"Lincoln" - the 2012 Hollywood film starring Daniel Day-Lewis as Abraham Lincoln

Lincoln: Film, Fiction and Fact

The 2012-13 Movie

I recently went to the cinema to see Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” starring Daniel-Day Lewis, Tommy-Lee Jones, Sally Field, David Strathairn and others. It is a seminal piece of work looking closely at the political art-work of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States of America, who, in 1865, was confronted on the one hand with the conclusion of the American Civil War and yet on the other, had an even greater goal in mind: the abolishment of slavery.

The theme has been extracted from the work of historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, from her book published in 2005 titled “Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln”. A biographical portrait of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln and some of the men who served with him in his Cabinet from 1861 to 1865, it reviews how three of his Cabinet members had previously run against Lincoln in the 1860 election. The book focuses on Lincoln’s mostly successful attempts to reconcile conflicting personalities and political factions on the path to abolition and victory in the US Civil War.

Brilliantly adapted for the screenplay by Pulitzer prize-winner Tony Kushner, the film focuses on just the last four months of Lincoln’s life by masterfully connecting visuals (cinematography from Janusz Kaminski) and a gentle musical score (by John Williams), in which President Abraham Lincoln endeavours to achieve passage of the landmark constitutional Thirteenth Amendment which will forever ban slavery from the United States.

Lincoln isn’t as sentimental as you might expect from Steven Spielberg, and though it never digs deep enough into Lincoln as a man, it’s unafraid to show him as a canny politician willing to bend the law and make enormous compromises to accomplish a greater goal. Another criticism might be that Lincoln veers too often toward becoming a somnolent period piece, but the strong cast and political texture always manage to raise the curiosity again. The backroom deals and legal hurdles to make the ‘greater goal’ happen are immensely complicated, but after some detailed exposition this political manoeuvring among lawmakers serves for the film’s strongest scenes.

Reality: Why did Lincoln rush the vote on the Thirteenth Amendment?

This question is easy to answer in relation to the movie, but is much more complicated to explain in real life. The implications in the movie builds in scene after scene that it was truly a ‘now-or-never’ moment for abolition by the end of January 1865.

But in reality, there is no indication that President Lincoln actually considered quick passage of the abolition amendment to be so crucial. His message to Congress in December 1864 strikes a much different tone. He wrote that “the next Congress will pass the measure if this does not” and so suggested that since there was “only a question of time as to when the proposed amendment will go to the States” why “may we not agree that the sooner the better?” The confidence of that statement was intended.

The 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln.

The 16th President of the United States of America, Abraham Lincoln.

The National Union (Republican) Party had won a sweeping victory in the 1864 elections on a platform that explicitly called for a constitutional amendment abolishing slavery. The next Congress (39th) was going to have an anti-slavery super-majority in both houses. Lincoln considered the 1864 elections to have offered an overwhelming mandate. Many northern Democrats were demoralized and there was open talk in places like Tammany Hall (the New York City Democratic Party) about the need to distance themselves from slavery. And by every reckoning, the Confederacy was on the verge of total military and political collapse.

Though Lincoln was himself troubled by the slavery element – he had written the Emancipation Proclamation – and was equally eager to end the war, he also understood that if Congress didn’t act on slavery at the beginning of January (1865), it was going to do so either by special session in March or during the next regular session in December. Of course, it’s always possible that Lincoln feared any delays might jeopardize the balky Unionist/Republican coalition.

Other aspects somewhat overseen or over-played in the movie pertain to Lincoln’s fear of the Supreme Court and what it might do to his Emancipation Proclamation, but that was more relevant to circa 1862 than early 1865, when leading abolitionist Salmon P. Chase was being confirmed as the new Chief Justice of the United States (replacing arch Lincoln enemy Roger Brooke Taney) – Chase was not mentioned. Also left unmentioned was the fact that the Unionists / Republicans had actually packed the Supreme Court after 1863 – adding a tenth justice that helped their majority. Anti-slavery forces controlled the Supreme Court by the war’s end.

Congressional passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865 was nonetheless a stirring, profound moment in American history, but it was not the stark turning point that the movie amplifies.

‘Lincoln’ is a great film that addresses some powerful truths about President Lincoln and the wars he was facing. Filmmakers should be allowed to take artistic liberties in order to create dramatic tension, but audiences need to be aware that historical films are historical fictions.

Fact over Fiction

Real life is generally fascinating, and the real history of the Thirteenth Amendment is complex and compelling, integrating great facets of practical reason & practical reasonableness; the role of fairness, rights (natural/human/moral) and duties of both the individual as well as the state; the principle of justice and basic values versus those of rational self-interest and fierce partisanship.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_F._Kennedy

President JFK’s Inaugural speech talking about equal / inalienable rights

The moral, legal and democratic struggle faced by the early settlers in the United States, and its Founding Fathers, continued for over two centuries, and within one hundred years after Lincoln, the 35th American President, John F. Kennedy, was making very similar remarks to Lincoln – urging fairness, equality, justice and freedom for all:

“This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equaland that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened”,

“The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future is the revolution of those determined to be free”,

“One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free”.

Alcohol: Virtue or Vice?

My Dear Reader,

Many ills and diseases exist in our societies, leading to personal or social loss and harm. For example, we now have easy access of pornography – which frankly speaking is the continued debasing of the status of women here in the West (along with brothels, rape crimes, domestic violence, etc.) – through to gambling and substance abuse. One of these ills is related to the substance alcohol. The problem of addiction (of one type or another) is a huge problem and is burden on the public institutes such as the National Health Service.

Here, I write with my full heart and care on this issue, knowing that this is one of the most difficult areas to deal with as there are so many perspectives to deal with…

Alcohol Ills

Alcohol Ills: over consumption of alcohol spilling onto our streets

We all know what alcohol is – it’s a compound with the chemical group (-OH) and it’s found in many bio-organic composites. Yet, when it is converted into a beverage, it begins to go get into a disputed territory as to whether it serves as medical treatment, a positive stimulant, a social enhancer, or a indeed a mind/mood-altering drug that leads towards greater risks and crimes.

It certainly isn’t a new phenomenon; it’s been with humanity for centuries. Yet the arguments both for and against social drinking are ever-present, and getting the balance correct between individual choice, social responsibility and state policy is particularly tricky.

The consumption of alcohol is largely dependent on region, cultural norms, religious values, family background, age, context, commercial marketing and availability. There is no single standard of practice and what may work in one region with some people, may not necessarily translate so well with others in different places or contexts.

In America, they tried banning alcohol (prohibition) in the 1920’s, but this didn’t work; it just pushed the sales of alcohol underground (bootlegging). So what exactly is this material that has become such a precious article at the heart of British and most Western cultures, and what are the circular arguments surrounding it?

Recently, Prime Minister David Cameron pledged to tackle the “scandal of our society” – a reference to the UK’s binge drinking culture, where abusive drinking is reported(1) to cost the NHS in excess of £2.7 billion/year. To curb this problem, there is view to provide innovative solutions that include more police on patrol in A&E wards, “booze buses” – vehicles with paramedics to help drunken party-goers – and US-style “drunk tanks”. These are cells where drunks can sleep off their over-indulgence – negating the need to formally arrest and charge someone or take them to hospital, and keeps them off the streets and out of vehicles.

The Prime Minister went on to say “And the problem is getting worse. Over the last decade we’ve seen a frightening growth in the number of people — many under age — who think it’s acceptable for people to get drunk in public in ways that wreck lives, spread fear and increase crime.”

Though on the whole, many would say they have a ‘healthy’ view and relationship with alcohol, there are never-the-les some startling statistics leading to the above-cited cultural shift, and the striking relationship that some members of our society have with this particular substance. Since the 1950s, the amount an average person drinks has risen sharply, rising from five litres of alcohol per year to over 11 litres by 2007(2). Now, over 10 million adults in England drink more than the recommended limits(3), accounting for 75% of all the alcohol consumed; 2.6 million of these drink more than twice the recommended limits(4).

There have also been worrying trends amongst women and children. The amount that young people (those aged under 16) drink has doubled since 1990(5), and there has also been a dramatic rise in drinking by women, with heavy drinking increasing by almost a third in the decade up to 2008(6).

For a significant (and growing) number of people in England, alcohol misuse is a major cause of ill health, contributing to a wide range of serious health problems and accidents that require health care. Excessive drinking causes accumulating harm in long-term ways, contributing to liver and kidney disease, acute and chronic pancreatitis, heart disease, high blood pressure, depression, strokes, and it can harm the developing foetus(7). Alcohol is now the second biggest risk factor for cancer after smoking, contributing to cancers of the mouth and throat, liver, laryngeal, colon (in men) and breast cancer(8).

There are numerous reports and statistics that can give rather grim pictures of alcohol-related behaviour, harm and crimes, some provided by the NHS Information Centre(9) and other statutory bodies(10).

But amongst the main issues, it seems to emphasis surrounds perception and that of the personal relationship with alcohol, and this is by no means limited to England, but spread across the whole of the UK including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A survey conducted in Scotland(11), for instance, had a section titled “Perceptions of Alcohol-Related Social Harm in Scotland” in which it was revealed that the public widely perceive alcohol abuse to be a social problem – and therefore not just a health issue. In fact, ninety-seven per cent of respondents to the Scottish Crime and Justice Survey (2009/10) considered alcohol abuse in Scotland to be a problem, with almost three quarters (74%) perceiving it as a ‘big problem’.

Unsurprisingly, women (78%) perceive alcohol abuse to be a greater problem in society than men (70%). Of course, the trouble doesn’t stop with the adults, because a range of negative effects of alcohol-drinking related activities were also reported by children, including having tried drugs, been in trouble with the police and vomiting, with the latter, as well as – ‘having an argument’ – being the most common negative effects reported.

These are only some of the reasons of how alarm bells begin ringing and we get the repeated headlines reported like the one given recently by the former head of the Royal College of Physicians, Prof Sir Ian Gilmore (writing in the Lancet) “There could be 210,000 preventable deaths over the next twenty years due to alcohol-related diseases, accidents and violence”.

NHS Spend due to Alcohol

A breakdown of these deaths, diseases and crimes in cost terms show that over a third (£1bn) of the £2.7bn annual cost is spent directly on Accident and Emergency (A&E) services. Moreover, a recent government report put alcohol’s cost to society in crime and lost work at anywhere between £17bn and £22bn(12).

Hospital admissions due to alcohol rose to 200,000 last year, a 40% rise over the decade and the number of patients with acute intoxication has doubled to 18,500 since 2002(13).

It is clear that excessive consumption of alcohol can have harmful and wide-reaching consequences for individuals, their family and friends as well as the wider communities.

However, many would argue that when drinking alcohol in moderation, it is not only harmless, but acts as rather like a sedative; calming and relaxing the nerves. Social alcohol in a controlled environment (usually a family-type atmosphere or a more formal gathering) is a means of enhancing relations and binding people together. And the debate is currently hot as to why certain drugs that have potentially therapeutic effects are banned, whereas alcohol is widely distributed(14).

In any case, alcohol is a strong part of one’s British and Western identity. So-much-so, that taking it out of the social fabric would create a gaping hole: what would people do then?

Well this is probably the heart of the issue. On the one hand, it is a huge part of the general culture and identity, hence its wide-spread presence, legality and availability.

Yet, on the other hand, it is more toxic than some of the ‘softer’ drugs that are currently classified as illegal(15). This is not only a contradiction that fuels the circular arguments that society are (and have been) facing, but is very confusing for the younger members of every up-coming generation who grow up trying to reconcile their ‘identity’ with a “legal substance” that does possess the power to intoxicate, and ultimately lead to harm – whether of self or others.

One of the larger problems of the binge-drinking culture in the UK particularly, in contrast to some other European countries, is that here there are three types of alcohol beverages in distribution: wines, beers and spirits, where dependency on spirits can be particularly debilitating because it gives the quickest elevation and intoxicating effect out of the three types.

Some of the strategies and tactics used to tackle this residing issue have included price increases, better intervention programmes, tougher punishments, and increased restrictions on the commercial marketing of alcohol in the open market, as well as the more recent introduction of ‘booze buses’ and ‘drink tanks’.

Nonetheless, despite such measures, our society is finding it very difficult to strike a balance between personal choice, social responsibility, commerce (sales and marketing) and state governance.

Again, many answering the call to revise the current status quo of alcohol in society are viewing the issue through their personal or professional lens: from those who come across the seven-year old child who has had to act as a carer for his alcoholic parent, to those treating a victim of alcohol-triggered violence on the hospital bed.

Subsequently, the commercial sector also has their perspective on the matter, arguing that the situation is being over-played. Henry Ashworth, chief executive of the Portman Group, which also represents UK drinks producers, said: “It is really important that we put this report in context.

The vast majority of people drink responsibly. Painting doomsday scenarios won’t help reduce alcohol misuse and calling for Soviet Union-style population controls cannot do anything but alienate the vast majority of people who already drink within government guidelines.

We agree with the prime minister that strong partnerships are essential to tackle the minority who use alcohol recklessly and drinks producers are committed to supporting this approach.

Countering this, the chief executive of Alcohol Concern, Eric Appleby, said: “What we have to accept is that doing nothing is no longer a responsible option for alcohol policy, and that trying to ‘nudge’ drinking culture through information and persuasion has proved to be little better than doing nothing.

We can see from the example of other countries that drinking patterns really can change, the challenge is there for the government to start the process now through the alcohol strategy.

The Public Health Minister, Anne Milton, said: “As the prime minister said earlier this week, we are determined to tackle the scandal of alcohol abuse. People that misuse alcohol endanger their own lives and those of others. It costs the NHS £2.7bn per year and in our forthcoming alcohol strategy we will set out our plans on how to deal with the wide range of problems and harms it causes.(16)

The medical group certainly believes that the ‘potential tipping point’ is within reach with respect to the drinks industry and the way it labels and promotes its products, and “taking on the shameful, preventable loss of life caused by alcohol.

I remember when advertising of certain beverages were strongly associated with certain images or demographic types; Martini’s will always carry a certain perception in comparison to Baileys. There is an argument that the role of media in promoting alcohol as an essential feature of life is not doing justice to the vulnerable amongst us: those who have low level of self-discipline in relation to this particular product.

And this vulnerability spans all socio-economic classes; from the broken families on council estates, to those occupying ‘high-functioning’ roles, to indeed the Parliamentary (heavily-subsidised) ‘The Standard Bar(17). The point is, there is no stereo-type, as anyone can be an ‘abuser’ and/or a ‘victim’.

Intervention treatments are only dealing with the symptoms, sometimes a little too late. To me, it seems the more fundamental criteria are two-fold: (a) the societal attitude towards alcoholic beverages and consumption, & (b) the provision of viable alternatives.

What I mean by these two is that far too many of the social/recreational activities are centred on alcohol. Why should this be the case? Yes, perhaps it’s historical matter(18), but the current binge-culture was not always at the level it presently is – with more younger people falling prey to this substance than before as well as more women – and being furnished with this understanding alone does not resolve the issue either.

People, particularly our younger members, must be provided with viable alternatives to alcohol-based venues and activities. Back in the late 60’s / early 70’s, when London reduced in the ranks of the hippy culture, many young Britons sought pleasure and relaxation elsewhere, namely Amsterdam. People say it was not the dope that was the sole attraction, but the companionship, the fraternity, the ambience of the place, which was largely due the people gathered at the place, who may also have been watching a film or show.

And this is the real central feature of the alcohol culture: that people want the companionship in a place to ‘unwind’; i.e. to find escape from the daily chores along with sociable company to relate with, and there is no harm in this itself. But surely, this does not have to include alcohol, or any other classified drugs for that matter, does it?

