Victims of the Great Famine of 1876–78 in India.
Upon reading this MCB news release, I felt sick. The MCB by saying what they have and entirely ignoring and thereby dismissing the abuses perpetrated/condoned by the British Monarchy are being unjust to its victims and their loved ones.
MCB: ‘British Muslims are “deeply grateful” for The Queen’s long interest in her Muslim subjects, according to the UK’s largest Muslim body, the Muslim Council (MCB).’ “Her Majesty has given us decades of inspirational service, for which we wish to thank her.”
Their article suggests that they speak for a majority of British Muslims. I am British Muslim and feel compelled to say, they do not speak for me. As a Muslim, I am not a subject of anyone; only Allah. Neither have I felt that the Queen has shown interest in me as a 'British Muslim'.
I shared this MCB News Release with others and asked them for their comments; their comments will also be shared below. (Those who have kindly commented do not necessarily share my views or I theirs.)
'I didn't get beyond the third paragraph - the acid test of anything I read. It was bile inducing.' Yvonne Ridley, British Muslim, Journalist
"The Muslim Council of Britain claims to be a body representing the diverse Muslim groups of this country. The mixed and rich nature of the Muslim population of Britain makes this a difficult task. Whether a single organisation could even accurately or effectively reflect all British Muslims is debatable. Considering this, it was unwise for the MCB to release a statement congratulating the Queen on her Jubilee on behalf of us all. The legacy of British colonialism, of which the monarchy has always been the face, is still palpable. Muslims, and indeed the other world populations that have fallen under it, have not forgotten this." Anonymous, British Muslim
'On a personal level, individuals may feel – for various reasons – a desire to ‘celebrate’ the Queens jubilee. However organisations that claim to represent or be the ‘voice’ of entire communities should arguably consider carefully, what exactly supporting this event symbolizes – what statement it makes and why, and even more profoundly, what truths and histories such action inadvertently silences – specifically with regards to the communities that it ‘speaks for’. Even what appears to be a predominantly over-commodified celebration of an international tourist attraction – the Queen – perpetuates an acceptance or silencing of more profound and underlying realities.' Jon Hughes, from London (Full comment published below)
“The King has no prerogative save that which the laws of the Land allow him”.
The Bill of Rights in 1689 began to limit the Kings power and began the doctrine of Parliamentary Supremacy. The Royal prerogative is the remaining part of the Crown's original authority, the residue of discretionary power left at any moment in the hands of the Crown. The Queens Prerogative powers are usually exercised on the advice of our Prime Minister who is accountable to Parliament.
Whilst the sovereign has the right to create and proclaim new law, ‘it is a form of reserve power not constitutionally used. Her Majesty, as Head of State of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, has the right to use the royal prerogative over any nation where she is Head of State.’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_prerogative
However Ned lecic was unable to find any evidence to Walter Bagehot claim that Queen Victoria “...must sign her own death-warrant if the two Houses unanimously send it up to her”, as her legislative powers had ceased to exist and instead writes:
'But if Elizabeth II automatically approves all laws, what evidence is there to claim that she “must” do so? I have failed to find any. For as entrenched as the current convention may be, I see no instrument in the current legal framework for legitimately enforcing it. As things stand, there are no official sanctions that could be applied if the Queen did refuse to assent to a law, and as all bills require royal assent to become law, her actions would technically be legitimate. Of course, this would likely imperil the Queen’s popularity and result in a constitutional crisis, perhaps even in the monarchy being abolished. Alternately, a new law might be passed stripping the Queen of her power.’ http://suite101.com/article/8assenting-to-laws-and-pardoning-criminals-the-royal-prerogati-a326039
The Queen is constitutionally linked to Parliament, works closely with Parliament and is effectively an arm of Parliament. She serves a role in state propaganda and the monarchy is consistently used to market and promote imperial wars via a whitewash of patriotism. The monarchy actively participates in and enjoys the spoils of colonialism and receives extensive publically funded remunerations. The British monarchy and Parliament are allies in a mutually beneficial relationship.
'In my opinion the monarchy is a carbuncle on the landscape that drains the economy and undermines rational discourse. While millions are being thrown out of work, this idle bunch live off the fat of the land. The Queen does have political power as she can be used to suspend parliament as she did in Australia to remove a democratically elected PM.’ Diane Langford, Author of 'Left for Dead' & 'Shame About the Street', from London
Howard Zinn: "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." I just wanted to re-post this, for further general reflection. As so many people here in the UK are feeling so PROUD to be British this Jubilee Holiday weekend, I am left feeling a little bit of pride and a LOT of shame after I reflect that during the Queen's reign, this country has directly & indirectly destroyed the lives and prospects of literally millions of innocent families in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries (including the UK itself) and recently in DIEGO GARCIA when the Queen signed the royal prerogative to OVER-RULE the High Court's humane judgment for the Chagossians, in favour of the American renditions, nuclear & WMD terror-base there.' Adam from Sussex.
