Young Brits Going for Syrian Jihad – What Should Be Our Response?

Following Tony Blair’s comment on the danger of ‘Radical Islam’ on 23/4/14, the very next day, there was some media attention on young Brits going to Syria for the purposes of jihad (you can read the report here). It is true – young Brits are listening to call of the Islamofascists and giving up their lives for Syria. Given their lack of experience in that region and quite possibly not knowing Arabic language, they can easily be manipulated by Islamfascists hate preachers and made to commit murder-suicide. Their lives don’t matter to the hate preachers at all.

However, watching ITV News on t24/4/14 at 6.30pm, I was quite horrified listening to a family member of a young Brit who died in Syria, one Abdullah Deghayes (whose story you can read here). Abdullah’s Aunt, Amani Deghayes said the following:

  • No one expected this to happen (i.e Abdullah would get killed)
    My comment: He was going into a WAR ZONE. What were you expecting to happen?
  • The call by the Police Service for families to report on youth planning such trips will divide families.
    My comment: Currently Abdullah is dead. He is therefore separate from you. FOREVER. Which do you think is a worse outcome? A stroppy teenager for not being able to go to Syria or a dead one?
  • The Police are using emotional tactics to the manipulate the mothers of these youth.
    My comment: Telling the mothers their children will be killed is a truth proven by experience. Of course it will summon emotions. It’s meant to SAVE LIVES.

This Amani woman represents all that is wrong with the Muslim mindset vis-a-vis Islamofascism in our society. Deep down, they still see it as cultural protectionism and that acting against it is a betrayal on their people or on Islam itself.

In that news report itself one ‘Abu Haleema’ shows the truth of this prediction. His passport was either revoked or cancelled or was unable to be issued. He said, he has always been a peaceful guy and never intended to go abroad for criminal purposes. He then said ‘this is a war on Islam’. Brilliant.

We Muslims need to realise that just because some guy utters some Islamic holy words, that does not make his cause an Islamic one. Stop being so superficial.

Islamofascism Rising In Birmingham Schools

Apparently, Islamofascists are gaining ground in Birmingham schools (you can read a report here) . We have the Brummie equivalent of the Muttaween (the Saudi moral police), boys policing how others (mostly girls of course) behave in schools. Can you imagine such a thing? They now want to bring their fascist ways to our schools! We must counter this at all costs.

The key to all this is to create a syllabus to show the liberal Islam people see so little of. Imagine, the above-linked report tells us that these fascists are confiscating EASTER EGGS! How superficial can you get? As if participating in an Easter Egg hunt will somehow compromise one’s faith. This is not islam buy rather Arab cultural supremacism. Sadly, Muslims swallow such superficial tripe.

Muslims, wise up before we ruin islam for others.

The UK is a Christian Country? Doesn’t Bovver Me, Mate!

There are mild reverberations from David Cameron’s statement in the Church Times  that the UK is a ‘Christian Country’.  This comment bothered a lot of people including Sir Terry Pratchet and AC Grayling (one of my favourite Philosophy scholars, as it happens!) who signed a letter to the Telegraph stating that Mr. Cameron’s remarks were ‘divisive’.

I am a Muslim who has lived in the UK for nearly eighteen years.I am free to practise Islam according to my understanding (something I am NOT free to do in an openly declared Muslim country, Malaysia). While in the UK, I can question and reinterpret my faith, in Malaysia I would be jailed and rehabilitated like one of Malaysia’s greatest scholars (you can read the story here).

Do I find Mr. Cameron’s statement divisive? Absolutely not! We need to understand that Christianity is a tradition. This means that it is a collection of beliefs, practices, customs or my favourite word, culture. Within this tradition, there are infinite ways of ‘doing’ Christianity, as it were. There are even Christians don’t believe Jesus was a real historical personality but use the myth of Jesus as a means of empowerment. In the UK, this is allowed and people are free to interpret the phenomenon of Christianity as they see fit.

What is important is not that Mr. Cameron made such a remark but rather what he meant by it. When Mr. Cameron says ‘this is a Christian country’, he does not mean it in the same as when we say Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state. The identity of Christianity here is benign, not malignant. . In no way did he mean that Christianity is the ‘official religion’ like how Islam is the ‘state religion in Malaysia’. In Malaysia, non-Muslims are psychologically disempowered with Islamofascists telling them how they’re hell-bound infidels and that their religious artifacts offend Muslims. This is not likely to happen in the UK.

So lets not worry about names too much. Names can bring infinite implications. Lets worry about substance.

Sarah Mbuyi, The Bible and the Literalist Approach

Very sadly, a Londoner, Sarah Mbuyi was sacked because she allegedly  ‘refused to read gay stories’ to children as well as ‘harassing a lesbian colleague’  by giving her a Bible during her recovery from an accident (you can read the report here).

It’s a pity it had to come to this. I know people like Sarah who are very passionate about their faith and feel they are ‘saving’ a soul from sin and hellfire. That’s her view and she has a right to it. However, she should respect the mood of the public space in which she lives and works.

I did watch Sarah on TV  as well (ITV News, 6.30-7pm on 21/4/14) where she said that this is clear truth in the Bible that in fact homosexuality is forbidden. She portrays herself as the sole reader of the Bible.

This is a rather simplistic outlook to the entire process of interpretation. The Bible, as far as I know, isn’t aware of itself. It’s a compilation of narratives which was authorised during the Council of Nicea in 325 CE (the process of canonisation). This makes it somewhat difficult to simply lift one verse of the the Bible and say ‘The Bible forbids homosexuality’ because the Bible does not tell you how to interpret it (since it does not talk about itself). Some Bible-believers may even say ‘maybe it did at some point but Jesus came and abrogated that law by dying for us’ (Paul said something to that effect, I think) or say something like ‘if you want to obey that law in Leviticus, you need to obey all laws’ trying to appeal to the notion that some laws are not applicable anymore. This is called ‘relativist readings’ while Sarah’s is called a ‘literalist reading’.

