Sunday, 10 June 2007

Taking Liberties

The film Taking Liberties has opened on limited release. It’s a must see film for its subject matter but it also needs more media coverage to keep the issue of civil liberties alive.

The film is part of an overall campaign against authoritarianism. Taking Liberties takes viewers on a journey from the initial euphoria of New Labour’s victory over the Tories to the New Labour of today with its bloodied hands and soiled reputation. Dealing with the spectres of torture, detention without trial, rendition and the gradual erosion of our democratic rights, Taking Liberties examines Blair’s legacy through the magnifying glass of particular events including September 11th and the more every day, but no less pervasive, ASBO.

Give us a Mufti...

In an article in today's Sunday Times, we are told that most British Muslims think that we should have a Mufti. The full findings of the poll can be seen here.

When I looked at the poll, it appears that the sample size is very small and the statistical analysis is somewhat questionable. There were a lot of respondents who gave "don't know" answers and in some of the analysis they have been excluded. 42 % of Sunni Muslims in the poll said that Muslims in Britain should have an official Mufti - hardly a majority.

I actually missed an editorial last week in the Times which was probably the precursor to this poll. The editorial noted that the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shaykh Ali Gomaa, made it clear that "extremists declaiming in mosques and via the internet that the only legitimate Islamic form of government is a restored “Caliphate”, such as that which stretched from Fez to Samarkand 500 years ago, are simply wrong." The editorial concludes that, "There is a strong case for British Muslims to appoint their own mufti to embody the “authentic, contemporary, tolerant Islam” that he and they hold dear."

Beware of those who sell their Deen for a small price

"As for those who sell for a small price the covenant and faith they owe to Allah and their own plighted word for a small price, they shall have no portion in the Hereafter. Nor will Allah speak to them or look at them on the Day of Judgment, nor will He cleanse them: They shall have a grievous torment, a painful doom." [3:77]

The huge coverage given to the book by the former Islamic activist Ed Husain has got me thinking. After reading the book it was clear to me that he was a troubled soul – on a journey through the radicalism of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hizb ut-Tahreer he ends up doubting his own faith and even contemplates leaving Islam for Buddhism or Christianity. Still confused, he starts teaching English at the British Council and rediscovers what he describes as "traditional Islam". He later returns to the UK and decides to write a book cataloguing his experiences and urges the Government to move strongly against Islamists'. The 'Islamists', according to him, are the greatest threat facing all Muslims and non-Muslims in the UK he argues.

Muslim writers and bloggers including Andrew Booso, Yahya Birt, Faisal Haque, Yusuf Smith, Ziauddin Sardar and Inayat Bunglawala have concisely articulated the deficiencies of Husain's rather simplistic analysis. Earlier this week, Husain made a brief appearance to defend himself against the criticisms levelled against him on DeenPort, however he soon departs, with dozens of questions left unanswered. Husain argues that the people who have asked him questions have no adab and anyone who disagrees with him is accused of harbouring some hidden 'Islamist' affiliations. This was no surprise as Husain had earlier suggested suspending registrations on the discussion forum in order to "facilitate discussion"! One Muslim on DeenPort correctly observes that "either you're with him or you're an extremist". It is not surprising then that even Ziauddin Sardar accuses Husain of being a neocon who wants "everyone locked up".

Interestingly, Ziauddin Sardar writes that Husain's book, "seems to have been drafted by a Whitehall mandarin as a PR job for the Blair government." He is the first writer to openly articulate this possibility. While some readers on the Muslim blogs have labelled Husain a traitor, Sardar is the first to suggest that the book may have actually come out of Whitehall and in effect been 'ghost written' for Husain. However, other writers have noted that the book perfectly fits Blair's narrative of 'ordinary decent peace loving Muslims' vs. a tiny minority of 'Islamists' who desire Shariah, the destruction of Israel, etc, etc.

In the light of these comments I want to raise the following points:

(1) We cannot underestimate the actions that the Government are taking with respect to the Muslim community. Is it that surprising that some Muslims will be used to infiltrate Islamic groups, not only to provide intelligence, but to leave at an opportune moment amidst a blaze of publicity? Of course, many Muslims leave one Islamic group or another, but generally they rarely decide to sell their story to the highest bidder or seek to divide the Muslim community. Those who have become disillusioned with the 'Islamic scene' tend to just fade away and those who have genuine disagreements tend to move on to pastures new.

