Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too


3:20 pm - March 14th 2012

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contribution by Tehmina Kazi

This week, Queen Mary University is due to re-host an event which should never have been cancelled.

Anne-Marie Waters, of the One Law for All campaign, had originally been due to speak on ‘Sharia and Human Rights’ on 16 January.

As the event was about to start, a man entered the lecture theatre, raced up to the front and started filming the audience.

After threatening audience members with some predictable “I know where you live” diatribes, he added that if the speakers said anything negative about the Prophet Mohammed, he would “track them down.” Rushing back out of the building with the same intensity he had entered, this youth ended up being flanked by a large group of his peers outside.

Police were called and the event was cancelled, much to the chagrin of everyone involved.

It is commendable of the university to re-schedule this talk, but a more profound question lingers: what is the best long-term strategy when it comes to addressing such aggression and intimidation?

As director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (an organisation which tackles both Islamophobia and other forms extremism), I know how crucial it is to challenge ALL sectarian attitudes in public, regardless of where they may emanate.

A fringe within a fringe will bray that it is “Islamophobic” to criticise such statements. Such crude accusations should be exposed for what they are: erroneous, and an insult to those of us who are doing crucial work in politically complex environments. Further, they do no favours to genuine victims of Islamophobia.

Firstly, it will improve the level of discourse on issues such as intra-faith relations in the UK.

Secondly, it will help Muslims fulfil our Islamic obligations vis-a-vis social justice.

Thirdly, it will send out a strong message to non-Muslims, that we are good at setting out what kind of behaviour is acceptable (and, by extension, what is not).

Of course, many Muslims are deterred from taking this sort of action because they fear threats and intimidation. However, despite the example at Queen Mary in January, the situation is gradually improving.

A coalition of religious and non-religious groups – including mine – organised a protest against the extremist Muslims Against Crusades’ poppy-burners on Remembrance Day 2011. While the group were banned the night before the protest, our planned counter-protest sent out a clear message: that people from a diverse range of backgrounds will not put up with such antics.

My top tip for protesting against groups like these is to deploy humour and satire. In one video on the BMSD website, an “angry young Muslim” begins ominously: “I have a message for those who insult Islam,” before adding: “Let’s agree to disagree.”

This video was used to promote BMSD’s counter-protest against MAC (then known as Islam4UK) in October 2009. It received 10,000 hits on YouTube in four days, and shows what can be achieved with a small budget, yet copious amounts of passion and determination.

—–
Tehmina Kazi is director of British Muslims for Secular Democracy

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Reader comments


I hate muslims with the same disdain I harbour for the christians and jews. Is there a name for me?

Joe,

Unpleasant?

3. Man On Clapham Omnibus

Why we have to suffer yet more religious clap trap on this site I dont know.
Personally I think religious people have a screw loose. These people are best avoided, particularly if you are young and Irish.

FFS – we get calls for ordinary muslims to condemn extremists all the time. Then one group doing so writes an article on how precisely they are doing it, and the response is ‘I hate muslims and all religious people” and ‘why is this religious craptrap on here’?

Make your fucking minds up.

Watchman is correct. Unpleasant is the correct term.

5. Young, Muslim and Irish

Dia Dhuit, Assalamu Aleikom, or if you Prefer, God be with You,

As a faithful believer in religion, as well as a believer in moral freedom, liberal conscience, and the systems promoting it, not to mention a student of political economics, social science, philosophy, history, information science, and the art of having a “bit of craic” down the pub, the idea of the above author’s piece on religion as being “yet more religious clap trap” seems somewhat out of keeping with classic understandings, see (Marx. K, (1843) On The Jewish Question, Trotsky. L, (1944) Fascism – What it Is and How to Fight It), about the role of religion, religious minorities, their relation to the secular government notwithstanding the conspiracies of extremists, as well as bitterly persistent attempts by those clearly identifiable and understood as fascists to obliterate them or undermine the integrity of their peaceful beliefs by provocation, see above article, that I wonder why Man On Clapham Omnibus can’t see the imperative of the work of young Muslim women activists like Tehmina Kazi in standing up to extremists! Is it because he doesn’t believe that religion has anything to do with liberalism, or that freedom of religion cannot mean the FREEDOM TO PRACTICE IT! Or might it be because he can’t believe that Muslims could value such liberties! Or maybe it is because he believes, as per his phrase “if you are young and Irish” that liberty means only giving freedom to one side of human nature commonly associated with St. Patrick’s Day?

