Insane, sickening attacks: Let's not let 'them' win.

This article in The Conversation strikes an appropriate tone: Terror on the Streets of London, but don't jump to conclusions yet.

If you haven't heard yet, there has been a random and vicious attack in broad daylight on the streets of London, where a man (believed to be a soldier) has been hacked to death in a busy street.

Aljazeera has more details here: 'Soldier hacked to in London'.

The incident is being called a 'terrorist attack', the likes of which 'we have seen before' by news and politicians in the UK (that quote by London Mayer, Boris Johnson).


This is a sickening, terrible attack and one that is sure to garner much media attention, speculation and a strong backlash in London itself due to the demographics of the super-metropolis. It is interesting that even though atrocities are being committed in Syria daily, we become desensitised...

...but the streets of London are not a warzone, and the attack happened near the gates of a primary school.


For those who will premetively speculate or link the attack to Islam, stop.

We (as a society in general) must not let sick violence hijack our peace and work towards harmony. We (as Muslims) must not let people commit terror in the name of the religion that we believe in and stay silent.

Islam explicitly forbids killing innocents.

"Nor take life -- which Allah has made sacred -- except for just cause. And if anyone is slain wrongfully, we have given his heir authority (to demand retaliation or to forgive): but let him not exceed bounds in the matter of taking life, for he is helped (by the Law)." [Quran 17:33]

Thus the term 'Muslim Terrorist' is an oxy moron (see more on this here).

It is a shame that every time there is attack we (as Muslims) must go on the offensive, denying any link, defending our religion. It is frustrating that we must constantly justify our way of life and our beliefs.

Unfortunately though, this seems to be the status quo.

In a world where Islam and the cultures of the East are 'Othered' and misunderstood, is it the responsibility of Muslims living in the West to educate on the true values underpinning the religion? Perhaps. But it can also be exhausting.

In the Aljazeera article, a Muslim resident of the area echoed similar sentiments:

"This has nothing to do with Islam, this has nothing to do with our religion. This has nothing to do with Allah," he said. It's heartbreaking, it's heartbreaking."

Defenses aside though, the purpose of the attack is still unconfirmed.

I think a harder question that must be asked though is why.

Why do young men feel the need to commit such acts of terror??

What sickness is in our society, what are we missing, that allows such motivations to exist and fester into action? Be it the numerous shootings in the United States or even Norway, to the hacking attack in London; these are not the results of well balanced and harmonious communities.

Is it foreign policy stances? Is it family structures and issues growing up? Is it lack of support and understanding as a society as to what young men are experiencing? Is it mental health or the lack thereof? Is it misunderstanding? A combination of all the above?

These are the hard questions that need to be asked if we truly want to work towards preventing and eliminating sickness and violence in our socities.

*Featured photo from Twitter (@BietLe_)

F1 and Domestic Politics - Should it Matter?

I originally wrote this piece on the day of the Bahrain GP for the International Political Forum - check it out here!

The F1 world exists in a bubble of its own. Although highly political, its politics are usually internal, and as such the domestic politics of the host nation rarely rates a mention. Granted, (by and large, with exceptions of course) most of the races are in stable states, and so voicing of political concern is either verbal or doesn’t make the international news.

That is why the case of today’s race in Bahrain is very interesting indeed.

Just briefly – the Bahraini race was the result of the work of King’s son, Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, who thought it would be a great way to put Bahrain on the international radar. It worked wonderfully in doing so, and its first race in 2004 was a huge success (according to the BBC at any rate), both domestically and internationally.

The problems only really started appearing in early 2011, when the island nation got swept with Arab Spring fever, and the Shia majority began protesting in earnest against the ruling Sunni minority. Their main issue is with the human rights record of the government (which, as the Bassiouni report showed, is a spotty record indeed).

The race was cancelled that year. A brief roundup of those events by the BBC can be found here.

So where does that leave Bahrain and Formula 1 now?

Well, media stories are filled with visual depictions of angry protestors holding anti-F1 signs and chanting slogans such as “Your race is a crime,” and “No, no to the blood Formula.”


Bahraini leaders are downplaying the unrest, with the Crown Prince insisting the event will be safe for teams and spectators. However, MP’s within the government requested that the event again be cancelled. The All-Party Parliamentary Group for Democracy in Bahrain said: “We request you cancel the Grand Prix. It is likely to attract as much negative publicity as last year.”

The world motorsport’s governing body the FIA and the promoters Formula One Management (FOM), caught in the middle, have simply said the event will go ahead.

CEO of FOM, the infamous Bernie Ecclestone, wants to keep the sport as far away from the politics as possible, saying to the BBC: “We don’t want to see trouble. We don’t want to see people arguing and fighting about things we don’t understand, because we really don’t understand. Some people feel it’s our fault there are problems.”

