Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Not proud to be British or Muslim, but Grateful to be Both.

I am not proud to be British or Muslim, but I am grateful that I am both. Let me explain:

I am British, but I'm not proud to be British

I'm not proud to be British due to more than 2 centuries of 'British Empire' building through great bloodshed, brutality, slavery and imprisonment of indigenous peoples so that we the British could plunder resources and gain in wealth of which I now benefit today.

I'm not proud that our bloody history has been whitewashed in our history books and in our schools. We may find it easier to pretend atrocities never took place in our name but you can be sure such crimes remain in the memories of the peoples we tried to exterminate.

I'm not proud of how "Bottles (often broken), gun barrels, knives, snakes, vermin, and hot eggs were thrust up men's rectums and women's vaginas" of hundreds of detainees in Kenya and how survivors, some of whom are still alive today, are struggling to pursue their cases via our justice system.

I'm also not proud of how British Colonel Ian Henderson, who oversaw many of the atrocities in Kenya then went on to work as head of secret police in Bahrain following Britain apparently handing its independence back in 1971, and there he taught the rulers well in the art of torture and oppression, of men, women and children, much of which continues even to this day.

Oh I've only touched on a little part of the British dirty history of colonialism. When you start unpacking the atrocities, they are so filthy, how could anyone be proud of this?

I wish I could say it was all history, and that we Brits are now living upright lives, a beacon of equality, human rights and democracy. But what about our recent sales of weapons to Israel totalling £7.9 BILLION, no doubt some of which were used to kill over 2000 men, women, and many children in Gaza just last year?

And then there is our media. The empire of Rupert Murdoch. Do you want me to be proud of that?

But politics aside, and media aside, what about the people, a nation of alcoholics. There has been a 500% increase in deaths from liver disease in the 1970s, with more than 40 people A DAY dying from liver disease. Not to mention the destructive social behaviour that comes with the drinking, much of which is exported when the Brits take their holidays. Is that something I can be proud of?

No I'm not proud to be British. I'm not totally ashamed either, it's not like me doing all these bad things. I didn't choose to be British, I was just born British. I didn't earn my place here and I certainly didn't contribute in any way to the history of this nation. Although perhaps I did contribute in some ways to the destruction our country contributed in Iraq and Afghanistan, for example. You see, I did vote for Tony Blair and  thought my vote was enough participation in regards to politics back then, so I feel there is something there of which I must show some regret, and I do. I am sorry about that.

I'm Muslim but I'm not Proud to be Muslim

Back at the time of 9/11 I wasn't a Muslim. I didn't blame in any way my Muslim friends for what seemed like one random crazy act of terrorism, which later came to look more like a contrived act of political persuasion, of which we are all still waiting to get to the bottom.

But like many non-Muslims today, when faced with terrorist acts carried out in the name of Islam, I did have some questions. I did wonder at that time how it was possible that a book apparently promoting peace could possibly be manipulated to bring instead absolute terror.

Since then however there has been attack after attack carried out in the name of Islam. A religion which I have come to embrace, which I love for its guidance towards a path of peace and above all its message of mercy. Back in 2001 it was not so difficult to separate the actions of a few crazy men living in the mountains in a far off land such as Afghanistan from the rest of the Muslim population, but now we see a flood of young men from Western countries turning to radicalism in their attempt to find a better life, with up to as many as 5000 young people reportedly leaving Europe to join the fight in Syria and beyond.

This is still a small minority of the 2 billion Muslim population worldwide, but this is what the majority of non-Muslims see every day on their television sets and read about in the newspapers, and this is indeed a growing problem so I don't blame anyone for becoming fearful at such times. I'm not proud of this, how can I be?

I can tell people that this is nothing to do with Islam. But there is a problem, and it is growing, and it is being fed with young vulnerable minds that come from otherwise peaceful Muslim families in the West, so I'm not entirely sure that it is the right response for Muslims to say that this is nothing to do with us. We all have a responsibility to do what we can to stop the bad we see around us. As Muslims I believe we should be leading the way with solutions, rather than looking to non-Muslims to solve these problems.

But that's not all I'm not proud of. I'm not proud of the way Muslim countries are increasingly reacting to political hostilities by showing complete lack of mercy, with increases in the death penalty. I could justify all this by pointing out its the same in non-Muslim countries too, increasing intolerance and lack of mercy on a worldwide scale - but I can't judge those people who haven't been given guidance to do otherwise like we have. I'm also not at all proud of the way almost the entire Muslim world does not dare say one peep to criticise the leaders of Saudi Arabia who show blatant disregard for human and women's rights with barbaric acts of punishment, using  holy verses to back up and justify their atrocious behaviours.

I am also not proud when I see that Muslims are both the richest and fattest people on this planet and as well as the poorest and most hungry. Can we not ensure fairer wealth distribution at least amongst ourselves?

When I look around at the corruption that is prevalent across Muslim rulers across of the world, I am not proud.

