Curriculum initiative by British Muslims

On the initiative of the Islamic scholar Dr Muhammad Tahir-ul-Qadri, British Muslims have introduced an “anti-terror curriculum” designed to supply Muslim clerics with arguments against the misuse of theological arguments by terrorist organisations such as IS. By Stefan Weidner

In principle, one can only welcome the fact that Muslims’ reactions to the terrorist misinterpretation of religion are becoming more and more sophisticated and explicit – with every attack, as it were.

They can achieve a variety of goals at once here. For one, they show resistance to attempts made to equate Islam with terrorism, an attitude that is fuelled just as much by notorious enemies of Islam as it is by political events, with the self-proclaimed “Islamic State in Syria and Iraq” at the forefront. Secondly, they are repudiating the allegation that Muslims are not distancing themselves sufficiently from terrorism. This is important, even if this insinuation is nearly always the product of ignorance, for example of the debates being waged in Arabic, and is partly based on plain distortion.

The initiative for a Muslim curriculum against terrorism is, however, not only geared toward appeasing Islam-critical observers; it is also an attempt to defeat with their own arguments those who espouse an aggressive and narrow-minded understanding of religion. The arguments against terrorism are derived here theologically from the religion itself and not, as so often is the case, from common sense, which is unfortunately in short supply among those who look to the religion to justify violence.

Of course, many scholars of Islam have tried to do this in the past. However, they have never before worked out such a systematic plan for a theological fight against terrorism and undertaken such great efforts to publicise it in the world press. That this has not yet been attempted can be explained by the religious diversity and local fragmentation of Islam, rather than assuming that Islam offers no arguments against violence.

IS supporters in Syria (photo: DW)

IS supporters in Syria. “We must not forget with regard to this initiative that religion is often used only as a pretext when young Muslims make their way to Syria. Very few of those who go to war are theologically savvy. And precisely because they lack religious education, they are susceptible to radical arguments that present themselves in a religious guise,” writes Stefan Weidner

No choice anymore

Such an initiative takes to its logical conclusion the fact that the Muslims have no choice anymore but to do the same thing with good arguments that the preachers of hate and violence are trying to do with bad ones, namely to reach a broad spectrum of Muslims all over the world. This is admittedly a Herculean task, but it just might lead – if it succeeds – to the kind of Islam that believers around the world are longing to see: a religion whose global standards would be supported by undisputed, universal and humane principles.

We must not forget with regard to this initiative that religion is often used only as a pretext when young Muslims make their way to Syria. Very few of those who go to war are theologically savvy. And precisely because they lack religious education, they are susceptible to radical arguments that present themselves in a religious guise. In this respect, the curriculum initiative could indeed provide a remedy. However, it also reinforces the misleading notion that “terror tourism” really does have primarily religious and cultural motives.

This form of culturalisation, as one might call it, hides other, more likely reasons for the suicidal decampment to the war zone, namely the social, political and economic marginalisation of many immigrants. And it could be, therefore, that the initiative seeks more to meet the expectations of Western policymakers and suspicious non-Muslim observers than to fulfil the needs of the Muslims concerned.

Seen in this light, the initiative could even end up having the opposite effect to what it purports to achieve. By chiming in with the chorus of those who interpret the phenomenon of Muslim terrorism as a problem with the religion, it relieves neo-liberal policymakers of their responsibility for the poverty and neglect of wide swathes of the population, including, of course, the converts looking to compensate for the lack of fulfilment and prospects in their lives in West by fighting for Islamic State, where they can earn the recognition they are denied in the West, even if they have to pay for it with their lives.

David Cameron (photo: Reuters/O. Scarff)

British Prime Minister David Cameron. Says Weidner: “That multiculturalism has failed, as conservative politicians like Merkel and Cameron like to claim today, must not be understood to imply that some Muslims are not interested in taking part in an open society, but indicates instead that this society is perhaps not as open as we would like to believe.”

Model Muslims and marginalised migrants

Finally, Western societies need to ask themselves some probing questions. What good is it if Muslims distance themselves from IS and come up with good arguments against radicalisation as long as the West still does its most lucrative business with countries that have supported this very radicalisation for decades and to this day have in many ways more in common with the social ideology of IS than they do with the Western nations? We are talking here about Saudi Arabia and other states on the Persian Gulf that may have neo-liberal economies but are, in political terms, decidedly anti-democratic.

A second question we must ask ourselves – and one that is perhaps even more important – is to what extent Western democracies are really willing to offer people from different backgrounds and cultures, besides a few very well-integrated model Muslims (and even they can be found above all in the purely symbolic worlds of culture and the media, but not in the crucial realms of business and politics) an equal opportunity and to show them respect and appreciation.

That multiculturalism has failed, as conservative politicians like Merkel and Cameron like to claim today, must not be understood to imply that some Muslims are not interested in participating in an open society, but indicates instead that this society is perhaps not really as open as we like to believe.

And it could soon prove to be the case – to the horror of conservative politicians in particular – that, despite the inherent risk of specific groups sealing themselves off, multiculturalism was a comparatively inexpensive solution to integration issues – at any rate compared to the aspiration to grant immigrants, no matter what their origin, a genuine opportunity in accordance with their abilities and desires and to provide the requisite, government-funded structures for this purpose.

Stefan Weidner

‘Face of Moderate Islam’ quits job

Yasin Elforkani, spokesperson for Contactbody Muslims and Government ( and known as the ‘face of moderate Islam in the Netherlands’ is quitting his job as a spokesperson. Elforkani, who is also imam, tried (and tries) to start a debate on extremist Islam and youth leaving to fight the jihad in Syria and Iraq, received several threats in the past which made him to decide to stop preaching temporarily. He is now working again as imam, but has quit his job as spokesperson for above mentioned organization.

