COLUMN - THE BRADFORD SHEIKH: Much a do about a flask of tea, hoors of jannah and praying for forgiveness

    A few months ago, I was referred to hospital by my GP, who warned me beforehand: “Looks like you will be needing surgery on your nose.”
    A few weeks later, I was on my way to hospital and the surgeon confirmed what my Doctor suspected. As he leered into my nose: “It’s too far gone, the only way is to have surgery, I’m afraid.”
    The surgeon drew a picture on a plain piece of paper explaining how my septum had deviated totally to the left and the opening on the left side of my nose was tiny and the opening on the right side, was now massive –in layman’s terms – my nose was as bent as a five-bob note.

    “I have been doing this for over 20 years,” gushed the surgeon in a truly haughty colonial manner...
    “Haw, haw, I will be done with you in twenty minutes,” blimey, I thought, ‘hope he’s not got any Jimmy Saville sort of tendencies, or I’m truly done for!’

    Sadly, the ‘Carry On’ sketch would not end there.
    That said, if I was to choose a ‘Carry On’ character to play in my very own ‘Carry On Doctor’ movie, It would have to be Francis Bigger, played by the late Frankie Howard: “Oh just some pain in the back. It’s a ooh, ooh dear.”

    Well, I had to get ready to start playing the victim, especially after my dear mother decided to announce the fact that her beloved son had to have an operation to all her daughters: “My son’s going to have to go to hospital to have an operation on his nose,” she said, before looking at me with a twinge of sadness.

    Did I lap it up? You bet I did!

    As we got closer to operation time, my mother kept on trying to get me to say something like: “I don’t want to take my wife, I want to take my mother, the one who gave birth to me, nurtured, clothed, taught me everything, you get my drift?!
    When I asked her to accompany me, she was over the moon – and as the day of reckoning got closer, I didn’t really think about it much. My Mrs asked: “Are you scared?” I retorted “Nah, not even thought about it.”

    It was only hours before I went into the hospital did it hit me. My boss put his arms around me after turning his face away from a hospital diagram I was given: “OHHHHH, take it easy mate", before turning back and retorting: “If something happens and you pass away, I’ll look after your kids,” before nonchalantly patting me on my back, and shouting at my colleagues who were left open mouthed: “What, I only said I’ll look after his kids if he dies, I’m trying to help him here.”

    The day of reckoning came, and my parents were at my house about 10 minutes before I had initially expected them, I could get used to this I thought, before thinking: “Nah, Asian time doesn’t apply when it comes to emergencies.”

    We got to the hospital and as soon as we walked in, mother was aghast by an unholy sight: “Free coffee and tea, I’m definitely going to have some.”
    Her comment actually made me feel at ease as I felt like Francis Bigger as I knew the next quirky comment was not far off.
    She did get her tea, via the traditional flask she had smuggled into the hospital: “She sipped away to her heart’s content – it was like her 'Shawshank Redemption' moment where Tim Robbins no longer feels like a criminal, as he sits on top of a building, with only his dreams and aspirations as company. We then saw the smiling face of my surgeon with every turn of the doorknob: “Are you ready to breathe better now Sir?”

    I felt like responding with, “Gee saheb,” but since this guy was going to be cutting my nose open any time soon, I went with “I am indeed,” complete with a water melon smile.
    All the way through the two hour, wait through the pre-operative process; my mother just prayed the holy quran for two hours, with her flask in tow, occasionally stopping for a few minutes to ask me what I had ordered for lunch, to ensure she could also have a nibble, and also to praise the non-muslims for their hospitality and kindness: “They are so polite,” before breaking out in duaa for the entire nation, and then back to reading.

    I was eventually taken to the operating room and the real wait began, my mother asked me for forgiveness, it was like I was coming back in a box or something, granted you never know when our time is up, but I thought, bugger, if I do, I should also get praying, in case the almighty accepts me and gets my nikkah done to all those ‘Hoors’, then is there any point in coming back? What a predicament to be in eh?

