Are Western leaders and the Western media missing a critical opportunity to exacerbate the divisions in our Muslim communities, between the minority who advocate the use of terrorism to achieve the establishment of an Islamic hegemony and the majority who do not support such tactics and may even abhor them…?
For about 5 hours on 2 March it was hot news: Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, a leading Islamic scholar, had issued a detailed 605-page fatwa against suicide bombings and terrorism. He said that terrorism cannot be justified under any pretext through allusion to any real or alleged instances of injustice and there is no space for terrorism in Islam.
He regretted the fact that the Islamic teachings, which are based on love, peace and welfare, are being manipulated and quoted out of context to serve the designs of vested interests (such as al-Qaeda). He said that Islam spelled out a clear code of conduct during the course of war and gave complete protection to non-combatants including women, the old, children, etc – with trading centres, schools, hospitals and places of worship deemed to be ‘safe places’.
Ul-Qadri’s fatwa is far from being the first to condemn terrorism. As a reaction to 9/11, just days later ShaykhYusuf Qaradawi of Qatar, Tariq Bishri, Muhammad Awwa and Fahmi Huwaydi, all from Egypt, Haytham Khayyat of Syria and American imam Shaykh Taha Jabir al-Alwani issued a combined statement: “All Muslims ought to be united against all those who terrorise the innocents, and those who permit the killing of non-combatants without a justifiable reason. Islam has declared the spilling of blood and the destruction of property as absolute prohibitions until the Day of Judgment. … [It is] necessary to apprehend the true perpetrators of these crimes, as well as those who aid and abet them through incitement, financing or other support. They must be brought to justice in an impartial court of law and [punished] appropriately. … [It is] a duty of Muslims to participate in this effort with all possible means.” Their statement was just one of many condemning fundamentalist terrorism at the time. In July 2003 Grand Sheikh Mohammed Sayed Tantawi of the Al-Azhar mosque of Cairo – considered the highest authority in Sunni Islam – said groups which carried out suicide bombings were the enemies of Islam. In January 2004 Saudi Arabia’s grand mufti Shaykh ‘Abdul-‘Azeez Aal ash-Shaykh told 2 million pilgrims: “Islam has forbidden violence in all its forms. It has forbidden hijacking airplanes, ships and other means of transport and has forbidden all acts that would undermine security.” Later that same year a group of prominent scholars (including ash-Shaykh and ul-Qadri) got together to issue ‘The Amman Message’ and a number of scholars, including ul-Qadri, have issued shorter, simpler denunciations since then. What makes ul-Qadri’s new fatwa different is the sheer depth and breadth of religious and legal scholarly argument it goes into to support its pronouncements. Also it declares someone who undertakes terrorist activities to be an unbeliever who cannot go to Heaven.
Ul-Qadri has effectively refuted all the fundamentalist arguments that the radical imams put forward to support terrorism. These arguments essentially cluster around 2 key ideas:-
- It is a Muslim’s duty to use violence to relieve fellow Muslims from oppression by unbelievers (Sura 2: 191, 193). What tends to get twisted or ignored, though, is the ending of 193: “…if they cease, Let there be no hostility except to those who practise oppression.”
‘Oppression’ clearly is the tricky word here. Civilian Afghans being slaughtered by American helicopter gunships is unequivocally oppression…while the act is taking place. Is it still oppression when the act is stopped and the American military apologises and takes measures to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again? Living by choice as a minority under a government which allows you freedom to worship but doesn’t espouse your religious values in its social policies – the position of the Muslim communities in the UK, for example – is that oppression?
- The belief that a warrior slain in battle for Allah will go to Heaven and be wedded to 72 beautiful virgins. This last highly-effective meme is created by putting together disconnected verses – eg: Sura 9:111 with Sura 55:46-78. This running together of different concepts to create a new idea is typical of the way religious philosophers manipulate ‘holy book’ text to create something the original writer(s) may not have intended. Radical imams certainly do it – but they’re not the only religious leaders who do it or have done it in the past. From the Crusades and before through to World War II and after, Christian leaders have manipulated Bible text in a similar same way to justify slaughter of the ‘enemy’ (including civilians).
Sura 4: 29-30 makes it clear that suicide is wrong for a Muslim. So the imams have to twist it that a ‘suicide bomber’ blowing themselves up to destroy the ‘enemy’ (civilians) is not actually deliberately ending their own life (suicide) but is a martyr dying in battle in the service of God. Otherwise, the suicide bomber can’t expect to go to Heaven and claim his virgins.
