Katie Hopkins’ Anti Muslim Rants: My Thoughts

Katie-Hopkins-most-awful-tweets-everUp until today, I didn’t know who Katie Hopkins was. After reading her horrible, anti-Muslim tweet about Palestinians, I became curious to know more about this woman. And quite frankly I regret googling her. Its like the time when I first heard about Katie Price, I googled her only to realise I’d wasted my time thinking she was anything remotely important. Both are publicity junkies, as the saying goes, ‘any publicity is good publicity, even if its bad publicity’. I don’t understand why the media gives her attention, well that’s a lie, I do understand why. As long she is getting you ratings, she can be any arrogant D list celebrity. Katie Hopkins is a regret the UK surely won’t miss once it’s gone.

With regards to her tweets on Muslims and Palestinians, and inciting terrorist attacks, she should be sent to Guantanamo Bay, right? If a Muslim tweeted about starting a ‘bombing campaign’ on the UK or America, then he’s pretty much asking for a one way ticket to the place.

People have taken to Twitter for her arrest to happen and I pray she is arrested swiftly, but somehow I think Katie Hopkins will be treated lightly even if she is. I’ll leave it to the readers’ imagination to think as to why that might be.

Not only does she call for genocide on Palestinians, she also doesn’t like fat people and pokes fun at Ebola sufferers. She also thinks kids named ‘Tyler’ belong to lower class families and don’t do their homework. She clearly isn’t not all there.

There are plenty of famous individuals who incite Islamophobic and offensive remarks, she isn’t the first. Bill Maher, Sam Harris, Ayan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, Robert Morey and many more, all of who make no apology conversing regular anti Muslim rhetoric. Katie’s offensive rant on Twitter came to me as no surprise, and it shouldn’t really surprise anyone from where I see it. Yes people are angry at her and I understand that, we all should be angry at her, but it is quite clear by her personality, she revels in our frustration at her.

Of course one’s reply, to hateful and anti-Muslim comments like Katie Hopkins’, should be for her to educate herself. But I believe she knows that. I believe those like her who spit anti-Muslim and offensive rhetoric, choose not to educate themselves on what they speak. They pick what to read and listen to according to their narrow view and how they want the world to be. Muslims and good people in general shouldn’t be distracted by such Islamophobic people and what they say, we should spend less time worrying about what offensive things they’re going to say next and think more about educating those who want to learn. I do believe in tackling Islamophobia, but I believe a greater benefit is achieved by educating those who clearly aren’t Islamophobic and have good intentions to learn about the Muslim faith. Thank you.

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Britain’s Debate on the Niqab: My Thoughts

niqabLast week, Turkey’s parliament has allowed female MPs to wear the Muslim veil for the first time since it was banned from public buildings. “There is nothing in parliamentary bylaws that stands as an obstacle to this,” said Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister. “Everyone should respect our sisters’ decision.”

As western countries have growing concerns about the Islamic head coverings, be it the face veil (niqab) or the headscarf, I believe this particular news is a sign in the right direction. I hope the Niqab debate which is now popular in the UK (thanks to Channel 4 and a few MPs) can benefit from Turkey’s example.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave, I’m sure you’re all aware of the concerns people are having regarding the Islamic face veil here in the UK. There’s no hiding it or sugar coating it, non-Muslims are voicing their unease of women covered head to toe, walking and talking as British citizens. On the other hand it is obvious to some, and may be less obvious to others how much some of the issues on this topic are being blown out of proportion by the media. Issues are raised from thin air and given emphasis as if they’re major obstacles. Such as ‘the niqab in hospitals’. This is a problem which doesn’t exist within the NHS as far as my research goes. Mainly because any member of the NHS who observes the face veil is clearly aware that she has to take it off when on duty in public buildings simply on the basis of security. This is the type of unnecessary dialogue we certainly want to avoid, we want to deal with real concerns and questions about the face veil and not superficial sensationalism.

Where other countries have already banned face veils, and even minarets, here in Britain we do things differently. We like to discuss, talk, evaluate, dialogue, conversate, debate etc. You get the point, its a very British thing, but it is good thing.

