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DEC 2003 | RAMADAN 1424 | NO. 352 UK£.2.50 | US$5.00 | RM10.00









FROM THE PULPIT n the heat of the battle, Imam Ali found himself straddling his enemy. A skilled and stealthy warrior, the fourth Caliph of Islam was always decisive in battle. Fighting only when the cause was just and necessary, he now held his sword high, ready to deliver the final blow. Then came the great insult. The enemy, seeing his end was near, spit violently into Imam Ali‚s face. The sword came down suddenly,not into the man‚s heart, but back into its sheath. Imam Ali quickly got up and withdrew from the fight. The spared combatant looked relieved and exasperated. Why had the great Ali let him live? I was fighting you for the sake of Allah, in the name of God, Imam Ali declared. When you spit in my face I felt anger rise up within me, he continued, and I realized that I was going to smite you, not in the name of justice, but out of revenge for your insult ˆ that was something that I could not do. Muslims would be wise to embrace Imam Ali‚s convictions.


Dazed and confused, we have become a reactionary community. Our circumstances are difficult, but it does not help that we often allow our public discourse to be driven by anger and resentment. Within days of 11 September 2001, Q-News sidestepped the conspiracy theorists, the Bin Laden apologists and the blind patriots and took a less popular course. Articulated by Shaykh Hamza Yusuf and others, we set out on the path of introspection. Along the way we didn‚t forget the massacre at Jenin (in fact, Fuad Nahdi was one of the first journalists inside the devastated camp), Guantanamo Bay, the bombing of Afghanistan or the illegitimate war on Iraq. What we called for was balance. Our faith instructs us to hold ourselves to account, before holding others to account. It was unpopular and at times we stumbled, but we have tried to stay true to the sentiments of Imam Ali. We will not stay silent and let our community be guided by anything but love, mercy and justice. In an exclusive interview with Shaykh Hamza Yusuf, we explore the path of introspection once again. It is a clarion call for spiritual excellence in an age that celebrates the ego and elevates the passions. His ongoing dialogues with leading thinkers like Noah Feldman, also featured inside, continue to give the message of Islam relevance and vibrancy. The cover story on, Islam and Democracy‰ has been several months in the making. Polarized between the party of rejection, who equate democracy with unbelief, and the party of accommodation, who are content with photo ops and token representation, we have sought to find a middle ground. We believe that Muslims are capable of intelligent and meaningful participation in society as full citizens and stakeholders in the future of the countries we call home. We have brought together some of today‚s most visionary and exciting voices to challenge the status quo. People like Tariq Ramadan, Salma Yaqoob and Khalida Khan are not just thinkers, but activists. They are ruffling plenty of feathers, but their ideas will impact the direction of the community for years to come. Q-News has for over a decade pushed the envelope of Muslim discourse in Britain and beyond. Our readers have never been passive. They have always willingly jumped outside the box to see the possibilities of our faith. These are debates about your future. You have nothing to lose but your illusions. And all success is from Allah. Fareena Alam




contents contents contents con contents contents contents con contents contents contents con contents contents contents con contents contents contents con


7 classic q Trouble at home and abroad. Racial abuse is one thing, but this is the first time I was attacked for being Muslim. WASEEF ASGHAR.

8 scrutiny Treading new ground in Ramadan. INDLIEB FARAZI Untying the knot. FAUZIA AHMAD Racists from the Left. GER FRANCIS Opposing British terror at home. LES LEVIDOW

Editor-in-Chief FUAD NAHDI Managing Editor FAREENA ALAM International Editor SIDEK AHMAD Contributing Editors FOZIA BORA ABDUL-REHMAN MALIK NABILA MUNAWAR Head Designer AIYSHA MALIK Events Coordinators WAHEED MALIK, SABA ZAMAN & THE CREW

18 legacy At the height of British colonialism an adventurous breed of Muslim traveller set out to explore the empire on their own terms. M S SEDDON.

45 correspondence

FEATURING Fauzia Ahmad Butros Al-Bakr Mohamed Bakari Nazim Baksh Nadeem Bhatii Kamran Bokhari Indlieb Farazi Hasna Fateh Akhtar Faruqui Ger Francis Khalida Khan Les Levidow Catherine Makereel Anthony McRoy Arzu Merali M S Seddon Hassan Scott Faraz Rabbani Salma Yaqoob

Secularism, hijab and identity. CATHERINE MAKEREEL writes from France.

45 counsel FARAZ RABBANI answers your questions on hajj and other matters of faith.

Head Office Q-NEWS MEDIA LTD PO Box 4295 London W1A 7YH United Kingdom International Office Q-NEWS MEDIA SDN BHD 173b, Jalan Aminubdin Baki Taban Tun Dr Ismail 60000 Kuala Lumpur Malaysia

54 write mind Fundamentally funny: my short career as a standup comedian. NADEEM BHATTI.




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16 carnage in istanbul MOHAMED BAKARI reports on a city

coming to terms with the aftermath of terror.

20 the oxbridge connection The election of Michael Howard to the Tory leadership has brought a familiar club back to the front benches. HASNA FATEH comments.

22 a subsersive presence

The struggle of American Jews and Catholics during the 1920s should be a source of hope for today’s Muslims, argues ANTHONY MCROY.

“Love is eternal because love is the reason you were created. You were created to adore God.�

25 eclipses of apocolypse

BUTROS AL-BAKR explores the furore over the supposed emergence of the Mahdi

27 portfolio: islam and democracy








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y shalwar khamiz flapped in the wind as I walked towards the train. A young woman rushed in. “I’m really sorry about that,” she gasped. And she jumped out just as quick as the train pulled away from the platform of Reading station. I was shaken and confused and as I slowly gained my composure I attempted to digest what had happened. I questioned the way I had handled the situation. I had walked away. Was that right? Or should I have confronted him in some other way? Perhaps I should have come out with some smart retort, or simply punched him in the face. Would it have made any difference? To be honest, I didn't know then and I still don't know now. When it eventually dawned on me that this man hadn’t been the stereotypical drunken yob, but a respectfully dressed, middle-aged chap, completely ordinary in every way, I was more shocked than anything else, had a hatred of Muslims and Islam, fuelled by an ongoing media campaign really penetrated the common psyche? It is the sort of thing which is almost impossible to ‘prove’ beyond doubt, but the situation in Europe provides serious indicators that this is so. The extreme chauvinism gripping France is particularly disconcerting. Charles Pasqua’s policy of “terrorising the terrorists”

16-23 September 1994, Vol 3, No. 25 is merely a cynical excuse to round up innocent Muslims. To date more than 30,000 Muslims have been systematically targeted for identity checks for no reason apart from their religion. Although it is FrenchAlgerians who face the brunt of the hostility, Africans and Pakistanis resident in France have also been subjected to vile abuse. Perhaps we should not be too surprised. Remember, it is in France that institutional racism has governmental consent. The banning order preventing Muslim schoolgirls from wearing hijab is but one example. What is surprising, however, is that measures such as these could only be implemented with the underlying support and consent of the majority of the French people. Unfortunately for Muslims, in a country where 10% of the population voted recently for the fascist National Front, support for anti-Muslim rhetoric and policy is only too easily forthcoming. Given that the French people suffered under the yoke of Nazi occupation within living memory, such reactions are sad. Maybe it is an indication that many more people collaborated with the Vichy regime than today’s Frenchmen would care to admit. Muslims are thus challenged by the state and the populace and face an insecure future. France is not alone in its state-sponsored racism. Even quiet and affluent corners of the continent have become increasingly hawkish. Only recently, two Muslims who were inter-railing across Europe were taken into police custody in Monaco, the principality best-know for being the playground

of the rich, gambling and, at the moment, for exporting Jurgen Klinsmen to Tottenham Hotspur. Their ‘crime’? They were praying in public. A uniformed police officer attempted to stop them and, after ignoring him and finishing their prayer, they were duly escorted to the police station. There it was explained to them in no uncertain terms that Monaco is a Christian principality and, as such, Muslims are not allowed to pray in public areas. The men concerned had their papers confiscated and were asked to provide the names of their employers who, it was said, would be contacted in the future. The police escorted them to the railway station and they were ordered to leave immediately. So much for the tolerance of post-Renaissance, post-enlightenment, post Final Solution Europe! Was the behaviour of that ignorant bloke at Reading station a result of hysteria imported from the continent? Many would like to think that British sensibility and sobriety, which has led to a spirit of general tolerance - especially among the middle classes - will always halt moves towards extremism in society. British tolerance was exemplified by the apologetic young woman on the train. But given the general onslaught against Muslims and the determination to present us as the new threat to world peace and civilisation - and the British government’s appalling stand on Bosnia - it is difficult to sustain any degree of realistic hope. Indeed, one friend of mine who is in the habit of wearing a turban recently had a brick thrown at him while walking in Croydon. When you see the clothes worn by people in the streets these days - or even the clothes not worn! - why pick on someone wearing a turban? It can only be because he is a Muslim. Confusion reigns in such matters. Yet another acquaintance is regularly subjected to verbal abuse normally spat at Jews - and yes, he is a Muslim! Would the law allow him to press charges of anti-semitism against his abusers? It is an interesting thought which serves to highlight the lack of protection Muslims as a community have in English law. My confidence was shaken by my own experience and I find it difficult to believe that things won’t be getting a whole lot worse before they get better - even here in Britain. Q - NEWS







eaching out to London’s homeless is something that is difficult under the best of circumstances. The challenges for a Muslim organization were unique indeed. The City Circle, established almost five years ago by a group of young Muslim professionals who wanted to give back to the community, has been providing free hot meals to London’s homeless. Their second ‘Feeding London’s Homeless’ project during Ramadan 2003, receiving £7,500 in pledges. More than 4,000 meals were distributed to hostels across the city. Project manager, Waheed Malik, said, “It was a struggle to get started as some hostels were wary of receiving food from us. Many of them thought our free service would take business away from their existing caterers. They were also cautious because they weren’t sure why a Muslim organisation wanted to help them.” The Circle clarified they would only be providing meals during Ramadan weekends and it was not a permanent set-up. “Our motive was purely to help those less well off than ourselves as this is an essential part of Ramadan and the Muslim identity,” said City Circle volunteers. The Circle’s persistence paid off. Soon they were able to provide food to seven receptive hostels including the Dellow

Centre in Whitechapel. John Beswick, the centre’s project manager said, “We have all sorts here: Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, atheists. We don’t judge the people on their belief.” Dellow has 48 residents and opens as a day centre to more than 200 people, many who live on the streets, who come in for a free meal, a chance to wash, change clothes and most importantly, to meet socially. “Receiving the food from a Muslim community is much appreciated and it shows such partnerships can aide cultural integration,” said Mr Beswick. “Charity is in total opposition to the stereotypical view most Britons have of Muslims. It is refreshing to see Muslim groups working with the wider community to make a difference.” Mr Malik said, “Ramadan is a month where you don’t distinguish between people who are in need. The people we are helping are not just Muslims. Islam is about helping all our neighbours.” Across town in Wembley, the An-Nisa Society, organised the ‘Make a Child Smile’ Eid project. Children aged between five and 16-years, from the Society’s Supplementary Muslim School, were moved to learn Brent Council has 100 Muslim children in care. They collected gifts in shoe boxes for the younger children and gift vouchers for the teenagers. Humera Khan, the school’s co-ordina-

tor, said, “One of the children wrote a note on their gift box that they hoped it would ‘make a child smile’ and we thought that this was a great name for the project.” Due to confidentiality concerns, the Society was unable to meet the children in person but were provided with a list of the children’s age and gender. Khalida Khan, director of An-Nisa said, “We know that 50 percent of the kids are teenagers and that is the really worrying thing. Many of them have come to this country to seek asylum and have been put into care usually in non-Muslim households. These kids have not had any interaction with the Muslim community since arriving here and our Eid gift project will hopefully make them remember part of their Muslim identity.” Janet Palmer, Head of Children’s Services in Brent, received the presents on behalf of Brent Council. She said, “We are delighted with the response the project has had and look forward to exploring new projects in the future with the An-Nisa Society.” Ms Khan, said, “We are targeting Muslim kids as there is nothing done especially for them. We are tackling our own backyard first and trying to get behind the closed doors of social services. Eventually we would like to help Muslim kids right across London.” Interested volunteers please e-mail for future projects. Q - NEWS





bout two years ago, on these very pages, I reviewed what was then a new report entitled Muslim women, divorce and the Shariah in the UK by Sonia Nurin ShahKazemi. The report remains groundbreaking, but it has not received the attention it deserves from policy-makers in family law. Many of the issues it raised remain urgent and are worth re-visiting given current publicity and controversies around Muslim marriages conducted in the UK. At a time when Britain is moving towards the recognition of same sex partnerships, we need to ask why members of Britain’s faith communities are still having to prove the validity of their religious marriage vows. In September, the leader of the Muslim Parliament called for more mosques to register their premises to conduct civil marriages and urged Imams to ensure that couples registered their marriages in a civil ceremony. There a variety of reasons why individuals and mosques would fail to register their marriages or premises ranging from ignorance, idealism - ‘what could possibly go wrong if we marry Islamically?’ - through to a refusal to entertain ‘un-halal’ civil laws that would curtail polygamous marriages. Responding to an increase in the numbers of calls he was receiving from individuals who realised, too late, that their legal status amounted to that of a co-habitee, his call for greater awareness amongst the Muslim community was necessary. While it is difficult to assess the number of unregistered marriages taking place, concerns from within the Muslim community around marriage are not new, and encom-

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pass a broad range of issues from forced marriages, domestic violence, polygamy, divorce and child custody. We need to contextualise our discussions however, to also explore the quality of service received by Muslim clients from solicitors and legal professionals, particularly when dealing with cases that involve either potential conflicts or applications of Islamic law in English courts. Awareness raising within a multicultural, multi-faith context, is a two-way process. In May this year, the Muslim Women’s Helpline held a symposium on ‘Marriage and the Dissolution of Marriage in Shari’ah’ for Imams, scholars and community leaders in response to a ‘sense of grievance and injustice felt by many as a result of the often iniquitous application of Shari’ah’. With a keynote address given by Tariq Ramadan, the conference called for, amongst other things, regulation and consultation between Imams and Shari’ah bodies with the formation of ‘benchmarks’ for standardised, equitable practice. It highlighted some of the key difficulties Muslims and women in particular faced in marriage and divorce but failed to attract much publicity in either the Muslim or non-Muslim media. Lord Ahmed, in 1999, in a debate on marriage in the House of Lords, noted that legal professionals often placed the burden of religious expertise on the shoulders of their clients and called for Islamic marriages to be recognised under British lawii. In the 1995 Noel Coulson Lecture at SOAS, Judge David Pearl discussed some interesting cases and ways in which Islamic law had been received in English courts and barrister Ayesha Hasan similarly, examined the outcome of more recent cases. It is not, as the recent Guardian headline suggests, ‘Islamic marriages’ that fail to protect women. It is a complex mix of issuesfrom ignorance to systemic discrimination that present Muslim women seeking divorce with a number of social and structural barriers that act to marginalise and disempower. When we consider the efforts channelled into encouraging Muslim women to leave abusive marriages, which for anyone is a traumatic decision to make, it is odd that similar efforts are not extended towards improving the quality of service they receive from the welfare and legal professions. Research from various quarters instead, has pointed towards faith-blind, sexist, racist and Islamophobic attitudes from the very bodies

that women are expected to turn to, with the assumption often being that a Muslim woman, once free from an abusive relationship is somehow ‘liberated’ from her ‘oppressive’ religion and culture. Legal professionals have noted an increase in the number of civil law claims for the ‘haq mahr’ following divorce. Regardless of the length of the marriage, civil claims for the ‘haq mahr’, if sizeable, can be a valuable tool for women to employ, especially if claims for maintenance fail or are deemed inapplicable as in the case of short marriages. However, the process of enforcing any claim is complicated and costly, even when marriages have been legally registered. One recently completed case was that of Salma (not her real name), a highly educated professional practising Muslim from south east London, who at 29, found herself leaving a particularly difficult arranged marriage after just four weeks. Both her nikah and civil marriage were conducted in the UK. Her case is interesting because even for a short marriage, Salma was able, eventually, to seek a form of re-dress that was only available to her under Islamic law but enforced by English law. The specifics of her case highlight the complexities involved in the interface between Islamic family law and English law and displayed the flexibility of the Shariah. It also raised questions about the availability of appropriate Islamic and legal expertise and the training of legal professionals including judges, to meet the needs of a multi-faith society. Briefly, Salma successfully gained an annulment on the grounds of non-consummation but there were significant other factors that led to the breakdown of the marriage, such as her husband’s admitted apostasy and a series of lies that were revealed once married. Apart from the personal trauma the whole process of seeking both civil and Islamic terminations to her marriage caused, some of the most significant sources of anguish arose from Salma’s experiences of the judge at her nullity hearing and the lack recognition of her faith-related reasons for terminating the marriage. For instance, at her nullity hearing, she was obliged to submit medical evidence and give detailed testimony to the judge about the non-consummation of the marriage, despite pleas from her lawyer highlighting the offense such a line of questioning posed to a devout Muslim woman. The judge concluded that although


he believed Salma to be ‘manifestly honest’ he felt that her religious concerns were ‘irrelevant’. He further added that he felt she should have made ‘more of an effort to offer herself to her former husband’ – a comment that even the least hardened feminist would find hard to stomach. This experience, not to mention the personal injustice she felt and some deeply unpleasant personal insults and lies from her ex-husband, motivated Salma to pursue a civil claim for her haq mahr. This had been set at £10,000, deferred. After receiving her decree absolute, Salma petitioned for an Islamic divorce from the Muslim Law Shariah Council (MLSC) and was awarded a full claim to the mahr on the grounds of ‘DHIRAR’ or harm which is ‘Islamic grounds for granting a divorce to the wife against the wishes of her husband’. They distinguished between a ‘khula’ divorce where the wife seeks a divorce for no particular reason, and that of a ‘faskh’ of the nikah, where a Qadi intervenes to dissolve the marriage under certain conditions where the husband is found to be at fault. The process of gaining the Islamic divorce was again slow, largely due to her ex-husband’s continued refusal to grant her a talaq unless she gave up her claim to the haq mahr. This was viewed by the MLSC, in a report written by Dr Zaki Badawi for Salma’s case, as ‘an unacceptable form of blackmail and proof of the intention to harm the interests of the wife’ and resulted Salma gaining the Islamic divorce in her

favour and awarded the haq mahr in full. However, the MLSC lacks the legal muscle to enforce any decisions they make which need to be taken to the civil courts as a breach of contract law. Furthermore, the absence of any recent case law or legal precedent, the lack of knowledge of the validity or even existence of similar claims by many solicitors, and the expense and length of time such cases can take, are factors that act to deter women pursuing Islamically sanctioned claims in the civil courts. One of the significant developments Salma’s case established was on the matter of ‘jurisdiction and enforceability’, won in July 2001 at a preliminary hearing at Reading County Court. Her ex-husband’s barrister challenged the authority of the MLSC and argued that the nikah contract was in effect, a pre-nuptial agreement, made outside the scope of English law and as such should be viewed as ‘repugnant’. They also argued that Salma was in breach of the contract as she failed to show ‘absolute obedience’ to her former husband. One of the most ridiculous claims made was one stating that ‘in accordance with Shariah law, all the earnings of the Claimant during the subsistence of the marriage are properly the property of the Defendant...’! The judge recognised Salma’s right as a British citizen to have her religious claim heard and jurisdiction and enforceability was established. The next step was to pursue the actual claim. In accordance with current

rules, both sides had to employ a single joint expert to give evidence at the main trial hearing. This took another year of legal wrangling since the Defence rejected Dr Badawi’s evidence as biased, but then also proceeded to dismiss every other credible expert offered without suggesting suitable alternatives. Much of the research was conducted by Salma herself who sought both noted Muslim and non-Muslim experts in Islamic family law. Even here, there was considerable discrepancy between Muslim and nonMuslim authorities with the latter more likely to be unaware of the right wives had to petition for divorce without losing their claims to the mahr, but also lacking the religious authority to engage in Ijtihad and challenge Dr Badawi’s decision. In the end, Salma’s ex-husband offered to settle out of court after she was able to prove he committed perjury. Her case took six years to complete (including a year to actually force her ex to pay-up the agreed sum) but aside from being a personal victory, exemplifies many of hurdles Muslim women face when attempting to enforce their religious rights. No wonder so many give up. Recognising some of the problems both Muslim men and women can encounter with family law professionals who are often unaware of the best ways to address their clients’ needs, the Legal Action Group (LAG), an organisation based in London, which aims to improve access to justice through training lawyers, is introducing an accredited course called ‘Family Law: Applying English Law to Secure Islamic Matrimonial Rights’. The course, to be launched in the new year, aims to provide legal practitioners with knowledge about the scope of Islamic rights and how these could be secured using English law. It is also hoped the course will encourage practitioners to network and share case information and to recognise legitimate authorities in Shariah law. Such steps forward need to be supplemented by some honest reflection from within our communities about the ways we conduct our marriages and, increasingly our divorces. The current situation is chaotic and marred by hypocrisy and narrow interpretations of Islamic family law. If we are to demand better services from those outside the Muslim community, it is incumbent upon us to ensure that we are equally rigorous in ensuring our own houses (and mosques) are in order.


is a Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology, Bristol University.


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oon after the last of the demonstrators against Bush’s visit had left Trafalgar Square, after the largest weekday protest in British history, Minister for Europe Dennis McShane set the tone for the ensuing debate. British Muslims, he claimed, had to make a choice between ‘the British way’ or the values of terrorism. The message was loud and clear: there is a “clash of civilisations”. All Muslims are under suspicion. Extremism and Islam go hand-in-glove. The comments were condemned. Trevor Philips, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, was quick to retort that Muslim leaders since 9/11 had been exemplary in their opposition to terrorism. Anyway, it was a bit rich for the government to be proclaiming the merits of British values when “anybody who hails from a colony could adduce several centuries of evidence to the contrary.” McShane eventually apologised. By

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then, however, the damage was done. The controversy surrounding Dennis McShane’s comments was quickly followed by the “race to uncover terror cells” with police raids in a number of Muslim communities throughout Britain. A climate of fear is being created. As I write, armed police are patrolling Birmingham city centre. More raids are planned because, according to the police, suicide bombers here are about to “go operational”. A new angle is being introduced. Those who opposed the war in Iraq are now accused of creating the conditions for a new wave of anti-semitism in Europe. This is nothing more than a desperate attempt to slander the anti-war movement. The unity between Muslims and nonMuslims within Europe’s huge anti-war movement and the spectacular growth of solidarity with the Palestinian struggle arising from it, presents the most serious challenge in the Western world to American policy in the Middle East and de facto Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians. The hypocrisy of politicians justifying war in Iraq on the grounds of defending democracy while the Palestinian people are denied the most elementary democratic right, the recognition of their own identity, was not lost. The murder of Western peace activists like Rachel Corrie and the shooting of Tom Hurndall has highlighted the raw brutality of the Israeli state. It has brought home to a new generation in the West the realisation that if the Israelis can get away with killing American and British citizens, what must they be doing to the Palestinians? In an attempt to undercut the growing criticism of Israel’s treatment towards the Palestinians, the anti-war movement is

accused of pandering to anti-semitism. In Britain, this charge has already been levelled at the Stop the War Coalition by “B52 liberals”, pro-war journalists like Nick Cohen and David Aaronovitch, who claim that at heart it is an “unholy alliance” between Muslim fundamentalists and unprincipled socialists. These criticisms have thankfully failed to gather any ice here as opposition to the Bush-Blair axis of evil continues to grow. In France however, the situation is more serious. At the recent European Social Forum in Paris, attended by more than 50,000 people who convened to discuss the building of a union of European countries that puts people before profit and peace before war, a huge row broke out over allegations that one of the invited speakers, the Muslim scholar Tariq Ramadan, was anti-semitic and should therefore, be banned from speaking at the event. The allegations rested on an article he

Shockingly, the French left has conveniently jumped onto the bandwagon in campaigning aggresively for the banning of Muslim female students from wearing the headscarf in schools and in ID potographs. Such are the weapons of mass distraction of our time.


had written in which he brought to task a number of high-profile Jewish intellectuals in France who supported the overthrow of Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq, because their interests “as Jews or as nationalists or as defenders of Israel” came before equality and justice. The organisers of the ESF rejected the allegations and Ramadan spoke at the event as planned (see opposite page). The debate about Islam continued in different forms at a number of meetings at the ESF. At a meeting on Islam and Europe, attended by over 1,000 people, the audience was split down the middle on the question of whether it was right for the French state to ban the wearing of the hijab in schools. The meeting reflected wider divisions in French society. The achilles heel of the anti-war movement in France there has been the fact that on this issue the left echo arguments we associate with the right. Both speak of the Muslim community as if it is one monolithic bloc, supposedly united in its support for the repression of women, denial of human rights and sup-

port for “fundamentalism”. Under the guise of defending “secular values” Muslim girls have faced suspension or expulsion from schools for wearing hijab. Right-wing politicians are now going further and calling for the official banning of the hijab in the schools, the civil service and in state institutions. Such rhetoric has led to a climate of racist hostility towards Muslims. In her speech at the ESF, the Chair of the Birmingham Stop the War Coalition Salma Yaqoob talked about the way “weapons of mass distraction” were being employed to turn ordinary people against each other.” Expect greater resistance. In Britain a new generation of young Muslims has burst onto the political scene confident in its identity, its determination to redress injustice and its ability to forge alliances with non-Muslims. It is with this generation that great potential and real hope lies. In these dark times, British Muslims should look to the future with confidence.

