Tag Archives: muslim

A Kurdish haircut and education

I had a haircut yesterday. And I also had a humbling insight into today’s complex world of migration, refugees and multiculturalism.

Godalming is a sleepy, affluent Surrey market town, historically populated largely by white, middle-class commuters. But in recent years, we’ve got used to seeing throngs of Eastern European fruit-pickers wandering past our window to the local soft fruit farm, and several heavy-smoking Turkish barbers undercutting the long-established local scissor-wielders in the ancient High Street.

The latest additions, though, are Kurds and I was captivated by the story of my barber’s life, family, country and future.

He has lived in England for 10 years. His mother still lives in Kurdistan, and is sick. The last time he went home was to help his father, who needed surgery on his legs. The barber sold his car and borrowed money from friends to get back to Kurdistan and help his father, but he was stopped at the Iraqi border and imprisoned for 2 days.  The authorities demanded a bribe of $10,000. He refused, but eventually agreed to pay $1,000.  He saved his father, was held trying to return to England and is unable to go and back and see his family in Kurdistan again.

He asked if I knew about the recent referendum in Kurdistan. A huge majority of Iraqi Kurdistanis voted for independence, but it seems this has put them at an increased risk of attack from neighbouring Turkey and Iran, as well as from Iraq. He believes a war is inevitable.

The barber shrugs his shoulders. Conflict and death are nothing new for Kurds. He says Saddam Hussein murdered hundreds of thousands of his countrymen in the 1980s. Mass graves are still being uncovered today.

I ask if he is a Muslim.  Yes, I am a Sunni Muslim. We have Shia Muslims in Kurdistan too. And Christians, Yazidis, Zoroastrans and some Jews, all living peacefully together. Unlike our neighbours.

I say I would be interested in visiting his country, and ask if it is safe. Normally, yes…but at the moment, after the referendum, possibly not. And do not travel direct from England. Go via Istria. Or Germany. If you go, tell me. You can meet my family.

£10 for a haircut and a humbling insight into another world, as far removed from sleepy Godalming as Kurdistan is from peaceful independence.

Book review – Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

I’m not sure I can remember reading as compelling and timely a book as Home Fire.

Image courtesy of Firstpost

Kamila Shamsie forces us to think about one of the most important issues of our times through complex but believable characters, a shocking plot and a searing insight into Muslim culture and faith,  colliding painfully with the Western world.

The story unfolds like a flower in spring, through the eyes of each protagonist in turn as the seasons pass, until the bleakest of winters and all hope of fresh green renewal has been extinguished.

Isma is free. After years spent raising her twin siblings in the wake of their mother’s premature death, she resumes a dream long deferred – studying in America. Here, she gets to know Eamonn, the privileged son of a powerful British Muslim politician.

Back in London, Eamonn meets – and falls in love with – Aneeka, Isma’s beautiful, young and headstrong sister. But is Eamonn’s love returned, or is Aneeka cruelly seeking political support through Eamonn’s father to help her beloved twin brother Parvaiz?

The central core of the novel tells of Parvaiz, a British-Pakistani Muslim who comes to understand how his father fought for the Taliban and died a glorious death en route to Guantanamo Bay. Parvaiz’s vulnerability is seized on by Farooq, a cynical recruiter for the ISIS cause in Syria.

Image result for islamic state flag

Karamat Lone, Eamonn’s father and Home Secretary, arrives late in the narrative, caught in the crossfire of an unwinnable conflict between faith, ideology, politics, family and love.

But these are only the bare bones of Home Fire. The author weaves layer upon layer of complexity into the story through deft dialogue, subtle shading and brilliant scene-shifting.

Home Fire educates as much as enthrals. It would be a worthy winner of the Man Booker prize for 2017.

 

Muslim madness

Gill and I went to Paris late in 2015, just two weeks after the so-called Islamic State terror squads had wreaked havoc there through a series of murderous attacks on soft civilian targets, one normal Friday evening.

Outside the Bataclan club, a moving message from a victim's parent

Now further atrocities have been committed in Brussels, by IS suicide bombers linked to the Paris attacks.

These incursions strike at the heart of Europe, developed western economies and non-Muslim religions. But two other unrelated attacks, since the Brussels outrage, have shocked me even more.

Asad Shah, a shopkeeper in the Shawlands area of Glasgow, was by all accounts a kindly man. He was also a Muslim.

Asad Shah

Last Thursday he was murdered outside his shop, shortly after posting a message to his customers on Facebook: “Good Friday and a very happy Easter, especially to my beloved Christian nation.”

Tanveer Ahmed, 32, from Bradford in Yorkshire, was accused today of murdering Mr. Shah. Police Scotland had previously described the incident as a religiously prejudiced attack and said both men were Muslims.

The implication is clear: one Muslim took deep offence at another extending the hand of friendship to Christian friends during their own religious festival.

On Easter Sunday, in Pakistan’s Lahore, the city’s minority Christian community was celebrating at a funfair. Suicide bombers detonated their deadly loads and killed at least 72 people, including 29 children and many women.

Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar said it carried out the attack against Christians celebrating Easter. Ironically, many Muslims were also killed.

It seems that the so-called Islamic State and its far-flung acolytes will not rest until all non-Muslim religions are eradicated.

I fear the war – for that is now what we face – is only just beginning.