(2) The suggestion that Husain may have had some association with Government is not without foundation. Aside from him joining the Labour Party and supporting the Iraq war, in his recent interview with the New York Times, Husain explains that he has been approached by British government officials to join their "anti-extremist efforts". In an interview with Sky's Adam Boulton, Husain does not deny Boulton's suggestion that he has been called in by "Gordon Brown or government". Given his previous association with Islamist groups and his work for the British Council, he would have been ideal material for recruitment.

(3) The other aspect which tends to lend weight to the suggestion that Husain may be close to the Government and security service is not only his insistence on banning Islamist groups such as Hizb ut-Tahreer, but his stated aim at dividing Islamist groups into moderates and extremists and his attack on other leading Muslims and organisations. In November 2006, on the DeenPort forum, Husain writes, "Even within HT in Britain today, there is a huge division between modernisers and more radical elements. The secret services are hopeful that the modernisers can tame the radicals. And hence the suspension of any ban. I foresee another split. And God knows best. Ya Rabb! I have said more than I should on this subject! Henceforth, my lips are sealed!" So he alleges that there is a "huge division" between modernisers and more radical elements and suggests that the security services are working for a split in the organisation. In a more recent thread, Husain writes of Hizb ut-Tahrir, "Allah is opening a window of opportunity for their hidayah. There is a major development within Hizb ut-Tahrir that will lead many of the more thoughtful activists to reconsider their worldview and relationship with mainstream Islam and Muslims. Once news breaks within party ranks of what is happening within their leadership, some of the Hizb people will be receptive toward traditional Islam and may well leave their brand of radical Islamism." Then on the same thread on 2nd May 2007, Husain writes, "Maajid Nawaz has left Hizb ut-Tahrir. And there are several others inside waiting to escape, but waiting for the right moment and reason. Don't ask me how I know. Until last weekend, Majid was a member of the Hizb's National Executive Committee in Britain. Some of you may remember him from the media coverage of his imprisonment and release from his four-year prison sentence in Egypt. Huge reverberations within the Hizb as to why and who is else is next etc. Ideal moment to engage with HT people, particularly those on the Jalaludding Patel wing of the group."

(4) Continuing with the theme of trying to foment divisions within Hizb ut-Tahreer, with respect to Majid Nawaz, a former member of Hizb ut-Tahreer, Husain has claimed that Nawaz is linked to him and that Husain influenced Nawaz's decision to leave Hizb ut-Tahreer. In an interview with, Husain says, "In this, I'm backed by Majid Nawaz who, alhamdulillah, recently left Hizb-ut-Tahrir partly as a result of conversations we had about these issues, and more importantly, his exposure to traditional Islam in all its diversity. Soon, Majid will speak publicly and I ask Hizb members and others to listen and learn from Majid's wisdom, knowledge, and experience. Now the good news is that Hizb-ut-Tahrir has proven in Britain that it can change and when pressure is applied it has changed. And I'm hopeful that this pressure that's on them now - exposing those core fascist values - that exposure will cause them to change those ideas and come on board the mainstream Muslim caravan." In an interview with Husain by the New York Times, Husain said that Nawaz would soon go "public with the reasons for his departure, and explanation he hopes that will cause a stir like his own." It is hard to tell whether Husain is being entirely truthful about the reasons for Nawaz's departure from Hizb ut-Tahreer – however if Nawaz does come out with his own "kiss and tell" story about his time with Hizb ut-Tahreer, seeks to exacerbate divisions within the Muslim community or if Nawaz is closely associated with Husain, then this would place huge question marks in my mind over Nawaz. A poster on has suggested that he saw Husain and Nawaz at last week's Hamza Yusuf event in London. He also alleges that Husain and Nawaz have been arguing that the scholars differ over the Islamic prohibition of homosexuality. In any case, I am sure that Husain will not be the last person to write his 'Islamist' memoirs.

(5) Andrew Booso has rightly argued that the divine obligation of the Caliphate is a "standard, orthodox belief expounded and endorsed by the jurists throughout time." Husain has said that he does not accept the concept of the Caliphate or an Islamic State. He misrepresented Shaykh Hamza Yusuf by alleging that he said that there was "no such thing as an Islamic state". When questioned on DeenPort as to whether the Caliphate was fard kifayah, as discussed by the classical scholars, Husain says that he does not discuss in terms of fard ain or fard kifayah. Husain writes that the Islamic state "is not a rukn of the deen and without it the deen is not lost. An individual can remain a firm believer, a mutadayyin, without the imam and the jama'ah." However, the classical scholar, Sa'd al-Din Mas'ud bin Umar al-Taftazani, wrote, "There is consensus that appointing a Caliph is obligatory. The difference of opinion is on whether the appointment must be by Allah or by his servants, and whether the basis (for appointment) is textual evidence or rational proof. The adoption is that it is obligatory upon the servants by textual evidence because of the saying of the Messenger, "Whoever dies not having known the Imam of his time, dies the death of the days of ignorance." Also, the Ummah agreed that this was the most important duty following the death of the Messenger, so important in fact that they considered it more important than the matter of his burial, and so also has it been after the death of each Imam."

