Fish & chips, religion & cartoons.

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Arry & Ching – Westfields Shopping Centre, Stratford, London.

Lifting The Veil

“Twelve Muslim women discuss what it means to wear the headscarf, and why they decided to stop wearing it in public. Many now wear it only during prayers.”

http://www.npr.org/2011/04/21/135413427/lifting-the-veil

Neo-Nazi Me

I’d just got used to being called an ‘Islamofascist’ by EDL but this one might take a bit longer getting my head around. I’m now…… 

far-right!

 
 
“Far right, extreme right, hard right, radical right, and ultra-right are terms used to discuss the qualitative or quantitative position a group or person occupies within right-wing politics. The terms are often used to imply that someone is an extremist.
 
Far right politics usually involve supremacism — a belief that superiority and inferiority is an innate reality between individuals and groups — and a complete rejection of the concept of social equality as a norm. Far right politics often support segregation; the separation of groups deemed to be superior from groups deemed to be inferior.  The ideologies usually associated with the far right include fascism, Nazism and other ultra-nationalist, religiously extreme or reactionary ideologies”
 
Why am I far-right?  Who says so?  ‘LatteLabour’ says so.  Who is ‘LatteLabour’?  I don’t really know but here is the piece where I am told I am now ‘far-right’:
.

The far-right in East London (again)

“The far-right tactic of ‘anti-Islamism’ coupled with a professed concern for gay rights will not be news to readers of this blog. Over the course of several posts (here, here, and here), Latte Labour reported on crossover between the English Defence League (EDL) and the cancelled East End ‘Gay Pride’ march.

Sadly the case isn’t an isolated one. The group NiceOnesUK, described here, conceals a general attack on Muslims beneath a rhetoric of opposition to ‘militant Islam’. They share this feature with the EDL, several former members of which are involved in NiceOnes”

Well for one, I’m obviously Muslim and one of the Muslims who were there at NiceOnes’ inception.

Two – I wouldn’t want to belong to any group that “conceals a general attack on Muslims beneath a rhetoric of opposition to ‘militant Islam”. I don’t particularly want to attack myself.

Three – I support gay rights, gay marriage and the freedom for homosexuals to express their sexuality in public in the same way that heterosexuals are allowed to.

As for being labelled ‘far-right’, according to the Wikipedia article above I seem to have entered a topsy turvy world where everything I once ‘stood against’ has now turned into what I ‘stand for’. Where I was once against ‘extremists’ I now find that I am one myself. Where I used to be against supremacism, I’m now for it. I was once against segregation, I’m now championing it. I’m also a ‘fascist’, ‘Nazi’ and an ‘ultra-nationalist’. Wow I’ve been busy.

The new neo-Nazi me may take some time getting used to so please bear with me.

  

Muslims have their own views too!

Something that I have noticed over the last few months is that for some reason, too many people seem to think being Muslim dictates what your political views should be.  Funnily enough this view comes as much from non-Muslims as Muslims, who seem to see us as some vulnerable little group in need of protecting and defending.  As much as people would like to reject this idea, there is a problem within the Muslim community that I as a Muslim am perfectly aware of. When we have ‘scholars’ invited into this country to lecture us (scholars who call for the execution of Muslims who challenge commonly held ‘Islamic’ beliefs, scholars who tell men it is their right to beat their wives, who tell women our job is to obey our husbands) then to deny there is a problem is hideous and quite dangerous. 

Furthermore, Muslims are no more easily manipulated than the rest of society. Not all Muslims will fit into anyone’s narrow little category of what a Muslim should do or should believe.  I personally have changed my views over recent times because I’m absolutely sick of Muslims being able to get away seemingly unchallenged with saying things that no other section of society would be able to. Whereas in the past I’ve been yet another one of these people who has constantly tried to defend Islam and Muslims, it got to the point where I couldn’t continue to do so anymore.  The views of many Muslims in this country disgust me; mainly views towards homosexuals, women and non-Muslims, and I know of people who have become Muslim but subsequently left the religion because of this.  To suggest Muslims’ views could be changed because they have been ‘brainwashed’ by anyone is highly patronising.

