Kaleem Hussain

The Blog will feature articles on the following topics – Current Affairs – International Relations – Diplomacy – Economics – Heritage – Faith – Sports


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Poetic Eulogy for the Victims of the Manchester Arena Terror Attack

Their lives were not in vain

nor are they in any pain

For it is the terrorists that are in a state of disdain

a state of eternal pain where there shall be no gain

They claim to fight for what is right

but their plight is full of fright and no light

They say in the end things will be alright

but what they leave is headlessness, darkness and night without any delight

They claim to be the peacemakers

but verily they are the peace breakers

Their path is that of delusion

all illusion and of confusion

They espouse to a path of martyrdom and temporary stardom

a path of dreams but what we see is all but extremes

IS, ISIS, ISIL whatever their names

their end shall all be the same

Hail to the victims of terror

your remembrance shall be an eternal remembrance

for verily you are our true martyrs and eternal bright stars

our rope and beacons of hope

United we stand in your cause

a quest in which we shall not pause

United for peace, love, unity and harmony

united in solidarity for this great universal and eternal cause

(Copyright (c) Kaleem Hussain, 2017)

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How Theo-Political Discourse Is Dividing the World

The world as we know it is at a critical cross road. If one looks across the geometric and political divide whether be it in the West or East what is sadly a permanent feature are theatres of conflict, bloodshed and brutality. These conflicts are often driven by bigoted, altruistic, tribal or nationalistic quests to cling on to power. On other occasions, there may often be a warped and distorted theological undertone or overtone inspiring and spurring a movement to gain control and power or retain control and power. With the recent election results in the U.S. where Donald Trump defying the political odds was elected as President; to the rise of populism in the continent of Europe that is swaying toward the right of the political spectrum-there seems to be an ultra-right or ultra-nationalistic often xenophobic trend emerging that is at odds with the universal normative human values of mutual respect and dignity for fellow human beings and other nations too.

The warped theological undertone is not restricted to what one can coin as predominantly a western phenomenon. It has also raised its ugly head in many parts of the Muslim World through the guise of radical nihilistic terrorist organisations such as “Al-Qaeda” and “ISIS.” The difference here is that that the warped undertone has been fuelled and given ammunition to turn into a visible expressive overtone that subsequently causes death, destruction, pillage and carnage in the vicinities that it sets foot. It is under this rubric that I pontificate and ask geo-political and theological analysts to reflect on these warped and distorted theo-political undercurrents that are simmering in our world today across multiple national, racial and at times religious divides and consider that if such bigoted undercurrents start to become the political norm by turning into visible over-currents that the very fabric of our societies and nation states could be in danger and start heading towards a world of anarchy, unrest and disorder. When plural norms that the continents of Europe and the Americas have in the main enjoyed after periods of war and turmoil begin to be dismantled by disproportionate and discriminate treatment of the “other” be it on the ground of nationality, immigration, race or religion then what we have simmering is a hot melting pot that could implode with disastrous consequences for all.

Theo-political overtones are commonly used in our discourses by journalists and analysts alike today. Post 9/11, George Bush Jr used the loaded word “crusade against terrorism” which was a visible verbal expression but can trace its roots to medieval military expeditions made by Europeans to recover the “Holy Land” from the Muslims in the 11th, 12 and 13th centuries. “Jihad,” “Jihadist,” “Islamist,” or “Islamism” are now commonly used words to describe individuals usually with a Muslim name who commit acts of criminality or travel to foreign lands to partake in war zones. However, these terms are distorted lexically accepted in contemporary discourse that have gained political traction but have no correlated linkage to the core classical meanings from the Islamic tradition itself. “Jihad” in the classical Islamic tradition means “to exert effort, to better oneself or to struggle for a noble cause. “Jihadist” or “Islamist” have no lexical linkage as a commonly used word within the Islamic tradition itself. There seems to be a language of acceptability in the mainstream media and political discourse to use the word “Islam” and acts of criminality in an intertwined and misrepresented manner which is not conducive in creating and enabling cohesive societies to exist and subsequently either directly or indirectly antagonising the overwhelming law abiding peaceful Muslims in multiple parts of the world who feel that a gross misrepresentation of their faith is unfolding without any justification.