'In response I say the most important thing is she as Queen has been commander in chief of the British army, which under her reign has bombed and murdered millions of Muslims in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya etc. and her predecessors were responsible for disasters such as the partition in India and Nakba in Palestine.' James Haywood
Throughout history, the British Monarchy has condoned the abuse of humanity for its own propagation & I am unable to either ‘revere’ &/or ‘congratulate’ this inhumane, uncivilised conduct.
The British monarchy has a historic doctrine of (condoning) occupation, colonialism, slavery, murder, death and the destruction of indigenous people and their homelands. A core built upon the foundations of racism, prejudice and discrimination, exemplifying traits of elitist morality, supremacy and inequality. This, not a reality buried in history but embodies their present; as evidenced by their participation in and support of the continued occupations of indigenous communities and wars, resulting in the murder of millions, destruction of their physical and mental health, annihilation of their homes, infrastructure and very means of survival.
The British Monarchy played a key role in the rape of the lands of indigenous communities, harvesting their commodities, shipping it back to ‘Great Britain’, leaving those communities to starve, resulting in extensive famines which killed millions. Whilst these communities starved, ‘British officials’, instead of working to ease their suffering and assist in their survival, instead continued their murderous conduct, working to elicit further gains from these destitute ‘shadows’ before their extinction.
George Monbiot explains:
‘When an El Nino drought destituted the farmers of the Deccan plateau in 1876 there was a net surplus of rice and wheat in India. But the viceroy, Lord Lytton, insisted that nothing should prevent its export to England. In 1877 and 1878, at height of the famine, grain merchants exported a record 6.4 million hundredweight of wheat.
As the peasants began to starve, government officials were ordered “to discourage relief works in every possible way”. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited “at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices.” The only relief permitted in most districts was hard labour, from which anyone in an advanced state of starvation was turned away. Within the labour camps, the workers were given less food than the inmates of Buchenwald. In 1877, monthly mortality in the camps equated to an annual death rate of 94%.
As millions died, the imperial government launched “a militarized campaign to collect the tax arrears accumulated during the drought.” The money, which ruined those who might otherwise have survived the famine, was used by Lytton to fund his war in Afghanistan. Even in places which had produced a crop surplus, the government’s export policies, like Stalin’s in the Ukraine, manufactured hunger. In the North-western provinces, Oud and the Punjab, which had brought in record harvests in the preceding three years, at least 1.25m died.’ http://www.monbiot.com/2005/12/27/how-britain-denies-its-holocausts/
'I think the MCB article contains extravagant praise, one not necessarily sincere but is typical for such occasions. Their being colonial “subjects,” the people of India were not treated as equals. The British practised a kind of apartheid, with the entry of Indians typically banned in, say, certain exclusive clubs. There was discrimination within the Indian army where “No Indian was allowed to become a direct commissioned officer until the end of the First World War. They could become Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers (VCOs) or junior commissioned officers. The highest rank an Indian could achieve was that of Subedar-Major.” In 1914, a group of male members of my family were going somewhere in the town of Shimla, India’s summer capital during the Raj after the British moved the capital back to Delhi from Calcutta in 1912. The group were walking past the Vice regal Lodge when a British guard challenged them: “Who goes there?” The standard response for Indians was “Subject!” But before anyone else could respond, a 16-year-old in the group mischievously called back: “Friend!” At this the guard was so infuriated he made as if to trample the boy under the horse’s hooves. To protect him, an older member of the group struck the horse hard on the leg with a sturdy stick he was carrying in his hand. The horse fell, and before the guard could pick himself up, the group managed to escape in the confusion. I remember my father relating a similar incident about a young cousin of his. When the teenager responded with “Friend!” the British officer aimed his rifle at the chest of the young man, who broke into tears and shrieked: “Subject! Subject!” Asim Ghani, Senior Assistant Editor at The News Karachi, born in Delhi in his ancestral hometown, now living in Karachi, of Muslim parentage (Full comment published below)
Present day, and the robbery of fossil fuels. Whilst those whose homelands are mined for fuel, live in make shift tents, exist on less than a few dollars a day and live in fear, chaos and warzones; the UK taxpayer foots a security bill for the Queens Grandson’s wedding exceeding several million pounds and gets to watch a 1,000-boat pageant on the Thames marking her Jubilee.
