Netanyahu should go back to ‘Begin’

Sadat, Carter, and Begin Shake Hands

 As Mahmoud Abbas gets set to officially file an application for statehood at the UN Netanyahu may want to heed a lesson from one of his predecessors in finding the appropriate response.

Whatever the immediate outcome of the Palestinian bid for statehood it is likely the medium to long term implications will consist of increased pressure on Israel to find an acceptable solution to the impasse.

Concessions on the part of Netanyahu and the Israelis would be a wise move for Israel’s long term security. 

Despite repeated Palestinian threats in calling off the peace process and now an official bid before the UN, Netanyahu has been reluctant to take such a step. The domestic political repercussions are seemingly too great for Netanyahu as pro-settler parties dominate his ruling coalition.

This may seem classical political compromise at least internally on Netanyahu’s part but as Israel’s own history shows a more shrewd move would be to seize the opportunity and compromise with the enemy.

When Israel agreed to withdraw from Sinai in 1979, the then Prime Minister Menachem Begin could barely bring himself to look at his Egyptian counterpart. 

Begin possessed a super temporal view of history and considered the Sinai Peninsula as God’s gift to the Jewish people; something that was dictated by and enshrined in the Bible. 

Conceding the territory to Anwar Sadat’s Egypt was a huge step down for Begin. After all this was a man who had resigned from government in 1970 when America applied pressure on the Jewish State to step down from its ambitions for a Greater Israel.

Begin’s response was to form an alliance with right-wingers and establish the Likud (Consolidation). The party would go on to end the Left’s thirty-year dominance of Israeli politics by sweeping to victory in 1977.

The new Prime Minister described his victory in Biblical terms as ‘a turning point in the history of the Jewish people.’ He would protect what he saw as Israel’s God given right.

Yet 1979 saw a different Begin who although troubled by his concession saw in it the greater good for the future of his nation. For all the religious rhetoric on which he had secured his victory, Begin fulfilled his role as a Prime Minister as opposed to a saviour. The politician within him came to the fore and concession was the order of the day.

On this front at least history has proved him to have made the correct call. Israel has had one less enemy in the shape of Egypt and the two nations have enjoyed mostly cordial relations ever since.   

What was perhaps most remarkable about Begin’s concession is the fact that he was of a generation that had brought the state of Israel into existence. The ‘blood, sweat and tears’, scenario was personal. The next generation of Likud politicians should have no such hang ups.

With the party back at the helm of Israeli politics its present leader Binyamin Netanyahu may well take heed from Begin. The uncompromising stance of Netanyahu’s government over the status of Jerusalem and settlements smacks of ideological sentiment and is absent of any political skill. In short it is doing little to secure Israel’s long-term future.  

With the American-Israeli alliance showing signs of fragmentation in the recent past and a new dawn of revolution arising in the Middle East,the Jewish state has never been in greater need of peace with its neighbours. Concessions may well be the order of the day.


To have children is a human choice

Baroness Flather’s comments on immigrants reasons for having large families is typical of the cynical humanist view that reduces all things to material interests.

It was no surprise to me after reading Baroness Flather’s comments that I found her to be an avid supporter of the British Humanist Association. Despite their self-proclaimed standing as representatives of human interests such people often forget what it is to be human in the first place.

To suggest as Baroness Flather has done that Pakistanis and Bangladeshis are only interested in having large families so they end up getting a bigger house or extra welfare payments is grotesque and down-right insulting. Many things in life are undoubtedly driven by material interests but the bringing of children into the world is of entirely different reasons.

There are undoubtedly a range of emotions involved in bringing a major dimension of the human project to fruition and essentially the choice is a human one. So why so many children or at least more than an average British household? Tradition and faith has much to do with it. With the majority of Pakistanis and Bangladeshis being of the Muslim faith a large family is seen as a blessing and not as the Baroness would see it as a burden.

The Arabic term for grandmother Jaddah means wealthy. The wealth is implied through the ‘fulfillment’ of life that is brought about when spending an old age amongst the youthful vigor of children and grandchildren. A far cry from the Baroness’ ideal of every old person having a pension, as if it is the only barometer of an acceptable existence in old age.

What good is a weekly payment when you are bereft of the companionship of those you sacrificed so much to nurture yet are shunned to be handled at your most vulnerable by strangers?. Where is the humanity in that?

