Monthly Archives: January 2010

Swiss Minaret Ban Advocate – Converted to Islam

Quite recently there was some furore being made in Switzerland and beyond regarding the banning of minarets on mosques across the country. Much was made and discussed of the decision made by the so-called neutral state, who has a small minority of Muslims residing in its land.

A while ago, there has been news of the main advocate for the minaret ban, Daniel Streich – member of the Swiss People’s Party has converted to Islam. Supposedly Daniel had converted 2 years ago but this news remained secret until recently. The only coverage of this has been in the Nation and Jewish blog.

Pondering on this, I wonder about the issues this throws up in the air. Whilst being Muslim he was campaigning for a ban on minarets. Perhaps he had introduced this campaign prior to becoming Muslim, and in its duration changed his views.  Or maybe he subscribed to the strict Salafi understanding and wanted the minarets banned in accordance of forbidding “evil innovation -bidah”

Maybe the whole story is a hoax! More to come….

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Useless Shia channels on TV

Whilst flicking through channels on our sky box, I couldn’t help notice the number of Muslim channels which have sprung up over the last year or so of which the most prominent being those running Shia themes. Muharram maybe over for most of us, but it seems for these handful of channels it may never be over. Day in day out, we have  programmes, documentaries, lectures and wailing continuously glorifying the martyrdom of Imam Hussain, the events leading to Karbala and the aftermath.

Fair enough, if you have to mourn, dedicate a few days or even the whole month for this, but carrying on as if the  whole of Islam revolves around this particular incident is a bit too much. All of us, Sunnis and Shias recognise the brave steps Imam Hussain (ra) and the Ahlul Bayt took to protest, demand and protect their rights through a struggle which serves an example for the rest of Muslims and generations to come.  An example and practical guide for us when it comes to seeking  justice and freedom in times of tyranny and oppression. So why not use this time to learn and reflect upon these important lessons rather than to remain in constant state of mourning throughout Muharram and the rest of the year??

I don’t have a problem with the Shia channels, but what a waste of resources to dedicate most of the airtime narrating, glorifying, reproducing and might I add exaggerating events which took place over a thousand years ago. Events which have very little to do with the very basis of our belief in Islam, its legal maxims and laws which emanate from them. An event which has no relevance to the modern world, except the striking resemblances to the time of Imam Hussein, where Karbala today along with most of the Muslim world is run by tyrannical  despots, dictators implementing crude Capitalism and oppressors far worse than Yazid ibn Muawiyyah. In light of our current situation, what good is the constant wailing, self harm and being stuck in history?

The problems faced by Muslims in the modern world are far complex, with tremendous differences ranging from east to the west. For so long Muslims have cried for lack of Muslim run Media to unspin the biases of western Media and its misrepresenting and doctoring of facts. Isn’t it a shame that we now have so many Muslim run channels both Sunnis and Shias but they seriously lack all the qualities of Muslim Media, instead are engrossed in fueling sectarianism, preaching hate, presenting  feuds of political nature with an Islamic twist and spiritual/political agendas of their own.

A waste of resources? I think so.

Search for the Truth or Tooth?

The Muslim Sufi channel on Sky called Noor TV run by Pir Alauddin Siddqui from Birmingham features an interesting debate show on Sunday Evening called Search for the Truth. The format of the show consists of an incredibly biased individual who “chairs” the debate, along with a seemingly keen learner who is there to extrapolate convincing arguments from each debatee of which there are two.

The first of the debating panel is a sister of Salafi orientation with the typical characteristics of harshness, being dismissive and zealous. The other is our Sufi sister, probably a die hard Mureed of the Pir saab, with the typical Sufi persona. Together, they debate the most controversial issues ranging from Shirk, grave worshipping to kissing the feet of pious people. We have been watching this show for a while and the conclusion is almost always predictably in favour of the Sufis at the expense of the Salafi sister’s shortcomings and inability to formulate a convincing argument – at least not to her panelist, the channel or the audience mainly beause they are all sufis.

The show almost always typically ends with the Salafi sister left to say, ‘I will go back to my Shaykha and come back on this’ only they never continue with the same topic again, not that she would anyway. The arguments are convincing although surprisingly the notes of the presenter, the keen learner and the debater are all somehow synchorised and often gang up on the Salafi sister.