Who are the MCB & what are its objectives? If there is a body that claims to represent me as a British Muslim, fundamental to its chore should be some basis of Islam.
‘Murad called on British Muslims to give thanks to the Queen for her long reign during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations this weekend, suggesting they offer a prayer to Her Majesty’s continued health, and that of her family.’
Sheikh Ahmad Kutty, a senior lecturer and Islamic scholar at the Islamic Institute of Toronto, explains that Muslims can pray, ‘for our non-Muslim relatives and friends who are living; we can pray for them for their health, wellbeing and guidance. But the most important prayer that we can do for them is to pray for their guidance to the path of Islam; we must do so on a continuous basis.'
Why does Murad fail to include the most important aspect of this prayer when he enjoins other Muslims to practice it?
‘We don't have the learning or the judgement or the direction as a community. There is a reason why Muslims are on their knees worldwide. It's our fault.’ Anonymous, British Muslim
‘I am against the idea of a monarchy because I think it represents inequality and extravagance which contradicts Islamic teachings. I do not see the purpose of a Royal Family and I would like to see the monarchy abolished and the wealth distributed to the benefit of the nation, not a select few. We always talk about people achieving based on merit but our Royal Family shows that this ancient idea of inheriting status, power and privilege is still alive and well. Unfortunately, the Royal Family epitomise the massive class divisions that exist in our society and what saddens me most is that most people seem unwilling or unable to see through the charade it is and even lead themselves to celebrate the disgraceful inequality that the Royal Family represent. The widespread acceptance of the monarchy really annoys/upsets me because I think our leaders/rulers should be elected or at least representative of the people. They should serve the people, not the people serving them as the idea of royalty encapsulates.' Dr Leon Moosavi, Sociologist of Race and Religion, British Muslim, from Manchester
I disagree that the Queens promotes values of decency, tolerance and equality.
Farooq Murad, Secretary General of the MCB, said:
“During her reign, Muslims from all corners of the earth have prospered here in Britain, thanks to the values of decency, tolerance and equality which Her Majesty helps promote. Her continued interest and involvement in many areas of the Commonwealth, from which most of her British Muslim subjects have come, is also something for which we are very grateful.”
Neither do I believe that the Queen has helped migrant Muslim communities prosper in Britain. Prosperity comes from Allah and Alhamdulillah, some of the integral traits of these communities to survive, living by humble means, working hard, being respectful of others and the family unit, showing tolerance and patience. These qualities have assisted them to work through a discriminatory political construct and culture. Attitudes that inspire and condone colonialism have influenced the hardship that migrant communities have had to suffer whilst striving to build a home in the U.K.
My father rarely speaks about the prejudice and racism he suffered by English communities upon migrating to England in the 1960’s. As I grew, I observed, I experienced, I reflected, I began to understand. Upon trying to discover any racist/prejudice experiences he suffered before I was born, he recently said to me,
“There was a bad event in 1962/63”. At that time he was working for the British Railway as a Maintenance Fitter in Outdoor Machinery Engineering. “It was a very bad [severe] winter”, at that time there were “steam locomotives. There was one water tank on a canal; the pump was in the canal and the canal was frozen.” This canal was in the middle of the “jungle” [in the sticks].” He went there with a team of four. At “10am, they left me and one person, to help me dig the pump out of the canal, they said they would return at 5pm to collect us. After about 15 minutes, my assistant said he was going to get something. He left and never returned. I was waiting till nightfall, still in the cold, alone. Luckily an engine came along the railway line. Using a torch from the fire made, I tried to stop the engine. The driver stopped. In the morning, I went to work and asked my English colleagues where were you? Why didn’t you come for me? They replied “we were looking for you”. They never returned for me. They had left me to die.”
“There was a young Indian man working with me from Calcutta, the English workers called him ‘Kulli’, which is what you call the porters in India. I said to them, I am not Kulli. He was a very good boy and he spoke good English. He became mentally ill because of their racism and bullying and went back home.”
“They would use ‘broken English’ [slang], and words like ‘fuck’ a lot. I couldn’t understand what they were saying. I did report this to my manager. My manager said he couldn’t do anything because that is how they speak.” They would say to me “you are alright, but it’s the others.”
