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Lord Caradon

This is a photo taken by the local newspaper of me, Farid El Diwany, receiving an Arts prize at Hornchurch Grammar School in 1971, as presented to me by Lord Caradon, or Hugh Foot as he was otherwise known: brother of the future Labour Party leader Michael Foot M.P. The two books, as can be seen, were on the grisly subject of the Holocaust and in particular two concentration camps at Buchenwald and Treblinka. I was horrified at the bestial treatment of the Jews by Adolf Hitler and his perverted followers and went round showing the tragic pictures in those books to my class-mates. My mother was German and her father died at Stalingrad in 1942 serving under General Von Paulus. My father was Egyptian. So the subject matter of the Jews was of primary interest to me. The fact is, it was European anti-Semitism which nearly wiped out the Jews. The early Christians despised the Jews for their rejection of Jesus as a man of God and for arranging/asking for Jesus to be crucified. BUT the Muslims are told in the Quran that Jesus was not crucified: it only 'seemed' he was crucified. Nevertheless, to this day the Jews refuse to accept Jesus as a prophet sent by God. But the Muslims, on the whole, with a few exceptions, protected the Jews. That all changed after the Balfour Declaration. The Holocaust was the final straw for the Jews: to 'Israel' we go. I also chose for my prize 'Night' by Elie Wiesel. Later I read 'For Those I Loved' by Martin Gray: a particular Jewish hero of mine, whose life was made into a film starring Michael York. One of my main sources of Islamic instruction comes from Jews: Leopard Weiss - later Muhammad Asad - (the 'Message of the Quran' and the 'Road to Mecca' and 'The Principles of State and Government in Islam' and 'Islam at the Crossroads') and Cyril Glassé ('The Concise Encylopedia of Islam') who also converted to Islam. Peter Maass, a Jew, of the Washington Post ('Love Thy Neighbour - A Story of War') is the greatest supporter of the Bosnian Muslims imaginable and he corresponded with me in 1995 after I purchased 40 copies of his book. The former nun Karen Armstrong has written the best biographies on the Prophet Muhammad I have ever come across. A woman of extraordinary insight.

Lord Caradon was the Assistant District Commissioner in Mandate Palestine and it was ironic that he was the guest of honour presenting me with these books, which I chose as my prize in the second year at secondary school. The more so as he himself was a pupil at Leighton Park School in Reading at which I was awarded a place to study after passing their entrance exam - my exam essay was on the Palestinians being kicked out of their land - Palestine. One hundred years plus after the Balfour Declaration there is still no end to the conflict. But I chose to remain at Hornchurch Grammar School with the great Wally May as headmaster followed by the very impressive Oxford educated, fluent German speaker, John Fowler. With the fearsome and irrepressible David Tomkins as Sports master - a giant of a man! The stage on which Lord Caradon presented me with that prize is the very stage which saw Roxy Music (with Brian Ferry and Brian Eno) and Supertramp (with Roger Hodgson) perform a few months later at the school dance (combined booking fee of £38), followed by UFO with Phil Mogg on vocals a year later. Mike Oldfield (Tubular Bells) was a pupil at the school before my time. Happy days!

Farid El Diwany.