When I walk down the street in Whitechapel and am verbally attacked by Muslims because of what I’m wearing (deemed not to be shariah-compliant) then yes I do see a problem, just as I see a problem when a scholar who discusses evolution has death threats and vicious campaigns made against him. It’s experiences that shape my beliefs, and the experiences that I have as a Muslim woman enable me to make my own decisions about what I see as a problem in this country. If you don’t want to tackle hate coming from Muslims and want to focus on other sections of society, great. But there are those within this country, Muslim as well as non-Muslim, who do want to tackle this.

Later on this month we have the Tayyibun conference. A conference where we have invited to speak scholars who have quite abhorrent views that have no place in a healthy society. It’s about time our government stopped letting these people in to spread their views, and as somebody who doesn’t find wife-beating  acceptable and who doesn’t want somebody killed for writing freely or expressing their opinions, it’s something that worries me greatly. Why is it that Muslims think it’s acceptable to go and listen to these types of people? Unless Muslims start taking a big enough stand against these people, hatred towards Muslims isn’t going to stop anytime soon and in reality we are as much to blame for anti-Muslim bigotry as anyone else.

So for  those who deny there is a problem, instead of mocking Muslims who don’t agree with your dismissive stance perhaps accept that as people living this, we know what we’re talking about.

A brilliant and inspirational speech by Usama Hasan

After the thoroughly depressing read of the chauvinist attitudes at CallToIslam, this is a refreshing and inspirational speech given by Usama Hasan at the Inspire conference, “Muslim Women: Pioneering Change in 21st Century Britain”

In addressing women’s issues in today’s society, Hasan firstly points out how with the constant obsession (but not debate) over the obligation of the hijab and level of covering, we have managed to reduce Muslim women merely to what we wear on our heads. Later on in the speech it is pointed out that regarding covering up, the need is to “dress modestly, that’s the holistic reading of it…I put it to you that in this society and in most societies, most women do dress modestly..especially in this cold weather!”  This is the kind of language and understanding we expect from Muslims who know and live in our society. This idea that Western women all go out near-naked is so wrong and offensive, it makes you wonder what planet the other so-called scholars are living on, and is no different to the stereotyping of Muslim women by other people who lack knowledge. With his own understanding of extremism, himself declaring he had been down a radical path before, he attributes “hardline teaching, that women with their hair uncovered are naked according to shariah” to the odd views of young men who go out thinking “this is all haram, it’s all kufr, it’s all fitna, with all these naked women everywhere”. Hasan rightly blasts this as “just nonsense!”, from people stuck in the past.

He also raises the issue of restrictions placed on women in mosques, highlighting the fact that there were no physical barriers or separate entrances for men and women in the Prophet’s mosque in his time, something that is commonly found in mosques in Britain today. Although, he states, the women prayed towards the back, they were still fully able to see and be seen by the imam, and he narrated an amusing story about some companions of the Prophet who would pray near the back rows so that they could steal glances at some of the pretty women in the front row. That’s probably something you wouldn’t hear from many of those who claim to follow the Prophet and his companions so rigidly today, yet it shows that even the best of people can appreciate the beauty of women without trying to abuse or control it.

The subjects of women leaders and female warriors were also brought up, in contrast to the many teachings we seem to hear today telling women our place is in the home and that we have no place in public life, let alone in politics. Despite the outrage found in many circles over the novel “Jewel of Medina” (many of whom never bothered to read it before commenting) Hasan describes how he actually found some parts of the novel very moving, yet also calmly criticised the passages he found highly offensive. He laments how the debate within Islam has been stifled, whereas it was much more open in the past. He uses the example of Ibn Hazm, in his discussion on prophethood, who believed that Mary was a prophet /prophetess, saying “It just shows, the fact that he could say that and feel empowered to say that says a lot about Islamic tradition and discourse throughout the centuries. It used to be at a much higher level than it is now”.