Ul-Qadri can’t rule out jihad but he can and does hedge it about with teachings about how war is to be fought in a way that protects the innocent and preserves the integrity of both the cause and God’s will.
Ul-Qadri’s fatwa is the unequivocal Islamic denunciation of terrorist tactics Tony Blair called for from Britain’s Muslim leaders in the wake of 7/7. (Ul-Qadri’s choice of London to launch his fatwa was undoubtedly a deliberate part of his strategy.)
So how come the Western media has paid it so little attention? And, by largely ignoring it, are Western governments missing a key opportunity?
Helping out a different perspective on religious leadership
Unlike the Christian churches, there is no clear and rigidly defined hierarchy of leadership in either Sunni or Shi’a Islam. Rather leadership is envisaqed as a trust (Rafik Issa Beekun & Jamal Badawi, 1999). Leaders have to win and maintain the trust of their followers and their leadership is then recognised – eg: ‘Ayotollah’ is a Shi’a term of recognition for an expert in Islamic studies who will usually hold a teaching post. ‘Mullah’ and ‘immam’ are terms that roughly equate to ‘priest’; but there is no hierarchy equivalent to, for example, curate, vicar, deacon, archdeacon, bishop, archbishop in the Church of England.
Islamic scholars and teachers tend to gain influence from the numbers of their followers and the respect the followers show for the cleric’s teachings, rather than simply from the position they hold.
Thus, Ul-Qadri’s fatwa is not to Muslims like the edict of the Pope to Catholics. He is but one of hundreds, if not thousands of Islamic scholars, seeking to establish influence from their interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith. So it is not a case of Ul-Qadri has pronounced; now all Muslims will oppose terrorism. Those Muslims who follow Ul-Qadri should now take his position as the definitive statement on the matter. Those who are unsure whether terrorism can be justified from scripture now have a very powerful voice giving them the soundest theological arguments as to why it can’t possibly be. Other open-minded scholars, hopefully, will test Ul-Qadri’s arguments and find they can support them and disseminate his messages through their own followers.
Since Ul-Qadri’s position is not like the Pope speaking to millions upon millions of Catholics through a hierarchical route of command expected to produce obedience, surely it is in the West’s interests to help Ul-Qadri spread his message and increase his influence?
For all we know, the intelligence agencies (CIA, MI6, etc) may be working covertly to support anti-terrorism Islamic leaders; but in public at least there is the proverbial deafening silence. There has been scant media coverage of Ul-Qadri’s fatwa and its reception in the Islamic world – which is where it really counts – beyond the day of its launch. To me, this is decidedly puzzling.
Other Muslim-sponsored events which take an anti-terrorist stance also tend to go unreported on in the West – eg: the Anti-Terrorism/All India Conference of February 2008, the National Peace Conference in Pakistan (April 2009). And attention is rarely given to Muslim anti-terrorism web sites such as the Free Muslims Coalition.
The general impression given in much of the Western media is that the majority of Muslims go along with or are indifferent to the extremists. In fact, there is real evidence that there are distinct anti-terrorism movements amongst the Muslim communities around the world and that there is an intellectual and spiritual battle on for how Islam deals with its relations with both ‘oppressors’ in particular and unbelievers in general.
So, why, oh, why are Western leaders and the Western media largely ignoring these movements when they offer ways to engage with peace-supporting Islamic leaders with the means of influencing millions of Muslims around the world and isolating the extremists?
Just think: if the news bulletins covering last month’s suicide bombings on the Moscow Metro had carried interviews with ul-Qadri quoting the Qur’an to denounce the terrorists as ‘unbelievers’ and stating that they would not go to Heaven…. How powerful a message would that have been?!?
The likes of Ul-Qadri being consulted on TV would increase their influence – especially amongst the millions of Muslims living in the West. Surely we want their views to be more influential than, say, Osama bin Laden’s?!?
If the neo-Christian West wants a peaceful relationship with Islam, both within and without its own domains, then we need to engage actively, supportively and publicly with Muslim leaders who are anti-terrorism in their views.
Seeing the likes of Ul-Qadri denouncing terrorists on TV will also help to ‘normalise’ the concept of Muslim leaders airing their views via a national medium and will present a much more positive image of Islam to the non-Muslim majorities in the Western countries.