I hope Sarah appreciates this fact. As a Muslim, I am trying to promote the same thing – that Islam is a matter of human experience and that every person should understand and interpret Islam for him/herself.

Oh Muslims are Happy, My Heart Dances!

By now, the ‘Happy British Muslims’ video has gone viral. I almost couldn’t believe it myself and then a friend said ‘those can’t be Muslims, they just got a bunch of people  to pose as Muslims. No way Muslims can do that, dance about to music’. She has got a point there except for the fact that Tim Winter, a very real Muslim theologian from Cambridge Uni is in that video. That led me to give this video the benefit of the doubt. I did see Mohammad Ansari as well as one or three familiar faces.

Notwithstanding Tim Winter et al, I want to believe that these folks are Muslims because deep down, I know that this is how Islam should enable us to feel. Islam provides us a set of tools through which we can achieve a sense of spirituality and be close to our fellow man. I guess a great way to do this is to dance and sing (I say ‘guess’ because I have two left feet. Wooden ones. And a voice which’ll make Simon Cowell feel suicidal!). But yeah, people who dance and sing can definitely raise their moods and corrolarily (I’ve invented a word there thanks to my own happy mood) , people whose moods are raised will suddenly burst into song and a quick step or two. It’s our nature.

Yet, inevitably, the downers pop by to ruin our mood. The Haram Squad as the Guardian calls it.  Tim Winters who appears in the video (you’ll see him above) was verbally attacked for participating in it and was said to ‘distance himself’ , a rumour he himself denied later. Apparently, Muslims shouldn’t be dancing or singing. I can understand why the makers of this video, Honesty Policy have chosen to remain anonymous.

So what is up with these Haram-izers? Why does everything have to be haram for them? My guess is that they feel that piety is best expressed through ultra-composure and seriousness. God forbid that we see anyone, especially a woman dancing. The men would fly into a sexual frenzy or something! Except of course we do NOT. This is simply conservative Middle Eastern and South Asian culture masking itself as ‘Islam’.

A good example of the Haramizers is this video here. The guys quotes the Quran (no reference of course, he’s afraid we might actually look it up) and interprets that the Jews and Christians will never pleased with Muslims until we follow their ways. If his interpretation is correct (and I for one contest it) then why is he using the internet and youtube? The aya (2/120) does not specify which part of the ‘ways’ of Jews and Christians to avoid. So he should avoid all of it, including using the language of a Christian people. Good luck speaking Arabic to British Muslims.

He then speaks of a ‘Muslim identity’ as if he and his ilk are the sole authors of Muslim identity. Who is he to define what Muslim identity is? There over a billion Muslims in the world and each of us have a stake in Muslim identity. Please don’t pretend objectivity Sir. You don’t speak for all of us. You just speak more dodgily than all of us.

To all the Muslims who enjoyed ‘Pharrell – Happy British Muslims’ , I say good for you! Islam should make us feel good and we should show it to the world. Don’t let a bunch of uptight medievalists take that away from you. Lets make the world happy!

Some Comments on Monotheist Supremacy

I had a great session in my study group earlier this evening. We study passages of the Quran but not in the didactic , top-down way. Quite the opposite, rather we go through Quranic passages and discuss various interpretations.

I don’t quite know how the conversation go to this subject (it all went rather quickly!) but for some reason, we came to the discussion of monotheism vs polytheism. Was Hinduism really polytheism? With 6 million gods, the answer seemed pretty clear. Except it wasn’t. Having lived with a Hindu (well two Hindus and a Sikh, to be precise) during my university days, I came to know that Hinduism has more diverse interpretations than even Islam or Christianity.

It is therefore difficult to discern what Hinduism actually says. Rather we need to go to individual Hindus to find what they think. Individualism is welcome in Hinduism, unlike Islam in its current form. So here’s how our conversation roughly went. Please note that I’m recalling the essence of the conversation only. This recall is not verbatim, few 22 year olds speak like the conversation below:

My Hindu Friend: I consider the pantheon of Hindu gods to be manifestation of the One Reality. Does that make me a monotheist?

Me: No. (my view has long changed since). Those manifestations are trapped within imagery like that of Krishna, Brahma, Vishnu. You have ascribed forms to the formless, hence associating (yushrik, shirk) God with an earthly depiction. (Ok, I used much more street language, innit? But you get the picture).

My Hindu Friend: Ok, and what did you do with the Quran? You trapped Allah within a finite set of words. You call it His Book and so He cannot say anything else.

Me: Ok but a Book is different from an image. It offers words of guidance which actually translates into action.

My Hindu Friend: Every image of God in Hinduism conveys an understanding of God. Shiva is the God of destruction and sits in the lotus position denoting perfect balance. You use words, we use images. Ultimately it all becomes information about God.

I could not answer Him there. His logic was impeccable. Why did I choose to believe in one earthly manifestation (a book) and reject another (a picture)? Both entities appeal to  the human being and gives him/her an interpretation of the Divine. Therefore I cannot say Hindus are polytheists any more than more than I can say Muslims are polytheists. After all, in the Quran, we see that the most severe of false gods is ‘hawaa’ (delusions, constructions of false realities). According to the Quran 25/43 and 45/23, there is nothing that can be done for one who has taken ‘hawaa’ as a false god.

Perhaps there should be more attempts towards understanding rather than judging our fellow human beings. There is a kind of Monotheist Supremacy which exists among Muslims which makes us see people of other faith as polytheists. I don’t believe it’s as cut and dried as that. We are after all dealing with the most abstract concept there is, that of the Divine.