“We’re not here, or we don’t go anywhere, to judge how a country is run”, although he did also mention that he thought the government was “stupid” to put the race on, as people will use it [emphasis added] as a platform for protesting.

Bernie is right in a way; trying to figure out which side is right or wrong never ends well. There are too many shades of grey.

What the true question is about though, is how much of a role as Formula 1 plays in domestic and global politics. Much of the media focus has been around the protests, whether Formula One as an event should be in Bahrain, trying to figure out if there is a “morally” correct side to be on.


The sad fact of the matter is if Formula 1 hadn’t come to Bahrain, the country wouldn’t rate a mention in any international paper. It certainly doesn’t appear to have done so, especially not alongside the even more unfortunate tragedies of Egypt and Syria.

Formula 1 is both a sport, and a business. From a business sense, no, it isn’t desirable to be associated with or seen to be friends with a government that is denying its citizens human rights. But sport is a common language. Like music, sport has an uncanny ability to transcend politics and bring people together. Granted, this isn’t the Football World Cup, but it is a huge international event, with lots of focus on a nation where the battles are usually forgotten.

It is understandable that protestors are upset that the Formula 1 circus is coming to town – they are likely to be upset at many of the ruling party’s initiatives. But the race can be seen as an opportunity for their nation to bring their issues to the attention of the international media. Not that this is what Bernie Ecclestone wants, but  Formula 1 doesn’t have to find the answers. It is only a sporting event after all, not the mediation arm of the United Nations.

No, Formula 1 doesn’t have all the answers. What it does have is an amazing capacity to draw the attention of millions of people towards various places, and in doing so, highlight the goings on in that state.

It is that opportunity, that captive audience, that international focus. That is the power of Formula 1.

Some might see sport as a frivolity, but it has an important role to play – in its own unique way – in the journey of every nation.

After all, the Formula 1 coming to town is one the main reasons we are all talking about the plight today anyway, isn’t it?

Brisbane Times: How Racist Are We?

I wrote this piece for the Brisbane Times... check the full article (and comments!!) out here. ***

In 2005, when news of the Cronulla riots spread, my family was inundated by calls from friends and family overseas asking if we were okay.

"We're fine!" we would say. "Queensland's different".

That's how I'd always seen it. Growing up in Brisbane in the 90s and 00s, I remember associating racially motivated violence with Sydney and Melbourne.

Although there were incidents in Queensland, it was never as common or visible. Even after 9/11, although our mosque was burnt down and there were incidents of racism, the community didn't experience the widespread and intense incidents of racial hatred as exhibited at the Cronulla riots or more recently, the attacks against Indian international students.


So why is Queensland different? Do the numbers support my anecdotal evidence? Are we more cohesive, or is it a case of luck and "it just hasn't happened yet"?

According to census data, New South Wales and Victoria have an over-representation of LOTE (Language Other Than English Spoken at Home) population, with Sydney and Melbourne's LOTE population at 37.8% and 33.7%, compared to Brisbane's 17.9% (ABS, 2011).

It is quite clear then, that the ethnic population density in Queensland is significantly less than those in the southern states, perhaps a reason for less racial violence.

Furthermore, the southern capital cities have more densely populated areas with particular groups of migrants that have been settled for longer, whereas Brisbane and Queensland's migrant populations are younger and less dense.  In 1996, Queensland had 29.7 % fewer LOTE speakers compared to NSW (ABS, 1996).

On the other hand, the Scanlon Foundation's "Mapping Social Cohesion" (2012) report states that Queenslanders are particularly likely to hold negative views on cultural diversity.

Numbers may not always tell the whole story.  As a lifetime Brisbanite, I don't think we have a widespread issue with racial violence as we are a little different to our southern neighbours.

Firstly, the settlement of racially diverse populations hasn't been in the dense concentrations of lengthy settlement as seen down south.  This has allowed ethnically diverse populations to better embed themselves into the fabric of the mainstream community.

With that familiarity comes understanding and the reduction of the likelihood of racial violence.

Secondly, as a society, we are now much more aware the needs of migrants and LOTE populations having learned from Sydney and Melbourne. As populations now settle in Queensland, the many support mechanisms available from government and organisations help alleviate many of the issues based around settlement that may provoke violence.

When my family moved to Australia almost 20 years ago, the level of support was essentially non-existent.  Now, there are extensive networks to help, and the positive impact this has cannot be understated.

However, it cannot be denied that there are negative - dare I say racist - views around the state. We've been lucky so far. I feel safe, accepted and don't find my race a major inhibitor in my ability to participate.

We shouldn't be complacent however, and as we become more racially diverse we must work together to ensure that our community isn't marred by the manifestation of negative views and the racially motivated violence that can truly damage the fabric of our society.

Read more here!


Thanks to the Brisbane Times for giving me the opportunity to contribute...

So what are your thoughts? I only had 500 words, there is plenty more to the discussion!