EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Countering ‘Caliphism’ in the UK: Towards Segregation or Integration?
DATE: 3 August, 3:00pm – 4:00pm
SPEAKERS: Dr Taj Hargey, Fiyaz Mughal OBE
EVENT MODERATOR: Hannah Baldock
Hannah Baldock 00:45
Great, good afternoon. My name is Hannah Baldock. I’m a research fellow here at the Centre for Radicalization and Terrorism at the Henry Jackson Society. Welcome to today’s discussion, ‘Countering Caliphism in the UK: Towards Segregation or Integration?’. This discussion will aim to gauge the continuing appeal to young British Muslims of Caliphism and mindset where Islam is no longer a spiritual pathway to God, but an expansionist imperial project. We’ve chosen to discuss Caliphism instead of Islamism as it encapsulates the crisis of Islamic theology today; rigid, uncompromising and living in a bubble of medieval history. While personal crises and the search for an identity are crucial factors in the radicalization of youths, a regressive Caliphate ideology, the fascist belief that our surrounding society in the UK is an ungodly system and should be replaced by an Islamic State with a system of Sharia governance, plays a core role. The Caliphate narrative drawn from fundamentalist Deobandi and Salafi doctrines was a far right fringe position amongst migrants of Islamic heritage in the 1980s. And yet it now appears to have significant resonance in the UK. So the question today is what explains this trend and how can a confident forward looking British Muslim identity evolve, rooted in the locale of a free Western secular democracy that recognises and protects the role of religion as part of society? Joining me to discuss these questions I’m delighted to welcome Dr Taj Hargey, Imam of the Oxford Islamic congregation and founder of the open mosque in Cape Town, both of which are non-sectarian, interracial and gender equal congregations. In 2019, Dr Hargey founded the Oxford Institute for British Islam, a think tank whose aim is to theologically empower British Muslims to resist intolerant doctrines emanating from the east, and to advance a British Islam firmly rooted in and relevant to 21st century UK society. He believes this is upholding democratic virtues and universal values not beholden to or subject to mediaeval interpretations, patriarchal oppression, or political authoritarianism. Fiyaz Mughal OBE is the founder of Muslims against Anti-Semitism and Faith Matters, both non-profit organisations which work to help faith communities reduce conflict by using conflict management tools, as well as seeking to promote cohesion and integration, reduce hate crimes and counter extremism. He’s also the founder of Tell MAMA, the anti-Muslim Hatred Monitoring and Support Group which also records intra-Muslim sectarian attacks. He’s co-author of the 2017 book Muslim Identity in a Turbulent Age: Islamic Extremism and Western Islamophobia. So Dr Hargey will speak first, Fiyaz Mughal will follow, and we’ll have a brief discussion on the panel before opening questions to the field, and then invite closing remarks from our panellists. Please do make sure to send any written questions you have on the Q&A function. If yours is chosen, you’ll be invited to unmute yourself and ask your question. Thanks very much. And I’ll now hand over to Dr Hargey.
Dr Taj Hargey 04:10
Thank you, Ms. Baldock. A discredited British Prime Minister who launched an illegal non-UN sanctioned war said that his prime mission was ‘education, education, education’. Whether this was achieved is debatable, but to truly comprehend contemporary Islam in the United Kingdom we need to replicate that triple mention of a term and this term is ‘theology, theology, theology’ – the theology of Islam. We can only, through a proper understanding of Islamic theology, can there be or will there be ‘integration, integration, integration’. Instead of using the term Caliphatism which most Muslims do not understand, or even relate to, the normative word of fundamentalism, extremism and militancy are much better and more relevant to this particular presentation. My presentation will seek to dissect in a brief fashion the present day Muslim society in Britain and to articulate the most effective strategy for the future. To recap briefly, Muslims in big numbers in the UK are relatively recent arrivals. That came for four principle reasons: to work, to study, family reunions and asylum or refugees, and most originated from Indian subcontinent, the Middle East and Africa. The general tendency for many Muslims during the past five decades, unlike the Hindu and other immigrants, is not to become fully integrated into the mainstream as they’ve been programmed that this will that this will lead to the loss of their identity. This theological mindset that propels most UK Muslims today is promoted by the three M’s: the Mullahs the mosque, and the madrasah. Mullahs are the so called religious leaders. Mosques you’re familiar with, madrasahs are the Islamic schools that teach a perverted brand of Islam usually. These institutions perpetuate a twisted narrative of separatism and supremacism. And this is chiefly championed by the ideological quartet of Wahhabi, Salafi, Deobandi and Tablighi factionalism. They advocate the peculiar brand of orthodoxy that is derived from the downgrading of Islam transcendent text, the Holy Quran, and replacing it with a toxic triumvirate of Hadith, Sharia and fatwas are these very briefly the alleged sayings of the Prophet Mohammed, written two to 300 years after his death, many of whom are equivalent to Chinese whispers. Sharia is not, I repeat NOT divine law, but a concoction of medieval opinion masquerading as divine law, and fatwas are supposed religious rulings by an individual cleric? The most infamous of course is the Salman Rushdie fatwa. This clergy invented theology is a religious basis for Islamic fundamentalism, militancy and extremism. And this extremism endorses exclusion and legitimises militancy, a philosophy that propagate unending belligerency and religious exclusivity until Sharia Islam prevails in the UK, and elsewhere in the world. This medieval Mullah Islam is in direct contrast to pristine Quranic Islam. It wishes to recreate the unrealistic reversion to a mythical utopia of seventh century Arabia, a mirage of the idealised Islamic state that the Prophet Mohammed established in 632 of the Common Era. It is the three terrible triplets of Hadith, Sharia and fatwa funded by Saudi Arabia and other Wahhabi oil-rich states that underpinned the corrupted theology of Mullah Islam today in the UK that