Whereas normative theo-political undertones or overtones that are generally accepted as the core tenets and principles within the theological frameworks of mainstream faith traditions would not advocate hatred and violence of the “other,” It is the “extreme theo-political” undertones and overtones which traverse towards the realms of individual and political violence, hatred, division, discriminate and indiscriminate extermination of individuals and groups that do not ascribe to their world view where the tensions and root of the problems reside.

Whether it is the distorted theological undertones by the evangelical movements in the U.S. which emanate into political overtones via neo-conservative or far right republican groups and parties, whether it is the distorted ultra- national political overtones of parties such as UKIP in the UK, racial overtones by the English Defence League (EDL), far right parties such as Geert Wilders Party for Freedom in Holland; Jean -Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France; whether it is the distorted theological undertones that germinate in parties such as the BJP in India which lead to an overtone advocating hatred and violence towards the “other”; whether it is the distorted theological undertones that find ammunition via visible non state actors and groups such as “Al-Qaeda” or “Daeash” (ISIS), or whether it is the distorted theological undertone that has tuned into a visible theo-political overtone in Burma with the mass genocide and human rights violations against Rohingya what is required as a solution to these distorted theological undertones, overtones along with the distorted political undertones and overtones is a re-alignment toward the centre ground in theological and political policy making. It is only by working to curtail the tide of these extreme currents by proactively advocating the message of the centre ground in our faith and political institutions and via the mouth-pieces of our faith and political leaders that the violent tide of extremism can be challenged. A process of normalisation is called for by instilling a sense of belonging, citizenship in the respective countries based on principles of justice, equality and the rule of law via a balance stabiliser which projects us towards a state of equilibrium in our societies can the menace and distorted theological and political currents of extremism, hatred, violence and terrorism be curtailed.

By Kaleem Hussain

The article first appeared on the Patheos website on 24th April 2017

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/religionnow/2017/04/theo-political-discourse-dividing-world/


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Beauty and the Beast-Which of the Two Faces of Islam Will Prevail?

The famous Disney story of Beauty and the Beast has hit our cinema screens in 2017 as an American musical romantic fantasy film directed by Bill Condon from a screenplay written by Stephen Chbosky and Evan Spiliotopoulos and co-produced by Walt Disney Pictures and Mandeville Films. In the film, Belle (Emma Watson), a bright, beautiful and independent young woman, is taken prisoner by a beast (Dan Stevens) in its castle. Despite her fears, she befriends the castle’s enchanted staff and learns to look beyond the beast’s hideous exterior, allowing her to recognise the kind heart and soul of the true prince that hides on the inside.

As I observed the storyline and script to this famous Walt Disney production my mind could not but analyse the film from the perspective of what is currently unfolding in the House of Islam. If one turns on the mainstream media and observes the coverage of Islam and Muslims at large, it is often associated with incidents of violence, rage, anger and terror. The media is almost in a state of fait accompli when it comes to ascribing any acts of violent extremism-terrorism and inter-linking it with Islam. More often than not, an individual or group of individuals’ names will be flashed across our TV screens often with pseudo or authentic “Muslim names” or acronyms and the auto attacks against the body of Islam will thereafter begin in situ. This is portraying what can be coined as a beastly depiction of Islam across our airwaves. However, juxtaposed in this media mirage is the depiction and mouthpiece of the overwhelming majority of the 1.6 billion Muslims across the world who affirm that Islam is a religion of peace, love and humanity and hence a depiction of beauty par excellence. One asks, which of these two depictions is pontificating the “fake news” about the House of Islam?