(6) Although Husain has focused a lot of his attack on Hizb ut-Tahreer he has also attacked other Muslim groups including the Muslim Council of Britain, the Young Muslims Organisation, the Muslim Association of Britain and the Islamic Society of Britain. He also attacks the Salafi movement and the Ahl-e-Hadith. He criticises the Islamic Foundation, Regent's Park Mosque in London and the East London Mosque. In fact, in an article in the Observer he alleges that worshippers at East London Mosque have threatened to kill him. Not content with attacking these organisations he has insulted the ulema and the mashaikh by twisting their opinions and misrepresenting them. So he said that Sheikh Hamza Yusuf (may Allah protect him) legitimises the marriage between Muslim women and non-Muslim men and he wrote that the other mashaikh denied the idea of the Khilaafah in Islam. He has also attacked the journalist Yvonne Ridley. In his writings on DeenPort he questions whether she is really a Muslim, asserting that she "converted to Islamism and not Islam". He goes on to write, "Ridley is an extremist, a cheer-leader for terrorists…Shun Islamism, accept Islam." Is Husain not aware of the Hadith of al-Habib (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam), “If a man calls his Muslim brother kafir, it applies to one of the two.” (Bukhari)

Brothers and Sisters!

Those who sell their Deen for a small price, tarnished traditional orthodox Islam the day they decided to become popular amongst those who enjoy the humiliation of the followers of Al-Habib. Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was correct when he said that the fastest way to get a book published was to attack Islam and the Muslims. There can be little doubt that Shaytan runs from the word of truth. We must ask why it is that Shaytan and his followers amongst the men and the jinn are running in support of those Muslims who have chosen to become popular? In the name of addressing 'Islamism', the haraam has been made halaal and there is no sense of outrage at eating the flesh of one's own brothers.

It is time for you to wake up to this web of propaganda, lies and deceit which is targeting our entire community. Don't you remember those in days gone by who sold their Deen for a small price? Do you not see the efforts to tarnish Islam from within? Do you not see the efforts to divide the Muslims amongst themselves so that their ranks remain disunited?

Is it not the case that the propaganda of Husain and those who follow him is being used to attack Muslims, not Ikhwan or Tahreer or Tabligh or Young Muslims, but Muslims? It is the people of La ilaha illallah who are now on the receiving end of the attack from right-wing Zionists and the neo-Nazis of the BNP who are using these misguided Muslims as a platform to attack Muslims. From our recent history in Bosnia and Gujarat, it is never long before words are easily translated into aggression.

Our community needs to stand united against this propaganda – irrespective of being Sufi or Salafi, Ikhwaani or Tahreeri, Tableeghi or Barelwi, we must realise that first and foremost we are Muslims. Was it not the case that Ibn Hajar al Asqalani, a Sufi and an Ashari criticised Ibn Taymiyyah but said that Ibn Taymiyyah had a right to the opinions he arrived at because of his level of knowledge?

Why is it that Shaykh Hamza is willing to share platforms with well known Salafis such as Dr Usama Hasan and Shaykh Abu Muntasir, while it is clear they do not believe it is fard to follow a madhab and ascribe to Ashari/Maturidi theology'? Is it because these differences can swiftly be put aside at a time when Islam is under siege?

As for those Muslims who wish to sell their Deen for a small price, remember that Al-Habib Rasoolallah (sallallahu alaihi wa sallam) said, "Indeed a servant speaks a word (which is pleasing to Allah) to which he pays no attention and for which Allah elevates him many grades. And indeed the servant speaks a word (which is displeasing to Allah) to which he pays no attention and for which he shall fall in Jahannam." (Bukhari)

In conclusion, I am reminded of the saying of the famous Bediuzzaman Said Nursi, the author of Risale-e-Nur who wrote, "To forget and abandon internal enmities when foreign enemies appear and attack is a demand of social welfare recognized and enacted even by the most primitive peoples. What then ails those who claim to be serving the Islamic community that at a time when numberless enemies are taking up positions to attack, one after the other, they fail to forget their petty enmities, and instead prepare the ground for the enemies' attacks? It is disgraceful savagery, and treason committed against the social life of Islam." (The Letters, 318)


Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Quarter of Muslims believe 7/7 was staged

On the day the Prime Minister said that the “overwhelming” majority of UK Muslims wanted to be loyal citizens, a poll commissioned by Channel 4 found that nearly a quarter of British Muslims believe the 7/7 bombers were not responsible for the attacks and that more than two-thirds (68 per cent) think the Muslim community has no responsibility for the emergence of extremists wanting to target Britain.

