‘Father’ Pierre Didn’t Always Know Best

‘Father’ Pierre didn’t always know best

We remember him now through rose-coloured glasses

Toronto Sun
October 1, 2000
So have we all forgotten how much we hated him?
Not at the beginning, when we adored him, and not at the end, when we revered him and time had mellowed us all.
I mean at the end of Pierre Trudeau’s political career, first in 1979, and then, since he always fooled us, again in 1984, by which time we reviled the man for his arrogance.
Indeed, the ongoing deification of Pierre Elliott Trudeau, now that he’s gone, is so typically, predictably, boringly, insecurely Canadian. The same sort of insecurity we saw, oddly enough, in so much of the Olympics coverage of the past two weeks.
That is, when scribes who don’t lose a moment’s sleep over a 23-1 Blue Jays’ blowout that has just finished off the playoff chances of a bunch of foreign millionaires who summer here, start babbling from Sydney how they feel personally humiliated because some Canadian athlete whose name they barely know didn’t medal in an obscure sport they only cover once every four years.
Now that’s insecurity.  The sort of insecurity that ties a person’s, and a nation’s, sense of self worth to a medal count.
Russia and China did wonderfully at these games if you go by medal haul. Perhaps our media would be proud living there.
And given that the sure way to Olympic “success” these days is to: a) rip young children pre-selected for their athletic prowess away from their families at an early age and send them off to training camps for most of their young lives; and/or b) pump them full of drugs so they can “go for the gold,” is this what we want in Canada? What’s wrong with just admiring what our athletes do, whatever they do, as long as they do it clean?
And yet every Olympics we go through the same public agony and national self-flagellation over the medal count.
That’s being insecure! And so is the national nostalgia underway in an attempt to deify Trudeau, to portray him as a national father figure who loved us all best, and whom we all loved. For pity’s sake, let’s not insult the man this way.
Let’s at least look back on him as he was. Admire him for being a good, loving father to his three fine sons, yes. But to the whole of Canada? Some dad!

The Global Compact For Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration


The UN Migration Compact Spells Radical Change For Canada

Candice Malcolm
Published: November 30, 2018
The Trudeau government is cheerleading a controversial United Nations initiative that has the potential to fundamentally change Canada.
It’s called the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, and UN representatives are meeting in Morocco in December to discuss and adopt this global agreement.
It may sound like just another gathering of out-of-touch elites patting themselves on the back, and the compact’s text insists the agreement is non-binding. But the ideas proposed are not your run-of-the-mill aspirational pledges.
This UN compact is unprecedented and truly radical. It seeks to make immigration a universal human right.
“Refugees and migrants are entitled to the same universal human rights and fundamental freedoms, which must be respected, protected and fulfilled at all times,” reads the document’s preamble.
The agreement doesn’t simply apply to bona-fide refugees — those fleeing war and persecution whose government has failed to protect them. It applies to all migrants.
It seeks to change international law and norms on migration, and blur the distinction between refugees and migrants — the latter merely seeking more economic opportunity but failing to do so according to a country’s established immigration rules.
The compact stops just short of saying that every person from around the world has a right to live in Canada and become a Canadian citizen.

