Major Leon ‘Bogo’ Cornwall, in his own words a ‘prodigal son’, was born as a Methodist. He would later become disillusioned with the church for ‘failing to be relevant to the issues of young people’, and in the early seventies, would be attracted to the Black Power Movement and later on to Marxist / Leninist ideals which offered him a new vision for the world and his country.
Speaking at the Cordoba Seminars organised by The Cordoba Foundation in East London on February the 1st, 2010, Major Cornwall explained how justice, peace and equality was what he was after, where the vulnerable would have a significant place in society. In 1979, Major Cornwall would leave his family and join the People’s Revolutionary Army, which overthrew the government and established what was essentially a socialist government and which would work towards ‘Grenada being a better, more prosperous and cultured nation’.
However the Revolution was short-lived as Cornwall admits, ‘the internal struggles between members and the failure to grasp the totality of the situation’, meant that disputes arose. By 1983, the leader of the Revolution (and president of Grenada) was himself overthrown and executed by his colleagues, prompting an invasion by the US army. Major Cornwall and sixteen other colleagues were caught and imprisoned. Though they were sentenced to death, the sentences were changed to life imprisonment and Major Cornwall spent some 27 years in prison before being released in September 2009.
Today, Leon Cornwall is a changed man. Having rediscovered God and religion in prison, he says that ‘my vision for a world has not changed, but my philosophy of how to go about it has’. He now professes non-violence and education as a movement of social change. So transformed is he, that everywhere he goes, he acknowledges his mistake for the Revolution and asks for forgiveness: ‘I am deeply sorry for the pain, the sorrow, the loss, the chaos, the confusion that was brought to Grenada through our impulsive, thoughtless actions’ he remarked at the seminar.
From his own life story, it is evident Major Cornwall believes that part of the problem associated with the demise of the Revolution was that the revolutionaries had turned away from God and therefore lacked a spiritual base. “The Revolution gave men and women power, with the gun as the source of that power. Many were accountable only unto themselves and few dared question the doings of the leaders. For many of the players, the Revolution was a god. This left us in deep trouble, unable to appreciate human weaknesses and unable to make sound spiritual decisions when they truly mattered”, reflected Major Cornwall.
Major Leon Cornwall’s story is incredibly moving and inspiring. It is not about social recognition or acceptance but it is about leadership taking responsibility for their actions on their people and for any catastrophe that may have been caused by their actions. In today’s climate, as world leaders are being challenged to take responsibility for their actions, they would do well to learn from Major Cornwall’s humility in acknowledging his mistakes.
The full speech by Major Leon Cornwall at the Cordoba Seminars is published here
The Cordoba Foundation welcomes the launch of the European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC), which published their first ground-breaking report on ‘Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: A London Case Study’. Held at the London Muslim Centre on 28 January 2010, the report was co-authored by Dr Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Dr Robert Lambert MBE, of the University of Exeter. The report illuminates how the contexts of fear and prejudice against Muslims are providing a basis for violence against Muslim communities.
According to the report, Muslim Londoners face a threat of violence and intimidation from primarily three groups: a small violent extremist nationalist milieu that has broadly the same political analysis as the British National Party (BNP); street gangs with no allegiance with or affinity to the BNP and thirdly from a small group of the general London public. All groups as illustrated by the report appear to be acting on prejudices gained via negative media portrayals of Muslims as terrorists and posing a security threat.
The report explains, “The perils of Islamophobia and anti-Muslim hate crime threaten to undermine basic human rights, fundamental aspects of citizenship and co-existing partnerships for Muslims and non- Muslims alike in contemporary Europe.” Moreover, “routine portrayals of Islam as a religion of hatred, violence and inherent intolerance have become key planks for the emergence of extremist nationalist, anti-immigration politics in Europe – planks which seek to exploit populist fears and which have the potential to lead to Muslim disempowerment in Europe”, assert the authors of the report. In addition, some “sections of the media have created a situation where… unfounded claims and anxieties of the other – such that politicians from Austria to the Britain, and the Netherlands to Spain, feel comfortable in using terms like ‘Tsunamis of Muslim immigration’”.
