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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Muslim Council of Britain - The Islamist Big Brother

Muslim Council of Britain has many affiliates. Shia, Sunni, Wahabi, Salafi, progressives as well as orthodox; the council does seem to strive to represent the interests of British Muslims.

We can safely assume that theological differences among various sects are put aside while dealing with key issues which affect all Muslims alike. i.e., Islamophobia, community tensions, discrimination at workplace, mosque applications getting refused on flimsy grounds etc.

It doesn't matter to the council for example if a shia  muslim holds a theologically distinct position regarding the superiority of Imams over the Prophets, a belief which is fiercely contested by the Sunnis. But why should it matter?

Your local council, or a fiery UKIP candidate, or your boss don't need to know these intricacies while judging you to be a person of concern around the place. Your beard, hijab or the need to go for prayer breaks will be sufficient to provoke prejudice against you.

Similarly, it doesn't matter for the MCB if a certain proportion of their membership is barelvi sub-sect of sunni Islam. Barelvi's tend to be more devotional towards the saints and sufis of the past and their present day successors. They find it much easier to prostrate themselves before their holy men and indulge in mystical music and dancing. An observant barelvi will spend much of his life in certain social and religious practices which are shunned by the wahabi/salafi sect of Islam. Wahabi/Salafi Muslims are strict monotheists. To them, barelvis are 'Mushrik', polytheists. The act of 'shirk' is enough to condemn a person to eternal hell!

Both wahabis and barelvis are proud members of the MCB, and why shouldn't they be? As it doesn't matter to the local residents to protest against a mosque project if it is going to be a barelvi or a wahabi mosque. We all look and sound the same to them, right?

Why should then the MCB go out of its way to say that Ahmadis cannot be called Muslims?
According to their statement the MCB feels that muslims are unduly pressurized to refer to Ahmadis as muslims.

In my experience, it is infact the ordinary mainstream Muslims who are being pressurized unduly to boycott Ahmadis and consider them non-Muslims. Most of my muslim friends consider me a muslim like themselves. But if some of them unfortunately cross paths with a takfiri Mullah, they change their views. Not all of them, but some of them. And when I confront them about their views their standard reply is that 'I am not expert in such things, but the Maulvi knows much more than I do.'

A famous slogan goes 'whoever doesn't believe them to be kafir is a kafir himsef'.

Hate filled pamphlets called for the boycott of Ahmadis are common sight in the UK threse days.
We should sympathize with those poor souls who are being held hostage by the enemies of freedom of belief and expression. The MCB is playing big brother for UK muslims, just like its proud affiliate, the Majlis Tahaffuz Khatme Nabuwwat, AMTKN, a well funded organization which is responsible for Ahmadi persecution worldwide.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra of the MCB, a polite and well-spoken muslim faith leader, spent an hour on the BBC Asian Network trying to explain to the audience what it is that gives him and the MCB the right to say such an absurd thing.

Imam Ibrahim Mogra. Image courtesy
Mogra cites the two fundamentals of Islam, 1) Belief in Allah as the only God and 2) Belief in Muhammad as the final messenger of God.

He says that because Ahmadis do not believe in the finality of the Prophethood of Muhammad and they hold a distinctly unislamic belief in another prophet after him, therefore they cannot be Muslims.

A number of Ahmadi callers to the show refuted the Imam's assertions by stating that almost all muslims are awaiting another prophet to arrive any day now, hence his stance is not only illogical but against the commonly agreed doctrine of the majority of Muslims.

I could go into more details on this fine and nuanced theological debate, but it should be sufficient to say that Ahmadi Muslims believe in a messiah, namely Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian who claimed to have fulfilled the prophecy regarding the awaited prophet. Others however believe that Jesus who is in heavens will descend on a minaret in Damascus and conduct a worldwide holy war against all non-believers.

My point is that whereas shia belief challenges the fundamental concept of prophethood of sunni Islam, and whereas the barelvi practices clearly contravene the fundamental idea of the oneness of God as held by the non-barelvis, both these groups are muslim in the eyes of the MCB. Ahmadi Muslims do not hold any beliefs that cannot be interpreted from the words of Quran and the sayings of the Prophet. Then why display such malice against a persecuted, peaceful minority? 

I know the answer, and it is time that you know it too.

Ahamdiyya Islam has challenged the orthodox establishment in Islamic countries for over a hundred years. Whether it is the concept of violent jihad or the place of science in the muslim society, women's rights or interfaith relations, rejection of political Islamism or the use of modern methods to defend Islam against the missionary onslaught in the colonial days; Ahmadiyya Islam has been winning hearts and minds all around the world. And this does not sit right with the orthodoxy.

The early opponnets of Ahmadiyya Islam were great scholars in their own right. They still hold revered status among the orthodox Muslims today, but most of them accepted the Ahmadi Islam as a part of Muslim polity. They may have declared them 'kafir' in a theological sense, but they did not dare deny them their identity.

It is only when in 1974 Pakistan a Saudi backed conglomerate of mosque and Parliament took the ill-fated step of enforcing jealousy and hatred as a law. Yes, such laws exist. They were jealous of the advances the Ahmadis had made in all spheres of life in Pakistan and abroad. Statesmen, businessmen, scientists, military heroes, diplomats and economists, Ahamdis had proven their true value to the nation and the Muslim world as a whole. In fact, most new converts to Islam were because of the Ahmadiyya missionary work around the world.

