Saturday, October 29, 2005

It Doesn’t Add Up

Few people may have realised that the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has a charitable foundation attached to it. The Muslim Council of Britain Charitable Foundation (charity number 1084651) was established in 2001 to spread Islam and educate the public about it, as well as to ‘relie[ve] poverty, sickness, distress and suffering.’ The website of the Charity Commission allows you to examine a charity’s financial records and those of the MCB Foundation are fascinating, revealing a very poor track record of submitting accounts on time (a statutory requirement for charities). Their accounts for 2001 and 2002 both arrived extremely late — an example of management failure.

Furthermore, if one examines the list of trustees for the MCB Foundation, among them is to be found Sir Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the MCB. Sacranie is also a trustee for Balham Mosque (charity number 271538) and when one examines their records, things are even more poorly managed — they have not yet even filed their accounts for the year ending 31 March 2004. Perhaps Sacranie is too busy with his media and political work to carry out his legal responsibilities as a trustee?

The ease with which the Charity Commission website enables one to examine charity records led us to ask another question. Of the MCB’s 400 or so affiliate organisations, how many have charitable status? Having established that, we could then explore how many of those also had their accounts out of date. The results were extremely interesting. By carefully trawling the Charity Commission’s Register of Charities on 21 October 2005, we discovered that among the MCB’s affiliates, 139 organisations have charitable status, allowing them a number of legal and tax related privileges. However, there are also responsibilities: the trustees of a charity have a statutory duty to submit their Accounts and Annual Returns on time. We examined the Register of Charities entry for each of the 139 MCB affiliates in question and discovered that 48 (34.53%) have some accounts outstanding; their trustees have failed in their statutory duty to submit financial data on time.

The full analysis can be downloaded (as a PDF), but here are just a few examples. The Al-Asr Scholastic Research Establishment (charity number 1050383) has accounts missing for the entire period from 1 April 1997 to 31 March 2005. In similar vein, the Dudley Muslim Association (charity number 1094858) has submitted no accounts since it was registered on 2 December 2002. Even the Muslim Doctors and Dentists Association (charity number 327741), presumably packed with professionals, has five years worth of accounts missing. And so the list goes on: from mosques to schools, charitable trusts to community projects, more than 1 in 3 of MCB affiliates with charitable status have poorly maintained, out of date accounts.

To provide a little context, we decided to produce some control figures. What percentage of all charities have poorly maintained accounts? Are MCB affiliates better or worse than the norm? To answer this, we chose 20 charities at random and examined their financial records — you can download a spreadsheet with those figures (PDF link). Of these, 3 had holes in their accounting records, a figure of 15%. Thus MCB affiliates would appear to be twice as likely as other charities to have accounting problems. What about religious charities? Perhaps MCB affiliates are too concerned with the hereafter than with accounts in the here-and-now? For our second set of control figures, we chose 20 Christian charities at random and examined their records (PDF link). In this case, only 2 had gaps in their accounts, a figure of 10%.

To summarise: on average, 15% of charities appear to have problems maintaining accurate financial records. The Christian charities we surveyed were slightly better than this norm, at 10%, but MCB affiliates were more than twice as likely — a figure of 34.53% in fact — to have poor accounts.

What is the explanation for these figures? From the data we have available it is difficult to say if what we are seeing is sheer incompetence, utter disorganization, or, more worryingly, corruption. However, it does reflect badly on the MCB and once again illustrates the need for them to instigate a code of conduct for affiliates. Those with poor financial management need to be encouraged to seek proper training and accreditation; if they repeatedly fail, the MCB should eject them from its list of affiliates. However, since the MCB Secretary-General himself, Iqbal Sacranie, is himself a trustee of two poorly managed charities, this change may be a long time in coming.

Sher Khan, Chair of the MCB Public Affairs Committee, has warned Muslims to be careful about what charities they give to:
It is very important that when you choose your charity you check your money really is going to those most in need.
We could not agree more. Given the figures above, it would seem that if you donate to an MCB affiliate, there is a more than 1 in 3 chance that your money will not be properly accounted for. In short, if you want to give to charity and ensure that your funds are wisely used, it would seem best to avoid many of the charities affiliated to the MCB.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Sacranie, Yassin and Gandhi

We have seen before how the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) and its spokespersons are often at best confused and, at worst, disingenuous, when it comes to the activities of certain radical Muslims. For example, the MCB have previously suggested that the Islamist writer and thinker Maulana Mawdudi was a harmless moderate and that the radical Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir are peace-loving. Today we add a third example to our growing collection; Sheikh Yassin, founder of Hamas. When he was assassinated by the Israelis the MCB published the following on their website:
The Muslim Council of Britain condemns in the strongest terms Israel’s criminal assassination of Shaykh Ahmad Isma‘il Yasin, the renowned Islamic scholar and founder of the leading Palestinian Resistance Movement – Hamas.
Whilst Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the MCB, went further. In an interview with John Ware on the BBC Panorama programme in August 2005, Sacranie compared Yassin to others who had “fought oppression”:
John Ware: It’s one thing supporting the Palestinians and it's another, isn’t it, supporting the theological justification which Sheikh Yassin gave to the murder of civilians.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: He may have given that ...
John Ware: Well there’s no may about it, he did, he was the spiritual leader and the ideological leader of a terrorist movement.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: In your terms, if it means fighting occupation is a terrorist movement, that is not a view that is being shared by many people. Those who fight oppression, those who fight occupation, cannot be termed as terrorist, they are freedom fighters, in the same way as Nelson Mandela fought against apartheid, in the say way as Ghandi and many others fought the British rule in India. There are people in different parts of the world who today, in terms of historical side of it, those who fought oppression are now the real leaders of the world.
So Sacranie thinks that Sheikh Yassin is like Gandhi? Being unsure how much Sacranie actually knows about Gandhi, I thought I would take this opportunity to follow his lead and compare the lives — and sayings — of the two men in question.

Sheikh Yassin: a very short biography

Sheikh Ahmed Ismail Yassin was born in 1937 in what was then the British Mandate of Palestine. As a young man, he attended Al Azhar University in Cairo where he joined the Muslim Brotherhood. Throughout his life, Yassin vehemently opposed peaceful conciliation with Israel, arguing that the land of Palestine belonged to Muslims until the Day of Judgement and thus there could be no negotiation. In the 1980s, he founded Hamas (or radicalised a pre-existing, moderate form of the organisation, depending on whose account you read) in order to launch and support a jihad against Israel (the Hamas Charter is available online here). Hamas drew heavily upon the ranks of the Muslim Brotherhood and enjoyed financial support from a number of states, not least Saudi Arabia. Yassin was finally killed by the Israelis in March 2004.

