Saturday, May 12, 2012

The story of Kasim Hafeez

Kasim Hafeez is a brave man. Not because his investigation caused him to discover something to be true, but because, having discovered it to be true, he decided to stand up for it.

Kasim is a British Muslim. Once a radical Islamist, a Jew-hater and an anti-Israel activist, he is now a Zionist - and proud of it.

He runs a website, (and writes a blog on the same site), whose aim is "to fight the hate, the lies and try to prevent more young minds being poisoned. . . 

"We want to stem the tide of Anti-Israel vitriol spewing from the many facets of society," it says. "We believe in peace in the Middle East for both the Jewish people and the Arab people, but this can not be achieved by the demonisation and vilification of the State of Israel."

In an article on another website, Kasim tells how the change in his life came about.

Growing up in the Muslim community in the UK, I was exposed to materials and opinions at best condemning Israel, painting Jews as usurpers and murderers, and at worse calling for the wholesale destruction of the "Zionist Entity" and all Jews. In short, there was no accommodating a Jewish State in the Middle East.

To grow up around this constant barrage of hatred directed at Israel has a massive effect on an individual's own opinions. More disturbingly, many of these people weren't radical or extreme, but when it was about Israel the most vicious of rhetoric poured out. . .

My father, however, was much more brazen in his hatred, boasting of how Adolf Hitler was a hero, his only failing being that he didn't kill enough Jews.

By the time I had reached 18 I was completely indoctrinated to the fold of radical Islamism. My hate for Israel and for the Jews was fuelled by images of death and destruction, set to the backdrop of Arabic melodies about Jihad and speeches of Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah or Osama Bin Laden.

These views were reinforced when I attended Nakba Day rallies, where speakers predicted Israel's demise as Hezbollah flags were waved proudly in the centre of London.

Was there a case for Israel? In my mind, of course not, there was no shadow of doubt. Even the most moderate clerics I came across refused to condemn terrorism against Israel as unjustified; the Jews must obviously deserve it, I believed.

So what changed? How could I go from all this hatred to the great love for and affinity with Israel and the Jewish people? I found myself in the Israel and Palestine section of a local bookstore and picked up a copy of Alan Dershowitz's The Case For Israel. Given my worldview, the Jews and Americans controlled the media, so after a brief look at the back, I scoffed thinking "vile Zionist propaganda."

I did, however, decide to buy it, content that I would shortly be deconstructing this propaganda piece, showing that Israel had no case and claiming my findings as a personal victory for the Palestinian cause.

As I read Dershowitz's arguments and deconstruction of many lies I saw as unquestionable truths, I searched despairingly for counter arguments, but found more hollow rhetoric that I'd believed for many years. I felt a real crisis of conscience, and thus began a period of unbiased research. Up to that point I had not been exposed to anything remotely positive about Israel.

Now, I didn't know what to believe. I'd blindly followed others for so long, yet here I was questioning whether I had been wrong. I reached a point where I felt I had no other choice but to see Israel for myself; only that way I'd really know the truth. . .

I did not encounter an apartheid fascist state, but rather, quite the opposite. I was confronted by synagogues, mosques and churches, by Jews and Arabs living together, by minorities playing huge parts in all areas of Israeli life, from the military to the judiciary. It was shocking and eye-opening. This wasn't the evil Zionist Israel that I had been told about.

After much soul searching, I knew what I had once believed was wrong. I had been confronted with the truth and had to accept it. But I had a bigger question to confront, what now? I'd for years campaigned against Israel, but now I knew the truth.

The choice was obvious. I had to stand with Israel, with this tiny nation, free, democratic, making huge strides in medicine, research and development, yet the victim of the same lies and hatred that nearly consumed me.

Doing this is not easy and that's something that has become very obvious. I have faced hostility from my own community and even some within the Jewish community in the UK, but that's the reality in standing up for Israel in Europe today. It is not easy, and that's what makes it so necessary.

This isn't about religion and politics; it's about the truth.

When it comes to Israel, the truth is not being heard, the ranks of those filled with blind hatred continue to swell, yet many have not been exposed to the reality, away from the empty rhetoric and politically charged slogans they are so fond of.

We can change this situation but we need to be strong and united. Israel is not just a Jewish issue - it's about freedom, human rights and democracy, all the values that Western nations cherish. It's also about trying to be a light among nations.
Israel's international humanitarian aid work speaks for itself, but if we don't get the message out there, no one will. We don't have to be head-bowed apologists leading with "Israel's not perfect. . ." - we should never be afraid to say: I am a Zionist and I'm proud. I stand with Israel. Now I ask, will you do that? 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

From Jew-hater to Zionist

Britain was the world's top country for antisemitic attacks in 2010. It fell to second place last year. But while major antisemitic attacks generally are less common, harassment of Jews, such as shouting abuse in the street, is on the increase.

That's according to an annual antisemitism report by Tel Aviv University.

An investigation by the Jewish Chronicle showed that British MPs who have spoken in support of Israel have had to take security precautions after receiving death threats by post, phone or online. One MP had to be accompanied by police officers during the last election campaign. Another was forced to seek police protection.

