Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Tommy met Mo

I've just reviewed the recently broadcast BBC "documentary" entitled "Quitting the English Defence League: When Tommy met Mo" about Tommy Robinson, the ex-leader of the English Defence League (EDL), engaging with a Muslim from Luton, Mohamed Ansar (Mo), and eventually joining up with the Quilliam Foundation, that self-proclaimed "moderate Muslim" think tank set up by the Conservative Party as part of their Prevent strategy which would make Abdullah Quilliam, an early British Muslim convert with rather radical views, turn in his grave. I think Tommy found a suitable home, because he can continue undermining Islam there without having to be tainted with the brush of racism.

The BBC production was the typical set-up of false dialectics where you get two allegedly opposing views, in this case anti-Islam and "moderate", "reformed" half-baked apologetic Islam shadow boxing to confuse the viewer since it matters little who wins: both agree that Islamic extremism must be eradicated and then proceed to push all of mainstream Islam under that label unnoticed by the not-so-observant viewer. It reminds me of one of the broadsheet newspaper articles back in the late 1980s commenting on the campaign I then led for the recognition of Muslim schools, which stated that in the Yorkshire community the Muslim school in focus was located, most were "Muslim fundamentalists: they pray five times a day". In other words, to be a moderate Muslim, you must not be a practicing Muslim but renounce the validity of Islam as more than just a relic of inherited culture.

The only real Muslims in the film set were Mo Ansar and Salma Yaqoob (of the Respect Party), and sadly even Mo, a well-intended ordinary Muslim representing no-one but himself had been compromised during the programme to pay homage to the new religion of heterophobia by stating he had fought countless years for gay rights. I will come to that later.

To help Mo in informing Tommy about Islam and Muslim, the BBC engaged a number of so-called scholars. I won't waste my time talking much more about Tom Holland, brought to fame or disrepute, depending on how one looks at it, by his Channel 4 "documentary" (Islam: The untold story) where he managed to conclude that the historical Muhammad might not really have existed, because when he looked for him in all the places where he had never been, he could, unsurprisingly, find no evidence of him there. But I am utterly disappointed by the equally appalling display of ignorance of the Muslim apologists the BBC managed to include in its line-up of "scholars", amongst them Usama Hassan, Ibrahim Mogra, Maajid Nawaz and Mohammed Shafiq. Like sheep led to slaughter they all take the bait (or the pay cheque) of responding to the tired worn-out polemical questions by which Islam is intended to be discredited with a chorus of relativism, chiefly that Islam must be seen in its historical context, in other words, what was valid at the time of its revelation does no longer hold true today and must be "moderated" by the superior insights of modern Western secular "scientific" examination. The Qur'an, according to this view, is in need of re-interpretation in order to reform an Islam not fit for the modern age.

The key attack on Islam comes, as usual, from the Western obsession with sexuality which looks for deviant practices in the exotic Muslim societies for the gratification of its own wild phantasies. Nothing much has changed from when the first Western travellers to the Ottoman empire came back with imagined drawings of hammams or harems full of exaggerated libido. Until today, the veil is the one Islamic emblem which excites its Western adversaries the most.

So here is Tommy "competently" quoting from the Qur'an to make his point that Islam permits "sexual slaves" and thus encourages the grooming of white under-aged girls by Asian Muslims. The verse in question is verse 3 of Surah 4, An-Nisa' (Women): "And if you fear that you cannot do justice to the orphans, then marry from the women permitted to you, two, three and four, and if you fear that you cannot be fair, then one or one who is in your possession, that is closer to you avoiding transgression." (my own translation). And none of our alleged scholars seems to ever have bothered to either read the verse in full or consult any one of the classical books of Tafsir (Qur'anic exegesis). Yes, the verse mentions those "in your possession" or slave girls, but it does not give licence to have illicit sex with them, it merely permits to marry from amongst them (and thereby setting them free from slavery!). In other words, it advises Muslims that if they cannot afford to marry someone of their own status and do justice to them, there is nothing wrong with marrying from amongst those lower in status within society. Verse 25 of the same Surah gives a more detailed account of the same injunction, leaving absolutely no room for misinterpretation: "And who amongst you does not have the means to marry free believing women, then from amongst what is in your possession of the believing servants, and Allah knows your faith best, you all share a common origin, so marry them with the permission of their family and give them their marital gifts appropriately, as long as they are chaste, not given to prostitution nor fornication, so when they are married and then commit adultery, then their punishment is half that of free women; this if for him amongst  you who fears hardship, but to have patience is better for you, and Allah is forgiving and merciful." (my own translation). Instead, our scholars perform mental and rhetorical somersaults to explain why historically this verse was not quite as bad as it may now appear, when really, there is nothing at all to apologise for.

