EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Among the Mosques: A Journey Across Muslim Britain
DATE: 22 June, 5:30 pm – 6:30 pm
SPEAKERS: Ed Husain
EVENT MODERATOR: Dr Alan Mendoza
Dr Alan Mendoza 00:00
Good afternoon, or good morning or even Good evening, depending on which part of the world you are joining us in today, it’s another Henry Jackson Society virtual event. I’m Alan Mendoza, the executive director. And today we are greatly honored to be joined by really a very good old friend of the society, Ed Husain. I’ve got to tell you, Ed was first a guest of HJS many, many years ago just actually recounting it at a Labour party conference. And I think it was down in Bournemouth, and I think at the time back in the day, and indeed back in the day, when he was a Quilliam, of course, a member of the Quilliam Foundation, and it has been a fixture on the British intellectual thought scene on the think tank seen on the public policy scene. And ever since that time, he is, of course, a world renowned author. And having published several books, he has been a fellow at some of the most prestigious organizations in the world Council for Relations. For example, he’s an associate professor at the Georgetown University. And for the purposes of today, he is, of course, the author of a fine book that I can recommend to all of you, “Among the Mosques,” which we will, of course, be discussing today. My strong recommendation is that you buy copy. And I have spent the last few days reading it. And it has been revolutionary. And I hope today, that Ed and I can uncover and unpack some of the issues that he has discovered in this book. And it can help frame a public policy conversation going forward, not just in the UK, I think, although the book is focused on the UK, but beyond that those issues he raises are clearly relevant, not simply in the UK, but in other parts of the world, as well. So Ed, it’s delightful to see you. Thank you for joining us. This afternoon. I’m going to start with a simple question, which is why did you decide to write this book?
Ed Husain 01:53
Alan, thank you for the question. Thank you for hosting me, at the Henry Jackson Society. Thank you for everything you’ve done over the last two decades in pioneering the free world against the various totalitarian threats that face us within and without. And you know, it’s one thing taking on communists, but it’s quite another Alan, as you know, now, taking on those who are sponsored by Iran, and previously by other Middle Eastern regimes, because they’re heavily litigious, they come after you in various ways and their attacks and all your ad hominem. So I commend you and Henry Jackson Society for the leadership on both sides. Today, as someone who voted to remain, if large parts of the country had voted to leave, there was something going on in our country that I didn’t understand. And I wanted to better understand. So I went to the constituency of my old boss, Tony Blair, where, you know, 97% of the people are white working class, and yet 60% voted to leave. And they talk to me about mosques. And there are no mosques and Sedgefield. And yet, there was a, there was a level of focus, there was a fear of Muslims in northern towns that worried me. And I wanted to get to the bottom of it. And if if, if in our country, we can’t accept white European Christians, what then for Muslims and people from a different skin tone, faith, background and cultural heritage. So what so that was the first reason and second was, I have two young daughters once 14, one is 11. I wanted to better understand the kind of country that they would inherit by going to the institutions that are producing future religious leaders and congregations. So it was a genuine attempt to understand I use of all sorts, but it is genuinely Socratic. And just asking open questions and seeing how people respond, and then following that conversation.
Dr Alan Mendoza 04:07
Yes, indeed, I think actually, what’s what’s also interesting, is the way you tackle the book is fascinating. You are asking open questions, you’re asking questions to people who, of all walks of life basic you come across? Well, I mean, I suppose, you know, the wonderment and some of the answers. I mean, you are, you’re visibly shocked by some of the things you hear. But you’re also I think it’s fair to say, and we’ll come on to the shocking parts in a moment. I just like to dwell on the positive sides, though you you see repeatedly, ordinary people running ordinary lives in the most wonderful ways. And I think it’s interesting to focus on the positive parts. I mean, clearly, you were very well received by many of the people you met. I just want to dwell on that for a second. And to think about just, you know, what that means in terms of a welcoming environment. And people very happy to open up their homes in many cases, and you know, that their meals and other things that can talk to you quite often Yeah, I just want to, you know, sort of highlight this and just get your thoughts on what that shows, you know, on the positive side from ordinary people.
Ed Husain 05:08
I think it’s remarkable, especially in those northern towns that tend to be cold, and tend to be foggy at times. And you know, the sun literally doesn’t turn up for days on end. And to be able to walk into warm, thick carpeted mosques with underfloor heating, where elderly people and the young have sat together in worship, remembering God, I mean, that the spirituality wasn’t fake. And you can you can feel the divine presence in many of the mosques, especially in some of the, most of the mosques that were engaged towards beauty architecture, song, remembering the love based, mystical, internalized way to reaching the divine. I think, you know, in general, Muslims in Britain have a lot to offer, starting with reminding Western civilization about our debt to the faith based heritage, know that there’s an obsession in the west of forget the Judeo Christian heritage. And I think Muslims are perhaps the most important reminder, public reminder, we don’t get flack for talking about God. And if the Archbishop of Canterbury talks about God is almost frowned upon that Muslims do and that is fine. So I think there’s a really positive role that Muslims can play and remind me of the, of the thing that’s important people welcome you into their homes, and they introduce you to their children, and they’ve and they’re proud of having a nuclear family. All of that is welcomed without any doubt. And on the other positive note is that there’s genuinely change going on out there. in the country, that you see, you know, people of all faiths backgrounds getting on peacefully side by side B, they know atheists to be the believers, or be they somewhere in between or on a journey. So there are lots and lots of good signs out there. And I think it’s worth remembering, celebrating cherishing and protecting those, those green shoots of coexistence in civilization.