The report is intended to introduce politicians, public servants, police, media and the general public to Muslim community perspectives and thus comes up with some preliminary recommendations for dfferent key stakeholders within the community. A detailed report with further recommendations is expected to be launched in July 2010.
The Cordoba Foundation will be working very closely with EMRC to ensure the research findings are publicised so as to empower marginalised and disadvantaged communities and promoting community cohesion.
The full report is available from here
On closing the World Parliament of Religions on the 9th of December after 6 full days of deliberation, discussion and celebration, The Dalai Lama challenged the participants to put what they had discussed to action. In order for love and compassion to become a reality, he said that there would need to be a new type of ‘secularism’ – not a secularism that denies the importance of religion but one which respects the practitioners of all religions and of none.
‘Beliefs may differ, but the core practices of love and compassion are common in all traditions’ he concluded.
The Dalai Lama’s comments put an end to a highly successful gathering where the theme was on coming together despite differences to show unity in common challenges. That unity was displayed with a gesture of solidarity with the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and also showed solidarity with representatives of indigenous people from around the world. One of the main discussion points throughout theParliament was an Islam 101 series which focussed on improving people’s understanding and perceptions of Islam. The series featured contributions from Professor Tariq Ramadan; Dr Chandra Muzzafer; Imam Faizel Abdul Rauf; Imam Khalid Griggs amongst other leaders and civil society activists. TCF also featured prominently in the Parliament sitting in on 4 panel discussions.
For more information on the Parliament’s events, please click here
As young people of the Christian and Islamic faiths we call upon those negotiating on our behalf in Copenhagen to acknowledge our voice and to attend to the critical matters of man-made climate change with urgency and vigour.
Although we are individuals from a great many backgrounds, ideals and variances of faith, we draw upon our collective moral and religious conscience to take responsibility for the condition of our planet and its people. We are aware of the evidence, understand the issues, and recognise that global warming will produce numerous unacceptable repercussions; in particular we are aware that changes in our climate will have disproportionate effects on the poor and irreversible consequences for future generations. Our faith obligates us to care for the earth and to attend to those who are in need and as our representatives we call on you to take heed of this and act effectively.
To help mitigate climate change…
As a growing number of your constituents, we are ready, willing and able to do our part in mitigating the effects of climate change and are calling on you to lead us in immediate action. Action must start now. It is unacceptable that the majority of the country does not know the true extent of climate change and you must address this through developing a stronger awareness at all levels(including individuals, communities, and businesses).
To drive these changes we want to see stronger policy incentives for sustainable practises and deterrents against harmful practises (especially through greater accountability and penalties). We demand a refocus toward greener technology and innovation through more investment as well as responsiveness to the effects of the total production process. Furthermore we demand a fair global deal with developed countries taking the lead in responsibility. Failure to act adequately will impinge on future generations and account for millions of lives worldwide.
To help us adapt to climate change…
We ask that all people are educated on climate change to give them the knowledge that they need to engage with strategy and policy making, and that knowledge and good practices developed locally are shared and fed into government strategy and policies for adaptation. A political and economic system more conducive to adaptation must be pursued which removes barriers to adaptation by promoting trade justice, transparency and the provision of sufficient resources (money, technology, skills).
We ask that your approach to the negotiations in Copenhagen ensures that local economies and agriculture are developed. More policymakers should work with farmers, equipping them to keep food in production locally. They should be empowered to maintain ecosystems and bio diversity and to share resources among their communities, so they are able to work together on the ground. Policymakers need to also recognise that faith based organisations are a catalyst for empowerment and delivery.
To tackle the issues on funding our response to climate change…
When signing the UN Convention, countries agreed to the principle that as developed countries with worldwide climate debt they are morally, politically and legally obligated to take full financial responsibility for their actions.
This responsibility should be two fold; ensuring that our future development puts climate justice at its centre alongside enabling countries in the south to fulfil their right to develop.
Two hundred billion dollars a year is urgently required to tackle this critical environmental crisis. This should be raised through public finance and administered by the UN to ensure transparency and democratic representation of all nations. We see no place for the World Bank’s involvement in raising the required funds. We need to make it explicit that this is not charity but a historical debt that developed nations have incurred through overconsumption. It is clear that this is achievable based on the recent bail out of financial institutions costing $3-7 trillion and the Iraq war which cost $1 trillion. We call for developed nations to commit a minimum of 1% of their GDP to climate finance without conditionality.