But away from controversial government politics and policy, who seem to keep changing positions on classifications of even lesser harmful ‘class C’ drugs(19), my main point here is that social activities can be done without the presence of the intoxicating drug alcohol. There are amongst us those who have never drunk a sip – I amongst them. There are others who have tried it and not wanted anymore, they’ve decided to become ‘tee-total’(20).

One young person commented on the Cosmopolitan site for the question: “What do people think about the drinking culture these days? Since going to university I’ve noticed that a lot of it centres around going out and getting wasted. (I know that there are people who don’t do this, but there are huge amounts that do). Personally I don’t really like to drink. I don’t particularly like the taste of alcohol and I don’t see the attraction of getting so drunk you don’t know what you’re doing. I have a boyfriend to respect as well as myself. I will have the odd drink now and then if I feel like it but that’s rare. My friends are always saying to me “you never get drink”, “go on, drink tonight,” “I’ll give you a lift so you can drink”. To be honest I don’t see the obsession, I can have a fun time without. My friend even said to me, “I don’t mind if you don’t drink on a night out, you’re fun even if sober.” (21)

And it’s the stars too who are changing their drinking habits and attitudes towards this substance. Many citing(22) they ‘hate the taste’, ‘never needed it to relax’ and Daisy Lowe (21-year-old model) joined her teetotal mother Pearl as a ‘soberista’ recently; boasting how her new clean living lifestyle has transformed her for the better. Glamour site said “We can’t imagine many ‘It’ girls who spent their 21st sober…

But she’s is not alone in that league. The list also includes the likes of Leona Lewis, Kristin Davis, Jada Pinkett Smith, J Lo and men too amongst the t-totalers: David Williams, David Beckham, Gerard Butler – the latter who recognises now the pangs of beer and says he ‘did a full life’s worth of drinking between the ages of 14-27’.

Other Hollywood stars(23) choosing to abstain do so for diet, weight and detoxing reasons, some simply because they ‘can’t handle alcohol’, or that they don’t want to ‘slip-up’. Whatever the reason, non-drinkers include ‘A’-list stars like Jim Carrey, Tobey Maguire, Natalie Portman, Bruce Willis, Samuel L Jackson and Tom Cruise.

So, it is evident that many actually detest the taste of alcohol, as well as hating having to face hangovers, and any form of regrets from wrongful alcohol-induced actions.

The predominant cultural idea of the “watch a game of footie; pint-in-hand” requires further consideration. I mean, if we can go to the cinema and watch a film and consume popcorn (or cheese-topped nachos with jalapeno’s) with a fizzy drink, possibly followed by an ice-cream, then we must be able to watch a game of footie without the need to have an alcoholic beverage associated so strongly with it?

It’s this activity-related drinking that concerns me more than other things, because often it appears everything is normal, under control, then before long, something happens. Though tolerance towards alcohol can vary from person-person, there are minimum guidelines published everywhere, but who’s watching and measuring when people are drinking in private? Besides, as with other things, tolerance increases with consumption. And one person’s tolerance-threshold is another person’s cup of tea…therefore, there are degrees to dependency, consequently, addiction or abuse is very much a subjective matter.

One chap (Paul, in his mid-50’s) who was travelling on the same train as me out of London recently told me how he was surrounded by alcohol since his twenties and used to drink with his friends regularly till 4:00am. He complained about the loss of the ‘community pub’, but said many off-licences had made it easy for people to get cheap booze. He’s been a heavy drinker for years and never considered there were any problems, apart from the bad breath he had at work. Then the real problems began: relationship breakdown, loss of family and hospitalisation. Not only did he have liver cirrhosis(24), but the two side-effects that shocked and disturbed him most were severe itching and bleeding. He told me that excessive bleeding, a condition called melena(25), came out from his mouth and genitals, which was pitch-black with an extremely pungent, chemical smell. If he stopped drinking, his mind became too alert – and he couldn’t stop thinking – so he kept on the drink to maintain his semi-euphoric state.

At least he was not in any denial over his life-style or issues. I know how emotive a subject this is, as it means so much for different people; whichever side they are approaching it from – clinically or as a dependent abuser – it’s like an embodiment of this material, a part of their identity.

As stated, perception, consumption and tolerance levels play a significant role in lifestyle choices, but so do manufacturing, distribution, marketing and promotion. I really can’t understand why non-alcoholic cafeterias don’t stay open till later. If one looks across the Middle East, it’s clear that families and young people go out at night to places of relaxation and socialisation where there is no sign or presence of alcohol.

Alcohol Consumption by Country

List of countries by alcohol consumption
2004 data of alcohol consumption per capita (age 15 or older), per year, by country, in litres of pure alcohol. (26)

The Arabs of pre-Islamic times were aficionados of wine and alcohol; they had high-taste and appreciation of distinctiveness – taste, smell, flavour, colour, and tone – they refined it all. Even now, they have over seventy names just for palm-dates – depending on the stage of development (ripeness), to when it’s harvested, and from which region, etc. So, one can similarly imagine how effective they were with vineyards! Yet, on the whole, they have abstained based on religious, social and cultural grounds, and kept it like that for over 1,400 years.

I too, had I drunk, believe I would have been a bit of a connoisseur. But I don’t need it – never did – though I do like socialising, bantering, interacting, lounging, or being entertained. As seen from the celebrity profiles above, people are wising-up to the idea that they can enjoy themselves without turning to alcohol(27).

And this is the key, that people themselves come to the realisation they can enjoy themselves without taking any intoxicating drug – just as in places like Egypt, Morocco and parts of Spain, where cafeterias, shopping malls, and eateries are open till later hours, here too, I believe, a similar cultural shift would assist in normalising drinking habits and attitudes.

Once social habits equalise themselves the trick is half done. I don’t think, in my opinion, it will be solved through governmental pricing / taxation strategies alone – it doesn’t really put it out of reach – just as it hasn’t with tobacco-cigarettes (nicotine). Rather, this just creates more antipathy as people regard the policies as hypocritical and self-defeating. In any case, most people do not agree with the idea of extending the ‘nanny state’.

What the government ought to do, as it has a moral responsibility to encourage and ensure good social behaviour and maintain peaceful order, is to get the licencing strategy right across the food and beverages / leisure / recreational / entertainment sectors. Helping people – the younger members especially – have wider access to viable alternatives to alcohol-centred activities will encourage better life-style choices.

To this end, education is pivotal and will certainly help raise important awareness and push the momentum towards a healthier cultural shift. The ‘golden triangle’ stated at the beginning of this article – of individual choice, social responsibility and state policy – would then be placed in a better framework that is more likely to work in a sustainable manner into the future.

Needless to say, the role of media would have to adjust itself in light of changing perceptions, habits and demands: the independent charity Alcohol Concern has a useful publication on this aspect(28). They commissioned a study looking into the (negative and forceful impact) of alcohol branding in comparison to cake and ice-cream branding. A recent article in the London Metro(29) (March 15th 2012 Edition, p20) showed how four out of five primary school pupils identified Carlsberg as lager and Smirnoff as vodka – twice as many as those who recognised Mr Kipling cakes branding.

It is clear that children spot alcohol logos more readily than cake branding. Alcohol Concern’s Andrew Misell said “do we want to live in a society where children are so familiar with major alcohol brands?

Sadly, until and unless we get the balance right, we, as a society, are going to continue to face the ills of alcohol(30). The on-going contradictions, cultural disparities and varied arguments will no doubt continue to fuel the debate, and prick the conscience of some, and there will most certainly be preventable deaths caused due to this mysterious object of obsession we generally call alcohol.

Other Points:

A comment posted on The Guardian(31):

“Price has absolutely nothing to do with it. Here in Italy you can buy a litre of wine for as little as one euro and yet people do not stagger around drunk like they do in the UK.

I have long wondered why northern European countries have such problems with alcohol and Mediterranean countries much less so. At first I thought it might be a religion thing. But they did a survey in the USA which found that Irish descent Catholics were 7 times more likely to become alcoholics than Italian descent Catholics.

In the end, Mediterranean countries drink mainly wine (as opposed to spirits etc.) and it is considered to be a food stuff which is consumed (with food) in a family environment (around children). There are few alcohol drinking establishments, unlike in the UK, and the law here in Italy requires that canapés be served with each alcohol drink free of charge.

It will take a long-term education programme to change the drunken culture in the UK. Raising the price is simply a money-making exercise for the Government”.

Non-alcoholic posh cocktails: even better than the real thing :-)

Cuban Cooler

Take a highball glass and add
a sprig of mint;
one teaspoon of sugar;
15ml apple juice;
15ml lime juice.
Mix with a spoon in the glass, then add 10ml cranberry juice on top for a bit of colour and fill with crushed ice to the top of the glass. Add a wedge of lime as desired as a garnish

Very Berry Fever
Take a highball glass and add
10ml raspberry juice;
10ml blueberry juice;
10ml blackberry juice;
a teaspoon of sugar.
Mix in the glass, add crushed ice as desired and 15-20ml of lemon juice.
Top the glass up with soda water.
Mix again with a spoon

Mock
Mix together in a cocktail shaker
a teaspoon of strawberry jam;
5 blackberries;
a teaspoon of sugar;
10ml lemon juice;
30ml of grapefruit juice;
30ml of pineapple juice;
a small amount of ice.
Pour into a whisky glass and garnish with a strawberry cut into three pieces.

For Continued Success and Contentment (but be careful folks, this does not need external substance dependency!)

Asad Khan


References

(1) http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9082834/David-Cameron-to-launch-attack-on-Britains-boozing-scandal.html#disqus_thread

(2) Institute of Alcohol Studies (2010) IAS Factsheet: Alcohol Consumption in the UK Cambridge: Institute of Alcohol Studies

(3) National Audit Office (2010) Reducing Alcohol Harm: health services in England for alcohol misuse London: The Stationary Office

(4) House of Commons Health Committee (2009) Alcohol: First Report Session of 2009-10 London: Stationery Office Limited

(5) ibid

(6) Office for National Statistics (2010) Smoking and Drinking amongst adults, 2008 Newport: Office for National

Statistics

(7) op. cit. House of Commons Health Committee (2009) and National Audit Office (2010) Reducing Alcohol Harm:

health services in England for alcohol misuse London: The Stationary Office

(8) op. cit. House of Commons Health Committee (2009)

(11) NHS National Service, Scotland http://www.alcoholinformation.isdscotland.org

(12) Department for Work and Pensions (2009) State of the nation report: poverty, worklessness and welfare dependency in the UK, London, DWP.

(13) Alcohol Concern consultation response to ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People’ Public Health White Paper

The Exemplary Character of the Final Messenger of God

Hi there,

When talking about personal effectivenes vis-a-vis interpersonal relations and modelling those who have excelled in a given area of endevour to heights of exceptional excellence, then in human dynmics there arguably could be no better than the last Messenger of God, Muhammad (God’s Peace and Blessings be upon him).

In the world of NLP (neuro-linguistic programming), Robert Dilts has written and advoated “Modelling the Wisdom of Jesus” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Dilts). Here, we will see how the final messenger, following the preceeding great Messenger, Jesus, son of Mary (God’s Peace and Blessings be upon him and his mother), exemplified excellent moral and personal character around the home in private, as well as in the public domain.

As with the Bible, the Quran is the last of all Divine Revelations. Its core message is for humanity to worship the One, True Almighty God above the Heavens in a manner pleasing unto Him (to Whom belong all praise). The last testament is the ‘source code’ for good human behaviour and has been preserved to serve as a guiding light for human beings in all areas of life and earthly pursuits, neatly balancing both the temporal with the celestial.

Readers may also wish to refer to Dr. Covey’s seminal work (Seven Habits of Highly Effective People) to examine the fundamentals of “Character Ethic”. But I’d like, in a way, to pick-up from where he left: to consider with greater meaning and purpose ‘the source of correct principles’. He concluded his work there with the following sentiments,

“I believe that correct principles are natural laws, and that God, the Creator and Father of us all, is the source of them, and also the source of our conscience. I believe that to the degree people live by this inspired conscience, they will grow to fulfil their natures; to the degree that they do not, they will not rise above the animal plane.

I believe that there are parts to human nature that cannot be reached by either legislation or education, but require the power of God to deal with. I believe that as human beings, we cannot perfect ourselves. To the degree to which we align ourselves with correct principles, divine endowments will be released within our nature in enabling us to fulfil the measure of our creation.

In the words of Teilhard de Chardin, ‘We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience’.”

I believe it is time for us to turn towards the ‘source of correct principles’ to begin discovering our true nature, our roles as human beings, our purpose of existence, and the nature of reality. Here, I wish to go to an even deeper level and uncover the part that tends to get overlooked: the role of the heart and spirit in the development of the vision, character and personality of the individual, organisation and society.

Thus, in order to better understand the source code, we must understand the one who brought the code to us, the human transmitter of the heavenly gift, the final Messenger. To help with this, the following has been rendered of Zakaria Bashier’s “Sunshine in Madinah” (published by the Islamic Foundation, pp 56-66).

The Advent of the Prophet

The Prophet’s society at Madinah was indeed unique, its uniqueness owing to: (a) the presence of the Prophet, his personal example and influence, and (b) the continuous revelations of the Qur’an, relating to the events of everyday life therein. Thus, it was an extraordinary society, curiously related to the Divine Realm (Revelation) and enormously influenced by it. During the ten years which passed between the Prophet’s coming to the city and his death, the Archangel Gabriel, the vehicle of divine revelation, was a constant visitor, overseeing, and generally supervising, Madinah by the leave and commandment of God.

The Prophet’s arrival among the Yathribites was indeed the arrival of hope and deliverance. Before it, they were in a desperate state of sickness of both body and soul, exhausted by years of senseless and bloody conflict. Without light or hope, they had longed for a deliverer, a comforter, to reconcile their deep divisions.

Then the Prophet came, the light of divine guidance in his hand, and compassion in his radiant face. He gave them the comfort for which they thirsted. He was for them the mercy and the compassion he was to be in the Qur’an: God described the mission of the Prophet as a ‘mercy to mankind’:

We have not sent you, but as a mercy for mankind. (The Prophets, 21:07)

To some aspects of this mercy by the Prophet, the Qur’an refers as follows:

Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them, he will enjoin upon them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all the good things, and prohibit for them only the foul.

And he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that were on them Those who believe in him, and honour and support him, and follow the light that is sent down with him, they are the successful ones. (The Heights, 7: 157)

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived in the full light of history. We possess a vast body of material relating to the smallest details of his life and career, compiled by historians and scholars who took great pains not to omit anything. Even the most embarrassing details have been recorded, and instances of the Prophet’s conduct reproved, even condemned, by the Qur’an. This speaks quite favourably for the honesty and objectivity of Muslim historical sources. Far more significant is the fact that a record of the Prophet’s life has been preserved in the Immortal Qur’an itself. Not only is every aspect of his overt life recorded, evaluated and commented upon, but the very musings of his heart, his inner thoughts, are quite often exposed, as in the affair of his marriage to Zaynab bint Jahsh.

