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UK imam challenges anti-jihadist Dutch MP Geert Wilders to debate Special

By Adriana Stuijt     Apr 21, 2009 in World
Imam Dr Taj Hargey of the Summertown Islamic Congregation in Oxford, UK has issued an open challenge for a public debate with Dutch anti-jihadist MP Geert Wilders about his film Fitna and his planned sequel.
The devout and liberal Sunni Muslim leader who is also a recognised Islamic historian and theologian issued his call in a telephone interview with me on Monday.
South African-born Dr Hargey, who holds a doctorate in Islamic Studies from Oxford University, recently won a historic three-year court battle in a major libel action against a conservative Muslim newspaper -- and he's now just as keenly determined to challenge Wilders. Dr Hargey says he understands the Dutch MP's fears about Islam undermining Dutch culture. He also believes that the Dutch MP does not comprehend Islam properly nor the Qur'an -- and wants to talk to him in 'civilized and productive fashion' about Wilders' planned follow-up to his controversial anti-jihadist video clip Fitna.: (link posted).
http://www.telegraaf.nl/binnenland/3713692/__Wilders_maakt_Fitna_2__.html
Dr Hargey would like to meet the Dutch MP face to face, especially to discuss Wilders' statements about Islam 'in a public neutral venue, wherever he wants,' he said. Hargey is also the chairman of the progressive Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford and the Imam of the cosmopolitan Summertown Islamic Congregation in this UK university city.
"What I am proposing is a public conversation and discourse that is not confrontational but informative. We need to discuss things in a civilised manner and be prepared to agree to disagree. This is the basis of mutual respect and harmonious co-existence and the way forward for the two great religions of Christianity and Islam in Europe..." said Dr Hargey. Mr Wilders has not yet responded to the Imam's extraordinary invitation, issued on April 21, and which has been forwarded to him. His office confirmed that it was received - but also said that "Mr Wilders receives hundreds of emails each day. It may take a few days before he responds."
"I appreciate what Wilders' objections are to Islam,' Hargey says. "they are mostly all based on the real fear that European culture will be overwhelmed by Islam's so-called 'invasion' and the failure of Islamic communities to adapt to European culture. In fact, I have analysed Wilder's documentary 'Fitna' with my congregation, asking them: 'how would you like it if a whole bunch of fundamentalist Englishmen arrived in your home country, refused to adapt to life in their new environment and preached an ideology of separation and supremacy?'
Dr Hargey also believes that one reason, amongst others, for the growing political popularity of Wilders is what he refers to as the ' aggressive ultra-orthodox Saudi-led Islamisation process in European societies'. This is spreading tremendous fear throughout Europe, he admits. "And that's causing the right-wing to grow and Wilders' popularity to soar."
Dr Hargey asserts that Islam should not impose itself on any country, however – and that there is no single defining 'Islamic culture' as Islam is a global religion, not a peculiar cultural dispensation. Muslims, of course have territorial specific cultures, but Islam itself does not embrace any particular manifestation. While many places in the world have Islamic populations – the religion grew rapidly where ever it successfully adopted and adapted to local traditions and indigenous cultures, for instance in Indonesia, Bosnia and Senegal. In this respect, Dr Hargey has been promoting a distinctive British Islam - as opposed to Saudi or Pakistani Islam - that is faithful to the original tenets of Islam but that which is naturalised and integrated to life in Britain, very much the same thing that happened to the imported creed of Christianity into Europe, he says.
' Indigenous British Islam must integrate '
And what also makes Dr Hargey so unusual and constantly in the news headlines is his determination to confront traditional Islam's view of the role of women. "To combat the incorrect traditional conventions, we need to create an indigenous British Islam that is integrated but not assimilated into its own environment. It should stay true to pristine Qur'anic teachings, but is also erudite, egalitarian and enlightened."
'We Muslims must adapt, we came here voluntarily...'.