    I was given my anaesthetic and instead of slowly succumbing, I was knocked out straight away, and the next thing I know, I was in pain, and all sorts of women waiting by me, to wake up, nurses unfortunately, not the 'hoor’s of jannah.'

    I was then taken back to mother who smothered me in hugs and was probably the main reason why the operation went so well, she constantly prayed and visited me for days after I had come home, I saw first-hand what our mothers go through for us, pray, console, make us laugh make us happy – in a totally unconditional manner – may she be rewarded and may all our mothers be rewarded with eternal bliss for the many sacrifices they give for us day after day and night after night.

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    COLUMN: The Bradford Sheikh - Do girls really have blue pee?

    He is forthright, upfront , can be rude and he most certainly doesn't hold back. We welcome our brand NEW resident columnist - THE BRADFORD SHEIKH.
    Every month The Bradford Sheikh will share his views on issues surrounding the South Asian community living in the UK.
    You might not like what he has to say, but it's HIS and he couldn't give a monkey's......so read with care.

    This month I am going to approach the subject of that time of the month…Yes, I do mean periods!!

    Let me start off by saying that as an Asian man I used to feel very uncomfortable about women having periods. I used to hate the thought of the other half wanting to change her pad so many times, or acting like a total numpty and covering up my ears when she told me it was her time of the month.

    The worst thing was picking up a set of pads, after being asked to go to a shop to get a packet.
    I would feel very uncomfortable as women cashiers were off limits, and cool guys–anybody who might look like they’d comment on my purchases were also off limits.
    After some time, I asked myself why are men so afraid of the P word to begin with? Or the M word? It’s a really good question, and although I cannot speak for everyone, I do have a few thoughts. We are all products of our generation, and our thoughts/actions are influenced by both men and women.

    The reality is that men generally don’t talk about menstruation – they just don’t. Men talk about “manly” things: sports, cars, women, etc. Talking about periods is off limits–it’s in the unwritten, but culturally understood book of manliness. To mention periods among your male peers or even your elders is just plain and simply a taboo.

    On the other hand, I remember several occasions as a child when I’d be watching TV with friends and a tampon or pad commercial would come on. Right around the time the ubiquitous blue liquid started to pour, my mum would come running into the room to change the channel.

    Really?

    If anything, this just left me with more questions, like, do girls really have blue pee? And, why don’t mums come running in during the brawny commercials? In hindsight, I know they were trying to do a good thing, but what they really did was instill in me a sense of secrecy about menstruation and menstrual products.

    Having said that, I do think that times are changing, even though 40 per cent of people are uncomfortable buying tampons. I’d imagine that 10 years ago, this number was much higher, and that 10 years from now, it will be even lower. I’m resistant to change – I’m a man – but in this case, I think any change that makes us men more understanding is a good thing.

    For all you guys out there who aren’t quite ready to make this leap, I’d be happy to buy your partner or your sisters period products for her. Who knows? This may be my lifelong job

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    There was a post-invasion plan for Iraq, but the West has learned nothing from its failure

    By PAUL ROGERS

    Professor of Peace Studies, University of Bradford

    The recent bombing in the heart of a largely Shia district of Baghdad is now reported to have killed at least 165 people, including 25 children, and wounded 225.

    Caused by a single large truck bomb, it is the latest in a series of attacks claimed by Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. These incidents have added hugely to a civilian death toll now approaching the terrible losses of the height of the Iraq War a decade ago.

    According to Iraq Body Count, the worst years since the 2003 invasion were 2007 (more than 29,000 killed) and 2008 (more than 26,000). There was a marked decline towards the end of the decade but even then more than 4,000 were killed each year in 2010-12, and more than 9,000 in 2013 as the impact of IS began to be felt. Since then, the situation has apparently peaked, but still remains desperate: more than 20,000 died in 2014, 17,500 in 2015, and 7,000 in the first six months of this year.

    That the latest attack came just days before the publication of the Chilcot report makes for a tragically apt coincidence. And yet there is a real risk that in all the hubbub about Chilcot, Tony Blair, war crimes and the rest, two absolutely core elements of the tragedy of the War on Terror will be lost.