Sheikh Yassin: a small collection of his sayings and teachings

On the centrality of military struggle:
We will never lay down arms, and will continue fighting against the Israeli enemy.
It is the duty of every Muslim to participate in this struggle against Israel, this jihad:
Every Muslim is demanded to go to Jihad with himself and with his money, and if he can’t fight, he must do that with his money. We accept every Muslim in the world to go to Jihad with us, whether or not he was an Arab. The last martyrdom operation in Tel Aviv was carried out by a Muslim brother from the UK.
This jihad strikes fear into the heart of the Israelis:
I assert that Israel is desperate after the martyrdom and Jihad operations that shook its foundation.
Women and children may be killed by these attacks, but this is simply collateral damage — and besides, the Israelis kill innocent women and children as well, so it is justified:
My brother, certainly we don’t target women, children or the elderly in our operations. But the “Mujahed” goes out to find a concentration of soldiers and military men, whether in civilian or military clothes and attack them. This is our first and last target; the military, the settlers and the intelligence officers. Some children may have fallen by mistake. If you go back to the lists of killed children on both sides, you will find that, statistically, for every Jewish child killed, four Palestinian children are killed by the Israeli army; its tanks, planes and settlers.
Muslims who suggest that suicide bombings are unIslamic are wholly mistaken:
Questioner: What do you say to those scholars and Sheikhs who still claim that “suicide” bombings are haram (religiously prohibited) and who call for an end to resistance as they merely cause more suffering for our Palestinian brothers?
Yassin: I can’t categorize them with scholars and Sheikhs, because they worked for the interest of the enemies of Islam. Martyrdom operations are unanimously agreed upon by the trusted Sheikhs of Islam and have many examples in the history and Sirat of Prophet Muhammad.
And if Israel is defeated and the Palestinians have their state then what — will it mean peace? No, the jihad will continue and must continue — hence the need for a strong Palestine:
What I want is not a meaningless and weak state shredded into bits by settlements but a victorious and sovereign one capable of waging jihad.
A further insight into Yassin’s ideology and methodology can be seen by examining the character of Hamas, the organisation which he set up (or radicalised) in the 1980s:
[Peace] initiatives, the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement. For renouncing any part of Palestine means renouncing part of the religion; the nationalism of the Islamic Resistance Movement is part of its faith, the movement educates its members to adhere to its principles and to raise the banner of Allah over their homeland as they fight their Jihad
Hamas Charter Article 13
Israel is to be entirely eliminated:
Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.
Hamas Charter Article (Introduction)
The Jews are not merely responsible for the problems facing the Palestinians, but the world as a whole:
They stood behind the French and the Communist Revolutions and behind most of the revolutions we hear about here and there. They also used the money to establish clandestine organizations which are spreading around the world, in order to destroy societies and carry out Zionist interests. Such organizations are: the Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith and the like. All of them are destructive spying organizations. They also used the money to take over control of the Imperialist states and made them colonize many countries in order to exploit the wealth of those countries and spread their corruption therein. As regards local and world wars, it has come to pass and no one objects, that they stood behind World War I, so as to wipe out the Islamic Caliphate. They collected material gains and took control of many sources of wealth. They obtained the Balfour Declaration and established the League of Nations in order to rule the world by means of that organization. They also stood behind World War II, where they collected immense benefits from trading with war materials and prepared for the establishment of their state. They inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council to replace the League of Nations, in order to rule the world by their intermediary.
Hamas Charter Article 22
In short, Hamas — and Yassin — have argued that Israel has no right to exist, that Palestine should be cleansed of Jews from the Jordan to the sea, and that a Palestinian State, run on radical Islamist lines, should replace it entirely.

Let us now turn to Gandhi.

Gandhi: a very short biography

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in 1869 to Hindu parents in Western India. At the age of 19 he went to London to study law and, after qualifying as a barrister and being admitted to the Bar, returned to India. Failing to find work, he accepted a posting to South Africa where his firsthand experience of the persecution and discrimination faced by Indians led him to involvement in the Civil Rights movement. It was in South Africa that he first developed his platform of non-violent protest and in 1906, called on his fellow Indians to defy the law requiring all Indians to register with the government but, importantly, stated that they should suffer the punishments for so-doing and should not use violent resistance.

On his return to India he soon took charge of the struggle for independence from British rule, sticking throughout to his policy of non-violence — he was highly critical of violence by both the British and by Indians resisting them. Indeed, when Hindu or Muslim compatriots engaged in acts of violence against the British or each other, he would famously fast until the violence ended. Many riots would end simply by his presence, such was his popularity and stature.

Gandhi: a small collection of his sayings and teachings

These speak for themselves, revealing the thoroughgoing commitment to non-violence that was at the heart of Gandhi's philosophy:
Peace is its own reward.

Nonviolence is the greatest force at the disposal of mankind. It is mightier than the mightiest weapon of destruction devised by the ingenuity of man.

It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

I am prepared to die, but there is no cause for which I am prepared to kill.

The only virtue I want to claim is truth and non-violence.

Non-violence and cowardice are contradictory terms. Non-violence is the greatest virtue, cowardice the greatest vice. Non-violence springs from love, cowardice from hate. Non-violence always suffers, cowardice would always inflict suffering. Perfect non-violence is the highest bravery. Non-violent conduct is never demoralising, cowardice always is.

Non-violence and cowardice go ill together. I can imagine a fully armed man to be at heart a coward. Possession of arms implies an element of fear, if not cowardice. But true non-violence is an impossibility without the possession of unadulterated fearlessness.

The hardest metal yields to sufficient heat. Even so must the hardest heart melt before sufficiency of the heat of non- violence. And there is no limit to the capacity of non-violence to generate heat.

The badge of the violent is his weapon, spear, sword or rifle. God is the shield of the non-violent.
Conclusion: a comparison or a contrast?

Both Gandhi and Yassin sought independence for their people. But there the comparison ends. Gandhi wanted a free, united India in which Hindus and Muslims could live side by side; Yassin sought the Jews being driven into the sea. Gandhi eschewed violence and was utterly committed to peaceful resistance; Yassin argued that violence was an important tool for achieving his political ends. One can contrast the two men, but there is no comparison.

So what was Sacranie thinking of in his unguarded comment to Panorama? Was it a naive ignorance of the facts of the lives of these two men that led him to claim that Yassin was like Gandhi? This is suggested by his description of Gandhi “fighting” the British, a statement only someone wholly ignorant of Gandhi’s life would make. However, was Sacranie’s comparison also a cynical political manoeuver, an attempt to connect the two men so that those who do not know Yassin’s life and writings would assume he was ideologically opposed to any form of hatred or fighting? Only Sacranie himself can answer such questions about his motivation in that interview.

Let me leave you with a quotation from another advocate of non-violence:
‘Gandhi was inevitable. If humanity is to progress, Gandhi is inescapable. He lived, thought and acted, inspired by the vision of humanity evolving toward a world of peace and harmony. We may ignore Gandhi at our own risk.’
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr

Friday, September 23, 2005

When is Genocide not Genocide?

