Remembering Srebrenica 25 years on 1995-2020

I first posted this blog following my visits to Bosnia in 2014.

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 According to the Bosnia and Herzegovina tourist board, Bosnia “is one of the last undiscovered regions of the southern Alps. Vast tracks of wild and untouched nature make it an ideal holiday destination for adventurers and nature lovers alike. The central Dinaric Alps are a hikers and walkers paradise. Enchanted by both Mediterranean and Alpine climates, the range of diverse landscapes will stun and amaze you”.

Tourist boards have a habit of inflating reality in a bid to encourage visitors to their part of the world. On this occasion I can say the description is very much understated. The country is stunning. Everywhere you turn you see mountains, trees and lush greenery – hard to comprehend how a land of such exquisite geography could have experienced such gruesome horrors only 25 years ago. In Europe. A short three hours flight from London.

But that is the reality of Bosnia. Those of us of a certain age will never forget the scenes unfolding on our TV scenes as the worst genocide since World War II unfolded before our very eyes. And we sat, helpless, unable to protect the innocent men and boys being slaughtered, the estimated 20-50,000 girls and women being raped and families being torn apart and displaced in a war that would be a reminder of how ineffective we are as a human race. A genocide that took place in a region despite it being declared a safe haven by the United Nations. Over 8372 slaughtered in the fields, farms, school buildings, and warehouses in Srebrenica. Sons torn away from their mothers arms, fathers and sons separated, boys watching their school friends being gunned down whilst trying to escape – these are images that many who survived the atrocity still see every time they close they eyes. But the hardest thing for the women to bear is the burden they carry of not knowing what really happened to their husband, son, father, brother, uncle and nephew. For many, their remains have never been found. Many remains though unearthed are still to be identified. Those that are found and reunited can finally be given a funeral by their loved ones and can be put them to rest. Many families may have only a few bones to bury, but they still fulfil what they see as their religious obligation – to have a proper Muslim funeral, and return the remains of their loved one to their Maker, with dignity.

It was a real priveledge for me to be part of a delegation to visit Bosnia twice as part of the Lessons from Srebrenica visits organised by Remembering Srebrenica in 2014. An opportunity to see and learn first hand about not just the atrocities that unfolded there 25 years ago, but witness the devastation that was left behind and how the Bosnians are still coming to terms with it. As someone who has worked in equality and diversity and hate crime initiatives for most of my life it is very hard to comprehend how such hate can exist in anyone to the extent they want to see the elimination of an entire race.

Lessons from Srebrenica remains a very important initiative for everyone, but particularly our youth. They need to see first hand what happens when hate goes unchecked – how far and how quickly things escalate. Allport’s scale (1954) demonstrates this very clearly when it outlines how this progression takes place. What might initially start as harmless fun, making jokes or derogatory comments about another group, negative stereotypes can very quickly escalate to active avoidance of them, discriminating against them in, for example, access to opportunities, goods and services, to physical attacks (hate crimes), lynchings, burning of property, to the final act of genocide and attempting to ethnic cleanse an entire group of people. Think Holocaust. Think Rwanda. Think Bosnia.

How often have we said “never again”? How many more times must it be said? Until as a human race we begin to recognise that it is human beings, just like you and me who have committed these atrocities and it will be ordinary people like you and me who will commit them again, we will continue to witness these horrific senseless acts of brutality across the world, again and again.

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” (Burke)

When we say never again this time let us mean it.

You can find out more about Lessons from Srebrenica at http://srebrenica.org.uk/

 

This photograph of the beautiful landscape was taken as we approached Sarajevo. Hard to believe the horrors this land has seen.
This photograph of the beautiful landscape was taken as we approached Sarajevo. Hard to believe the horrors this land has seen.
Photographs by Tarik Samarah, a Bosnian photographer who compiled the project "Srebrenica - genocide at the heart of Europe"
Photographs by Tarik Samarah, a Bosnian photographer who compiled the project “Srebrenica – genocide at the heart of Europe”

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The grave of Alija Izetbegović, who in 1990 became the first Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The grave of Alija Izetbegović, who in 1990 became the first Chairman of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

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The delegation at dinner with the British Ambassador to Bosnia Edward Ferguson
The delegation at dinner with the British Ambassador to Bosnia Edward Ferguson

