I think this is an excellent attempt by MSP Hamza Yousaf to offer some insight to the issues facing Scottish Muslims but 'moderate' is not progressive enough, especially since progressive and enlightened Scotland has not become what it is today through 'moderation'. The current political situation we see in Scotland is testament to this.
I'm unsure to what extent organisations, such as the Solas Foundation, or the moderation sermons of few politically savvy individuals who pander to the 'traditional Islamic scholars' can be useful in truly appreciating diverse views and approaches in living and thinking about Islam in Scotland and globally. I'm opposed to the marginalising of free thinking amongst Muslims from any so-called religious authority. I accept that some have studied in greater depths than others but no one, and I mean no one, has the right to quell or quash the right to think for any Muslim! Islam is a thinking religion not to be left in the hands of any individual or organisation.
Beyond the labels of moderate or even progressive - we need thinking Muslims who are critical and willing to be critical and enlightened. Opening up the ability of everyone and anyone to accept, reject or refute - go Scotland!
Copyright, All Rights Reserved
By Humza Yousaf - Member of the Scottish Parliament
19th July 2011
A war on any noun is usually one doomed to failure; so far the war on terror is not proving to be the exception to the rule and probably the reason why the term has been dropped by the Obama administration.
After 11 years of gruelling warfare, the insurgency in Afghanistan is far from quashed but rather gathering momentum and looking stronger as the years pass by - just last week claiming responsibility for the assassination of the President's powerful and influential brother Ahmed Wali Karzai.
Over the border in Pakistan we see a country, at best, struggling to stem the wave of Talibanisation and extremism and at worst on the brink of civil war.
While those in the East suffer the most from the rise in Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism, those in the West are also constantly at risk. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 looms closer perhaps it is a good time to reflect and evaluate the effectiveness of our approach in tackling this threat.
With the war in Iraq and Afghanistan being the dominant news stories over the last decade, there is little doubt that Western Governments have tried to defeat Al-Qaeda inspired terrorism by cutting the head off the beast, while forgetting the sting is sometimes in the tail.
If looked at through a purely militaristic prism then there have been some notable successes, most recently bagging the biggest scalp of all with the capture and killing of Osama Bin Laden. While removing such figureheads and leaders is no doubt important it is certainly not addressing the root of the problem.
It doesn't answer the question as to why Shehzad Tanweer, born, bred and educated in England, a keen sportsman excelling in cricket, who had a girlfriend, decided one day to strap a homemade bomb to his back and detonate it at a London's Aldgate Station killing himself and seven others.
If we wish to answer this question we have to first understand the ideology that drives a reasonable, rational individual like Shehzad Tanweer to become a cold-blooded killer.
Islam, like any other religion in the world, has its many factions and sects. However, the difference with many other world religions is that it does not have one universal over-arching authoritative body or figurehead.
This has its benefits for sure, but also comes with it particular dangers. It means that although there are recognised schools of Islamic teaching - like Al-Azhar University in Cairo - there are many more that will claim to be institutions of Islamic learning operating without regulation.
That means any old Abdul, Mohammed or Abu can put on some Arabic garb, look the part and sound the part of a religious cleric and yet have no religious qualification whatsoever.
From Bin Laden to Al Zawahiri, the majority of extremist preachers are just that - preachers, not Islamic scholars. They may talk the talk but certainly cannot walk the walk when put to the test.
In fact Bin Laden's lack of religious authority was a point of contention amongst other radicals when he first embarked on his campaign of hate. Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, initially refused to acknowledge Bin Laden's fatwa on legitimising the killing of innocent civilians on the basis he was not qualified enough to issue religious rulings.
What angers Muslims living in the West even more is the amount of airtime fake Sheikhs, like Abu Hamza and Omar Bakri, get and how they are often portrayed as 'clerics' i.e. people with some religious qualification and grounding.
Dr Azeem Ibrahim, a highly respected counter-terror expert and World Fellow at Yale University, makes a useful comparison in this regard. He asks Christians living in the West how they would feel if every time Al-Jazeera wanted a Christian-West perspective on matters they went straight to Pastor Terry Jones of Quran-burning infamy?
They would, quite rightly, be jumping up and down in anger claiming that Terry Jones does not represent mainstream Christian beliefs - but he is a Pastor is he not? Well not really, he reportedly only has an honorary degree from an unaccredited school of theology and even that can't be confirmed.
It is herein that lies part of the solution. Al Qaeda inspired terrorists and those who radicalise others do not fear Western interventions and bombing campaigns in Muslim countries. If anything they probably pray for more 'collateral damage' in the form of Muslim lives - surely no better propaganda tool exists.
No, what they fear is the teaching and spreading of mainstream Islam, backed by scholars qualified in traditional, classical and authentic texts. Recently, Dr Muhammed Tahir Al-Qadri, an Islamic Scholar from Pakistan, wrote a 600-page Fatwa dismantling, point by point, the dogmatic rhetoric often espoused by extremists. Such texts are seen as a direct threat to radical preachers because it takes away the motivation and religious hook they need to secure young people into their way of thinking.
In Scotland, we are leading the way in this approach in the form of an initiative called the Solas Foundation. At the Foundation a classical and traditional approach to Islam is taught, which is yet flexible and fit for the 21st century in Scotland.
Furthermore, the scholars have not come from a foreign country with broken English and no understanding of the culture here. Instead they are born and bred Scots educated in Universities in Glasgow and have then gone on to study for a decade or more in various different recognised schools of Islamic teaching from here in Europe to the Middle East and Asia.
I sat in one of their lectures recently where the Scottish born scholar Amer Jamil was going through, with his class, the so-called 'Verse of the Sword' from the Quran, which is often twisted and abused by extremists to fit their own evil ends.
With authority and clarity he deconstructed the radicals thought process and demonstrated how the idea that this verse commands indiscriminate killing of non-Muslims was not just completely absurd but illegitimate from a qualified religious-science point of view.
So successful has the Solas Foundation been in its approach it has already received recognition from the US Congress and praise from Pentagon officials as a model of best practise.
Western Governments, none more so than the Scottish Government, are now realising that tackling radicalisation is going to require us to empower Muslim communities as they themselves are the greatest weapon we have against Al Qaeda inspired terrorism.
It is a tough battle, particular Islamic ideologies and strands, which are more open to abuse and perversion are being promoted and funded by certain foreign wealthy backers. But one thing is for sure, there is a will from the Muslim community to tackle this problem, they have lifted their heads out of the sand and ready to confront the challenge ahead.
Only with the Muslim community leading from the front will we defeat this scourge of global terror and replace hate with hope.