As far as Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and for that matter many others would see it the lot of the elderly in this country is nothing short of disgraceful.

The Baroness also deemed it reasonable to label those who choose to bring many children into the world as uneducated. Perhaps it’s a comparison relative to her own situation where as an immigrant she has managed to make a career as a barrister and acquire a title of privilege. No doubt impressive achievements but if the Baroness sees herself fit look down in disdain at her fellow immigrants from her high perch perhaps she should look closer at the achievements of some of those she so readily takes aim at.

Case study my own mother. Married at sixteen, emigrated to Britain at seventeen. In the intervening thirty years she has endured the tragic loss of her eldest son through drowning and the death of a husband her partner of twenty five years. All the while she has brought up a family of six children and took care of her elderly father in law and her disabled at birth sister in law.

Tomorrow her youngest two daughters set out to study pharmacy at university following in the footsteps of the eldest four who are now either studying at good institutions or in full time employment after graduation.

If motherhood was seen as an exam then it would be no exaggeration to say she passed with flying colours. Yet she is not alone in her achievements and many others parents from the Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities have fulfilled their responsibilities to those they brought into the world and in extension to society.

Such responsibilities are only fulfilled through love, sacrifice and a selfless attitude that women like the Baroness might want to take heed of. Her education, titles and material success pale into insignificance to such human qualities.

It is through knowledge that we are Merciful

Micro Madrassa in Session

On the tenth anniversary of the twin tower attacks Muslims young and old will be aiming to learn and implement a tradition of mercy that has been ignored by its detractors, its supposed followers and those who committed the atrocities on that fateful day.

Like most I distinctly remember witnessing the moment live on television when the hijacked planes crashed into New York’s Twin towers. Unlike most for me it was a moment of rejoicing. As a fourteen year old Muslim I had grown up watching countless injustices and humiliations inflicted on Muslim populations worldwide. As far as I was concerned the cause of most of that misery was getting its recompense.

Although my ideals at a young age were based on the eye for an eye mentality the justification was easily found being taught by those who have no authority in teaching Islam and very little understanding of its traditions and its central message of compassion.

Despite such individuals being in the few the airplay they have received since the disaster of ten years previous is highly disproportionate. As Islam has fast become the favourite topic of discussion and ridicule these few who have perverted a sacred tradition are shown to be its torch bearers.

It is a distinction they carry with pride and those who have an alternate agenda are willing to give them the platform to confuse a whole generation. This unholy alliance has drowned out the voices of those wishing to present the true tradition that seeks to build character and discipline teaching individuals to live equitable lives and to instil mercy into their being.

In such an age of confusion I count myself fortunate to be able to follow and be guided by the classical tradition of Islam preserved and handed down from teacher to student for over fourteen hundred years.

It is with this aim that on Sunday exactly a decade on from the most infamous event of this Century I will begin my first term at the Micro Madrassa set up and run by the Greensville Trust.

I will do this in the aim of acquiring classical Islamic knowledge that has a chain of transmission going all the way back to its founder. I will not be alone in this pursuit and those who sit with me have one aim in putting into practice what is learnt so one can better him/herself individually and become of greater benefit to themselves, their families and society at large.

In the words of the Madrassa’s founders it is designed as a “neutral space” for the study of Islam away from the ideological differences and sectarianism that has become commonplace amongst centres of Islamic learning in the West and even the Muslim world.

It is precisely this web of confusion that many young Muslims have been caught in, not being able to decipher in their ignorance between sound tradition and heretical innovation.

Ultimately this lack of sound knowledge or of any knowledge has created a culture of hate and revenge. If the last ten years have taught us anything it is that when hate is met with hate and vengeance is the order of the day then one disaster after another follows.

Innocence is butchered in lands that most of us have and will most likely never set foot in, and the sons of our own land are brought home in body bags with much confusion as to what exactly they gave their lives for.

One of the founders and teachers at the Madrassa Shaykh Ibrahim Osi Efa has mentioned the aim of the Madrassa is to produce educated Muslims. In doing this it will no doubt open the eyes of many including myself as to the true nature of the evil that took place on September 11th 2001 and has perpetuated ever since.

What I took for knowledge ten years ago made in my mind an unmerciful act to be a justifiable cause. It is somewhat poignant that the interceding decade has led me to the circles where it is taught as principle that, “knowledge is mercy.”