Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Murder in Samarkand - book by ex-ambassador of UK to Uzbekistan

The following is a book review of 'Murder in Samarkand' by Craig Murray. Murray was the United Kingdom's Ambassador to Uzbekistan until he was removed from his post in October 2004 after exposing appalling rights abuses by the US-funded regime of President Islam Karimov. His website has further articles and supporting documents which he could not include in the book fearing that it would be banned, you can view these on http://www.craigmurray.co.uk

Memoirs of a diplomat

A British ambassador's candid and controversial account laying bare the underside of the `war on terror'

MURDER IN SAMARKAND — A British Ambassador's Controversial Defiance of Tyranny in the War on Terror: Craig Murray; Mainstream Publishing, Edinburgh. £ 18.99.
Diplomats come in different sizes and shapes, very often with a lopsided vision of the globe around them. Like many organised civil services, the Foreign Service of any country is a mixed bag of the most brilliant and the utterly mediocre, the most upright and the disappointingly unethical and dishonest. There also comes once in a while the unconventional and feisty personality who is determined to rock the boat and embarrass his Whitehall or South Block bosses. And when he quits or is forced to, he grabs public attention with some vitriolic memoirs that make interesting if not memorable reading. Craig Murray belongs to this category.
A career diplomat with an impressive educational background, he was eased out of Tashkent in 2004 by his own Foreign Office on a variety of charges, which he says were trumped up. He was later suspended from the post, and he has since quit the Service. Out in the cold, he continues to be a source of annoyance. Interestingly, he contested for Parliament against his principal adversary, the then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Murray got only about 2000 votes. Unfazed by this humiliation, he went on to write the present controversial memoirs which has irked Whitehall. The Blair Government severely censored it before publication, but some crucial documents which Murray could not carry in his book — as a matter of prudence because he believed the book would otherwise be banned — have been put on a website hosted by him! Naturally, the book is doing the rounds here in London.
Murray arrived in Tashkent in 2002 with great expectations. This was the first time he was being a full Ambassador. He was as excited as a schoolboy playing cricket for his school for the first time. His description of the customary call at the Buckingham Palace — Princess Anne and Prince Andrew were standing in for their mother who was too preoccupied with Jubilee celebrations — before assuming office is hilarious. In fact, the whole book is laced with some passable humour; something that could distract from its more serious purpose of an expose of what Murray considers the hypocrisy of Whitehall.
Right from day one in Tashkent, Murray began to hobnob with local dissidents who were up in arms against President Islam Karimov and his henchmen for systematically practising torture on their political adversaries in the name of fighting terrorism. What shocked Murray most was the case of Avazov, a member of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, which stood for Islamic liberation, and was being held in prison. Avazov was allegedly tortured to death by being immersed in a boiling liquid. Provoked greatly by this horrible incident, Murray went on to brief the media and carry on a public campaign. Murray was equally convinced that the death under strange circumstances of the grandson of Professor Mirsaidov, a retired professor of Tajik literature at the University of Samarkand, within hours of his (Murray's) visit to the professor along with a Foreign Office visitor from London, was a case of murder. The professor was possibly being victimised, all because he was entertaining a hostile foreign diplomat who was guilty of a tirade against the Uzbekistan Government. At a conference in Tashkent organised by Freedom House, (an NGO from the U.S.), Murray pulled no punches while talking on the poor human rights record of the Uzbekistan Government. This may have enhanced his reputation as a fighter but it was not exactly his Foreign Secretary's cup of tea. Murray was euphoric at the response his peroration received from the local diplomatic corps. From here there was no stopping him, and the gulf between him and London was widening day by day. His acerbic telegrams upped the ante and it was a question of time before which he would be asked to pack up. Talking of telegrams, when he showed the draft of one of his strong epistles to the Foreign Office to a staff member at the Embassy, the latter quipped that it was too long for a resignation letter! Murray made no secret of his opposition to his Government's policy of appeasement of President Karimov. He was also critical of what he considered the ganging up of the CIA and MI6, as represented in Tashkent, to purvey intelligence obtained by torture, and which the U.S. and British Governments were lapping up, much against the spirit of the Geneva Convention.
Tashkent days
From the vivid account of his Tashkent days, Murray emerges as an odd character, who, despite all his frailties — a fondness for the bottle and the fair sex — challenges his superiors with a ferocity that one normally associates only with a diplomat who has a lily-white reputation. Murray does not seem inhibited by his peccadilloes. The ease with which he slips into a description of his many escapades — including a permanent relationship with Nadira, an English teacher turned a dancing girl at a Tashkent bar and which eventually led to the break-up of his marriage — distorts an otherwise focussed account of his brush with authorities.
One may tend to view Murray as exhibitionistic and erratic, something confirmed by the psychiatric care he received and his own confession that he did consider the suicide option. He may also have been guilty of a gross violation of basic diplomatic niceties. One may not however be able to readily spurn his broad conclusion: something happened on September 11, 2001 that caused the West to lose its moral bearings in a way that led government machines, and those who worked in them, to move a significant way down the path of contempt for individuals.
Murray may not receive our endorsement. But he definitely compels our attention in these days of excesses of those fighting the war on terror.

