The Undivided Past: history beyond our differences, By David Cannadine

David Cannadine, a leading historian makes a spirited case for harmony against the myths of identity politics according to the writer of this book review published in The Independent. the historian Sir David Cannadine seeks an understanding of the past that finds its focus in our age-old conversations and collaborations, rather than in conflict. Emperor Akbar, who pursued his vision of a common humanity just as much of Europe tore itself to shreds in fanatical wars of religion, has a brief cameo in this account by the author. Some 25 miles to the West of the Taj Mahal lies the rose-red hill-top ghost town of Fatehpur Sikri, the royal capital custom-built by the Emperor Akbar, occupied for 14 short years in the late 16th century and then, mysteriously, abandoned. Here, Akbar pursued his dreams of eclectic learning and enlightenment, and here he summoned scholars and clerics from all faiths – his own Islam, but also Hindu gurus, Catholic priests, Zoroastrians, Jains, Jews and Buddhists – to determine via debate not what divided them but what they shared. Cannadine offers a spirited, if relentless, challenge to the “us and them” mentality and the “allegedly impermeable divides” it finds between people of different communities and backgrounds. He takes his cue from the strident “clash of civilisations” rhetoric of the post-9/11 years, and extends his critique of “binary divisions” to cover oppositions and antipathies rooted in ideas of faith, nation, race, class, gender, and in “civilisation” itself. He argues against the notion that the key to history is some “all-pervasive polarity”, be it Christians vs Muslims, bourgeois vs proletarians, men vs women, the West vs the Rest. None will open history’s lock and reveal its innermost secrets, rather it is in and through unity and our similarities that the mysteries will be revealed.

Report calls Leveson Inquiry to investigate Islamphobia in the media

July 2012

Following to News International phone hacking scandal the Leveson Inquiry has been investigating misconduct of the British press, mostly Rubert Murdock’ News Corporation. The inquiry has revealed shocking relations between the media, politicians and the police, and has informed the public how the media has been effectively used to influence certain government politics and to manipulate the public.

In an important report that has been submitted to the inquiry by Nafeez Ahmed entitled Race and Reform Islam and Muslims in the Britsh Media pointed out overwhelmingly negative, stereotypical, and racist media coverage of Islam and called the Leveson Inquiry along with a number of media professionals to urgently investigate how to hold the media accountable for this shocking lapse in journalistic standards.

Some of the senior journalists who were interviewed by the author of the report acknowledge the gloomy situation in the British media:

‘Jason Beattie, political editor of the Daily Mirror, said: “In general, though not exclusively, the portrayal of Muslims in the mainstream media has been unsatisfactory… [including] sloppy and sometimes stereotypical reporting.” Brian Cathcart, former deputy editor at The Independent on Sunday, similar notes that “where Muslims are concerned, some of the country’s top-selling newspapers have too often failed… damaging stereotypes have been adopted and repeated by some newspapers… Since these papers enjoy such wide circulation, this cannot fail to disadvantage Muslims in British society.”’

The report also provides valuable data regarding the rise of Islamphobia in the public as a result of negative media coverage.

Ramadan in Britain: A month in the life of British Muslims

8 August 2010
While most Muslims attempt to fast during Ramadan — as a means of achieving piety — some take a more relaxed approach. Fasting this year will be particularly difficult for British Muslims, for whom daylight fasting means going 18 hours without food. Some point out that living in a non-Islamic country also makes fasting more arduous, as working hours remain the same. The Independent asked British Muslims across the country, who subscribe to different branches of Islam, what they would be doing to mark the festival.

Conservative MP refuses to meet with women wearing the face veil

A Conservative MP says he will refuse to hold meetings with Muslim women wearing full Islamic dress at his constituency surgery unless they lift their face veil. Last night Muslim groups condemned Philip Hollobone and accused him of failing in his duty as an MP.

In an interview with The Independent, the Kettering MP said: “I would ask her to remove her veil. If she said: ‘No’, I would take the view that she could see my face, I could not see hers, I am not able to satisfy myself she is who she says she is. I would invite her to communicate with me in a different way, probably in the form of a letter.”

Five years after 7/7 bombings London commemorates its victims

Five years after the terrorist attacks on the London underground, the papers review what has changed since then in terms of security, anti-terrorism laws and the situation for British Muslims.

The Guardian features a comment on the lost narrative of British Muslims, who have been “stigmatised en masse” by some media and government policies. Another Guardian article talks of the flaws of neo-liberal government policies towards terrorism that have only increased the risk of new attacks, which another comment in the same paper supports, claiming that the government’s “Prevent strategy” has not made anyone any wiser and urging the government to learn how to work with “ordinary Muslims”. A commentator of The New Statesman describes how his life, being a commuter and a Muslim living in Britain, changed on 7/7 2005. The London Daily News commemorates the victims and lists the names of those deceased in the attacks, while The Independent talked to those who witnessed the bombings but survived them, and gives an insight into how they cope with the experience today.