The last debate was on kissing the feet of the Pious, the sufi sister quoted a Hadith in favour of it which was denied by the Salafi sister as it did not exist in her version of Adab al-Mufrad of Imam Bukhari compiled by her Shaykh Al-Bani. The response which followed from all three Sufi panelists was not based on a discussion on strength of hadith neither the classfication, rather an attack was launched on Al-Bani, accusing him of tempering with the original texts – a debate the Salafi sister could not win. She failed to mention that Al-Bani was a Muhadith well qualified in sciences of Hadith possessing the necessary skills to scruitanise and reclassify hadith, a process of Renewal (tajdid) which is far from corrupting or tempering, but rather is a process of purification and preservation.

Anyway, week in week out they are debating complex issues using references which are literally read out from pieces of paper. There is lots of arguing and every effort is made to show the weakness in Salafi methodology in favour of an Islam which revolves around Shrines, Peers, kissing the hands and feet of the ‘pious’, Khatm, yarween sharif and such. Don’t get me wrong, I am not Salafi or anything but I certainly do not take any of these practices seriously.

As for the show, I think its a complete sham and a setup. If the Salafi sister was sincerely there to propogate the Salafi manhaj, she would do her “research” and present her arguments more convincingly and soundly rather than by ranting “and you should stop doing xyz, seriously-its bida’h” or “Memona can never break this argument, I say we finish the show here!” and expecting them to agree. The sufiesque sister on the other hand regularly goes off topic and begins to link random points to her arguments to make them seem more lofty, tolerant and inclusive, using the “impressionable keen learner” to acquiese with her point much to the chair’s satisfaction who often also sides with her and regularly joins the debate.

Makes for good Sunday night entertainment as long as you are not Salafi!

C4’s Indian Winter: Slumming It (Part 1)

As part of Channel 4s Indian Winter, Slumming it which aired last night showed Grand Designs Kevin McCloud spend time in ….the Dharavi slums (which is now in the public knowledge as a result of it being catapulted to fame in Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire – the kind of expsoure no amount of news articles and research could’ve mustered up), which is viewed as an inspirational model of community cohesion and sustainable living.

Owing to the typical Western mindset, Kevin is appalled at the lack of sanitation and the banal living arrangements, with children playing amongst “toxic waste”, the waterpipe lines sitting in sewage and diseases such as cholera, typhoid and dyptheria being rife.

He talks alot about the squalor of the slums, and at one point he says to the family he is living with that “in my country cooking on the floor is considered unsanitary”. I am sure this taught Kevin a little about societal norms and ways of living…what he considered to be misery and squalor, inhabitants viewed it as “normal” because they had known only the living standards in which they were in – they had no choice.

Throughout the show, despite references to rats and lack of running water or a flushing loo – he seems genuinely enamoured with how Dharavi functions; they have their own businesses which make billions in revenue a year, unemployment is very low and so is crime.

On the other hand, poor working and living conditions and child labour were realities which were hard to escape from.

One thing which summed up the East/West civilisations dichotomy was when Kevin, in a moment of inspiration said: “We in the West measure beauty in terms of environment ” we have a nice car, a lovely garden” and here it is about human beings.  Beauty is in how they dress. Look at them, they are very smartly dressed and take pride in their appearance. They are the most beautiful people in the world”.  He noted that even amongst the “misery” of their dwellings they were happy, had a cohesive family unit and a sense of belonging. All of the things Western societies, and increasingly developing nations are beginning to lose as they ebb their way into the modern way of living.

Part 2 of Slumming It aired tonight, will pen thoughts on it tomorrow.

Lahori Masala, Commercial Street.

Last weekend we had the pleasure of dining at the Lahori Masala, a brand new restaurant on London’s Commercial Street.  Spicy, rich, Lahori taste  is what I was expecting as suggested by the name,  instead dishes after dishes served gave taste of Sylhet then anything Lahore. I mean, why would you name a restaurant Lahori Masala when there is nothing Lahore about it? Perhaps to confuse people with the more established Lahore Kebab House on the other side, on Commercial Road.

Lahori Masala is a massive restaurant with about 600 seating, reasonably decorated, good service but food can be a let down if you’re expecting lahori food. Nonetheless, the Chicken Karahi was inquisitive though I can’t say the same about Lamb which was actually quite sweet. Sheekh Kebabs were perfect, whereas chicken wings and lamb chops were just standard. Mango Lassi was thin, papardoms were charged for and all 4 LCD screens were showing a rather boring Football game – which you don’t expect in a family restaurant, as my friend observed.

Overall, not a bad place to eat considering its only minutes walk from Liverpool Street and the Spitalfields. But beware, they do not serve tea!!.