Salman Shaheen


Salman Shaheen is a committed anti-war campaigner and political activist. Born in 1984, he is currently studying social and political sciences at Jesus College, Cambridge. He is widely published in the small presses, and has also writes regular articles for left-wing newspapers, websites and journals. Salman is currently working on a novel. He was a co-host, alongside Jon Snow, on the Channel 4 children's news series, First Edition, and also appeared as an extra in the recent film Vanity Fair - wearing a pink turban! Being something of a hippy, Salman enjoys spending his free time travelling to festivals, parties and protests. A firm believer that the pen truly is mightier than the sword, Salman writes to make a difference.

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A Rock of Ages

You can bury your head in books,
Or strongly held convictions,
Politics and philosophy,
Parties, protests and conventions;
But what is it for
If they’re just sand?
A rock to the world outside,
But of ages, turning to dust;
Fragile and insular,
Building barriers
To hide away the pain –
Not marked upon this unblemished flesh
By any razor visible to the eye;
Yet festering with outward vanity.
When the mirror before you is a portrait,
Of Dorian Gray
With a Midas touch,
But all that glitters is not gold;
One must learn to love again,
Pull down those graffitied walls
And barbed wire fences,
Open your heart to all around
And paint a bigger picture.
There is beauty,
To love the world

Man’s Earth

I feel it in the ground so cold,
I sense it in the rivers old,
I smell the air and choke;
For her song has ceased,
Her colours faded and there is
No voice left, for the songbird flying.
The Earth is slowly dying.

I stand in empty streets so wide,
I know now why the cities died;
I hear no voices on the wind
For there’s no sun in the sky,
Their cold constructs crumbled and there is
No love left, for the child crying.
Mankind is slowly dying.

Earth’s Man

I own the trees so I cut them down,
To build my house on fields brown.
I own the fields so I plough them dry,
To plant my crops beneath the sky.
I own the sky, I care not if life there withers,
For yet I have my ancient rivers.
I own the waters; I may poison them at will,
And fish them barren, I have the forests still.

But the last tree has fallen, just desert sand,
A home without a garden, no beautiful land.
The fields are barren, no crops will grow,
Though my hunger grows, of that I know.
And there is no air left to breathe, no breath left in me,
The rivers run dry, for rain I make plea.
Dying here, I see, I cannot own the place of my birth,
It does not belong to me; I belong to the Earth.


Underneath the city streets,
By the platform’s edge,
Dishevelled, disgruntled, but not distant,
There sits a man in ragged sheets.
A home, cold stone beside him,
A lifetime in two bags;
Guitar in hand, he plucks a string
And sings a melancholy song.
Whilst I, besuited and in tie,
Scurry past, the words unheeded;
Glancing down, I fail to notice,
I scarcely catch his eye.
But a moment’s pity stirs some sense,
And as he sings, he sings for change,
So hand in pocket, I pass him by
And throw him fifty pence.

A little over five minutes’ stroll
Takes me to the sun-lit park,
Where business suits and briefcases
Hide their owners from the dole.
Could these Gods of rich desire
Create a world they did not know?
Such people talk of stocks,
But they know not how to share,
When no Rolls Royce or first class flight
Could ever feed the hungry poor.
And I listen to his song again
And know now what he meant;
When a cry for those in need
Must by all be understood;
For as he sings, he sings for change…
Embracing him, I broke my chains
And took his hand in brotherhood.

Children of Babylon

Decadent divisions cling to clasps of caskets rich in vice,
Where once, hand-crafted Edens hung enshrined harmony Heaven-wind.
About Babylon’s despoiled beauty two fallen souls
Intertwine opposing fates with glistening steel under Arabia’s Phoenix sun,
To sanguine symphonies of malevolent mortars’ murderous design.
Nought but seven yards distant, yet a world apart in abstract hate,
Beshadowed by centuries’ sand-smitten ruined remnants, twilight’s Tower
Hangs heavily over the Gulf between their perceptions, imprisoned by lamented limitations.
To hear, but not to comprehend.
To fear, but not to understand.
When white is black and black is white,
Truth obscures to perpetual night.

Babel’s berated Brothers, now returned in bomb-emblazoned blasphemy,
Where neither blood-caked-headscarf, nor buckled-crusade-helm could deter
A cry for conflict’s cease, so much as the Tower’s felled foundations fragmented to four winds.
East and West fractured faith’s unrelinquished relics,
North and South dissipated cultures collective creativity,
And to the dusk, settled spoken word,
Left detached, and unheard.
But Salam’s Stone lay before them, the plaque of peace yet unblemished,
A Rosetta stone to bridge the Gulf of understanding,
Yet one which weighed too heavy for a single man alone.
So, in softly spoken new-found tongues, they set aside their prejudices,
Laid down their arms to hoist foundations new,
Embraced a heaven, to cast aside this hell,
And set their love, to rebuild Babel.

