Panorama, Mawdudi and Selective Quoting
The BBC’s Panorama programme on Sunday 21 August 2005 investigated the Muslim Council of Britain’s (MCB) claims to be moderate and found them wanting. To say that the MCB was cross about the documentary would be to flirt dangerously with understatement; even before it was broadcast, the MCB had fired off a letter of protest (pdf) to the Director-General of the BBC, complained loudly to whichever journalists would listen, and issued a full rebuttal (Word document), based on a transcript of the programme. After the documentary was broadcast, a detailed letter (pdf) outlining the MCB’s complaints about the programme was sent to Mike Robinson, Editor of BBC Panorama on 23 August 2005.
This article will examine one complaint in particular the MCB made about the programme, namely its examination of MCB affiliate organisation, The Islamic Foundation, who have strong connections with the Pakistani Jamaat-i-Islami party, founded by Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi (often known as Maulana Mawdudi). The MCB describe Mawdudi as ‘an important Islamic thinker’ and The Islamic Foundation promote his books and ideology. But Panorama expressed concerns about this link to Jamaat-i-Islami and Mawdudi, especially because of Mawdudi’s ideology concerning the way an Islamic State should look and operate. Panorama quoted from Mawdudi who says that the Islamic State bears:
… a kind of resemblance to the fascist and communist states …This raised the ire of the MCB and in their rebuttals both before and after the programme was transmitted, they accused the BBC of deliberately twisting what Mawdudi had written. The MCB wrote:
It is well known that it is possible through mischievous editing to choose carefully selected lines from the writings of just about any author which will then make it appear to suggest he is saying the polar opposite of his actual words.The MCB then proceeded to cite two paragraphs from the book by Mawdudi from which Panorama had quoted just one line. The MCB's aim appears to have been an attempt to demonstrate that Mawdudi’s Islamic State would really be an oasis of peace, calm, tolerance and moderation.
[Source (Word document)]
In the interests of fairness to the BBC, the MCB and Mawdudi himself, we reproduce below almost two pages from the book in question, Islamic Law and Constitution, starting from the beginning of the section in which both the Panorama and MCB citations occur. The text that Panorama quoted is in red and that which the MCB quoted is in green. I apologise in advance for the length of the citation, but it is needed to give the proper context, a context which, I would suggest, makes the MCB’s claims look very dubious indeed.
Islamic State is Universal and All EmbracingNow the question that immediately strikes one in studying this passage is this: why did the MCB quote two paragraphs that are so close together in Mawdudi's book, yet miss out the beginning and end of one and the start of the other? Admittedly Mawdudi (and his translator) believe in long paragraphs, but if the MCB’s aim was to prove that Panorama were being wickedly mischievous in their quoting, surely they should have seen the need to quote accurately themselves? It seems there is one rule for the BBC and one for the MCB, at least in the mind of Inayat Bunglawala (who wrote the letter of the 23 August) because the missing text from the MCB’s quotation is vital:
A state of this sort cannot evidently restrict the scope of its activities. Its approach is universal and all-embracing. Its sphere of activity is coextensive with the whole of human life. It seeks to mould every aspect of life and activity in consonance with its moral norms and programme of social reform. In such a state no one can regard any field of his affairs as personal and private. Considered from this aspect the Islamic State bears a kind of resemblance to the Fascist and Communist states. But you will find later on that, despite its all-inclusiveness, it is something vastly and basically different from the totalitarian and authoritarian states. Individual liberty is not suppressed under it nor is there any trace of dictatorship in it. It presents the middle course and embodies the best that the human society has ever evolved. The excellent balance and moderation that characterise the Islamic system of government and the precise distinctions made in it between right and wrong elicit from all men of honesty and intelligence the admiration and the admission that such a balanced system could not have been framed by anyone but the Omniscient and All-Wise God.
