Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Is it worth doing a PhD?

Wrote to The Economist just now regarding their feature in this week's issue...
Dear Editor,

I read this article just now ('The disposable academic - Why doing a PhD is often a waste of time', December 18th 2010 issue), the day I am to complete and sign off my thesis (post-viva version; 4+ years in the making)... and I have to say I cannot but concur. Good article. Thank you. But I have to say: in regards to doing a PhD, I have no regrets. It has taught me a most precious life-skill... endurance :)

Regards,
Adil Hussain

ps. This letter is not for print.
... The article is an absolute must-read for anyone considering doing a PhD or for anyone having done a PhD.

Monday, 20 December 2010

I Was Bin Laden's Bodyguard

Just wrote to Channel4 thanking them for airing this documentary ('I Was Bin Laden's Bodyguard'), as follows...
Just wanted to say a quick thank you for airing this. I found it to be very informative and was pleasantly surprised by how free it was of spin/commentary/etc. A rare delightful piece of neutral, informative journalistic reporting (documentary making). Many thanks.
... Touching documentary. Well made.

The War You Don't See

Letter (email) I wrote to John Pilger, thanking him for putting together this documentary piece ('The War You Don't See', 2010)...
Dear John,

Big big thank you for putting together this documentary. I would like to consider myself a "media sceptic" but even then I was surprised how much misinformation I take in without realising!

Regards,
Adil Hussain
... and email I wrote to ITV thanking them for airing it...
Dear ITV,

Just writing in quickly to say thank you for airing 'The War You Don't See' by John Pilger last week. Found it to be very very informative and eye-opening, and to be honest was surprised to find it on ITV! Thank you.

Regards,
Adil Hussain
... Highly recommended viewing if you haven't seen it already.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Letter to The Economist - Boxing in Nigeria

Just sent a letter to The Economist as follows...
Dear Economist,

Reading the piece entitled "Boxing in Nigeria - A rumble in the Sahel" (Middle East and Africa section, November 20th 2010 issue) I couldn't understand why the author felt it necessary to slip in that Nigeria's north is mostly Muslim and also that participating youths may be wearing verses from the Koran (Qur'an) in leather pouches around their necks? I would like to think that it was because this sport is at odds with Islamic teachings (striking to the face etc) but instead it seems to subtly give a message slightly different (that perhaps participants are inspired to partake in this activity because of their religion and not inspite of it).

Regards,
Adil Hussain

... I think I might be overdoing it with these constant letters to The Economist!

Monday, 29 November 2010

Muslim Artists

Two Muslim artists...

Vaseem Mohammed (UK)
Peter Gould (Australia)

... whose work I like and whose names I am saving here for future reference.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Panorama - British schools, Islamic rules

Just wrote a complaint to the BBC about the excessive dramatization and overall poor quality of last Monday's Panorama programme entitled 'British schools, Islamic rules', as follows:
Just wanted to say that whilst the programme contained valid points about how Muslims (and indeed any group of people) should not isolate themselves from the wider community etc, I felt the programme-makers went a bit overkill with the background effects (use of camera angles, choice of music etc) to create greater shock and awe than the programme justified. For example, (and the programme is full of such funny occurrences,) when the "undercover agent" went to a book warehouse (... queue dark eery music...) and the film-makers are surprised to find books there! Did this programme not go through a review/editing process? It seems like we saw an early draft. Or perhaps the desire to sensationalise and draw in a large crowd took precedence over film quality?

The Hobbit

Gave up on 'The Hobbit'. I liked the opening pages (see previous two posts) and the short scene with Gollum but otherwise it didn't seem to work for me and I couldn't justify reading it.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Adventure

Another good quote from the opening pages of 'The Hobbit': "... We are plain quiet folk and I have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can't think what anybody sees in them..." I love adventure!... albeit calculated, planned, risk-minimised adventure :)>

Good morning

Funny quote I read yesterday in 'The Hobbit' regarding the "good morning" expression: "Do you wish me a good morning, or mean that it is a good morning whether I want it or not; or that you feel good this morning; or that it is a morning to be good on?" :)>

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

The problem with the thinking man

The problem with the thinking man,
the type more often than not
stuck in thought,
neither doing nor not,
is that his life spent in thought.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Lost

For the first time in many months
feel the need to write poetry
but not sure what to say.
Rather lost... :)>