Well as an Irish convert Muslim myself I find that the Islamic imperative of the “siratul mustaqim” or “the straight/middle path” allows me to understand the twin side of liberty such that I might pray at one time or go down the pub at another. But drowning the Shamrock is a question of judgement.

I found Tehmina’s article timely and profound. At this time when Muslim communities are under threat from the fascists of the English Defence League (EDL) from one side and their polar opposite Islamist fundamentalist from the other, I urge readers of this blog to show support for young Progressive Muslim Voices like Tehmina Kazi of British Muslims for SECULAR DEMOCRACY, now that the indications seem to be that these polar forces of hatred, themeselves not unlike the fascists and the communists in Germany in the 1930s opt to raise their fists with little or no problem.

So hopefully I have answered anyone’s ponderings as to why this “religious” article is on this blog.

This is a welcome report. After all, the point of a secular state is to allow citizens to express their own faiths or none. I hope this argument will spread through good examples from Tehmima and others.

I have no religion but I recognise that people of faith have played a positive role and I often find myself alongside them campaigning or working for the community. There have been egregious evils and idiocies from the religious but that realm is not exclusively theirs.

Comments 1 and 3 are particularly crappy. This thoughtful and interesting piece deserves better.

8. douglas clark

It seems to me that, as long as your religion is the most important thing in your life, you cannot easily stand up to this sort of bullying. We live in a society where religious zealots are largely historical figures, if I can describe the Reverend Iain Paisley as such. Why sensible and sane Muslims are expected to put up with the thuggery of what is, frankly, right wing fundamentalism tarted up as a religious viewpoint, is beyond me.

What planeshift said.

10. Just Visiting

It seems to be very difficult for even respected Muslims to say anything that other Muslims don’t like:

This Muslim received death threats from his co-religionists:

“London imam subjected to death threats for supporting evolution”

“Mosque suspends engineering lecturer Usama Hasan for ‘antagonising’ community and backing women’s rights”

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/06/usama-hasan-london-imam-death-threats-evolution

And it looks like the Mosque is still hosting pages against him and his wife and family:

This page on the site seems a pretty unpleasant and unfounded attack on his wife: bizarrely despite claiming to have reported her to the “Child Protection Agency” (a body that when I googled didn’t seem to be obvious) – the mosque still allows her to teach there? That sounds contradictory.

“..following the numerous complaints received by the Trustees regarding the ex-Madrasah Head Teacher Mrs Shakeela Hasan, wife of Dr Suhaib Hasan…. child mistreatment and/or cruelty, such as expelling young children from the madrasah without an adult to accompany them home, or preventing children from using the toilets to the extent that they wet themselves in their clothes. Other complaints were for alleged racist treatment.

“These complaints have already been submitted to the police and the Child Protection Agency for further investigation, and Mrs Shakeela Hasan has been dismissed from her position. However, taking advantage of the disputed management situation in the Masjid, she has continued teaching at the Madrasah.”

http://www.masjidtawhid.org/12-masjid-management/20-trust-adopts-child-protection-policy

11. douglas clark

To be clear, I am claiming that the arseholes with cameras are just as alien to mainstream muslim thought as the Reverend Iain Paisley was to God. Wee shitebags.

What Young, Muslim and Irish eventually got around to saying @ 5 is absolutely right. No-one deserves to be threatened by fundies.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ 2 Watchman

“Joe,

Unpleasant?”

YOMANK!

13. Arthur Seaton

What Tehmina says is very well expressed, and absolutely correct. It should also be a statement of the bleedin’ obvious. Sadly it isn’t. Anyone proclaiming themselves *either* left-wing or liberal in *any* sense (and yes I include the “classical liberal” right-wingers here) who is somehow incensed by this benevolent statement should take a long hard look at themselves.

I was partly joking (and Im afraid to say Watchman’s reply was pretty much shooting at a wilfully open goal) but I do think genuinely religious people in a modern society are insane and should not be listened to or given any kind of platform.
This attempt at a revival of religion in public life is deeply insidious and must be fought tooth and nail by all right-thinking people. Religion is beloved by authoritarian governments as it allows them to get away with anything.

15. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 Joe

“I was partly joking (and Im afraid to say Watchman’s reply was pretty much shooting at a wilfully open goal) but I do think genuinely religious people in a modern society are insane and should not be listened to or given any kind of platform.”