'I totally reject the comments made by MCB, who incidentally do not speak for me, in regards to the Queen and her interest in her Muslim subjects. I do not think the Queen has much interest in these subjects. I was a Chief Immigration Office working for the Home Office with over 15 years’ service. I have experiences where I was treated in the most racist manner by white Government Officials and witnessed these officials swearing at Black and ethnic minority people using words such as 'Spearchuckers' and 'Savages'. This was known to ' The Queens' Home Office Government Ministers who took no action against the said perpetrators. I was persecuted by senior officials when I brought these racist actions to the attention of senior managers who instead of taking action to stop these people hounded me and caused my life to be a misery in the end dismissing me from my employment and at the same time promoting the white staff who perpetrated these racists’ actions. I do not believe the queen is interested in anything other than herself. J. Ahmed, British Muslim, from London
BME communities in Britain have continuously been exposed to, and forced into exploitative and oppressive situations by the British state apparatus. Whilst in times of need, such communities have been encouraged to migrate to Britain, to facilitate economic growth; they have also been subject to intense forms of on-going institutional racism and discrimination. Furthermore, they have repeatedly been constructed as scapegoats for both social, political and economic failings, as well as advertising and marketing tools for economic growth and political ‘back patting’, by those who maintain positions of power in Britain. Such processes have often shifted focus between various aspects of BME communities, religious communities and predominantly working class communities, including those with a white ethnic majority. Jon Hughes, from London (Full comment published below)
THE HAND OF FRIENDSHIP WAS EXTENDED CENTURIES PAST
The welcoming nature of indigenous communities assisted British colonialism to take foot in their communities.
'The hand of friendship'
Murad said: “The Jubilee is a perfect time for mosques and Muslims up and down the country to open their doors and extend the hand of friendship to neighbours and surrounding communities. We want our fellow Britons to understand more about our faith, and our community, and we hope that our brother Muslims will welcome visitors during this once-in-a-lifetime series of celebrations.”
Alhamdulillah, the hand of friendship was extended by migrant communities in Britain many decades ago; their doors are open, invitations to their culture and homes extended. For integration there must be balance. That balance is also the acceptance and respect of migrant communities for them as they are, and willingness for non-migrant communities to integrate.
‘I would say that the article shows how well assimilated some Muslims are into British culture; rewriting the history of the British empire, celebrating inequality, privilege and hierarchy and perpetuating the idea of 'imagined community' that the people of a 'nation' are somehow one big 'family' whereas in fact those people have mutually hostile interests as the capitalist elite seek to maintain a system that rests on the exploitation of the working classes. But unfortunately those of my own faith do no better there was a church group out in London yesterday singing 'God save the queen' instead of their normal hymns!' Timothy Forster, from Norwich
Principles & Objectives of the MCB
Inaugurated in 1997, the MCB provides it is ‘dedicated to the common good, to the betterment of the community and country.’
The MCB is funded by the British Home Office and its 'principal aims and objectives are:
1. To promote cooperation, consensus and unity on Muslim affairs in the UK.
2. To encourage and strengthen all existing efforts being made for the benefit of the Muslim community.
3. To work for a more enlightened appreciation of Islam and Muslims in the wider society.
4. To establish a position for the Muslim community within British society that is fair and based on due rights.
5. To work for the eradication of disadvantages and forms of discrimination faced by Muslims.
6. To foster better community relations and work for the good of society as a whole.'
MCB has deep Gratitude to the Queen
‘Deep gratitude - In the letter to the Queen, on behalf of the Muslim Council’s elected governing body, all its affiliates and volunteers’, Murad wrote:
“During your long reign, many Muslims have made this country their home, and have benefited from the freedom to practise their faith unhindered. In so doing, we have seen many Muslims contributing positively to the welfare of the people, within the safety of your realm.”
No mention of ‘Paki' bashing’, the extensive rise in Islamaphobia and Islam phobic attacks, the fact that only last Ramadan worshippers had to organise security vigils outside their local mosques following a right wing claim that mosques would be targeted with fire bombs, the rise in ‘Islamic hate groups’ demonstrating outside mosques and in communities with large Muslim populations, the UK media & politicians incessant linking of Islam to terrorism, laws that prejudice human rights, policing that is statistically proven to be biased against migrant communities and my brothers, that are being detained for years without charge and fighting extradition orders.
'Speaking to the BBC recently, Murad also said that the Queen's role in the Commonwealth meant other faith communities felt at home with her leadership of the Church of England.'
“The large Muslim countries, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, are part of the Commonwealth and (people) arrive here having heard of the British monarchy from their fathers and grandfathers to the extent that many of them fought in the two World Wars for the British Empire.”