    On the one hand, too many still hold on to the mistaken idea that the West was unprepared for the consequences of regime termination in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. And on the other, many think we’re beginning to get it right, destroying IS by intense remote warfare using airstrikes and armed drones and driving it from territory it controls.

    Ready to rebuild

    The West did not “lose the peace” in Iraq because it wasn’t prepared.

    In early 2002, the assumption was that the post-war reconstruction and the development of Afghanistan could be left mainly to the Europeans, while the US led the fight to terminate Saddam Hussein’s rule. And the “liberation” of Iraq would have the bonus effect of thoroughly constraining Iran, which would face US bases in Iraq and Afghanistan, Western allies in the Gulf, and the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet controlling the seas.

    The neo-cons always saw the Iranian regime as the real threat to the region; as the saying went in Washington, “the road to Tehran runs through Baghdad”.

    At first, it seemed to work brilliantly, and Bush felt empowered to give his notorious “mission accomplished” speech barely three weeks after the fall of the Baghdad regime. What would come next was already thought out, and is brilliantly captured in Rajiv Chandrasekaran’s book, Imperial Life in the Emerald City.

    Paul Bremer’s Coalition Provisional Authority really believed that Iraq could become a pure neo-liberal economic model state, with wholesale privatisation of all state assets, flat tax rates, minimal financial regulation and no trade unions. It is utter nonsense to suggest there was no plan; the point is that, as Chandrasekaran explains in excruciating detail, the plan failed dismally from the start.

    In practice, quite a few Britons working with the provisional authority, including some from the Department for International Development, saw the tragedy unfolding and tried to counter it, but had far too little influence to have much effect.

    Right track, wrong track

    Then there’s the notion that the West is now “getting it right”.

    The air war of the last 23 months has been far more intense than reported, with at least 30,000 IS supporters killed so far and inroads being made into the group’s controlled territory, especially in Iraq but also in Libya. But to forecast any kind of victory in the near future is hugely dangerous.

    Over the past 18 months, IS planners have systematically set out to take the war to their enemies, and not just the Abadi government in Baghdad. We’ve seen a range of attacks in a number of countries, many inspired and encouraged by IS, and others with more direct involvement.

    Tunis, Sousse, Brussels, Paris, Sinai, San Bernardino, Orlando, Istanbuland Dhaka – these are all part of a widening campaign, one aimed, in part, at stimulating anti-Muslim bigotry and hatred, as well as demonstrating IS’s continued power.

    Even 15 years after 9/11, Western strategists still fail to see al-Qaeda and IS for what they are: transnational revolutionary movements rooted in an eschatological outlook which sees this earthly life as just one part of the process. At root, IS wants and needs war with the West, and the West is giving it just what it wants. Until that fact is confronted, the war will go on.

    If this week’s debate over the Chilcot Report concentrates almost entirely on Blair and Iraq and does not even begin to recognise this wider dimension, it will have been a tragic missed opportunity to address where the West has really gone wrong.

    This article was originally published on The Conversation
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    'Brexit has given legitimacy and a newfound voice to racist and Islamophobic narratives' - Dr Qari Asim, MBE

    Dr Qari Asim, MBE, Senior Imam (Makkah Mosque Leeds)

    The result of the historic EU referendum has been dramatic and unexpected for many, giving rise to the political and economic turmoil that had been widely forecast in the event of a Brexit. Other consequences were perhaps not as well predicted, such as the rise in racial attacks in the immediate aftermath of the referendum. The result has exposed the uncomfortable divisions between London, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the rest of England and Wales. Brexit has sparked fears of further disintegration of the United Kingdom and even across the continent.

    It has also highlighted the intolerance that exists towards ethnic minorities within the UK. The fact that there has been a 57% rise in the number of hate crimes reported in the aftermath of the referendum shows that the result has given a new found confidence to those who may have previously expressed such views online or in closed quarters; they have been emboldened to take their messages of hate to the streets.

