On Mehdi Hassan's Advice To The Muslim Community
By Sukant Chandan
Are you "British" or are you a "foreigner"!
George Galloway's election victory in Bradford West has rocked the establishment parties, shortly after which well-known writer Mehdi Hassan wrote an opinion piece in the choice newspaper of left-liberal wing of the British white power structure, The Guardian. Hassan bemoans the fact that so many South Asian Muslims in Britain are more concerned about international issues pertaining to their community and politics in South Asia than they are concerned with domestic issues such as "reforms of the NHS to the future of local schools; from the lack of social housing to rising energy bills and train fares."
Perhaps Hassan doesn't see it this way, but the context of this article in the narrow sense is Galloway's victory in Bradford, and in the wider perspective it is written in the debates around Britishness, identity and how this all related to British neo-colonialism and white supremacy.
When most people thought Galloway was on the way to political oblivion having lost two elections recently, one quite badly in Glasgow, Galloway has come through to win a historic by-election. The result smashed all the other candidates and especially the Labour candidate by 10,000 votes in what was hitherto a safe Labour seat since 1974.
The two main reasons for this win are the alienation of the working class in Bradford from the failed local and national policies of Labour, and also their opposition, especially amongst the Muslim constituents to Britain foreign policy of war and occupation.
Hassan's article raises several issues that need more discussion, but what often passes for discussion around these issues lacks any real vigour on the part of those who can consistently, clearly and militantly oppose the typically sophisticated British policies in its attempts to white-wash our identity and political loyalties.
The British state tries to turn non-white communities who have roots in the Global South away from their internationalist loyalty to the lands of their ancestors. The political power of diaspora communities of the Global South in Britain is predicated on the strength of the alliance to the homeland. The South Asian community in Britain has historically only drew strength for itself by marrying their struggles over here to the struggles 'back home' against first outright colonialism, and then neo-colonialism. Any cursory glance at race-relations history on this island can see this to obviously be the case.
Focus on 'foreign issues' doesn't weaken but strengthens our communities
The struggle in Afghanistan is against nato occupation. The struggle in Pakistan is against military aggression resulting in massacres by means of drone-delivered yankee airstrikes. Both are anti-imperialist struggles, and for people of South Asia to support both struggles means to strengthen our position in Britain . Supporting our peoples in the homeland gives us dignity in supporting the resistance of our peoples. It gives us clarity as to who is our enemy - nato - and who are our allies - our peoples, their humble resistance and those nations of the Global South who oppose nato and western foreign policy. Any other path means forfeiting who we are fundamentally, means forfeiting our ancestors who were martyred in their millions fighting the British colonial state, and who continue to struggle and sacrifice today.
Hassan however seems rather troubled by this potent alliance of our communities between here and back home: "We have allowed ourselves to be defined only by foreign policy and, in particular, by events in the Middle East for far too long. British Muslims can make a positive contribution to British society, but first we have to stop our navel-gazing and victim mentality. We must let the people, press and politicians of this country know that we are as British as we are Muslim, and we care about our shared future."
One can only conclude that Hassan had written this article in great haste or/and perhaps under some kind of ideological duress in his own mind. Perhaps he was under some kind of duress from other interests because this quote like much of the article is very easy to shoot down and seems very sloppily written for someone who has been allowed to be an editor of the New Statesmen.
So British Muslims "can" make a positive contribution to British life but "first" have to stop the victim mentality? This is either very sloppy writing or its just plain insulting.
While South Asian Muslims, like any other community have their minority of anti-social elements, on the whole British Muslims, Hassan I am sure would agree, have made all kinds of positive contributions to British society. So why is Hassan saying the opposite in this piece?
Who does it serve to say British Muslims haven't contributed anything to British society because they are caught up in their "victim mentality"? Anyone with a bone of political nouse knows exactly what political interests this kind of talk serves: it serves the status quo."Victim mentality"?
Have Muslims been victims of racism or 'Islamophobia' especially in the last decade since the eruption of the Second Al-Aqsa Intifada and 911, of course they have. I am not Muslim, but being from South Asia and having a closely cropped beard that may look 'Muslamic' to some, I have been harassed many times by the British police under the anti-terror laws, just for looking like a Muslim.
