Local becomes Global!

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Cricklewood Blogger has been particularly interested in three big stories last week – the Government decision on the BAE-Saudi slush fund, Celebrity Big Brother and the Channel 4’s Dispatches. The first of these is of neighbourhood interest: one of the Saudi dissidents blowing the whistle on the corruption of Saudi princes lives within shouting distance of Gladstone Park. The others bring to mind the six degrees of separation theory – more on this later.So is leafy Willesden Green becoming the setting for a Le Carre novel, with heavies lurking behind the trees along Anson Road? Not that far from the truth. A couple of years ago a few heavies knocked at Dr Saad Al-Faqih’s house and roughed him up. Is it a surprise that a few months later, a Saudi diplomat – Dr Ali al-Shamarani  was expelled from the UK after allegations he bribed a Met officer to obtain confidential information from police computers about people living in the UK? (For details see The Guardian, 15th August 2003). Madawi Al-Rasheed, the Saudi Arabian scholar based at Kingís College, London, has written a book (Contesting the Saudi State, Islamic Voices from a New Generation) which notes the link between defence contracts and the quelling of opposition leaders in Britain. She writes, “the Saudi regime demanded that Britain deport al-Faqih in return for a contract worth £40,000,000 to purchase Typhoon planes from BAE.an official Saudi spokesman denied that there was a deal being negotiated with Britain to hand over the Saudi dissidents.”Now that it is known that BAE paid £60 million to a Saudi princes slush fund, and the Government has blocked a Serious Fraud Office inquiry, it is a worrying time for Saudi dissidents here.The six degrees of separation idea is that any two people on the planet can be linked to each other through a remarkably small number of acquaintances and networks. So here goes: my daughter’s teacher’s cousin is Shilpa of Celebrity Big Brother so a connection within a chain of three!

Shilpa’s story hit the front-lines because of the racist name-calling (including Paki). India’s minister of state for external affairs Anand Sharma was quick off the mark, declaring “the world knows that India has throughout firmly rejected all forms of discrimination and racism”. He added ominously, “The government will take appropriate measures once it gets to know the full details”. Gordon Brown visiting India at the time noted “I want Britain to be seen as a country of fairness and tolerance. Anything detracting from this I condemn”. How many Muslims would have wished that some Muslim government like Saudi Arabia would have made half as much protest after Jack Straw’s veil remarks in October last year.

The Dispatches programme broadcast on 15 January made Muslims in Britain even more aware that they are on their own when the going gets rough. Channel Four’s investigation was all about the “message of hatred and intolerance inspired by Saudi Arabia” and it “uncovered an ideology of intolerance and religious bigotry, inspired by Saudi Arabia through mosques run by major UK organizations which claim to be dedicated to moderation and to dialogue with other faiths”. Even London’s main mosque and bookshop – last frequented by Cricklewood Blogger on Eid – was fingered. “We were told: Saudi money has even reached the most famous mosque in Europe. London Central Mosque, better known as Regent’s Park Mosque, is the most recognisable symbol of moderate, mainstream Muslim life in Britain. It says its the ‘prime source of guidance’ for British Muslims, acting on behalf of the whole Muslim community in dealing with the government. The Saudis gave two million pounds to help build it, and in the 1990s they built its educational and administrative wing. Saudi influence is obvious in the mosque’s official bookshop. It is run by Dar-us-Salam Publications, the publishing house with a head office in Saudi Arabia”.

The Saudi Embassy in London ought to have responded but instead it was left to the Muslim Council of Britain to attempt to set the record straight. Another clip featured the Cambridge don Hakim Murad (Tim Winter) offering a dark message, “I regard what the Saudis are doing in the ghettoes of British Islam as potentially lethal for the future of the community.” Alas no robust official responses, even though the Islamic Cultural Centre is headed by a Saudi diplomat. A world of difference from the Indian government’s response after one of its citizens was slighted.

It is hypocritical of Dispatches and fellow travelers to be so ready to bully some Muslim voices  and in any case these form only part of the spectrum of community opinion – while it is the immoral practice of state-approved bribery that really merits investigation and exposure.

Amongst the targets of Dispatches was Cricklewood Blogger’s friends dad, Dr Hasan, the imam of Masjid al-Tawhid and trained at the University of Medina. After the broadcast, Dr Suhaib wrote to Channel Four:

“you do me a great injustice by failing to quote numerous instances from my speeches where I have praised the British welfare state, its independent and generally-just judicial system, and our health and education systems. However, as a citizen, I have the right to call for solutions rooted in Islam to problems in British society such as a lack of respect (the words of Tony Blair), alcohol abuse and marital infidelity. I have also often vehemently criticised Muslim governments for their oppressive practices such as banning the women’s headscarf. I have never promoted any form of extremism, whether religious or otherwise, or justified violence in conditions of peace. The Qur’an and Sunnah clearly prohibit extremism in religion and unjustified violence”.

It was a voice of reasonableness not unlike Jermaine’s who has the sajada folded on his bed – in the Big Brother House. So now Cricklewood Blogger knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone who is Michael Jackson’s brother!