Fifty-seven per cent were not confident they would be treated fairly if arrested in Britain and 46 per cent felt police tactics after the arrest of a Muslim terror suspect were racist.

Personally, I am very sceptical about how much such polls actually tell us. In my experience, the wording of the questions is very important. For example, a poll done a year or so ago for Channel 4 suggested that a large number of Britain's Muslims wanted Shariah law - however the question did not ask whether they meant they wanted it in the UK or in Muslim countries - the results were of course spun by the right wing tabloids to suggest that Muslims were a fifth column looking to impose Shariah on Britain.

However, the survey does show how much ground the government needs to make up to win the trust of British Muslims, who have been strongly critical of British foreign policy.

I wonder whether we will see more similar polls and statistics in the run up to the second anniversary of 7/7. Given that the Government is publishing a consultation paper on new anti-terrorism measures later this week, I am sure that there will be a desire to ratchet up the fear amongst the general population of the "Muslim threat".

I also wonder why the pollsters don't survey non-Muslims and ask them how much they trust the authorities and government - they might be surprised by the results.


Is Imran Ahmad an "Uncle Tom"?

In this article at Pickled Politics, Imran Ahmad, from British Muslims for Secular Democracy (that well known organisation!!) defends himself against accusations of being an "Uncle Tom". The accusations came following his participation in this recent debate in Parliament organised by members of the Euston Manifesto:

You can watch the whole debate here and make up your own mind.

Monday, 4 June 2007

Is the teaching of Islam out-dated?

A government commisioned report has concluded that the teaching of Islam in English universities is based on "out-of-date and irrelevant issues".

The report, Islam at Universities in England, written by government advisor Ataullah Siddiqui, calls on universities to focus on the "underlying unity and evident diversity" of Islamic culture and civilisation in England and other parts of Europe as a growing number of Muslims live out their faith "against the backdrop of Judaeo-Christian tradition and under the shadow of modern secular culture".

In a press release the DFES say,
Dr Siddiqui’s review as well as other reports and conferences on Islam in higher education have told us that Islamic studies departments are concentrating too much on a Middle Eastern focus and ignoring the realities of Islam in modern multi-cultural Britain. This risks focussing on “out of date and irrelevant issues".
The Siddiqui review was commissioned by the government, following talks with students and academics who raised concerns that Islamic studies courses were too theologically narrow.

Controversy over Cambridge University Islam conference

There has been a lot of media coverage today of the conference being held in London. In his speech to the conference Prime Minister Tony Blair praised Muslims in the UK saying,
We have successful Muslims in all areas of our national life - business, sport, media, culture, the professions. We have our first Muslim MPs, first Muslim Members of the House of Lords; hopefully the next election will bring more and hopefully also the first women Muslim MPs.
However the conference has drawn criticism from some Muslims. Lord Ahmed, Britain's first Muslim peer, described it as being part of the "colonial-style policy of divide-and-rule". The radical Islamist group Hizb-ut-Tahrir are equally dismissive, arguing that the conference is "not a real dialogue". In an article in the Guardian, the respected Muslim thinker and scholar, Tariq Ramadan, writes,
Tony Blair will make his last gesture toward the Muslims of Britain today at an international conference on Islam and Muslims in the World. The spirit of the initiative seems at first glance praiseworthy but, on closer inspection, it stands revealed as little more than an exercise in fence mending or public relations. While I have been invited to participate in the conference, not a single representative of the leading British Muslim associations has been invited to speak, not a single sensitive subject has been touched upon. It is as though these associations and their leaders were part of the problem, and could not become an active part of the solution. It is as though we could hope to solve deep-seated problems by refusing to see them for what they are. So many fine intentions and words about openness, while the facts speak instead of petty politics.


Assalamu Alaikum and welcome to my new blog.

I am a British Muslim and will be writing about many of the current issues facing the Muslim community in the UK. I have not written my own blog before but have been moved to do so by the multitude of issues facing the Muslim community in the UK.

"All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them." [Galileo]