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Archive for the month “April, 2011”

Myth-Conceptions Pt. IV: Muhammad & Aisha

“It is reported from Aisha that she said: The Prophet entered into marriage with me when I was a girl of six … and at the time [of joining his household] I was a girl of nine years of age.”  

“Khadija died three years before the Prophet departed to Medina. He stayed [alone] for two years or so. He married Aisha when she was a girl of six years of age, and he consummated that marriage when she was nine years old.”  

Sahih Bukhari ,Volume 5, Book 58, Number 234 and 236.

Perhaps the most insulting and damaging accusation that can be levelled at a man in this day and age is that he’s a paedophile. The sexual abuse of a child is probably the most grotesque and unfathomable act possible for anyone to commit. So unimaginably evil that 99.99% of the male population can safely take the moral high ground in condemning it. Any skeletons we may have in the closet pale into insignificance compared to paedophilia. Even murderers serving life sentences look down on child sex offenders despite their own transgressions and moral shortcomings. Quite simply they are society’s bottom feeders, the scum of the earth.

How Islamophobes must have thought they’d hit the jackpot with the revelation that the Prophet Muhammad was said to have married a 6-year-old girl, and consummated said marriage when she was 9. Not only this but Muhammad is used as the perfect example, and his life and sayings, the Sunnah and Hadith, are a source of guidance to every practicing Muslim. So naturally, paedophilia is permitted and encouraged in Islam. This is such a versatile insult as well. You can discredit a whole religion due to its founder being a sex offender. You can nod to any sex offence committed by a Muslim and state ‘he’s just being a good Muslim’, whilst claiming that anyone not committing such crimes aren’t true Muslims as they aren’t following Muhammad’s example. The EDL seem to be stretching it’s adaptability with the chants of ‘Allah is a paedo’ though. Whether they think Allah and Muhammad are one and the same, or just think it’s the most offensive thing they could possibly sing I don’t know. It’s probably safe to assume that they don’t know that Allah is simply Arabic for God, the same one Christians and Jews worship, not a separate deity. I wonder what they think Arabic Christians or Jews call their God? The irony of the fact that they are singing ‘God is a paedo’ with such glee seems to be completely lost on them.

Back to the issue at hand. The purpose of this series is to dispel the myths and expose the lies circulated by the anti-Muslim community. But as we can see from the extract quoted above it’s there in black and white, direct from the hadith. Surely there’s no way of wriggling out of this one? Think again. As with many of the other controversial verses and passages, left in isolation with no consideration of the wider picture or critical analysis, it’s pretty damning. Unfortunately, it’s also true that ancient pre-Islamic practices are justified in some quarters by doing just this. Sadly this only adds weight to the Islamophobe’s claims. But as I’ve noted in the other articles, what may be the cultural norm in places such as Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, isn’t necessarily sanctioned by the Quran, hadith or Sunnah, and shouldn’t be used as an indication of what is ‘normal’ for Muslims elsewhere.

I have no intention of indulging in cultural or moral relativism so this will not be an exercise in apologetics. Instead I will use evidence gathered from studies by eminent scholars and experts.

Bear in mind this assertion by Dr. David Liepert when considering the evidence:

There are really only three reasons to insist—as so many do —that Aisha was only 9 years old when Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam (PBUH) married her: Either you are such a crazy Islamophile that you are willing to go to your grave insisting Muhammad could do whatever he wanted. Or you are such a crazy Islamophobe that you want to insist he did. Or you are such a weirdly religious sex-crazed pervert that you hope accusing him makes it OK for you to do it too.

Liepert continues with the findings of thorough and detailed analysis of timelines and chronology within Islamic texts.

Aisha was married in 622 C.E., and although her exact birthday is unknown, Abu Ja’far Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari recorded that it happened before Islam was revealed in 610. The earliest surviving biography of Muhammad, Abu Muhammad ‘Abd al-Malik bin Hisham’s recension of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah “The Life of the Messenger of God” records that Aisha accepted Islam shortly after it was revealed— 12 years before her marriage —and there is no way she could have done so as an infant or toddler. It is a matter of incontrovertible historical record that Aisha was involved in the Battles of Badr in 624 CE, and Uhud in 625, in neither of which was anyone under the age of 15 allowed. Finally Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib; dead for over 700 years, recorded in the biographical section of Miskat al-Masabih that Asma, her elder sister of ten years, died at the age of 100, 72 years after Aisha’s wedding. This makes Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage at least 14, and at the time of her marriage’s consummation almost 20.

Tarek Fatah wrote an impassioned piece on this subject following a grossly offensive speech given by ‘former Muslim’ Wafa Sultan.

 How do people like Wafa Sultan or the Islamists claim to know for a fact that the age of Aisha was nine when her marriage to Muhammad was consummated? There are no birth records from the time and there is not a single piece of physical paper that can be traced back to seventh century Arabia that mentions the age of Aisha. In the absence of hard evidence, we have two choices:

1. We rely on medieval hearsay and gossip that has unfortunately seeped into Islamic literature, the Hadith and Sharia law, or; 

2. We calculate the age of Aisha based on actual agreed upon indisputable chronology of events.

The historian al-Tabari informs us in his treatise on Islamic history that the father of Aisha, Abu Bakr had four children and all them were born before the year 610AD, the year of the advent of Islam. If, as is generally accepted, Aisha became Muhammad’s bride in the year 624AD, then she had to be at least 14 years of age, if not older on the day of her wedding. 

Other calculations based on historical events place Aisha as old as 20 when she was became a bride. Ibn Hisham, the historian, reports that Aisha accepted Islam quite some time before Umar (the second caliph). This means she must have been at least a young girl in the year 610. Assuming she was five years old when Abu Bakr and his family converted to islam, the information puts the age of Aisha at 20 or more at the time of her marriage with Muhammad was consummated in 624AD. 

Furthermore, most Islamic historians agree that Asma, the elder sister of Aisha, was ten years older than her. It is also reported that Asma died in 683AD at the ripe age of 100. If this is true, then Asma would have been 31 years old at the time of Aisha’s wedding with Muhammad in 624 and the bride would have been 21.

Zahid Aziz has compiled numerous sources into one comprehensive article on the matter.

It appears that Maulana Muhammad Ali was the first Islamic scholar directly to challenge the notion that Aisha was aged six and nine, respectively, at the time of her nikah and consummation of marriage.

Prophet of Islam – published in the 1920s and 1930s.

“A great misconception prevails as to the age at which Aisha was taken in marriage by the Prophet. Ibn Sa‘d has stated in the Tabaqat that when Abu Bakr [father of Aisha] was approached on behalf of the Holy Prophet, he replied that the girl had already been betrothed to Jubair, and that he would have to settle the matter first with him. This shows that Aisha must have been approaching majority at the time. Again, the Isaba, speaking of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, says that she was born five years before the Call and was about five years older than Aisha. This shows that Aisha must have been about ten years at the time of her betrothal to the Prophet, and not six years as she is generally supposed to be. This is further borne out by the fact that Aisha herself is reported to have stated that when the chapter [of the Holy Quran] entitled The Moon, the fifty-fourth chapter, was revealed, she was a girl playing about and remembered certain verses then revealed. Now the fifty-fourth chapter was undoubtedly revealed before the sixth year of the Call. All these considerations point to but one conclusion, viz., that Aisha could not have been less than ten years of age at the time of her nikah, which was virtually only a betrothal. And there is one report in the Tabaqat that Aisha was nine years of age at the time of nikah. Again it is a fact admitted on all hands that the nikah of Aisha took place in the tenth year of the Call in the month of Shawwal, while there is also preponderance of evidence as to the consummation of her marriage taking place in the second year of Hijra in the same month, which shows that full five years had elapsed between the nikah and the consummation. Hence there is not the least doubt that Aisha was at least nine or ten years of age at the time of betrothal, and fourteen or fifteen years at the time of marriage.”

Research subsequent to the time of Maulana Muhammad Ali has shown that she was older than this.

The compiler of the famous Hadith collection Mishkat al-Masabih, Imam Wali-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Abdullah Al-Khatib, who died 700 years ago, has also written brief biographical notes on the narrators of Hadith reports. He writes under Asma,  the older daughter of Abu Bakr: 

“She was the sister of Aisha Siddiqa, wife of the Holy Prophet, and was ten years older than her. … In 73 A.H. … Asma died at the age of one hundred years. 

This would make Asma 28 years of age in 1 A.H., the year of the Hijra, thus making Aisha 18 years old in 1 A.H. So Aisha would be 19 years old at the time of the consummation of her marriage, and 14 or 15 years old at the time of her nikah. 

The same statement is made by the famous classical commentator of the Holy Quran, Ibn Kathir, in his book Al-bidayya wal-nihaya: 

Asma died in 73 A.H. at the age of one hundred years. She was ten years older than her sister Aisha.

A. Faizur Rahman: 

Child marriage in Islam is justified on the basis of a hadith in Bukhari which says that the Prophet married Hazrath Aisha when she was just six and consummated the marriage when she was nine.

This hadith cannot be true for several reasons. First, the Prophet could not have gone against the Quran to marry a physically and intellectually immature child. Secondly, the age of Hazrat Aisha can be easily calculated from the age of her elder sister Hazrat Asma who was 10 years older than Hazrat Aisha.  Waliuddin Muhammad Abdullah Al-Khateeb al Amri Tabrizi the famous author of Mishkath, in his biography of narrators (Asma ur Rijal), writes that Hazrat Asma died in the year 73 Hijri at the age of 100, ten or twelve days after the martyrdom of her son Abdullah Ibn Zubair. It is common knowledge that the Islamic calendar starts from the year of the Hijrah or the Prophet’s migration from Mecca to Medina. Therefore, by deducting 73, the year of Hazrat Asma’s death, from 100, her age at that time, we can easily conclude that she was 27-years old during Hijra. This puts the age of Hazrat Aisha at 17 during the same period. As all biographers of the Prophet agree that he consummated his marriage with Hazrat Aisha in the year 2 Hijri it can be conclusively said that she was 19 at that time and not 9 as alleged in the aforementioned hadith.

Islamophobes will argue that the hadiths are an integral part of Islam and an irrefutable record of the life of Muhammad. If Bukhari states the age of Aisha in the hadith, then arguing against it is blasphemy is it not?

Dr. David Liepert:

Imam Bukhari, compiler of the famous Hadith collection Sahih Bukhari included one recalling that Aisha said she was 6 when betrothed and 9 when she was wed. However, Bukhari included another recording that Aisha was a young girl and remembered when Surah Al-Qamar was revealed 9 years before her wedding as well. Obviously, both Hadiths can’t be true, and that’s the problem with relying too much on Hadiths, and too little on the Quran and common sense. Even if you believe, as I do, that the Quran is a divinely protected book, the same cannot be said about all Hadiths.

In fact, there is even an Ayah in the Quran that warns about the dangers of thinking otherwise. Luqman 31: 6 cautions:

But there are, among men, those who purchase idle Hadiths, without knowledge (or meaning), to mislead (men) from the Path of Allah and throw ridicule (on the Path): for such there will be a Humiliating Penalty. 

