Meanwhile in Syria…

Recently, many regions of Syria (Aleppo in particular) have been subjected to mass airstrikes and bombing- a furious war between extremists, rebels and Western interveners claiming to be carrying out their innate responsibility of “defending democracy”. Caught between the crossfire are little children who once lead ordinary lives, going to school, talking about superheroes and princesses, and living the boundless, colourful lives that children are supposed to live. 

A lot can change in a few years. Whereas before, the children of Syria went about their daily lives very much like the children of Britain or America, their state of being today is a whole different story. Countless documentary-makers, journalists and photographers have sought to capture the daily plight of Syrian children in photographs and films, and although these productions give us a glimpse of their struggles, we can never truly understand what these children are being forced to endure on a daily basis.

A chilling picture drawn by a Syrian child: Notice how the dead, mutilated corpses are smiling.

Two days ago, a very overwhelming image of a little Syrian boy was released, and took the world’s media by storm. His name is Omran Daqneesh; he is around five years old, and he was pictured sitting dazed, afraid and alone in an ambulance, after being rescued from the rubble and remains of what was once his home; the other three children within the vicinity sadly passed away. Their last memories of this life were of missiles, shouting and being trapped under piles of rubble.Thousands of Syrian children have been killed, scarred for life, and forced to grow up beyond their years due to the atrocities they are being subjected to incessantly.

A CNN newsreader breaks down on live TV as she reports on Omran Daqneesh

These children should not simply be dismissed as ‘collateral damage’. They deserve to enjoy the deliciousness of childhood without the constant anxieties associated with bombs and attacks. In truth, Western intervention is largely counterproductive; airstrikes by Russian and other Western governments are, in reality, feeding the flames and sustaining the war and merciless bloodshed. These incendiaries are destroying Syria’s remains of centuries of rich history; they are killing children as they sleep in their beds; they are killing newborn babies as they fight for their lives in incubators, and then heartlessly denying these children entry into their lands. Where is the humanity?

A powerful political cartoon by Khalid Albaih: Omran Daqneesh’s home in Aleppo was destroyed in an airstrike, and he was extracted from the rubble. Aylan Kurdi (right) drowned in the sea after his family tried to escape a similar fate.

Ultimately, there is only one clear solution, and that is to stop bombing Syria. 


Sadia Ahmed, 2016

Twitter: @sadiaahmedj | Instagram/Snapchat: sadiaahmedj | Youtube

Was Corbyn being anti-Semitic?

This morning, I logged into Twitter to find that the phrase ‘Israel to ISIS’ was trending in London. After further investigation, I discovered that Jeremy Corbyn (the current leader of the British Labour Party) was (yet again) being pressured to resign amid claims that he had made a strikingly anti-Semitic comment in Parliament.

Here is the exact statement he made:

“Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations”

I had several initial reactions to this statement in contrast with the intensely negative responses it received. Firstly, what kind of anti-Semitic person in his right mind would refer to Jews as “friends”? Moreover, Corbyn did not compare Israel to Daesh- rather, he compared the relations of ordinary Jews and Muslims in the UK to fundamentalist organisations, such as the Netanyahu government and (presumably) corrupted governments like that of Saudi Arabia. Daesh was not mentioned in this particular assertion, and yet this is what hundreds of Brits are focusing on.

Corbyn has always voiced views in support of British Jews and Muslims, and yet, due to the above statement, people have deemed the Labour Party “unsafe” for Jews under Corbyn’s leadership. Many gentiles seem to be anointing themselves as spokespeople for the Jewish community, criticising Corbyn’s ‘antisemitism’. But is it really anti-Semitic to oppose the actions of a particular government? Similarly, is it Islamophobic to oppose the actions of the Saudi government? Is it anti-Semitic to actively oppose anti-Semitism on the basis of scapegoating? No. These ideas are fundamentally absurd- they are mere excuses for people to thrive on in order to meet a political objective (in this case, pressuring Corbyn to resign from his position).

Corbyn was right in declaring that Zionism should not be conflated with Judaism, as far too often, ordinary Jews are forced to pay for the crimes of IDF soldiers, and (in a similar sense) ordinary Muslims are forced to pay for the crimes of various ‘Islamist’ organisations. This unjust culture of scapegoating is precisely what Corbyn spoke out against.

Many Jews are tweeting in anger and frustration against the calls for Corbyn to resign, arguing that the Labour leader was right to make such a statement, as people habitually conflate Zionism with Judaism, and physically and verbally attack Jews as a result of this foolish notion. Ironically, the statement that many are branding as ‘anti-Jewish’, was in fact, to protect the best interests of the British Jewish community.

What I find most disconcerting is that many of the politicians who have criticised Corbyn’s leadership (especially in the past few hours) have never championed the rights of the British Jewish community until now- this is an example of political tokenism at its worst. The interests of the British Jewish community are, once again, being exploited to conform to a political agenda.

Post-Brexit, British politics have morphed into a thing of childlike folly and deceit, and politicians of high morals and integrity are being held liable for the actions of their (polar opposite) counterparts. Corbyn is not a monstrous anti-Semite as British media outlets are currently portraying him, and anyone claiming Corbyn has an antisemitism problem because ‘compared Israel to ISIS’ is in desperate need of a remedial lesson in basic logic.


