The Soft Fingers Of The Western Civilisation

Why aljazeera satellite TV embraces the extremists?


By: Arif Alwan

The first place I went to soon after arriving to London in 1990 was the Thames. I was eager to see its dirty waters that caused such sadness to T. S. Eliot and made him pessimistic about time, time that exhausts the human being and smashes the value of precious things inside him.

After few months in this ancient city, I began feeling an alienation, so I moaned to my friends who had come to London earlier about the misfortunes that had led us to this city in the footsteps of Eliot, Ezra Pound, Virginia Wolf, D. H. Lawrence and others who established the characteristics of modern literature in England and the whole world.

Of course I make no claim to be counted among those giants, as we are separated by more than half a century, but I want to follow some marks that their works made at that time.

Like thousands of Iraqis, whose passports Saddam’s regime had withdrawn after they left Iraq, I came to the UK as an asylum seeker. Despite my abhorrence of political parties and politics in general, my case was comical in a grim way: I was sentenced to death twice by the Iraqi regime. The first death penalty was passed against me after signing the International Manifesto of Halabja after this small village has been raided by the Iraqi air force using cyanide gas. My second death sentence resulted from writing some articles condemning the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.

Two death sentences against one person only accentuate both the bloodlust and the banality of the Saddam regime.

What amazed me most in London was the mixture of humanity, which it considered as a multi-culture, whereas it is simply a chaos of ethnic diversity produced by wars and famines.

No doubt that the UK at that time was a safe haven for thousands of unfortunate foreigners like myself. However, the mistake that British governments have made, Labour government in particular, which knows that within every caravan of refugees there are thieves and conman, is applying the same old imperial policy when harbouring those refugees. Turning a blind eye to the dangerous elements, to use them later when needed. Thus the British were amazed to discover that the four suicide bombers who committed the 7/7 atrocities in London were British born. They were British of Pakistani parentage, supposedly part of the mainstream of the so-called multicultural society of which New Labour is so proud.

It seems that the British, famous for their politeness, were blissfully unaware that the terrorists had no affinity whatsoever with their place of birth, since they are motivated to kill either by their own accumulated convictions, or are deceived by others’ ideologies. In the case of London, which shocked the British who were confident of their leader’s abilities or may be resigned to whatever their leaders do, the killers were led astray by Muslim clerics, brought up in Islamic countries but resident in the UK for years.

These clerics have been accused of promoting terror and violence in their countries of origin. However, in the UK, they were able to express their ideology freely, financially supported by local authorities or other agencies, and were even given the opportunity to appear regularly in the media to express their views on current events. Some of them have become media stars, which has made the UK, in the light of 10 Downing Street’s policy, look like a sheep raising a wolf inside its own home.

I was among those who are offended seeing these ‘clerics’ in the media promoting their dangerous ideas. But what can a person like myself, who writes in Arabic from time to time, do in the face of an English media, watched and read by millions of British, with the media all over the globe following suit?

Besides, could the antagonism of a nationalised British citizen like myself attract the attention of a government known for its aggressive attitude towards dissent these past few years?

I do not believe that civilisation could be destroyed by an extreme imported ideology promoted by small groups, which has been rejected even in their own societies of origin. However, I do believe, at the age of sixty-four now, that the main elements on which western civilisation is founded could be seriously harmed by feebleness, resulting from ill-judgement on the part of society, and if one of these elements crumbles, the resulting moral imbalance and frustrations at the individual level would be significant.

The great principles of individual freedom and human rights have been well established in the west as a result of experiences and ideological conflicts spread over four centuries, I cannot see serious danger threatening them if they were abused by the government or mistakenly by some NGOs while trying to defend these principles.

In the UK, successive governments have used the principles of freedom and human rights in such a pragmatic way, since Ramsey McDonald’s 1929 government, which supported the Islamic Fundamentalist group in Egypt against the intellectuals who were trying to revolutionise their society and form a new independent government. British governments have continued applying the same policy to the present day, with the result that all the terrorist groups in Arab countries, including Al-Qaeda, sprang from the Egyptian fundamentalist Islamic group’s womb.