From this well-preserved, reliable record of the life of the Prophet Muhammad, some aspects of his vast reservoirs of mercy and compassion can be examined and exemplified. In two extraordinarily beautiful verses of the Qur’an, the Prophet’s mercy is summed up thus:

Surely, there has come to unto you a messenger of your own selves, it is grievous unto him that you are over-burdened, full of concern for you, and for the believers full of compassion, merciful. But if they turn away, say (O Muhammad) Allah suffices me. There is no god save Him. On Him, have I relied, and He is the Lord of the Tremendous Throne. (The Repentance, 9: 128-9)

The second verse reports how dear the character and person of the Prophet was to the Muslims, and of his exceptional love and care for his Companions:

The Prophet is more mindful of the believers’ (interest) than themselves, and his wives are their mothers…(The Clans, 33:6)

The Prophet’s Companions experienced fully and reciprocated his love for them. They loved him as they had never loved their own parents, and were prepared to (and some did) sacrifice their own lives to protect his. They used to address him often with fidaka Abi wa Ummi (may my father and mother be a ransom (sacrifice) for you). Khubayb ibn ‘Adi, told his executor that he would prefer to die than contemplate a thorn in the Prophet’s foot. During the Hijrah, Abu Bakr defended him with his life; ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib slept on his bed whilst he escaped his would-be assassins. During the battle of Uhud, when he became exposed to the Quraysh fighters, he was defended by a small group of men and women who shielded him with their own bodies against the swords, arrows and blows of the enemy. Those included the celebrated Muslim woman Nusaybah bint Ka‘b, and such brave Muslims as Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqas, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, Talhah ibn ‘Ubad Allah and others, including Abu Bakr.

So what was it about the Prophet that men and women were ready to defend him with their person and lives? Not only was it the precious message, but also his exemplary character, personality and appearance.

A Pen-Portrait of the Prophet

Although earlier sources, notably Ibn Hisham, do not give a detailed description of the person of the Prophet, later sources describe him in the minutest detail. The following portrait is basically that of Ibn Kathir, who seems to be drawing on diverse sources, chiefly Bukhari and Muslim.

According to Ibn Kathir, there seems to be unanimous agreement that the Prophet was exceptionally handsome. His complexion was white, mixed with a reddish tan. But the rest of his body was ‘as white as a rod of silver’. There seemed to be a curious radiance from his face, likened by some to the ‘moving sun’, by others to the glitter of a sword in the sun. But the most common description of it is that of the full, round moon. The same curious light seemed to beam from his wide, pensive eyes. When he smiled, light seemed to be reflected from his beautiful white teeth. Indeed, such was the beauty and radiance of his countenance that whoever had a private audience with him for the first time would be strongly overawed by it.

Of medium size, neither tall nor short, his figure was, nonetheless, commanding and impressive. His head, unusually large, gave space for a large and noble brow. The eyebrows were large, arched and joined. The hair jet-black, thick and slightly curly and, when he left it uncut, it could reach down below his ears. His eyes were very wide, and very black, pensive and glittering. His eyelashes were long and black, adding to the lustre of his eyes. It was his eyes (slightly marred by redness in the white of them) which more than anything seemed to convey some of his great spiritual and psychological strength and some of his iron resolve and singleness of mind, his total reliance on his Lord; he was called ‘al-Mutawakkil (the God-reliant), a name used for the Prophet in the Torah to identify his dominant characteristic, whereas in the Gospel of Barnabus he is referred to as Ahmed (Paracletus). They beamed with his characteristic serenity and firm determination. In general, they reflected that vast reservoir of intelligence and discernment, and contributed most to his awe-inspiring appearance.

When he was displeased, anger showed in his face and, no doubt in his eyes, turning more reddish. A vein between his eyes became swollen. But with his exemplary tact and modesty, he used to turn his face aside, so that his audience would not see his displeasure.

His forehead was wide and exposed. It shone with a light and smoothness resembling the surface of a still ocean lit by a full moon, and totally at ease, having achieved the highest peace of total submission to God Almighty. His nose was noble, high, gracious and slightly aquiline.

The nose led to a finely-cut but generous mouth. He had the gift of fine, decisive, commanding speech of phenomenal eloquence. His accent was the purest of Arabian speech, in a deep, melodious tone.

There was a gap (called Faljah by the Arabs) between his upper front teeth, which were finely cut and snow-white in colour, always kept so by the Prophet. He loved to brush his teeth often, at least five times a day, before each prayer. So white and shining were his teeth that they sparkled with little bursts of light as he spoke. The Faljah in his teeth added to the moon-like beauty of his face. His beard was full, round, black, reaching to his chest, no doubt adding to his manly magnificence. His physique was fine, even slender, yet sturdy and well-built.

His broad shoulders and wide chest gave the impression of conspicuous strength with youthful energy and vitality. When he walked, it was as if descending a hill – none could be faster. His Companions found it difficult to keep pace with him. Though fast, his steps were sharp and firm. His figure tilted slightly forward as he moved around, as if he was on a definite errand.

Although the Prophet’s face was reddish-white, possibly as a result of his long and active travels to Syria and around Makkah, the rest of his body was described as silver-white. In particular his back and tall, finely moulded neck were said to be silver-white when exposed from under his mantle. Describing his unusually long and beautiful neck, ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib is reported by Ibn Kathir, to have said ‘it was like an Ibriq (tubular necked jug) made of silver.’

It was this peculiar quality of radiance that most impressed and mystified his fond Companions. Abu Hurayrah said that he was as white ‘as if the sun moved in his face’. A woman Companion by the name of ar-Rubayyi‘ bint al-Mu‘awwidh said:

“If you see him, you would say: it is the sun rising in the morning.”

A Persian woman from Hamadhan made pilgrimage with the Prophet. When asked about his appearance, she said:

“He was like a full moon, I have not seen anyone so beautiful in my life.”

It was the radiance of his face, no doubt a spiritual gift, that so impressed the beholders. This light beamed from every feature in his face. Especially his long, soft, rather thin cheeks that radiated with pleasantness and happiness added to his magnificence. Summing up his physical appearance, a poet referred to the whiteness of his face as a sign of his generosity and munificence, especially towards the poor and the needy:

A fair countenance for whose sake rain would fall.
A guardian for the orphans.
A comfort for the lonely widows.

His Character Traits

For his description of the general manners of the Prophet, Ibn Kathir draws largely upon a statement by Hind Ibn Abi Halah at-Tamimi, narrated on the authority of al-Hasan Ibn ‘Ali (Ibn Abi Talib). Said al-Hasan (grandson of the Prophet): “If he turned, he would turn with his whole body towards the person addressed. His gaze was more often lowered, more often than not his gaze was cast down to the earth. He looked down to the earth more than he looked up to the sky. He walked behind his Companions, always the first to greet whom he chanced to meet, observing things as he moved along.”

Pensive and sorrowful in general appearance, continuously wrapped in his thoughts and meditations, the Prophet was unusually quiet and reserved. Yet, he was industrious, never found just doing nothing. Even at home, he would take part in the mihnah (work – household) of his wives. When there was nothing to be done, he would deem it his duty to amuse them, making them laugh with happiness. He quite often attended to his personal chores, washing and sewing his clothes and mending his shoes, etc.

He entertained long intervals of silence, and would generally like to listen rather than lead the conversation. He would not speak without a need or a purpose. When he talked, he did so with his whole mouth. His sentences were short and pregnant. He was given to jawami al-kalim (the loaded expressive sentence), not too short or too long but sufficient.

His manners were fine, neither coarse and unfriendly, nor meek or insignificant. He was never angry for personal motives. He freely forgave and brushed aside personal insults. However, he showed great anger when a matter of principle was mocked or violated. When he was so upset, he would not be pleased until that matter had been redressed or avenged.

But personal indignities and little insults would not make him angry, nor would they make him retaliate against his offenders. He would bear them graciously and patiently. Bedouins used to address him harshly and use crude and improper language. They even sometimes pulled his beard as they talked. But the Prophet would bear all of this with a gracious smile.

When engaged in conversation, he would use his whole palm, pointing with it in wonder and amusement. If he was angry, he looked aside; if pleased, he would lower his gaze. Most of his laughter was no more than smiling but occasionally he laughed until his teeth were exposed. When he thus laughed, bursts of light were seen between his teeth.

When he was at home, the Prophet divided his time in three portions: one for his wives, one for God, and one for himself. But his personal time he shared with his Companions, receiving them, looking after them, and enquiring about their affairs. When his Companions cam e to visit him, he received them in kindness, waiting personally upon them, serving and honouring them. He enquired about their needs and tried his best to see to it that those needs were satisfied.

Quite often he directed them to do or say things which would benefit them and ease their hearts and hardships. He would even ask them to convey to him the needs of those who could not convey them in person, saying that ‘whosoever conveys to the ruler the needs of those who cannot convey them, God would establish and strengthen him on the Resurrection Day’.

When drinks were served in his home, normally with only one bowl going round, he would be the last to drink. Similarly, he often ate only after his Companions had eaten, especially when he sensed that they were suffering from hunger, which was not unusual.

When his Companions assembled around him, his manner was the noblest, light-hearted and elevating. He would show every kindness and compassion towards them, never saying anything or bringing up a topic which would grieve them or lower their spirits. Far from attempting to mock them or demoralise them, he would say things which would help them overcome their vices and weaknesses. In this way, he would foster what was best in them, encourage them and make them want to do good deeds.

He honoured them with his gracious hospitality. It was always his habit and concern to please and honour his Companions. He would take great care to especially honour those who had merit or were previously honoured by their own people (even before coming to Islam). Witness the honour he bestowed upon Abu Sufyan at the conquest of Makkah. In return for his kindness and honouring of them, they remained for ever captivated by his love and favour. They loved him more than they loved their own parents, more even than themselves, ready to do anything to please him, to die if need be in his defence and in defence of the new faith and society.

The Prophet and the assembly of the Companions around him can be likened to a full bright moon and a cluster of luminous stars around it. As he shone ever brighter, so they too became more luminous. His style of leadership was not that of an overbearing lord, obsessed by promoting his own image and strengthening his personal grip. Nor was it the style of an envious professor irritated if one of his students excelled. Far from trying to dim and lessen the merit of his Companions, he for ever sought to exalt and improve them, and lead them towards the realisation of what was best and most noble in them (may Allah bless him ever more and more).

It is little wonder, therefore, that no Prophet or Messenger of God, no king or prince was so loved, honoured or obeyed by his Companions and followers as the Prophet Muhammad.

Although normally reserved and contemplative, Muhammad was by no means an introvert. On the contrary, he was a social being of unusual charm. His company was of the sweetest, and his visitors would tend to overstay in his house, no doubt drawn and held by the peace and joy they used to experience when in his company.

The habit of overstaying in the Prophet’s home, notwithstanding the very limited room in his private apartments, became so widespread, and the Prophet too shy to mention it, that God had to intervene and Qur’anic verses were revealed to draw the Companions’ attention to the inconvenience and hardship which this overstaying inflicted upon their too-gracious host.

The pre-Islamic Arabian society in general, and the Yathribites in particular, were not known for compassion. This is attested by the surprised protestations of a Bedouin, when he saw the Prophet hugged and kissed al-Hassan, his grandson. Moreover, Yathrib, at the time the Prophet came there, was just emerging from a prolonged and savage war.

The Prophet’s mild temperament, his unusual graciousness, the caring love and compassion he showed to his citizens and followers was in marked contrast to anything the Yathribites had so far experienced. The way he used to receive and treat them in private audience, made each one of them feel that no-one else was more loved or honoured by the Prophet than him.

Such was the justice and equality with which all of them were treated that they gradually became accustomed to look upon him as their own loving father – the ideal and dearest of fathers.

Thus, the Muslims became dependent upon the Prophet for their support, material as well as spiritual, and under his protection and guidance they felt happy and tranquil. For the forty or sixty poor Muhajirun (migrants) of Ahl as-Suffah (the sheltered people), he was quite literally the sole supporter and guardian, providing food and lodging from whatever little he possessed. This unusual relationship between the Prophet and the Muslims has been recorded by the verse of the Qur’an, quoted earlier, that the Prophet became closer to the believers than themselves, and his wives became their mothers.

Indeed, the Prophet was a father to many a fatherless child in Madinah, orphaned because of the Bu‘ath War. He is indeed the father of those who, for whatever reason, have suffered deprivation of parental or fatherly love, to the end of all time.

The Prophet’s forbearance in attending to the needs of his Companions was immeasurable. He would sit listening to them for hours, not showing the least sign of impatience or inconvenience. When extending his hand in salutation, he would never be the first to withdraw it, nor would he be the first to break off a conversation or a council, unless something really pressing came up.

Often, when he was not busy in some serious matter, a little girl from the neighbourhood would dash into his house, take him by the hand, and demand: “Let us go out to play.” He would obey her and she would spin him about playing merry-go-round.

His liberality towards his Companions and the citizens of Madinah was without limits. Never was he asked something or some favour and he failed to grant it, unless, of course, it was beyond his means. Even then, he would passionately pray and implore his Lord on their behalf, and quite often his prayers were immediately granted. On some occasions, he would teach them selected prayers and invocations, exalting God and asking His forgiveness. They would comply and their hardships were relieved. One day the Prophet was wearing a new robe, a gift from overseas, from some king or prince. A bedouin’s eyes fell on it, praising its beauty and desiring it. The Prophet took it off and tenderly placed it around the bedouin’s shoulders. The Bedouin was overcome with emotion and gratitude.

Towards those who harmed and opposed him he was usually charitable and forgiving. Yet, if they insisted on enmity and sought to obstruct God’s call to mankind, and it became clear beyond a shadow of doubt that they were bent on destroying his mission, then the Prophet would not shy away from having to deal with them, as the situation might demand. One of his favourite strategies was to deal the first blow to them, decisively, speedily. He would not suffer humiliation or defeat at the hands of his combatant adversaries, if he could help it. Nor would he let their treacherous designs go unchecked or unpunished. However, if they relented and surrendered, he would forgive them at once, totally and unreservedly. In this way, some of his former enemies became his best friends and protectors.

The Prophet’s style of living was, by choice and design, most austere. He would accept gifts and hospitality from his friends and Companions. Yet, if he sensed charity in them, he would reject them outright. Although totally modest and unpretentious, he was nonetheless high-minded and noble in his attitude towards people and things. Given the asceticism he chose, his needs were indeed minimal and whatever need he felt was for the compassion and mercy of his Lord, the Almighty God.

For the glitter of life, its luxuries and comforts, he had no desire. He was reported to find his greatest delight in prayer, especially at night. When he was not in communion with God through prayer, his favourite things were to keep clean, fit and looking well. If he had an indulgence it was for good perfume – offensive smell being most detested by him. Of the innocent pleasures of life, he enjoyed the company of attractive, youthful women, especially when they were distinguished by sharp wits, good humour and upright and virtuous character – qualities which ‘A’ishah enjoyed to the full.

Asked about the character of the Prophet, ‘A’ishah said: ‘His character was the Qur’an’. He was nothing less than the embodiment of every Qur’an virtue and noble disposition, unfolded and realised in practical life. So comprehensive was the Prophet’s character that it assumed the proportions of a vast Qur’anic universe in which every perfection, excellence and noble pursuit commended by the Qur’anic for man was exemplified and realised.

May we continue to seek success and contentment in the most balaced and complete way.

Asad Khan

A Father between East and West

In the early hours of Tuesday night (3rd of January 2012), I got a call at 3:00am that my beloved father, Mohammed Afzal Khan, had peacefully passed away, at the age of 78, and his soul’s journey had moved to the next stage of its journey. I made my way back to Manchester from the south of England by car and arrived by 11:00 am to find the process of communications between the coroner, mortuary (at the hospital) and the personal medical doctor were all underway, with my three brothers and two sisters being kept abreast of it.

Due to Islamic prescriptions of burying the deceased as soon as possible, we were all anxious that the body was released sooner rather than later. But owing to his excellent general health, the medical practitioner was unable to issue a death certificate. However, with some assistance from friendly local municipal councillors, who sent emails to the coroner, we managed to get the body by late Thursday afternoon. His body was washed on Friday morning, prepared for burial – only two sheets of cloths are required to cover the body – and then transferred to the mosque where the final prayers would be made over it.

