Saturday, February 11, 2006

Muslim rally in Trafalgar Square

I went to the gym for a swim and a workout, and on the way back I decided to go and visit Trafalgar Square where a rally had been organised by various Muslim groups following the publication of the cartoons, and last week's protest with extremist banners calling for violence. The rally today had about 10, 000 people (at a rough guess) and I found it to be a peaceful and united condemnation of extremism and provocation - whether of Islamophobic cartoons or hateful placards. I was there for just over an hour. I was talking to people rather than listening to the speeches, though I did overhear George Galloway. He struck something of a jarring note, I thought, carrying on about how we will defend ourselves against tyranny and drawing comparisons between RESPECT and the anti-facist movement of the 1930's and generally carrying on as if he was some kind of saviour of Muslims. He came over as a publicity-mad politician instead.


I had a long and interesting talk with a young Muslim man who was giving away leaflets explaining Islam, and was being set about by a very rude Evangelical Christian man (who, it turned out was pretty theologically illiterate). I got drawn into the discussion which was respectful and knowledgable on the Muslim man's side and aggressive and rambling on the Christian man's side. Eventually the Muslim leaflet man and I moved away and continued our chat away from him as Mr Evangelical was turning into an embarrassing foaming loon. We talked about war, peace, the Old and New Testament and Qu'ran, Darwinism and the Nicene Creed amongst other things. We forgot to ask each other's names for some reason.

It was a relief to see a large, peaceful, sincere demonstration of ordinary Muslims - Trafalgar Square was pretty full - I was blogging earlier this week about how frustrating it is when all you see is images of angry young Muslims waving extremist banners or being charged in court. The cartoons clearly caused great offence: when I talked to people I found a great sincerity when they spoke of their feelings.There no sense of people 'affecting' their anger and sense of insult - it was real, heartfelt. I don't think this is all about the cartoons through - I talked to about 6 other people besides the guy with the leaflets, and there was frequent mention of the invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan too and depressed suspicion that another war was brewing with Iran and Syria. There was talk of a war on Islam. There was incredulity at the actions of the suicide bombers and people mentioned their reaction to the offensive banners waved last week ( 'Europe is the Cancer... 7/7 is on its way' etc).
'They are not proper Muslims, this makes it so difficult for us' I was told again and again. I said I knew that. (I didn't mention my personal experiences on 7th July).

I've been given a CD, of sung Islamic prayers, as a parting gift. I read the leaflets on the tube home. They gave a basic guide to the principles of Islam and stressed the peaceful nature of the Prophet Mohammed, (peace be upon him). I'm glad I went along, even though it was freezing. I haven't been to a demo in Trafalgar Square since July 14th, when there was a very moving vigil of London United Against Terrorism. Which many Muslims attended. Being back in Trafalgar Square reminded me so much of that week in July - I was quite moved as I thought of all that had happened since then.

It really cheered me up to see so much common sense and calmness: I was a bit nervous about going at first in case a) it was for Muslims only, or b) the damn extremists had got in and started causing trouble and being inflammatory. But it was fine, it was very inspiring and it encouraged me. I am glad I went.

Peace be upon you all, in the spirit of what I heard repeated many times today.

21 Comments:

Anonymous jessica said...

Thank you for posting that Rachel, it was nice to read.

February 11, 2006 7:04 pm  
Anonymous seth said...

hiya rachel,

sounds like you had an interesting experience. its somewhat heartening to see that at least in london there are more than a few muslims who are willing to say whats right. now will they do whats right?

February 11, 2006 8:18 pm  
Anonymous jessica said...

what are they doing that is wrong seth?

February 11, 2006 9:17 pm  
Anonymous seth said...

whats wrong? kidnapping innocent people in iraq,rioting and burning down embassies,calling for the destruction of israel,murdering thousands of innocents on 9/11..and i have YET to hear one responsible muslim leader anywhere in the world say,"gee this is wrong this is not islam".

my non-religious muslim friend (from turkey) says that the koran tells them,"anyone who isnt like you,kill them.and take over the whole world".

February 11, 2006 9:18 pm  
Anonymous jessica said...

to quote you:

its somewhat heartening to see that at least in london there are more than a few muslims who are willing to say whats right. now will they do whats right?

You then go on to talk about how they are killing innocents, blah di blah.

Please stop being so prejudiced and treat "them" as human beings, "they" are not one big lump, "they" are different people. The "they" at the protest had nothing to do with 7/7 and 9/11 so to go off on one about how "they" need to do what is right, is just plain stupid.

And if you've not heard a muslim leader say "this is wrong" that is probably because there is no muslim leader anywhere in the world. The Muslims to NOT have a central leadership governing them or leading them. If they did I'm sure they'd all be very happy in an islamic state somewhere.

