ASCL’s Ramadan Paper – Deformation of Islam beneath the cover of Concern and Advice (1)

ASCL Ramadan guidance

In a world dominated by a fast-paced environments denoted by the maximisation of profits, the tendency to enter into “cruise-control” upon the pathway of life is inevitable. The often spiritually devoid nature can take its toll. For Muslims, the month of Ramadan operates as the nudge which forces the Muslim psyche to recognise the spiritual state and take steps through the obligatory fasting (sawm) and associated worship to reform the soul.

Sawm is not just merely a ritual; it’s an obligation which is central to Islam to the extent that it is referred to as a pillar of this religion. To unshackle the understanding of modernity imposed upon Islam, it is not simply a ritual relegated to the private sphere but operates as an act which imbues the soul with Islamic morality which is defined by its quality of transcendentalism – i.e. its implications are not limited to the temporal but far more importantly, beyond the ephemeral. For a believer it is sine qua non for the purposes of discharging one of the most fundamental obligations in Islam.

Recent reports however, have taken to delegitimising fasting in the month of Ramadan in the context of schools.

In short, the excuse given is that the long hours for fasting coupled with exam pressure means that students do not have to fast, making it up later.  And this claim is backed by “experts”. The Telegraph thus reports as a headline, “Schools say students ‘should break Ramadan fast’ to avoid bad grades’”. Apparently there are,

“hundreds of schools in England, Waled (sic) and Northern Ireland have asked parents to allow children to break their Ramadan during exam season after government-backed guidelines raise concerns that their grades could suffer”.

The government, of course, when it comes to watering-down Islam, is fully backing heads to psychologically intimidate pupils into breaking their fasts. The report cites one letter which has been seen by a school in East London:

“The summer term remains a time when we focus on learning and achievement and we will, of course, expect students to maintain a full and active part in their lessons and wider academy life. 

“We hope that, if you are allowing your daughter to fast, you will talk with her about how to best manage her full commitment to her learning and her religious observance.”

Passive aggression coupled with condescension doesn’t begin to describe the above and carries an air to it which suggests that Muslims do not care about their own children.

The guidelines have been dressed up as “concern” for the performance of pupils in exams.  However, a neocon government having concern for Muslims pupils is a ridiculous supposition given the 2014 Trojan Hoax fiasco in which the government and its various organs came bearing down on schools in Muslim majority areas during the exam period, which resulted in pass rates slumping across these schools as teachers wrestled with media attention and politically-motivated inspections of various kinds. Top performing schools like Park View Academy suddenly became debilitated, and even to this day, the schools affected by the Trojan Hoax conspiracy theory struggle to recruit good teachers.

The spin and doublespeak is neoconservatism at its finest. And it is not confined to neocons in Government.

Trust me; I’m an Expert – ASCL Endorser List

The government-approved guidelines come from the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). It is important for Muslim parents to understand the type of “experts” consulted for the paper.

ASCL came to my attention during the Trojan Hoax fallout which saw counter-extremism and not pupil attainment being made the priority across schools.  This gave rise to a lucrative market for practically anyone to come forth and parrot the government narrative and bogus definition of “extremism” in schools. When results were genuinely suffering due to state bullying of schools and Muslims, ASCL was milking the agenda in cahoots with one of the alleged puppets of the Department for Education, Kamal Hanif. Hanif along with PREVENT-pusher Sara Khan, and ASCL’s own parliamentary specialist Anna Cole (who is the author of the information pack), ran PREVENT seminars with the likes of Hanif having been touted laughably as an “expert on Islam”. Hanif was also connected to the Birmingham Education Partnership (BEP), whose key figures were allegedly implicated in the fabrication of the Trojan Horse letter and facilitation of the Trojan Horse story. BEP, as I had predicted, received a substantial sum of money to tackle “extremism” in schools from Birmingham City Council.

The inspire link can be seen in another individual mentioned in the list of endorsers: Kalsoom Bashir of Inspire.

Listed also is Khola Hasan who is an Imams Online contributor. She has signed documents authored by her brother, Quilliam’s “incomplete Qur’an” Usama Hasan (more on him later), and Salah al-Ansari.

Al-Ansari, who joined Quilliam recently, has been carrying out his duties on the deformation of Islam project, having authored a dubious piece attacking the orthodox Islamic perspective.  Rendered suddenly by the Independent as a “leading Islamic expert”, Ansari plays the role of a “moderate Muslim”, who declares his “irritation” at traditional rulings related to women, and contributes towards the creation of animosity against Islam.

In his attack, he renders the need for a male companion during distant travels as a “literal interpretation” – a nonsense claim given the ruling being attacked (that women are required to have a male escort beyond forty-seven miles) is deductive. The irony in Ansari’s attack is that according to him, the ruling is limited to a “historical setting” where women were “genuinely unsafe” and that these rulings “are not fitting with the modern day”.  Ansari’s deconstruction of Islam is of course blind to the fact that study after study demonstrates that women are the first to pay the price for Islamophobia. Ansari is too busy accentuating the climate of hatred of orthodox Islam, and ogling his increased pay check to take note.

