Thursday 7 January 2010

Wootton Bassett-the Pulse of my Nation

A couple of days ago a contact of mine happened to mention here that their was a Facebook page dedicated to protesting against the proposed march of an extremist group-one I refuse to name-through the streets of Wootton Bassett, a little town in Wiltshire, a town that has received the bodies of dead soldiers returning from Afghanistan. At the time he mentioned this it had around half a million members. I joined as 535,410. When I checked this evening membership stood at almost 666,666.

There are three points I would like to make here. First, I think that people have a right to protest no matter how repellent I happen to find the cause that they have embraced. I am opposed now to the war in Afghanistan and what I consider to be the fraudulent reasons that keeps our army in that wretched country. I also believe that the principal victims of the campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan have been local people, Muslims, mostly killed, I have to say, by other Muslims. So, yes, people have a right to protest against this war. The frontier comes when a democratic right to express a view turns into a gross and shabby provocation.

The second point is that I am deeply distrustful of sudden flash mobs, of internet campaigns, of what I think of as the Twitter charge. I’ve written about this phenomenon here. I have never joined in any of these mass virtual uprisings...until now. Why did I do so? Because that little town has been transfigured by the way in which it has received the dead, those boys, those beautiful boys. Every time I see them honoured on their silent return home I can’t help but cry. This is no affectation. I have before me a whole panorama of possibilities, of opportunities and challenges. I have a future of what seems to be endless time. Then I see some futures closed forever, futures of those even younger than I am. It winds me, brings me to understand that time is not endless, my time, their time.

Third, I come from a family with strong associations with the military. Politicians may be loathsome but soldiers do their duty; they go where they are ordered to go. Patriotism may be a traduced concept now in a nation that seems to have no clear idea of itself, but it lives if nowhere else in the fallen, in these boys whose remains process through Wootton Bassett, who are received with such quiet dignity and respect, beyond politics and beyond passion. To attempt to use this place to make a political gesture is ugly beyond comparison. More; so far as I am concerned it’s treasonable, an attempted show by people who owe this country everything and give it nothing.

So, for these reasons I added my name to the mass protest, I dare say joining with people who have less noble motives. It does not matter: I had to do it. I don’t think these things make any difference but it’s a kind of pulse, our pulse, my pulse. I am proud to be 535,410.


  1. So you are against the march. This is hardly news. "Support our boys by NOT making the most of this opportunity to oppose the war", you say, because it is disrespectful. This means that more soldiers will be killed so that the mawkish sentiments about the dead by people like you are not offended.

    What good will it do? Nothing. Sentimental claptrap.

    Anti-war publicity is what it's all about, Ana.

    Choudary is doing more than you to bring this war into disrepute and if we do things your way the fallen soldiers will have died for Bush, Blair, Brown and that charlatan Obama who got elected on the basis that he would end it, but is now sending more to die.

    Too bad so many people are just too blinded by sentimentality to see it.

    And women are even more inclined to sentimentality than men. Just so you can enjoy your emotions as tears well up in your eyes at the sight of more coffins?

    Not much to die for, is it?

    Maybe you and others want to keep this ritual going, so you can enjoy your ghoulish sentimentality at these increasingly regular rituals.

    Me, I want to discredit the war and those who started it.

    Now, which is a more *constructive* position to take, Ana?

  2. Vote: Should Anjem Choudary's proposed march in Wootton Bassett be allowed to go ahead?

  3. Islam4UK is an extremist group whose beliefs and ideals have nothing todo with Islam and are completely inconsistent with basicIslamic principles. I am a British Muslim. I support our troops fighting in Afghanistan because The Holy Quran teaches loyalty to one's country. British Muslims are lucky to live in a democratic state which protects their rights to worship and even promotes their rights to build mosques and add to the diversity of the country. That is why outside of any intelligent debate on the merits of War in Afghanistan as an effective measure against terrorist attacks in this country, British Muslims are duty bound to accept that the British Army are simply doing their job on behalf of all British People. Therefore the repatriation ceremonies should be respected whole heartedly and compassion should be extended to the families of those who have losttheir lives fighting for our country following the example of the Prophet for the Jews and Christians of Arabia.

    Last night Jonathan Dimbleby's presented his weekly program Any Questions? from Baitul Futuh Mosque in London, the largest mosque in western Europe. Ahmadiyya Muslims, a sect of which I am a proud member run the mosque and were the first to establish an Islamic base in the UK as early as 1914, we have never ever been associated with terrorism or extremism because this is not what the Quran or the Prophet ever taught. He would stand up out of respect when the funeral courtege of a non-Muslim was going by. I have read the Quran about a dozen times. Nowhere does it promote oppression of non-Muslims. Nor was this the Practice of the Prophet or any of his Rightly Guided Caliphs. The mosque cost £15000000 raised entirely by the Ahmadiyya Community. Mr Dimbleby remarked that the mosque complex is 'widely regarded as one of the twenty-first century's most outstanding buildings. It certainly belongs to this age with an outreach program and a vibrant interfaith dialogue.'

