Sunday, September 26, 2004

Human Rights Detour (CAT STEVENS UPDATE)

Please open the blue links in this post, they are really worthy of attention. Before I go on I would like to apologise to a former lurker, Dale, who will now see whatever remains of his closet outed. But he said something that I really, really need to talk about. He wrote in a comment to my Open Letter post: I do think it odd that you're not troubled by a US citizen who's never been charged with anything spending three years in solitary. I must have misunderstood something because I don’t know what he's talking about. And because I don’t know, and because it is a rather serious matter, I’ll not take it personally since, of course, he doesn’t know me (although my posts on East Timor and my links in the Open Letter post make it pretty clear, I think, where I stand on Human Rights), but I’ll say this:

1 - The post was about Cat Stevens, a Brit who became a Muslim in 1977 or 1978 and is now known as Yusuf Islam. He was refused entry into the US and forced to go back to the UK. He has since then been extensively reported to have supported Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War, the fatwa on Salman Rushdie and a Hamas front in Canada *(he has also been banned from Israel). Here is his own fatwa version. The operative sentence for me is I stood up and expressed my belief and I am in no way apologizing for it. And One must not forget the ruling in Islam is also very clear about adultery, stealing and murder, but that doesn't mean that British Muslims will go about lynching and stoning adulterers, theives and murderers. Look up the ruling, it’s an eye-opener. It is very clear indeed. Could he say anything else re British Muslims and not be kicked out of the country, really? Maybe he has indeed softened. Maybe he’s become a moderate. He still fails to convince me. I don’t know if that kind of religious zeal can indeed diminish and I’m always wary of a manic glint in the eye - and yes, JEWS INCLUDED. It’s the sort of thing that literally keeps me up at night, the exact thing I’ve been trying to help fight. I’ll make it clearer: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ARE UTTERLY UNACCEPTABLE REGARDLESS OF RELIGION OR NATIONALITY OR TYPE.

So yes, in general terms I do believe any person with an extremist, violence-advocating past SHOULD NOT be allowed in the US (of course, it would have been more effective and less traumatising for all involved had they PREVENTED him from boarding rather then divert the aeroplane to Maine and emergency-land it. Not very trust-inspiring security-wise, is it.). Extremists should not be allowed anywhere, for the matter. If it were up to me, I’d round up all of them and ship them off to a very far-away and not necessarily pleasant desert island. They could then be EXTREMELY extreme and would no longer haunt us.

An irritating quote from Mohammad Abdul Bari, deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain: It is a slap in the face of sanity. If prominent, well-known personalities are treated like this, then how can there be bridge building? There’s only so much stupidity I can be bothered to discuss. Prominent? That’s the issue? PROMINENT???

2 - I am very troubled by any citizen of any country in detention without charge or trial for any period of time for whatever the cause, be it in solitary or somewhere else. EVERY CITIZEN OF EVERY NATION IS ENTITLED TO CHARGES AND A FAIR TRIAL.

For years I was one of mostly 4-5 people in charge of translating the Amnesty Report for publication here. The verbs and nouns AI reports are made of are of the sort you pray will never be applied to your own life. That has made me more aware than most of the kind of atrocities governments are capable of and I wouldn’t know how to explain to you how it has affected my life. I have seen some of them literally in the flesh.

(On this last one I, OF COURSE, need to elaborate. Shortly after his release he came to Portugal. Because of the decades of torture he cannot move his arms much or eat normal food -no teeth left - so he eats porridge and mashed up food and enjoys it thoroughly. In fact, he enjoys it so much he insists on having his picture taken while eating so it can be sent to the Chinese. You see, they were often made to starve AND watch films of Chinese dignitaries at banquets. Food is VERY important. He has no concept of money. His suitcase was a mixture of a few robes, newspaper cuts and dollars given to him which he was keeping as a souvenir. His translator almost had a fit. He saw the ocean for the first time in Portugal and was very impressed. He lifted up his robes and jumped about in the water but would fast retreat whenever the waves came closer. He thought that Portugal ended there, at that beach, but, when explained to him that it didn’t, he thought it was a brilliant idea that the coast stretched further up and down, well done. There is NO anger or bitterness in him, none. He doesn’t hate his torturers, he doesn’t hate the Chinese. He never did. And because he never did, he says, he was able to survive. He radiates peacefulness in a hollywoodesque illuminated way that is inconceivable to us. There’s a book where the Dalai Lama and 3 scientists discuss science and in it he explains how Tibetan monks achieve this. Pos-traumatic stress is UNHEARD of regardless of degree and length of torture. I'll link it when I find it.)

Because I watch the telly and read the news, I have a good inkling of civilians’ capabilities in that respect as well. But I can tell you that, although neither has a reducing effect on my insomnia, the State wins by a landslide. We all are The State. And when you realise to what extent The State may torture, rape, maim and kill, and IN YOUR NAME, at that, and using YOUR MONEY for it, something is irrevocably changed, and lost, and gained. And that is also why it would NOT cross my mind to go on holiday to a country that still has the death penalty (exception made for the US for US-particular reasons), or a country where one just Disappears never to be heard from again, or a country that combines both (which is quite frequent), because I learnt more shit about them that I ever wanted to, and it is terribly easy for horrors to befall innocent people.

And now I’m depressed. Bah. On a lighter note: Dale, t
here’s another post brewing because of you, but a happier one this time! ;-) And I survived, as you can see! I had the pleasure of breaking the fast with chilli con carne and sour-cream codfish NOT COOKED BY ME, plus there were ciggies and coke galore so THE WORLD IS A BEAUTIFUL PLACE! Oh - and whatever did you mean by when you disagree with me? Am I to understand from this sentence that sometimes you think I'M WRONG? That cannot be. Must have misunderstood.

UPDATE: Ah... He is the guest of honour at a fundraising dinner for a Canadian Hamas front; he says Muslims cannot just stand and watch what is happening; he blatantly dismisses Judaism as non-existent and all Jews as seculars (for those of you unfamiliar with the lingo, secular = non religious = infidel); he clearly states that everything other than Islam is "religious uproot"; that the Muslims are the only righteous; and that there's no acceptable political concept or construct or treaty or agent, only Allah.

stand by everything I wrote only EVEN MORE SO.

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At 27/9/04 18:11, Blogger Dale said...

Oh dear. Sorry. We were talking about completely different things. This is what happens when you get too clever. I had not yet read about the Cat Stevens / Yusuf Islam thing, and for reasons which I can't quite recontruct, now, I thought you were talking about that man described (rather weirdly, since he was clearly an American citizen) as "an American-born Saudi," who was captured in Afghanistan, taken to Guantanamo, and then -- when they realized he was in fact an American citizen -- moved to solitary confinement in Virginia somewhere and held thus for three years, with no lawyer (or any other person) allowed access to him. The Supreme Court ruled recently that they had to charge him with something or let him go, whereupon they deported him to Saudi Arabia, on condition that he surrender his US citizenship.

I guess I was taking "Yusuf Islam" to be "Joe Muslim" rather than a real name. Sorry about the confusion. I agree that the US presently has justification for looking askance at anyone who's contributed to Hamas, even if he did write popular peace songs once upon a time.

At 28/9/04 02:32, Blogger The Lioness said...

The swines! What do you think will happen to an American - never mind that he's a Muslim, he sold out by being an American - in Saudi Arabia? It might have been kinder to shoot him in the head. It would certainly have been faster.

Oh wait, I think I read something abt it. Maybe it was someone else. This one was Canadian, though. How easy it is to destroy someone's life. To sentence them to death. Do you know what's happened to him since?


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