sanctions indiscriminate violence, mindless terrorism, religious excommunication, punitive non Quranic punishments for heresy, apostasy and blasphemy. And this debate theology also authorises sexist patriarchy, timeless polygamy, women’s oppression, rigid dress codes, homophobia, supremacism, exclusivity, non-integration, rejection of democracy and the restoration of the authoritarian archetype of Islamic State. Now all of this is in complete juxtaposition of original Quranic theology that enshrines critical thinking, freewill, religious liberty, illogical tolerance, universal justice, gender parity, interfaith dialogue, peaceful coexistence, matrimonial equity, social integration, democratic participation, and germane modernity. These uplifting Quranic tenets are downplayed or simply ignored by Mullah or Hadith Islam. They fall out of hit with propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, infamous but true dictum: the bigger the lie, the more you repeat it, the more the people will believe it. The bigger the lie, the more you repeat it, the more the people will believe it. And this is exactly what is occurring within British Islam. The majority of Muslims are uninformed, uneducated, and uninterested in the theology of their faith. They lead that to a self-appointed prejudice and retrogressive clergy that conditions them into blind, unquestioning adherence of the faith. And this has led sadly to a split personality syndrome, a kind of schizophrenia amongst most British Muslims. In their secular life, these outwardly mobile and progressive Muslims tend to be open minded, rational and forward looking. But in the spiritual domain, the vast majority have been brainwashed to be insular, illogical and intolerant. Now why has this hostile ideology that is foreign inspired found such a binding resonance within the wider British Muslim society? And this will become clear soon. The British Muslim communities can be broadly categorised into three main groups: rejectionist, reactionary and reformist. 5% to 10% of Muslims are rejectionist as they have left Islam, become totally alienated, fully assimilated, and they are completely undifferentiated from the British mainstream. And groups like the Council of Ex-Muslims is a prime example of this particular tendency. The next group are the reactionary group. They make up about 65% to 75% of the Muslim community in the United Kingdom. They tend to be unthinking blind believers who can’t discern between culture and creed, between tradition and religion. They are time warped believers from both the Sunni and Shia camps. The chief organisations that represent them are the Muslim Council of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain, the Islamic Society of Britain, and on the fringe of these groups, radical offshoots, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, Al-Muhajiroun, and other miniscule extremists that are gaining some popularity by exploiting the blatant Western foreign policy hypocrisy and projecting their own fundamentalist brand of so-called puritanical Islam, orthodox and traditionalist Muslims are taught by mullahs, by the priests – and by the way, there’s supposed to be no priests within Islam, but of course, we have one – they are taught by the priests, not to be introspective, not to be self-critical. Muslims must just follow blindly to get to heaven. And these Muslims have been informed that integration is a slippery slope to assimilation, absorption, and the loss of their identity. And since it is inimical to the religious beliefs, these Muslims fear assimilation, so it’s best for them to self-segregate by forming apartheid-like enclaves in many cities. Now, we come to the third group of Muslims, the 15 to 20%, which I classify as reformist Muslims. This is a burgeoning movement and it campaigned for full integration into UK society without the loss of identity. They aren’t in the (inaudible) and traditionalist, they give topmost priority to the Quranic principle of ijtihad, what is ijtihad? It actually has a similar route for itjihad as would a Jihad also comes but jihad does not mean holy war, but sadly, this is how it’s presented by fundamentalist Muslims and of course Islamophobic critics. Ijtihad means critical thinking and analytical reasoning. And this is a profound Quranic juristic principle, but it is side-lined by orthodox and populist Islam. The overriding objective of these iconoclastic reformers who are trying to change the mindset of British Muslims are five; what are these five? Firstly, they believe that there must be a revival in the total transcendence of the Quran, Quran must be the number one source of faith. Number two, they wish to remove all the flawed false and fabricated Hadith. Number three, they resist the hitherto unchallenged ijima or ecclesiastical consensus. Number four, they will reject all facile and fatuous fatwas these religious rulings from a male hierarchy. And number five, they are campaigning relentlessly to restore the prevalence of itjihad critical thinking and analytical reasoning. As such, a ground breaking reinterpretation of the normative foundational sources of the faith will lead I believe, eventually to the emergence of a truly British Islam, a religion that is faithful to its basic fundamentals, but it’s rooted in and relevant to, 21st century Britain. It will, lead like Christianity, to the nationalisation and indigenisation of Islam, so that it incorporates all that is best and benevolent about British society. Most modern reform organisations have arisen during the past decade or so. Currently these reformers are the British Muslims for secular democracy, Quilliam, that no longer exists, City Circle, (inaudible), the Muslim educational centre of Oxford and newly created Think Tank, the Oxford Institute for British Islam. This Think Tank espouses a liberal faith that is intended to be denominational, non-sectarian, non-sexist and multicultural, representing both the immigrant and indigenous wings of Islam in the UK. This reform oriented Muslim group a part of the embryonic movement for total theological self-empowerment. In contrast, the (inaudible) theological orthodoxy seeks to retain their exclusive religious monopoly by claiming without any Quranic substantiation that they alone are competent to analyse the faith and to make decisions. And most Muslims are ignorant for example, that the term ummah was used by Mohammed the Prophet for everyone – Muslim and non-Muslim, Christians, Jews, and pagans the word ummah was useful for everyone in the first Islamic State and it allowed Christians