Dr Alan Mendoza 07:24
I think that’s a very good point to to raise. The other. The other very interesting, I found, you know, which was interlaced throughout the book, of course, inter woven is your description of various customs and religious practices, which I think again, it’s fascinating for, for non Muslims to read about. And I think, again, your book therefore serves if you like a public education purpose, in some parts about the, you know, some of the more spiritual aspects that you raise, I just wonder if you want to comment on that for a second for our audience.
Ed Husain 07:53
Yes, and thank you, Alan, for reading the book so closely. I can tell you read the book, unlike, no, I don’t want to name names, but a couple of media interviews. Yes. So, so thank you. But that yes, and I think it very quickly becomes apparent how there is deep alignment in in faith and spirituality in Scripture between Muslims, Christians, Jewish people and others, because, you know, often it’s forgotten that Muslims believe in one God, that Muslims follow the Jewish prophets, that Muslims pray, you know, bowing and prostrating in a way that early Scripture says that other faith denominations did. And I think, you know, Muslims have remained loyal to Arabic in a way that our Jewish cousins and elders have remained loyal to Hebrew and some of our Catholic friends have remained loyal to, to Latin. So. Yeah, and all of that should be preserved. By the way, you know, I’m not for a moment arguing that we do our undoing. we undo any of that beautiful heritage that that Muslims genuinely celebrate in Britain.
Dr Alan Mendoza 09:10
Indeed, and that I think, again, comes across. Unfortunately, of course, it’s not all sunshine and light. And I think it’s striking that every place you visit, you come across, if you like, the degradation of that beautiful architecture you speak about in terms of, you know, what, what early Islam might have been like, and other matters that if we divide this in certain areas, let’s start with the sort of basic issue for people listening. People often speak about the British Muslim community, but that’s clearly wrong. I mean, there are many British Muslim communities. And I wonder if you just want to give a quick division if you like a basic look, this is what we’re dealing with when it comes to communities. It comes with denominations in that way particularly, I suppose the Deobandi-Sufi split and and things like that about about your travels, if you use will, just to give a couple of minutes on, on that divide so people understand the broad frame which we’re investigating.
Ed Husain 10:04
A great question. And I think it’s really important for people to understand where Britain is heading and where Muslims are heading. And I think the the faiths and the destinies of fate team million Muslim lectures, which we can go into later. But the four broad elements divisions among British Muslim communities as you correctly identify. The first is a very small minority, maybe about 5%, if we’re lucky, heterodox Muslim communities, which the subsequent 95% don’t recognize as Muslim, so, but they’re Muslim, because they claim to be Muslim, maybe another kind of five to 7% or so of Shia Muslims, with some emotional attachment, perhaps to Iran, others to Iraq, and not so connected to the Iranian fascist government. So that’s about 10%. Now, the bulk of the British Muslim population is divided into three major categories. And yes, there are subdivisions. But let’s not be pedantic, but focus on the three main points. The first is the, the, what’s called the Barelvi school, which comes out of India and Pakistan. And that’s that that was traditionally much more mystical remains mystical, but focused on love for the Prophet love for God focused on living in harmony with with neighbors, and, you know, was was was genuinely for the last kind of 60 to 70 years of those Barelvi mosques dominating the British Muslim scene. And that’s why it’s really important to remember, yes, they were turbans, yes, they have long beard, just they were occasionally kind of subcontinental clothing problem, because you know, that they’re patriotic Muslim that we shouldn’t judge people just because they’re wearing, you know, a turban or, or have a long beard. That’s not the definition of a terrorist. And often from 9/11 to 7/7 onwards, they’ve been the strongest voices condemning Islam east and Saudi, previously Saudi sponsored Wahhabi violence. So that’s about 40% of British mosques come from that Barelvi tradition. So that’s that that used to be the good news and that’s the majority. The second and the second is about no 35 to 40% of what’s called the Deobandi tradition and they dominate mostly the northern mosques, and their headquarters are in Dewsbury where I spent a lot of time meeting people and writing about in the book The problem with the Deobandi movement is that it was born in 1860s India as a movement against the British Empire at the time. And then at its very Genesis, it has this anti-modern, anti-West, and especially anti-British tendency, and much of it scriptural reading is very literalist. And it’s in many ways mystic for Britain. Now, the good news is the India shift of the Deobandi movement has become much more secular leaning in the last 30-40 years and has strong relations with the Indian government in a way that the British offshoot has not the most of many, not most, but many of the British mosques have have closer ties say to the the Pakistani Deobandi or the Afghan Deobandi i.e. Taliban attitude towards the modern world. And that denomination controlling as I say, 35 to 40% run the madrassas are in charge of the seminaries are very detached and form those very, very insular cutoff communities. And to my mind, they pose a genuine threat to the identity of British Muslims and therefore Britain by the by extension. And I think about 10 or 15% of the mosques are run by an assortment of Islamist, you know, pro-Hamas, pro-Muslim Brotherhood, you know, troublesome people, you know, the UK Islamic mission, Islamic Society of Britain, the East London Mosque, and others who are who are quietly subversive who may appear in suits and be clean shaven, but they’re a real problem because they don’t believe in the British state. They don’t believe in the western settlement. They don’t believe in the Westphalia treaty. And they pose a real an existential threat to the pact that we have because, you know, they’d much rather have support for Iran or for Hamas or our enemies, but I just want to say that the reason why they pose a threat to us is because not only because, you know, the Islamist were formed as an anti Western organization, but because today, they they have a bond with the far left the Corbynite, far left, so there’s kind of a red-green alliance against the West. And so far, that’s about 10 to 15% of British mosques. So it’s not a real problem, but it’s on the rise.