    Prior to the EU Referendum, I wrote that political leaders on both sides of the campaign needed to avoid alarmist scare stories and hyperbolic claims and focus on engaging all sections of the society, addressing the specific concerns of those who are under-privileged and disenfranchised. One particular section of society that seems to have been ignored by the Remain campaign are less affluent communities, living in areas of social and economic deprivation, with little or no employment prospects. Although by no means all members of these communities perceived the EU to be the cause of their lack of financial stability, an overwhelming majority did. Disturbingly, even areas which have been direct beneficiaries of EU funding have felt so disenfranchised with their lot that they have voted Leave.

    Interestingly, although 46% of British Muslims live in the bottom 10% most deprived wards in England, most of them did not see European Union as a cause of their economic and social depravation. 70% of Muslims voted for Remain, in line with some other minorities like Asians in general (67%) and Blacks (74%).

    The EU Referendum result highlights the gulf that exists in our country between the political elite and the under-privileged in parts of the our country. This protest vote, which ignored advice from political figures from David Cameron to Obama, respected institutions from the Treasury to the Bank of England, as well as Churches and other places of worship, makes one point abundantly clear: the disenfranchised amongst us will no longer accept being marginalised.

    The Brexit result also seems to have unleashed division, bigotry, and hatred against migrants and minorities. It has given legitimacy and a new found voice to racist and Islamophobic narratives. Leading up to the EU Referendum, we all saw that the tone, language, campaigning material and actions of some members of the Leave campaign were anti-Muslim, anti-semitic and anti-ethnic minorities. The divisive and toxic campaigned continued for months - ranging from the Leave campaign poster stating that 76 million Turks were about to join the EU to the infamous UKIP ‘breaking point’ poster showing Syrian refugees on the Croatia-Slovenia border. But most of us remained silent.

    In my own hometown of Leeds, which is a tolerant, dynamic, and economically vibrant city, I saw that members of the Leave campaign were espousing hate-filled rhetoric and attracting many people in city centre. Instead of talking about economic, political and social benefits of leaving the UK, they were focusing on the perceived “Muslim invasion” of Britain, or "Sharia" being enforced in parts of Yorkshire.

    I must stress that those who voted to Leave did so for a variety of reasons and not all of them should be accused of being, selfish, bigoted, xenophobic or racist. However, my concern has always been that a UK departure would reinforce ultra-nationalist far right sentiments amongst certain sections of society, and they would seek to alienate and demonise minorities.

    The brutal murder of Jo Cox MP - whom I knew to be an inspiring public servant, selfless humanitarian and fearless campaigner - is a stark reminder about the growing threat from far right extremism, as the murderer is alleged to have been in contact with far right movements, and potentially 'radicalised' by them.

    My concern has therefore unfortunately been proven correct. Within a couple of days of Brexit, we have seen anti-Muslim, anti-migrant and anti-refugee sentiments on our streets. In the London borough of Hammersmith, the glass. doors of a Polish cultural centre have been daubed with an anti-Polish slogan. In Cambridgeshire there have been reports of signs saying "Leave the EU, no more Polish vermin" posted through the letter boxes of polish families on the same day as the referendum result. In Newcastle, a placard was placed urging the country to “start repatriation”. In Walsall, there has been an attack on halal butchers.

    A number of Muslims have been shouted at with the question: "When are you going back home?" or called a "paki", which many of us may have heard in the 1970s and early 1980s. The reports of incidents include a group of young men shouting “Get out, we voted ‘Leave’” at a Muslim girl in the street; and a man in a Tesco supermarket yelling “Rule Britannia! Now get out.” at a Muslim woman. Little do the abusers know that ancestors of some of these Muslims not only fought for Britain in World Wars, but then came to build Britain post World War II.
    As an independent member of the government's anti-Muslim hatred working group, I am deeply concerned about the rise of racial and religiously-motivated incidents against all communities, in particular Muslims. Anti-Muslim hate monitoring group Tell MAMA reports 326 percent increase in incidents against Muslims in 2015 – and warns Brexit could make it worse. We have already seen two elderly Muslims being murdered, and mosques being attacked; the current surge in Islamophobia is only likely to reinforce fear and create further divisions between communities.