Isolating the extremists
At the beginning of this Blog post, I talked about exacerbating the divisions in the Muslim communities. This means isolating the extremists and shrinking their numbers while boosting the standing of Muslims who want to pursue their faith in a manner which allows for co-existence with unbelievers and at least tolerates, even if in disgust and seeking change through peaceful means, the laws of a country in which they are clearly the minority population.
This inevitably means that the extremists will attack the non-extremists as ‘traitors to the cause’ and will force the non-extremists to defend themselves.
The Assimilation-Contrast Effect (ACE) Don Beck (2003) developed from running the vMEMES of Spiral Dynamics through Muzafer Sherif & Carl Hovland’s Social Judgement Theory (1961) demonstrates that the more extreme someone’s position on a policy or philosophy the more likely they are to see moderate positions on their own side as being more like positions on the other side. From the extremist perspective, this Contrasting Effect puts greater distance between extremist positions and more moderate positions on the same side, even to the point of demonising the moderates as effectively being in league with the other side. (The Assimilating Effect is seen when moderates from different sides minimise or turn a ‘blind eye’ to very real differences between them, in order to accentuate their commonalities. An example of this are the inter-faith movements.)
To some considerable extent the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan have already demonstrated the Contrast Effect by carrying out ‘takfir’ on moderate Muslims opposed to them. Takfir is the act of declaring another Muslim to have committed aposotacy and become a ‘kafir’ (unbeliever); since apostacy is punished by death (Sura 5:32), this enables the Taliban (and al-Qaeda) to justify killing moderate Muslims. (In ACE terms, this is the zealot punishing those who deviate from what it decrees is ‘the one true way’.)
Since Islam is a brotherhood and Muslims are obliged to support and protect one another (Sahih Bukhari Volume 3/Book 43/Number 622), from a theological point of view takfir is necessary for one Muslim to kill another. However, ul-Qadri’s fatwa effectively declares takfir on terrorists and suicide bombers. Thus, moderate Muslims who subscribe to fatwas such as ul-Qadri’s, can now legitimately kill terrorists and suicide bombers because they are apostate.
To further this division between the extremists and the moderates, the neo-Christian West must increase the commonalities with the moderate Muslims – thus, increasing the Assimilation Effect between moderate Muslims and Westerners willing to engage with them as respected equals. As those commonalities are increased, so a common identity needs to be developed – as per Samuel Gaertner et al’s (1993) Common In-Group Identity Model – which separates the moderates from the extremists in conceptual terms.
Western ignorance, Western arrogance or Western scheming?
With ul-Qadri’s fatwa having the potential to change the entire relationship between Islam and terrorism, it remains a baffling mystery why so little attention seems to be being paid to it.
Could it be that potential is not recognised?
In which case, people in high places and their advisors are not paying attention. Perhaps their attention is elsewhere – Barack Obama fretting over his health care bill; Gordon Brown consumed with how to salvage the general election…? Perhaps, after nearly 9 years of the ‘War on Terror’, there still aren’t enough senior figures in the White House or Whitehall who understand Islam and how it works, to recognise the significance of ul-Qadri’s fatwa…?
As for the media, as we know all too well, bad news sells more newspapers than good news – and it’s a lot easier to drag a story about ill-equipped British troops in Helmand out for several days than it is to explore the subtleties and nuances of a scholarly and religious exposition day after day.
Perhaps it’s due to arrogance – the West can sort it out without understanding Islam?
The invasions of Afghanistan (2001) and Iraq (2003) displayed the West at its most arrogant and foolhardy. Well over a million Muslim lives and the lives of several thousand Western military personnel have been lost since 2001 because so little detailed consideration was put into the follow-throughs. As military operations, both invasions could hardly have gone better; but the soldiers have paid the price since because the politicians and the strategists didn’t understand. They didn’t understand Islam and they didn’t understand tribal cultures; they simply thought they could impose Western-style Democracy and that it would work more or less smoothly from the off. Just how many lives might not have been lost had those politicians and strategists not been so arrogant and bothered to understand before they decided…?
It’s perhaps no coincidence that the first signs of acknowledging diversity and wanting to understand the local varieties of Islam and to get to grips with local tribal cultures are coming from frontline intelligence officers in the US Army. In their paper, ‘Fixing Intel: a Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan’, Major General Michael Flynn, Captain Matt Pottinger & Paul Batchelor (2010) describe pilot schemes of bottom-up engagement with local tribal elders in Southern Afghanistan which have transformed relations between the tribespeople and the military and seriously disadvantaged local Taliban. And now Colonel Fred Krawchuk – a commander in the Baghdad ‘Surge’ (2007-2008) who used Spiral Dynamics for insight into dealing with local factions – has asked Don Beck to go to Afghanistan to advise the intelligence effort.