Monday, 1 November 2010

Feedback for Emel, November 2010 issue

Feedback sent to Emel regarding the November 2010 Hajj issue:
Dear Editor,

Assalaamu 'alaykum,

Just finished reading the November 2010 issue, really liked it (as usual) and wanted to pass on some feedback (not to be published), as follows:
  1. I liked the editorial. Scary to think I am busy in all kinds of commitments at the expense of having little time for the people closest to me. Not good! I wanted to point out also the saying attributed to the Prophet (sallallahu alayhi wa sallam): "We have left the lesser struggle for the greater struggle..." I am not so sure about this. This seems to imply that people leave their egos behind when they go out for battle.
  2. Don't like being a tad bit negative (twice in the same email!) but thought it might be worth mentioning that (I thought that) the choice of picture for the 'Watch this Face' feature wasn't the best. Better for certain bodily features to be not so apparent. But then I might be a bit more conservative than the majority of your readership.
  3. I love reading the regular opinion features of Faisal AlYafai and Shelina Zahra Janmohamad. I hope they continue writing. It was my first writing reading Daud Bone and Lucy Bushill-Matthews and I liked them too!
  4. Awesome Hajj/Ka'ba artwork and explanatory comments from the artists. Saw the cover by chance whilst passing the magazines section in Tesco supermarket and had to buy this month's issue!
  5. Reading Geek Shaykh Robi Chowdhury's piece was hilarious but that's probably because I know him personally and I could hear his voice as I read it!!
In summary: another awesome issue! maa sha Allah :)>

Wassalaam,
Adil Hussain

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Twitter

Got a job in digital marketing so need to get clued up with social networking, geotagging, etc. As a start, just set up a twitter account. Check it out:

http://twitter.com/adilson05uk

There's only a few things worse than a PhD...

There's only a few things worse than an ill-defined PhD and an ill-defined engagement is one of them!

Going to use this post (the comments) to vent somewhat my growing frustration, without going into specifics of course!! :) Would talk to my wife-to-be about it and easily resolve matters (that would be the sensible thing to do) but that's not allowed (would require too much time alone) so this Blog post will have to do for now (til I meet material demands and am able to get married). More of a funny predicament than a serious one. Hope I don't give an impression otherwise!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Muslim Marriage Websites

Blogging links to a couple of Muslim marriage websites which were advertising at the Global Peace & Unity 2010 event and at first glance seem quite decent...

http://www.my-nikah.com/
http://www.halfourdeen.com/

... To check out later insha-Allah. Not for me of course! I am quite unhappily engaged :)> Jokes aside, this seems a very good technical challenge which I might return to in the near future when I get a bit of software engineering/programming experience under my belt insha-Allah.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Letter to MP about Babar Ahmad case

Letter I wrote to my MP just now as part of Cageprisoners' campaign/call for the public to lobby their MPs to allow for Babar Ahmad to be given justice with a fair trial in the UK:
Dear John Cryer,

I am writing to you regarding the case of Babar Ahmad, the UK's longest serving detainee without trial (6 years, 2months and counting) who awaits possible extradition to the United States of America. First of all, I want to say that I know Babar personally, know him to be a person of respectable character and if you need any further information about the case please let me know and I will provide this. (You may be interested to have a quick browse of the campaign website: freebabarahmad.com)

I am writing to ask you to please urge the Home Secretary to delay any decision on Babar’s extradition pending the Government’s review of our current extradition legislation, which is to report to Parliament in Autumn 2011.

Moreover, I request you to please write to the Attorney General urging him to instruct the Crown Prosecution Service to bring proceedings against Babar in the UK, whereby he can more readily mount a fair defence.

I understand it was the Labour government which was largely responsible for the one-sided fast-track extradition treaty which we now have and for cases such as Babar's which are against fundamental rules of law but I really hope the Labour party as a collective entity has moved on from the rashness of that era. I thank you in advance and hope to hear back from you.

Yours since
rely,
Adil Hussain

Monday, 4 October 2010

Pain in the shins - continued

Still got a quite unbearable pain in the shins. Not been sleeping properly at all last few nights - the pain really picks up after Maghrib and doesn't start to desist til after Fajr. Been getting up and watching movies, listening to audios and eating chocolates throughout the night! I even tried the full range of pain killers suggested by the A&E doctor last Friday (Paracetomol, Ibuprofen, Co-Codamel, Diclofemac - in increasing order of strength) and they all seem to *not* work!... Co-Codamel seeming to be a little more effective than the rest. Got another appointment this Wednesday, with one of my GPs this time. Was just doing some background reading online (because I don't trust my GPs!) and it seems I might have shin splints or stress/"hairline" fracture. Awesome timing btw msA: I was planning to use this time between Ramadhan (September) and starting work (January insha-Allah if I can find a job by then) to do a once-in-a-lieftime abundance of martial arts training and hiking. Oh well, we plan and God plans (has planned) for us better.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Lessons from the PhD experience

Three of the greatest lessons I learnt from the PhD experience (these past four years in general):
  1. put in the effort without going overkill and allow things to ripen by God's permission in their own due time;
  2. if things are not working out, don't get stressed, get up instead and go for a walk;
  3. things always work out better than planned so enjoy the ride.