The only thing you need to realize is that both the tales Bukhari included can’t both be true. That fact; put together with the Quran’s warning means that Hadiths can’t be as authoritative to Muslims as the Holy Quran and the Sunnah are. 

Zahid Aziz shares his findings on the Hadiths:

As to the authenticity of these reports, it may be noted that the compilers of the books of Hadith did not apply the same stringent tests when accepting reports relating to historical matters as they did before accepting reports relating to the practical teachings and laws of Islam. The reason is that the former type of report was regarded as merely of academic interest while the latter type of report had a direct bearing on the practical duties of a Muslim and on what was allowed to them and what was prohibited. Thus the occurrence of reports such as the above about the marriage of Aisha in books of Hadith, even in Bukhari, is not necessarily a proof of their credibility.

There is further evidence that contradicts claims of Aisha’s immaturity. Historical reports don’t paint a picture of a pre-pubescent girl forced into marriage, sex and Islam against her will.

At the time of her marriage with the Holy Prophet Muhammad, it is of the greatest relevance to note the pivotal role she played as a teacher, exponent and interpreter of the religion of Islam. Aisha was an exceptionally intelligent and astute woman, a young prodigy, and this was the main reason why she was got married to the Holy Prophet, as is clearly proved by events after the Holy Prophet’s life. She entered his household, shortly after his emigration to Madina, just at the time when the teachings of Islam in all fields of life for the Muslim community were starting to be revealed to the Holy Prophet and demonstrated by him by his example and practice. An intellectually gifted person was required who would have daily contact with the Holy Prophet at the closest and most personal level, so as to absorb the teachings that he was giving on all aspects of life by his words and actions. Such a person would need to possess the following qualities:

  • an excellent, precise memory to retain a vast amount of detail accurately,
  • the understanding to grasp the significance and the principles of the teachings,
  • powers of reasoning, criticism and deduction to resolve problems on the basis of those teachings,
  • the skills to convey knowledge to a wide range of audience,
  • and, finally, have the prospect of living for a considerable period of time after the death of the Holy Prophet in order to spread his message to distant generations.

That Aisha possessed all these qualities and carried out this mission is an absolutely positive and undeniable, historical fact. After the Holy Prophet’s death, she acted as a teacher and interpreter of Islam, providing guidance to even the greatest of the male Companions of the Holy Prophet Muhammad. They made a special point of going to her to gain knowledge and seek her opinion. A vast number of sayings and actions of the Holy Prophet are reported from her in books of Hadith. She not only quoted his sayings and reported her observations of events, but interpreted them to provide solutions to questions. Whenever necessary, she corrected the views of the greatest of the Companions of the Holy Prophet. She made rulings and judgments on which Islamic law is based.

It is thus recognised, from the earliest times in Islam, that some two-thirds of Islamic Sharia is based on reports and interpretations that have come from Aisha.

In view of these exceptional qualities of Aisha and the towering role played by her in the transmission of the teachings of Islam, it is simply preposterous and outrageous to suggest that she was the victim of some form of child and marital abuse.

Dr. Liepert again:

Whether Aisha was still a child when her marriage was consummated has never been a question: all scholars agree that occurred after Aisha’s menarche. Islamophobes inevitably claim otherwise, but they do so based on a completely fictitious interpretation of events.

The condemnation of the Quran and Sunnah are very clear: The Quran states a woman’s consent is essential, and the Sunnah confirms that both Aisha’s betrothal and consummation occurred with Aisha’s enthusiastic agreement. In fact, some even imply she went against the initial wishes of her Dad! Those guides unequivocally confirm that men and woman have equal status before God, equal though different rights when wed, and that a woman cannot be given in marriage without her express approval. Absent that, the Sunnah also records that Muhammad dissolved marriages on the woman’s testimony alone.

As has already been mentioned, an over reliance on the Hadiths in preference to the Qur’an and the core principles of Islam has allowed elements of the Islamic and anti-Muslim communities to interpret a distorted view to suit their agendas. The Qur’an, the divine message from Allah as revealed by Muhammad himself states:

Marriage in Islam is a civil contract, meesaaq ( 4:21), and as such it can be finalized only between persons who are intellectually and physically mature enough to understand and fulfill the responsibilities of such a contract. This can be further understood from the verse; “And test the orphans until they reach the age of nikah (marriage), and if you find in them rushdh (maturity of intellect) release their property to them.”(4:6). It may be noted here that the Quran makes intellectual maturity (which always falls beyond the age of puberty) the basis to arrive at the age of marriage. This is also in conformity with the Quranic description of marriage as emotional bonding between two mutually compatible persons through which they seek “to dwell in tranquility” (see 7:189 and 30:21) in the companionship of each other which is not possible if either of the spouses is mentally undeveloped.

Also from the Hadiths:

“The widow and the divorced woman shall not be married until their order is obtained, and the virgin shall not be married until her consent is obtained.”

In addition, Muhammad gave women the power to annul their marriages if it was found that they had been married against their consent.

“When a man gives his daughter in marriage and she dislikes it, the marriage shall be annulled.”

Once a virgin girl came to the Prophet and said that her father had married her to a man against her wishes. The Prophet gave her the right to repudiate the marriage.

For a valid marriage, the following conditions must be satisfied, this is in accordance with all schools of thought.

  • There must be a clear proposal.
  • There must be a clear acceptance.
  • There must be at least two competent witnesses. This is necessary to exclude illicit sex and to safeguard legitimacy of progeny. It is recommended that marriage should be widely publicized.
  • There must be a marriage gift, little or more, by the bridegroom to the bride.

Anyone bent on smearing and disrespecting Islam and Muslims will no doubt find fault in the material presented above. It will be labelled as apologetics or revisionism, or just ignored and dismissed. Others will point out that it doesn’t really matter what it says in the Qur’an as the reality is, child marriage does occur in some Islamic countries. They have a valid point, even if their stance is not entirely sympathetic or their criticism constructive. The issues of forced, arranged marriages and child marriages are a source of shame and embarrassment to the wider Muslim community and need to be addressed with sensitivity but assertively. The treatment of women as property is strictly prohibited according to the Qur’an not to mention UN law, but forced marriages and the use of girls as compensation to victims of crimes are all too common in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan despite also being illegal there. The problem isn’t Islam though.

Factors perpetuating early marriage include poverty, parental desire to ensure sexual relations within marriage, a lack of educational or employment opportunities for girls, the sense that girls’ main value is as wives and mothers, and dowry systems. Girls who become pregnant may face extreme pressure from families and communities to marry. (UNFPA) 

Poverty plays a central role in perpetuating child marriage. Parents want to ensure their daughters’ financial security; however, daughters are considered an economic burden. Feeding, clothing, and educating girls is costly, and girls will eventually leave the household. A family’s only way to recover its investment in a daughter may be to have her married in exchange for a dowry. In some countries, the dowry decreases as the girl gets older, which may tempt parents to have their daughters married at younger ages. These are not necessarily heartless parents but, rather, parents who are surviving under heartless conditions. Additionally, child marriages form new alliances between tribes, clans, and villages; reinforce social ties; and stabilize vital social status. (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention)

The UNFPA report of 2005 stated:

It is no coincidence that the same countries in Africa, Asia and the Middle East that have high rates of child marriage are those with:

High poverty rates, birth rates and death rates.

Greater incidence of conflict and civil strife.

Lower levels of overall development, including schooling, employment, health care.

And conversely: 

The East Asian “Miracles” like Taiwan, South Korea, Thailand that have successfully eradicated the harmful traditional practice of child marriage are characterized by:

Economic growth and opportunity.

Declines in birth and death rates.

Increase in educational and employment options for girls.

In Saudi Arabia the subject of child marriage rears its ugly head far too frequently. The most recent high-profile case was when a Saudi judge refused to annul the marriage of an 8-year-old girl to a 47-year-old man, as the marriage contract was between the husband and the girl’s father who used his daughter to settle a debt with the man. Instead, the judge ruled that the marriage must not be consummated until she reaches puberty, when she will also be able to request a divorce.

Christoph Wilcke, a Saudi Arabia researcher with Human Rights Watch, told CNN: “We’ve been hearing about these types of cases once every four or five months because the Saudi public is now able to express this kind of anger, especially so when girls are traded off to older men.”

Zuhair al-Harithi, spokesman for the Saudi-government run Human Rights Commission, also said: “The Human Rights Commission opposes child marriages in Saudi Arabia. Child marriages violate international agreements that have been signed by Saudi Arabia and should not be allowed.”

Under pressure the judge finally approved the divorce.

A. Faizur Rahman:

Unfortunately, Muslim jurists don’t seem to have understood these Quranic teachings. Recently the grand mufti of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Abdul Aziz Al-Sheikh, issued a fatwa legitimizing the marriage of girls as young as 10.  Even in India Muslim institutions including the Deoband and the All India Muslim Personal Law Board have not outlawed child marriage. Yet they congregated not once but twice to condemn terrorism. It is astonishing that those who claim an Islamic basis for their shariah disregard the primary source of Islamic law, the Quran, to the extent of overruling it through their exploitation of spurious traditions. For instance, child marriage in Islam is justified on the basis of a hadith in Bukhari which says that the Prophet married Hazrath Aisha when she was just six and consummated the marriage when she was nine.

The problem with the present day Islamic law is that most of it is not based on the spirit of the Quran. This is because of the belief of Muslim theologians (particularly the Salafi ideologues, commonly known as the Wahabis) that hadiths have an overriding effect on the Quran. One such preacher Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi’s has the temerity to write in his book “An Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran” that the Sunnah of the prophet can abrogate the Quran. The truth is that the Quran being the locus classicus of Islam, no authority can supersede it.  Even the Prophet was commanded to judge by it (4:105, 5:49, 6:50, and 7:203).  Furthermore, as the Quran claims to be a guide for all periods, it supports the notion that any law formulated on the basis of its framework has to evolve from time to time. For this to happen the doors of ijthihad (independent interpretation) must be reopened, and the entire corpus of hadiths must be reevaluated to discredit such hadiths that are antithetical to the spirit of justice, equity and fairness embodied in Quranic universalism.

This isn’t confined to Saudi unfortunately as the case of Nujood Mohammed Ali attests. The 10-year-old Yemeni made history in 2008 when she was granted a divorce from her 30-year-old husband.

Nujood did something virtually unheard-of in Yemen: She went out by herself and took a bus and a taxi to Sana’a’s main court. All morning she waited, until a judge saw her sitting there. “I want a divorce,” Nujood told him. The story of Nujood’s audacity spread to Shada Nasser, a human rights lawyer. “I didn’t believe it,” she says. She asked why the girl needed a divorce. Nujood’s reply: “I hate the night.” Nasser agreed to take the case free of charge. “But you must smile,” she said, “and you must trust me.”

This proved to be something of a breakthrough. Legislation was passed in 2009 for a minimum age for marriage only to be scrapped due to petitions from objecting parliamentarians. But debate is continuing under pressure from various women’s groups. An indication of what reformers and campaigners are up against are the sentiments of Sheikh Abdul-Majid Al-Zindani, a Yemeni scholar who is also on the US AL-Qaeda wanted list.

