Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad has his positions and I may or may not agree with his every fatwa, but a lot of the theology which he espouses is one which is held by the vast majority of the Muslims living in Britain and indeed around the world. Homosexuality being a sin, female circumcision (of the Type 1a variety) being scripturally grounded, the Shari’a a cornerstone of the Islamic faith are positions which are common to most if not all the Muslims in the UK, be they from a Salafi or Sufi background. These facets are all which fall within the right to hold an opinion, a non-derogable right which no one can interfere with, regardless of whether the interfering actor is private or public and is protected by innumerable International Legal Instruments. By preventing freedom of movement and association on the basis of an opinion held is an interference of that right. Labels are being assigned as they have been in the past. Even self-styled liberals adopt these labels wholesale, thus maintaining the status-quo against Islam as a religion, calling on venues and institutions to disallow a platform to Imams like Shaykh Haytham (hardly “liberal”).
Though internally theological differences may exist, it is incumbent to understand the political ramifications of porting these differences to the political arena and allowing provocateurs to further drive a horse and cart into the crack of recognised differences. The culmination is that which Richard Littlejohn did but the broader implication is that, in smearing the likes of Shaykh Haytham, he smeared the entire Muslim community and their beliefs. In his drawings, which have been largely ignored as the focus has primarily been on his text, he is depicting Niqabi women in the same imagery as caricatured terrorism, thus synonymising the two. He has even gone as far as ridiculing the ritual of fasting (saum) which is a Pillar of Islam. This has fallen into Nazi propaganda territory and more significantly the brush has widened much more than the initially perceived remit. The references to sex-separation for instance, is a practice which has been adopted by Muslims for centuries globally and exists even in the Jewish community, yet it too is being smeared, twisted and distorted.
The façade of “extremism” is in reality a wholesome attack on a religion practised by a minority. By focussing on Shaykh Haytham and labelling him an extremist, the Neocon propaganda machine has alienated him from the wider Muslim community. This isn’t an attack on an extremist, this is an attack on a Muslim. The shocking levels of media attention on Shaykh Haytham, the twists and distortions which are ascribed as truth to him are presented in the mainly Neocon narrative and disguises the (not so) ulterior motive, that Islam is the problem. The subject of the attack maybe Shaykh Haytham prima facie, but the substantive discourse beneath it undercuts the very fabric of Muslim beliefs. The campaign against Shaykh Haytham therefore, is a discriminatory campaign against the Muslim Minority and implicates the Muslim masses internationally.