North Downs

Headed down to the North Downs for a day walk last Saturday. We walked from Ockley Railway Station to Leigh Hill (Tower) to an empty Holmwood Railway Station (we missed the last train) followed by a bus (the last bus) to Dorking. We left home at 7am, got back at 10pm and walked mainly 9:30am-1pm (Ockley railway station to the tower) and then 4pm-7pm (the tower to Holmwood railway station). The first of many day walks around London insha-Allah. Click the following link for a picture compilation:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mepdhRYWA5A

Not all good though... I went/walked despite a bad swelling on both shins (caused by muay thai sparring last Thursday) and I think I aggravated the injury quite bad. Felt pains the last two nights that I can say for the first time in my life were quite unbearable. Had to take painkillers! Still, the trip was worth it. Was an awesome day :)>

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Not everyone who is sure, knows!

Note to self: Not everyone who speaks with certainty knows what they are talking about. People will be people.

The greater difficulty I guess is in discerning those who know they do not know from those who don't know that they don't know... and reacting accordingly.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

M&S billboard advertisement complaint

After being directed by my local council to submit my complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority, just did so, as follows:
I find the billboard advertisement (a woman scantily clothed standing with open arms and the caption "Ooh! la la") quite inappropriate for the place it has been placed and would sincerely hope that some due consideration would be undertaken in future. The road is used frequently by school children (there is a school just up the road) as well as it generally being a family area and there being a place of worship (a mosque) just immediately around the corner.
The advert has been up on the billboard at the bottom of my road for a couple of weeks now and makes for quite an unpleasant walk to the Masjid!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Lawrence (Guerilla) of Arabia

Was browsing the Independent website this morning and came across this article entitled 'Guerilla of Arabia: How one of Britain's most brilliant military tacticians created the Taliban's battle strategy' by Neil Faulkner - interesting general comments about insurgency linked up with some nice comparisons of the present-day US-Taliban situation. The article closes with "military mastermind" Lawrence of Arabia's 15 principles of modern guerrilla warfare...
  1. Strive above all to win hearts and minds;
  2. Establish an unassailable base;
  3. Remain strategically dispersed;
  4. Make maximum use of mobility;
  5. Operate mainly in small, local groups;
  6. Remain largely detached from the enemy;
  7. Do not attempt to hold ground;
  8. Operate in depth rather than en face (i.e. not in lines);
  9. Aim for perfect intelligence about the enemy;
  10. Concentrate only for momentary tactical superiority;
  11. Strike only when the enemy can be taken by surprise;
  12. Never engage in sustained combat;
  13. Always have lines of retreat open;
  14. Make war on matériel rather than on men;
  15. Make a virtue of the individuality, irregularity, and unpredictability of guerrillas.
... Funnily enough, never seen the movie ('Lawrence of Arabia'), though rated one of the best of all time! Added to my 'to get/watch' list.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Mike Lynch, Autonomy

Short (7 mins) inspiring interview with Mike Lynch about his founding of the software company Autonomy (now one of the largest technology firms in the UK):
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10322676

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Inappropriate billboard advert complaint

Letter sent to MP...
Dear John Cryer,

I wanted to make a complaint about a billboard advertisement at the bottom of my road which features material (a woman scantily clothed with the caption "Ooh la! la!") quite inappropriate I feel for the place it has been placed. I tried looking it up but I am not sure who I should direct my complaint to. Not sure if you know? Would it be the Advertising Standards Authority or someone in the council perhaps?

I apologise if this is not the kind of thing I should be contacting you for.

Yours sincerely,
Adil Hussain
... Awaiting his reply.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Interviews

Good couple of videos on silicon.com entitled 'Interview dos and donts' and 'How to shine in interviews'. Some of the key points to think about when watching again: Energy, Passion, Commitment, Enthusiasm, Positive perspective, Don't be negative, Make eye contact, Smiles, Ask intelligent questions, Don't try to look clever, Show interest in the culture of the organisation, Find out more information about the company, Demonstrate your interests, Prepare your questions, and lots more besides!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Jews and Islam: People of the book

Letter sent to The Economist...
Dear Editor,

I was reading the article entitled 'Jews and Islam: People of the book' in the August 14th issue (Books and Arts section) and couldn't quite understand (at the end of the first paragraph) the use of double quotes around the word "protected" as well as the use of the adjective "heavy" to describe the tax paid by non-Muslims. I would be curious to know how much this tax was exactly. Perhaps the author(s) could provide some sort of figure? Also, excuse my ignorance but I thought this tax was as a replacement for the 'zakah' that Muslims pay and which non-Muslims needn't pay and also as an exemption for non-Muslims' not participating in the army. Please correct me if I am mistaken. This is a genuine question by the way and I hope I don't come across sarcastic.

