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article imageOp-Ed: The West v Islam? Special

By Alexander Baron     Aug 22, 2011 in Religion
There are some in Britain, the US and elsewhere who are intent on portraying the West and Islam as a clash of civilisations or as democracy versus the forces of darkness, but is this really the case?
It may be a cliché, but the world really did change forever on September 11, 2001. For those people in Britain who had no strong connection with the United States, that change could no longer be denied when on July 7, 2005, a “lesser” outrage occurred in London. Four suicide bombers from outside the capital boarded a train at Luton, and shortly murdered 52 innocent people as well as injuring hundreds; the victims included foreign tourists. The 7/7 cell consisted of 4 Moslems; 3 of Asian extraction, and one black. The Asians had all been born and raised in West Yorkshire, and the black, Germaine Lindsay (aka Abdullah Shaheed Jamal) although a native of Jamaica, had also grown up in Yorkshire. Under other circumstances they might have regarded themselves as Yorkshiremen, and would probably have been accepted as such by most of their white neighbours, albeit at times with some reservations.
In spite of the at times lunatic conspiracy mongering about both 9/11 and 7/7, there is absolutely no credible evidence that any of the perpetrators were “patsies” anymore than was Lee Harvey Oswald. Let us not dignify these Alice-in-Wonderland scenarios of the planes being controlled from the ground, the buildings being primed with explosives or the perpetrators being duped into carrying bombs as conspiracy theories; they are not theories in the proper meaning of the word, but scurrilous and at times surreal gossip; the fact that they are spread around cyber-space often with professionally crafted videos and commentary by self-styled experts and political analysts does not alter that one whit. Water does not become champagne by being poured into a bottle and labelled Moët et Chandon.
By the same token, there is no doubt that all these men regarded themselves as Moslems, and their actions of which they were clearly proud, and about which some of them boasted from beyond the grave, are in stark contrast to those who claim that Islam is a religion of peace. Is someone lying to us, or are people simply deceiving themselves?
Those who know a little bit about either history or current affairs will realise there is no paradox here, because religion – or rather the perversion of religion – has been used throughout history to justify social, political, racial and national persecution. At times such persecution has been wanton, and in this connection we may cite the witchcraft hysteria that swept through both Europe and the New World in a bygone age. It is one thing to persecute one’s perceived enemies, it is another entirely to brand as a witch a lonely old woman who talks to her cat, and then torture her until she confesses to having sexual relations with the Devil.
The abuse of Islam for political purposes is properly termed Islamism (not to be confused with Islamicism, which is the study of Islam by secular scholars). In recent years, as with 7/7, we have seen the ugly face of what purports to be “radical” Islam, which has been imported by foreign clerics and used to radicalise mostly but by no means exclusively Asian youth. In view of this, it is easy to forget or perhaps not widely known that Islam was first imported into Britain by white converts as long ago as the 19th Century. The first British mosques were founded in 1889: the solicitor William Abdullah Quilliam established one at Liverpool, and the Shah Jahan Mosque was built at Woking by Dr Gottleib Wilhelm Leitner, a Jewish convert. The Holy Qur’an was first translated into English by the Christian convert Marmaduke Pickthall (1875–1936).
One person who totally rejects the dichotomy of the West v Islam is Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, a German-born convert who lives in Britain. Indeed, he goes further and says far from being a threat to Western civilisation, Islam can be its salvation, none more so than through Islamic economics.
One of the founders of the Islamic Party of Britain and Editor of its theoretical journal Common Sense, he is also a major contributor to the Mathaba website. A gifted linguist he is fluent in the language of the Holy Qur’an, Arabic, as well as holding a pilot’s licence – hence the Flying Imam. He holds a doctorate in applied linguistics, and as well as mentoring to prisoners, has been involved heavily in educational work. He knows the problems from which Western society suffers, and the cures, but is frustrated at not being able to implement them.
Here Sahib Mustaqim Bleher shares his thoughts on the recent civil disturbances, on the way the media and certain extremists present Islam, and dispels some of the myths about it peddled incessantly by the mainstream, especially the tabloid media, and certain political organisations.
AB: We´ve recently seen reports of stickers going up in some areas of London which claim it is a Sharia controlled zone - that is Sharia with an H. A certain Anjem Choudary has claimed responsibility for them. I gather you regard this guy as a clown.
SMB: [I d]on’t understand the Sharia with an H comment, the correct transliteration of the Arabic word is Shariah. He is either misguided or mischievous. Or ignorant. You can’t have a Sharia-compliant zone as a separate enclave in a country as if the government of the country was suspended. Of course, a community may have its own “vigilantes” to ensure that their streets are free from drug dealers or prostitution, for example, but how are they going to get their local bank branch to abandon interest-based banking? None of us lives in a power vacuum, so any change has to be political, not symbolic. In my book Surrendering Islam I have shown how Islamic organisations and activism are often purposefully subverted and hijacked in order to bring about a confrontation. Genuine Islam is usually the loser. I imagine that Anjem Choudary took his inspiration for the Shariah-controlled zone from Jews who have their own districts in most major European towns classified as Eruvs, demarcated areas where a sufficient large number of Jews live to consider the place culturally Jewish, so the restrictions for the Sabbat can be relaxed. But Islam isn’t Judaism, and the same model doesn’t really work for us.
