Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

Archive for July 2008

Life in the UK for British Muslims

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During the 70-odd years of the unlamented Union of Soviet Socialist Republics it was a feature of community life that the Communist Party ran the trades and professional organisations, such as the Writers and Artists Union famous for hounding authors like Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn.

The point of these bodies was not to represent the interests of the workers or professionals. On the contrary, it was to tell them the Party Line and ensure that it was enforced.

In the week ending on 19 July 2008, Hazel Anne Blears (Mrs Michael Halsall) announced that the Home Office was to set up a new board for imams in order to counter extremism among the the Muslim communities in the kingdom. Yet another officially sponsored Writers and Artists Union, to join a lengthening catalogue of such initiatives that have been tried, weighed in the balance, and found wanting.

Yet it has been only a few short weeks since the launch of The Quilliam Foundation, to much fanfare. Presumably the shade and barakah of the late Shaykhu-l Islam have been hampering things, in good Celtic metaphysical manner (Quilliam was a Manx-speaking Manxman), not to the satisfaction of denizens of Peter Oborne’s “Political Class”.

Quite why Her Majesty’s Government feels that it has the authority to interfere in the domestic arrangements of the UK’s Muslims is a good question, to which we await a satisfactory answer.

This seems to capitalise on last year’s interference by Ruth Maria Kelly (Mrs Derek Gadd), telling the Muslims how they should practise their religion, and just what sort of religion it is that they should practise.

I’ve no idea what religion Ms Blears follows, if any, but Ms Kelly is a Roman Catholic – and not just any old Roman Catholic, but a member of the fundamentalist (some might say extremist) Opus Dei.

Now, she may follow whatever she wants. As Queen Elizabeth I is purported to have said, “I will not open windows into men’s hearts” – as long as they performed the outward niceties required of allegiance to the Crown. However, this is something that she and her colleague Ms Blears would appear to be trying to deny to Britain’s Muslims.

It would be as well to point out, yet again, something that I seem to have to keep pointing out to media hacks and politicians alike.

During the 32 years of actual Irish terrorism, HMG did not seem to feel the need, nor that it had the power, to interfere in the British arrangements of either the Church of Rome or of the Presbyterian Church. Yet, in a period of notional Islamic terrorism it claims this authority.

I assert ‘notional’, because neither the American nor the British authorities have seen fit to have the courtesy to reveal to the communities they are pillorying just what evidence – of the sort that would establish their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” in the old Common Law phrase – they have that Muslims actually committed the atrocities that they are accused of. Repeated assertion, innuendo, and bombast are not evidence, no matter who is trading in them.

Given the record of the governments both of the USA and those of the UK over the past decade and more for egregious and outrageous mendacity, something apparently endorsed by the mainstream media in its almost wholly sympathetic and parti pris coverage of these governments’ lines, there is no reason why we should believe a word they say unless it is backed up by substantial proof.

The meagre ‘evidence’ paraded, the tortured confessions from hapless victims, the systematic and long-lasting abuse of prisoners confined in government oubliettes, the photoshopped still pictures, the video and audio recordings that have been proved to be forged, and tribunals that are little better than the infamous Court of the Star Chamber do not constitute clarity nor inspire confidence that the real culprits have been identified and punished.

Short of truly independent public enquiries into the incidents, followed by proper trials in properly constituted courts of law with proper rules of evidence being followed – evidence that has not been extracted by torture or abuse – the accusations against Islam and Muslims must remain conjectural. And so, absent this rigour, any Islamic terrorism in the UK and the USA must remain notional at least, and ‘not proven’ at best.

As for the extremism bruited abroad as being a problem in relations with the Muslim communities in the UK, such concern would carry more weight if the authorities actually were trying to talk to people in the communities who were not themselves “extremists” – or “Islamists” in the journalistic cliche.

This latter term is an anglicisation from the French Islamiste which comes from the word l’islamisme. This was how the French had interpreted the English phrase “Islamic Movement”, which was the translation of the Arabic al harakatu-l islamiyyah.