But, as Flynn et al argue, this new, developing approach has to go right up through the chain of command to the top – to president and prime minister. We simply can’t afford for the arrogance which led to years of failure in post-invasion Afghanistan and post-invasion Iraq to continue to blind us to on-the-ground realities. (No wonder both Clare W Graves (1978/2005) and Abraham Maslow (1956) considered 1st Tier ways of thinking to be delusional!)
Is the West scheming – do Western leaders actually want there to be moderate Muslims?
Perhaps there is an agenda suited by the term ‘Muslim’ equaling the term ‘terrorist’? In which case, moderate Muslim leaders who have the influence to undermine the arguments of the fundamentalist clerics are not people Western leaders would wish to support and promote.
We’re clearly on the verge of conspiracy theories here – George W Bush’s use of the term ‘crusader’ in 2001 was a parapraxis (‘Freudian slip’) – there really is a crusade against Islam; the 2003 invasion really was all about getting control of Iraq’s oil; etc, etc. I’m not about to indulge in such speculation but there are numerous instances in recent history of democratically-elected governments manipulating information and the way it is presented to sell dubious ideas to their populations.
While it’s every government’s job to put the interests of its people above all others, in today’s interconnected world, with economic meltdown triggered by overlending banks halfway around the world, plagues able to travel around the globe on passenger aircraft and nuclear obliteration of the planet still a real (if probably receded) possibility, the days of Bismarckian scheming to set one lot warring against the other for your own national advantage should be long gone.
Which leads us back to the central question: why then so little attention paid to Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri’s 2 March fatwa?
Thursday, December 18th 2014 at 20:36
Interesting anecdote about the Pakistani who disliked his taste of al-Qaeda!
Sounds like there’s a strong undercurrent of PURPLE racism in the way Arabs interpret the Qur’an in such a discriminatory way. How widespread do you think that is in the Middle East.
Also interesting that the Saudis have access to Pakistani nuclear weapons…at least in theory.!
Thursday, December 18th 2014 at 18:40
Following the v ACE model in this case is easier said than done Keith. Getting rid of Al Baghdadi, for example will only open the way for someone with similar values to rise to power. Don’t expect a weak central government in Baghdad or Damascus to do it. He’s a reflection of where Sunni Life Conditions are in the Gulf. The memes that Islam has spread in the Middle East are not those of peaceful coexistence, but those of RED conquest as if we still live under Life Conditions that existed during the days of the Prophet. In absence of a benevolent central authority that oversees Islamic teachings and stands for universal BLUE-Orange-Green values, the emergence of the religion to higher values would default to where Life Conditions are in different parts of the world, i.e, running the entire spectrum of positions on the ACE model from Flamethrowers to Conciliators.
Just a note on how Arab Muslims radicals view other Muslims, two years ago Elza, Don and I were invited to participate in an international anti-terrorism conference in Paris. One of the speakers was a well educated Pakistani Muslim who wanted to join Al-Qaeda for Jihad. As he arrived for training, he was assigned demeaning tasks that had nothing to do with Jihad. A few months later he was told that Pakistanis will never rise above what he was doing. That’s when he decided to risk his life and leave under the cover of darkness. Prejudice in radical Arab Islam runs deep, not just against non-Muslims, but also non-Arabs. When the Qur’an is interpreted strictly as the word of God, phrases in it like “I’ve given you the word of God in Arabic” goes a long way to justify the closed minds of individuals who still view their holy book as a full system for living that God gave only to Arabic speakers.
Thursday, December 18th 2014 at 13:37
Said, you’re absolutely right about there being no over-arching hierarchy in Islam – the consequence discussed is that “…Ul-Qadri’s fatwa is not to Muslims like the edict of the Pope to Catholics. He is but one of hundreds, if not thousands of Islamic scholars, seeking to establish influence from their interpretation of the Qur’an and the Hadith.”
But, if, for example,Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has no more given authority than Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, could that, in fact, be turned to the advantage of the peacemakers?