In addressing the traditional teachings that are still found in most mosques, Islamic centres, and universities, where women are “restricted largely to the home, their role, must cover from head to toe in public”, he asserts that we “desperately need to raise our level of discussion of shariah” instead of sticking to these restrictions that have been unjustly placed on women in modern times. There is no obligation for women to stay in their homes, he states, giving the example of Aisha (ra) leading her army miles outside of Medina to deal with a pressing political issue. This is a woman who knew these Koranic verses more than anybody else!

Hasan goes on to say that the word shariah is misunderstood by Muslims and others. After discussing what the shariah is really about, he states that “we, Western Muslims, are actually so comfortable in the West because we connect to a shared legacy…or a tradition of these universal values about law and civilised behaviour”. How nice to listen to somebody who refuses to buy into the ‘clash of civilisations’ rubbish!

Whereas many people assume the shariah is a set of unchanging rules and laws, Hasan insists that one of the fundamental principles of shariah is that “fatwas and legal rulings not only can, but must change according to time, place and context”. He quotes Ibn al Qayyim, who believed ‘a jurist must know the context. If they are ignorant of the reality of society and the environment etc. they are prohibited from passing fatwas, giving rulings’…and states that “it is because so many fatwas are given out of context that we have so many problems”

“…a magnificent quote again from Ibn al Qayyim”, relates Hasan, “He said ‘What is Islamic law all about? It is about wisdom and welfare; it is about justice, mercy, wisdom and goodness…therefore anything which replaces those four with their opposites…is nothing to do with Islamic law, with shariah…It doesn’t matter how many verses or hadith you quote in favour of nonsense”

Hasan endorses the view that “[Traditional teachings of women] should be seen as the beginning of a process of liberation of women, not of a fixed standpoint“, and compares it to the process of freeing slaves. The Koran does not explicitly prohibit slavery, but starts off the process by encouraging people to and in cases demanding people free slaves. The end result being the abolition of slavery. The same principle should be followed regarding the emancipation of women.  

Regarding the issue of female witnesses, we hear that we should actually be concerned with whether a witness is trustworthy or not, not about whether they are male or female. This is a subject that is quite important to me, given the negative response by some Muslim organisations towards the new ‘Muslim Marriage Contract’ (although not related to this discussion, something I will blog in the near future) as it does not require the witnesses to be either male or Muslim.

Hasan then touches on the topic of women as inheritors, commenting that “the inheritance share is related to the patriarchal societies where the men were the breadwinners all the time, and it made sense. That is the usual apologetic defence you get. But remember in Arabia when that verse was revealed women were actually inherited… They were being inherited, with the verse of the Koran there [quotes 4:19], which forbade that. It was a revolutionary step to stop women being inherited as possessions and property and actually make them inheritors.”

Ending the speech, we are told that we need to encourage our women and our men to fulfill their potential in any field, “especially in societies like Britain where we have tremendous opportunities.”

CallToIslam? More like RunFromIslam!

Going by the name of ‘CallToIslam’, you would expect this group of people to be a leading example for Muslims in Britain, showing the beauty of the religion rather than using it as a tool to slander people and attempt to discredit them. CallToIslam is the website of “Masjid Ghuraba Islamic Centre”, not to be confused with Call2Islam, the group behind the Belgian embassy protests.  On their website they making the following claim:

“This website by the permission of Allaah, is a humble response to our realisation of a great responsibility:

to help produce for the Muslim and non-Muslim public, materials that convey the pure message of Islam in the way that it was understood and practiced by its early righteous pioneers – the sahaabah (Companions of the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam)) and their true followers.”

All I can say to that is if they really do convey the true message of Islam, I’d be the first to walk away! Following Saira Khan’s article describing her views on the niqab, CallToIslam wrote their response.  While CallToIslam and Saira Khan are both within their rights to have their own different views, that CallToIslam describe themselves as pioneers of the “pure message of Islam” means we, as Muslims, have every right to speak out and say they absolutely do not represent any form of Islam that we recognise and love.