Any black or brown person in Britain has definitely been the victim of racism from the media, the police, from the education system and our communities have been victim to this ever since the first ones of us entered into contact with the British state.
Has this "victim mentality" hindered the Muslim people of Bradford ? No, rather they have clearly and loudly stamped onto the British political landscape their views through the election of Galloway . Isn't this a contribution to British society, and a positive and healthy one at that? Isn't it one to celebrate and hope its replicated elsewhere? It is, but obviously the it's the kind of contribution Hassan seems to be very uncomfortable with and is troubling him.
I do remember reading and seeing Hassan quite a lot in the White Man's media of late talking up regime change in Syria . His comments dove-tail with the same policies promoted by Saudi and other Gulf monarchies, israel and nato on the issue. Seems its ok to talk about 'foreign issues' as long as it's Hassan himself parroting regime-change talk for neo-colonialism and its puppets, but not for Muslims in Britain to oppose British foreign policy. Hassan has made a nice nifty political career for himself largely in part in commenting on western foreign policy. One rule for the community but another rule for himself?Being 'British' or being 'foreign'?
Hassan continues: "How can Muslims complain about our rights, our freedoms, our collective future, if we aren't engaged in the political process across the board as active British citizens? We have an obligation, as Britons and as Muslims, to fully participate in local and national debates and not to stand idly by."
Here Hassan is defining for the Muslim community what he thinks being 'British' is. If anyone was in doubt to this, Hassan comes with the killer line:
"When we only talk of foreign affairs, is it any wonder that we seem to come across as foreigners?"
All non-white people have grappled to some smaller or larger extent with the crisis of identity and self-confidence borne out of oppression by the white western world to fit into their notions of what being human is and what is an alien, or in the parlance of Hassan, a "foreigner". God forbid anyone thinks of our people as 'foreigners' in Britain , gosh, now that really would be awfully horrid!
If we care one iota that anyone thinks of us as foreigners for whatever reasons, then we really have a crisis of confidence in ourselves as individuals and as communities. The collective struggles of our community and ancestors encourage us to ignore what anyone thinks, especially the white world, and to respect who we are and to defend it to the end and beyond.
Our community and ancestors have overcome greater battles then what we are fighting today, they overcame colonial subjugation and the racist terror of some whites and police, especially as first generation people on this island. They didn't sacrifice all this so we would start fretting and compromising with the status quo because people would see us as foreigners.
Hassan knows very well that the Labour Party gets massive amounts of votes from people in South Asian communities, many of the elders still don't speak English. Are they foreigners, or are they British? Auntie and Uncles here should be respected as equal citizens of this land. But one is not so sure Hassan would agree. They don't share the values of white people in England , they don't share the language or many of the morals, or lack of which, they see in the media and amongst the people of this land. So Hassan, are Auntie and Uncle 'Britons'?
The concept 'British' is fundamentally contested today but Hassan is choosing to promote it, and that's his right or seeing his privileged position that English white society has given him, perhaps is he obliged to lest he lose those privileges.
Many people on this island, especially massive numbers in Scotland, England and Cornwall will take some offence to the term "British", as this is a colonialist concept and political arrangement promoted by England-centric loyalists and colonialists from the far-left to the far-right of the English political spectrum. This concept of Britishness is to perpetuate the colonial arrangement between dominant England and those nations England colonised by force: Cornwall , Wales , Scotland and Ireland . Britishness and the United Kingdom is falling apart, and not too soon as this is the oldest colonial entity on the planet today and its disintegration will be one of the greatest developments and achievements of humanity's struggle to a more just international order.
It can be argued that being more concerned with international issues, or being a "foreigner" as defined by Hassan, is actually politically more important to political life of our communities on this island than being primarily concerned with domestic issues. Living in the world's first modern colonial country it is near impossible to not be concerned with foreign affairs, as all domestic benefits are inextricably linked to the British neo-colonial state. Forgetting this means going down the dangerous route of forsaking humanity for a parochial outlook and forgetting that humanity is suffering under Britain's and its closest allies jackboot either in direct military aggression and occupation, or by means of aggressive regime change plans which Britain is planning on many countries of the Global South, or in economic and political manipulation, bribing and pressure.