Source: The Hindu

The following is an interesting incident that took place related to the book:

"Murder in Samarkand" confiscated by Luton airport security

From Eurasian.net

“Is that about terrorism?”, asked the lady that examined my onboard luggage. “Humm, well, it contains mentions of that, but it’s about your former ambassador to Uzbekistan and more about diplomacy”, I replied politely. “Does it have al-Qaida in it?” I looked a bit confused. “What?” - “Well, I have to check this with my manager, the rest of your stuff is fine, though.”
The manager then came after a minute or two. “Hello Sir, can you tell me about this book?” “Sure, it is about Craig Murray, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan.” “Where, if I may ask, did you buy this book?” - “Well, it is available at any Waterstones here in Britain. I just bought my copy in the Angel branch yesterday.”
“I am afraid you cannot take this onboard, Sir.” You must be kidding me. I just spent 20 pounds on a book that, despite arousing some controversy in the UK, should not be banned onboard a flight to Germany. I understand that the terror plot (which coincidentally seems to have an Uzbek dimension) makes for some overwrought nerves.
But to ban a book widely available in book stores in the UK is just a joke. Now, cash-strapped, I have to wait for the paperback edition to be published. Already late for the flight and raging in front of the calm airport security manager, I must have overheard that they can - in exceptional cases - post confiscated material to a UK address. I recalled that onboard the plane…


Anonymous said...

question: The prophet (saw) did not have to deal with the international dimension that our work involves like you mentioned.

I agree that we need to deal with international opinion.

So the question is what is the evidence from islam that we should engage the international opinion. e.g. change perceptions of political islam in britain.

Does the evidence come from "whatever leads to a wajib is a wajib in itself"

Abu Ismael al-Beirawi said...

The Usuli principle "whatever the wajib cannot be fulfilled without is wajib" can only be applied when its conditions are met.

Its condition is that it would not be possible to fulfil the wajib without achieving a particular action. It cannot be applied in the case you mentioned, as it is not conditional to change the perceptions of political Islam in Britain to achieve the re-establishment of the Islamic Khilafah.

However the principle can be used in order to establish the obligation of exposing the plans of the colonialists as part of the methodology for a party working to re-establish the Khilafah, this action would apply upon the group as a whole and the Amir (leader) of the group would decide upon the styles in which it is achieved in its majal (arena of work) where it engages in political struggle.

It is important to be clear on the following matters:

1) The obligation of re-establishing the Khilafah is upon the individual established by numerous evidences, however it is impossible for him to do this alone as he does not have the capability. The only way for him to discharge this obligation is by joining a group (party) who is working for this aim according to a method prescribed by the Shari’ah. Therefore the obligation of the individual is different to what has been obliged upon the Party. The individuals obligation is to work as part of a party and to undertake the activities that the Party requests of him. This does not mean that he does not have to engage in his other fara’id as an individual Muslim such as Salah, obedience to the parents, removing a munkar if it was in his capability by his hand such as preventing his child from haram, etc.

The Hukm of the application of the method is upon a party as a whole not upon an individual, or upon an area or country where the party works. This is because Allah (swt) ordered for there to exist a group amongst the Ummah and it would be the duty of that group to apply the Shariah method to re-establish the Khilafah.

2) The work of the individuals within this group whether inside or outside the Majal would be determined by the Amir of the Party. This is due to the following:

The evidence (daleel) for the group being a political party has two aspects. Firstly, Allah (swt) did not order the Muslims in this verse to undertake the call to goodness and the enjoining of Ma’ruf and the forbidding of Munkar; rather He (swt) ordered the establishment of a group that undertakes these two actions. What is requested is not the undertaking of the two actions, but the establishment of a group that undertakes these actions. Hence, the emphasis in the command is on the establishment of the group and not on the two actions. The two actions are an indication of the actions of the group whose establishment is requested, thus they are characteristics that this group must possess.

For the group to be qualified as such and be able to assume the role assigned to it, it must meet certain conditions, in order for the group to acquire the quality mentioned in the verse. The formation of a group requires the presence of a bond that binds its members so that they become one single entity (jama’ah). Furthermore, what keeps this party functioning is the presence of an Amir whose obedience is compulsory. This is because the Shari'ah has ordered every group of three people or more to appoint an Amir. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "It is forbidden for any three people to be anywhere on earth without having appointed one Amir from amongst them" [Abu Dawud].

Disobedience would lead to the removal of a person from the group. The Messenger of Allah (saw) said: "He who sees from his Amir something that he dislikes, let him be patient, for whoever leaves the Jama’ah by a hand span dies, dies the death of Jahiliyya (ignorance)" [Bukhari and Muslim]. Therefore, Shari'ah deems the rebellion against the Amir as a separation from the group. What maintains it as a group is the obedience to the Amir.

These are two indispensable characteristics for the group to exist and to undertake its action. Therefore the verse, "Let there arise from amongst you a group..." means let there be from amongst you a group that has a bond binding its members and an Amir whose obedience is obligatory. This is the bloc, party, association, the organisation or any of these names that refer to the group that meets all the criteria.