'I’m a fourth generation British Kashmiri. My great grandfather on my mother’s side fought for the British as part of the commonwealth army against the Japanese in Burma. He was then held prisoner of War in Japan for five years after which he was given British Citizenship, as maybe a form of compensation for his prolonged suffering. My great grandfather faced an economic form of conscription. If he hadn’t joined the army it is likely that his family would have suffered from the poverty left behind by British Imperialism, little did he know that his motherland would soon be subject to a far worse legacy of imperialism. Kashmir today is divided, occupied by three different countries and torn apart by the de facto border otherwise known as the “line of control”. The long promised plebiscite of the UN has never been implemented and its people suffer under brutal occupation, which is at its worst in Indian controlled Jammu Kashmir. This is the legacy of the split of India after imperial rule and its inadequate split of land which has led to many years of conflict in the South Asian subcontinent. I, unlike the BCM will not be congratulating the Queen on her 60 year reign because for me, as a Kashmiri, her reign represents the imperialism which has led to the on-going bloodshed of my people and because even today Britain continues to support the occupation of my motherland through selling arms to the Indian Government. Not only this but the state represented by the Queen, through our taxes, has funded, supported and conducted military action against innocent civilians from Iraq to Bahrain and I cannot endorse that. Supporting such a system is accepting and supporting the bloodshed of my brothers and sisters. However, removing my motherland and the illegal wars waged by the state against many Muslim countries during my lifetime and in history I still cannot celebrate her reign. The queen is not democratically elected by the people and in a democratic state there is no space for monarchy.’ San'aa Sultan, British Born Muslim from Derby, Student & Poet
Whose Home? My Home
Speaking to British Muslims, largely the older generation not born in the UK, I have heard in passing, “well they let us live in their country”. They may feel that but I don’t. No one lets me live here, It is my right to live here, just as any other person born here, regardless of my skin tone or faith.
'It is only right and proper that British Muslims celebrate with the queen, as this is her country. I do not believe in all the extreme nationalism, however if people feel they need to show their support by purchasing flags, mugs, table cloths, clothes etc. by all means go ahead. I feel that as a country we should merely just get together and enjoy the celebration, socializing in the street parties etc. Muslims must abide by the law of the land they live, and by their own conduct and behaviour they are making a positive contribution to eradicate the Islamophobia in this country. Sarah, British Muslim, Student, from Hinckley
MCB LETTER HAS BROUGHT TRANSPARENCY
Growing up, students in my school were predominantly English. I recall at lunch, 4 friends and I were walking towards the shops. Close to this was another school. A girl who looked as though she may be of Indian origin walked passed and my English ‘friend’ called out at her “Paki”, she turned to me and said “not you, you are alright”.
I walked away from accepting this mentality many years ago. I will not suffer to arse lick the ‘white man' in order to be accepted.
The MCB is a British Home Office funded organisation, affiliated with a majority of Muslim organisations in the UK, including our Islamic schools, mosques, charities and organisations.
Muslims are being persecuted nationally and internationally by U.K government policies; the same government that funds the MCB. The British government is thus exerting its control and influence over a majority of U.K Muslim organisations via the MCB; organisations which ‘work' to strive against the very same persecution.
I asked several British Muslim colleagues who are ‘active’ for their comments on this MCB article. I was surprised by their silence or excuses. Discussing this with a few of them, they told me they did not agree with the article but that, "it didn’t matter as the MCB have no clout with the people but are a good government contact”, followed by…”I can’t comment because….my uncles in the MCB; I might be invited to talk at the MCB; the MCB assist our Organisation in (political) campaigns.”
The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC) UK kindly responded with:
“The Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPACUK) wholeheartedly supports the Muslim Council of Britain's (MCB) statement about the Queen's diamond jubilee. Amongst many other positive aspects of life in Britain, Muslims have enjoyed greater freedom to practice their faith in Britain than in many other countries and the Queen's role has been tremendously positive in the affairs of our country.”
The fact that Muslims may be ‘less’ persecuted in practicing their faith in the UK than other countries is not the point.
I look forward to the day inshallah, when Muslim organisations can walk away from their slave:colonial masters mentality and interact on grounds of mutual respect and equality. The day they look to Allah for solidarity, prioritise the needs of those who they claim to represent before themselves &/or their ‘organisation’ and stand for the ethical values they assert in speech without compromise. An organisation that can draw a clear dividing line between itself and an unrighteous sponsor.
Jazak’Allah khair, with thanks to all for their contributions.
Assalamualaikum, peace be upon you.
