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Religious Bigots


10:59 am - December 20th 2007

by Gracchi    


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The Muslim Public Affairs Committee is an organisation with a long history of odd behaviour– they have over the last few days excelled themselves. They published last week a call for the names of the researchers for Policy Exchange’s recent report to be given to them- they wanted Muslim activists to ring up their offices and tell them who these eight researchers were. MPAC accused these researchers- and the whole Sufi community in the UK- of being fifth columnists for a zionist neo con cabal who were intent on destroying Islam and then the world…… fill in the blanks. They suggested that these Quislings should be reported to them so that MPAC could “dig deeper and expose every last detail of the Sufis who tried to destroy their own community.” Having been called up on this language, MPAC are now asserting that their interest was purely in the researchers’ credibility as researchers- given that they advertise this operation as being “A Hunt for 8 Sufi Zio Con Frauds”- I’m not entirely sure that their interest is in research methodology.

That’s particularly true given the rest of the content on their website. They have published articles which argue that Sufi scholars collaborate with the Pharoah of our time George Bush and that Sufism is a trend in Islam that promotes a passivity desired by the zio con forces of evil. They have also published articles defending Sufism but it definitely seems to me that MPAC beleives that this is a legitimate debate- its strange that they don’t have any articles saying that any other strands of Islam aren’t Islamic! Furthermore their official statement, ‘The Hunt’ supports the anti-Sufi case- they state there that the Sufis have been used throughout history as a weapon in the arms of Russian and British and now American imperialism. The slurs on Sufism are absolutely and completely ridiculous. Anyone who knows an iota of the history of Islam- obviously noone involved in MPAC can be listed in that category, knows that Sufism is an old and established trend in Islamic theology.

For the benefit of MPAC, it might be worth rehearsing some of the contributions of Sufism- and others can add to this- in stimulating Islamic theology and political thought. Plenty of sources see Sufic communities going back right to the beggining of Islam- into the eighth century. Muzaffar Allam in his study of Indian Islamic political thought argues that Sufis have been present in India since the 11th or 12th centuries. As Richard Eaton demonstrates in his studies of the growth of Islam in India- Sufi movements provided many of the missionaries that spread throughout India to convert communities to Islam. Indeed David Cook shows in his studies of martyrdom and Islam that Sufi movements were also central to the growth of Islam in Indonesia and in many other places around the world. Great Sufi poetry and art has animated Islam: think of the Persian/Turkish poet Rumi whose work provides inspiration for art in the middle East right up until today, where its often quoted in the novels of Orhan Pamuk. The thesis that Sufis have never done anything for Islam- implied by MPAC- is just plain wrong and perhaps the organisation would like to withdraw its slurs.

Quite frankly though this goes further than just that. Because MPAC in reality are saying something else. They are saying that they have the right to define what Muslims ought to do or be- Muslims can’t support say the invasion of Iraq. What utter nonsense! It is not for MPAC to define the essence of Islam. Muslims have been throughout history a group with a wide variety of beliefs just like Christians and Jews and Hindus and all other faiths. MPAC demands the names of these researchers because ultimately it wants to publish them and expose them- it doesn’t want to argue or discuss (afterall they are Zio Con quislings) it wants to condemn. It doesn’t want to examine why some Muslims might decide to help Policy Exchange- that they do convicts them and means they are irrelevant- they don’t need to be talked to, they just need to be condemned. That stance fits into a general pattern- whereby their rhetoric is violent and conspiratorial- they don’t seek to understand, they don’t take on other arguments, they just want the luxury of an easy assertion that everyone else is evil. Their rhetoric avoids unhelpful facts- how can the war against Islam be a verifiable fact when Tony Blair bombed the Serbs out of Kosovo. How can it be a verifiable fact when the West repeatedly attempts to do things for Darfur and when westerners put their hands in their own pockets to help victims of the Tsunami? Has MPAC ever looked at the amount of aid that the EU gives to Palestine? Have they ever considered the support that America has always given to Pakistan?

MPAC want to define Islam and define certain people out of Islam. They seem to want Islam defined politically. Their politics is bizarre, conspiratorial and has a tangential relation to reality. But it goes further than that- in reality their conception of Islam excludes many Muslims from its definition. They basically argue that Sufis are quislings- they basically say that they would junk the entire tradition of Sufism because of the closeness of some present Sufis to politicians that they don’t like. They are apocalyptic in their language. They are aggressive in their abusive calls for the silencing of those that disagree with them. If there is one thing likely to make me sympathetic to Policy Exchange in this whole debate, its the attitude of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee. I still feel that there are legitimate questions about the reporting in Policy Exchange’s work and I have no problem with critiques of it: but as Liberals we should stand, as our enlightenment predecessors did, against religious bigotry. And religious bigotry is what MPAC peddles against Muslims who don’t back their political line and against plenty of others as well.