“Do you want to please God or the infidels and western agendas? Do you want adultery or to protect your children in the safety of marriage?!”

Despite the ranting of hardliners, a public opinion poll implemented in late 2007 by the Yemen Polling Centre (YPC) revealed that around 66.5 percent of respondents consider the suitable marriage age for a girl is 18 years.

It would also be inaccurate not to mention that this phenomenon isn’t restricted to Muslim majority countries. A worrying percentage of marriages that occur in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and South East Asia involve teenage (or younger) girls. A 2009 UNICEF report found that 40% of the world’s child brides were married in India. Other countries where the percentage of girls married before their 18th birthday was over 40% include Nepal, Malawi, Zambia, Dominican Republicand Mozambique, none of which are Muslim majority. As another example, take Niger where 98.6% of the population are Muslim, and Turkey where the figure is 98%. The corresponding numbers for early marriage are 75% and 17% respectively. The life expectancy in Niger is 52 while in Turkey it’s 72. In Niger 65.9% are living on less than $1.25 a day (the 9th highest % globally) but only 2.6% of Turks. The literacy rate in Niger is 28.7% (the 3rd lowest in the world) whilst its Turkish equivalent is 88.7%. These are the statistics that dictate the situation not which religion they’re born into.

To further consolidate this let’s look at the other Abrahamic faiths in comparison to Islam. What do the early texts of Christianity and Judaism say on these issues of forced and child marriage?

An extract from Zahid Aziz’ writings:

The most famous marriage in Christianity is no doubt that of Mary, Jesus’ mother, with Joseph. While the following details are not in the canonical Gospels in the Bible, it appears from other early Christian writings (known as apocryphal writings) that Mary was twelve years old when the temple elders decided to find a husband for her. They selected the husband by drawing lots, and Joseph whom they chose was an elderly man, being according to some accounts ninety years old. The husband was selected and Mary was handed over to him, and she played no part in his selection.

These accounts are summed up in the Catholic Encyclopedia, 1913 edition, which is available online, as follows:

“It will not be without interest to recall here, unreliable though they are, the lengthy stories concerning St. Joseph’s marriage contained in the apocryphal writings. When forty years of age, Joseph married a woman called Melcha or Escha by some, Salome by others; they lived forty-nine years together and had six children … A year after his wife’s death, as the priests announced through Judea that they wished to find in the tribe of Juda a respectable man to espouse Mary, then twelve to fourteen years of age, Joseph, who was at the time ninety years old, went up to Jerusalem among the candidates; a miracle manifested the choice God had made of Joseph …”

While the Western Christian churches may not accept these accounts as authentic, the Eastern churches in Europe do accept that Mary was 12 years old and Joseph a widower 90 years old when they married. Moreover, there is nothing in the Gospels of the New Testament to contradict these accounts, and the Gospel stories are not at all inconsistent with these ages for Mary and Joseph.

Tarek Fatah relays his findings:

The Jewish Encyclopedia had more details. According to it, rabbis reckon “the age of maturity from the time when the first signs of puberty appear, and estimated that these signs come, with women, about the beginning of the thirteenth year, and about the beginning of the fourteenth year with men. From this period one was regarded as an adult and as responsible for one’s actions to the laws of the community. In the case of females, the rabbinic law recognized several distinct stages: those of the “ḳeṭannah,” from the age of three to the age of twelve and one day; the na’arah,” the six months following that period; and the “bogeret,” from the expiration of these six months. 

A ketannah was completely subject to her father’s authority, and her father could arrange a marriage for her, whether she agreed to it or not; similarly her father could accept a divorce document (get) on her behalf. If however the father was dead, or missing, the brothers of the ketannah, collectively, had the right to arrange a marriage for her, as had her mother. 

In mediaeval times, cultural pressure within Jewish communities lead to most girls being married while they were still children – before they had become a bogeret. Indeed, anyone unmarried after the age of twenty was said to have been cursed by God; rabbinical courts frequently tried to compel an individual to marry, if they had passed the age of twenty without marriage. Effectively, child marriage became nearly obsolete in Judaism; in modern times, it is an extremely rare event, as most areas with large Jewish communities have national laws against it. 

Add to this the fact that the age of consent in England was lowered from 12 to 10 in the late 16th century, some 900 years after Aisha married Muhammad, and it becomes obvious how problematic it can be applying modern day values and standards to bygone eras. Hollywood screenwriter and television producer Kamran Pasha:

“In my novel, I have chosen to directly face the controversy over Aisha’s age by using the most contentious account, that she was nine at the time she consummated her wedding. The reason I have done this is to show that it is foolish to project modern values on another time and world. In a desert environment where life expectancy was extremely low, early marriage was not a social issue—it was a matter of survival.”

So even if we were to concede that Bukhari was correct, there is no evidence to suggest that this was disapproved of or unusual at the time, in any religion, as long as the criteria of Shariah was adhered to. In an age when life expectancy was low, girls reached physical and mental maturity at a younger age. Nature and the environment dictated this, otherwise the population would have been facing the threat of extinction within a few generations. But there is enough concrete evidence to render this Hadith unreliable at worst, and impossible in all probability.

So to summarise a rather lengthy analysis. Was Muhammad a paedophile? No. Are there genuine issues regarding forced marriages and child marriages in some Muslim countries? Yes. Is this as a result of Islam? No. Does the Qur’an and Sunnah permit forced marriages and paedophilia? No, of course not.

Is there anything we can do to raise awareness and improve the lives of girls in this situation? I have included links to some charities and organisations that deal specifically with women’s rights in Muslim countries and communities, There are also links to human rights organisations that operate in non-Muslim countries that are affected by these issues. The least we can do is read and learn. It might also help if we spent a fraction of the money we do on bombing these countries on humanitarian efforts instead. But that’s another issue.

General

http://www.sistersinislam.org.my/

http://www.wisemuslimwomen.org/

http://www.wluml.org/

Afghanistan

http://www.vwo.org.af/

http://www.womenforafghanwomen.org/

Africa

http://www.awdf.org/

Indonesia

http://www.pulih.or.id/

Iran

http://www.ikwro.org.uk/

Malaysia

http://www.musawah.org/

Nigeria

http://baobabwomen.org/

Pakistan

http://www.bedari.org.pk/

http://www.behbud.org/

Turkey

http://www.wwhr.org/

USA

http://www.mwlusa.org/

http://feminijtihad.com/

UK

http://www.mwrc.org.uk/

Yemen

http://www.soul.org.ye/default.htm

Human Rights

http://www.hrw.org/en/category/topic/women

http://www.karamah.org/

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/

http://www.amnesty.org/

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Pages/WelcomePage.aspx

http://www.unhcr.org/cgi-bin/texis/vtx/refworld/rwmain

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Sharia: The Truth

When Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury stated that elements of Sharia law would inevitably be implemented into the British legal system a while back, there was a veritable shit-storm of gum flapping, arm waving, knee jerking and mouth frothing. From right wing tabloids to left wing feminists, from Christians and Jews, to atheists and agnostics. Ask them why and you’ll get roughly the same answer:

It’s oppressive to women, the punishments are barbaric, and it discriminates against homosexuals and non-Muslims. Before you know it we’ll all be dressing our women in burkhas, stoning people for blasphemy, erecting minarets on every street corner and sending all our bacon back to Denmark. There should be one law and one law only for every British citizen.

Point out that Sharia courts have been convening across the UK for quite a while addressing financial and marital issues, and you’ll get the creeping Sharia conspiracy thrown back at you: 

This is just the tip of the iceberg, give them an inch and they’ll take the whole country!!!

Tell them that Sharia law only applies to Muslims and the tin-foil hats are donned:

We’re already living under it. Our kids are force-fed halal food; they have Muslim only swimming pools. They’ve already got our fast food outlets and leisure centres!!

To these people diversity and the acceptance of differing cultural practices are seen as ‘us’ ‘giving in’, being a ‘soft touch’ or ‘bending over backwards’, and ‘them’ as ‘taking over’, ‘forcing their ways on us’ or ‘not integrating’.

If you come over here, you live by our rules, our values, and our culture. You adapt to us, not the other way round.

It’s a very aggressive, insular attitude fuelled by suspicion, paranoia and fear. Probably due, in part, to us being an island and possibly guilt from our past as invaders, crusaders and imperialists. Afraid of revenge from our former subjects and their allies? I digress.

The fact that the thought of Sharia law playing a part in our legal system caused horror across the political and societal divides is either evidence that, a) it is indeed a barbaric, medieval doctrine or b) we have absolutely no idea what it actually is. Having done a fair bit of research into it, subsequently hearing the way the word Sharia is used, and the context in which it’s used, it’s quite obvious that the latter is closest to the truth. If you’ve made any effort to understand objectively what Sharia is, it’s easy to tell when someone purporting to be knowledgeable is in fact totally ignorant.

I could copy and paste essays, articles and whole chapters from books explaining in detail what Sharia is, but I feel, as a layman, the simpler and easier it is to digest, the more likely a fellow layman is to read and understand it.

Literally translated, Sharia means ‘path’ or ‘way’. To add some meat to the bones I’ll quote Dr. Abdul Basit,

“The word ’ Shari’ah’ literally means “to make out or chalk out a clear road to water” but in its religious usage it translates to “the highway of good life” i.e., religious values expressed in concrete terms to guide man’s life. Thus the Shariah shows how a man is to conduct his life in order to realize the Divine Will. Therefore, it includes all aspects—spiritual, mental, and physical. It comprises faith and practice, religious duties, legal and social transactions, as well as personal behavior. All is subsumed under the Shari’ah as the comprehensive principle of the total way of life!

From ‘Understanding Sharia Law’ by Wajahat Ali & Matthew Duss of the Centre of American Progress.

Sharia is not static. Its interpretations and applications have changed and continue to change over time.

There is no one thing called Sharia. A variety of Muslim communities exist, and each understands Sharia in its own way. No official document, such as the Ten Commandments, encapsulates Sharia. It is the ideal law of God as interpreted by Muslim scholars over centuries aimed toward justice, fairness, and mercy.

Sharia is overwhelmingly concerned with personal religious observance such as prayer and fasting, and not with national laws.

In simple terms Sharia is the daily journey through life for Muslims. Every action they perform and every decision they make is carried out with this ‘path’ as a guide. This path is based on 8 principles or maqasid. With words from Dr. Robert Crane.

Respect for Divine Revelation – Classical Islamic scholars interpret this to require freedom of religion, which means that each human has the right freely to seek truth.

Respect for the Human Person and Life This principle provides guidelines for what in modern parlance is called the doctrine of just war.

Respect for Family and Community – at every level all the way to the community of humankind as an important expression of the person.

Respect for the Environment – concerns the relative priorities in protecting the environment versus protecting the other essential purposes of human life.

Respect for Economic Justice – This requires respect for the rights of private property in the means of production, which is a universal human right of every human being

Respect for Political Justice – including the concept that economic democracy is a precondition for the political democracy of representative government.

Respect for Human Dignity – This principle states that the most important requirement for individual human dignity is gender equity.  In traditional Islamic thought, freedom and equality are not ultimate ends but essential means to pursue the higher purposes inherent in the divine design of the Creator for every person.