This Islamic Movement was how a loose collection of political parties in various parts of the Muslim World described themselves around the time of the middle decades of the 20th Century, because they shared a vision and an inspiration.

These were the Imperial Japanese-founded Masjumi in Indonesia (Madjlis asj Sjura Moeslimien Indonesia, in the older (Dutch) form of Romanisation), and its contemporary and precursor the Gerakan Muhammadijah (“Muhammadan Movement”); the Jamaat-e-Islami in British India, and then in India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh; and the Jama’atu-l Ikhwanu-l Muslimin (“The Society of Muslim Brothers”, commonly known in the West as the “Muslim Brotherhood”) originally in Egypt and Syria but which spread to most Arab countries and is known by various names in different states.

Their common inspiration derived from an obscure 14th Century scholar with very suspect and unsound opinions, Taqiyuddin Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263-1328), and his pupil Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr ibnu-l Qayyim al Jawziyyah, both of whom had been “discovered” by Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab the heretic, who in his turn was the inspiration for Jamaluddin al-Afghani and the Egyptians Muhammad ‘Abduh and Sayyid Rashid Rida.

As was said by Ibn Taymiyyah’s contemporary, the real Shafi’ite scholar Taqiyuddin ibnu-s Subki, “Because of the greatness of his knowledge, Ibn Taymiyyah may just save himself; but any who follows him is in danger of the Fire”.

Afghani and Abduh were impressed by Giuseppe Mazzini and his Giovine Italia (“Young Italy”) movement – that gave rise to the Risorgimento – which also produced the anti-Caliphate Young Turks in Ottoman Turkey, and the Young Egypt Movement.

It would also be salutary if the present-day British authorities were not indulging the principal purveyors of Wahhabi-ism (euphemistically, and incorrectly, also called Salafism) – an extremist and heretical form of Islam – and allowing them to fund the construction of mosques, promote conferences, teach imams who follow their deviation, and subvent the finances of local mosque committees in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to the discomfiture of traditional and mainstream Islam and the lasting damage to the development of truly integrated communities within the context of the British Isles.

I suppose, however, this indulgence is understandable as Wahhabi-ism is in great part their child.

It was apparently brokered into being by the intelligence arm of the Bombay Presidency of the Honourable East India Company in the mid-18th Century when Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahhab fled to Kuwait (then a trading post of the HEIC), having been driven out of Medina as a dangerous heretic and subsequently disowned by his father and brother.

It would appear it was seen as a timely means of weakening Islam from within and working to the disadvantage of the Ottoman Caliphate and the Shiah Qajar empire in Persia.

When the Ottomans drove them out of the Arabian Peninsula in the early 19th Century they found refuge in British India, which they repaid by agitating for and leading insurrection.

To be charitable, one can only assume that they were being unbelievably naive. Getting rid of the British from mid-19th Century India would not have resulted in independence. They would have placed themselves in subjugation to something much, much worse as master – Imperial Russia.

At the end of that century they re-exported themselves, revivified, to the Arabian Peninsula and continued their agitation against the Caliphate. However, for some reason, the Najdis under Ibn Saud didn’t join the Sharif of Mecca in taking British gold in World War One.

There is an interesting old photograph, which I’ve seen, of Richard Meinertzhagen and T. E. Lawrence – both wearing British army uniforms as Staff Captains – standing in the Arabian desert beside a Royal Flying Corps transport (the roundels are quite distinct) delivering a large chest of gold coins to Emir Feisal and a couple of other Arabs all of whom are also in the picture. So much for the claim that they didn’t know what Lawrence was about.

Finally the defeated Ottomans assigned the Protectorate of the Two Holy Cities to the Banu Saud as they had stayed out of the War against the Caliph. But to do so, General Fakhruddin Pasha, commander of the Medina garrison, had to be sent a firman signed personally by the Caliph in order for him to hand over the city. This was in 1921, and was the last action of the War.

To cap Ms Blears wheeze, which hopefully will join the growing number of other such initiatives that have failed and been abandoned, she announced that Muslim supplementary schools will be expected to teach “Citizenship”. Presumably this will include “Britishness”.