The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) has found itself in hot water of late over its campaign to have Holocaust Memorial Day scrapped and replaced with an event that is, in the words of Iqbal Sacranie, MCB Secretary-General, not ‘racially selective’. Writing this week in The Guardian, Sacranie banged the drum for his vision of inclusiveness again:
After the world vowed “never again” at the end of the second world war, though, we have seen the same barbarism again, against peoples in Vietnam, Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Chechnya and recently in Darfur. So we said that our common humanity called upon us to also recognise the crimes perpetrated against other people, and we called for the establishment of an EU genocide memorial day.
The problem is that Sir Iqbal appears to be somewhat confused about which victims he would like to see included in this ‘EU genocide memorial day’. For example, Cambodia and Rwanda are recent additions to his list, Sacranie having somewhat cynically worked out that there is more political capital here than in the other dubious suggestions that the MCB have previously made. Here, by way of contrast, is Sacranie being interviewed by John Ware on the BBC Panorama programme in August:
John Ware: The principle the MCB say they were defending was to make Holocaust Memorial Day more “inclusive”. They wrote to the Home Office saying they would only attend if the event included "the sufferings of all people" and in particular what they called
"Other ongoing genocide and human rights abuses around the world, notably in the occupied Palestinian territories, Chechnya Kashmir etc."
John Ware: If it had been a principle.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Yes...
John Ware: I would respectfully suggest you would have included all kinds of conflicts all over the world involving not just Muslims but other faiths. You chose Kashmir, Chechnya, Palestine, in the reverse order.
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: If you look at the statement, and I would strongly advise you to look at the statement, advise you to look at what was the document which was submitted to the Home Office which made it absolutely clear that it is all atrocities¿ Rwanda, Bosnia, it happened to be the fact, it is there, the vast majority of atrocities that we have seen in these modern times have been Muslims.
John Ware: You've cited Rwanda in your statement?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: It is, it was cited there, it's been quoted time and again.
John Ware: In your statement to the Home Office?
Sir Iqbal Sacranie: Indeed it is. It's clearly been mentioned."
John Ware: It’s true - the MCB did cite Rwanda - but only after the story broke accusing them of boycotting Holocaust Memorial day.
Ware was absolutely right. The MCB’s statement clearly did not mention Rwanda but listed instead a range of conflicts in which Muslims were involved:
In the light of the misleading report in The Sunday Times (23rd January 2005) the MCB has decided to place on record its letter on the subject from the MCB Secretary General to the Home Office minister responsible for Faith Community issues, Fiona Mactaggart MP: " is important that the Muslim community is represented at such National events and [it] would like to do so if the Memorial Day is inclusive of the sufferings of all people and does not exclude or ignore other ongoing genocide and human right abuses around the world, notably, in the occupied Palestinian territories, Chechnya, Kashmir, etc. I also wish to restate our position and our views on the tragic Holocaust event. British Muslims share with the Jewish community their sense of pain and anguish. None of us must ever forget how the Holocaust began. We must remember it began with hatred that dehumanised an entire people, that fostered state brutality, made second class citizens of honest, innocent people because of their religion and ethnic identity. Those who were vilified and seen as a threat could be subjected to group punishment dispossession and impoverishment while the rest of the world stood idly by, washing its hands of despair and suffering that kept getting worse. We must do more than remember and reflect on the past — we must be able to see when the same abuses occur in our time.
There is a major problem here. Not merely do Sacranie and the MCB merrily change their list of conflicts to suit their audience — note the cynical inclusion of Vietnam for the first time this week, a move aimed, I would suggest, at The Guardian’s readership — but it is also stretching the definition of ‘genocide’ to the point of meaninglessness to include Palestine and Kashmir in it. Facing injustice the Palestinians may well be, but they are not being rounded up by death squads and systematically exterminated. If genocide is to mean anything at all, then it is best left to the likes of the UNHCR to define it, which they do quite succinctly. Article 2 of the convention on genocide states:
In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
  1. Killing members of the group;
  2. Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  3. Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  4. Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  5. Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
A further worrying tendency of the MCB is their belief that genocide is not genocide when Muslims are doing the killing. It has taken until this week for the MCB to mention Darfur among its list of killing fields whilst the Armenian genocide of 1915-23, in which 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks, is casually dismissed by the MCB, despite the UNHCR clearly labelling it genocide).

To give you a flavour of the fate of the Armenians, here is an eye-witness report:
When the first batches of Armenians arrived at Gumush-Khana all able-bodied men were sorted out with the excuse that they were going to be given work. The women and children were sent ahead under escort with the assurance by the Turkish authorities that their final destination was Mosul and that no harm will befall them. The men kept behind, were taken out of town in batches of 15 and 20, lined up on the edge of ditches prepared beforehand, shot and thrown into the ditches. Hundreds of men were shot every day in a similar manner. The women and children were attacked on their way by the ("Shotas") the armed bands organised by the Turkish Government who attacked them and seized a certain number. After plundering and committing the most dastardly outrages on the women and children they massacred them in cold blood. These attacks were a daily occurrence until every woman and child had been got rid of. The military escorts had strict orders not to interfere with the "Shotas".
Eye-witness report by Sayied Ahmed Moukhtar Baas, 1916 [Source]
Yet the MCB toss aside such suffering. In 2001, they explained that their problem with Holocaust Memorial Day was that:
  1. Firstly, it totally excludes and ignores the ongoing genocide and violation of Human Rights in the occupied Palestinian territories, in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere.

  2. It includes the controversial question of [the] alleged Armenian genocide as well as the so-called gay genocide.
Given that the Armenian genocide is almost universally acknowledged, the only major deniers being the Turkish Government, for somewhat obvious reasons, the MCB’s stance is untenable. Indeed, quite how they can justify including Palestine and Kashmir in their list of genocides (neither of which qualify according to the UNHCR criteria) whilst excluding the Armenian massacres is mystifying. Do the MCB seriously believe that it is their role to decide what conflicts the term ‘genocide’ should apply to rather than, say, the UNHCR?

As others have pointed out, the MCB have complained that Holocaust Memorial Day is both too broad (it includes embarrassing events carried out by Muslims that they would prefer forgotten) and too narrow (it doesn’t include conflicts that nobody else has termed genocide). In short, it seems for the MCB that if Muslims are being killed, then the conflict is, by default, genocide. If Muslims are doing the killing, then we must stay silent. This is a shocking double-standard and makes Sacranie’s talk of a ‘common humanity’ look very hollow.

Friday, August 26, 2005

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.
[Source (Word document)]
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.