Respect for Knowledge – The last universal or essential purpose at the root of Islamic jurisprudence is respect for knowledge.  This can be sustained only by observance of the first seven principles and also is essential to each of them.

The second-order principles of this maqsad are freedom of thought, press, and assembly so that all persons can fulfil their purpose to seek knowledge wherever they can find it.

Yes, you read that correctly. Not exactly the barbaric doctrine we’ve been conditioned to fear. They actually read like human rights guidelines. These are the principles that govern ‘Sharia Law’. The ‘law’ that calls for stoning, beheading, imprisons rape victims etc? How can this be so if the principles laid out above are adhered to? Let’s take this a step at a time and separate the ‘path’ from the ‘Fiqh’, the jurisprudence (The system of specific laws, rules and regulations, which must reflect and conform to the highest principles). The ‘Islamic Law’ of sharia is based on 4 foundations or sources.

Qur’an & Sunnah of the Prophet – derived from two sources: one being infallible and containing compressed information — the Qur’an — and another being a detailed explanation of the everyday application of the principles established in the Qur’an: The Sunnah, or the living example of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.

Qiyas (analogical reasoning) – the process of deductive analogy in which the teachings of the Hadith are compared and contrasted with those of the Qur’an, in order to apply a known injunction (nass) to a new circumstance and create a new injunction. Here the ruling of the Sunnah and the Qur’an may be used as a means to solve or provide a response to a new problem that may arise.

Ijma (consensus) – an Arabic term referring ideally to the consensus of the scholars of Islam.

Fiqh covers two areas, rules in relation to actions, and rules in relation to circumstances surrounding actions.

Rules in relation to actions comprise:

Obligation – eg. prayers.

Recommendation – duties recommended, but not essential; fulfilment of which is rewarded, though they may be neglected without punishment.

Permissibility – as above

Disrecommendation – is a disliked or offensive act (literally “hated”). Though it is not haram (forbidden) and therefore not a sin, a person who abstains from this action will be rewarded. Muslims are encouraged to avoid such actions when possible.

Prohibition (haraam) – In Islam it is used to refer to anything that is prohibited by the faith. Its antonym is halal.

There is no Islamic Book of Law as such.

Lena Salaymeh (a Harvard-trained lawyer now working on her doctorate in Islamic legal history at Berkeley)

In pre-colonial times, jurists—legal thinkers—would determine fiqh, the understanding of what divine law is based on their interpretation of religious texts. It’s important to note, however, that because human interpretations of divine revelation vary, and because there’s no central Islamic authority, there is no fixed legal definition of shari’ah.

There is no single school of thought on what shari’ah, or divine law, is or means—and there is no single, accepted legal code. If Islamic law were some book where you could look to it and cite to it, and say, it says right here that Western democracy is bad, then maybe that would make sense. But that’s just ridiculous…

The old interpretation chestnut. Those who prefer absolutes view it as problematic, some argue it allows greater freedom and intellectual analysis, in the right hands it could result in a fairer and more just society.

Fiqh rules are divided into four main parts:

Ibadat (on matters of worship, such as prayer, fasting, and hajj.)

Mua’malat (on dealings and transactions among people).

Hudud (punishments for crimes).

Qasas (rules of compensation for crimes)

The rule that I want to focus on is Hudud. When most people talk of Sharia it is Hudud, the penal code they have in mind. Hence the fear and paranoia whenever it is discussed. The actual meaning of the word is ‘limit’ or ‘restriction’. It is widely interpreted among progressive, reform minded Muslims that the punishments described are therefore intended as a maximum sentence that should act as a deterrent, not an automatic penalty. There is indeed Qur’anic evidence that reforming the offender should be the primary goal in Islamic law.

Ali Ashgar Engineer – Re-Thinking Islams Hudood Laws (2006)

The punishments like cutting off of hands for theft or stoning adulterer or adulteress to death existed before advent of Islam and the Qur’an retained them but also exhorted the believers to stress reforming rather than punishing. Islah and tauba are more important than mere punishment. Punishments are meant for unrepentant and hardened criminals not for any and everyone. For example the verse 5:38 about cutting off hands is followed by the verse 5:39 which stipulates, “But whoever repents after his wrongdoing and reforms, Allah will turn to him (mercifully). Surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.” Thus emphasis here is on reforming and repentance and this is possible before the punishment like cutting off hands is brought about.

Thus before meeting out such drastic punishment all possible efforts should be made for reforming the offender so that he does not repeat the crime and also extenuating circumstances will have to be taken into account as to why the person was compelled to commit the crime. The Qur’an lays repeated emphasis on justice thus implying that one has to establish a just socio-economic system before implementing such harsh punishments.

That is why Hazrat Umar suspended the punishment for cutting off hands during the period of famine. Also, in another case the Prophet (PBUH) reprimanded the owner of the orchard rather than punishing the child when he complained to the Prophet (PBUH) that the child had stolen fruits from the tree when the Prophet found out that he was paying almost starvation wages to the child. A crime committed out of need should be distinguished from one committed out of greed.

There are a number of crucial issues that need to be understood before being able to fully appreciate how the punishments meted out in Saudi Arabia, Iran and Nigeria, for example, have deviated so far from the classical principles detailed above.

It needs to be stressed that the culture of Ijtihad in Islamic jurisprudence has been more or less dormant since the end of the Golden Age of Islam around 7 centuries ago. Ijtihad is the practice of critical thought or reasoning by jurists, which allowed for intellectual interpretation. Instead Sharia law has been subject to Taqlid, meaning imitation, following blindly or being led by the collar, since the 14th century. This means that Islamic jurists have been adhering to interpretations and rulings that originate from medieval times, with little or no analytical thought process. There are many theories as to why this has happened, but it’s no coincidence that the Crusades, the Mongol expansion and the increasing power of politicians saw the imprisonment of Islam’s foremost intellects due to their influence on jurisprudence. This put an end to the great tradition of intellectual thought and thinkers, and Arabic society’s pre-Islamic patriarchal culture became dominant once again. It is only relatively recently that the inequality in Islamic law and clear human rights issues have brought the calls for a return to Ijtihad and the reforming of Islamic society.

Ali Asghar Engineer again.

Islam and human rights is much debated issue and most of the scholars agree that Islam not only conforms to the norms of human rights but also is precursor in this field.

But many practices among Muslims raises many questions which have to be satisfactorily answered in the light of today’s human rights norms. The hudood laws as enforced in many Muslim countries today give rise to this dilemma.

The hudood laws are undoubtedly based on the Qur’anic pronouncements but are as much result of human interpretations and human reasoning.

There are many reasons for this. The Muslim world is socially quite backward and intellectual levels of common people are not high. Medieval way of thinking persists among Muslims throughout the Muslim countries though a section of Muslim intelligentsia is in favour of social change and hence desires ijtihad. But since overwhelming number of Muslims cannot rise to those intellectual standards they resist any change and vehemently oppose any change.

To demonstrate how modern thinking and critical analysis could influence Islamic jurisprudence Ali Asghar Engineer goes on to write this:

It is also important to note that one should read all the verses on hudood punishments before coming to any conclusion about the nature of the punishment. Take cutting off hands, for example. Does it mean really cutting off the hands of a thief physically? If we take another verse of similar nature in the Chapter on Yusuf i.e. 12:31 which says, “So when she heard of their device, she sent for them and prepared for them a repast, and gave each of them a knife and said (to Joseph): Come out to them. So when they saw him, they deemed him great, and cut their hands (wa qatta’ana aydiyahunna) (in amazement), and said: Holy Allah! This is not a mortal. This is but a noble angel.”

Obviously here the words wa qatta’ana aydiyahunna does not mean they literally cut off their hands but that they injured their hands. If we similarly read the verse 5:38 it would not mean cut off hands of thieves but symbolically injure their hands so that they remember it and do not repeat the crime in future. It should not mean cutting off the palm of the thief and render him afflicted for life.

Also, we must read it in conjunction with the verse 5:33 wherein the minimum punishment for dacoity is imprisonment (aw yunfauna in al-ard). Thus when the minimum punishment for dacoity is imprisonment how can the punishment for a lesser crime i.e. theft could be cutting off hands. Thus the word qat’a should be interpreted not literally but differently. In Arabic when they say qata’a lisanahu it does not mean they cut off his tongue but it means they silenced him.

At the most qat’a yad could be taken as an exemplary punishment for a very serious crime and ordinarily such punishment should not be inflicted for less serious crime. Instead efforts should be made, as pointed out above, to reform the person. Unfortunately the Islamic world has interpreted this verse quite mechanically and have not read it along with other verses on this subject and neither have they tried to seen it in the overall context of the Islamic philosophy and values as pointed out above. Thus there is need to revise the law particularly in the modern context where human dignity and human rights have central place.

Another debatable had punishment is stoning the adulterer or adulteress to death which is known as rajm punishment. The Qur’an of course does not mention this punishment at all. The Qur’an mentions only flogging for zina. Thus we read in the verse 24:2 “The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with a hundred stripes: Let not compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by God, if ye believe in God and the last Day: And let a party of the believers witness their punishment.”

I hoped not to do too much copy and pasting, but I felt that the above extract illustrated perfectly how analysis and interpretation can be key. It also acts as proof that if the two primary sources for Islamic law are the Qur’an and Sunnah, stoning should play no part in the system.

Tariq Ramadan wrote the following in his call for a moratorium on corporal punishment.

Tariq Ramadan – Stop, in the Name of Humanity!

There is today a quadruple crisis of closed and repressive political systems, religious authorities promoting contradictory requirements and uneducated populations swept up with more a feeling of religious fervour and passion than true reflection. These facts cannot legitimize our silence. We are accomplices and guilty when women and men are punished, stoned or executed in the name of a formalist application of the scriptural sources.

We are convinced that reflection and the evolution in thinking are possible only from an internal societal dynamic.
For this to occur, we are advancing three arguments:

1. Muslim scholars are not in agreement on the interpretations given to the texts upon which these practices are based, nor do they agree on the required conditions in which they would be applicable. It is necessary, therefore, to have an open debate to immediately suspend these practices as there is no consensus on the matter.

2. The application of the hudud laws today is used by repressive powers to abuse women, the poor and political opponents within a quasi-legal vacuum and with a total disrespect for human dignity. The Muslim conscience cannot accept these denials of justice.

3. Muslim populations, who often do not have direct access to the texts, let themselves be swept away by a fascination that devotion to Islam means a strict and visible display of punishment, or an opposition to the West, of which they often have a stereotypical image. It is necessary to resist these irrational formalistic drifts that legitimize all forms of oppression.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to take these factors into consideration. Muslims, Islam or Sharia are not inherently evil. The fact is that uneducated populations are being oppressed and manipulated by governments & conservative clerics in pursuit of their own personal ideals, and the retention of power and influence. Surely we in the West can’t be blind to this through naivety? Even in our supposedly civilised societies we have enough examples of political corruption, misguided religious fanaticism, travesties of justice, institutionalised sexism, biased media coverage, war criminals and human rights abusers etc. Has Islamophobia become so pervasive, has the fearmongering been so convincing that even educated, intelligent and liberal westerners have been duped into accepting the ‘Sharia Threat’ conspiracy, and take it’s legitimacy at face value?