“The Islamophobia we are witnessing is not merely accidental. It provides the important distraction for the powerful elite to literally ‘go about their business’, away from the scrutiny of ordinary people. “An example of this is the issue of banning Muslim female students from wearing the headscarf and also the requirement that headscarves be removes for ID photos. This extreme measure, which attacks the right of Muslim women to wear what they want, has been supported by both the right and the left. “In my opinion, I think that there is a certain irony in this policy, which in effect is a mirror image of the imposition on women in relation to their attire by the Taliban. I say why shouldn’t Muslim women choose for themselves: headscarf or no headscarf? And in the scheme of things, is an item of clothing on a woman more important than the brutal killing of innocent people, the rape and occupation of foreign countries, the increasing poverty gap and debt? It is a very effective red herring in political discourse right now. Weapons of mass distraction certainly are no less dangerous than weapons of mass destruction. “It has become acceptable for many to make sweeping negative generalisations about what the Muslim community. Yet such generalisations are rarely made about other faiths. Nobody would dare lump all Christians together as reactionary bigots on account of George Bush who loudly proclaims his Christian values while sanctioning the murder of innocent people in Iraq. The irony is that the very things that many Muslims consider as fundamental to their faith - respect for freedom of choice, importance of human rights, equality of men and women, emphasis on solidarity and fighting for justice - are the things least associated with Islam. Yet these are the values and principles which many of us are motivated by on a daily basis. SALMA YAQOOB AT THE EUROPEAN SOCIAL FORUM IN PARIS, FRANCE 13-15 NOVEMBER 2003


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rorism — to include simply ‘the threat’ of ‘serious damage to property’, in ways ‘designed to influence the government’ for a ‘political cause’. Organizations could be banned in the UK on the basis that their activities in other countries fit that broad definition of ‘terrorism’. To oppose that law, a public meeting was held at the House of Commons in February 2001. It attracted lawyers, civil rights groups, and migrant communities targeted by the new powers (Kurds, Tamils, Sikhs, etc.). The meeting founded the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), its name chosen to emphasise that the new law aimed to criminalise communities, especially those in




ince early 2000 these measures have been opposed by many groups, especially the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC). This article tells the story of how the campaign has helped to oppose British state terror at home. TERRORISM REDEFINED

As an imperial power, Britain has a long history of demonising resistance of the colonised, e.g. in Malaya, Kenya and Ireland. During its war in Northern Ireland, special laws were used to label many Irish people as ‘terrorist suspects’, thus stigmatising them and deterring protest against British state terror. As the war there wound down in the late 1980s, there were hopes that the ‘anti-terror’ laws would lapse. However, the government extended its special powers through the Terrorism Act 2000. This broadened the definition of ter-

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Dressed up as famous freedom-fighters, they protested against new powers which could have criminalised Nelson Mandela as a terrorist.

solidarity with people resisting oppression. On May Day weekend 2000, a few dozen people assembled at Highbury Fields for a photo shoot. Dressed up as famous freedom-fighters, they protested against new powers which could have criminalised Nelson Mandela as a terrorist. Under the Terrorism Act 2000 the Home Office banned 21 organizations, many of which have roots in ethnic minority communities in the UK, e.g. the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Tamil Tigers. In response, CAMPACC helped to organise a May 2001 protest at the Home Office, where over 6000 demonstrators ridiculed the ban on various organizations. Many wore T-shirts which said, ‘I am the PKK’ (Kurdistan Workers Party), while asking why the police did not arrest them as ‘terrorists’. In 2002 some of those protesters were prosecuted for ‘terrorist’ links, i.e. association with the PKK. In reality they were carrying funds for a Europe-wide campaign to defend Kurdish language rights in Turkey. In court, the defence was able to educate the jury about the Turkey’s oppression of the Kurds, and comments from comedianactivist Mark Thomas led the jury to break out in laughter at the prosecution. The jury would not convict, and the court case was eventually abandoned. Nevertheless Kurdish activists continue to undergo harassment under ‘anti-terror’ laws. INTERNMENT OF MUSLIMS

After the 11 September attacks, the government claimed that we face a public emergency which requires even greater powers. The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001 authorised the internment of non-UK citizens — in circumstances where the state had a suspicion of ‘terrorist’ links, but where the person could not be safely returned to their own country. Since December 2001, 16 Muslims have been interned under those powers. Their lawyers appealed to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC). In parallel, CAMPACC publicised the injustice among journalist circles, thus gaining wide publicity for lawyers’ arguments against the detention powers.

SCRUTINY In July and October 2002 SIAC held hearings, where CAMPACC organised protests. Eventually SIAC criticised the internment powers for racial discrimination, on grounds that they were applicable only to non-citizens, yet it also implied that some UK citizens may pose a terrorist threat. CAMPACC handed out leaflets denouncing the fake ‘public emergency’, while attacking SIAC itself as a ‘star chamber’ which colluded in the deprivation of liberty. According to the leaflet, the right of habeas corpus must be preserved for everyone. Supporters held placards in front of the court building, and their press interviews were included in the television and radio news. Another picket was held when SIAC started to report its findings in October. TERRORIST SCARES

In the run-up to the US-UK attack on Iraq, the government sought to link Iraq with ‘terrorist’ threats at home. A CAMPACC leaflet emphasised how the ‘war on terror’ at home turns us all into targets of the state — targets of political intimidation, or of scare stories about threats to our lives. CAMPACC organised a public meeting on the night before the 15th February anti-war demonstration. Speakers emphasised how the ‘anti-terrorism’ powers were being used to intimidate migrant communities. Lawyer Gareth Peirce made a plea for extending the slogan, ‘Not in My Name’, to support the people being victimised in Britain. Since then CAMPACC has emphasised that the so-called ‘war on terror’ threatens us all. This was the title of a public meeting held on 13th May in the incongruous setting of the Moses Room in the House of Lords. Beneath a painting of the prophet, several activists and lawyers told a packed audience how the ‘anti-terrorism’ laws are being used to persecute ordinary political activity and especially refugees, often in collusion with oppressive regimes abroad. At the May meeting, barrister Mike Mansfield QC (Honorary Chair of CAMPACC) argued that the government was portraying refugees as bogus, as criminal and as ultimately a potential terrorist. So people must come together in solidarity to oppose any use of the Terrorism Act. Lawyer Gareth Peirce emphasised that national security should mean protection from oppressive regimes, yet this security is being taken away by ‘anti-terrorist’ laws. The fake emergency was the focus of a further meeting, held jointly with the National Union of Journalists on the 2nd anniversary of the Twin Towers attack (11th September). Speakers analysed how

the mass media spread scare stories drawn from the secret police. These joint presspolice operations served to frighten the public, thus justifying ‘anti-terror’measures at home and the military attack on Iraq.

campaign submitted its statement to the Privy Council, ‘Terrorising Minority Communities with ‘Anti-Terrorism’ Powers: their Use and Abuse’ (see below).


More recently the campaign has linked Guantanamo Bay with internment in Britain. CAMPACC organised the first public meeting on this issue, held on 16th September in the House of Commons, sponsored by Kevin McNamara MP. The meeting highlighted an Early Day Motion, sponsored by Geraint Davis MP and signed by 250 MPs, demanding that all the detainees either be given a fair trial or be returned to their country of origin. Speakers included the fathers of two UK citizens detained at Guantanamo, as well as lawyers and political figures. As solicitor Gareth Peirce argued, the UK was fully complicit in the detentions, while using them to justify its own domestic measures which infringed civil liberties. These state attacks were even more dangerous than those in the 1980s against Irish people, because today’s internees had no legal safeguards and evidence could not be challenged in court. From other speakers there were indications that Britain was colluding in the kidnap and torture of detainees. Under pressure from public protest, the Prime Minister was forced to become explicit about his stance — which was, unfortunately, overt support for the detentions at Guantanamo. After its public meeting, CAMPACC began to organise a national campaign against internment. This is being launched with a petition whose demands include: an end to arbitrary imprisonment in the USA, Guantanamo and the UK; a fair trial or immediate release for the internees; efforts by the British government to free the UK citizens being held at Guantanamo; and an end to British government harassment of migrant and Muslim communities.


The campaign has also intervened in the Parliamentary review of the ‘anti-terrorism’ legislation. Civil liberties organisations had already denounced the injustice of the special powers. CAMPACC went further, by demonstrating how these powers are used to persecute activists and terrorise entire communities — especially migrants, refugees and Muslims. Indeed, that is the government’s main purpose. CAMPACC circulated a draft statement to such communities, in order to gather more evidence before finalising its submission. In this way, the campaign has encouraged a wider debate which could help to counter the widespread fear of British state terror at home. In July some CAMPACC supporters met with the Privy Council reviewing the legislation. In August the

The ‘war on terror’ at home turns us all into targets of the state — targets of political intimidation, or of scare stories about threats to our lives.

A PERMANENT STATE OF TERROR? Since George Bush declared that the ‘war on terror’ would continue without limit, the UK authorities too have been pursuing that aim. CAMPACC has been analysing and opposing them for the last two years. Now a new book reflects the issues of the campaign: A Permanent State of Terror? Indeed, we will continue to be terrorised until resistance and ridicule undermines ‘the war on terror’.



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CARNAGE IN AS ISTANBUL RESIDENTS REEL FROM NOVEMBER’S DEVASTATING TERROR ATTACKS, MOHAMED BAKARI TAKES A CLOSER LOOK AT A CITY PICKING UP THE PIECES AND TRYING TO FIND ITS SOUL. he British Consulate in Istanbul is a drab, non-descript grey building tacked, at the back, in an overcrowded alley, and at the front, over- looking the main-road leading to Taksim Meydan and Istiklal Caddesi, Istanbul’s answer to London’s Trafalgar Square and Oxford Street. It is only the long queue of visa applicants, almost invariably Turk and Muslim, that betrays it as a building of some importance. Although I frequented the neighbourhood often for almost one year when I first arrived to teach in Istanbul, it never occurred to me that that was the British consulate until I had a need to apply for a visa to come to London, that it was pointed out to me by a simit seller. The flag actually flies at the back, rather than the front of the building. The neighbourhood where the Consulate is located is upmarket and it is known by its Ottoman derived name of Beyoglu, which literally mean’s “The Lord’s Son.” The suffix ‘oglu’ meaning ‘son of’ attached to names is indicative of its Ottoman antecedents. Beyoglu and Levent were especially reserved for foreigners and non-Muslims for their habitation. This would have included Christians and Jews. Not far from the British and, until recently, American Consulates are close to another building famous in the Western imagination, the Pera Hotel, where British spies used to frequent and where Agatha Christie wrote her famous, and to the Turks notorious, novel The Orient Express. Although Beyoglu by European standards looks a bit decrepit, it is actually the culture, I mean the Western culture centre of Istanbul, where there are Art galleries, bookshops and saloons for the aficionados of things western. It is here where you find young people with pierced noses and ears with rings walking up and down the Caddesi with no particular purpose other than just to be there, as young people are wont to do in Oxford Street or Venice Beach in Santa Monica. It is often these young who are to be found most often in the long line at the British Consulate attracted by the mystique of London or in pursuit of studies in British institutions which have an almost mystical attraction to them. It is these young people who were the most victims of the fateful November 19th bombing of the Consulate. Young


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people also died at the Synagogues of Neve Shalom and Beith Israel, not far from Beyoglu, in Levent. This fact was drawn to me by a Jewish postgraduate student of mine, Tina Jebahar, whom I had taught for the past five years after I had sent her a condolence email note. Tina wrote to me that “there is this gentleman in his late teens, Yoel Kohen, whose death is consuming me. He was not supposed to be there that morning but he went there in place of one of his friends. Yoel went on a volunteer duty as a staff and death got hold of him. Don’t you think it is very cruel Professor Bakari? Some others are having psychiatric treatment in order to dismiss the great shock. Our daughters have felt deeply threatened and is very cruel to burden the young people with such hatred.” Tina Jebahar is a descendant of the earliest Jews expelled from Spain together with Muslims by the Catholic rulers who had retaken power from Muslims during the Reconquista in 1492, after almost 800 years of Muslim rule. This date also coincides with the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. It was the Muslim Ottoman Sultans who provided succour and sanctuary to these refugees. They were among the earliest asylum seekers in the modern times, and the Ottoman sultans rose to the occasion by welcoming them to their lands. Istanbul had been conquered by Fatih Mehmet in 1453, a date that all Turks are proud of. Over the years and over generations they have been assimilated into the mainstream of Turkish culture and society to such an extent that it is difficult to physically distinguish them from other groups in the country. While the minorities had suffered certain legal and political disabilities in the Ottoman empires occasioned by the then current interpretation of the prevailing law, all these disabilities were swept off during the Kemalist changes that came with the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923.All the minorities have the same rights as other Turkish citizens who perceive themselves as the majority. Also, a significant proportion of Jews and Christians, of their own volition, converted to Islam, and have remained Muslim. It is the assimilative capacity of the Turkish Muslim culture and its consistent ability to make people feel welcome , regardless of their ethnic or religious background, that has enabled minorities here to find a place to feel at home. Jews here have classic names that I was only familiar with because I read the Quran. Uzair Garih was such a name, the name of a prominent Turkish industrialist who a few years ago was murdered by hoodlum muggers while visiting the grave of a well- known Muslim sufi mystic in an area where the famous Sahabah Ayub al Ansari is buried. There are presumed to be well over 26 sahabah who are buried in Istanbul. Their grave sites have been turned to shrines and are prominent places of visitation by


N ISTANBUL the believers. As we will later discuss, these places are a magnet for popular veneration of saints. The bombing in Levent shook the headquarters of the British based bank HSBC to its core. Some people died both inside the bank and outside, the innocent passers-by. Just two days after the bombing I went to a local bank, Garanti Bank , to transact business when I was served by a petit looking, elegantly dressed young lady in a feminine version of the male business suit down to pin stripes. In the course of serving me she enquired whether I was a Muslim, for a black man here is still a curiosity, and I answered in the classic Turkish manner when asked such an audacious question. I said Alhamdulillah, which, without adding anything further is automatically understood to be an affirmation of one’s faith as Islam. It also turned out that she was not only a lip-service Muslim but was actually fasting, as I myself was. The saddest part was when she told me that her boyfriend, read fiancé, was hurt during the bombing at HSBC and her fiancé’s closest friend died in the carnage. Which now brings me to the moral question of not only taking the lives of Muslims but of any one in furtherance of a particular political course, whether in Istanbul, Palestine or Bali. The press is always counting how many Westerners have been killed in this and that place, and the term ‘westerners’ of course does not count Muslim victims. In reality, except for the few Muslims who died at the Twin Towers, the majority of people killed in the name of Islam in terrorist attacks worldwide have actually been Muslim. The Istanbul bombings claimed a total of over 40 lives and the overwhelming majority of these have been Muslims, although the intended targets were the British and Jews. By any standards bombings, whether suicide or otherwise that are executed in over crowded places where there are invariably civilians are simply unacceptable, if they are acceptable at all. To me what these self-righteous murderous zealots are doing is not further removed from the deliberate killings of civilians in Palestinian refugee camps ordered by Ariel Sharon in his comfortable office in Jerusalem and carried out by American, Australian and British zionist zealots in the uniforms of the Israeli Defence Forces. In a few remarkable programmes broadcast by the BBC it was obvious that both the die-hard settlers and those seventeen year old soldiers wearing Kalashnikovs were recent immigrants to Israel in pursuit of some identitarian utopia of an ‘ethnically’ pure Jewish homeland. In the 21st Century, the idea of an ethnically pure Shangrila populated by a group paying allegiance to a religious myth is to be as anachronistic as the eugenic experimentation of the Third Reich. The notion of a pure state for a pure race is now as laughable

as it is dangerous. The idea of a state for Arabs only is as misguided as that pursued by Israel. It will be a sad day when Palestinians, having a state created for them , includes this racial proviso. Some Muslims states are also guilty of this. One can work for years in a lot of Arab Muslim states and entertaining any idea of full integration in it and becoming a citizen is pure pipe-dream because there are thousands of foreign workers in these societies who are never given the option of acquiring citizenship after having contributed to their development. Part of the insularity and their intolerance, these Muslim states, is both their unwillingness and inability to co-opt the ethnic others into their body politic. Neither do these rich states, despite their fabulous wealth, have social welfare as a safety net for their citizens. There are no unemployment benefits, nor subsidised housing nor reliable medical health system that one can be proud of, except for a few places. Are these terrorist cells sure magnets for the unemployed, the frustrated and the alienated in these Muslim states? The education systems in Muslim societies are so antiquated and irrelevant that thousands of their students seek out better education outside in Europe and the United States. Muslims need to search themselves inward to come to a solution for the general malaise that have made them uneasy citizens of the world. They have vulgarised the message of Islam to such an extent that Muslims are now routinely demonised everywhere. Nor are the Muslims the only guilty party. You just need to travel the Western world to see how Muslim baiting has become a growth industry. Every time I have travelled around Europe I have met an overzealous immigration officer, holding a piddling of a job , who would turn my passport upside down, question me why I was going to a particular destination and make me feel as an unwelcome guest. There seems to be an unhealthy mix of bigotry and racism in a lot of these encounters. In order to make my potential tormentors comfortable I usually wear a Pierre Cardin suit and make sure too that I am clean shaven like a Greek statue. It is these European and American gatekeepers who drive a lot of middle class Muslims to be indifferent to the Western calls for Muslims to be more proactive in denouncing acts of terrorism. Western policy makers have to moderate the policies of their governments that that trample on the rights of people simply because they carry Muslim names or have been profiled. This term ‘profiling’ belongs to the same league as ‘collateral damage’ and smacks of Orwellian Big Brother undertones. The carnage in Istanbul this past week completely wrecked what would otherwise have been a very joyous bayram , as the Turks affectionately refer to Eid al Fitr. Q - NEWS

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irza Itisam ud-Din came to Britain in 1766 as an emissary of the Mughal Emperor, Shah Alam, to petition King George III over disagreements on tax and revenues between the Nawab and the East India Company. However, Lord Clive instead delivered the letter of protest and Itisam never met the King. He travelled and resided with Archibald Swinton before extensively journeying around Britain. Itisam’s refinement created quite an impression amongst the English. Unfamiliar with educated Indian elite, their images of South Asians were largely shaped by vagrant Lascars. The emissary was considered ‘a great man of Bengal if not the brother of a noub (nawab)’. For others his exotic otherness had a distinctly feminine quality that they though reflected the ‘dress of the Harem and delicate females’. He became a popular sight and was visited by hoards of curious onlookers. But the observer had become the observed and after an invitation to an evening of music and dance at an assembly room, he remarked, “I, who went to see a spectacle, became myself a sight to others”. Itisam visited the theatre and enjoyed the privileges of the Georgian ruling classes which, he concluded, reflected their superior status. He remarked that ladies who could neither dance or sing was a reflection of 'mean parentage' and that as a result they had little chance of marrying as they were considered 'inferior'. As a religious man, his writings reflect his concerns that Georgian society was in wilful neglect of its religious observances, noting that Britain’s inhabitants attended Church on Sundays only. Itisam admired the newly developing architecture of London and was particularly impressed with St Paul’s Cathedral. He also observed the effects of the Enlightenment and its impact on English intellectualism, replacing the traditions and teachings of religious Prophets, which he compared with the rise of Muslim rationalists and materialists. The desire to learn Eastern languages had become a career essential in eighteenth century Britain. As a result, munshis were found in regular employment. Munshi Ismail was brought to England in 1772 under the patronage of Claud Russell of the East India Company and was employed as his Persian language tutor. The munshi was based in London, presumably at the private residence of Russell, where he found the unusual uniformity of London’s architecture rather unsettling to the point that he feared losing his way in the bland similarity of the Georgian capital. Another munshi, Mohamet Saeed, teacher to Mr Frederick Stewart, advertised his skills in 'Persian and Arabick (sic) languages’ in a London newspaper of 1777. After the East India Company opened a company college in Haileybury, Hertford, a number of munshis like, Mirza Khaleel, were employed to teach oriental languages. Mir Muhammad Hussain was a scientist who visited Britain in 1776 in his quest for new developments in anatomy and astronomy. He believed that Britain’s prosperity and global dominance was not, as others had assumed, attributed to its naval supremacy. Rather, he believed the discovery of the ‘new world’ had helped to advance scientific ideas in geometry and astronomy. Hussain acknowledged that the Enlightenment had advanced learning beyond traditional Greek sciences which, he predicted, ‘might cause immense amount of bewilderment’ amongst many scholars. As an educated man Hussain’s interaction with the English would have presented an interesting anomaly compared to the many destitute Indian’s wandering the streets of prosperous Georgian cities. Abu Talib Khan’s visit to Europe, Britain and Ireland between 1799 and 1803 produced a two-volume work detailing his experiences. Travels of Mirza Abu Talib Khan, in Asia, Africa and Europe, was translated into English in 1810 but with many omissions from the original Urdu. Emanating from Lucknow in India, Khan enjoyed his status as a celebrated ‘other’ being dubbed the ‘Persian Prince’ by the popular press. He was often a guest of royalty and his engagements where regularly announced in the newspapers. “Nobility vied with each other in their attention to me,” revels Khan, who considered English hospitality as “one of their most esteemed virtues”. Travels documents Khan’s fascinating visit to Britain, including access to the King’s private library, where he saw many Persian and Arabic manuscripts. He recalls visiting the ‘poor houses’ around the country established by Parish relief missions and even took part in a fox hunt with hounds! But Khan was critical of English society and he catalogued a number of English traits. He considered the English attachment to materialism, their frivolous nature, arrogance and contempt for other civilisations, even those far more progressive or superior to their own, as some of the more unpleasant British characteristics. However, Khan also enjoyed much of the lavishness of Georgian society courting the company of artists, actors and writers. Describing London as the largest city he had ever visited, he commented on the geog-