Forgetting our responsibility to the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan for example means turning our backs on humanity in exchange for joining in the white-settler-colonial mindset, the choice mindset promoted by the British state.
Being a "foreigner" is morally superior to being "British", as it is concerned for wider humanity. Being concerned for our elderly and children who are terrified in night raids by nato troops is more important than binge drinking in Britain; yankee massacres in Pakistan is more important than saving the local school; that South Asia has some of the highest levels of child poverty in the world is more important than the Labour party getting back into political office. That's not to say all these domestic issues aren't important, they are to the 63 odd million people in Britain but not so much to the some billion and a half people in South Asia . Domestic issues are important, but they are just not comparable to our concerns and active solidarity and unity with our people back home. Not being loyal to our people means adopting a slave mentality that forsakes humanity for a temporary high-chair at the white man's table.
These are issues that have been raised powerfully before by people like Steve Biko, Malcolm X, Dr Martin Luther King Jr, Cesaire, Ngugi and others. Resisting the white man's colonisation of one's mind is no easy task, some will fall victim to it, as Hassan is in danger of. Perhaps we need to go return to those sources of mental self-defence and resistance to white supremacy and empire.More 'foreigners' less 'Britons' necessary to our communities uplift
One could argue that rather than being less concerned for issues abroad it is rather more important that our communities have greater internationalist focus for their own benefit and for humanity's benefit.
Due to complex divide and rule tactics by the British state that cannot be elucidated upon here, there are too many divisions between the diaspora communities of the Global South in Britain . There are too many divisions between South Asians themselves, between brown people and black people, between Africans and Caribbean people, and so on. If people were to unite with their peoples in the homelands and unite with each other our political power here would be that much greater. Bradford showed on a very small level how powerful our youth could be if they express through political struggle their concerns for and unity with their/our people in one section of the Global South.
Imagine if the youth whose roots are in the Caribbean or in Africa would mobilise themselves in opposing and defeating empire's white supremacist abuse of their people in Africa and the Caribbean and here, for the two struggles are the one and the same. This is what the British system fears the most and does everything to ensure that this does not develop, and it seems its what Hassan fears too judging from his article.
Millions of our ancestors died fighting for freedom against British rule across the continents. That struggle has not ended even if British tricknology would like us to believe otherwise. We must stay loyal to this struggle, as we have been sent to this island by our ancestors to continue the struggle, or put simply "We're here because you were there", and we are here to take all of that which the English stole from us. If a young woman can get a prison sentence for stealing some underwear during the 2011 August uprising of the poor and black youth, then how is it Britain can steal and decimate large sections of humanity with impunity?
Furthermore, we are here to not only take back that which was stolen from us (Kohinoor diamond would be a good if only symbolic start) but also to demand reparations for all the millions of lives that the British took and all the destruction that the British brought and continue to bring. The British system is designed to divert us from this path of basic justice for our peoples and ancestors and prefer to use non-white people to befuddle our brains away from these historic tasks.
You are either loyal to the struggle for justice against the British state, or you are a co-opted part of the British state. There's only one direction to go in. And it seems clear Mehdi Hassan likes the 'Britons', over us 'foreigners'.
Sorry Hassan, we foreigners long ago made this island our home, and this will never be reversed. Can we be militant anti-imperialists, assertively be loyal to the Global South and still contribute to the actual make up of the identity of this island? No doubt, and that's what we are doing anyway, but it's this process that the British state want to reverse.
The British state has for a long time used brown skinned people against the brown and black skinned masses, especially of late in their mainstream media. They have done so without any real oppositional voices to this process of co-option by the British white power structure. This is another layer of British divide and rule. It's high time there was in political and polemical terms an open season in order to expose and defeat these uncle toms, sorry, I meant good little brown-skinned 'Britons'. So beware, the 'foreigners' are out to get you.Sukant Chandan is a London-based freelance journalist, researcher and political analyst. He runs two websites: http://ouraim.blogspot.com/ and http://sonsofmalcolm.blogspot.com/ and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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