If “sane” means “acting like a normal person”, then they’re sane. If “sane” means “rational” then they’re not notably madder than anyone else.

Could you provide me with the full list of people who will be silenced in this brave new world of yours?

Noone will be silenced, they just shouldnt be given any special treatment in public.

17. Chaise Guevara

@ 16 Joe

“Noone will be silenced, they just shouldnt be given any special treatment in public.”

Agreed on special treatment, but there’s a big difference between that and your original demand that they be denied all platforms.

Thanks to PlaneShift, Watchman, Young Muslim and Irish, Cherub, KB Player, Arthur Seaton and others for your support!

Chaise Guevara: I couldn’t agree more… My organisation seeks to increase opportunities for Muslims to participate in public life!

Chaise Guevara: Agreed! My organisation seeks to increase opportunities for Muslims to get involved in public life.

21. Shatterface

Agreed on special treatment, but there’s a big difference between that and your original demand that they be denied all platforms.

Well said. Secularism means denying a special place to religion, not singling it out as worthy of censorship. Denying someone the right to free expression is a fundamentalist trait.

Could you provide me with the full list of people who will be silenced in this brave new world of yours?

I was about to mention John Polkinghorne, Russell Stannard, Geoffrey Hill and so on but then the word “Bono” swam before my eyes and I thought that while Joe’s wrong it might not be so bad…

religious people can have a platform, just not on the basis of their religion

@22 I had to laugh at that one. :)

25. Chaise Guevara

@ 23 Joe

“religious people can have a platform, just not on the basis of their religion”

You need to unpack this. Specifically, you need to say whether you think this is generally a good principle, or whether it’s something that should be enforced.

26. Shatterface

religious people can have a platform, just not on the basis of their religion

I think it might technically be called a dais.

@ 26 shatterface

“I think it might technically be called a dais.”

A dais ex machina perhaps? ;)

…ok, I’ll get my coat…

A dais ex machina perhaps?

Isn’t that one of those piston-like platforms that went up and down in early Mario games?

Anyway, I’m clearly giving Joe’s slightly over-secularist ideas the serious attention they deserve. Bluntly, anyone can have a platform for whatever organisation they are claiming allegiance to – that’s what free speech is about. The League of Evil Satanic Haters of Men called Fred can stand up and sprout about how evil Freds are quite freely. So long as that platform is not given the ability to cause actions other than changing peoples’ minds (so we all hate Fred…) then I can’t see what the hell you can do about it.

I suppose you could make it illegal for journalists to interview religious or community leaders – but that strikes me as a huge first step to reintroducing censorship of anything that does not please the government.

Joe Re: Comment 23:

“religious people can have a platform, just not on the basis of their religion”

How kind of you to determine what religious people can have.

Tehmina Kazi – if you keep using the term ‘Islamophobia’ for anti-Muslim bigotry you’ll keep having it used against you by religious bigots and sectarians whenever they want to shut down criticism of them.

Be specific. Anti-Muslim bigotry is wrong (as is anti-non Muslim bigotry by Muslims), but ‘Islamophobia’ suggests free conscience where it dissents from Islam is a form of bigotry.

You need to think about these nuances and understand the difficulties that this causes – and how it creates an atmosphere of distrust and fear and resentment.

31. Chaise Guevara

@ 30 bobby

Are those terms not synonymous?

32. Just Visiting

Tehmina

I do have doubts as to what you aim to achieve – one problem I hit when discussing with Muslims is the problem that mainstream Islam says that apostates should be killed.

This means that many Muslims who would like to ‘jump ship’ or speak out against Islam are scared to do so.

Although many of the Muslims I meet claim that this death penalty is not Islamic, they are strangely silent when I ask why there is no campaign at all by mainstream Islamic bodies to educate their Muslim brethren round the world who are daily killing apostates or suspected apostates, and giving Islam a bad name in doing so.

It would be in Islam’s interests for such an ongoing campaign.

The lack of it, leads only to the conclusion that death for apostates is indeed the mainstream Islamic theology today.

After threatening audience members with some predictable “I know where you live” diatribes, he added that if the speakers said anything negative about the Prophet Mohammed, he would “track them down.” Rushing back out of the building with the same intensity he had entered, this youth ended up being flanked by a large group of his peers outside.