Channel 4 held a discussion/debate on ‘Britain’s niqab‘ at the East London Mosque. With a complete female audience, and Douglas Murray, the only male out of the six panellists, sure it was joy to watch. Especially Murray, watching him sweep in with his generalised statements, but that didn’t surprise me at all. What did surprise me was Yasmin Alibhai Brown’s plea to the audience to ask the Taliban for their opinion on the face veil. The Niqab has been part of Britain for some twenty odd years now or even more. Free thinking, independent Muslim women pick the Niqab today out of their own choice to please their Creator. These are intelligent women of Britain, not blind followers of the Taliban. Her’s wasn’t the only surprisingly absurd contention raised that evening.

In the face of all the issues fired up in the space of 20 minutes, I believe the sisters discussed the topic very well. However, there are some points raised in this discussion that I would like to clarify as I understand them, which in future discussions I am certain can help the debate move forward.

The debate on whether the Niqab is mandatory or not is ongoing even within in Islam. Muslim women do realise this, and they are either of the opinion that it is mandatory or it isn’t. Both opinions are perfectly valid and can be justified. Even women who believe it isn’t mandatory still take it on as free choice. Islam allows this type of freedom of opinion on issues such as this. The argument that the Niqab isn’t mandatory is a misleading one. It should be noted that while majority of Muslims believe it isn’t mandatory, there is a minority which have the view that it is, and both views have to be considered. Also, whether or not the face veil is a cultural practice, it is more important to understand the freedom allowed regarding it in the context of religion and society. To say the face veil is a cultural practice is a false assumption to make. It can simply be validated as a religious practice by looking at basic historical evidence, the wives of the Prophet used to practice it, and it was never refuted or deemed as un-Islamic by the Prophet peace be upon him or by his companions.

Shalina Litt made a very important point. Whose discomfort are we going to favour? As a multicultural society we have to recognise we all live in different ways. We may not like the way one chooses to dress or look a certain way, but at least respect that it is within the boundaries of a diverse community. It is understandable that one can be discomforted by the sight of a face veil, but is it really justified by getting Muslim women to remove them? The discomforted is now comforted and the comforted discomforted, clearly this isn’t a solution. There is a better way, I believe in dialogue and discussion. The more we talk about the issues concerning us the better we understand each other, responsibility belongs on both sides of the fence. Sisters observing the face veil need to understand that parts of the British public are genuinely bothered by it, may see it as a sign of oppression and therefore may be intimidated. It is first and foremost the duty of these sisters to help remove the misconceptions about it, and the best way to go about that is communication. However, those who may not be familiar with the Islamic practice of veiling, should make attempts to understand the philosophy behind the act, ask a sister who veils or enquire about the validity of the niqab in social and religious dynamics. If we want to get to that heart of the issue this is the type of attitude I believe we should be having.

I am not convinced the debate on the niqab is about Muslim exceptionalism. Rather exceptionalism in the context of the religious has been a part of multicultural Britain for many years. It is because of our exceptionalistic society that Britain is the most multicultural and tolerant place to live in the 21st century. Of course there are limits and boundaries, it isn’t apparent that the practice of the niqab is beyond reasonable limits. It isn’t a harmful practice, nor is it worn to offend anyone. By all means if it does offend any person, it shouldn’t be dealt with by speaking against the practice, but by making a positive case for it and highlighting the benefits in it which many Muslim sisters wear it for.

Douglas Murray was of course a delight to watch voicing his simplistic black or white generalisations. His style of arguing was quite an authoritative type, and so he made some startling statements without any real logical reasoning. He first made the assertion that nobody knows who Fatima Barkatullah is due to her face veil. Well I’m sure Channel 4 know who she is, Jackie Long introduced her with name and profession right at the beginning of the debate as she did for the other two veiled panellists. They all spoke clearly and made valid points, and I’m sure everyone understood what they were saying regardless of their head coverings. Sahar Al-Faifi was correct in stating that the majority of the world’s communication isn’t face to face, examples such as Twitter, Facebook, texts and that amazing app called WhatsApp. These are all great examples of how we’ve evolved our preferences of social interaction, we feel just as connected to one another via phone calls and texts as we do face to face. Also picking on Douglas’ point, ‘Muslim women who veil in France have taken it off, is it so negotiable?’. The face veil is negotiable when it is a matter of security, and the reason why so many have taken off their niqabs is not because they wanted to, but simply because they are forced to by the French government. Many cannot afford the fine and therefore have to compromise their religious practice for a law which instead of preventing bigotry and Islamophobia, attracts such qualities.