In the midst of the chaos and confusion resulting from the London attacks, when it was revealed that the terrorists were from Leeds, no-one asked: Why did Leeds in particular prepare these terrorists to attack London? As I moved to Leeds six years ago, escaping the hurly burly of London and the aggressive undercurrent dominating its streets, pavements, buses and trains, I started seriously thinking of the reasons that have turned Leeds, a city that is economically growing rapidly, attracting businesses and tourists from all over the globe and well known for its civilised and tolerant people, into a centre for producing and exporting terrorists. My search led me to a number of disturbing conclusions.

The Pakistanis came to the UK as labourers, and their numbers have grown – and continue to grow - exponentially since the law allows them to bring their partners and close relatives. Arranged and forced marriages to relatives from Pakistan ensure that this situation will continue. Sudanese and Iraqis were the second biggest Islamic community to settle in Leeds.

Among the Arab caravans of students and asylum seekers, there were a number of Iraqi businessmen who settled in Leeds in the late 1970s and early 80s. It has recently been revealed that they were investing Saddam’s and his family’s money. They bought an old church and converted it into a mosque, and started running their business from inside the mosque.

Before that, there was a mosque in Harehills (Leeds 8) for Pakistani and Arab Muslims in which political discussions and activities took place. Near that mosque there is an Islamic Bank (Pakistani Bank), Muslims and Arab come to it from far and wide to transfer money.

Although the population of Leeds is around three quarters of a million, among them 21.394 Muslims according to the 2001 census, in total there are more than 7 mosques in Leeds as far as I am concerned, four of them located within a half mile radius in Leeds 6. They are almost half-empty no matter what the religious occasion. Linked to these mosques and to complete their objectives, there are four Arabic schools with a curriculum focussed on teaching Arabic language, but through texts from the Quran and Hadith –prophet Mohamed’s eloquent and Islamic history reinterpreted by the extremists.

Although I am not concerned to name individuals or groups, I found that money from Pakistan, Iraq and the Arabian Gulf have contributed in building these four mosques, besides the continuous financial support from the local council, charities and investments whose profits go overseas regularly. Part of this money goes to unknown individuals in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, where Bin Laden’s groups get their regular funds, and the other part goes to the so-called ‘resistance’ groups in Iraq.

I also found that Leeds is used to accommodate large scale meetings on certain political and religious occasions, which hundreds of Arabs and Muslims from London and Birmingham are committed to attend and in turn, Muslims and Arabs from Leeds are committed to attend similar events in London and Birmingham.

In the late 1980s a conflict took place between the founders of these groups. Some of them stood with Saddam, others against him. The conflict also took a religious form, as some of them rejected all forms of terror while the other supported it.

Moreover, in accordance with the policy of multiculturalism, the universities and colleges in Leeds began providing rooms where Muslim students could pray and hold their meetings. These students often stood out from the crowd by wearing traditional Islamic clothes, with long beards for the men like old pirates we see in the movies, and hijabs (headscarf) for the women, separating themselves from other students, as if they were monks and nuns rather than university students in the twenty-first century.

I met lecturers in Middle Eastern studies departments who were infected by fundamentalism. I also discovered that they put pressure on the female Muslim students, via implicit ‘advice’, to wear the Islamic hijab, while an academic and scientific atmosphere reigns in other departments.

After Saddam’s regime collapsed in 2003, individuals from Leeds approached the Home Office seeking permission for Saddam’s wife and his two daughters to live in Leeds as political asylum seekers. At the same time, genuine Iraqi refugees talk about the massive sums that are transferred regularly to the so-called Iraqi resistance groups.

I do not believe it is fair to accuse police and security agencies of not acting properly towards what some Muslims in Leeds are doing, as they are simply following orders issued in 10 Downing Street. But who can proof that part of the money sent from Leeds has not contributed to killing British solders in Iraq.