Regards,
Adil Hussain (07954 402 672)
... The slyness of their comments really ticks me off sometimes!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Reuters

Doing a fair bit of reading/browsing about Reuters (or Thomson Reuters as it is now called). Remarkable company. In particular, how they do what they do keeping strict to their principle of objectivity/impartiality. A couple of examples: (1) Up until very recently no-one could own more than 15% of the company; (2) Their refusal to use the word "terrorist" in reports except as a quotation.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Iraq: Deadly Legacy

Watched a related documentary ('Iraq: Deadly Legacy', 20 minutes, Journeyman Pictures) following the previous post about how babies are being born in Iraq (in and around Baghdad) with severe deformities and how, as a result, couples are scared to have children. As though Hiroshima was not enough of a sickening crime. Heartless the people responsible and the people who cover it up.

Taliban: Behind the Masks

Just came across and watched this documentary ('Taliban: Behind the Masks', Journeyman Pictures) by Paul Refsdal which, similar to the Channel4 Dispatches documentary a few months back, sets out to show "the human face of public enemy number one" and like that documentary does so with (rare) honest spin/propaganda-free reporting. 25 minute well spent!

Thursday, 12 August 2010

The Saudi Succession

Funny opening paragraph from an article entitled "The Saudi Succession: When kings and princes grow old" in the July 17th 2010 issue of The Economist:
IMAGINE that the United Kingdom was an absolute monarchy known as Windsor Britain. Imagine that Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, had dozens of brothers, scores of sons and hundreds of cousins, and that the broader House of Windsor numbered thousands of lesser princes and princesses. Imagine further that all these royals pocketed fat state stipends, with many holding lifelong fiefs as government ministers, department heads, regimental commanders or provincial governors, with no parliament to hold them in check. Now imagine how sporting these princely chaps would be when the throne fell vacant, if the only written rule was a vague stipulation that the next in line should be the "best qualified" among all the Windsor princes...
Big family big problems ahead!

Mount Snowdon Challenge 2010

Spent the past weekend in Snowdonia National Park with the Noor Ul Islam Youth Group. Good trip alhamdulillah. A lot of first-timers. All convinced of the beauty of the mountains maa sha Allah. Our minibus broke down Friday night and we were unable to get to Mount Snowdon (peak=1084m) on Saturday morning and so had to climb Carnedd Llewelyn (peak=1065m), the path to which was situated right beside our accommodation (Gwern Gôf Isaf Campsite/Farm). We planned and Allah planned better alhamdulillah :)>

Picture/Video compilation here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5mQHbE9dFe8

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Boys and the Army

"... I [] felt a call of duty for my country. At eighteen, I joined the Russian Army. In my opinion, spending time in the army is something all boys need to do in order to mature, learn about responsibility, and become prepared to fight for their country. And no matter how much the sport of sambo had given me, it wasn't until I went into the army that I grew from a boy into a man. My entire view on life changed, and I felt strength grow inside me..."

(Source: Short biography of Fedor Emelianenko in the Introduction to 'Fedor - The Fighting System of the World's Undisputed King of MMA')

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Good leadership...

"The most important principle
For victory in war
Is having your soldiers
Die gladly."


(A verse from Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' found in 'Taiko - An Epic Novel Of War in Feudal Japan' about making your 'troops'/colleagues/volunteers/etc believe in 'the cause' you're working for.)

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Letter to MP following Israel's violent attack on humanitarian flotilla

Letter below sent to my newly elected MP as well as (Deputy Prime Minister) Nick Clegg and (Foreign Secretary) William Hague (with some minor amendments).
Dear John Cryer,

I hope you are well and settling into office ok.

I just wanted to write a quick message to urge you to condemn the state of Israel's recent and continued disregard for international law (expansion of settlements etc) should opportunity present itself. Moreover, to do whatever is within your power as a parliamentary representative for Britain to oppose (and at least not support) the inhumane blockade/imprisonment of the people of Gaza.

Many thanks.

Yours sincerely,
Adil Hussain

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Self Profile for Noor Ul Islam Trust

I was asked to say a few words about myself (background, where I live, work/study etc) and my involvement with Noor Ul Islam Trust for a Governance folder being prepared...