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About the author
'Gracchi' is a regular contributor to Liberal Conspiracy. He started a blog last year which deals with culture and politics and history, where his interest lies. He is fascinated by all sorts of things including good films and books and undogmatic discussion of ideas. This seems like a good place to do the latter... Also at: Westminister Wisdom
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Reader comments


“MPAC demands the names of these researchers because ultimately it wants to publish them and expose them”

Pour encourager les autres.

Well pointed out. David T wanted to cross-post his article from HP saying the same, but you’ve updated it.

MPAC really are a bunch of idiots. Ok, some of the people who contribute (and I’ve debated with) are ok but Asghar Bukhari and his mates who run it really are nutcases. The fact that the media keeps paying them attention because it can’t find anyone more intelligent than them just illustrates their lack of contacts (or their condescending attitude I guess). Sheesh.

Policy exchange do some great work, I read their report on Reactionaries vs the progressives and I can honestly say they engage with the truth. For years and years MCB claim to be the voice of british muslims..and no one challenged them.

There are always denials about the real threat -Jihadism that we all from the free world faceand yet Muslims claiming to be our voice spend more time suppressing the truth. I would rather trust a Jewish person, English person, Indin person who would challenge the status of Muslim women that Islamist stipulate on us than trust a Islamist. I know who I would want outside more front door if a riot or terror threat emerged in my community. I disagree that the IRAQ WAR was the reason that angered and radicalised British Muslims. I can show you books aimed at young children from 1966 that advocate political Islam, against democracy, the author write about the great Islamic stat of Irann and Sudan. Wakeup Britain,.And why shouldn’t the Jewish intellects do what they must regarding Islamists or the ideology -Are they not the people we as muslims are taughts to compare to pigs and monkeys. Is not their first established homeland..a successful democracy in the middle east under constant threat of being wiped out-JUST BECAUSE THEY ARE JEWS. Osama bin ladin is telling us time and time again that he is at war with us..this is a modern Jihad being instigated..an ideology from the Quran they they have interpretated using 7th century texts and history.. I think it’s a shame that an organisation wants to attack policy exchnage and not combact the situations that are more real in muslim british communities..non of these so called muslim groups do anything to support the emncipation of Muslim women. I know who I would have over at my home for Eid..and it wouldn’t be Dr Bari or Asghar Bukhari.Put a sock in it Bukhari.you do not represent us.

Sunny…i have finally gatecrashed your ‘conspiracy.’

I would also like to point out that the attacks which mpac launch are against all Muslims who are not politically active, not just those of a sufi tradition. I agree that Muslim’s should be politically active, working for the betterment of their communities and for wider society. I do feel concerned however, when theology becomes subservient to a pre-defined political agenda, for it breeds a kind of secular religion. T

Gina khan:

Nice to see you are in such good festive mood!

6. douglas clark

Gina Khan,

Policy Exchange is a busted flush. If there ever were political texts in Mosques, then they have done more to make them freely available that the Saudi’s. It was typical attack dog politics, and for once it bit them back.

Read and weep:

http://www.ministryoftruth.me.uk/2007/12/13/can-i-have-a-receipt-for-that/

I, for one, would view anything they ever said in the future with the utmost suspicion. Which, I would think, is probably the right attitude to any think tank.

And you are not wrong about your, so called, leaders. However, that is a different matter from giving Policy Exchange a free pass for shoddy research. If you hang around long enough, you’ll see Sunny in full flow. It is a sight to behold.

7. douglas clark

Saqib,

I was nodding along with the rest of your post, but this seemed unrelated, somewhat.

I do feel concerned however, when theology becomes subservient to a pre-defined political agenda, for it breeds a kind of secular religion.

Explain please?

I take it, ’cause I know you, that you are arguing against MPAC? It was not at all clear, to me at least, that that was what you were doing.

You do seem to be arguing for a separation of politics and religion, on a favourable interpretation.

Douglas:

‘I take it, ’cause I know you, that you are arguing against MPAC? It was not at all clear, to me at least, that that was what you were doing.’

I was arguing against the insistence of groups like MPAC that Muslims must be politically active through subordinating their genuine religious beliefs and practices. For example, what MPAC would say is that ‘the mosques’ should teach politics, by instructing Muslim’s to lobby for certain politicians. Or, they will mock certain spiritual practices, such as prayer and fasting if they are found to be more dominant in an individual’s life than writing replies to articles in the media criticizing Muslims and Islam. They criticize all strands of Muslims, if they do not fulfill their criteria of being politically active, even if, people fee, at times, it is not consistent with some of Islam’s principles. For example, they will attack other Muslims and non-Muslims with vile language, which goes against all prophetic teachings. This they do as a matter of policy, and not due to being overcome by emotions; which from time to time we are all fallible to, even myself (especially when Jagdeep was around on PP!)

‘You do seem to be arguing for a separation of politics and religion, on a favourable interpretation.’