Dr Alan Mendoza 15:26
I do want to say, obviously, you names some names, it’d be better not to because they’re not here to defend themselves and kind of make a comment back in that sort of way. So just, you know, I think, keep comments general, rather than, you know, sort of citing individuals normally you’d want a balanced conversation, we’re going to name them in that sort of way. But I take your point entirely in terms of in terms of what you’re suggesting, in terms of divide. And I think what’s interesting, when you go to different places, there are certain themes that keep on emerging, and two of the main ones are, if you like segregation. And when I say segregation, I mean segregation of Muslims and white inhabitants of of that town, of course, yes, we know that, obviously, some Muslims are white converts, but we’re talking obviously, are the non Muslim white populations of those towns. And the second segregation is, of course, between men and women. And you comment on this several times, if we take these each in turn, let’s look firstly at the segregation issue between Muslims and non Muslims in these towns. Giveve us your top line thoughts on what you saw time and time again, and why it’s concerning.
Ed Husain 16:27
It’s concerning because I felt that there was a almost a border, a mental border in some parts of the country the spirit in which you started out and not in every part. For example, when I was in Edinburgh, I didn’t feel as though I was entering a different- Yes, you go you pray, yes, using Arabic but there’s a divine connection and you back out into the main street with traffic wardens and, and so it just felt beautifully synchronized. Whereas saying Dewsbury or Blackburn or in Rochdale, I felt as though I was in parts of either Pakistan, Bangladesh or, you know, villages of India, where, you know, there was that, identified that it was synthesis, but and then internally there was a sexist attitude that women were not allowed into those mosques. Women were not to be praying or running the mosques in a way that they were say in Belfast. So it’s it’s not a religious problem. I think it’s, it’s, it’s not even a cultural problem. It’s it’s much more an ideological problem because in Mecca, women and men pray side by side, women and men come to the Kaaba together. And, you know, we’re in 2021. We shouldn’t have to take lessons from Saudi Arabia. But there we are. So those two segregations are real.
Dr Alan Mendoza 18:15
And presumably, they’re real. And of course, they’re part of the issues you feel are obviously going to be a fundamental problem potentially for British society full stop. If you’re having that sort of segregation, you’re having, you know, kind of whatever you might term British values being if you like, undermined in that way.
Ed Husain 18:32
Yes, because, for me, there are six or seven red lines. And one of them is gender equality. And one of the reasons why I wanted to write the book was to understand Britain and its future for my own daughters. I don’t want mosques to say that my daughters can’t come in say in Dewsbury or in Blackburn or Rochdale or parts of Luton but guess what I can take them into any mosque I want in Egypt or Turkey or Saudi Arabia or the UAE and that’s what troubles with that how is it that we’ve fallen behind the rest of the world on this thing that has a real impact in the parts of the world so it’s a total non negotiable red line that women in this country across the board must be equal in every sphere in the eyes of the law.
Dr Alan Mendoza 19:31
Interesting. Thank you. And another thing that of course occur of constantly is your discovery of what you term Califism. And this I think is worth, a term worth exploring a little bit now. You come across it in attitude, you come across it in mentality and you come across it naturally, of course in bookshops, so I’m I just wonder if you could explain to the audience what it is and why it should be of concern to firstly British Muslims and secondly, all of us as well.
Ed Husain 20:00
Califism is, you know, I use the term because it cuts to the chase. You know too often when we use the term Islamism rightly. You know, Islam is coming to oh we represent Islam and then you have to kind of go through the loops into which apply to Islam and so on. Although, you know, it’s an important term and it shouldn’t be. It shouldn’t be lost but Califism, I think we in a post ISIS world, we’re able to cut to the chase and say so is that what you support the the application of literally sharia that killed the gay people that killed Westerners that subjugated women as sex slaves, and now you have situations as to Shamima Begum and others who’ve lost their British identity and their passports because of their physical violence support for a caliphate that stood against nation states that stood against ordinary Muslims and that stood against the West. That is Califism and when Islam is no longer something spiritual, a sampling a path where to go and you start to make it where it is like an empire again, so Califism to me is anyone I mean, interest I think that you could have, you know, non Muslim far left leaning kind of interests who would want to see Muslims living in the caliphate, you know, and I saw one of those, I can name him because he is no longer alive so he won’t sue us, Robert Fisk. You know, I remember after the Arab Spring, seeing Robert Fisk, who is a prominent journalist with the Independent and others. Now he was sitting at the posh hotels in in Egypt sipping wine, but it was not something that Muslim is supposed to do. So I am Robert Fisk, the great white lord, and I will sit wine but all of you guys out That I will support your right for a caliphate under Mohammed Morsi. Therefore I will support the Muslim Brotherhood. So those are the kinds of people that are Caliphists be they Robert Fisk or be they, you know, Hezbollah, be they Hamas or be they Muslims in Britain, who who hate Britain and want to create, who hate the West and who want to create a utopia that reflects their literalist application of Sharia.