Then there is the other favourite angle of attack, the Shariah law, those "barbaric punishments" Islam metes out which have no place in a civilised society, like cutting off the hand of the thief and stoning the adulterer. Once again, our scholars agree that the Qur'an and the teachings of the prophet are outdated. Now, I wonder what the parents of those young girls groomed by Pakistani predators would have to say about that. They most likely would like to have them flogged to death and tell you that a prison sentence is simply not good enough for them, and I am equally sure that Tommy and the rest of the EDL would have to agree with them. It's funny, how perspectives change when you replace the perpetrator's human rights with those of the victim. And would the McCann family weep if the abductor of their daughter lost a hand so that he could not steal another little girl? Of course, there are necessary safeguards, well established in Islam: a thief may not be punished for steeling out of necessity, an adulterer may not be stoned without actual evidence, available only if the act was performed in full public view, in other words, gross public indecency. Islam does not permit spying behind close doors, unlike the modern secular state obsessed with wanting to know every secret of every man, both out of fear and a desire to control, a fact easily demonstrable by the proliferation of surveillance cameras or the recent scandal of the United States intelligence services tapping into the private mobile phones of the leaders of their own allies. Nor does Islam permit the execution of a just punishment within an unjust society, only when society itself follows high standards can the individual be held to account in accordance with them.

And finally, I promised to come back to it, there is the litmus test of the modern axiom "You are either with us or against us": Do you support homosexuality? Here, the heterophobic lobby with support from members in all echelons of power is not contend with you saying that you cannot prevent adults from doing whatever they want in the privacy of their own homes but would rather not want them to push their devious sexual tastes down your throat or teach them to your children. No, you have to wholeheartedly pronounce that you acknowledge that their chosen lifestyle may well be superior to yours and that anybody not favouring their practices is in need of treatment. What has become of freedom of choice: Do we who choose to be heterosexual no longer have the right to consider our choice as preferable to that of others. Must we all be compelled to applaud something we distaste? But leaving aside the decadent insistence of all strata of Western society on elevating an unnatural practice to the level of the normative, does Islam discriminate against homosexuals? Not at all. Islam forbids sex outside marriage irrespective of your sexual orientation. So if we ask sexually active heterosexuals who have not been able to marry to abstain and control their desires, why is it so wrong to ask the same of those with homosexual inclinations? That Islam does not permit two people of the same sex to marry is not unique to our religion. To date there is still no European country permitting homosexual marriage; instead they have created that legal half-way house of civil partnership. Because they, too, recognise that marriage has as one of its purposes procreation, something two people of the same sex cannot possibly do, which is why I called it unnatural a few moments ago. Nor are homosexuals the only people to be precluded from marriage. The law does, for example, consider some adults unfit for marriage due to mental incompetency or legal incapacity. The reason, once again, is the sacredness of the family taking priority over sexual licence.

These few examples should suffice. I can understand that being subjected to endless propaganda large parts of ordinary Muslim men and women (and the same goes for ordinary non-Muslim men and women), whilst having a gut feeling that something isn't quite right, do not know how to counter the polemical and emotionally charged arguments thrown at them. But I can't understand why our "scholars" are so completely spineless. Unless it is a case of "follow the money".

Monday, October 14, 2013

Did the moon die?

I have written on this subject many times before but feel compelled to do so again due to an apparent lack of progress in a matter which goes to the core of Islamic practice. Remember, the days of Eid are, according to the words of the prophet Muhammad, the best days of the year. Yet, hardly a year passes without a dispute about when Eid should or should not be. Then we cry about lost unity, but little effort do we make to eradicate the disease: Our prophet also said that his Ummah shall never unite entirely on falsehood. Hence, our disunity is an indicator that we are failing somehow to follow the truth.

In these days of DIY Islam it might be worthwhile to remind ourselves that Islam is evidence-based and not subject to majority rule. Truth is distinct from falsehood, and the criterion of that distinction is given to us in the Qur'an and the Sunnah. The Qur'an tells us that there are 12 months, but it does not tell us when they start or end. The Sunnah, on the other hand, is unmistakable about starting and ending each month with the sighting of the new moon crescent. This does not just apply to Ramadan, it applies to all months, the month of Hajj included.

Since the disunity of when our most important days are to be celebrated has become ever more painfully felt especially in non-Muslim countries in the West where Muslims from different parts of the globe maintain differing loyalties, the dominance of Saudi Arabia as a country which has heavily invested in financing mosques in the West has frequently been questioned where Ramadan is concerned, but when it comes to Hajj there is the understandable notion that since Hajj takes place in Saudi Arabia, their decision should naturally be followed. Sadly, their decision is based on a falsehood or lack of understanding of basic astronomy.

