Cristina Odone is asking why Muslims didn’t loudly condemn the shooting of Malala Yousufzaid in Swat, Pakistan, as well as the murder of a young woman in Herat, Afghanistan, for refusing to become a prostitute. She alleges that the Muslim Council of Britain, “the self-appointed leaders of the Muslim community in the UK” as she calls them, only issued a statement condemning the shooting of Malala Yousufzai once she had been airlifted to Birmingham and then it was only what she described as an equivocal one - “sinister groups are creating havoc in the country leading to such sinister events”. The full statement by the MCB can be found here and the Engage site has their answer to Odone’s demands here.
To deal with the Herat murder first: Mah Gul was a married woman whose husband and inlaws tried repeatedly to force her into prostitution, and when she persisted in refusing, they apparently hired a hitman to kill her, and told him they wanted her dead because she was a prositute. They do not make it clear whether that family has a history of prostitution, or if they were doing it because of poverty, or for some other reason, but whatever the reason, prostitution is already against Islam and murdering someone for refusing to commit a sin is a vastly more serious sin. There is no dispute about any of this in Islam. The guilty parties, it seems, have been arraigned and will probably be executed, all done by Muslims, so why are Muslim organisations in another country expected to condemn it? We cannot condemn every bad thing a Muslim does anywhere, especially if it is not related to politics in any way and has no connection to Muslims in this country.
Furthermore, the original piece is factually incorrect in claiming that Herat is a Taliban stronghold. It was held by the Taliban when they were in power before 2002 (as was all of Afghanistan except Badakhshan in the north-east), but is in fact a government stronghold and is a majority Shi’ite, Persian-speaking city. I was unable to post this as a comment on Odone’s original blog, because the comments on that entry are closed.
As for Malala Yousufzai, the MCB is not the be-all and end-all of Muslim leadership in the UK and they do not have the power to directly influence events in Pakistan, where the shooting took place, regardless of their connections to the Jama’at-e-Islami which is a minority political party in Pakistan (not even the biggest religious party). The Pakistani state (with popular support) has fought back against the Taliban incursions in Swat and elsewhere in western Pakistan; most people in Pakistan have no desire to have the Taliban’s rural Pashtun version of an Islamist utopia imposed on them, and the state has lived with areas on the Afghani border being outside their control (as the British empire did before it) but obviously regards any incursion beyond that as a challenge. So, the MCB’s public statements will not change anything and in this case much is already being done to fight what the Taliban are doing. There are other Muslim public figures who have spoken out in Malala’s support, including Salma Yaqoob (formerly of the Respect party) who will be hosting a candle-lit vigil in Birmingham this evening.
People also widely misunderstand what the MCB is and what it can do. It is a representative body which chiefly concerns itself with poltiical concerns affecting the Muslim community from outside, and educating and informing the public about Islam itself. A brief look at their aims and objectives will reveal that root and branch reform of the Muslim community on matters like gender relations is not their concern. They do not have the power to change how mosques are run, what language is used for sermons or noticeboards, what accommodations are made for women if any, and so on. There is no point in outsiders demanding that the MCB deliver the reforms they want, because the MCB do not have the power to deliver them.
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