LEGACY raphy of the city’s numerous squares exclusively inhabited by the rich. In Oxford, Khan likened the sandstone buildings with those of ‘Hindoo temples’ in India. The bustling cities of Europe, with their pollution and over-population, produced a deafening noise from the thousands of horse-drawn carriages. He was impressed with Britain’s industrial progress and linked it directly to the fortunes of the British East India Company in South Asia. He believed that the country’s maritime domination was the key factor in her entrepreneurial success. Whilst Khan praised British society’s apparent positive role with regards to women and was impressed by the division of labour, which seemed to protect women from more labour-intensive jobs, he could not help notice complete areas of female exclusion in society. For example, the absence of legal status for women and property and inheritance rights, denied any real equality to women. Unlike Muslim women of India, noted Khan, who had enjoyed such equality as an unchanged and unchallenged divine right whereas property and inheritance rights were only granted to British women after the Married Women’s Property Act of 1882, almost one hundred years after Khan’s visit. Sake Dean Mahomet (Shaykh Din Muhammad) was born in 1759 into a noble family who were administrators to the Mughal Empire. At the age of ten he joined the Bengal regiment of the East India army and in 1772, motivated by his desire to visit Britain, he accompanied his army captain, Godfrey Baker to Ireland. He travelled to Cork via Dartmouth in 1784 to be employed in the Baker residence as a House Manager. Mahomet’s wife, Jane Daly, was a local woman from a wealthy Irish family and the couple met whilst Mahomet was studying English. After eloping together, possibly because the Jane’s family would not consent, they were married. When Abu Talib Khan was visited Baker in 1799 he met Mohamet and his family. Like Khan, Mahomet published a book of his adventures, Travels of Dean Mahomet, in 1794. Travels, believed to be the first account in English of an Indian to Britain, challenged the British accounts of the occupation and colonisation of India. Mahomet moved to London in 1807 and applied his skills as an Indian ‘Shampooer’ (aromatherapist) establishing a vapour bath at the home of returnee nabob, Sir Basil Cochrane in the fashionable Portman Square. Later, Mahomet became the owner of the first Indian restaurant in Britain and is recorded in The Epicures Almanak,1809, as proprietor of the Hindostanee Coffee House, 34 George Street, London, a place ‘for the nobility and Gentry where they might enjoy the Hookha with real Chilm tobacco and Indian dishes of the highest perfection’. The nabobs could relive their colonial experiences in an ‘authentic’ setting with real Indian cuisine. Unfortunately, the venture was short-lived and Mahomet was forced into bankruptcy within two years of the enterprise. In 1814, after falling on hard times, supported only by his son William, a postman, Mahomet moved to Brighton and revived his shampooing business at the Devonshire Place Bath House. The move was fortuitous as Brighton was becoming a popular retreat for the rich and bathing by the sea a favourite pastime. The Brighton Pavilion, patronised by the Prince of Wales, King George IV, reflected the British fascination with all things oriental and it provided an ideal setting for Mahomet’s new Indian vapour baths. Marketed as a treatment for rheumatic illnesses, his venture was first met with scepticism. However, after significant reported successes, in 1822 he became the ‘shampoo surgeon’ to George IV and the appointment was continued by William IV. Mahomet capitalised on his royal patronage and illuminated his premises during official occasions as an opportunity to exert his distinctly British identity. His popular treatment book, Shampooing or Benefits Resulting from the use of Indian Medical Vapour Bath, published in 1822 became a bestseller and the trend soon caught on with exotic Indian and Turkish baths established nation-wide. Sake Dean Mahomet’s children continued the family business after their father’s death. A branch was opened by Dean Mahomet at 7 Ryder Street, London and Arthur Akbar Mahomet continued the bath’s in Brighton whilst Frederick Mahomet opened a fencing academy in Brixton. Mahomet’s grandsons had more mixed fortunes with Frederick Akbar Mahomet (1849-1882), becoming a doctor of medicine at Guy’s Hospital in the 1870s contributing two major developments to medical practice; the sphygmomanometer, the first ‘blood pressure measuring instrument’ and the data collation system known as ‘collective investigation’, still used by doctors today. Another Grandson, James Deen Kerriman, became an Anglican vicar and a graduate of Keeble College, Oxford. Despite the diverse reasons for their visits to Britain, all the eighteenth century Muslim travellers became aware of their ‘difference’ because of their religion and race. Similarly, all were subjected to various degrees of ‘othering’ through their exoticisation by the indigenous population and whilst a few apparently enjoyed the attention brought upon them by alterity, others simply turned their difference into economic enterprise. Though removed by more than three hundred years, one cannot help noticing distinct similarities from amongst experiences of racism and exclusion faced by British Muslims today.

Muslim travellers

challenged British accounts of colonisation of India.


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alance has been restored to the Chamber.” This must have been the reverberating thought of most in the British Establishment when varsity, the traditional rivalry between Oxford and Cambridge, returned to the dispatch box at the House of Commons in November 2003 following the unanimous election of MP Michael Howard as the leader of the Conservative Party. A lawyer like his counterpart, Howard, a Cambridge graduate, would now be sparring with British PM Tony Blair, an Oxford graduate, and suddenly the fortunes of the Conservative Party seem to be in reverse. Every MP knows that every premier of this country since Oxford-educated Robert Walpole in 1721 has been to Oxbridge, apart from a handful like Disraeli and Major. So, is there an ‘Oxbridge Connection’ at work here? At the helm of Her Britannic Majesty’s Government is an Oxford graduate, Tony Blair, who has decided to compose half his cabinet with Oxbridge connections. Nine cabinet ministers are Oxbridge. Across the dispatch box, Michael Howard is a Cambridge graduate, unlike his non-University educated predecessor, Iain Duncan Smith. Two-thirds of Howard’s cabinet has Oxbridge affiliations, like former Tory leaders, William Hague and IDS. However, Howard’s ascension to Conservative Leader is pioneering for another reason. Howard (née Hecht) is Jewish, with his faith “an important guide and influence” on his life, and he was elected as the leader of the political party of British tradition, identity and the Establishment. This positively signifies a strong affirmation of the multi-culturalism of British society. Nevertheless, Howard has demonstrated to British Muslims that his views should be treated with caution. He is a member of Conservatives’ Friends of Israel and is the founder of the Atlantic Partnership, a right-wing think-tank supporting the neo-conservatism currently inhabiting the White House. Moreover, perhaps Howard’s policies will be far more lenient towards genuine asylum seekers and refugees than previous Tory leaders, because his parents and grandparents arrived from Romania, seeking asylum from Nazi persecution and pogroms. One of Howard’s grandmothers was a victim of Auschwitz, one of the most infamous Nazi concentration camps - a distant horizon from the British Establishment of Cambridge and Parliament. If the dispatch box today is dominated by Blair and Howard today, in nineteenth-century Victorian England, it was dominated by two politicians, Gladstone and Disraeli. Disraeli was of Italian Jewish origin but baptised a Christian, and was not educated at University. This did not prevent him embarking on a career in politics opposite the aristocratic, Oxford-educated sometime-Tory and Liberal opportunist, Gladstone. In Disraeli’s time, Jews were not allowed to become MPs until 1858, and its was only in the 1950s that they began to appear sparsely on Tory benches. In February 1868, Disraeli became Prime Minister of Britain, which Howard naturally aspires to, and having lost power, as Howard did under the Major government, returned to power in 1874. One wonders the extent to which Howard will be as astute as Disraeli, who apart from being accused of British Islamophilia, once held a copy of the Holy Quran in Parliament and told the House that “we will never be able to defeat the sons of the Muslims as long as they hold fast to this [The Quran].” Even so, Disraeli did have that Oxford-affiliation conferred upon him when he was appointed Earl of Beaconsfield, Oxfordshire. Whilst Gladstone and Disraeli were exchanging the British premiership in 1868, the following year saw the preliminary visit of Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, one of the reformers of the thirteenth Islamic century, from India to Oxford and Cambridge. He was fully aware that Oxbridge, like all other universities of Europe, was based on universities in the Islamic world. Studying the British educational system at Oxbridge allowed Sir Syed to return to India to establish Aligarh




“The November bombings in Istanbul were a reminder that Mahathir’s alternative to violence namely ‘to think’ and to ‘win hearts and minds’ is still in its early stages of development. Incidentally, the alleged perpetrators were members of a Turkish group working with al-Qaeda. Given the global influence of the Oxbridge connection, one wonders whether Osama bin Laden and Ramzi Yousef chose their future careers when they visited Oxford as students.”

University, creating a legion of Muslims students who spearheaded Indian independence, filling the ranks of South Asian leadership. Whereas the Deoband seminary seems to have spawned the Taliban in the modern era, two Islamic vestiges of nineteenth-century India synergised their efforts in the twentieth century. The Chancellery of Aligarh University in co-operation with the traditional Islamic scholars group of India, Nadwat el-Ulema, Lucknow, sought to establish a centre for the study of Islam at Oxford. In 1985, this aim succeeded in establishing the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (OCIS), with prominent Indian scholar, Syed Abul Hasan Ali Nadwi, as its Chairman of Trustees. In its new building, complete with a minaret amongst the dreaming spires, to be completed next year, OCIS is envisaged to be the leading centre for the study of Islam in the West. From al-Azhar University, Egypt and its affiliate institution, Mahad al-Fath, Syria, to the International Islamic University, Malaysia, scholars and students alike are visiting OCIS, keen to be part of the revival of Islamic Studies in the West. It has also been the arena for landmark speeches by its Patron, Prince Charles (Cambridge), Nelson Mandela (Oxford) and UN SecretaryGeneral Kofi Annan (Oxford). Prior to receiving his honorary degree from Oxford in June 2001, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan had visited Oxford as the guest of OCIS, further contributing to his subsequent decision to attend Organisation for the Islamic Conference (OIC) Summits. The last OIC Summit convened in October in Malaysia, had one well-publicised speech that received a standing ovation from all the 57 heads of states in attendance. Unlike his predecessor, Tunku Abdul Rahman, outgoing Malaysian PM Mahathir bin Mohammad was not Cambridge-educated, but a doctor working in a poor rural area before he joined politics. He has been credited with spearheading Malaysia’s transformation from a backwater, rural country to a hi-tech modern power guided by an Islamic vision. During his tenure, incomes have tripled and poverty levels fallen to 5% of all households, from more than 35% in 1982. What could he have said to warrant that standing ovation? In his address, Mahathir called on Muslims to “to work hard and affirm their personality” and spoke of the need for the Ummah to proactively unite itself. But, overwhelmingly he emphasised how Muslims must reject violence brought on by revenge and anger, and to be far more systematic and strategic in their aims, condemning suicide bombing, “Is there no other way than to ask our young people to blow themselves up and kill people and invite the massacre of more of our own people?” However, it was his comments about Jews which earned condemnation. The statement in question, “The Europeans killed six million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.” When faced with the ensuing barrage of criticism from the West, Mahatir said that the main thrust of his speech was condemning violence, even suicide bombings, “but they picked up one sentence where I said that the Jews control the world. Well, the reaction of the world shows they control the world.” US President Bush spoke to Mahathir at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum in Thailand, denouncing the remarks as, “wrong and divisive” where as his fellow “man of peace”, Israeli PM Ariel Sharon slammed the remarks as


“slanderous.” The November bombings in Istanbul were a further reminder that Mahathir’s alternative to violence namely “to think” and to “win hearts and minds” is still in its early stages of development. Incidentally, the alleged perpetrators were members of a Turkish group working with alQaeda. Given the global influence of the Oxbridge connection, one wonders whether al-Qaeda’s head, Usama bin Laden, and senior lieutenant, Ramzi Yousef, had chosen their future careers when they visited Oxford as students. In contrast to their type of Islamist terrorism, Mahathir’s opinion in mid-October that the United States and Israel were engaging in “state terrorism” that was far more destructive than that practised by “irregulars,” seemed to be vindicated by a survey held by the European Commission about the views of its citizens. Published in November, the poll of 7,500 EU citizens voted Israel the greatest threat to world peace, with America and North Korea joint in second place. This substantiated earlier findings in 2002 survey by the International Herald Tribune, where European respondents said they sympathised more with the Palestinians than Israelis. In contrast, that survey depicted 41% of Americans saying that they sympathised with Israelis and only 13% with the Palestinians. Some envisaged the potential annihilation of the British monarchy in November, when Cambridge-educated Prince Charles was the victim of allegations of an unspecified but lurid nature in the tabloid media. Commensurate to Prophetic wisdom, Prince Charles had chosen to continue his duties, dignified in silence in deference to the gutter-press tittle-tattle. Islam institutionalises protection against slander and defamation with its intent to protect the ird (honour) of all its citizens. Though the work of Prince Charles accorded for the benefit of the Muslims is world-famous, one is reminded of the Christian king of Abyssinia, the Negus, who accepted the first migration of Muslims to his land. For an heir to the British throne to be well-versed in the teachings of Islam is remarkable and bodes well for the future of the United Kingdom. One marvels at the words of a future monarch who is astute enough to say that not only Christians and Jews, but Muslims as well, could ‘do worse than return to the Sufi texts which deliver not a message of hate and intolerance, but the message of ‘ihsan’ - doing that which is beautiful.” It is of little surprise, therefore, to see that it is the Sufi aspects of Islam, which represent the “living spirit” of the tradition, which have had most impact at Oxbridge, from Idries Shah (Oxford) to Abdal Hakim Murad (Cambridge). So does an ‘Oxbridge Connection’ exist? Of course it does. Kindred spirits do harmonise, and those with similar aims and ambitions will work together for their own ends. However, Muslims are measured by a different benchmark. They work for their place in the Hereafter, and any bonds which are to endure in the Hereafter must be based on iman, as all other bonds will be discarded. The best example of this notion takes place at Makkah, where the rites of the Hajj demand that both the Oxbridge-educated king and the field labourer don their white cloth of ihram, and stand shoulder to shoulder, ankle to ankle, in prayer before The King of Kings, Allah Most High. Hasna Fateh is a writer with Alpha1 Media. Q - NEWS

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A SUBVERSIVE PRESENCE CATHOLICS AND JEWS IN 1920s AMERICA THE STRUGGLE OF AMERICAN JEWS AND CATHOLICS FOR RECOGNITION AND CIVIL RIGHTS IN THE 1920S SHOULD BE A SOURCE OF HOPE AND INSPIRATION FOR TODAY’S MUSLIMS, WRITES ANTHONY MCROY magine an America where people are vilified for their religion or race by the movie industry and religious leaders, told that they cannot be loyal Americans because of their faith by the media, face organised electoral lobbies determined to keep people out of office because of their religious beliefs. No, we are not talking about the present - this was America in the 1920s, and the ethnic and religious minorities were not Arabs and Muslims, but Jews and Catholics. Around the turn of the century, the arrival of millions of Eastern and Southern European Jews and Catholics caused a major demographic shift in America, changing its self-image as a Nordic-Protestant nation. Protestant diatribes against Catholics in the 19th century had sometimes provoked Catholic violence, leading moderate Protestants to view Catholics with alarm. By the 1920s some Jews and Italian Catholics like Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano were notorious gangsters, further provoking prejudice. Nativism, the belief that only those born in America and of Nordic-Protestant heritage were the true Americans was a major ideological current, felt that non-Nordic/Protestant immigration threatened traditional American values. Compare this with the words of Daniel Pipes, frequently condemned as an Anti-Arab racist and Islamophobe by US Arab and Muslim groups, written in the National Review: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene...All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” (National Review, 11/19/90) There was strong feeling at the time that Jews and Catholics were unfit for public office because of their distinctive religious


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and thus ‘un-American’ values, explaining why Al Smith, the Catholic Presidential candidate in the 1920s, had to take what would otherwise have been considered the superfluous step of underlining that he was a ‘Catholic and Patriot’, just as ArabAmericans and Muslims feel obliged to do today. The media lambasted him, with cartoons showing him as President with a Cabinet made up of priests, whilst others accused him of wanting to violate the separation of Church and State. In an article from Atlantic Monthly, April 1927, about Smith's bid, lawyer Charles Marshall argued that loyalty to the Catholic Church conflicted with loyalty to the United States: “…that Church, if true to her basic political doctrine, is hopelessly committed to that intolerance that has disfigured so much of her history… there is a conflict between authoritative Roman Catholic claims on the one side and our constitutional law and principles on the other.” Compare this with this statement by Pipes, “The presence and increased stature, and affluence, and enfranchisement of American Muslims...will present true dangers to American Jews.” Catholics were seen as “superstitious, ignorant, and dominated by their priests”. They were accused of wanting to undermine America's republican democracy, of loyalty to the Vatican rather than to America, and hell-bent on turning the US into a Catholic State - the “Catholic conspiracy” theory so-beloved of bigots in the 1920s. Alabama Senator Heflin stated in Congress in 1928: “The Roman Catholic edict has gone forth in secret articles, ‘Al Smith is to be made President.’” Doctor McDaniel said: “Of all countries the Pope wants to control this country. The Knights of Columbus slogan… is ‘make America Catholic’… they will force the propaganda of Protestants to cease, they will lay the heavy hand of a Catholic state upon you and crush the life out of

FEATURE Protestantism in America.” Pipes says something similar: “all Islamists (fundamentalist Muslims) have the same ambition, which is what they call ‘the Islamization of America’. By this, they mean no less than saving the US through transforming it into a Muslim country.” Jews were often suspected of Communist sympathies as the “Red Scare” gripped the decade. The Palmer Raids of 1920 saw the FBI deport “alien subversives” without trial. Compare this with contemporary FBI/INS raids and deportations of innocent Arabs and Muslims. Here is Pipes again: “Muslim visitors and immigrants must undergo additional background checks. Mosques require a scrutiny beyond that applied to churches, synagogues and temples. Muslim schools require increased oversight to ascertain what is being taught to children.” Arabs and Muslims often complain about contemporary Hollywood Islamophobia and Anti-Arabism in films like Executive Decision, Rules of Engagement and series like The West Wing, but it’s nothing new. Perhaps the worst example of movie industry racism in this era was the notorious 1915 film by D. W. Griffith, Birth of a Nation. Its most negative feature was the portrayal of blacks as savages bent on deflowering virginal white womanhood. The release of the film aided in the re-constitution of the Ku Klux Klan in 1915, partly because of the case of Leo Frank, a Northern Jewish industrialist in Georgia who was wrongly convicted of the sexually-motivated murder of a young Christian girl Mary Phagan two years previously. Frank was then lynched by a group calling themselves ‘The Knights of Mary Phagan’, which metamorphosed into the KKK. Anti-Semites were able to draw on the Frank case to support traditional smears of Jewish ritual murder, just as Arabs and Muslims face the ‘terrorist’ smear today. These attitudes were not restricted to ignorant pub talk. Henry Ford, the famous industrialist was an infamous anti-Semite, noted for his notorious book “The International Jew”, where he lauded the Tsarist forgery, “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”. Furthermore, a mixture of anti-Hispanic racism and antiCatholicism also played an important role in the international sphere, galvanising the US public in support of to repeated military interventions in Latin America, Haiti and the Philippines, just as anti-Arab sentiments and Islamophobia allow US intervention in the Muslim world today. It is worth remembering that America’s worst pre-Watergate scandal occurred during the 1921 Administration under President Harding, namely the Teapot Dome affair, when Secretary Albert Fall corruptly leased the Navy’s Teapot Dome reserve in Wyoming to his friend Harry Sinclair of Mammoth Oil, receiving a hefty bribe to do so. Significantly, there are echoes of Teapot Dome in the way the US government has awarded oil and reconstruction contracts in Iraq to American firms. Oil continues to cause US politicians to act unjustly and unwisely, and Arabs and Muslims pay the price. Just as today evangelists like Franklin Graham smear Arabs and Muslims, whilst others say that they cannot be loyal Americans, the decade’s most famous evangelist, Billy Sunday, “waged a holy war against Al Smith in 1928” because he was a Catholic. Other Evangelicals - who combined Judeophobia with Christian-Zionism - distributed both Ford’s book and “The Protocols”. Again, just as Islamophobes and anti-Arabists can drum up some academic to support their views, the same was true of the 1920s. Harvard scholars like Lothrop Stoddard and Madison Grant were influential figures in the nativist movement, castigating

Catholic and Jewish immigration from “undesirable” parts of Europe, just as today bigots seek to specifically restrict Arab and Muslim immigration. The anti-Arab and Islamophobic ‘Axis of Evil’ consisting of neo-conservatives, the pro-Israeli lobby (especially AIPAC) and Christian-Zionists often seems omnipotent and invincible, but Jews, Blacks and Catholics faced a similar antagonistic and powerful caucus in the 1920s - the Klan. Today we tend to think of the KKK as Black-lynching Rednecks, but in the 1920s it was millions strong, holding its own “million man march” in Washington, greeted and approved by President Coolidge. His predecessor, Harding, was even a member. The Klan controlled not only the South, but also many midwestern states, Oregon and heavily influenced California, Maine and Pennsylvania. It was seen as a benevolent fraternity, bestowing charitable gifts and was respected so much so that Billy Sunday and other Protestant religious leaders endorsed it. Its electoral clout was demonstrated in the defeat of Smith, just as AIPAC topples or frustrates candidates it dislikes. Equally, and ironically if not paradoxically, the outbreak of full throttle Islamophobia and anti-Arabism in America since 9/11 has caused many Arab-Americans and Muslims to wake from their political slumber, often through groups like the Arab American Institute, the American-Arab AntiDiscrimination Committee and the Council on American-Islamic Relations. From coast to coast, Muslim and ArabAmerican groups are organizing as never before to make known their concerns about civil liberties. They have gone beyond signwaving demonstrations to hold voter registration drives, meet with politicians and form alliances with other civil rights and religious organizations. One major factor that Catholics especially had to live down was the association with repressive, sectarian Hispanic regimes oppressing Protestants. By contrast, Ilford Muslims invited the ambassador of Saudi Arabia - a state devoid of religious liberty - to open a new mosque, and Birmingham Muslims are stuck with an imposing edifice called ‘Saddam Hussein Mosque’. What on earth did they imagine native Britons thought about such actions? Significantly, much of the oppression, discrimination and terrorism Hispanic Protestants faced ended when President Kennedy - a Catholic - after talking to Billy Graham, pressured Latin American states to change. He thereby showed that whilst American Catholics shared the same theology as their Latin brethren, in terms of democratic values they were truly American. It is essential for the future of Western Muslims that they do likewise, and the lesson of 1920s America is that even this most enduring racism and sectarianism can be defeated and excised from the body politic.