Far-right politician Geert Wilders shows anti-Islam film in the House of Lords

The Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who was banned from entering the UK last year, has now shown his anti-Islam film at the House of Lords. The screening and subsequent press-conference was accompanied by a supporting demonstration of the right-wing British National Party and many counter-protesters outside Parliament.

In an article for The Independent, entitled “Islamophobia on tour: Wilders comes to Britain”, the author claims Britain should have renewed the ban to prevent Wilders from promoting his racist views. Indeed he repeated his view that Islam was a fascist ideology, called the Prophet Mohammed “a mass murderer, a barbarian and a paedophile” and suggested that immigration from Islamic countries to Europe should be stopped.

Only few members of the Houses of Commons and House of Lords attended the press conference — six in total –, among them Lord Pearson, who invited Wilders, and Baroness Cox. The remaining audience of around 60 was made up of parliamentary staff. The whole event has stirred much criticism and counter-protests.

UK Remembers Islamic Heritage

CAIRO – To prove that the European country has a century-old Islamic heritage, British Muslims are championing a drive to renovate Britain’s first and oldest mosque, finding help from the local church. “Repairing…(the) mosque with British money, either from the government or the Muslim community, would act as a powerful symbol of British Islam,” Mohammad Akbar Ali, chairman of the Abdullah Quilliam Society, told The Independent on Thursday, August 2. “It is a religious heritage that all British Muslims can be proud of.” Founded by British revert William Quilliam (later Abdullah), the mosque was officially opened on Christmas Day in 1889 on Number 8 Brougham Terrace in Liverpool. “Quilliam is proof that Britain has its own Islamic heritage,” said Ali. Years of neglect have left its toll on the Muslim place of worship.

UK Fatwa To Call Bombers Unbelievers, If Proved Muslims

Britain’s top Muslim scholars are drafting a fatwa stripping those behind the grisly London blasts, if proved Muslims, from the right to call themselves Muslims, a leading British newspaper said Sunday, July 10. Signed by dozens of prominent Muslim bodies, mosques, Islamic scholars and community groups, the religious edict will brand the attacks as a breach of the most basic tenets of Islam, reported The Independent. “If these bombers are found to be Muslims, we will make it clear we utterly dissociate ourselves from them – even if they claim to be Muslims or are acting under the mantle of the Islamic faith. We reject that utterly,” said the official spokesman of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). Two different groups purporting to be Al-Qaeda affiliated claimed responsibility for the bloody blasts which killed at least 49 people and wounded 700 others. The Independent said police and intelligence agents are investigating the theory that a gang of white “mercenary terrorists” was hired by Al-Qaeda to carry out the attacks. Commander Brian Paddick of the London Metropolitan Police told reporters Sunday no arrests have been made yet and that they were not focusing on any specific suspects. The fatwa will also make clear that Muslims have a moral duty to help the police catch the perpetrators. The move follows a decision taken Friday, July 8, at an emergency meeting attended by about 100 of the country’s most prominent Muslim leaders, held in private at East London Mosque, said the daily. Imams across Britain were united in condemning the attacks in their weekly Friday sermons, encouraging Muslims to offer all possible assistance to the victims and authorities. Enemies Of Islam Senior minority leaders believe they must undermine the religious basis of the terrorists’ actions, said the British daily. “Those behind this atrocity aren’t just enemies of humanity but enemies of Islam and Muslims”, said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary general of the MCB, the main representative Muslim body in Britain. “The people at the receiving end of this, both as some of the victims of the bombing and victims of the backlash, are Muslims,” he stressed. Murad Qureshi, the only Muslim member of the Greater London Assembly and a former Labour councilor in Westminster, backs such a fatwa. “It is about time we put clear distance between ourselves and so-called Muslim leaders like Osama bin Laden, who has been able to dictate the whole agenda with his video nasties,” he said. “We’re not talking about Muslims here. We’re talking about a bunch of nutters. The time has come to debunk the idea they are sanctioned by Islam.” The London blasts have drawn immediate condemnation from prominent scholars across the Muslim world, who said that such black actions run in the face of Islam which strictly forbids killing civilians. Dividing Line Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, said there should be a “dividing line” between terrorists and Muslims. “There’s not a dividing line between Muslims and Londoners. The dividing line is between those who commit these acts and those who don’t,” he said. While saying that the perpetrators acted “in the name of Islam,” Prime Minister Tony Blair maintained that “the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims here and abroad are decent and law abiding people who abhor terrorism every bit as much as we do.” He also admitted there can be no security solution to terrorist attacks, urging the world to address the underlying causes of terrorism. David Clark, a former Labour government adviser, wrote in the Guardian Saturday there can be no hope of defeating terrorism until the world community is ready to take legitimate Arab grievances seriously.