Barack Obama has presided over the collapse of American leadership in the world

Barack Obama has presided over the collapse of American leadership in the world

Michael Den Tandt | December 20, 2016 3:26 PM ET
Has there ever been a victory lap like President Barack Obama’s? Day after day the affable, soon-to-be-former leader of the free world makes his rounds — sombre and a little sad, reassuringly calm. Progressives and classical liberals everywhere, not least in Canada, wipe away a single tear as we contemplate the end of this grand moment in American history, inaugurated with a Nobel virtually before the man set foot in the Oval Office.
Perhaps in the New Year, as citizens of Earth grapple with the rising tide of chaos and carnage, and cope with the immediate consequences of Obama’s failures, there will be time for a more sober assessment of his legacy. Don’t count on it, though. Attention will likely be focused on more pressing concerns.
Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel reacted to the mass murder in a Christmas market – 12 dead, 48 injured, at last count — after a man in a truck drove into a crowd of holiday shoppers in an apparent terrorist attack.
“I am, like millions of people in Germany, shocked, devastated and deeply saddened by what happened yesterday evening in Berlin,” Merkel told a news conference.
Shocked, devastated, deeply saddened; incomprehensible. It’s the now customary syntax in the aftermaths of these bloodbaths. But the words are no longer up to the job, if ever they were. Numbed, inured and resigned might serve better. For also Monday, the Russian ambassador to Turkey was shot dead in mid-speech at an art exhibit, by a young Turkish policeman — a member of the security detail — who then shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo! Don’t forget Syria!” and “Allahu Akbar!” over his corpse.
In Zurich, a 24-year-old Swiss man shot up an Islamic Centre, injuring three.
Pushed down the news list — because there’s only so much room for headlines about mass-casualty terrorist attacks — was the assault by Islamist gunmen Sunday on a tourist site in Karak, Jordan, which killed ten people, including retired Canadian teacher Linda Vatcher of Burgeo, N.L., 62.
Days before Karak there was Cairo — the bombing of a Coptic Christian cathedral, which killed more than two dozen and injured twice as many. A suicide bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia in mid-December, which killed 29 and injured 50, barely registered in the international media.
With each successive barbaric act, we drive our heads further into the dirt, or turn away with a narcotized, collective shrug. What can anyone do? In Aleppo and elsewhere in Syria Bashar Assad’s forces commit mass murder and bomb civilians with impunity; that was a trend leader on Facebook for a week. In Iraq the Islamic State rapes, enslaves and murders. The West’s chosen proxy fighters, Iraqi regulars and Kurdish militia, struggle to retake ground.
Certainly there can be no American-led or NATO army deployed to wipe out ISIL and kill or capture the sociopaths who lead it, we are informed. Because, you know, Iraq and Afghanistan; imperial overreach; war fatigue; and quagmire. God forbid there be a quagmire. Far better to allow the Syrian infection to fester for years on end, sending millions of refugees into Europe and igniting a destabilizing Islamophobic backlash worldwide — including, of course, in the United States. Europe itself may collapse. But there’s no quagmire.
No one can predict how extreme President-elect Donald Trump will be, or not, as Commander-in-Chief. But his security appointments and choice of chief strategist, self-described apologist for the “Judeo-Christian West” Stephen Bannon, indicate he is preparing for the clash of civilizations many feared immediately after 9/11.
If nothing else, this would explain Trump’s otherwise inexplicable fondness for Russia and its thuggish leader, Vladimir Putin — a convert from Soviet-era atheism to conservative Christianity, a staunch ally of the Russian Orthodox Church, and a sworn enemy of Islamism.
Is it fair to blame Obama and the Democratic establishment for this unfolding calamity? Let’s say this: President George W. Bush laid the groundwork for it with the terrible blunder of his 2003 invasion of Iraq and the subsequent disbanding of the Iraqi army, which later morphed into ISIL.
But Obama had his own historical moment, three years ago, when he drew a “red line” beyond which Assad could not cross, then watched him cross, then sidled away backwards, hoping no one would notice his retreat. That is when American leadership, badly damaged by Bush, actually died. The ensuing chaos is testament to the combined failure of two successive presidents. The Iran nuclear deal, foreign-policy centrepiece of Obama’s second term, now looks like a finger in the dyke.
Added to this, Obama presided over a working-class alienation so profound it caused life-long unionists and Democrats in the Rust Belt to stay home Nov. 8, handing the world’s greatest democracy — and the mantle of global leadership — to an authoritarian, volatile, unpredictable, untested billionaire.
Obama is a likeable, charismatic guy, and a fine speaker. His post-presidential career is locked in. Short of Bush the Younger, he may well be remembered as the worst American leader since the Second World War.
© 2016 National Post, a division of Postmedia Network Inc. All rights reserved. Unauthorized distribution, transmission or republication strictly prohibited.


Welcome To The Age of The Despot


“Aleppo is now a synonym for hell,”

Welcome to the age of the despot

Every tyrant has now learned the Syrian lesson: you can bomb your cities and kill with impunity. How the West failed so horribly.