The funeral was well-attended, some 2,500 people or so came from multiple sides, the mosque was over-capacity and so many had to pray outside in the car park area to ensure attendance.

The body was then transferred to the graveyard with some following the hearse vehicle and many others making their own way. His body was lowered directly to the ground six feet below onto the cold, wet earth, wrapped in the two clean white cloths, with his face showing, and then turned eastwards towards the direction of Mecca. Further involuntary prayers and supplications were read over the grave by Imam’s who were touched by the whole scene and felt a close attachment with my father both in living days and on his departure from this plane of existence.

Now, here is what is more surprising, in a sense, than any of the procedures or indeed his sudden departure: the number, range and type of people who visited our houses to remember him fondly – women, including my mother, were in the adjacent house and men in my father’s house.

Since my arrival on Wednesday morning until Monday morning, apart from the burial day of Friday, I have personally been receiving people from eleven in the morning ‘til eleven in the evening. Many expressed their shock and disbelief of his expiration, as he was so fit and healthy, whilst others recounted their times with him.

One of the oft-repeated aspects mentioned by them was my father’s kindness and ability to make people feel warm, special and welcome when meeting them – both young and old. It’ll be easier for me to copy here what I put on my facebook and twitter statuses on the morning of January 6th:

“Dear Friends, the loss of any near one is a gap that cannot be easily filled, but even more if it was one who was a pillar of society: one who combines the secular and religious seamlessly such that the social and spiritual merge with grace, beauty, mystifying power and great resolve. One who crossed continents yet had deep care for one-and-all on both sides of the global hemisphere; one who gave his full attention, willingness and magical smile to both young and old alike to make each feel extra special, assured, centred and clear-minded; one who resolved conflicts, aided the insecure, helped fulfil the aspirations of the eager, and gave comfort to those in distress. A person of principles with huge self-dignity, his goal was to make people see the brighter side of life. This is just a glimpse of my dedicated Father, whose soul entered the next stage of its journey a couple of nights ago, and whose body will be buried by me and my brothers tomorrow on the glorious day of Friday. Please join me with your refined thoughts and prayers in earnestly asking Almighty God to have mercy on his soul. Thank you.”

Esteemed people of the society came and sat with us at home and through this testing time, I managed to get right to the heart of why so many endearingly remembered him. This is what I want to share with you here as I feel it will assist manifold in the common relations we have amongst us whilst we attempt to tackle the issues of everyday life on top of the global concerns surrounding us. He was not the richest, most powerful or the most famous, but he was amongst the most caring, sincerest, principled and whole-hearted of people.

Until his last days, he was himself running a daily luncheon club for the elderly. Though we all told him to leave it and rest more, his view was that it provided him daily activity, a focus, and an opportunity to engage with others; something I only came to truly understand posthumously.

His affectionate concern for others stemmed from a deep appreciation for how sincere and useful others were towards him just as he was unreservedly towards them. Colour, creed, gender, role, status, socio-economic class were not barriers or his measurements for bonding, but moreover, the genuine application a greater value system of others within inter-personal relations.

This value-system is what carried him into the political arena where the Rt. Hon Gerald Kaufmann, MP has been a long-standing friend of his (for over thirty years). I believe given the right circumstances, he would have made a brilliant cabinet minister. But he had a young family to take care of in a new country, get them through education – which was his main priority – look after the household here in England as well as those overseas, including the needs of several relations who called upon him living in Pakistan, Canada and elsewhere.

Apart from these practical issues, another feature that kept him slightly away from committing fully-fledged to the political machinations was his deeper spiritual understanding, strong values of ethics and principles of morals ~ with truth and justice residing above all. Accordingly, political expediency was not his mantle, nor could he accept the “rule of the mob” at the expense of ‘golden-mean’ standards. Most of the national and international issues were clarified in his mind as he saw the extension of the ‘great game’ as a farce, a denial of International law and a rejection of the idea of principles over policy. Thus, he found an alternative way, his way, in the care world.

As such, the last and only one to be with him in the depths of that Tuesday night in his transference from earthly existence to the spiritual realm was my beloved mother (75), whom he was looking after. Since that moment, she has proven herself to be a solid rock in the midst of torrent rain, wind, and engulfing sea waves of trial and tribulation. Remarkably, she retains redness in her cheeks, a glowing testimony that it is her character which has come to symbolise the 55 year partnership she had with my father.

All their children and several grandchildren will remember this message well: that a lasting partnership has love, understanding and compromise at the root of its organisation. It is now up to us to continue such a wonderful legacy with both faith and benevolent determination as we journey on back into the same Earth and beyond.

A ‘Lord’ Speaks on Our Society, Context and Faith…

Hi,

I’d like to share with you a couple of writings/speeches made by the Conservative Peer Lord Sheikh:

Prevent Strategy

30th November 2011, House of Lords

My Lords, this coalition Government spent over a year reviewing the Prevent strategy and produced a clear, focused strategy on tackling extremism, as well as focusing resources on key institutions like universities, prisons, schools and colleges. This strategy looks at countering the ideology rather than just the violent action of extremists. This is the fundamental difference between the previous Government and this one.

People who espouse extremist views may be more prone and susceptible to being primed and moulded towards extremism, especially if they live in segregated communities and have little interaction with other communities. Extremism is also based on people being excluded and separated, and these are ideas that we should not allow in our communities whether they are al-Qaeda inspired, or whether they are far right or EDL-inspired. Separation and segregation have no part to play in our modern state. These phenomena have been rejected globally and they must equally be rejected here. There is a link between extremism and a lack of integration, and we need to acknowledge this.

However we must be more nuanced in our understanding and approach towards communities. We must acknowledge that there are groups of individuals who are integrated in every sense of the word. They work, they speak English, and they are living quiet and happy lives in different parts of our country. Yet they choose not to engage with other communities and they may also feel aggrieved and angry at what is taking place regarding international or domestic issues that affect their fellow brothers and sisters. These people cannot be viewed as being non-integrationist, but they may hold extreme views. They may, however, not be patriotic about this country, though that is different from not being integrated. The link between extremism and a lack of integration is not clear in these cases, and we must be aware that there are a set of competing circumstances affecting different communities.

I firmly believe that we have moved in the right direction in terms of the Prevent work, which is now being undertaken, which is much more focused on interventions and countering extremist ideology. There is no simple solution around integration, and we need to look at situations in different parts of the country and with different generational groups, through multiple lenses and not through one single lens of understanding. Yet a lack of integration may leave some persons more susceptible to manipulation and thereby be used to promote extremist ideology. Sometimes the lack of integration can be self-imposed and the individual concerned may be completely devoid of extremist narratives and ideologies. Yet we can all agree that communities need to celebrate being part of their local areas and do all they can to make these areas places where they feel that they have a future.

At the very least this is the healthiest option we can take. I would like to end by saying there was a survey published in the Sunday Times a few weeks ago which found that Muslims are more patriotic than the rest of the population. This shows Muslims have gone a long way towards integrating with society and shows Muslims in a different light compared with what is being portrayed in the media. Islam is a religion of peace and this philosophy is shown visually in my coat of arms.

==========

SPEECH MADE BY LORD SHEIKH AT THE DIALOGUE SEMINAR FOLLOWING THE OPENING OF THE EXHIBITION “MUHAMMAD – A MERCY TO MANKIND” AT THE ISLAMIC CULTURAL CENTRE AND LONDON CENTRAL MOSQUE ON 16th JUNE 2011

I was brought up in Uganda where there were people of different racial and religious background.  I learnt to speak several languages and developed an understanding as well as respect for all religions. My father was very well known in our home town and as a boy and a youth I accompanied my father with members of my family on visits to Churches, Hindu Temples, Sikh Gurdwaras and other places of worship including the Bahai Temple.

I am a Conservative peer and I am active in the House of Lords. I speak on a variety of subjects and I do not confine myself to ethnic issues but I have quoted The Holy Koran and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) to explain the true message of Islam. I am also chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum and I am involved in promoting inter-faith dialogue and harmony amongst various racial and religious groups.

I believe that there are more similarities than differences between people and we should highlight the similarities in order to establish closer links between communities. I believe it is important to maintain a dialogue between various racial and religious groups and dispel misunderstandings. I also believe that lack of understanding leads to suspicions and divisions between people.

It therefore gives me great pleasure to speak at an event which seeks to break barriers and build bridges between our various communities. Events like this gathering play an important role in affirming and celebrating Britain’s status as a diverse and multi-cultural society.

Mutual understanding, respect, and inter-faith dialogue are essential if we are all to coexist peacefully. Islam teaches us to celebrate the difference and diversity which God has purposefully created in our world.

Sura 49 ayah 13 of the Holy Koran says:

“O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female, and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another. Verily the most honourable among you in the sight of Allah is he who has piety and righteousness.”

Despite the image portrayed in some of today’s media, Islam has a long and proud history of tolerance and respect for people of other faiths. The Holy Koran is emphatically clear on this point, stating ‘let there be no compulsion in religion’, and this has been manifest in Muslim civilization throughout history.

About six weeks ago I visited Jerusalem and I would like to make two points that reinforces the acceptance of all religions in Islam. In the 7th Century, the Muslims were victorious at the Battle of Yarmouk and conquered Jerusalem. The leaders of the city asked the Muslim generals that they will surrender the city to the leader of the Muslims and thus Khalifa Omar travelled to Jerusalem. Khalifa Omar did not pray in the Church of Holy Sepulchre as he was concerned that if he prayed there the Muslims will convert the church into a mosque. He respected the Christian faith and prayed in the courtyard.

Khalifa Omar granted the people of Jerusalem a covenant of peace and protection and also said that the holy places of all religions need to be respected. There is a mosque near the Church of Holy Sepulchre called Khalifa Omar’s Mosque and I have prayed at the mosque. The relevant excerpts from the Jerusalem Declaration are actually displayed on the outside of the mosque.

I would also like to mention that when Salahuddin Ayyubi conquered Jerusalem in the 12th Century he permitted people of all religions to stay in the city and they were respected and had protection. When the Muslims were persecuted at the start of our glorious religion the Muslims escaped to Abyssinia where they were given refuge by a Christian King who was King Negus.

We have come to the United Kingdom which is a Christian country and the British people for all their faults are generally tolerant and they have accepted us in this country. It is important that we regard this country as our home and live in peace and harmony with everyone.

I used to be a visiting lecturer at colleges and education is something that is very dear to my heart. I have always promoted the value of education as I believe that good education is the key to a better future.

To us Muslims, education and knowledge is very important and we are proud of our contributions to the world of science, learning, literature, mathematics, medicine and commerce. Muslims have also excelled in numerous other fields such as art, architecture, astronomy, geography and irrigation. Many crucial systems such as the Arabic numerals, and the concept of the zero were transmitted to medieval Europe from the Muslim world.

Muslim scientists developed sophisticated instruments such as the astrolabe, which has been described as the single most important calculating device before the invention of the digital computer. In the Exhibition today we can see displays of various items which give a very brief description of achievements of the Muslims and their contributions to the world in various fields.

In Islam there have been great dynasties and empires which include the Ummayads, the Abassids in Iraq, the Fatimids in Egypt, the Ottoman Empire and the Mughals in India. All these empires and dynasties have contributed a great deal to the understanding and promotion of the subjects I have described.

Islam is one of the Abrahamic religions and we believe in the Prophets who are mentioned in the Bible including the following Prophets (peace be upon them) –Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jacob and Jesus. God’s guidance to mankind started with Prophet Adam (pbuh) and ended with Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).

According to Islam people of the book are Muslims, Jews and Christians.  The books of Allah are Zabur (Psalms) of Dawud (David), Tawrat (Torah) of Musa (Moses), Injil (Gospel) of Isa(Jesus) and Koran revealed to Prophet Mohammed (pbuh).  The Koran also mentions scrolls of Abraham.  I may add that the Holy Koran has an entire chapter which is titled Maryam (Mary mother of Jesus).

There are a number of similarities between Sikhism and Islam and I would like to state that the foundation of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was laid by Mian Mir, a Muslim holy person. One of the constant companions of Guru Nanak Sahib was Mardana who was a Muslim.  He accompanied Guru Nanak Sahib on his journey to Mecca and Medina.  In the Guru Granth Sahib there are writings of a Muslim, Sheikh Farid.

In regard to suicide bombings Islam forbids committal of suicide.  Islam maintains a protection of life and does not sanction any violation against it, irrespective of people’s religion or race.  In the Holy Koran it is written “who ever kills a human being then it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life it is as though he had saved all mankind”.

This saying is very similar to what is written in The Talmud where it is written “If you save one life, it is as if you have saved the world”. A book has been published which highlights cases where Muslims saved Jews from the atrocities of the Nazis during the Holocaust and in fact I am going to launch the book in the House of Lords.

Finally I would like to reiterate that there are more similarities between people than differences and we should all share the same hopes and take actions to maintain and promote peace and harmony between all the communities.

More of Lord Sheikh’s speeches, as well as his coat of arms, can be found on his website: http://lordsheikh.com

===========

The continuing struggle of truth over falsehood, good over evil, peace over war, love over hate, understanding over confusion, dialogue over bigotry, balance over blind bias, fairness over rigid prejudice has to amount to a culminating factor which is the accountability of the consequences of one’s own deeds. This is the order of the scheme of life and the very purpose of existence: to know that our probationary time on Earth is a means of living here in order to be tested for our deeds and conduct and thereafter, be accounted for it.

For continued Success, Peace, Justice and Contentment,

Asad Khan

Stealing the Truth

“Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind.” JFK

We all know when a child asks a parent for money to buy something, or to get the actual item itself, it naturally has high expectations that the parent will fulfil the wish. At the top of the child’s mind is the object that it wants – a bike, a doll, a game, or whatever it may be – and it keeps on asking ’till it gets an acknowledgement, a confirmation or an assurance that it will happen. Now let’s suppose that the parent does not have the full money at the time of request, but if with sincerity the father or mother says “I can give you this much now, save it, and later I can give you the rest“, the child will be appeased and happy that the parent is responding in a reasonable manner and though the item is not yet obtained, the negotiations have been amicable and the answer is fair. If, however, the parent out-rightly rejected the request of the child without any justification it will leave a bitter taste in the mouth of the child and questions of acceptability in his or her mind. Now, a step worse than this would be if the parent rejected the request on grounds of ‘lack of money’, only shortly thereafter to buy something for him/herself! One would wonder “Where is the fairness?” or rather, “Where is the love?” Being rejected without explanation is one thing, but being lied to is simply wrong, for it leaves a dark hole in the heart of the betrayed.

This is precisely how many in the nation of United Kingdom (as well as large parts of the rest of the world including the United States) feel in relation to Tony Blair and the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan: a bitter taste has developed because their collective voices were not heard when making earnest requests to not follow the gun-ho attitude of George Bush. Contrary to the confident impressions being made by Mr Blair, the collective sentiments were proven to be correct: there are no wmd’s. So the people’s concerns – just like that of a child in the above example – were, and are, absolutely valid; at the time they felt that the image being presented was distorted, as a result we wanted to be satisfied with proper evidence, a thorough examination of the situation and legal protocols in place primarily with UN-sanctioned military action as the very last resort. Moreover, our initial shock and disbelief over the validity of the claims of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (wmd’s) and the subsequent realisation of the truth were never settled, at the very least through an unconditional apology, and so in the end we’ve all simply being lied to and are to continue coping with ‘a gaping hole in our combined heart’.