for example, to pray in his mosque and while the Quran gives women equal rights and tells them to attend Friday prayers the Hadith are supposedly saying the Prophet Mohammed disagrees with that. So this is the type of intolerant ideology that underpins militant Islam and is degenerated by the Hadith traditions and not the divine text. And this has devastating consequences for UK Muslims, the Jekyll and Hyde phenomenon, the ghetto mentality, social separatism, and voluntary apartheid that Muslims now exhibit have their origins not in a Quranic Islam, but in a poisonous theology that is derived from the Hadith, the Sharia, and the fatwas, and spread by wahabis and Salafis. This theological umbilical dependency by British Muslims upon Saudi and Salafi Islam is exemplified by the fact for example, that the most prestigious mosque in the UK, the Islamic Cultural Centre in Regents Park is under the direct supervision control of a Saudi diplomat who reports to a foreign monarch and not to the local congregation. Imagine this in any other religion. And evidence of this blatant Saudi ideation of UK Muslims is found in recent trends into mimic Arab customs. Hijab, niqab, burkan long beards things like that, and of course in linguistic usage as well. More nefarious is the uncritical adoption of contentious Saudi translations of the Quran, and the (inaudible) theology, and British based Wahhabi funded clerics are increasingly advancing a peculiar and primitive brand of Islam, a retrogressive and reactionary version of what is pristine Quranic Islam, and my friends raised a world of difference between Hadith Islam and Quranic Islam. They are not the same, they are like night and day. And amongst other things, the former – the people who follow the idea of Sharia and the fatwas – they are Mohammedans who have sanctified violent jihad. While the latter who just follow the Quran and tolerant application of the faith, they are Muslims who do not engage in random bloodshed. With the exception of reform minded Muslims, the majority of Muslims in the UK do not exercise any self-criticism or real introspection. Most Muslims adopt the victim mentality, citing double standards and blaming others for all of their problems. It is rare to find public censure by Muslims of Muslims, beaten violence, intolerance, bigotry or just plain stupidity, reluctant to admit own goals or capacity for wrongdoing or simply for shooting themselves in the foot. Few Muslims are prepared to condemn criminals like Anjem Choudary, and no Muslim cleric organisation reject overseas fatwas as idiotic and irrelevant. There is by the way, no recognised appointment, or defrocking mechanism for prayer leaders and most officials, indicating a foreign mindset and political immaturity that does not feel at home in British life. Most often seek exceptionalism in dress codes, prayer times, traditional customs, tribal habits, religious laws. But Muslims must realise living in the UK is a two way street. And they must heed majority concerns. For most Muslims (inaudible) politics, cultural chauvinism, ethnic loyalty, gender discrimination, and the logic theological myopia has gained new Wahhabi impetus. For this reason, the emergence of a truly British Islam is critical to the future. A fate that reconnects with the transcendent Quran is not held hostage to the past by the suspect Hadith the synthetic Sharia and the fallible fatwas. So the time is right, for an enlightened, erudite and egalitarian Islam challenging amid the evil and militant mindset, as is peddled by Wahabis and their non-native sycophants, this battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims must be won, and the Islamic agenda must be set by integrated local Muslims, instead of being dictated to by foreign agents. British Muslims on the basis of original Quranic theology, should be in the vanguard to resist religious indoctrination and cultural brainwashing by the Wahhabi, Salafi (inaudible) cabal. British Muslims need to sever the theological umbilical cord and ideological nexus that binds them to an archaic and irrelevant medieval Islam. Such reformist Muslims must embark on theological self-empowerment, so that they become independent interpreters of their own religion, instead of blindly heeding populist utopian and puritanical zealots. To win this critical struggle, this battle for the hearts and minds of Muslims, it’s important to stress problems facing British Muslims. Foremost is a confusion relating to multiple confusing identities. Are you Pakistani, Hanafi, British, Muslim, in what order and so forth. The community has to provide compelling answers to the vexing questions of religious identity, theological fossilisation and the lack of critical thinking. British Muslims should cut the slavish foreign obsessions and ethnic connectivity in favour of life in the UK. The political burdens and cultural baggage about the Middle East and Indian subcontinent should be jettisoned in favour of a dynamic indigenous British Islam. But first British Muslims must distinguish between culture and creed, between tradition and faith and to recognise the two are not identical. The British Muslim community need to foster under self-criticism and courageous introspection, which will contribute to fruitful political participation to deal with Muslim economic disempowerment and social exclusion. And conversely, the mainstream British society should acknowledge legitimate Muslim grievances relating to overt and covert racism, rising criminality, and growing Islamophobia. And most importantly, Britain must engage in robust soul searching and abandon its uncritical pro-US bias and in the judicious foreign policy which are potent drivers for rising Muslim alienation, militancy and collective disaffection. The UK must conduct objective, nonpartisan and unbiased foreign policy in Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, that differentiates between the UK and US interests – which are NOT the same. Thereby. This will restore Muslim confidence and it will implant a public spirited patriotism. When these pressing problems are tackled head on, a nascent and relevant Islam will emerge to fill the vacuum left by self-inflicted modern theology. Without any critical reappraisal of prevailing Mullah fabricated theology, there can be no real integration of Muslims in the UK. For British Islam to be valid or pertinent, it has to be authentic and remain wedded to the genuine Quranic precepts. It cannot be a nebulous Western Islam as suggested by former fanatics that ran a public funded outfit. This British Islam gives