After causing hundreds of targetted killings in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, when the same jealousy and hatred spills over to the UK with the scholars and Imams of Pakistani and Bangladeshi origin, people like Asad Shah get murdered in Glasgow.

And the same hatred and jealousy is the cause of such statements to be made which reek of complicity and guilt.

Ahmadi Muslims do not need a certificate of approval of their faith. But as a political entity, Muslims who self-identify as Muslims must stand united, regardless of theological differences. If MCB is failing thousands of Muslims in this country like this, I am happy to join any other council which does what it says on its label.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Bill Maher and 'that' Pew survey

Bill Maher is a well-known TV personality in USA. He is a touring comedian who hosts a regular late-night talk show on HBO. He is a left-wing liberal and is a devout atheist. He loves to berate religion and conservatives in his shows and finds little in common with people of faith. In recent months, Maher has turned his most acerbic wit to criticize Islam.
Maher (center) had a heated argument on his HO show with Ben Affleck (left) on his negative remarks about Islam
 (image courtesy LA times)
His jokes fall flat as I can see through his ignorance of my religion. His opinions are informed by certain Islamophobes who think that they know all there is to know about Islam. They see the Islamic world in turmoil, suicide attacks on the innocent civilians all around the world and a constant stream of negative headlines and deduce that there must be something wrong with the religion.
Maher cites a pew survey very regularly to prove his point. The survey does seem to show some worrying results. In Egypt, 86% of Muslims believe that apostates should be killed. This is also Bill Maher’s favourite statistic.
Pew Survey (2013) 86% of Egyptians think that punishment of apostasy should be death

From a statistical point of view the survey has some merits. With a considerable sample size and a good geographic spread, this survey goes to some lengths to understand the socioeconomic profile of the target demographic. 
From my reading, I can see some flaws in how the data is being presented. For example, when it comes to the controversial topics like the stoning to death of adulterers or apostates, the data is presented as if it represents the views of the same population who responded to the prior questions. The caption on the graph does explain that it represents the answers from only the subset of people who stated that sharia law must be the law of the land.  If recalculated, 86% turns into 63%; still a very high percentage. Who would like to live in a place where more than half of its population is so bigoted? I wouldn’t.
Lets look at some more variables to understand this data. My stance is that indeed Muslims around the world are invariably influenced by the rigid interpretation of Islam exported from Saudi Arabia, but the situation is not as bad as portrayed by the survey.  It is partly due to the fact that the questions were over-simplified and we cannot rule out extreme response bias due to the nature of the survey and the current environment.
Countries scoring very high in the survey for violence and prejudice have been in a state of socio-economic upheaval for a long time. Add to that failing political system, mistrust of the politicians and a constant dose of counter-narrative from the Islamist camp and you are bound to get such poll results.  A survey recently found out that almost 20% of Trump supporters think that slavery should not have been abolished.
This is far more alarming than a politically disenfranchised Egyptian or Pakistani wishing for an ideological state which can never exist.
Results from central Asia, Turkey and most African countries show Muslims to be tolerant and accepting of other faiths. Countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Malaysia are among those showing high numbers in markers for intolerance.
These countries are also very diverse in their ethnic mix, urban and rural make-up of religious groups and how the current political establishment may be impacting the opinions of the common people. Also, if the surveyors had gone to the major urban centers like Lahore, Rawalpindi, Dhaka, Jakarta etc., they may have found highly opinionated responders who are not representative of the opinions found in the wider population.
It is not unlikely that a large proportion of people living in economically deprived areas would hold rather extreme political views. The prevailing political system would dictate how much of that is translated into a real change. Mr. Trump’s disenfranchised white, working class supporters prove that point.
The religion of Islam is undergoing a crisis since the past two centuries. It is the same crisis that the Western world went though and came out of it without a faith. Some say it is a good thing. I disagree.
Some western liberals believe that this problem can be solved by listening to lapsed or ex-Muslims who hold  opinions not to dissimilar to many Islamophobes. I hear them speak about discarding certain verses from the Quran or even accepting the hate filled criticisms of modern orientalists with open hearts.  
Ayan Hirsi Ali, an ex-Muslim and Maher's favourite Islamophobe (image:

It may get them some airtime on an HBO talk show but it means nothing to 1.6 billion Muslims, majority of whom struggle for their daily bread.
In the same survey, a majority of Egyptians and Pakistanis thought their country's economy was in a bad state. Similarly, most responders across the board were dissatisfied with the general state of affairs their country.
To such people religion offers the justice that they deserve in the afterlife. This notion of Sharia law which their local cleric has taught them is nothing but an alternative political system to end all injustice.
The survey also establishes that many Muslims believe that Sharia is a Divinely revealed law with no room for interpretation. They also believe that according to the same law apostate should be killed and adulterers should be stoned to death. 
I see not a single verse in the Quran to support either punishment. In this discrepancy lies the answer to all involved; liberals, lapsed or ex-Muslim intellectuals, Islamophobes and most importantly, the practicing Muslims.  
Intellectual thought in mainstream Islam has been frozen in time and opportunist elements from within and without want to keep it that way. This intellectual leap which would allow Muslims to embrace modernity can only be made through economic welfare and education, both of which impossible without peace.
Modernity does not mean discarding of the fundamental Islamic tenets. It means that educated Muslims will be able to read and understand the Quran themselves, they will be empowered to challenge the clergy, run their own democratic governments,  and cause a peaceful revolution which will be in the best interest of all.  
In the meantime, Bill Maher should worry more about a fascist regime which is about to take over his own country.


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