What is behind Stephen “Suleyman” Schwartz’s hateful rants?

Indigo Jo, the latest person to be threatened with legal action by Stephen Schwartz, has written a piece analysing Stephen Schwartz’s vitriol and hateful spewing. There are many interesting and telling things in this piece and one such is:

Schwartz had a poem published in The Muslim Magazine entitled The Ballad of Imam Shamil, intended to be sung to the tune of Pretty Boy Floyd by Woody Guthrie, praising the Muslim jihadist who fought the Russians, at a time when Chechens were doing the same [Indigo Jo Blogs]”

considering that “jihad” is now a dirty word especially amongst some of Schwartz’s buddies. Is it safe to now assume and accuse that Schwartz himself is a closet jihadist and a supporter of “Islamo-fascism”, and is into a “death cult” and has “re-invented” himself blah blah blah….

Schwartz Attacks!

Over on Indigo Jo’s Blog Stephen Schwartz threatens legal action (what else is new, he sent me an email a few years ago as well) against the blogger and calls him “illiterate and dishonest” and a “jahil mentor”. He accuses Indigo Jo of hiding behind his non de plume but anyone with half a braincell just needs to click on the link “About Me and My Blog” and it is stated quite clearly:

“This is the blog of Matthew Smith, also known as Yusuf, a convert to Islam who lives in New Malden, in south London or Surrey depending on your point of view.”

Wow great journalism, but I guess establishing true facts has never been part of Mr. Schwartz’s game.

He also has a few choice words reserved for Shaykh Hamza Yusuf (Hafidhullah) (now there’s a surprise) calling him “Handsome Hanson” (masha’Allah – Shaykh Hamza is beautiful both outwardly, inwardly and by word and deed,? he calls my good friend Aftab Malik “another munafiq” and yours truly is labled a “loudmouth slob”! SubhanAllah all this from a “professional” journalist. Poor bloke, we should all make dua for him.

Could I suggest that everyone who has a blog link up to the comments section on the specific post on Indigo Jo’s blog as it demonstrates quite clearly why people should not take Mr. Schwartz seriously, this should be communicated far and wide. No one needs to give a commentary on the words as the words and tone speak for themselves.

I’m filing this post under “Scams, Hoaxes and Misinfo” which, if you read any of Schwartz’s pieces, you’ll realise it is all misinfo.

Hajj Tips

Primarily for those who are going for the first time based on my first and thus far only time! Feel free to add your tips in the comments.

Drink lots of water

I found that whenever I got the start of a headache it was due to the lack of water, this is a warning sign that you are starting to dehydrate so drink plenty of water and drink it immediately, always keep a bottle with you and always top up at every opportunity. The Saudi government water fountains are good, we drank lots from them with no ill effects.

Wet toilet seat?

OK, so you are not going to see many toilet seats in the wudu areas for the Haramain, however there are some western-style toilets and more often than not they are soaking wet. What I tended to do was to hose down the seat with the istanja device, and gave the seat a really good wash. You can then be safe in the knowledge that the wetness is as a result of the water rather than that other stuff. If I had to use the squat toilet then I would also do the same. Be aware that, usually, there is no toilet paper, this means either carrying some with you or just get used to doing istanja properly with water and water only. Whilst the facilities at both the Harams are quite good and well maintained, you’ll find that the port-a-loos in Mina are stomach churningly nasty, there is really not much you can do about them, you just have to block your nose somehow or just get used to it, remember you’ll be in Ihram at Mina so you can’t perfume yourself either. Same rule applies prior to using the facilities, hose before you goes!

Wudu

Keep at least a 0.5 litre bottle of water with you, this is your portable wudu device. If you use the water frugally you can complete your wudu with this amount of water. This comes in handy in places where there is a queue for the wudu facilities (Mina) or if you are on the road. Usually helps if someone can pour the water for you.