Could Ms Blears, or her predecessor Ms Kelly, or any of the coterie of professional politicians – whether New Labour or New Conservative – actually explain these two terms satisfactorily?

My late mother, a lifelong Tory and stalwart of her constituency Conservative Women’s Group, announced to her MP when these terms arose first some years ago that she would fail the test. So would my late father.

If Britishness is about buying one’s round at the pub, then my grandfather (an elder of the Free Kirk) would probably be at sea as to the proper etiquette as he only touched alcohol (other than taking Communion) twice in a year at Hogmanay and Burn’s Night. If it is about establishing one’s right to be in the United Kingdom, then this is nothing less than a gross impertinence.

Whatever one may think of the majority of the Muslims in the country – and there have been many robust and uncomplimentary remarks passed about them, not least by other Muslims – they have come in the main from parts of the British Commonwealth. Many of their forebears fought for the Crown. I have seen it written that some 85 percent of the British Indian Army was Muslim.

They have a prior claim to be in the UK over anyone from Continental Europe, except those from Malta GC and the Crown Dependencies of Gibraltar and the Channel Islands – political fictions like the misnamed European Union notwithstanding.

If I were to be asked what I would expect to see in a syllabus for “Britishness”, “Citizenship”, or – for would-be naturalised Britons – “Life in the UK” I would insist on those things that Mr Blair and his Blair Babes like Mesdames Kelly and Blears have been trying to wipe out of the Constitution.

These would be things like the Great Writ of Habeas Corpus that derives from the Magna Carta of 1215.

The first time this was served was in 1305, and it has been repeatedly used ever since to protect the subject from executive abuse of power.

It was used, too, in the famous Somersett’s Case (R v Knowles ex parte Somersett) to bring the slave known as James Somersett before the Court of the King’s Bench in 1772, where he was freed in a revolutionary judgment by the Earl of Mansfield CJ that no-one could be held in slavery in England: they were deemed free at the moment they arrived.

Then there would be the Magna Carta Libertatum (the “Great Charter of Freedoms”) itself. As Sir Edward Coke CJ said to Parliament in 1628 at the time of the British Civil War, “Magna Charta is such a Fellow, he will have no sovereign”.

More a symbol than a constitution, it however established the concepts of the presumption of innocence, that no freeman should be deprived of his liberty and so on except by due process of the law, that he must be able to face his accusers, that the judiciary is impartial, and that the powers of the Crown were not absolute.

And, of course, there is the Bill of Rights 1689; and the Act of Union 1707; and so on.

But most significant of all for the kingdom’s Muslims, is the history of the Common Law of England, which in its turn influenced the development of the Common Law in Scotland.

In the middle 1100s, after the destructive and socially disruptive Civil War between Stephen and Matilda, the king – Henry II – needed to impose order and law over the unruly barons and establish his authority over his kingdom. He did this by king’s justices travelling the country, escorted by an armed guard of marshalls, administering the king’s law through a system of regularly held Assize Courts.

This king’s law was a comprehensive and revolutionary jurisprudence: where did Henry get it from, as he clearly seems to have applied it lock, stock, and barrel and it owed virtually nothing to the Church of Rome’s Canon Law?

According to Professor John A. Makdisi, in the North Carolina Law Review of June 1999, what Henry imported was Maliki fiq’h as applied in Islamic Spain, north Africa, and Sicily at the time (it may have been Shafi’ite, as that was still also applied in Caliphal Cordoba), complete with its 12-man jury system.

Henry was married to Eleanor, Duke of Aquitaine in her own right, the granddaughter of the famous troubadour Duke William IX, who grew up in a court at Poitiers frequented by Muslims from Spain and where Arabic was a common language. It was to this court that she took her two young sons Richard and John when her tempestuous marriage to Henry broke up. No wonder Queen Eleanor, King Richard I Coeur de Lion, and King John were so comfortable with Arabic, Arabs, and Muslims.

And I would like to see the date of the arrival of the first Moroccan Ambassador (1571) taught, and the arrangement that Queen Elizabeth I had with the Ottomans in 1587 through their Ambassador for an expeditionary force of Janissary Marines to be sent, in the event that the Great Armada managed to land Parma’s army, to help turf the Spaniards out.

