Dil Nawaz has conducted this exclusive interview with Lionel Ross”Men of Conviction” for PTH.
“Men of Conviction” tells the fascinating tale of three desperate and disparate young men, released from prison on the same day. They are Hussein, the Islamist preacher of Jihad, Wayne the burglar and Dovid the religious Jew and ‘one offence fraudster’. “Men of Conviction” is their story over the ensuing ten years. Hussein, predictably, builds a shadowy Jihadist organisation with the intention, through terrorism, of creating the Caliphate of Britannia under Shari’a law. Wayne is determined to change his life and almost accidentally finds himself the owner of a chain of Massage Parlours. By his previous standards, this is the path to wealth and respectability! Dovid, on the other hand, with the aid of his wealthy grandfather, becomes a successful property developer. The action takes place in such contrasting locations as 21st century Manchester, Istanbul, Afghanistan, Belfast and breakaway Islamic republic of Terkenstan . The contemporary background to the plots ensures the airing of such issues as Islamist and Irish terrorism, religious intolerance and drug trade. The main characters are easily recognised as typical members of today’s British multi-cultural society. As the cataclysmic ending approaches, the paths of the three main characters are destined to cross again in an epic and amazing ending.
About the Author
Lionel Ross was born in 1935 and lives in Manchester, England with his wife Luise. He has two sons and six grandchildren. He originally worked in textiles but is now a full-time author and publisher. His first novel ‘Fine Feathers,’ was originally published by Publish America in 2005 and received considerable critical acclaim. http://www.lionelross-novels.co.uk/
Mr. Ross, Thank you for talking to Pak Tea House. It was a delight reading Men of Conviction(MOC).
Q: it is an interesting introduction to multicultural and multi-religious streets of north of England with its mean and cruel underworld. With The Baghdad Declaration and now MOC, are thrillers your favourite genre ?
A: I am prepared to write in any genre, within my capability, that will be a vehicle for conveying my thoughts on today’s society. My second book Hidden Heritage and my new book (soon to be published) The Dalethorpe Chronicles are historical novels but both take the reader on a journey to the present day. There are, of course many lessons to learn from history. Hidden Heritage starts with the fanatical Catholics Ferdinand & Isabella driving first the Muslims and then the Jews out of Spain. The Caliphate of Spain was known as the Golden Age as under its mostly benign rule, Muslims & Jews and also many Christians prospered and were the strongest civilising force in Europe. I believe that its destruction by the Christian monarchs, the Church and the Inquisition forced many Muslims to descend in to a much more intolerant and fanatical way of Islamic living.
Q: Could you tell us what made you write Men of Conviction(MOC), and what was the inspiration behind it?
A: I am not a young man and I have seen much in my lifetime. I wanted to show how, in totally different ways, three young men could be so scarred by their upbringing that they received prison sentences. I then wanted to show how Dovid with the help of his grandfather was able to build a good and honest life as a religious Jew but unlike his father, applying his religion to normal everyday life and not to the exclusion of all else. In the case of Wayne, his journey involved dragging himself out of the gutter and organised prostitution was hardly the ideal way to do it. He did however, have feelings for other people and these developed more and more as the book proceeded until near the end, he broke away completely from the underworld. As for Hussein, he is undoubtedly the villain of the book but even he has some feelings and while dealing in drugs he felt sullied by the association. Having created one bad Muslim, I was more than happy to create two others who were certainly among the good guys; the Police Inspector and Dovid’s partner Khan. My task as a writer is to create credible characters and them use them as vehicles for my own thoughts.
Q: Do you consciously write ‘historical fiction’, telling stories of migration, religion and culture?
A: My grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country in the 19th century to escape persecution. Hence, I love tales about migrants. I am religious but as a Jew I am taught that the ‘righteous of all nations have a place in the world to come.’ I love my religion and respect sincere Muslims and Christians as we all worship the same God. That is not to say that I do not respect ALL people leading decent, repectable lives. I also love my British and West European culture; that way of life is also important to me but not the worst excesses of the drink, drugs and pop culture.
Q: ‘Men of Conviction’ Is it the story of cultural and religious identities of migrants in modern Britain, Irish, Jewish and Pakistani, in that order?