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It transpired His Excellency had lived in Pakistan for a short while and still had a favourite Urdu song!
It transpired His Excellency had lived in Pakistan for a short while and still had a favourite Urdu song!
On the road to Tuzla where we visited the Podrinje Identification Project which included both the forensic facility and the forensic DNA facility)
On the road to Tuzla where we visited the Podrinje Identification Project which included both the forensic facility and the forensic DNA facility)
It didn't seem to matter where we went and where we looked. There were cemeteries everywhere
It didn’t seem to matter where we went and where we looked. There were cemeteries everywhere
The overwhelming smell of death was everywhere. So sad to see how remains of our fellow humans who once walked and talked like us, are now stored,  until such a time they can be reunited with their loved ones.
The overwhelming smell of death was everywhere. So sad to see how remains of our fellow humans who once walked and talked like us, are now stored, until such a time they can be reunited with their loved ones.
The remains of one individual going through the process of being identified. The task made even  harder because, in the effort to hide their crimes, the Serbs moved bodies from mass graves and bones of one individual have been found across multiple sites.
The remains of one individual going through the process of being identified. The task made even harder because, in the effort to hide their crimes, the Serbs moved bodies from mass graves and bones of one individual have been found across multiple sites.
The International Commission on Missing Persons is funded from 25 countries
The International Commission on Missing Persons is funded from 25 countries

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The processes used it trying to identify remains are staggering
The processes used in trying to identify the remains are staggering

 

 

Next stop Srebrenica with a tour of the Potocari Memorial and Battery Factory
Next stop Srebrenica with a tour of the Potocari Memorial and Battery Factory

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Mothers of Srebrenica
Mothers of Srebrenica

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The battery factory where the men and women were separated before the men were taken off to be slaughtered
The battery factory where the men and women were separated before the men were taken off to be slaughtered

 

Inside the factory, a space widely recognised from the photograph showing 600 coffins  of victims awaiting burial
Inside the factory, a space widely recognised from the photograph showing 600 coffins of victims awaiting burial

 

At the Residence of the Grand Mufti of Bosnia
At the Residence of the Grand Mufti of Bosnia

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The Church, the Synagogue and the Mosque all within a short space of each other in the old town of Sarajevo

IMG_5638This photograph of the beautiful landscape was taken on the approach into SarajevoIMG_5625

 

 

And finally an opportunity to have a look at the sights and sounds of the city before our flight back home

 

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A Sarajevo Rose is a concrete scar caused by a mortar shell's explosion that was later filled with red resin. Mortar rounds landing on concrete create a unique fragmentation pattern that looks almost floral in arrangement. Because Sarajevo was a site of intense urban warfare and suffered thousands of shell explosions during the Siege of Sarajevo, the marked concrete patterns are a unique feature to the city. Throughout the city, these spots mark where one or more deaths took place as a result of mortar attacks.
A Sarajevo Rose is a concrete scar caused by a mortar shell’s explosion that was later filled with red resin. Mortar rounds landing on concrete create a unique fragmentation pattern that looks almost floral in arrangement. Because Sarajevo was a site of intense urban warfare and suffered thousands of shell explosions during the Siege of Sarajevo, the marked concrete patterns are a unique feature to the city. Throughout the city, these spots mark where one or more deaths took place as a result of mortar attacks.
"In 1914, war started in Sarajevo, Bosnia. In 1991 it started again".  This stones marks the spot where Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated, triggering the start of World War 1
“In 1914, war started in Sarajevo, Bosnia. In 1991 it started again”. This stones marks the spot where Archduke Francis Ferdinand was assassinated, triggering the start of World War 1Re

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?

The Unknown Fallen – The Muslim Story For Remembrance Sunday

“I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart beating. Not one of us is moving. Not even when the trenches went dark.”

(From The Diary of an Unknown Soldier)

“The Unknown Fallen – the Global Allied Muslim Contribution in the First World War” is a recent publication by the Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation.  The deeply moving photography in the book captures the raw human courage, sacrifice and fellowship of soldiers during the World War One.  The pain and fear that, undoubtedly, the soldiers must have been experienced, permeates through the pages .  But the most powerful heart-stopping image for me depicts a group of Christian soldiers praying with a priest, possibly before going into battle, whilst just a few feet away, Muslim soldiers are prostrating, bowing their heads in worship.  Incredible stories of fear, hardship, courage and perseverance are told. The Unknown Fallen takes the reader into a dark world, full of death and separation and one that we can only hope the world never witnesses again. A world where Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy were fully versed in the methods of performing the last rites related to each other’s faiths. Because it was inevitable that at some point they would be called upon to do so. A dark world, but one where there was the utmost respect for diversity and ‘the other’ – because the other was my brother and they were fighting side by side, not just for each others lives, but ours as well.

