Author Archives: Mo Waqas

Braverman’s article: a catalyst for Islamaphobia

In my previous blog post, I delved into the concerning issue of escalating Islamophobia, a problem that appears to persist despite efforts for progress

The Telegraph, a prominent newspaper, boldly declares on its front page (£), “Islamists are now in control, says Braverman amid speakers row.

This headline raises a critical question: What defines an Islamist, and how does one distinguish them from an average Muslim? Many Muslims grapple with this challenge daily as they seek to integrate into modern Britain, only to face fear weaponisation by politicians like Suella Braverman.

Reflecting on Sir Lindsay Hoyle, I perceive him as a good man who perhaps erred in the SNP’s opposition day. However, it’s crucial to acknowledge the constant threats faced by MPs, exemplified by the tragic murders of Sir David Amess and Jo Cox, both victims of extremism regardless of their ideological alignment. The Conservative Party seems to be on shaky ground, with Rishi Sunak’s declining popularity and the realisation that a return to power may take a generation. Suella Braverman’s potential leadership bid hints at a shift towards the right, a move that, as a Muslim, fills me with apprehension.

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Through my lens: navigating Islamophobia

In the aftermath of 9/11, the global surge in Islamophobia has cast a pervasive shadow over my experiences as a Muslim navigating through these mysterious and confusing times.

Growing up during the war on terror years meant that my childhood was far from ordinary. The constant fear, fueled by negative perceptions of my chosen faith, transformed seemingly simple tasks like walking home alone at night into daunting challenges. No child should bear the weight of such fear merely due to their religious beliefs.

Witnessing far-right politicians exploit Islamophobia for their gains adds another layer to this complex journey. A striking example is Marine Le Pen in France, who instrumentalised Muslims as a political punching bag. Comparing those praying in the streets of Paris to Nazis, she employed inflammatory rhetoric that not only deepens societal divides but also fosters an environment where Muslims feel increasingly marginalized and vulnerable to attacks.

In the United Kingdom, the aftermath of the Hamas attack saw a staggering 600% rise in Islamophobic events. The former home secretary’s actions further exacerbated the situation, fanning the flames of hatred towards the Muslim community.

Muslims collectively find themselves caught in the crossfire of divisive political narratives, contributing to an atmosphere of increasing hostility.

The media’s role in shaping public opinion cannot be overlooked in this narrative. A major analysis by the Muslim Council of Britain highlighted a disturbing trend of negative portrayals of Muslims in mainstream British news outlets. The Mail on Sunday, for instance, showcased a disconcerting 78% negative coverage, well above the industry average of 59%. It’s troubling to see how media outlets, consciously or not, perpetuate harmful stereotypes that contribute to the broader issue of Islamophobia.

One striking example is the comment made by Trevor Kavanagh on Rupert Murdoch’s Talk TV, insinuating that Muslims are born to be anti-Jewish. This type of rhetoric perpetuates dangerous stereotypes, contributing to the negative narrative surrounding Muslims. As a Muslim, it’s disheartening to see such comments, especially when they lack any basis in reality. It’s crucial for media figures to be held accountable for their words, as they have a profound impact on public perceptions.

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Another fixed election in Pakistan?

As I sit down to pen my thoughts on Pakistan’s 2024 elections, I find myself grappling with a mix of emotions – hope, concern, and an overarching sense of urgency. The events that unfolded on February 8th of that year marked a pivotal moment in Pakistan’s democratic journey, leaving an indelible imprint on the nation’s political landscape.

Picture this: former Prime Minister Imran Khan, a charismatic yet controversial figure, confined behind bars, facing a staggering 150 charges. As the country geared up for the polls, an air of optimism lingered, only to be quashed by the de facto ban imposed on Imran Khan’s party, the Pakistan Movement for Justice (PTI). The loss of their political insignia echoed a silent but powerful blow to the democratic spirit.