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ECLIPSES OF APOCALYPSE THE LUNAR AND SOLAR ECLIPSES OF RAMADAN HAVE CAUGHT THE IMAGINATION OF SOME MUSLIMS WHO SAY THE PHENOMENA HERALD THE COMING OF THE MAHDI. BUTROS AL-BAKR TAKES ANOTHER LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE. slamic forums on the Internet have been rife with posted messages and e-mails about the imminent emergence of the Islamic eschatological figure, the Mahdi, following a phenomena which took place in the month of Ramadan 1424/ October-November 2003. The speculation is mainly due to the occurrence of a lunar eclipse on 9th November, and a solar eclipse on 23rd November, signs thought to be amongst the most authentic indicators of the enigmatic figure’s appearance and have been mentioned by some of most eminent traditional Islamic scholars. Enthusiasts have been publishing research from astronomical authorities such as NASA and the Astronomical Research Centre in Vienna, detailing where, when and how the lunar and solar eclipses will occur for the next decade, appearing to substantiate the claims. There has been a deluge of elaborate and technical information, detailing when the lunar and solar eclipses would enter and leave its umbra and penumbra stages, the magnitude of the eclipses, the regions of Earth from where the eclipses would be visible, so on and so forth. In addition, the last significant time this phenomena was cited as evidence for the emergence of the Mahdi was by the head of the Ahmadiyyah sect, Mirza Ghulam Ahmed of Qadian, India, who proclaimed himself the Mahdi, Messiah and Prophet, after a lunar eclipse occurred on 13th Ramadan and the solar eclipse occurred on the 28th Ramadan in 1894. However, this phenomena is being cited as evidence once again, and in order to avoid the re-occurrence of this e-phenomena every Ramadan, and to understand it in the context of the revival of traditional Islamic scholarship, the veracity of these claims will be examined. The first narration, which appears to be the one alluded to in the Internet frenzy, regards lunar and solar eclipses in Ramadan. The narration is from Muhammad al-Baqir, the great-grandson of Imam Ali (may Allah be pleased with him): ‘For Al Mahdi, there are two signs that have never before existed since Allah created the Heaven and Earth. The moon will eclipse on the first night of


Ramadan, and the sun will eclipse during its middle - this has never occurred since Allah created the Heavens and Earth.’ This is the narration of Muhammad ibn Ali which is quoted by Imam alBarazinji in ‘al-Isha’a l-Ishrat as-Sa’ah’ and Shaykh Abu-Fadal alGhimmari in ‘al-Mahdi al-Muntazar’, two of the most eminent traditional scholars in hadith and also in Islamic eschatology. The hadith is originated to Imam al-Darequtni in the hadith collection, Sunan, as being related from ‘Amar ibn Shamir who has reported it from Jabir who has reported it from Muhammad ibn Ali. Some have attributed this narration to Muhammad ibn al-Hanafiyya, the son of Imam Ali, instead of Muhammad al-Baqir, who also related many narrations about the Mahdi from Imam Ali. However, the dates do not align. Muhammad al-Hanafiyya died in 700, and Jabir al-Ju’afi died in 750 at the latest, making the link between the two at the least fifty years. Moreover, Jabir al-Ju’afi is said to have narrated this from Muhammad al-Baqir, who died in 731, making the link between the two twenty years. Indeed, in both the Shia and Qadiani tradition, it is Muhammad al-Baqir who is stated to have authentically related this narration. However, the narration which is related in Sunan is considered suspicious al-Darequtni himself according to the extensive research conducted by scholars such as Mufti Ebrahim Desai of South Africa. al-Darequtni, analyses the narrators in the chain of transmission (isnad) of this hadith, according to a procedure called Jarh wa Ta’deel, whereby hadith authorities comment on the reliability of the narrator (rawi). The chain of this narration is from alDarequtni from his teacher, Abu Sa’eed al-Istakhri from Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Nawfal from ‘Ubayd ibn Ya’eesh from Yunus ibn Bakeer from ‘Amr ibn Shamir, from Jabir from Muhammad ibn ‘Ali. Hafiz al-Dhahabi is unanimously considered an expert in the analysis of hadith and their narrators, and for this particular narration, his words prove unequivocal, “According to its authenticity, this saying attributed to Imam al-Baqir is extremely weak, outcast, and rejected.” The two main narrators cited prior Q - NEWS

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FEATURE to Muhammad ibn Ali are ‘Amar ibn Shamir and Jabir al-Ju’afi. According to al-Darequtni himself, both these two figures are considered ‘unreliable narrators’ whose ‘narrations are not admissible as proof to substantiate any claim.’ Scholars consider Jabir al-Ju’afi ‘matruk al-hadith’, meaning his narrations are literally ‘ignored’. Scholars such as Hafiz ad-Dhahabi, Abu Hanifah, Ibn Hajar, Ibn Ma’een, Layth ibn Abi Sulaym, alJauzjaani, Ibn ‘Uyaynah, Ibn Kharraash, Sa’eed ibn Jubayr and others described him as an outright liar. The second narrator , ‘Amar ibn Shamir is subject to equally scathing criticism as a narrator. Hafiz al-Dhahabi, Ibn Ma’een, al-Jauzjaani, Ibn Hibban, al-Bukhari, Yahya, Suleimani, Abu Hatim, Ibn Sa’d, Ibn Hajar call him a liar and a weak narrator. The fabricator alliance of ‘Amar ibn Shamir and Jabir al-Ju’afi is criticised by alAzeemabadi and al-Hakim who states ‘There were many fabricated reports from Jabir al-Ju’afi, and no one narrated these false and fabricated reports from Jabir except ‘Amr bin Shamir.’ Therefore, this narration should be considered a weak narration at best, and a fabrication at worst. However, it may then be asked why luminary scholars like al-Barazinji and Shaykh al-Ghimmari have chosen to include the narration, riddled with accusations of fabrication and weakness, in their works. There are a number of legitimate and valuable reasons. The first is that the muhadditheen have derived a principle about hadith on the Mahdi which is that if the narration solely concerns the Mahdi, then there are weaknesses in the narration, but if the Mahdi is mentioned in context of something else, then the narration’s reliability improves. Therefore, it may not be the specific details of the narration which are sound, but the general details of eclipses as signs may be valuable. Secondly, as the narration is from Muhammad al-Baqir, directly descended from Imam Ali, the muhadditheen also have another principle that if Imam Ali provides a narration commentating on a Prophetic hadith, then it can be considered as being authorised from the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) himself. Thirdly, there are two separate chains for the narrations from Muhammad al-Baqir via Imam Ali, and another of Shariq via Umm Shariq about two lunar eclipses, which mean that there may be some credence to the claims, especially as the first narration of a lunar and solar eclipse has continued to be transmitted by Islamic scholars, despite its weaknesses, since inclusion in al-Darequtni’s Sunan written before the author’s death in 995. Fourthly, the narrations about the signs of the Mahdi are sparse, notorious for having weaknesses in chain and text, prone to fabrication for political purposes, and therefore, to merely list the narration can be deemed valuable for scholars and students alike. In this sense, an ecliptic phenomena of some sort may take place before the Mahdi’s emergence, due to the cyclical nature of eclipses every twenty-one years. Some would cite that the cycle of eclipses at the dawn of the fifteenth Islamic century in 1981 are being repeated currently in eclipses during the War on Terror and the cycle of eclipses will re-occur in 2025, which according to Shaykh Ahmad Yasin, spiritual leader of the Palestinian Islamic resistance group, Hamas, heralds the destruction of the Zionist state of Israel.

Does this constitute a definitive proof? Unanimously, the answer must be in the negative. However, another luminary Islamic scholar, Ibn Kathir, in his section on ‘The Signs before the Day of Judgment’ in al-Bidayah wal-Nihayah does not mention any ecliptic phenomena as a sign for the emergence of the Mahdi. The primer on Islamic millenarianism, Millennium Islam, concurs with Ibn Kathir’s perspective. Therefore, other scholars are exonerated from choosing to state the narration, as their intention have always been that it would not be considered a definitive proof. Overall, there are a plethora of narrations of ecliptic phenomena occurring before the emergence of the Mahdi. They have been related by eminent scholars of this Ummah, rahimhum Allah, in their books, because of the value of a narration about the emergence of the Mahdi. However, this is where the ‘Prophetic’ in Prophetic hadith would be so important, as only a hadith from the Prophet Muhammad verifying this phenomena would be worth deliberating and researching about - this has not been cited anywhere. The hidden gem of a Prophetic hadith is finally unveiled with an authentic hadith about the Prophet Muhammad speaking about eclipses as signs, a hadith conspicuously absent from these forums. When Prophet Muhammad’s son, Ibrahim, died, the sun was eclipsed. Some people thought that this was connected with Ibrahim’s death, but the Prophet soon clarified this. ‘The sun and the moon are two of Allah’s signs,’ he said. ‘They are not eclipsed because of anyone’s birth or death. When you see these signs, make haste to remember Allah in prayer.’ Eclipses do not constitute a sign of birth, death or emergence for anyone, according to the Prophet Muhammad. Therefore, if one desires to know authentic information about the Mahdi, authenticated hadith from the Prophet Muhammad (may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) represent the best evidence to act upon and disseminate. As such, neither Shaykh Hamza Yusuf has mentioned this phenomena as a sign, nor has Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi in his lectures on Islamic eschatology and Shaykh Ahmad Ali has stated that the authenticity of the narration is questionable and has not been verified. Eclipses aside, Imam al-Mahdi is the first major sign of apocalypse, and represents the visible sign of Allah Most High fulfilling His promise to the Muslims for proactively changing their condition based on the Quranic verse which has been the bedrock of modern Islamic thought, ‘Verily, Allah does not change the condition of a people until they change themselves’. Only when Muslims become Mu’mineen, convinced of Islam, and reach a critical mass of conviction which only Allah Most High knows, then Imam alMahdi will emerge. Till that time, Allah Most High has said that He is able and willing to stretch the fabric of time itself till Muslims fulfill the Divine Trust. Consequently, it would be wise to put the speculations about the emergence of the Mahdi to the side, perform the eclipse prayer if one occurs, and always allow Ramadan to be an opportunity to renew their relationship with the Book, the Holy Quran. Indeed, it is the renewal of this Ummah with this Book which constitutes a genuine unwritten sign heralding the advent of the Awaited Imam.

Eclipses do not constitute a sign of birth, death or emergence for anyone, according to the Prophet.

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Butros al-Bakr is a writer with Alpha1 Media



n November, more than 200, 000 people jammed the streets of London to protest their opposition to the state visit of President George Bush and their dismay at the policies that he and Prime Minister Tony Blair are executing abroad, particularly the continued military occupation of Iraq. It was the largest weekday political demonstration in British history and we were there. Walking under the magnificent Big Ben clock tower that dominates the Houses of Parliament and joining the crowd in chanting our discontent with Mr. Blair in front of his official residence at 10 Downing Street, we were energised by the spirit and incredible diversity of the crowd. waving Men in long beards and flowing robes walked beside decorated war veterans; brash provocative banners mixed with well-heeled office workers from the city; Members of Parliaments joined hands with anarchists; and the ardently secular and uncompromisingly faithful stood together as speaker after speaker denounced the war on terror, the attacks on civil liberties and the continued occupation of Iraq. It was a genuine expression of citizenship and an embracing of what we feel are the core values of democracy: civic participation and civic empowerment. No state program or government intervention has been able to do in three decades what these demonstrations have done in less than a year: to galvanise globally broad cross-section of people in a common political project. The transformation of this project into a broader vision of social change has already begun. Today, we are on the cusp of a global civil society – a complex, interconnected web of networks, institutions, organizations and communities committed to equity, liberty and justice. It is a messy picture, not easily defined. Yet, throughout the world, the slogan “another world is possible” is inspiring millions to work towards a new deal for the planet’s most marginalised and disadvantaged. The Islamic tradition recognised long ago our common human destiny. The spiritual call to devoted service for humanity and the common good is as Prophetic as ritual prayer and fasting in Ramadan. Today Muslims are once again at the heart of this civic awakening. While bombs go off in Istanbul and Riyadh and the angry margins of political Islam call for jihad against a monolithic “west”, Muslims the world over are questioning the logic of bombs and terror, of hate and anger. As hawks - some calling on Allah, others appealing to the stars and stripes – prophesise a great clash of civilization, an armed jihad pitting believer against infidel, gathering voices do not want a future shaped by violence and confrontation. They reject the autocrats who rule the Islamic world and in the same breath wonder about American promises to bring to the Muslim world. Will this democracy come on the back of a tomahawk cruise missile? Will it be engineered in Washington by policy wonks and technocrats? Or will it grow by the bottom-up – from the vibrant communities of faith, engaged in civil society, both here and abroad. Moreover, how do we open a dialogue between Islam and democracy, when Muslims of the West are on the receiving end of Islamophobia and a legislative claw back on civil liberties in their own countries? Isn’t the promise of our own democracy unfulfilled? Perhaps democracy is a work in progress. It will only grow and change if it is challenged and shaped by the citizens who live within its framework, as most of us do. And thus, we believe that dialogue and encounter are the only ways to achieving a socially just world. It is a discussion of some urgency.




knows that this dialogue is not a new one, but we hope that these pages will carry the discussion forward, intelligently, into the public square where it rightfully belongs. Q - NEWS

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Excerpted from a dialogue between Noah Feldman and Hamza Yusuf on 5 December 2003 in Toronto, Can

don’t think a clash of civilizations is inevitable, but I do think that there are many people in the world who want a clash of civilizations. I want to charge that North American Muslims in general are uniquely and historically well placed to help avoid a clash which will have enormously bad consequences for the rest of world’s 1.2 billion Muslims and for the people in the west as well. For the last 50 yers the west in general, and the United States in particular, has engaged in a fundamentally cynical, misguided and incorrect approach to its engagement with countries everywhere in the Muslim world. That approach has been pretty simple. We supported any dictator no matter how nasty he was so long as that dictator would promise us that he was not a Communist and later, when the threat of Communism seemed to wane, that he would keep in check potential radicalism arising from within his people. This was done in the name of an ideal known as stability, the avoidance of an Islamic revolution of the kind that took place in Iran. This policy has led to pretty deep hostility towards the United States in particular. What is striking and what is hugely important is that it has not lead to a deep condemnation of the idea democracy. In fact in the last decade throughout the Muslim world, an increasingly large number of Muslims have been saying the values of democracy are not incompatible with the values of Islam. The United States and most of the rest of the West fail to live up to the values of democracy, due to their support of autocratic regimes, but Islam has no quarrel with democracy as a phenomenon if only democracy were properly expressed. There are also people in the Muslim world who have taken the position that democracy in its very essence is incompatible with Islam. A standard argument runs something like this: Islam stands for the sovereignty of God, democracy stands for the sovereignty of the people – what could be more incompatible than that? This sounds like


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a powerful argument. Of course its true that in Islam ultimate sovereignty rests in God, but to apply the law requires human effort. The act of fiqh, the interpretation and application of divine law to particular cases, has to be done by humans. If we had continuing revelation it may be different, but we don’t. The process of shaping government is the responsibility of human being trying to be faithful and responsible to the values of their traditions and their beliefs. On the side of democracy, the statement that democracy is the sovereignty of the people is a fundamental misunderstanding of what we mean by democracy today. No one in a liberal constitutional democracy believes that all of our fundamental rights and liberties are determined by the people, because if they were, whenever a majority of the people wanted to harm a minority there would be nothing wrong with it. But we believe we have certain fundamental rights that exist independently of what the majority says. Where do they come from? Some people think they come from nature, others believe they come from God. In fact, the writers of the Declaration of Independence of the United States said explicitly that they came from God. It stands for the idea that the people make laws insofar as that those are compatible with some fundamental values that transcend human decision-making. There are scholars in the Muslim world who are saying that once we properly understand democracy there is no reason to conclude that it demands a notion of sovereignty that is incompatible with the ultimate sovereignty of God. Noah Feldman is a professor at New York University and author of “After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy.” He is the former Senior advisor for constitutional law to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance in Iraq.





nto, Canada. Organised by Ihya Foundation. Audio recordings coming soon from Alhambra Productions.

he ultimate belief of many fanatics within the secular western and religious western traditions is that we must all become western. Democracy is the end-all and that there is nothing beyond the western liberal society. What I find difficult about this thesis is an incredible act of denial in which it is assumed that something is innately wrong with the Muslims. This is like the old white view of blacks in America, “Why don’t they just pull themselves up by their bootstraps; What’s wrong with these people?” There is always a racial undertone in that question. Well, like Dr Martin Luther King said, “If they stole your bootstraps from you, how do you pull yourselves up?” It’s really interesting to me that in 1953 a democratically elected Prime Minister in Iran was overthrown by a coup d’etat that has been incredibly well documented. Every taxi driver in Cairo knows that Dr Mosaddeq was overthrown in 1953. I would challenge anybody to prove to me that one out of a hundred or even one out of a thousand Americans knows that our democratic government undermined another democratically elected Muslim government in Iran. A legitimate government was replaced with a tyranny. Thus, I believe that the real question is not whether Islam can embrace democracy, I believe the real question is can the west truly embrace Islam as a full-fledged member of the international community. There are 1.2 billion people on this planet that are Muslim, with varying degrees of education, but they do believe that Islam is a revelation from God. The mujtahid always recognised that he was not speaking on behalf of God and that the overwhelming majority of laws in the Islamic tradition are not seen as theocratic but rather they are laws that are derived from the efforts of human beings attempting to understand the Divine will. So it is important for Muslims to recognise that rather than looking at Islamic law as a monolithic


theocratic system that was sent from on high, it must be recognized as Divine principles that were given to us. Most of them are completely congruent with the very same principles that are working in this society. These principals are an attempt to establish the most just ruling in any given situation. We will differ on the particulars, but on general principles, I think many Muslims will be deeply shocked to find that the very same legal principles working in western constitutional law are the same legal principles working in Islamic law. What I find very unfortunate is that most of our Muslim legal scholars are almost entirely ignorant of western legal theory and systems. Islam is a legal system that can absorb much of what we hold dear in the west in terms of our democratic ideals. If by democracy we mean a citizenry in which human beings do participate in achieving the quality of life that they desire for themselves, for their children and for others, then I would say that democracy is absolutely compatible with the Islamic tradition. A tyrant does not adhere to the law but he follows his personal whims and this for too long has been the norm in Muslim countries and there are many reasons for it. This has led to social conditions in the Muslim world that are both degrading and also debilitating. They actually cause an enervation to occur in the will and spirit of the people. When we ask “what went wrong”, we must recognize that Muslims have proven to be amongst the most productive minds of our current civilization holding some of the highest positions in corporations, in medicine and in engineering. We have had Nobel Prize winners and have participated in making this world a better place when the breath of freedom has been there to nourish it, but too often that spirit as been missing.


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rdinary British Muslims, who have traditionally voted Labour, are finally expressing themselves through the ballot box. Nowhere was this more blatant than in the recent by-election in the London constituency of Brent East. The historically strong Labour seat, formerly held by the now Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, fell dramatically with an overwhelming majority to Sara Teather of the Liberal Democrats. The substantial Muslim population of Brent East, formerly unshakeable Labour supporters, finally had enough and told the Labour party what it could do with its foreign policy. The shock result not only made Labour sit up and take note but also spurred the opposition parties to seek disaffected Muslim voters and steal them from Labour. The Brent East defeat has provoked major policy changes within the Labour, which has thus far been quite happy to field token Muslim candidates in unwinnable seats. It has taken more than three generations of being taken for granted for the British Muslims to wake up to the fact that their frustrations and anger can be registered effectively through the ballot box. Until recently, it was believed that Muslims could be ignored, as they could never get their act together. Now, Muslims can be taken as a serious threat or opportunity depending on who you are. Hence, Shahid Malik, who sits on the Labour National Executive Committee, is now being considered as a possible Labour party candidate for Brent East at the next General Election in an attempt to herd the lost Muslim sheep back into the fold and salve Labour’s tattered pride. During the by-elections Malik’s name was not considered because a ‘Muslim candidate’ was not felt to be necessary.


ing ‘sweet heart’ deals with ineffectual male-led Muslim organisations. The initial gratification that faith communities were at last going to be recognised gave way very quickly to well-rehearsed feelings of disillusionment. One of the very first actions of the government was to play delaying tactics with legislation on the matter of religious discrimination. With such a huge majority it could have easily taken it on and got it through as it has done on much more controversial legislation such as the ban fox hunting. But it did not. Rather it carried forward the last government’s delaying tactics of going ahead with research to ‘look into whether Islamophobia existed and to what extent.’ This piece of research by the University of Derby became broadened to include general religious discrimination totally diluting Islamophobia and its devastating impact on the Muslim community; an early indication of the government’s intentions and level of sincerity with regards to Muslim issues. Whilst on the one hand the government gives importance to Muslim ‘leaders’ by inviting them to Downing Street for tea and photo opportunities albeit on the eve of blanket bombings in Muslim countries, on the other it continues to drag its feet on any real institutional changes that will make life easier for its Muslim citizens. The impression of most people is that the government speaks with a ‘forked tongue’. This perception is not helped by the way the Government continues to tolerate the persistent inflammatory anti-Muslim statements by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett. No wonder then that most British Muslims feel the Government

THE RACE FOR THE MUSLIM VOTE AFTER DECADES OF INVISIBILITY, POLITICAL PARTIES ARE CLAMOURING FOR THE MUSLIM VOTE. APPROACH WITH CAUTION, URGES KHALIDA KHAN. The fact that all major political parties are now scrambling for the Muslim vote, isn’t necessarily cause for celebration. The question is: how sincere are the politicians? Without even attempting to understand the real concerns of British Muslims, overtures and alliances have been made to certain Muslim organisations and individuals who, it is believed, will be able to cater to the needs of the Muslim community. To give credit where it is due, New Labour has made significant strides in reaching out to faith communities, particularly Muslims. In retrospect, however, the appointments - for the first time - of Muslims to the Houses of Lords, hosting of Eid parties at 10 Downing Street and Houses of Parliament, the appointment of Muslim advisors by the government and other such moves can now be legitimately viewed as tokenistic considering the numerous other opportunities that could have been taken during the last decade. However, having dangled the carrot, the government subsequently led the way in countenancing political subterfuge and mak-

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is playing games: it seeks to distract Muslims by offering titbits and taking their attention away from the real issues. And the gambit seems to have worked with the Muslim ‘leadership’ making them useful only to rubberstamp government agenda. At a more local level, Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, due to be up for re-election, has also woken up to a large Muslim constituency in London and has started his own political manoeuvrings. It has finally struck home that London is home to the majority of British Muslims, the most diverse and multi-ethnic group in the country with every tenth person in London being a Muslim. The Mayor, if he wants to be confident about his re-election, has to clinch the Muslim vote and the way to go is by courting organisations already favoured by the Government. In the aftermath of September 11th, following an initial consultative meeting facilitated by the Mayor’s Muslim Advisor Kumar Murshid at the Greater London Authority (GLA), an advisory group was set up to look into the needs of London’s Muslims. From


this organic group came the London Muslim Coalition (LMC), an organisation made up predominantly of grassroots organisations with the intention of working collectively for strategic change in London. Last April, the LMC was launched at City Hall with the Mayor personally opening the proceedings. However, since the launch, the Mayor has pushed the LMC aside and gone out of his way to support two major conferences led by the ‘favoured’ organisations. This marginalisation of the LMC by the Mayor became more apparent by the lack of representation and involvement at the recent GLA Eid Reception. The event fielded the usual suspects droning on about Muslim family law, international politics and defensively pleading that Muslims are not ‘terrorists’. The Mayor, supposedly a man of the people and an ardent champion of race and gender issues, was prepared to share a platform with men who are hardly well informed about the concerns of the community and without an adequate representation of women and young people. This begs the question. How would other minority communities tolerate such antics by the Mayor of London? If Muslim society is to be regenerated, it needs new ideas and new blood. Without a doubt it needs the wisdom and experience of the elders but it also needs the dynamism and energy of its young people. It needs to engage all the elements that make up the community, women, for example, make up more than half of its constituents, as do young people. Despite the fostering by the government of these ‘leaders’ and their largely ineffective organisations they have been unable to make

women can be ‘liberated’ in Afghanistan but British Muslim women are forced to languish in the margins. Recently, Baroness Pola Uddin hosted a successful Eid reception for Muslim women at the House Lords. It was the first time that such an event had been held. Over a hundred Muslim women activists, professionals and community workers from across the country were delighted to be given the opportunity to get together and meet at the very heart of British democracy. The atmosphere was vibrant and buzzing. Female members of Parliament who attended the event expressed amazement at the breadth of experience and the quality and confidence of the women. Of course there are many proficient Muslim women who do not need to be spoonfed and liberated by Western feminists or Muslim female apologists; they are quite capable of taking forward their own issues and setting their own agenda. They only need to be given a chance. The future of British Islam depends very much on what we invest now in terms of goodwill and relevance. Policy makers must understand that they need to have more depth than politicians in dealing with the plethora of issues affecting the community. We cannot afford tokenism and duplicity. The issues confronting British Muslims - of neglect, marginalisation, frustration and fear - are real ones. Our political strength now and in the future will depend on the kind of leadership we produce. At the moment the state of our “leadership” leaves a lot to be desired. Most lack the basic skills and intelligence to interface and negotiate with different organs of state. Despite the numerous opportunities we have failed to make the authorities accountable and as a result they have managed to get away

any real impact on policies and issues. This is because most of them do not have a background in the issues they want to represent and have also allowed themselves to be drawn into the tried and tested ‘divide and rule’ strategies played by the politicians and decision makers, undermining the grassroots organisations who have real knowledge and understanding of the concerns on the ground. It seems their overriding aim is to push themselves as the only voice for the Muslim community by deliberately excluding other Muslim groups and representatives. The Muslim community is always accused of marginalising women and young people. However, the government, political parties and local authorities themselves also choose to bypass these huge constituencies and give precedence to male-led organisations. They only wish to talk to women if it concerns forced marriage and domestic violence but for wider issues they prefer to approach the men. Muslim women are not taken seriously despite their leading the way on health and social welfare issues. It seems that Muslim

with less than the basic minimum that we as a community deserve. Unless a confident, relevant and capable voice emerges from the community we shall continue to used and abused. This leadership can only be built on the principles of honesty and fear of God. Those presently masquerading as our ‘representatives’ should realise their limitation and facilitate the emergence of a new order. The new lot need to have a much more bigger and healthier agenda for our community. When they meet the authorities, they must behave as proud, effective and unapologetic British citizens not some shadowy confused people with a hidden foreign agendas. They should be able to articulate the fears and concerns of their communities in an intelligent and relevant way: making demands that are fair and just and in the spirit of pluralism and tolerance. To be taken seriously this leadership needs to be honourable and accountable, representative and capable: most important of all it needs to be one that is thinking Muslim and Britain.