Feet

Your poor feet will take a real beating and you will be in discomfort. Us poor Western Muslims, with our soft, pampered and dainty feet are just not used to it. It is a good idea to take Vaseline to give your feet a good coating when they get dry. It’s a good idea to paste them with it at night, take some athlete’s foot cream or spray and some blister plasters which you can get from Boots the Chemist, you may want to check the fiqh position on using these as they have to stay on for a few days. Rest the poor things at every opportunity and invest in a good pair of sandals, you won’t regret it. You’ll be surprised at how quickly your feet will adjust but it is very painful. Just as well it is all expiation for one’s sins!

Toiletries

When in the state of ihram it is forbidden to wear fragrances or even wash with toiletries that are fragranced. Therefore, you should take with you fragrance-free toiletries such as the range made by Simple.

Also be advised that when you are in ihram NOT to use the soap in the soap dispensers that are there in the Haram’s wudu area, these were fragranced when I was there.

Medicine

Aside from any prescription medication you may have, I found it useful to keep the following: paracetamol and ibuprofen tablets, Zantac (for heartburn and other mild digestive ailments), some diarrhoea tablets (I didn’t need to take these when I was there), Chloraseptic throat spary and Vicks mentholated. Lemsip or Beechams cold and flu remedy should be in your kit as well. You can get most of this stuff out there but it is handy to have it on you when you go. It is always prudent to keep a small first aid kit as well.

Expect to get a sore throat and a cold or flu, there is no escape!

Communication

Mobile phone coverage is generally very good and it would be best if you obtained a Saudi SIM card before you went and gave your number out to near and dear ones. SaudiSim is one such company that you can get a SIM from now, I am not sure how they compare with any others providers. You can top up credit in most shops and places in Saudi.

If you have a flashy phone with all the bells and whistles leave it behind, you don’t need it! Get yourself a simple Nokia such as a 1112 it has 380 hours standby and 5 hours talk time or what I took with me the 3310 which has similar talk and standby times. Make sure you get the phone UNLOCKED before you go otherwise it will not take the Saudi Sim! The appeal of these phones is that you don’t have to worry about charging them up every day, you get about 2 weeks of standy time. This is very important if you are going with family or in a group, you always need to be contactable. Another thing you should invest in for your mobile is a good neckband. It is convenient and ideal in the melee of the Haram.

We were thinking of taking a set of walkie talkies that have a 6km range but not sure how the Saudi Authorities would deal with them.

You can forget about the Internet, there are places where you can hook up to the net but really, you can live without it, I didn’t access or miss it at all in the time I was there.

Food

Most places serve good food and we did not suffer any ill affects, even the “grubby” roadside cafés were good. There is a range of food from the aforementioned cafés to your more recognisable fast-food chains. McDonald’s is strangely missing from the haram but there is Burger King, Pizza Hut and KFC. Hardees is a good alternative to Burger King, in fact I thought Hardees was far more tasty. Expect to pay the prices for these that you would back home so these are not really an everyday option unless you can really afford it (aside from the health implications), I recommend some Baskin & Robbins milk-shake too, hmmmm sooo gooood. The Middle East’s premier fried chicken outlet al-Baik is a worth a visit, it’s not located in the immediate vicinity of the Haram and you’ll find it near Jamraat, be warned it is crammed and very busy. There are plenty of other good options in the shopping centres so there is not much to worry about when it comes to your daily victuals. Mina is an exception, there are a couple of roadside “shops” and some nice African ladies boil eggs and cook chips on the side of the roads. You can get tea, drinks, fruit, bread, tinned fish, processed cheese etc so you can make do and will have to exist on very little.

Bag

Carry a compact bag such as a rucksack or an over the shoulder one where you can keep a small Qur’an, Hajj notes etc. Keep a pen and a small notepad and a bottle of water. Get yourself a compact prayer mat as well. The bag will be subject to search in and out of the Grand Mosques so needs to be easily openable. Try not to carry what you don’t need.

Can’t think of anything else at the moment.