Dr Alan Mendoza 22:13
Now, again, a very good point of what is good for you may not be good for me and that sort of way. But it’s interesting how you frame it with with the Fisk example. And another case of why that keeps on cropping up his education. And it’s interesting, you speak a lot about systems of education and some of the curriculums that are happening, you’re not a fan of that sort of curriculum. Could you explain a little bit about why you think this feeds into the problem of separation and caliphism.
Ed Husain 22:44
Because again, another very pointed and great question. Caliphism comes out in bookshops, and in books stores and in the syllabi because people haven’t accepted what the great Bernard Lewis would want us to accept, which is a nation state in which Muslims should and need and ought to be living as citizens. And the point that Bernard Lewis kept making was that many Muslim activists hadn’t accepted the modern world, there was a constant desire and you know, we can only live in coexistence if we’re in control. So yes, India and yes, Andalusia in Spain, but it was because Muslims had the upper hand and many activists in Islamist and cannafest organizations haven’t made peace with the modern world. In other words, secular nation state with citizenship in which Muslims may or may not be the dominant power, in the absence of having that dominant power, it means you you now need to adjust to a world in which the secular citizenship which is the bond between individuals and in that capacity the teaching material that was from you know, 1820s-1830s world in India where Muslims had the upper hand or slightly previous to that, if think that also the Ottoman Empire until the 1920s. So, there’s still teaching material that assumes Muslim have the upper hands, the upper hand, and the mindset is one out of date two, it focuses on literalist approach to Scripture. So it abandoned the scientific mindset and three and I think this is where it’s really important for our friends from UK this thing to this is that it is not inspected by Ofsted so often goes into the schools and my understanding is that they’re allowed only to look at national curriculum material or material that approaches those classrooms. But anything that happens after the hours of say 330 or anything that’s off the curriculum is not inspected by Ofsted and much much of the material that sexist and homophobic was anti semitic, that’s anti-British, anti-modernity is just like left alone. And, you know, you go to Turkey, for example, that you know, the Turks have to modernize their Hadith literature. The Saudis are now trying to do the same thing. But in Britain, we don’t have that conversation. Now we could say, leave it alone. My fear is for as long as we leave it alone. It keeps mushrooming to an extent that it becomes too much of a problem for us, then to turn around to Blackburn, Rochdale, Leicester, Birmingham, Manchester and say, you’ve got to deal with this, because it’s a ticking time bomb situation.
Dr Alan Mendoza 25:32
I think the other thing that you’ve quite rightly pointed out on one of your phrases is originally, you know, multicultural society. The problem with it, I mean, many problems areas we know. And it’s, as you said, in one, I think that radical challenge and multiculturalism has enabled monoculturalism. And that I think, is the one of the key takeaways in danger and allowing one particular mindset to dominate rather than having diverse viewpoints. If we take that point now, everyone watching on your office’s, we’re gonna get your questions very soon. We’ll find as many of you as possible for questions. But first I want to pick up on the most revolutionary part, like I will go on and analyze everything. Well, I think what I will start with is a quote on, on page 218, you state here there’s usually mutual reinforced reinforcements of califism, community and, clerics and maidera people allegiance is set on a collision with the mainstream version, unless this is just a mental problem. And you’re not getting some of the solutions. And you’re the one that is the key. Not really, matters is total worth of Islamic practice. And it’s right that we’re talking about.
Ed Husain 26:59
Yes, but I also think that putting Caliphists at the forefront as community leaders, I mean, that’s only possible and when the rest of Britain doesn’t care about this issue, or is ignorant of what’s going on inside these communities for fear of appearing racist or imperialistic. And that’s why I think it’s got to be a multi way conversation where the rest of the country is involved and cares. And the government is concerned about what’s going on inside these institutions, but also those communities. So I just don’t believe the narrative that is an issue is not, though we have a nephew or Island go to America, it’s made very clear as to what America is, you come on board to a set of ideals and values, you sign up to them and you’re American. We haven’t done that with Britain, we haven’t explained what Britain is and what British values are. And therefore, once that is done once we have the confidence to assert British identity and Western relational supremacy over anyone, we haven’t done that. And once we do that, I think you’ll start seeing Muslims descend from the so called community leaders that try to bully them and silence the ordinary believers.
Dr Alan Mendoza 28:32
You do have a point about you know what is Britain’s story essentially you all say, look, and we want obviously, British muslims bind to Britain’s story, but everyone has to get his story straight first. And what do you think needs to be done in order to get Britain story straight.
Ed Husain 28:50
Stop shying away from the British story and even in schools there is very little awareness. The British, you know was trade deals where there were genuine positive engagements with Muslims. It helped influence the common law tradition Muslims were trading with Britain are some of the architecture the banking system there was mutual influence and trade, whether it’s Queen Elizabeth the first deals with the Iranians and the Ottomans in order to bypass the Spanish or whether it’s, you know, King George’s the various relationships with the Ottomans or whether it’s the Queen Victoria’s deepened personal commitment to learning Arabic learning or having ties with an Israeli reminded her that she was Queen Empress of more Muslims than the Ottoman Sultan was king in his empire. So the story keeps coming to our time and we forget that story where ashamed of examining that, and if you know Muslim dominated school that that’s the story that needs telling in order to embed and make Muslims feel as though they belong This land is them. And let’s do that right now that storytelling hasn’t been done sufficiently. And our education system is weak. And that’s why our students come out and they’re, they’re vulnerable to extremism and separatism and elitism.