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 Embracing
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 [1960]) p.144-147; emphasis mine.
Now 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:
  • 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).
One can see why the MCB failed to provide this textual context, for it utterly destroys their claims that Panorama twisted Mawdudi’s words and reveals the extent to which Mawdudi’s Islamic State does indeed resemble communist and fascist models. In both those systems, the ideology of the state is equally all pervasive, those who disagree with it are certainly ‘not allowed to influence the basic policy’ and so forth. Therefore it is Bunglawala and the MCB who are being ‘mischievous’ and, indeed, deliberately disingenuous by accusing Panorama of selective quotation in the very same document that the MCB demonstrate this shoddy practice themselves. The MCB are, as is so often the case, guilty of a shocking double-standard.

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:
(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 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:
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.
Sayyid Abul A’la Mawdudi, Jihad fi Sabilillah (Jihad in Islam), Translated by Prof. Kurshid Ahmad. (Birmingham: UK Islamic Mission Dawah Centre, 1997 [1939]) p.14.
(Can be downloaded here as a pdf).
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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
In short, Mawdudi believes that Islam needs the sword in order to bring about its spiritual and moral vision of the world:
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.
Ibid, p. 10; emphasis mine.
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:
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].
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..
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:
[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.
Mawdudi, Jihad, p.12.
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.

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.
Sayyid Abul A‘la Mawdudi, The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Law, Translated by S. S. Husain & E. Hahn (1994 [1953]) p.17.
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:
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?
Ibid., p.31.
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.
Ibid., p.37; emphasis mine.
Once again, Mawdudi brings this back to his understanding of the purpose of Islam, namely to supercede and subjugate all other ideologies and systems:
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.
Ibid., p.40; emphasis mine.
Dhimmis (non-Muslim persons) in the Islamic State need to remember their place. They are not there to preach, says Mawdudi, but rather:
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.
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.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Trouble at Leeds Grand Mosque

Whilst the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) likes to present itself as the representative body of mainstream, British Muslims, when one begins to probe amongst the 400 or so Muslim organisations affiliated to the MCB, problems quickly emerge. On 20 July 2005, MCB Watch exposed racist hate speech by MCB affiliate organisation Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith. The MCB's response, as is so usually the case when faced with criticism, was denial. MCB Secretary-General Iqbal Sacranie publicly refused to disown Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith for the racist views directed at both Jews and non-Muslims on their website.

Another day, another racist (and in this case, misogynist) affiliate. This time we turn our attention to Leeds Grand Mosque and in particular the collection of khutbas [sermons] published on their website.

It was to Leeds Grand Mosque that Iqbal Sacranie travelled in the wake of the London bombings of 7 July 2005. The BBC reported that at the mosque that day, a preacher called Sheikh al-Judai spoke a message aimed particularly at young Muslims, speaking of the need for them to be good citizens and to benefit their society. But that is not always the message in the sermons at Leeds Grand Mosque. When you read the extensive collection of sermons on the mosque’s website, you discover preaching that contains hate, intolerance, incitement and misogyny.

The purpose of jihad

In several of the many sermons on the mosque's website, the speaker (usually Sheikh Taher, the Imam of Leeds Grand Mosque) addresses the question of when jihad (fighting) can be used. Contrary to the moderate line that, at most, jihad can be used in self-defence, Sheikh Taher pulls no punches and states that jihad is to be waged when something is restricting the propagation of Islam in a country. He begins:
Islam has made the protection and preservation of the deen [Islamic religion] obligatory.
So how should Islam be protected and preserved? Sheikh Taher is clear:
It is also done through calling people to the deen, and explaining to them its beauties and advantages, loving guidance for mankind, that they believe in Allah and worship Him alone. That they rule by Allah, establish the law and implement its rulings, and for this we have legislation to fight jihad in the path of Allah to preserve the deen, checking and deterring those who stand in the way of calling people to Islam.
[Source; emphasis mine]
The Sheikh goes on to explain that there is good precedent in Islamic history for this, since this is what the Islamic conquests (632-732CE) were all about:
It is to this end and purpose that Muslims fight in jihad, and for this purpose the first believers fought. This is what Rabai bin Aamr said, when he addressed the Persian leader of the Mahjus, Rustum, with all confidence and strength [c. 630s CE] … Look to the greatness of the morals and the pride in the values that the Muslims had and they were fighting and facing their enemies on the battlefields.
This fighting to ensure that Islam can be freely propagated amongst non-Muslim peoples can include martyrdom operations:
If the forces of evil stop and intervene between the people and them entering this deen as Allah, exalted is He, loves for them, it is legislated for those who call, when they face these oppressive forces, to fight Jihad in the path of Allah, and it is legislated for them to sacrifice themselves for the sake of this deen and for the sake of making the da’wah of Islam reach every heart.
[Source; emphasis mine]
(Interestingly, the sermon in which this paragraph occurs was pulled from the Leeds Grand Mosque website after a few journalists came across it. Thanks to the vast historical cache of web pages that Google keeps, it is still accessible to us.)

In the same sermon, Sheikh Taher explains that the preservation of religion comes before the preservation of life (whose life he does not specify, but the context suggests it is the life of those who block Islamic evangelism that is forfeit):
The preservation of the deen comes before the preservation of life.
Islam must be preserved, he explains, because without it the earth will become corrupted — and Allah intended the earth to be a good place to be enjoyed by Muslims:
If the deen goes and imaan is absent, obedience is abandoned and tawhid of the All-Merciful is not found, and the worshippers of the Shaytan appear, great corruption spreads in the earth, which Allah made a resting place for His servants.
Killing and murder are indeed very serious, but if somebody is spreading “corruption” then the command not to kill is not applicable:
You learnt, O beloved brothers and sisters, how Islam forbids the killing of the self, and destroying it and damaging it without right, for whoever kills for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth it is as if he has killed all of mankind, and whoever gives a self life it is as if he has given life to all of mankind.
[Source; emphasis mine]
The message from Leeds Grand Mosque seems very clear; jihad against the unbeliever is very much part of Islam. Contrary to Sheikh al-Judai’s message of peace and tolerance to Muslim youths, Sheikh Taher thinks that Muslim youths would do well to imitate the youths of the first Muslim community:
It was they who strived day and night, sacrificed and persevered, fought jihad so that they could spread and implement this religion, its dignity and glory. Overnight the Muslims acquired an empire. Authority and leadership was established for them.
(Within 36 hours of this article being published, Leeds Grand Mosque edited the sermon and changed the wording from "jihad" to "strived". But you can download a pdf version of the original web page, jihad and all, by clicking here.)
A wider jihad

