Monday, August 06, 2007

Out of the Tunnel

I have been very much affected by reading the book "Out of the Tunnel" by Rachel North. She was a passenger on one of the London underground trains on 7/7/2005, and was very close to the bomb. She describes eloquently how the bomb on the train went off with an incredibly loud bang, how the air filled with dust and smoke, how, in the darkness, the horrifying sights were visible in the light from the screens of mobile phones. How there was calling out in the darkness for everyone to stay calm, which prevented a disaster turning into an even greater tragedy.

Then how those who could walk were led away along the tunnel. How the author, even in a shocked state, was able to use humour to cope with the dire situation at that time.

Later, the book describes how a group formed, King's Cross United, giving mutual support to those involved.

If you have not read this book already, I can thoroughly recommend it. It just proves that despite the best efforts of the terrorists, even if they do cause deaths and horrific injuries, yet the spirit of courage and humanity will prevail.

Us chaps are supposed to maintain a stiff upper lip, but there is absolutely no shame in stating that the tears were flowing whilst I read this book. Read it.

But there is a silver lining in this case: Rachel North has discovered her talent for writing, and it is the new path that she has now decided to follow. I very much look forward to reading her books in the future. It looks as though her book "Out of the Tunnel" is set to be a best seller. If she picks the subject matter carefully, there is absolutely no reason why she should not have a series of best sellers in the future.

Rachel, if you are reading this blog posting, the following are my suggestions for the subjects of your future books:

Firstly, it would be nigh impossible for you to settle down to writing a book on a mundane subject, such as gardening or cookery. The market for such books is pretty much saturated anyway, and it would be a betrayal of your experiences.

Can I suggest that you need to write two more books, one that attempts to answer the "why?" questions, and the other that attempts to answer the "what to do about it?" question. The "how?" questions have already been very well answered by the "Out of the Tunnel" book. It does touch on the "why?" questions briefly, but it is deserving of a much more thorough analysis.

By "why?" I mean: Why do Islamic terrorists target innocent civilians? Why do they use the Quran to justify their actions? Why are they so indiscriminate? (Their targets include men, women, and children of all races and religions) Why will there be no end to these attacks? Why are our political leaders so confused about how to resopnd? Why do the politicians feel qualified to come out with statements regarding Islam, when it is patently obvious that they have not understood the Quran?

The third book needs to answer the question: "what to do about it?" I am still struggling to come to an adequate answer myself. My blog does not address that question. However, what is abundantly clear is that we must absolutely not give up on our democratic processes or our freedom of speech, and that there is a real danger that our civil liberties will be considerably eroded, probably without really solving the problem, if we fail to understand the "why?" questions first. Liberties are being taken with our liberties. Whatever we do, it must be done through the proper channels of Parliament and the Courts. But time is running out, and I suspect that there is only one, possibly two decades for Parliament to get this right, before I fear that people will take the law into their own hands. It would be much preferable to avoid that situation.

My blog is my own attempt to address some of the "why?" questions. I am not sure how well or otherwise my efforts have achieved that aim. It was the first anniversary of the 7/7 bombings that caused me to feel a determination to get to the bottom of the matter. Before that, I had not really been interested in Islam. Of course, we had touched on it in Religious Education at school, but that was three decades ago, and it had been only very superficially presented anyway. I did have a couple of Muslim friends at university, but they were not strict, and we did not discuss religion in any great depth. Through them, I became aware that the Muslim Brotherhood was operating on the campus, but at the time I had no idea what this organisation is, or what it stands for. That was 23 years ago.

Then 9/11 happened, and the world changed forever. The images are burned onto my memory. The planes full of passengers flown deliberately into the towers. The terrible choice of a quick death by jumping, or a painful incineration. The American lady, covered in dust, looking like a ghost, asking: "Why are they so mad (i.e. angry) at me? What did I do?" These questions haunted me. I could not answer it then.

But my day to day life prevented me form examining these questions. There were numerous project deadlines at work, and typically I was putting in 50 hours per week, and rather too frequently as many as 70 hours per week. In addition my mind was preoccupied with troubling, intractable personal problems. But the questions that the American lady had cried out remained there at the back of my mind, unanswered.

Then 7/7 happened, uncomfortably close to home. We were assured by the politicians that it was nothing to do with true Islam, but just a few crazy misguided young men, who have a very distorted understanding of the teachings in the Quran. Islam is a religion of peace, after all. This is what we were told, and I had little reason to question what we were being told on authority, from senior politicians, and religious leaders. We need to take shortcuts in our day to day life, and I was still working 50 sometimes 70 hours per week. I did not have time or energy available to do any thinking. I just accepted that what we were being told was actually true.

But the questions were still nagging at the back of my mind: "Why are they so mad (i.e. angry) at me? What did I do?"

The first anniversary of 7/7 came, and I was starting to search for answers. But I did not find them in the newspapers or on television. I started to doubt the veracity of the official line. I started to read books on Islam, and search on the internet. It was beginning to open my eyes. I determined to read the Quran itself, as that must surely hold the key. I had never read any of it before, but now felt that I must do so.

Reading the Quran is seriously hard work. It has a curious effect. On one hand, it conspires to send the reader to sleep, due to its lack of coherent narrative. On the other hand, it seriously offends all that we hold important today, and makes you gasp with disbelief that anyone would seriously believe such teachings. That a woman can be beaten by her husband, and that a woman's word is only worth half that of a man's in a Sharia court. (The result is that many rapes go unpunished, or even that the woman is then accused of adultery, and stoned to death, whilst her rapist walks free.) That homosexuals should be punished with death. That non-Muslims should have their head cut off for refusing to convert to Islam. That slavery is OK. (It was made illegal in Saudi Arabia as recently as 1965, but only due to external pressure, not due to any supposed moral superiority of Islam. But human rights abuses continue in that country and others.) That non-Muslims can be driven from their homes, and slain if they turn back. That there is a hatred of Jews and Christians, who are destined for Hell. (Do not believe the verses that say otherwise, because those verses have been abrogated, which means effectively deleted.) It is also genuinely racist, in that it states that people who have blue eyes are guilty, although it is not at all clear what we are guilty of. (We should be aware that antisemitism is a particularly despicable form of racism, because it can afflict people who would not consider themselves to be racist in other contexts.) All of these intolerant and hate-filled ideas remain still the official teaching of the Quran, whether we wish to accept the fact or not. Read it for yourself, and do your own research. You will then see for yourself precisely what I am describing.

Coming to terms wth the contents of the Quran is not easy. It is hard enough taking it into the logical part of the mind, let alone responding to it on an emotional level. Anyway, I copied and pasted some of the more violent, and bizarre verses into a text document, for easy reference. Then, I am not quite sure why, I felt inspired to draw a few cartoons, based on quotes from the Quran. I suppose that using humour is a means of coping with dire situations. But I was producing the cartoons for myself at that time, not for public viewing. It was a form of therapy perhaps, to cope with what I had read in the Quran, and to cope with the implications for the lack of peace and harmony that follows on from that.

But then, knowing what I had learned, how could I keep it to myself? Hence I started the blog.

It had only taken me two months of study to reach that point of understanding. I started to look for evidence that any of our politicians shared that understanding. Did the Church understand? What about the Archbishop of Canterbury? But I searched in vain. Nobody seemed to understand, or if they did, they were keeping that knowledge to themselves.

I felt the urgency of the need to wake people up. What had the politicians and theologians been doing with their time? What are they being paid for, but to gain an understanding of issues such as this? I am just an ordinary chap, working long hours on occasion, paying my tax, enjoying sailing at the weekends when the weather is fit, going for walks in the countryside, or visiting places of interest, and meeting up with friends for a drink and a chat.. It is not my job to get involved in politics or religion. Or so I thought. I was getting angry with our so-called leaders. It is through their laziness and incompetence that we are in this mess today. The problem has been developing for several decades. Why did they not nip it in the bud?

Regarding religion, I do not mind what anyone wishes to believe, provided that they keep it to themselves. If someone wishes to believe in fairies at the bottom of the garden, or little green men in flying saucers, that is OK by me. I am under no obligation to believe such things. I would not waste my time arguing with such people, and even thinking about their beliefs is a waste of effort. However, it is a serious problem which demands my attention when such people believe that the little green men are instructing them to cut off the heads of anyone who refuses to believe in little green men. This is the genuine teaching of the Quran, if you substitute the word "Allah", for "little green men". What a mess the world is in due to that belief.

But I am just sick of the whole subject now. Such brutality, cruelty, inhumanity and opression should have no place in a modern progressive democracy that we would hope to have here in Britain. But we are sleepwalking and blind, and our leaders cannot see. The default, if nothing is done, will be that Britain becomes an Islamic state. It will take a few decades, but the point of no return is much closer than most people wish to acknowledge. Being obliged to convert to Islam may not be too bad for us men, as it brings certain privileges. However, for women today in their 20s or 30s, it will be no fun. You may well end your days obliged to wear an all-enveloping black garment, with just a letter-box slit to look through. And the root reason why you have to wear it is to avoid exciting men into making a sexual advance. It is degrading for women to be dictated to what they must wear. Women should be free to choose whatever style of clothing they like. It is also degrading to men, because it assumes that all men are rapists. I object on both counts.

Rachel, if you are still reading this, can I suggest that you do not read the rest of my blog, at least not straight away. It has a tendency to jump off topic, without properly developing the arguments, or giving proper references. I would be no use as an author. Besides, you cannot bake a cake without first going shopping for the ingredients. By which, I mean that there was quite a lot of reading and working things out which I did before even starting the blog, which may not be apparent. Of course, I continued to read and search as I went along. It may be that you are still at the shopping for ingredients phase. Other than for the case of an autobiography, to write one book it may be necessary to read ten books. I see that you have read the writing of Hassan Butt, and it is good to see that jihadis can have a change of heart. There is some hope after all, but there is still a mountain to climb, and I have a gut feeling that you are going to play an important part in that effort Rachel.

May I suggest some further reading for you?

First and foremost, there is a well written and informative book: "Secrets of the Koran" by Don Richardson. It is very readable, but nevertheless is able to go into the subject in considerable depth. It is highly relevant. It is written from a Christian perspective, but that does not get in the way if the reader happens not to be a Christian. The author was a missionary for many years. It is important that you read this book Rachel, and also purchase a copy for your father (a vicar). You will have much to discuss together.

Secondly, it is very well worthwhile studying the websites of ex-Muslims. They are brave to walk away from their religion, as the penalty for apostacy is death. Two such websites are:

Apostasates of Islam

Quote: "We are apostates of Islam. We denounce Islam as a false doctrine of hate and terror. However we are not against Muslims who are our own kin and relatives. We do not advocate hate and violence. Muslims are the main victims of Islam. Our goal is to educate them and let them see the truth. We are against Islam and not the Muslims. We strive to bring the Muslims into the fold of humanity. Eradicate Islam so our people can be liberated, so they can prosper and break away from the pillory of Islam. We would like to see Islamic countries dedicate more time to science and less time to Quran and Sharia. We would like to see them prosper and contribute to human civilization. We would like to see the draconian laws of Islam eliminated and people are treated humanely. We strive for freedom of beliefs, for equality of gender and for oneness of mankind. "

Faith Freedom

On the Faith Freedom website there is a good description of abrogation. Understanding abrogation is absolutely key to understanding the Quran. I suspect that many moderate Muslims do not understand it. You see, the more moderate verses are abrogated (effectively deleted), and it is the bloodthirsty ones which are relevant, being the more recent revelations. Of course, there is considerable disagreement amongst Islamic scholars regarding precisely which verses are abrogated and which are not, but as many as 500 are in this category. Therefore if a Muslim is quoting a verse from the Quran, in order to "prove" that Islam is a religion of peace, then be very cautious. Either they themselves do not understand abrogation, or if they do and they know that verse is abrogated, then they are being deliberately dishonest. (It is acceptable for a Muslim to be dishonest in order to confuse his enemies, which of course includes all non-Muslims - read the Hadiths.) Here is a moderate verse by way of example, it is almost certainly abrogated:
"There is no compulsion in religion; truly the right way has become clearly distinct from error; therefore, whoever disbelieves in the Shaitan and believes in Allah he indeed has laid hold on the firmest handle, which shall not break off, and Allah is Hearing, Knowing." Quran 2:256
It is obvious that there is in fact compulsion in religion, since numerous other verses call for the slaughter of non-Muslims.

You will also find an article by Salman Rushdie on the Faith Freedom website, written in response to 9/11. It has the title "Yes, This Is About Islam". It is relevant to all Islamic terrorist attacks, not just 9/11.

Thirdly, it is worth looking at things from an atheist perspective. We can all benefit from broadening our point of view. I can recommend "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. Also "The End of Faith - Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason" by Sam Harris. There is also a book by Christopher Hitchens which is good apparently, but I have not yet read it.

Finally, may I suggest that you take a look at the website of The Council of ex-Muslims of Britain. It is a new organisation. Its members are brave to speak out. It is headed by Maryam Namazie, she has received death threats. The web address is:

It may be that you will find it helpful to discuss matters with them. It is almost certain that they know what they are talking about. Such courageous people deserve all of our support.

Take care Rachel. Your book is much appreciated, and I look forward to reading your next one. It will become obvious to you when you start getting close to the truth.


At 8:50 pm, Blogger Rachel said...

Lionheart, I have just found this and wanted to stop by to thank you for writing it.

I know that there are violent passages in the Qur'an, ( and in the Bible, and in many sacred texts) and where they are interpreted literally, or out of context of the time in which they were written, the results can be terrifying. I find most fundementalism horrifying: the punitive certainity of it.

I do have hope though, that fundementalism is still the minority view and that most people are decent and kind to each other, when things are stable enough for them to be.

At 1:44 pm, Blogger dc007 said...

Rachel, you are far too polite ;-)

Here we have the stench of bigotry in its full glory. What can you learn about people by selectively taking passages from their writings and putting a strange spin on them? Not much, but let's try it:

All of the things you point out in passages selectively taken from the Qur'an can be found in the Bible (did you take the time to read that as well? No didn't think so.), and a lot more strange things on top of that. A true Christian must speak in tongues and take up serpents [1]. Unruly or rebellious children must be put to death [2], as must Jews [3] and anyone who does simple chores on the Sabbath [4]. Further, followers of this faith must hate their families and abandon them [5], and you must follow all orders from the government, since rulers are placed over you by god [6]. Slavery is permitted [7]. If you have enemies, you are ordered to either love them, kill them, accommodate them,or send them to hell to burn for all eternity [8]. God sent a savior -- to cause humanity strife and grief [9]. Followers should not pray in public, such as in school [10], and abortion is OK since a fetus is not a living human until it takes its first breath [11]. After death, you may not retain your spirit -- sorry [12].

1. Mark 16:16-18
2. Deuteronomy 21:20-21
3. Luke 19:27
4. Exodus 35:2
5. Luke 14:26, Matthew 10:35-36 and Matthew 19:29
6. Romans 13:1-7, 2Peter 2:10, Matthew 22:17-21, Mark 12:17, Luke 20:25
7. Eph 6:5, Col 3:22
8. Matthew 5:44, Luke 19:27, Matthew 5:39-45, Mark 9:43-48, Mark 11:13-14, 20
9. Luke 12:51-53, Matthew 10:34
10. Matthew 6:5-6
11. Geneses 2:7
12. Eccles 8:8

Let me add that I'm not interested in your telling me that I've drawn incorrect conclusions from any or all of these passages -- that's precisely the point. It's exactly what you did when quoting from the Qur'an


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