The beastly depiction of Islam is flashing before our eyes overtly, covertly and subliminally via the 24 hr news media age that we now live in. Whether it is the blowing up of the buddha statute in Afghanistan by the Taliban, to the taking hostage of school girls by Boko Haram in Africa to the discriminate and indiscriminate killings of innocent individuals by groups such as Al Qaeda and now “IS, ISIL or Daesh;” what we see across our TV screens and what others who are sadly at the end of these acts of barbarism and brutality witness is a nihilistic beastly Frankenstein monster who is hell bent on causing as much death, pillage and destruction that is possible. Interlinked in this matrix are individuals that are now acting either on their own independent volition or via small segmented groups that seek to cause damage and destruction to the other and then either themselves seek to claim a superlative or pseudo allegiance to some of the groups whose names have been cited above as a validation for their acts of criminality and terror. On other occasions, the groups will later proclaim that the act(s) were done under their name. Sadly, the recent Manchester Arena Attack by Salman Abedi and what we are told is a network of co-conspirators and the London Bridge Attack fulfils this very narrative. On other occasions, representatives from the groups cited above will themselves proclaim that an act of terror was coordinated and instigated through their steer so that they can claim the browning points for the wanton destruction of innocent individuals. Inculcated in all these poisonous acts is a quest to instil fear amongst the masses. More often than not, at the time such an individual or group commit an act or acts of terror, you will often hear or later have a news reporter testify that the protagonist shouted the words “Allah Akbar” at the time they decided to commit or unleash their carnage.

When a layman who has no deep grounding in the tradition of Islam and whose only medium of understanding the faith is via the political mouthpiece of the mainstream media, he/she will no doubt be connecting the dots that these beastly acts that are committed by these multiple terrorist groups are all being committed via the auspices of Islam. They may also conclude that these acts have a pretext or authoritative justification within the Islamic tradition and hence why these multiple individuals and groups are on a mass rampage to carry them out!

The beastly depiction of Islam is now conventionally being coined by our mainstream politicians as “Radical Islam” intertwining Islam and radicalism in the same brush. Some political commentators and analysts will pontificate that this radicalism is inter-connected and rooted in the whole body of Islam whilst others will claim that this is a gross misrepresentation and that a small segment are hijacking the principles of the faith in a misconstrued way to justify their wanton destruction of the other. Whereas certain administrations like the Obama administration were careful not use this phraseology, it is now becoming the language of acceptability for our mainstream political parties in the U.S. (Republican) and in the UK too (Conservative and UKIP).

The beastly depiction which we sadly see across our airwaves day in day out is linked to groups such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Da’esh (IS, ISIS, ISIL as is commonly termed) to name a few from recent history. There are many other offshoots groups around the world who would ascribe to a similar ideology with the odd regional variance. What is rooted in these groups’ ideologies or creed is the principle of “takfirism” which in layman’s terms one can coin as “my way or the highway.” That is the idea that anybody be it an individual, group or nation that does not ascribe to their views is an outcast and needs to be excommunicated or exterminated. This rigid, narrow and destructive understanding is one of the core reasons that such groups venture on their global rampage causing mass pillage, destruction and carnage. Many theological commentators of the Islamic tradition proclaim that this ideological creed can trace its roots to Wahhabism, a creed pioneered by Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Wahhab (1703-1792) who was a religious leader from Najd in central Arabia and rejected certain common normative Muslim practices which he regarded as amounting to either religious innovation or polytheism. Other commentators would go further back in history and proclaim that this ideological creed can be traced back to the time of the Kharijites which was a group who defected and rebelled against the third and fourth caliphs of Islam, Uthman (576-656 CE) and Ali (601-661 CE) and the rulers of the Ummayad and Abbasid caliphates in 644 and had been foretold by the final Prophet of Islam that they should be exterminated where and whenever they emerge. The theological commentators would point out that It is this variance from the mainstream normative teachings of Islam that is raising its ugly head in our current times across multiple theatres and platforms around the world.

