taking place. Anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic sentiments appear to be insidious – in our daily lives, in newspapers, online and particularly on social media. The scariest thing is this situation is being worsened by the very people in society who should be protecting these groups and challenging it. Our politicians.

When you have politicians who peddle their dirty politics and incite hatred in the guise of ‘political campaigning’; who claim their country’s problems can be resolved if only we didn’t have so many immigrants; who claim the world would be a better, safer place if one group of people didn’t exist; who use the plight of refugees and the images of drowned children for their own political point scoring and use terms more commonly associated with individuals who  committed appalling acts of genocide; we are providing elements of society with the green card they need to go out and attack and abuse those who are different and those who are most vulnerable.

And now the ‘free world’ has gone through an election where the forces of racism, xenophobia, bullying and ignorance have been let loose . Mother Earth must be weeping.

And this is the world you are to inherit. Where climate change and global trade tariffs are going to create misery and death on a biblical scale for the world’s poor, even if we avoid a recurrence of a 1930s style depression. My generation have failed you.

We have failed to mobilise those voices, those individuals in the world who still hold dear the basic human values of kindness, generosity, compassion, caring and respect. It is not that these types of people do not exist. I believe the good people in our world, in their heart of hearts, never thought any of this was possible. And as a result those millions of people who voted for Mr. Trump did so, not because they are racists, but as Bernie Sanders pointed out, did so because they are sick and tired of the economic, political and media status quo that has resulted in the suffering of millions, through unemployment, homelessness and drug abuse. It was these individuals who were taken in by a wave of anger and were manipulated by the lies and scaremongering tactics by the cartoons, adverts and posters.  This is what has been used to convince people with genuine grievances who are angry with their lot that the solutions were simple. We were taken unaware. We were caught napping. And your generation is left with picking up the pieces.

And for that I can only apologise.

But there can be no silver linings without clouds and it is that silver lining we now need to find.   Angela Merkel drew a line in the sand when she said that her relationship with Trump would only succeed if he upheld “the dignity of man, independent of origin, skin colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation, or political views.”

Secretary Clinton’s dignified reaction gives us hope; “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it …We need you to keep up these fights now and for the rest of your lives… I count my blessings every single day …our best days are still ahead of us…scripture tells us, let us not to grow weary of doing good, for in good season we shall reap…let us have faith in each other, let us not grow weary and lose heart, for there are more seasons to come and there is more work to do.”

Eliza, Hillary Clinton  also had a message for you  “And to all of the little girls who are watching this, never doubt that you are valuable and powerful and deserving of every chance and opportunity in the world to pursue and achieve your own dreams.”

“The point in history at which we stand is full of promise and danger. The world will either move forward toward unity and widely shared prosperity – or it will move apart.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt) This is the task that my generation has set you, ensuring that as we move forward, we move towards unity. Your generation will have the task of healing the gaping wounds that my generation has inflicted on the world. Be sure to fight for what is right, for democracy, for respect and tolerance and always search for the very best in humanity .

“No reason have we why we should not put our trust on God. Indeed He Has guided us to the ways we (follow). We shall certainly bear with patience all the hurt you may cause us. For those who put their trust should put their trust in God.” (Surah İbrahim, 12)

Lots of love

Your Daadijaan xxx

 

 

 

 

 

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