Sheikh Taher also believes that jihad has a wider scope than simply ensuring that Islam can be freely preached. There is the goal of making Britain an Islamic state:
This is the sacrifice, to give your blood, your tears, your wealth, your time, for Islam. Not just the prostrations and the praises which make firm the hearts of men, but to make efforts to do more, to change our state, so that ‘La ilaha ila Allah [there is no god but Allah] is given victory.
[Source; emphasis mine]
Britain needs to be changed into an Islamic state, as do all Western nations, because they are inherently anti-Islamic and this corrupts Muslim youth:
We, as Muslims today, living in the lands of Islam and outside the lands of Islam, but especially those who live outside the lands of Islam; how great is our need of a reminder and an exhortation. Because everything that our youth face, our sons and daughters, everything that they see and witness, everything that they hear each day, contradicts and opposes their belief, their religion, and the manners and morals of Islam. There is only the small, occasional exception. This is a natural consequence for anybody, whether by choice or compulsion, who lives outside his own environment and society.
For Sheikh Taher, there can be no integration by Muslims living in Britain because man-made laws are inherently false and anti-god. In a passage that could have come straight out of Sayyid Qutb, Sheikh Taher preaches the following:
Know that any tradition or custom of a people that opposes or contradicts the Shariah, in its objectives or rulings, must be rejected.
Sheikh Taher is not alone in his view, it is shared by other preachers at the mosque. In a sermon prepared by Ghassan Al-Basri, worshippers are told that, after Britain, the world is the next target:
… the task of the believer is to bring people to worship the Lord of the worlds, and to make the religion of Allah the supreme one upon every other methodology. [Source; emphasis mine]
The kind of offensive jihad that will be required to bring this about is as much an act of worship as fasting:
… anybody stand as a hurdle in the way of its spread [of Islam] must be fought against, the real worship is not confined upon prayer and fasting only, in fact, the One who made fasting obligatory is the same One who made fighting obligatory, and the One who said: 'Fasting has been prescribed for you', is the same One who said: 'Fighting has been prescribed for you', so both are worship.
[Source; emphasis mine]
If Muslims simply follow the Qur’an and Sunnah [example of Muhammad] then military victory will be sure to follow, according to the lessons of Islamic history:
With the Qur’an to strengthen them [the first Muslims], they faced oppressive nations, and they fought against fierce armies. The life of this world was subjected to them, and they were shown respect. This is how it was for the Muslims, throughout the period in which they adhered to their Qur’an and raised the rank of the Sacred Law, the Shariah, of their Lord.
This aim of world domination is based firmly on the supreme example of all, namely that of Muhammad:
Indeed, the generation that the 'chosen one', Al-Mustafa [Muhammad], had nurtured with such distinguishing traits would inevitably succeed in the world; leading it and it subjugating itself to them.
[Source; emphasis mine]
Israel and the Jews

No hate-preaching Imam’s repertoire would be complete without some rhetoric aimed at Israel and the Jews. Sheikh Taher is, indeed, no exception and in the sermon removed from the mosque website but preserved for us, thanks to Google, he rejects Israel’s right to exist in any form. With echoes of the Charter of Hamas, Sheikh Taher explains Muslims must fight jihad until Israel is no more:
Does not the land which has been illegally seized from its people since 1948, and its people forced to flee, kicked out of their houses in order for it to be inhabited and occupied aggressively by people coming from various parts of the world, does it not deserve [to be defended] … Therefore know that this defence is an honour and an aspiration, a jihad and a sacrifice, striving for it, the like of Shaykh Ahmad Yasin
Israel can never have any validity because the whole of the land belongs to the Muslims by divine right:
Palestine is a Muslim land, occupied, its right seized, and the rights of its people seized. Palestine is the first Qiblah [direction to which Muslims pray], and it is where the Prophet sallalahu alahi wa sallam ascended from to the Heavens.
Sheikh Taher goes on to remind his audience that the Jews are an inherently corrupt and sinful race, a fact testified to by the problems Muhammad had with them:
Who tried to kill your Prophet by throwing a rock from the top of the house which the Prophet sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam was sitting in, and who is the one who put poison into the lambs meat which was given to the Prophet sallalahu ‘alaihi wa sallam? Who whispered to Abu Lu’luah al-Majoosi, who betrayed and killed Amir-ul-Mu’mineen, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab, and he was leading the Muslims in Fajr prayer? Who was the one who spread tribulation and dissention and planned the assassination of the Khalifah of the Muslims ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan, who was killed while reading the book of Allah? And who was the one who killed Imam ‘Ali RA while he was on the way to Fajr prayer?
They were evil then and they are evil now:
The planning and the actions are the same; it is only the hands and the names that differ.

The preachers at Leeds Grand Mosque are also more than willing to add misogyny to jihad and anti-Jewish diatribe. So, for example, Sheikh Taher has no time for the idea that moderate Islam respects women and offers them full and equal rights with men. Why should they, since men are inherently superior:
Allah created the man to be more prudent and rational, and he is more exposed to the affairs of life than the woman.
This idea is fleshed out by an unnamed preacher who claims that women are far less rational than men because of their “sensitive” disposition:
There are also logical reasons as to why Islam considers the testimony of two women equivalent to the testimony of one man. This is for the sake of justice and completeness of the evidence. A woman is far more likely to be inclined to a sensitive character that may bias her testimony. Or she may be affected by the witnessing of a violent crime.
[Source; emphasis mine]
But women can take some comfort. If they witness a “simple” crime, their minds can cope with it and so their testimony does stand:
This ruling concerns major crimes where a serious punishment may have to carried out on the accused. When it comes to simple matters the testimony of one woman is sufficient.
According to Sheikh Taher, women cannot leave the house unless they are properly attired and unless their husband permits them to:
The woman is obliged to wear lawful clothing when she leaves her house, and she must not leave without her husband’s permission and knowledge. He is the one that is called upon to prevent suspicion and doubt.
Women have just three roles in life: daughters, wives or mothers:
Islam has come to protect the women in all three stages of her life. First as a child, then as a wife and finally as a mother.
And once they are married, their function is purely domestic:
The wife takes care of the house, to keep it orderly, to clean it, and prepare the food (as is the custom), to protect her husband’s property, to spread peace and happiness in the house, and to not give anything of her husband’s property without his permission. The woman is the caretaker of her husband’s house; this is her responsibility. She is trusted with her husband’s property, and she is not allowed to spend out from it, even for charity, without his permission.
The wife cannot refuse any demand by her husband for sex:
We know from the hadith that if a man invites his wife to bed and she refuses the angels curse her until the morning.
But, thankfully, if she obeys her husband in everything, she may see Paradise:
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: “If a woman prays her five prayers, fasts the month of Ramadan, guards her chastity, and obey [sic] her husband, she will enter Paradise.

What are we to make of such hateful preaching and such deeply ingrained sexism and misogyny? One hopes that Sheikh Taher and the other preachers might fall foul of the government’s plan to tackle radical imams and that any replacement might be a moderate, able to teach appropriately within the context of 21st century, pluralistic Britain. But how likely is that, given the fact that mosque chose to appoint Sheikh Taher, has allowed him to remain for over five years, and has continued to publish and promote his hatred on their website? One presumes that this can only have occurred because the mosque committee agree with his stance on jihad, on the Jews and on women.