equal fidelity to regional revelation, and is a vibrant component of contemporary UK society. And just as Britain is part of, and apart from Europe, so to British Islam be in relation to the faith. Indeed, they are welcoming signs that this British Islam will become the dominant reality in a decade set. Aside from his novel but Quranic endorser reliance on relevance, and revelation and reason, British Islam will exemplify three key characteristics that clearly distinguishes it from Mullah Islam. British Islam will be indigenous, not some foreign faith. British Islam will be integrated, not isolated, or insular. British Islam will be inclusive, not schismatic or sectarian. And this is the most effective template for the future of British Muslims are to be full partners in the UK society. The onus is on forward looking and forward looking and thinking that it is Muslim to take the leave in this vital movement, with the assistance of everyone who die with designs are managed future and a peaceful coexistence for all. The current situation is wholly unsustainable. The perverted Wahhabi and Saudi brand of Islam should be firmly rejected by UK’s Muslims. British Muslims have to restore Quranic teachings and British Muslim must integrate fully into the political, economic and social mainstream. By exercising their democratic rights, Muslims can impact positively on government policy for the benefit of everyone. British Muslims can become exemplary role models for participation in Western society. And there’s little doubt that these objections can be achieved with the advent of independent British Islam. For a better Britain for a tolerant, pluralistic Muslim society that will and rejects the toxic ideology propagated by fanatical Islamic extremists of them and us, they must be reformed, there must be rejuvenation, they must be renaissance within Islam so that it becomes indigenous, inclusive and integrated. Therefore, finally, to cut off the oxygen to the peddlers of intolerance, fanaticism and violence, it is essential that both Muslim and non-Muslim fully comprehend the original Epistle of Islam, they need to acquaint themselves thoroughly with theology, theology, theology, in order to combat Islamic extremism, and fanaticism. This in turn, will precipitate integration, integration, integration, and the end of them and us. Thank you.
Hannah Baldock 26:17
Thank you very much, Dr Hargey. And now we’ll hand over to Fiyaz Mughal.
Fiyaz Mughal 26:25
Thank you very much, Hannah. I hope you can all hear me. My acoustics are not particularly great but I’m guessing you can all hear me. And I’m going to follow on from Dr Hargey to look at this issue of Caliphism, which is obviously today’s target of discussion. And I’m going to pick up on some things that Dr Hargey here said because I think there’s importance in them. But I also want to start off by saying that caliphism clearly in the context of today’s discussion is a political ideology that favours the development of a caliphate and a unified Islamic government of the Muslim world, so that is that the lens through which I’m looking at Caliphism. And obviously in Islamic history, of which Dr. Hargey has pointed to, the caliphate referred to the Supreme religious and civil leader, and a successor to Mohammed to Prophet Mohammed at the time of his death. And within Islam, much like Christianity in its early years, there was no separation clearly between the religious and the civil world. And as Mohammed led the small Muslim community in the Hejaz, in the peninsula of Saudi Arabia, he was essentially the first leader of the Muslims. And his companions went on to become what are known as the caliphs and successors to his leadership of believers. And so the Caliph and Caliphate only existed as long and as far as Muslims were grouping in small numbers. As the influence of Islam and Muslims grew, like any large group, fractures and divisions clearly became evident, and the influence of the Caliphs waxed and waned. The Caliphate and the concept also eventually fractured into different empires, with Caliphs from different empires and backgrounds, such as the Mamelukes and the Abbasid empires. And eventually became, over the last 50 years, 60 years, pretty much after the Ottoman Empire fragmented, a utopian dream that has been revived by Islamist groups. And so the recent most recent incarnation of the Caliphist system and Caliphism is seen clearly through the so called Islamic State, which has pushed this concept as a means of reigniting a link with the first practices of Islam. And this is not just done willy nilly. The Islamic State, which was pushing this concept as a means of reigniting a link to the first practices of Islam, thereby attempting to develop a puritanical link to the very early foundations of Islam, through the, through the use of the ideology around a caliphate. The message given out was to promote the essence of a caliphate and link it to the closest most-purest form of Islamic tradition and Islamic history. So it is not just something that came out of the air, it was meant to push a button a utopian button in the hearts and minds of some Muslims. And we know that Caliphism predominantly comes traditionally from a Salafist background and also intersects with the IS background that I’ve just discussed. But it’s not just within a Salafist tradition. We know that some within Deobandi traditions also subscribe to this view. Although this concept is not just restricted to these groups. We know that those who went on to fight for the Islamic State and who wholeheartedly swallowed their rhetoric, also we know that some of them came from traditionally Sufi, barelvi communities. So the spread of Caliphism, this ideology of Caliphism, has been through a drip-drip effect, a form of utopianism, that underlies a weakness in a central religious structure in Islam, and ultimately a vacuum in the minds of many Muslims around identity and what Islam actually stands for. This might sound difficult, in fact, sometimes it might sound a bit harsh, but it is a fact that people clutch for certainty in an uncertain world – we know that – which brings about the certainty brings about pleasure, and the uncertainty, pain. The world we know is a full the world we know is full of opinions and thoughts and to cut through difficult notions, beliefs, and indeed challenging concepts that can even challenge religions like Islam. The reliance on a perceived certainty around a Caliph and a caliphate can revive the fortunes of the Ummah. It’s, frankly, an infantile set of thoughts. It’s very infantile it’s