The debate on the British niqab may be a long one, or we may be distracted by some other news sometime in the near future and forget all about it. But it remains to be seen whether or not Britain will follow in the footsteps of the French and ban the niqab. The niqab is a simple piece of cloth which a Muslim woman chooses to cover her face with in modesty and worship to her Creator. It harms no one nor is it meant to offend anyone. Veiled women still contribute to society and interact with other people on a day to day basis. Douglas was right on one thing, ‘Britain is the most tolerant place to live even as a Muslim’, but if we impose a ban on the veil then we would be taking a step in the other direction. What crucially needs to be recognised, is the veil is misunderstood in parts of Britain and we need to deal with this problem before anything else, people are at unease and concerned, this can only be resolved by dialogue and education, not by a ban. We must consider the rights and concerns of everyone collectively, and we mustn’t force a minority of women in Britain to assimilate to western culture by taking off their covers.

What’s happening in Burma?

While the general public of the world is busy or being kept busy with recent and ongoing international events such as the Euro 2012, Eurovision and the 2012 Olympics etc, very little of the community have been noticing the crucial stories happening around the world. Major media companies from around the world have come to London this year to give viewers the best coverage of the games, so we can guarantee that the world will know who won gold, who came first and who came last.

Meanwhile, Myanmar/Burma in Asia faces a humanitarian crisis. Those that have paid close attention for the past few weeks may have heard a slight mention of what this crisis is about. But for those who have no clue about it all, unfortunately, are in the majority.

So what is happening in Myanmar? For the past few weeks, there has been an outbreak of hostility and bloodshed between Buddhist nationalists and minority Rohingya Muslims in the land. Several have been killed as a result, 80 dead and 54 injured officially, but the true toll is feared to be much more.

Hundreds of Rohingya Muslims have tried to flee the violence into Bangladesh but have been refused entry and made to turn back. “They have been chased away; we are keeping our eyes open so that nobody can enter Bangladesh illegally” says Bangladesh police official, Jahangir Alam.

Rohingya Muslims crying after hearing that they cannot enter Bangladesh to seek refuge from the violence.

Amnesty International has reported that Rohingya Muslims are being targeted and attacked by the majority Buddhists nationalists, the attacks include acts such as killing, rape, and physical abuse.

Sadly, this is not the only time when media has turned a blind eye on such a story. How many know about the US soldier who went on a vicious killing spree after suffering a mental breakdown, and killed 16 innocent Afghani civilians in their sleep? Who knows about Tarek Mehanna and the sentencing statement he gave before being given 17 years in prison, for allegedly being supportive to Al Qaeda and conspiring to “murder” US soldiers in Iraq? Many don’t even have a clue about what is actually taking place in the Middle East or what the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is all about.

A major portion of the blame, I think, has to go to the big media outlets that choose which stories should receive a good coverage or not, mainly because of biasness, political strategy etc. The use of contradictive terminology and words in the media to gloss over what is in most cases a horrific act or idea, and making them sound “nicer”, so viewers/readers are not put off. This adds more to the confusion. Who knew that ‘enhanced interrogation’ was actually just another form of torture subtly introduced by the help of the media. And that ‘collateral damage’ basically means the cost of innocent lives at war in a foreign land. There are many more terminologies like these; one only has to look them up. However, part of the blame should be on us as well. As citizens and concerned human beings, we should seek out these stories and question the media and the government, why haven’t these stories been given much importance?

The position of the Rohingya people is becoming more and more insecure and unstable as the days go by, and something should be done to help them. How we can resolve this violence may be in question right now, but the first step is to make people aware of what is happening – to acknowledge that this is an issue that concerns the global community. Sitting quietly hoping the violence will calm on its own, or that the Myanmar/Burmese government will sort the problem by themselves is simply not practical thinking.

Tarek Mehanna’s statement before being sentenced to 17 years in prison

Tarek Mehanna

This week Thursday 12th April, an American Muslim, Tarek Mehanna was sentenced to 17 ½ years in prison by Judge George O’Toole Jr. Once again violating the right of free speech, he was shown to be guilty of being supportive to Al Qaeda and conspiring to “murder” US soldiers in Iraq.