A British Muslim
Further comments received in response to this MCB article:
'This is just the point: I do not accept that I am a 'subject' of any sovereign. The best we can hope for in such an unjust power structure is patronage and magnanimity. And from someone who inherited her position and has no comprehension of what it is like to be impoverished and enslaved, and who has never offered to give up her gross privileges in solidarity with the economic and social inequalities monarchies help perpetuate. Am I supposed to admire her for her silence on the root causes of racism towards her former colonial 'subjects'?' Eleanor Kilroy, from London, Journalist
'I think the MCB article contains extravagant praise, one not necessarily sincere but is typical for such occasions. Their being colonial “subjects,” the people of India were not treated as equals. The British practised a kind of apartheid, with the entry of Indians typically banned in, say, certain exclusive clubs. There was discrimination within the Indian army where “No Indian was allowed to become a direct commissioned officer until the end of the First World War. They could become Viceroy’s Commissioned Officers (VCOs) or junior commissioned officers. The highest rank an Indian could achieve was that of Subedar-Major.” http://www.csas.ed.ac.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0011/48674/WP24_Shaheed_Hussain.pdf
The discrimination extended to all other governments departments, in various forms. There is the famous incident of the slight suffered by Urdu’s most celebrated poet Mirza Asadullah Khan Ghalib (1796/7-1869). Ghalib, who also wrote in Persian, was appointed professor of that language at Delhi’s Anglo-Arabic College. Rather than personally welcoming the great man at the gate, the British principal sent someone to usher him in. Ghalib returned, declining the job.
It has to be added, however, British discrimination was markedly different from the Apartheid in white South Africa, or the ethnic, religious and racial Apartheid practised in Israel. For example, marriages between Indians and British were permitted.
At least until my late teens there was strong resentment against British rule and the excesses and brutalities committed by the colonial power, especially by its soldiers.
Here are four incidents I heard from my parents and other older relatives (including a 74-year-old first cousin who gave me a wealth of information today):
In 1914, a group of male members of my family were going somewhere in the town of Shimla, India’s summer capital during the Raj after the British moved the capital back to Delhi from Calcutta in 1912. The group were walking past the Vice regal Lodge when a British guard challenged them: “Who goes there?” The standard response for Indians was “Subject!” But before anyone else could respond, a 16-year-old in the group mischievously called back: “Friend!” At this the guard was so infuriated he made as if to trample the boy under the horse’s hooves. To protect him, an older member of the group struck the horse hard on the leg with a sturdy stick he was carrying in his hand. The horse fell, and before the guard could pick himself up, the group managed to escape in the confusion. I remember my father relating a similar incident about a young cousin of his. When the teenager responded with “Friend!” the British officer aimed his rifle at the chest of the young man, who broke into tears and shrieked: “Subject! Subject!”
Not long after the after the Mutiny of 1857, one of my great grandmothers (my father’s maternal grandmother Qamar Jahan Begum) was travelling in a palanquin in a street of Delhi, with a servant walking alongside holding her baby. British soldiers there detained the servant, accusing him of kidnapping a British baby, because of the boy’s fair-skin and brown hair. At this the mother, despite the strict purdah tradition of that time, produced her white hand from behind the palanquin’s curtain to prove to the soldiers that the baby was indeed hers. It could have been confusion, but it was just as well harassment and bullying: as the soldiers must have known, it’s not uncommon for people in northern India to be fair-skinned like Europeans, some even with blue and green eyes. I remember Jawaharlal Nehru mentioning a similar incident in his Autobiography (which I read back in 1976), about a baby sister of his father Motilal Nehru.
My mother told us about the hanging of two youthful brothers of one of her great-great-grandmothers following the Mutiny. Their crime was that they were employed in the Red Fort when the last Mughal King, Bahadur Shah Zafar was deposed (he was another of our great poets). Gibbets had been installed on both sides of the road outside the Red Fort. Just before the younger brother, Syed Nisar Ali, was hanged, the family of the girl to whom he was betrothed brought her to the site in a palanquin, “so that the two could have a look at each other.” This was bizarre, and cruelly crude from the indescribable emotional pain it must have involved for the young couple. My personal guess is that was an excuse, with her family hoping against hope that the British magistrate presiding over the execution would have mercy on the teenager (and on his bride to be probably in her early teens) and spare his life. He was hanged.
Of course, there were also many heart-warming incidents of British courtesy, kindness and mercy towards Indians.
Cultural legacies of the British Raj? Well, there's one negative one: the overuse of "Inglish", …its virtual worship by South Asians, the inferiority complex it causes among those who don't know it. Indeed, it's an instrument of social apartheid, a cultural Wall of China to keep the barbarians out--the maid, the servant, the gardener, the chauffeur, and what have you… Inglish is rapidly killing off our own languages and cultures. "You don't need to burn books to destroy a culture," as someone said, "just get people to stop reading them." That's exactly what's happening here because of Inglish... .it's even effecting our music [and] our cuisine…our "pop" songs are sung in terrible Urdu, with a deliberately assumed foreign--i.e., American-- accent. Some of those "songs" are so heavily accented you can't understand the words of the poetaster. Affecting our cuisine in the sense that, to give one example, offering french fries and tomato ketchup with our own traditional dishes. We have a "You're OK, I'm Not OK" attitude.