Dr Alan Mendoza 30:44
Good. I’m gonna move, I think there’s a ton of questions, undoubtedly, in the q&a. So we’ll move to those I wouldn’t bring it up then as we normally do. But I’m having a few, clearly a few sound issues. And then let me just, you know, kind of take a few hands. Question from Euan Grant here, what surprised you during your traveling and research and what did not?
Ed Husain 31:15
What surprised me was the genuine warmth, and the hospitality and the love that you see him on? I mean, let’s be honest, I think Muslims have inherited that Abrahamic tradition, you know, Muslims believe that Abraham was a was was a host to angels. And we believe that Abraham was taught by God, to be very hospitable. And the tent of Abraham was known, at least in the Muslim tradition for being very wide and accommodating. So that tradition has been kept alive. I don’t want to sound anti English, but hospitality is not an English trait. You know, whereas among many Muslim communities, you find that what, you know, you don’t go and count the number of potatoes in a Muslim home, and I’ve got to give it hats off to that. That love and warmth and openness and generosity that in the poorest of Muslim homes, you know, so that really surprised me. And it’s heartwarming, and it’s something that should absolutely be conserved. And I think that did not surprise me, I think was the tensions, the tensions that exists, the suspicion that mutual tension between communities, I just hoped it was going to be a lot less than what it turned out to be. But that’s the surprising factor.
Dr Alan Mendoza 32:36
A couple questions from Peter Balfour. He says that “my fear of Islam arises from the feeling of compulsion, one must agree or one’s life may be threatened. This gives the impression that Islam is in conflict with other religions rather than assimilating with them.” And the first if you think that’s a fair comment, and secondly, what can be done about that section, and he’s also said, “Do you think it will help with services and the loss of religious worship in general, were broadcast public with reliable translations or at least is accessible in that way?” I mean, my my sense is the that things that are not helpful for integration.
Ed Husain 33:17
Yes. This this conquering mindset is part of the kind of mindset that you’ve got to go out and conquer that there’s got to be a violent attempt to spread the word that every Muslim has to proselytize. And, you know, the reality is that most Muslims don’t, you know, and that’s the good news that most Muslims don’t proselytize. And I think that’s what we’ve got encouraged that, you know, in a pluralistic world, yes, you’re free to proselytize if you want to, but other free pasta sighs so as long as the the rule of law is upheld, in which people are free to proselytize to the courts, they’ll tell we can’t do this. But at the same time, you know, we are free to reject that we are free to scrutinize that we are free for those who want to to apostatize so I think it’s a two way street right now and many today. Especially case sponsor way, and open our convictions up and say “No, those who don’t want to become Muslims don’t want to become Muslims and for good reason.”
Dr Alan Mendoza 34:40
That’s very helpful. Indeed. A question now from Joy Wolff – there talk of no go areas for non Muslims and the police. Did you come across that? Also areas where Sharia law applies rather than UK law? There’s there’s effects that might be the case, the detriment of women. any examples of that? I think there were but we’d be interested to get your sense of where there were no, there were there were issues that may have come into conflict with the British state.
Ed Husain 35:09
It’s that’s a really important issue. And if Ofsted is one area of concern for us it’s is in many, many mosques, clerics who are conducting marriages. And, you know, I’ve got nothing against clerics who want to compare marriages. But when when a young Muslim woman gets married, with a cleric, she often thinks that she’s now in a marriage. And when she, if she wants to get divorced, or if that marriage then breaks down and she goes into an English court, she suddenly realizes she has not been married, because clerics do not have the power to get us married. That power is with the law of the land. And there’s a huge breakdown, where clerics are giving out documents saying you’re married, what’s what’s happened, in fact, is a Sharia based arrangement where there’s a there’s a, an agreement and in the eyes of the elders, but that’s not to say that the lady has the same rights as the man. So in a situation like that, a Muslim man can say I divorced you three times. And in one minute, Sharia, she’s now divorced, she has no access to wealth, property, and upkeep. What strikes me is when I was in Israel, Muslim women there have the full law and the full force of the Israeli state behind them. So Muslim women in Israel have more rights as citizens of Israel than Muslim women do in England or Wales or Scotland or indeed Ireland at the moment. And that’s a real disaster in that British Muslim women do not enjoy full rights, as women do across the world. I mean, how is it possible that British Muslim women have second class citizenship, when other British women, you know, any other British woman who gets married, has her marriage registered, and therefore has recourse to law. British Muslim women, by and large do not register because they think the clerics are registering for them, don’t and therefore, when they need to get divorced, they need the Sharia courts. And that’s what they are. People don’t like this term, but that’s what they essentially are Sharia courts, and clerics, mostly men saying, yes, you can divorce, no, you can’t divorce we will go to your husband and get into divorce etc. In other words, there’s a real injustice and 10s of 1000s of women are suffering as a result. So there needs to be legal parity between where those courts are currently functioning and where British common law tradition – in other words, one law for for everyone rather than what we’re seeing emerge, which is a separatist, Sharia practice as manifest in marriage, divorce, matrimony, inheritance, and so on at the moment.
Dr Alan Mendoza 37:51
Very interesting. Thank you. And I think that’s obviously a key part of understanding where we’re going in practice, in your heart of hearts with a Muslim immediately. A couple of questions – it’d be interesting to consider two things. Firstly, are there any British Muslim organizations taking responsibility in hacking practices or breaches, and in the most of them, just seeing how that works? I think it will be interesting, just to get your sense of how, how that is clearly visible publicly. But interestingly, there was a role certification, and I think I’ve undergone this model now that certification somehow, in terms of looking at things going on in a mosque and a second question is very interesting. Do you think the election of Zara Mohamad, as Secretary General of the MCB has allowed people into a sense of general refreshers Muslims are more progressive than they might be? Or is her election an indication of how progressive they are really? And that’s an interesting juxtaposition, but I think we might be in the context of the MCB itself.