I was reading Tarek’s sentencing statement today during my break time at work; it had me silenced and thinking for quite a while. A really thought provoking piece of statement, and I ask the subscribers, visitors or readers etc of my blog to read it below. Powerful and articulate, it speaks to us in more ways than one. It may help one to understand whether Tarek is innocent or not, and to realise the reality of the situation in the world today regarding, Iraq, foreign policy, extremism etc.

I wish to be writing more on this issue soon, but will mention this for now. In the past, even great Muslim scholars have been punished and demonised simply for not giving in to the powers that be, Imam Ahmad Ibn Hambal was flogged, Imam Malik had his arms made dislocated. Looking back we now revere them for their courage and firmness for their faith in the truth. I believe time will come when it will become crystal clear of who is guilty and who is innocent. We will not be looking at Tarek Mehanna, but those who sought against him as the real terrorists. His statement emphasises his belief, the essence of his words in it has depth and meaning, and he should be heard through his statement.

Tarek Mehanna’s sentencing statement

Read to Judge O’Toole during his sentencing, April 12th 2012.

In the name of God the most gracious the most merciful.

Exactly four years ago this month I was finishing my work shift at a local hospital. As I was walking to my car I was approached by two federal agents. They said that I had a choice to make: I could do things the easy way, or I could do them the hard way. The “easy ” way, as they explained, was that I would become an informant for the government, and if I did so I would never see the inside of a courtroom or a prison cell. As for the hard way, this is it. Here I am, having spent the majority of the four years since then in a solitary cell the size of a small closet, in which I am locked down for 23 hours each day. The FBI and these prosecutors worked very hard-and the government spent millions of tax dollars – to put me in that cell, keep me there, put me on trial, and finally to have me stand here before you today to be sentenced to even more time in a cell.

In the weeks leading up to this moment, many people have offered suggestions as to what I should say to you. Some said I should plead for mercy in hopes of a light sentence, while others suggested I would be hit hard either way. But what I want to do is just talk about myself for a few minutes.

When I refused to become an informant, the government responded by charging me with the “crime” of supporting the mujahideen fighting the occupation of Muslim countries around the world. Or as they like to call them, “terrorists.” I wasn’t born in a Muslim country, though. I was born and raised right here in America and this angers many people: how is it that I can be an American and believe the things I believe, take the positions I take? Everything a man is exposed to in his environment becomes an ingredient that shapes his outlook, and I’m no different.  So, in more ways than one, it’s because of America that I am who I am.

When I was six, I began putting together a massive collection of comic books. Batman implanted a concept in my mind, introduced me to a paradigm as to how the world is set up: that there are oppressors, there are the oppressed, and there are those who step up to defend the oppressed. This resonated with me so much that throughout the rest of my childhood, I gravitated towards any book that reflected that paradigm – Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, and I even saw an ehical dimension to The Catcher in the Rye.

By the time I began high school and took a real history class, I was learning just how real that paradigm is in the world. I learned about the Native Americans and what befell them at the hands of European settlers. I learned about how the descendents of those European settlers were in turn oppressed under the tyranny of King George III.

I read about Paul Revere, Tom Paine, and how Americans began an armed insurgency against British forces – an insurgency we now celebrate as the American revolutionary war. As a kid I even went on school field trips just blocks away from where we sit now. I learned about Harriet Tubman, Nat Turner, John Brown, and the fight against slavery in this country. I learned about Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, and the struggles of the labor unions, working class, and poor. I learned about Anne Frank, the Nazis, and how they persecuted minorities and imprisoned dissidents. I learned about Rosa Parks, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, and the civil rights struggle.

I learned about Ho Chi Minh, and how the Vietnamese fought for decades to liberate themselves from one invader after another. I learned about Nelson Mandela and the fight against apartheid in South Africa. Everything I learned in those years confirmed what I was beginning to learn when I was six: that throughout history, there has been a constant struggle between the oppressed and their oppressors. With each struggle I learned about, I found myself consistently siding with the oppressed, and consistently respecting those who stepped up to defend them -regardless of nationality, regardless of religion. And I never threw my class notes away. As I stand here speaking, they are in a neat pile in my bedroom closet at home.

