Cambridge University Professor: “Scorning the Prophet is an act of violence.”

Cambridge Professor and British Muslim theologian, Abdul Hakim Murad (Timothy Winters), argues that the Paris attacks were the acts of criminals with troubled pasts and little religious knowledge, and have been condemned by a rare show of unity among Muslim leaders in France and worldwide. Globally, Muslims admit that such lawlessness is an increasing worry. No significant Muslim scholar supports the radicals in Iraq and Syria, but some young people simply pay no heed. In an age of individualism, angry minds tend to ignore established religious leaders.

But, he states, there is more at stake here. Charlie Hebdo, like the Danish magazine Jyllands-Posten several years ago, did not simply publish images of the Prophet. That, on its own, would probably have occasioned little comment. The difficulty lay in the evident intention to mock, deride and wound. To portray the Prophet naked, or with a bomb in his turban, was not the simple manufacturing of a graven image. It was received, and rightly so, as a deliberate insult to an already maligned and vulnerable community. Mosque burnings and a raft of legal disadvantages are increasingly a fact of life for Muslims in Europe.

The English legal tradition recognises not only the right to free speech, but the right to protection from agonising insult, slander and abuse. In the case of vulnerable minorities that legal concern seems particularly appropriate. It is also in line with the tolerant and courteous national character.

Cambridge University hosts training session for British Muslims

14 October 2010

The first course launched by Al-Azhar University in collaboration with the University of Cambridge has come to an end. Al-Azhar University in Cairo offered British Muslims studying at the Prince Alwaleed Centre of Islamic Studies in Cambridge the chance to attend its Imam training. The course was especially designed for young British Muslims studying in Darul Ulooms (Islamic seminaries) which often produce future Imams and Muslim chaplains.

The 15 week programme hoped to provide students with a challenging series of seminars, lectures and personal study assignments that will help them with potential roles as leaders in their faith communities. During the course, students spent time at both Cambridge and Al-Azhar and met with representatives from community organisations of different faiths to learn about pastoral care, interfaith working and community leadership.
Beth Caldwell, a British Council English teacher, said, “Our students are now engaging with the world — the real and the virtual — on a level which would have been impossible with their level of English just a short time ago.” Al-Azhar student Alaa Eddin Ibrahim is using his English to speak to others via social networking. He said, “Al Azhar graduates need to have the opportunity to interact with the world outside of Egypt, to show the world, particularly the West, the right image of Islam.”

Timothy Winter: Britain’s most influential Muslim

20 August 2010
In the 500 Most Influential Muslims 2010, Mr Winter is below the King of Saudi Arabia — who comes in at number one — but ahead of many more chronicled figures. Winter, who is Shaykh Zayed Lecturer of Islamic Studies at Cambridge University’s Divinity Faculty, is ranked in an unspecified position between 51st and 60th: considerably higher than the three other British people who make the list — the Conservative Party chairman Baroness Warsi; the UK’s first Muslim life peer, Lord Nazir Ahmed, who was briefly jailed last year for dangerous driving; and Dr Anas Al Shaikh Ali, director of the International Institute of Islamic Thought — making him, at least in the eyes of the RISSC, Britain’s most influential Muslim.
After graduating from Cambridge with a double first in Arabic in 1983, Winter studied at the University of al-Azhar in Egypt and worked in Jeddahat before returned to England in the late eighties to study Turkish and Persian. He says he has no difficulty reconciling the world he grew up in with the one he now inhabits. “Despite all the stereotypes of Islam being the paradigmatic opposite to life in the west, the feeling of conversion is not that one has migrated but that one has come home.”
Last year Winter helped set up the Cambridge Muslim College, which offers trained imams a one year diploma in Islamic studies and leadership, designed to help trained imams to better implement their knowledge and training in 21st-century Britain. This year’s first graduating class have recently returned from a trip to Rome where they had an open audience with the Pope.