Sadia Ahmed, 2016

#DontBombSyria

Two days ago, after a 10-hour parliamentary debate, the Prime Minister’s motion of bombing Syria was carried, and yesterday RAF jets carried out their first airstrikes against so-called Islamic State. For an Eton-educated politician, David Cameron isn’t particularly bright. 

“Fighting fire with fire only makes the flame bigger”. That’s what my friend Michelle had to say when I asked her for her thoughts on the subject. “The war against terror is almost like a playground fight. If a bully abuses someone, hitting the bully will only provoke them. The only way of truly establishing peace is through talking it out”.

According to Russian News Agency TASS, there are some 50,000 ISIS militants in Syria. Official figures show that Raqqa (the city that Russian and British airstrikes are primarily targetting) has a population of 220,268. So, there are approximately 170,268 innocent civilians in the city, who will either be displaced or killed by the bombs- innocent civilians like Raghat. What have these people- these children- done wrong?

“David Cameron knows that opposition to his ill-thought rush to war is growing…On planning, strategy, ground troops, diplomacy, the terrorist threat, refugees and civilian casualties, it’s become increasingly clear that the prime minister’s proposal simply doesn’t stack up.” –Jeremy Corbyn

Common sense is, undoubtedly, a key component of politics and warfare, however it seems to be something that Mr. Cameron lacks almost entirely. He believes that “military intervention” has been “the right decision to keep the UK safe”. Any human being with more than six brain cells knows that this is not an example of intervention- this is downright provocation, and will no doubt act as a catalyst for an adverse reaction of some sort from Islamic State.

Additionally, Mr. Cameron is under the impression that bombing Syria will result in a decline in the number of people joining Islamic State. I disagree. To innocent men and women in Raqqa, the British airforce will seem like a terrorist group no different to Daesh. Perhaps some will choose to enjoin in the fight against the West in order to prevent such attacks on their country.

Either way, joining France, Russia, America and Germany in bombing Syria will certainly not have the totally faultless effect that Mr. Cameron (through his rose-tinted spectacles) believes it will. We cannot fight hypocrisy with even more hypocrisy, and we cannot fight fire with fire.

Islamophobia

People often ask me where I am from. I was born and raised in Britain, yet the question of ethnic origins appears to be of more importance, despite the fact that I’ve only visited Bangladesh thrice in my life, for three weeks at most each time. Despite my outward features (headscarf, skin colour and the like) I naturally consider myself… British. Or, at least, a Londoner?

Islamophobia:

It supposedly all began after the tragedies of 9/11; I was only a year old at the time, and yet the events of this day continue to resonate around me wherever I go. I shuffle in discomfort when the line “Please report any suspicious items or activity to transport staff” is articulated over the Tannoy system on the Tube, and bow my head in discomfort when I am stared at afterwards- sometimes with quick glances of sympathy, but far too often with unmoving glares of hostility. I am seen as not an individual, but a representational piece of the bigger picture- the media narrative that speaks of bombings, female degradation, beheadings and mass terror. People fail to acknowledge that, certainly, not all Muslims harbour ideological stances adjacent to that of ISIS. In fact, most Muslims openly condemn the acts of ISIS, as the Quran explicitly advises Muslims to

“Enjoin in what is good, and forbid what is evil”.

The truth is, I hate what certain so-called ‘Muslim’ groups do. And I am afraid due to the stories I hear from my aunts and uncles, of racist assaults and verbal abuse that they themselves have been victim of.

The word ‘terror’ is now popularly associated with Muslims.

I myself am not immune to being a target of such misconduct. For instance, when I was aged twelve years old, during a boat ride down a river in Kent, a group of men instructed me to “Jump in the lake, for everyone’s sake” and that “EDL will someday destroy” me, and also quite recently, when my two-year-old brother and I looked on as a man physically assaulted our father because he was a “F***ing Paki”.

Whereas before, I was extremely confident, proudly displaying my eccentric nature wherever I went, I am now afraid of lingering alone in public areas, for fear of both being a victim of racist abuse, and of reminding others of the brutal acts carried out by alleged constituents of my faith. I feel as though I must constantly show signs of remorse, despite my distance from the villains in question. When someone stares at me, I smile awkwardly and apologetically.

Over the past few decades, the influence of mass media has grown exponentially with the advancement of technology, to the extent where people uncritically rely on the media as an objective source of information. With the growth of mass media, the term ‘terrorism’ to describe crimes committed by ‘Islamists’ has become exceedingly popular. The definition of this term according to the Oxford dictionary is:

(n) The unofficial use of violence/intimidation in the pursuit of political aims

So what of right-wing fascist movements? Where are the front-page articles reporting their offences? Where is the generalised vilification of them?

Young British Muslims are somehow externalised from their rightful British identities, unduly forced to choose between their religious and cultural identities, regardless of where they were born, or the colour of their passports. A scarf over my head and modest clothing to express my pride in my faith is somehow enough to provoke a torrent of Islamophobic abuse, even as a teenager.

I believe that in a country where freedom of expression and values of tolerance and respect are central societal components, this should not be the case, and that young Muslims should have the freedom to uphold and be proud of both their Muslim and British identities: the two are not mutually exclusive.