To get to the Catholics, you’ve got to convince the Pope – and if he isn’t for being convinced…. We already know there are hundreds and hundreds of Islamic scholars and imams opposed to the violent extremists, able to justify their position on the basis of Qur’anic and Hadithic texts. But, as you say, their influence doesn’t run that far. But, if they were given funds and profile – in the way I suggest ul-Qadri should be, their influence should become that much greater.
al-Baghdadi, for example, runs a slick, media-savvy operation – probably, as you intimate, well-funded by at least some of the House of Saud. If serious funding is put behind some of the moderate guys AND they are seen to have some influence in promoting Islamic values to Westerners, then maybe the drift to radicalisation can be slowed.
Contrast the irredeemable extremists so they can be isolated and killed. Assimilate the moderates and allow some memetic influence.
Wednesday, December 17th 2014 at 23:50
Keith, I think what’s being overlooked is the organizational structure of Islam. Christianity, has always trusted the Pope or a similar central figure who keeps order among bishops, cardinals, priests, etc, and holds them accountable. There is no such structure in Islam. In the Arab world, it was always Purple-RED and, unfortunately will be so for the foreseeable future. No Imam will ever issue a Fatwa that will have an effect far beyond his sphere of influence. Unlike the Catholic Church when it issues an edict and a billion Catholics around the world have to follow it.
Pakistan, where Dr. al Kudri has a following, has far more social complexity than any of the Arab countries that have been the source of terrorism (and no oil to make them as complacent about the terrorism issue as the Arabian Gulf). The modern-day route of the problem goes back to the power-sharing structure between Al-Saud and the Wahhabis. The Wahhabis won’t interfere with Saudi politics as long as the Saudis don’t interfere with the radical Wahhabi teachings and give generously for them to build radical Madrasas all over the Middle East. They then staff these schools with RED firebrand Imams who are often uneducated breeding more radicals who have no capacities to belong to any type of Blue system.
Tuesday, August 24th 2010 at 00:21
Thanks for this, KA.
I think we’re in agreement on a lot of this.
One measure of moral certainty in this might be that the Americans and the British are desperate to get out of Afghanistan after less than 1300 American personnel killed and less than 350 British in the 9 years of this war. No one knows for sure how many Taliban have been killed but conservative estimates reckon multiple thousands – more than likely into double figures. So why do they keep fighting when they take such slaughter and why do the Americans and the British want to cut and run when their casualties are relatively light? (And that is not to disrespect the very real tragedies experienced by the families of the fallen American and British soldiers….)
I believe the answer lies at least partly in the Taliban being sure of their cause…BLUE. They KNOW they are right and they are prepared to sacrifice themselves for their cause. The tainted American blue/ORANGE vision of spreading ‘truth, freedom and democracy’ manipulated by media barons like Rupert Murdoch is looking more fragile each day when set against such ‘honest’ certainty.
With Christianity in retreat from secularism right across Western Europe, we have much to learn from the BLUE that Islam has to offer us. But, if we are to avoid the kind of stultifying religious oppression that the Taliban inflicted upon Afghanistan and that could lead to religion-based civil unrest in the Midlands and West Yorkshire, any resurgence of BLUE has to be managed from the 2nd Tier.
Unfortunately, I don’t think anyone’s quite worked out how to do that yet!
Monday, August 23rd 2010 at 15:55
If the negative reading often applied to early Islam were to be applied similarly to Judaism or Christianity, only a Dawkinsesque atheism could stand. That way lies a war of all against all because ultimately everyone should be doing & believing as I do. So, I think in principle you’re correct. But it seems to me that there has to be as much a question as to the resilience of western democracies, which are looking pretty sick right now, & their ability to absorb & integrate differences, let alone accommodate them in the form of hijab wearing, sharia law or expressions of solidarity with brother Muslims (even when that’s not always so much in evidence except as reaction to western policy).
Engaging with “advanced” Islamic thinkers like ul-Qadri is clearly something that should be done. Whether that engagement has a positive response from within the Muslim community is another thing. The big issue is that western societies are looking shaky & lacking in confidence, not knowing where to look for ideals & meanwhile intent on entertain ourselves to death. Perhaps the recession will pulls up sharply enough. For the moment it doesn’t look like it. So Islam is an easy other to locate & criticise, much as “the Turks” where for medieval Christendom. It seems we might need to stop the “crusades” before we can see the wood of benefits the west gained from the Islamic world from the Islamist trees. Meanwhile, the west needs to discover again what it is about.
Sunday, May 2nd 2010 at 06:06
I’m no expert on either Islam or Ottoman history – I MUST stress that, freemindmovement – but it does seem to me that the development of Islam’s relations with other religions and cultures is rather complex and that there is no single template from how it has happened in the past.