So then, what of the MCB? Will they deal with this kind of radicalism and extremism from another of their affiliates? Will they eject Leeds Grand Mosque as an affiliate member, set up and publish a code of conduct for their 400 affiliates and ensure such preaching is dealt with more rapidly in future?

I wouldn’t hold your breath.

When challenged over radical affiliates in the past, the MCB have always refused to take action. Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith claim that Jews are trying to take over the world and are responsible for all of its problems, before moving on to call all non-Muslims “sick” and “deviant”. The MCB refuse to act. The Muslim Association of Britain, another affiliate, state that suicide attacks against civilians in Israel are perfectly acceptable and, again, the MCB refuse to act.

The problem is that there is a tremendous double-standard here, because at other times the MCB do display a willingness to draw the line. Consider the Ahmadi Muslims, a small, moderate sect who differ from mainstream Muslims in that they believe Muhammad was not the last prophet, but that the 19th century Indian ascetic Mirza Ghulam Ahmed was a prophet and the promised Messiah. The MCB issued a press release in 2003 that was brutally clear:
Mainstream Islamic teaching holds that the blessed Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was the last in a long line of prophets sent to mankind. Mainstream Sunni and Shi'a Muslims are both agreed on this basic tenet of the Islamic faith. Furthermore, we believe that there are no more than 1 million Ahmadis in the entire world as opposed to the 1.5 billion strong worldwide Muslim community. So, whilst we fully accept the right of Ahmadis to their own religion, it is clearly misleading to describe them as Muslims. They are not.
So when it comes to obscure Muslim sects, the MCB will draw the line. But when it comes to affiliates who preach hate, call for jihad, or support extremism, suddenly line-drawing is out of the question. All this makes it very hard to avoid the conclusion that the MCB approves of the preaching at Leeds Grand Mosque. This allows us to read some MCB statements in a new, revealing light:
Islam as a faith is famously colour-blind and was revealed to bring peoples of all nations together in worship of the One True God.
[Source (Word file)]
Leeds Grand Mosque and its preachers would probably agree, only stressing that jihad should be fought to achieve this aim.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Self Criticism is for Wimps

This last week has seen the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) come under fire from a number of directions. First, the BBC announced that on Sunday 21 August 2005, their flagship current-affairs programme, Panorama, would feature a special investigation into those organisations claiming to speak for British Muslims, including the MCB and a number of its affiliates. It quickly became apparent that this investigation would be thorough and critical. Shortly after, The Observer newspaper reported on the MCB’s response to the BBC and offered some criticisms of the MCB of its own.

Now “Muslim Council of Britain” and “enlightened self-criticism” are two phrases that one would struggle to shoehorn into the same sentence and the MCB swiftly moved to condemn both the BBC and The Observer. We shall therefore examine the MCB’s approach, as it casts further light upon their methods of dealing both with opponents and with criticism. It also raises more worrying questions about their overall mindset.

The Jews are at it again

In preparation for the Sunday 21 August 2005 programme, BBC Panorama journalists interviewed representatives from a wide range of British Muslim organisations, including many affiliated to the MCB. Iqbal Sacranie himself, Secretary-General of the MCB, was also interviewed by the Panorama team.

Word soon emerged that the BBC’s programme might be critical, rather than another puff-piece, and the MCB swung into action. Inayat Bunglawala, Media Secretary of the MCB, wrote an angry letter to the BBC complaining loudly. (Available on the MCB website in PDF format).

Among Bunglawala’s complaints were that:
[N]early all the questions that were put to Sir Iqbal Sacranie by the Panorama team were directly or indirectly about Israel. These included questions to do with the Holocaust Memorial Day, Shaykh Yusuf al-Qaradawi and Shaykh Ahmad Yasin (the former leader of Hamas who was assassinated by Israel in 2004) and statements that have been made by the MCB affiliates, the Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, The Islamic Foundation and the Muslim Association of Britain concerning Zionism and the struggle for Palestinian rights.
Bunglawala suggested that:
The Panorama team is more interested in furthering a pro-Israeli agenda than assessing the work of Muslim organisations in the UK.
And he advised that:
The BBC should not allow itself to be used by the highly placed supporters of Israel in the British media to make political capital out of the July 7th atrocities in London.
There are a number of problems with Bunglawala’s approach here. First, there is the laughable suggestion that the BBC has a ‘pro-Israel’ agenda or a Jewish bias. Given the regularity with which Jewish spokespersons accuse the BBC of having a pro-Palestinian agenda, it would seem more likely that the BBC has the balance about right. The MCB are very quick to applaud the BBC when it takes a line with which they agree; it seems that when the spotlight is turned on themselves, the attitude changes remarkably quickly.

Second, the MCB show little willingness — or ability — to recognise that some of the issues raised by the Panorama programme are of critical importance. Since the MCB claim to be the major representatives of mainstream, moderate British Islam, when we find them refusing to unequivocally condemn suicide bombings, accusing Israel of genocide whilst failing to recognise the Armenian or Sudan genocides and so forth, this does look rather damning and the public deserve to be informed.

Third, the MCB have failed to get to grips with radicals among their affiliates. They remain allied with the Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), who also refuse to unequivocally condemn suicide bombings and whose main spokesperson, Azzam Tamimi, has expressed his desire to self-detonate in Israel. Likewise, Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith, an organisation whose radical credentials MCB Watch first exposed, speaks of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy as well as calling all non-Muslims “sick” and “deviant”. Rather than attack the BBC for highlighting the views of these affiliates, why does the MCB not simply put in place a code of conduct for affiliate organisations and then throw out the bad apples. Or would this look too much like “self-criticism”, a word not found in the MCB’s lexicon?

Fourth, the fact that the BBC has picked up on the attitude of the MCB and its affiliates to the Jews has nothing to do with a ‘pro-Israeli’ bias, but everything to do with the fact that for radical Muslims, all of the problems of the Muslim community (and the world, according to Jamiat Ahl-e-Hadith) are down to the Jews. Whatever one’s view of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (for the record: I believe in a two-state solution and that heads need knocking together on both sides), this does not excuse calling for the death of innocent civilians or describing Jews (and, indeed, all non-believers) as inherently evil and twisted.

The MCB glide worryingly easily between the terms “Jewish”, “Israeli” and “Zionist”, using especially the latter as a derogatory term to demonise a range of opponents, including those who have no connection to Israel whatsoever. This reflects, as does the whole Panorama incident, their attempt to win arguments by bullying, whining and ad hominem attacks, rather than by engaging with the arguments.

Friendly fire?