However, if you haven't heard these slef styled "leaders" from MBC, MPAC, mosque committees and so on and so forth, I don't know where you have been, because they are on our TV screens all the time and have condemned the things you mentioned REPEATEDLY.

But by the sounds of it you will not be happy until you recieve a written apology from all 1 and half million of the Muslims in this country for each and every thing any Muslim anywhere in the world has ever done.

Well don't hold your breath because quite frankly they don't owe you anthing.

LOL@ur turkish friend. *rolleyes*

February 11, 2006 10:26 pm  
Anonymous Joon Flowers said...

Seth, there will be no peace in Iraq until the occupiers get out. If Britain was occupied by a foreign army I would be with the resistance - no matter how much I detest Blair - wouldn't you? The same goes for Israel, no peace there until Israel complies with international law. How much more injustice can Muslims take? Do you condemn the west for their double standards (Israel, China) and their hypocrisy (illegal war, torture). This bogus war on terror is directed against Muslims. How much more can they take?

February 11, 2006 10:31 pm  
Blogger MatGB said...

i have YET to hear one responsible muslim leader anywhere in the world say,"gee this is wrong this is not islam".

Then maybe you should try and pay more attention, because I have. And they were well covered in the media as well.

9/11 was condemned as anti-Islamic by the then President of IRAN ffs.

February 12, 2006 2:36 am  
Blogger Rachel said...

Seth is in NY, so may not have seen the condemnation of July 7th by Muslims. I remember many Muslims standing at my side on July 14th rally against terror, and many wreaths from Muslims at my feet when I went to place flowers at Kings Cross. My local Mosque had a banner with verse from the Qu'ran about how 'if one kills one innocent is is an attack on the whole world', and they raised money for victims of 7th.July. Here's the BBC reporting UK Muslim reaction http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4660411.stm and here's Muslim News http://www.muslimnews.co.uk/news/news.php?article=9500.

It is a bit unfair to keep asking Muslims if they are anti-terror- white people don't get asked if they are anti-facist or anti the IRA or the BNP or the KKK - it is just assumed that they are moderate unless indicated otherwise. Terrorism is a messenger, not a message or an end in itself. You can feel that you would like UK and US troops to leave Islamic lands, for example - which is what some terrorists have demanded - and still be UTTERLY REPULSED by someone choosing to kill themselves and innocents to make the point. Painting anyone who disagrees with UK or US foreign policy as a terrorist-sympathiser is outrageous, but I have seen some media outlets do it, especially in the US ( Fox News being the worst culprit).

More links - http://www.usembassy.org.uk/gb024.html

And finally this one -- Bush meeting Muslim leaders http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/2238103.stm

( wish I knew how to make links work in comments)

February 12, 2006 9:28 am  
Anonymous Kristina L said...

Rachel,
Great blog - thanks for making me think. I have found myself since 7/7 becoming more and more caught up in world affairs, politics & religion. Reading your blog always gives both sides and makes me think of people as individuals not boxing them into their colour, religion, race etc.
Good on you for going to Trafalgar Square and getting in discussion with people, I was thinking yesterday what it would be like.
Kristina (KCU) x

February 12, 2006 11:39 am  
Blogger Ally said...

A lovely piece of writing.

February 12, 2006 12:29 pm  
Blogger World Weary Detective said...

Peace over all.

February 12, 2006 2:14 pm  
Anonymous MC said...

I was there and thought Galloway spoke a lot of sense. It is heartening for the Muslim community to have an MP that is a consistently staunch supporter of Muslims throughout these difficult times.

February 12, 2006 3:19 pm  
Blogger MuppetLord said...

Unfortunately the bad note was made by Dr Azam Tamimi....noted in the Sunday Telegraph article :Leader of cartoon rally warns of 'fire throughout the world'.

"The publication of these cartoons will cause the world to tremble. Fire will be throughout the world if they don't stop" is the quote. Hardly a voice of tolerance is it?

The problem is that sane voices, such as Faris Badawi, amongst others are few and far between.

Islamaphobia is the wrong word..intolerance of demented psychopaths is more appropriate. The sooner we get rid of the extremists that would attack, the better for everyone, Muslim or otherwise.

February 12, 2006 3:36 pm  
Anonymous mc said...

Dr Azam Tamimi is greatly respected. Why is it that when Muslim figures get angry they are called 'extremists'. They have every right to get angry. I am glad that there are strong characters like Tamimi who refuse to be a 'safe' voice just to appease the right-wing rabid media and govt. He speaks not only for Muslims but for everyone opposed to the madness of Bush and Blair's never ending 'war on terror'. He himself is a Palestinian who has first-hand experience of brutal treatment and being left dispossessed by the Israelis. Thank goodness for outspoken and intelligent speakers like him. It's time all Muslims and non-Muslims were brave enough to speak the truth as he does.