And doesn’t religion so often get enmeshed in other ethnic and cultural issues? A still live example in neo-Christianity is the way in Northern Ireland Roman Catholicism is enmeshed with Republicanism and Protestantism is enmeshed with Unionism. If you’re holding the Turks up as model Muslim integrators…well, I do know enough about the Ottomans to know that the Turks often put down subject peoples rather brutally. The most well-documented instance is the 1916(?) pogrom against the Christian Armenians. (Only last month a Congressional recognition of the massacres was a renewed source of friction between Turkey and the United State….)
In my (limited!) understanding of Islam, I thought that Islam’s accommodation of other religions assumes that Islam is the dominant religion in the geographical region and, therefore, these are concessions to minority faiths…? Even then, aren’t there some strong limitations? – eg: a Muslim man (assumed to be the dominant partner) can marry a non-Muslim woman but a Muslim woman (non-dominant partner) can’t marry a non-Muslim man…?
Separating out Islam’s requirements from cultural practice can also be a real thorny issue – eg: Islam’s requirement for a woman to dress modestly becomes the burkha in some cultures.
Accommodating/integrating Islam peacefully into Western culture is probably the single greatest challenge facing the West, secondly only to attaining sustainable stability in the financial systems – and, who knows, possibly even more important? The benefit for the West is that successful integration will force into the Western systems some of that BLUE moral backbone the decline of Christianity has caused to wither away.
The greatest challenge facing Muslims living in the West or interacting with it, in my view, is how to live as a God-fearing Muslim minority in a secular system that allows you to practice your faith (more or less) unhindered but shows little interest in the values your faith espouses.
The greatest challenge facing us all, then, is, as the Muslims in the West grow into a very sizeable minority, accommodating the pressures from Muslims for those values to have societal recognition – in other words, what the likes of the English Defence League call ‘Muslimisation’. History shows time and time again that, as a minority grows, it starts to demand and throw its weight around. We’ve already seen this to some extent in the UK in the demands for single-sex Muslim schools funded in part at least by the state. Since we’re probably looking at Muslims being something like 20% of the UK electorate by 2050, that is one hell of a large minority when you consider that governments are usually voted in by way less than 50% of the electorate!
The growth of the Muslim minorities in the Western countries/systems will soon reach tipping points where they exert considerable political, legal, social and moral influence – and this is where the nightmare scenarios of Sharia law, etc, being introduced are easily created. My BLUE will delight in having moral structure to our society but I don’t think my RED and GREEN will care much for all those civil liberties that allowed me to indulge myself being taken away!
If the West is to avoid BNP/EDL fantasies of crushing Islam and deporting 3rd and 4th generation Muslims to…well, where? – then we need to start planning now how Islam can work and function as a positive influence in the West without the pressures for change it will create destabilising what so many in the West consider ‘cherished freedoms’.
To bring our discussion back to the original thrust of this blog, this is why government, political think tanks, philosophers and sociologists need to engage with advanced Islamic thinkers like ul-Qadri to consider these issues dispassionately.
Sunday, May 2nd 2010 at 01:28
keitherice, I agree with 70% of what you say. The sections I do not agree with or I believe the answer is out there but we got to do a little more digging around.
Here is what I believe, and I believe this because there is ‘factual’ information and historic events which go un-noticed. I believe Islam is fully integrate-able with any current society and this have been proved many times before.
Islam is not just a way of life, but also a code of conduct in how different situation should be approached and tackled. Take for example the Ottoman Empire (current day Turkey). This society welcome people of different faiths including Jews, Christians, Hindu. These different religions where welcomed to live and thrive without Islam being forced upon them, Islam showed Muslim nation how to allow different religions to integrate with Islam, how taxes paid by every one living under the Islamic rule should also be spent in building churches, synagogal and Hindu temples. A fantastic documentary showing exactly this can be seen on the following link (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5jE7y5vT5M&feature=player_embedded). Coming back to the main point I wanted to make. If this code of conduct which the Ottoman Empire took out of Islam and fully adopted it then I cannot see a reason why part of this can be adopted today in UK or Europe.
I totally agree with you that with the decline of Christianity has in some ways taken with it, the morals and social structures which once played a pivotal role in everyone’s life. Today it seems its everyone for themselves. This is the same all around the world. As soon as capitalism was adopted Christianity was slowly erased, as I strongly believe Christianity merges capitalism and democracy into one but used for success of a nation and not just for a few elite cooperation.
