First, gender segregation. There is no basis for this in Islamic law according to one of Britain’s leading Sunni imams.
Ahtsham Ali, a former President of the Islamic Society of Britain, says making men and women sit in separate rooms is not justified by anything in the Koran.
A passage in the Koran instructs the prophet’s wives to stay at home but this was addressed specifically at his family.
He also warned against emulating the prophet by refusing to wear suits or having your hair cut. “Emulation is not absolute. You don’t have to emulate except when the prophet asks you to”.
At a recent Living Islam Festival he also asked muslims to think more carefully about Sharia and to challenge scholars’ verdicts.
And a couple of weeks ago a Downing Street petition was started to ban the burka and it was started by muslims. They are worried about what they see as a “disturbing social trend” to wear the full burka or niquab.
The petition was launched by Dr Taj Hargey, imam at the Muslim Educational Centre in Oxford, who has become concerned about this trend. He welcomes the ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that France’s prohibition of face-masking is lawful.
He says “many muslims have been misled by bogus propaganda from fundamentalists that the burka/niquab is integral to Islam. This is untrue. It is a tribal cloth that is both pre-Islamic, non-Koranic, and unMuslim. Female anonymity is an imported Saudi/Afghan fad”
He goes on to say that “the burka/niquab must be resisted for compelling theological, social, health, security, gender equity and patriarchal reasons so that Britain’s traditional character is preserved. We must oppose this salvo from theological extremists seeking to impose their warped version of Islam“.
Interestingly it is forbidden for Muslim women going on pilgrimages to Mecca to cover their faces. So if such a pre-Islamic practice is banned in Islam’s holiest site, why on earth would it be required on the streets of Britain? And women who cover their faces have to uncover them for UK identification documentation such as rail cards, driving licences and passports.
Dr Hargey believes that all of us, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, have a duty to challenge the religious hardliners who have cynically exploited British traditions of tolerance and individual liberty to pursue their own twisted sectarian agenda imported wholesale from the Arab Middle East.
For many people, seeing women wearing niquabs is offensive. They cut themselves off from others, you can’t judge their emotional state and it comes across as a clear signal that they are different and have no intention of being British. I have only ever seen black face-masks and there is something sinister about that, perhaps reminding us of the Taliban and other jihadists. I also heard one young women in a niquab telling an English women who had tut-tutted at seeing her to “eff off”. Doesn’t sound very islamic to me.
The problem is we are too tolerant in this country and allow people to exploit that – look at the problems we have deporting hard-line preachers – unlike France which is quite clear about what they expect from muslims.
As you might expect in a democratic country like Britain there has been a counter-petition opposing a ban on face veils because “British women should have the free right to shoe how they dress”. Doesn’t that mean without being coerced by fundamentalists?
If muslims are worried about this social trend shouldn’t we be worried too and shake up government complacency and PC attitudes?
If you feel strongly enough about this issue and want to sign the petition to ban face-masking go here.
I wrote this post last night before I saw the report in today’s Sunday Times about extremists targeting street festivals. They are trying to enforce an Isis-style interpretation of Islamic Law in Britain by trying to ban people listening to music, dancing, and mixing with the opposite sex.
The militants – believed to be linked to hate preacher Anjem Choudhury – are bullying and intimidating British Muslims and telling them that such activities equate to “devil -worship” (an argument Isis make against the Yazidis in Iraq).
There have been incidents in Birmingham where these hard-liners disrupted the festivities to celebrate the end of Ramadan boasting that they are “stopping da filthy dancing“. In London women travelling to a family festival to celebrate the Bangladeshi New Year were warned it was forbidden for them to attend. Other participants were told the BBC-sponsoered Boishakhi Mela event backed by Tower Hamlets Council encouraged “sin”, “fornication” and “drug-taking“. Shiraj Haque, the chairman of the Trust which organised the event, said ” you can’t have physical intimidation like this“. Well that’s how militants, extremists or hard-liners , call them what you will, operate.
Ghaffar Hussain, the managing director of Quilliam, a counter-extremist think tank, said “it’s alarming that UK-based extremists are now seeking to import and Isis-style interpretation of Islam and impose it on British citizens. Banning music and dancing is completely unacceptable in a modern democracy and goes against all British values”.
The militants are now urging people to boycott a large Eid Festival organised by Birmingham City Council next Sunday so expect more coverage of the exploits of this hard-line minority determined to intimidate fellow Muslims.