Ed Husain 39:10
Yes. The MCB was set up to have a conversation with with the British government. And the MCB for the last 10 years at least has not been having that conversation with British government because, you know, a senior leader of the of the council was found to be supportive of what’s called the assembled declaration in which he advocated or at least the declaration advocated for attacks on British troops. Now the MCB has been asked to condemn Hamas and they refuse to do so. And for those two reasons, it’s understandable that both labor and and the coalition in other words the Tory, Lib-Dem Alliance have understandably kept the MCB at a distance. If they want to talk about halal meat and circumcision fine, but they make the mistake of getting into political issues all too often and in an unproductive, anti British way, which is part of the bigger problem. So I don’t buy Zara Mohammed or whoever else becomes female Secretary General. Indeed, it’s a good sign and we should have more of that. But I want to see more Zara Mohammed Secretary General’s president, in mosques, they’re not just at a representative organization designed to front in the media and look good, but I want to see real change of you know, many, many, many more of these women 1000s of these women in the 2000 mosques we have, why can’t we point to other than the one in Belfast, more mosques in which women are the chair women, women are the fundraisers women are the second I’m not asking for women clerics, as in women, kind of Imams I mean, that’s a theological dispute. It’s not my place to say we want female Imams, but I think it’s right to want more females, running mosques, managing mosques, fundraising mosques representing mosques that that we haven’t seen. But all that despite that, yes, Zara Mohammed being elected over a male candidate. It is a good sign and but the organization she represents is defunct. So it’s a kind of a double whammy. There aren’t other organizations who do this work. Minab was set up under Hazel Blair’s brilliant watch, but that I think it’s got caught in sectarian infighting and hasn’t really done the work that has been done. And I don’t think we should just leave it to Muslims. By the way, it’s part of the problem. This should be something whether it’s a Charity Commission, whether it’s a different body that’s set up to regulate mosques in the way that the French and the Austrians and others have tried to do bring mosques into Europe, and not have mosques that are outposts of either Turkey, Pakistan, Qatar or any other country for that matter.
Dr Alan Mendoza 42:14
Curious of your view as one attendee says on how the UK responded to the cartoons contreversy and the second issue is on blasphemy laws as it relates here and that there has been no discussion. Just wanted to get your thoughts on blasphemy and indeed a sort of relationship like blasphemy laws in that way.
Ed Husain 42:37
Yes, the this is the backlist situation is not the last, by the way, there will be many more blacklists. We’ve seen this in Salman Rushdie, we’ve seen this since the cartoon controversy around the Danish cartoons we’ve seen it with the Charlie Hebdo, we saw something similar in Holland and we’re now seeing it in Britain. And this won’t go away. And the one of the reasons why I was reluctant about the Barelvi movement that I mentioned earlier and why they were good news and generally are but they are part of the pioneers now in, because of politics in Pakistan around Samantha Sierra and the governor being killed there of a blasphemy laws, and Pakistan’s general radicalization. That direction of travel, Muslims in the UK who have a Pakistani heritage have become more and more radicalized on this issue of blasphemy. And, you know, look, we’ve know from the days of William Tyndale onwards, you know, 1000s of people have given their lives at the stake for the freedoms that we have inherited. two world wars have been fought to give us the free world that we now all share. And you know, millions of Muslims fought in those two wars. My point is that blasphemy laws should not be brought back. And that’s the front door, the backdoor sin is the West is built on a culture of, of the Greek culture of tragedy, but also comedy. And you know, Muslims who live in the West who are Westerners, it’s part of the West that we will be poached by that, there will be cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, we just got to grow a thick skin and realize it’s bad taste in art. It’s just poor aesthetics and and get over it, stop killing, stop demanding legal changes and just say, poor you know, poor shape, poor taste, bad taste. Yes, it’s offensive for me as a believer, but move on. And what’s next? I think that’s that’s the right approach. And we haven’t seen that approach, nor have we seen in the by election, either of the political parties that address this serious issue. And my fear is that the longer we remain silent, you know, blasphemy law might get to the United Nations constantly poking fun at the west on this one issue, so that we’ve got to stand up for it. It’s one of those freedoms that makes the West, the West, and, you know, no to blasphemy laws in any variation whatsoever.
Dr Alan Mendoza 45:07
Agreed, of course, nonsensical the 21st century. One question here, what country is most problematic in influencing extremism in British mosques in the community in general. And is something extreme resulting in advancing Caliphate presumptions or is it something else.