Sunday 11th November 2018 marks exactly one hundred years since the guns fell silent and the world, finally, after four long years, saw the bloodiest conflict in history come to an end. A war that witnessed 16 million people die. Across the country at 11.00am people will stand in solemn silence, bells will toll and we will remember all those men, fathers, sons, brothers, uncles and nephews, who died so that we might enjoy the freedoms that, sadly, they never survived  to experience.

I was recently privileged to attend a memorial at the Peace Garden in Woking. The event was a dedication to those brave soldiers who fought and died as members of the British Army. But let me be more specific. The memorial was a dedication to the thousands of Muslim soldiers who fought for Britain in two world wars and subsequent conflicts, giving you, me and our future generations the freedoms we enjoy today. They fought against oppressors, racists, bigots and haters. They fought against nations that did not value democracy, diversity or the rule of law. The reality is however, that if you were to ask the ordinary man woman or child in school about who fought for Britain in the wars, very few would be able to tell you that recent figures estimate that four million Muslims contributed to the allied cause either as soldiers or labourers.

One of the speakers at the memorial was Sophie Chisembele, daughter of Yusuf Mohammed Ali, the last serviceman to be buried at the site, which was then the Woking Muslim Military Burial Ground.  The burial ground held just 27 servicemen out of the many thousands of Muslim personnel who died during the two World Wars. She paid tribute to the Muslim servicemen who “died in their thousands in the service of Britain, then the colonial power.  They were born in a different place, centuries past, their lives ended prematurely by wars, and it is right that we and I’m sure generations to come, remember and honour their sacrifice.”

The Right Honourable Earl Howe, Deputy Leader of the House of Lords and Minister of State for Defence reminded us of the “forgotten army. The first Muslim recipient of the Victoria Cross, Khudadad Khan, who is now well known for his selfless actions at the First Battle of Ypres, whilst the other Muslim VC recipients of the Great War, like Mir Dast and Shahamad Khan, have also been deservedly immortalised at the National Arboretum.. We honour not only those heroes, but the many thousands of less well-known Muslim soldiers, whose names adorn memorials the length and breadth of Europe, the Middle East and Asia and whose deeds helped preserve our freedom. We think of how they travelled thousands of miles to the mud and horror of Flanders Fields.”

There is nothing glamorous or thrilling about war and conflicts. Battlefields are not exciting places – they are places of horror, where friends and comrades have to witness each other being blown apart, bleeding to death, losing limbs and calling out the names of their loved ones who they know they will never see again. Wars are abhorrent, they are horrifying, they are destructive and they are never the way to peace. We must never forget the sacrifices made by all those brave men, but we must endeavour to ensure the world never sees such conflicts again.

It has only been recently that the contribution of Muslims to the world wars became known, and certainly this seems to be a very well-kept secret. Perhaps modern day populist movements might benefit from learning not just about the lessons and horrors of war, but about this secret as well. More recent estimates suggest that potentially 4 million Muslims contributed to the allied cause either as soldiers or labourers, a figure known largely in essence to the research undertaken by The Forgotten Heroes 14-19 Foundation and published in their book. This is a history book with a difference and one that needs to be part of every school library across the country. The book opens up a whole new dimension in relation to the wars and the contributions made by many nations including Pre-partition India, Africa, Russia, the Far East and the Middle East, which until today have been largely unrecognised. Until recently for example it was not known that British India sent 1.5 million men to war in Africa, Asia and Europe during World War 1 and of these 400,000 were Muslims.

“Among all the trials and danger, they kept their calm, their fatalism, and the enduring dignity of their profile”.

In 21st Century diverse Britain, we have a duty to salute, remember and make others aware of these heart-rending stories of all these individuals and the sacrifices that were made by Muslims. A group that sadly, is all too often, demonised because of the actions of a very tiny minority. Certainly elements within society seek to divide communities and use the actions of these elements to promote an anti-Muslim, racist narrative that seeks to demonise British Muslims.  We need to understand that these wars were not European wars fought just by white men. They were World Wars in every sense of the phrase, wars that saw people from across the globe, of all colours, religions, traditions and cultures, fight and die for the freedoms we enjoy today. This is not about glorifying war, it is about remembering those who those fought side by side hand in hand for the common good..