A: That is true but if I write about real people they are all migrants. My latest book starts with the founder of a family from 1,200 years ago-a Viking. Britain has always been a country of migrants be they Celts, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Normans, Huguenots, Jews, Irish, Afro-Caribbean, Pakistanis, Indians, Chinese and now Poles and other East Europeans. But then if we wish to be honest with ourselves, there is no such thing as racial purity. All nations have suffered or enjoyed waves of migrants including, if I may say so, Pakistan and India.
Q: The Muslim and Jewish skullcaps, Muslim Hijab and Jewish religious obligation to cover the hair and Moishe and Hussein getting religious education in seminaries, Were the cultural similarities deliberate?
A: That is just the way it is. We Jews have much in common with our Christian friends but even more with Muslims.
Q: How important are the family structures in forming a strong and stable cultural and social identity for migrant communities in UK.
A: Absolutely vital as long as the parents are teaching tolerance of those of different faiths and backgrounds.
Q: Textiles and the story of migration in northern England, go a long way back, how can new immigrant communities learn from the established ones?
A: There is never a need to integrate religiously but culturally migrants must decide where their day to day loyalties lie. If they have been accepted in their new home by the authorities, they must make every effort to contribute to their new home by hard work, social responsibility and respect for their fellow citizens. This can be difficult if some of their fellow citizens are not welcoming but if they wish to stay in the country they must do their best to prove themselves, at least to the right-thinking majority.
Q: How you think ‘Men of Conviction’ can find their rightful place in the British society?
A: People who have been in trouble and served their debt to society must make the effort to re-habilitate themselves but it is also up to society to give them every opportunity to lead productive lives. If they have served their sentence then they should be regarded as clean unless they offend again.
Q: Can Sean (O’Flaherty) , Khan and Dovid feel part of the history of British Isles?
A: Absolutely. We Jews have been here for a long time and many have distinguished themselves as loyal British subjects. This is now beginning to happen with our newer Muslim citizens where they are represented in both Houses of Parliament. That does not mean that they stop being Jews or Muslims as there is absolute freedom of religion in this country. We all know that it was not always so and that there are many countries in the world where freedom of religion still does not exist. As for Sean , he was in many ways similar to Hussein. He had a comfortable upbringing with parents who loved him but, whereas Hussein was subject to his father’s negative views of the UK, it was Sean’s terrorist uncle who influenced him. However, once he had broken away from that influence he did all he could to help the police and I feel that he finished up regarding himself as British.
Q: At some level Moishe Isaacs , Wayne and Hussein hate Manchester’s underworld for religious and familial reasons, but are they not its indirect beneficiaries as well?
A: Moishe Isaacs, the member of Neturei Karta was in no way a benficiary of the underworld. He was however, a beneficiary of all the illegal activities of Al Qaeda and obviously thought that these people were his friends. Wayne, on the other hand, starts out as part of the underworld and then builds his way out of it by using it to his advantage but he knows he wishes ultimately to be away from illegal activities. Hussein is a fanatic. Apart from his hatred for Khan and Green he has only one agenda, to create a Caliphate in the UK. He uses the drug trade to achieve his ends but in his heart of hearts he detests it.
Q: Can you please elaborate on the loyalties of Sean O’Flaherty (Irish) and Moishe Isaacs the self-hating Jew.
A: When most Roman Catholic Irishmen think about their history they are inevitably and justifiably bitter about the way the British treated them. They practised ethnic cleansing on a massive scale and applied some of the worst aspects of imperialism on their neighbours. However, that is now all history and men like Sean’s uncle were trying to continue a fight that had already been virtually won. Once Sean broke away, as stated above, he could become a good hard-working citizen of the UK with an undimished love for Ireland, the country of his forebears. Moishe Isaacs is not self-hating. He starts out from the premise that until the Messiah comes there should be no Jewish government in Israel. This is the philosophy of Neturei Karta, the group he belongs to. There are many other groups who subscribe to this view but they are very much a minority among Jews, religious and otherwise. The mainstream view is that the re-establishment of the State of Israel is part of the ‘footsteps of the Messiah and is obviously the will of God, or it would not have happened. However, to revert to Neurei Karta, they are the only Jews who actively consort with our enemies and real life members of the group have been photographed in Iran kissing Ahmadinajad. However, to work with Al Qaeda would even be a step too far for most of this tiny faction.