He’s now banned from the university now I presume? He should be anyway.
And the police should be thinking of charging him. And his buddies who were outside should be warned off as well..
If they were from the EDL there would be no question that they would all be banned off the campus and their presence would galvanise immediate action against them.

34. So Much For Subtlety

33. damon – “He’s now banned from the university now I presume? He should be anyway.”

That is the interesting question. He won’t be I assume. But let’s hope so.

After all, if someone had said to a girl he found her sexually desirable and he knew where she lived, he would be unlikely to be allowed to continue until graduation.

@chaise – some use the term ‘Islamophobia’ to describe, say, physically attacking someone for wearing a hijab, so in practice there is a lot of crossover. But I think what bobby means is that the term ‘Islamophobia’ is sometimes used to shut down fair criticism of Islam, or particular practices, or particular groups, and that anti-muslim bigotry should cover everything which is really serious. But there’s a big grey area – eg when people take quite fair points about, say, Sharia or fgm and start talking about Islam in such demonising or tendentious terms that it seems almost to become ‘constructive’ anti-Muslim bigotry.

This writer uses ‘Islamophobia’ to mean both things – as many people do, and that doesn’t bother me particularly, though it’s slightly imprecise maybe. But it’s clear that she distinguishes between fair and unfair use of the term.

Just Visiting: Please read my article in the Guardian dated 17th February 2012, which defends Hamza Kashgari (the 23-year-old who was threatened with the death penalty for relating an imaginary conversation with the Prophet Mohammed on his Twitter account).

37. Shatterface

Kenan Malik on ‘Islamophobia':

But does Islamophobia really exist? Or is the hatred and abuse of Muslims being exaggerated to suit politicians’ needs and silence the critics of Islam? The trouble with Islamophobia is that it is an irrational concept. It confuses hatred of, and discrimination against, Muslims on the one hand with criticism of Islam on the other. The charge of ‘Islamophobia’ is all too often used not to highlight racism but to stifle criticism. And in reality discrimination against Muslims is not as great as is often perceived – but criticism of Islam should be greater.

http://www.kenanmalik.com/essays/prospect_islamophobia.html

38. Chaise Guevara

@ 35 Sarah

Thanks. But if it’s unfair to shout “Islamaphobia!” at an individual making a reasonable comment, isn’t it just as bad to shout “bigotry!”?

The term ‘Islamophobia’ should be avoided, because, as stated above, it is used to imply in a condescending way that dislike of or criticism of Islam is based on an irrational fear – when there are plenty of very rational objections to Islam. We don’t regard people who don’t like Conservative ideas or Fascism or Marxism as suffering from a phobia and it is just as reasonable to dislike Islam.

40. Just Visiting

Heloise

What you said.

Chaise Guevara – I initially thought it would be much more difficult to make a false (IMO) accusation of anti-Muslim bigotry than Islamophobia – but, you are right, because one could say that criticism of, say, Qaradawi was a function of bigotry against him as a Muslim rather than either unfair or fair criticism of his ideas. I’m not sure if Kenan Malik quite covers it here:

“The trouble with Islamophobia is that it is an irrational concept. It confuses hatred of, and discrimination against, Muslims on the one hand with criticism of Islam on the other.”

What about dislike of Muslims with extreme ideas – it’s quite difficult to separate the person from the views. Also – some people would not want to discriminate against Muslims, certainly not attack them, but might conceivably carry their criticism of Islam to lengths which could be seen as phobic. Maybe.

This current thread could be seen as instructive on these distinctions.

https://shirazsocialist.wordpress.com/2012/03/13/hope-not-hate/

and I fretted about them here:

http://hurryupharry.org/2012/01/26/anti-muslim-bigotry-vs-islamophobia/

42. So Much For Subtlety

5. Young, Muslim and Irish

As a faithful believer in religion, as well as a believer in moral freedom, liberal conscience, and the systems promoting it, not to mention a student of political economics, social science, philosophy, history, information science, and the art of having a “bit of craic” down the pub, the idea of the above author’s piece on religion as being “yet more religious clap trap” seems somewhat out of keeping with classic understandings, see (Marx. K, (1843) On The Jewish Question, Trotsky. L, (1944) Fascism – What it Is and How to Fight It), about the role of religion, religious minorities, their relation to the secular government notwithstanding the conspiracies of extremists, as well as bitterly persistent attempts by those clearly identifiable and understood as fascists to obliterate them or undermine the integrity of their peaceful beliefs by provocation, see above article, that I wonder why Man On Clapham Omnibus can’t see the imperative of the work of young Muslim women activists like Tehmina Kazi in standing up to extremists!