Just financial implementation is necessary by using the most appropriate community-based and sustainable solutions to lead to a low carbon future. These include partnering with faith groups and young people, the future generation, who will be left with the consequences of inaction. Communities can propagate and maintain hope, raise awareness and morals and contribute to a changed mindset. Furthermore they can promote a rights-based approach to climate change based upon shared belief, openness, responsibility and accountability.
We believe in a global green deal that will deliver real economic benefits for all.
Technology is the right of all and as we are called to be stewards of nature, so we are also called to be good stewards of the ideas and technology that we have developed. This is a crucial time for the global north to use its technologies in partnership with the global south to ensure growth on an environmentally constructive pathway.
Western countries are too possessive of technology so we need to give access to our resources. This should include the creation of a fund to buy out patents and restructuring patents to take advantage of the long-term benefits of their utilisation by developing countries. Governments need to commit to investments through small businesses and social entrepreneurs to provide green sustainable jobs and transferring technology abroad; this will have long term benefits to all including themselves and all other stakeholders. Accountability and responsibility should be undertaken by a partnership of stakeholders including world leaders, grass roots community leaders, faith leaders, NGOs and business people. These proposals will instil a sense of justice which is not defined by short-term economic incentives.
For more information on this subject (and other related issues) please click here
On the joyous occaision of the completion of the Hajj and the celebration of Eid-ul Adha, The Cordoba Foundation takes this opportunity to wish you Eid Mubarak. May you enjoy peace, happiness and tranquility with your loved ones, friends and family during these blessed days.
The book is a noble attempt to bring the injustices of the Palestinian people to light. Throughout the narrative the authors interweave their own first-hand experience of being in Palestine, where they have travelled extensively on numerous occasions, with the personal stories of the Palestinian people and friends they met along their way. One of the distinguishing features of this book is not only their accessible writing style and frank assessment of the situation on the ground but also their use of over 50 photographs and maps to illustrate their points and provide a ‘Graphic Perspective” of the situation on the ground.
In their relatively short book the authors manage to cover a great number of vital issues including the illegal Israeli settlements, the separation wall, the systematic campaign of house demolitions and the inhumane siege on Gaza. As they have clearly stated on many occasions, there is a great need to let the world see with their own eyes what is going on hidden away behind the wall and that exposure and accessibility is what they hope their book will achieve.
The authors were joined by a distinguished panel of guests including, Oliver McTernan (Co-Founder and Director of Forward Thinking), John McHugo (Chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine), Anas Al-Tikriti (CEO of the Cordoba Foundation) and Dr Daud Abdullah (Director of the Middle East Monitor).
Following a welcoming opening statement by Anas Al-Tikriti, Bill and Kathleen briefly spoke about their book and the situation in Palestine.
At the half time break members of the audience were able to buy the book provided by the publishers Pluto Press at a discounted price. They were then able to meet the two authors in person and get their copies of the book signed.
Once the session resumed John McHugo gave a very powerful speech in which he discussed the existence of a culture of denial in the Western Press and he condemned the platform given to many writers in the Western media who have demonstrated a complete lack of competence in objectively covering the situation in Palestine by reference to their continued bias and distorted reporting of the facts. He also expressed his desire to see books such as Bill and Kathleen’s in sixth form colleges around the world in order to foster a greater awareness of the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories among younger people.
Kathleen then honoured the audience with a short reading from chapter one of her book in which she described the difficulty and frustration that the Israeli separation wall, with its countless barriers and checkpoints, are causing for Palestinian residents.
An animated panel discussion followed in which Bill and Kathleen were asked to tell the audience a little more about their journey and experiences in writing the book. Dr Daud Abdullah also took the opportunity to highlight the absurdity of the fact that this week the world celebrated the twenty year anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall and yet no one in the Western press is drawing the obvious parallels to the current existence of the bigger, longer and increasingly more devastating Israeli Separation Wall.
Following this, the floor was open to the audience to ask their own questions of the panel.