Ed Husain 45:29
Interestingly, I mean, you know, when Alan and I were talking about this 10 years ago, we will be poking fingers at two or three governments in the Middle East. Now, we can’t poke those fingers directly. Because, this is the great shame though Alan that there’s a there’s an attempt to reform in the Middle East, and our mosques and our Muslim populations are not in that vein, they’re still stuck in there was horrendous, for example, would come out in three or four weekends ago, shouting in Finchley and other parts of London against Jewish communities. Why are they from Bradford because there is that separatists tradition, whereas we didn’t see a single protest in the entire Middle East against the attacks on Hamas. But here in London, New York, LA. And before anyone says people in the Middle East are free, I put to you Turkey, you know, no protests in Turkey. And before you say the Middle East isn’t free, I say to you, normally on this issue of Hamas, many, many governments are keen to let their populations come out. But it was a population that did not want to engage. Because you know, there’s been a reform A and B, people know Hamas as a terrorist organization, but in our country, we’re not there yet. You know, we have this left and Islamist alliance, influenced by sadly, Gaza, the Gaza situation where Hamas has direct links into several British Muslim organizations, who shall remain nameless for the kind of concerns Alan mentioned earlier, but they have members in the region. So it’s not so much countries anymore, but organizations and 10 years ago, we would have said Saudi Arabia, but it’s not anymore, and there isn’t foreign funding into the tune as as was the case previously, but it is organizations that are influenced directly by Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood, Jamaat e Islami from the Indian subcontinent. It’s now I think we’ve got to shift our thinking from organizations, sorry, from governments to organizations that are anti-West, anti-Israel, anti-British, anti-modernity, that poses a real problem and bolster the separatism that’s emerrging among the activists
Dr Alan Mendoza 47:35
There’s a question about, you know, we just had an outbreak of anti Israel sentiment, of course, and it’s notable how many people of Muslim origin clearly in the march against Israel? And yet, as you point out, most of the Muslims in Britain are from the Indian subcontinent, rather unusual is not not that people from that part of the world feel so strongly. Is that to do with what they’re being taught?
Ed Husain 48:02
Some of it has to do with what they’re being taught. And by which, I mean that when there isn’t love and loyalty to the land in which you are born and in which you belong, you seek it elsewhere. So when Palestine matters more than they Preston, we will got a real problem in our country. That’s, that’s where these large numbers come from. It isn’t it isn’t that they’re attached to this country, they’re attached, they have this attachment to a utopian, you know, Hamas led Gaza, which can be some kind of foil for the caliphate dream, one. Two, there is a real affiliation with the Middle East, in that we, I think in the West have failed to make the argument for a westernized Islam, in the way that Judaism has been westernized, or Christianity, which, don’t forget, also came out of Jerusalem has been westernized, the lack of communication, or the lack of a dialogue between the western intelligence and thought leaders among Muslims. And you know, the persistence of all anti West has led to a situation where young Muslims grow up and think that you can’t be both. You can’t be Muslim and you can’t be westernized. Whereas in fact, the truth is, that, to my mind, at least, the West is a product of that synthesis that took place between Aquinas, Maimonides, and others. While while Judaism has taken Maimonides seriously, and Christianity, Catholicism at least has taken St. Thomas Aquinas seriously Muslims have not taken Averroes seriously enough, and for Muslims who are listening my appeal to you would be that end the blindness the traditional reliance on superstition and study even the Russian or ever rose from Spain, and see how he was a Westerner and a Muslim. And it’s in that tradition, just as Christianity modernized after the dark age. Muslims to again need to re embrace the Aristotelian spirit without which we will be stuck in this liberalism and this blindness that leads to constant confrontation and not being able to see ourselves as fully Western and fully Muslim and therefore, having a harmonious peaceful identity.
Dr Alan Mendoza 50:19
Keeping on that for a moment, I’ve got a question from Kathleen Hill, are the Abraham accords on model of rapprochement in that regard between different communities?
Ed Husain 50:28
Absolutely right. And and this is a really important question, because Abraham accords are a real breath of fresh air. And they’re, they’re a breath of fresh air, not because they’re in the Middle East, but a breath of fresh air because they challenge the previous question that why is it that Muslims who have an Indian subcontinent for background are more attached to this cause when Arabs and Israeli and others are making in the part of the world that matters to them most. But but one of the big problems, I think, with the activists in the in the British Muslim communities is they haven’t paid enough attention to the Abrahamic cause and what it means. And there hasn’t been an awareness that in Abu Dhabi, we now have a synagogue, a new Jewish Muslim communities being established, but we all have a church and a mosque side by side in the same complex, and that’s vitally important. And it’s not, it’s not, you know, again, it’s something that our media hasn’t paid much attention to, by the way, this is this is part of the the distancing from God in Europe that no one seems to understand why this is so important. In the British press, in other countries, there’s been much more awareness. So I don’t I don’t blame you know, my fellow Muslims purely for that. I think some of it’s to do with the fact that when the Abraham Accords happened, or, indeed, when the pope went to the went to the United Arab Emirates, there wasn’t much warmth in the British press, but there was huge amounts of attention in the American press. And I think that’s part of the problem that there is a wider breaking down of confidence in the very ideas that shape the West.
Dr Alan Mendoza 52:09
We’re running short on time. And I want to ask a couple of last questions. First, I have a couple of questions. I bought one from Sean McVeigh, as it relates to an attitude towards Muslims and then attitude back. How would you perceive Islamophobia matrix in West Central radicalization trend within Muslim people living in these states? Your thoughts on that Islamophobia? And then, how do you feel Britain can make Muslims feel more welcomed here? So she’s saying simple things like saying, you know, some people might might make a difference, they can make people feel relaxed, I just wonder what your thoughts are on that? Is there a way to foster integration? Is that a simple thing?
