Moazzam Begg On Fire


I’ll start as I’ll finish; forget Islam under fire, this brother was on fire.  In both, his on point chatter and in answering a range of questions from sometimes irritating and naïve students Moazzam Begg was tough, poignant and humorous.  I feel I have a shadow of the experience of a Black Panther rally thanks to him.  If his humbling promise to go part-time because he ‘doesn’t have all the answers’ is serious he will he will be sorely missed.

Apparently there had been some ignorant discussion within the Islamic Society and within the wider university about whether the man should even be ‘permitted’ to speak because of ‘his links to terrorism’.  Southampton seems a strange and sheltered place at times.  Moazzam Begg has no links with terrorism; he has experiences of building schools in Afghanistan, being kidnapped and taken on a horror tour of illegal prisons, including Bagram and Abu Ghraib, ending up in Guantanamo for three years.  In other words he is a victim of US human rights abuses.  All naturally without charge or trial, he has since received compensation for the UK’s role in this but no apology.  Either way the debate proved enough to bring the comical security of the Pro-Vice Chancellor and the university’s legal bigwig (I couldn’t help resist pointing out that there is only one copy of his book in the library).

I’ve heard Moazzam speak twice before and he is always excellent but this time he seemed particularly charged, I asked him afterwards why this was so, he replied ‘perhaps because I was fired up [in expectation]’.  He had explained at the beginning of his talk that he had spoken at just about every university in the UK as well as in many other places, yet this was the first time threats had been levelled at him.  It was certainly impressive to see his calm and rational response to the ridiculousness but I couldn’t help but feel we had also missed something of a more relaxed Moazzam Begg.  He explained that he had gone to a Jewish school and learned some Hebrew, he had done relief work in Bosnia and married a Palestinian; he knew about other people’s suffering and his own.  Yet he still took former Guantanamo guard into his home and listened to the apologies of former torturers and murderers.

Looking back at the discussion I can’t help but feel there was an air of suspicion, and of ‘them’ and ‘us’.  This was definitely how some students framed their questions and while Moazzam responded with grace and humour he didn’t seek to break convention.  Take my question, ‘would it help to distinguish between Islamic culture and the Islamic religion because we never hear about Iran, apparently performing the most sex-change operations each year, or about the Muslim alcoholics, or about the Islamic females challenging their family, communities and wider society?’  His immediate reply was ‘well they don’t live in the UK’ he then asked why I thought this was so to which I replied, ‘I thought it was mainly the [corporate]media but also British Muslims so often seem only capable of reacting to the mainstream’.  While Moazzam agreed that there was much to discuss on this point there were other questions he wanted to answer.

It is indeed a positive attribute that discussion should begin before events and I am certain that Moazzam Begg has seen to it that he has not only thoroughly challenged dissenters but also made further discussion and interaction a more fruitful experience.  In a microcosm, however, it makes my point clear, while Moazzam wanted to engage in a conversation about the diversity within Islam the negative press dominated the day.  All that remains to say is that if you get the chance to hear him, go; possibly send some threats beforehand (jokes).  Regardless he’s always on fire!


Discussion8 Comments

  1. avatar

    I attended the talk. It was an engaging speech with a truly likeable character; however I have no forgiveness for anyone who encourages or helps fund the deaths of British Soldiers.
    One of the key points from it was about ignorance, I fear the reporter of this article is both ignorant and lazy in his research.

    Quote from article: “Moazzam Begg has no links with terrorism”
    Transcript from interview with Channel 4, see bottom paragraph where he admits financially aiding fighters:

    It’s a shame Wessex Scene appears to be incapable of writing a truly impartial story, no wonder some people turn to anti-Islamic articles like that on SotonTab.

    • avatar

      Where does it say he encouraged or helped fund the death of British soldiers? And, if he has done so is that not a crime? How come then, he has been paid millions in compensation by the UK government? It seems you are doubly guilty of your own accusation of ignorance. Further, British soldiers who commit atrocities, as several have done in Iraq and Afghanistan – like those who tortured to death Baha Musa and many others – are angels in your book? The occupation of Iraq was illegal. Did not the Iraqis have the right to defend themselves from foreign forces? Such nonsense!

