Some comments from Shiekh Muhammad Amin Evans of the Britslam Partnership regarding a few issues that came up during the AOBM / NUPSA conference, United for Pakistan held on Monday at Portcullis House in Westminster. The Association of British Muslims will shortly be releasing an official statement.
At AoBM’s conference ‘United for Pakistan?’, in the House of Commons yesterday, Deputy High Commissioner Asif Durrani stated that the most common experience of crime for Pakistanis is that perpetrated by near relatives. While this would be a poor reason for not dealing with the extremism, torture and extra-judicial killings that have disabled Pakistan’s society and marred its international reputation it is a valid observation that endorses my own work experience, sharing and implementing shari’ah rulings, of many Pakistani, although not exclusively, families. A functional family unit is the essential building-block of a wholesome society and it is clear that where dysfunctional families abound social order suffers. Even where families are apparently stable the customary use of force and torture are injustices that spread from the shelter of the home to undermine a nation’s social and humanitarian values.
The Islamic model of the family is a structure built with rights, duties and obligations applied to and respected by all its members. It is the nature of this structure that human dignity and status are not merely recognised but also enhanced. Even a servant may become a member of such a household. However, all too often rights and duties are applied selectively and obligations are held to be duties to serve the needs of a rigidly unjust patriarchal family structure dominated by a male-gaze.
Male and female heads of families feel entitled to excessively misuse the limited Islamic right to use corporal punishment, conceived to deter immoral behaviour, as a means to enforce their own sense of importance and interests upon weaker or vulnerable relatives. Children are brainwashed and brow-beaten into believing that such hierarchical and gender based injustice is ‘Islamic’ and acceptable. Thus, in extreme cases, as adults they are coerced into unsuitable marriages, or to maintain loveless or violent marriages, inheritance rights are voided, inter-sibling violence erupts, self-respect is destroyed and with it the respect for law and humanity. Although, these are extreme cases the belief culture that relies upon misinterpretations of Islamic texts and false honour values to spawn them is all too common.
Parents and elder relatives do not have the right to be obeyed absolutely. Parents do have the right to be respected and not treated rudely but this does not extend to their bad guidance being followed or their wrong deeds being praiseworthy. Muslim children should remember that on the last of days they will be called upon to give evidence against themselves and their loved ones. It is our belief that if they have aided and enabled their parents to do wrong, they will all be accountable before a Judge who sees through the cloaks of lies and false honour.
The aim of the conference was to see how British Muslims might help and support our brothers and sisters in and from Pakistan. While we can, and should, talk about a fairer and more prosperous economy to promote peaceful and law-abiding societies free from the threats of corruption and terrorism there is little that we can do as voluntary organisations or as individuals to implement such sound advice. Where we can have an immediate and important effect is in our homes and neighbourhoods by conducting our family affairs according to moral Islamic principles rather than feudal customs, expecting this of our friends and demanding that our governments, like good parents, do the same.
By Imam Abdassamad Clarke
Ihsan Mosque, Norwich
If one, even if only for a moment, refuses to see the patternings that media and its pundits tell us are there, one begins to see others, and when one sees them, one can never again not see them.
It was while watching demonstrations – three in all – outside Downing Street, that it hit me. The young fiercely bearded Islamists, calling for shari’ah law – for heaven’s sake! – calling for shari’ah law outside Downing Street. The image was clear: mostly dark complexioned, with wonderful black beards, very full. The eyes and faces passionate, lit with, with more than excitement.
Across the street, there was a counter-demonstration of young alienated English youth. Shaven heads, shaven faces, full of fury, resplendent with fury. Gesticulating, shouting. Utterly focussed on the young men from the Midlands, Yorkshire and London, whose genes are from Peshawar, Swat and Lahore, and before that from who-knows-where.
Then there was a third group, whose name now escapes me, somehow hoping to claim some middle ground of civil and human rights.
Then it hit me: they are all young people, and they have all been betrayed, so they have nothing better to do than fight each other. This society does not know how to deal with young people, never has and never will. Previously – and people will still say this to you with all seriousness – there used to be the draft, compulsory recruitment into the army, which put some backbone in them, or perhaps sent them home in a coffin, but perhaps not even then before they had sent some other mothers’ sons home in coffins in some far and distant land. And this was our way of teaching some discipline to our young people.