This sort of stuff seems to be absent from Life in the UK training, and Britishness education.

But Gordon Brown does want us to have a Britain Day and fly the flag.

We seem to have managed our way through three empires without such a celebration, so what could possibly be served by having one now, like some Ruritanian duchy? Perhaps to celebrate New Labour’s revolutionary destruction of the British Constitution under Anthony Charles Linton Blair continued by his successor James Gordon Brown? Or its handing the “ancient usages and liberties of the subject” over to an alien culture in Europe? Or its waging illegal wars of aggression against sovereign nations at the behest of foreign powers? Or its expanding the powers of the state at the expense of the liberties of the subject? Or all of these?

And Mesdames Blears and Kelly want to ensure that there is no extremism in the Muslim communities. Given such a record of destruction of matters that were traditionally associated with Britishness, perhaps they would be better employed hunting down extremism in the ranks of their own Party and the government that it presently forms?

Written by David Rosser Owen

July 23, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Churnalism: Who is feeding the Press?

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As I was sorting through my notebook, I came across some quotes and references I’d made of Nick Davies’s two pieces in the Press Gazette on 4th and 11th February this year about his concept of “churnalism”, which he has expanded upon in his book Flat Earth News. I’ve yet to buy the book, which is on my “must read” list, but the articles were disturbing enough; especially the first one where he cited a journal a young provincial reporter had kept for him in which he stated that he’d written 48 stories in a week, spent three hours out of the office and spoken to four people face-to-face. As Davies pointed out that that isn’t journalism.

He then developed this with the findings from a survey he’d commissioned from the School of Journalism at the University College of Wales, Cardiff, which showed that most of what gets written in the Press these days is the product of PR agencies or one or other of the wires – mainly PA – simply because staffers haven’t got the time or resources to do proper journalism. This has been brought about by corporate take-overs of the publishing houses and the financial constraints imposed on the news rooms and features by accountants. Such a situation is wide-open to manipulation. So which wires and which PR agencies are feeding the copy on Islam and Muslims?

This is particularly germane given the hysteria that accompanied the ambush of the Archbishop of Canterbury in February after his statement about Shariah Law, and more recently the same ignorant emotionalism that appeared after Lord Phillips LCJ made some similar remarks at the end of June. Who is feeding the Press?

It was salutary to read Peter Oborne’s column in The Daily Mail last week, where he addressed the subject of “Islamophobia” that he tackled in his Channel 4 Dispatches programme on Monday night, 7 July. Even Melanie Phillips in her riposte to Mr Oborne in The Daily Mail of Tuesday, 8 July, made some telling points. But I think she failed to spot the core matter, which is why is it that despite their protestations to be concerned about “Islamist Extremism” in the UK the only people the authorities will talk to or consult with are those very people – at least in the form of members of Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan and the Ikhwanu-l Muslimeen? Is this myopia accidental?

Ms Phillips has been one of the leaders of the pack apparently concerned about Shariah Law appearing in the UK. Other prominenti have been, predictably I suppose, the Bishop of Rochester (the Rt Hon Dr Michael Nazir-Ali), Canon Dr Patrick Sookhdeo (although I would agree with him about the Hilali-Khan translation of the Quran “Interpretation of the Meanings of the Noble Qur’an in the English Language” – we already have far too much Wahhabi propaganda and dezinformatsiya floating around), and the co-sponsor of the Quilliam Foundation the Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families and Member for Surrey Heath the Rt Hon Michael Andrew Gove MP. All of these have written columns in the print newspapers and magazines and have appeared on TV and Radio talk shows. I wonder why Muslim commentators have been conspicuous by their absence?

At the time he died in 2006, my late friend, Dr Muhammad Zaki Badawi KBE, yarhamahu-Llah, was perhaps the chief public representative of the Muslim communities in the UK, standing with the Chief Rabbi for the United Hebrew Congregation or the Moderator of the Church of Scotland, and the Advisor on Islamic matters to HRH The Prince of Wales. He was also a well published journalist. He told me that since 9-11 he had had only four short articles published explaining the Islamic position on things. This against the backdrop of a welter of negative copy from ‘big names’.