Terry Glavin December 19, 2016
“Aleppo is now a synonym for hell,” is the way outgoing UN Secretary – General Ban Ki – moon described the merciless bombardments and massacres that the Russians, Assadists and Shia militias were inflicting upon the last major stronghold of the fractured and hopeless Syrian rebels last Friday. Five years after Syria’s quixotic, non – violent democratic uprising began, nearly half a million deaths, more than five million refugees, and it had all come to this.
“We have collectively failed the people of Syria,” Ban declared at his farewell press conference at the UN headquarters in New York. “Peace will only prevail when it is accompanied by compassion, justice and accountability for the abominable crimes we have seen.”
There’s not much hope for any of that, anytime soon, no matter what fresh horror Islamic State mutates into, whether it’s crushed in the Battle of Mosul or not. Islamic State was never the main culprit in the dismemberment of Syria. It was always the Syrian mass murderer, Bashar Assad.
You can bomb your own cities to rubble, commit crimes against humanity, and wholly uproot the majority ethnic population of your own country. Assad got away with it. Russia’s Vladimir Putin got away with it. Hezbollah got away with it, and Tehran’s Qasem Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force, got away with it.
And all over the world, every tinpot tyrant has learned the Syrian lesson. You can get away with it.
A United Nations commission of inquiry can declare you guilty of undertaking “a state policy of extermination of the civilian population” of your country, and you can laugh it off, and for any of these “abominable” crimes to be headed off in the dark years to come, the rest of us are going to need to stop telling ourselves comforting lies about “Western intervention.” Entire political careers and the most stellar reputations in journalism have been built around these tawdry, self – exculpating deceptions. They may be ineradicable, but some honest effort should be put into enumerating them and rooting them out.
We might start by admitting that it’s not all George W. Bush‘s fault. It’s an idiotic claim, but it is deeply embedded in all the alibis and excuses that have paralyzed the NATO capitals in the face of the Syrian catastrophe. And Syria’s death throes are not over yet, not by a long shot.
Whatever the jollies we’ve all enjoyed at Bush’s expense, the Anglo – American misadventure in Mesopotamia was more than 13 years ago. The heaps of Syrian dead have grown far more than twice as high in half the time that it took the 2003 – 13 butcher’s bill from Shock and Awe to come due. The Iraqi invasion did not precipitate Syria’s implosion. Even if it did, that would not excuse anyone, least of all the United States, for the determined indifference that has left the Syrian people to their hideous fate.
Saddam had already slaughtered at least a million people by the time Bush showed up – by war, by poison gas in the genocidal Al – Anfal campaign against the Kurds, by his ethnic cleansing of the Marsh Arabs, by torture and by firing squad. If you think Iraq and Syria would be better off today if Saddam had been left unmolested in Baghdad, there’s something wrong with you.
Iraq was largely at peace and the Anbar uprising had succeeded in uprooting al – Qaeda by 2011, but Barack Obama decided to betray the Sunni minority and give the run of the place to Nouri al – Maliki, the sectarian Shiite gangster handpicked by the Quds Force’s Qasem Soleimani, last seen in public only last weekend, strutting around Aleppo, victorious.
The next favourite pretext for letting Syria die is Afghanistan, the “quagmire.”
