When Adam Deen agreed to join the Quilliam Foundation in November 2015 it caused a stir among politically engaged British Muslims. By becoming Quilliam’s head of outreach, Deen is now a key member of staff at the world’s first self-styled counter-extremism think tank. And in the same vein as Quilliam’s founder Maajid Nawaz, Deen’s personal journey as a Muslim is seen as one of extremist activist turned counter-extremist campaigner. Deen joined al-Muhajiroun while studying at Westminster University in 1995 and would stand on street corners denouncing non-Muslims to hell and accusing fellow Muslims of being sell-outs. He supported the group’s call to establish a global Islamic state but he left al-Muhajiroun in 2003 – two years before the group was banned for links to violence – after a former member encouraged him to seek out a different understanding of Islam. Nearly a decade later in 2012, he established the Deen Institute, a Muslim debating forum named after the Arabic word for religion, which aimed to promote critical thinking among British Muslims that would reflect his own journey away from extremism. In joining Quilliam Deen has moved on to work at an organisation which has sought to place itself at the forefront of the debate around Islamic extremism since its founding in 2008, during which time it has often courted criticism
At present, an ethical crisis exists within Islamic theology and plays a major factor within Islamic extremism. A reading of Islam that suffers an ethical disconnect leads to ethical disorientation. We live in a time where Muslim reactions to the mundane/trivial are met with outrage and condemnation (e.g. Happy Muslims video) while moral crimes such as apostasy killings are met with apathy and silence. Too often influential religious leaders can be seen defending the morally indefensible; their views filter down to the Muslim masses, which can help create intolerant attitudes and destructive zealous mindsets. No better illustration of this problem is the reaction to Mumtaz Qadri’s assassination of a leading politician, Salman Taseer, in January 2011 for his stance against Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. Taseer had defended Aasia Bibi, a Christian woman, who allegedly insulted the Prophet Muhammad and as a result was placed on death row. On Tuesday, Mumtaz Qadri was executed for murder in Pakistan and an estimated crowd of more than 100,000 people attended his funeral in show of support. It is believed that before his death Qadri was praised and showered with petals as he went to trial. The news of his execution was followed by support and tribute by some British imams, Muslim groups and individuals in the UK – to the extent some were declaring
I was recently on the Big Questions, which was aired on Sunday 31 January. The debate topic: â€˜Do we need a British Islam?‘. It was an intense and heated debate and articulating points on a live show with serious time constraints has it challenges (add to that a passionate debate and everyone trying to get their points across) which meant it was difficult to clarify the points I was trying to make. At times the challenges became personal which didn’t make for the best of examples but, I imagine, made for good viewing. This was an opportunity to discuss important issues and for this reason I write further to clarify the thoughts I had saved for the show itself. At the beginning of the show I expressed that the dominant interpretation of Islam at present in the UK was one that had lost its beauty and had become divorced from ethics. It was not as someone had misquoted me as saying “that the majority of British Muslims are unethical”. My point was that religious leaders and activists who dominate the intellectual discourse argue for an Islam that is often out of touch with the message of Islam. The articulation of a humanistic Islam is lost and drowned out by a small minority of self-proclaimed guardians of the faith, who dominate
There has been some discussion surrounding my statement on my reasons for joining the Quilliam Foundation. In particular, my theological statements concerning the relationship between reason and revelation based on the Maturidi school of thought. I would like to respond to some of the points raised from two online posts. The gist of both criticisms is that in presenting my views I had misused the Maturidi position and that my views fall outside of Islamic orthodoxy namely, they are better placed within the Mu’tazilite school of thought. The first criticism is by Mufti Zameel which can be found here. Zameel begins by summarising from a text entitled Qamar al-Aqmar (Maktabat al-Bushra)’ and then makes his own colourful conclusions. Some preliminary comments: I have not read the text in question – nevertheless, I will go on the assumption that the summary is a fair representation of its contents. However, it is important to note that this is a commentary, of a commentary of a usul al fiqh’ (juristic methodology) book, rather than a major textbook on theology, which is the discipline this topic accurately falls under. Also, historically some Ash’ari theologians held the same beliefs of the Maturidi in terms of knowing good and evil through reason, which is not known or simply omitted by Zameel. Zameel begins to outline that
A few weeks ago I was both verbally abused and physically assaulted by an ex’ member of banned organsation, Al Muhajirioun. Since leaving the organsation, I had not seen this particular person for quite some time and I happened just by chance to come across him at a local petrol station at, of all places. I still remember quite vividly the expression on his face, he was like a bull that had seen red. As he threatened me, he repeated the words: you’re a murtad, a murtad!. For those unfamiliar with the term, murtad’ it’s the Arabic term for apostate and for some apostates are despised with a view that the death penalty should be applied to them. So what motivated this recent attack? Well it was my recent television appearance talking about ‘his’ faith and him wanting to educate me with his fists as he howled, let me teach you a lesson get out of the car. He also hit my vehicle and hit me through the half open window. Thankfully, I was not hurt and the police are now handling the matter. His attitude towards me can be traced back to a major problem we have within the Islamic tradition known as Takfirism. Takfir is the excommunication of a Muslim, denouncing them as outside the fold of Islam.
Why would Muslims born, raised and educated in the West gravitate towards extremism? This question seems to puzzle many onlookers, and the actions of these nationals seem beyond any rational explanation. What is overlooked is that the Isil propaganda machine cleverly and effectively taps into an already existing theological world view within young Muslim minds. For the last twenty years I’ve witnessed the spreading of two toxic elements running amok in the West. One is Wahhabism, heavily pushed by Saudi Arabia via its preachers, sponsorship programs, mosque funding and book stores. Running parallel is a broader ideology of Islamism, a politicised Islam seeking to impose one version of Sharia on its citizens. This was first pushed by Hizb ut-Tahrir and then al-Muhaijiroun and its many different manifestations. Hatred for “decadent” Western society, which is diametrically opposed to their version of Islamic values, and yearning for an Islamic state enabling one to practice an unadulterated pure Islam, has been the stock in trade of those who currently dominate the activist space. Often mosques are considered hotbeds for extremism, but this is inaccurate. The bulk of this activism exists on university campuses. Often mosques are considered hotbeds for extremism, but this is inaccurate. Mosques are run by a generation who are in most cases out of touch with the youth. It’s at