Yet, against these odds, the PTI displayed resilience, ingeniously manoeuvering to field independent candidates in both national and provincial elections.

Election season in Pakistan is a vibrant spectacle, a celebration of democracy where citizens adorn their surroundings with banners of political allegiance. However, this festive atmosphere is invariably tainted by the persistent spectres of corruption and electoral rigging, exacerbated by the country’s reliance on a paper-based voting system.

Prime Minister Khan, in an earnest bid to restore faith in the electoral process, championed the introduction of voting machines.

Alas, this progressive move encountered resistance from the Election Commission, casting shadows on the prospects of a transparent election.

The unfolding drama of the 2024 election was nothing short of a political thriller. As results trickled in on that fateful evening, a concoction of distress and surprise gripped the nation. Independent candidates, buoyed by PTI support, emerged victorious, capturing a significant vote share. A staggering 70% voter turnout, coupled with

20 million new voters painted a canvas of democratic enthusiasm, particularly among the youth ardently rallying behind Imran Khan.

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Defending Britain: A call for preparedness, inclusion and investment

As I reflect on the current geopolitical landscape and the looming possibility of conflict, I can’t help but feel a sense of urgency for Britain to be ready to defend itself. Recently, General Sir Patrick Sanders, the outgoing Chief of the General Staff, issued a stark warning about the potential for war with Russia, sparking a crucial conversation about our nation’s preparedness and the necessary investments to safeguard our future.

The need for preparedness echoes loudly in today’s uncertain times.

The consensus is clear – we must be ready to repel any potential misadventure from Russia. History has taught us that readiness is not a luxury but a strategic necessity. From military leaders to concerned citizens, the call for preparedness emphasizes the need for a robust defence apparatus.

However, preparedness alone is not enough. General Sir Patrick Sanders, a vocal critic of troop cuts and military spending reductions, urges substantial investments in our armed forces. He emphasizes the urgency of expanding the size of the army and highlights the importance of well-trained, well-equipped soldiers who are adequately compensated for their service. Our strength doesn’t just lie in numbers but in capabilities and resilience.

Amid discussions of military strength, we must also recognize the unique power embedded in Britain’s diversity and inclusion. Our nation’s strength extends beyond military might to the unity forged by individuals from diverse backgrounds who call Britain their home. To harness this strength, it is imperative that all citizens, regardless of their origins, feel included and valued in matters of national defence. Inclusion is not only a moral imperative but a strategic advantage.

True national strength is not solely measured in the might of our armed forces but in the collective will and resilience of our people.

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Leg before Democracy: How Pakistan finds itself in no mans land

Pakistan, the land of my birth, holds the memories of my childhood spent in our family house in the village – a time I consider truly memorable. Born in 1995, the next seven years of my life were dedicated to learning about the nation-state I called home. I was made aware that, if all else failed, the boys in Khaki (the army) were the last line of defence. At the age of 4, General Musharraf took control of Pakistan in a coup d’état, ousting Nawaz Sharif. The narrative presented Sharif as corrupt, while General Musharraf portrayed himself as a righteous leader – preferring to be seen as the liberal and benevolent CEO of Pakistan rather than the chief martial law administrator.

By the time I turned 6, I witnessed tanks rolling down the streets during another standoff between Pakistan and India. Although Pakistan possessed a nuclear option, the spectre of the MAD doctrine loomed. Living in an open area with natural protection from trees and forests, I recall coming home and seeing tanks in the field behind my house. As a child, I was intrigued but lacked an understanding of the events unfolding around me.

Fast forward to 2024, and Pakistan grapples with the same issues as in 2002. Democracy is nowhere to be seen, the rule of law is non-existent, and the Army continues to exert significant influence over Pakistan’s policies. The arrest of Imran Khan illustrates the army’s disinterest in the prosperity of Pakistan as a democracy, showing a lack of concern for the average person, especially with inflation reaching 29% by the end of 2023. This indifference doesn’t bother the top brass, residing in gated communities shielded from the realities faced by the average Pakistani. However, it’s important to note that not every soldier is complicit; like spoiled food, it only takes a small amount to taint the taste.