It’s a country still bruised and battered from the years of mass murder and mayhem preceding 9/11, but a decade’s worth of opinion polling among Afghans following the 2001 ouster of the lunatic Taliban emirate never showed anything less than unambiguous support for the NATO – led, United Nations’ International Security Assistance Force mission that chased the hated Talibs back into Pakistan. They’re still blowing things up. But Afghanistan limps along. The country’s democratically elected president, the economist Ashraf Ghani, was ranked 50th on Foreign Policy magazine’s 2013 roll of the world’s 100 leading intellectuals. Syria should be so lucky.
Okay then, Libya.
It is conveniently forgotten that the United States did not overthrow the government of deranged strongman Moammar Gadhafi. The Libyan people did. They rose up in their hundreds of thousands, and it was only after Gadhafi threatened mass slaughter of his citizens that Europe and the Arab League countries dragged the United States into enforcing a no – fly zone that crippled the Libyan air force.
A year after the 2011 intervention, even after Obama pushed NATO into walking
away from Libya, a Gallup poll found 75 per cent of Libyans backed the NATO air operation. Half the Libyans surveyed (54 per cent) said they approved of the Obama administration, even, “among the highest approval Gallup has recorded in the Middle East and North Africa region outside of Israel,” Gallup reported.
Libya is a failed state, with an internationally recognized “national unity” government that barely governs beyond Tripoli and two national armies with separate blocs of militias united only in their commitment to protecting the re – emerging oil industry and cleaning out the pockets of Islamic State that have set in, as you’d expect, like gangrene. And yet, compared to Syria, Libya is a peaceable kingdom.
Oh, but Syria. Fiendishly complicated. No good guys, and “there’s nothing we could have done” now substitutes for “there’s nothing we can do.” The “we” in that lie is always intended to mean “the Americans.” The record of lost American opportunities and unmade decisions speaks loudly enough for itself.
– A no – fly zone before the Russians got involved.
– Accelerated arming of patriotic and democratic rebel groups instead of letting freelance Gulf State Islamists fill the blanks.
– A swift and punishing rain of drone strikes after Assad crossed Obama’s professed “red line” on the use of poison gas.
– Supplying the early Free Syrian Army units with anti-aircraft weapons to shoot down Assad’s barrel bombers.
– A green light to the CIA’s proposed long-game overthrow of the Assad regime.
No, Obama said. No. I’m smarter than everyone here.
Leon Panetta, Obama’s CIA drector and later Secretary of Defence, broke with Obama over Syria and walked away.
– Michael McFaul, Obama’s former ambassador to Russia, calls Obama’s abandonment of Syria and his absurd trust in the Russians a “giant failure.”
– Robert C. Hof, the senior State Department Syria analyst, resigned in despair.
– Obama’s Syria ambassador, Robert Ford, resigned in disgust.
– Even Hillary Clinton broke with him on Syria.
By the time Donald Trump came along, Obama’s inner circle on Syria had been emptied so thoroughly that his closest confidante was Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications. A public-relations man with a creative writing degree.
It was never about what the United States could have done. It was about what Obama would not do, and he would not do anything to upset the Khomeinists in Tehran. Hurt their feelings enough and they’d pull Iran out of Obama’s “legacy” foreign policy of nuclear rapprochement. The whole thing has been a failure, from beginning to end.
The lessons the world’s despots can take from this are as clear as crystal. And if there is any doubt, along comes Donald Trump, the president-elect, to clear it up: “We will stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments, folks.” You can get away with anything now.
What, then, would you do about all this? What would you do about Syria? There’s only one sensible and honest answer: we stop lying about what we have done, and what we have failed to do.
We start there.
© 2001 – 2016 Rogers Media. All rights reserved.