The mainstream normative body across the Muslim world will be totally at odds with the beastly depiction of Islam that has been described above and one which has become a common feature across our mainstream media. They would testify to the amazing beauty of Muslim heritage that lies at the core of the tradition where wonderful positive contributions have been made across multiple disciplines throughout the ages. Disciplines such as the arts, culture, humanity, education, science, astronomy, environment and health to name a few. In terms of how the history of science and civilisation is taught by many educational systems today, we learn about the Greeks, the Romans, the Renaissance, Industrial Revolution and Modern Day Civilisation and we are in the main led to believe that the periods from around the 5th to the 16th centuries were periods of intellectual darkness with very little advancement. This period is commonly termed as the “Dark Ages.” Such a perceived understanding of the history of science and civilisation is far from the reality of what was taking place in history during this time. In the 5th century CE, we were witnessing the development of Roman, Chinese and Indian Civilisations and during the period of what is termed the “Dark Ages”, the Muslim world had witnessed one of the greatest intellectual revolutions in history, where advancements were made in so many different fields from around 650 CE until the 17th century at least. It was during what is commonly termed as the “Dark Ages” some of the most wonderful contributions Muslim have made to our heritage from a classical and contemporary perspective took place. Muslims have played a leading role in terms of inventions ranging from spectacles, carpets, pens, coffee, shampoo, garden, botany, flowers and in the field of education in Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Geography, Algebra, Art, Astrology and Biology. Grand institutions and major systems of learning were pioneered and set up such as The House of Wisdom in Baghdad, Iraq by Caliph al Mansur (reigned 754-775) but came to prominence during the reign of his son al Ma’mun (reigned 813-833) where leading scholars from the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths studied and spread their wisdom around the word and The University of al-Qarawiyyin (859 AD) located in Fez, Morocco which is often categorised as one of the oldest existing, continually operating and first degree awarding educational institution in the world according to UNESCO which was founded by a woman Fatima al-Fihri.

The mainstream normative House of Islam features spiritual and poetic luminaries like Rumi (1207-1273) who has been described as the most popular poet and bestselling poet in the United States, philosophical giants like Al-Ghazzali (1058-1111), to scholars such as Nasir al-Din Tusi (1201-1274) a great Persian scholar whose works it is claimed Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) a renaissance and reformation era astronomer who formulated the heliocentric theory that the centre of the universe is the Sun and not the earth well before Newton’s time was in fact plagiarised from the works of Tusi as proven by Professor George Saliba. In medicine, we have scholars such as Al Razi (854 -925) who led the way in treating diseases such as smallpox to Ibn Sina (980-1037) better known in the West as Avicenna who was a great physician and philosopher who wrote the book The Canon of Medicine and Al-Biruni (973-1048) who was instrumental in working on the theory of various drugs and their classification. In agriculture, Muslim engineers produced a hydraulic machine called the “noria” to develop and improve the water supply in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. We have the beautiful architectural buildings such as Alhambra Palace in Granada-Andalucía, Spain which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site to the beautiful mosques such as the Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmet Mosque) in Turkey and the Badshai Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan to name a few.

The mainstream normative House of Islam features contemporary leading personalities and organisations who continue to make positive contributions in a range of fields. The Muslim 500 (www.themuslim500.com) features the 500 most influential Muslims around the world. There are leading sports personalities such as Muhammad Ali who is widely regarded as one of the most significant and celebrated sports figures of the 20th century to Sir Mohammed Farah CBE; multiple Olympic gold medal winner and Muslim sportswomen such as Dalilah Muhammad who is the first American woman to win a gold medal in the 400 metre hurdles and numerous Muslim footballers and other Muslim sportsmen and women who are playing a positive role in their respective fields.

The challenge and struggle of our generation is that of which face of the House of Islam will triumph? Will it be the beautiful face as briefly expounded above or the beastly dimension that will continue to dominate our airwaves? One very much hopes that just like the Beauty and the Beast storyline where the Prince and Belle host a ball for the kingdom and they dance happily ever after into the sunset that the storyline of the House of Islam also has a beautiful ending where it is indeed the face of the beautiful inner core based on principles of humanity, peace, love, wisdom and justice that suppress and supersede the misrepresented beastly depiction that has been espoused by the fringe groups across our societies and airwaves for far too long. For this to materialise, the Muslim world cannot rest on their laurels and pontificate on the legacy of the past, but needs to be inspired by this legacy to bring about positive contributions to our societies. The media battle between what is “fake news” or “authentic news” about the House of Islam will continue in our global milieu. State, mainstream media-social media, societal actors and stakeholders all have a key role to play by allowing a platform for the beautiful mainstream normative face of Islam to be showcased and institutionally normalised and the beastly face which is hijacked and monopolised by the extreme fringe to be stifled. This will be a positive step if one is serious in the aspiration of a better world for all based on the principles of humanity and peaceful co-existence.