    Let me end with an excerpt from a message delivered by the Prophet Mohammad

    This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who are Christian, near and far: we are with them. Verily I, my servants, my helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah! I hold out against anything that displeases them. No compulsion is to be on them… No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything from it to the Muslims’ houses. Should anyone take any of these, he would breach God’s covenant and disobey His Prophet. Verily, they are my allies and have my secure charter against all that they hate…The Muslims are to fight for them. If a female Christian is married to a Muslim, it is not to take place without her approval. She is not to be prevented from visiting her church to pra y. Their churches are to be respected. They are not to be prevented from repairing them… No one of the Muslim nation is to disobey the covenant till the Last Day.

  4. Yes, Andromeda, I am opposed to this march, not the right to march itself, not the right to lodge a legitimate and democratic protest but against a move that is no more than a gross provocation, an insult to the dead and an insult to the living. I did not use the expression ‘support our boys’, and I don’t support the war, even if I can respect the sacrifice and the courage of the soldiers. But there are, indeed, some things beyond politics, reverence for the returning dead being one of them, admiration for the quiet respect with which they are received.

    Yes, you may have a point, what I wrote may very well come across to you as ‘sentimental claptrap.’ All I will say is that it was written with simple sincerity, written from the heart.

    Choudray is a despicable human being, as despicable in his own way as Nick Griffin. His branch of Islam-and I assume, perhaps wrongly, your branch of Islam-is obscurantist and reactionary; it stands against everything I most revere in the advance of western civilization since the Enlightenment and before; it stands against, I would even argue, the inner message of Islam itself, or at least some dimensions of Islam. I would draw your attention here to the piece I called Gnawing at Bones, highlighting the attacks in Pakistan on the Sufis.

    As far as increasing opposition to the war is concerned this march in Wootton Bassett is likely to have the contrary effect, is likely to increase support. It is also likely to increase hostility towards Islam still further. But I rather suspect that is what Herr Choudray is after, further and deepening divisions in this society; hatred is what he and his kind thrive on.

    Personally speaking if this march had to go ahead I would prefer it to be received in empty streets and in total silence, a more effective demonstration of contempt I can’t imagine. But I know this would not happen; I know that Choudray’s thugs will attract counter-thugs, those simply looking for a bit of bovver, those looking for a punch up. I know that the BNP is attempting to make capital out of this, to fight a reverse Battle of Cable Street.

    This is my position, Andromeda. I trust you have the good sense and the wisdom to understand. Your position, so far as I am concerned, is destructive, not constructive as you like to imagine. I hope you have enough wisdom left over to understand that also. Best wishes.

  5. Dear Rehan, Your contributions are always welcome, never more so than now.

  6. Yes, Anastasia, let us have riots and civil disorder, if that is what it takes the government to change its mind, so that this illegal war, which is a stain on the reputation of this country, is ended sooner rather than later.

    It would be an appropriate gesture for the civilians to make towards the military.

    There is a certain irony that this "civil" gesture should be made by Choudary of all people, but there it is.

    I doubt that riots in Wootton Bassett would make the British want to stay in Afghanistan. It is probably the best wake-up call to the apathetic and the sentimental who weakly say they oppose the war but are not prepared to seize the moment.

  7. Then, Andromeda, we have nothing more to say to one another.

  8. Brilliantly said. Even though I generally only join Facebook groups that are humorous in nature, this was a cause I'm was then and am now happy to be associated with in all places. I'm a regular financial contributor to the RBL--frankly, when ever I win wagers with friends(which is most often, indeed), I frequently ask them to donate my winnings to the RBL. Again, thanks for lending your credibility to such a necessary cause.

  9. These people made me so angry.

  10. Absolutely monstrous--well that's an insult to monsters. There was an expose in the Mail on how the people in that squalid group were just a lot of dole charges who were mostly uni flunkies who gave up their jobs as larger supping, womanisers to take up a post as full time extremists in groups that like some of our friends in another place, keep getting banned by the courts, only to re-emerge with a different name. I'm just happy it was called off--now all I want is to see the war called off so the sad scenes in Wootton Bassett need no longer occur. Liam Fox seems to be leaning in this direction--I've written about it, I think I've posted it but not sure--I'll post it later today if I've not already done so.