My name is Adil Hussain, just turned 26 at the time of writing (the youngest member of the board of trustees in age, though not the youngest if judged by energy!). I am a resident of the Leyton area and indeed live just a short two-minute walk from Noor Ul Islam Masjid. I am currently pursuing and nearing the end of a PhD in Computing at Imperial College London insha-Allah. I was heavily involved with my university Islamic Society during my undergraduate years and, towards the end of that commitment, began a few small projects with the kind permission of the then trustee board at Noor Ul Islam. Alhamdulillah, with the guidance of older trustees and the unrelenting commitment of our youth group members these projects have continued and grown over the years. As head of the youth group I was asked to sit in on the trustee board to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the workings of the trust, and to start to get involved in serving the community on a grander scale, and so here I am :)

Monday, 3 May 2010

Umm... Err... Erm...

When delivering a public talk or sermon, better to be silent and gather one's thoughts than mumble in confusion! Something I learnt last Friday :)>

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Six lessons in leadership

Bismillah :)>

Advice below adapted from an article in the Spring 2010 issue of 'Imperial Matters' entitled 'Six lessons in leadership' based on Imperial College Alumnus Vice Admiral Sir Adrian Johns' experiences of captaincy and command in the Royal Navy.

Delegation
  • Delegation is all about trusting people to get on with the job that you give them, but it is far more than just giving somebody a job, telling them to crack on with it and not to bother you until it is all finished;
  • Delegators have a huge responsibility in terms of judging the capability and competence of the people that they are giving jobs to, making sure that the right resources are there, that the risks are understood. There is also a great trick in knowing whether, how and when to intervene when things are not going terribly well;
  • There is always the danger of misinterpretation. Part of delegation is taking risk, and there is risk, but also huge benefit, in allowing other people to make mistakes. Not repeatedly, but to make mistakes and to learn from them.

Subordinate development
  • Letting go and letting someone else have a go is key to subordinate development;
  • Bringing youngsters on is not always easy because very often the path of least resistance is to do things yourself. The discipline of standing at the back hoping you don't have to interfere is far, far harder than getting up there and doing it yourself, but we have a real duty and responsibility to train our successors;
  • Add a box on your personal evaluations called 'subordinate development', and judge and mark yourselves on your ability to bring on young people and to train them in succession.

Loneliness
  • The first aspect of loneliness in leadership is that it is something that one really feels in times of crisis, when the sky is falling in around you. You feel, rather wrongly, like you are the only one there, like you are the only one that can make the decision;
  • The second aspect is that the captain (ameer) sits alone wondering what his 'officers' are doing. It is a part of the loneliness of leadership, both a curse and a privilege, to step back from the bustle and everything that is going on to take stock, to look at things objectively and to think.

Adaptability
  • Amidst changes and, possibly even, the splitting of people into teams and projects, do not allow those in your organisation to lose focus about who they are, why they do what they do, and why it might be slightly different from the way other people do things. Ensure everyone is working together and continues so. This requires a particular aspect of leadership, a very interesting skill requiring different qualities, to ensure you keep your people focused.

Humour
  • A great store of humour only serves to aid leadership, and does no harm;
  • A little bit of humour at a time of crisis often lifts the mood and gets you and your team focused on the tasks ahead.

Heritage
  • Heritage is not about museums and historic 'objects', nor a certain cultural way of doing things, it is about people;
  • Heritage is the sense of not just doing a job in the here and now, but belonging to something that has got a fantastic foundation, and feeling responsible for its future. It is highly important for any organisation or institution.

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Sir, you have been carefully selected for a random check...

So we are headed for the Thursday 11:25pm ferry at Dover going to Calais (France) - me and my three partners in, err, crime? We give our passports first to the French passport control guy. No problem. We proceed to the next - British - passport control box. We are signalled by one of the officers to pull over. (No need to see our passports... they have seen enough!)

Cars whizz past to our left as we wait - one every five to ten seconds - on their way headed for a pleasant weekend break. It seems we have been "randomly selected" for a special check. Fair enough, that is understandable - we are four young brown British Muslims (the beards give it away). We wait a few minutes and then one of us walks back to the box to ask the reason for our delay. We are told to wait: an officer will be with us shortly. A few minutes more, and after a number of officers walking back and forth between the box and a building to our right we are told to drive towards the building, through a raised shutter into an empty room. A few minutes more and then a couple of officers approach us to take our mobile phones (in case we set something off perhaps?). The whole time we have waited we (naively) do not make any calls - it should be over within an hour and we will be given our phones back, right?

Twenty minutes or so pass and a number of officers (6+) appear to give us a pat down and a thorough check of the car and its contents. Our wallets are taken including debit/credit cards, ids and receipts for further inspection. This takes another half hour at least. We are spoken to sweetly the whole time. The officers apologise for the inconvenience caused and promise us hot drink and food inside as soon as it is over, very shortly we are told. It is just a routine (random) check we are reassured: No need to worry...