May I just offer my congratulations to the above author for managing to cram so much about himself, Marxism and the obvious fact that he is a political science student or the like into a 165 word sentence that contains, at best, one logical coherent thought. I really do think this deserves some sort of prize.

I won’t even bother to comment on someone claiming to be a “faithful believer” of a religion that flatly condemns not merely the consumption of alcohol but anything to do with alcohol whatsoever, while admitting to liking a bit of a drink.

So hopefully I have answered anyone’s ponderings as to why this “religious” article is on this blog.

Alas, no. Although we have learnt a lot about everything else.

43. Chaise Guevara

@ 39 Heloise

“The term ‘Islamophobia’ should be avoided, because, as stated above, it is used to imply in a condescending way that dislike of or criticism of Islam is based on an irrational fear – when there are plenty of very rational objections to Islam. We don’t regard people who don’t like Conservative ideas or Fascism or Marxism as suffering from a phobia and it is just as reasonable to dislike Islam.”

I’d say that’s unfair. “Phobia” simply doesn’t mean “irrational fear” anymore. It also means “irrational hatred”: hence homophobia (in the modern sense) and Europhobia.

Yes, it IS thrown childishly at anyone who criticises Islam. And that’s wrong. But that’s not a reason for declaring the word itself invalid. Attack it when it’s misused.

44. Chaise Guevara

@ SMFS

“May I just offer my congratulations to the above author for managing to cram so much about himself, Marxism and the obvious fact that he is a political science student or the like into a 165 word sentence that contains, at best, one logical coherent thought. I really do think this deserves some sort of prize.”

Ok, I know I spend a lot of time shouting at you, but that was pretty good.

@43 Chaise

Ok, I take the point that ‘phobia’ is now used to mean irrational hatred as well as irrational fear, but it is a term that is beloved of Islamist apologists who like to suggest that any criticism of or opposition to Islam is essentially IRRATIONAL. Using the term just furthers their PR agenda. There is no need for a special word to describe anti-Muslim bigotry, but now it has been coined it is used to dismiss any criticism of Islam. It panders to the victim mentality of some Muslim leaders and helps them to perpetuate the myth that they are a special case and suffer from a special kind of discrimination.

46. the a&e charge nurse

[32] indeed, how can anyone attach credibility to an ideology that threatens death to those who don’t toe the party line – maybe the big book is simply too muddled for mere mortals to interpret properly?

Wiki says “The majority of Muslim scholars hold to the traditional view that apostasy is punishable by death or imprisonment until repentance, at least for adult men of sound mind” – note the complete lack of irony when there is talk of inciting death on the one hand, and a sound mind on the other.

Tehmina is obviously going in the right direction, but she must understand that many people will be uneasy about the influence of Islam in our society until a lot more Muslims begin to speak out against the homophobia, sexism, anti-semitism and intolerance of free speech that are expressed by many high-profile Muslim speakers.

We keep getting told that there are lots of ‘moderate’ Muslims who dislike this stuff too, but if so, why do we hear so little from them and why do they not complain when their mosques invite these people to speak? Why don’t more of them stand up and deplore some of the attitudes and activities of university Islamic societies? Why don’t we hear British Muslims expressing outrage at the persecution of minorites in Muslim majority countries? As has been pointed out, one answer to all these questions could be that they are too frightened. But that hardly encourages the rest of us to feel that Islam can sit comfortably with modern liberal democracy.

Until we hear a lot more from people like Tehmina many of us are going to believe that religious intolerance, sexism etc etc are so central to Islam (and there is plenty to justify this belief in the Koran) that moderate Islam is pie in the sky.

48. Chaise Guevara

@ 45 Heloise

“Ok, I take the point that ‘phobia’ is now used to mean irrational hatred as well as irrational fear, but it is a term that is beloved of Islamist apologists who like to suggest that any criticism of or opposition to Islam is essentially IRRATIONAL.”

Agree with that. But the same is true of “racist”, “sexist” and so on. I’ve been accused of misogyny simply for disagreeing with a woman (seriously, nothing to do with my actual opinion: I hadn’t immediately folded in the face of female disagreement and hence I was a nasty old sexist). All terms like that can be abused. Idiots abound.