Ed Husain 53:12
I’m increasingly uncomfortable with the word integration, because it sounds like you know, something data oriented systems integration. You know, Roger Scruton used to talk about home and belonging. And what we should be thinking about and working towards is how do we foster belonging in Bradford, some of the most moderate Muslim scholars questioned how they belong. And you know, my question back was, what more is required to make you feel like you belong? You have your halal meat, you have your cemeteries, you have, you know, Muslims at the highest levels of government of the intelligence agencies, in the armed forces, in the media, in business in every element of life in Britain, Muslims are there in a way that they are not in France, or in Austria, and much less Germany and elsewhere. So I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t if I you know, okay. mainstream society probably could do better in understanding faith and, and God and I think Muslims bring to the table and it’s important faith, that there will be people of faith come together. But Islamophobia is, to my mind, forgive me a red herring, because if you look at the data, and I wrote a piece for the Spectator about a year ago on this, you know, Islamophobia only spirals when there’s terrorism, you know, Islamophobia as a term in my mind, is an oxymoron. What I worry about with terms such as Islamophobia is that it prevents any criticism of the Islamic legal code, or, or any criticism of the massage habit in a free society. That’s, that’s what we have. That’s what we’ve inherited. And that’s why Yes, anti-muslim sentiment is real and should be stamped out as is other form of hatred. But don’t let’s not use terms such as Islamophobia to shut down debate and, and genuine scrutiny and discussion. And also, you know, no, I don’t think Muslims should be saying Salam Alaikum, among Muslims, by all means, yes, like how among Jewish people, people say Shalom, and I’m sure it’s the same in other communities and culture, that’s fine. But I don’t think that’s just not what’s needed is buying into the British story. What’s needed is love for the language, the liberties, the laws, the land in which we were born. What’s needed is that long history and respect for that history. And what’s needed is to remember that this is our inheritance. You know, this is the inheritance, you know, our forefathers fought together, Muslims and others, fought together in two world wars against hatred, and we should defend our inheritance and pass it on to a new generation. Rather than say, well, let’s change it in order to accommodate.
Dr Alan Mendoza 56:43
To be very quick, last question. The book is coming in for a lot of criticism from several quarters, we alluded to it before somebody say, other people say, you know, your inferences are drawn from other practices and are wrong. Why do you think the book is attractive to criticism? What do we make of that?
Ed Husain 57:07
Well, I’d be surprised if the book was not criticized Alan, it’s that kind of book that upsets. You know, when you’re critical of some of clerics mosques, but also critical of the far left in in quietly accepting separatism. You know, you’re going to get attacked from the far left, as well as the activist, Islamist far right, the Caliphists. And for those who say that the Caliphism isn’t a problem, I point to you to the 42,000 terrorist suspects or subjects of interest that have been modified, monitored, that’s real. And if that can happen with 4 million Muslims in the UK because of the extremism present, and tell me what it looks like in the year 2050 when there are almost 15 million Muslims unless we grip the separatism this Caliphism this, this community first defending the status quo mindset, you know, I, I don’t I don’t seek to be popular. And I you know, I take inspiration from the Old Testament prophets. And indeed the Prophet Mohammed and others themselves were always disliked by quote unquote, their community, you know, I mean, obvious for my country that comes first, and my love for my family. And that comes first. And currently, we’re on a collision course. And I want to end that collision course. So it’s bitter medicine for people who think it’s, you know, they don’t like to read what’s in the book. In terms of inaccuracies. I accept only one mistake and that is I should be much more direct and blunt. The characters in the book have been changed to the individuals in the book that will be relied on to use the real names. But I did that to protect. I did that to protect people.
Dr Alan Mendoza 58:56
So yeah, that that makes a lot of sense. Really good. Final question. Yeah. Are you positive, hopeful for the future, or is it very much on balance your view?
Ed Husain 59:06
That’s a brilliant, great last question, Alan. I mean, and I recall, Roger Scruton for the reason that Roger when he was at university it was, it was told don’t read Oswald Spengler, his book on the decline of the West. He was 1920s, there abouts when Spindler wrote that book predicting the end of the West. And I’ve got to say that there’s a long tradition in the west of constantly predicting the end of the West, whether it’s Socrates, whether it’s Cicero, or just constantly, indeed, Nietzsche. And this is the great secret of the West, being able to see what the problems are being self critical and then addressing those issues. And TS Eliot was a great reminder not to be pessimistic, but to realize that in the 11th hour, that the secret to the success of the West, is that the seeds of that secret are within the West. And I think that’s What we’re doing here that we’re identifying a problem, and we will turn our minds to it, it’s a question of time when we will address it, and the medicine will work. And because it’s worked previously, for we have, you know, we have 20 centuries of success behind us to prove that if we, if we put our minds to it, we can address it. And, you know, we are not Germany, you know, we are not China. You know, this is the English speaking world, which has given the modern world its civilizational premises. So I’m optimistic but it requires us all waking up to the challenges. And working in the spirit of TS Eliot that we, we adopt optimistically put our minds to it. And at the 11th hour, we have the seeds of success in our midst.
Dr Alan Mendoza 1:00:47
Thanks. So it’s a wonderful way to say it was always a wonderful way to end in any, any conversation. And we’re going to go on all night. But I really want to thank you for, for writing a book, which is used, as I said, you knew earlier and condemned by many who don’t like what you’ve discovered, but also your your fortitude is actually coming up with solutions and ways forward. Thank you all for joining us. You can purchase the book on any good Amazon outlets or any other good independent outlets out there. And I do encourage you to do so because you’ll find a lot more about what Ed has discovered. That’s all for tonight. We look forward to having you join us again for another one of our virtual events. So thank you. Thank you all and see you again soon.