By Kaleem Hussain

The article first appeared on Patheos on 19th June 2017.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/altmuslim/2017/06/beauty-beast-two-faces-islam-will-prevail/


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The Sense of Humour of the Prophet of Islam

As the atrocious acts of barbarism by two French citizens were unfolding at the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a newspaper renowned for willing to test the limits of political and religious satire through its cartoons and wider publications coupled with what unfolded the next few days in the French capital and nearby cities whereby the same two French citizens along with two other accomplices ended up killing 17 people in France whom we are led to believe were inspired by Al-Qaeda ideology and in particular the now demised Al-Qaeda representative, Anwar Al-Awlaki who was killed by a U.S. drone attack in Yemen a friend of mine asked “did not the Prophet of Islam have a sense of humour”? . My answer was in the affirmative and this question triggered me writing this short piece.

PROPHETIC HUMOUR

Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) is renowned for his exemplary chivalry, leadership, diplomacy, international statesmanship, love and mercy. Embedded in the pristine character of the Prophet of Islam is an un-parallel sense of humour. The Prophet would laugh and joke often, he enjoyed playing with his grandsons Hasan and Husain where in one narration he allowed his grandsons to climb on his back whilst he was in prostration. The Prophet of Islam would smile often and makes jokes whereby even within these jokes there were messages of truth and wisdom. These characteristics are demonstrated when once an old woman came up to him and asked for paradise. He said, “Old women do not enter the paradise.” The woman started crying. As she started leaving the room, the Prophet, showing his subtle sense of humor, stopped her and said, “Old women will become young before entering heaven.” In another narration- A man broke his fast (intentionally) during Ramadan. The Prophet commanded him to emancipate a slave or fast for two months, or feed sixty poor men. He said, “I cannot provide.” The Prophet said, “Sit down.” Thereafter, a huge basket of dates was brought to the Prophet. He said, “Take this and give it as charity.” He said, “O Prophet of God, there is no one poorer than I.” The Prophet thereupon laughed so that his canine teeth became visible and said, “Eat it yourself.”

Coupled with the above narration, Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) faced opposition and deep provocation from his own family members and wider opponents. However, the overall response was one of patience, fortitude and supplications that the Lord may guide such individuals to a more exemplary and righteous path. The patience and fortitude of the prophetic teaching is embodied further when the companion of the Prophet, Ali was fighting in the battle field and an opponent spat at him. The normal response of an individual in a state of battle would have been to avenge this act but Ali forgave this individual on the premise that if he avenged his act it would have been due to a state of rage and anger which would have been at odds with the teachings of Islam when one is defending themselves in a battle.

MENS REA- CHARLIE HEBDO

One can question the “mens rea” of the editors at Charlie Hebdo when they are depicting & portraying satirical cartoons of people in power and subsequently religious leaders and personalities who for many are held in high esteem and reverence across the globe. Are such acts being done to foster critical debate or are they being done to provoke and incite racial and or religious hatred! There is no doubt that political satire on many occasions can be the medium by which one can convey the truth without facing immediate rebuttals that would unfold in a normal discourse. Satire with a political slant attracts huge audiences today from the”Colber Report”, “Daily Show” in the U.S. to “Have I Got News for You”, previously “Spitting Image” in the UK, “Al Bernameg” in Egypt and “Khabarnaak” in Pakistan to cite a few. What all these shows have in common is being able to balance what is comedy, sense of humour with what would be deemed as outright provocation and incitement of other people’s race or religious traditions. Taking the same thought process to the press, newspaper and wider print publications, there are regulatory bodies across many countries that act as an oversight, filter and can sanction organisations that delve into the realm of unacceptability in their publications. Maybe there is a case for arguing that if the “mens rea” of cartoonists or publishers is provocation to incite racial or religious hatred and it features religious leaders (Prophets, Saints, Sages etc) whom are respected and revered then such a realm should be subject to the strictest limitations and filters before publication is allowed. The universal journalistic ideal of extrapolating the truth with appropriate due diligence, verification and sensitivity should however not be compromised with the above filter in place.