From all the historical figures I learned about, one stood out above the rest. I was impressed be many things about Malcolm X, but above all, I was fascinated by the idea of transformation, his transformation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie “X” by Spike Lee, it’s over three and a half hours long, and the Malcolm at the beginning is different from the Malcolm at the end. He starts off as an illiterate criminal, but ends up a husband, a father, a protective and eloquent leader for his people, a disciplined Muslim performing the Hajj in Makkah, and finally, a martyr. Malcolm’s life taught me that Islam is not something inherited; it’s not a culture or ethnicity. It’s a way of life, a state of mind anyone can choose no matter where they come from or how they were raised.

This led me to look deeper into Islam, and I was hooked. I was just a teenager, but Islam answered the question that the greatest scientific minds were clueless about, the question that drives the rich & famous to depression and suicide from being unable to answer: what is the purpose of life? Why do we exist in this Universe? But it also answered the question of how we’re supposed to exist. And since there’s no hierarchy or priesthood, I could directly and immediately begin digging into the texts of the Qur’an and the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, to begin the journey of understanding what this was all about, the implications of Islam for me as a human being, as an individual, for the people around me, for the world; and the more I learned, the more I valued Islam like a piece of gold. This was when I was a teen, but even today, despite the pressures of the last few years, I stand here before you, and everyone else in this courtroom, as a very proud Muslim.

With that, my attention turned to what was happening to other Muslims in different parts of the world. And everywhere I looked, I saw the powers that be trying to destroy what I loved. I learned what the Soviets had done to the Muslims of Afghanistan. I learned what the Serbs had done to the Muslims of Bosnia. I learned what the Russians were doing to the Muslims of Chechnya. I learned what Israel had done in Lebanon – and what it continues to do in Palestine – with the full backing of the United States. And I learned what America itself was doing to Muslims. I learned about the Gulf War, and the depleted uranium bombs that killed thousands and caused cancer rates to skyrocket across Iraq.

I learned about the American-led sanctions that prevented food, medicine, and medical equipment from entering Iraq, and how – according to the United Nations – over half a million children perished as a result. I remember a clip from a ’60 Minutes‘ interview of Madeline Albright where she expressed her view that these dead children were “worth it.” I watched on September 11th as a group of people felt driven to hijack airplanes and fly them into buildings from their outrage at the deaths of these children. I watched as America then attacked and invaded Iraq directly. I saw the effects of ’Shock & Awe’ in the opening day of the invasion – the children in hospital wards with shrapnel from American missiles sticking but of their foreheads (of course, none of this was shown on CNN).

I learned about the town of Haditha, where 24 Muslims – including a 76-year old man in a wheelchair, women, and even toddlers – were shot up and blown up in their bedclothes as the slept by US Marines. I learned about Abeer al-Janabi, a fourteen-year old Iraqi girl gang-raped by five American soldiers, who then shot her and her family in the head, then set fire to their corpses. I just want to point out, as you can see, Muslim women don’t even show their hair to unrelated men. So try to imagine this young girl from a conservative village with her dress torn off, being sexually assaulted by not one, not two, not three, not four, but five soldiers. Even today, as I sit in my jail cell, I read about the drone strikes which continue to kill Muslims daily in places like Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. Just last month, we all heard about the seventeen Afghan Muslims – mostly mothers and their kids – shot to death by an American soldier, who also set fire to their corpses.

These are just the stories that make it to the headlines, but one of the first concepts I learned in Islam is that of loyalty, of brotherhood – that each Muslim woman is my sister, each man is my brother, and together, we are one large body who must protect each other. In other words, I couldn’t see these things beings done to my brothers & sisters – including by America – and remain neutral. My sympathy for the oppressed continued, but was now more personal, as was my respect for those defending them.

I mentioned Paul Revere – when he went on his midnight ride, it was for the purpose of warning the people that the British were marching to Lexington to arrest Sam Adams and John Hancock, then on to Concord to confiscate the weapons stored there by the Minuteman. By the time they got to Concord, they found the Minuteman waiting for them, weapons in hand. They fired at the British, fought them, and beat them. From that battle came the American Revolution. There’s an Arabic word to describe what those Minutemen did that day. That word is: JIHAD, and this is what my trial was about.

