Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Cloud 10...Why Teach...

Dear Friends
As I am winding down in my first year of University teaching I just remembered again why I switched to academia / teaching…

Teaching is the mother of all professions and is the only way to engineer positive cultural change. The classroom is the greatest human space and is a theatre of dreams which are nurtured by the teacher…

Although the process of teaching can be highly demanding if not energy sapping however when a student says 'thanks' or you meet a successful former studentYou are on cloud 10

Thank You God!

Monday, 25 July 2011

Norway weeping...

Dear Friends
Like most Europeans I have been shocked by the events in Norway. My sympathies go out to the grief stricken families and heart broken nation.

Some fellow Muslims in private have commented that it is a blessing that it was a fundamentalist / far-right Christian. I strongly disagree.

Anders Behring Breivik, the Norwegian nutter, has shamed all believers especially of the monotheistic tradition. I am convinced had Breivik been exposed to Christian mysticism he would never have gone on the rampage…

We cannot shy away from European challenges of rampant immigration, mass unemployment and a resurgent Islam. However, dialogue is the only way and it is high time that even the far-right are incorporated into the political process and intellectually challenged to modify their fascist ideology. Geert Wilders watch out!

If European Islam is positively nurtured and incorporated into the Western tradition I believe it can become a gold standard for emergent Muslim nations such as Pakistan and become a force for universal good.


Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Who is the greatest Muslim Enemy?

Dear Friends
Last night like most British Muslims I watched the first episode of a 3 part BBC series about the life and legacy of Muhammed (pbuh), the final messenger of Islam. I had received many prayerful text reminders! So it felt almost like an obligation…

It was hosted by Rageh Omar and was unusual that so many heavy hitting academics were interviewed even vehement critics like American Robert Spencer. I found it very informative and in parts deeply touching. However, the challenge is whether as a community after 1,400 hundred years we are willing to grow into Islam and 'surrender to God' i.e. Become Muslims.

If the last 200 hundred years or so are anything to go by I don't not think so…

Most of the 1.6 billion strong Ummah / Muslim Nation are Muslims by birth and hence 'cultural Muslims'. The vast majority live in abject poverty of mind, body and soul whilst a select few are part of the international jet set that live it up from Milan to Islamabad. It is these Muslim super elite that need to reform and share its ill gotten wealth with the Muslims masses…Inshallah…

So for all the bravado we Muslims have much to learn and crucially atone for such as the '1971 Pakistani Vietnam' where the Pakistan army systematically raped Muslim Bengali women and murdered tens of thousands in the name of nationalism…

We Muslims are our worst if not greatest enemy…and time and again we forget, perhaps conveniently, that orthopraxy / right conduct is superior to orthodoxy / right thought...



Thursday, 7 July 2011

Bandeya Ho! / Oh! Man...

Dear Friends
In the search for meaning / truth there will be many challenges, stolen dreams and broken promises…but if one can patiently overcome the 'thirst', 'heat', 'weariness' and 'pain'the coolness / mercy of the divine is assured…Yes most certainly! Yes again…

Verily with difficulty is ease!
Verily with difficulty is ease!



Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Searching for the Truth...

A lost mind
A broken body
A weeping heart
A dark soul
Searching out
Calling out for the Divine
To take this hurting hand
And show 
The truth

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Gay Pride in Pakistan

Dear Friends

On the 26th June 2011 the American Embassy in Islamabad hosted Pakistan’s inaugural Gay Pride event. However it was a muted affair and the Press Release only went global a couple of days ago.  As expected the back lash has begun and Islamist parties have been at the forefront of violent opposition.

Personally I am amazed at the American cultural insensitivity and timing of the event since Pakistan is plagued with a myriad of socio-economic problems such as poverty and this incident will only fuel anti-western feelings and embolden the conspiracy theorists. Also LGBT people are not exactly free in the West since there has been vehement opposition and legal challenge to Gay marriage for example recently in New York.

Western notions of sexual identity are highly political and developed in the West but do not apply to the Muslim world. Instead Muslim culture has developed its own mechanisms to  absorb LGBT people into the mainstream of society for over 1000 years.  A useful and insightful introduction on the subject is the seminal work by the progressive Canadian Muslim intellectual Tarek Fatah entitled, Chasing a Mirage – The Tragic Illusion of an Islamic State.

I remember the following real life story:

A Sufi once met a Gay man and they shared a meal. The Gay man remarked boldly that he was proud to be gay. The Sufi replied that he could not judge as he was not gay and that he was interested in their commonality. ‘What commonality is that Sufi sahib?’, remarked the Gay man.  The Sufi replied, ‘My scripture teaches that God is closer than the jugular vein – therefore, let’s focus on HIM’....They talked for hours and finally the Sufi remarked ‘You are a good and decent man why do you deny the gift of life and opportunity to have children?’. The Gay man was silent for a while then replied ‘That is my choice and I know the consequences of my choices’. The Sufi replied ‘Ah yes thank you for reminding me that my scripture teaches that LET THERE BE NO COMPULSION IN RELIGION. AND THAT GODS MERCY IS SUPERIOR TO HIS WRATH...’

Ultimately what goes on in the bedroom should remain private and between consenting adults...



Saturday, 2 July 2011

Can we blame the local Mullah?

Dear Friends

Yesterday I attended Friday congregational prayers which as usual were a non -descript affair following the usual formula of fire & brimstones speech, Arabic interlude, prayers and the weekly request for money with a house in Paradise thrown in for good measure. I usually switch off and focus on my prayers and drown out the Mullah’s ranting with my own thoughts.

However on this occasion the stand in Mullah was a young British Muslim. My ears perked up as I hoped for some audible diamonds instead I got the usual but in English. It was such a letdown in fact a damning indictment of the state of British Muslim granted local scholarship.

One could argue that I should take the initiative and become an Imam and educate the local community instead of critiquing. However, in my humble experience secular and religious Education begins at home. Not so much in terms of pedagogy rather the parents only job is to instil a love of learning and ensure their kids complete the prescribed homework, encourage and praise and above all inspire them.   The best religious education is for parents to be role models and live their Islam. 

Unfortunately the aforementioned is much diluted and in short supply. In my British South Asian culture family politics and rivalries dominate to such an extent that children are usually pawns in grand games of chess and intrigue. Even if children do well it is a way of gaining the upper hand and cementing familial ties via marriage, consequently I have met many Oxbridge fools in my time!

Religious education is farmed out to local Mosques which are populated by poorly paid Imams whose first language is not English and wield power though the stick.  As long their children can read the Quran in Arabic parents are satisfied that they have done their duty and paradise is assured. There is usually no thought given to imbibing the Quran and exploring Muslim history let alone developing critical reasoning / aql.  So it should be no surprise when these kids are suffering from identity crisis that the likes of Al-Qaeda  / Hizb-ut-Tahrir become surrogate parents and  poison our young people’s minds.

So is the current state of local, national, international Islam all the local Mullah’s fault?