Friday, 26 December 2014

Let us not challenge - Trojan Horse schools were doing their best!

Many times if opinions and comments are left unchallenged they are perceived to be accepted as genuine outcomes of issues. A month ago I met a lady who works as a teacher in one of the local primary school not far from the Park View School in Birmingham. She firmly believes it was unjustifiable to label the schools inadequate which were investigated after the letter with details of plans seeking to introduce Islamist was leaked. Her opinion rests on the presumption that some of the schools helped under-achievers gain the required higher grades necessary and this outcome in due time would have helped in raising the standard of the school too. She sympathized with the teachers who came under scrutiny after the OFSTED carried out inspection and also felt it was grave injustice to widen the investigations as some were labelled wrongly to be part of this plot.

Due to the seriousness of the outcomes, rightly or wrongly the nature of the investigations and media scrutiny were overwhelmingly extensive and broad based. Those who already believe that racism occurs from deliberate targeting of alien beliefs in society, view this negatively. And many commentators were quick to point out on twitter and in newspapers that schools introducing Islamic ethos are no different from other faith schools where Catholicism and Jewish faith are introduced to children in order to enhance their religious knowledge. Similarly many have argued that there is nothing wrong with segregation which was encouraged in the Trojan Horse schools because old independent schools like Eaton and Harrow have been practising it over much longer period of time and producing overall best results academically and nurturing students of high calibre.

For a gullible person these reasons will seem arguably justifiable enough to believe there was some deliberate attempt to derail the schools encouraging Islamic ethos. But let us examine the opinion that Trojan Horse schools are no different from other independent schools where girls and boys are taught separately. My ten year old daughter out of her own admission wants to go to a ‘girls only’ school, because she believes boys are aggressively competitive which makes it harder for girls to outshine. This view cannot be a deliberate enforcement of religious dogma. If many of the independent schools in Britain are Christian faith schools too, the evidence of discrimination towards pupils of other faiths is hardly there. Ethos of religious education taught in these schools does not give rise to mindset which is extremist, dogmatic and narrow-minded. Islamic education system taught in schools world over have yet to match parallels with British education system where direct religious teachings are not conflicting with principles of independent thinking and progressive outlook.

If Islamic education is based on the teachings of Quran and Haadith, how is it possible to separate the concept that non-Muslims are inferior in status and virtuosity is superior to intelligence!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

The Islamic state within a state—can it happen!

If one was to ask ‘what makes headlines for New Zealand?’ The obvious answer would be world class cricket team and the rugby players who mesmerize the crowds with their haka dance at the beginning of every match. But Te Amorangi Kireka-Whaanga has other ideas to boost the image of the egalitarian country well-known for its wealth of natural and scenic landscapes. The young man who heads the Aotearoa Maori Muslim Association mentioned in a recent Facebook post that he has changed the organisation’s name to the Islamic State of Aotearoa.

Considering the violent reputation of the Islamic State in Middle East, one would imagine refraining from being considered as an ideologue of what the state proposes as common sense. But Kireka-Whaanga remains sympathetic towards the ISIS which conducts massacres and beheading of hostages. ‘IF you practice your religion then of course you’ll be 100 per cent behind Islamic State,’ he said while also claiming that he was not a violent person. His bizarrely warped claims include maintaining a desire to be ‘a peace advocate trying to achieve my goal of winning a Nobel peace prize.’

Mr Kireka-Whaanga is one more ‘lone wolf’ eager to Islamicize the community and society because somehow the principal of Western society are falling short of providing justice and peace to the world. This perception eagerly grasps the young men and women who are led to believe by the jihad-seeking religious teachers and community leaders that assimilation and integration is threatening the cohesion of Islamic values. The propagation to adopt religious principles which are largely alien to European values is now giving rise to ideas of new nations with hopes to supersede Christian nations. Across Germany, France and England the population of conservative Muslims are encouraging ethnic/religious separatism which in other terms means benefiting from immigrating without having to assimilate into society. The rise of unemployment and violence cannot be overlooked. Some level of violence has the advantage of ensuring separation from the outside world and can be used as a bargaining tool with the authorities to get more de facto autonomymeaning that Muslim enclaves are ruled only by Muslims according to Islamic lawas well as to obtain more funding. This kind of attitude  also serves  as a social control tool against liberal-minded Muslim individuals, for conservative Muslim leaders can easier exert pressure on liberal-minded Muslimsfor instance to compel females to don the veil.

Most incentives seeking government control over Muslims through establishment of organizations fail because orthodox Muslims see autonomy of religion as in direct opposition of what Sharia law states. The separation between the state and the religion overwhelmingly accepted by the European countries has not been accepted by the supporters of the Sharia law, who argue that religion is intrinsically interwoven with the affairs of the state.