It is cold out here by the sea so we are walked inside "for a chat" into separate rooms each fitted with two CCTV cameras spanning the entire room as well video and audio recording equipment. The rooms are locked. The feeling of detention dawns...

Half an hour or so passes and one of the officers comes by for me to sign a paper outlining my rights (rights?) and declaring that I have been held under the anti-terrorism bill or something like that. I am asked whether I would like anything to drink or eat - they have halal food (lamb curry). (They must get a lot of Muslims visit them. They even have a prayer mat with a compass!) I am reminded that I do not have the right to remain silent: if I refuse to answer any questions I could be arrested. The last guy who did so got three months I am told. I am reminded also that I can notify one person of my being held as well as a solicitor, though it is 2am and the questioning will begin whether the solicitor is present or not the officer drops in. Here follows three rounds of questioning with two officers (good cop bad cop!) over the next three hours. The two officers pass between the four of us in each round matching and trying to find inconsistencies in our stories, as well as generally extracting our religious and political views. The first two rounds last 10 to 15 minutes and the third round around 5 minutes, as follows:

Round 1: This is more a feel out round. I guess they are trying to gauge my speed of talking, my eyes, how I answer simple questions as well as hard questions, and so on. I am asked where I live, names of family, where I study and other trivial questions. The officer tries to wow me with facts about my university, where it is located and so on. This must be their way of freaking people out: Google some facts about where I live or study and drop them like they know everything about me. He adds: "Assume we know everything about you. If you answer our questions honestly we will get along famously." Smart.

Round 2: Now we get down to business. The officer begins justifying the length of our detention: we have given them sufficient grounds for suspicion. It is not enough that we are smart educated people we are told: Some of the attempted bombers of recent past were also educated to a high degree - doctors for example; The 7/7 bombers liked hill walking; We are young practising Muslims of Pakistani origin; We have an Islamic talk ('The Hereafter') in the car by a certain Imam Anwar Al Awlaki (it does not matter that it is non-political, widely accepted and openly available, and recorded over ten years ago when the Imam was living and working in America). In the questions that follow I am told unequivocally that this is about profiling me. I am asked how often I go camping/trekking; when was the last time I went; who I go with and have been with (I really don't feel comfortable saying names and don't(!) even though people I go with are 'normal' non-radical types); the name of my local Masjid; whether the people in charge of my local Masjid are of North African origin and, if not, what their background is; what student societies I am part of at university; whether I am part of my Islamic Society; whether I encounter members of Hizb-ut-Tahrir during my Islamic work and whether they muscle in on my ground; why I listen to Islamic talks, is the Qur'an and Hadith not enough; how much I know of the situation in Pakistan, and whether the presence of British and American troops in Afghanistan is to blame; what I was doing in some of the countries I have visited (Pakistan and America notably); whether I have been to the tribal areas of Pakistan/Afghanistan; and so on.

Round 3: It is a long wait and I am quite tired. I have fallen asleep since the last round. The officers barge in and ask me abruptly what my understanding of Jihad is, hoping to catch me in my sleep I suppose. I think I ramble on a bit but the officers seem to have had enough of us and our non-extreme tendencies and say they will let us go even though it has only been six hours and they are entitled to keep us for up to nine hours before they *have to* make a decision whether to arrest us or let us go. He says it like he is doing us a favour. (Most likely their shift is over and they would rather go home!) He says they will keep all our electronic devices (phones, cameras, satellite navigation system) for further inspection but do not want to keep us unnecessarily while they do so, which can take up to ten hours... when the tech people are around, but they are away at the moment we are told. The goods will be in the post within seven days... starting from Tuesday because it is a bank holiday weekend he says! We just want to get out of there so forget to ask for receipts for the goods they have seized. Lessons for those reading: get a copy of anything you sign, get receipts for things taken from you, get the officers' numbers (they can't give names).

The officer suggests we get a map on the other side to navigate our way around France since we do not have our satellite navigation system: we are smart people and French roads are easy to work out he says. Funny guy. We are told the people at the ferry company will understand why we are 6+ hours late if we show them the counter-terrorism leaflet given to us. The officers tell us they will call the ferry company for good measure, to notify them that we have been held up by the police. The ferry company receives no such call.

(To be fair to the counter-terrorism officers they could have been a whole lot nastier. The new laws of recent past give them that power.)