The religious authorities of Saudi Arabia follow a predetermined calendar based essentially on the dates of the birth of the new moon rather than the probability of it being sighted anywhere in the world. They frequently support this predetermined date with alleged moon sightings without subjecting those to any kind of plausibility check. If people came to me and told me that they had just seen the sun set at the height of noon, I would laugh at their ignorance, but if someone in Saudi Arabia tells us that they have just seen the moon crescent before it was physically possible to have done so, the greater part of the world happily follows them in their delusion.

Does it matter? In Ramadan we look for Laylatu-l-Qadr, the Night of Power, which is described in the Qur'an as being better in value than a thousand months of ordinary days, during Hajj we have the Day of Arafat, the day prayers are most powerful compared to any other day of the year. What does it do to the power of our prayer if we ignorantly move these days forward or back on the diction of a regime which happens to have inherited the geographic location of the holy places but does not otherwise excel in its Islamic virtues? In the days of the prophet, pagan Arabs administered the Kaabah, which they filled with idols, and the pilgrimage, which they corrupted with unsuitable practices. The prophet did not ask for their authority to be followed merely because they held the keys to the House of Allah, he fought them until they submitted to the truth he had brought through divine revelation.

I have heard many arguments, why we should all follow the Saudi ruling regarding the days of Hajj, irrespective of whether they were sound or not. These range from the need for a central authority or "headquarters" through that unity is a more overriding concern than the accuracy of the date to the observation that due to modern satellite communications we can all watch the pilgrimage anywhere on the globe and it would be wrong to be at odds with them. All those arguments betray a lack of thought and deeper understanding. Do we follow Muslims in Mekkah during Tarawih prayers although we are still fasting at that time? Of course not. We can watch them beamed into our living rooms through satellite broadcasting, but we can only perform our own prayers when their right time has come at the location where we are. The earth is not flat and times are local. The very same applies to the days of pilgrimage and the days of Eid. For someone in Australia to celebrate Eid on the same day as in Saudi Arabia is the height of folly and complete disregard of how Allah has created the earth and the signs He has given us in the alteration of night and day frequently referred to in the Qur'an.

For those going on Hajj, they have no choice but to follow the dates scheduled for them whilst the responsibility for those who knowingly make them perform their rites on the wrong days is enormous. The prophet told us that if the sacrifice, the key ingredient of the pilgrimage tracing the footsteps of Abraham, is made before the day of Eid it will only count as a standard charity, not as sacrifice, so the correct date does matter. Fortunately, those who are not participating in the pilgrimage themselves, have no such constraints imposed on them. Based on the Sunnah, the dates for the starting of the months are local, not centrally determined, just as prayer times are local. The prophet did not teach us to start or end the month with Mekkah, he taught us to start or end the month with the new moon crescent, and as long as the moon continues to wax and wane, there is no reason to abandon this method.

In its more than fourteen centuries of history since the prophet Islam has had Caliphates ruling over vast portions of the globe. Yet in spite of such powerful central authority, Muslims all over the world would go to the top of their minarets and other high places to look for the moon crescent to determine when to start their months and their religious obligations. They did not simply wait for a central edict. During the reign of the Ottoman empire, for example, the last central Muslim authority before British cunning destroyed the Caliphate - and installed the first King of Saudi Arabia - Eid was not celebrated on the same day in Istanbul and Sarajewo or Samarkand. Why should this change, all of a sudden? Were our predecessors less observant Muslims than we are today?

So what about the argument that with modern technology we should base our dates on calendars and calculations that modern life demands that we do away with the uncertainty which relying on sightings produces? To start with, our predecessors who pioneered astronomy were much better versed in the relevant calculations than we are today and would never have made such basic mistakes as to confuse the birth of the moon with its first visibility. But more importantly, why should the natural religion Allah designed for us be subjected to the unnatural desire of secular man to control everything himself? Thus noon time happens to be at one o'clock on account of the so-called Daylight Saving Time (DST) which hasn't saved anybody a penny but put the time of day under the control of governments and bureaucrats. Like a friend of mine says, I get hungry at lunchtime and then suddenly, from one day to the next, they tell me to get hungry an hour earlier! Of course, it is inconvenient that Ramadan or Eid can take us by surprise when we like to plan every minute detail of our lives, but Allah is the best of planners. It is also inconvenient to have the obligatory congregational prayers squeezed into a lunch break on a busy business day on Friday, which is why the Nation of Islam aberrantly moved their congregational prayer day and sermon to Sundays, it's just so much more convenient. Once we hurry down that root it does not take us long to strip Islam of all that makes it unique.

And so it is a blessing that we are not united. Unity would be nice, but not at the price of surrendering the truth. And the truth is not found in calculations. It is contained in the Qur'an and the Sunnah, and only a revival of their teachings will bring us back together.