Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What can be done to help people affected by the Bombay blasts?

This blog has been set up to help survivors and the families of the dead: Mumbai Help

The Guardian newsblog has the latest updates and links.

Monday, July 10, 2006

How many Brit Muslims pass the Tebbit Test?

...Former minister Norman Tebbit, once a close ally of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher, invented the "cricket test" or "Tebbit test" in 1990 when he infamously spoke about the supposed split loyalties of immigrants to Britain.
His theory, which caused an uproar at the time, is that a person could only be classed as truly British if he or she supported England at cricket.
A poll showed in February that 91 percent of British Muslims are "loyal" to Britain and 80 percent still want to live in and accept Western society.
Former Foreign Secretary Jack Straw praised in March 27 the valuable contributions by British Muslims to society, calling the some 1.8 million minority an integral part of Great Britain.
Between 1970 and the late 1990s, many Pakistanis living in Britain suffered racist abuse, which discouraged them from wanting to support England at anything.
Some claim they were discouraged from joining cricket clubs because of the color of their skin, while others tried to support England but were laughed at for doing so.
In addition, the British press fuelled racist sentiment and there were barely any Asian faces on the England cricket team.
[...]Professor Muhammad Anwar, of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations at the University of Warwick, said the "British factor" plays a key role in British Muslims' affinity towards England.
"The main thing is that 99.9 percent of these people regard themselves as British Pakistanis and British Muslims. That British factor is important for identity and loyalty," he said.
But Anwar insisted that it was impossible to judge an immigrant's Britishness on the cricket team he or she backed.
He maintained that more and more second and third generation British Asians were rooting for England when it came to the crunch.
Naeem Akhtar, an IT analyst who runs a website for Pakistan cricket fans, agreed that it does not matter whether British Pakistanis want England or Pakistan to win they are all still British citizens at heart.
"Being British isn't just supporting the team, it is more about your way of thinking," said Akhtar, who is a life-long Pakistan supporter despite moving to Britain as a child.
"I accept multiculturalism 100 percent. The way I talk, the way I bring up my kids is more in the British way than the Pakistani way. The future for me isn't Pakistan, the future for me is being British."

Friday, July 07, 2006

What's the way out of the cycle of ignorance?

Anti-western feeling in the Muslim world isn't about our values and way of life, but what we do?

John Esposito
Friday July 7, 2006
The Guardian

As we remember the tragedy of the London bombings, voices in Europe and America issue ominous warnings of an Islamic threat: the rise of Eurabia, Londonistan and an Islamic caliphate. Recently, a prominent political commentator warned: "Even as Christianity seems to be dying in Europe, Islam is rising to shake the 21st century as it did so many previous centuries." The Bin Ladens and Zarqawis of the world shape perceptions of Muslims. How do we prevent the militant rhetoric and actions of a minority from defining Islam and relations between Muslims and the west?

Our common peace and security depend more on mutual understanding than demonisation. We, Muslims and non-Muslims, have all been victims of global terrorism, in New York, Madrid, London, Bali and Amman. And yet, five years after 9/11, the war on terrorism is seen by many Muslims as a war on Islam. As Islamophobia and xenophobia grow, the critical distinction between religious extremism and mainstream Islam is increasingly blurred. How do we break out of this cycle of ignorance?

The Gallup World Poll provides us with information about Muslim beliefs, perceptions, fears and hopes. For the first time, we can get beyond conflicting expert analysis, media coverage or selected voices from the Arab street. Listening to a billion Muslims sometimes corroborates but often challenges entrenched beliefs about our differences.

Is there a blind hatred to the west? The poll indicates the opposite. Muslims in the 10 countries polled (Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia) said what they most admired, after technology, was the west's political freedom. Overwhelming majorities in every country would support freedom of speech, religion and assembly if drafting a constitution. Majorities in virtually every country also felt women should have the same legal rights as men.

Those familiar with the EU were more likely to say the group of nations played a positive rather than negative role in promoting peace. However, not surprisingly they gave the US and UK, in contrast to France and Germany, unfavourable ratings, linking the US to such attributes as "ruthless and arrogant." Muslims were also critical of their own countries, citing "extremism, radicalism, terrorism and fanaticism, lack of political freedom and political corruption". Only 8% believed the 9/11 attacks were justified, while 35% were positive about America and felt 9/11 was not justified; 51% were "sceptical moderates", critical of the US but not believing that 9/11 was justified.

What would improve relations with the west? Their most frequent replies were "demonstrate more understanding and respect for Islam"; help with "economic development/jobs"; and "stop interfering in our affairs". Most wanted better relations with the west, but did not believe the US was serious about promoting real self-determination.