Whatever is ours is automatically looked down upon, what's "faarin" (i.e., foreign) is automatically superior. Trouble is we have a beautiful, rich culture, one in which we should take pride, as, say, the Iranians and Arabs do.’ Asim Ghani, Senior Assistant Editor at The News Karachi, born in Delhi in his ancestral hometown, now living in Karachi, of Muslim parentage
On a personal level, individuals may feel – for various reasons – a desire to ‘celebrate’ the Queens jubilee. However organisations that claim to represent or be the ‘voice’ of entire communities should arguably consider carefully, what exactly supporting this event symbolizes – what statement it makes and why, and even more profoundly, what truths and histories such action inadvertently silences – specifically with regards to the communities that it ‘speaks for’. Even what appears to be a predominantly over-commodified celebration of an international tourist attraction – the Queen – perpetuates an acceptance or silencing of more profound and underlying realities.
Some people may claim that the queen is simply a part of ‘British culture’, however British culture is something as yet I have been unable to find an all encompassing definition for. People in Britain – as in any country - are very diverse in views and beliefs, even simply with regards to regional dialect. Thus also considering the numerous communities within Britain who overtly may not affiliate themselves or agree that the monarchy are representative of them, it seems a dictatorial notion to attempt such a homogenous suggestion. The most dominant historical and more obvious manifestations of the former point are in the context of Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Cornwall – a factor that is also highlighted in the observation that the Queen is the head of the Church of England (not Britain).
Whilst attempts by politicians and the media to validate ‘British’ culture – either as homogenous or ‘multicultural’- British history, and nationalism, have in recent years given predominant reference to a central theme of ‘British values’ – such values themselves often appear asymmetrical, and silence the realities of numerous historical and recent world events, heavily intertwined in British state actions, which I would argue also reveal 'British' values, although not values I feel many people would, or should be ‘proud’ of.
BME communities in Britain have continuously been exposed to, and forced into exploitative and oppressive situations by the British state apparatus. Whilst in times of need, such communities have been encouraged to migrate to Britain, to facilitate economic growth; they have also been subject to intense forms of on-going institutional racism and discrimination. Furthermore, they have repeatedly been constructed as scapegoats for both social, political and economic failings, as well as advertising and marketing tools for economic growth and political ‘back patting’, by those who maintain positions of power in Britain. Such processes have often shifted focus between various aspects of BME communities, religious communities and predominantly working class communities, including those with a white ethnic majority.
Another dominant factor that has been referred to with regards to 'Britishness' is in the context of Britain’s involvement in WW1 and WW2, and the diversity of people who fought 'under' a British flag or alongside British soldiers. However, fighting in either of the World Wars does not mean that people are accepting of, or supportive of the British Empire or ‘British values’ – if it did, would this not mean that anyone who fought in WW2 also supported British colonialism?. Furthermore the discriminatory treatment of non-white soldiers who fought in WW2 again reveals values and realities that the queen arguably represents and is complicit in. One needs only to consider the treatment of the Nepalese Ghurkhas by the British state, to recognise this. The constant referral to Britain’s involvement in the ‘World Wars’ as some form of singular unifying nationalistic pride, that overrides all other histories, I as a white English man, find offensive to communities across Britain and the world. My English Grandma who lived through both wars and was a firewoman in WW2, and whose husband –my Grandpa – after volunteering to fight for Britain, spent 4 years in a German POW camp, have very rarely ‘gone on’ about the war. My Grandma has actually been a strong critic of on-going injustices within Britain and across the world, and my Grandpa – who died last year – was criticised by the local community in Yorkshire immediately after WW2 for sending aid parcels to ‘the enemy’ - German families who were suffering due to the consequences of such prolonged conflict. The over-commodified nationalism that we are witnessing this weekend, whilst portrayed as an opportunity for profit and parties, arguably encourages divides between specific groups of people – something that my Grandpa was against.
The British Empire has a long history of hypocritical self-interested exploitative, oppressive and racist practices across the world, that have devastated communities which have profound historical roots in the UK, the Bangladeshi community in East London being one of them. The roots of this community are partly linked to shipping and international trade – and colonial exploitation - several hundred years ago (including the transatlantic slave trade) and the huge profits made and invested in the city of London, banks and other industries; a period in which South-East Asian men were exploitatively used on ships carrying goods to Britain. During the 1800’s millions of people in the region now considered Bangladesh died of starvation during famine’s that were a direct result of British 'rule' and occupation, a period throughout which British companies such as the East India Dock company continued to extract huge amounts of produce and resources from the region, considerably exacerbating -if not causing- periods of famine.
Under the ‘reign’ of the current queen, the world has witnessed numerous atrocities committed under the British flag. The queen has been complicit in her silence, to millions of deaths and atrocities across the world instigated by ‘her governments’ – for example recently in Iraq and in Afghanistan, despite such events being considered to varying degrees in contradiction to international law. She has said nothing regarding the injustice committed against the islanders of Diego Garcia, forcibly removed by the British state, to allow a US military base to occupy the island, from which bombing raids could be launched across the global south. She did nothing with regards to the brutal oppression by British forces of the Kenyan people, during the Mau uprising against British rule. Infact her ‘British state’ is currently being tried in court, with regards to these events.
Furthermore on a more personal level I consider her husband – Prince Philip - an overtly racist man, and question why any community organisation should wish to associate themselves with this family – especially without challenging such racism.
Whilst some “Muslims from all corners of the earth have prospered here in Britain” - ‘Her Majesty’s’ role in this is highly debatable. Who have actually been the predominant voices for greater equality in Britain? Equally it could be argued that Muslims from all corners of the earth have been persecuted, exploited and killed, thanks to values and actions of consecutive British governments that her majesty has failed to condemn. Arguably issues of history should be considered in their full encompassing depth, not be simply whitewashed for socio-economic or political purposes – immigration itself is arguably not a good OR bad thing.. it is a reality that forms a part of everyone’s life in different ways, and should not be isolated from all the other complexities of our world.
As a focus point for events that attempt to unite people from more local and wider communities who may not often have an opportunity or incentive to meet, this weekend may provide some form of positive platform. However this does not necessitate succumbing to, and supporting an overtly a-historical nationalist discourse that silences the historical realities that have detrimentally affected numerous people’s lives, both with Britain and across the world.
The views expressed here, are of a white English male, born in London, who has lived here throughout my life. They are shaped by my on-going experiences amongst the society I live in, and the friends and communities I have connections to, both in England and internationally. I am not Muslim, and have friends of various faiths, spiritual and political beliefs, including Islam – all of which I feel have impacted upon my personal perspective on life. I am not an ‘authority’ on anything, but believe that we as a community of people, need to begin to openly acknowledge our own privileges and the oppression and exploitative processes we may be involved in. Furthermore we should actively offer support of various forms to other people and groups that are suffering within such processes. I feel that many of my friends – whether Muslim or not – would agree to some degree with my views stated above – although honestly I cannot speak for them.
However I believe the interests of those people in positions of ‘power’, whether in an ‘undemocratic’ institution such as the monarchy - or in any organisation - should always be open to question and examination, for self-interest may often override honest community representation. Jon Hughes, from London
“Muslims from all corners of the earth have prospered here in Britain, thanks to the values of decency, tolerance and equality which Her Majesty helps promote.”
Sorry, come again? It is of no news to the world that this "Great" Britain's very "prosperity" was built on the blood and slavery of our ancestors, I must have missed in my learning the bit where they taught us that to "prosper" means to be wealthy at the expense of the livelihoods of your own brothers and sisters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Yemen, Somalia, and the list goes forever on.
So please continue to feel that you owe some gratitude to the nation with hands full of blood and a closet full of skeletons; of men women and children all over the world.
Furthermore, the taxes you pay are again funding the modern day colonialism of Britain, and also funding the extravagant lifestyle of the people you praise.
Of course they want you to "prosper", the more you "prosper", the more money for them. So stop seeing this as a favour to yourself and stop feeling pity upon yourself, that's part of the point. The main reason our own countries are in the state they are in is most probably this very country itself.
So to summarise, they destroy your home, decorate theirs with the old furniture of yours, and invite you to their new beautiful home. You, accept the invitation, give a great deal of thanks and even pay them so that they can destroy and steal from even more homes? Well done you. Wake up. Ibrahim Sincere, British Muslim, Poet & Student, from London
‘It's unclear what exactly any of us should be grateful to the queen for? Being sent to the front lines in WW1 or 2 is not something it makes any sense to be grateful for. Neither should anyone be grateful for being allowed to exist- which is what this article seems to convey… I think Muslims in general are probably within their rights to not be particularly grateful for the Crusades, or the Balfour declaration...Then again I also feel kind of sorry for the queen, it's not her fault it's a system she was born into like the rest of us.' Lucy Emma, Dr of Medicine, from London