DEFENDING THE HONOUR OF THE PROPHET

The proponents of the barbaric acts in the French capital in the last couple of days have tried to justify their acts by stating that they are doing it to “defend the honour of the Prophet.” This is all being done under the tutelage of Al-Qaeda and now Dae’sh (IS) inspired leadership. What this brief synopsis of the character of the Prophet of Islam whose honour they claim they are trying to defend has shown is that their acts of barbarism are far away from the prophetic character and teachings. If one wishes to attempt to defend the honour of the Prophet of Islam which ultimately is being defended under the realm of the Divine providence, the proponents of such barbaric acts and their ilk should start with trying to emulate his esteem characteristics which is a model par excellence of love, forgiveness, humanity and mercy for all humankind as opposed to the rage, hatred and terror they are propagating and conducting by hijacking the pristine teachings of Islam. The Unity March in Paris and in many major cities across Europe where a cross section of all faith and non-faith traditions have congregated together along with world leaders demonstrates that the universal values of humanity, mercy, forgiveness and at times having a sense of humour with appropriate wisdom are the principles and behaviour sets that will win the day and help extinguish the flames of fire that extremism and terrorism aim to spread such as in France in recent days and the world over.

By Kaleem Hussain


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“Bring Back My Homeland” Poem dedicated to the Palestinian Plight in Israel

I yearn to see my homeland
The land of olives, fruits and trees
The land that is sacred to the Abrahamic traditions

I yearn to see my homeland
The land that is free from the shackles of violence, war, bloodshed and hatred
The land where Muslims, Christians & Jews can live side by side

I yearn to see my homeland
The land where equal rights and justice is meted for all
The land where the sanctity of life is cherished by all

I yearn to see my homeland
The land where Moses, Jesus & Muhammad inspired all
The land where the Torah, Gospel & Quran is respected by all

I yearn to see my homeland
The land where the right to life, property, health and education is equal for all
The land where the right to one’s land is not violated, occupied and respected by law and all

I yearn to see my homeland
The land of peace, prosperity and tranquillity for all
The land that is my beloved homeland


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Biting His Way to Barcelona

2013-14 Pre- Season

I recall during last year’s pre-season when I visited Liverpool FC to see the team participate in an open training session which featured the players and manager going through the training drills in front of a packed Kop audience. One thing that was striking during that session was to see Luis Suarez training individually away from the main team players at that time. This could be explained initially as during that time, Luis Suarez was banned for around 8 games at the start of the season and was also returning to fitness and had his own specific drills to go through.

A certain twist I noted as I left the stadium that day was Luis Suarez getting into his car individually whilst his fellow team-mates and management were still in the stadium. I found this rather odd and informed my friend who was with me that day that I have a strong incline that Suarez’s days as Liverpool player are over as he certainly wants out. Lo and behold, the following morning, the newspaper headlines were brimming with information that Suarez wishes to move to Arsenal as he wants to play in the Champions League. Thereafter, the infamous £40,000,001 bid from Arsenal was put on the table which the Chairman of LFC- Fenway Sports Group famously replied “What are they smoking” over there at Arsenal with a bid of that nature which was more an insult to Liverpool than a genuine bid.

Fantastic Man Management

In light of the above and through the fantastic man management of Brendan Rodgers and some behind the scenes influence of Steven Gerrard, Luis Suarez decided to stay at Liverpool and thereafter signed a new contract at the same time. The season that Luis Suarez thereafter in 2013-14 is beyond human comprehension. After missing the early part of the season due to his ban, when Suarez returned he went on a goal scoring streak that nearly handed Liverpool FC the league title. He ended up being the top goal scorer in the league and winning many awards along the way such as the PFA Player’s Award and Sports Writer’s Award on what was truly an amazing season. The demons of the past had seemed to have been put to bed as Liverpool FC put in place a programme to integrate Suarez more to life in the UK and becoming a crucial cog of the LFC family through community initiatives and developing Suarez’s English language skills and making him more open to the media. The rehabilitation had been completed as many were led to believe. Liverpool had reached the Champions League qualification spot for the 2014-15 season and all was set for LFC to build on the remarkable season of 2013-14 where they were piped at the death by Manchester City for the league title to now go on and acquire more top quality additions to ensure that the 2013-14 season was not a one trip pony.