Tehmina Kazi is the director of media for British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD) – an organisation which has had a plethora of anti-Islam luminaries such as, Taj Hargey, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown who was the director of BMSD and who is now currently vice chair, and Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, another deformist who believes Islamic laws are outdated. Another endorser, Nasreen Rehman, is the co-founder (alongside Alibhai-Brown) of BMSD.

Another noteworthy endorser is deformist Rabiha Hannan, whose views are not dissimilar to those espoused by Hasan and Ansari. Hannan is the co-founder of New Horizons in British Islam, an organisation which at its previous get-together hosted the “usual suspect” deformists like the pro-Israel, neoconservative ISD’s senior researcher Rashad Ali, Fiyaz Mughal, Quilliamites Hasan and Ansari, Amina Wudud and BMSD’s Kazi.

Hannan considers herself fit to deconstruct Islam whilst calling for a reinterpretation of sacred texts. Anyone see a common theme here?

The Islamic Society of Britain’s leading figures have been engaged in their intellectually desolate efforts to deform Islam for a while.  Hannan’s 2011 speech at their now notorious Living Islam event is a prime example. As I have highlighted before, Usama Hasan’s view is that the Qur’an (in the context of “liberating women”) is a “beginning process” and not a “fixed end-point that cannot be changed”.

Like Hasan, Hannan argues that Qur’an is effectively incomplete:

 “this whole idea of the Qur’an moving in a direction to eliminate social injustice, to look at human rights, is an evolving one. The Qur’an came and it sets the direction but with each generation, we need to understand that better apply it better in the social circumstances that we’re in, in the context we’re in, to make the lives of people, not just Muslims, but humanity better for the world.”

She takes this fantasy concept to undermine the orthodox exegetical analyses and mainstream understanding of Islam, regarding it problematic and irrelevant today:

“The reality is I feel much of our understanding of Islam is actually deeply affected by centuries of age old interpretation of verses in the Qur’an, and the Hadith… we are still looking at these very old interpretations of verses, which may once have been revolutionary, but are now sometimes perhaps looked upon as backward…”

This arrogant post-modernist deconstructionism prevalent in her speech means questioning, for instance, the Islamic obligation of the Hijab. Thus in her book, she writes,

“The initial understanding of a Muslim female’s dress requirement is based upon early historical interpretation of verses in the Qur’an and ahadith by scholars. It becomes obvious to state that, as humans, they would have been influenced by their social context, the cultural and political scene at the time.”[1]

She concludes,

“Some of the scholars have extrapolated the direct commandments to the wives of the Prophet to be an instruction upon all women, but I do not feel that this is a strong argument… Also, as these interpretations may well have been affected by the time and tradition, this might again infer that a renewed process of Ijtihad (interpretation, reasoning) is required in this area”[2]

She is, quite evidently, the new Mujtahidah,[3] who struggles to properly pronounce the Arabic term “Mudhgha” (مضغة), yet, perhaps by virtue of her Masters in Muslim community studies, proposes the re-writing of Islamic hermeneutics based on intellectually and philosophically weak premises.

A final name worth drawing attention to is Matthew Wilkinson, Research Fellow in Islam in Education and Law and Director of Curriculum for Cohesion at SOAS, University of London.  Wilkinson provides “expert evidence” to courts to determine whether Muslims are “extremist”. My legal sources state that very often his work is biased and sectarian in its approach, endorsing the conveyor-belt theory of radicalisation, whilst giving preferential treatment to one particular group.

In short, a number of advocates of thought-policing and state-sanctioned child abuse through PREVENT, as well as those who wish to deform Islam are amongst those who have “endorsed” the information pack.

This is significant because the content of the information sits more in synchrony with the abovementioned individuals and their espoused theology than it does with the orthodox Islamic perspective.

What of those names which appear to belong to an orthodox perspective? Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra’s quote appears on ASCL’s website, clearly stating that “the paper offers options that are in accordance with Islamic guidelines”.  Perhaps the Imams and scholars were unaware of the final content of the paper, or the insidious way in which their names have been used to rubber stamp a document riddled with dubious deformist “advice”.  Indeed, Shaykh Mogra’s position recently espoused in a Guardian article is concordant to the long established views on issues related to fasting in Ramadan.

As it is, those consulted for the paper must analyse it and clarify whether they do endorse the advice set out therein.

In the second part, the distortions and doublespeak in the ASCL paper will be analysed and exposed.


References:

[1] Hannan R., and Gabriel T., (eds.) Islam and the Veil: Theoretical and Regional Contexts 2011, London: Continuum Books, p.82

[2] Ibid. p.101

[3] A person who has mastered the multiple Islamic sciences and who can independently formulate juristic opinion.

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