Most people in this country would be pretty disgusted with their reply to the so-called ‘disturbing’ article. They share some extremely worrying views and although I myself don’t particularly agree with the original article, I fully support Saira Khan’s right to speak her own mind. Instead of writing a balanced reply, explaining fairly the parts they disagreed with, they chose to resort to attacks on Western society and promote their awfully sexist views, going out on the attack against a woman with the audacity to speak her own mind.

I first take issue with this comment:

“What could cause a Muslim to stand in the trenches of a people who have declared war on the core values of our beautiful religion?”

There is absolutely no need for the war-talk or use of such hyperbolic language. As a Muslim I don’t feel under attack, and I don’t feel my religion is under attack. The only people I do see constantly attack anybody brave enough to have a different opinion and share it are the likes of extremists such as CallToIslam, as their response proves. Yes, the media doesn’t help in trying to see Islam and Muslims represented fairly, but newspapers have no duty to do this; they are merely there to be sold and to make money. 

I also take issue with the following comment:

“Do the words ‘As a British Muslim woman’ provide us with an initial clue to where some of Khan’s loyalties lie?”

Are they suggesting there is a problem with having loyalty to one’s country? Are they suggesting it’s not possible to be British and Muslim at the same time? Their later comment would suggest so: “How can any Muslim declare “I’m totally English, more English than the English” and not expect to find themselves standing in opposition to the teachings of Islam”. Now that declaration that it is impossible to be both English and Muslim sounds just like something the BNP would come out with. It just goes to show how simliar all extremists really are! Who on earth are they to decide she cannot be classified as a Muslim? Equally ridiculous is their claim that Khan has “taken up verbal arms against Islam”. Khan identifies herself as Muslim, it is not their job to decide whether she is one or not purely because her views differ from theirs. Neither is it their job to tell the rest of us if we are to be Muslims we cannot identify or hold any loyalty towards our country. If they don’t want to be part of this country and this society they are most welcome to leave.

As self-appointed experts on Islam, I would question why they seem to equate being white with being non-Muslim, as in their stating Khan is a woman “who has been divorced (as it were) from Muslims who live by Islam and has entrenched herself within the white non-Muslim arena”. As a white Muslim, I’d like to know where they think I fit in. Perhaps they have forgotten that Islam is a religion that has no colour or race, it belongs to each and every person.

They seem to be yet another group of people who have objections to women making their own decisions, as they show when expressing their dislike of Khan’s mother’s own decision to ‘fit into’ British society after making their decision to move here:

“The first baffling thought that comes to mind is how she considers her mother’s voluntary assimilation as a virtuous, admirable trait, despite it being at odds with a sharia’ based principle. So is there really no “fuss” in going out of one’s way to adapt ones dress to resemble the Kuffar? “

I would hazard a guess that the ‘voluntary’ part annoyed them slightly! I cannot see how it is at odds with Islam to mix in with the community you choose to live amongst. To stereotype all non-Muslims in such a way is distasteful and disrespectful, and ignores the fact that there is no ‘one’ type of clothing that non-Muslims wear. In fact was the headscarf not worn by Jewish women prior to Islam coming about?! The robes that these men most probably wear were worn by all Arabs, not solely Muslims, as they are still today. If they have such a dislike for non-Muslims, I strongly suggest they move to a Muslim-majority country. Though they may find their right to speak out and have their own views heard slightly stifled, freedom of speech not being a respected right in many of those countries as it is here! Quite how they manage to equate a woman’s choice to choose how she dresses as siding with enemies in a time of war, I don’t know. To quote “… And if any amongst you takes them [Jews and Christians] as Awliya’ [friends, helpers]), then surely, he is one of them…”” is a desperate attempt to twist Islamic teachings to fit their oppressive views.   

It’s clear from the sources they provide that they believe a woman should be completely covered, as shown in their link to “An Essay on the Hijab by Shaykh Muhammad bin Salih al-‘Uthaymeen – The Obligation of the Veiling the Hands and Face”.  Though they are entitled to their views, they should also have the decency to let other people make up their own minds, and should have the humility to realise that theirs is not the only authentic view.