I strongly believe the way forward is not make Islam an enemy, and not to attack its elements, but rather we should look at it as a ‘second chance’ as you put it. Islam can be beneficial for everyone as its way of living, doing business, banking, educations system can all be integrated as such things existed under Islamic rule in the past.
I apologise if my comment appears to be a little confusing, as I have had a whole day of Cricket and I’m experience cramps in my legs, but could not resist this opportunity to write.
Wednesday, April 28th 2010 at 08:49
Thanks for this, freemindmovement.
As I said in the original post, I’m not going to speculate in terms of conspiracy theories – but it really is a puzzle as to why Western leaders and Western media have largely ignored ul-Qadri’s fatwa. Everybody of whatever religious persuasion or none who is opposed to terrorism should be championing it.
It should mark a major turning point in Islam’s relationship with the neo-Christian West.
In our increasingly secular Western society, where Christian religious values and disciplines are increasingly pathologised, I think the increasing numbers of Muslims offer us a second chance, a chance to rebuild our ‘moral backbone’. Personally I have no interest whatsoever in becoming a Muslim and I would hate to live in a strict Sharia-type society – but I do recognise that the decline in Christianity has led to a partial collapse in moral values. The rise of Islam gives us a basis for rediscovering some of those moral values. As Don Beck puts it, we need BLUE!
And that brings me to another point in your comment, freemindmovement, “how Islam integrates into our society”. This is something that concerns a great many people in the UK and in the West in general as Muslims grow into a very sizeable and significant minority in the population over the next 50 years. And I don’t just mean the BNP and English Defence League types – but thinkers as complex and sophisticated as Nick Beecroft and Matthew Kalman are looking at it from a societal values point of view. In other words, how do we make it work?
No politicians, as far as I know, are thinking this far ahead. What we need is a Royal Commission looking at the long-term integration of religious and ethnic cultures. And wouldn’t it be wonderful to have someone like ul-Qadri as one of its leading members…!
Tuesday, April 27th 2010 at 23:19
I think it all boils down to one main point, that is why is the west (including media and leaders) not banking on this opportunity?
All the arguments made above to some extent are valid when taken out of context, however moving the focus back to what Dr Ul-Qadri fatwa, this is indeed an historic moment, where in-depth detail has been given to the confusion of terrorism, and a true definition of what Islam means and largely how Islam integrates into our society.
To be honest, after skimming through the document and watching the introduction speech by the doctor on this, it appeared to me a very good way of living. A good structure to how life is living in Islam, and just as important how spirituality has a pivotal role too.
But my fear is that the media have deliberately ignored this historic moment, to keep alive the fear associated with terrorism and Islam, after all such news is bought by people like us.
Admittedly many will not be aware of such historic moment, and I hope more people could visit such blogs and update their minds with real information not whats sold to us as a right story.
Wednesday, April 14th 2010 at 05:09
Interesting argument, Nick.
“Small groups of aggressive, determined, well organised, well resourced, courageous people with a strong, powerful belief system have many times dominated, ruled, suppressed and exploited large groups of people.”
Sounds to me how the Nazis got control of Germany and, to s lesser extent, how the Bolsheviks got control of Russia and the fundamentalists Iran.
Which makes it all the more important that we support the moderates like ul-Qadri. If I’m right in saying “there is an intellectual and spiritual battle on for how Islam deals with its relations with both ‘oppressors’ in particular and unbelievers in general”, then how critical is it that we support the moderate relgious thinkers in their efforts to undermine the intellectual and spiritual credibility” of al-Qaeda and the radicals? Otherwise we do indeed risk the scenario you describe.
So why aren’t Western leaders and the Western media doing more to help the likes of ul-Qadri?
Tuesday, April 13th 2010 at 11:48
Hi Keith. Have you read the history of the British colonisation of Tasmania? That shows a very good example of how a community responds to colonisers when those colonisers are mostly “moderate” but with a minority of violent, oppressive, racists who believed in genocide. It’s a kind of good-cop; bad-cop phenomenon- like the one you’re describing in modern Europe.