French Alps and the Jura

Photo to the right from my trip to the French Alps (La Vanoise National Park) and the Jura (Haut-Jura Regional Park) last weekend. More photos here...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SdPqAc943WQ

Awesome trip maa sha Allah. All worked out perfectly, even the 6-hour interrogation by Kent Police Counter-Terrorism officers on our way out (young Muslims going camping is cause for suspicion apparently lol, see next post) and despite them seizing all our electronic devices. Good experience. Getting there is half the fun as they say... and even more without a satellite navigation system. The freedom and flexibility of good old human map reading. Nothing beats it ;)>

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

You'll do well if you listen

"You'll do well if you listen to me because you're smart and I'm right."

My elder brother mentioned this yesterday. He said he heard it from some guy Charlie Munger. It's a joke. The subject heading of this post of course is not. Good advice.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Facebook and divorce

Funny statistic...

"19.78%

Percentage of UK divorce petitions that cite Facebook as a factor, based on a sample of 5,000 divorces."


(Source: Wired, April 2010 issue)

Ok. Not that funny.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

The Martial Arts

Dedicated to the martial artists and those who will 'inspire' a generation of martial artists, i.e. the sensible minded amongst you ;)>

"... you're mistaken about the martial arts being the practice of small techniques..."

"... The martial arts are not simply techniques - they are of the mind. If one cultivates the mind deeply, one is able to penetrate everything, including the arts of learning and government, see the world for what it is, and judge people."

(Source: Taiko - An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan)

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

The Future of MMA Video...

... the Ruffo brothers (aged 8 and 9). Must Watch!

"Their [school] grades are really high... They're not bullies. They know the difference when they're at the gym and when they're at school... Education first and then martial arts. That's the priorities we set with them..."

http://sherdogblog.craveonline.com/blog/2010-02-23

Video is 10 minutes. Intriguing.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

It is what I do now that defines me / Sacrifice

Inspiring article, whatever your opinion of Imran Khan and as old as the article is. Couldn't decide what to quote - all so quotable - so did the easy thing and picked out the lesson summaries...

"Life Lesson One: Believe in yourself and trust your own judgement, not that of others."

"Life Lesson Two: It says in the Koran: 'Keep the money you need and give the rest away'."

"Life Lesson Three: Do not fear death. Once you do not fear death, you are liberated from all fears and can achieve all your goals."

(Source: Article entitled 'What I do now fulfils me like never before' about Imran Khan dated August 6th 2006)

Link to article:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/sport/article601339.ece

Link to another article entitled 'Playing for the biggest stakes of his life' dated December 8th 2008, though doesn't pack as much punch:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/asia/pakistan/3686550/Imran-Khan-Playing-for-the-biggest-stakes-of-his-life.html

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Universities and Islam... and Engineers!

"... A forthcoming book by Steffen Hertog, a sociologist, will argue that terrorists include a high number of engineers—not because of their need for bomb-making skills, but perhaps because of a mindset that likes rigidity and binary choices..."

(Source: January 9th 2010 issue of The Economist, article entitled 'Universities and Islam: Hearts, minds and Mecca - The rising profile of Muslim students in the Western world')

Yikes!

Link to article below. Critical. As one would expect from The Economist when reporting on Islam/Muslims. Worth reading.

http://www.economist.com/world/international/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15219881

Monday, 8 February 2010

Trial/Conviction of Aafia Siddique

"... The case raises more questions than answers. Not least of all, why a Pakistani national is on trial in New York for a crime committed in an Afghan police station."

(Source: Al Jazeera English)

Note that the trial/conviction was not regarding her involvement in terrorism but rather her alleged seizing and firing of an interviewer's gun during interrogation.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Afghanistan / 50 dollars

American Soldier A: "Why did President Obama take so long to announce his plan for Afghanistan? "

American Soldier B: "Maybe because his exit strategy had to be translated from the original Russian."

(Source: KAL's cartoon in the November 26th issue of The Economist, link below)

http://www.economist.com/daily/kallery/displaystory.cfm?story_id=14972922

ps. See Dispatches video in comment...

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Iraq / 25 dollars 95 cents

$25.95

"Price of off-the-shelf software used by Iraqi insurgents to intercept live video feeds from US Predator drones."

(Source: Wired, March 2010 issue)

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Chechnya

"... Mr Jagielski's book is equally compelling about the lives of the more humble people among whom he has lived: Chechan fathers do not cuddle or play with their sons for fear of making them weak. Chechan women have become emancipated, unwillingly, by war: they spend a lot of time touring Russian prisons trying to recover their menfolk."

Quote taken from December 12th 2009 issue of The Economist, review of Wojciech Jagielski's book 'Towers of Stone: The Battle of Willis in Chechnya' (translated by Soren Gauger).

Steve Jobs selling the new Apple IPad

Say it like you mean it,
like you're sure and certain,
and they'll believe you,
and buy it...