A Turn For The Worse?

Enraged Mob

Rage or Jublication?

ISIS vs The World

Surely, it can’t be just me who is increasing getting desensitised (I’d say alarmed but think we’re past that point of ‘concern‘) to the constant flow of news and images – primarily about death and destruction, near and far. At home and abroad. Natural and man-made or human inspired.
If your ‘danger radar’ is just now alerting you to the potential dangers that currently exist then I’d suggest that you have a chat with your neighbourhood ‘friendly survivalist nut-job’ to pry you out of your apparent stupor.
I’m not advocating for or against the ‘tin-foil wearing’ crowd. I’m more of the phaser on stun mentality. But sensitivity to the sun does make it necessary to to use sunscreen (though I do wonder at times when considering the UV blocker levels – why not just keep your clothes on, the skin covered and stay out of the sun as much as is feasibly possible?
We all have our blindspots
I just glanced at the latest news on tv and, if itwasn’t about Trump and Clinton, The Republicans vs the Democrats, the Yahoos vs the Experts and representatives of the Intelligensia (and I’m in Canada!).
Sure there were clips about the nephew of Rob Ford – Former Mayor of Toronto (and infamous for certain public and private predilictions). Even Justin Trudeau appears to be currently off the media’s radar screens.
The U.S has Trump. Toronto had Ford
But I don’t want to dwell on the current state of internal politics in Canada or the U.S. It appears that we, as citizens, both deserve the poxes that that we have imposed upon ourselves.
ISIS and The Global State of Terrorism
I’ve grown up through times when the word Civilisation, past present or future encompassed notions that envisioned advanced stages of human social development, organisation and cultural distinctions.
A time when the advancement of Human civilisations culminated in a document such as the Rules of War. The Geneva Convention. Not-with-standing the equally astute strategic military observations recorded by Sun Tsu in the conduct of warfare (The Art of War).
Regardless of where you stand in relation to any of the views espoused by the brilliant minds of the past, it cannot be denied that essential to (past or current) civil society are our notions of civil behaviour. There is civility. There are rules of behaviour and conduct in the execution of the act of war. That is, there can be referees.
Love thy neighbour. There’s a rule. Do unto others, is another. Turn the other cheek. The Golden Rule: … Love for your brother what youd love for yourself.
One doesn’t need a translator when someone is showing you ‘the love’. It’s the hate and anger and rage and violence that bring the  action of others into question. Walls are not built or erected when there is a sense of trust or commonality of values and beliefs among individual, groups, tribes, communities, nations or states.
Questions such as, which of the current crop of humanity will be judged as being either progressive or regressive against a siding scale of what is (apparent to any civilised human being) civil and acceptable behaviour and action with regard to the broader question of the  human condition.
ISIL and all existing terror groups or organisations are a malignant blight on civilisation and (what I’ll call) ‘common human decency’.
The Barbarians are at the gates
But, did they ever leave? Did any of them ever sign on to (or publicly acknowledge acceptance of) the notions and principles that have come to be enshrined in International Laws, Constitutions, Treaties, Agreements, Rights, Duties, Obligations and Guiding Princples that provide structure to international organisations and institutions (U.N, NATO) that modern nation states try to hew to within the International Community of nations?
Today, yet again, another mad man or outright maniac slit the throat of an 84 years priest (man of the cloth). In the sanctuary of the church itself.
The news media, politicians and headlines scream … Another Terrorist Act …..
This will soon be followed by more condemnations, condolences and offers of political and public expressions of support and solidarity against the barbaric and wanton acts of violence against innocent civilians.  The beat goes on. Weariness continues to seep in and empathy get depleted and diluted when stacked against the constant barrage of ‘senseless’ acts of savagery.
Emotional burn out
It’s not that there’s some centrally organised collective or select group of individuals (like the mass media) who are deliberately working to desensitive its readership or viewership against the horrific pain and suffering that individuals and groups daily undergo at the hands of elected and unelected political groups and organisations. Mad men, despots, tyrants, butchers and meglomaniciacs, one and all!
I don’t need the media, the experts or the politicians to tell me what Terrorism is or is not. Root causes are not my current concerns. Safety and security of my person, friends, family and neighbours are what concern me. We know the end results of unrestrained, unimpeded random, wanton and senseless barbaric acts of a few thousand among billions can do.
The question now is, what is going to be done to eradicate the scourges from the face of the earth?
Article 54 of Protocol I (the 1977 Geneva Conventions) deals with prohibitions against the Scorched Earth policy as a military strategy. Of course, the countries and militaries that pay heed to international conventions on the conduct of civilise warfare are primarily signatory countries with stable governments and political institutions. Unsurprisingly, ISIS, Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and other terrorist groups don’t subscribe to such niceties. Fair fights (or playing by Marquess of Queensberry rules) are for boy scouts.
Villify Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi  or Bashar al-Assad for the horrid and deplorable actions that they have engaged in (especially against their own citizens) during their ‘stewardship’ of the countries and it will be well deserved.
What cannot be denied, however, is that – monsters that they are or were – they certainly had a damn good grasp of the dangers that the other monsters that they were keeping at bay posed to the world at large. Monsters and abominations that have now been set loose in the world and on civilisation.
And when it comes to terrorists and terrorism, it should matter not one whit whether they cloak themselves in christian or islamic garbs. Whether it’s the work of a ‘lone wolf’ nut-case or fully funded and organised group, the insanity has to be stopped. If that means utilising lethal force against the leadership, promoters and participants then so be it.
I have no sympathy for individuals or organisations that clamour for name recognition and publicity. To further their demented cause they fall over themselves in their haste to claim responsibility for any and all despicable acts of terror reported around the world. The killing of an 84 year French priest in his church. The suicide bombing of mourners at a funeral or harried shoppers at a market or passengers on a bus or train. The killing of concert-goers at a music hall. Diners and revellers at a restaurant.
It’s time to say, Enough is Enough!
And yes, I’ll dance when those insane barbarians are dispatched to the hell that they deserve!

It’s not getting worse. It’s been there all along. — Everything is fine here.

I live in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. State capitol of the bayous of Louisiana. Home of the Louisiana State University Tigers. Land where streets of stately southern homes are lined by rows of oak trees as old as the country itself. City where Mardi Gras beads hang from power lines year round. Home to crawfish and […]

via It’s not getting worse. It’s been there all along. — Everything is fine here.