All those videos and translations and childish bickering over ‘Oh, he translated this paragraph’ and ‘Oh, he edited that sentence,’ and all those exhibits revolved around a single issue: Muslims who were defending themselves against American soldiers doing to them exactly what the British did to America. It was made crystal clear at trial that I never, ever plotted to “kill Americans” at shopping malls or whatever the story was. The government’s own witnesses contradicted this claim, and we put expert after expert up on that stand, who spent hours dissecting my every written word, who explained my beliefs. Further, when I was free, the government sent an undercover agent to prod me into one of their little “terror plots,” but I refused to participate. Mysteriously, however, the jury never heard this.

So, this trial was not about my position on Muslims killing American civilians. It was about my position on Americans killing Muslim civilians, which is that Muslims should defend their lands from foreign invaders – Soviets, Americans, or Martians. This is what I believe. It’s what I’ve always believed, and what I will always believe. This is not terrorism, and it’s not extremism. It’s what the arrows on that seal above your head represent: defense of the homeland. So, I disagree with my lawyers when they say that you don’t have to agree with my beliefs – no. Anyone with commonsense and humanity has no choice but to agree with me. If someone breaks into your home to rob you and harm your family, logic dictates that you do whatever it takes to expel that invader from your home.

But when that home is a Muslim land, and that invader is the US military, for some reason the standards suddenly change. Common sense is renamed ”terrorism” and the people defending themselves against those who come to kill them from across the ocean become “the terrorists” who are ”killing Americans.” The mentality that America was victimized with when British soldiers walked these streets 2 ½ centuries ago is the same mentality Muslims are victimized by as American soldiers walk their streets today. It’s the mentality of colonialism.

When Sgt. Bales shot those Afghans to death last month, all of the focus in the media was on him-his life, his stress, his PTSD, the mortgage on his home-as if he was the victim. Very little sympathy was expressed for the people he actually killed, as if they’re not real, they’re not humans. Unfortunately, this mentality trickles down to everyone in society, whether or not they realize it. Even with my lawyers, it took nearly two years of discussing, explaining, and clarifying before they were finally able to think outside the box and at least ostensibly accept the logic in what I was saying. Two years! If it took that long for people so intelligent, whose job it is to defend me, to de-program themselves, then to throw me in front of a randomly selected jury under the premise that they’re my “impartial peers,” I mean, come on. I wasn’t tried before a jury of my peers because with the mentality gripping America today, I have no peers. Counting on this fact, the government prosecuted me – not because they needed to, but simply because they could.

I learned one more thing in history class: America has historically supported the most unjust policies against its minorities – practices that were even protected by the law – only to look back later and ask: ’what were we thinking?’ Slavery, Jim Crow, the internment of the Japanese during World War II – each was widely accepted by American society, each was defended by the Supreme Court. But as time passed and America changed, both people and courts looked back and asked ’What were we thinking?’ Nelson Mandela was considered a terrorist by the South African government, and given a life sentence. But time passed, the world changed, they realized how oppressive their policies were, that it was not he who was the terrorist, and they released him from prison. He even became president. So, everything is subjective – even this whole business of “terrorism” and who is a “terrorist.” It all depends on the time and place and who the superpower happens to be at the moment.

In your eyes, I’m a terrorist, and it’s perfectly reasonable that I be standing here in an orange jumpsuit. But one day, America will change and people will recognize this day for what it is. They will look at how hundreds of thousands of Muslims were killed and maimed by the US military in foreign countries, yet somehow I’m the one going to prison for “conspiring to kill and maim” in those countries – because I support the Mujahidin defending those people. They will look back on how the government spent millions of dollars to imprison me as a ”terrorist,” yet if we were to somehow bring Abeer al-Janabi back to life in the moment she was being gang-raped by your soldiers, to put her on that witness stand and ask her who the “terrorists” are, she sure wouldn’t be pointing at me.

The government says that I was obsessed with violence, obsessed with ”killing Americans.” But, as a Muslim living in these times, I can think of a lie no more ironic.

Tarek Mehanna

4/12/12

www.freetarek.com