AB: When certain newspapers talk about Sharia they project this image of people having their hands chopped off for theft or stoned to death for adultery, curiously they don´t mention this sort of thing:
or this
SMB: The media love sound bites. They work on emotions rather than understanding. The Shariah means the “way” or “path” by which the Muslim community is governed, in other words, the legal code Muslims apply in their dealings with each other. It is made up of source law and case law and like any legal system it is detailed and complex and cannot be reduced to two items of punishment perceived to be cruel. You wouldn’t sum up the British legal system by saying: if you insult the monarch, they hang you, since high treason does carry the death penalty in the British legal code. A lot of media pundits would have been hanged otherwise.
[This is no longer true but the point should be taken; the maximum penalty for theft is seven years, but no one is ever sentenced to seven years for mere shoplifting].
AB: There have been reports about Sharia courts sitting in Britain. What is your perspective on that?
SMB: These refer to communities trying local dispute resolution. In principle, there is nothing wrong with that, though the name is misleading. Those “courts” have no jurisdiction, but they can arbitrate, similar to the function chambers of commerce take when arbitrating in trade disputes. It is a myth that British and Islamic law are incompatible in every respect. In the fields of civil contracts they mainly agree. If a Muslim makes a will to distribute his estate in accordance with Islamic rulings, then this will is valid and enforceable under British law as he is free to dispose of his wealth in any manner he sees fit. By the way, Islamic law has been an integral part of European law since Greece conceded to the Ottoman Empire that Turks living in Greece may have their internal affairs governed by their own Shariah law inasmuch as it does not contradict the overriding general laws of the state, and it’s never caused any problems. With Britain having signed up to, or some say, surrendered to Europe, by analogy such Shariah courts could argue legitimacy under British law.
AB: It is fair to say the Organised Homosexual Movement has been waging a war against Islam. What would you say to the likes of Peter Tatchell?
SMB: The churches have been bullied into re-interpreting the Bible or at least making adherence to the prohibitions in the Bible a personal choice. When trying the same with Islam, the homosexual movement found that Muslims do not treat the Qur’an in the same way. Homosexuality is prohibited in Islam, and no amount of pressure will make Muslims declare it as acceptable. You can see why the homosexual lobby hates Islam.
AB: The current criminal justice system doesn´t seem to work very well; victims don´t receive justice, offenders aren´t rehabilitated, and many end up serving a life sentence on the instalment plan, going to gaol, release, reoffending, arrest and back to gaol. Wouldn´t we be better off flogging burglars and muggers? Failing that, how would Islam deal with recidivism, the drug culture, and all the other social ills we have in Western society?
SMB: We have a rule of law, but not a rule of justice at the moment. In the recent riots quite severe jail sentences have been issued by judges even for people who were not directly involved. The police failed to provide protection to the population against rioters, yet if somebody defended themselves they may end up being charged themselves. Three young Muslim men in Birmingham paid the ultimate price for this failure of the police. If you defend your home against a burglar and injure him in the process you might end up in the dock. Meanwhile the police go after the motorists with speeding charges as easy pickings. There is no longer any proportionality. Islam does have some strict punishments for the more destructive crimes, those that make people’s lives misery, but before you can mete out justice you have to create a just society, a society where neither politicians nor police are above the law, the legal system is available to everybody irrespective of financial means and law enforcement is not corruptible. We are a long way off from that, so the clean-up of society can’t start from the wrong end by introducing strict punishments only.
AB : The current financial crisis has been caused by the banks; we´re told the whole world is in debt. How would Islam deal with this?
SMB: Unfortunately, whilst people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, do not trust individual bankers, they still have faith in the banking system itself and haven’t yet realised that the problems we are facing are not caused by the excesses of some banking institutions but by the way fractional reserve banking is designed. Banks have been given a monopoly on issuing the nation’s credit and have thus become the government’s paymaster and government. Forget democracy: banks are not elected and they do not put the public interest first. Governments are forced to borrow at a cost from private banking institutions who were given the right to create new credit without this costing them anything or having to back it up with real wealth or real deposits. We have now reached breaking point where the nation can no longer afford the heavy tax burden resulting from this constant drain of wealth from the public purse to the private banker. Islam would allow banks to provide financial services, but not to create money or credit on behalf of the nation. In other words, Islam would restore sovereignty to the people with the right of coinage and issuance of currency being the exclusive right of the government.
AB: Islam does not permit interest; can you describe briefly how Islamic banking works and how it would work in Britain and throughout the West?
SMB: At present the world’s banks are more powerful than the world’s governments and the global economy has been distorted, leading to an ever widening gap between those who have and those who have not, both within countries and between countries - starvation in the midst of plenty. At present, large government or private projects are made possible by banks creating and then lending credit to those who want to embark on them, and the decision is based on profit considerations, not social responsibility. By abolishing interest, the incentive to hoard wealth disappears as does the advantage of issuing credit as there will be no increase for the lender.
Projects requiring large funds can then only be achieved by numerous investors coming together, and they would not do so unless they perceived a joint benefit in the project, hence social responsibility would come back into the equation. Islam encourages trade and profits from trade, but prohibits profiteering from simply facilitating trade without sharing the risk of its success or failure. Unfortunately, today’s so-called Islamic Banks are nothing of the sort, they are attempts by Muslim bankers to jump onto the “get rich quick without effort” bandwagon of Western banks. Interest-free banking, if applied consistently, would regenerate communities and the benefits would be felt instantly. If Britain would borrow nothing else from Islam but this economic model, she would prosper and put behind her economic troubles in no time.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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