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CONVERSATION Tell us about your new book. What is it calling for and why are you writing it now? Being a European Muslim was theoretical compared to my new book. I look at how we can re-read our scriptural sources to come out with new answers befitting the new environment we find ourselves in. This new book recaptures the first book but with more practical answers to what we are experiencing on the ground - after all, the essence of Islam is about dealing with practical issues. So what are we facing on the ground? Well, firstly there is confusion between emotions and reality. Secondly, I am concerned with education. One example is Islamic schools. I'm not against them in principle. But I wonder if we are creating parallel systems in favour of an artificial atmosphere. We may be bringing Muslims together but we are not helping them relate to wider society. Thirdly, I am concerned with social and political participation. We live I democratic societies which requires us to be involved at different levels. For now and for our future, we must have a deep discussion about the specific ethics of citizenship. We need to widen our circles beyond our spiritual and intellectual communities and work with other partners in the name of our common values and common principles. What is your concept of Muslim citizenship? The ethics of citizenship are based on our loyalty to principles such as justice, social equality, the work against all racism and discrimination. These principles are common with the West. The problem is that we approach this with a minority mentality. There is no minority in the West. You are either a citizen or not. You are involved in the system or not. Constantly speaking as a minority is not going to help us. When I speak as a Muslim for justice and equality, I am not speaking about minority values, I am speaking about majority values. I know how to speak about being inclusive instead of confining myself to a very narrow identity as a minority. The controversy leading up to the ESF put you once again in to the limelight - describe to us the nature of the controversy, what criticisms were made of you and how you and the Muslim community in France were impacted by it. I have always condemned anti-semitism in verbally and in writing. However, certain people who feel they must protect the interest of Israel and Ariel Sharon are spreading the untruth that a new Judeophobia is rising from Muslims. This has always been a tool against those who dare criticise Israeli policies. I, and others, should be allowed to criticise people who use this tool because they are playing a bad role for the future. Increasingly, even socialists fall into this category. For example, they say things like, millions of Muslims means millions of potential extremists - as if it is natural to say things like that. This episode reveals many things which were hidden amongst our own partners. They have always been very suspicious about us. They have questions about feminism, women, violence. Our eyes have been opened - we need to have a deep discussion about who we want to be partners with. So how do you reconcile this with your call for wider partners? How do we know who our friends, and therefore, partners, are? It only shows that it will be a long difficult road but there is no other way. This is the only way for us to be part of Europe. We need mutual trust but this also means that we are ready to ask as well as answer all questions. Muslims in the west have to be wary of superficial partnerships. Increasingly evident is that our involvement at the local level is not going to be free from what is going on at the international level.

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TARIQ Whether you are speaking about Israel, Palestine or Iraq, what you say is connected to what you are doing at the local level. Do you think the western Muslim has an important role to play to help the general state of the Muslim world? Ofcourse. This is one of the objectives of my book - Western Muslims and the Future of Islam. We live in democratic societies where Muslims and non Muslims live together relatively peacefully. If we cannot build the partnerships here, who will? As a result of these partnerships and bridge-building, I have seen in my travels throughout the Muslim world that our answers to our problems are becoming more and more sophisticated and useful. How so? Well, just the way we are helping to democratise the Western societies we live in. Until we realised that democracy does not contradict Islam, how could we have participated? The lessons from our struggles with prove useful to the Muslims world. What do you say to groups that say Islam and democracy are not compatible, and that our God-given solution is to establish an Islamic state or better still, have the Islamic flag flying over 10 Downing Street? I am very critical of this stance. Firstly, this is a very superficial understanding of Islamic teachings. Secondly, this is a very superficial understanding of European and American society. Thirdly, it is simply dangerous. I consider this a binary vision of us versus them. These people live in the West but say they should not be involved. I have always maintained that deciding not to be politically involved is a political decision, whether you like it or not. To say that we should not respect the surroundings we live in is totally wrong. They are living in Europe so they have to respect the rules. Muslims, like all citizens, have an implicit contract with the society. We are bound by the constitution and the law. What are your thoughts on the social forum movement? What should the priorities of Muslim participants be within the social forums? I advocate our participation in these forums. I was in Florence last year and again in Paris in November this year. I was also invited to the World Social Forum in Porte Allegro. It's important for us to participate, not as minority voices but as Europeans or Americans with a Muslim background. We too are capable of working against injustice for the sake of another world. We agree on so many things with others who participate in these forums. We disagree on other matters, ofcourse and we must promote a mutual respect. We need to accept our differences and keep


Q RAMADAN working together. Our problem in the West is not legislation. The problem is very bad representation. They themselves are responsible for this change. We are responsible for changing the fact that people don't like us or don't like Islam. Let's be visionary - give us your vision for Islam in Europe? A silent revolution is taking place. More and more Muslim men and women are changing their perception of Europe and of their identity. The perception that our identity is bound by country of origin of our parents for example or our race is also changing very fast. Slowly but surely, this visible presence of Muslims is going to be more greater and more active. It is up to us to prepare people to be who they want to be but at the same time, involved and engaged in a positive way. My question is not whether we are ready to integrate but rather, are we ready to contribute because integration is already done. Silent revolution sounds daunting. Should the West be scared? It's a positive thing. It's an internal revolution - Muslims are changing perception of themselves and of the old binary vision of reality. It will enrich Europe because we can push our fellow citizens to live up to their talk of pluralism. It was easy when these societies were largely homogeneous. Now it's not homogeneous so can we implement the idea of real pluralism, which means understanding the other from the other's perspective. This is not easy. We must confront these important questions that will change the way we live together. At the end of the day, while we widen our circles, its important to remain spiritually linked to our Islamic values. Even though I was born in Europe, I realise that remaining spiritual at heart in this capitalist consumer society is difficult. These questions on the deeper meaning of life, why we are here, why we do the things we do could be our most important contribution to this world. At the social forum you publicly supported France's secularism law from the early 20th C. How should Muslims approach secularism? Secularism is the way the European society reached the reality of religious freedom. Secularists don't necessarily oppose religion. Secularism is a process by which European societies have allowed for freedom of practise and worship. It is really important we understand this, as opposed to the more common and simplistic understanding of secularism. In countries like Algeria and Turkey and even now in Iraq, the experience of secularism is different. Secularists were actively against Islam. Colonists deliberately imposed a system against our heritage and religion. However, the brand of secularism in Europe is different - it is not imposed on people. Quite the opposite. Collective psychology of

CONVERSATION secularism creates a pluralistic society where the different religions can exist and be respected. Mind you, amongst the different understandings of secularism is also the narrow strand promoted by certain French intellectuals. They are dangerous because their ideological reading of secularism is divisive. We have to struggle to promote a broader understanding of what secularism is and could be. Why do you think the French state and its apparatus discriminate against the Muslim community as demonstrated by the headscarves controversy? Firstly, French society hasn't forgotten the colonisation of Algeria. Their perception of French Muslims is connected to this history. Secondly, French Muslims are very poorly represented. These poor representatives are spreading fear that there are millions of very visible Muslims in France now and they are about to invade the French way of life. This fear is wrong but it should be kept in mind. We cannot just brush away the fears of our fellow citizens. Thirdly, the scarf issue is filling the lack of political debate between the left and right. When the right-wing party started to build relations with the Council of French Muslims, and succeeded where the left had failed only a few years before, the socialists made a controversy out of the scarf issue. The left used the scarf to demonstrate that only they, not the right, had the interests of France at heart. It is an excuse, an alibi used mainly by the French left. Unfortunately, this political discussion has done nothing to abate the real problems faced by French Muslims. They are facing discrimination and deprivation on many levels in their daily lives. What's the point of banning the hijab if you isolate an already ghettoised Muslim community? By filling the lack of debate, France is avoiding any real discussion of what policies will really prevent further alienation and deprivation amongst immigrants. How do we restore Muslim women to their rightful role as full participants in the process of citizenship and community building in the west? Muslims still have a very superficial understanding of Islamic teachings with regards to women. Many find it difficult to differentiate between what Islam teaches and what their cultures teach. What was done in Pakistan, India or the Arab world - mainly patriarchal societies - isn't the only way to understand how Islam should be implemented. Secondly, we have different readings amongst scholars. We have the literalist and the reformist readings, for example. The interpretation you will get is often affected by the mindset of the scholar reading the text. That's why we need women involved in the reading of our sacred texts. Very importantly, we need to avoid thinking it's about women against men. When we organise conferences for and about women, it's as if a man shouldn't be allowed to speak. Why are the women always speaking amongst themselves? Do you think this comes out of an overly strict interpretation of segregation? This is a very superficial, narrow and wrong interpretation of our sacred texts. This kind of segregation is not acceptable. It is a very tremendous responsibility of men to promote this change. In my new book, I discuss Islamic feminism. I know some Muslims are not happy about this concept but my point is that feminism is a way for women to ask for the rights that Allah has granted them. Lastly, it is high time women spoke out and got involved in the networking process. Whatever a women chooses - scarf or no scarf, involved or not involved, she needs to speak out that it is her freedom to make this choice. The more our women speak the more credible, trustworthy we will be as a community. It's a tragedy and a distortion that we always have men speaking on behalf of women. Q - NEWS

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IS DEMOCRACY DISBELIEF? KAMRAN BOKHARI CHALLENGES THE TIRESOME MILITANCY OF THOSE WHO SEEK A MYTHICAL ISLAMIC STATE he United Kingdom has been dubbed as a hotbed of radical Islamism outside the Muslim world. It is here among the Muslim community in the United Kingdom that we find perhaps the single largest gathering of radical and militant Muslim groups such as Hizb al-Tahrir, al-Muhajiroun, and a host of other Neo-Salafi and Jihadi outfits. It is rather ironic that those who would vehemently argue that democracy is antithetical to Islam are able to propagate their ideas within a non-Muslim democratic political system. This is not possible anywhere else, most especially not in the Muslim world. It was just recently, that Pakistan outlawed Hizb al-Tahrir along with a host of other sectarian and militant groups. Even while advocating their preferred mode of Islamist authoritarianism and rejecting democracy, groups such as Hizb al-Tahrir unabashedly avail of all the freedoms in the UK to advance their global agenda. The essential problem with the argument of those Islamist individuals and groups that claim democracy has nothing to do with Islam is the way in which they define both Islam and democracy. Most Muslim opponents of democracy construct their arguments on two false assumptions. On the one hand, they assume that Allah has provided a specific political system in the divine texts of the Quran and the Sunnah. At the same time, they think that the only real democracy is the western secular brand. This article is an attempt to illustrate the intellectual discrepancies inherent in the notion that ‘Islam is incompatible with democracy’, by deconstructing the understanding that radical Islamists have regarding both Islam and democracy. It will conclude with an explanation of what does Islam, basically, say about governance, and how democracy is nothing more than the best way, man has thus far devised, to conduct governance while minimizing conflict.



adical Islamists see Islam as containing within itself, a welldefined timeless system regarding government and politics. The sundry groups that constitute the universe of radical and militant Islamism disagree amongst each other about the political components of Islam, however, they seem to agree on one essential thing - Islam provides for a well-defined political system that is unchanging, which with slight adjustments is applicable in all times and places. Most of these groups refer to this system as the “Khilafah system”, and one can find multiple tracts floating around in the public domain entitled The Ruling System of Islam or something similar. Even a cursory glance at the historical development of Islamic political thought and practice is sufficient to make one realize that there is no such thing as The Islamic Political System or The Ruling System of Islam or The Khilafah System. Not only do we see an enormous amount of variance in the way the different jurists approached the subject of Islamic governance, but also in the prac-

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tice of the various caliphates from 632 to 1924. Furthermore, the mere fact that all such theses are the ijtihad of individuals, clearly underscores that there is no one particular system, which Islam prescribes. In fact, there can be multiple ruling systems of Islam, because the Quran and Sunnah do not privilege one particular system. Instead, the divine texts contain only general principles regarding the issue of governance, on the basis of which scholars in any given spatio-temporal setting can construct political systems. Thus, the various prescriptions in circulation are nothing but someone’s interpretation, which at best can be referred to as ‘an’ Islamic system pertaining to governance. Moreover, concepts such as Islamic state, Islamic political system, sovereignty of Allah or of the Shariah, or of the ulema, and so on are also products of the modern age and did not exist in the “glorious past”, to which the radicals advocate a return. Radical and militant Islamists do not realize that this terminology is itself a synthesis resulting from the Muslim encounter with the west in the crucible of modernity after a long interregnum, during which Islamic discourse, for the most part, remained frozen in time. Those who advocate archaic political prescriptions do so by the process of selective incorporation of medieval fiqh, because they have anachronistically constructed false continuums. One such false continuum is the existence of a single monolithic khilafah. This ad hoc cutting of time-bound prescriptions of historical fuqaha and the subsequent pasting on to altered contemporary realities in the here and now is because of the undue privilege given to the ulema of the past. Many Muslims overlook the fact that shariah and fiqh are not synonymous. While the former is the law of Allah, the latter is a human interpretation of that law. The principles in the Quran and Sunnah need to be operationalised, which involves the human agency of reason. Ignoring the impact of interpretation on knowledge formation, radical Islamists view original texts as manuals containing stepby-step procedures on how to establish an Islamic state. What needs to be realized is that the Quran and the Sunnah are the primary sources from which rules, processes, and systems need to be systematically distilled. Therefore, those who insist upon the existence of The Ruling System of Islam not only exclude Islam’s juristic heritage but also treat conclusion after interpretation as God sent revelations. ot only do radical Islamists suffer from a misunderstanding of what Islam has to say about governance, their tracts also betray their simplistic conceptualization of democracy. Just as radical Islamists engage in the gross essentialization of the notion of Islamic governance, they exhibit a similar attitude toward democracy. For them, democracy is also a well-defined system in which, according to them, man as opposed to Allah enjoys the right to legislate.


PORTFOLIO Radical Islamists almost always quote Abraham Lincoln; “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, …” as THE definition of democracy. They love to quote it, thinking that they have clearly established what democracy really is. What they have done, however, is only privilege the western forms of democracy as the only true democracy. Democracy in reality and in the words of W.B. Gallie, “is an essentially contested concept,” which means that there is no one brand of democracy that is more authentic than the other. Hence, the argument about the Islamist rejection of “people make the legislation in terms of what is right and what is wrong,” is moot. Moreover, by arguing that democracy is majority rule they tend to disregard the role of constitutionalism and rule of law. Even in an Islamic state (man or men depending on whether it is a democracy or an authoritarian type of an Islamic state) are sovereign. The problem is how Islamists define sovereignty. The hypertendency of Islamists to view almost everything as black and white prevents them from understanding many complex concepts such as sovereignty. A prominent American Muslim political scientist Dr. Muqtedar Khan eloquently demonstrates how the Islamist opponents of democracy have misunderstood sovereignty. He argues that while Allah exercises de jure sovereignty, He has allowed man de facto sovereignty over practical matters. The proof of this is that he gave us the choice to do haram or halal, and will judge us accordingly. Allah through his Rasul (peace be upon him) made the Quran and Sunnah as the primary sources of legislation and not legislations in of themselves. However, it is up to human beings to implement them or not, which in both cases requires legislation. Texts are texts unless people choose to follow them. Hence, man is sovereign. So, it is wrong to place this issue in an either or type of argument. In the words of a brilliant Palestinian scholar Raja Bahlul, an Islamic democracy may be a difficult concept to accept, but it should not be rejected on the basis of some perceived difference in the location of sovereignty, which is clearly not an argument.

times and places. The divine texts, however, are limited in number. The only way in which a limited number of texts can continue to provide guidance over time is by being general in nature. In other words, that there are eternal principles in the Quran and Sunnah in so far as governance is concerned, but Allah has left to the believers the mechanisms by which they can operationalize these principles. There are serious doctrinal implications in the way radical Islamists understand Islamic governance. If we accept the argument that there is a single political system that Allah has ordained for the believers for all times to come, then this flies in the face of social development that has occurred over time. Such an understanding is not just superficial, but it also contradicts the belief that Islam is a way of life for all times and places. The only way in which Islam (given the fact Allah meant for human beings to develop complex and dynamic social organizations) remains as such is if Allah provided the fundamental principles and left the issue of crafting implanting, and mod-

Not only do radical Islamists suffer from a misunderstanding of what Islam has to say about governance, their tracts also betray their simplistic conceptualisation of democracy.

n essence, the problem of radical and militant Islamist political ideologies is that they are constructed on the basis of literalist readings of Islam and simplistic conceptions of democracy. The expertise of most radical Islamist ideologues is in the natural and applied sciences and not the social sciences. Thus, disproportionately they are not just ill-qualified about Islam, but politics as well. Furthermore, they also do not have any practical experience in Islamic or democratic governance. The sad part is that their followers view their ruminations as being equivalent to hukm shari’i. Muslims need to become more sophisticated about specialisation of knowledge. We should be able to understand that any hafidh, mufassir, muhaddith , a’lim of a particular Islamic topic is not a faqih or mujtahid capable of issuing fatwa. Moreover, even a mujtahid is limited to engaging in ijtihad on the topics he or she has been trained in. On top of all this, the bifurcation of educational curricula in the Muslim world has led to the situation where disproportionately those trained in ulum al-deen have little or know understanding of ulum al-dunya and vice-versa. A very tiny minority of people have been able to acquire the best of both worlds, and hence moved beyond their original training. The vast majority of scholars are stuck in the uni-dimensional nature of their academic universes. A dangerous consequence of this situation is that we have traditional ulema engaging in political activism and not being able to offer the masses anything but slogans. They are unable to distill public policy from their theoretical Islamic knowledge. For Muslims, Islam is indeed a way of life prescribed for all


ifying political systems up to the believer. As for democracy, broken down to its essentials, it is nothing more than the most efficient means of political management available today. The political systems of all societies at a certain time were autocratic in nature, which is why we saw kingdoms and empires all over the world. This same political structure was the case with the khilafah envisioned by radical Islamists. This is because the structure of any polity has nothing to do with ideological and or religious concerns. Political systems are the products of human social and intellectual innovations. The state of tangible material devices are dependent on the state of the available technology, similarly socio politico-economic systems rely on the level of intellectual and political sophistication enjoyed by a society. A small dose of counter-factual history is enough to make one realize that had Muslim world not suffered from intellectual stagnation, it just might be the case that it would have been the one to lead the way away from authoritarianism to democracy, instead of the west. Then of course, the democratic system(s) that would have merged would have been in keeping with the Islamic ethos. The problem is that radical Islamists and many ordinary Muslims view democracy as being synonymous with western secularism. The two are entirely different concepts and do not have a necessary relationship with one another. What needs to be understood is that democracy is about providing a constitutional framework, which would ensure, legitimacy of the government, accountability, transparency, rule of law, regulation of state-society relations. Since, Islam has not provided any specific political system for the believers to adopt, and democracy is nothing more than the most proficient means of organising the political affairs of a people, then where is the haram or kufr in this? While, it is true that a workable model of an Islamic democracy has yet to emerge, this is not because Islam and democracy are antithetical to one another. On the contrary, it is a function of the perpetuating state of arrested state of political development in the Muslim world. Q - NEWS

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THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL POLITICAL ENGAGEMENT IS NOT ONLY COMPATIBLE TO THE QUEST FOR INDIVIDUAL SPIRITUALITY, IT FOLLOWS FROM IT, ARGUES SALMA YAQOOB s a Muslim psychotherapist who is also involved in a political arena through being active in the anti-war movement I am increasingly forced to reflect on how Islamic notions of the self both relate to and explain socio-political realities. What does my faith demand of me in terms of my role in wider society and politics? In view of the world post 9/11 I think such reflection and analysis is more relevant and urgent than ever. Even the stage of beginning to articulate the questions is reflective of my struggle. Indeed, it is not until we begin to ask the right and relevant questions of ourselves as individuals and a community, can we begin to make the most appropriate responses. In this way we have to constantly check that we are not merely still enacting a response to a question which has long become irrelevant. How can individuals carry out their responsibilities to develop themselves to fulfill their highest potential, whilst at the same time enabling others around them to fulfill their highest potential, such that society as a whole is moved towards a positive direction? I feel the emphasis on principles and self development in Islam is an important framework which enables the believer to have an anchor of stability in an ever-changing environment. No matter what else is going on we know that there are some goals in our daily life which remain fixed: maintaining a close relationship with Allah which provides the foundation of all our other relationships and interactions. By remaining clear about our intentions and consciously taking care of our inner spiritual state we may hold on to a sense of calm and clarity. With this central spiritual relationship we find the strength to hopefully enact some kind of consistency in our external behaviour, such that it reflects sound underlying principles. This principled behaviour should be reflected in our interactions with our families, our friends, with strangers and society at large. If we are not being reactive and not acting simply from our ‘lower selves’ it is more difficult for those around to do so too. Also, by remembering that every other person, by virtue of their God-given innate nature - their fitra- has the potential to be the ‘highest of creation’, we are able to continually see the best in each person. People rise or stoop to your expectations of them. So by remaining vigilant


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about our own state, I believe we can certainly influence those outside of us. In this way I believe the same p r i n c i p l e s employed to deal with intra personal and interpersonal are relevant to and I would argue of essential importance - in politically challenging situations. These include very basic and simple principles which can get lost in political maneuverings and apparent complexities of political dilemmas. For example, being scrupulously just, feeling and showing genuine respect, treating others as you would want to be treated yourself, giving benefit of the doubt, seeking to build on the positive, not assuming a suspicious or negative stance, seeking to understand from the other’s viewpoint, being sincere in the interaction, being patient, compassionate and generous etc. Such principles, in a political context, can be employed to build genuine alliances. Trust between individuals and groups relies on the personal integrity of the individuals involved, hence the degree to which they are genuinely principled will influence the quality of any bond, and in turn the amount of influence they exert. Such an approach is the direct opposite of a Machiavellian approach to relationships and politics with its emphasis on manipulating people, stating one agenda whilst having another - in short, the kind of duplicitous and insincere behaviour which has lead the word ‘politics’ to be automatically associated with ‘dirty’, in the same manner that the word ‘Islam’ is now (wrongfully) associated with the word