very simplistic in its view, but re affirms the black and white and simplistic view of life. It doesn’t seek to address some of the more challenging issues, and some of the more challenging thoughts, debates, discourses, that may even challenge the very roots of traditional faiths like Islam. But it is easy to sell such infantile thinking to members in any religious community, including to some young Muslims, looking, as Dr Hargey said, for some form of identity, and for some form of purpose, which is a natural process. As people evolve and grow. They look for identity, look for purpose. We know that the last Caliphate fell, literally fell apart in the form of the Ottoman Empire. That was 100 years ago. Yet, in a Gallup poll in 2006, two thirds of respondents that included individuals from countries like Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia and Pakistan said that they believed in a concept of a caliphate that could unify the Ummah, for the family of believers, in this case, Muslim believers. In fact, part of the appeal of the caliphate may well be its association with greatness, with dominance and conquest, and we see that in many circles the caliphate is promoted, in many Muslim circles, as its association with greatness, dominance, you know, this essence of being, overwhelming the essence of being in a way linked to the dominance of the almighty, it’s a case of, you know, this essence of ideological belief that needs to be overwhelming. And so, in a way, for young Muslims who really wants to, and for other individuals, who wants to live in a world where lengthy dialogue, patience and months of years of debate and discussion take place, when you have a simple concept, like the caliphate, which can restore order and which can make things happen. And you see the caliphate represents a number of things to some Muslims. It represents the sense of pride and greatness that I’ve mentioned. But when you look at the caliphate through the lens of other communities, or even through the lens of history, this pride and greatness came about predominantly through military tactical force, after Mohammed and his death. So after Mohammed’s death, the use of tactical military force was one element that drove forward the concept of the caliphate. And this was undertaken through the first few caliphs that were appointed after the death of Mohammed. So some difficult questions for those who basically suggest that the character is a concept, that is some utopian dream, it was driven partly by militarism. But you have to dig deeper to reflect that belief in Caliphism, which represents also I believe, what is a weakness in the understanding of Islam itself which Dr Hargey has suggested. But actually, it’s easy to grasp this concept of the caliphate, because you don’t have any understanding of your own religion. And let’s not underestimate the number of young Muslims in this country in the UK, we don’t have an understanding of what Islam is about, nor the history of Islam, nor have they challenged some of the more difficult historical, and even theological questions based around Islam. Caliphism for me is also a cover for a loss of identity that is projected into something forceful, and all powerful when an individual feels a vacuum at the very core of who they are. So it’s a form of projection to fill that vacuum inside. And I think this is a discussion we’ve never had. But it is a psychological element to individuals who are lost, who need some sense of power, we need some sense of direction and control over their environment, grabbing the sense of capitalism, and this powerful identity attached to it is their form of self-control. This is important to discuss, it’s important to stress because we have a real problem of identity within parts of British Muslim communities. And we know this vacuum has been a central driver that has led to some being manipulated into extremist groups and activities. We know that there’s lots of documentation around that. It is also precisely what those who subscribe to the worldview of Caliphism in Islamic State did by attacking minorities, including other Muslim groups. It was a way of creating an identity based on the ‘in crowd’ and within a group who were unique and who were closest to the purest form of early, in their minds, tradition. And the resonance and growth of belief in Caliphism in some parts of British Muslim communities, has therefore intrinsically been linked to identity, as I’ve mentioned. I would argue that this is a weakness in some knowing exactly who they are within a modern secular state, and trying to come to grips with difficult questions around the role of Islam in a secular state. And as I said, we shouldn’t forget that Caliphism, as a concept, is also linked to conquest and violence. You can’t get away from that. It’s a historical fact. It’s part of the way that this concept drew and grew over the middle east from the seventh and eighth centuries beyond. It was a form of domination against other faiths, thereby reinforcing the belief in some that Islam is the only way towards God, and is the chosen final religion of God. We’ve not even begun to challenge some of those difficult issues around this concept. But it is a priority for British Muslims, and for individuals like me to raise these difficult questions because they are facts. They form part of the discussion of what Dr Hargey says would be a form of British Islam in the future. I’m going to come back to that as well. Because I have a slightly dissenting view from Dr Hargey on British Islam having been involved in this work for over 25 years. I think it’s a much more difficult space in its development, and it will continue to be a more difficult space in its development. I’ll come back to that. I wanted to pose a more difficult issue I said and this is the more difficult issue; why is it that a belief in Caliphism has happened here in the UK, and grown in the UK in parts of British Muslim communities clearly not in the overwhelming majority of British Muslim communities, but in parts of it? And it is clearly grown in parts of Muslim communities globally. Apart from dominance, what creates a mindset that craves for an autocratic form of leadership in government. Well, it’s not hard to see a link between the teaching of Islam through a learn and obey method. Learn and obey method towards the Word of God versus other forms of spiritual Islamic tradition that talk about enhancing and widening learning through curious active inquiry. And the two are odds, with the former actively inculcating a black and white view