The second attack on the MCB came in The Observer newspaper on Sunday 14 August 2005. Martin Bright wrote an investigation into a number of aspects of the MCB, including its alleged links to the Islamist Jamaat-i-Islami party, founded by Maulana Maududi. It also explored radicalism among MCB affiliates, highlighting the same problems with Jamiat Ahl-e-hadith that Panorama found (again, apparently thanks to our report here).

But of particular interest was a criticism offered made by a Muslim, Abdul-Rehman Malik, contributing editor of Muslim magazine Q-News, who said:
Maududi saw the world in the same way that Sayyid Qutb saw the world: they both divided humanity into true believers or those in a state of ignorance. Many of the affiliates of The Muslim Council of Britain are inspired by Maududi's ideology.
Malik went on to say that the MCB’s leaders needed to be much clearer about its position on suicide bombers:
You cannot be equivocal about innocent people. An innocent person in Tel Aviv is the same as an innocent person in Baghdad or London. The MCB has never clarified any of the critical issues and now the chickens are coming home to roost.
This critique gave the MCB some problems. Whilst it was able to vilify Martin Bright, the journalist who wrote the piece (not least because in 2001 he had the audacity to question the Qur’an’s divine origin!), they had a little more trouble with Malik and Q-News; given that these were Muslim voices, one would be hard-pressed to find a Jewish conspiracy. So, instead, the MCB decided to paint Q-News as little more than a high-school rag:
… who is doing the accusing? Well, one has to read another sixteen paragraphs to find out. It turns out to be someone called Abdul-Rehman Malik from the tiny circulation and very sporadically published magazine, Q-News.
This is decidedly odd, since elsewhere the MCB speaks very positively of Q-News. Speaking of developments in the British Muslim scene in ‘recent times’, the MCB explain that:
The 1990s has seen the emergence of British Muslim community newspapers, represented by the The Muslim News and Q-News.
In other words, as long as Q-News or its contributors don’t say anything critical about the MCB, they’re a ‘community newspaper’, whose publication is seen as a positive contribution to the British Muslim life. The moment they step out of line, they’re written off as irrelevant, a seldom read rag that even its publishers can’t be bothered with.

Spot the pattern here?

Yes, it’s the MCB’s favourite modus operandi, the ad hominem attack. Rather than address the point raised by the critic, you attack them personally. Two weeks ago we showed how the MCB’s book The Quest for Sanity derides a wide range of non-Muslim critics, labelling them insane. Now we see that same ploy extended to the MCB's fellow Muslims.

It is important to note that this same approach is favoured by radical Muslim groups; if you’re for us, you’re a true Muslim; if you’re against us, then we’ll demonise you. In all the time we have been monitoring the MCB, we have yet to see them once admit they were wrong, publish a retraction, or offer a public apology. Yet isn’t the ability to engage in enlightened self-criticism a strength? We are reminded of Salman Rushdie’s words in The Times:
Broad-mindedness is related to tolerance; open-mindedness is the sibling of peace. This is how to take up the “profound challenge” of the bombers. Will Sir Iqbal Sacranie and his ilk agree that Islam must be modernised? That would indeed make them part of the solution. Otherwise, they’re just the “traditional” part of the problem.
We could not have put it better ourselves.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

The MCB and Hizb ut-Tahrir

On 5 August 2005, Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his intention to ban a number of Islamist groups, amongst them Hizb ut-Tahrir (henceforth HT). The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) wasted no time issuing a press release, arguing that such a ban was undemocratic and claiming that HT were non-violent. On Channel 4 News on 8 August 2005, Iqbal Sacranie, Secretary-General of the MCB, were further and stated that:
Hizb ut-Tahrir have not engaged in incitement to hatred.
Rather than take Sacranie’s word for it, let us examine some of HT’s articles, published on their Khilafah.Com website. This will enable us to decide whether they are guilty of incitement to hatred or violence; once we have done that, we can then ask whether the MCB’s stance is legitimate.

(The website is occasionally unreachable. When this occurs, you can use the links marked 'backup source' throughout this article to access a cache of the page in question at Google or MSN).

Who are Hizb ut-Tahrir?

HT are an organisation founded in Palestine in 1951 by Sheikh Taqi-ud-deen Al-Nabahani who believed that the poor state of Muslims worldwide (the Ummah) was due to the destruction of the Caliphate in 1924 (a trans-national Islamic state, ruled by Shariah law). Sheikh Nabahani set up groups throughout the Middle East that aimed to teach and call for the re-establishment of the Caliphate (or Khilafah). Through the 1960’s and 70’s, the group spread to all corners of the Muslim world, although many Muslim countries subsequently banned the organisation, believing it to be dangerous. In their statements to the media, HT members and spokespersons have always claimed the group believes in non-violence. However, when you actually read their literature, things look very different.

The purpose of an Islamic state

We can begin by examining the core aim of HT, namely the re-establishment of an Islamic state, the Caliphate, uniting all Muslims and governed by Islamic law. HT are clear that the aim of the Caliphate is not simply uniting Muslims, the ultimate aim is domination:
Islam demands that we are leaders in science; we will have to run an Islamic state which must lead the world, economically, militarily and politically.
[Source] | [Backup source]
All the world is to become Muslim, with those who are non-Muslims forced to pay the jizya poll tax as a sign of submission to the Caliphate as mandated by the Qur’an (Q. 9:29):
In short this meant that Rasool-Allah [Muhammad] was to carry Islam to them, and implement its laws over them until they acknowledged the authority of the public laws of Islam within the state. An outward manifestation of this acceptance was to be the concept of a nominal, token tax know as Jizya. This was to be levied on non-Muslim citizens of the Islamic state ... The reason I make a point of using the past tense is because it is a duty that we, as an Ummah, are not presently executing.
[Source] | [Backup source]
How is the Caliphate to be established?

This is critically important and lies at the heart of the question as to whether HT are non-violent lobbyists or dangerous Islamist radicals. Do HT envisage the Caliphate being set up by negotiation, politics and persuasion? The simple answer is no, for HT the answer is jihad, fighting in the way of Islam:
Jihaad is carried offensively to cleanse the earth from the kufr [unbelievers], with the implementation of Islam as a system thus liberating man from the rule of man.
[Source] | [Backup source]
The importance of jihad