Since the tragic events in New York on 11 September 2001, and the subsequent atrocities in Madrid and London, there has been in the Press a parade of people like Drs Nazir-Ali and Sookhdeo, including in the USA Dr Daniel Pipes, Professor Bernard Lewis, and Dr Alan Dershowitz. Yet, where are the real experts to be read like Bishop Kenneth Cragg, Rev Dr Chris Hewer, Professor Rev Dr Richard Bonney, Dr Antony T. Sullivan, Professor Tamara Sonn, or Dr John A. Makdisi? I wonder how many prominent Muslims have been given column inches? Dr Hamid Algar? Dr Gabriel Haddad? Dr Sachiko Murata? Dr William Chittick? Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson? This brings me back to an old hobby-horse of mine: the profession of journalism as exemplified and expatiated by John Delane, late Editor of The Times, in a famous editorial on 6 February 1852.

“…The first duty of the press is to obtain the earliest and most correct intelligence of the events of the time, and instantly, by disclosing them, to make them the common property of the nation. The statesman collects his information secretly and by secret means; he keeps back even the current intelligence of the day with ludicrous precautions, until diplomacy is beaten in the race with publicity. The press lives by disclosures; whatever passes into its keeping becomes a part of the knowledge and the history of our times; it is daily and for ever appealing to the enlightened force of public opinion – anticipating, if possible, the march of events – standing upon the breach between the present and the future, and extending its survey to the horizon of the world. The statesman’s duty is precisely the reverse. He cautiously guards from the public eye the information by which his actions and opinions are regulated; he reserves his judgment on public events till the latest moment, and then he records it in obscure or conventional language; he strictly confines himself, if he be wise, to the practical interests of his own country, or to those bearing immediately upon it; he hazards no rash surmises as to the future; and he concentrates in his own transactions all that power which the press seeks to diffuse over the world. The duty of the one is to speak; of the other to be silent. The one expends itself in discussion; the other tends to action. The one deals mainly with rights and interests; the other with opinions and sentiments. The former is necessarily reserved; the latter essentially free.

It follows, therefore, from this contrast, that the responsibilities of the two powers are as much at variance as their duties. For us, with whom publicity and truth are the air and light of existence, there can be no greater disgrace than to recoil from the frank and accurate disclosure of facts as they are. We are bound to tell the truth as we find it, without fear of consequences – to lend no convenient shelter to acts of injustice and oppression, but to consign them at once to the judgment of the world…

The responsibility we acknowledge has therefore little in common with that of statesmen, for it is estimated by a totally different standard of rectitude and duty. Of all professions, statesmanship is that in which the greatest laxity of practice is tolerated by the usages of society. Concealment, evasion, factious combinations, the surrender of convictions to party objects, and the systematic pursuit of expediency, are things of daily occurrence among men of the highest character once embarked in the contention of political life. We know not if these be useful or essential parts of statesmanship, and we more than suspect that Lord GREY would confess by his own experience that they are not so. But we know that they are absolutely destructive to the credit, the power, and the success of a public writer; and he who would traffic with his pen on such terms had better take refuge at once among those mercenary hacks who court the favours of every successive Government. Of all journals; and of all writers, those will obtain the largest measure of public support who have told the truth most constantly and most fearlessly…”

By “statesmen” Delane meant politicians; and by “public writers”, journalists.

I had begun this as the introductory part of my observations on Shari’ah and Islamic Theology, and somehow I got diverted. However, this consideration of just who is feeding the press the stories is vitally relevant, given the mischief that is being perpetrated against the Muslim communities in the UK. If, as Mr Davies seems to be saying, that the majority of stories that the Press publishes don’t originate with that particular newspaper, magazine, radio or TV broadcast, and aren’t really checked for accuracy and veracity, it becomes a matter of urgent public concern just where the stories originate from?