The conclusion? Anti-western feelings result from what we do, our policies and actions, not from our way of life. Globalisation and an increasingly multicultural west test the mettle of our values. Islamophobia is a threat to our democratic way of life. This cancer should be as unacceptable as anti-semitism. Pluralism and tolerance demand greater understanding and respect from non-Muslims and Muslims alike. The more we learn about each other, the more we will see beyond our differences to a reservoir of common concerns, values and interests.

John Esposito is professor of religion and international affairs at Georgetown University, Washington, and a Gallup senior scientist; he has been an adviser to the US state department on Muslim affairs, and is speaking today at London's Islam Expo.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Why isn't Imran Khan afraid of loneliness and death?

'I have no fear of death,' he says. 'When I came into politics I always thought there was a possibility I would be killed.' If anything his lack of fear has grown along with his faith in Islam. 'Spirituality does two things for you. One, you are forced to become more selfless, two, you trust to providence. The opposite of a spiritual man is a materialist. If I was a materialist I would be making lots of money doing endorsements, doing cricket commentary. I have no interest in that.'

All this sounds a very long way from the Imran Khan of the Seventies and Eighties who spent his evenings in Annabel's and Tramp nightclubs in London's West End and his days in Nigel Dempster's gossip columns for bedding a series of debutantes - including the late Sita White (daughter of Lord White), Susannah Constantine (Viscount Linley's ex), Lady Liza Campbell and the artist Emma Sergeant. He had come to England from Aitchison College, a relic of the Raj, to study at Oxford, where he was captain of cricket, before playing for Worcestershire and Sussex. In those days he was very much the playboy prince. I wonder what he makes of that former self.

'I have never claimed to be an angel,' he says, still behind his shades. 'I am a humble sinner. In my cricket career I would keep a log and write down the areas I had failed in so I could make them strengths. I have tried to do that in life, too.'

But, I say, he always seemed to be having such a splendid time.

He very nearly smiles. 'I was a bachelor,' he says. 'I decided I would never marry while I was playing cricket. I watched other cricketers and saw the wives going through a torrid time, and the children, which was even worse. When I had my children I was completely hands on. My marriage was tough, but I still think the highs I got in marriage were much greater than those I got as a bachelor.'
Would he like to marry again?
'One day, but not now.'

He had a reputation, as captain of Sussex, for never being one of the boys. Why was that?
'The thing was, I hated pubs,' he says. 'I could not tell you how much I detested them. I had been playing cricket for six hours body and soul and the last thing I wanted to do was stand in an English pub and talk about it. I hated the smell of a pub. I hated the look of it. And of course I never drank alcohol. So maybe that was part of it.'

The other reason, he says, was an extreme kind of shyness. It is
hard to imagine the great allrounder as a retiring type, but he insists he was.
'My oldest son is very shy now and he reminds me of myself. I would deliberately miss public occasions if there might be a speech. When I became Pakistan captain in 1982 I could not even address the team. I would tell my manager, "Look, this is what I want to convey, can you tell them for me?"'

He began to escape this predicament, he says, in his mid-thirties, when he found something like personal enlightenment. 'I underwent a bit of a quest, as we all do. I asked myself, " What am I doing on this earth?" I was very fortunate in that when I was asking this question I came across very deep spiritual people. That happens in Pakistan. It does not happen so often in the West.'

Along with his growing faith, Imran rethought a lot of his views on social issues, such as the place of women in society. He tries to tread a line in his political life between an appeal to the faithful and an attempt not to undermine his charismatic credibility in the West. He puts his argument for a woman's place being in the home in cultural terms.

'I always think that one of the biggest mistakes made by the feminist movement is that they have devalued motherhood,' he says. 'My father was in business and away a lot when I was a child; my mother was all-powerful. The unconditional love, the security it gives you in life is irreplaceable. In England I saw that the side-effect of this feminism was that children lost out on this incredible education and security, which no one else can provide.'
It was watching his mother die an awful death of cancer, unable to get treatment or even pain relief in Pakistan, that drove him to his proudest achievement, a $25m cancer hospital named in her honour in Lahore. He raised the money through campaigns and donations.

He started with Pakistan's richest men , many of whom had gone to his school, but quickly realised that generosity had nothing to do with wealth. So he went to the public: he enlisted the help of a small army of children - even though to start with he was terrified to stand up in front of a school assembly.

'In the end,' he says , 'I needed $4m in six weeks. I got an open jeep, put a big sack for money on the back and toured from north to south asking for help. I started at seven in the morning and carried on till midnight. In those six weeks I changed. I realised the generosity of tea boys, taxi drivers, the poorest people bringing 10 rupee notes - and also their faith. I was saying, "Don't worry: save your money". And they said, "We are not doing it for you, we are doing it for our God".'

From an interview in The Observer, The Path of Khan