of morality, not through love, but through obedience. And the latter being the punishment of God, if the will of the believer does not bend towards God. And so even the way that Islam has been taught, creates a very simplistic mind view. And I would argue, a simplistic world, but also a biological, view within the mindsets of individuals. If we don’t have active inquiring minds, the biology of the individual changes, the neuroscience of the individual changes, the neuronal networks in the individual changes, we see that. The world of neuroscience is showing us that simple worldviews create different neuronal networks, different ways of thinking. And so these are much more difficult issues. How we teach the concept of Islamic tradition and history and theology, theological issues, is one question. The issue of identity is another question. The issue of power and its association with Islamic tradition, and difficult parts of Islamic history are also another discussion to be had. But let me come back to this issue of a British Islam. The fact that issues around and concepts around Caliphism, for example, can be created and be developed, actually shows that we don’t have a form of British Islam nor will we have, because there is a huge set of debates happening within British Muslim communities. But those debates are still not allowing for dissenting voices to come forward. And those dissenting voices, like myself, and I guess clearly Dr Hargey’s, which are also critical, but critical with a view to developing alternatives which sit within a modern British secular world. And so we are not going to have an evolutionary path towards a British Islam unless we tackle it and fight for it. Let us not assume that things always move towards the better, we fall into the trap, if we assume that things are always moving towards the good. They can easily turn towards the negative towards the difficult, towards the obstructive, towards the extreme if we do not challenge and fight for what we believe in, and around core societal values, which directly connect to an Islamic tradition of things like inclusivity, of debate, of dialogue, of difference with respect of difference in theological traditions, but a connection in a common sense of empathy and care for one another. So let’s not fall into the trap of thinking that a British Islam will develop. We have to fight theologically and through discourse for a British Islam to develop. Otherwise, it could turn into a form of deviation of which Caliphism is one form of deviation that clearly has taken roots in the hearts and minds of some Muslims, and has led some Muslims to also go out and fight for violent cancerous groups like the Islamic State. I’ll stop there. Thank you.
Hannah Baldock 44:00
Thanks very much Fiyaz. There’s a lot to think on in both of those presentations. We’ve got some questions from our audience, from Lauren, here on the WhatsApp, should we take that? Henry? Okay. So Henry I think your life if you’d like to unmute yourself and ask your question.
Henry Hoggets 44:15
Thank you. Thank you very much, indeed. Thank you to both speakers for fascinating presentations. Question for Dr Hargey I think in particular you may be aware of an old history of a study called Muslim West facts which was based on some opinion polling done by the US Gallup organisation back in the late 2000s and from among other poll results, they are among about 1 billion Muslims around the world and separate polling among Muslims in specific European countries, including Britain. And they found, for example, that around two thirds of those polled didn’t want Sharia as the sole base for legislation in their society, which is actually more than a number of Americans who didn’t want the Bible as a reference. And separately, that more than 80% didn’t think violence against civilians in support of the political cause could ever be justified. I just wonder how you square this with your contention that about 75% of British Muslims fall into what you call the reactionary category, presumably, of people who would be expected to take the opposite view on those issues. Thank you very much.
Dr Taj Hargey 46:03
Well, quite simply, you have to look at it in terms of an iceberg. What you see in the top is not what’s in the bottom, so on the top, they don’t want to have any Sharia law, they don’t want to have mindless violence and so forth. But at the bottom, you have all the reactionary Mullah-based Islam regarding women, regarding homosexuals, regarding interfaith dialogue, and a whole host of other things. So yes, while they may have rejected, for political purposes, this idea of holy war, and by the way, the word Jihad does not translate as holy war, that’s a Christian concept. While they may have rejected the notion of violence, they still have all these other reactionary tendencies, that has been enforced on them by the clergy. So yes, I welcome the fact that British Muslims in particular, do not want to see Sharia, neither do I, and various many, many other people, and they’re not prone to a militant violence, and that’s a good thing. But what about the rest? So yes, they are no longer active members of the militant brigade. But what about other things? How do they square that by living in a modern, Western democratic society, and that’s my issue with them.
Henry Hoggets 47:13
Come back with a tiny comment on that.
Dr Taj Hargey 47:16
Yes go ahead.
Henry Hoggets 47:18
Thank you very much for that. The only other thing I would quote was, was that, again, I don’t remember the exact statistics. But the general study showed that quite a considerable majority of Muslims in most countries around the world, even including, say, Saudi Arabia, were actually in favour of greater rights for women, for example. So I just wonder how deeply this reaction is going on.
Dr Taj Hargey 47:30
I’ll just give you one example amongst the majority of British Muslims, they don’t think anything wrong with multiple wives. They’ve been told by the clergy that (inaudible) is great, it’s a timeless thing. I actually believe that the Quran is allowing limited polygamy for exceptional circumstances, and not a licence forever. So just on the issue of polygamy, they endorsed the Mullah concept. So yes, so Mohammed Bensoussan comes along and this woman drive and, and all types of other tinkering at the edges, but the reality is that it is a highly misogynistic patriarchal society there, and that’s what in much of British Islam as well.
Hannah Baldock 48:21
Thanks, Dr Hargey, we got a question from Angela Goldstein, if you’d like to unmute yourself.