“Using the term just furthers their PR agenda. There is no need for a special word to describe anti-Muslim bigotry, but now it has been coined it is used to dismiss any criticism of Islam. It panders to the victim mentality of some Muslim leaders and helps them to perpetuate the myth that they are a special case and suffer from a special kind of discrimination.”

This is where I disagree. I don’t see why a word should be blacklisted just because some people misuse it. As I said before, ANY word relating to bigotry (including “bigotry” itself) can be abused, so the logicial extension of this idea results in us refusing to use any of these words, and ending up not being able to call bigotry when we see it.

I see your point about there being a specific word, but there are reasons. Real Islamophobia is horribly common, and common concepts tend to get their own words as a natural progression of language. Stylistically, writing “anti-Muslim bigotry” over and over would quickly become stale. And it’s not like there aren’t other words like this: antisemitism, for example.

I should also point out that it’s partly the linguistic prescriptivists’ fault that “Islamophobia” is so widely used, because when people use the quicker short-hand “racism”, they gleefully leap in and make a big song and dance about how that isn’t etymologicially correct, often derailing the thread in the process, even though it’s clear what is meant by the term in the context. I got fed up with it, so now I use “Islamophobia”. I’m really not up for changing terminology every six months because someone objects to the word I’m currently using.

@48 Chaise
I agree that language is an ever-changing minefield and I can see that you are not going to stop using the term Islamophobia. That’s up to you, but as far as I am concerned the word is tainted by the Islamist agenda and by misuse.

I can understand very well why people get cross if ‘racism’ is brought into disucussions about Islam as it is another slur used by Islamists to shut down debate and criticism. As we all know, Islam is a religion, not a race. Religion, unlike race, is a matter of choice and choices are open to criticism.

Obviously some people are prejudiced against Pakistanis because they are foreign and have brown skin – and religion is incidental, but to bring race into discussions about religion is often a red herring and not a useful ‘shorthand’. On the whole people do not get upset about attacks on freedom on speech because the perpetrators have brown skin, they get upset because they value freedom of speech. They do not criticise Islam because its adherents have brown skin, they criticise it because it is the ideology that leads to the attacks on free speech, the homophobia, honour killings etc.

50. Chaise Guevara

@ 49 Heloise

It depends on the context, really. If someone is criticising the teachings of Islam, “racist” isn’t appropriate, but then nor is “Islamophobia”.

However, racists often blur the line between race and religion. I’ve often seen someone call someone else a Muslim simply because they look Middle Eastern. Plenty of bigots (of the old-school curtain-twitching variety) use “Indian, “Paki”, “Arab” and “Muslim” interchangeably. In those cases, I’m happy to call it racism because it’s the same issue.

51. Just Visiting

This thread gives me hope that LC and the left in general will soon be at a place where we can discuss Islam calmly and in detail – looking at the issues such as Heloise raises in 47.

It’s not so long ago on LC when posters were making ill-informed statements like: ‘Jesus and Mohammed were equally violent’.

I’m glad that the level of debate is now improving.
:<)

52. Just Visiting

Tehmina

You pointed me to your Guardian piece where you wrote:

> The people threatening Hamza Kashgari should stop, re-examine their motives and remember what Islam is actually for. It is not a sword or shield for the global political stage, nor is it a stick with which to beat minorities. Finally, it is not the equivalent of a product manual, as some followers seem to think. Instead, it is a belief system designed to purify the human heart.

I struggle to find this credible. Or even strictly honest of you.

You surely know that Islam has submission at it’s heart, not purity.
Obedience.
So that it’s not surprising that say in Malaysia (not a country typically associated with Muslim extremists) that it is against the law for anyone born a Muslim to give up their faith.

I know that for Muslims, Mohammed is the Ideal man and to be emulated. That nothing he did is wrong.
And that means that polygamy can never be barred.
Nor the death penalty for women caught in adultery, or for apostates.
Nor the beheading of prisoners.
Nor the giving of equal rights before the law to women.

Maybe I am over-reacting – but I find it hard to believe that you don’t already know all the above things about Islam – and so are at best in denial and using rose tinted spectacles.

Or at worst – that the BMSD is a PR exercise, designed to distract people from what Mohammed actually did and said and the direct impact it has on Muslims today.