Imam Usama Hasan is not wrong to state that Muslims need to move on from a basic children’s understanding of creation. He has every right to hold the views he does. No amount of disagreement gives anyone the right to issue death threats. Life is a sacred gift from Allah and not something to be taken lightly. We should be thanking Allah for every moment of the lives He’s given us, not threatening the lives of others.
Issuing death threats is completely unacceptable. Islam is a religion that upholds the principles of Law and Universal Human Rights of all human beings. But this new trend of some wayward folk, who seem to think it’s acceptable to threaten or take the lives of others, is a new low that has no place whatsoever in the deen of Islam. Murder is a crime against God and humanity, a crime Muslims have a duty to, where possible, try to prevent, not be the cause of! How far astray have these people gone, that they seem to think it permissible for them to kill or threaten the lives of their brothers and sisters in our human family?
Imam Usama Hasan’s scientific views are not in any way contradictory to Islam, it’s not like he was suggesting we change aspects of the religious practices of Islam or something like that. Even if someone were to do so, the appropriate response would be to discuss the matter with them, not to threaten their life and wellbeing. All Dr Hasan did, was to state a scientific view which he holds, one that is based upon well established scientific enquiry and evidence. The fact that he has been forced to publicly retract his views (which he obviously still holds) brings great shame on the Muslim community, and just shows how far we’ve departed from the ways of our great forerunners from the 13th Century CE. While the West has indisputably developed, largely based on knowledge learned in the Middle Ages from Muslims; it seems that some Muslims have devolved back to a state of ignorance (jahiliyya), far removed from the high academic understanding of truly great scholars of Islam, such as Al-Jahiz, Ibn Sina, Al-Hazen and others like them.
As a person who deeply loves Allah, His Beloved Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and this deen of grace, mercy, reason and understanding that Allah has gifted unto us, I feel compelled to speak out against this ignorance and stand up for people like Imam Usama Hasan, who are simply trying to help Muslims grow in knowledge and understanding, both in terms of their faith and in other areas of learning.
By Imam Abdassamad Clarke
Ihsan Mosque, Norwich
Muslims have been misled by the failed agendas of multiculturalism into making Islam something intrinsically foreign.
Dress is one aspect. The point of dress, for both men and women, is modesty and to cover what ought not to be seen in public. Every race, nation and culture has found something from its indigenous culture that fitted these criteria. Many modern Muslims in the West, on the contrary, see the matter as a cultural one, and that Islam requires a certain cultural style of dress. The result is that in the present climate, in which the most downtrodden, disadvantaged and uneducated segments of our society are being led to believe that the Muslims are the source of all their problems, Muslim women, for example, must endure unremitting hostility as they go about their daily affairs because they have chosen to mark themselves out culturally as belonging to a foreign culture.
Mosque design is another. A mosque is a basically an open space dedicated to worship of Allah. If it is in a cold climate, it probably needs something to keep out the cold. If it is in a hot climate, it needs shady areas to keep out the sun. The old Arab mosques are stylistically and architecturally different from the Persian mosques, which differ from Chinese mosques, which are different from those of the sub-continent’s mosques or Ottoman mosques, which are all different from the great mosque of Jenné. However, in the West, people insist on importing alien styles of architecture that stick out, reinforcing the agenda of ‘multiculturalism’ that Islam is a culture and not a science of thought and how to live one’s life.
All of this has resulted in a heated and hostile response from the indigenous people towards Islam, which they perceive as being cultural, precisely because Muslims present Islam as a cultural matter, as something foreign. Apart from the hurt this causes a great many people, this undermines our fundamental duty which is to summon people to Allah and His Messenger, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, in a rational and meaningful way NOT to one of our many national cultures or a syncretic ‘Islamic’ culture.
As to the token of ‘British’ or ‘European’ Islam which is usually touted by the people least qualified to do so, that momentum is unstoppable, but it is not the issue. No one need design a ‘British’ form of Islam, but rather we must concern ourselves with our deen, and the cultural identity will speak for itself.
Help us save Ehsan’s life – See sample letter below
London – 11 January 2011
A 19-year-old Iranian man is facing imminent execution on charges of attempting to rape another man (sodomy or lavat), even though the allegation was withdrawn by the accuser. There is no evidence that the accused youth is gay.
