The Scramble for Africa
Thomas Pakenham, Abacus 1992
'It wasn't all bad, we did give you the railways!' - this is the get-out clause of many empires.
Scramble for Africa manages to explain the psychology of those who now stand as statues all over Europe. Whether it's Queen Victoria, Winston Churchill or Leopold across the sea, nationalistic intellectual commentators love to masturbate over the merits of these leaders - or worse, want their contributions to be part of the education system, indoctrinating the young in their misguided morality and views about the human race.
It was not long ago that the most vicious of empires slaughtered millions in Africa without any remorse. This book explains the competitive, evil nature of European leaders whose blood-drenched greed and capitalism went to such indecent levels.
The Travels of Ibn Battuta
Travellers in general have been the servants of rulers with ulterior motives but here was one that genuinely consumed himself in the actual surroundings and an interest in people.
Armed with simplicity, Ibn Battuta crossed many continents, and his observations are full of curiosity and intrigue. A well-travelled person should be able to elevate himself from his ignorant opinions and explain not only the common, sometimes annoying, traits of humanity, but break down what bonds people together and how they bond.
Messages to the World: the statements of Osama Bin Laden
Bruce Lawrence (ed), Verso 2005
This is an encyclopedia of letters addressed to the leaders in the Arab world, from the man and the organisation that has changed our world this century. In them, he pleads for a change of direction away from subservience to the colonial and imperial powers.
The tragedy of 9/11 in all its epic proportions is not a far cry from the despair of not only the Muslim world but of many other corners of the world at the military and economic terrorism carried out by the West, in all its unquestioned acceptability. If nothing justifies the position of Osama Bin Laden, then the same rule must apply to states across the globe. This book shows that state terrorism is the catalyst for resistance, however uncomfortable that might be.
The telephone directory of Bradford, 1960 and 2009
The best way to study the changing face of Britain. Check out the phenomenon of white flight, not just in run-down areas but the more affluent areas.
We loved Mr and Mrs Wright and thought we would get married to Jane and Susan, their daughters, but now they live in Eccleshill and that's a no-go area for us - we sent many invites for many years, but no response. Love you Susan, still!
While There is Light
Tariq Mehmood, Carcanet 2003
Tariq Mehmood chooses a crap title for a great semi-biography, as from his birthplace of Pakistan to Bradford, he is thrown into a world of insecurity and conflicts. This is essentially the story of Britain's second generation Asians in the late 60s and early 70s, against a backdrop of racism and white rules. The regularity of physical attacks on Asians was too much to bear and the famous Bradford 12 took the law into their own hands, and rightly so. If the system was not going to stop the attacks then they were going to prepare the petrol bombs for the National Front. This is a fascinating story of a bunch of Asian anarchists who fought the law and won.
A Mirror to the Blind
Abdul Sattar Edhi, 1996
Together with his wife, Balquis, Abdul Sattar Edhi started the Edhi Charity foundation in Pakistan, which has since grown into a huge free health service. This book is full of the conviction of a person who stands absolute in the philosophy of charity, a duty not a plea. This man has seen it all yet keeps his focus on what is righteous.
The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins, Bantam 2006
The great hope of atheism fails miserably in attempting to convince us believers that we've got it all wrong. Mystics far greater than Dawkins, and less patronising, pondered these questions and died without finding the absolute answer. His Holiness Dawkins offers little but cheap attacks and absurd, fantasised egotistical assumptions. I think he wants to be God.
Many talk about it, insult it, burn it, flush it down toilets (Guantanamo), misrepresent it (Wilders), attempt to re-write it, abuse it, but they never READ IT for themselves. The Qur'an is not just for Muslims; it clearly throws down a gauntlet - so challenge the writings intellectually.
Aki Nawaz is a singer and musician. He is part of Fun-da-mental, a group that fuses left-wing politics, Islam, anti-racism and hip hop. His selections can be purchased here.
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