Islamic State is an Ideological State
Another characteristic of the Islamic State is that it is an ideological state. It is clear from a careful consideration of the Qur’an and the Sunnah that the state in Islam is based on an ideology and its objective is to establish that ideology. State is an instrument of reform and must act likewise. It is a dictate of this very nature of the Islamic State that such a state should be run only by those who believe in the ideology on which it is based and in the Divine Law which it is assigned to administer. The administrators of the Islamic State must be those whose whole life is devoted to the observance and enforcement of this Law, who not only agree with its reformatory programme and fully believe in it but thoroughly comprehend its spirit and are acquainted with its details. Islam does not recognise any geographical, linguistic or colour bars in this respect. It puts forward its code of guidance and the scheme of its reform before all men. Whoever accepts this programme, no matter to what race, nation or country he may belong, can join the community that runs the Islamic State. But those who do not accept it are not entitled to have any hand in shaping the fundamental policy of the state. They can live within the confines of the state as non-Muslim citizens (zimmis). Specific rights and privileges have been accorded to them in the Islamic Law. A zimmi’s life, property and honour will be fully protected and if he is capable of any service, his services will also be made use of. He will not, however, be allowed to influence the basic policy of this ideological state. The Islamic State is based on a particular ideology and it is the community which believes in the Islamic ideology that pilots it. Here again, we notice some sort of resemblance between the Islamic and Communist states. But the treatment meted out by the Communist states to persons holding creeds and ideologies other than its own bears no comparison with the attitude of the Islamic State. Unlike the Communist state, Islam does not impose its social principles on others by force, nor does it confiscate their properties or unleash a reign of terror by mass executions of the people and their transportation to the slave camps of Siberia.
S. Abul A’la Maududi, Islamic Law and Constitution, Rev. Ed., Translated by Kurshid Ahmad. (Delhi: Taj Company, 1986 ) p.144-147; emphasis mine.
- Mawdudi states that the Islamic State is a theocracy and is all embracing.
- Nobody living in that State can enjoy any private space; the State’s gaze is all-pervasive.
- Only dishonest or unintelligent people would question such a theocratic state (a style of ad hominem argument that has echoes of the way the MCB attacks its critics).
- Only those who are Muslims can play any role in governance. (Actually, only those who are Muslim and male; see p.262-3 of Islamic Law and Constitution).
- Non-Muslims cannot be involved in governance.
- Non-Muslims must live as zimmis [or ‘dhimmis’], a category of second-class citizen whose restrictions are carefully demarcated in Islamic law (and elsewhere by Mawdudi, see below).
More of Mawdudi’s thought
Since we are discussing Mawdudi and his views of the Islamic state, this would seem an appropriate point to examine more of his thought — which developed over time — on the role of the Islamic state, its spread, the place of the zimmi and so forth.
Let us start with the zimmis and the question of how these non-Muslim minorities might come to find themselves living under the Islamic state, unable to participate in the political process. Mawdudi sees this happening in one of three ways:
The Islamic Shari’ah divides its non-Muslim citizens into three categories, viz:The second category is revealing, for Mawdudi apparently envisages the Islamic State as being involved in wars that would add territory to its domain. Will these wars be “defensive” or “offensive”? Elsewhere, Mawdudi states that these terms are inappropriate:
(a) Those who become the subjects of an Islamic State under some treaty or agreement;
(b) Those who become its subjects after being defeated by the Muslims in a war, and;
(c) Those who are in the Islamic State in any other way.
Maududi, Islamic Law and Constitution, p. 278; emphasis mine.
The division of Islamic Jihad into “offensive” and “defensive” is not permissible. Islamic Jihad is both offensive and defensive at the same time. It is offensive because the Muslim Party attacks the rule of an opposing ideology, and it is defensive because the Muslim Party is constrained to capture state power in order to protect the principles of Islam in space-time forces.In yet another of his writings, Mawdudi explores the military aspects of the Islamic State in more detail. Commenting on Qur’an 9:29 in his Tafhim al-Qur’an, Mawdudi writes:
Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, Jihad fi Sabilillah (Jihad in Islam), Translated by Prof. Kurshid Ahmad. (Birmingham: UK Islamic Mission Dawah Centre, 1997 ) p.14.
(Can be downloaded here as a pdf).
The purpose for which the Muslims are required to fight is not as one might think to compel the believers into embracing Islam. Rather, their purpose is to put an end to the sovereignty and supremacy of the unbelievers so that the latter are unable to rule over men. The authority to rule should only be vested in those who follow the true faith; unbelievers who do not follow this true faith should live in a state of subordination. Unbelievers are required to pay Jizyah (poll tax) in lieu of the security provided to them as the Dhimmis (‘Protected People’) of an Islamic state. Jizyah symbolises the submission of the unbelievers to the suzerainty of Islam. ‘To pay Jizyah of their own hands humbled’ refers to payment in a state of submission. ‘Humbled’ also reinforces the idea that the believers, rather than the unbelievers, should be the rulers in performance of their duty as God’s vicegerents.Fighting, then, is a requirement in order to put an end to non-Islamic systems of human leadership and government. Elsewhere, Mawdudi is even clearer:
Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding the Qur’an: English Version of Tafhim al-Qur’an, Vol. III, Surahs 7-9, Translated by Zafar Ishaq Ansari. (Leicester: The Islamic Foundation, 1990) p.202; emphasis mine.
