August 6, 2014
Several hundred people have attended a prayers for peace vigil at Belfast City Hall. Prayers are being said by representatives of churches from across the world, including the Jewish and Muslim faiths. Lord Mayor Nichola Mallon called for peace in countries across the Middle East and other war torn areas of the world. Belfast City councillors from across the political divide also attended. One group holding a Palestinian flag stood outside the gates, but were unable to get into the grounds. It was organised by the lord mayor.
Ms Mallon said the vigil was “about people coming together in a humanitarian appeal to end this suffering and conflict”.
“This is a multi-denominational vigil offering people the opportunity to show solidarity with all of those suffering and to pray for peace in Gaza, across the Middle East and the wider world. It is open to everyone – those of all faiths and none.
Ashraf Islam, 31, formerly known as Mark Townley, confessed to police he had “advanced plans” to kill the Prince the day after he was arrested in May. Belfast-born Islam was held the day after Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich, and said the fourth in line to the throne “had blood on his hands” after two tours of duty in Afghanistan.
At a sentencing hearing at Isleworth Crown Court, Lynne Townley, prosecuting, said Islam told an officer he had spent time watching soldiers on Horse Guards Parade “and planned to disarm an officer whilst disguised as a tourist rather than bringing a gun into London”.
After analysing his laptop police discovered a number of internet searches showing Islam had been researching Prince Harry’s protection team, where he lived, his royal engagements and his whereabouts.
A video found on the computer showed him making threats to kill Prince Harry to camera whilst he was in Malaysia.
Sentencing was adjourned until November 1 for an assessment of Islam’s mental health to be carried out.
The funeral for murdered soldier Lee Rigby takes place today and perhaps among all the tributes to this tragic victim of a terrible crime, we should ask ourselves what will prevent such attacks in the future, in a rational, truthful way, untainted by emotive pleas for revenge and retribution.
Like the volunteers of the International Brigades, many of today’s young Muslim men feel a far stronger bond with their fellow Muslims across the Middle East and beyond than they do with their fellow ‘Britons’. Whether the media refuses to accept this or not, this is a fact. Some feel so strongly about the treatment of their fellow Muslims that they are willing to bomb and murder others. Their aims and methods are horrific, but you cannot deny these men and women their ideology. In fact the media’s obsession with so-called ‘home-grown’ terrorists, from the 7/7 attacks to the murders of Lee Rigby is reflective of a wider denial. Reporters and self-elected ‘experts’ pretend there is no underlying political rationale for such attacks and that the perpetrators are simply naïve or evil. It was the same in the 70s and 80s with the IRA and any other organisation that opposes the dominant political narrative. These people are simply terrorists and murderers fuelled by an irrational hate for ‘us’ and ‘our values.’
But there is no ‘us,’ no ‘them.’ My values and sense of identity are entirely subjective, as are everyone’s. It is the cycle of hate, hate born not only of military action but political spin, the toppling of ‘rogue’ regimes and the support of Saudi, Bahrain, Turkey and Israel that fuels these young men (it’s almost always young men in their teens or 20s as it was in the International Brigades). As talks with the Taliban have proved, all wars eventually end in compromise or capitulation. We say we will remember those who died in Helmand or in Belfast, Burma or The Somme but soon enough, there’s another arena, another trade route to be protected and the world keeps spinning and kids keep dying.
Former Guant_namo detainee Murat Kurnaz launched his powerful book ‘Five Years of My Life: an Innocent Man in Guant_namo’ at an Amnesty International event in the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival last week in Belfast. Readings from the book were followed by a question and answer session chaired by Amnesty International programme director, Patrick Corrigan. Patrick Corrigan said: “Murat Kurnaz has a powerful story to tell: illegal detention, prisoner abuse, solitary confinement in Guant_namo Bay. His personal story is the story of the so-called _war on terror’of the last seven years. It is one of the compelling stories of our time.” Murat Kurnaz was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1982, into a family of Turkish immigrants. After his marriage in 2001, Murat Kurnaz became an increasingly devout Muslim. Less than a month after the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA, he went to Pakistan, telling his mother he wanted to “see and live the Qur’an”. Muslim Weekly->http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=F47FA263E07453001431D3AB&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News [Concord Monitor->http://www.concordmonitor.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080518/ENTERTAINMENT01/805180336
A UK public opinion poll powered by global market intelligence solutions provider GMI (Global Market Insite, Inc.) on behalf of the Institute of Governance, Queen’s University, Belfast/Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, and Muslim Voice UK, explores the detail of difference, agreement and shared concerns amongst UK Muslim and non-Muslim citizens. UK Muslims blame Islamophobia on the portrayal of their religion in the media, the survey revealed. The research found 40 per cent of Muslims blamed anti-Islamic feelings on the media, while almost three-quarters of non-Muslims blamed the September 11 bombings.