The World Cup Twist

As the World Cup in Brazil kicked of, there was an uncertainty as to whether Suarez would be fit due to him having a injury scare. A swift operation ensured that Suarez would be ready to face England in the crucial World Cup group game that he was so desperate to play in. The rest is history as they say- Suarez scored two wonder goals to all but eliminate England out of the World Cup. His reaction post match was very emotional and he also stated that he felt that the people- media at large in England have never really respected him. The signals were coming out that something could be brimming beneath the surface. Thereafter, in the infamous game v Italy, Suarez’s previous demons again came to the fore as he bit an Italian defender Chiellini in a feisty encounter which saw Uruguay qualify for the next round and Italy subsequently eliminated. The writing was on the wall as FIFA, the Football governing body imposed an unprecedented ban on the player for 4 months which would also be applied to domestic football. Suarez would not be able to frequent near a football ground or pitch during this ban. The harsh reality of the ban was that it seemed Liverpool FC, Suarez’s domestic club would be the party who would suffer the most from the ban which had been imposed due to an act by Suarez whilst wearing the Uruguay National shirt. The ban that Suarez faced previously enabled him to still play for his national team but this time, the FIFA judgement stated that this ban is imposed on the player regardless of his domestic or national club and the fact that this is not the first time Suarez has committed such as act was also equated in to the decision that was handed out.

The Suarez Twist

Suarez and his Uruguay representatives were not impressed at all by the severity of the FIFA judgement. Suarez made an initial statement that he had not bitten Chiellini and his momentum at the time had led to the unfortunate tussle between the players. As the Uruguay National team looked to appealing against the judgement for what they believe was a very harsh judgement, Suarez put out a statement on social media stating that he had in fact bitten Chiellini and apologised to the player and the football family for this incident and promised that this would never happen again. Reports are that Suarez had done this on his own volition without Liverpool having any idea that this was coming. There are also suggestions that as Suarez realised that Barcelona were interested in his services, he was pressurised to make this statement in order for Barcelona to consider putting in an official bid for him.

Barcelona Come Knocking

There is no doubt that for players who are from South America. Latin America, it is there dream to play for clubs like Real Madrid and Barcelona. Real Madrid had apparently lost interest in the player due to his latest antics. Barcelona sensed an opportunity to maybe able to get Suarez on the cheap in light of his latest antics and football ban. As it stands, negotiations have taken place between representatives from Liverpool and Barcelona and there is a strong possibility that a cash only deal of around £70 million may be agreed or a cash plus player deal if Alexi Sanchez can be convinced to move to Liverpool. The reports are that Sanchez does not favour a move to Liverpool and would prefer moving to Arsenal maybe due to the lure of residing in London as opposed to Liverpool.

Suarez & Liverpool FC

The reports are that Suarez had intimated to Brendan Rodgers at the end of last season that he wanted to move if the likes of a Madrid or Barcelona came knocking. Liverpool would only be willing to let him go if it is at the right price. The club has stood by Suarez in the heat of many controversies ranging from the Patrice Evra race row to the bite on the Chelsea defender Ivanovich. This stance is dictated by the fact that Luis Suarez the footballer is one of the world’s best strikers at this moment in time and playing at a level which puts him in the company of Messi and Ronaldo. Suarez’s goal scoring record at Liverpool has been phenomenal. He has netted 82 goals in 133 games which equates to a goal every 62 minutes. The hierarchy at Liverpool have now come to acknowledge that after the theatrics of last year’s pre-season and Suarez’s new latest biting scandal whereby he has now done this on three occasions during his playing career with Ajax, Liverpool and Uruguay, the LFC board have decided to grant the player his wish of fulfilling his dream move to join Barcelona all be it at the right price. Anything less than £70 million based on the current player market rate valuations would not be a good deal for Liverpool based on a all out cash deal. There is no doubt that Suarez’s goal scoring threat will be missed as his performances on the pitch have set the Anfield faithful in jubilation. The old adage that no player is bigger than the club certainly has to stand. As I for one will be sad to see Suarez leave the club as I have enjoyed his dazzling displays and goals for the last few seasons, but when a player mentally no longer wishes to play for the club then the honourable thing needs to be done especially when for players from South-Latin America, playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona is their dream.