Since jihad is so central a concept to the establishment of the Caliphate, HT are very concerned to correct what they see as wrong interpretations or understandings of the word. They are angry that people are trying to play down the violent aspects of jihad:
The West fears the meaning of Jihad for no reason other than the fact that this word is an explanation of what makes Islam a force in the world. So, it should not surprise anyone that the West will try its utmost to distort the meaning of Jihad from the minds of the Muslims ... The styles vary, whether it is from Tony Blair who says, “Islam is a religion of Peace”, or whether it comes from his followers in the Muslim Council of Britain who argue that “Jihad is only about struggling against our desires.”
[Source] | [Backup source]
Indeed, HT are clear that jihad is all about killing non-believers:
There are over 120 verses of the Qur’an that use the Shari’ meaning of Jihad to mean fighting and killing.
Not equal are those Believers who sit (at home) and receive no hurt, and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah with their goods and their persons, Allah has granted a grade higher to those who strive and fight.” (Q.4:95)
... It has been agreed upon by the classical scholars that the Shari'ah meaning of Jihad is to fight and kill the kuffar [unbeliever].
[Source] | [Backup source]
Nor is jihad merely to be used in self-defense:
Moreover some will say that Jihad was only defensive; this is incorrect. A quick study of the Life of the Prophet (SalAllahu Alaihi Wasallam) shows us something different ... [historically, Muslims] instigated Jihad, through As-Sham, Iraq, Iran, Egypt and North Africa.
[Source] | [Backup source]
Jihad is not optional for Muslims but is fard (obligatory); notice, too, in the quote below, HT’s desire for Muslims to recapture Spain which was part of the Muslim empire established in the Islamic colonial period of 632-732.
O Muslims, O people of the Kanaana (quiver): You have to know that Allah (swt) has made Jihaad Fard on you to liberate the whole of Palestine from the filth of the Jews. Just as Islam has made it Fard on you and all the Muslims to liberate Andalus (Spain), Chechnya and the rest of the Muslim lands usurped by the Kuffar from the Muslims. This Jihaad will continue until the Day of Judgement.
[Source] | [Backup source]
Any Arab leader who tries to prevent jihad should also be overthrown:
So, it is to Jihaad that we call you O Muslims. Remove from your path any ruler who befriends the Kuffar, rules by Kufr and prevents Jihaad.
[Source] | [Backup source]
This kind of language perhaps goes some way towards explaining why countries like Egypt, for example, have banned HT.

In short, this Islamist jihadi ideology lies behind HT’s call to all Muslims to take up arms and fight to bring about the Caliphate:
O Muslims! Hizb ut-Tahrir calls upon you to mobilise your forces and rally your ranks to help and support it in its work to establish the Khilafah state, by which you will restore your glory, attain the good pleasure of your lord and destroy your enemy … the enemies of Allah and His Messenger, namely America, Britain, Jews and their allies.
[Source] | [Backup source]
The Jews are to blame

Like most Islamist groups, HT have to deal with the realities of the fact that the Caliphate does not exist, nor does it look like it will sometime soon. Who is to blame for this? The answer, as it always is for Islamists, is the Jews. They are to blame for all the problems of the Muslims. The language used by HT to describe the Jews is quite extreme:
The Jews are clearly a cowardly people who hate death and fighting, whereas the Muslims love death and are eager to die fighting Jihad.
[Source] | [Backup source]
The Jews are sub-human, since they are:
… the brethren of monkeys and pigs …
[Source] | [Backup source]
Does HT believe in a two-state solution in Palestine? By now, you can probably guess the answer:
Muslims must not simply be content with not normalising relations with the Jews, or even with rejecting normalisation with them, rather they are obliged to fight the usurping Jews wherever they are found until they expel them from the land of the Muslims ... So that you may: kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. (Q. 2:191)
[Source] | [Backup source]

Truly, all military and non-military actions aimed at striking the usurping Jews in Palestine are legitimate. Allah (swt) has legitimised these actions in His glorious book. He (swt) says And kill them wherever you may find them and expel them from wherever they expelled you ... (Q. 2:191)
[Source] | [Backup source]
HT clearly have “martyrdom operations” in mind when they advocate an any-means-necessary approach to destroying Israel once and for all; elsewhere they explain the delights and rewards awaiting the successful martyr:
Rewards given to the shaheed are immense. They include:
  1. Their souls are in green birds dwelling in Jannah wherever they like.

  2. All their sins and faults are forgiven except debt.

  3. He can intercede for 70 of his family members.

  4. Be secure on the day of resurrection from the great terror.

  5. He will not feel the agonies and stress of death.

  6. He will not be horrified by the great gathering on the day (of accountability – Yawm al-Qiyamah).

  7. He does not feel the pain of his killing except like a pinch.
[Source] | [Backup source]
All in all, the Jews are entirely corrupt:
The Jews are a people of slander. They are a treacherous people who violate oaths and covenants. They lie and change words from their right places. They take the rights of people unjustly, and kill the Prophets and the innocent. They are the most severe in their hatred for those who believe.
[Source] | [Backup source]
(As an aside, the alleged quote by Ariel Sharon on this page, speaking of burning every Palestinian child, is a well-documented hoax. Are HT are ignorant of this, or have they simply decided to add slander to incitement?)
Where does this leave the MCB?

We have seen, then, that HT at a macro desire an Islamic state that is world encompassing, to which non-Muslims will be subjugated. HT call for violent jihad to bring about this state, a jihad in which all Muslims are obliged to fight. At the micro level, the Jews must be defeated, since they are sub-human wretches about whom there is nothing good. HT regularly cite Qur’an verses that they believe call for Jews to be fought and killed.

Where does all this leave Iqbal Sacranie’s claim that HT do not incite violence or hatred? In short, it looks as foolish as the MCB’s press release that described HT as non-violent. But are the MCB merely incompetent, or guilty of deliberate deceit? Much as I would like to be able to believe that the MCB naively knew nothing of HT’s writings, there are some other factors that raise our suspicions:
With several ‘independent’ Muslim states, Muslims are now even weaker, because their Muslim identity has been superseded by nationalistic or other divisive entities.
(p. 177)

[The Armenian] genocide was committed by the secularists who brought about an end to the Islamic Caliphate of the Ottoman Empire, and were thus not acting in the name of Islam.

And what is the alternative civilization for the whole of humankind, a civilization that embraces everyone, a civilization that will oppose the present civilization? … That was the civilization that lit the skies more than 1400 years ago.
  • Furthermore, there are reports that Iqbal Sacranie and Inayat Bunglawala, the MCB's media spokesman, have both said that they admire Maulana Maududi (1903-79). Maududi argued for the recreation of the Caliphate and established the radical Jamaat-i-Islami party, which aimed to set-up an Islamic state in Pakistan.
Is it therefore possible that the MCB believe that a broad spectrum of Muslim groups are needed to bring about the Caliphate and other such goals? That their approach to HT is thus to publicly distance themselves from them, yet avoid condemning them because their aims are actually seen as perfectly reasonable?

A final thought on freedom of speech

The MCB appealed to democracy and, implicitly, freedom of speech when it cricitised Tony Blair’s suggestion of banning HT. Yet this is the same MCB that wants to see laws brought in against incitement to religious hatred. Is it only incitement to hatred when Muslims are on the receiving end, or are all peoples — even the Jews and the unbelievers — worthy of protection and the enjoyment of full human rights? The MCB are, as is so often the case, guilty of a tremendous double-standard.