To conclude. In today’s Daily Mail (Thursday, 10 July), which I’m reading in the same branch of Caffe Nero as a couple of postings ago, the frontpage pic is about Abu Qatada run over two columns vertical, with a full page report on Page Five, and the First Leader. It raises some pertinent points, it’s true. But what it doesn’t do is ask the questions a responsible “public writer” of the past would have: what is his tarbiyyah? how was he allowed to function for so long while preaching seditious nostrums? why was no notice taken by the authorities of the comments made by Shaykh Dr Yusuf al-Qaradawi at the annual conference of the Muslim Association of Britain a couple of years ago? and what do the authorities propose to do now that HE Judge Hamoud Al-Hitar (Minister of Endowment and Guidance of the Republic of Yemen) is in the country? Do they even know who he is and what he has done?

Written by David Rosser Owen

July 10, 2008 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Independence Day 4 July

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I came across two blog articles about American Independence Day that one really should read.

One is by Ben Heine called What is America to me?, highlighting Earl Robinson’s song “The House I Live In”, and the other is by Mark Glenn called simply Independence Day.

Mark Glenn’s is sad and particularly evocative. I think he gets it wrong calling the army and navy of King George III “foreign invaders” in north America at the time of Independence in 1776, as this was British North America at the time and the “rebellious colonists” were subjects of the British Crown.

It should be remembered, too, that only about one third of the population of BNA supported the rebellion – a third were essentially neutral, and roughly a third were loyal to the Crown. The shameful way the Loyalists were treated may well have been a portent of what the USA was to become. They were driven out to what became Canada, in bitter winter weather, many thousands of them dying on that “Walk of Death”. They became the United Empire Loyalists and supporters of the vision of Canada held by Sir John A. Macdonald and the Tories, busily being betrayed by the present PM, Mr Stephen Harper.

Even so, Mark Glenn’s piece is a “must read” on this Independence Day for Americans, and a salutary warning for the rest of us.

Written by David Rosser Owen

July 4, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Quis Educabat Ipsos Educatores?

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There have been two interesting developments in the UK Press in the past couple of days.

The first was the review of a book entitled The Eleven Plus Book: Genuine Exam Questions from Yesteryear, by Marcus Dunk and published by Michael O’Mara Books, that showed the type of questions that pupils aged 11 were expected to answer in the 1950s. A random few were “Fill in the relative pronoun in the following sentences… (b) The man to…… I spoke was very disagreeable” (answer: ‘whom’); “Of 800 people living in a village, half are men and half women. A quarter of the men leave the village to join the army. How many more women than men now remain?” (answer: ‘100 more women’); “In each of the sets of words given below there is one word meaning something rather different from the other three. Find the different word in each line and write it down: (a) alike, same, similar, somewhat; (b) pigeon, duck, goose, swan…” (answers: ‘(a) somewhat’, ‘(b) pigeon’).

The review wondered how many of today’s adults could actually answer such questions correctly. A good question. And to think that at the same time as these questions were being sat for the 11-Plus entrance examination into the country’s grammar schools, boys were preparing to face, about a year later, the Common Entrance exam to the independent schools with papers in Latin, Greek, and French (girls took the CE exam at eleven but with a different syllabus).

The second was the news that the Chief Examiner for the Assessment and Qualification Alliance, Mr Peter Buckroyd, awarded marks to a candidate in his GCSE English exam for writing a gratuitous profanity in one of his answers: the reasoning of the Examiner was, “it would be wicked to give it zero, because it shows some very basic skills we are looking for – like conveying some meaning and some spelling. It’s better than someone that doesn’t write anything at all. It shows more skills than somebody who leaves the page blank.” What an appalling indictment of the level to which the British secondary education system has been sunk.

And this isn’t the half of it. There are many things that are not taught correctly in state schools because the teachers themselves are ignorant of the true facts, as they themselves have not been properly taught. Standards have been consistently and progressively driven down since the 1960s in a class war crusade against elitism that has simply resulted in some four generations of schoolchildren that have been denied the basic tools of civilised society. A truly functioning democracy depends on an educated and informed electorate. If one is functionally illiterate, how can one inform oneself about the issues of the day? If one is ignorant of the history and culture of one’s people, what is one?