‘terrorism’. The concept of fitra in Islam implies that all humans having already experienced the Divine (Quran, 7:172) contain the ‘blue print’ of perfection within themselves. Such concepts provide a powerful means of challenging a cynical view of human nature. They help to highlight our shared nature with an emphasis on positive potential - a much needed reminder when we are constantly confronted with the negative consequences of human behaviour, especially in the current political context of increasing wars and artificially contrived push towards a ‘clash of civilisations’. Most people cherish the values of honesty, justice, peace and equality and there is a lot of overlap in the hopes and aspirations of huge amounts of people. Alliances made on the basis of such values are to be encouraged, and should not be seen to be a dilution or compromise of Islamic principles, but an enactment of them. It follows that joining with others, and encouraging others to work with us, in doing this

THE CONCEPT OF FITRA IS A POWERFUL ONE BECAUSE IT IS THE BLUEPRINT FOR A POSITIVE FUTURE, NOT A CLASH OF CIVILISATIONS. IT GIVES US HOPE AS WE STRUGGLE TO BUILD ALLIANCES WITH OTHERS. is not only to be encouraged but actually a religious duty. This moral approach is further reinforced by the fact that even on a strategic level, it is more effective for Muslims to participate in ‘united front’ activities as our concerns will be taken up in wider arenas and not simply be consigned to ‘minority issues’. And such alliances should not only be formed when it comes to simply ‘protecting our interests’ - we should be equally ready to participate in issues which are of general importance, or when it comes to protecting others’ rights. I believe that such an attitude is more reflective of a sincere approach to issues of justice and oppression. After all we are told in the Quran that the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, came as a ‘mercy to Mankind’ - and not just as a mercy to Muslims. I acknowledge that in the present climate there is still an alarming lack of awareness, activism and co-operation amongst Muslims, but as a point of principle the importance of our relations with non-Muslim activists need to be addressed. A point that can be raised here is: whilst acknowledging that everyone has potential for good as well as a shared humanity, how do we explain the oppression and extremism in the world today, and how do we respond to the oppression around us? Islam acknowledges that all of us fluctuate between different states of emotion and spiritual ‘connectedness’ at different times. Just as we have a higher self which enables us to strive for and manifest noble virtues such selflessness, truthfulness, and firmness of resolve leading to inner peace (nafs mutmainna), we also have a

lower self, which pulls us towards selfishness, dishonesty, and laxity (nafs ammara). Injustice is the result of the lower instincts winning over the higher instincts - both in personal and political settings. When lower instincts dominate, harmony, equality and balance (the important states encompassed in the meaning of the very word ‘Islam’) are disrupted, and discord and oppression result. I would suggest, for example, the processes that occur in an abusive personal relationship, are not so different from the process that occur between nation states when they are based on exploitation rather than fair dealing. In this way I believe some political approaches and ideologies e.g the current neoliberal agenda are ‘unIslamic’ because of their inherently exploitative nature which seek to enrich some nations and peoples at the expense of others. They can be seen to be an ‘institutionalised’ form of the ‘lower self’. Greed, selfishness and arrogance dominate with no regard for consequences for other people or the environment. For example, wars take place to ensure that natural resources can be guaranteed for oneself (because they often happen to inconveniently lie under someone else's land), one’s superiority is assumed and this arrogance allows the demonisation and persecution of other people. Just as a Muslim has a duty to be aware of personal vices and strive to overcome them in themselves, a Muslim has a duty to challenge ‘institutionalised vices’ in society. The process is similar. First there has to be an awareness, and hence self knowledge, and knowledge of society is important. Only when there is a realistic assessment of the situation, can personal and societal weaknesses be addressed. Addressing both personal and societal issues successfully involves clarity of intention and active effort. Also, whilst understanding the horrendous nature of the oppression of states we still cannot endorse an extreme response, for example suicide killings which involve innocent civilians. An unjust response which essentially arises from feelings of despair, humiliation, anger and bitterness - rooted in the lower, reactive self, cannot yield the fruits of a pro-active response which arises from a healthier place in the self. Testing and difficult as it is, Muslims still have a duty to safeguard justice, and act in relation to a higher moral purpose. Identifying and following the ‘middle way’: the hallmark of our deen is incumbent on us. The other extreme of descending into apathy and disengagement is, of course, equally unacceptable. In Islam therefore, the personal is political, and the political is personal. How else can we understand and act upon certain sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) such as, ‘He who sleeps with a full stomach whilst his neighbour is hungry is not one of us’? Clearly we have a duty not only to alleviate the impact of poverty and oppression through acts of charity on a personal level - but to challenge and aim to eradicate the causes of poverty and oppression - a challenge which necessitates societal and political participation. There are many significant related points and concepts that are unable to be explored in a short article. However, if there is a single point that is being attempted to be conveyed, it is this: according to an Islamic perspective political engagement is not only not incompatible with the pursuit of individual spirituality- it follows from it. When we act to combat injustice in society, it is simply an external manifestation of our internal desire for freedom - which ultimately is attained when we surrender our hearts to our Lord - peace through liberation, and liberation through peace of heart: Islam. Q - NEWS

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RIGHT THIS WAY choice between 'supporting' or 'opposf you value democracy, if you vote CONSERVATIVE VALUES ARE ited ing' such wars.Whether in relation to the Conservative or broadly support the Blair Government; if you are pro-Establishment MORE COMPATIBLE WITH 'War on Terror' or the war in Iraq, there are events and outcomes that Muslims may have and a monarchist; if you are a military or police officer or a merchant banker, if you ISLAM THAN THE MUSLIM to accept rather than 'support' or 'oppose'. It is not for me to say whether the outcome of are a Muslim or attracted to Islam, is there a the Iraq war, for example, was Allah's will place for you in the Muslim ummah? If so, COMMUNITY IS (perhaps His response to the final du'a of should you feel guilty about what you are or countless murdered Iraqis), but neither can I what you believe? At best, are you a ‘lesser’ READY TO ADMIT deny this possibility. However, to read the believer than one who is engaged in 'jihad', who rejects the essentials of a democratic WRITES HASSAN SCOTT Muslim media you might think that Allah Almighty plays no role in history. society and has a more 'halal'' livelihood? In When I made comments to this effect at a recent meeting on events the days when the likes of Lord Headley were among the few converts post-9/11 (also suggesting that the Muslim Ummah had much to be to Islam, when Yusuf Ali saw few contradictions in supporting the grateful to the Allies for in the defeat of Fascism and Communism) British Empire and countless Muslims volunteered to fight with the you could have heard a pin drop. Why? This reaction was not to do Allies in two world wars, the question would not have been asked. with a disagreement about historical facts, but a divergence of worldThere are contemporary Muslims who have joined the Establishment, view. In my opinion, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf was correct in pointing out but they are frequently criticised for so doing - even if they are conthat much of the Muslim ummah has been influenced by a 'discourse structively critical of it. But what is unusual is to see statements in the of anger''; they have come to see themselves solely as victims and to media, or Muslim forums explicitly promoting conservative (with a see conspiracies around every corner - and this has stifled debate. small 'c' - that is broadly supporting the status quo and favouring My experience and feelings are not, of course, the issue. What I gradual change) values and policies. fear is that many good, but non-radical, people may be deterred from As will become clear, I see no significant conflict between supviewing Islam sympathetically or even saying La illaha 'illlah porting conservative values and being Muslim. Rather, I would see a Muhammad Rasul'Allah by explicit or implicit suggestions that radiconservative approach as more compatible. You may disagree or say calism is a prerequisite for the Muslim in his political views and perthat this is a non-issue, but I think that it is clear that the current sonal life (no more birthday celebrations, art or music). I also fear that orthodoxy among many Muslim leaders and in the Muslim med ia is many younger Muslims are being presented with a false choice: be one which is ambivalent if not critical of democratic institutions and radical and 'true to Islam' or be assimilated in 'kuffar' society. the Establishment. This 'radical' view sets and limits the 'agenda' in The conservative approach is not against progress. It is not reacthe Muslim media and many mosques. This is not to say that there is tionary. It recognises the need for greater justice and moral probity, no space for critical views, but there is a point when criticism but it is realistic about the reformability of mankind and is deeply becomes, or is seen as, rejection - particularly if voices which are sceptical of utopian visions and simplistic divisions between 'good' broadly supportive of the decisions of government are not often and 'evil'. That 'the road to hell is paved with good intentions' (or heard. what we believe are good intentions) could be the motto of the conIt has long been difficult to stand out against this ‘orthodoxy’, and servative view precisely because the conservative begins from reality it has become more difficult' since 9/11. Q-News has run several with institutions and people as they are, not as we would like them to excellent articles, stressing the need for a more spiritual or 'cool' be. It is capable, unlike the radical view, of bringing about real change. response to events, but even here little has been said explicitly to lend The message of Islam is profoundly relevant to the many ills support to a more conservative response to events. George Bush which we now experience - and Muslims have a real and challenging asserted, post 9/11, that you could only choose to be 'for or against jihad (that is struggle) in bringing this message to bear, but we cannot us in the 'War on Terror' and I would argue that Muslim opinion be part of the solution if we are unwilling to use democratic processformers are only offering the same, false, choice. Even the Muslim es or are constantly cynical about the decisions reached. Of course, we Council of Britain in their book, 'The Quest for Sanity' seems more may - as many non-Muslims have done - see democracy (any elected concerned with the consequences for Muslims of the 'War on Terror' and accountable form of government) as the 'lesser of evils' or as the than the very real threat to democracy and civil life - to Muslims and best adapted political system yet devised for the modern world, not as non-Muslims alike - posed by terrorism. To quote: “Dutifully the a perfect solution. British government and others joined this 'war' that really has no In many respects we are at a watershed, where the choice for frontiers, no laws and no scruples” (page 19) . 'The Quest for Sanity' Muslims in the west is between a pragmatic and inclusive da'wa and contains little advice as to what governments should actually do to rejectionism and ‘ivory tower’ isolation - although Allah alone knows combat terror, given its ruthless and secretive nature - apart from the what the future may bring. I hope we can also avoid the 'discourse of general and long-term advice of bringing about a more just world - or anger' among ourselves and 'hold fast (together) to the rope of Allah'. about how Muslims could help to combat extremism. But I believe that this can only be achieved if we acknowledge that I am not excusing the excesses of this 'war', or denying the tragedy there are genuine dilemmas about how we live as Muslims in the modthat has flowed from this, but pointing out that there is another, often ern world and no easy answers. A more honest, open and transparent ignored, side to the argument. Moreover, if Muslims were able to put debate would be a good start. there own 'house in order' - as they did in past times when tyrants and schismatic were suppressed, we would not be confronted with the lim-



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he convenient response to those who revile your religion is to return the favor. The more virtuous position however is to forgive. Forgiveness as you know, while less in virtue when compared to love, nevertheless, can result in love. Love, by definition, does not require forgiveness. What many Muslims today seem to forget is that ours is a religion of love and our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, was the Habib, the Beloved. How did love, the defining virtue of our community, come to be replaced by an urge to redress wrongs, to punish instead of to forgive? It is the result of Muslims seeing themselves as victims. Victimization is a defeatist mentality. It's the mentality of the powerless. The word victim is from the Latin “victima” which carries with it the idea of the one who suffers injury, loss, or death due to a voluntary undertaking. In other words, victims of one’s own actions. Muslims never really had a mentality of victimization. From a metaphysical perspective, which is always the first and primary perspective of a Muslim, there can be no victims. We believe that all suffering has a redemptive value.


If the tendency among Muslims is to view themselves as victims which appears to me as a fall from grace, what virtue must we then cultivate to dispense with this mental and physical state that we now find ourselves in? The virtue of patience is missing. Patience is the first virtue after tawba or repentance. Early Muslim scholars considered patience as the first maqam or station in the realm of virtues that a person entered into. Patience in Islam means patience in the midst of adversity. A person should be patient in what has harmed or afflicted him. Patience means that you don’t lose your comportment or your composure. If you look at the life of the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, you will never ever find him losing his composure. Patience was a hallmark of his character. He was ‘the unperturbed one’ which is one of the meanings of halim: wa kaana ahlaman-naas. He was the most unperturbed of humanity. Nothing phased him either inwardly or outwardly because he was with Allah in all his states. Patience is a beautiful virtue…the cry of Prophet Yaqub.... "fa sabran jamil." Patience, it appears, is not an isolated virtue but rather it is connected to a network of virtues. Should Muslims focus on this virtue at the expense of the other virtues? The traditional virtues of a human being were four and Qadi Ibn Al-Arabi considered them to be the foundational virtues or the ummahatul fadaa'il of all of humanity. They are: prudence, courage, temperance, and justice. Prudence, or rather practical wisdom, and courage, are defining qualities of the Prophet. He, upon him be peace and blessings, said that God loves courage even in the killing of a harmful snake. Temperance is the ability to control oneself. Incontinence, the hallmark of intemperance, is said to occur when a person is unable to control himself. In modern medicine it is used for someone who can’t control his urine or feces. But not so long ago the word incontinence meant a person who was unable to control his temper, appetite or sexual desire. Temperance is the moral virtue that moderates one’s appetite in accordance with prudence. In early Muslim scholarship on Islamic ethics, justice was considered impossible without the virtues of prudence, courage and temperance. Generosity as a virtue is derived from courage because a generous person is required to be courageous in the face of poverty. Similarly, humility is a derivative from temperance because Q - NEWS

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COVER the humble person will often restrain the urge to brag and be a ‘show-off’ because he or she sees their talents and achievements as a gift from Allah and not from themselves. Patience as a virtue is attached to the virtue of courage because the patient person has the courage to endure difficulties. So 'hilm' (from which you get 'halim'), often translated as forbearance or meekness if you wish, is frown upon in our society. Yet it is the virtue we require to stem the powerful emotion of anger. Unrestrained anger often leads to rage and rage can lead to violence in its various shades. Our predecessors were known for having an incredible degree of patience while an increasing number of us are marked with an extreme degree of anger, resentment, hate, rancor and rage. These are negative emotions which present themselves as roadblocks to living a virtuous life. A patient human being will endure tribulations, trials, difficulties, hardships, if confronted with them. The patient person will not be depressed or distraught and whatever confronts him will certainly not lead to a loss of comportment or adab. Adab, as you know, is everything. Allah says in the Quran: ‘Isbiru was-sabiru.' “Have patience and enjoin each other to patience.” The beauty of patience is that ‘inallaha ma'assabirin’ Allah is with the patient ones. If God is on your side you will always be victorious. Allah says in the Quran "Ista`inu bi-sabiri was-salat.'" Isti'aana is a reflexive of the Arabic verb `aana which is “to help oneself.” Allah is telling us to help ourselves with patience and prayer. This is amazing because the Prophet, peace be upon him, said “if you take help, take help from God alone.” And so in the Quran Allah says: ista`inu bi-sabiri was-salaat. This means taking help from patience and prayer because that is the means by which Allah has given you to take help from Him alone. How is it then that a person sees himself as a victim when all calamities, difficulties and trials, are ultimately tests from Allah. This does not mean the world is free of aggression and that victims have suddenly vanished. What I’m talking about is a person’s psychology in dealing with hardships. The sacred law has two perspectives when looking at acts of aggression that are committed by one party against another. When it is viewed by those in authority the imperative is to seek justice. However, from the perspective of the wronged, it is not to seek justice but instead to forgive. Forgiveness, `afwa, pardon, is not a quality of authority. A court is not set up to forgive. It’s the plaintiff that’s required to forgive if there is going to be any forgiveness at all. Forgiveness will not come from the Qadi or the judge. The court is set up to give justice but Islam cautions us not to go there in the first place because ‘by the standard which you judge so too shall you be judged.’ That's the point. If you want justice, if you want God, the Supreme Judge of all affairs, to be just to others on your behalf, then you should know that your Lord will use the same standard with you. Nobody on the ‘Day of Arafat’ will pray: “Oh God, be just with me.” Instead you will hear them crying: O Allah, forgive me, have mercy on me, have compassion on me, overlook my wrongs. Yet, these same people are not willing to forgive, have compassion and

Our predecessors were known for having patience while we are marked with anger, resentment, hate, racor and rage.

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mercy on other creatures of God. We are not a people that are required to love wrong-doers. We must loath wrong actions, but at the same time we should love for the wrong-doers guidance because they are creatures of God and they were put here by the same God that put us here. And Allah says in the Quran “we made some of you a tribulation for others, will you then not show patience.” In other words, God set up the scenario, and then asked the question: ‘will you then not show patience?’ Will you subdue the inordinate desire for vengeance to achieve a higher station that is based on a conviction that you will be forgiven by God if only you can bring yourself to forgive others?

Imam Al-Ghazali and earlier Miskawayh in his Tahdhib al-akhlaq, argued that for these virtues to be effective they had to be in harmony. Otherwise, they said, virtues would quickly degenerate into vices. Do you think that these virtues exist today among Muslims but that they are out of balance? For example, the Arabs in the time of the Prophet had courage, but without justice it was bravado. Prudence without justice is merely shrewdness. Do you think that Muslims are clamoring for justice but have subsumed the virtues of temperance and prudence? Yes. Muslims want courage and justice but they don't want temperance and prudence. The four virtues relate to the four humors in the body. Physical sickness is related to spiritual sickness and when these four are out of balance, spiritual and moral sickness occurs. So when courage is the sole virtue, you no longer have prudence. You are acting courageously but imprudently and it's no longer courage but impetuousness. It appears as courage but it is not. A person who is morally incapable of controlling his appetite has incontinence and thus he cannot be prudent nor courageous because part of courage is to constrain oneself when it is appropriate. Imam al Ghazali says that courage is a mean between impetuousness and cowardice. The same is true for incontinence. The person who has no appetite is not a temperate person but an impotent person and that's also a disease. Someone may have immense business acumen but uses it to accumulate massive amounts of wealth. That is not a prudent person but a crafty or clever person. Prudence is a mean between the extremes of stupidity and craftiness or what the Arabs call makr. The maakir is the one who is afflicted with the same condition that has afflicted Iblis the maakir, the clever. The interesting point to note about the four virtues is that you either take them all or you don’t take them at all. It’s a packaged deal. There is a strong argument among moral ethicists that justice is the result of the first three being in perfect balance. That's Miskawayh? Yes, Miskawayh and Aristotle as well.

What I've realized is that people who don't have patience are often ridden with anxiety and tend to behave as if they can control the outcome of events in their lives. They even think that destiny is in their hands. They argue that if you do this and this you will achieve power, as if we have the ability to empower ourselves. Most of the contemporary Islamic movements seem to think that without state power a moral or an ethical Islamic society is impossible to achieve. Why do you think that is the case?

COVER I think victimization is the result of powerlessness. The point is that powerlessness is our state. Powerlessness is a good state, not a bad one because all power is with God alone and He will make you powerful or powerless. I'll give you an example. If you go into the Alhambra Palace in Granada you will see written everywhere al `izu-lillah which means that strength, dignity and power is with God alone. By the time you get to the end of the last room it is changed to al` izu li maulana Abi `Abdillah or power and authority is with the protector Abu Abdallah, the last Caliph of Andalus or what is now southern Spain. So it begins with power and strength is for God alone and it ends with power, strength, and dignity is for our master Abu Abdillah. The point here is that if you want power, God won’t give it to you, but if you want to be powerless for the sake of God, God will empower you. That's just the way it works and here I am talking about the people of God. Allah has divided the world into two types of people - those who are God- focused and those who are focused on other than God. The people that are focused on God will always follow certain principles and God will always give them the same results. The people who think that they are focused on God, but in fact are focused on other than God will never get success from God. The reason is that if they did indeed get success from God they would end up disgracing the religion of God by claiming to be people of God. There are many outwardly religious people on the planet that think they are the people of God and they get frustrated when they are denied victory. This causes them often to get angry and you see their methods becoming more and more desperate. They fail to recognize that authority is not given to them because they’re not truly focused on God. They are instead focused on worldly power and they are self-righteous and self-centered in their arrogance, thinking that they are right while everyone else is wrong. The verse in the Quran that sums this up is in Sura Baqarah. Allah says, “They say no one will enter paradise unless they be a Jew or a Christian, These are vain wishes. Say to them, bring your evidence if you are speaking the truth. “Balaa man aslama wajhahu lillahi wa huwa muhsinun.” “No, rather the one who resigns his entire being to God is the one.” Ibn Juzay al Kalbi says: aslama wajhahu means he who submits his entire being to God which is Ihsan or excellence in one’s worship. When the human being is in a state of submission - wa huwa muhsinun - everything that comes from him is beautiful and virtuous. Ihsan - ethics, virtuous, beauty, excellence - indicates that a human being will have his reward from his Lord. This is not from the God of a religion, but the God of the individual in a state of absolute submission. “Upon them there is no fear nor will they grieve.” To me, this is the greatest testimony that Islam is not about identity politics. Some among us want to reduce Islam to identity politics. They label themselves and point accusing fingers at each other. Allah says “indeed the one who has resigned his entire being to God and is virtuous, that is the one whose reward is with his Lord and upon them shall come no fear nor will they grieve. Replace the Jew and the Christian for some modern-day Muslims and you end up with the same phenomenon described above. The hadith says you will follow the Jews and the Christians to the extent

that if they go down a lizard’s hole you'll go down with them. This is an authentic hadith. The hadith says every child is born with an inherent nature. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, didn't say every child is born a Muslim as a sociological identity. It says every child is born in a state of fitra and it’s the parents who determine its sociological category, to give it a modern interpretation. You have painted a very interesting landscape in terms of Muslim behavior in the contemporary period but we are seeing evidence of resentment among some Muslims today which is very strange indeed. I am wondering how this might be related to a sense of victimization? Of course it is. Look for example at the word injury. It comes from injuria, a Latin word that means unjust. So if I perceive my condition as unjust it is contrary to the message of the Quran. Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in we hold ourselves as responsible. It gets tricky to navigate especially when it comes to the oppressor and the oppressed. The Prophet, upon him be peace and blessings, along with the early Muslim community, spent 13 years purifying themselves in Mecca. These were years of oppression and thus serious self-purification accompanied by an ethic of nonviolence, forbearance, meekness, and humility. They were then given permission to migrate and to defend themselves. At this point they were not a people out to get vengeance and they were certainly not filled with resentment because they saw everything as coming from God. I’m not talking about being pleased with injustice because that's prohibited. At the same time we accept the world our Lord has put us into and we see everything as being here purposefully, not without purpose, whether we understand it or not. We believe evil is from the Qadr (decree) of Allah and it's for a purpose, but there are two sides to choose from - the side of good and the side of evil. In order for you not to fall into the Manichean fallacy, God reminds you that not only is the struggle an external struggle but evil is an internal struggle as well. Therefore, those very things that you see on the outside they are also on the inside and to make it even clearer, the struggle inside is the greater Jihad because if you are not involved in the internal struggle you are not going to be able to fight the external one. Maulana Rumi said whenever you read Pharaoh in the Quran don’t think that he is some character that lived in the past, but seek him out in your own heart.

There are outwardly religious people who think they are the people of God.They get frustrated when they are denied victory.