Angela Goldstein 48:34
Okay, I was disappointed that there was no mention of anti-semitism in the Muslim community. Also, isn’t it the case that we will only know that the Muslim community is turning away from extremism when it ceases its knee jerk hostility to Israel, and recognises that Israel is a legitimate part of the modern Middle East.
Fiyaz Mughal 48:58
Can I pick that up if that’s okay, Hannah?
Hannah Baldock 49:00
Fiyaz Mughal 49:02
So you’re absolutely right, that there is antisemitism within Muslim communities. It’s something that I’ve worked upon. It’s a group that I’ve started Muslims against Semitism. And we work actively and we’re vocal about challenging antisemitism, where we come across it, those individuals involved in it within British Muslim communities; and we have a problem. So clearly, there are different groups within British Muslim communities, there are the vast majority you get on with their lives, live their lives, give much to this country, and who just want to get on quietly and no, in effect, have their families and live out their lives. There is another section we know, that are ideologically driven towards the hatred of Israel and Jews as a whole. We know that there’s an ideology behind that and that ideology is pure and simple antisemitism. And there’s also a section within British Muslim communities that are not clear about how they address issues or the language or the vocabulary they use when issues around Israel-Palestine take place. And that group of British Muslims fall sometimes into use of anti-Semitic discourse. But they are people that can be reached out so they can learn, they can change. They’re not driven by a sense of ideological antisemitism, which in a way is describing what is happening in different parts of British Muslim communities. But we have a small, vocal and significant number of voices who are anti-Semitic, and who come from British Muslim communities. And so it is a challenge that Muslims like myself, are taking on. Not only do we need to educate, inform, work with, and bring individuals on board so that they can not promote anti Semite anti-Semitic discourse, we’re also actively challenging it. But we need to call it out, we’re doing so there is a problem. It shows itself head around issues around Israel and Gaza. And sadly, we have seen a spike in anti-Semitic incidences whenever there are issues in the Middle East. And sadly, there’s a substantive number of incidences that come about, because the perpetrator happens to be and comes from a Muslim background. Now on the issue of hatred towards Israel, we know that anti-Semitic discourse that’s coming out from Islamist and other circles in Muslim communities, also lumps in Israel. And that clearly is because they don’t want to see Israel on the map. They don’t believe in the legitimacy of Israel. And that, in effect means the destruction of the country where the majority of people are Jews. And that shows you the mindset we are tackling, a genocidal mindset that seeks to wipe away the Jewish majority state – that is a problem, because it is pure and simple. Another form of evil antisemitism showing itself. I hope that answers your question.
Dr Taj Hargey 52:08
Can I just add to this, if I may? What the question is should you also remember is that most Muslims, like I’ve said, are totally unaware of their faith. Now if they actually read the Quran and understood it, chapter two, verse 62, chapter five, verse 69, says the following, surely the Muslims and the Jews and the Christians, and the Sabians whoever believes in God and the last day and does good deeds, they will have the reward from the Lord, they will have no fear, nor shall they grieve. So here the Quran is quite explicit in Muslim, Jews, Christians, whoever will go to heaven, provided we do three things, what three things? Believe in one, sovereign creator. Number two, there’s a day of Judgement to come. And number three whilst you’re on Planet Earth do some good. So if Muslims only knew that, I think there will be a major step forward. But the Mullahs, the Madrasahs and the mosques do not tell the, especially young, Muslims about the salient sentiment verses that should be imprinted in their mind and once that’s imprinted in their minds, antisemitism and like any other sort of phobia, will disappear. So I think again, unless we understand the theology of Islam, however, we address the issues with these antisemitism, the lack of integration in this country, violence, misogyny, or whatever the case may be. So clearly theology, theology, theology.
Hannah Baldock 53:30
Yes, I’d like to point out a Swiss Yemeni political scientist, Elham Monea has written an excellent book on this covering a lot of these issues, called ‘The Perils of Nonviolent Islamism’, and she points out that children born in closed communities after the 9/11 terrorist attacks really never knew the joyful traditions of Meccan Islam in their countries of origin. Because it’s been displaced by a (inaudible) and angry politicised form of Islam and with its history of tolerance and a rich civilization. It would seem then that a lot of this, that this problem, has to do with the curriculum materials that are taught in, for example, the Deobandi Madrasahs and the material preached in mosques by both the Deobandian and Salafi tradition, which dominate; I believe that they now run more than 50% of British mosques. So should we be requiring review and reform of material that’s taught in the Madrasahs and for example, also of the Hadith literature, I believe Saudi Arabia and Turkey are also now reforming that Hadith literature, Ed Husain mentioned that.
Dr Taj Hargey 55:00
Not true. Not true. No.
Hannah Baldock 55:02
It’s not true?
Dr Taj Hargey 55:04
No, I mean, Turkey tried and was rejected, and Saudi Arabia will never in a month of Sundays do it. I mean, you know, people mustn’t grasp at straws. What we need to do is actually grasp the nettle and say, listen, what is the problem with Islam? The problem with Islam is the Moolah theology that has perverted it, twisted it and poisoned it. And unless we get rid of this poison, how are we going to change? And to clutch at straws, whether it comes from Saudi Arabia or Turkey is immaterial to British Muslims. We need to do this ourselves, and coming back to my esteemed colleague, Mr. Mughal, you know, yes, British Islam will not happen overnight its a hard, long, tough struggle is going to be a Jihad and again, Jihad means a struggle, a battle, not by militant means, it means an endless campaign to convince people with the hearts and minds that there’s an alternative to Mullah theology. That is all. There is an interesting question here. Why is extremism happening in British jails? It’s because who goes to be the chaplains and the mentors? They only Wahhabi Salafi Deobandi types. They don’t allow people like me or Fiyaz to go there and to give them the alternative. I’m not saying we should we shouldn’t be the exclusive ones there. If we’re going to get rid of extremism, we need to give people a viable, compelling alternative. And the Fiyaz Mughal’s of the world, they need to be there the forefront and yes it’s a hard and long struggle.