    Although sometimes it is argued that some Muslims do not follow British values, we are now seeing that British values - such as tolerance, rule of law and respect for others - are being trampled upon by far right extremists. What has been most upsetting and disturbing is that there have been no immediate statements from Leave campaign leaders condemning such xenophobic and racially-motivated incidents. I would urge our government, political parties and police to take robust and meaningful action to tackle the alarming rise in Islamophobia and anti-migrant sentiments, but also members of civil society not to tolerate such incidents of hatred.

    The UK has never been – and will never be – a land for one faith or one community only. It will continue to be a multi-belief and multi-ethnic community, united by shared values. Despite the rise in anti-Muslim hate intimidation and crime, Muslims need to stay calm, vigilant, and watchful. In the month of Ramadan, we need to display a dynamic spirit of open mindedness, co-operation and tolerance. There should be no place in Britain for any kind of prejudice and hatred. To allow otherwise is to do injustice to millions of people who voted to Leave the EU because they wanted their country to be more open and internationalist in its outlook.

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    From The Outside In...

    BY Alison Bellamy

    I caught a taxi recently, from Dewsbury train station. I enjoy talking to taxi drivers where possible as they have their ears to the ground and know what is going on in the community, so are often a good source of news, which I am always looking out for.

    Most of the taxi drivers in the small West Yorkshire town, which is about 12 miles from Leeds, are Asian, I am told. The small market town, once a thriving shopping attraction, is now over run with bookies, charity shops and discount stores.

    The area is often the butt of derivative jokes, or labelled in some of the national media as the run-down town where young terrorists are groomed or where kidnap victim Shannon Matthews comes from.

    I sometimes feel defensive as I think home is where the heart is and there are good and bad people everywhere, whatever their race, religion or beliefs.

    The chatty, young private hire driver with a Geordie accent was keen to talk. He was probably around 19.

    ‘I can’t believe I’m back to sharing a bunk bed at my age,’ he exclaimed. ‘It was bad enough at home when I was younger with four of us in one room.’

    I love hearing people’s back stories and glimpses into their lives.

    Turns out he was fairly new to the town, staying at his uncle’s house in Ravensthorpe, while studying at Leeds University to be an optician.

    ‘I moved down from Newcastle last year, but I can’t believe the tension here. You can feel it.’

    ‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

    ‘Well I went out with friends and we ended up in a nightclub last week as we could not find a decent shisha place. I asked a pretty girl to dance and had a laugh with her, nothing serious, and then was almost beaten up for no reason. The bouncers had to stop him.

    ‘Some bloke didn’t like the fact I was Asian and dancing with a white lassie. He didn’t know her or me but decided he didn’t like it.

    ‘At home in the north east no one bats an eyelid, but here, it’s a problem. There is tension.’

    Immediately, I knew what he meant. There is a tension. It’s not necessarily the terror links in recent years. It is something which has slowly crept up.

    I remember 20 plus years ago going out as a youngster for a curry, when it was a novelty to eat poppadum and hot, spicy Asian food. There were only a handful of restaurants around.

    I recall one occasion when we saw young waiters being horribly abused as they suffered racist insults, mainly from drunken men. I recall chapattis being thrown across the restaurant like frisbees and awful names being shouted out. It was terribly upsetting and remains a traumatic memory for me.

    The polite young waiters barely retaliated at first, but as the years went on something happened. They fought back and stood up for themselves.

    In hindsight, crimes were being committed that night but laws have thankfully changed for the better since then, and it simply would not be tolerated today.

    Now, 25 years later, people cannot be abused for their race or religious belief. Of course, it still goes on, sadly. But people are thankfully brought to justice wherever possible.

    I reassured the taxi driver that there were good people in Dewsbury and he should always remember that. He would not accept a tip and said that our conversation was worth more than any tip he could ever receive.

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