Reader, I kid you not. These were a few of the questions posed to me by e-mail recently by a British male convinced that Muslims were enforcing some kind of Islamic law in sections of English cities. I had to check his message again, so convinced was I that he was talking about some far-off desert country where a ‘Muslim’ government enforces a rigid and soulless version of Islam. No, I noted bitterly; he was not referring to holidays under the Taliban or ISIL, but to English cities in which large pockets of Muslims reside. His list of questions was not surprising, given that three members of Muslim Patrol were sentenced to prison in Dec 2013 for proclaiming shariah law in East London. They had assaulted, punched and verbally abused ordinary people walking on the streets for holding hands and drinking alcohol.
During the recent General Election I was sent photos of posters declaring that ‘Voting is Shirk and Haram’. I am at my wits’ end to understand how the Islamic concept of pure monotheism which orders Muslims to worship one God can be threatened by a democratic process of choosing who runs a country’s government. The countries of our interesting world have chosen different ways in which to order their worldly affairs. Saudi Arabia and Switzerland have chosen to live under the rule of absolute monarchies; in Britain we have a constitutional monarchy that enjoys a ceremonial status while power rests with the elected government; China and Brazil prefer to operate as Republics. The logic of the anti-democracy, pro Islamic State street brigade seems to be that democratic governments have somehow usurped the power of God by assigning to themselves the power of legislation. Their argument is that by showing allegiance to such a government or by participating in the voting process, the Muslim is guilty of a major sin: Shirk, which is associating idolic figures with God. Their logic is that a modern government that permits the consumption of alcohol and pork is therefore not a legitimate government. It is idol worship. Now I can promise you that although I did vote with great pleasure in the election, I still do not have a statue of Cameron in my lounge to which I can offer my daily obeisance.
There are many holes in their arguments. Whether or not Islam mandates a theocratic state is a discussion for another time. What is more pertinent is that Britain is a country in which Muslims are a tiny minority, and for such a minority to demand the implementation of their religious laws is sheer lunacy. Secondly, concepts such as universal access to justice, equality, freedom to practice one’s faith, rights of non-combatants in war, and the accountability of those in power are not just modern western concepts but are also fully Islamic. In fact, may I be so bold to assert that many human rights concepts that are considered to be Western are actually Islamic in origin or were brought to Europe by Muslim thinkers via earlier civilizations.
An Islamic state is a failure if it cannot provide safety for its citizens, a decent living standard, free speech, equality of men and women, freedom to criticise authority, equal access to education and work for all members of society, regardless of gender and religious affiliation. Most of these features are missing from many Muslim countries in the world today, especially the thugs that style themselves as Islamic State. Yet in Britain we take them for granted. In other words, the fruits of modern British democracy are far more Islamic than those of Muslim states extent.
An important point that IS in Syria and their stooges in Britain completely omit from their nauseatingly rhetorical use (and abuse) of the word Shariah is the obsessive humanity of the Shariah. Islam is not about halal meat, prayer rooms, polygamy and bad English; it is much more than huge head scarves studded with diamante and rhinestone. Islam is much more than that, and that is why it has survived for 1400 years.
Believe it or not, Islam is about good character. Did you know that? May I ask my non-Muslim readers to put up their hands if they knew that Islam/Shariah is about good character….I don’t see a single hand going up!
So yes, Islam is about good character, caring for the environment, protecting the weak and vulnerable in society, taking care of parents, cleaning one’s neighbourhood, being truthful, forgiving the faults of others (especially male drivers), loyalty to one’s country (the Union Flag in our case), respect for difference of opinion, humility, patience, deep spirituality, courtesy in debate and much much more. This is the Shariah that Muslims living in Britain need to incorporate into their daily lives.
Ustadha Khola Hasan
Note: The views expressed are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect that of ImamsOnline.