So, if we've got all these negatives, vices, not virtues active in our hearts, love, it appears is an impossible task. The modern Christian fundamentalists always talk about Islam as a religion devoid of love. It’s a very common motif in these religious fundamentalist books that attack Islam. They say “our religion is the religion of love and Islam is the religion of hate, animosity, and resentment.” Unfortunately, many Muslims have adopted it as their religion, but that doesn’t mean resentment has anything to do with Islam. Love (Mahabba) is the highest religious virtue in Islam. Imam Ghazali said that it is the highest maqam or spiritual station. It is so because trust, zhud (doing with out), fear, and hope are stations of this world and so long as you are in this world these stations are relQ - NEWS

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COVER evant, but once you die they can no longer serve you. Love is eternal because love is the reason you were created. You were created to adore God. That’s why in Latin the word adore which is used for worship in English is also a word for love, adoration. You were created to worship God, in other words, to love Him because you can't truly adore something or worship something that you don't love. If you are worshipping out of fear, like Imam al Ghazali says, it's not the highest level of worship, but its lowest. In other words, if you are worshipping God out of fear, if the reason that you are doings things is because you are afraid of Him, that he is going to punish you, that’s the lowest level of worship. That’s why it was said about the Prophet’s companion Suhaib al Rumi that had there been no fire or paradise he still would have worshipped Allah. A vast number of young Muslims today who have the energy to run down the road of hate do so thinking that it is a display of their Iman. What do you say to help them understand that hating wrongs has to be balanced with the virtues of mercy, justice, forgiveness, generosity, etc. I think one has to recognize that there are definitely things out there to hate but we have to be clear about hating the right things for the right reasons in the right amount. The challenge is to get your object of hate right and hate it for the right reason. In other words, there are things that we should hate for the sake of God. Oppression is something that you should hate. Its not haram to hate the oppressor, but don’t hate them to the degree that it prevents you from being just because that is closer to Taqwa (awe of Allah). The higher position is to forgive for the sake of God. God gives you two choices -- the high road or the low road - both of them will get you to paradise. We should strive for the highest. Anger is a useful emotion. God created anger in order that we could act and respond to circumstances that need to be changed. Indignation is a beautiful word. Righteous indignation is a good quality and even though it is misused in modern English it’s actually a good thing. It means to be angry for the right reasons and then it is to be angry to the right degree because Allah says, “Do not let the loathing of a people prevent you from being just.” In other words get angry but don’t let that anger get the best of you, don’t allow it to overcome you to the point where you want vengeance because vengeance is God’s alone. Allah is al-Muntaqim, The Avenger of wrongs. Human beings are not here to avenge wrongs they are here to redress wrong, not to avenge them. The ideal of loving those who revile you is the station of the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. In the midst of the worst battle of his career, the battle of Uhud, he prayed, “Oh God guide my people for they do not know what they are doing.” He could not have uttered that if he had hatred in his heart. He could not have embraced Wahshi as his brother, the man who killed his most beloved uncle, if he had hatred in his heart. He could not have taken the oath of allegiance from Hind who ordered and paid for the assassination of Hamza and then bit into his liver to spite the Blessed Prophet if he had hatred in his heart. He took her oath of allegiance and she became a sister in faith. The Messenger of Allah is the best example.

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He is the paragon who said: “None of you truly believes until he loves for his fellow man what he loves for himself.” And the reason why I say fellow man is that I think it’s a very accurate translation because Imam an Nawawi said that he is your brother because we are all children of Adam and Eve. So we should want for our fellow man guidance, a good life, and a good afterlife. None of you truly believes, in other words our Iman is not complete until we love for others what we love for ourselves and that includes the Jews, Christians, Buddhists and the Hindus. That breaks down the 'us versus them' paradigm that tend to inform the way Muslims see the world and themselves in it. That has been taken to a new level now in some of our mosques where the kuffar is a degree under and we don't have to pay attention to anything they say either about us or to us. Did our Prophet, upon him be peace and blessing, behave like this at all? I mean was he dismissive of anyone who wasn't from his community? It seems preposterous to convince anyone that we care about their welfare when we deride them. The point is that if you want to guide them then you have to be concerned with the way they perceive you. You have to be concerned with how they feel. The reason the Prophet upon him be peace and blessings, did not kill hypocrites was because he did not want the non-Muslims to say Muhammad kills his companions as a way of scaring people from entering into Islam. So he preferred an action that will cause non-Muslims to look at Islam as a religion they would prefer to enter. The Prophet, peace be upon him was concerned to such an extent with what others thought that when one of his companions said that the Persians and Byzantines did not take letters seriously unless they had a seal on them, he told his companion to make him a seal. He was concerned about how he presented himself to the people. Once he was combing his hair and Aisha, his blessed wife, asked him why he did that before he went out and he said my Lord commanded me to do this. In other words, to go out looking presentable to people is not vanity. Some Muslims get caught up in clothes and they get upset when others wear a tie and suit. They think it’s hypocrisy and that it is inappropriate. On the contrary, if one’s intention is correct, it’s actually an act of worship because you are doing it in order to present Islam, not yourself. You are, like the Prophet, recognizing that you are an ambassador of a religion and it becomes like the seal that the Prophet, upon him be peace and blessing, pressed onto the letters. Many Muslims have divided the world into two groups - us and them. They will support Saddam Hussein because he’s a Muslim. In other words, they will support a man who may have killed more Muslims than any Muslim leader in the history of Islam or perhaps all of them put together. The argument from this segment of our Muslim community is that “I will back a mass murderer and go to a demonstration with his picture because he’s a Muslim and other people are Kuffar.” On the other hand, many Americans will back unjust American intervention simply because they believe “my country right or wrong.” Both sentiments is a form of tribalism and we are people of faith in God Almighty, not people of tribal allegiance.


LETTER FROM FRANCE slam, the second religion in France, has turned this country into the first Muslim power in Europe. From 5,000 in 1913, the number of Muslims in France today has reached five million, of which three million are French nationals. Considering this dazzling increase, one might think that the Muslim community would have found its place in the French society by now. Couscous and raï music have had an undeniable impact on France's cultural landscape. The success stories of young Maghrebis like Zinedine Zidane, a football star or actor Jamel Debbouze fill the celebrity columns each week. Thousands of mosques have sprang up all over the country. Does this mean that Islam has achieved recognition in France ? Some speak of an Islam of France, as opposed to an Islam in France. Mr Omar Lasfar, Imam of the mosque in Lille and founder of the first Muslim school in France, wants to emphasize the importance of this Franco-Muslim identity. According to him, it is the logical consequence of Muslim settlement in the country. Recent statistics (unfortunately approximate because of a French law forbidding all statistics to take into account religious or ethnical considerations), show that between 60% and 80% of Muslims are well integrated. Proof of this success: Franco-Maghrebi marriages rank first on the list of mixed marriages and the number of Maghrebi women getting married to non-Muslim men is also rising. “Integration will be achieved thanks to the new generation,” Mr Lasfar insists, “because they already feel, above all else, French.” Take the example of young Laila who says “ I go back to Algeria every summer to see my grand-mother but I don't feel home. When I'm over there and they call me 'la Française'.” Ask a young North African boy where he comes from and he is likely to answer “I'm from Marseille” or “I come from Lille.” This represents the main change in the Muslim situation in France nowadays. If one retraces the history of the Muslim presence on French territory, one fact seems to stand out: the thousands of immigrants who came half a century ago to help rebuild a country that had been destroyed by the Second World War, thought for a long time that their stay would only be temporary. These men came in great numbers after 1950 for their labour and few cared what would become of them once the reconstruction was over. They were


exploited and stacked in shabby dormitory towns on the outskirt of big cities. They endured everything without protest while regularly sending money back home. As for the rest of the French society, they were trying very hard to forget their existence. But soon, parents, wives and children were repatriated to France and the Muslim community started organizing itself. Various Muslim associations and meeting places were set up. Muslims started to ask questions about their condition and their rights. In 1989, the community experienced the first shocking response to their increasingly public presence: three young muslim girls were asked to take off their 'chador' while at school and refused, thus provoking a national psychodrama. On one side, the Muslim community asked for a real recognition of their religion and culture. On the other side, the rest of the society, still filled by the old fear of the “Arab” and marked by the scars of the war in Algeria, expressing its feeling of insecurity in the support of extreme right wing movements like Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front. Despite the disturbing signs of unease in France, Muslim representatives remain confident in the future. “This political and social unrest is a necessary consequence of the mutation process caused by the settling of a new community in a country,” Mr Lasfar explains. So, if second and third generation Muslims feel that their life is now inevitably linked to France, what is the future of French Islam? Is it possible for these citizens to adopt French laws, values and lifestyle while retaining their Muslim identity? To have the Muslim culture coexist with the basic principles that rule the French state, is one of the challenges Mr Lasfar had in mind when he founded the first Muslim school of France. The 'Lycée Averroès' opened its doors in

September this year, bringing a radical change to the bipolar French educational system, traditionally based on strong secular foundations. Defined as a 'quality school for all, whose curriculum includes the Muslim culture', Averroès was created to give Muslim parents the opportunity to choose a school based on an Islamic ethos, training the next generation of French Muslims to play an active role in French society. Today, the Muslim community is still barely represented in government or the civil service. The creation last year of the Conseil Français du Culte Musulman (French Council of Muslims) has given Muslims a voice to participate in political debates on religion and secularism. Today, representatives of the Muslim community are being called upon to help propose solutions to to the problematic issue raised by the 'chador' in particular. The ‘chador’! It has become the subject of main subject of controversy. It encapsulates the whole “Franco-Muslim” conflict, as if the protagonists in this situation tried to hide their convictions behind this piece of fabric. There can be no discussion about Muslims without the 'chador' being mentioned. Whether they are Muslims or non-Muslims, atheists or religious, liberal or conservative, they all want to have their say on the issue. Even within the Muslim community, it gives rise many extreme and opposed positions. However, the hidden reason behind the heated debate on the headscarf is the fact that is provokes fear. A fear linked to images of extremism within the Muslim world and relentlesly fuelled by the media. A recent news report about two young Muslims girls, expelled from their school for wearing their scarves, was immediately followed by a report on the 'scarf game', a dangerous activity that kills several children each year. To overcome the suspicions surrounding Islam, especially since 9/11, is just one more addition on the list of the challenges facing French Muslims. Just as they struggled to establish themselves in a country that was still affected by the Algerian drama, they now have to fight against the image of the Muslim as an evil international force. In a country like France, with the highest number of Muslim intellectuals and citizens in Europe, the seeds of success have already been planted. Catherine Makereel Q - NEWS

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I understand that intentionally breaking your fast through eating or sexual relations requires a person to make up that fast plus 60 days fasting for each broken day of fasting (kaffara). I have worked out (realistically) that from the last seven years I owe approximately 55 days. Do I then have to fast ten years in expiation? Note that two things are required: a) it is obligatory to make up all missed fasts in the past; b) one expiatory fast - 60 consecutive days, as described in lesson two of The Essentials of Fasting at is necessary for all major past errors. DEBT, BROTHEL, AND HAJJ FARAZ RABBANI

A brother is planning to go for hajj but he has a problem. In the past he went to a brothel. He had no money so he borrowed money from a friend. Considering he committed fornication with this money does he still have to pay it back? Later, he visited the brothel again. He had no money then either so he told the prostitute that he will pay her next time. However the police raided the brothel and closed it down before he could pay her. What should he do with the money? He is worried his hajj won’t be accepted if he has unpaid debts. 1. The debt is still due. It is he who sinned with the money. One’s errors do not wipe out others’ dues. 2. He does not need to pay the prostitute or do anything to clear his own dues. The contract between him and the lady was Islamically invalid in the first place. Imam Sarakhsi (d. 483 AH) said in his Mabsut, a 30-volume work of fiqh, legal reasoning, and comparative fiqh discussion, which he dictated from memory to his students while unjustly jailed in a pot-well in Central Asia, “Hire is not valid for any [sin such as] singing, wailing… and other baseless matters, because it is sin and hiring for sin is invalid. This is because the consequence of a contract is that the item of hire becomes legally binding to provide, and it is not permitted for a person to be legally obliged to sin.” [Sarakhsi, al-Mabsut, 16.38] And Allah alone gives success.







on behalf of others who are alive or deceased, it is valid and the reward will reach them even in the case of their being unaware of the hajj being offered on their behalf, such as in the case of deceased loved ones. 2. As for the obligatory hajj which becomes obligatory on an individual but due to illness or any other reason that individual is unable to fulfill it, an essential condition for the discharge of this obligation on behalf of that person is he or she must expressly command another to carry out the hajj on their behalf, or at least the hajj should be performed with their permission. Given this, if a person upon whom hajj was an obligation and he did not fulfill it, nor did he expressly request a relative to perform it from his estate after his death, upon this person’s death if a relative chooses to offer the hajj on behalf of him from their own personal wealth (not the estate of the deceased), the obligation should not be discharged, due to absence of express request. However it is reported from Imam Abu Hanifah that he held the hajj discharged based an a certain Hadith he interpreted to mean as such, emphasising that this is more close to Allah’s mercy and compassion with his slaves. [Mufti Mohammed Shafi’: Jawaahirul Fiqh vol. 1 page 501] And Allah knows best.



Can I perform hajj on behalf of someonewho failed to do so before he died? The hajj offered on behalf of another may be voluntary or it may be obligatory. 1. In the case of a voluntary hajj offered

When asked point blank, “Have you ever xyz?” with reference to a past sin, you said that the right answer, Islamically, is to say no. However, it seems that you are recom-

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mending people to lie. Secondly, is this advice not contrary to the ayats that say “az zaani laa yankiHu illa zaaniyyah”? (24:2) Marriage being a solemn contract - more important than any business contract, how could it be recommended to lie or conceal the truth? What about venereal diseases, illegitimate children? Is it allowed for our young Muslim men to ignore their offspring)? What does that tell the general public to whom we are obligated to give dawah? What about when the mother of the abandoned child seeks child support through the civil court (with the attendant paternity tests) and exposes the father’s lies? It is not a recommendation to lie. However, the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) has commanded us not to talk about sin, and has explained to us that sins of the past that have been repented from are as if never performed. This is a great mercy for those who erred in the past, and then returned to the way of uprightness. Think of this: many of the Companions were previously idol-worshippers, who drank, fornicated, and did other immoral things. But their Islam was repentance: it wiped their slate clean. As for diseases, top contemporary scholars say that Muslims should not marry before thorough and proper physical and blood testing, because of the many ways that modern disease can affect people. This is not obligatory, but is praiseworthy. As for child support, it is the financial responsibility of the father, Islamically. Who exactly has right to the child is a detailed matter that depends on circumstances, which this is not the place for. In closing, it is important to understand that fiqh is not simply the result of the educated beard-scratching of some scholars. Rather, it is an operationalisation of the Quran and guidance of the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace), according to sound principles. Its essential guidance and rules are for all times; particular details may, however, be subject to time and place considerations. And Allah alone gives success. PUNISHMENT OF EATING HARAM FARAZ RABBANI

Is it true that if one consumes haram even unintentionally, one’s prayer is not valid for 40 days. No. Eating haram intentionally or out of undue laxity may well affect the acceptance of your prayer. However, Allah does not punish us on hidden technicalities. Mistakes are forgiven or overlooked. However, one should be careful regard-

COUNSEL ing what one eats, and if one errs, even by mistake, one should realise one’s shortcomings and seek Allah’s forgiveness. The Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) is reported to have said, “Allah has overlooked my community’s mistakes, forgetfulness, and that which they were forced into.” [Ibn Maja] And Allah alone gives success. WASHING MACHINES FARAZ RABBANI

Can I make my filthy (najis) clothes clean in a washing machine? According to the fatwa of top contemporary scholars, in application of the principles related to removing filth: 1. If one washes clothes with filth in a washing machine, they are considered to be ritually purified (tahir) if they come out without any perceptible trace of filth. 2. It is best to wash the clothes in three cycles of water. 3. It is religiously more precautionary to wash away the filth from the clothes, to avoid differences of opinion. As the scholars say, “There is nothing like safety.” [see Ibn Abidin, Radd al-Muhtar 1.222] And Allah alone gives success.


Is it permissible for men to pierce one or both their ears or braid their hair? It is agreed upon that men cannot wear earrings or other jewellery (except for a ring from silver alone). [see: Ibn Qudama, alMughni, 2.324; al-Mawsu`a al-Fiqhiyya] As for braids, the condition is that they not be like the braids of women and not entail imitation of non-Muslims in ways characteristic of them, and that one undo them before ghusl.




I have a Malaysian family friend who has been through many trials. His second child now is pursuing her education at a local college and has received a proposal from her lecturer, a Bangladeshi Muslim. The man came to propose with his mother, but insisted that the father pay a high dowry for him. This is not part of the Malaysian culture, and certainly not Islam. The father of the bride is very angry that the Bangladeshi man insists he is of a high status in Bangladesh and requires a significant dowry. However, he is torn apart as his daughter is head over heels in love, and seems willing to do anything including paying the dowry. I assume she is also rebellious, as is common today. What do you advise that he does for the sake of Allah? The dowry - given from the girl’s family, unlike the mahr, which is from the husband to his wife] is a cultural matter, which is permitted when within reasonable bounds. [alFatawa al-Hindiyya, 1.327] Excess of any kind is disliked by the Sacred Law of the Beloved of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace). The best matter would be to proceed with wisdom. Often, bringing in a wise and learned third party, such as a respected scholar, is effective.

do that which one can do consistently, because, as the Prophet (Allah bless him & give him peace) told us, “The most beloved of actions to Allah are those its performer is constant on, even if little.” This is because such actions transform a person’s life. The time after the five daily salah is also a time when duas are accepted. Hence, this opportunity to seek from Allah should be realised. [Based on Durr al-Mukhtar, Radd al-Muhtar] May Allah grant us all the ability.


What dhikr is appropriate after the five daily prayers? What du'as and tasbihaats did the Prophet (SAW) read after salaat? The fuqaha have stated that, based on the Prophetic hadiths, after the five daily prayers it is recommended to seek the forgiveness of Allah Ta’ala by reciting Astaghfirullah thrice. Is also recommended to recite 33 times Subhan’Allah, 33 times Alhamdulillah, 33 times Allahu akbar and once la ilaha illallah wahdahu la sharika lahu lahul mulku wa lahul hamdu wa huwa ala kulli shay in qadir. It is mentioned in a hadith that whoever recites the above after every salah his sins will be forgiven if they are as much as the foam of the ocean. (Sahih Muslim) Besides the above it is also recommended to recite Sura al-Ikhlas (112), Sura alFalaq (113) and al-Nas (114) (reported by al-Tirmidhi) and Ayat al-Kursi. (Reported by Al-Nasa’i) There are also many other dhikrs and invocations that may be recited. It is best to

I have a Muslim friend who is a new convert to Islam. Her mother is not a Muslim. Would it be alright for my friend to accept her mother’s inheritance even though she is not a Muslim? If yes, then would it be alright for her take the largest share of the inheritance even though she has a brother (non-Muslim) who is to receive a small share of the inheritance for whatever reasons her mother has decided. Also this inheritance is a pub which will be sold after her mothers death. It is permitted to accept bequests from non-Muslim parents, but one cannot inherit from them. A bequest is, ‘A gift by will especially of money or other personal property.’ (Merriam-Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary) Inheritance: ‘the acquisition of real or personal property as heir to another : the perpetual or continuing right which a person and his heirs have to an estate or property.’ (ibid.) In the case mentioned, it appears that the sister would be receiving from her mother’s estate by way of bequest. As such, it would be permitted for her to take it. As for the earnings being from a pub: the earnings of non-Muslims from wine and pork are permitted for them. We are allowed to deal with them in lawful ways (such as accepting a gift or bequest, or buying and selling permitted items), even when their wealth is based on these items. [Fatawa Hindiyya, Radd al-Muhtar] And Allah alone gives success.




Is rabbit meat halal? It is permitted to eat rabbit meat. [Hamawi/Ibn Nujaym, Hashiyat al-Ashbah, 3.232] And Allah alone gives success. Q - NEWS

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WITNESS TO HATRED fell asleep twice within the first twenty minutes of Witness: Inside the Mind of the Suicide Bomber (Channel 4, 10th November 2003, 9 p.m.). No mean feat given the amount of caffeine I was tanked up on and the fact that the programme was made by the same team that made the nefarious Correspondent: The siege of Bethlehem (BBC2, 17th June 2002) - a programme so biased towards the Israeli Defense Force, even the BBC governors apologized for broadcasting what was basically gut-wrenching propaganda. I thought before watching it, I would try and write a dispassionate and painfully objective review, but the programme itself was so poor it just didn't merit the credibility of such criticism. The Israel Goldvicht and Tom Roberts team's portrayal of the siege of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in April and May 2002, earned the ire if the BBC's topdogs due to its almost exclusive focus on the narrative of a general in the IDF whilst they actually were surrounding the holy site. They conceded that the Israeli production team's programme should have been flagged at the beginning as a one-sided look at events. Witness was less dramatic - hence its slumber inducing quality, but equally biased. Focussing on Palestine the 'the' in the title implied its conclusions were generic - even scientific. The programme was structured around interviews with five prisoners in Israeli jails. Three were Palestinian men who had intended to undertake suicide or martyrdom operations but whose detonator failed to explode or who had second thoughts and a bomb maker and a recruiter. All five were handpicked by the IDF, which in itself leaves


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you to question the relationship between filmmaker and army of illegal occupation without knowing about the past connection between the crew of this and the discredited Correspondent. Interviews with the men - all in their early twenties or late teens were sliced with shots of bus wreckage and what appeared to be staged scenes of cafÊ life and bus journeys scenes which interestingly involved only women in skirts, flouncey tops and high heels and children. Strange on any analysis but particularly when you bear in mind that most bus bombs target buses taking IDF soldiers and reserves to and from their daily mobilizations. Nevertheless Witness portrayed the potentiality of horror in the minds of the audience, thinking as they would of mangled children and flouncey blouses in mangled bus wreckage. The soundtrack consisted of permanent background whine, low enough to nauseate without being too obvious. The overall effect and message was clearly these bad men are doing bad things because their belief and their environment are bad. The causes as identified by the production team (without any input from psychologists, analysts, academics or indeed anyone remotely competent to examine the mind of anyone let alone the ambiguous suicide / martyr bomber), were the usual politics, religion (although in the Channel 4 webchat later, writer Roberts denied that the programme claimed religion was a cause) and, well, Palestinian TV. Roberts, whose commentary was either interjected value statements in interviews or worked as all-encompassing narrator, conceded that Palestinians were beset with violence and economic desperation (the latter credited to the Israeli regime), the causes of Palestinian violence were essentially the political and religious mindset of Palestinians themselves fuelled by images of violence repeatedly shown on the box. What else, one might wonder would broadcasters in an illegally occupied land show? So bad is the level of portrayal, according to Witness, a pop video where a woman is killed by an Israeli sniper trying to cross a barricade to her greet her lover is cited as ample evidence of causality. No doubt Romeo and Juliet would be just as inciteful. Witness’ tedious stupidity however is an indicator of it perniciousness. Instead of the adrenalin-pumping anger or stunned horror that such programmes inspire, Witness just lolls along. It's not really focussed too well on a narrative except to say that 'surviving' suicide bombers are either desperate, ideological automatons or repentant, misguided youth. The responses to the programme have been many. From the Muslim community there has been the assumption that our response should be to revisit the argument of the (in)validity of suicide / martyr operations. There is little utility in writing to Channel 4 and asking why they didn’t get an Islamic scholar to condemn suicide bombings or mention that such acts are forbidden in Islam. Likewise pseudo-defences of these operations e.g. that many nonMuslims like philosophy academic Michael Neumann consider them not only necessary but ethical, are better used (if you dare) to challenge a response when the issue is not under discussion. It's not an issue that we have resolved and responding to a racist and Islamophobic programme is not the right time to rehash old arguments. This programme lacked credibility as anything other than propaganda. We shouldn't be afraid to say it. ARZU MERALI


