Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: We Muslims who despair of terrorism

Sunday 23 October 2011 04:36

The admired Scots-Pakistani novelist Suhayl Saadi and his wife, Alina Mirza, who runs a Pakistani film festival in Glasgow, are dear friends. They got married at the Marriot in Islamabad, just bombed by Islamicist murderers who sent in a delivery of lethal explosives in a lorry, during Ramadan. Nice work, guys. Allah will surely reward you aplenty for the slaughter of the blameless, sent off with less ceremony than goats and chickens who, at least, are prayed for as their throats are cut. Ah but they only razed a temple of Western decadence, and many Muslims who worked or went there weren't "real" Muslims, only Shias and disobedient women, reprobates and sinners for sure.

The couple are devastated, rendered hopeless – for the first time that I can remember. For years, in spite of Pakistan's many failures, they have kept up a fierce optimism, as if heartfelt belief would, one day, drive away the evil forces that circulate and in parts overrun their ancestral homeland.

There are many more like them, Pakistani-Britons who are proud of the culture of Pakistan, its creative movers and shakers, and millions of extraordinary, generous people. But their pride and idealism are fast draining away.

My father came from Karachi. He fled the place in the 1920s and went back only once, a fortnight before he died in 1970. He never recovered from the experience. It was as if his heart gave up. The country was in the grip of the military again and savagery ruled. It still does. I have never felt the desire to go look for cousins, aunts and uncles.

The newly elected President, Asif Zardari, husband of Benazir Bhutto, new best friend of the United States, is one of that nation's dodgiest characters. He replaced a military dictator, who replaced another allegedly corrupt politician, Nawaz Sharif, now a big player in the latest political configuration.

Armageddon is on its way as Pakistan dissolves at its north-western borders into that lawless territory that is Afghanistan. American interventions, demands and military incontinence in the region bolster Islamic reactionaries and guerrillas.

India meanwhile, with many similar endemic problems and ruthless governance in Kashmir, nevertheless flowers economically and still holds on to democracy and fundamental freedoms. Sadly Pakistan "proves" what the rest of the world believes, and not without reason, that Muslims are incapable of decent leadership or progressive politics and move instinctively to political and personal tyranny.

Look around and the evidence punches you in both eyes. Saudi Arabia, Iran and various nations in the Middle East and most "Islamic" states elsewhere are failing entities where the people are either afraid or oppressing others. I, a Muslim who fights daily against the unjust treatment of Muslims in the West, have to face the blinding truth that although we have serious external enemies, more Muslims are hurt, wounded, killed and denied by other Muslims who feel themselves to be virtuous.

Lest our detractors rub their hands with satisfaction, I tell them loud and clear, this is not exoneration of Guantanamo Bay, the destruction of Iraq, Belmarsh, Israel's criminal treatment of Palestinians in Gaza, the fascists in Cologne who tried this week to run an anti-Islam rally, the viciously anti-Muslim BNP and the many ways Europe humiliates us Muslims.

But I am saying that Muslims enthusiastically participate in "rendition", torture co-religionists in prisons, bomb fellow-worshippers from Iraq to Pakistan and beyond, subjugate their women, cut off hands and necks, keep their young cowering or brainwash them to the point when they are unfit to inhabit this century. If we respect and care for our own so little why should the rest of the world give a damn?

The night I fell in love with 'Strictly'

On Saturday, I went off to a live recording of Strictly Come Dancing. I took my teenage daughter who thinks the programme is great, as do her mates. Amazing but true. The Amy Winehouse/Kate Moss generation is turned on by men in slashed shirts and lycra, tails, stiff white collars, sequinned ball gowns and frills. I was game for a laugh, imagining giggles bubbling over as Bruce Forsyth frolicked and ballroom swirls and twirls were attempted by rough rugby sorts and the portly political journo John Sergeant, left.

Truth to tell, it was delightful. Men who were never born to dance glided about so gracefully that you wanted to be in their strong arms. Conversely, those who prickle with overconfidence, like Gary Rhodes, need more fluidity. Some judges were needlessly harsh, but there was no descent into ritual humiliation.

Such shows bring families and the nation together in front of the telly. They glamorise physical activity and awaken empathy, good things. All I want now is to put on my dancing shoes. Maybe I should ask John Sergeant for a date.

The mystery of Carla just keeps on growing

Oh, Carla Bruni is very lovely, no question, but who is she really? The chanteuse lures with her musky voice. On his show, Jools Holland was eaten like a croissant by the knowing First Lady of France. On state visits she is regal, and with the Dalai Lama or the Pope, Mme Pious materialises, in virtuous scarves and buttoned-up grey. Her ex-lover, Jean-Paul Enthoven (whom she jilted for his son, no less) has just written a fictional account of his relationship with this capricious shape-shifter. There seems to be dark matter at the centre of this phenomenon, something that's indescribable and very chilling indeed.

Oxford University, cradle of the Right

I recently took part in a mock Question Time in the famous Oxford Union debating chamber. David Dimbleby was the chairman and one other panellist was Douglas Murray, a red-faced, angry young man who runs what he says is an "anti-terrorism" think-tank and is more neo-con than Dick Cheney.

We discussed the future of Oxford, its greatness always assumed by itself and others. Until, that is, you meet Oxonians like Murray, who seems to loathe governments, diversity, human rights, equality and this newspaper. Why does Oxford produce so many of these batty right-wing braggarts? Makes you wonder what good that does the nation.

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