The large majority of the colonising Brits were well-meaning, nice, orderly, just pursuing a good life, seeking new land, new opportunities and happy to live alongside the aboriginal Tasmanians. A small group were fearful of the natives, aggressive towards them, considered them sub-human and desired to kill them and drive them away to clear the land for their own prosperity and security. There were many shades of grey and variable positions and opinions. The Tasmanians were also diverse in their attitudes to the British arrival. Some were scared, some saw the writing on the wall, some saw the opportunity to learn, to trade, to become Christian etc. It’s a crude summary, but essentially they played out the good-cop; bad cop (unconsciously of course) and went though many cycles of conflict, cooperation, negotiations, trading, friendship, charity, support, fighting and so on with many moderates on both sides encouraging peace, good will and co-existance. Eventually the genocidal minority created the conditions in which they succeeded in eliminating the natives. The majority of the Brits were moderate, nice, open, etc etc. But the Tasmanians who trusted the good in them all ended up dead.
A similar process led to the colonisation of America, Canada, Australia, NZ, Africa, South America, India and many others. History and human nature don’t stop when a small percentage of people become postmodern pluralistic relativists however nice and well meaning they may be and however desperate they are to ensure multicultural fairness. Small groups of aggressive, determined, well organised, well resourced, courageous people with a strong, powerful belief system have many times dominated, ruled, suppressed and exploited large groups of people. Lets not choose that path here today in Europe.
Tuesday, April 13th 2010 at 05:21
Thank you for your contribution but I’m afraid some of it is way off.
Firstly, I’m not a Muslim. (Many years ago, I was a fundamentalist Christian…does that help?) But I am interested in how the West in general and our kingdom in particular is going to interact with Islam in the coming years.
Secondly, my knowledge of Mohammed is pretty limited but, yes, I do accept he had slaves and may have traded in slaves…but then slavery was common throughout most of the world outside Europe at the time. (Though it could be argued mediaeval serfs were little better than slaves!) Indeed it was the Christian Europeans from the 1500s on who developed African slavery from a relatively parochial operation to an almost industrial level machine to provide workers for the cotton, tobacco and sugar fields in the Americas.
Thirdly, with regard to Mohammed being a paedophile, with very little knowledge of his life, I resorted to Wikipedia (usually fairly reliable these days!) and learned that his fourth wife, Aisha, was indeed 6 at the time she was betrothed/engaged to him. However, she was 9 – 10 according to one source – before she went to live with him and the marriage was consummated. That may be disgusting by modern Western standards but American historian Colin Turner (2005) points out that marriage at that age was relatively common amongst the Bedouin then. (In mediaeval times English girls were often married by the time they were 12.) You may be judging Mohammed by what cross-cultural psychologist John Berry (1969) calls an ‘imposed etic’ – ie: you are judging the values and norms of one culture by the values and norms of another, on the presumption that your culture’s values and norms are better than the other culture’s.
Considering the levels of divorce, prostitution, teenage pregnancies, substance abuse and mental health problems in Western countries, I’d be just a tad careful about declaring our culture morally superior to others. I’m not for a second condoning sex with 9-year-old girls – only last week a study provided pretty convincing evidence that having sex under the age of 14 can damage female reproductive systems. (Leave alone the possibilities of psychological damage!) But be wary of judging others from inappropriate historical and cultural biases.
Fourthly, there is no doubt that Mohammed in part at least spread the embryonic Islamic faith by force and that his men raided Meccan caravans, with the aim of disrupting Mecca’s trading businesses. But then, according to the Old Testament, God-blessed armies committing horrendous acts of violence – ‘war crimes’, by modern standards – in God’s name was a not-uncommon occurrence in Jewish/Christian traditions. Where now are the descendants of the Ammonites and the Hittites? (There aren’t any because God ordered the Jews to commit what we today call ‘genocide’!) As for genital mutilation of the dead, just what did David do with 200 Philistine foreskins?!?!?
Christianity is quite remarkable in that it spread with reasonable success without the use of force – until, of course, Constantine converted and then the Roman armies made sure it spread much faster. As for the missionaries who clung to the coat tails of the troops of the burgeoning European empires after the Middle Ages…well, for example, I doubt the surviving Aztecs and Incas had much choice about attending the masses the chaplains to the conquering Spanish forces laid on. Etc, etc.
As to spreading fatwas, I’ll reiterate what I said in the original post. There are millions upon millions of Muslims in the world. Would you prefer they were influenced by Osama bin Laden or Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri?
Monday, April 12th 2010 at 20:09
why is it up to the west to spread these fatwas? it’s your religion, do something about it. we know that islam is inspired by violence. mohammed was a pedophile, slaver, pirate, murderer and rapist. for fucks sake, he married a 6 year old girl. what kind of man does that? he supposed to know the differnce between right and wrong.