Jonathon Shafi from the Radical Independence Campaign on why he is voting YES!
Jonathon Shafi from the Radical Independence Campaign on why he is voting YES!
Today I was invited to take part in the Radical Independence Convention workshop for peace, to talk a little bit about my own experiences and interpretation of foreign policy, Scotland and Islam. I spoke alongside MSP John Finnie, Neil Davidson and Isobel Lindsay, who have been campaigning for peace for a very long time, with Neil discussing the imperialist mindset from a historical perspective and how it is embedded in Scottish history as well as UK wide.
Impact of Foreign Policy on Scottish Muslims
As a woman of Pakistani descent and a Muslim, born in Birmingham but living here in Scotland for over 27 years -, I have my bit to say about the impact of foreign policy on Scottish Muslims from my own personal experiences, having reached the ripe old age of 46!
I won’t speak on behalf of the many millions of Muslims around the world or even make a statement that I represent the views of the Muslims in Scotland. This is about how I interpret what is going on in the world around me. I will discuss how I see the effect of foreign policy from a British perspective before contrasting it with the way Scotland is conducting itself on the world stage before finishing with how I see us as Muslims needing to be more proactive in our roles as citizens in Scotland.
I do not believe in war. I cannot condone mass murder of our men and women – they are our hope and aspiration for the future. If our politicians are so passionate about putting what they see as ‘wrong’ to rights, they can go and deal with business themselves – I find it difficult to sleep sometimes thinking that some young lad is lying injured or dying in the name of his country. It doesn’t matter what the reason for the call to war is, it is always the person on the bottom rung, the foot soldier that is sacrificed. It doesn’t make me proud – sad in fact. Another life wasted, for nothing but a government’s ego in the name of patriotism, and a medal for those they leave behind.
Each foreign policy when used to invade another country in recent times, when deconstructed cannot stand up to public scrutiny.
I for one, feel ashamed, and had adopted an ostrich in the sand approach – the problem was far too big for me to deal with, and if I pretended it didn’t exist, I could ignore it – but for how long?
From 1990 to 2001, economic sanctions were levied against Iraq for invading Kuwait. These sanctions included food, baby milk and medicine which resulted in the death of over half a million babies and infants. It led to the crumbling of the infrastructure of Iraq, and huge malnutrition amongst the population.
Where the American Secretary of State, Madeline Albright was made aware of the facts, she was quoted as saying ‘it was worth it’.
How can you ignore that wherever the USA goes to save us from another despotic regime in the Middle East – Afghanistan, Iraq,- Britain blindly follows, even making up false evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction to give themselves credibility to invade another country.
How can two wrongs ever make a right? Explain to me, how the deaths of 3000 innocent individuals in the Twin Towers attack condoned the invasion of Afghanistan and the resulting deaths of over 15000 innocent civilians. Where over 50,000 tonnes of explosives were rained over the skies of cities and towns in Afghanistan. I don’t even want to break it down into a comparative of what one Western life is worth in comparison to a Muslim one.
In Iraq the death toll is over half a million. BUT that’s ok because the British found the Weapons of Mass Destruction and a price had to be paid, DIDN’T it? NO? Oh, I forgot,no weapons were found and a simple apology suffices those in the Middle East and beyond – so what are British troops still doing in these countries? Peace keepers – the irony of that statement!
Where our countries go hand in hand with organisations such as NATO, condoning policies such as drone bomb attacks, where there are far too many accidents of far too many civilians, children in school, wedding parties – how did the NATO bombers identify terrorist activity in these places? And again a simple SORRY is meted out several months later, after ‘an investigation’. Off course that makes all the families that lost loved ones, their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, parents and partners feel so much better – SORRY. Could we even for one minute imagine the horror of picking the body parts of our loved ones to try and assemble them for a burial?
I am proud to see the good work that Scotland is doing as a devolved nation and soon to be an independent one.
Proud to see that we do see ourselves as a huge civic movement that values all life and has active foreign policies which invest in projects in all the continents across the globe, to improve our relationships and trade interests and create synergies for further growth at home and on the world stage. We chose to invest in people, irrespective of their wealth or where they come from, whether that is Malawi, Pakistan, India, Dubai or China, East European countries such as Poland, – we help them to learn about sustainability, empowerment, and growth as communities. We are more than happy to share our knowledge and our skills with our neighbours across the world. It identifies how we see ourselves and how we are seen.
With such inspirational role models as Humza Yousaf, Scotland’s very own Minister for International Development and External Affairs, we are shown the way it is in Scotland and how we can only improve upon this as we move forward to independence.
This leads us onto some questions which we need to answer as Muslims in Scotland
How can we as Muslims complain about our rights, our freedoms, our collective future, if we refuse to engage in the political process across the board as active Scottish citizens?
We have an obligation as Scots and Muslims to fully participate in local and national debates, and not come out in public, to issue an apologist statement when another terrorist attack occurs in the name of Islam. Enough!
We have allowed ourselves to be defined by foreign policy and events in the Middle East for far too long.
Enough of the navel gazing and victim mentality.
We make a positive contribution to Scottish society.
It’s time to let the people, press and politicians know that we are as Scottish as we are Muslim and we care about our shared future. And only by working together as one nation can we put a stop to mass murder. We can only do this if we are completely in charge of our own foreign policies as an independent country. Let me finish with a small quote from Martin Luther King.
We have flown the air like birds and swum the sea like fish, but have yet to learn the simple act of walking the earth like brothers.
Let an independent Scotland show us the way!
