Thursday, April 01, 2004
I wrote it straight down. On the premier British news and comment programme on Radio 4, "Today", interviewer John Humphreys asked the usual sort of "where do your loyalties lie" sort of questions of a pillar of the British Muslim community, who dodged and weaved so annoyingly that Humphreys sounded if he was going to blow a fuse.
The answer that made any sense, which I wrote down was short:
"Co-operating with the authority (i.e. authorities) against other Muslims is apostasy."
reference > al-muhaajiroun
Well, he said it.
And for those of us who want a rational debate on the thorny issues in the Middle East, we do not want British Muslims to attempt to conflate Islamo-fascist terrorism of the Al Q variety with other issues like Palestine, in order to avoid debating the difficult problem for many British Muslims: the seeming necessity to feel kinship with other Muslims no matter what they say or do, simply because they happen to be Muslim. I believe that hero-worshipping people who do bad things just because of a shortage of Muslim role models and heroes, is a way to make sure that Islam really does go down the tubes in the future.
Some British Muslims are arguing strongly now that the State by clamping down on a few terrorist suspects (9 arrests and half a ton of explosive in South London) is turning every Muslim into a suspect, and that Muslim youth has enough problems with lack of work and being excluded from mainstream society, without being targeted because of their religion. A lot could be done to passify these feelings by equalising religions in Britain, under the law.
Muslims should recognise and admit they are very lucky to live in Britain, or to have been born in Britain. Any young Muslim going to, say, Pakistan, his home country, to visit relatives, would soon appreciate the vastly greater opportunities they have here. They would surely recognise the law in this country protects them far better than in their country of origin. Can you imagine the Pakistani government allowing back young Christian boys from a "Guantanamo Bay" and for their Home Office Minister to say they were no danger to the State? They would kick them straight out without any questions asked!
It is not difficult to see how hard done by Muslim youth might turn inwards to their religion, rather outwards towards the wider community. But if you turn in on yourself such that you become a people within a people, then the big question is, Where do your loyalties lie? To the Faith you adhere to or to your adopted or birth country? The problem with Islam is people look upon it as a "State" because it is so comprehensive. But it does have a weakness. All "legalistic" religions have the same weakness. If you chip away at the regulations, you are chipping away at the faith itself. By the same token one would have thought Judaism, another legalistic faith, might also be sensitive to criticism.
Currently they are being asked to be treated if their religious faith was an ethnicity Opendemocracy > "Muslims and European multiculturalism" . Muslims in Britain are from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds, and from that perspective rather than the more influential religious one, must see that they are minorities in a large population. They have to empathise with the wider population and try to see how they might feel in similar circumstances if threatened by some form of international terrorism, say from Christian fundamentalists, in their "home" countries.
The fact that the message has recently gone out to the mosques to prevent Muslim youth being indoctrinated by extremist groups such as Al-Muhaajiroun, indicates how seriously the Muslim elders take the possibility of the majority population turning on ethnic groups who happen to be Muslim.
Up to now Muslim leaders in Britain have tended to concentrate on saying (1) Islam is peaceful (2) injustices done to Muslims by the West are the cause of problems in the world, particularly the Middle East.
The nub of the apostasy argument as argued by Al Muhajiroun is (quote) :
"... the Messenger Muhammad (saw) said: Stand with your Muslim brother whether he is an oppressor or oppressed? and when asked ?How can we stand with him if he is an oppressor?? the Messenger Muhammad replied ?Stand with him to prevent/stop him from his oppression? [i.e. through advice etc?] Note that the Messenger did not say ?Hand them over to the non-Muslim oppressors, who will condemn them under their own man made law so that they can be locked up?"
So what advice have the Good Muslims of Britain or anywhere else to pass to Osama Bin Laden and Dr. Ayman Al Zawahiri with a view to "Standing with" them to "stop their oppression" ?
Have we too meekly allowed the suggested superiority of Islam down our western throats? Certain Muslims go on TV and radio to churn out half digested and understood interpretations and re-interpretations of the Koran, Hadith and other commentaries. We have been unable to respond intellectually for fear our criticisms be construed as racist and or anti-Muslim. After all, there is constant debate about what the Koran means in the Muslim world. It is is certainly not static. There is no reason why non-Muslims cannot debate Islam with Muslims. Muslims find no difficulty in criticising the inferiority of Christianity. When Muslims tell Christians they believe Jesus was merely a prophet, Christians do not point accusing fingers and make threats (we can't issue fatwas). Because Muslims do not believe in the Trinity, Christians do not threaten them with dire retribution for insulting their Christian God.
In Christianity, too, it is "the sin not the sinner", but there are sins and there are sins. Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda terrorists have committed sins of too great a magnitude to be considered in the same way as everyday sinning folk (lying, stealing, cheating, an occasional murder or three) in the "sins not the sinners" category. To say anything else is insanity. It makes a mockery of the moral and ethical basis of all religions. It debases them and turns them into cultish in-groups.
A starting point for a more measured approach to the facts and arguments might be the essay by Tarq Madood in Opendemocracy titled, "Muslims and European multiculturalism".
It is sometime true that an old newspaper cutting can come in handy. One I filed the other day from a dusty box certainly comes into that category. "Britain in in denial about angry Muslims within", written on 4 November 2001 in the The Sunday Times) by Melanie Phillips, a well known right-of-centre Columnist, it argued first that we must wake up to the fact that there was a war on, and then that both British Muslims and the host community:
"...have got to change our attitudes dramatically - and fast. It's not enough for moderate Muslims to say their interpretation of Islam is the majority view. They've got to show this is true by putting their house in order. If they really are in the majority, then let's them deal robustly with the minority who have hijacked their religion."
The recent decision to both discourage rogue Immams from inculcating anti-western proganda in susceptible young Muslims, and help the security services to identify suspicious people operating in and around Mosques, is a first step but goes a long way from the outright condemnation of Islamo-terrorism and a call to all young Muslims to keep away from fringe elements.
As Phillips goes on to say:
"For they have to make a choice. Islam is a proselytising religion that does not distinguish between the spiritual and the temporal. So allegiance to Islam takes precedence over loyaty to a non-Muslim state. What makes this so explosive is the huge number of Muslims in the rest of the world and the power gained for Islam from terror-promoting states such as Syria and Iran.
Now moderate British Muslims must choose. If, as they claim, they accept that British citizenship means primary allegiance to Britain, they must state unequivocally that the first duty of British Muslims is not to the global Islamic nation. They must throw out those immams who, by preaching that the war against the Taliban (and Al Q, ed.) is like Hitler's invasion of Europe, are inciting their young men to treachery. If their religion has been misrepresented by a minority, the moderates can no longer just wring their hands about it. They must prove that the reasonable majority is in control.
As for the host community, it must start taking seriously the widespread hatred of Britain amongst the Muslim young.....at the same time, liberal Britain has got get real and ditch the multiculturalism that is now a menace to life and liberty."
The various arguments about multiculturalism are explained by Tariq Madood in Opendemocracy.