"... very thin... it's very thin... what this device does is extraordinary... it is the best browsing experience you've ever had... it's phenomenal... it's unbelievably great. Way better than a laptop. Way better than a smart phone... to see a whole web page is phenomenal... holding the internet in your hands, it's an incredible experience..."

All that is from a one-minute clip. All that in one minute!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_zI21XEo0Q

MI5's 11th Commandment

"Thou shalt not get caught."

Taken from a paper written for/by The Guardian entitled 'The truth about torture: Britain's catalogue of shame'.

Recommended viewing: Tony Blair at the Iraq (Chilcot) inquiry yesterday.

Friday, 29 January 2010

The battle for booze

"I rely on God"
(Iraqi booze seller whose shop was shot at for selling booze)

"Freedom won this time round in the battle for Iraq's future"
(Some other booze seller)

"Once, during prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water"
(W.C. Fields, American funny man)

Quotes taken from an article in the December 12th 2009 issue of the Economist entitled 'The battle for booze'.

Complaint to TFL regarding bus driver

Complaint I wrote to Transport for London just now regarding a racist/Islamophobic incident I witnessed yesterday on the bus on the part of the bus driver...
"I witnessed an incident yesterday that smacked of racism or Islamophobia perhaps. The bus driver took on all passengers and closed the doors. There was traffic ahead so he waited at the bus stop. An Asian lady came (visibly Muslim, wearing a headscarf) and gestured for him to open the door and let her in. He did not. That is strange but overlookable. She stood there right beside the door and clearly in the driver's view for what must have been at least 15 seconds, though he would not look directly at her pretending he could not see her. It was raining slightly and the driver wasn't going to open the door so she stepped back to take shelter under the bus stand. Then, another man came running, knocked on the boor and bizarrely this driver opened the door without a qualm. The lady from before saw the door open and stepped forward to get in. The driver without doubt saw her and closed the door in her face. I was fumed but did not kick up a fuss on the bus so as not to turn this whole situation into a fight and trusting that tfl has procedures in place to deal with such blatant abuse of position.

Btw, I didn't get the registration number but the driver had a yellow card in front of him with the number 208 on it if that is useful.

I have experienced such behaviour myself once previously from a bus driver and did write a complaint. However, after a number of weeks and queries from tfl for further information I was told no driver I described matched my description. I will be extremely disappointed if this happens again and will look to take this to higher authorities, whoever that happens to be. Apologies."
Don't like to complain and especially don't like to see bus drivers abused (my dad is a bus driver) but what I saw yesterday was just plain wrong. Maybe I should have kicked up a fuss on the bus there and then?

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

'Failure'

Uplifting quotes taken from an uplifting feature/article...

"... it's never as bad (or as good) as it seems at the time."

"...'Adversity will make the strong stronger and the weak weaker'..."

(Source: Wired, February 2010 issue, from an article entitled 'The Neuroscience of Screwing Up' with sub-caption 'If we can train our brains to embrace failure, we open ourselves to new discoveries')

We all find ourselves in sticky/difficult situations at times. Seems like the whole world has come crashing down on us. Yet time after time a way out opens up. Such is the measuring of the Almighty.

Likewise the delights of this world, temporary and short-lived.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

How to shake hands with sincerity

Sincerity. Dominance. Small difference :)>

"... As they move in, the antagonist rotates their wrist 45 degrees to put you in a subordinate position..."

"... simply add your left hand to the fray, placing it on theirs in a sincere gesture, but applying downward pressure..."

"... Once in a Double Clasp, the only way out is to grab your opponent's right arm. There are three stages of dominant grab - forearm, elbow and shoulder..."

(Source: Wired, February 2010 issue)

Saturday, 16 January 2010

It's a murky world

Agents. Double agents! Redoubled agents!! Triple Agents!!! (wiki the terms. crazy. mind boggling.)

"... [Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-]Balawi was a double agent, posing as a Jordanian informant but working for the al-Qaida terror network.

On December 30, he was invited for a meeting inside a U.S facility in the Afghan border province of Khost. Instead, Balawi blew himself up at the meeting, killing seven agents of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and a Jordanian intelligence officer..."


(Source: Voice of America News)

For further info...

Bomber's Pre-attack English Video Message
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c-I9C4y0hG0

CIA base bomber's message (Al Jazeera English)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9F-VO1MAoX0

The many faces of the double agent CIA bomber (Al Jazeera English)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylmeYE_zRdY

... or, if you prefer, search 'cia bomber' on Google News or Youtube.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Hindsight can be ugly / Look forward :)>

"It's what you do next that counts."

"... We know what it takes to be a Tiger..."

(Source: Accenture advert featuring Tiger Woods from a few months ago)