After a six-month break from blogging, it’s time for Londonstani to once again put pixel to webpage.
But first, as a courtesy to those stumbling across Londonstani for the first time, this is probably a good time to explain.
Londonstani is the alter ego of Amil Khan, who – about four years ago, was working as a documentary journalist at the BBC and Channel 4 on projects that involved crime, gang warfare, extremism and armed conflict in far off places. Andrew Exum - aka Abu Muqawama – who was sharing a flat with Londonstani in East London’s Walthamstow area, featured some of Londonstani’s whispered ramblings on his counter insurgency blog.
It wasn’t long after that Abu Muqawama’s “violent Pashtun flatmate” started writing regularly for the blog, drawing on his privileged access to people and places as a journalist to analyse issues related to extremism, UK foreign policy and identity in Britain.
Blogging at Abu Muqawama gave Londonstani the leeway to delve unfettered into the topics Amil was being asked to cover as a professional journalist. Amil and Londonstani settled into a productive partnership. Amil would pimp his languages/professional background/ability to use a camera to get access to refugee camps/war zones or sink estates and Londonstani would bask in the freedom of the interwebs and write whatever he wanted.
The arrangement produced articles that Amil had to grudgingly admit he was glad to have collaborated on. Including:
An interview with an al Qaeda fighter returning from Iraq.
And, while Amil covered racism in a typical UK housing estate, Londonstani looked at the draw of the extremist narrative in less nice parts of modern Britain.
Amil arrived in Pakistan in 2009 to run a UK-funded counter extremism project that worked with religious leaders. Londonstani, of course, came along too. Pakistan was as newsworthy then as it is now (perhaps more so). Several foreign correspondents do a great job covering headline news events in Pakistan. So, as before, Londonstani stuck to exploring the issues behind the headlines in an effort to present a little context and background to those hoping to understand why people feel and/or act as they do.
Since then Amil has caught up to Londonstani with some writing of his own at Foreign Policy’s AfPak Channel. As the Arab Spring rolled around, Amil couldn’t resist revisiting his first infatuation - the politics of the Middle East – and wrote a couple of articles looking at why Arabs had decided they had had enough.
With the situation in the Middle East evolving around us and Pakistan looking like its set for social and political changes as its young (65 percent of the population) look to have their voices heard, Londonstani will be going through a little transformative process of his own.
After nearly four years residence at Abu Muqawama, it’s about time Londonstani ventured out in the big wide world on his own. The Londonstani blog will look at the issues of violence and politics, much as before (ie. in the third person tense of plausible deniability). But as the world changes, Londonstani’s coverage will adapt to address it. The blog will still cover extremism and how to address it but will expand its horizons to encompass issues of political development (the developing ideas behind the politics of the Muslim world) and how to engage with emerging trends in a productive way. In addition, the Londonstani blog will come at these issues from a UK angle, because – well – Londonstan is part (by consent and not coercion) of a larger entity known as the United Kingdom.
There will doubtless be technical teething problems as the blog takes its first steps. Feel free to comment (if they work), get in contact (if that works) or get a hold of Londonstani via twitter @Londonstani.
Londonstani aims to be a resource for all those interested in the politics of the Middle East, South Asia and community relations in the UK. If nothing else, you’re likely to find out something you might not ever have known about a fascinating and underreported part of the world… like the ‘Stow.