  2. avatar
    Martin Ruddock

    I have checked out the links provided and taken stock of the comments here as well as on the other writings about this topic.

    Mine was a review of the event, as such I positively and negatively criticised everyone involved, Begg included. Perhaps I should now also criticise myself because I had no idea about the preceding debate until I turned up and talked to some friends. Perhaps I too should have entered the hall with an agenda but I hope I would have held true to my attempt to further diversify the conversation.

    Begg made a great attempt to open up what proved to be an oversimplified and dichotomising dialogue in which many appear to be seeking a ‘winner’ and a ‘loser’. I find this kind of sport totally biased and undemocratic. Begg took a strong stand at an open stance while applying Logic and Reason. This is always impressive to see when done so well. If more time had been provided I am not sure more conversation would have answered more of the questions people are desperately seeking answers to… to what end, to prove a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’? I don’t think so.

    I do not feel that I have to protect Moazzam; he proved more than capable of doing this himself. If you have a problem with the man take it up with him; if you have a problem with the event take it up with the organisers; if you have a problem with a religion I suggest you seek greater understanding and more diverse experiences.

    I still have seen no evidence linking Moazzam Begg to ‘terrorists’ except if we include visits to camps. If this makes a concrete link perhaps I too am a ‘terrorist’ as I have been to Gaza where I have eaten with, talked to and played football with the authorities and others. I have done the same with people in Aceh and also with people from Papua.

    On a final note, I write for myself and I do not hide behind institutionalised smokescreens of ‘balance’, ‘impartiality’ or ‘neutrality’ (if you seek to appreciate more on this topic I suggest you read Chomsky, or Media Lens, or Orwell’s 1984, or more conservatively Timothy Cook). I hope that I took a range of considerations into account and believe that I wrote something that I am happy to stand by as fair.

    I am growing tired of reading messages online, I would suggest we organise a screening of the excellent ‘Taxi to the dark side’, I have a copy, with a discussion afterwards; perhaps this might dispel some myths people are feeding on.


  3. avatar

    It is a fact that Begg is a jihadist. Like many from the UK who were not only ignored, but facilitated by British authorities, he travelled to the Balkans to murder European Christians in their own country.
    Unlike the WMD propaganda and the more recent Libyan ‘intervention’ which failed to convince most of us, the anti-Serb propaganda was swallowed hook line and sinker. So Moazzam Begg was not only forgiven for murdering civilians in Bosnia, he was hailed a hero and the jihad was elevated to a noble cause – rather than the fifth column insurgency it really is.
    I know about the Balkans. I’ve been there too. I know about the massacres in and around Srebrenica which went under our radar because our radar was switched off when Serbs were the victims.
    Rather like the centuries of islamic violence before the first Crusade, the violent provocations and the broken cease fires in Bosnia are never mentioned. They didn’t happen. The are all an invention of the wicked Serbs. Except that there are very highly ranked UN and US and Dutch and Canadian and British officials at least three books and two documentary films (one Norwegian one German) that all testify to the contrary.
    Fifty villages around Srebrenica full of farmers and their families were butchered in the preceding years before 1995 when Mladic, after setting muslim women and children free, took revenge on those he held responsible. Now I didn’t invent that. It’s a fact.
    I also know that being the only sane man in an asylum is tantamount to being the loon.
    I accept the anti-Serb narrative has passed into historic orthodoxy. But it’s a lie. It’s a lie even our media will come to bitterly regret one day. Because it’s a lie which smooths the path for the stealth jihad and saps our will to fight it.
    Moazzam Begg hasn’t given up his ambition to see Europe under Islamic domination. He’ll freely admit as much…perhaps with a slightly different emphasis. ” Of course,” he might say, ” I’d prefer if the UK was a muslim society, after all I am a muslim.” It sounds so innocuous, doesn’t it.

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