In the USA at least 13 states have recently introduced legislature banning the use of  international or foreign law, specifically for the purpose of negating the perceived threat of Sharia. Many more are also seeking to implement such a ruling. Bearing in mind that, as explained above, Sharia encompasses all aspects of Muslim life, these states are effectively making being a practicing Muslim illegal. Some right wing hatemongers are even calling for any Muslims practicing Sharia to be charged with sedition, and a bill proposed in Tennessee would make following Sharia a felony. Technically this could mean a 15 year jail sentence for praying to Allah, donating to charity, or observing Ramadan. Either we’re witnessing ignorance on a truly monumental scale, or a genuine, unashamed attempt to force Muslims out of communities.

I’ve intentionally avoided a discussion on whether religion should be allowed to have any influence on the legal system at all. I’ve also steered clear of introducing Jewish Halakha, Beth Din courts and Catholic Cannon Law to the discussion to keep the word count down! My only intention is to highlight the overwhelming ignorance that exists regarding Islamic law, not just the misuse of the word Sharia, but the principles that underpin it. Far from being a ‘legal-political-military doctrine’ as it’s been described, the basic principles at its heart could justifiably be used as a blueprint for an ethical and righteous lifestyle. You will constantly hear Islamophobes in the guise of conservative Christians, Zionists, neo-cons, racists or secularists, all saying that Sharia is not compatible with western democracy and civilised society. My reply to them would be, firstly, they over estimate how civil western society is, and secondly, they really need to read my blog!

**I strongly advise that everyone read these recent articles regarding the issue of Islamic law. All reproduced by the good people at Loonwatch. They explain far more thoroughly and articulately than myself how absurd and pointless the objections are.**

http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/04/wajahat-ali-understanding-sharia-law/

http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/04/legislators-introducing-anti-sharia-bills-dont-know-anything-about-sharia/

http://www.loonwatch.com/2011/04/upset-over-nothing-salon-com-debunks-latest-sharia-scare/

Camer-rant

“Put simply, we will never control immigration properly unless we tackle welfare dependency,”

Cameron is cynically playing on the insecurities of the disillusioned and uneducated by blaming Labour and the benefits culture for mass immigration. It’s using an acceptable scapegoat as blackmail for the people willing to swallow it. He’s saying ‘If you go back to work we’ll stop letting brown people in.’

“When there have been significant numbers of new people arriving in neighbourhoods, perhaps not able to speak the same language as those living there, on occasions not really wanting or even willing to integrate, that has created a kind of discomfort and disjointedness in some neighbourhoods. This has been the experience for many people in our country and I believe it is untruthful and unfair not to speak about it and address it.”

Where’s the proof for this? Integration is a two way street, the onus is on us to make people feel welcome. Is it a surprise that some minorities are afraid to interact with the wider community when groups of people are marching through our high streets in protest at aspects of their faith and culture? Is it surprising that people feel safer in communities that consist of their ‘own people’ when they face discrimination on a daily basis?

But, on this point, according to academics who have studied this subject, Cameron is wrong. Recently the University of Manchester sent me a news release about some research funded by the Economic and Social Research Council which found that deprivation, not multiculturalism, was the root cause of fragmented communities. The research team was headed by Dr Laia Bécares and this is what she had to say:

Politicians seem to link racial tensions to the perception that ethnic minority people and newly arrived migrants are not integrated into their host culture. But our findings show it is not neighbourhood ethnic profile but neighbourhood deprivation which erodes social cohesion in England.

The paper, called Composition, Concentration and Deprivation: Exploring their Association with Social Cohesion among Different Ethnic Groups in the UK, has been published in the journal, Urban Studies. Unfortunately it’s only available to subscribers. But here’s an extract.

Our findings show that it is not neighbourhood ethnic profile, but neighbourhood deprivation, which erodes social cohesion for ethnic minority and White British people in the UK. The fact that it is deprivation, and not ethnic heterogeneity, which causes social ills in the UK has been reported before, although previous studies have not examined whether this varied by ethnic group … Regardless, by exploring how the association between neighbourhood ethnic profile and social cohesion changes once area deprivation is adjusted for, and by assessing the contribution of area-level socioeconomic characteristics to social cohesion among different ethnic groups, the present study argues that increased residential heterogeneity does not erode social cohesion in the UK …

High levels of area deprivation have been stated to generate feelings of powerless, threat and alienation among neighbourhood residents, leading, in turn, to low levels of neighbourhood attachment and participation. Prior to engaging in building social cohesion, ethnic minority people living in deprived neighbourhoods are often more concerned about access to jobs, housing and public services. Efforts to promote social cohesion in the UK through integration and communitarism have been criticised because they fail to recognise the importance of the wider social and economic inequalities they produce and have been blamed to direct attention away from the institutional structures and practices of racism that have created existent health and socioeconomic inequalities in the first place. Existent sociopolitical schemes, thus, should not overlook the findings that highlight the importance of area deprivation on the erosion of social cohesion, given that initiatives that seek to enhance social cohesion while ignoring the structural factors that are responsible for material deprivation are unlikely to have a major impact.

Cameron wants to restrict non-EU migrants to highly skilled, well educated individuals, rich students who will only be allowed to stay if they find highly skilled graduate jobs and talented entrepreneurs. These are good immigrants. A coincidence that they fit the demographic that is more likely to vote Conservative? Isn’t this a cynical attempt at social engineering that they constantly tell us Labour are guilty of?

This is the second public speech made by Cameron this year that panders to the right-wing, with anti-immigration, anti-Muslim, anti-multiculturalism sentiments that closely resemble the rhetoric we hear from the BNP, UKIP and the EDL. This is a worrying trend that isn’t confined to the UK. In France we have seen Sarkozy attempt to restore his ailing popularity by trying to be more of a bigot than his rival Marine Le Pen. Across the Atlantic we have seen Donald Trump throw his hat into the Presidential candidates ring while jumping on the overcrowded anti-Muslim bandwagon in the clumsiest possible fashion.

Cameron makes the bogus claim that not talking about immigration “created the space for extremist parties to flourish, as they could tell people who mainstream politicians weren’t listening to their concerns or doing anything about them”.

We heard this during last years electioneering. It was inaccurate then and it is now. As Sunder Katwala points out, the talk of stifling the debate on immigration is a complete myth.

This hoary old myth doesn’t get us very far. The idea that debate about immigration has been silenced and closed down in Britain is a pervasive myth.

But, as a matter of fact, it can be easily disproved if one goes and looks at what politicians said and did throughout the period, or reviewing the endless noisy public debates about immigration, and volumes of legislation on immigration (broadly in a restrictive direction) under almost every post-war government, whether Conservative or Labour. I published a Comment is Free post ‘The Enoch Myth in 2008, offering chapter and verse which proves beyond any reasonable doubt just how noisy these decades of supposed silenced debate always were. (Cameron, perhaps prey to the myth, says in his speech “I remember when immigration wasn’t a central political issue in our country – and I want that to be the case again”. I wonder if he could cite any five or ten year post-war period which he has in mind when he claims that?).

It is interesting to reflect on the drivers of the sense of political disconnection which means that this is widely believed, but that is a very different thing from the myth being true.

Cameron directly echoes Michael Howard’s election posters in 2005, which proved somewhat less effective than the Conservatives hoped at the time, and which had the rather odd aim of starting a debate about immigration which will not be distracted by allegations of racism by starting a debate about racism and being silenced, rather more than to start a frank and rational public debate about immigration itself.

It was rather odd to claim that the other major party was treating all discussion of immigration as verboten – because I clearly recall that Labour had election posters in 2005 which proclaimed in bold, primary colours “Your Country’s Border’s Safe”, and it would be rewrite history rather spectacularly to claim that Labour home secretaries such as Jack Straw or David Blunkett did not speak about immigration. (Despite this, the claim has often been implicit in Labour’s post-election debates, which sometimes strike me as taking place as if we all had the memories of goldfish, leading to proposals to ‘break’ with the party’s recent approach and move on by saying all of the same things again, so as to also sound ‘tough’).

Immigration was also the only subject raised in all three of the televised election debates. The claim that extremists have flourished doesn’t quite explain how the BNP lost support and the Lib Dems ended up in a coalition government either.

The same David Cameron who today states: Our country has benefitted immeasurably from immigration. Go into any hospital and you’ll find people from Uganda, India and Pakistan who are caring for our sick and vulnerable. Go into schools and universities and you’ll find teachers from all over the world, inspiring our young people. Go to almost any high street in the country and you’ll find entrepreneurs from overseas who are not just adding to the local economy but playing a part in local life. Charities, financial services, fashion, food, music – all these sectors are what they are because of immigration. So yes, immigrants make a huge contribution to Britain. We recognise that – and we welcome it.

Is the same David Cameron who made a speech in February declaring that multiculturalism had failed. Which is it Dave?

Never Again?

I’ve made the point on previous occasions that the likes of the EDL seem to think they can smear and abuse Muslims with impunity, and counter any accusations of racism with the ‘Muslims aren’t a race’ clause. Let’s ignore for the time being the fact that the discrimination and persecution of a minority on ANY grounds is abhorrent, regardless of the spin you put on it.  The anti-Muslim phenomenon has more than a whiff of déjà vu about it. The language, the fear, the paranoia. We’ve seen it all before. More than once.

We in the West have a habit of creating a bogeyman using the same formula in cyclical fashion, this time it’s the Muslims turn. Whether they want to admit it or not, the Islamophobes are guilty of an offence on a par with racism and anti-Semitism. They might have different names, but they are all part of the same beast. Islamophobia deserves the same legitimacy as any other discriminatory ideology. As if to highlight this fact Microsoft Word is leaving a wavy red line every time the word is typed, and it will be the same when I copy this onto my blog. It’s not recognised as a valid word, so it can be dismissed as a manufactured phrase concocted by the leftist dhimmis of the PC brigade. What we’re witnessing has glaring similarities with the demonising of Blacks and Jews in the past. History will show this, but that’s no consolation to Muslims today. Can we hasten the process by opening people’s eyes? I believe so.

Let’s start with anti-Semitism first, as unfortunately, the most powerful and influential figures within the Islamophobic industry seem to be pro-Israel Zionists, be they Christian or Jewish.

This is the Wiki definition.

Antisemitism (also spelled anti-semitism or anti-Semitism) is prejudice against or hostility towards Jews often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture, and/or religion. In its extreme form, it “attributes to the Jews an exceptional position among all other civilizations, defames them as an inferior group and denies their being part of the nation[s]” in which they reside. A person who holds such views is called an “antisemite”.

The word was in use long before the Nazi era, but only after the end of WWII and the full extent of the Holocaust was realised did it become a pejorative term.

Here’s the corresponding definition of Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims. The term seems to date back to the late 1980s, but came into common usage after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States to refer to types of political dialogue that appeared prejudicially resistant to pro-Islamic argument.