‘The West Needs To Understand It Is Inevitable: Islam Is Coming Back’

‘The West Needs To Understand It Is Inevitable: Islam Is Coming Back’


The West needs to understand it is inevitable: Islam is coming back

Faisal al Yafai talks to Britain’s most radical Islamic group, banned across the Middle East, about faith, defiance and the future
Thursday November 11, 2004
The Guardian
The east London hall echoes to the sound of the speaker’s voice: “They want us to redefine Islam to fit the agenda of the west,” he intones, and the audience murmurs. “Islam is going to be political, no matter how hard they try. Islam itself is political. Allah has not remained silent when it comes to political matters.”
The speaker is a member of Hizb ut Tahrir, the most controversial Islamic group in Britain today. Critics have called for the group to be banned, as it is in Germany, while supporters hail it as the saviour of the Muslim community. Hizb – the name means Party of Liberation in Arabic – is banned throughout the Middle East, and three British men are in jail in Egypt accused of propagating its views. In Uzbekistan, thousands of Hizb members are in jail, and a Russian thinktank has compared the group to al-Qaida.
Eighteen months ago, the group briefly appeared in the public eye when the wife of Omar Sharif, the Briton who launched a failed suicide-bomb attack in Tel Aviv, was found to have leaflets from the group in her home. Hizb ut Tahrir also has a presence on university campuses, where it has been accused of anti-semitism.
Until recently, the leadership of Hizb was secretive and cautious, reluctant to release details of the scale of its membership, its leadership structure or its funding. One ex-member who spent years with the group says there are probably only 500 members across the country, but the group may have 10 times that number as committed supporters. Hizb’s annual conference in Birmingham last year attracted about 8,000, by the far the most for a Muslim organisation.
In a sign that the group is changing direction, it has given the Guardian unprecedented access to its leadership. The newspaper has spoken to current and former Hizb members and supporters in London, Derby, Leicester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Manchester in an attempt to piece together the group’s motivation and ideology.
The leader of the group, a 28-year-old IT consultant called Jalaluddin Patel, is the first leader in its 18-year history in the UK to speak to the national press. He says Hizb has nothing to hide but will not release membership figures: “It’s a genuine security issue. We’re unsure about the manner in which western society would treat a group like ours.”
Patel insists that Hizb is no threat to the west, but part of it. But he adds that the west “needs to understand what is really an inevitable matter, and that is that Islam is coming back, the Islamic caliphate is going to be implemented in the world very soon … The Muslim people need to realise that the way in which they will restore a form of dignity and bring civilisation back to the Islamic world is to establish a modern caliphate.”
The call to re-establish the caliphate, the single Islamic state that existed for a millennium and a half, until the end of the Ottoman empire in 1924, forms the thrust of the group’s message. But its call for Muslims to be strong is not just political; it is also religious: “Secularism has failed the world” declares a Hizb poster.
Bringing the caliphate back will not be easy: at one debate on the future of Iraq, held just off Brick Lane, an American journalist warned the audience that America, China and India would never tolerate an Islamic state “strung like a belt across the world. There would have to be a response.”
Hizb’s message is too radical to seem immediately threatening. But it is the scale of its ambition that is striking. Hizb appears to be focusing its efforts in Britain on removing Pakistan’s President Musharraf, a key ally in the US war on terror. Last month the group led a march of thousands to the Pakistani high commission in London, calling for regime change and declaring “Pakistan Army: why are you silent?”
In Pakistan the security services say they are keeping close watch on Hizb, mindful of the group’s links with an educated middle class and fearful of possible links with other, more radical groups.
Despite recent moves by the group to open itself up – in March this year, for the first time, Hizb announced the nine people on its executive committee – it remains difficult to join it. Before membership, supporters must be invited to join a study group. Patel dismisses the idea that these study groups brainwash supporters: “If you call brainwashing the imparting of ideas and discourse based on those ideas, then I’m afraid that’s what it must be. But fortunately we’re not in the business of brainwashing.”
At 28, Patel is relatively young to be leading a national group, though he has been involved with Hizb since he was 16. He came to Hizb searching for answers, studied with the group, and became chair of the executive committee at 26. Although reluctant to talk about his own background, it is clear his upbringing was comfortable and not particularly political – he says his father knows he is involved with Hizb but doesn’t know he leads it. “He will now.”
Hizb often holds public debates with figures from politics or the media. The meetings are usually packed. Across the country the group publishes books and magazines and holds discussion groups trying to galvanise the Muslim community on a variety of issues. But the solution is always the re-establishment of the caliphate.
Hizb is reluctant to say where its gets the money for these activities. Patel says it all comes entirely from donations from members and supporters, gathered as and when needed. No one in the party receives a salary.