Journalistic rights are being curtailed, and speaking against the state leads to arrest and torture, followed by a coerced transformation into a supposed Pakistani patriot. Despite being an ally of the United Kingdom with ties dating back to the partition days, Pakistan now faces a stark disconnect in views on democratic principles and basic human rights.

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The scent of a fresh Nakba

The scent of a fresh Nakba lingers in the air. Just a week ago, like so many others, I was taken aback by the unfolding events in Israel. It was a moment I could hardly fathom. At the time, I was going about my work in the home care industry, preparing breakfast for one of our clients. The background hum of the BBC, murmuring about Palestine, filled the room. I initially dismissed it as yet another minor incident and continued making scrambled eggs. However, when I finally turned my attention to the news, the gravity of the situation hit me. Israel’s sovereignty had been breached and defiled by Hamas – they had infiltrated through sea, land, and air, catching the Jewish state completely off guard.

I realised they lacked the capability to fend off such an assault for days. It was clear that Hamas was aiming to inflict harm upon Israel, and they ran rampant, causing havoc and tragedy. They took both combatants and non-combatants hostage, mercilessly targeting innocent people and turning a music concert into a bloodbath. Various online videos touted Hamas and its supposed adherence to Islamic values, which were clearly propagandistic. But do they truly comprehend Islamic principles during times of conflict? This brings to mind the 10 rules laid down by Caliph Abu Bakar: ‘Neither kill a child, nor a woman, nor an aged man. Bring no harm to the trees, nor burn them with fire, especially those which are fruitful. Slay not any of the enemy’s flock, save for your food. You are likely to pass by people who have devoted their lives to monastic services; leave them alone.’ One might argue that living by these tenets can be challenging in a world rife with collateral damage and predator drones. From the perspective of Israel, this may well be their 9/11 moment, prompting many prominent far-right commentators and politicians to urge Benjamin Netanyahu to dismantle Hamas. However, there’s often a blurred line between Hamas and Palestine in the eyes of many.

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Pakistan a wicket away from Authoritarianism

I want to dive into a topic that has been keeping me up at night: the current situation in Pakistan. Specifically, I’m deeply concerned about the suppression of journalistic freedoms and the erosion of democracy happening over there. It’s not just a distant issue either; as a British Pakistani, it hits close to home and raises serious worries about the safety of our loved ones.

Let’s start with the alarming case of journalist Imran Riaz Khan, who was detained without proper justification. It’s a blatant attack on free speech and a direct threat to transparency and accountability. When journalists can’t do their jobs without fear of retribution, it shakes the very foundations of democracy. We need to stand up and fight for their rights, not just for their sake, but for the sake of a free and open society.

One incident that shook me to the core was Imran Khan’s arrest, right from the premises of a court hearing. The aftermath of this arrest was devastating, with riots erupting and tragically leading to the loss of 50 innocent lives as security forces opened fire on protestors. It’s incredibly disheartening to see such violence and a blatant disregard for human life in the pursuit of political agendas.

But let’s not forget that the challenges faced by PTI politicians go beyond this shocking event. They are subjected to immense pressure and intimidation, forcing them to abandon their parties merely to secure bail. It’s truly unfathomable to think that elected officials, who should be representing the voices of the people, are being subjected to physical abuse and torture simply for standing up for their beliefs. It’s a stark reminder of authoritarian regimes, where political dissent is suppressed, and individual freedoms are trampled upon.

As members of the Liberal Democrats, we have a duty to protect democracy and uphold human rights. Our historical ties with Pakistan, combined with the significant British Pakistani community, give us a unique opportunity to make a difference. We need to be vocal advocates for press freedom and condemn any erosion of democratic values. By doing so, we can contribute to the well-being of British Pakistanis and support a stable Pakistan that embraces democratic principles.

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