Weirdly enough, for a group of people living in Britain they seem to have no difficulty in sourcing ‘proofs’ that have such animosity towards the West. Here they are again picking up on the use of the words ‘British’ and ‘Muslim’ together:

“We are  given the impression here that Khan has a problem with the ‘burkha’ because ‘it is an imported Saudia Arabian tradition’. This leads us to believe that she just hates it because it is an imported item and not a native custom or tradition. However, when we skip back to the start of her sentence, she tells us that she doesn’t mind her ‘British’ (that word again!) “Muslim friends covering…”

In an attempt to patronise and humiliate Khan for daring to speak her mind and expect to be treated as an equal to men, they go on to accuse of her having issues with her gender!

“Khan tells us in her own words: “I think I am a strong person and I am equal to any man out there.” Which translates psychologically as: “I have a gender complexity.”

I would suggest men who are afraid of women speaking their own minds and making their own decisions are the ones with gender inferiority issues. They go on to prove their point that to be British and support and uphold British values of gender equality and free-mixing are at odds with being Muslim:

“If you are a zealous supporter of unconditional gender equality, free-mixing and other concepts and ideals which are at odds with the teachings of Islam, then of course the niqab, and many other aspects of Islam, will become direct obstacles in your pursuit to attain what your heart yearns and longs for.”

They act as if they are defending women’s choice to veil, but they in no way actually support women’s rights. They only ‘support’ women who conform to their own ways- that is not what I call support.  Their patronising attitude towards Muslim women and their warped idea of the Western lifestyle is exemplified by them suggesting a Muslim woman can be “deceived into believing her potential life is obstructed because she lacks the freedoms of western women”

Their response is littered with derogatory stereotyping, insults and anti-Western views, including:

“So we say to Sarkozy and his ilk: We do not take advice from those whose own kith and kin consist of infected AIDS victims, prostitutes and those who sell their bodies for money and fashion”

 “…let us provide Khan with the honour of good suspicion and move on the premise that she sincerely believes that Islam and western ideals are synonymous.”

“It means the man is in charge of the woman; he is her leader, the ruler over her who disciplines her if she goes astray.”  “Because Allah has made one of them to excel the other” means, because men are superior to woman, and a man is better than a woman.”

Perhaps the women who are involved with people like CallToIslam should have a little think about their disgusting views towards women. Despite the numerous Koranic quotes showing the equal status of men and women in God’s eyes, these chauvinist pigs think they know better. If they espoused the same views against black people as they do against women, they would be rightly condemned. Try swapping the word ‘woman’ for any other group and see how acceptable it looks. That some women stand side by side with them is really quite shameful, and extremely worrying. CallToIslam go on about how Islam liberates and honours women, quite how they think their views are liberating is beyond me!

“Here we should note that there are some people who speak of ‘equality’ instead of ‘justice’, and this is a mistake. We should not say equality, because “equality” implies no differentiation between the two”

Nobody believes there is no difference between men and women, but we all believe men and women should be treated equally as human beings, something CallToIslam cannot seem to get their heads around.

“Let us get this straight: we must ban a practise which stems back over 1400 years because it violates human-rights dictated by a people who are the leaders in shirk, kufr, pornography, interest, alcohol, smoking, homosexuality and every other illicit evil” 

Since when was what consenting adults do in the privacy of their own bedrooms anything to do with anybody else? To be concerned with the so-called ‘evil’ of homosexuality when this group of people (CallToIslam) espouse truly abhorrent and hateful views towards so many sections of our society is ridiculous.

For people living in a majority non-Muslim society they yet again show their dislike of anything non-Muslim, and seem frustrated that Muslim women are looking outside of the Muslim community for help in getting our voices heard. That a woman has the “sheer audacity to use a non-Muslim newspaper” seriously seems to bother them. Tough.

CallToIslam have also got their knickers in a twist over Khan’s so-called “desperation for Muslims to integrate and incorporate the ways of a people, which contradict the ethos of Islam”.  If they don’t want to integrate, they can, and should, leave.

I think this little gem really sums up the total idiocy of CallToIslam:

“… obedience of the Muslim woman to the Muslim man is in fact obedience to Allah and His Messenger…”

Since when were men Gods??