When I look at how women have over time been separated and excluded from society, starting with the prayer room in the mosque, despite the Quran coming as a liberation for women's rights and women being fully included in society during the life of the Prophet Mohammed peace be upon him (and yes men and women did pray in the same room then - of course behind the men, out of respect for their privacy, but that didn't mean to separate them to a dingy room upstairs or to the side out of sight), then I am not proud.

I am also not proud of the increasing hatred displayed between some Muslims of different sects, of Muslims fighting and killing other Muslims (and non-Muslims) knowing full well that women and children are the greatest victims of all modern day warfare, and I am not proud of the apparent increasing intolerance for people of other beliefs. I adopted Islam as a religion of humanity. Sadly, after I did, I found much of my time was taken in explaining to my non-Muslim friends that yes I am Muslim, but not of the type you see on the television.

I am Muslim, but sadly not proud to be Muslim.

And what would the Prophet Mohammed pbuh himself say to us today if he did return to this Earth? Would he be proud of his ummah (community)?

I am, however, grateful. I am grateful to be British and I am grateful to be Muslim.

I am Grateful to be British

I am grateful to be British because being British means I have a lot of privileges in this world that other people do not.  For a start, I can write this blog without worry of imprisonment, or torture, or extrajudicial execution. I do not live in a war zone, I have a roof over my head and food on my plate. I don't ever need to worry about going starving.  For all these things I am extremely grateful.

Despite all its weaknesses, I love the NHS, it is an institution of which I understand its enormous value. There was a time when my family had to pay for private treatment for a relative who lives abroad and who was not blessed with such a national health service as ourselves. It cost us a fortune, and at that time we fully understood the vulnerability of living without such protection. I am extremely grateful of the British National Health Service and also for our social security system that did provide me with some much needed support to see me through a difficult time of need in my past.

I am extremely grateful that although there are still many injustices within our society, we do have a framework in which to work towards greater justice. I am grateful that despite many dishonest politicians, I do at least have a vote and we do have some politicians who are extremely honest, brave and hard working who just want the best for all of society.

I am extremely grateful to live in an area of outstanding beauty.
But not proud, for it was not me that created or preserved this.

I'm also grateful for this beautiful countryside which has been protected and preserved in many areas through the dedicated work of organisations such as the National Trust. I'm grateful that I can walk down unblemished beaches which are not full of rubbish and swim in seas that are in many places now becoming less polluted through the hard work of organisations such as the Environment Agency.

There is so much I have to be grateful for. I love living here. Despite not being proud of my Britishness, I am extremely grateful. And I am very aware of how difficult life would be without any nationality, as some of my dear friends the Rohingya have experienced for decades, rejected from Burma and not wanted anywhere else either, often left to drift around in the sea in rickety boats for weeks, without food or water, and if they do manage to land often sold into a life of terrible slavery.

And if I am grateful to be British, how much more I am also grateful to be Muslim.

I am Grateful to be Muslim

You may say that I chose to be Muslim, whereas my Britishness came about through no choice of my own. But the way I see it is that God chose me.

I started out with all the same prejudices and misconceived ideas about Islam as all the rest of my non-Muslim friends. In fact, maybe more so. I was convinced of myself righteousness as a Christian. I felt if anything it was my duty to enlighten those living in darkness. But through a series of events, meetings, discussions, and  friendships with some beautiful souls who reached out to me with patience, demonstrating  love through their actions, and eventually revelation, I came to unlock my mind, and to realise, I was the one mistaken.

It was through love, friendship and acts of kindness, that I really don't think I deserved at that time, that I came to look past the media, and the actions of the few (or even many) to question for myself if there could possibly be some truth in this book they called the Quran. I began to question if it could possibly be God's will that 2 billion people would all be going to Hell for following the wrong book - and how could that book be wrong after the sincere goodness I had seen in individuals which followed it?

Over the years, as I slowly opened my heart and mind I began to see things I had not seen before, to grow in understanding, and to come to know the beauty that lives within these holy verses in the Quran. This new understanding brought about a refinement in my faith, a greater purpose in life, and helped me to bring my body and mind under control for a higher purpose other than that of my own self indulgences - and actually through letting go of my search for my own self-satisfaction I actually became completely satisfied. You did not see me back then, the mess I was in, but trust me, the change in my life has been in every sense transformational.

In choosing Islam, I may have been joining a community of 'underdogs'.  I may now at times be ridiculed and even hated. But whereas my Britishness may bring me some short lived privileges in this life, my belief in one God and all of his messengers brings me peace and helps me to live a life now which will bring far greater enjoyment in a life eternal in the future.

I am sorry I am not proud to be Muslim, not yet, not whilst we are in this state. Neither am I ashamed, since I stand on my own actions. But although I may not be proud to be Muslim, I am eternally grateful.

One Final Point

Faith or religion has nothing to do with nationality.
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve.  An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab; a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white; [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action." Prophet Muhammed pbuh, in his final sermon during the Hajj.

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