The consequences of this deception has been utter devastation of sovereign states, killings of hundreds and thousands of people, reversal of economic growth and trade, impediments to public services including education, health, transport, judicial as well as the others, a rise in unemployment, depression, familial loss, and all sorts of chaos and mayhem.

Wasn’t this the objective anyway some may ask? Well certainly some would say this could have been part of it, as one of the major criticisms was the lack of post-invasion development. And what are the pay-off’s for the metaphorical ‘father-figure’ and his friends? Well, we have come to know about the lucrative developmental, security and other contracts and of course, the access to oil.

This kind of self-interest, biased action is going on all the time, just take a look at NATO’s course of action in Libya despite the same turmoil in Yemen and Syria, but of course Libya has the oil reserves. Similar accounts were leaked regarding Mr Weritty and his arms/defence negotiations in the comfortable surroundings of Dubai with businessman Harvey Boulter, who was led to believe that Mr Werritty was ex-Defence Secretary Dr Fox’s official advisor. Mr Boulter was also paying Mr Werritty’s London lobbying firm Tetra Strategy thousands of pounds a month for help to secure contacts in defence. A company also set-up by the same in 2005, the year Dr Liam Fox became UK’s shadow defence secretary, was called ‘Security Futures’, which boasted that it promoted “a better understanding of asymmetric ‘security’ risks that the UK faces“.

So what exactly is this, securing economic interests over Public interests – I’m a tad confused – for it goes against the British schooling and the home-grown values I’ve had all these years. And how befitting to do it in a Muslim country – isn’t that one of the home-land of those awful, pitiful, treacherous terrorists….? Oh, and supporting the Libyan rebels, well who would have thought?! Good heavens! It’s just like we supported, along with the CIA, Osama bin Laden against the Russians. We know there was a never a link between the twain: OBL and Saddam. Yet they both suffered a humiliating death, and now we can add Gadaffi to the list. All of them one time favourites, indeed allies, finally turned against, pounced upon and annihilated, Halleluiah!

Am I speaking rather bluntly? Well yes, as I’ve been asked to, not least because for the past decade the ‘Asian’s / Arab / Muslim-named’ individuals (including white-folks) have all been broad-brushed as terrorists by the media, governing parties, establishments and inter-connected institutions. This is precisely what the images were depicting in the wake of the 7/7 bombings in London, 2005. Television news reports showed images of Muslim women dressed in traditional clothing walking around the streets of British cities and shopping in open-markets. Clever shots of their feet scurrying around were shown as though they could not be trusted – “they’re probably carrying suicidal bombs under their garbs!” was the sinister projection. In my view, juxtaposing such images with terror alerts was a just shoddy journalism; I wouldn’t even call it sensationalism.

Are we forgetting the numerous ways in which these so-called terrorists actually contribute towards the welfare of British and other societies around the globe: think for a moment of the teachers, pharmacists, doctors – whom you entrust your lives to – pilots, technicians, lecturers, police officers, shop-keepers, traders, carers, artists, writers, musicians, developers, engineers, governors, bankers, taxi-drivers, accountants, sports people, and the list goes, everyone, more or less, trying their best to grow in life and raise their families in the best way possible, some paying for it with their lives whilst honourably defending the community at large. It doesn’t mean there aren’t issues and problems, indeed we are all human beings, and issues will be forever here. But to tarnish the good reputation of whole religious, faith-based and ethnic groups with preposterous slurs is not intelligent.

And this is what worries me most about such sub-standard practices; it is the level and quality of intelligence that we process, perceive as true, begin to shape our beliefs around and consequently base our actions upon. I’m now going to give two accounts of this. One on the governmental level, and the other the popular or mass level and help us to see the connection between the two.

Intelligence – or the lack of it
As Remembrance Sunday comes and goes and the debate of wearing the poppy arises, yet again, let us remind ourselves that we are still living the sad legacy of invading Iraq and Afghanistan, actions that could be instantly stopped by a complete withdrawal of British troops from these places as the reasons for presence there have long-evaporated. Plenty of dissenting sentiments have been voiced over this, most notably near the beginning of the propaganda, prior to invasion, as the very seeds of planning in the minds of Blair and Bush as far back as 2002 became clearer to those around them. The ongoing Chilcott Inquiry is due to publish its report in early 2012 which is claimed to criticise the style of ‘sofa-government’ that Mr Blair chose in order to exclude some senior cabinet ministers from critical decisions which were being handled as ‘under-the-table’ deals. It will also show how the invasion was a for-gone conclusion regardless of protocols, intelligence or legitimacy.

I recently visited the library in Cheltenham and came across a number of interesting articles and books. One of them was of the late Mr Robin Cook, Leader of the House of Commons and former Foreign Secretary, who resigned from the Cabinet in objection to the coming war in Iraq; his resignation speech prompted the first standing ovation in the history of the House. In “The Point of Departure” he recounts his personal interactions with then Prime Minister Mr Blair and covers his personal disillusionment with the whole case for war. In short, Mr Cook says ‘Britain has got to be seen on side with Blix. You will never carry British opinion with you if it is we who are seen to be sidelining the work of the inspectors.’ Hans Blix himself, Chief Weapons Inspector, shrewdly sensed what Washington wanted from him: ‘They would say I was too compliant with the Iraqis when in reality they meant I was not compliant enough with what the US wanted.’

Mr Cook further adds, “They had been given plenty of cause to come to doubt their own claims. The scepticism about the September Dossier which has surfaced from within the UK intelligence community is a pale reflection of the raging controversy in the US. There the case against Iraq had been subcontracted to the Office of Special Plans which had been set up by Donald Rumsfeld to find the right kind of intelligence. The official agencies who had been marginalised by this development struck back. The Defense Intelligence Agency reported that there was ‘no reliable information’ that Iraq possessed or was producing chemical weapons. CIA veterans subsequently protested to the President at what they described as “a policy and intelligence fiasco of monumental proportions”.

In his epilogue (pp. 359-60), Mr Cook wrote: “Neither he (Mr Blair) nor Britain will be able to put the war on Iraq into the history books unless we recognise that mistakes were made. This is not simply a matter of putting the record straight. The reason why it is important to face up to mistakes is that only then is it possible to learn lessons from them. In the case of Iraq it is essential we learn the lessons that will prevent Britain ever again committing troops to military action on the basis of faulty intelligence.”

With the huge loss of life, many question the integrity of our leaders, or the soundness of their judgement, when they enter oil-rich countries (now Libya) on any claimed basis: humanitarian, political, alliance-based, democracy-enforcing, and so on. We are all used to the rhetoric. Perhaps it’s high-time to do the sensible thing and put a stop to this kind of madness; I know in some quarters they are asking to call Bush and Blair to a War Crimes Tribunal to prevent similar uni-lateral imperialistic action. In the memories of Mr Cook and Dr David Kelly, in addition to all the level-headed people who resigned because they were facing stubbornness – and not to mention the thousands upon thousands of vulnerable Iraqi and Afghani men women and children, as well as the many brave British and American troops who have paid with their lives, this may not be such a bad thing to do…

Faulty intelligence, or deliberately lying and risking so many lives, is plainly wrong. Continuing to lie, deny, and refuse to admit mistakes puts one further into the wrong: it is tantamount to murder itself. There has to be justice, as best as we can humanly obtain, for the sake of our humanity’s future and as a consequence, the perpetrators of any unjust war must be punished.

Hans Blix was scathing about the useless character of the intelligence fed to him: ‘I thought, “My God, if this is the best intelligence they had and we find nothing, what about the rest?”‘

And one of the key pressing aspects, as Mr Cook sincerely points out, is related to correction: “This is turn leads to the gravest of political questions. The rules of the Commons explicitly require ministers to correct the record as soon as they are aware that they may have misled Parliament. If the government did come to know that the State Department did not trust the claims in the September Dossier and that some of even their own top experts did not believe them, should they not have told Parliament before asking the Commons to vote for war on a false prospectus?”

British and Good Western Values
So here in Cheltenham is where I came nearer to understanding the mechanism of information being fed to ministers and their subsequent policy-formulation. Here is also the historical home of Government Communications Head Quarters (GCHQ) where hundreds of workers are busy monitoring all the airwaves, phone calls, sms text messages, cyber-space, internet links, emails, social media sites, Bank accounts, etc. for information that maybe of concern to national security and potential leads that possibly enhance or undermine it. I’m personally happy to have such a huge and important infrastructure as part of our heritage. The major problem is when messages, signals and movements are mis-interpreted, as demonstrated in the above devastating examples at individual, national or international scales.

Further, it does not help one iota to our society if supplementary British institutions follow suit of similar corruption by adorning an attitude of blanket dis-regard for verification of the truth over false notions; entertaining poor speculative thought or fanciful imaginations; or worse still, pursuing objectives for economic, personal and vested interests.

If attempts can be made by a select, corrupt few to mislead whole nations into believing that there is an imminent threat of some sort on one occasion, then this can happen over, and over again. And it is exactly what is happening in principle across the board in many sectors: private, public, community. Power, earned or conferred, is preventing proper judgement, fair analysis and reasonable action. We like to hail time-distilled British standards and values such as transparency and accountability but find ourselves at the opposite end in practice to what we profess with our mouths, particularly when we have power, influence or resources ready to be exploited at our fingertips.

And when there are people not at such privileged ends of the spectrum making a jab at decency, we witness the collision of class, structure and inequality out-pouring into the streets. Here I’d like to draw upon the recent riots in Britain, which haven’t occurred like that in many a decade – since 1981 to be precise. Much analysis has been given to it and some of it, as presented in the accompanying link to the article by Peter Oborne is pretty much on the mark: “Our politicians – standing sanctimoniously on their hind legs in the Commons yesterday – are just as bad. They have shown themselves prepared to ignore common decency and, in some cases, to break the law. David Cameron is happy to have some of the worst offenders in his Cabinet…. These double standards from Downing Street are symptomatic of widespread double standards at the very top of our society. It should be stressed that most people…continue to believe in honesty, decency, hard work, and putting back into society at least as much as they take out… But there are those who do not. Certainly, the so-called feral youth seem oblivious to decency and morality. But so are the venal rich and powerful – too many of our bankers, footballers, wealthy businessmen and politicians… The culture of greed and impunity we are witnessing on our TV screens stretches right up into corporate boardrooms and the Cabinet. It embraces the police and large parts of our media. It is not just its damaged youth, but Britain itself that needs a moral reformation.”

The point here is absolutely clear as the light of day: the little thieves on the streets as we saw them in the riots – regardless of the so-called assigned class they actually belong to (lower/middle) – cannot be blamed for the moral degradation of our society when the ‘father-figures’, whom they are required to look upon, are acting as big thieves themselves!

These self-styled privileged ones are actually the ones who are really poor. They have all the opportunities surrounding them to make a positive and lasting contribution towards the welfare of our societies but prefer to put personal gain ahead of Public Interest. It is this corruption, I strongly believe, that is decaying the very moral-fibre of our society, not the lesser actions of those who ‘have-not’ – who want to close the gap of the inequality of the capitalistic structure albeit through petty crime and wanton destruction. Though is not an exoneration of their individual responsibility, they do have the role-models to help justify their actions and shape their values of greed, fraud, deception, violence and corruption. The only distinction is that the small thieves had a one-time chance to grab what they could, and some got punished, whereas the big thieves have sustained opportunities to exercise wilful corruption and immorality often with impunity, until that is, it gets ridiculously out of proportion.

Systemic Corruption
So when corruption begins to get both systemic and trans-sector it becomes seriously dangerous. Take the media and police as two key pillars in our society. Both were in collusion in the phone-hacking debacle that led to resignations of key personnel at the very top of these institutes respectively. Whether it was journalists or police officers, each had a moral and public responsibility to do the right thing, in the right place, at the right time, in the right way. This also goes for the counter-terrorism support these institutions are lending to the government of the day. If we, as a nation, have been giving credence to the police and media for their accounts of the terrorist threats on mainland Britain due to their moral authority well it’s time it needs to stop. And not only because the phone-hacking issues continue to unfold and show how ominous and immoral this systemic corruption and fear-mongering is, but because the voices of dissent, scepticism and questioning of the official versions of events have been going on at least since Lady Diana Spencer’s mysterious death to the 9/11/01 attacks in New York.

Take Tony Benn for example, a man who entered the Commons in 1950 and with Edward Heath held the record for post-war service as an MP; he has held four cabinet posts and has twice contested the leadership of the Labour Party, of which he has also been chairman. He writes his memoirs in one of his publications called Diaries 2001-2007 – More Time for Politics, in which he shows two interesting pictures after page 112: Tony Blair meeting George W. Bush “The Conspirators” and Dr David Kelly “Victims of War” (along with the people of New York).

As I skim Mr Benn’s memoirs, I notice many anecdotes of interest. One that has caught my eye is an entry on Friday 4 November (p. 275) where he inputs “David Shayler, the former MI5 officer, spoke at a Stop the War meeting in Hammersmith this evening. He was the first speaker, and he devoted himself entirely to trying to establish that 9/11 was a fraud – the buildings would never have collapsed, the Pentagon was penetrated probably by a bunker-busting bomb, not by an aeroplane. The trouble about the security services is that they live completely in a conspiratorial atmosphere. I don’t know that it registers much with the public. Probably, in their heart of hearts, most people think the attack was genuine, but I don’t rule anything out.”

On Wednesday 9 November, 2005 (p. 278) Mr Benn states: “Heard Blair on the radio saying, ‘I don’t understand how Labour MPs could have voted against the ninety days’, and of course it’s true, he didn’t understand. He doesn’t understand anything – he doesn’t listen to anybody!

A year earlier on Thursday 11th November 2004 he wrote “Yasser Arafat had died, the Palestinian leader, and his body was flown back with full military honours from Paris to Cairo for the funeral….Of course Arafat was hated by Sharon, and distrusted and disliked by Bush. The coverage of his death, you know, made him out as a terrorist, whereas Sharon is a prime minister – it’s so disgusting!

I won’t give a detailed account of Mr Benn’s statements and views, but will finish his contributions with snippets of a rather interesting interaction he has with the former president of Iraq, Saddam Hussein. On the afternoon of Sunday 2 February (p. 91) shortly after 4.30pm, a filmed interview commenced between Mr Benn and Saddam Hussein:-

TB: Mr President, may I ask you some questions. The first is: does Iraq have any weapons of mass destruction?
SH: Most Iraqi officials have been in power for over thirty-four years and have experience of dealing with the outside world. Every fair-minded person knows that when Iraqi officials say something, they are trust-worthy. A few minutes ago when you asked me if I wanted to look at the questions beforehand, I told you I didn’t feel the need so that we don’t waste time, and I gave you the freedom to ask me any question directly so that my reply would be direct. This is an opportunity to reach the British people and the forces of peace in the world. There is only one truth and therefore I tell you, as I have said on many occasions before, that Iraq has no weapons of mass destruction whatsoever. We challenge anyone who claims that we have to bring forward any evidence and present it to public opinion.

TB: I have another which has been raised: do you have any links with al-Qaeda?
SH: If we had a relationship with al-Qaeda and we believed in that relationship, we wouldn’t be ashamed to admit it. Therefore, I would like to tell you directly, and also through you to anyone who is interested to know, that we have no relationship with al-Qaeda.

TB: May I broaden the question out, Mr President, to the relations between Iraq and the UN, and the prospects for peace more broadly, and I wonder whether, with all its weaknesses and all the difficulties, whether you see a way in which the UN can reach that objective for the benefit of humanity?
SH: The point you raised can be found in the United Nations Charter. As you know, Iraq is one of the founders and first signatories of the Charter. If we look at the representatives of two superpowers – America and Britain – and look at their conduct and their language, we would notice that they are more motivated by war than by their responsibility for peace.

