To : Sham, Mahzan, Maria, Hidayah, Shah, Mariam and Hannah,
For the past 20 years, during our annual visits from Leicester, you lot were subjected to many angry and frustrated comments about life in Britain for a Muslim - especially after the Salman Rushdie affair in 1988. It got worse after 9/11, 7/7, the First Iraq War, the Second Iraq War, the two Palestinian Intifadas, the war in Bosnia, the Assault on Chechnya, the Bali Bomb, etc.
The demonisation of Islam, or Islamophobia did not begin in1988. You can look back to the time of the Ottoman Empire or as far as the Reconquest of Spain by Ferdinand and Isabella at the end of the 15th century, or to the Crusades or even as long ago as the Middle Ages. For as long as Islam existed, western Christianity looked on our faith as a threat. And when English, Dutch, Portuguese, and Spanish imperialists came to our world, Christian missionaries tagged on to the coat-tails of these merchants and soldiers to spread their religion to the natives and counter the growth of Islam.
Today, we Muslims are swept under the same carpet as Jihadists, Islamists, Extremists, Fundamentalists, Terrorists, Undemocratic- women beaters, - you can run the whole gamut of hate and hostility and apply them to Muslims and Islam. Now that the Russian Bear has been made toothless, we have been designated The Chosen Demons. We are mad, bad and sad. We are the perpetrators, never the Victims.
Over 20 years ago, when I came to live in England, I felt a sense of excitement and adventure - to be part of the English countryside (which I still love), to enjoy the canals, the country lanes, the daffodils, watching Wimbledon tennis on TV in summer, the Houses of Parliament, reading English newspapers and scoffing strawberries and cream! And I would be able to meet kind and friendly English people just like my father's friends and colleagues that we had met as children in Singapore. But soon enough, the scales were to be removed from my eyes. All that I had enjoyed and appreciated was only the icing. What lay beneath it was a canker, a source of disillusion and anger.
With the Rushdie brouhaha, I discovered that my secular, broadminded local friends were not as liberal as they made themselves out to be. Scratch them a little deeper and you'll find a dormant, deep seated, calcified anti-Islam animus. Phobia in Islamophobia implies fear of an extreme and abnormal nature. However to me , Islamophobia has more to do with revulsion and contempt, we are their pet bete noir, their favourite bogeyman. Keith, my late father-in-law once said ; "you have to be in the belly of the whale" (from the story of Jonah and the Whale in the Bible), to fathom the workings and the hypocrisy of the West.
It is so easy for people like us to be seduced by and inducted into the oncoming headlights of Western liberalism, freedom and equality - to turn us into clones . We become poor copies of their ideals and ideology, singing from their hymn books and touting them as prototypes in our journey away from our so-called "degenerate and regressive" ways. It is what Keith described as being deracinated, turning into Uncle Toms and Brown Mems and Sahibs. We become apologists for our ' wild and woolly ' beliefs and practices and if we're cowardly enough, we even join them in their denigration and mockery of things that we and our ancestors hold dear.
Oh dear, where does all this lead to, Ma'Ngah - you 7 may ask??
Paul of Ephesus saw the light on the road to Damascus. I met mine on my mental and spiritual journey of empathy with the Palestinians. I am appalled when little or no mention is made about the place of religion in 60 years of bludgeoning that the Palestinians received at the hands of the Zionists. This is after all the HOLY LAND, home of the three Abrahamic faiths. Israel was not a nation before 1948. To understand Israel's beginnings, we have to look into western Judaeo-Christian history.
The movement and succour given to the Israelis' claims for a Jewish Liebensraum stretching from the River Euphrates in Iraq to the River Nile, i.e. the fulfilment of an Eretz Israel did not begin after the Holocaust of the Second World War. It began with the history of Christian Zionism. English Christian scholars and clergymen like Francis Kett in 1589 insisted that one day the Jews will return to their land and this Restoration is part of the Bible's prophecy. Of course this was heresy in the eyes of the mainstream Church then and Kett was burned alive. He was followed by other theologians or those well versed in the Bible and Hebrew like the Cartwrights (1649) who believed that Palestine was the ancestral home of the Jews and petitioned Parliament to repeal the act banning Jews from England. Under Cromwell, the Jews were given entry.
As the Ottoman Empire was on it last legs in the mid-19th century, political motives were added to these Christian initiatives. Lord Shaftesbury (1801-1885), a committed Christian Zionist worked with Lord Palmerston, the British Foreign Secretary for the realisation of this belief. All this connivance culminated in 1917 with the Balfour Declaration which ensured the Restoration of the Jews to Palestine and General Allenby, another staunch Christian Zionist 'liberated' Jerusalem from the Turks. From then on it was the beginning of the end for Palestine. Interestingly enough , a British clergyman, William Hechler (1845-1931) played a key role as a supporter of Dr Theodore Herzl, the father of the Zionist movement.
As for the United States, from the landing of the Puritans at Plymouth, American Christianity has always been supporters of the Restoration of Palestine to the Jews. Compared to the anti-semitic Euro-Asian Christianity, American Christians tended to be pro-semitic. William Blackstone, an American Christian Zionist (1841-1935) was credited with persuading President Woodrow Wilson to accept the Balfour Declaration and to honour his role as a supporter of Zionism, a forest in Israel was named "Blackstone Forest".
Righto kids, am stopping for now. Wait for the next exciting episode and I'll give you a test after it's all done.