In 1997, the British Runnymede Trust defined Islamophobia as the “dread or hatred of Islam and therefore, to the fear and dislike of all Muslims,” stating that it also refers to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by excluding them from the economic, social, and public life of the nation. It includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and is a violent political ideology rather than a religion.

Already we can see striking similarities between the two, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise.  Let’s compare.

Antisemitism is prejudice against or hostility towards Jews often rooted in hatred of their ethnic background, culture, and/or religion.

Islamophobia is prejudice against, hatred or fear of Islam or Muslims.

Give or take a few words they’re virtually interchangeable. Notice that prejudice against Judaism and Islam, the faiths themselves, in the definition. If anti-Semitism is considered a form of racism why not Islamophobia?

A number of accusations are made against Muslims and Islam in order to justify Islamophobic sentiments or actions. One angle is the use of the Qur’an and Hadith to prove that any criminal, violent or deviant behaviour from Muslims is the norm due to their adherence to the word of Allah and the example of Muhammad. The Anti-Defamation League produced a document in 2003 addressing the issue of misusing the Talmud to propagate anti-Semitism. It highlighted 5 common claims made.

Hussein Ibish, an agnostic secularist, addresses each one in relation to Islam.

• “Jews are intent on subjugating non-Jews around the world and even on committing genocide against them”this finds obvious and clear parallels in the constant refrain that Islam is bent on world conquest and the subjugation of all non-Muslims as “dhimmis” or worse, and in the frequent allegation that Islam has a genocidal attitude towards non-Muslims.

“Jewish law enjoins or permits Jews to murder non-Jews whenever feasible”one of the most familiar charges against Islam and Muslims is that “infidels” may or must be killed.

• “Jews are permitted to lie without moral or religious compunction” Islamophobes frequently claim that Islam authorizes, permits or even encourages Muslims to deceive non-Muslims, as in the calumnies about taqiyyah I have written about in previous Ibishblog postings.

“Judaism condones the sexual molestation of young girls”obviously the charge of pedophilia against the Prophet Muhammad is closely echoed here, as are a whole slew of charges that Islam permits, mandates or does not forbid a wide range of sexual perversions and abuses. More on this from the Ibishblog will be forthcoming.

• “Judaism is ‘more of a crime syndicate than a religion.’”in Islamophobic discourse, it is frequently alleged that Islam is “more of an extremist political movement” (recall statements to this effect by Ayaan Hirsi Ali cited In a recent Ibishblog post, for example) or some such bizarre formulation, than a religion.

The fact that so many Jews and others that hold Israel dear are some of the most prolific exponents of this dishonest fear mongering is perhaps the most depressing aspect of it.

One of the standard tactics in demonising the ‘other’, and creating a ‘them’ and ‘us’ divide, is the process of dehumanising the target. It’s designed to ease the act of victimisation as the victim is deemed to be sub-human. Its ultimate purpose in war-time propaganda is to make mass murder and genocide more palatable or even necessary. Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine was ruthless and relentless in this aspect.

Here are a few examples of how the language used by Nazi propagandists is mirrored by today’s Islamophobes.

“Of course the Jew is a human being too. None of us has ever doubted it. But a flea is also an animal. But not a very pleasant one. Since a flea is not a pleasant animal, we have no duty to protect and defend it, to take care of it so that it can bite and torment and torture us. Rather, we make it harmless. It is the same with the Jews.” Joseph Goebbels

Jewry in every century, in every people, was and remained a foreign body, a destroyer of real and ideal values, a denier of any upward progress, a plague for body and soul. It sneaks in through deceit and treachery, trickery and slyness, murder and assault, understanding how to establish itself. Hermann Esser, Die jüdische Weltpest

Just as a goat does not become a horse, even if his father and grandfather were in the same stall, a Jew can never become a German, even if his ancestor came to Germany as a peddler in Varus’ army. Unattributed

The Jews are a parasitic race that feeds like a foul fungus on the cultures of healthy but ignorant peoples. There is only one effective measure: cut them out. Goebbels

There are differences between people just as there are differences between animals. Some people are good, others bad. The same is true of animals. The fact that the Jew still lives among us is no proof that he belongs among us, just as a flea is not a household pet simply because it lives in a house. Goebbels

“Muslims don’t eat during the day during Ramadan” and “fast during the day and eat at night,” they are “sort of like cockroaches.” Neal Boortz

Not all Muslims from the Middle East and southeast Asia want to kill us, but those who do blend in with those who don’t. Would anyone tolerate a slow-spreading cancer because it wasn’t fast-spreading? Probably not. You’d want it removed.” Cal Thomas

They’re all brainwashed, though. That’s what it is. And they’re stupid to begin with, but they’re brainwashed now. Stinking animals. They ought to drop the bomb right there, kill ’em all right now. Sid Rosenberg, MSNBC

She said Western culture was superior to Islam and Muslim immigrants in the West had “multiplied like rats”. Oriana Fallaci

The Arabs are donkeys and beasts. They are inferior. What do they want? To take our women. They say we are racist. In reality, they are the wicked and cruel ones. They are imbued with the filth of the snake. There are pure and impure, and they are impure.” Rabbi Yitzhak Batzri

“The establishment of this school is an act of abomination and impurity. One can’t mix impure and pure. Of course we must stay apart from all the nations. You must stand in the breach and prevent this. It is forbidden to mix darkness with light. The nation of Israel is pure. The Arabs are a nation of donkeys. They are an affliction, a demon, a pestilence. “Why, one may ask, did God not create them to walk on all fours, since they are donkeys? The reason is that they must build and clean, but must always understand that they are donkeys. There is no room for them in our schools.” Rabbi David Batzri

One of the most infamous pieces of wartime propaganda was the film ‘The Eternal Jew’.

One of the shots early in the film shows a pack of rats emerging from a sewer, juxtaposed with a crowd of Jews in a bustling street of a Polish city. Close-ups of individuals show sickly, malformed facial features. The narration says that, as rats are the vermin of the animal kingdom, Jews are the vermin of the human race and similarly spread disease and corruption. (Wikipedia)

Here’s the introduction from the official Nazi Party review.

The Eternal Jew is the first film that not only gives a full picture of Jewry, but provides a broad treatment of the life and effects of this parasitic race using genuine material taken from real life. It also shows why healthy peoples in every age have responded to the Jews with disgust and loathing, often enough expressing their feelings though deeds. Just like rats, the Jews 2000 years ago moved from the Middle East to Egypt, at that time a flourishing land.

A cursory glance at the comments on the EDL Facebook pages will reveal that one of the most common names given to Muslims is ‘Muzrat’, and is usually used in conjunction with vermin or some comparison to disease or plague. The newest labels that seem to be doing the rounds are ‘Koranimals’ or ‘Islanimals’. All designed to relegate Muslims to subhuman status.

In 1941 Goebbels wrote an article called ‘The Jews are Guilty’ which was issued to every German. It was at a time when all Jews were forced to wear a yellow star and the holocaust was underway. It included 10 points that he urged needed to be remembered. I have re-produced them below with comparisons to statements made recently about Muslims and Islam.

1. The Jews are our destruction. They started this war and direct it. They want to destroy the German Reich and our people. This plan must be blocked.

Followers of the Islamic culture believe in one religion and one opinion meant to overtake the world through a Muslim crusade of blood and infidel bodies. Shlomo Engel

The real threat we are facing today is that Islam has a strategic plan to conquer and occupy AmericaRev. David Clippard

2. There are no distinctions between Jews. Each Jew is a sworn enemy of the German people. If he does not make his hostility plain, it is only from cowardice and slyness, not because he loves us.

A direct equivalent to the ‘no such thing as a moderate Muslim’ mantra, and topped off with a taqiyya disclaimer.

Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way. Glen Beck

To believe that a good Islam and a bad Islam exist goes against all reason. Oriana Fallaci

We need to…keep pressing these people until we defeat or chase them back to their caves or in other words get rid of them. I don’t subscribe to the principle that there are good Muslims and bad Muslims. John Deady, co-chair of the New Hampshire Veterans for Rudy

Moderate Muslims are those who watch non-Muslims being killed, but still say Allah u Akbar when the killing is happening. Anders Gravers, founder of Stop the Islamization of Europe (SIOE)

3. The Jews are to blame for each German soldier who falls in this war. They have him on their conscience, and must also pay for it.

This can be seen in the media coverage given to deaths and attacks occurring in Afghanistan, Israel and Palestine. The reporting we witness in the West is only half of the story. We’re notified of each tragic death of young British soldiers, but hear nothing of the thousands of innocent women and children killed by drone attacks in Waziristan or by Israeli forces in Gaza. On the rare occasions they do get coverage, we’re told the targets were ‘insurgents’ or ‘militants’. Because of the unbalanced media coverage and demonization, we’re encouraged to believe that what happens in a war zone is acceptable and necessary.

4. If someone wears the Jewish star, he is an enemy of the people. Anyone who deals with him is the same as a Jew and must be treated accordingly. He earns the contempt of the entire people, for he is a craven coward who leaves them in the lurch to stand by the enemy.

All Muslims in the United States should be identified with a crescent-shape tattoo or a distinctive arm band. Jerry Klein

A feature of these 10 points is the tarring of anyone who doesn’t stand against the Jews as enemies. It echoes the accusations made by Islamophobes of the ‘leftist elite’, ‘marxists’ or dhimmis that constitute anyone not sharing their viewpoint. The ‘you’re either with us or against us’ stance.

5. The Jews enjoy the protection of our enemies. That is all the proof we need to show how harmful they are for our people.

The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN and other media outlets bow in subservience to Islamic fear mongers, warmongers and terrorists. Randall Terry

Robert Frost said of liberals that they’re incapable of taking their own side in a fight. We will see how deeply a degenerate form of liberalism has penetrated our souls. Randall Terry

We need to execute people like John Walker in order to physically intimidate liberals, by making them realize that they can be killed, too. Otherwise, they will turn out to be outright traitors. Anne Coulter

I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to GuantanamoAnne Coulter

Even Islamic terrorists don’t hate America like liberals do. They don’t have the energy. If they had that much energy, they’d have indoor plumbing by now. Anne Coulter

6. The Jews are the enemy’s agents among us. He who stands by them aids the enemy.

Stealth Jihad and dhimmitude anyone?

With this said, what will America do about the enemies in our midst? Continue to put our heads in the sand and ape the idiotic rantings from the propaganda press? – “Islam is a religion of peace”; “Islam welcomes all faiths”; “George W. Bush is the biggest enemy of freedom, not al-Qaida”; and other asinine babblings of the political left, or will real men rise up, demand that the FBI put every mosque and imam in America under constant surveillance. Ellis Washington

I’ll stand by that number of 85 percent. This is an enemy living amongst us. Rep. Peter King

7. The Jews have no right to claim equality with us. If they wish to speak on the streets, in lines outside shops or in public transportation, they should be ignored, not only because they are simply wrong, but because they are Jews who have no right to a voice in the community.