Islam wishes to do away with all states and governments which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam. The purpose of Islam is to set up a state on the basis of this ideology and programme, regardless of which nation assumes the role of standard-bearer of Islam, and regardless of the rule of which nation is undermined in the process of the establishment of an ideological Islamic state. Islam requires the earth — not just a portion, but the entire planet — not because the sovereignty over the earth should be wrested from one nation or group of nations and vested in any one particular nation, but because the whole of mankind should benefit from Islam, and its ideology and welfare programme.In short, Mawdudi believes that Islam needs the sword in order to bring about its spiritual and moral vision of the world:
It is to serve this end that Islam seeks to press into service all the forces which can bring about such a revolution. The term which covers the use of all these forces is ‘Jihad’. To alter people’s outlook and spark a mental and intellectual revolution is a form of Jihad. To change the old tyrannical system and establish a just new order by the power of the sword is also Jihad, as is spending wealth and undergoing physical exertion for this cause.
Mawdudi, Jihad, p.4.
Those who propagate religion are not merely preachers or “missionaries”; they are the functionaries of Allah, so that they may be witnesses for the people, and it is their duty to wipe out oppression, wrongdoing, strife, immorality, arrogance and unlawful exploitation from the world by force of arms.It is worth noting that the translator of Mawdudi’s little tract on jihad is none other than Professor Khurshid Ahmad of The Islamic Foundation. Professor Ahmad was interviewed by John Ware in the BBC Panorama programme and challenged about Mawdudi’s radical ideology:
Ibid, p. 10; emphasis mine.
John Ware: It’s not clear to me what relevance Maududi has to the lives, every day lives, of most British Muslims. But your institution promotes Maududi.. I mean it’s absolutely top of the list on your online book[store].Perhaps Professor Ahmad had forgotten parts of what he had translated, for it is crystal clear what Mawdudi saw the role of the Islamic state as being and why, indeed, this kind of ideology is potentially extremely dangerous. Here is another quotation:
Kurshid Ahmad: I think that is a total misconstruction of our objectives. Maulana Maududi, I said, is one of the most important thinkers of the 20th Century Islam. We respect his views and we have also published some of his works.
John Ware: You don’t think the idea of Islam being a revolutionary ideology is potentially a dangerous one for young Muslims living in a secular country?
Kurshid Ahmad: Not at all, not at all. It’s a blessing.
John Ware: It’s a blessing?
Kurshid Ahmad: It’s a blessing because what is a revolutionary idea? A revolutionary idea means that let people try to change the world on the basis of values of faith in Allah, justice, service to humanity, peace and solidarity. So revolution is not something to be afraid of..
[T]he objective of the Islamic Jihad is to eliminate the rule of an unIslamic system, and establish in its place an Islamic system of state rule … No revolutionary ideology which champions the principles of the welfare of humanity as a whole — as opposed to upholding national interests — can restrict its aims and objectives to within the limits of a particular country or nation.This citation helps us see why Mawdudi believed the Islamic State is like Communism and Fascism in some ways, but not others. Like totalitarian systems, the Islamic State is monolithic, combines ideology and politics, and seeks to replace all alternative models. Dissent is not allowed, for the word of the State is law. Yet the Islamic State is unlike Communism and Fascism, believes Mawdudi, because its objective is the ‘welfare of humanity’. Quite what this ‘welfare’ consists of is highly questionable, especially when one considers the rest of Mawdudi’s writings.
Mawdudi, Jihad, p.12.
