After attending the event “Is Islam Being Criminalised?” on Saturday, Dilly Hussain writes that it may take more events like this and most importantly a consistent strategy to counter the attacks against Islam in Britain.
More than 600 people packed out Eastern Pearl Banqueting Hall in Manchester with over 2000 viewers watching the event online.
It was a positive start to 2014 in the sense that prominent figures of Muslim organisations with sizeable followings came together to discuss the issue of whether Islam is being criminalised by the government and mainstream media.
There was a similar event held at the Waterlily, London, last November organised by Engage which brought together the heads of iERA, Hizb ut-Tahrir, FOSIS, MRDF, MDI, Ebrahim College among other notable leaders within the Muslim community to discuss whether Muslims were excluded from free speech.
The Government Extremism Task Force’s report on “Tackling Extremism in the UK” came in conjunction with the niqab ban debate, university ISOC segregation outrage (among muscular liberals), the banning of Muslim speakers and most recently the possible application of “anti-terror” ASBO’s restricting preachers’ activities in April.
Nasir Hafezi – Counter Terrorism lawyer.
Abdullah al Andalusi – Founder of the Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI).
Imam Sulaiman Ghani – Islam Channel and Imam.
Mohammed Jahangir – Prominent anti-PVE activist from Manchester.
Moazzam Begg – Former Bagram and Guantanamo Bay detainee and director of CagePrisoners.
Sheikh Haitham al Haddad – Islamic Shariah Council of Britain, Islam 21C and Muslim Research & Development Foundation (MRDF).
Dr Reza Pankhurst – Former prisoner under Hosni Mubarak, author, university lecturer and member of Hizb ut-Tahrir, Britain.
The event was chaired by Islamic activist and political commentator Sharif Abu Laith.
Nasir Hafezi outlined government strategy, the implications of the Extremism Task Force’s report and the absence of any legal grounds for existing and proposed anti-terror policies.
“The Extremism Task Force’s report is not justice, its new legal grounds to hunt and persecute Muslims. We (Muslims) have become the new second class citizens and the new untouchables. There is currently a two-tier system, one for Muslims and non Muslims.”
Abdullah al Andalusi gave examples of current affairs and offered practical steps to take, comparing British Muslims to the civil rights movement in America. He stated that democracy had failed not only Muslims but non Muslims as well, and urged our communities to engage in society by taking political action such as peaceful protests, civil disobedience and debates.
“Muslims believe in the caliphate as part and parcel of our deen. However, we have an obligation to be law abiding citizens, but this is not good enough for the government. Remember that Islam is more tolerant than any man made system in the West. We need to enjoin in civil disobedience, debate, discussion and make clear that we want our beliefs left alone and to live in piece.”
Imam Sulaiman Ghani argued from an Islamic perspective that it was necessary to “enjoin in good and forbid evil”, not to compromise on normative Islam when it’s being demonised by the government, media and society in general.
“Man made laws are inherently flawed and now laws are being introduced to replace Allah’s natural law. In reality, these unnatural laws relating to marriage, education, sexuality and fundamentals of our aqeedah will persecute those who follow the divine law. We must continue enjoining in good and forbidding evil, and remain united as an Ummah.”
Mohammed Jahangir gave examples of how government strategy works. He narrated the fictional story of “A boy called Abdullah” who went through a PREVENT “de-radicalisation” programme.
“A young boy called Abdullah went through a PVE funded programme…in reality it was a programme preventing him from being a Muslim! David Cameron hates your beliefs, your politics, your culture, but he loves your money in the case of Islamic bond plans!”
Moazzam Begg explained that the War on Terror is in fact a war on Islam. He presented his case from the historical angle that no other community has been attacked like Muslims, domestically and overseas.
“Britain has truly taken a new turn in its persecution of religious minorities, especially Muslims. Sheikh Tony Blair telling us what our religion is! I told the British secret services that I’m going to Syria to investigate them. This war against Islam and Muslims transcends boarders and continents, unlike any other war against any other group. They wish to extinguish the light of Islam.”
Sheikh Haitham al Haddad emphasised the importance of being patient and positive during times of hardship. He also highlighted that Britain and the West fear the current rise of Islam and decline of Christianity and secular liberalism as a result of dawah, which shouldn’t stop under any circumstance.
“Don’t ever be defeated, stay strong. If you are internally defeated you will be externally defeated. Smiling at the face of your enemy during difficulty is in fact victory. If Muslims are being kicked from behind, that means we are actually in front. The West fears our religion and our ideology. Christianity is in decline and Islam is on the rise. United we are stronger, divided we are weaker. Do not let them divide and rule us. We have a lot more in common.”
Dr Reza Pankhurst concluded by saying that Muslims should not compromise Islam in any shape or form. He said that whilst most Muslims condemned and acknowledged that the murder of Lee Rigby was against the Shariah, Islam was not to blame but British/western foreign policy was directly to blame. Dr Pankhurst also clarified the Islamic condition of Muslims living in the UK under a covenant and that we have an obligation to engage in society.
“Rasulah (saw) was considered an extremist by the Quraish. This is a battle between haq and batil – Islam and Kufr. Who told us about Khilafah? Who told us about one Ummah? Who told us about jihad? Who told us about Sharai dress code? Was it not Allah and His Messenger? If Rasulah didn’t compromise Islam then it is not on us to compromise. This is the same war that Rasulah went through.”
Whilst the speakers addressed current dilemmas faced by Muslims in the UK, some on social media criticised the event for not offering a detailed strategy to counter the criminalisation of Islam.
Before I give my personal view on the coherency of the solution offered by the speakers, it’s important that as a Muslim community we come to terms with some home truths.
We have loads of organisations in Britain that claim to be “representative” of Muslims. Some are in bed with the establishment, some set up and funded by the government, some that are pro-democracy and anti-democracy, and others that specifically concentrate on the educational aspects of Islam.
Within the British Muslim landscape we have modernists, secularists and liberals who have no problem with draconian legislation that demonises normative orthodox Islam and targets mainstream figures. Then we have groups that advocate political participation and do effective work in accounting the government and mainstream media. We have organisations that expose foreign policy but refrain from political participation.
It has taken nearly a decade for Muslims to realise that the only way we can counter the ongoing agenda against Islam is to be united, but a master solution will not happen overnight. It took the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, 7/7, Woolwich, the niqab and segregation ban debate, gay marriage vote, attacking the concept of nikah, attributing sexual grooming, forced marriages and honour killings to Islam and the constant demonisation of our religion by the media and politicians for us to wake up.
The differences between Muslim organisations whether it be it political, juristic or creedal means that it will take time for a unified consistent solution to be forged. However, the speakers did set out preliminary guidelines to the solution:
– Promote Islam as a comprehensive belief system.
– Absolutely no compromise in changing or abandoning normative Islamic practices/concepts.
– Engage in society via debate, discussion, peaceful protests and civil disobedience.
– Unity regardless of political or religious differences. There is more to unite upon than disunite upon.
– Produce capable Muslim representatives who can deal with the mainstream media.
– Stop apologising for crimes that have nothing to do with Islam.
– Continue linking “extremism” and incidents like 7/7 and Woolwich to foreign policy.
– Political activism in accordance with Islam.
– Muslims should excel in their field of studies and work, so they can get into positions of influence.
– Do not wait for your group/organisation/party to be attacked, speak out and defend you brethren regardless of your differences.
May this be the first step in the right direction in a united front in the defence of Islam insh’Allah.