3) It is the party that undertakes the actions of the method. The political party differs from an individual, so it is the Party that seeks the Nussrah not all of its individuals, rather it may allocate some of its individuals to focus on this. This is the nature of a party and this is why it is possible for a party to re-establish the Khilafah and not an individual by himself.

This is similar to the Islamic army under the Khilafah, not every individual would be engaged in the physical fighting, or be commanding the battles. Rather the Amir of Jihd will decide upon the work of different individuals. So the people in the back of the army preparing the munitions or even food for the soldiers will be fulfilling the Fard of Jihd just as the people in the front lines engaged in the battle. Therefore everyone in the army regardless of their positions whether they are generals, commanders, preparing the munitions, messengers or cooks are working to fulfill the same objective of Jihad even though their roles are different.

4) It is allowed for members of the party to exist outside the Majal according to the evidences from the Prophet (Saw) that he allowed some of the Sahaba to move outside his (saw) majal where he was targeting the establishment of the state. For example the Prophet (saw) allowed some of the companions to move to Abysinnia which was outside his Majal and also that he allowed Tufail ibn Amr ad-Dausi to return back to Ad-Daus, Abu Dhar al-Ghafari was also allowed to return to his tribe and area.

It is the Amir of the party who would decide where it directly works to re-establish the Khilafah and also the policy of work for the party outside the Majal (area of work). The Amir would decide the policy work in these areas according to what would help the party in its objective to resume the Islamic way of life through the re-establishment of the Khilafah.

5) It is possible for the Amir of a group working to re-establish Khilafah has decided a particular policy for its members living in non-Muslim countries to engage in da'wa with the non-Muslims there so that they at the minimum gain an accurate appreciation of Islam.

If this is the case, then the members of the group in that country must work to fulfil this policy of their Amir.

It is feasible that an Amir of a party may decide upon this as part of a policy of work due to the following:

- At the moment it is clear that the non-Muslims in Western countries do not perceive Islam accurately – they see two extremes or 2 camps of Muslims: 1) The moderates, 2) The extremists. They don’t see Islam as it should be seen.

- Therefore it is neccessary for the non-Muslims to gain an accurate picture of Islam such that they appreciate it as an ideological alternative to Capitalism.

- Karl Marx’s philosophy was appreciated by thinkers in the world as an ideological alternative to Capitalism in the late 1800’s even before the emergence of the Communist Soviet Union state.

- We have the true ideology and the history of the Islamic state to be able to demonstrate Islam as an alternative.

- It is natural that this appreciation would be more important amongst the thinkers in India, as when they are convinced of this it would affect the masses.

- Achieving this matter can aid the Khilafah greatly, as it could help in annexation of lands to it and help in generating a public opinion within those countries to opposeto conflict with the Khilafah.

- Even prior to the Khilafah’s establishment it is possible to lead the non-Muslims to call against the ills of Capitalism and the terrorist foreign policy of their own nations. This may aid in pressurising (in a halal manner) the non-Muslim countries to stop their injustices against the Muslim world.

6) To relive the sin from ones neck, it is not enough for an individual to nominally be part of a group working to re-establish the Khilafah. The individual must exhaust all their efforts in order achieve the policy that the group has set for the work in his country and any specific work the group has assigned for him or her. The Da'wa must become the centre of their lives as Allah (swt) has determined the priority within the obligations.

Allah (SWT) says: “Say if your parents, your children, your brethren, your wives, your tribe, the wealth you have acquired, a merchandise for which you fear that there would be no sale and dwellings you desire are dearer to you than Allah and His Messenger and Jihad in His way, then wait till Allah brings His command, and Allah would not guide the wrong-doing folk." [TMQ 9: 24]

The word "Amrihi" (His command) in the verse means His punishment, and it serves as a warning to those who prefer these matters to the love of Allah, His Messenger and Jihad in His way. Hence Allah (SWT) has classified and specified the values and warned against the violation of this order. Therefore, there is no excuse for the Muslim to place something at the top of the scale of values, different to the love of Allah, His Messenger and Jihad in His way, i.e. other than Islam and Jihad. Then the rest of the matters were put in their order according to what the Sharia'a rules had stated. Therefore, it would be forbidden for the Muslim to make his life at the top of the scale of values, then his wife and his children, then their wealth and well being, then Islam and Jihad, for if he did this, he would be sinful and would deserve the punishment of Allah (SWT) as clearly outlined in the Ayah. A Muslim should therefore place Islam, Jihad in the way of Allah, the Da'awa to the Deen of Allah and making the word of Allah reign supreme at the top of his priorities i.e. at the top of the scale of values. Then the rest of the matter would also be placed, however, not according to the benefit obtained from them, but according to their order which Allah (SWT) had predetermined and in relation to the other values.

It is also important to realise that the partial actions of the Da'wa lead to the whole and cannot be neglected - like the discussions with people, the distribution of literature, the giving of halaqat, etc.