BREAKING THE SIEGE prediction of the Prophet, peace be upon him, embellishing the first paragraph of this book’s introduction says it all: “There will be a time when your religion will be like a hot piece of coal in the palm of your hand; you will not be able to hold it.” The Prophet of Islam was gazing into the future while he talked to his followers early in the seventh century in Arabia. “They will be large in numbers, more than ever before, but powerless like the foam on the ocean waves.” Tragically, this has come to be the lot of Muslims today. Adherents of a faith that teaches tolerance and peace, Muslims are summarily dismissed as wayward philistines treading a messy course. Bill O’Reilly unabashedly equates the Holy Quran with Mein Kempf, the reverend Jerry Vines describes Prophet Muhammad as a “demon-possessed paedophile,” and the Reverend Jerry Falwell calls Islam “a very wicked and evil religion.” Pat Robertson makes equally offending comments. “The debate on Islam that is in full cry in the West since September 11 is too often little more than a parading of deeprooted prejudices,” says Dr Akbar Ahmed. True. The present time thus is a time of challenge, not despair. Muslims have to break the siege - through conciliation, not confrontation; through dialogue, not clash - and this theme is the one that Dr Ahmed explores in his illuminating book with characteristic perspicacity. “As an anthropologist I will attempt to explain what is going wrong in the Muslim world; why it is going wrong, and how we, because my explanation involves Muslims, and nonMuslims, are to move ahead if we wish for global stability and even harmony in the future,” writes Dr Ahmed. The ‘way forward’ is by way of initiating a dialogue between the West and the Muslim world. The West is also obliged to build ‘bridges of understanding’ with the Muslim world. It must evolve a long-term strategy to interact with the Ummah, a strategy that should not be driven by interests of the corporate world or the multinationals, trading empires in their own right. “The West needs to respond to the Muslim world firstly by listening to what Muslims are saying and secondly, by trying to


understand Islam. With some patience and understanding the general desire to assist the Muslim world will take shape....The West must send serious signals to the ordinary Muslim people via the media, through seminars, conferences, meetings - that it does not consider Islam to be the enemy, however much it may disagree with certain aspects of Muslim behavior,” says Dr Ahmed. Above all, the western media must dispel its ignorance and shed its long-lingering prejudices. Dr Ahmed’s prescription for the Muslims is simple: practice a ‘working democracy,’ promote education, upgrade madrassahs, demonstrate tolerance, show respect for adl, ihsan and ilm, and be mindful of the social and demographic trends. In short, they need to “rebuild an idea of Islam which includes justice, integrity, tolerance, and the quest for knowledge - the classic Islamic civilization - not just the insistence on the rituals; not just the five pillars of Islam but also the entire building.” Islam Under Siege answers many of the questions Americans are asking after September 11: Why do they hate us? Does the Quran preach violence? Do Muslims hate Jews and Christians? Are we at the start of a final crusade between Islam and the West? Dr Ahmed responds to common criticisms such as ‘Islam is a violent religion and it encourages the subjugation of women’. He also explores how the war against terrorism is perceived in other countries. For many developing nations, Dr Ahmed writes, the war against terrorism is seen as a violent expression of threatening Imperial America. The book is a work of scholarship. In the words of Professor Stanley Wolpert, it “should be required reading for all Members of Congress and our Nation’s Cabinet, as well as for most of the Pentagon’s top brass.” And, according to Professor Tamara Sonn, President of the American Council for the Study of Islamic Societies, “This is the most important book to date on life in the post 9/11 period.” In the post-September 11 period, a few individuals stand out who have stoutly and effectively defended Islam and its followers and who have raised their voice of moderation to bring the West and the Muslims together. Dr Ahmed is one of them. He has appeared on television shows, including Oprah thrice last year and his C-Span covered debates have been repeatedly televised on demand. Suave and blend, he makes a convincing case for a much-needed dialogue of civilizations. In one of the chapters Dr Ahmed mentions several discussions with Professor Sonn before September 11 “in which she spoke of the United States as a new Andalusia - a tolerant society in which the great faiths live in harmony and contribute to a rich, mutually beneficial culture. She was right. But after September 11, the freest, most welcoming country in the world for Muslims turned threatening to and suspicious of Muslim belief and practice.” Would a dialogue suggested by Dr Ahmed reverse the present trend? Would the United States be a new Andalusia again? Muslim America seems to provide a glimmer of hope, however imperceptible though. One only wishes that there were more than one Dr Akbar Ahmed to explain the peaceful content of the message of Islam in the West. The dialogue of civilizations must be sustained - with renewed momentum.


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PRAYER OF WOMEN Dua of Aisha (May God be pleased with her) The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said to Aisha, “You must use the perfect prayer, whose use is general. Say: “O God, I ask You for all kinds of good, temporal and otherworldly, the good which I know and which I do not know. I take refuge with You from all kinds of evil, temporal and otherworldly, the evil which I know and which I do not know. I ask you for heaven and the work which brings us thereto, and I take refuge with You from Hell and the work that brings us thereto... I ask You to bring to a right end by Your mercy, the course of the things which You have decreed for me. O Most Compassionate of the compassionate!” Book of Invocations & Supplications - Imam Al-Ghazali Dua of Fatima (May God be pleased with her) The Emissary of God (may God bless him and grant him peace) said, “O Fatima, what prevents you from listening to what I bequeath to you? You may say: “O Loving, O Self-Subsistent! By Your mercy, I beseech for help. Leave me not to myself even for the blinking of an eye. Improve my condition entire.” Book of Invocations & Supplications - Imam Al-Ghazali Dua of Rabia Al-Adawiya (May God be pleased with her) “O God! If I worship You in fear of Hell, burn me in it: and if I worship you in hope of Paradise, exclude me from it; but if I worship You for Your own being, do not withhold from me Your everlasting beauty.” Rabi’a al-Adawiya d 801 The prayer of a mother: A mother bore many children in succession, but none of them lived beyond the age of three or four months. In great distress she cried to God, and then beheld in a vision, the beautiful gardens of Paradise, and many fair mansions therein, and upon one of those mansions she read her own name inscribed. On looking again, the woman beheld in Paradise all the children she had lost, and she cried, “O Lord! They were lost to me, but safe with Thee!” Jalaluddin Rumi d 1273


FRIENDSHIP AND LOYALTY evlana Rumi said, “If you are looking for a friend who is faultless, you will be friendless.” There was a young man who had a group of friends who were not very good. They took him in a direction which was not pleasing to his father. Finally one day his father said to him, “Look, my son, get rid of your friends. I'm going to teach you the meaning of friendship.” The son obeyed and abandoned his friends. His father took him to the back of the house, and there he killed a sheep. He slit the throat of the sheep, took its bloody carcass, and he put it into a huge sack. One could see bloodstains soaking through the canvas cloth. “Now my son,” he said, “You know Ahmet who lives down the road. We’re the best of friends, as you know. Go and bring this sack to him, and tell him that your father accidentally killed someone. And ask him to help dispose the body.” The young man took the sack, and carried it down the road to Ahmet’s house. He knocked, and Ahmet opened the door. “I’m the son of Habib,” the young man announced. “There’s been a terrible accident. My father has killed someone. The body is in this sack. My father asks that you help him dispose of this body, please!” “Wait a minute,” Ahmet said, and went back into his house. Soon he returned with a sack filled with gold coins. Handing them over, he said, “Here take this to your father. With this money he will surely be able to get someone to dispose of this body.” The son went back to his father and told him the story. His father said, “My son, this is half a friend.” Then he continued, “Now take this sack and tell the same story to Hussein who lives on the other side of town. You remember him, we were once very good friends. But lately we’ve disagreed on a lot of things, and actually in the last several months we haven’t even spoken to each other. But take it to him.” He took the sack, walked across town, and knocked on Hussein’s door. When the door opened, the young man said, “I’m the son of Habib. There’s been a terrible accident. My father killed someone. The body is in this sack. He asked if you could please help him dispose of the body.” Hussein looked at the boy, grabbed the sack, and pushing him away, said, “Tell your father I’m not interested in him. And you, get out of here. Don’t ever tell anyone you’ve seen me!” He slammed the door shut, but he kept the bloody sack. The young man went home. He told his father the story of what had happened with Hussein. His father smiled and said, “That my son, is a friend.” At the time of the Ottoman Empire in Turkey, one of the viziers told the sultan about a great shaykh who lived in Anatolia. He warned the sultan to be careful of this sheikh, because he had hundreds of thousands of followers. And if this shaykh decided to turn against the sultan, the whole country would be in turmoil and he could even lose his throne. The sultan got quite concerned. He sent for the shaykh to come to Istanbul. When they met, the sultan said, “What is this I hear, you have hundreds of thousands of dervish followers?”


“No, that is not so,” the shaykh answered. “Well how many do you have?” the sultan insisted. “I only have one and a half.” “If you only have one and a half, why is everyone telling me that you have the power to overthrow this entire country? We shall see. There’s a huge field at the edge of town, and tomorrow everyone is going to meet at that field.” The sultan sent out messengers to announce that anyone who was a follower of this great shaykh should come to this field the next day, because the shaykh would be there. Above the field there was a hill where the sultan set up a huge tent. Inside the tent he put several sheep, but no one could see this. The next day, hundreds of thousands of people came to the field to see the great shaykh. In front of the tent the sultan stood next to the shaykh and said, “You said you didn’t have many followers. Look at all these people who believe they’re your followers.” “They are not,” the shaykh said. “I only have one and a half dervishes. You’ll see.” “The shaykh has committed an indiscretion,” the sultan said. “And unless ten of his dervishes give up their life for him, his life will be taken.” There was a great rumbling in the crowd. “He is my shaykh and teacher. Whatever I know came from him,” one man came forward and said, “I will go and give my life for him.” The sultan’s men marched him up the hill, took him into the tent, and slit the throat of a sheep. Everybody saw the blood flowing out from the inside of the tent, and this made them very nervous. The sultan declared, “Is there anyone else willing to give his life for his shaykh?” Silence. Then one woman stood up and said she would. They marched her up and into the tent, and again they slit the throat of another sheep. Seeing more blood, the crowd began to disperse. Soon there was no one left in the field. The shaykh turned to the sultan and said, “You see, I told you, I only had one and a half dervishes.” The sultan said, “Oh, the man is your dervish and the woman is half a dervish?” “No, no,” the shaykh said. “The woman is my dervish, and the man is half a dervish.” Seeing the surprised expression on the sultan’s face, the shaykh explained, “The man did not actually know that he was going to be killed when he entered the tent. But the woman knew, and she still came forward. She is my real dervish.” That is loyalty. Loyalty and friendship go together. We have to understand how to be friends. We wish to know Allah, but we don’t know ourselves. We must begin to see in a way that we can learn about ourselves. Learn about this blessing that Allah has given us. Because we are, each of us, a blessing. Allah has placed a part of His beauty in each of us. And what He has not given to one He’s given to another. Excerpted from When you hear hoofbeats think of a zebra: Talks on Sufism, by Shems Friedlander. Mazda Publishers. Page 69-72. Q - NEWS

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VOX POPULI ON LIVING I was recently researching the heroic Yusuf Islam when I came across the October issue of Q-News. The editorial really affected me. To give a little background, I began practising Islam after the events of September 11th. I’ve been studying Islam, listening to lectures by scholars and so on. I grew a beard, put on a topi and raised my joggers above my ankles. Since the change in lifestyle, I have encountered one obstacle after another, living in a society where Muslims are hated. I am now an outsider at my own college. It is depressing that I am 17 and have my whole life ahead of me but what is the point of studying so hard when no employer will hire a beareded man wearing a jubbah? Is it wrong for me to expect to be hired for my knowledge and skills, rather than my appearance? I feel like it is just going to get worse and the only remedy is to exclude myself from everything and just keep myself engaged in the remembrance of my Creator. Muzafer, UK

DIATRIBE I could not believe the editorial by Fuad Nahdi in Issue 351, November 2003. It was utterly negative rubbish, a diatribe of misery and immature anger. Who is he to declare that Muslims are heading into a cul de sac? There are many things happening in the UK muslim community which are great. In November, George Bush’s statue was bought down in front of the whole world. Who organised this? Stop The War and MAB. No muslim organisation would be able to

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do this a few years ago. Clearly, some progress has been made. “Our young are adept at chanting slogans but struggle with simple dhikr” is a cheap shot at young Muslims in UK whose lives are very hard. Many of them are doing excellently and are coming back into the fold of Islam. Fuad Nahdi has written some good articles in the past but this was nonsensical. What is this “magic formula” he writes of? He did not offer constructive criticism, just anger. Please do not open future Q-News issues with this kind of miserable outburst. Yayha Ayyaash, UK Sadly, I have to agree with many of the sentiments expressed by Fuad Nahdi in his editorial in Issue 351, November 2003. One of the most worrying things is the state of Muslim organisations. I do believe all those working in one way or other with such organisations are sincere in intention and make many sacrifices. Nevertheless, there is a need to scrutinise the work more closely, not just internally but identify public perceptions, be brave enough to identify the problems and propose solutions. Organisations have a greater responsibility to be broad based, be socially inclusive and seek to serve the community not themselves. I find it ironic that different groups who claim to be calling to Islam cannot even speak to one another as they perceive threat, competition or simply reflect different approaches that are deemed incompatible or not mutually respected. There is a need to be open minded and to join hold hands

vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox

LETTER OF THE MONTH Jack O’Sullivan’s thought-provoking piece (Issue 350, November 2003, British Muslims - The “New Irish”?) raised interesting issues. Whilst drawing out similarities between the perceived ‘threat’ posed by the Irish community in earlier times, and the British Muslim community today, the discussion also highlighted the striking differences in the state’s response to these groups. It might be of interest to your readers that Liberty are currently undertaking research focusing on similar issues. A decade ago Liberty produced a damning report on the way anti-terror laws were criminalising the Irish community. Our new research will consider the legislative response to the events of 9/11, the creation of a new ‘suspect community’ of British Muslims, and the growth in Islamophobia. Admittedly, the world is dealing with a very different kind of terrorism. But were existing measures so inadequate as to be unable to deal with post 9/11 dangers? Were these new measures necessary to fill a gap in our laws? In practice, the provisions introduced under the Act have in fact done little in ensuring Britain is safer. Since 9/11, the majority of those arrested under terrorism acts have been Muslims, many of whom have been released without charge. Furthermore, a great deal of these arrests could have been made under the ordinary criminal law, rather than special anti-terrorism laws. Liberty’s earlier publication Anti-Terrorism Legislation in the United Kingdom, noted that of the more than 7,000 people detained in Britain under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, the vast majority have been released without charge and only a small fraction have ever been charged with terrorism related offences. Almost without exception these people could have been arrested under the ordinary criminal law. Suspects falling within the ambit of special anti-terrorism legislation have fewer rights. The safeguards present within ordinary criminal law are absent. The infamous miscarriages of justice which involving Irish suspects are a reminder of the dangers this can present. There is disillusionment within the Muslim community with a government which, rather than protecting them from Islamophobia, is instead effectively criminalising them as a community. The media has played a part in fuelling this. Irresponsible and unbalanced reporting has helped foster stereotypes and misconceptions. Unfortunately, for the many people who rely on the media as a principle source of information, these images are all too easy to believe. The news images are too often of extremist Muslim action, without equal representation of majority moderate Muslim followers. A link is commonly made between Islam, terrorism and (an emotive and often sensationalised media issue in itself) asylum seekers. Tazeen Said, Liberty, UK


populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi uli vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox uli vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox uli vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox populi vox genuinely. That would only be a beginning, and Inshallah there will be baraka in our work. Dr K Sultana, UK

BIT OF A JOKE There is a running joke within the Bangladeshi community and the migrant and refugee communities about the Home Secretary David Blunkett. It is rather nasty but encapsulates the sentiments towards the government and the Home Secretary. The following is a crude translation into English, so do forgive me: “It’s a good thing that the Home Secretary is blind. Imagine what damage this man could do if he was able to see.” Although it may seem cruel to the ears of a sensible person, it demonstrates how much fear the Home Secretary evokes and how much he is disliked amongst the migrant, refugee and BME communities. What have people done to deserve a Home Secretary like this? Layli Uddin, London

EMPLOYEE RIGHTS In the UK, the govt has passed a law, whereby people of faith and belief are to be given rights according to their religion. For example, Muslims can now apply for work hours which work around their salah times, this type of flexibility is ideal for Ramadan when the days are short and Iftar is at 4pm. Secondly, the law also states that the employer needs to provide facilities which are required by people of certain beliefs, this includes Muslims and prayer rooms. As an example, we here in London have asked for this law

to be exercised in regards to prayer rooms. Hence by the grace of Allah, the Opener, we now have prayer rooms in all four offices within London. My nasiha to other Muslims in the UK who find salah a struggle would be to: Contact their building managers for facilities and demand a prayer room. Describe to them their obligation by law the following act: The Employment Equality (Religion or Belief) Regulations 2003. Faisal Aziz, Keighley


FROM SAY? THE We’ve MASSES something to GIVE!

EDUCATION I am a MA student studying at a red brick university somewhere in England. During a recent seminar we were having I was bold enough to question some of the contemporary theories being thrown my way by a lecturer regarding children’s cognitive and emotional development. My lecturer responded by asking what alternative I proposed, I replied saying that we, as a Muslim community, do have solid paradigms but they’re in old Arabic books that most people don’t read. I am frustrated by the lack of academic material being produced by Muslims but am confident that, as Shaykh Hamza said in the kindly reproduced transcript of his talk in London, this will change. I hope Q-news can act as a catalyst for Muslims, such as the shaykh, who have a classic education, to come forward and make these classic texts relevant for a 21st century audience. Wassalam Muhammad A Ismail

Got something to



Write the Letter of the Month and win the limited addition BEYOND SCHOOLING prize pack booklet & 2CD set featuring Hamza Yusuf Hanson and John Taylor Gatto!


WORTH £20! Please include full postal address and contact details. Q - NEWS

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FUNDAMENTALLY FUNNY WHO SAYS MUSLIMS DON’T HAVE A SENSE OF HUMOUR? NADEEM BHATTI ALMOST GAVE UP HIS DAY JOB TO GIVE BILLY CONNOLY A RUN FOR HIS MONEY. couple of years ago, I was in the happy position of having given up a full time post as a GP and looking for some pursuit to give me a sense of renewal. Well I found it: an advert giving novices the chance to go through a six week course and hopefully emerge on the other side as a tested stand-up comic. Yes this nice Scottish-Pakistani doctor was going to be a stand-up comedian. Actually the truth is that it would only be for five minutes and a one off performance at that but hey that was enough for me! Some may wonder whether this has anything of relevance to the concerns of the Muslim Ummah. I maintain that it does on many levels. Comedy is important, a sense of humour matters and its development in relation to the British Muslim community is a barometer that we should look at - the absence of which should make us stop and reflect - why not? Even non-Muslims would have difficulty denying the charisma of the Holy Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. How is it possible for a man so staggeringly successful not to have a humorous side to him or for that matter not to be able to appreciate a joke? Think of the most charismatic person that you know - chances are they can make you laugh! Anyway, for Dutch courage I persuaded an old pal of mine Qalib Hussain to come along as a fellow guinea pig. Surprisingly he was quite obliging and so we went along for our first tutorial at “The Stand”- the first purpose built comedy club in Scotland. What followed was a once weekly series of six sessions in which we developed and performed five minutes of humorous or so we hoped, live material. Each week this was critiqued by an experienced and professional comedian who would advise, inform and basically shape us up into what we hoped would be passable stage performers, even if as a one off at least. It is surprising the amount of preparation that goes into a mere 300 seconds of an onstage performance. Thankfully none of us were told to hang onto our day jobs - at least not to our faces anyway. The course organisers, themselves veterans of the professional circuit, were encouraging and the whole experience was a lot of fun. From fresh faced beginners who couldn’t hold up a mike stand properly we graduated six sessions later with a virginal five minute performance that was performed to a live audience of the paying


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public. I can’t say we gave Billy Connoly anything to worry about but at least we did it. Real professional stand up though takes serious commitment and hard graft. Its a true art form. There are amazing highs and crushing lows. I’ve seen comedians almost rapturous on a good audience response and I’ve seen them visibly shrink with a bad one - a prospect every comedian has to face before he dances out on stage. From a muslim perspective, can the world of contemporary stand up comedy be accessed? There are issues. Most comedy clubs sell booze, you often swim through a haze of cigarette smoke and “colourful” language is frequently used. Does this mean we won’t be seeing any Islamic Robin Williams’, Eddie Murphies or jasper Carrots? Not necessarily so...comedy in the Jewish diaspora has developed gradually from the Marx brothers of the 30s to the Seinfelds of the present day. This hasn’t happened overnight and it must surely be a matter of time before the same happens in the British and American muslim communities. The best comedy seems to come from communities where there is something to rail against - the catholic and Jewish communities demonstrate this. Surely Muslims have enough to rail about - adversity is often dealt with by wit. Whether the material is “halal” will depend greatly on the reaction and response of the market audience, that is, us! We may well have to endure a few years of tired stereotypes and Peter Sellers type Indian accents before we see something really fresh and authentic. Some might even say that we’ve already gone through that barrier with the likes of “Goodness Gracious Me” which is often cited as a pioneer in Asian British comedy . Population tastes change radically with time and age. In the days of the Roman Empire, crowds would gather in the coliseum and watch a person being enclosed in a figurine of a bull. When the figurine was heated with the person inside the sound of the person screaming inside would resemble that of a charging bull. The Romans thought that was hilarious! Thankfully audiences wouldn’t appreciate that nowadays. I don’t know what “halal” comedy as such might be but certainly a homegrown comedic strain that has its roots in the present muslim community seems hard to grasp at the moment. However it happens its survival depends on one important bottom line - it has to be funny!

 

    th    ⁽  ⁾    st -   nd         For Muslims living in the West contemporary life presents many challenges but where to go for solutions? Because of the absence of credible alternatives and ijtihad Muslims are fast becoming their own muftis coming up with their own answers to daily problems. Confused adaptive strategies are being used right across these communities leading to serious problems. Yet how do we make sure that we are not crossing Muslim law? This conference aims to bring this confusion to light and recommend possible approaches. Above all it is argued that we need a special fiqh, a Fiqh for Minorities, designed specifically for the needs of Muslim communities living in the West. This conference attempts to bring Shari’ah scholars and social scientists together to debate these issues and to work towards an interdisciplinary convergence.

: .Axioms of Usul al Fiqh .Minority Fiqh Between Macro & Micro Fiqh .Pluralism: Islamic and Non-Islamic Law .The Need for A European Fiqh & the Normalisation of Islam in Europe .The Problem of Sexual Relations Among Muslim Youth in the West .The Group Dimension in a Fiqh for Minorities .Islamic Juristic Views on the Political & Legal Status of Muslims in Non-Muslim Countries .From Fiqh for Minorities to Fiqh of Citizenship .Micro Mujtahids & Implementation of Fiqh al-Aqaliyyat .The Role of Politics in Reinforcing Identity .Fiqh for Minorities and Maqasid al-Shariah

: dr. taha al alwani . asmat ali . prof. zaki badawi, obe . muhammad brich . shaikh rashid ghannoushi . dilwar hussain . ahmad al katib . m.s. khilkhali . dr. bustamy khir . dr. muhammad mestiri . dr. fadhil al-milani . dr. abdul majid al najjar . dr. ihsan yilmaz .hamza yusuf (to be confirmed) :  ,   -    ,   ,  -  ,   : £ .      £ .  - 

, ..  , , ,  ,   :    ⁄  -:

DEC 2003 | RAMADAN1424 | NO.352  


DEC 2003 | RAMADAN1424 | NO.352