I can understand the protection of certain personal, corporate and state interests when done in a dignified and satisfactory manner. However, it’s when one picture is presented to suit personal prejudices – whilst the reality is completely something else – that I have a natural difficulty swallowing such version of events whilst at the same being made to accept it as morally authoritative.

Moral Leadership
I fully respect the tasks which some of our leading establishment workers have to do; the information they need to sift through, and accordingly make sense of, is often complex. One such person was George Tenet, who, at the most controversial and challenging times in recent history, had the lead role in the “most important intelligence organization in the world”. As Director of Central Intelligence appointed in 1997, he had the onerous task of dealing with high turbulence across Arabia and Asia with imminent threats back towards the coastline of both sides of the Atlantic. In his account, “At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA”, he recounts the difficulty of assessing the ‘truth’ and provides dramatic insight and background on the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and the true context of Tenet’s own now-famous “slam dunk” comment regarding Saddam’s WMD program; as well as the CIA’s critical role in an administration predisposed to take the country to war. Through it all, Tenet paints an unflinching self-portrait of a man caught between the warring forces of the administration’s decision-making process, the reams of frightening intelligence pouring in from around the world, and his own conscience.”

Everyone appreciates a person who does his or her level best to deliver trustworthy, honourable and reliable work. We all want to give, and be given, credit for upholding such principles and standards. It is not the difficulty of the job pertaining to the ‘man in the arena’ to borrow Theodore Roosevelt’s term given in his speech at the Sorbonne, “Citizenship in a Republic” (April 23, 1910). Rather, it is the deliberate attempts to jar the public perception from the true picture by distorting reality to suit political and personal bias.

In “On War” (first published in 1832), Carl von Clausewitz observes: “The great uncertainty of all data in war is a peculiar difficulty, because all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight, which in addition not infrequently – like the effect of a fog or moonshine – gives to things exaggerated dimensions and unnatural appearance.”

Despite the ‘fog or moonshine’ there are people who are reasonable and true-to-principles who come around to seeing the reality, and at times it can happen once they are out of the ‘arena’. Such is the case with former MI5 chief Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller who believes dialogue with terror groups, including al-Qaida, requires courage but ‘is necessary’. There is a question she said at the time she was head of MI5, “whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon”. She made it clear in an earlier Reith lecture that, in her view, the activities of MI6 were wrong. Subsequently, and interestingly, the current terror threat level in the UK has been decreased from ‘severe’ to ‘substantial’ based on criteria of intent, capability and time-scale.

Whether they make a statement whilst they are in the arena or out of it is not the point. But crucially, the point is for rationally-minded people who are concerned about the veracity of truth over political expediency to voice their views with confidence, in the best manner available, at the most appropriate time. This, I believe, is how the systemic corruption in our institutions will begin to gradually fade out. And as tough as might be to stay within the system whilst taking such a position, people like Clare Short, ex-Secretary of State for International Development, would serve British interests better, in the longer term, whilst helping to steer, amongst other aspects, the Foreign Policy towards just causes. This is what she wrote about in her book, “An Honourable Deception?” in an attempt to change the way British politicians and politics is conducted. Incidentally, in February 2004 she was also remarkably involved with whistle-blowing the fact that GCHQ workers had allegedly tapped into ex UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s phone calls and felt strongly that he needn’t be spied on.

Such authentic leadership, as with Clare Short, lends itself better, in my view, to containing the various ills and harms that spring in, around and on our society. Dignified anti-war voices of millions shouting “Not in our name!” ought to be listened to respectfully with direct impact on policy and governmental action. After all, this is the democracy we want others around the Middle East and elsewhere to adopt isn’t it? As stated earlier, it is not too late. British troops can still be withdrawn peacefully today. The imperialistic, ‘forward-presence’ strategies of the G. W. Bush and allying neo-cons need not be sustained. Why are they? I am still wondering about this!?

I feel that the imbalance in our society will not be re-dressed until proper, un-corrupted leadership is in place in every corner of our society. There is absolutely no fairness in bailing-out private banks to the tunes of billions of pounds and then saying there is no money for healthcare, or unfairly increasing student tuition fees under the guise of equality. This simply reeks of impropriety, incredulousness and insults the common intelligence. No wonder people have once again taken to the street and are saying “enough is enough” as witnessed in the world-wide Occupy (Wall Street) Movement aimed at “Reclaiming the Economy and Recreating Our Democracy”. On both sides of the Atlantic, and indeed across the world, people are taking a stance to the economic and social inequalities.

It does not surprise me that the spirit of the Arab Spring is spilling over to Europe. Though the student fees issue has less to do with direct Foreign Policy as it does internal state affairs, people are making quick and valid assessments to the flow-through liability. On the States side, one sociology graduate student Jonathan Gomez has said “This is one of the few times where corporations are sitting on the most money they have ever sat on in the history of this country; we pay more than we ever have and we get less.” Here in the UK another one called Glynn told BBC News he had come to protest against a “corrupt government” which was fuelled by “corrupt money and bankers”.

I sense that the people at the top, who love to dish-out punishments to the lesser privileged and blame them for the inadequate behaviours they demonstrate from time-time, are not really paying attention to their own code of conduct.

Why, for instance, has it taken so long for the likes of Rupert Murdoch, who has been allowed to crash public opinion in his own favour for several years, without being challenged for his views on local or global issues, only now being called somewhat to account? It is clear that he has amassed billions in personal wealth during the process of public manipulation, collusion with corrupt establishment members, and throughout he probably had a significant part to play in recent global military wars!

Just how and why do we come to trust these sources and people who purport false reports? Why should people who have names such as Donald (Rumsfeld), Dick (Cheney), Paul, (Wolfowitz), George (Bush), Tony (Blair), Ian (Blair), Paul (Stephenson), John (Yates), Andy (Coulson), James (Murdoch), etc. be trusted? Solely because their names are corresponding to your own, or they dress in a similar style or drive the same car, is that it? Or that they might drink in the ‘local’ near you, or their children may study at the same school/college or university as yours? This simply is not good enough; such types of people have repeatedly broken Public trust by either squandering Public wealth, embarking on slur campaigns, manipulation of evidence, fear-mongering or, as in some cases, directly responsible for the deaths of innocent lives.

The best of British and Western values are being eroded, as we have seen in the recent riots, which may be put down to years of liberal dogma, but more-over, in my view, it’s due to the lack of authentic, versatile and proper leadership at the helm of our public and private institutes. Even the hasty Hutton Inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death was left totally questionable with one person, who has thirty years’ experience on the legal bench, commenting on the in-complete investigation: “As it has been left, the whole scandalous affair is a complete travesty”.

Unfortunately, once again, the political and inter-connected legal meandering is continuing to upstage common sense with the parliamentarians again undoing their own commitment to fair democratic processes as in the Babar Ahmed debacle. Held for more than seven years without trial, the man is not being given a hearing in the UK despite over 140,000 signatories on the government e-petition, which is a record for the little amount of time – a matter of a few weeks – which it was given to amass the required total of 100,000 signatures for his matter to be debated in the main chamber in the House of Commons, just as it is required. One of the worst and most dangerous precedence we’ll set for our legal system, and the future of our democracy, is to allow the extradition of this man to the US to take place based purely on allegations related to thought-crime without evidence provided for the British Publics’ scrutiny.

The People’s Demands
As a British-born, Western-developed individual, I am accustomed to many of our inherently good traditional values we espouse: suspend judgment whilst establishing the truth, seek compromise, punish the unlawful, amend mistakes, make apologies, forgive and forget the past, be honest and upright, honour the guests, compete fairly, be confident, and so on. Indeed, one of the adages we often hear quoted is “What goes round comes round”.

So what is clear to me is that people, around the world in both the East and West, are venting their anxieties through a number of means – protests, petitions, vigils, occupy camps, strikes and various types of campaigns – about the deliberate cover-up’s, falsification of reports, victim harassment, fear-mongering, shoddy journalism (and at times immoral and unwarranted sensationalism), the uncanny manipulations, the corruption, greed, the squandering of Public wealth, the vast number of deaths and unnecessary destruction, all which must be limited as much as possible through appropriate ministerial, legal, commercial, industrial and public checks and balances.

Intelligence, both raw and refined, must be valid. It must be coherent, accurate and thorough. Where inconsistencies and gaps in information may exist, there is a requirement for a rational, balanced and longer-term, nuanced view on matters so that situations arising are read in the best and fairest light possible. Whatever the colour of any presiding government – be it Blue, Red, Yellow, Green or any combination of them, it is important to weigh information objectively, and to present it in terms of the values listed above.

Policies must be dependable, fair and equitable. Actions, military or other, must be justified, consistent and legitimate.

Journalists must have freedom of press. But the symbolism, language and tonality must not attempt to smear any group, particularly without a shred of real evidence available. Inflammatory remarks aimed at jabbing, mocking or teasing whole groups must be curtailed. Further, they must be held accountable to industrial regulations.

People must be listened to. A truly open arena must welcome public debate; this is enlightened democracy. Those working in the interests of national security at every level should come out from behind the silos and join the Public debate, airing views in an amicable manner, thereby adding real value back to the genuine discussion.

The brief accounts given earlier of Mr Cook, Mr Benn, Mr Tenet and Ms Short, amongst others, though written a few years before, just go to accentuate the very difficult tasks on the agenda of our Western governments, and their related agencies, in dealing with the ‘war on terror’. I know that we are living in troubled and ‘interesting’ times. But the situation is not helped by moral corruption in our own institutes. It is not helped by the 99% of the population having their concerns ignored.

Such corruption is precisely what has caused a stir in the Middle East region for the unprecedented Arab uprising, which clearly demonstrates to us here, that there is a new way of dealing with people’s expectations whilst maintaining obligations towards the Crown or country, as well as coordinating strategies for peace and security, both nationally and internationally.

As most people are, I too am personally dedicated to realising the real potential of world peace by mitigating the risk of terror-type threats through the best and most productive means available. In my view, this must be based on solid values such as trust, veracity, accountability, credibility and legitimacy. Political expediency alone must not sacrifice these values, or the hard work done to establish good relations and trust will be wounded, or worse, undone, as witnessed by the now widely-regarded infamous neo-con policies post 9-11 (2001).

Work must be conducted with a real yearning to serve the Public’s interest and must be credited as much as possible when done so. Yet we have seen above how many an expert – Mr Blix, Mr El-Baradei, Mr Tenet, Mr Cook and Dr Kelly, and others of similar kind, have been overseen despite their years of insightful experience, honesty, objectivity and patriotic loyalty. The business of ‘sexying-up’ dossiers, or falsifying the truth to fit with particular bias should be the stuff of crime and espionage novels. We know that people at the very top of our governments have got it plainly wrong on many occasions, most notably in Iraq.

Of course there are a multitude of people serving the greater good, God and country and are either risking or dedicating their lives for such purposes. It, however, does no favours if the actions of our governments are far removed from solid intelligence and sincere motives. This leaves a foul atmosphere, a bitter taste in the mouth and an awkward feeling in the pit of the stomach.

The general Public – including sincere cabinet ministers – sense clearly if they are being misled. The awful and outrageous action to invade Iraq / Afghanistan in absence of UN Security Resolutions is a recipe for disaster, as we have clearly witnessed through the immense death tolls through-out that region. This can have further grave repercussions on our shores which we want to minimise anyway!

So whether it is Remembrance Sunday (Armistice) or not, we must always remember that unless there are justifiable and legitimate grounds for military action, troops should not be risking their lives, families should not be losing their loved ones, and innocent civilians need not die. One always questions why those who send the youngsters and their captains off to the battle fields – the politicians – are not there themselves? And if money is short in the treasury, with the economy having such a bad time at present, with more Public cuts imminent, why not pull the troops out and save the money – and precious lives??

The deaths of Robin Cook, Dr David Kelly, John F Kennedy et al. ought not to be in vain. Moral leadership must be aware of public perception and sensitive to their concerns. We must thereby do our utmost to live by Golden Principles: Truth, Validity, Legitimacy, Consistency and Justice.

Both policy and public policing need to be real, justified and fair. Legitimate security concerns should be approached with consistency in mind, principles in the heart and equality in action. Media and Police – key institutes of our society – ought to be working to impede real criminal targets and threats, not engendering baseless fear. Bankers and other’s in the top so-called ’1%’ need to get closer to the ground and really feel the needs of others.

In such way, I feel, we can have responsible leadership who don’t steal the truth but rather offer it freely for they are principled and prepared to stand by it. In this manner, the ‘children’ need not feel any guilt towards what the ‘parents’ are doing for rather than having ‘a gaping hole in our combined heart’, it is filled with trust, love and honesty, as beautifully and practically shown by a genuine father-figure such as Nelson Mandela. A befitting tribute to his legacy is the life-like statue placed in the capital with the words of then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone summing up Mr Mandela’s exemplary life in these words:

“Long after we are forgotten, you will be remembered for having taught the world one amazing truth, that you can achieve justice without vengeance. I honour you and London honours you.”

For Truth, Justice, Success and Contentment,

Asad R Khan

A Few Other Presentations…

Hi,

Here are some of the other presentations submitted elsewhere for public viewing, but which I thought would be suitable for referencing here also…

There’s plenty more to come, so stay tuned!

For Success and Contentment,

Asad R Khan

Family Should be at the Heart of Our Social Reconstruction

Dear Reader,

Here is the second article from a senior member of the MCB, Dr Abdul Bari, who has put thoughts on the recent riots on record:-

The shooting of 29-year-old Mark Duggan by armed police in north London on the evening of 4th August created a chain of riots, looting and mayhem in London and subsequently other cities. The first human casualties were three young Asian men of Muslim origin in Birmingham who were defending their property. According to the West Midlands Police Chief Chris Sims: “At some point, and in circumstances that as yet I can’t fully explain, a vehicle has been driven into that group of males, which tragically has led to three of those men losing their lives”.

This wanton destruction up and down the country, caused by sections of our youth and aided by social media (such as Blackberry messenger, Twitter, etc), is a new phase in our social malaise. All sections of our society, from police to politicians to ordinary citizens, have unequivocally condemned this mind-boggling anarchy and nihilism. There is a genuine revulsion at this mindless criminality. There is also a soul searching going on: one columnist suggests that the moral decay at the top of society is as bad as at the bottom in our country.

While the dark side of these fateful few days was maddening, other inspirational things were happening. Local residents in some places fought back against the looters and vigilantes (or concerned citizens, depending upon your definition) joined police forces to help protect their property and streets. Much like the Tahrir Square Clean-up in Egypt, ordinary Londoners were seen cleaning their streets after a major disturbance. Some minority communities played inspirational roles in this national crisis: Muslims tackling looters and bigots whilst Turkish shopkeepers in north London were demonstrating exemplary community responsibility in protecting their stores. Britain’s largest Muslim umbrella body, the Muslim Council of Britain, urged us all to clean up our cities. In the midst of the riot-led pessimism, one writer reminded us that faith-based youth work can give hope in this generation. Faith indeed played an important role for Muslims, as in the month of fasting (Ramadan, taking place across August) Muslims are reminded to restrain themselves from evil and criminal activities. In a powerful article in The Daily Mail 14 August, Legacy of a society that believes in nothing, one columnist eulogised the father of two dead young sons for his “solemn, peaceful message that will make everyone who stereotypes Muslims as terrorists and fanatics feel ashamed of themselves.