To me, “inclusion” means “tolerance,” nothing more…. They can be a part of our cultural traditions if they choose to be, but we will not recognize their traditions as equivalent to ours because in our eyes, they aren’t. They can be included, but that means that their traditions will be tolerated. Z. Dwight Billingsly

There is a depressingly extensive list of statements made that express the wish for Muslims to be treated as 2nd class citizens. The parallels between them, the Nazi view of Jews and the laws of Jim Crow era America are clear. More on this later.

8. If the Jews appeal to your sentimentality, realize that they are hoping for your forgetfulness, and let them know that you see through them and hold them in contempt.

Taqiyya again.

America must come to the realization that you cannot trust anything these radical Islamic followers may say to you. After all, they endorse lying to non-believers. Walid Shoebat

Hearing Walid Shoebat say that radical Islamic followers do not have to follow ANY agreement made with a non-believer proves to me that we cannot negotiate with these terrorists and they will lie to us anytime they want to lie to us. Don Swarthout, President of Christians Reviving America’s Values

9. A decent enemy will deserve our generosity after we have won. The Jew however is not a decent enemy, though he tries to seem so.

The enemy is Fundamental Islam and all who support it and they all must be destroyed. Consequently we must adopt a new paradigm – THE ONLY GOOD MUSLIM IS A DEAD MUSLIM! A few innocents shall perish, but who really cares? Muslims multiply like rodents so it’s no big deal. George m weinert V

All Muslims are programmed to kill and we can thus never negotiate with any of them. John Hagee

10. The Jews are responsible for the war. The treatment they receive from us is hardly unjust. They have deserved it all.

Muslims killed us on 9/11. Bill O’Reilly

What did we do to the Arabs? I believe Americans are the victims in that relationship. Anne Coulter

We’re not attacking Islam but Islam has attacked us. Franklin Graham

9/11 is used as the justification for any discrimination or persecution of Muslims. Its image is also invoked to ease any guilt over civilian deaths in Afghanistan, Iraq or Palestine. It seems to me that Americans and Europeans alike see 9/11 as the trigger for hostilities, rather than the culmination of a decade of American and Israeli aggression in the Middle East. Anything that happens post 9/11 can be wholly justified as they see it as a declaration of war.

One of the other accusations that the Nazi and ant-Muslim propaganda have in common, is the claim that Judaism and Islam are not religions.

Actually, the Jewish religion is nothing other than a doctrine to preserve the Jewish race. Adolf Hitler

To call this state a ‘religion’ was one of the cleverest tricks ever invented. Adolf Hitler

From this first lie that Jewry is a religion, not a race, further lies inevitably follow. Adolf Hitler

I don’t know how we can call it a religion in the traditional sense. It should be called a murderous organization that’s out to kill people. Jackie Mason

Ladies and gentlemen, we have to recognize that Islam is not a religion. It is a worldwide political movement meant on domination of the world. And it is meant to subjugate all people under Islamic law. Pat Robertson

The most ugly and offensive lie perpetuated by neo-Nazi sympathisers and the most extreme anti-Semites is Holocaust denial. To the extent that it is now actually a crime to peddle this myth. The reason that anti-Semitism is acknowledged as being as serious as classic racism can probably be attributed to this. This makes it even more sickening to hear Jews and Christian Zionists indulging in similar denial when it comes to Muslims. Step forward Pamela Geller.

Geller claims that the death camps in which thousands of Bosnian Muslims were rounded up and murdered, were fake, that they were hoaxes created by the “Western liberal media.”  As many have noted, this sounds much like holocaust denial, and is just as reprehensible.

A little earlier I mentioned that there are alarming similarities between the Jim Crow laws of latter-day America and the restrictions that many commenters want to impose on Muslims today. Even if you’re not familiar with the term Jim Crow, I have no doubt you’ll be aware of that period of American history. African-Americans were not permitted to vote, not permitted to use the same restaurants, water fountains, schools, churches, public transport and interracial relationships were illegal. Think burning crosses, think lynch mobs, think KKK.

American TV evangelist and political candidate Pat Robertson has stated that only Christians and Jews should be allowed to hold public office.

There is no escaping the unfortunate fact that Muslim government employees in law enforcement, the military and the diplomatic corps need to be watched for connections to terrorism. Rev Franklin Graham

It’s time to have a Muslims check-point line in American airports and have Muslims be scrutinized. You better believe it. It’s time.
radio host. Mike Gallagher

Arrest every Muslim that comes across the state line. Rep. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga)

Muslims and Arabs will be looking through a razor wire fence at the West … when things heat up, the profiling will only get worse, and the razor wire will be coming. Glenn Beck

Would it be wise of Western countries, in the present state of affairs, to “fence off” Islam — that is, to deny entry to foreign Muslims, to expel — regretfully, politely, and humanely, but firmly — resident foreign Muslims, and to restrict the activities of Muslim citizens (preventing them, for example, from proselytizing in our jails, or working in defense establishments)? John Derbyshire

You asked me what I would do about American Muslims. Answer is I’d put a cop in front of every mosque until I was completely satisfied nothing was going on there. James Pinkerton

Every Muslim immigrant to America who holds a green card, a visa, or who is a naturalized citizen [should] be required by law to wear a GPS tracking bracelet at all times,  the government should bug their places of work and their residences and monitor all mosques and community centers. If they don’t like the idea, or if they refuse, throw their asses out of this country. “Gunny” Bob Newman


Clear calls in mainstream American media for Muslims to be monitored, profiled, segregated and victimised.

The always on point Max Blumenthal drew comparisons in a recent article following the disgusting abuse spat at Muslims by Tea Party bigots in Yorba Linda. An event organised by none other than Pamela Geller.
I could not help but think of Elizabeth Eckford, the African-American student who was forced to walk through a phalanx of violent white racists chanting “Lynch her! Lynch her!” during the federal government’s first attempt to integrate Little Rock Central High School. This iconic image was immediately recalled by the video of Muslim-American children walking through a crowd of protesters calling them terrorists, threatening them, and chanting “Go home!” as they proceeded towards a local community center for a charity event. Eckford was badly scarred by her experience; the trauma affected her life for decades. I wonder how the children who had to be marched through the gauntlet of racists in Yorba Linda will remember their experience. Back in 1957, in Little Rock Central High, an awkward, acne scarred boy sat behind Elizabeth Eckford every day in class, muttering in a low drone, “Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger.” Harassment from him and scores of white students would eventually drive Eckford to attempt suicide several times.

Not convinced that this brand of polemics could lead to the violence perpetrated against African-Americans in the Jim Crow era? Here is a list of close to 300 acts of violence towards mosques reported in the USA, Europe and elsewhere. They range from verbal abuse and vandalism, to physical assault, fire bombings, tear gas attacks, acid bombs, shootings, cross burnings, and various acts committed with faeces and pigs blood. It also includes numerous acts of vandalism carried out on Muslim graves and cemeteries.

Add to that this list of acts against individuals. In the UK alone a woman was assaulted with her own hijab, another was wrapped in a carpet and set on fire after a burglary at her home, the robber said “This is your Eid present, you Muslim.” A teenage Muslim girl was burned and cut with glass, a Muslim man was tied to railings, hosed with water and force-fed bacon by work colleagues, an Iraqi asylum seeker was mowed down by a racist hit and run gang, and the corpse of a Muslim woman was desecrated with bacon by a hospital employee. Elsewhere on the list are numerous human & civil rights abuses, stabbings, shootings, assaults and murders, all with anti-Muslim motives. Are these crimes racist or Islamophobic? Is assaulting a woman due to the colour of her skin different and more serious than assaulting a woman due to her religion? Is burning down a Mosque in Britain today any different to burning down a ‘black’ Church in Bible belt America in the 1950’s?

The United Shades of Britain website has an excellent FAQ section that addresses numerous Islamophobic myths. Here’s an extract from an article by Aoife Tobin.

This racialisation of Islam (and Judaism), is not particularly about the concept of them as an inferior ‘race’, as it was with ‘blacks’, but it is about an antipathy towards the group, a bigotry and hostility towards people because they are part of this supposedly physically identifiable group. The traits associated with Islam are often those we have seen in ‘classic racism’ that they are dirty, promiscuous, licentious, violent and so forth. These are almost common characteristics in racialised groups, and racist epithets. The racialisation of Islam embodies all those that follow it, and ascribes them negative characteristics, that are seen as intrinsically connected to having that religion, and as immutable as skin colour. Racialising Islam is also about how you can be a Muslim but not ‘look like’ a Muslim, and you can ‘look like’ a Muslim, but not be one. The entire concept that there is a Muslim ‘look’ (which can be testified to by anybody who’s received different treatment because of the assumption they are Muslim), is a racialised concept.

Karim (America’s Media Coverage of Muslims: The Historical Roots of Contemporary Portrayals’, 2006) describes four primary representations of Muslims in the media: “having fabulous but underserved wealth”, “being barbaric and aggressive, indulging in sexual excess and the most persistent image of ‘the violent Muslim’”. This twinned with racial profiling at airports for example, and a common sense of thinking one can identify a Muslim by appearance or visual clues means they are thought of as a homogeneous group, just as ‘blacks’ were. It brings things we know, or think we know, about Islam, and cultures in Islamic countries and peoples, and gives it an essence of nature. That Muslims are ‘just like that’, rather than a very diverse group with no common feature beside Islam (and even then, different branches and practices).

So making a sweeping judgement against Islam or Muslims is wrong for the same reasons that a sweeping judgement against ‘black’ people or ‘white’ people would be, and so on that basis is formed in the same way as racism and there is no significant difference between the two.

This isn’t an issue that has just affected Blacks, Jews and Muslims though. The dehumanising, demonising and stereotyping of other peoples has been a feature of Western, Christian civilization since the dawn of time. No matter who has been demonised, or why, there is a recurring theme of playing on religious fears, the threat to ‘our’ women and portraying the ‘other’ as being barbaric, savage and primitive.

In 2011, no one in the mainstream media would dare espouse openly anti-Semitic views akin to those above. No one would express their wishes to return blacks to the status they had in the Jim Crow era, whether they held them or not. Why then, in the 21st century is it acceptable to do both of these with Muslims?

It worries me to imagine how far this could go before it is seen for what it is. Where is the tipping point? What will be the catalyst that forces people to say enough is enough? Unfortunately it will likely be a tragedy on a large scale. It scares me to imagine how large. People are dying daily in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain. Hundreds of detainees remain in Guantanamo Bay without charge. The civilian death toll in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan is in the hundreds of thousands. The people of Palestine are still living in a state of apartheid under siege. How much suffering needs to be inflicted before a watershed occurs?

As long as the GWOT continues, as long as Palestinians resist, and as long as there is oil in the middle east, there will be a need to demonise Muslims and Arabs. In recent weeks we have seen anti-Muslim hearings being held and anti-Sharia laws being passed in America. We’ve seen France criminalise 0.003% of it’s population by banning the niqab. Belgium have already done this. Holland is considering the issue of Halal slaughter. Switzerland has already banned the erection of minarets. Gaza has lost women and children with no media outcry, western condemnation or political debate for a no fly zone.