Among the many questions asked were ones regarding the value of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. The panel had different takes on this matter. Whereas Bill and Kathleen were in favour of BDS and any other means of mobilising international solidarity for the Palestinian people, Oliver McTernan was slightly more wary and said that although boycotts were useful we should be careful not to penalise Jewish people in general and he pointed to the many Jewish friends of Palestine who themselves oppose the Israeli regime.
Please click here for a book review
To purchase the book click here
The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) wishes to clarify the points raised by a document published by the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) on the 11th of November 2009 titled ‘Anwar Al-Awlaki: the UK Connections’, which alleges links between Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki and The Cordoba Foundation, as well as references to comments made by the leader of the opposition, David Cameron about our organisation in 2008.
This accusation regarding our association with Imam Al-Awlaki is made as a result of an event organised by Cage Prisoners in September 2009, which we agreed to support through undertaking a sponsorship package of the event. This agreement was made in August 2009 and the sponsorship fees were forwarded to Cage Prisoners within a few days of the agreement.
Upon the publication of the event’s advertisement a few weeks later, TCF became aware, for the first time that among the speakers was Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki via a video link. Immediately, TCF contacted the organisers and clearly communicated its serious reservations about the inclusion of Imam Al-Awlaki, and explained its position that any association with this person would go counter to the vision, policy and approach of TCF. Indeed, Imam Anwar Al-Awlaki has in recent years attacked and declared un-Islamic (Haram or Kufr) a number of initiatives and projects which TCF was either running or fully supported which encouraged further and wider engagement of young Muslims with British and European politics and the media. It was therefore to our satisfaction that he ultimately did not feature in the event proceedings.
In respect to David Cameron’s comment in a speech before the Community Security Trust on March 3rd, 2008, a well-known pro-Zionist organization, in which he accused The Cordoba Foundation of being a ‘front for the Muslim Brotherhood’, amongst other things, TCF wrote to Mr. Cameron on April 10, 2008, refuting a number of his claims and allegations featured his speech and seeking evidence and clarification of his accusations that TCF was as he described it.
The Cordoba Foundation has yet to receive a response from Mr. Cameron.
The Cordoba Foundation wishes to express its dismay towards the dire standards of professionalism, let alone accuracy, sound academic research and even truth, demonstrated by the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC). One would have expected from CSC a direct enquiry to ascertain the facts and distinguish truth from lies, or at least a clarification of the accusations leveled against TCF.
It is with regret that TCF notes that organisations like the CSC are repeatedly engaging in amateurish and flawed reporting for the simple purposes of achieving notoriety of the tabloid mudslinging genre. It is surprising that any political party, organization or individual should continue to accord such organisations credibility or respect.
The Cordoba Foundation continues to pursue its aims and objectives through actual projects, real initiatives and true engagement with those who matter for the future of our country.
The Cordoba Foundation
13th November 2009
Notes to editors
- For further information, please contact Amjad Saleem, Head of Communications on 020 89913372 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Following this, The Cordoba Foundation (TCF) and Lord Ahmed of Rotherham convened a meeting at the House of Lords on 27th October 2009, to discuss the revelations that the PREVENT program involved spying on individuals from the Muslim community thereby having damaging implications on present and future communal relations.
Opening the discussion, Lord Ahmed remarked the seriousness of the stories that were emerging from the PREVENT program but stressed that ‘ it should not be mistaken that to be critical of the PVE agenda, one was against preventing violent extremism, rather that it was those at the forefront of preventing violent extremism who the ones voicing their loudest concerns about the current PVE program’
Also addressing a broad spectrum of guests including academics, politicians, community leaders and the media, were speakers including Arun Kundnani (author of ‘Spooked:How not to prevent violent extremism’ published by the Institute of Race Relations), Dr Phyliss Starkey (Chair, Communities and Local Government Select Committee), Dr Muhammad Abdul-Bari (Secretary-General, Muslim Council of Britain), Saleh Mamon (Campaign Against Criminalising Communities) and Robert Lambert MBE (former head of Scotland Yard’s Muslim Contact Unit and Co Founding Director of European Muslim Research Centre).