In the Daily Mail of Wednesday, 2 July, which I was reading in a local branch of Caffé Nero, the columnist Melanie Phillips had a real ‘go’ at this. She concluded, “Education is the very life-blood of a country. If the education system goes down the spout, the country must follow.” Perhaps that was the objective all along, who knows? Or, it may be, following that old Britsh adage, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and the architects of this folly really did do it ‘for the best of intentions’. If so, it should be yet another example why professional politicians and time-serving bureaucrats are a blight on a functioning democracy.

Without knowledge of the nuances of one’s culture, so much is incomprehensible. How many know, for example, where the phrase “by the skin of his teeth” comes from?

I went downstairs to get another cup of tea from Marija, the Slovakian girl who manages the branch. Sitting at a chair near a window was a woman reading a novel. I noticed the paperback, because it was one of the stories I had enjoyed by a favourite author of mine: The Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett, an author sadly afflicted with early onset alzheimers. How many know what the humour of the allusion in the title relates to? That made me question to myself whether the humour and allusions of a book such as Sellar and Yeatman’s 1066 and All That or Ronald Searle’s The Compleat Molesworth could be read and understood by the products of Britain’s state schools of the past few decades. One would hesitate to recommend Molesworth because one suspects too many people would think that its spelling was actually correct.

Somebody really needs to recruit people who do know things, in order to teach those who have to teach so as to rescue something at least from the wreck of the country’s education – if that’s still the appropriate word – system. In a parody of that famous quotation from Juvenal, one wonders “quis educabat ipsos educatores?” – who will teach the teachers?

Written by David Rosser Owen

July 2, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized


with 2 comments

On 26 June, fresh from twisting my knee coming down Beinn Ghualainn (Ben Ghuilean on the road map and called Ben Gullen locally), I went complete with stick to the dinner to welcome HE Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah to London.

From conversations over dinner, a couple of things cropped up that I think I’ll have a go at addressing over the coming days, in sha Allah – the history of the British Isles and Islam, particularly the earliest times; the nature of Celtic beliefs and Christianity; and what should be the role of Her Majesty’s armed forces in the twenty-first century (something I touched upon in Islamisamizdat when it was on Blogspot, under the heading of The Armed Forces Act).

And a couple of days later, on the 28th June, I went to the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford (MECO)/Oxford Centre for British Islam (OCBI) topical debate on the proposition that this house believes that “Islamic Theology and the War on Terror are Jointly Responsible for Muslim Extremism”, although the proposition that the floor was asked to vote on was “Islamic Theology, as well as the War on Terror, are principally responsible for Muslim Extremism in the UK”.

Points that came to my mind in the course of the debate, which was very interesting by the way, and which I would like in sha Allah to address here in the following days as well were: “Is there such a thing as British Islam?” (the hoary old chestnut came up that there is only one Islam, and so there can’t be a “British” Islam); “What is Shari’ah?” or something along the lines of what is Islamic Theology and how can it be made relevant to Muslims living in the UK at this time?; “Who is a Muslim?” – the troublesome claim of certain people to be entitled to indulge in takfeer (declaring someone a kafir) appeared, regrettably, as well as the permissible attitudes towards Christians in particular our Christian fellow countrymen and women; the failure of the authorities to actually define the terms “extremism” and “terrorism” that they are accusing the Muslims of engaging in, which of course sociologically and legally is a bit problematic; the best way of governing the mosques for the future we face; the cultural “spin” that exists on the way Islam and Muslims are seen in the UK; and the nature and causes of Islamophobia, and whether it actually exists, among the general population (that is, apart from the media and the political class who seem to be driving it).

So this presents a sort of prospectus of topics I hope to write about during July.

There are a few others, not connected to those two events. One is whether Independence for Scotland would be good or bad for the Muslim Scots: this is something that I promised a brother from South Africa that I would write about. And then there are general, passing matters that move me to write about them – one of these comes up next, and has to do with the plight of the British state education system.

Written by David Rosser Owen

July 2, 2008 at 11:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized