It is that time of the year: a hectic month as the British people recover from their frenzied Christmas shopping, briefly punctuated with the peace of the annual family get together, only to be followed by scrambling over various items thanks to the hype produced by corporations eager to increase the debt through boxing day “sales”. As the recovery from these activities begins and the damage to the bank accounts dawn, we take advantage of this lull for some customary reflection.
This year has been a particularly unsettling one; the sordidly racist campaign which ultimately culminated in Brexit; the far-right terrorist attack claiming the life of Jo Cox – the first killing of an MP in 26 years; the B-movie being played in the US starring Donald Trump, the West-wide rise of the far-right and unleashing of political and social xenophobia, security globalisation via totalitarian measures like the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda; Britain passing one of the world’s widest and intrusive surveillance laws; the list goes on. Sadly, it is the Muslim minority, either through scapegoating or being subjected to the fruits of this dangerous concoction of nationalism, disenfranchisement through the global neoliberal order, and neoconservative domestic and foreign policies, which has by and large, bore the brunt.
Part 1 can be accessed here:
ASCL’ s Ramadan Paper: Deformation of Islam Beneath the Cover of Concern and Advice (1)
Doublespeak and Distorted Theology
The paper claims that “ASCL does not endorse any particular interpretation of Islamic law or practice.” A close analysis of the content reveals misleading and blatantly incorrect statements which are presented as erudite scholarship, and which the paper adopts as its position under the guise of “advice”.
Thus from the start the paper states,
“They should be made aware that there is a wide and diverse range of opinions on how to observe Ramadan and from what age, which give the necessary allowances for them to perform to the best of their ability in exams.
“If the school notices signs of dehydration or exhaustion then the child should be asked if they are fasting and advised to terminate the fast immediately by drinking some water. They can be reassured that in this situation Islamic rulings allow them to break their fast and make it up later.”
Assuming the position of a Mufti, the authors of the paper seemed to have gone fatwa-shopping and settled on a bad buy. The paper has clearly taken a position that where mere signs of dehydration or exhaustion manifest, pupils can break their fast. Of course, this new Mufti for schools struggles with the utmost basics. When one considers that that the paper asserts that “Those fasting are recommended to have one meal (suhur) just before sunrise”, there is not much hope in the reliability of the rest of the espoused theology. The suhur meal is just before dawn, not sunrise.
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.
A report commissioned by 5Pillarsuk.com reveals some interesting insights into the beliefs and views of Muslims in Britain. One hundred and fifty “influential” Muslim respondents across the Islamic spectrum were queried. The results demonstrate a problematic curve ball for neoconservatives and their endless efforts to target Islam and Muslims.
The questions revolved around normative Islamic beliefs, and across the board a generally high level of agreement with these beliefs was achieved. Participants rebutted dominant propaganda against Islam and Muslims. For instance, 100% agreed or strongly agreed that forced marriages are forbidden, and 100% agreed or strongly agreed that British Muslims are an “integral part of the UK”. It also established a high rate of agreement upon those beliefs and practices which are typically attacked by politicians in concert with the media, analysts and commentators:
- Segregation of men and women in closed public, or religious settings – over 80% agreed or strongly agreed
- There is no compulsion in Islam, no one can be forced to become Muslim – over 95% agreed/strongly agreed
- Hijab is an obligation in Islam – over 95% agreed or strongly agreed
- Niqab is a legitimate piece of Islamic clothing – over 90% agreed or strongly agreed (chart 16 is somewhat unclear)
- Islam is a holistic comprehensive way of life – over 97% agreed or strongly agreed
- Jihad as is mandated in the Qur’an is used to maintain or restore order, peace and security or to remove oppression and injustice – over 95% agreed or strongly agreed.
This third and final part directly continues from the Part II:
Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part I: Rashad Ali
Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part II: Sara Khan
Also operating within the well-oil neocon counter-extremism machine is the Quilliam Foundation, which brings us to Adam Deen’s rather expected (see here also) announcement of joining the cold war-era style state-validator organisation. In his blog piece announcing the squandering of his faith, Deen convolutedly explains why he wants to fight “extremism” but fails to convincingly explain why he would join an organisation born in the lap of another extremism – neoconservatism – which continues to legitimise neoconservative policies.
This equivocation-ridden nucleus in his piece indicates to the pseudo-intellectualism which comes head way in the second paragraph. Deen is, like Sara Khan, a fan of the deconstructionist, Khaled Abou El Fadl. The fanboyism, though, is taken to a new level. He writes,
“It may not be coincidence that al-Hakim al-Jishumiyya al-Bayhaqi (a Hanafi Mu’tazili jurist from the 12th century) in his book ‘Satan’s Epistle’ asks: “if Satan were given the chance to speak on the Day of Judgment, whom would he pay tribute to?” Al Bayhaqi concludes that Satan would end up praising and thanking every Muslim who adapted ideas that attributed to God things that were irrational, unjust or hideous.”
This is lifted from Abou El Fadl’s The Search for Beauty in Islam: A Conference of Books almost verbatim:
The piece continues from the first part:
Deforming Faith and History to Serve a Neocon Agenda Part I: Rashad Ali
Whilst Ali is known amongst Islamic scholarly circles for twisting texts and now history to suit the views his paymasters demand of him, there are other characters who are willing accomplices in this project.
Sara Khan seems to have been on a bit of a mission to shake off the negativity surrounding her involvement as a human rights-touting feminist who confusingly promotes the human rights-violating PREVENT Strategy through the incredibly feminist “weaponisation” of Muslim women. The Guardian’s Alex Preston penned a piece late last month looking at Khan and her work. Of pertinence is the exploitation, like her human rights and feminism discourse, of Islam.
Ignoring the fact that Islam guides on all facets of life, Khan homes in on the “fascination” of “Muslim clerics and preachers” with women’s clothing. For her, removing the veil “was about removing the authority of religious clerics”. Of course, with statements like that, considering that the Prophet of Islam was a man who designated the status of the Ulama as “heirs of the Prophets”, she might as well absolve herself of the authority Allah, and His Messenger, peace be upon him.
John Ware followed up his propaganda aired through the British Bias Corporation with a piece in the Independent. This piece sought to address, it seems, some of the contentions raised in my critique. It is only fitting I return the favour.
His documentary was an attack on Islam, and so is his continued assault in his article. Labelling his proxy that is Shaykh Haytham al-Haddad as a person fitting the government’s definition of a “non-violent extremist”, Ware attacks, for instance, the mainstream Islamic ruling on the prohibition of music. In doing so, he attacks a juristic ruling shared between the spectrums of Islamic theology from the Sufis through to Salafis and the Shi’a. If any definitive evidence was required that the “extremism” discourse is criminalising Islamic beliefs, look no further.
Ware continues with other snippets of “damning” quotes which have already been clarified by Shaykh al-Haddad himself. There is one particular aspect which is worth addressing. Ware seems to have a problem with a Muslim believing in the superiority of the “law of Allah”. A person of religion wouldn’t be a believer if he did not believe in the primacy of his Book. To highlight this as evidence of some form of “extremism” is absurd and minority discriminatory. David Cameron, slightly overselling himself, once called the Tory party, the “Torah party” . Is he too an extremist? The Beth Din Court, as alluded to in an earlier blog, has previously asserted the primacy of Judaic law over British civil law stating that,