Speakers were unanimous that whilst measures to tackle violent extremism were justified, this should not be at the expense of people’s civil liberties and creating suspicion, distrust and division with and between communities, especially amongst Muslims. Arun Kundnani highlighted the issue of surveillance and the safeguarding of human rights, he said “individuals particularly youth are being targeted in terms of their political and religious views which is leading to a process of depoliticisation amongst the youth”.
Chief Executive of The Cordoba Foundation, Anas Altikriti, noted “that great strides to engage Muslim youth in particular, within the political process would have been wasted if the youth are made to feel that their political views are irrelevant.”
Saleh Mamon focussed on the erosion of civil liberties and the potential damage to social cohesion caused by PREVENT, whilst Robert Lambert provided evidence from his experience within counter terrorism of best practices for dealing with violent extremists.
In closing the meeting, Anas Altikriti announced TCF will hold future meetings to further the discussion on the PREVENT program and to identify possible strategies for improvement.
The discussion report is available to be downloaded here
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Faith and Humanity
As-Salaamu ‘Alaykum Wa Rahmatullah (Peace and Blessings be Upon You)
As the blessed month of Ramadan knocks at our door, we would like to congratulate you on this Holy Month.
We are all travellers on the same path, struggling to seek Allah’s pleasure. The price to acquire the traits of self control, serenity, awareness and respect of the other is a permanent personal battle against our innermost evil desires. Death, life, experiences, ordeals, pain, solitude, joy and happiness, are lessons to be learnt and taught on this journey.
The most beautiful and the most difficult lesson to be learnt on this journey? That our final destination is to find Allah and that can only be done by reconciling with the deepest level of our being (al-fitra) – the original light that Allah breathed into our hearts. Thus the secret of life is hidden in the place from which you set out.
A wise man once said, ‘Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space lies our freedom and power to choose our response. In those choices lie our growth and happiness.’
Such is the meaning of profound spirituality. We are responsible for the actions we take and within these actions there is a reminder. For within this space, there is God and one’s heart, as the Qur’an reminds us: “…and know that [the knowledge of] God lies between the human being and his heart.”
Hence within this space everyone is asked to take up a dialogue of intimacy, sincerity and love with The Most-High. Within this space is the horizon of all spirituality requiring man to acquire a force of being and doing, rather than to undergo despotic relentlessness of a life reduced to mere instinct. Within this space, we marry the purpose of our existence with the purpose of our subsistence.
The Holy Month of Ramadan enables us to rediscover and reform this space whilst soothing one’s heart close to the recognition of the Creator. Close to the awareness of The One is the comprehension of the message of the Qur’an, its words and inspirations. To serve humanity with the higher purpose of peace and equity… To awaken your conscience in the proximity of the wounds and the injustices people face… To move away from bad thoughts and the darkest dimensions of one’s being.
At the heart of our consumer society, where materialism and individualism drive our daily lives, the Blessed Month of Ramadan reinforces our personal effort and commitment, invites us towards the deep horizons of introspection and meaning, reminds us of silence,
restraint and remembrance, and inculcates the importance of detail, precision, rigour and discipline of practice.
The Blessed Month of Ramadan is a feast of the faith of fraternal atmosphere that is shared with all brothers and sisters, to portray the humility and compassion of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him) towards the downtrodden and distressed, irrespective of culture and creed. Ramadan is about realizing a prophetic vision of a just world and reflecting it in our mindset, etiquette, and actions, so that we become 21st century ambassadors of the Prophet (Peace be Upon Him): advocating justice, compassion and love; reminding ourselves of the role he played in promoting education, entrepreneurship, caring for the elderly, caring for people with disabilities, love for the people of other faiths, and caring for the neighbor.
So this Ramadan let us undertake a journey, ‘a journey back to the beginning’; a journey that is, completely inward, into intimacy, solitude between ourselves and our self – in the place where there is no longer anyone but God, and our self. This Ramadan let us reconcile disputes between families and friends as a sign of the remembrance of God. This Ramadan, let us strive to reinforce this remembrance of God and to remember our duties with the people, for to be with God is to be with the people. This Ramadan let us not only journey into intimacy and solitude within our self, but inculcate our responsibility as creations of God to serve humanity
Ramadan Mubarak and many happy returns