We must teach our children, in home and in school, that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. We all owe a debt of gratitude to ever single individual who gave their life, so we could live a peaceful one. We would do well to remember.

It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

Charles M. Province 2005

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Boris Johnson, The Handmaid’s Tale & The Alt-Right – an unholy alliance?

Dear Mr Johnson

It was a pleasure to meet you earlier this year, at the reception hosted at Buckingham Palace for representatives of the Commonwealth diaspora in the UK. I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to see you there, as it gave me the opportunity to offer my thanks and congratulations for the excellent coverage of your visit to Myanmar that I had seen a couple of days previously. You showed true leadership and did not pander to the Burmese leader. You spoke with passion, referring to what was happening to the Rohingya Muslims as ‘industrial level ethnic cleansing’. So to be able to discuss this with you personally and hear about your visit gave me a sense of relief that our government was genuinely acting to ensure that Rohingya Muslims received the assistance they so desperately needed internally in the country and externally from the international community.

I also realised that day that unlike your media persona, you are in fact a very clever man and not a blundering buffoon. Unfortunately, your recent comments ridiculing women who wear the niqab are text-book Bannon and Breitbart.  I do not like the burqa or the niqab and certainly do not think it easily fits in with the society in which we live. The majority of the public think that too. But telling women how they should dress is not British either.

Some people are suggesting a national niqab day in solidarity with those who wear the niqab, which quite frankly is daft and will poison the genuine debates we need to have as a society.

Your choice of words in describing Muslim women who choose to veil in this manner were very badly chosen and reminded me of a conversation I had a few years previously. I was working with Muslim girls, discussing with them issues they were facing in their hometown of Luton. One young woman, a niqabi said to me “we are hit by both barrels of the gun. We walk down one side of the street and we are called letter boxes and bin liners by the EDL. We walk down the other side of the road and if we refuse to take the leaflets being handed out by Al Muhajiroun we are called traitors and kuffar. We can’t win”. This statement has stayed with me because of how upset the young lady was. All she wanted to do was go about her daily life, get an education, shop, and go out with her friends without having to face a barrage of abuse. And thanks to your comments, (I won’t even insult you by saying they were ill-thought, off -the-cuff comments because nothing you say is) abuse such as this is set to continue, very likely increase. Comments such as yours play into the hands of the alt-right, it legitimises their anti- Muslim hatred and gives them the green card to harass, attack and abuse some of the most vulnerable people in our society. I heard yesterday about a woman who had been urinated on by three men simply because she was wearing the niqab. The abuse and attacks on Muslims will continue, and your comments will give some people the justification they need to commit these offences. The niqab debate is a very convenient rallying call for the extreme right wing anti-Muslim elements in society who will use this to scare people about the impending ‘Islamification’ of Britain and ‘creeping shariah’. What has not been covered in the press is that this is also a very convenient rallying call for Muslims on the extreme right, who see the niqab as a symbol for promoting a version of Islam based on theocracy and not democracy. To them I say no, thank you very much. I do not wish to live in a Muslim society based on a version of The Handmaids Tale. I do not want to be punished by the state for choosing to dress as I please.

There is absolutely no doubt as to who are the ultimate losers in this vicious dogfight – the ordinary British Muslims who simply want to go about their lives and practice their faith. Other minorities will inevitably be targeted after Muslims (some already are.)

I am a British Muslim. I value the freedoms that living in a democratic society affords me with. Whilst many people in this country dislike the niqab and what they perceive it to represent, they will be equally appalled by racist attacks on Muslims, that your comments have no doubt incited.  Albert Einstein said that a leader “is one who, out of the clutter, brings simplicity… out of discord, harmony… and out of difficulty, opportunity.” I hope that out of the clutter your comments have created, you will find the simplest and most honourable option is to apologise to Muslim women who choose to veil for your insensitivity and poor choice of words. This will hopefully provide us with the opportunity to draw a line under this saga, move forward and perhaps even have more grown up conversations about things that actually matter in society, not the banal and the ridiculous.

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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