“Muslims in Britain: An Introduction” by Sophie Gilliat-Ray (Cardiff University) Cambridge University Press, June 2010

Archaeological evidence shows there was contact between Muslims and the British Isles from the 8th century. Beginning with these historical roots, Sophie Gilliat-Ray traces the major points of encounter between Muslims and the British in subsequent centuries, and explores Muslim migration to Britain in recent times. Drawing upon sociology, anthropology, politics, and geography, this comprehensive survey provides an informed understanding of the daily lives of British Muslims. It portrays the dynamic of institutions such as families, mosques and religious leadership, and analyses their social and political significance in today’s Britain. Through the study of the historical origins of major Islamic reform movements, it draws attention to the religious diversity within different Muslim communities, and sheds fresh light on contemporary issues such as the nature of religious authority and representation. It also considers British Muslim civic engagement and cultural life, particularly the work of journalists, artists, sports personalities, and business entrepreneurs.

Contents
Acknowledgements; Preface; Part I. Historical and Religious Roots: 1. The roots of Islam in Britain; 2. The development of Muslim communities; 3. Middle Eastern religious reform movements; 4. South Asian religious reform movements; Part II. Contemporary Dynamics: 5. Profiling British Muslim communities; 6. Religious nurture and education; 7. Religious leadership; 8. Mosques; 9. Gender, religious identity and youth; 10. Engagement and enterprise; Epilogue; Appendix: Source notes for researchers; List of references; Glossary; Index.

Cambridge mullah John Butt takes on radicals with radio

{John Butt, the Muslim chaplain at Cambridge University, has started a radio show broadcast to Afghanistan and Pakistan} From debating in the cloisters of Cambridge to defying fanatics across the wilds of Pakistan’s North West Frontier province – it could be one man’s journey out of the pages of Rudyard Kipling a century ago. Yet with his flowing robes, long white beard and skull cap, John Butt, 57, is at the centre of a very modern struggle in Peshawar, the capital of a province amply supplied with guns and religion. Butt has single-handedly started a groundbreaking radio programme called Across the Border, broadcast over a network of independent stations to listeners in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A public schoolboy and professional broadcaster, a convert to Islam and respected cleric, he has brought his combination of talents to the battle against militants who preach violence in the name of God. Tim Albone reports.

Rushdie knighted in honours list

Salman Rushdie, who went into hiding under threat of death after an Iranian fatwa, has been knighted by the Queen. His book The Satanic Verses offended Muslims worldwide and a bounty was placed on his head in 1989. But since the Indian-born author returned to public life in 1999, he has not shied away from controversy. A devout secularist, he backed Commons Leader Jack Straw over comments on Muslim women and veils and has warned against Islamic “totalitarianism”. The son of a successful businessman, Sir Salman was born into a Muslim family in Mumbai in 1947. He was educated in England at Rugby School and studied history at Cambridge University.

Blair in moderate Muslims appeal

Tony Blair says he wants the “voice of moderation” among Muslims to be heard, as $1m funding was announced to boost Islamic studies at UK universities. Ministers hope the money, announced as a report criticised teaching quality, will help train more imams in the UK. At a conference on Islam, Mr Blair also called for closer links between Islamic schools and mainstream state schools. Critics said the London conference had excluded Muslim groups opposed to government policies. In a speech at the conference, hosted by Cambridge University, Mr Blair said British politicians must listen harder to the “calm voice of moderation and reason” of the majority of the country’s Muslims.

Blair Praises the “Authentic Voices” of Islam

By Jane Perlez LONDON: As part of his series of farewells, Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday addressed a government-organized conference on Islam and declared that the “authentic voices” of the religion should be given a stage over the voices of extremism. Blair, who has said he will take a special interest in interfaith affairs when he leaves office at the end of the month, said that the true meaning of Islam had been hijacked by extremists. “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use, in times gone by, of torture – to force conversion to Christianity – represents the true teaching of Christ,” he said. Muslim leaders from Egypt, Indonesia, Bosnia, Western Europe and the United States joined a carefully selected group of British Muslims at Lancaster House in London for a two-day program that was organized by the government in conjunction with Cambridge University.