Fiyaz Mughal 56:35
Thank you, Dr Hargey. Can I just add from on what he’s got all these excellent comments and thoughts are. I am, you know, I give you an example I went in to give a talk to prison Muslim prison chaplains about maybe seven, eight years ago. And everything was well received because I was there talking about Islamophobia and anti-muslim hate and how we tackle it. So all was received well, there was lots of people who were nodding, because it’s an important, clearly an important thing to do. It’s essential; tackle hatred, intolerance and prejudice against Muslims, as well as others. It’s only when I started talking about equality. And I started talking about equality, around women’s rights, and also equality in terms of tackling antisemitism, and LGBTA. And also tackling that together, that I started to see heads just nod off and fall off. And actually people started to say to me Stop talking about those issues. So in a way, even the basic values of what we have in our state, and the basic traditions, Islamic traditions that Dr Hargey has talked about, of care, compassion, inclusivity, listening, even some of our chaplains working in prison services don’t want to accept those values. And if you don’t have those basic values in place, then who, which Muslim chaplain is going to challenge extremist ideology? Because they’re going to think actually, the women’s role is something that’s inferior, they’re going to allow that discussion to happen. If it’s about the Jews taking over the world, they’re going to say, ‘Oh, well, that’s fine, you know, because I’m not going to interfere in that, because that partly, I think I believe that as well’. And so the fact is, we have a real challenge, about the values in the hearts and minds of those who are working in our institutions, to root out some of these individuals. And I’m just going to also add a final thing. That we have in our society and in our institution, some civil servants, who think that actually rooting out and getting rid of individuals who hold these archaic views is not really the right thing to do, because we have a liberal tradition, because we have a very open society. Well, firstly, I’m a liberal by tradition, I’ve been involved with the Liberal Democrats previously for 20 years in my life. I’m not a political member of any party, but as a liberal, I’m telling you, that if we allow people with toxic views, to be part of our society in influential positions, and to allow this discourse to continue, then we are in serious trouble, whether that be prison service schools or other institutions.
Hannah Baldock 59:24
Thanks, Fiyaz. I believe that Belgium has instituted mandatory courses on active citizenship from childhood to adulthood which teaches the rights and responsibilities of citizenship, including respect for humanist values and the norms of the surrounding society, do you think this is something we should be looking at in the UK?
Fiyaz Mughal 59:52
Very much so very much so. Just a few words and then I’ll hand over to Dr Hargey on this. And look, we are in a battle for hearts and minds. We’re in a battle of values. As I said before, and Dr Hargey has said, there is no clash between Islamic values and values we have that form the basis of our country, there is no clash of civilizations. There is a clash in terms of extremities and polarities, which seek to undermine the basic values within our society. And the basic Islamic Meccan values you have talked about Hannah. Why is it that Caliphism and other forms of, of these twisted narratives seek to wash over the basic Meccan values of listening of care or patience, or tolerance of dissent? Why? Because it doesn’t suit the overriding objective of power, control, and the assertion of these toxic values that we’re talking about. And so we have to continue to protect, embed, and ensure the sustainability of these values going forward in a battle of hearts and minds that is taking place in our country. And do not underestimate the battle that’s taking place within our communities and within British Muslim communities today. It is a tough battle for the future of British Islam.
Dr Taj Hargey 1:01:21
Hannah can you repeat the question I didn’t get the full one.
Hannah Baldock 1:01:27
Well, I think essentially it was how can we walk the tightrope between protecting freedom of religion and protecting universal human rights?
Dr Taj Hargey 1:01:30
Yeah, I fully agree with Fiyaz. I mean, there is no clash of civilization, it’s a convergence of civilization when you look at authentic Quranic principles and precepts are talked about democracy, inclusion so forth, so there is no tightrope to be walked. But a very important and ultimately I agree with Fiyaz Mughal, that you know, we should stop being (inaudible) liberals here and think that you know the Anjem Choudary of the world and the hook Imam, whatever, I can’t remember his name for a moment, people like that should be given a freebie. No, we have a necessity to lock them up. You know, I mean, this idea that we allow these lunatics running around influencing impressionable young Muslim men who are at underpaid jobs at Asda and Tesco. I think this is something that we really need to toughen up and harden on. Because why do we allow these people under the guise of multiculturalism to spew their filth, their poison, and their toxic influence in our society, this must stop and the British state and the judicial system need to obviously be much more proactive. And that’s the only way to stop this.
Hannah Baldock 1:02:52
Right. Thank you so much, Dr Hargey and plasma gal for joining us today. I’m afraid we got to wrap up there. Very much appreciate you’re addressing these very difficult and contentious questions with us and do look out for upcoming HJS events. This event will be posted on the YouTube channel of HJS following the event if you missed any beginning or want to review it again. Thank you very much and we look forward to seeing you at future HJS events.