Freedom of religion
We have already seen the inherent injustice of Mawdudi’s model of the Islamic State in the way that it does not allow non-Muslims to be involved in the system of government; Mawdudi’s Islamic State thus has a lot in common with the old apartheid regime of South Africa. But a further problem is that under such an Islamic State, Muslims themselves do not enjoy freedom of religion — if a Muslim decides to change his or her religion, they are to be punished by death according to Mawdudi:
To everyone acquainted with Islamic law it is no secret that according to Islam the punishment for a Muslim who turns to kufr (infidelity, blasphemy) is execution.Mawdudi goes on to cite proofs from the Qur’an (p.18-19), the hadith (p.19-22) and the first Caliphs (p.22-27) for this point of view. According to Mawdudi, these authoritative sources all support the death penalty for apostasy and therefore it must be enforced. Anybody who argues otherwise is elevating human laws above divine laws and this is unthinkable:
Sayyid Abul A‘la Mawdudi, The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Law, Translated by S. S. Husain & E. Hahn (1994 ) p.17.
Which law will be more worthy to be called Muslim: The law which was in use during the rule of the Prophet and the four Rightly-Guided Caliphs and which was accepted with full agreement and without break for thirteen hundred years by the whole Muslim community’s judges, magistrates and legal scholars or the law formulated at present by some persons who have been influenced and overcome by non-Islamic studies and non-Islamic culture and civilization and who have not obtained even a partial education in Islamic disciplines?As well as the opinion that apostates from Islam should be executed, Mawdudi also believed that non-Muslims living in the Islamic State (zimmis or dhimmis) have no right to preach their religious views. Mawdudi explains:
[W]hen within the boundaries of our authority we do not grant any person who is a Muslim the right to leave Islam to accept another religion … we also do not tolerate the proclamation and spread of any other religion in opposition to Islam. To grant other religions and ways the right to propagate and then to declare a Muslim’s change to another religion a crime are affirmations which contradict one another.Once again, Mawdudi brings this back to his understanding of the purpose of Islam, namely to supercede and subjugate all other ideologies and systems:
Ibid., p.37; emphasis mine.
According to these verses [Q. 9:33; 8:39; 2:143] the true purpose of the Messenger’s [Muhammad] mission is to ensure the victory of the guidance and Religion of Truth, which he has brought from God over every other competing order of life of a religious nature … As the successors of the Messenger after the Messenger’s departure are heirs of the religion which he had brought from God, in the same way they are heirs of the mission for which God ordained him. The very purpose of all their struggles, it is agreed, is to make all religion the sole preserve of God.Dhimmis (non-Muslim persons) in the Islamic State need to remember their place. They are not there to preach, says Mawdudi, but rather:
Ibid., p.40; emphasis mine.
According to this verse [Q. 9:29] the true position of Dhimmis under Islamic rule is to be content to remain low. As Dhimmis they cannot try to become great.Conclusion
Ibid., p.41; emphasis mine.
In extensive citations from a range of Mawdudi’s writings on Islamic law, politics and Qur’anic commentary, we have seen how his view of the Islamic State is one of a totalitarian theocracy, whose laws cannot be challenged (since they are divinely given), in which non-Muslims are subjugated and cannot be involved in political leadership, in which Muslims who wish to convert from Islam are to be executed and non-Muslims are forbidden from preaching their religious beliefs. It would seem that Mawdudi’s recognition that such a state bears some resemblances to Communism or Fascism was an accurate assessment and Panorama’s quotation of his words a fair summary of his thought. Perhaps our biggest complaint with Panorama is that they should have quoted more of Mawdudi’s writings, since he makes no attempt to play down his nastier opinions.
But what of the MCB? Why quote misleadingly from Mawdudi when trying to prove Panorama were themselves quoting wrongly? Why cover up Mawdudi’s views about non-Muslims, apostasy, religious freedom, or the need for Islam to take over the world and suppress all non-Islamic systems of government?
We would suggest that the answer is twofold. First, the MCB wanted to attack the BBC with all guns blazing and the admission that Panorama were correct about Mawdudi would detract from this. When it comes to winning arguments, the MCB seem to think that the end justifies the means and that truth is an irrelevance. Second, there was the need to defend an affiliate. The Islamic Foundation promote and expound the works of Mawdudi and his views obviously cast them in a bad light. Since the MCB allow no criticism of themselves or affiliates, the need to defend The Islamic Foundation required generating a smokescreen in the hope that nobody would actually read Mawdudi.
But we have read Mawdudi extensively and his views are plain to see. The MCB's thinly disguised attempts to mislead people about them via selective quotation, disingenuous statements and distraction techniques only make the rest of Panorama’s claims about the MCB look all the more plausible. Those who defend and promote radicals like Mawdudi need to be prepared to admit what his views really were.