My hope is that making it as uncomfortable as possible to carry out this demonising will go some way to accelerating it’s demise. Don’t let anyone tell you they can’t be racist towards Muslims, because they can and they are. From the lowliest EDL member, to Republican Senators and Heads of State. Let’s not allow them to hide behind the false claims and propaganda. It’s a huge challenge due to the semantics and misinformation in use and the political implications. The influence of the Conservative Christian right and Pro Israel lobby also cannot be underestimated. But the court of public opinion will always hold considerable power. Public opinion needs to be informed to be able to pass judgement. That’s where we come in. Let’s take this opportunity in the age of social networks and internet revolutions to help raise awareness and stop the hate. Forward, share, join, like, tweet and retweet. Let’s become the generation that said ‘Never Again’ and really meant it.

Why you’ll never win an argument with an Islamophobe

When I say win an argument, I mean actually prove them wrong and change their mind. There are obviously many reasons why this is so unlikely to happen, primarily due to the fact that prejudice of this nature is deep-rooted and engrained, and likely to be the result of parental or peer influence. In extreme cases it goes beyond casual racism and xenophobia, and is based on unpleasant political and ideological racial views.

Argue with an Islamophobe and you’ll consistently come up against the same obstacles every time. The first one is the claim that they’re not being racist, because ‘Muslim’ isn’t a race. Factually correct of course, but this is obfuscation and an excuse so flimsy that it’s transparent to anyone with an ounce of intelligence. Taking the EDL as an example, you don’t have to spend too much time watching footage of their demos and screenshots of their Facebook pages to realise that the word Muslim has simply replaced the word ‘paki’ as a catch-all term for someone of Asian or Arab descent. In many cases the word ‘paki’ is still used freely and unashamedly. If you analyse the accusations made and the language used, they mirror the age-old formula used by racists to demonise and dehumanise black people. They’re violent, savage, dishonest, lazy, thieving, misogynistic, they’re after our women etc.

The second obstacle you’ll encounter is the claim that they don’t hate Muslims, just Islam. They’ll tell you it’s a religion of hate, that it was spread by the sword, that the Qur’an and the examples of Muhammad teach them to kill non-believers, subjugate women, carry out jihad to gain global dominance and implement sharia law. They might even be able to recite a couple of misquoted, decontextualised extracts from the Qur’an or Hadiths to prove their point.

If you’ve done your homework you can counter every one of these claims using the same sources, and a bit of common sense. At this point it can go one of two ways. You could get called an appeaser followed by a few choice insults and the argument will end, which in itself is a victory. But Islamophobia has become a cottage industry run by some particularly devious and hateful people. At some point in the evolution of Islamophobia there must have been a realisation that misquoting, decontextualising and deliberately misinterpreting texts wouldn’t fool everybody, and could be countered by more knowledgeable opponents. They needed something else, something you can’t argue against, the ultimate get-out clause.

If you’re up against one of the more dedicated, conscientious Islamophobes you need to know two words. Dhimmi and Taqiyya. To be able to progress onto the next level and do battle with this more sophisticated foe, one must first learn about Dhimmitude and Taqiyya. Dhimmi is a personal favourite of Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs and SIOA. It’s a condescending insult that implies that a non-Muslim is being used as a doormat or being accommodating to Muslims. Implying that to oppose Islamophobia, or to actively support and sympathise with mainstream Muslims means that some form of coercion or manipulation must have taken place. Offensive not only to the accused but Muslims too.

The word Dhimmi originates from the Arabic word dhimma, meaning contract or security. Ahl al-dhimmah is Arabic for ‘the people of the contract’, linguistically dhimmi means ‘one whose responsibility has been taken’. It refers to the status offered to non-Muslim subjects living in an Islamic state, and dates back to the time of Muhammad. A non-Muslim in the early years of Islam was required to pay a tax, the jizya. In return the Muslim state was obligated to protect dhimmis in civil and military matters. Dhimmis were exempt from military service, but if they chose to fight they would then not be required to pay jizya. The jizya was actually lower than the zakat tax which was used as a charity donation to the poor and needy, and only paid by Muslims.

In the grand scheme of things it’s hardly the worst insult in the world. The insinuations far more offensive to Muslims than the ‘dhimmis’. The implication that some form of pact or treaty should be required for non-Muslims to feel safe, and a suggestion that the West has been Islamised when Muslims quite clearly are an oppressed minority. It also allows the delusional bigots to justify their prejudice with their concience, if they actually have one.

Taqiyya is the top trump of get out clauses, and the last resort for Islamophobes in the face of overwhelming facts and evidence. Quite simply, Taqiyya is the Shi’a practice of concealing ones faith in the face of threat, persecution or compulsion. It merely gives the person the permission to deny their faith to avoid possible death without insulting Allah or Muhammad. Unsurprisingly, Islamophobes have distorted and exaggerated its meaning and usage. For example here’s Robert Spencer of Jihadwatch:

“When Shi’ite Muslims were persecuted by Sunnis, they developed the doctrine of taqiyya, or concealment: They could lie about what they believed, denying aspects of their faith that were offensive to Sunnis…Closely related to this is the doctrine of kitman, or mental reservation, which is telling the truth, but not the whole truth, with an intention to mislead…Remember that the next time you see a Muslim spokesman on television professing his friendship with non-Muslim Americans and his loyalty to the United States. Of course, he may be telling the truth–but he may not be telling the whole truth or he may be just lying.”

The assertion is that Muslims are permitted, no, required to lie and deceive in order to further the cause of Islam. And as we all know, that cause is world domination.

Hussein Ibish:

“It has even been implied by some on the ultra-right that President Obama is “practicing taqiyya” when he “poses as a professed Christian.” Agnostics and secularists such as myself may thereby also, as both Robert Spencer and Daniel Pipes have claimed about me, be accused of being secretly or objectively a “jihadist cadre.” Since this understanding of taqiyya began to develop in Islamophobic and “counterterrorism” circles post-9/11, it has increasingly served as little more than a code word for the idea that Muslims, and even anyone with any Muslim heritage, are all actual or potential liars.”

Rev. Frank Julian Gelli in an open letter to Geert Wilders:

“When a ‘Russia Today’-TV interviewer told you that an imam had just issued a fatwa condemning suicide bombing, you came up with a smart repartee: ‘Yes, but Muslims believe in taqiya.’ Therefore you cannot trust the good Imam is telling the truth.”

The gullible and devious alike will use these words whether they know the reality or not. It’s ultimately an admission that they have already lost the argument. It’s a tactic used to stop any rational debate dead in its tracks. How can you possibly convince someone who’s got the taqiyya conspiracy to fall back on? It can be used to reduce any acts of compassion or nobility, and any positive statements from Muslims to ‘Stealth Jihad’. It makes the spoof video below scarily accurate.

I have provided several links that debunk, rebut and counter the dhimmitude and taqiyya slurs below. If there is a way to silence or stifle the lies, it’s with truth and knowledge.

To get the lowdown on the truly bat-shit loon that coined the phrase dhimmitude Bat Ye’or check the link below.

Here’s an example of her lunacy:

http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/09/anti-muslim-loon-with-a-crazy-conspiracy-theory-named-eurabia/

Dhimmitude

http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/05/the-politically-incorrect-guide-to-robert-spencer/

http://www.loonwatch.com/2009/11/the-churchs-doctrine-of-perpetual-servitude-was-worse-than-dhimmitude/

http://www.theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/part_3/0014839

Taqiyya

http://spencerwatch.com/2010/08/15/silencing-spencer-taqiyya-and-kitman-are-part-of-judeo-christian-belief/

http://www.loonwatch.com/2010/08/taqiyya-the-ultimate-intellectual-cop-out/

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/the_taqiyya_libel_against_muslims/

Selective Hearing, Collective Guilt & the Big Lie

Why do we (white or non-Muslim Britons) feel the need to hold our Muslim compatriots responsible for the crimes committed by men who happen to share the same faith? Why do we ascribe collective guilt to 2.4 million people for the transgressions of a tiny minority? One of the recurring claims made by Islamophobes is that they never hear the Muslim community speaking out against the extremists. Why aren’t the moderate Muslims out protesting? Where is the voice of moderate Islam denouncing these acts? Silence is treated as complicity or sympathy.

Do we (white or non-Muslim Britons) really have so little trust and so much suspicion that we need the British Muslim community out on the streets apologising for crimes they haven’t committed? Exactly what format do the people baying for these denunciations want them in? Maybe a dedicated freeview channel for Muslim apologies? An SMS messaging service? An RSS news feed? Who exactly should be doing the denouncing? The MCB? Imams? Community leaders? Muslim councillors or politicians?

Normal, law-abiding ie the vast majority of British Muslims will not feel that the likes of Anjem Choudary, the 7/7 bombers or the ‘Muslamic Rape Gangs’ represent them or their community, so why should they be expected to publically distance themselves from them? Are we actually admitting that ‘unless you tell us you’re not a terrorist or rapist we will assume that you are’?

Why is it only Muslims that are subjected to this treatment? Where were the apologies from the white working class when Raoul Moat’s murderous rampage was finally stopped? Where was the Anglo-Saxon community spokesperson denouncing the many white supremacist, neo-nazis that have been caught in recent years? Where was the condemnation from the Afro-Carribean community in the wake of the capture of the Nightstalker Delroy Grant? Why don’t mainstream Christians speak out against the likes of Stephen Green? Maybe they do, maybe they have. I don’t know, because I haven’t looked, because I don’t expect them to.

The same is almost true with the Islamophobes. They haven’t seen the condemnation of terrorism from the Muslim community because they haven’t looked. But it’s there, absolutely tons of it. Why isn’t it published by the Mail, the Star, the Express, the Sun or the NOTW with coverage equal to that of the crimes? Only they can answer that, but I have a hunch.

If the likes of the EDL and other Islamophobes really want to see condemnation of terrorism and extremism from the Muslim community, they don’t have to look too hard. TheAmericanMuslim.org has compiled a comprehensive collection from around the world. There are fatwas and denunciations from Imams, Muftis and leaders from India, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Qatar, Oman, Iraq, UAE, Kuwait, Mauritania, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Indonesia, Tunisia, Morocco, Malaysia, Iran, Turkey, Chechnya, Bosnia, Russia, Nigeria, Philippines, Palestine, Afghanistan, USA, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, France, Spain, Belgium, Holland, Germany and Great Britain.

As they explain:

I certainly cannot agree that Muslims – ordinary Muslims, clerics, scholars, religious bodies, political leaders (Sunni and Shiah) have not spoken up. We have collected 105 fatwas from Islamic scholars, 75 statements by Islamic Organizations (many of these signed by anywhere from 50 to 500 scholars from around the world), and 142 statements by individual Muslims. They speak clearly against terrorism, suicide bombing, kidnapping, harming civilians, harming places of worship, weapons of mass destruction. They clarify the Islamic position on minority rights and apostasy. Some directly condemn al-Qaeda and bin Laden, and specific acts like 9/11 or the Madrid bombing. There is almost no issue involving terrorism, extremism, or injustice that has not been addressed. Most Islamic scholars have spoken clearly.

Let’s not tolerate this conspiracy of silence bullshit, because it’s not true. But the more lies are perpetuated they very quickly become fact.

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