VoxAfrica Hotseat: 25.05.2012
Guests, listed anticlockwise from front-left of studio:
Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director, The Association of British Muslims (AOBM)
Carlos Cortiglia, Press Officer, British National Party (BNP)
Tommy Robinson, Leader of the English Defence League (EDL)
Abdullah Al Andalusi, Co-Founder, Muslim Debate Initiative (MDI)
As Muslims, we shouldn’t be afraid of Christmas or any other festival. Nowhere in the Holy Qur’an is wishing people a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah or even a Happy Diwali declared haram (forbidden) – it’s just not there, if you don’t believe me, study your Qur’an, please don’t just take my word for it!
While the Qur’an does question certain beliefs that many Christians may hold, it doesn’t forbid wishing people a Merry Christmas or even joining in with some of the festivities, like having a halal Christmas dinner. To suggest otherwise and go around telling other people these are haram is to be a cause of fitnah. This type of behaviour is itself biddah too, as we should lead through example (like our Prophet, peace be upon him), not through bullying people! If we followed this approach like Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and his noble companions, may Allah reward them, we would develop ourselves more and build a better more friendly and supportive community.
“And strive hard in God’s cause with all the striving that is due to Him: it is He who has elected you [to carry His message], and has laid no hardship on you in [anything that pertains to] religion…”
- Holy Qur’an 22:78 (M. Asad)
The mullahs who promote the idea that Christmas is haram, are the very same people responsible for the lack of development within the Muslim community and traditionally Muslim nations. Not only are they opposed to Christmas, but many things characteristic of our present time. Labelling everything ‘haram’ will get us nowhere, and indeed will only tie us all up in knots, preventing us from doing anything really useful with our lives. Very few things were declared haram by the Holy Qur’an or by our Prophet, peace be upon him, and those that were (e.g. murder, stealing, the consumption of alcohol and pork etc.), are mostly common sense, as they’re harmful to us, or to our brothers and sisters in our human family.
“And thus have We willed you to be a community of the middle way…”
- Holy Qur’an 2:143 (M. Asad)
What we need to cultivate, is a more constructive attitude, be less judge-mental, study more, develop ourselves and our critical reasoning skills. We should not be taking mullahs as our idols! Real scholars do not seek to be worshipped, but seek only to learn, develop themselves and help others to do the same. Real scholars do not seek to manipulate and control people as sadly many mullahs are doing today.
Let’s leave these mullahs and strive to understand the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of our Prophet, peace be upon him, and to implement them in our own lives. In the process, we will develop a new generation of true scholars and professionals in all fields, who will take a genuine interpretation of Islam and the Muslim community from strength to strength, forward, working towards building a better future for all humankind!
The Right Hon Mrs Theresa May MP
HM Secretary of State for the Home Department
House of Commons
1 Parliament Square
London SW1A 0AA
2 August 2011 / 1 Ramadan 1432
Dear Home Secretary,
Pastor the Rev Dr John Charles Hagee
I’m sure that by now you are aware of the intended visit of the above controversial American cleric to a “Rally and Prophecy Conference” to be held at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham, between 18 and 20 August (which will just happen to coincide with 17 and 19 Ramadan this year).
Dr Hagee has come in for considerable criticism within the USA from the American Jewish communities for his expressed anti-semitism, as summarised by the website Jews on First!:
“Hagee declares that Hitler was “part Jewish.” He says that Jews attribute special healing powers to the “spittle” of their first-born sons. He repeats anti-semitic canards about Jewish control of the financial system.” (http://www.jewsonfirst.org/audio-video/Display5.aspx?id=5149)
His Christian theology has raised considerable concern among respected and mainstream British Christian religious, such as the late Rev Dr John Stott (Rector Emeritus of All Soul’s, Langham Place, London), Rev Dr Stephen Sizer (vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, himself who has described it as “dangerous fantasies”.
I believe that it was because of such anti-semitic views as are causing concern among American Jews that you excluded the Indian cleric Dr Zakir Naik in June 2010; and recently took action against Shaykh Raed Salah, leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, on the complaint of Mr Michael Freer MP, member for East Finchley, although the Israeli authorities have not found him guilty of this.
In the context of the detention of Shaykh Raed Salah you recently stated, “I will seek to exclude an individual if I consider that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good, and the government makes no apologies for refusing people access to the UK if we believe that they might seek to undermine our society.”
