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Old 02-22-2006, 06:14 AM   #1
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The Land of Do As Your Told?

Sharia Enclaves in the UK within the decade? Should give a multicultural face to the state when you need the biometric ID cards to open doors, have a CCTV network that tracks and logs your movements wherever you go and blanket evesdropping on all electronic communications to fight the threat of terror (and make sure that you obey the road rules, pay the right price for your train ticket, don't commit hate-speech and pay your taxes to pay for all that)
Patrick Sookhdeo has been canvassing the opinions of Muslim clerics in Britain on the row over the cartoons featuring images of Mohammed that were first published in Denmark and then reprinted in several other European countries.

"They think they have won the debate," he says with a sigh. "They believe that the British Government has capitulated to them, because it feared the consequences if it did not.

"The cartoons, you see, have not been published in this country, and the Government has been very critical of those countries in which they were published. To many of the Islamic clerics, that's a clear victory.

"It's confirmation of what they believe to be a familiar pattern: if spokesmen for British Muslims threaten what they call 'adverse consequences' - violence to the rest of us - then the British Government will cave in. I think it is a very dangerous precedent."

Dr Sookhdeo adds that he believes that "in a decade, you will see parts of English cities which are controlled by Muslim clerics and which follow, not the common law, but aspects of Muslim sharia law.

"It is already starting to happen - and unless the Government changes the way it treats the so-called leaders of the Islamic community, it will continue."

For someone with such strong and uncompromising views, Dr Sookhdeo is a surprisingly gentle and easy-going man. He speaks with authority on Islam, as it was his first faith: he was brought up as a Muslim in Guyana, the only English colony in South America, and attended a madrassa there.

"But Islamic instruction was very different in the 1950s, when I was at school," he says. "There was no talk of suicide bombing or indeed of violence of any kind. Islam was very peaceful."
"The whole approach towards Muslim militants was based on appeasement. 7/7 proved that that approach does not work - yet it is still being followed. For example, there is a book, The Noble Koran: a New Rendering of its Meaning in English, which is openly available in Muslim bookshops.

"It calls for the killing of Jews and Christians, and it sets out a strategy for killing the infidels and for warfare against them. The Government has done nothing whatever to interfere with the sale of that book.

"Why not? Government ministers have promised to punish religious hatred, to criminalise the glorification of terrorism, yet they do nothing about this book, which blatantly does both."

Perhaps the explanation is just that they do not take it seriously. "I fear that is exactly the problem," says Dr Sookhdeo. "The trouble is that Tony Blair and other ministers see Islam through the prism of their own secular outlook.

They simply do not realise how seriously Muslims take their religion. Islamic clerics regard themselves as locked in mortal combat with secularism.

"For example, one of the fundamental notions of a secular society is the moral importance of freedom, of individual choice. But in Islam, choice is not allowable: there cannot be free choice about whether to choose or reject any of the fundamental aspects of the religion, because they are all divinely ordained. God has laid down the law, and man must obey.

Certainly not the first to make such bold claims, events over the last year or so have highlighted that it may be within the realms of possibility when the demographics tip in that direction.

I suppose another point is the classic strategy of divide and conquer, only in this case working to consolidate influence within communities and seperate them from integration to wider societal norms. One that may gain some traction when faced with issues that are clear cut within the context of the liberal democratic tradition (Mohammed cartoons and the wider issue of free speech versus hate speech laws) but disaffect these communities on a broad level (even so no quarter should be given to anyone regardless of religion who wants to curtail rights in the name of respect or tolerance). A recent poll showed that 40% of British Muslims would support the practice of Sharia law on a community level (source). It is a different issue from overt support for terror and murder, but terrorism is a limited threat - tipping countries with extremely low birthrates into Islamic majority states would be infinitely more productive for the long term goals of Islamic fundamentalists (they want us all to be one in the end). It is not written in stone, it does not warrant a xenophobic and knee jerk reaction or statement but there are issues about integrating Islam into western societies and there are issues about birthrates in western countries between different ethnic and religious groups.

And as for Islam being a religion that proscribes everything for life, a true religion to live by - very adventageous, the message can't be corrupted by structure, reinterperatation and revision. That works as a strength to the religion, it is comendable much the way one can respect a sly businessman or politicians machinations and is great for believers, but failing that we disbelievers run into the same problem and provoke the same animosity that we do with most other exclusive believer institutions. Religion is not the opiate of the masses, it is the virus of the mind, and I love the freedom to say that more than I ever could some omnipotent supernatural deity.

Then there is the obvious issues of conversion and tacit support, post-Christian people still need faith and im certain that Islam is just as good a fit if not better for quite a few people.

Im happy to accept peoples right to believe whatever the fuck they want to but they sure as hell better not start stomping out common law, sticking religion into the science class and demanding that they should have freedom from offence (a crime that all the major religions are guilty of here in Victoria by granting support to the religious hate speech protections)
"You have to distinguish between ordinary Muslims and their self-appointed leaders," explains Dr Sookhdeo. "I agree that the best hope for our collective future is that the majority of Muslims who have grown up here have accepted the secular nature of the British state and society, the division between religion and politics, and the importance of allowing people to choose freely how they will live.

"But that is not how most of the clerics talk. And, more significantly, it is not how the 'community leaders' whom the Government has decided represent the Muslim community think either.
Identifies the political savvy of the community leaders, and the importance of positive engagement with the people, the trap of going to the loudest person in the crowd who moderates themselves properly and bestowing priveleges without thought can be counterproductive.

It's setting up to be one ripping century.

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Old 02-22-2006, 10:01 AM   #2
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Interesting, I wouldn't want to live under Shari'a law. It would be way too confining. I'd get busted for my clothes.

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Old 02-22-2006, 10:48 AM   #3
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Originally posted by A_Wanderer
A recent poll showed that 40% of British Muslims would support the practice of Sharia law on a community level
There was a (failed) experiment with this in Canada awhile back actually...I don't know much about it though. It's hard to evaluate what such results mean really, as they don't give you a clear idea of (the range of) obligations to sharia (and of sharia courts to the state) that people who said yes are actually envisioning. For example, in the US, certain qualified forms of authority are given to various religious bodies on marriage and divorce issues.
Identifies the political savvy of the community leaders, and the importance of positive engagement with the people, the trap of going to the loudest person in the crowd who moderates themselves properly and bestowing priveleges without thought can be counterproductive.
This is a good point, but how do you go about realizing the alternative?

It is really all very reminiscent of some of the worst tendencies of British colonial policies in regards to defining "personal law" and "community law" in subjected territories. I could give you so many examples of how Raj-era policy in India often elevated previously marginal religious-law texts and traditions to positions of central importance because of bureaucratic insistence on having Official Texts and Official Community Leaders be the gold standard for defining what the legal needs of various religious communities were.
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