Breeding Goal Scorers

One thing that one can be assured of is that Liverpool FC have a history of unravelling some great strikers. In recent times, the likes of Robbie Fowler, Michael Owen, Fernando Torres and Suarez to name a few. If the board use the money from the Suarez deal wisely, I am sure that a new super star striker will take the mantle to take this great club forward so that it can be a force again at the domestic and European level. With Brendan Rodger’s at the helm, I am confident that he can steer the club through this period too after his fantastic evolution in the first two seasons to ensure that Liverpool FC will now remain a force at all fronts for many seasons to come.


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The Interest In Interest

Since the 2008 financial crisis, interest rates in the UK have been hovering at 0.5% from March 2009 onwards having dropped -4% from a rate of 4.5% in October 2008. The Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has felt the need to keep interest rates at these historical low rates to galvanise the UK economy out of recession and foster growth, employment and consumer spending.  This has resulted in the mainstream banks slashing the interest rates on saving accounts diverting customers to spend more or look at alternative long term saving options such as Government bonds. One sector that has been able to benefit from these low rates is the mortgage sector. With variable mortgage rates hovering at around 2% above the base rate has enabled consumers to enjoy the benefits of lower monthly mortgage repayments and hence leaving more in the kitty for spending on other goods- luxuries which the Government has been relying on to help the economy come out of the recessionary phase.

If we fast forward to 2014, the continual trend of low interest rates could soon be about to change. The unemployment rate, which hovered around 8% from 2009 until mid-2013, fell to 6.9% in February. The number of people out of work fell by 77,000 to 2.24 million in the three months to February (ONS). The unemployment rate of the economically active population is 6.9%, and the number of people in work is 30.39 million. The claimant count- the number of people claiming Jobseeker’s Allowance- fell by 30,400 to 1.14 million in March.  Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England had previously hinted that when the unemployment rate falls below the 6% mark, we can expect interest rates to begin to rise. A further important indicator to trigger an interest rate rise will be inflation. The UK annual consumer prices fell to its lowest in over four years in March 2014. The inflation rate decelerated for the sixth consecutive month to 1.6%, down from 1.7% in February (ONS). These inflation statistics will most likely holt a potential interest rise in the interim period as the Bank of England in tandem with the government will be keen to avoid a double dip recession moving forward. However, another important index in the interest matrix is that of GDP. The UK economy grew by 0.8% in the first quarter of 2014, up slightly from 0.7% in the final quarter of 2013 (ONS). This marks the fifth consecutive period of GDP growth, the longest upward trend since the financial crisis in 2008.

Although the MPC is independent of government, with the elections looming in May 2015, the coalition led government would not wish to bear the brunt of consumer reaction to a rise in interest rates so close to an election. Politically, it may be more beneficial to witness the interest rate rise sooner than later if this rise is indeed going to take place. Alternatively, if the economic indicators direct towards keeping interest rates constant at their current rates, this can also be utilised in a positive way by the government if need be. What is critical for the government, economists and consumers alike is that they all need to be interested in interest. Interest rates have a bearing on loans to help businesses, have an impact on savings, mortgage repayments and overall consumer spending in the economy. The coalition led government have recently introduced a range of measures to encourage people to get on the property ladder such as the Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme, Help to Buy Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, Shared Ownership Scheme and New Buy Scheme.  The latest Land Registry statistics shows that March 2014 house prices are up 5.6% since March 2013. London has experienced a 12.4% increase in average house prices since March 2013 with further regional variations across the country. However, March 2014 house prices were down 0.4% since February 2014. One may witness further downward spirals with reference to average house prices and purchases based on the new Mortgage Market Review (MMR) requirements which have kicked in from April 2014. Hence, it is important that we should be interested in interest rate trends during this period and hence prepared for the rise whenever it materialises.