Shaykh Daoud’s Blog

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

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