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Meetings with Remarkable Muslims – ed. Barnaby Rogerson and Rose Baring

March 11, 2016

MWRMAccording to the publisher, “Meetings with Remarkable Muslims arose out of the marches in London against the invasion of Iraq. Realising that the lies, half-truths and manufactured fears by which this war had been sold to the public were backed by the images of the Islamic world latched onto by our media – of beareded fanatics, suicide bombers and veiled gunmen – it seemed important to offer a broader, truer picture. As anyone who has travelled regularly within the Muslim world will know, this perception is wilfully – even perhaps maliciously – false.”

At the 2004 Edinburgh international book festival, the author Mourid Barghouti said: “We Palestinians are just like all of you. We row with our wives, sometimes get drunk, or tell lies. We dance in the streets, love our friends and gossip when we should know better. But you only see us on television when we are either killing people or being killed.”

In “The Girl from Gardez”, Alberto Cairo describes meeting a young Afghan woman called Samar Gul, who has had one of her legs blown off by a bomb the Americans were supposedly aiming at the Taliban. “Six members of Samar Gul’s family were killed. The only survivors were herself and her younger sister. Her sister is not speaking to her: she cannot forgive Samar Gul for saving her life by sending her out to draw water from the well just before the blast.”

“Mr F” survives the Taliban in Afghanistan only to suffer humiliation as an asylum-seeker in Britain.

Youssou N’Dour rises above the poverty of Senegal to wow France with his devotional Islamic songs.

Mehmet the taxi driver from Istanbul is an expert on the flora and fauna of Turkey.

Ghada Karmi’s piece about her father and the Palestinian/Israeli conflict was timely. I read it on the morning before I was to preach on God’s covenant of the Holy Land with Abram.

I am wondering why Peregrine Hodson was left out of the list and potted biographies of the contributors.

A few photos would have been nice though I appreciate that some don’t wish to be photographed.

Quotations:

“Muslims who are remarkable to the extent that they are remembered and continue to inspire the lives of those who met them”

“has instead worked for the Red Cross in Kabul for the last fifteen years making prosthetic arms and legs and teaching disabled Afghans to walk”

“Sand, sea, sky, sun, all conjoined by the softness of the air, and the fierceness of the light, everything touched by moisture. There was a constant flow of moving air, from the ocean, hot, humid, but somehow cooling, pleasant on the skin, making it a place of stunningly acceptable simplicity and sensuality; … We would wander out to watch the sunset each evening, wondering at the stars as the sky cleared, at the Southern Cross we would wander out to watch the sun rise again. We would read and watch the sun burn up the sea. We swam in milky water the temperature of tepid tea, the colour of Northern eyes. Sea-blue. Sky-blue. Beneath the sea-blue. The land, the desert, was misted into invisibility; we didn’t want to go there or even look in that direction. We lived with our backs to the land, always looking south, the light-filled south, across an infinite sea to an infinite sky.”

`Tell them that Islam doesn’t order women to veil; he said_ tradition was copied from the Christians of Byzantium. And tell that Islam doesn’t say you cannot drink wine — it just says you become intoxicated. And, Hicham went on, his voice rising in `you can tell them that Islam says that all Muslims are equal. brothers. That means an imam or a religious scholar is equal to can’t tell us what to do!’

Later Abdul was critical of Massoud, having witnessed debacle in Kabul in the years after 1992, when the great commander trolled the city but failed to bring Pashtuns into the government. In years Abdul urged the Americans not to rely on supporting only Shura-I Nizar in their fight against the Taliban.

In the mid 1990s, dispirited by the failure of the Resistance in Kabul, moved to Dubai where he conducted some form of business, but le always had his finger on the pulse and was an ardent critic of the Taliban, as well as of the American’s initial connivance with that regime. It was during this time he suffered a great personal tragedy when his wife and son were murdered in Peshawar, reportedly by Arabs incensed by his criticism of them in the media. He was alarmed when, after the bombing the Twin Towers in New York, the Americans decided to root out the Taliban. A realist and intuitive negotiator, Abdul argued that a full­ fontal military attack on the regime was not the way to victory. He argued that the leadership, which was extreme and increasingly isolated from society, would never be turned by bombs or negotiations. He urged that negotiations with the second-level leadership, the tribal elders and the former mujahadin would be more effective, turning away their support and leading the regime to collapse. But he was not listened to.

It is not certain why Abdul was travelling in Afghanistan when he was captured by the Taliban, but it appears that he was negotiating with different Pashtun leaders to secure alliances against the theocratic regime. He may have been working in competition with Hamid Karzai and by extension the American government. The sad truth is that he was taken, beaten and killed. When he most needed help, no one was there. But that is what Abdul would have expected. American policy was as much a part of his death as it was his life.

LONDON IS NOW a Muslim as well as a Christian, Hindu and Jewish city. Sixteen percent of the population is Muslim: the city contains at least two hundred mosques, probably more. It is also a haven for exiles from Muslim countries. Many Iranians, Iraqis and Algerians find our multicultural megalopolis more congenial than the Muslim cities of Tehran, Baghdad or Algiers. ……Having lived between Istanbul, Nice, Hyderabad and London. Princess of Berar shows that Muslim piety can be combined immersion in English’and Indian culture, and a commitment to women’s lives.

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