Sookhdeo on terrorism and Islamic schools

This afternoon someone from the Evening Standard sent me a copy of an article the paper had printed by the infamous Patrick Sookhdeo, an apostate given to writing inflammatory and inaccurate articles about Islam and Muslims. I’ve written at length about him here before (see here), so I’ll try as much as possible not to go over too much old ground. I have to say I find it depressing that they give space to this man given the history of his writing. I wrote a letter in response to the article I was sent, but there is just too much in there to respond in a letter. I’m pretty sure they’ll send me another email asking for a drastically “edited” version.

He starts off on the subject of Muslim schools, in the context of a police raid on an Islamic school in east Sussex over the weekend:

Once there were tens. Then there were hundreds. Now Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard’s Anti-Terrorist Branch, speaks of thousands of militant British Muslims, indoctrinated and radicalised in British mosques and madrassas like the Jameah Islameah school in Sussex raided at the weekend. This is not, primarily, because of the influence of a handful of a few “preachers of hate”. Islamic extremism has spread in Britain thanks to a particular brand of multiculturalism encouraged by this Government. And until ministers tackle it - especially the influence of Muslim faith schools - all their new efforts to build cohesion will come to very little.

It surely did not escape Sookhdeo’s attention that the activities that are under suspicion are those of guests, not of anyone actually involved in the school. It’s known that, though they did receive a visit from Abu Hamza some years ago, they sent him packing because they disliked his behaviour. To suggest that Islamic schools are more guilty of radicalising youth than the likes of Abu Hamza or Abdullah Faisal is simply preposterous. The school itself is run by the former imam of Balham mosque in south London, a mosque which has never been linked to “radicals”, much less terrorists. I have personally been inside one of the well-known Islamic schools, and the imam and the headmaster were both known for their Sufi tendencies (this was in early 2000; the headmaster has since moved on). This is also true of friends of mine whose children went to Islamic schools, including the one at Balham mosque.

The context goes far beyond Britain. Contemporary Islam has burst out of its colonial restraints. Once colonialism removed power, jihad and territorial control from Islam, it was left a benign force focusing on prayer and good deeds. But contemporary Islam has reverted back to early Islam, with all its theological rage against the non-Muslim world. Issues like Iraq and Afghanistan have become valves for expressing this anger and hatred against Britain and the West.

The activities of terrorists today bears no resemblance whatsoever to the early Muslims, except perhaps to the Khawarij who killed Muslims (though, at that time, not non-Muslims) for disagreeing with them. They killed innocents, including pregnant women and children, for not accepting their outlandish claims, and were rejected and fought by the mainstream Muslim community. At no time did the early Muslims simply enter places where there were non-Muslim civilians, and no fighters, and kill civilians for its own sake. While there is much anger against the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, this has mostly manifested itself in peaceful political actions and in the written word. I don’t believe there will be thousands of British Muslims going to carry out acts of terrorism in either country, though there are, perhaps, a pool of people that size who might turn up in such a situation.

Increasingly, it is the values and culture of Islam which define the identity of British Muslims. A senior British Muslim leader has defined Muslim identity as creed, sharia and umma.

He gives no reference for this. He does not tell us who the “senior British Muslim leader”. A Google search for the phrase he uses returned not a single result (see these images for proof: [1], [2]). I’ve never heard of anyone defining Muslim identity this way, although it’s only a certain minority who loudly reject any notion of identifying with the country they live in. Even so, it hardly makes us the only religious minority who take an active interest in the situation of others of the same religion in other parts of the world, does it? I can think of at least two others (Jews, and the Hindus with links to the Hindu chauvinist factions back home; Narendra Modi certainly had an audience when he visited north London in 2003).

The Islamic creed is non-negotiable. Those who do not share this creed are despised as kafir (infidels). Hatred of non-Muslims is preached in many British mosques.

Again, he gives no evidence that Islam encourages us to despise non-Muslims or that most Muslims have this attitude. A lot of Muslims refer to “the kuffar”, usually meaning powerful enemies of Muslims or to non-Muslims they dislike, but to find out the extent to which Muslims despise non-Muslims or habitually use the word kafir or kuffar, I’d have to do a pretty big survey (not a few thousand people by phone either). I presume Sookhdeo hasn’t done the survey himself.

Meanwhile Islamic law, sharia, is deemed by the majority of Muslims to be unalterable. Its medieval formulations cannot be updated. Yet it is this discriminatory law which many British Muslims wish to see enforced.

