I’ve just returned from two weeks in Iran. Firstly, to attend the International Islamic Unity Conference in Tehran which included attending Ayatollah Khamenei’s residence once again to hear him speak. He talked about the importance of standing up against injustice and unjust policies and said that for 40 years Iran’s example has been to stand up and resist without compromising on its principles.
Apart from the conference, I met senior clerics, including Ayatollahs, in Tehran and Qom, to discuss the challenges facing the Muslim Community in the West and the policies being enacted against them.
This included an invitation to the Office of Ayatollah Khamenei for a lengthy discussion. Whilst there I also met with senior management that oversees the international affairs and representatives of that Office.
I also had the time to speak to senior media management, political experts and academics, many of whom have know me through my journalism work for over a decade.
Not all of these people have the same opinion on everything. It would be selling Iran short to think that it is not like any other diverse and vibrant country, with its own political spectrum and its own internal politics that can sometimes get very complicated. Having said that, in the discussions I had with this varied group, the position was very clear across the board;
I was told that whilst there is something they call “extremism”, such as ISIS, which is a cancer inflicted on Muslims; this “extremism” is completely different to what the West defines as “extremism” and completely different to the Islamophobic policies that stem from these incorrect definitions that deem Muslims “radicalised” or “extremist”. I was told by all, including directly by seniors at the Office of Ayatollah Khamenei, that this latter definition and policy of “radicalisation” and “extremism” is rejected.
At yesterdays important and HUGE anti-Trump demo in London I spoke to anti-fascist leaders and veterans. They warned me that, as great as the turnout was, the Left in London was living in a bubble and didn't acknowledge or understand what was happening up and down the country.
That's nothing new. 8 years ago when I used to cover EDL demos, many would ask why I'm bothering, they're not worth a thought, not worth the oxygen, nothing more than something to be laughed at. Tommy Robinson is a joke. When I disagreed there were many heated debates and arguments.
We tried to warn then, what complacency would bring about. Not enough people listened. They mocked and disenfranchised those who were being fed by the mainstream press and politicians (including the Labour party) about Islamophobia and immigration - a handy scapegoat for all the billions spent on war and bailing out the banks post-2007.
Nobody has given a sh*t about the working class up and down this country, including an elitist Left that, by and large, is too snobby to do anything other than name, mock and demean.
We warned Brexit could happen and so could Trump. But for too many in the big cities, in their bubbles, their brain's simply couldn't register that it could.
In the meantime, facilitated by mainstream political and media hate, the nasty corners of our Establishment were buoyed. They wanted to push the rhetoric in to full blown and open transparency. And they did. They didn't create something new, they used what had already been placed there.
I want to take a brief moment today to tell you about just 5 Muslim women, from the earliest years of Islam and what they teach us about our worth and our potential.
These are, of course lessons, for all women and men. But I think it’s particularly important for people – especially non-Muslims – to understand what Muslim women are really taught and who their role models really are.
The Prophet’s wife, Khadija -proposed to him, was older than him and was the most prominent entrepreneur of her time. She was a rich and successful businesswoman (far richer and more prominent than him). Their monogamous marriage was filled with love and respect. It was Khadijah – a woman - who was the first person to confirm Muhammad’s prophet hood. Yes, the first Muslim was a woman.
The lineage of the Prophet is also through a woman; His daughter, Fatimah. Fittingly for international women’s day it is also her birthday today.
Muslim women fought on the front lines. Like Nusayba who fought in the battle of Uhud, alongside the Prophet.
The first martyr of Islam was also a woman. When the Prophet Muhammad first began to preach publicly, there was quickly an active persecution of the small Muslim community Summayah and her family were targeted. She was tied up, beaten and stabbed to death when she refused to recant her faith.
Women took leading roles in standing up against tyranny – even when the other side were Muslims themselves. Just five decades after the Prophet’s death and Muslim leadership had fallen in to corrupt hands.