Hizb ut Tahrir was formed in Jerusalem in 1953 by a Palestinian judge. Since then, it has expanded across the Middle East and throughout the world, from Indonesia to America. But it is in Britain that the group probably has its strongest presence. Its conferences have attracted thousands of British Muslims.
In Tower Hamlets, east London, Hizb distributed a leaflet opposing the Brick Lane festival last month, arguing that the promotion of “the culture of drinking alcohol, dancing and free-mixing” was not the image the area’s Muslim community ought to be projecting.
Meetings – or “circles” – follow the same format, with a speaker from the group expanding on a subject for around 40 minutes. The audience, almost always students and professionals in their 20s and 30s, listen and then pepper the speaker with questions. Some meetings are men- or women-only. At those that are mixed, the women, seated separately from the men, ask the most forceful and detailed questions, usually from beneath a sea of headscarves.
Although one of the main aims of the group is to forge a strong religious identity for Muslims in Britain, it also believes the wider Muslim world has been ill-served by its rulers. It has openly called for coups against Arab governments to establish more representative leadership. Governments such as Egypt which feel that Hizb is a threat have banned it and arrested its members.
The group came to Britain in 1986, founded by a Syrian called Omar Bakri Muhammed. Bakri remained leader for 10 years until he left to form another, more radical, Islamic group, al-Muhajiroun.
In the mid-1990s, Hizb was a fixture on university campuses, organising societies and debates. Its rhetoric was fierce and angry. Then Hizb went quiet, and now its influence on campus is limited to some Islamic societies or smaller groups. Some maintain it is still a threat: in March this year a motion proposed by the Union of Jewish Students to the National Union of Students conference banned Hizb from campuses because of alleged anti-semitism.
Last year the German government banned the group for the same reasons and the country’s interior minister, Otto Schilly, proposed Britain should follow suit, saying: “It won’t do if the same thing is then not banned in a neighbouring country. We have to act in harmony.”
Patel calls such accusations misguided. But he does not deny being anti-Israel: “Being anti-Israel is probably a sentiment held by one billion Muslims around the world. It’s not unique to the party. A lot of western commentators could be classified as anti-Israel.”
On some campuses, the group has renamed itself, using such names as the Ideological Society. Its uncompromising tone, in contrast to the mute moderation of some imams, is a powerful attraction. In cities where it has a strong presence, such as Birmingham and Leicester, some mosques have made it clear that Hizb is unwelcome. “We don’t like their ideas at all,” said the imam of one of Birmingham’s biggest mosques. “They’re not Islamic ideas, they’re very nationalistic, racist ideas that they’ve got from somewhere else.”
Hizb says such criticism is an attempt to depoliticise Islam and warns against seeing political awareness always in the context of angry youth. Hizb offers a worldview that can be easily grasped, a straightforward solution to many of the problems of society. The scope of Hizb – Patel says “every mosque in this country” has members or supporters – has led to worries about its influence. But it is not on the Home Office’s list of proscribed organisations, and the Metropolitan police’s anti-terrorism branch says it has no evidence of illegal activity.
Critics are most concerned about Hizb in Central Asia, where its brand of political Islam is motivating impoverished Uzbeks against the government of Uzbekistan. In testimony before the US Congress earlier this year, a director of the Nixon Centre, a rightwing thinktank, warned: “Like other Islamist movements, HT’s goal is to overthrow secular regimes around the world. Unlike many others, however, HT hopes to achieve this goal peacefully … I think HT, which is not considered a terrorist organisation, is an even more dangerous long-term threat, as it is the elementary school for the ideological training of many other groups.”
This is the “conveyor belt for terrorism” argument: the implication is that such an organisation might inspire others. Patel is dismissive: “I think it’s a very disingenuous view. The Founding Fathers of America would probably have been called a conveyor belt for terrorists because they produced the intellectual ideas which led to the American people rising up against colonial rule.”
If there is a threat it comes in ideas, because the message of Hizb – of a strong, international Islamic state; of a Middle East free of the western powers; of Islam as a solution to the problems of society – may be far more dangerous to the west.
Patel accepts that the very notion of a caliphate implies the destruction of institutions and government systems, but believes there is no alternative – although he stresses the transition will not be violent. And although Hizb has been making its argument for over half a century without visible results, Patel does not see that as a criticism of the concept. “We believe the caliphate could be established tomorrow. We believe all the ingredients are there,” he says. And he has a warning for the Muslim rulers of the world: “One of the greatest obstacles that exists is the brutality of the state and the fear that is instilled in the masses. What we say is that it is a matter of time before the masses observe that brutality and say enough is enough.”
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