No references or evidence here, either.

Finally the umma, the worldwide community of Muslims, is the primary focus of loyalty. It represents the political as well as the religious. Muslims have a duty to defend each other. This defensive jihad is what leads Muslims to go and fight in places such as Iraq.

Except that they are not fighting a “defensive jihad”, but to impose a particular order on Iraqis which is not one they would have chosen themselves. Most Iraqis, including most Sunnis, contrary to popular belief, are not Wahhabis or extremists and have not taken up arms to put one of their number in power any more than the Egyptians or Syrians have, which is why groups like the Muslim Brotherhood have turned into social welfare organisations rather than political movements. They may give the rhetoric of jihad, but what they are seeking is rulership, in order to impose a particular, unfamiliar and oppressive, “Islamic” order in a country where they see a power vacuum. We don’t see Muslims everywhere being urged to go and fight, or even to support those who do.

It might seem paradoxical that the UK, which has granted Muslims greater freedoms than any other Western country, should be the greatest Western incubator of Islamist violence. The explanation lies not only in the radicalisation of Islam but also in the Government’s policy on multiculturalism. There is a positive aspect to a multiculturalism where people share and enjoy each other’s cultures. But the UK’s well-meaning policy of validating every faith and ethnic community culturally, in a depoliticised way, is na├»ve when it comes to Islam. For Islam does not separate the sacred from the secular: it seeks earthly power over earthly territory. The result is that already the UK has reached the stage of parallel societies, where purely Muslim areas function in isolation.

There are hardly any “purely Muslim areas”, and those that exist are there mainly for economic and social reasons rather than religious ones: they are the areas around the mosque and where halaal food can be obtained. In some places, white racism played a large part in establishing Muslim “ghettoes” in places where the racists weren’t. Sookhdeo has previously elaborated on Muslims’ territorial tendencies in the Spectator, alleging that by means such as marches, we “mark out” territory as our own. (Marching, in fact, is generally the preserve of Bareilawis who do it on the occasion of the birthday of the Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam, which most other groupings do not commemorate in that fashion, if at all.) A fact Sookhdeo seems not to have noticed is that nowhere have Muslims actually attempted to rename our “enclaves” to Islamic-sounding or Asian-sounding ones.

A rather more recent reason why Muslims in many places have no interest in integrating is because of the behaviour and attitudes of many of their white neighbours, as Faisal Bodi noted in the Guardian in July this year (see the original article, and my comments). A lot of middle-class whites would not want to live on these estates either, nor, I suspect, would Sookhdeo. He’d probably get called a terrorist and beaten up.

Worse, this is about to be made semi-official. In West Ham a gigantic mosque is planned by the radical Tablighi Jamaat group. The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation says that the new mosque will make West Ham a “cultural and religious destination”. This will be nothing less than an Islamic quarter of our capital city. But has anyone asked the people of West Ham? The non-Muslims? The moderate Muslims such as Barelwis and Sufis? The Muslim women? And shouldn’t the Government be looking into why a movement claimed as inspiration by terrorist suspects should be allowed to control a whole community?

In one sense I agree that the mosque in question shouldn’t be built. The Olympics are highly likely to cause the gentrification of the area, a steep rise in house prices and rents, and the departure of a huge percentage of the less well-off including much of the area’s ethnic population. It is more likely to become a costly white elephant than the centrepiece of any “Islamic quarter”. If such a quarter emerges at all, it will be inhabited by those displaced as the money floods in.

There is, of course, no suggestion that those in charge of this mosque, if it gets built, will be in control over the whole Muslim community in east London. The Tablighi Jama’at, of course, are Sufis, and their differences with the Bareilawis are mostly in matters of history and doctrine, not in visible practical issues. If there is animosity, it is mostly on the side of the Bareilawis who accuse many of the originators of the Deobandi/Tablighi school of insulting the Prophet, sall’ Allahu ‘alaihi wa sallam. It is his presumption that Muslim women will object to the area becoming a Muslim quarter, but I should not think they will unless the government designates the area a Muslim enclave under dictatorial TJ control, which as I understand it they have no intention of doing.

One must feel grateful for the police’s interception of terrorist plots. Yet we must tackle the root causes, rather than dealing with this threat simply by vigilance and appeasement. Giving in to the demands of Muslim extremists will not turn them into liberals loyal to the UK. They will simply want further concessions. This is now the Government’s dilemma. With the launch of the Commission on Integration and Cohesion last month, it recognised that it must address the development of separate societies. Privately, ministers are deeply worried. Yet at the same time the Government seems fixated on empowering an ultra-conservative Muslim leadership embodied by the Muslim Council of Britain and Muslim Association of Britain. It says sharia will never be permitted in Britain, yet it has allowed sharia-compliant mortgages, and admits that many British cities have sharia councils.

There is no inconsistency. What is refused is the establishment of Shari’a marital law, as exists in many countries in the Muslim world where an established native Muslim community exists (India, Israel/Palestine). This is what was proposed in Ontario, utilising an existing religious arbitration provision which allowed for marital affairs to be resolved under Jewish or Christian religious law. Much of the controversy over it came from prominent “liberal Muslims”, from non-Muslim religious bigots and from the exiled Iranian Worker-Communist mafia. What exist in this country are provisions for Islamically-valid commercial dealings and private councils for settling disputes between Muslims on an Islamic basis. As I’m sure Sookhdeo is aware, Muslims are required to obey their religious rules (the “path”, which is what Shari’ah means) even when it is impossible to establish the Shari’ah as the law of the land. The rulings these councils give are not legally binding in British law, and everyone involved knows that.

He then moves back to the subject of Islamic schools:

Has the time come to say no to Islamic schools, while allowing the others to exist, even though this may seem unjust? Or should we consider a new kind of school where all children can study core subjects together in the same environment, with religious teachers - be they mullahs, rabbis or priests -instructing the children in their own faiths? I believe Islam needs different treatment from other faiths because Islam is different from other faiths. It is the only one which teaches its followers to gain political power and then impose a law which governs every aspect of life, discriminating against women and non-believers alike. And this is ultimately why a naïve multiculturalism leads not to a mosaic of cultures living in harmony, but to one threatened by Islamic extremism.

Every known religious law discriminates against women, most to a far greater extent than Islam itself does. Islam, for example, does not make someone who touches a woman or the bed she sleeps on during her period impure and subject to a purificatory ritual, as the Old Testament does. It looks more severe than them because of its prescription of veiling, but it’s known that veiling does not stop a woman making a success of herself in the world where people do not deliberately obstruct this, as they do in France and Turkey. Furthermore, he (again!) gives no evidence that Islamic schools are actually teaching children to do what he claims; they teach Islamic doctrine, practice, personal laws and values, and sometimes a classical text of Islamic law such as the Hidaya, the Risala of Ibn Abi Zaid or the Reliance of the Traveller. None of these books were actually aimed at Muslim minorities with claims to act as a treacherous fifth column.

… But unless all of us, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, join forces against the kind of multiculturalism which has nurtured extremism, we may eventually find that whole swathes of London and other cities have become “cultural and religious destinations” dominated by Islamic extremists - men who would remove the very freedoms so many moderate British Muslims now appreciate.

In my experience, what has “nurtured extremism” is the malign neglect during the 1990s which involved turning a blind eye to rabble-rousers who were operating on university campuses and shouting on street corners and in community centres, libraries and other public property. These people were well-known and could have been stopped well before 9/11 if there was the political will. They were actually in complete opposition to the traditional ways of the Muslim community (sometimes rightly, usually very wrongly) and were turning young Muslims against their own families and causing disruption, some of it violent, in mosques. The government, of course, gave these people much ammunition with the sanctions regime in Iraq, the failure to arrest the massacres and rapes in Bosnia until the Serbs had got what they wanted, and finally the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and their respective aftermaths. But it was not ordinary Muslims and their institutions that were stoking extremism during this period: it was the generally tolerated fringe.

Yet, now that the lunatic fringe are out of the way and their leaders in jail or out of the country, it is the ordinary Muslims people like Sookhdeo want to punish, despite the fact that these schools are not known to be linked to extremism and never have been. The problem for Muslim educators is that for decades, Muslims, unlike Christians, have had to rely on private funding for Islamic education, which given that we are mostly a working-class community, has meant that the fringe found it easier to reach Muslim youth than the traditional scholars did. Most Muslims do not want their children to be terrorists any more than they want them to be common thugs and layabouts mixing American gangsta culture with a bit of Punjabi terminology and bhangra beats. If our children are to be saved from these prospects, the community needs proper Muslim schools.

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