Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Cordoba mosque revisited

My second day in Cordoba was less dismal – the first day being so sad at the loss of so much history and beauty with the Cordoba mosque. Walking first across the bridge to the Tower I was able to listen to an English commentary of the historical displays relating the history and more importantly the philosophy involved in the development of Cordoba and some of its scholars. It was also fascinating to learn that Al Mesquita was itself built on an existing Visigothic church, as apparently Abdur Rahman I settled in Cordoba when it was controlled by the Visigoths who agreed to lease part of their church – including Roman ruins – to him.

Medinat Al Zahra

Today I visited Medinat al Zahra – the excavated city built in the tenth century and later buried only to be discovered in the early 1900’s. This was the most well organised and pleasant tour so far with a very friendly guide who alternated effectively between English and Spanish for his customers. A large air conditioned bus took us from Cordoba city to the large parking area at the base of the excavated city. Comprising over 100 hectares of which only one tenth has been excavated, the excavating team has constructed a museum some distance from the recovered site in order to allow for continued excavation over the years. An excellent video presents an animated explanation of the history of Medinat al Zahra, with interactive displays visually highlighting the existing topography alongside

Travelling to Spain

The trip to Madrid was quite long – definitely plane travel would have been quicker for some parts and less expensive. However it was certainly quite an experience. (Woah! Unbelievably my 3 dongle on this fast train is picking up a roaming network and allowing me to connect to the internet.) The trip from London to Paris was amazingly quick and brought me into the heart of Paris. Paris I have to say was quite a disappointment. The place looked tired, not just old but decaying, and uncared for. I had to catch the metro to another station across town – my fellow

Friday, September 25, 2009

Castles and Hills

Wales has been an absolute treat! I’m staying in a 17th century house – which was split into two accommodations after a fight between the wives of two brothers who lived there many years ago – surrounded by farmland, walking tours, and old castles. I’m just minutes away from Abergavenny (prounounced Aber-ga-vEnni) – a small town with great coffee and cake shops, all the necessities of life and loads of history.
My bedroom is tiny – just enough room to put my small bag and walk beside the bed, a TV attached to the wall at the end of the bed, a tiny window high on the wall that a sweet bird cheeps through all morning,

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Trafalgar Square, Soho and Piccadilly

Currently I’m sitting on a speeding train heading towards Cardiff Central in Wales after a fascinating, fun filled, well fed and hectic few days – all detailed below. The weather has turned cooler but the train is comfortable. I am at the end of the carriage and have

Sunday, September 20, 2009

A wonderful day for Eid

Today, fully replenished from another wonderful dinner the night before with new London friends, I set off bright and early for the advertised Kingsbury Park One Eid celebration in the park.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Crazy humans, their companions and the end of Ramadan prayers

Today began with mistaken public transport and an old lady, holding up the traffic in her wheel chair, waving her arms at the impatient banked up cars.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Travelling the tube reflections, new mosque in Brent

Today as I headed once again into the bowels of lower London it occurred to me that in terms of evolution, humankind has progressed remarkably towards our fellow insects – the ant.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Parks and Mosques (and more good food)

Today - Saturday, I walked the back streets of my new area trying to locate what appeared on Google maps to be a crowded cemetery beside a large park. The cemetery entrance indicated

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Studio Flat discovered

Have finally found a wonderful little place in Willesden Green. It is a small studio, with a dug up private back yard under huge, huge trees filtering speckled shafts of light.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Encounter with a Squirrel

Wednesday morning headed back to Russell Square to Skype my daughter while sitting in the park. No one seemed particularly surprised at a middle aged lady with headphones talking and laughing to her laptop -

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tuesday 8 Sept

The bank I was directed to for opening an account seems to run completely differently. There were no tellers that I could see and – wait – no queues! I found my way to a friendly African staffer behind a centrally located desk,

Monday 7 Sept 09

Today was taken up with being ‘sorted out’ by the Protocol Education agents. Located in Chancery Lane they run a very efficient practice with a friendly staff checking all details, filling out forms, explaining a raft of procedures from pay to National Security ID’s to police checks. Once identifying

Travel Reflections on England

First Impressions of London
After being unfortunately booted from business class (where I left my complimentary toiletries, ear plugs, classy socks etc) into economy, I arrived a little more rumpled but ready and excited. Heathrow is under repair and we emerged into a Hajj type gathering, 10 abreast under low temporary ceilings, drooping flouros and makeshift walls. Slightly oppressive. Forty minutes later

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What direction are Muslim Schools heading?

Education has a host of meanings for those involved in the schooling of the next generation – but none should include dividing them into self-possessed winners or disaffected losers. But this is exactly what is happening as one school system in the Muslim community

Friday, January 9, 2009

Pride, Power and Privilege in Palestine

Since the Israeli New Year invasion of the overcrowded concentration camp which once represented the beautiful Mediterranean beach of Gaza the international public has been sickened by the hypocrisy and tragedy of the saga unfolding on its screens nightly. It has also been confusing with claim and counter claim in a war for the minds of the international community carried out in the media as much as in the streets and homes of the victims. For once we have a brief respite from the media’s never ending reference to the Jewish holocaust - perhaps because (for once) it does not suit to remind Western audiences and have them conflate the Jewish trauma with the modern Palestinian trauma. The history from each perspective of rightful possession of Palestine however has been explained along with the history of peace efforts and much of the political background to the recent crisis which has been pored over in every detail. Yet it is the emotional factors that have as much a part to play in the recent crisis as the historical and political detail – the emotions relating to Israeli and Arab pride, the emotional drive for power at all cost, the emotional effect of the unjust distribution of privilege and finally the complete absence of human or spiritual compassion accompanying these emotions that really needs to be addressed.