February 12, 2006 4:08 pm  
Anonymous jessica said...

http://www.hizb.org.uk/eventsnew/index.php?id=2902

Thats a link to footage of the "sickening" protests the other weekend.. as you can see the handful of protesters that were all over the news channels and internet for the rest of the week are nowhere to be seen even though the video pans around the whole place.

And you'll hopefully also notice that the large number of demonstrators in comparison to the close up shots of the smaller group with dodgy banners.

BTW, that's the HT media rep speaking in the video, so it might be interesting to check out their website and see for yourselves how "extreme" they are and why they should be outlawed. *rolleyes*

P.S. There are also more pictures of the protests on the website too. Take a good look at the banners and placards.

February 13, 2006 12:47 am  
Blogger steve said...

Look, unless you watch stupid ammounts of BBC news 24, traul the entire net, read an entire broadsheet every day, and watch all those late night shows on politics, it's not that easy to spot sensible voices.

You can argue all you want that people should look beyond this but the fact is somone with a banner calling for beheading is more eye catching than someone talking perfect sense on News 24 or ABC at 2.00am, or on page 21 of The Guardian.

Trying to spot sensible Muslim voices, although they are massively in the majority is like playing "Where's Waldo?" Yes I know, blame the media for everything, but thats how it is. Violence, anger and hate, sells easier than peace, calm and tollerance.

February 13, 2006 2:39 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are you suffering from Stokholm syndrome?

Why is it that silly cartoons published in other country motivated 10,000 muslims (by your count) to protest, yet the same community did not bother to protest against terrorist atrocities that killed 56 people and that were done in the name of Islam?

February 15, 2006 7:41 pm  
Blogger Rachel said...

No I am not suffering from Stockholm syndrome, and if you spent 10 minutes reading my blog you would have been able to see that too.

Many Muslims stood near me in Trafalgar Square after the bombs were dropped,united with the rest of us in condemning terror - many Muslim voices have condemned terrorism. How unfortunate that you have not grasped that...and how ignorant. For the Muslim voices condemning terror have been widely reported.


What are you implying? Have you even bothered to read what I wrote, at all? Do you watch the news? It does not seem so.

I said in paragraph one:

'I found it to be a peaceful and united condemnation of extremism and provocation - whether of Islamophobic cartoons or hateful placards'


Please try and keep up.

February 15, 2006 11:33 pm  
Anonymous jessica said...

anaon: Muslims did have protests and hold vigils after 7/7, and there was a huge demo last yr with the theme of "no more bombs (i.e. 7/7), get the troops out of iraq, no to demonising the muslim community" held by the Stop The War Coalition in conjunction with Muslim Association of Britain.

steve: I totally agree with you and if everyone had the sense to know what you said, then there would be no problem. :)

You don't need to go out of your way to find the sensible voices if it doesn't concern you. But for people who are going to bitch about the Muslim community not doing enough, they should at least themselves bother to find out what they are actually saying before having an uninformed moan about them.

All they need do is have the good sense to see past the crass demonisation of Muslims by the media and shallow rhetoric of the polticians, to know that a) not many Muslims support killing of civilians but b) most Muslims have more than enough reason to be very pissed off by Western govt's including ours.

February 16, 2006 2:27 am  
Anonymous Mikey D said...

Anonymous: Many Muslims attended vigils and mourned like the rest of us but what do they actually have to apologise for as your post seems to imply? I'm sure the Muslim community on the whole is sick to the back teeth of being made to felt that they are collectively responsible for such acts. And no, the bombings weren't carried out in the name of Islam, as you ignorantly state, they were carried out because of Iraq. If you had watched the news you would see that one of the bombers explicitly states that the attacks are politically motivated in a video he pre-recorded. It's very convenient for people to continually repeat the lie that terror attacks are carried out in the name of Islam and to deliberately ignore the root causes; sounds like you have an agenda going on here (Blairite per chance?).

I wonder if you have protested your government murdering tens of thousands of Muslims in the name of the bogus 'war on terror', incidentally? I very much doubt it.

February 17, 2006 2:12 pm  
Anonymous jessica said...

Also bear in mind that over 1/6 of the worlds population is Muslim. That's over a BILLION people.

And Islam has been around for 1400+ years.

Compare that to the number of Muslims that have carried out terrorist attacks and you have a reality check.

Then read up on the UK/US history of totally screwing over other countries and the number of deaths in resulting conflicts since and you will be WELL off the scale!

People look down their noses at conflicts in Palestine, Kashmir and so on and so forth.. but if it wasn't for previous UK governments totally screwing those places up they would not be in the state they're currently in!

It's easy to step back now and say that was in the past and our hands are clean, but our governments are out there doing the same now, nothing has changed, no lessons have been learnt, we are the LAST people to have any right to take the moral high ground!

It's our govt's that are making the mess the world over!

February 17, 2006 4:00 pm  

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