I am arguing for politics not determining and shaping what religion should be, whether it be to keep religion confined, or as some Islamists tend to do, overplay the overtly political dimensions of Islam, whilst underplaying its spiritual side. The latter tends to create a skewed understanding of Islam as a religion, robbing it of its spiritual essence, which forms the foundation of its political dimensions. It this way, you have created a ‘secular religion’, one which has little or no spirituality, one which lacks the deep religious values of mercy, forgiveness, steadfastness and patience.

Sunny:

‘The fact that the media keeps paying them attention because it can’t find anyone more intelligent than them just illustrates their lack of contacts (or their condescending attitude I guess). Sheesh.’

Sunny, I must admit I also find it very strange, especially considering that the MPAC raison d’etre for the cause of extremism is that the mosques are not ‘teaching politics’. I am surprised no one has ever hauled MPAC up on this, and inquired as to what exactly they mean, for we wouldn’t expect our Churches, Synagogues, Temples and Gurdwara’s to teach politics, so why our Mosques? Surely, you would think the argument would follow, that the insistence of Mosques teaching politics (as i have outlined in my post to Douglas) is itself a contributor to extremism?

In reality, what MPAC rely on is a very rudimentary understanding of Islam as a way of life and the concept of ‘Ummah’ to construct a narrative which they feel is less controversial to non-Muslims than the HT approach of non-political participation.

I think part of the reason for the media giving them a platform is that they themselves actively court the limelight. Secondly, they probably believe that MPAC appear not very ‘orthodox’ hence would appeal more to younger Muslims. Thirdly, they talk about democracy, and that is, well good enough. However what type of democracy are they arguing for, one which perpetuates communalism and group-interest based conflicts.

I personally don’t believe that Muslims should become another interest-based ‘lobby group’ fanatically pursuing a political agenda, ala the Zionist lobby, but rather should take a considered, case-by-case approach to matters. This in essence is the problem within democracies, groups of individuals pursing their own interests, at the exclusion of others. What society needs is a common framework, a set of core values , allowing it to pursue a common good.

p.s. I have noticed that you are a big fan of Ziauddin Sardar, why may that be i wonder? Is it because he is called Sardar, and you are, well, a Sardar? lol

I’m Punjabi as well, so am well-versed in the nuances of Punjabi humour!!!

Gracchi:

‘Plenty of sources see Sufic communities going back right to the beginning of Islam- into the eighth century.’

You didn’t actually provide any examples in your piece, the earliest you mention is the 11th and 12th Century. Perhaps you would like to enlighten us all with some actual examples?

p.s. I have noticed that you are a big fan of Ziauddin Sardar, why may that be i wonder? Is it because he is called Sardar, and you are, well, a Sardar? lol

Heh, his ethnic background has very little to do with it. And my punjabi is terrible. I just agree with him a lot on issues and I loved his book ‘Desperately Seeking Paradise’.

‘And my punjabi is terrible.’

Really! Have a butchers of this, i am sure you will understand http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EDpqc-50Oo

I have never read that book actually, however I have swallowed a lot of his other writings. It is fair to say however that his literary skills far outweigh his oral capabilities (if you have ever seen him with James Rubin on Sky you will know what i mean)

All the best for the new year

13. Bint Awni

I would just like to comment on the article by Gracchi.
I’m not sure whether you are a Muslim or not, but you are correct in saying that Sufis have been around since the 11th century. There continued existance is due to an emotional tie Muslims have for them.
But I must point out that there practices bear no reflection on the teachings or practices of Islam, that is why if you do even a little research you will find there are Christian and Jewish practising Sufis.
The Muslim religion will never abide by such practices as worshipping the living or dead saints. Worship is only for God, so supplicating to, invoking the help of, or kissing the hands of saints is a sin. Islam allows no “Awliya” (intercessor) between a believer and God Surah 39: 3. our connection to the Absolute is direct, we dont need someone else to make the call. But more to the point awarding the attributes of the Creator to the created is not Islam.
If Sufis want to preach they should be free to do so and carry out there practices but they should not call it Islam because it is far from it. Sufis ask there followers “Mureeds” to make Bayt (sell) themselves to their Sufi leader and thus never question him or his conduct. If they see him do something wrong, they are to turn the blame to themselves not him.
Sufism is more of a brotherhood with its hierarical structure, all have a chain of Saints that lead back to the Prophet (PBUH) via Ali Ibn Abu Talib and only the Naqshbandi through Abu Bakr which are all unfounded as if you count the number of saints you will realise they must have all lived for only 20 years each. Sufism is in fact much like Kabbalah and Masonry which incidently all came about at the same time in The Moors and took much influence from each other such as gnosticism, magic, chanting, grave worship etc
So you can see Sufism is completely unrelated to Islam but is more of a tradition, people came to rely on Sufi leaders as a Christian would his priest.
So I think people in general are getting confused about Sufism and its relationship with Islam, no one more than the Mureeds, who alot of the time cannot understand the Quran, only memorise it and are possibly unaware that they are from Islam.

Hope this helps


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