Extremely British Muslims – Love, Dating And Marriage (featured in Huffington post)

Ep 1

  Last week, a programme called ‘Extremely British Muslims’ stirred up a storm on social media with its first episode as it delved into the problems faced by British Muslims in the world of romance, dating, and marriage. The documentary, though presented in a humorous and light-hearted fashion, was fundamentally disheartening and tragic. The programme focused on the love lives of young Muslims living in Britain, yet the show can be seen as a commentary on the overarching internalised struggle that many 2nd generation British children are living with today. The conflicting attitudes towards dating and relationships made apparent in this documentary can be extrapolated to the larger perceived discord between ‘Islamic’ and British values. The older members of the community wish to enforce their own conservative views on the younger generation, with one mother even declaring that a child would be completely cut off from the family if they were found to have a boyfriend or girlfriend. This type of harsh disapproval of any sort of romantic relationship has its roots in the idea that dating is inherently a promiscuous act, that it is the result of Westernisation, and that ultimately, all Western ideas are in conflict with Islam. This retrograde belief is simply untrue and most definitely unhelpful. Such a view stems from the peculiar view that Islam

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Malia Bouattia – A rebel with a damaging cause.

  On the 14th November I was due to debate the controversial NUS president, Malia Bouattia on the government’s Prevent strategy. However, as I found out at the very last minute, she had decided to cancel due to health reasons. Though it is only fair to give her the benefit of the doubt, it would appear that this is not the first time Malia has opted out of a potentially challenging situation at the last minute. Moreover, her lack of correspondence with organisers to reschedule the debate casts doubt on her excuse of being unwell. To say that Malia’s stance on certain political issues has been problematic would be an understatement. For example, at the 11th Annual Bindmans and UCL Debate on Prevent, when she was asked about the reasons she believed caused extremist attitudes to flourish, Malia pointed a finger at “mass unemployment” and “privatised education.” She said the “political climate which we’re in” is causing people to take “certain actions and joining these groups and wanting to inflict violence.” She went on to say: “We have to look at the state’s hand and the political events related to that.” In another interview, she claimed, “every service available to support young people to allow space for critical thought and development has been shut down by the state.” Her eagerness

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Reform: struggle between dogma and reason, a struggle between paranoia and reality.

Renewal and reform are important dimensions of the Islamic world’s history. Within this historical experience, we can see a lengthy tradition of reform, which takes the form of a special focus on the purification and revival of the fundamentals of the Islamic faith. Despite this reality, the discussion of Islamic reform has under gone a process of over politicization limiting the discourse to two polarizing positions. Clearly identifiable camps have been drawn playing upon the Muslim/Orient and non-Muslim/Western divide. Because of this divide, we witness a peculiar reaction to current calls for reform. Neither its hostility nor its resistance defines its peculiarity. Since this would be expected by definition, reform is to challenge the status quo; otherwise reform would be redundant. What is problematic of this current aversion to reform is that it is rooted in suspicion and fear of an external threat. With this view, reform is perceived as nothing more than Western interference attempting to covertly ‘de-Islamise’ Muslims. Regarding those Muslims who advocate reform, they are perceived as pawns located within an ‘Islamophobe’ camp doing their bidding. Indeed, reform can be spelled out in different ways, not all calls for reform are equal. Some have ulterior motives, and some simply lack internal rigour. However, to claim that all calls for reform are of this sort would simply be

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Muhammad Ali: A journey out of extremism.

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Iconic boxer Muhammad Ali has died at the age of 74 after more than three decades of living with Parkinsons disease. His death has sent shock-waves throughout the world, and people are mourning not just the loss of one of the greatest boxers in the sport, but that of a revolutionary human being and a rare role model for young Muslims around the world. Though the man is gone, his legacy remains, and in it there are many lessons to be learnt from his prolific life both inside and outside of the ring. Notorious for his brutish taunts and staggering confidence, Ali was never one to conform with the crowd. His spirituality was no different. Ali caused a stir in 1964 when he announced his alignment with the Nation of Islam, an African-American black nationalist sect, described by critics as black supremacist and anti-Semitic. As the news broke out this morning on social media, many jumped onto the scene to sharing old videos of Ali, some of which displayed his exclusivist and hostile attitude. In a subtle way served as a form of vindication for anti British views of those sharing. During Ali’s time with the Nation of Islam, his controversial speeches consisted of disturbing anti-White rhetoric. In one of his press conferences, Ali is seen discussing his refusal to

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My thoughts on yesterday’s #bbctbq ‘Is countering extremism compatible with freedom of religion?’

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Many of Quilliam’s critics appear to fail to address the issues at hand and instead focus on making accusations and making guilt by association arguments. In so doing, there is a failure to engage with the matters under discussion. I appeared on The Big Questions yesterday to debate the topic: Is counter extremism compatible with religious freedom? I shared a platform with Dr Ridwaan Sabir who argued: Quilliam is an echo chamber for the government and supported the new counter extremism Bill which introduced banning orders and disruption orders. He argued this despite the fact that only last week Quilliam had openly criticized the government’s Bill for being counterproductive and anti-liberal. Even a cursory of a glance at Quilliam’s social media activity would have made this point obvious. In addition, I had spent a good few minutes criticizing the government regarding the Bill before Dr Sabir’s comments but I was still made out to be a supporter. I wondered whether this was due to a failure to listen in the heat of debate. Though possible it seems unlikely. There seems to be almost a deliberate failure to engage and listen to opposition arguments and a failure to use objectivity when debating and even basic research of the facts. I had a similar experience with Roshan Salih from 5 Pillars earlier

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Interview with Middle Eastern Eye. ‘Reform and Islam’.

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

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Mumtaz Qadri and Moral Blindness.

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

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My thoughts on The Big Questions ‘Do we need a British Islam?’

I was recently on the Big Questions, which was aired on Sunday 31 January. The debate topic: ‘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

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A response to claims of unorthodoxy of my theological claims within ‘My Reasons for Joining the Quilliam Foundation’ piece.

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

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Takfirism: Intra-Islamophobia

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.

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