A number of MPs were targeted by a Muslim group. Members of the now-banned Muslims Against Crusades stormed the constituency surgery of the Finchley and Golders Green MP, shouting that he was a "Jewish homosexual pig."

Last Thursday an elderly lady in Brighton had to be taken to hospital with shock after discovering her car had had its tyres slashed and been spray-painted with Nazi slogans and anti-Jewish graffiti.

Antisemitism has been around for a long time. It's a shame there's so much of it in Britain.

Which is why in my next blog post I intend to tell the story of a British Muslim - once a radical Islamist, a Jew-hater and an anti-Israel activist - who is now a Zionist and proud of it.

Imagine that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

GMC's advice to homosexuals

Two news items which ought to have a mention here:

The General Medical Council, the regulatory body for doctors in the UK, has published a leaflet in conjunction with the homosexual rights group Stonewall (as pointed out here) giving detailed advice about how to lodge a complaint against doctors who are felt to be discriminating against homosexual and bisexual patients.

The leaflet, entitled Protecting patients: your rights as lesbian, gay and bisexual people, has been part funded by the Department of Health and published following a survey by Stonewall into homosexual and bisexual men's health.

The leaflet says doctors must not unfairly discriminate against patients by allowing their personal views about sexual orientation adversely to affect their professional relationship or treatment. Doctors also must not express to their patients their personal beliefs in ways that exploit their vulnerability or are likely to cause them distress.

It asks patients who think their doctor is not fit to practise to  contact the GMC.

There is no doubt that doctors should treat patients without discrimination in any way.

But some homosexuals consider Christianity and the Bible "homophobic" and orthodox Christian views on sexuality offensive. Will this leaflet encourage vexatious complaints against doctors known to have orthodox Christian beliefs on sexual matters?

Moreover, the Equality Act 2010 prohibits discrimination on the grounds of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex and sexual orientation.

The GMC has published a leaflet for homosexuals, but not apparently for any of the other groups.

Is this discriminatory?

And the second news item:

The petition objecting to the intention to redefine marriage to allow same-sex marriage and asking for marriage law to remain unchanged (you can see it at has reached half a million signatures. Surely a clear indication that the great majority of people in Britain do not want marriage law to be tampered with.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Changing society's attitude to marriage

Sir Paul Coleridge, a senior judge in the Family Division of the High Court, is a remarkable man. Appalled at the number of divorces and the effect family breakdown was having on children, he began some years ago to speak out in support of marriage.

Now, he says, it's no longer time to speak only, but time to act. This week he launched the Marriage Foundation, an independent charity whose aim is to champion marriage as the "gold standard of relationships," and by so doing to change attitudes towards marriage and divorce from the top to bottom of society.

Sir Paul, who once famously said that a divorce was easier to obtain than a driving licence, describes family breakdown as "one of the most destructive scourges of our time," and the impact family breakdown is having on society as "out of control."

"There are an estimated 3.8 million children currently caught up in the family justice system," he says. "I personally think that's a complete scandal."

The foundation's website says if you look at the facts and figures, the case for marriage becomes overwhelming. Its advice to married couples having problems will be where possible to "mend it, don't end it."

It is estimated, Sir Paul says, that the financial cost to the nation of family breakdown "exceeds £44 billion a year: greater than the entire defence budget."

When he was married in 1973, "we took the element of public commitment via our wedding vows seriously. Standing up in front of your family and friends to publicly commit to another person gives marriage a psychological stability or glue lacking in other relationships. . .

"The evidence I find overwhelming is that married relationships are more stable and the children of such relationships fare better. For example, a baby born to cohabiting parents is more than 10 times more likely to see its parents separate than one born to married parents."

It's good to see someone who, seeing a need, does something about it.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Leaving God out

You may remember that Bideford Town Council had been starting its meetings with a formal prayer since the days of Queen Elizabeth I. An atheist former town councillor objected to the practice. Aided and abetted by the National Secular Society, he took the council to court - and won his case.

The legislation that Communities Secretary Eric Pickles consequently rushed through to ensure councils could open their meetings in prayer if they wanted to evidently hasn't had the effect that was expected.

The Sunday Telegraph says 40 councils have recently decided either to drop or "water down" the practice of opening their meeting in prayer. More are considering following suit. Twenty-one authorities said they planned to continue with prayers without changes.

In order to accommodate several atheist or agnostic members of Glocestershire County Council, the council chairman has taken it upon himself to remove all mention of God and of Jesus from the council's traditional opening prayer.

The old prayer said

Let us pray for God's blessing on all those who serve the people of Gloucestershire, and especially on the work of this county council.

May He give us wisdom to carry out our duties; the humanity to listen to those we represent; the courage to do what is right; and the generosity to treat each other with respect. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The new prayer says

May we find the wisdom to carry out our duties, the humanity to listen to all, the courage to do what is right and the generosity to treat each other with respect. Amen.

Said the chairman, Brian Thornton: "I am very happy with it. There is now unity. I kept the words, but there is no longer a reference to calling for God's help. It does the trick."

Does the trick? How do they know now who they're praying to? And do they get an answer to the prayer?

In Cheltenham, where they used to open their meeting with prayer, the council chaplain now leads members in up to two minutes' silence.

Can someone tell us why it needs a chaplain to lead two minutes' silence?