Tuesday, 28 April 2009
My persecution by the Muslim McCarthyites by Dr. Taj Hargey
Islam in Britain has been taken over by the followers of a distorted faith. We need a reformation to rescue it
This week I not only won a libel case in the High Court but a victory against religious fanaticism within Britain's Muslim community. Muslim Weekly, a conservative newspaper, had falsely accused me of belonging to a heterodox sect and therefore being a heretic. I was apparently less of a Muslim than the readers of that paper.
As the head of a progressive Muslim organisation in Britain that is dedicated to an enlightened, egalitarian and erudite Islam, I was victimised, like other forward-looking Muslims, by a campaign of classic McCarthyism. Just as Senator Joseph McCarthy ruined the lives of countless Americans during the 1950s when he and his committee smeared innocent people as communists, the Muslim hierarchy in Britain have used witchhunts to maintain their unquestioned theological power. Any Muslim freethinker is automatically branded as heretical or un-Islamic and excommunicated from the community - and debate is shut down.
I hope that my public vindication in the courts will embolden more progressives, dissenters and particularly thinking women to put their heads above the parapet and challenge the fundamentalist mullahs. Only then can we loosen the deadly grip of the self-appointed religious fraternity on what it is to be a Muslim in Britain.
Unfortunately, Islam in Britain has been taken over by the followers of a warped manifestation of the faith. The Muslim Council of Britain, the main Muslim newspapers and many of the big mosques are dominated by men who subscribe to a virulent and backward-looking brand of Islam that has been exported from the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent.
We need a reformation that saves Islam from foreign-inspired zealots. That reformation is already under way, with Muslims going back to the pristine teaching of the transcendent Koran, not taking on trust the hadith (a compilation of sayings of the Prophet Muhammad recorded some 250 years after his death by non-Arabs) or the corpus of medieval man-made Sharia (religious law). But because this reformation is still in its infancy, the reactionary clergy and its supporters is doing everything to strangle it.
Most if not all the thorny problems of faith that British Muslims face today - whether it is apostasy, blasphemy, jihad, women's oppression, homosexuality, religious intolerance or the democratic deficit in and outside the community - can be traced either to fabricated hadith or the masculine-biased Sharia.
Although the Koran repeatedly declares that God's revelation is conclusive and sufficient guidance for Muslims and that there is no need for any supplementary legal authority in Islam, the traditional Muslim clergy defies this explicit divine assurance. They falsely convince their flock that they cannot be true believers without the hadith. They falsely assert that this source of Islam is at the heart of being a real Muslim. Most Muslims have been told that the hadith are the sacred authentic words of the Prophet, but the plethora of fictitious and forged hadith proves otherwise.
Granted, there may be some useful guidance in the thousands upon thousands of hadith but they need to pass a rigorous double test. First, they cannot contradict the Koran and, second, they must not defy reason and logic. Unfortunately, most Muslims have been programmed to regard hadith as sacrosanct teachings that cannot be challenged. This holds all Muslims hostage to the antiquated prejudices or distortions of the narrators and recorders of the prophetic traditions.
The rampant oppression of women in Muslim society does not stem from the Koran but is chiefly the product of misogynistic hadith. For example, a famous “authentic” hadith declares that there will be a preponderance of women in Hell. But the facts here on earth suggest otherwise - male criminality far exceeds that of females.
These anti-Koranic perspectives will continue to predominate in the British Muslim community as it becomes more directly tied to ultra-conservative and extremist sects - such as the Wahhabi, Deobandi, Jamati Islami and the Tabligh Jamaat. These ideological radicals propagate a highly toxic caricature of Islam. They regard creed and culture as indistinguishable, refusing to grasp that Islam is a global religion, not a faith that is linked to one particular people or place.
Although Muslims have their own specific territorial cultural traditions, there is no such thing as an Islamic culture. Therefore the modern trend among British Muslims blindly to emulate Arab ethnic dress or grow beards or for women to wear the Wahhabi-sanctioned niqab or face masks has nothing to do with the Koran but everything to do with the primitive tribal mores and sexist practices of Arabia.
The relentless importation of Wahhabi-influenced theology and tradition into the body politic of the Muslim community is mainly the result of two factors. First, the Saudis control Mecca and Medina, the centres of Islam. This gives the Wahhabi Saudis both a spurious legitimacy and a captive market to peddle their sectarian poison.
Second, with their petrodollars the Saudis can afford to export the most horrendous brand of Islam around the globe. Here in Britain, conservative mosques and madrassas receive funding from the despotic Saudis and in turn extol their nefarious interpretation of Islam.
It is essential therefore that all thinking Muslims resist this foreign theological imposition and create a British Islam that is not only faithful to the original uplifting teachings of the faith but one that is natural to and at home in modern British society.
Dr Taj Hargey is the chair of the Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford and the Imam of the Summertown Islamic Congregation in Oxford