An Eye For An Eye

I was on the inside then,
Pleading eyes, looking out.
Trapped, a boy of twelve, we were
Caged, like animals, in a pen.
What crime did we commit?
We’d taken their work, corrupted their purity,
So they gave us work and
We were beaten, bloodied, brutalised;
Humanity stripped, throats slit
As the gas heralded a thousand tearful goodbyes.
But hath not a Jew eyes?

I am on the outside now,
New hope left guilty eyes looking in.
A desert land and a search within;
Zion brings new fields to plough.
But I fear we shall reap what was sown.
I look through fenced enclosures
And at numbered hands invoking
Visions of a past long flown.
This is not what I wanted, as I longed to be free.
And hath not a Palestinian eyes?
Would the world had eyes, mankind would wake…
And see.

Of A Broken Home

She walked the dirt-trodden road alone,
Who else would follow where she wandered now?
Her heart was laden, heavy as the cargo
About her waist.
Grief, despair, sorrow, bitterness, love-lost contempt.
A childhood in a broken home,
Ten years behind her,
Now little more than rubble,
A haze-filled memory;
Footnote to a page in history.

A bomber passed above her, history marched on,
And she, but a pebble to its tide, moved with it.
Her mind in shackles, she bore the key
About her waist.
Pain, fury, mourning, emptiness to passion-fuelled vitriol.
For a father shot at his door,
Sister - beaten - murdered;
As she lay hidden,
In a broken home.

She cried as she reached the checkpoint,
Where the soldiers turned their guns towards her.
But she shed no tears for a family lost.
Her adoptive parents - hatred and fear,
And she, their child, cried -
“Allahu akbar!”
She pulled the cord
About her waist,
As though it were a light-switch.
She switched off her light with semtex,
And her memory
Of a broken home
In Fallujah.

For Hudda Fawzi Salam Issawi, and all those like her, of a broken home...

Paki in the Middle

I watch as Boeing meets building, twin towers reduced to rubble,
And see the hatred in their hearts, they call me to Jihad;
“Allah calls upon you, Child of the East,
Come shed the blood of Infidels, our martyr, semtex-clad!’
I see a nation ripped asunder, the Arab people blown apart,
By the bombs of truth and justice, freedom’s flag unfurled;
“Liberty calls upon you, Child of the West,
Come kill for democracy, let oil drown the world!”
And while both sides hold their heroes, their honoured fallen dead,
I play piggy in the middle, as the bombs fly overhead.

Upon what battlefield can it be, that civilisations clash?
Not Washington or Fallujah, nor New York or Baghdad;
But the blood within my body, there a war is fought,
Come East, come West, my heart hangs heavy, for a world turned mad.
And I shout from the highest rooftops, to the streets of London town,
For with their bitter hatreds, both sides have it wrong;
But when they will not listen, to a call for peace and change,
What for the blood within me, where do I belong?
Now nothing is black, nothing is white, all runs, it seems, to red,
While I play piggy in the middle, as the bombs fly overhead,
Just a Paki in the middle, as my people’s blood is shed.

Peace One Day

From the West Bank to East Berlin,
Hiroshima to Ho-Chi-Minh,
From the Boer War to East Timor,
Kosovo to Alamo -
Hear the victims cry in pain,
Turn the page, another stain –
History book’s been written red,
Another people, broken - bled,
Another chance for peace –

From Ypres’ fields to Stalingrad,
Falklands to the old Yugoslav,
From Afghanistan to Sudan,
North Korea to Chechnya –
Watch the poppies, trodden to mud,
See the Tigris, run with blood –
Another war begins to rage,
Don’t be quick to turn the page –
Change must come, come what may,
Together we’ll look for another way,
Together we’ll make peace,
Peace One Day…
Peace One Day!

This poem is dedicated to the Peace One Day campaign, launched by film maker Jeremy Gilley in 1999. The campaign, which has won support from Nobel Peace Laureates, artists, musicians, religious and political leaders and millions of people around the world aimed to make September 21st an International Day of Peace, an annual day of global ceasefire and non-violence. Officially recognised by the UN General Assembly in 2001, the campaign’s most important task has only just begun – to let the world know!