Q: Are Islamists right in saying ‘Muslims are the new Jews of Europe’ what is your take on ‘Islamophobia’?
A: Islamophobia is totally wrong and on a par with Anti-Semitism and all other anti-religious or racist feelings. However, it has to be accepted that the behaviour of a small number of fanatical Muslims like Hussein, has stoked up the flame of anti Islamic feeling. It may be that in the last few years all terrorists in Britain have been Muslims BUT this in NO WAY justifies branding all Muslims as terrorists.
Q: How will the Mansours of 2020 feel about UK and their cultural & religious identities?
A: I hope that with the violent death of Hussein, Abdul, his father, will realise how much of what happened to his son was down to him and his preaching against the British way of life. We must hope that in another ten years Hussein’s siblings have settled down to be good members of British society and still good Muslims at the same time.
Q: How can young Muslims break the vicious cycle of extremism and Islamophobia?
A: This is a huge subject. I am sure you will recall Cherie Blair saying that it was hopelessness that drove young Iraqis and Palestinians to be Shahidim.(matyrs) You might also recall that just a few weeks later two Pakistani boys from Birmingham, who had been brought up in the comfort of the UK went to Israel to be suicide bombers. They were not the product of hopelessness but rather had been brain-washed into fanaticism by preachers and other like-minded friends in the Mosque and elsewhere. They had a similar background to my fictional Hussein. Having said that, young Muslims must be made to feel members of British society. That does not mean going out and getting drunk-we Jews do not do that either but we still feel British. The parents and senior members of Islamic society in the UK must guide their children to be tolerant and to know that their cultural and national loyalties lie here. There is plenty wrong with British secular society but it will never be changed by violence. Violence breeds violence and is never a solution.
Q: Can the Muslim, Catholic and the Jewish communities co-exist peacefully only in a multicultural secular western society?
A: A multicultural society is a must but ‘secular’ to the extent of denying religion and God-I don’t think so.
Q: How can ‘Sons of Abraham’ live together in peace?
A: I do not know if you include Christians and all Muslims in this expression or if you only mean Jews and our cousins the Arabs. However, it is all down to respect and recognising that what we have in common is far more than what separates us. We Jews may have a strong army in Israel but throughout history we have always striven to live in peace with our neighbours. We must, however, protect ourselves from people like Hamas, Hizb’Ullah and Iran whose often declared intention is the destruction of Israel. It must be stated that there is a sizeable Arab population in Israel including Druze and Bedouin and that their numbers include members of the Israeli Diplomatic Corps, Judges, Lawyers, Doctors etc. How many Jews now live comfortably in Arab or other Muslim lands and have the same facilities?
Q: “Law of the Land(where you live) is the only Law,” Can you please elaborate?
A: DINA MALCHUT DINA is an Aramaic doctrine declared by a Rabbi in Israel nearly two thousand years ago. It means that in all criminal matters the law of the land takes precedence over Jewish law. However, that does not apply to religious matters.
Q: What is your favourite book and why?
A: Apart from the Torah, there is a Jewish book called ETHICS OF THE FATHERS that sets out to shed an ethical and moral light on mainly Jewish but also some non-religious matters in life.
Q: Any advice to young and aspiring writers?
A: Writing is 10% Inspiration and 90% Perspiration. Do not allow yourself to be discouraged. You must persevere and remember that there is no greater pleasure than the inspiration you receive when just one person enjoys your work and learns something from it.
Q: How can readers in Asian subcontinent get ’Men of Convictions’?
A: Men of Conviction can be ordered by email from email@example.com when a PayPal (secure site) invoice will be issued to enable potential readers to pay by Credit/Debit card. The price of the book by airmail to the subcontinent is £13.50. http://www.lionelross-novels.co.uk/
Q:Any Message you want to give to our readers ?
A: I would like to thank Pak Tea House for this opportunity to put forward my thoughts as an author and a British Jew, to such a wide audience. It is indeed a privilege and I wish you all well. We have just celebrated our New Year, Rosh Hashanah 5771 and we pray it will be a year of peace and prosperity, for all the human race. I also pray that it will be free from natural disasters such as the floods that have decimated Pakistan.