In UK the growing concern and dismay about the rise of Islam is now brushed aside as racism and the sense of victim hood decapitate the purpose to examine the underlying intrinsic issues. Nevertheless it will become necessary to enforce the law of the state in a wise and gentle way to avoid a state within a state scenario.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Junaid Jamshaid – when misogyny is preached

If music is celebrated as having a soul, giving wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and charm and gayety to life, it is also irredeemably disapproved as fitna by many Muslims who believe that its promulgation misleads from Allah’s path. The profession of music and creating songs is perceived as a destroyer of morals and according to the Islamic scholar Imaam Shaafi the one who creates music ‘is an incompetent fool whose testimony is to be rejected.’ Such strong opposition is always a matter of debate and the ones who are adherent to follow Islam in the original form in order to uphold injunction that no invention can be allowed in Islamic laws, will always challenge perception that creativity, music and art are expression of humanity.

In the early nineties no one knew how best to view the emergence of a boy band, one of its kind in Pakistan. Five young men came on the television with version of pop songs in Urdu which instantly revived the interest in listening to local music. In a country where art and culture is always sliced, chopped and discarded away as irrelevant to national interests, the opposition against the group Vital Signs was huge. It was distraction, waste of time and very risky to promote the band which has learned nothing from the traditions of classical Urdu singing, that is a blend of classical instruments, poetry and highly rehearsed form of singing. But the group also gained wide acclaim from the youth and young people because of their popular lyrics, catchy tunes and persona of group members who were far better placed than the middle aged pop singers of the eighties.

Pinups, posters and teen magazines circulated in my college grounds, all containing images, gossip and news of the five group members known as, Junaid Jamshed, Rohail Hyatt, Shahzad Hasan and Nusrat Hussain. These guys became heartthrobs who mesmerized girls because of their talents and looks. Tickets to their concerts in those days cost a bombshell and as they were held in halls of five star hotels. With some deliberation the college council decided to approach the principal with the idea of arranging for Vital Signs to come and sing in the college hall. While the decision was being considered by the principal, the delay of the outcome worried us. There will be lots of people who would raise objections. Finally a day arrived when the whole college was summoned to the hall. The principal, a woman of steely frame of mind, in a stern and solemn voice explained to us the background of the rumours and reasons for the delay. A delegation of clerics along with the local imam met the principal and voiced their concerns for inviting over a boy band to perform in a college for girls. They issued a strong warning to the principal that she would be promoting sexual promiscuity among girls by inviting the band and everything she was doing was going against the teachings of Islam. In a milieu where opinions sway between common sense and illogic, the individuals who take right actions are the real gems. The principal decided to forgo all objections which were raised by the clerics and the concert was to go ahead as planned. We were made to promise that at no time during the concert we would get up from our seats, scream and shout in order to make the whole idea of having the concert in the college acceptable. The concert did take place. We got to see the group, heard their songs and enjoyed the scenario of being part of an entertainment where enjoyment matters.

Vital Signs went from strength to strength. Every album they produced was a bestseller. The quality of their songs matched by their music videos pioneered the interest in creating music for young people in Pakistan. But these days the lead singer Junaid Jamshed does not agree with these views! Junaid Jamshed now appears on the telly screens in religious talk shows expressing his regret that his interest in music led him to become a pop idol. He is keen to let the viewers know of the story of his transformation from pop idol to a religious redeemer. He is at ease to express his dislike for girls who screamed and shouted with excitement when he was a pop idol and he believes it is objectionable for women to drive altogether.

His religiosity tainted with misogynistic traits has rendered no services to his fellow countrymen and yet his fame has soared. By appealing to the sentiments of adopting austerity and humility as derived from the strict interpretation of Quran and Sunnah he has managed to remain in the limelight. The same kind of fame is not enjoyed, these days by other members of the Vital Sign group.

Junaid Jamshed appeals to those who are fettered in their sense of right and wrong and have taken to believe that matters can be resolved by the direct intervention of religion in daily matters. Even though the idea of bludgeoning opinions with the charge of blasphemy is abhorrent, I can’t help noticing that once again Junaid Jamshed’s misogynistic psyche is not questioned by his countrymen. Time and again he has considered women incapable of making sound decisions and judgements.

Age old views made fourteen hundred years ago in the land of Arabia are the bases for the rule of law for many in Muslim societies. And for as long as men like Junaid Jamshed are supported and admired for their ignorance in discriminating women, the suffering and injustice in the Muslim world will not end.