As a result of the expanding terror and destruction in Iraq, hatred and hostile feelings against the west and the British in particular have spread among Muslim communities in Leeds, encouraged by voices from London of those who were leftovers from the left wing, Arab journalists well known for their support for Saddam Hussein, and MPs relying on Muslim electors. On the top of all these voices comes ‘Al Jazeera’ satellite TV channel from Qatar, the most strident source of hatred against the west. ‘Al Jazeera’, in fact is neither concerned with Islam nor democracy. Members of the Qatar ruling family, well known to the people of the Arab peninsula as 'King Lear’s' founded it in 1996 mainly to stir up Saudis against the Saudi regime which harboured Qatar’s former ruler, the father of the current ruler who toppled his father while he was on a visit abroad in 1995, and refused to hand him back to Qatar.

Digging deep in the cultural role of the religions in forming people’s feelings, we find that Islam clearly promotes killing enemies, destroying them and looting their possessions, describing them as ‘Kafir’ which means ‘unbeliever’ (i.e. not a Muslim).

It is difficult, if not impossible for Westerners, especially the British, to appreciate the influence of the word ‘Kafir’ on the extremist Muslim’s consciousness. It is a word charged with hostility and a near hysterical desire to destroy others or exult in their pain. The word ‘Kafir’, repeated in the Quran hundreds of times and deeply rooted in the extremist Muslim’s subconscious, gives rise to spite and hatred which has no justification in reality.

Moreover, ‘Kafir’ is branded on the extremist Muslim’s consciousness and is unaffected by any friendship or kindness he or she has been shown.

The problem that secular and moderate Muslims encounter is that the concept of Islam has remained unchanged since the texts of the Quran were gathered in one book, and agreed to be the only reference for all Muslims regardless of sect.

Islam, in its spiritual and physical thought, descends from the Torah and imitates it. Because these texts were created at different stages, they contradict each other, so you can find one text that encourages killing while another preaches tolerance. Many Muslim researchers and writers have discussed this inconsistency during the past fifteen hundred years, including the most recent ones like Hamid Abu Zaid, Faraj Fooda (assassinated), Burhan Ghalioon, Mahmood Saeed Al-Qaamni who, along with many others, is threatened with assassination. However, the concepts of Islam have never been reformed or modernised, and this is the main reason behind the obscurantism and dysfunction of Muslim societies.

The only period when the Arab Muslims established a substantial modern state is when the Abbasids (750-1209) prohibited the clerics from intervening in politics and in everyday life.

It does not seem to occur to nonentities like Bin Laden, Al-Zawahiry or even Al-Zarqawi that they are contradicting Islam or harming it when they call for the destruction of America and Europe by slaughtering innocent people in trains and buildings.

The Pakistanis’ new role is complementing the Arabs in promoting extremism among children. The notable intelligentsia that came to into view after the senseless and sectarian separation from India have also found it difficult to enlighten villagers, nomads and those who live in the small towns due to the counterweight of the clerics.

The groups appearing on TV with their long beards and traditional robes in Pakistan, London, Leeds and Birmingham’s streets are the offspring of those who triggered extremism and religious war in the 1940s in the Indian subcontinent, and they still raising their children on extremism against non-Muslims.

I think that Eliot, like his contemporary Arnold Toynbee, believes that war is not an important factor in the death of civilizations. The illustrious historian refers that to what he calls the ‘barbarians’. He means the villagers who creep into the city and destroy its lifestyle and moral values, while the genius poet refers to the ugly scenes of the scum that covers the surface of the Thames to the loss of civil values among contemporary man.

It is so sad to hear national and international Human Rights organisations opposing the new procedures that aim to decelerate the wave of hatred and violence that has overtaken the UK. The number of extremists continues to grow, in the name of freedom and multiculturalism of which we do not see any tangible features other than the annual Afro-Caribbean carnival and some cultural activities for Sikh and Hindus on the TV or the theatre. All other ethnicities are either seized by hatred against others, or having no real culture to show us.


The article translated by Fadwa Fadel