Amid all this mayhem in our cities and tough talk by politicians, the question remains; what is it that caused this sheer criminality and nihilism in certain sections of our youth? The issues are complex and deep, and opinions widely divided. We cannot look for a simple answer to a complex problem. Many causes have been thrust forward: the widening of social and economic inequality, the decline of trust in established authority (such as politicians), the gradual waning of a moral compass with a ‘me-first philosophy of life, the influence of unrestricted commercialisation of our lives and the weakening of family structure giving rise to a lack of basic discipline at home, in schools and our streets – all are relevant.

However, a skin-deep analysis and playing the blame game do not help us in solving this crisis of ours. Tough talking and robust policing are certainly necessary in the short term. We have the Olympics when the world is coming to London next year and the media will be focused on our small island. Imagine if a fraction of this chaos happens during the next summer – disaster!

We need to go deep into this social issue in order to find a long-term solution. Youth are the makers or breakers of any society. A society where family structure is robust, will more likely turn youthful energy to nation building. Where it is weak, however, that is a recipe for the kind of disorder we have seen on our streets so recently.

Children are by nature inquisitive, adventurous and prone to rebellion. They are idealist, impressionable and often vulnerable. Without a strong moral ‘mooring’ and an anchor in the community – anchors which come from family and community, from those also at the top of society – they may enter the world without a moral compass. The tendency to rebel against the status quo is embedded in their nature, and without strong discipline (there is a fine balance between freedom and discipline in childhood), young people may turn towards antisocial activities. Schools are often at the sharp end of this indiscipline and delinquency. With rising family problems, such as domestic violence, and mixed messages on parental rights, parents are often at a loss what to do. A blame game amongst parents, schools and society makes the situation worse.

According to some studies, Britain’s young people are not faring well in their behaviour compared to other developed countries. The UN’s first ever report on the state of childhood in the industrialised West also tells us how Britain is eating its young. This seems to be in line with the UNICEF Report on Children’s happiness of 2007, where Britain came last among industrialised countries. This does not bode well for our country.

As a behaviour support teacher and community activist for several decades, I believe that the root cause of our young people’s delinquency and criminality lies in our homes. It then spreads:community and society consists of families first and foremost. But this is not about pointing fingers at parents; they are not solely responsible. By talking to any parent who is struggling with their ‘behaviour-problem’ child, you will find that the finger would point back to the society.

The only way we can build our society is to build our homes. Home is a place where a child starts life. A warm and caring stable family environment is essential for the healthy growth of a child. Call me old-fashioned, traditional or even judgemental, but a society cannot sustain itself by weakening its family structure. Human society stands on the shoulder of families. Strong families create strong moral values, such as love, respect, loyalty, care, patience, sacrifice, fairness, integrity, compromise and openness. They also nurture an ethos which is open to consultation and problem solving. All this depends on assertive, proactive and positive parenting, from the early stage of a child’s life. According to a survey by YouGov for Channel 4/ITN, ‘Poor parenting’ to blame for UK riots, British people think poor parenting, criminal behaviour and gang culture is causing unrest in cities across the UK.

When we fail to value the importance of family and positive parenting, they will come back to haunt us. And, dare I say, in my view marriage-based family life is the answer to raising our children as better human beings. To say marriage is problem-free will be arrogant, but marriage teaches us to be less selfish with the spirit of compromise and a sense of responsibility that no alternative system, in my opinion, can provide.

Violence, neglect or abuse in a family has always had adverse effects on children. Sadly, over many decades, the institution of family has been undermined by the pressures of extreme materialism, alongside increasing numbers of domestic violence cases resulting in parental separation. With a more dominant and unrestricted consumerism and the arrival of modern technologies, such as mobile phones, computers, TVs and other gadgets decreasing the need for physical communication, people are being kept apart. The loss of childhood innocence and loneliness is becoming the norm. Its impact in schools, in terms of discipline and poor performance, is causing concern in the world of education. With the weakening of family values and discipline and lack of proper direction from society, drugs, sex and criminality are becoming prominent. The cost to the nation in terms of NHS, police and social services is enormous.

As children grow and their formal education starts, schools and neighbourhoods should gradually play a vital role. But by that time their home education and environment has given them a good anchor to withstand any social challenge: schools, community and society can build upon this.

We have been overwhelmed with scandals involving corporate greed in the banking systems, MPs’ expenses and phone hacking over the past few years. But, to me, these mindless August 2011 riots on our streets are worse and a wake up call for us as a nation.

*Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is a parenting consultant. He is a founding member of The East London Communities Organisation (TELCO), Chairman of the East London Mosque Trust, and former Secretary General Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10). www.amanaparenting.com

The Interfaith Movement: Dimensions and Practices

Hi,

I know its been a while since I posted an article here on the Ark2Ark Blog site, and not nearly as regularly as pre-2011, but hey, ‘better there’s some than none’, just as we like to say ‘better late than never,’ unless you’ve been invited to the Queen’s birthday party!

As in one of my current roles I serve as the Secretary of the Inter Faith Relations Committee (IFRC) for the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), I thought it worthwhile to share with you some insights into it, particularly in terms of definition and understanding. Most of the following has been drafted by Imam Abdul Jalil Sajid, Vice Chair of IFRC, with some editions by Dr Ramzy, the Treasurer of IFRC.

To begin, the present definition of Inter Faith dialogue according to Wikipedia is:

“The terms interfaith or interfaith dialogue refer to cooperative and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions (i.e., “faiths”) and spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional level with the aim of deriving a common ground in belief through a concentration on similarities between faiths, understanding of values, and commitment to the world. It is distinct from syncretism or alternative religion, in that dialogue often involves promoting understanding between different religions to increase acceptance of others, rather than to synthesize new beliefs.”

There are those on the peripheries of every faith who lay claim to the instigation of the interfaith movement, as well as those on the other end of the spectrum who argue that interfaith activities are inadvisable as they promote the dilution of cardinal principles in an attempt to reach amicable compromises. Each group often cites verses from their scripture in an attempt to support their relative stances. Between these two positions, however lies the fertile ground for the evolving nature of the interfaith movement, which works to promote a better understanding and mutual respect between those of different faiths, encouraging a desire to work alongside each other for the common good.

Interfaith is a relatively new movement. There is no single agreed definition or direction of this movement. It is still in its evolutionary stages. To some it means exchange of ideas, to others it means working together on some of the common issues. Still, others define it as an attempt in cultural exchange. How should we Muslim define it and why should we get involved in it? These are some of the pertinent questions that many Muslims are faced with in their daily dealings with those of other faiths, given that Muslims hold their religion to be the Divine Truth.

Interfaith activities are founded on a fundamental human reality that humans have often ignored. “Don’t judge others based on assumptions – learn about others directly from the original sources”. It may sound simple, but assumptions have been the major source of misinformation about others throughout the human history and caused discord and dissent.

Interfaith activities enable people of all faiths to know about each other directly from the practitioners and experts of each faith. It provides them the basic uncontaminated information about the other. It helps them to overcome some of the assumptions they have held without verification. Moreover, it opens up the channels of communications among practitioners of different faith on issues of common concerns.

Faith is a matter of personal choice. It can neither be imposed nor dictated upon others. It has to be acquired through one’s own efforts. Thus, interfaith is not and cannot be an attempt to force others to accept the truth as perceived by each faith traditions. It is also not an exercise in proving one’s superiority over the other.

Islam, via the Holy Qur’an and Prophetic tradition, as well as throughout its growth and historical development, has offered ample evidence to support the practice of acquiring knowledge concerning all aspects of life, including the faiths and traditions of others. Islam acknowledges the diversity of faiths and practices the world over, and demands from its followers a belief in the principle that throughout history, mankind has received guidance from the Creator. The Qur’an states that God sent a prophet with His guidance to every nation, speaking to the people in their language (Qur’an 14:4). Islam holds that the last of these revelations from Almighty God was through His last prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The purpose of this final revelation was to verify and clarify all that had come before it, and reinforce the commandment of belief in One God, reaffirming the original message of all previous prophets and scriptures.

There is another dimension of the interfaith related activities. People belonging to different faith traditions share the same planet and same resources. Due to the mismanagement of these resources and defective distributional systems, people often find themselves deprived of God’s resources. God does not discriminate among people when it comes to his justice and his bounties. He does not close the doors of his bounties on anyone. Hence, inter- faith activities give people an opportunity to ensure that God’s bounties are restored to people regardless of what they believe in.

There is one other aspect of interfaith is to ensure that opinions and perspectives do not lead people to condemn each other or to resort to violence to settle them. It enables them to understand other’s perspective so that people can live with diversity of opinion without passing judgment on each other’s level of understanding. Islam promotes the idea that no one carries the burden of others and each is responsible for one’s action. Hence, interfaith offers Muslims to practice this maxim in their relations with others.

In the United Kingdom, as in the US, people from different faith and ethnic backgrounds have found a unique opportunity to understand each other and learn from each other. There is no forum other than interfaith related activities that opens the door for this learning. Thus, interfaith activities are useful for those who understand their faith properly and are confident about its authenticity. Those who have superficial knowledge of their faith can certainly not contribute to the interfaith related activities. They may add to the confusion that already exists among faith circles.

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) Committee for Interfaith Relations is an effort to prepare Muslims to participate fully in the emerging interfaith movement. It invites Muslims to join its ranks so that they may become part of this effort for peace, harmony, and mutual understanding at their levels of interfaith activities. The previous IFRC’s have in the past agreed to the following:

1.Interfaith is rooted in Islamic traditions.

2. Interfaith work does not mean giving legitimacy to all ideas. Rather, it means the acknowledgement of the existence of all.

3. Interfaith from an Islamic traditions means that everyone deserves the respect and the right to express one’s viewpoint without any fear.

4. Interfaith does not mean that Muslims are negating the foundation of their faith.

5. A distinction must be maintained between interfaith work and interfaith dialogue.

6. Interfaith dialogue is more an intellectual exercise to understand the divergence that exists among people of faiths, while interfaith work means devoting the resources for the betterment of the condition of people of all faiths.

7. Those involved in interfaith must have knowledge of their own faith traditions.

8. The interfaith practitioners must follow the Quranic methodology to practice it.

9. Interfaith dialogue or work does not mean that people should have a unified approach.

Imam Sajid also asserts “There is no alternative to Inter Faith Dialogue”:

In my humble opinion, Faith brings joy and hope to millions of people in the world. Religion is a social force that can be harnessed to build bridges or manipulated to erect walls. Living and working together in today’s multicultural, multi-religious and multi-faith society is not always easy. Faith communities have huge human and financial recourses. Faith motivates its followers for doing good deeds such as raising funds for good causes, helping elderly and needy people in our communities and motivating their followers to tackle many social issues in our society. Religion harnesses deep emotions, which can sometimes take destructive forms. Where this happens, we must draw on our faith to bring about reconciliation and understanding. The truest fruits of our faith are healing the wounds of the past and being positive to construct trust and fellowship between different people. We have a great deal to learn from one another, which enriches us without undermining our own identities. Together, listening and responding with openness and respect, we can move forward to work in ways that acknowledge genuine differences but build on shared hopes and values.

In my faith tradition the Holy Qur’an commands believers for interfaith co-operation “to come to common grounds” (3:64). As a Muslim I have been ordered to build good relations with all people of the world (49:13 & (16:40); work for peace everywhere and whenever possible with others (2:208) & 8:61); cooperate with others in furthering virtue and God–consciousness (5:2); seek and secure human welfare, promote justice and peace (4:114); do good to others (28:77) and not to break promises made to others (16:91). The Holy Qur’an tells believers that those who do good deeds and help others are the best creation (98:6). The Holy Prophet of Islam made it clear that “Religion is man’s treatment of other fellow-beings” (Bukhari & Muslim); and “the best among you is he who does good deeds in serving other people” (Ahmad & Tabrani).

The noble Prophet of Islam (May the peace and Blessings of God Almighty be upon him) practiced this ideal for interfaith dialogue himself while talking to Jews, Christians and other faith traditions, as well as people with no faith on issues concerning life, death and relevant matters. The Prophet of Islam confirmed this in writing explicitly in the Charter of Medina in 622 CE. The Holy Qur’an not only recognized religious pluralism as accepting other groups as legitimate socio-religious communities but also accepting their spirituality. The preservation of the sanctity of the places of worship of other faiths is paramount in Islamic tradition (22:40).

The Holy Qur’an says: “And abuse not those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest exceeding the limits, they abuse Allah through ignorance. Thus to every people have We made their deeds fair-seeming; then to their Lord is their return so he will inform them of what they did” (6:109). It also instructs: “Allah loves the doer of good (to others)” (3: 133)

In 628 C.E. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) granted a Charter of Privileges to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery in Mount Sinai. It consisted of several clauses covering all aspects of human rights including such topics as the protection of Christians, freedom of worship and movement, freedom to appoint their own judges and to own and maintain their property, exemption from military service, and the right to protection in war. I do not have ready references of these letters but in Dr Muhammed Hadidullah’s excellent book “Wasaiq of Muhammad” these are mentioned in Arabic. An English translation of that document is presented here:

Letter to the Monks of St. Catherine Monastery

“This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far, we are with them.

Verily I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them. Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries. No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would spoil God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate. No one is to force them to travel or to oblige them to fight. The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pray. Their churches are to be respected. They are neither to be prevented from repairing them nor the sacredness of their covenants. No one of the nation (Muslims) is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day (end of the world).”

I will continue this theme of Interfaith discussion in the attempt to help coaches understand more of the eschatological and ontological approaches towards coaching, particlarly in relation to an individuals faith and its orientation on a person’s world view.

As ever, for Success and Contentment,

Asad Khan

The People Awaken:The Middle East, Islamic Awakening & The Future

Dear Reader: Hi,

It’s been a while since I wrote here to you but as you know well by now, the world has seen some immense changes taking place this year and most surprisingly, or perhaps not really, these have been across the Middle East. The Middle East has traditionally been a historical place of significance due the constant line of God’s good Messengers appearing through-out the region over the centuries; it occupies the middle portion of the Earth, and of recent times contains within it the troublesome spot of Israel.

The Future Does Not Equal The Past, Does it?

Ever since man was created, the Angels questioned the Creator about the bloodshed and mischief that would be manifest due the actions of man. Almighty God, the Greatest, replied “I know that which you do not” (Final Testament, Chapter 2:30). God knew that He had created a being that was capable of bringing the forces of nature under his control – so long as he acted aright and with full reliance in his Maker. And so man was set on Earth to fulfil the noble mission of this stewardship: to ensure that the environment, nature, and all people co-exist peacefully with due rights and consideration given to all such elements.

But man was created in a complex fashion – his mind, heart, body and inner-self would be in constant flux and imbalance, with passions and desire often getting the better than reason and intellect; with negative attitudes such as arrogance, greed and envy getting the better of virtues like humility, charity and forgiveness. This battle of the inner and outer forces of man are the very basis of his ‘testing period’ here on Earth, as God, the Almighty states “He created life and death in order to test which of you is best in deed” (67:2).

The crowning glory of every man is to be successful on the The Great Day when he will be held responsible for all his thoughts, intentions, feelings, motives and actions. There will be no escaping from the Accountability of Almighty God in His Great Court – all of a person’s life will be laid bare – his own limbs, emotions and motives will give evidence to testify either for or against him. Successful will be the man who earns God’s grace That Day and successful will be the ones whose balance of good is weightier than his bad deeds.