Let me first begin with pride and its accompanying vice – hypocrisy. Pride breeds arrogance and can begin – as it has historically done with the Jewish/Arab family saga –with an insult that is never forgiven. When Abraham (Ibrahim a.s.) took his second wife Haaja – by some accounts for political reasons and to ensure the safety of his existing wife – he began the epic family tragedy which continues today. Abraham’s first wife was barren, and the insult of taking a second wife was compounded by Haaja (Abraham’s second wife) delivering a son to the patriarch. The conflict was so great that Haaja had to be removed far away – in fact to begin a new nation, and with her son to build the Kaabah which is still revered by Muslims until today as the central unifying structure of Islam - at the centre of every formal prayer and pilgrimage. This same pride and self-centred belief in who has a greater right to God’s message and authority is at the heart of much of tragedy of Palestine. Israeli’s believe that as the rightful heirs of Abraham they have a God-given access to the land of Palestine – a claim apparently rejected by many of their own rabbis. They forcefully substantiate their claim in modern history as part of a just retribution for the Jewish holocaust – but hypocritically inflict a slower and more insidious holocaust on the usurped Palestinians. Islamist militants – rightfully angry at the misappropriation of their land and resources – steadfastly reject the right of Israel to exist, regardless of the size of its modern existence, and hypocritically claim their God-given superiority over the misguided People of the Book despite historical and theological evidence in Islam that Jews could and should be dealt with in a respectful and peaceful manner.

The same pride and hypocrisy is clearly evident in the defiant unleashing of rockets into Israel from within civilian areas – in defence of the Palestinian children who minutes later die of return fire from Israel. The humiliated Palestinian population – particularly the unemployed, frequently detained and tortured, impotent Arab males - see the restoration of their pride in defiance at all costs, even at the cost of the horrific injury and morbid blood letting of their families. The Israeli leadership hypocritically continues to state that it is not targeting civilians and has no evil intent against the Palestinian people – yet its actions are clearly contrary and hypocritical to its statements. Targeting UN Aid convoys, informing women and children to shelter in schools and homes that are then deliberately bombed – not to mention the decades of deliberate and continuous humiliation and deliberate eradication of any hope or aspiration other than martyrdom of their Arab cousins. Yet again hypocritically the Israeli Zionist leaders claim to be God’s chosen people – what kind of a Satanic, unjust and cruel god are they then claiming to represent? Certainly not the God of the Old, New and Quranic testaments who was and is a God of Compassion, bringing judgement on the arrogant (often transgressing Jewish people), a God of justice who freed the children of Nabi Yusuf from Egypt, and a God who delivered through His Messengers - including Moses, Jesus (a.s.) and Muhammad s.a.w. – a just and comprehensive law. All this explains why today, both sides have refused to lay down their arms and consider peace – the pride of the men on both sides is at stake.

However, pride cannot act alone as the central contributor to such a ghastly fiasco. Power and privilege are also at stake. In this crucible of religious, political and racial controversy, the control of one people by another and the privileges that are metered out by those in control is a critical element that must be addressed immediately for any solution. The situation here becomes far more complex than simply the power exercised over the Palestinian people in terms of checkpoints, home demolition, the detention of hundreds of thousands of young men as ‘political prisoners’, theft of water resources, theft of land, and domination of every corner of what was once the beautiful land of Palestine by settlements on every hilltop to intimidate the surviving Palestinian rural population. In fact, as so often in the known history of mankind, Palestine is at the centre of a more global fight over the hearts and minds of humanity. Why is that Iran is supporting Hamas? Iran – representing the virulent version of a hardline Islamist view of the world is using a surrogate army – Hamas to face off against the hegemonic power of ‘the West’ represented by the surrogate government of Israel. The corrupt and Western backed Arab leaders are vacillating in the face of an Islamist presence throughout the Muslim world, while their disenfranchised and suffering population are backing the Hamas/Hizbullah challengers – albeit that they represent a militant and harsh future not too distant from the uncompromising Taliban. This ideological, political and economic fight then may be based in Palestine, but in fact stretches into every continent of the world as Muslims of the global Ummah redefine their changing role in the 21st century.

In the Quranic story of the creation of man, Iblis or Satan refused to bow as ordered to the first man – Adam a.s. He knew – as did the angels – that this creature would be capable of destroying God’s beautiful creation – wreaking death and destruction in Paradise. But Iblis’s greatest crime, and one that he was determined to encourage all men to also commit, was arrogance. Iblis felt that he knew more than to follow the instructions of God and as a result he was condemned for ever. Right now, in Palestine, this sin of arrogance, of pride in interpreting the instructions of God – is being staged catastrophically in the universal media. It is time to return to the true underlying message of all of the Scriptures – humility, compassion, and the rejection of arrogance. The Israeli’s according to their Rabbis are not willing to accept the exile imposed on them by God – but they must. The Arabs are not willing to let go of their land and accept the humiliation imposed on them by the Israeli’s – but they will have to swallow their pride once again for peace. The Israeli’s are not willing to justly share the resources they have illegally accessed – and neither in truth are the Islamists. But they must both learn to live together. And ultimately, those who claim to represent Jewish, Christian and Muslim governments must be brought to account by their people and forced to accept the laws of their respective religion in relation to justice and compassion as dictated by God. Only then will we build a future for our children without fear.(picture of Gaza under attack - compliments of SBS website)