@52 Just visiting
‘The people threatening Hamza Kashgari should stop, re-examine their motives and remember what Islam is actually for. It is not a sword or shield for the global political stage, nor is it a stick with which to beat minorities. Finally, it is not the equivalent of a product manual, as some followers seem to think. Instead, it is a belief system designed to purify the human heart.’

Yes, I was also rather taken aback when I read this. Of course every body interprets every religion in their own way. And it may be unhelpful when we (like the Islamic extremists) react to statements by moderates by saying ‘this is not a true interpretation of Islam’. There probably needs to be space for moderates to turn Islam into something less inimical to modern liberal democracy.

However, like you, I think it takes a massive leap of the imagination to regard Islam as ‘a belief system designed to purify the human heart’. Looking at Islam as it is portrayed by the words and actions of its most vocal representatives in the UK and abroad, this is not the kind of description that leaps to mind. Indeed there is so much violence and intolerance at the heart of the Koran that it is difficult to see how Islam CAN become less oppressive.

I think the BMSD are probably very sincere in what they are doing – and brave too. And maybe part of their strategy is to keep saying that Islam is ‘a belief system designed to purify the human heart’ or indeed ‘a religion of peace’ in the hope that eventually it will become these things.

54. Just Visiting

Tehmina

I think many liberals will be concerned by this, on the first article on the BMSD website I looked at:

> Shaykh Usama Hasan gave a lecture on “Islam and Evolution” at a mosque in Leyton, re-iterating his personal views on the issue. A fatwa had already been issued against him, and this was followed by death threats. This is not unlike the threats that scholars and scientists receive from Creationists in the US.

So how many people per year die under Fatwa’s and Sharia law?
Compare with the number dieing due to Creationists?

That BMSD sentence is wholly propaganda.

And shameful, given how badly Usama Hasan has been treated by his mosque and by local Muslims.

BMSD website says it intends to:

> Facilitating broad and enlightened theological discourses, to enable British Muslims and the wider public to be better informed about the Islamic faith.

But this is contradicted by the lack of any meaningful theological analysis on it;s website.

In particular there seems to be a lack of any theological addressing of the issues where Islam and secular democracy are often said to conflict:
* women not equal before the law, but just having ‘equal respect’
* death penalty for apostates, women adulters
* homosexuals

It would seem that even a theatre/dance company in London addresses those issues in Islam more directly than BMSD !

DV8: Can We Talk About This?

http://www.timeout.com/london/theatre/article/3198/dv8-can-we-talk-about-thisr

55. Just Visiting

Are BMSD even for real?

How come their website is nearly six months out of date:

Future events
Event: The current political environment in Pakistan and the role of legal fraternity
Date: 5th October 2011

@42 So Much for Subtlety

I know “Young Muslim and Irish” and he does not drink alcohol, although he does still appreciate pubs (while sticking to fruit juice). You misunderstood his post.

@Just Visiting

We have limited capacity, and I undertake most of the organisation’s tasks on my own. I am always running around, juggling ten things at once. Our IT consultant has a day job elsewhere and updates the website in his spare time, but I will let him know re: updating the Events’ section.

@Just Visiting

I think you will find that Dr Usama Hasan was very grateful to us for taking his cause – and the wider cause of freedom of expression – forward. I even discussed it in a CNN interview, and we started up a Facebook group to defend his freedom of speech.

If you read the articles and publications sections on the BMSD website, you will find plenty of analysis of the issues you refer to. Also, we have held several private roundtables on these issues. Read the Harrow Observer interview with me in the Articles section.

Ask any liberal activist out there – we have A LOT of support. Just look at the BMSD Facebook group and how active it is.

It seems to me that one problem is that it is a general principle of the modern ideology that all differences are ultimately resolvable within a liberal democratic type framework. The way this works in practice is that differences are reduced to things that don’t mean anything. That’s why we can celebrate diversity: because it doesn’t mean anything.

So it looks like the choices that face Muslims qua Muslims are as follows: submit to liberalism, or fight against it. It is not really possible for Islam to survive as anything more than a “mere religion” in the context of a modern secular liberal society. That suggests that, contra what everyone wants to believe, the dispute is not resolvable in a way that makes everyone happy and at the Pareto optimum.

60. Just Visiting

Tehmina

But there’s nothing on your website that says that your organisation has any theological basic for arguing that apostates from Islamic do not deserve the death penalty.