Dr Hargey: "I always tell my congregation that they were not forced to come to the UK, they arrived here voluntarily, and that's why they must adopt to the positive local customs and adapt to the laws and cultures of the societies they themselves have chosen to live in. Islam has to become integral to all local communities and not be seen as some sort of alien imposition. This acculturation has happened elsewhere in the world and does not change the principles or precepts of the Faith.".
Voluntary apartheid-ghettos...
Dr Hargey, as 'a child of apartheid' in Cape Town -- also finds the current phenomenon where the United Kingdom's Muslims tend to create 'voluntary apartheid' ghettos particularly galling: "My family and I had to live in a designated ghetto by law because we were classified as Cape Malays under draconian apartheid legislation. Now I'm quite disturbed about the growing separatist tendency here in the UK, where British Muslims are choosing to live in a 'self-imposed form of apartheid', with little meaningful contact, social or otherwise, with mainstream society.
"In Oxford, there's also the emergence of such a self-conscious Muslim isolationist ghetto, in the Cowley Road area of the city. And this is such a paradox for me. I was born into obligatory apartheid, I fought against institutionalised racial segregation all my life, and now I am back in such a society, but this voluntary apartheid is very galling to me.'
He recently won a historic three-year court battle in a major libel action against a conservative Muslim newspaper -- and he's now just as keenly determined to challenge Wilders. Dr Hargey says he understands the Dutch MP's fears about Islam undermining Dutch culture. He also believes that the Dutch MP does not comprehend Islam properly nor the Qur'an -- and wants to talk to him in 'civilized and productive fashion' about Wilders' planned follow-up to his controversial anti-jihadist video clip Fitna
Dr Hargey would like to meet the Dutch MP face to face, especially to discuss Wilders' statements about Islam 'in a public neutral venue, wherever he wants,' he said. Hargey is also the chairman of the progressive Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford and the Imam of the cosmopolitan Summertown Islamic Congregation in this UK university city.
"What I am proposing is a public conversation and discourse that is not confrontational but informative. We need to discuss things in a civilised manner and be prepared to agree to disagree. This is the basis of mutual respect and harmonious co-existence and the way forward for the two great religions of Christianity and Islam in Europe..." said Dr Hargey. Mr Wilders has not yet responded to the Imam's extraordinary invitation, issued on April 21, and which has been forwarded to him. "I appreciate what Wilders' objections are to Islam,' Hargey says.
'Machine-gun speech citing a stream of Qur'anic verses... '
Since his departure from South Africa he has lived in North America and Europe and has travelled extensively in the Middle East, Africa, South East Asia and Australasia. Where ever he finds himself, he promotes religious pluralism and female emancipation. He has also developing a very effective machine-gun debating style (see video above) in which he presents his case with clear, precise Qur'anic quotations which are often very difficult for his listeners to contradict. When he debates, people are forced to listen to his compelling arguments.
And since Wilders has also adopted the identical machine-gun approach to public speech-making, an open debate between these two protagonists should be a fascinating experience....
Dr Hargey also believes that one reason, amongst others, for the growing political popularity of Wilders is what he refers to as the ' aggressive ultra-orthodox Saudi-led Islamisation process in European societies'. This is spreading tremendous fear throughout Europe, he admits. "And that's causing the right-wing to grow and Wilders' popularity to soar."
Dr Hargey asserts that Islam should not impose itself on any country, however – and that there is no single defining 'Islamic culture' as Islam is a global religion, not a peculiar cultural dispensation.
"Muslims, of course have territorial specific cultures, but Islam itself does not embrace any particular manifestation. While many places in the world have Islamic populations – the religion grew rapidly where ever it successfully adopted and adapted to local traditions and indigenous cultures, for instance in Indonesia, Bosnia and Senegal. "
In this respect, Dr Hargey has been promoting a distinctive British Islam - as opposed to Saudi or Pakistani Islam - that is faithful to the original tenets of Islam but that which is naturalised and integrated to life in Britain, very much the same thing that happened to the imported creed of Christianity into Europe.
More about Wilders, Taj hargey, Muslim educational centre, Fitna, Sunni muslim
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