‘Islamic’ Awakening of an individual can only occur when every person realises his and her own personal duty towards themselves, their neighbours and society, towards nature and the environment, and ultimately towards God. This realisation will lead to a heightened level of personal honour and a sense of nobility – that he has been created by God “Then He (God) fashioned him in due proportion, and breathed into him a spirit from us (the soul)” (32:9). This realisation combined with an attitude of accountability will help create an atmosphere of responsibility and due care.

Every child, mother and person knows what it means to act with love, care, kindness, patience and understanding. These virtues are recognised the world over as they are a part of God’s nature: as all good belongs to Him, emanates from Him, and returns to Him alone. We, who call ourselves as Muslims – who wish to lead an Islamic life – need to be more aware of when our passions and evil forces are attempting to make us act contrary to the higher virtues, values and characteristics. We need to understand that our benevolence, grace and compassion are much greater at winning the ‘game of life’ than when we exercise our lesser selves – acting with anger or irrationality will only debase our own credibility, it goes against our moral nature, and is not befitting for our purer soul.

In this way, Awakening occurs precisely due to Awareness: the keys to this awareness are many, but to mention some important ones here (a) every person has to increase their knowledge of life, the truth of this world, and the grand scheme of God; (b) they ought to ensure that they use the ‘aql (intellect), which has been bestowed upon humans to differentiate them from other living entities, working for the greater good through beneficial innovation, functioning within the framework of God’s Law; (c) to retain a healthy level of critical thinking, to have an attitude of curiosity, and to question openly the norms of our times, life, history and nature.

As well as this personal responsibility given to every man, there is an added responsibility upon the leaders of every nation to help ‘navigate mankind’s ship to a safe and prosperous destination’; as Muslims, we believe this is the fulfilment of the soul’s yearning – to be in proximity with its Creator. On Earth, we are guided to seek this divine proximity through prayer, devotion, positive contribution, self-sacrifice and charity. There is not a person on Earth who will not recognise a genuine act of kindness, care or charity. We must give more back than we take, if man is to reach the heights that have been destined for him.

In Surah Al-Ma‘ida (The Table Top, Chapter 5 of the Final Testament, The Holy Quran) we read:

15. O people of the Book! There has come to you our Messenger, revealing to you much that you used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary).

16. There has come to you from Allah a (new) light and a perspicuous Book – wherewith Allah (God) guides all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leads them out of darkness, by His will, unto the light – guiding them to a path that is straight.

17. In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: “Who then has the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every – one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He creates what He pleases. For Allah has power over all things.”

18. (Both) the Jews and the Christians say: “We are sons of Allah, and his beloved.”
Say: “Why then does He punish you for your sins? Nay, you are but men – of the men he has created: He forgives whom He pleases, and He punishes whom He pleases: and to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal (of all)”

19. O People of the Book! Now has come unto you, making (things) clear unto you, Our Messenger, after the break in (the series of) our apostles, lest you should say: “There came unto us no bringer of glad tidings and no warner (from evil)”: But now has come unto you a bringer of glad tidings and a warner (from evil). And Allah has power over all things.

When we wish to understand world events, we cannot really dissociate the spiritual dimension from the physical one, as this will only lead to a lesser understanding of causes and effects. As believers in God’s Message, His Book and His Messengers, we must trust in His Judgement and Wisdom at all times: that He is ultimately The One Who controls all affairs and to Him is our final return. Despite confusion, turmoil, politicking, double standards, negation of rights, injustices, propaganda, subjugation, oppression, denial of truths and fairness, we must remember that “Allah has power over all things.”

Much can be said about the world events and current ‘Islamic Awakening’ but the central point, as it always is, is about higher matters of fairness, justice and trust in God, His Commandments and His Order. Herein lies the ‘test’ referred to earlier, of not only every individual, but of also the nations and states that constitute such people and races. God’s mercy and bounties are distributed freely – imagine for a moment that there are now over seven billion people inhabiting the Earth, and still there is more than sufficient food, water, shelter and clothing to for all. Truly, “Allah has power over all things.”

When people are taken away from this central point of acting in accordance to God’s commands, they rely on their own senses and faculties alone – perceiving that their strengths and judgments are greater than any other. This only happens when a person, or a people, who are depending on God’s mercy anyway to live on this Earth of His, begin to consciously deny God as the rightful Owner, Creator, Provider and Master of the Universe. Steeped in self-indulgence, the luxuries and comforts surrounding them dull their spiritual senses and arrogance, false pride and jealousy take over. This arrogance leads to corruption and abuse of power, which in turn leads to acts of greed and monopolisation.

Greed, Envy, Corruption and Over-Consumption

This is precisely how the rulers and dictators in the Middle East region have been behaving over the past 40 to 50 years or so. They are no different to a dictator from any other region of the world, as the nature of a dictator is the same whichever country he maybe ruling: to rule with tyranny and disregard of basic freedoms of speech, consultations, debates and democratic processes. But sometimes, it can be argued that a people bring to power such dictators, or rulers, as they themselves deserve: its a two-way process. Let us continue with Surah Al-Maida and hear what Allah instructs us:

20. Remember Moses said to his people: “O my people! Call in remembrance the favour of Allah unto you, when He produced prophets among you, made you kings, and gave you what He had not given to any other among the peoples.

21. “O my people! Enter the holy land which Allah has assigned unto you, and turn not back ignominiously, for then will you be overthrown, to your own ruin.”

22. They said: “O Moses! In this land are a people of exceeding strength: Never shall we enter it until they leave it: if (once) they leave, then shall we enter.”

23. (But) among (their) Allah-fearing men were two on whom Allah had bestowed His grace: They said: “Assault them at the (proper) Gate: when once you are in, victory will be yours; But on Allah put your trust if you have faith.”

24. They said: “O Moses! While they remain there, never shall we be able to enter, to the end of time. Go you, and thy Lord, and fight you two, while we sit here (and watch).”

25. He said: “O my Lord! I have power only over myself and my brother: so separate us from this rebellious people!”

26. Allah (God) said: “Therefore will the land be out of their reach for forty years: In distraction will they wander through the land: But sorrow you not over these rebellious people.

The Children of Israel were granted manifest bounties from God, not least the land, opportunity to thrive, power, provisions, free-trade, commerce, travel and security. But they abused their position and became weak-hearted after Moses led them away from the bondage of Pharaoh towards Mount Sinai. Clearly they had rebelled, which led to their own ruin. Rather than working for their own inheritance and future with faith and courage, they relied on Moses and his God to turn out the enemy first. In God’s law, we must work and strive for what we wish to enjoy.

This passage of events is not only referred to in the Final Testament (The Quran), but also in the Old Testament in the Book of Numbers, where we are informed how Moses sent a group of 12 men to examine the land North of Sinai. They came back with reports of “a land with milk and honey” – a rich country full of delights like pomegranates, figs, olives and grapes. Joshua (who took the leadership of the Israelites after the “forty years of wandering.”) and Caleb were the only ones amongst the twelve men who reported back positively.

However, the remaining ten men reported badly of strong men – the great stature of the Canaanites – in the new land, and this further inflamed the crowd, who were prepared to stone Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb, and return back to Egypt. Their reply to Moses was full of irony, insolence, blasphemy and cowardice. In effect they said: “You talk of your God and all that – go with your God and fight there if you like – we shall sit here and watch.” The people of Israel had no faith, nor courage, and Moses remonstrated with them.

A New Approach Needed?

Is it a striking co-incidence that the people across the Middle East and Asia have suffered an almost similar fate as the Israelites over the past 40 years or so? Could it be said that the people across the region in general became weak-hearted, lost faith and courage and were left to wander in distraction for this period? Libya has been ruled by a dictator for forty two years, and Syria an equivalent time – so too in Yemen, Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and many other countries where authoritative regimes have been ruling autocratically.

But now the people are re-inventing themselves and saying a resilient “no!” to dictatorship, authoritative rule and brutal regimes. Using technology, combined with the spirit and dynamism of youth, strengthened with values of fairness, equality, truth and transparency, people are rising to make unprecedented changes sweeping the whole region. No-one had any idea that this would happen the way it has in such a short span of time. This is why it is important to refer back to Scripture/s to see the events through the spiritual lens and put such aspects into proper historical context and reading.

We like to believe that now there seems to be a ‘new approach’ towards self-expression that is helping to re-balance the power struggle in the Middle East and across the World. The vibrancy of the recent ‘Arab Spring’ is having effect in places further outside of the Middle East, such as sub-Saharan Africa, Europe (Spain, Greece, Turkey), South Russia and Latin America. It could be said that the current uprisings have their seeds in the recent events of the Intifada in Palestine and the Islamic Revolution in Iran, both inspired by spiritual leaders like Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Imam Khomeini, respectively. Every part of the world has deep history and pages can be written about them – about Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Malaysia, Lebanon and on it goes. World events will never stop happening, as long as the World keeps spinning around till The Great Day.

So let us take a closer look at why these struggles occur; what drives them not only on the state level, but at an individual level, for we have come to realise that the individual constitutes the nation. We have also seen how a people can be deserving of a type of leader (such as dictator) due their own characteristics, and as in the case of Moses and his people, how a good leader can be the head of a stubborn, stiff-necked and uncooperative mass. History reveals many answers – Nature reveals many answers – and indeed Divine Revelation provides us many answers and insights for events which none of us were present.

Pride and Jealousy: Powerful Drivers and Tools of Evil

27. Recite to them the truth of the story of the two sons of Adam. Behold! They each presented a sacrifice (to God): It was accepted from one, but not from the other. Said the latter, “Be sure I will slay thee.” “Surely,” said the former, “(Allah) doth accept of the sacrifice of those who are righteous.

28. “If you do stretch your hand against me, to slay me, it is not for me to stretch my hand against you to slay thee: for I do fear Allah, the cherisher of the worlds.

29. “For me, I intend to let thee draw on thyself my sin as well as your own, for you will be among the companions of the fire, and that is the reward of those who do wrong.”

30. The (selfish) soul of the other led him to the murder of his brother: he murdered him, and became (himself) one of the lost ones.

31. Then Allah sent a raven, who scratched the ground, to show him how to hide the shame of his brother. “Woe is me!” said he; “Was I not even able to be as this raven, and to hide the shame of my brother?” then he became full of regrets-

32. On that account: We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people. Then although there came to them Our apostles with clear signs, yet, even after that, many of them continued to commit excesses in the land.

33. The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land: that is their disgrace in this world, and a heavy punishment is theirs in the Hereafter;

34. Except for those who repent before they fall into your power: in that case, know that Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

35. O you who believe! Do your duty to Allah, seek the means of approach unto Him, and strive with might and main in his cause: that you may prosper.

36. As to those who reject Faith- if they had everything on earth, and twice repeated, to give as ransom for the penalty of the Day of Judgment, it would never be accepted of them, theirs would be a grievous penalty.

The two sons of Adam were Habil and Qabil (in English Bible Abel and Cain, respectively). Cain was the elder and Abel the younger – the righteous and innocent one. Presuming on the right of the elder, Cain was puffed up with arrogance and jealousy, which led him to commit the crime of murder. The cool, calm reply of Abel “Surely,” is full of meaning. He is innocent and God-fearing and the threat of death does not alter his state of belief and trust in God. He loves his Maker as he is effectively saying: “I am not going to retaliate though I have as much power as you have against me. I fear my Maker for I know He cherishes all His Creation. Let me warn you that you are doing wrong. I do not intend even to resist, but do you know what the consequences will be to you? You will be in spiritual torment.”

The innocent unselfish pleading of the younger brother had no effect, for the soul of the other was full of pride, selfishness and jealousy. He committed the murder, but in doing so, ruined his own self. The story of Cain is referred to in order to tell the story of Israel. Israel rebelled against God, slew and insulted righteous men who did them no harm, but on the contrary came in all humility.

When God withdrew His favour from Israel because of its sins and bestowed it on a brother nation, the jealousy of Israel plunged it deeper into sin. To kill, or seek to kill, an individual because he represents an ideal is to kill all who uphold the ideal. Whereas saving an individual life in the same circumstances is equivalent to saving the whole community. What could be stronger condemnation of individual assassination and revenge?

Honest Soul-Searching

So the current uprisings and revolutions are a culmination of years of inward reflections, yearning’s of the people’s soul to be closer to Him, free to call out His name with genuine pride and real honour and to live under His safe rule and good law. These revolutions are still taking shape – five months is nothing much in the grand scheme of things.

The Future of the any nation belongs to the people and in the world-over the people, want the same basic human rights: freedom of speech, opportunity, livelihood, education, travel, trade, business and security. The ‘war on terror’ was a convenient phrase to pursue the policy of ‘forward presence’ in sovereign lands according to the (non)-rules of ‘asymmetric warfare’. The so-called ‘axis of evil’ has been presented to the world as a way of dividing the planet along the ‘you are either with us or against us’ paradigm.

It is the current uprising and revolutions that is re-shaping the whole pattern and the re-shuffle of traditional power grids continues. Now a new language and a new idiom are required to secure the hearts and minds of the masses. People are not afraid of calling out for the truth. They are no longer afraid of pulling the reins of power in confidence towards the path of self-determination. The old regimes are losing ground, and I believe the East-West divide is narrowing all the time because the human needs, values, ideals and sufferings are the same as expressed the world over.

The ‘new approach’ is in fact a return to the honest self-expression as Abel demonstrated to his murderous brother Cain: “do what you want, the truth is on my side.” This same truth is what is causing pain to people across Europe and America – the great divide between those who ‘have’ and those who ‘have not’. The once great institutions of Education, Health, and Care Support are dwindling in face of huge economic crisis brought about due to the greed of the few in the banking world. This very economic crisis is causing the current political re-shuffle as people are claiming back their basic rights and privileges.

The whole world is undergoing a soul-searching exercise – the negative forces and impurities are being purged. The Earth is tired of carrying evil on its stomach, and the Great God above is allowing enough time for a rational re-assessment to take place country-by-country, people-by-people, and individual-by-individual.

A return to the historical era of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is beckoning. The re-alignment will be complete with the old order crumbling and the new, purer, just order replacing it. The Islamic Awakening is still nascent, as much remains to be done, and the impurities still need to be filtered post-colonisation era and dictatorial rule. Again, it will be deemed by some, and the question presents itself once again, could the colonisation process itself be considered an act of God? That US is currently the world’s dominant superpower, despite its huge deficit of $14trillion, so are not its actions a result of following Divine inspiration? This can be argued, but surely a sea-change is in process, with the former attitudes of complete hegemony arguably not plausible anymore as actions and motives are scrutinised ever-more with today’s communications methods including social media.

The role of the next batch of purer leaders will be to write a new narrative – one of peace, security, love and charity. They will demonstrate Higher Order by living by Principles of Justice and Divine Commandments. The Holy scripture/s will not be diluted or relegated to abstract theological polemics, but be the guiding light for the people and nations who wish to prosper, because they understand that the spiritual and physical dimensions are closely intertwined.

The on-going story of life is always the same as re-accounted here through the case of Moses and his people, as well as between Cain and Abel; the tussle between good and evil, light and dark, truth and falsehood, greed and generosity. It is the law of nature and history that the pendulum always swings to normalise the world affairs, though the history of conflict will continue due to our testing probationary period here on planet Earth.

Peaceful, democratic dissent and demonstrations are paving the way for change. Nations are healing and reconciling their differences. The contradictions between the elite and the masses are being re-addressed. Injustices and overstepping of boundaries may still occur here and there, but the new dialogue has the pendulum swinging well in the favour of Justice. Cultural forces are shaping a new vision for the people that have unleashed their creative power. Democracy will now be on suitable terms, not just on grounds of self-interest. People know who they really are, and deep down they sense that there is an alternative, better way to prosperity and global peace.

For Continued and Rising Success & Contentment,

Asad Khan