In fact the word apostasy doesn’t even appear on your website! Not a single article about a hugely important issue for a secular democrat ?

Just what is BMSD’s view on punishment of apostates?

And though you have a page called ‘Muslim women: beyond the stereotype’ – the article is vague as to what BMSD are arguing for – specifically do you have theological grounds for disagreeing with Moohammeds view (and widespread Sharia practise worldwide) that before the law, a women’s voice counts half that of a man’s?

61. Just Visiting

And judging by this –

> They forget that the main reason polygamy was allowed in the first place – according to many scholars – was to provide security and respectability to war widows, orphans, and divorced and destitute women.

It sounds like you might wish to part in another thread on LC where the question of extending marriage to include legalisation of polygamy has come up.

PS – you do know that the ‘war widows’ your site mentions includes women widowed the same day that Mohammed bedded them, after their husbands were killed in battle against Mohammed ?

You site does seem to have a PR Spin feel to it there…

I would have thought protection for apostasy was at least implicit in the remit of BMSD?

Anyway, here is Mohammed Amin, who is (I would have thought) a little more conservative than Tehmina Kazi

http://www.mohammedamin.com/Community_issues/Muslims_misguided_enough_to_abandon_Islam_are_free_to_do_so.html

63. Just Visiting

Sarah AB

Of course it’s possible to find a Muslim here and there posting a webpage saying they personally don’t support death for apostates.

Like you can find books written by former bishops of the CofE which suggest that god is a human mind’s creation!

Christians do believe god is rather more than that.

Critically -Islam does lack any coordinated campaigns against death for apostates, despite the fact that every week there are people round the world killed for it. And Islam gets a bad name because of them: so islam itself would benefit from better PR if there was such a campaign.

Even the guy you quote – even he seems to be mealy-mouthed on the issue:

We can actively oppose attempts to punish apostasy without concerning ourselves with the disagreement amongst Muslims as to whether Islam prescribes an earthly punishment for apostasy.

He seems to want to avoid exploring that mainstream Islamic figures round the world do advocate the death penalty.

64. Just Visiting

Why is violence so natural to Islamic scholars?

I don’t hear scholars from christianity calling for killings today. Nor jewish or hindu scholars.

But this week

. Egypt’s prominent Muslim cleric Safwat Hejazi said the killing of Al Assad is a duty for every Muslim

http://gulfnews.com/news/region/syria/egyptian-cleric-issues-death-fatwa-against-al-assad-1.995464

I think it is time to stop pretending that Islam is not that different from the other religions in the UK and that any unease regarding its role here is irrational. How often do we hear about churches or synagogues giving cause for concern because they are ‘radicalising’ youth? Is it ever necessary to praise a vicar or rabbi for being ‘moderate’. How many vicars or rabbis in the UK make explicitly racist comments or call for the punishment of apostates or the burning of books? If vicars or rabbis stood up and refered to Muslims as ‘monkeys’ or ‘pigs’ (as Muslims sometimes refer to Jews), can you imagine the outrage, the violence?

It is time for ‘moderate’ Muslims to stop tip toeing about and admit that there is a very serious problem with Islam.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Left Foot Forward

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  2. The Dragon Fairy

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  3. Daniel Furr

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  4. Martin Steel

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  5. John Hurr

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too http://t.co/NnuqBjiU

  6. Shamik Das

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  7. Lynne Jones

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  8. Tristram Wyatt

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too, writes Tehmina Kazi on @LibCon: http://t.co/upQHTC7O #BestOfTheWeb

  9. Arun Mehta

    Tehmina Kazi: "Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too." http://t.co/oPWlwiYt via @libcon

  10. Michael Lee Rawlings

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too | Liberal …: As director of British Muslims for Secular … http://t.co/R7R58EaG

  11. Richard

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too | Liberal Conspiracy http://t.co/uZObrycx via @libcon

  12. Ben Gidley

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too http://t.co/NnuqBjiU

  13. israeldigitalpr

    Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too | Liberal Conspiracy… http://t.co/LnV75t2j

  14. SubMedina

    Muslims challenging intimidation from within – on harassment & disruptions of talks, lectures, dialogue http://t.co/FwZS9ajc

  15. Shah aka Mr. Trini

    RT @libcon: Muslims should challenge intimidation from within too http://t.co/oc7hD03H





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