Dr Hagee also has a track record of consistently maligning and excoriating Islam, Muslims in general, and the Prophet Muhammad in particular. It would appear – although that is far from clear, as yet – that the Norwegian gunman, Anders Behring Breivik, was influenced by the Evangelicalism of Dr Hagee and other such peddlers of Islamophobia.
Given that this proposed Conference in Birmingham will take place in the middle of Ramadan in a city with a large polyethnic population, not a few of whom are Muslims, we in the Association of British Muslims would respectfully request that you issue an Exclusion Order for Dr Hagee.
Amir of the Association of British Muslims
By Sheikh Daoud Rosser-Owen
Glenn Beck, the former Fox News broadcaster and Tea Party favourite, has compared those who were massacred on the Norwegian island of Utøya to the Nazi party’s youth wing.
“There was a shooting at a political camp, which sounds a little like the Hitler youth, or, whatever. I mean, who does a camp for kids that’s all about politics. Disturbing,” said Mr Beck on his radio show.
These are disgraceful and condemnable comments calling into question the position of Mr Beck, The Tea Party and similar individuals and movements and their role in radicalising individuals and groups such as Anders Breivik and the EDL in Europe as well as individuals in the United States who subcribe to similar views.
The Association of British Muslims stands in solidarity with the suffering of the Norwegian people and we condemn the comments by Glenn Beck. However it must be noted, his latest comments about the “disturbing” nature of political youth camps may come as a surprise to Beck’s followers in the Tea Party movement:
The anti-tax, anti-immigration movement has been holding summer camps in states including Florida and Missouri where children have been taught a curriculum based on God, the US constitution and “the defence of economic liberty.”
These deeply offensive remarks by Mr Beck are insensitive and wrong. However they do serve to highlight the nature of the religious extremists who call themselves ‘Christians’ who appear to have taken over the American ‘Tea Party’ movement. One of them, ‘Pastor’ Pat Robertson, on today’s (Tuesday, 26 July 2011) edition of the Christian Broadcast Network’s ’700 Club’ went so far as to use the events in Oslo and at Utøya as yet another opportunity to attack The Tea Party’s favourite bogeyman – Muslims and Islam!
Mr Beck and Pastor Robertson are, however, only two of a coterie of the increasingly powerful American “Christian” fascist movement, who peddle a distorted and inaccurate picture of Islam and Muslims, whipping up sectarian hate in the process.
Another of their number is Pastor John Hagee of Cornerstone Church, San Antonio, Texas who is a frequent guest on Mr Beck’s show.
It is of concern that ‘Pastor’ Hagee is scheduled to attend a rally here in United Kingdom, on 22 and 23 August this year. Given the nature of the rabble-rousing content of his preaching and the inflammatory effect that it has, it would be singularly inappropriate for this preacher to be allowed into the United Kingdom during the middle of the month of Ramadan and to have free access to a public platform in Birmingham, a city with a very large multi-cultural and multi-religious population.
We call on The Rt Hon Theresa May, HM The Home Secretary, in her power to issue an Exclusion Order for Mr Hagee, in the same way that she has done for other extremist hate preachers, in the public interest.
It is not for us to question the Christian theology of the beliefs of such as Robertson, Hagee, and Beck, although we have our views based on our own study and knowledge of the Christian texts, but for the mainstream churches to do so. There are two Established Churches in the United Kingdom – the Church of England and the (Presbyterian) Church of Scotland. It is really up to them to call these people back to Christ.
“And do not take any human being’s life – [the life] which God has willed to be sacred – otherwise than in [the pursuit of] justice. Hence, if anyone has been slain wrongfully, We have empowered the defender of his rights [to exact a just retribution]; but even so, let him not exceed the bounds of equity in [retributive] killing. [And as for him who has been slain wrongfully -] behold, he is indeed succoured [by God]!”
- Holy Qur’an 17:33 (M. Asad)
We pray the injured victims of yesterday’s terrorist attacks make a complete recovery to good health. May those who lost their lives rest in peace. At present, police investigations are still taking place, no one can say with 100% certainty who is behind these attacks. However, whatever the situation in Kashmir or elsewhere, the killing of civilians is never in any way an appropriate means of addressing grievances. The victims of yesterday’s attacks are not responsible for anything which is happening in Kashmir, they were just ordinary people going about their daily lives.