Ehsan was 17-years-old when he was arrested in late 2008 in Shiraz, in the province of Fars, after a man pressed charges against him and two other youths, alleging that they attempted to rape him.
Under torture that may have lasted over a month, only Ehsan, who is the youngest of the three accused, confessed to the charges. The Fourth Branch of the Criminal Court of Fars province, in Shiraz, found him guilty of lavat and sentenced him to hang. Ehsan has since withdrawn his ‘confession’, saying that it was extracted under torture.”
The execution of Ehsan is opposed by a coalition of Muslim organisations from across the world: the Association of British Muslims (AOBM), Faith Matters, Muslims for Progressive Values (MPV), USA and Canada, Canadian Muslim Union (CMB), Members of The Royal Order of Noor of Buayan, Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW) and el-Tawhid Juma Circle.
“We appeal to the Supreme Leader and Chief Justice of Iran to show mercy by revoking the death sentence and releasing Ehsan. The evidence against Ehsan is weak. The accuser has withdrawn his allegations. It is unIslamic to sentence a person without 100% proof of guilt,” said Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of the Association of British Muslims.
Under Articles 108 to 113 of the Iranian penal code, lavat is proved either if a person confesses four times to having committed sodomy or by the testimony of four righteous men. Neither of these legal conditions have been met. Ehsan confessed only once and under torture. Four righteous men have not testified that they saw him commit sodomy.
Ehsan denied the charges in court in front of the judges. He mentioned that his confession was made under torture.
Furthermore, the alleged victim dropped all charges against all three boys before the trial. One out of the five judges pronounced him not guilty and asked for his immediate release. It appears that the four remaining judges used the clause “judge’s special knowledge”, or allowed the forced confession as sufficient to convict the boy to death. Either way, it seems the trial was grossly flawed.
Ehsan was detained when he was 17, a adolescent, and kept in a juvenile detention centre up until a month ago. Since his execution order was approved by the Supreme Court (Branch Thirteen) he was transferred to Aadel Abaad Jail in Shiraz, where is awaiting execution, which could happen any day now.
Saghi Ghahraman, chair of the Iranian Queer Organisation (IRQO), told the Human Rights and Press Director of the Association Of British Muslims (AOBM), Dan Littauer:
“We should urgently ask the Iranian judicial system to show sympathy to a mere minor who has been falsely accused. Either forgive and release him or have another trial and investigate the evidence more thoroughly.”
“Ehsan’s family is terrified of government and security service reprisals if their family name appears in the media, and so is Ehsan’s lawyer. This is why we are not releasing Ehsan’s full name or the name of his lawyer,” said Ms Ghahraman.
“As has happened in several cases in the past, you don’t need to be gay or lesbian in Iran to be in danger of execution for homosexuality – a simple, unfounded accusation can be enough to see you sentenced to death,” added Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of AOBM.
The Muslim coalition oppose Ehsan’s execution on religious grounds, arguing that the Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) was known as Rahmatulil Alimeen – Mercy unto all the Worlds. Surely, it’s better to follow the example of the Prophet and be merciful…
Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, “…if anyone slays a human being unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all mankind; whereas, if anyone saves a life, it shall be as though he had saved the lives of all mankind…” 5:32 (M. Asad)
This verse highlights the high priority Allah places on the sanctity of human life. Unless there is no doubt whatsoever of a person’s guilt of a very serious crime, no one is granted permission by Allah to take a human life.
In Ehsan’s case, the evidence is extremely tenuous. The Holy Qur’an strongly highlights the importance of justice and being merciful, as did Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib when he said,“God’s verdict is judicious and full of wisdom. His pleasure implies protection and mercy. He decides with knowledge and forgives with forbearance.”. (Sermon 159, Nahjul Balagha)
“And when those who believe in Our messages come unto thee, say: ‘Peace be upon you. Your Sustainer has willed upon Himself the law of grace and mercy – so that if any of you does a bad deed out of ignorance, and thereafter repents and lives righteously, He shall be [found] much-forgiving, a dispenser of grace.’” Holy Qur’an 6:54 (M. Asad)
Further information: Dan Littauer, Human Rights and Press Director of the Association of British Muslims, email@example.com +44 207 193 3125 Skype: aobritishmuslims