Nighet Nasim Riaz @nnriaz
Our Scottish Minister for International Development Humza Yousaf, shared many of the Scots Asians feelings of distress, who originated from Pakistan and Kenya with the atrocities which occurred over the weekend- where the actions of a few who kill in the name of religion, taint the majority of the peace loving nations and those of us who live overseas with the same brush. It is wise to remember the words which many of us believe in wholeheartedly in principle and practice:
“We are starting in the days where there is no discrimination, no distinction between one community and another, no discrimination between one caste or creed and another. We are starting with this fundamental principle: that we are all citizens, and equal citizens, of one State” Muhammed Ali Jinnah – Founding Father of Pakistan. Solidarity with Christians of Pakistan killed in another cowardly attack.
These same feelings were expressed by others in the political community, especially Councillor Shabbar Jaffri, who is one of the more high profile and passionate speakers about the injustice and senseless murders of Shia Muslims in the Middle East and Pakistan.
This sectarian and mindless killing has to stop. Prayers for peace in the world.
NEWS FROM FROM YES SCOTLAND
– Sunday launch for Scots Asians for Independence –
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh will tell an audience at Glasgow’s Langside Halls that she believes her children will have a better life in an independent Scotland and that Scots Asians can play an important role in the campaign (Sunday).
The Yes Scotland advisory board member will be joined by Minister for External Affairs and International Development Humza Yousaf to discuss the benefits of independence and the important role to be played by Scots Asians in the referendum debate.
With less than a year to go to the 2014 vote, the panel are aiming to convince undecideds and unsettled No’s that decisions made on Scotland’s future, are best made by those who live here and make up our culturally rich communities.
Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh, a former actress and chair of Scottish Women‘s Asian Association said: ‘I believe it’s time to take Scotland’s future into Scotland’s hands so that we can build a Nation which works for all of us.
‘I want women and Scotland’s minority communities, to be front and centre in this debate. And I want to play my part in persuading other women and members of my community, that not only is an independent Scotland possible, it’s the best and only opportunity we have to realise our hopes and our dreams for our families and our country.
‘A country where we value investment in people and investment in society. A country that reaches out to young people, who are interested in the dreams of the future, not the memories of the past. A country where there is provision for the most vulnerable in society.
I believe my four children and your children and grandchildren, will have a better life, and enjoy a better and more equal society, in an independent Scotland, caring for each other and their fellow citizens. That is a Scotland I want to live in, and my children to grow up in. Let’s work together, to make it happen.‘
Scots Asians for Independence is one of several sectoral groups set-up to ensure that Scotland’s culturally-rich and talented people can play a role in winning and shaping and independent Scotland.
Humza Yousaf, a Glasgow MSP and Scottish Government minister, said: ‘Thousands of people have come from across the world to make Scotland their home, having their voice in the most important discussion our nation has ever had is vital.
‘Scotland’s BME communities have contributed for decades to the success of our country. As the late and great Bashir Ahmed often said it doesn’t matter where you come from it is where we go together as a Nation. I have no doubt that all the communities of Scotland regardless of race, religion or background will see that through independence we can have a fairer and more prosperous Scotland and will vote yes in 2014.’
Toni Giugliano, Yes Scotland’s sectoral groups advisor: ‘Over the year ahead Yes Scotland will continue working closely with every sector of Scottish society so that all Scots engage in the referendum debate and become aware of the benefits of independence.’
As someone from the Asian/Indian culture, I have grown up in extended families and have found it to be a mixed bag – both rewarding experience if the communication is open, transparent and the ethos is the same to support the family unit and meet the needs of each of the individual members whilst maintaining a healthy equilibrium, to the complete opposite, when one or two family members are contributing more on every level to trying to keep the family on an equal keel, but due to the other members not pulling their weight, and manipulating the situation, communication breaks down, that no one listens or wishes to be heard and there is complete and utter meltdown leading to open conflict and separation.
In both situations, there comes a time when it’s the healthiest option to strike out on your own. You can do it with the good wishes and open communication on how to divide assets and share knowledge and advice on how to set up your new home. Or you could create maximum drama leading to expensive court cases, mudslinging and right down embarrassing behaviour. But the outcome is the same, only in the second case, you strike out on your own but knowing it will take a very long time to rebuild that trust and communication.
It translates across to how I see the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK. Yes Scotland are building a picture of hope and vision, being open, transparent, and communicative, and showing the bigger picture of how Scotland could flourish as an independent nation, with a healthy relationship with the rest of the UK, but are being met at every turn with a barrage of negativity, abuse and downright lies by the opposition.
If one side repeatedly says ‘let’s sit down and talk’ to be counteracted by ridicule, it makes the process longer. It also makes Yes Scotland look like the more mature of the two campaigns, progressive and outward looking, with the Better Together lot looking jaded, holding tightly onto tradition and values which are no longer practised by their own political elk, based on fear and misunderstandings and lies. It’s time to talk. Let’s get down to business and talk independence.
We the people of Scotland are owed at least that much common courtesy.
By NN Riaz
Humza Yousaf, MSP and Minister for International Development and External Affairs
Aamer Anwar, Scotland’s top criminal lawyers and human rights campaigners
Tasmina Ahmed Sheikh, Lawyer, actress and Advisory Board Member of Yes Scotland
Toni Giugliano, Interest Groups Adviser at Yes Scotland.
Nighet Nasim Riaz, Associate Lecturer & PhD Researcher, Institute for Youth and Community Research
The aforementioned speakers will be speaking at a Public Meeting on Friday 26 July in the Fair Maid’s House, Perth, from 3.00-5.00pm on behalf of Scots Asians for Independence and Scots Asians for Yes. If you know of family or friends who live in Perth or Perthshire, please do pass this message onto them to drop by and listen to these excellent speakers. Thank you