The Association of British Muslims stands in solidarity with all those who are suffering from this scourge of violence and terrorism affecting many peoples and countries around the world. The real jihad is not surrendering to violence, fear and injustice, but rather establishing instead, peace, integrity and real justice.
Conference at Portcullis House, Westminster, 13th June 2011
The function was chaired by Sheikh Daoud Rosser-Owen, Amir of the Association of British Muslims (AOBM) the focus of which was to support Pakistani students and youth activists in both in Pakistan and the United Kingdom to help the people of Pakistan.
Mr Abu Bakr Carberry said that it is essential that the Muslim community develop its ability to utilise economic and political power with the UK, ensuring that there is a wider distribution of power within the U.K. He also insisted that it is important that the Muslim community use that power to ensure that they champion the needs of all deprived groups. He argued that economic and political marginalisation is the driver of extremism in a variety of communities.
The Association of British Muslims is working with a diverse range of contacts and is in the process of making a strategic think tank for exercising political, economic influence and reach out to the corridors of powers both in the United Kingdom and overseas.
Mr Paul Salahuddin Armstrong, Co-Director of AOBM stated, “The world has become a global village, it would be wrong therefore, to think that we will not be affected by some trouble erupting in some other country. For example, the current economic crisis highlighted, what effects one effects us all”.
President of the National Union of Pakistani Students and Alumni (NUPSA) Mr Hussain Ali said they were working for the welfare of Pakistani students to raise positive image of Pakistan. “Our basic aim is to change the negative image of Pakistan through our positive activities. We go to different universities under the ‘Pehchan Programme’ as we have to teach our youth how they could play their role in bringing about a positive change in the system. Youth need to be empowered to benefit from their talents”.
Further Mr Ali said seminars and conferences are arranged from the organisation’s platform both in the United Kingdom and Pakistan. The PYLC (Pakistan Young Leaders’ Conference) has been held for the last two years to provide opportunities for students to interact and exchange views and to hear and question politicians directly. Issues are debated and their possible solutions are discussed.
The Vice President of NUPSA, Mr Ahmed Khan Yousufzai stated, “Pakistani youth have always proved that they can achieve anything they want with their determination. Youth were the vanguard of the Pakistan movement. Youth of today want supremacy of constitution and stable democracy.”
In responding to the panel: His Excellency Asif Durrani, Pakistan’s Deputy High Commissioner to the UK stated, “Pakistan is not responsible for extremism and radicalisation in Britain, whereas the fact remains that people of diverse schools of thought had sought political asylum in this country. They enjoyed complete freedom to preach their religious ideologies and thoughts. Mr Durrani further said, “Hizb-Ut-Tahrir in Pakistan is banned, but here in the UK its members are propagating their ideas unchecked”. Mr Durrani emphasised that he supports the freedom of expression, but “The British need to know these are the causes of spreading extremism and such ideology unchallenged, is working as breeding ground for extremism that affects Pakistan and other parts of the world” he said, “One should check his own home before raising fingers at others”.
Further The Deputy High Commissioner for Pakistan mentioned that the Middle East crisis should be resolved to frustrate Al-Qaeda further but no serious step is being taken in this direction. He asked British Muslims to press Her Majesty’s Government to resolve Middle East crisis. He said Pakistan is suffering from the wounds of its past. “We did not invite Russia to invade Afghanistan, nor did the Afghan refugees come to Pakistan at our will, “Instead of criticising we should pay attention to these social problems and find their solutions”.
Dr Khurshid Ahmed said, “Instead of holding one another responsible for extremism, there needs to be a stronger focus on empowering the youth and students to bring about educational revolution.” He maintained, “Efforts should be made through think tanks against polarisation and to address youth issues”. He implored the youth, instead of dreaming for basic changes, they should be the change they so desire.
NUPSA Under Pechan Pakistan Programme 24 universities have been visited and meetings held with their students. This year under ‘Bashaoor Pakistan programme’ schools in deprived areas of Pakistan will be visited and the students would be given information about civic responsibilities, political system and importance of vote.
The purpose of this conference was to show that British Muslims stand with the People of Pakistan – especially the youth and students in their desire for a positive, prosperous future and that we will share our knowledge, skills, education.