© anp. Yassin Elforkani.
© anp. Yassin Elforkani.

Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam, invited to spread ‘true Islam’ in Britain

Grand Mufti Shawki Allam received an invitation from the Muslim MP in the European Parliament, Amjad Bashir, to spread true Islam in Britain.
A statement from Dar al-Ifta on Wednesday said the European MP considers the mufti as the voice of moderation in the Islamic world because he comes from the Al-Azhar institution, the castle of moderation in the world.

The Grand Mufti’s visit to the European parliament in Brussels and his speech at its special meeting (that was held for the first time in the history of the European Parliament) for a Muslim scholar was greatly welcomed by the members of the European Parliament.

The First meeting of the Confederation of Young Islamic Italians

November 11, 2013

 

The first meeting of the Confederation of Young Islamic Italians (GCII) is planned for next Sunday, 17 November, in Rome. The event is promoted by the Lazio section of the newly formed Islamic education of youth. In a statement the president of the Italian Islamic Confederation, Wahid el Fihri, explained “We expect hundreds of young Muslims from different regions of Italy for the first national meeting which will be held at the auditorium of the Center Islamic cultural center of Italy, better known as the Great Mosque of Rome.“

“Our goal is to give our children one more tool to stay away from the sirens of extremism and give them the ability to fight for a moderate Islam, which is open to interreligious dialogue and respectful of the rules and culture of others. Above all, moderate Islam is able to integrate into Italian society in accordance with our traditions.” The event will include a recitation of the Quran, a parade of children dressed in traditional Moroccan and other Muslim countries clothing. After the presentation of the new Islamic youth group, there will be an open dialogue between parents and children regarding the problems of Muslim families living in Italy.

The Confederation, founded as a union of regional federations, was founded in March 2012 and brings together the 250 centers and places of worship scattered throughout the country, who have chosen to share common values​​, in line with the “Charter of Values, Citizenship and Immigration” promulgated by the Ministry of the Interior in 2007.

 

International Business Times: http://it.ibtimes.com/articles/58922/20131114/islam.htm

French Minister: “There’s no such thing as moderate Islam”

News Agencies – December 3, 2011
A French minister said there was no such thing as moderate Islam, calling recent election successes by Islamic parties in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia “worrying” in an interview. Jeannette Bougrab, a junior minister with responsibility for youth, told Le Parisien newspaper that legislation based on Islamic sharia law “inevitably” imposed restrictions on rights and freedoms.

Bougrab is of Algerian origin, whose father fought on the French colonial side during Algeria’s war of independence, and said she was speaking as “a French woman of Arab origin.” She was reacting to electoral successes scored by the Ennahda party in Tunisia, the Justice and Development Party in Morocco and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

Social Democrats Pledge for More Muslims in Civil Service

06.05.2011

The Social Democrats have suggested hiring more Muslims for civil service positions in the German police force and in schools. This could be a way of undermining the work of hate preachers and radical Islamists and strengthening a moderate Islam in Germany.

Hassen Chalghoumi Calls for an “Islam of France”

Le Monde – September 30, 2010
This short article profiles the Drancy imam, Hassen Chalghoumi, now often considered an icon of “moderate Islam” in France. Chalghoumi has received a great deal of attention for taking a public position against full-face coverings in France and for a law that would ban them. This position has meant that he has been both subject to harassment and praise from different parties. He has recently published a book, Pour l’Islam de France (For Islam of France, Le CHerche Midi, 424 pgs). With reference to the Qur’an, Chalghoumi offers a new interpretation of questions of Islamic law.

Extremists have generated hatred

The Pdl deputy and president of Acmid-Donna Onlus (Association of Moroccan women in Italy) Suad Sbai interprets the result of the Swiss referendum as a consequence of the hatred spread by Islamic fundamentalists throughout Europe.

Minarets, in her opinion, more than religious symbols represent the visible, arrogant sign of Political Islam from which, she declares, moderate Islam both in Italy and in the Arab world, distances.

In Italy, she hopes for stronger controls over mosques and self-declared imams as crucial means to contrast Political Islam whose aim is to “Islamize” Europe. Political interventions should create bridges with moderate Islam whilst fighting political Islam.

Extremist organisation Islam4UK plans “march for shari’a” in London

Muslim organizations have condemned a planned demonstration by extremists who are calling for shari’a law in Britain. Parts of the media have also come under fire for implying that the extremists are representative of British Muslims generally.

The demonstration, involving a march from Parliament to Trafalgar Square on October 31, is organized by the fringe group Islam4UK, who support “the full implementation of shari’a law in the UK” and say that they “have had enough of freedom”. The group and events are mainly organized by extremist Anjem Choudary.

However, the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB), an umbrella body for Muslim organizations, said that they deplored the march and expressed their firm support for “the value of free speech in Britain”. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Islamic Society of Britain told the Daily Telegraph that “99.999 per cent of Muslims despise these people. This only serves to fuel racial tensions.”

British government to train moderate Muslims to appear higher on search engines

The British Ministry of Defence plans to train moderate Muslim groups on Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) so that their websites appear higher in search results on the Internet. Government-approved groups will be taught techniques to improve their online profile. The aim is to “flood the internet” with “positive” interpretations of Islam and to make extremist sites less easily accessible.

The project, which is still in its early stages, is part of the Home Office’s anti-radicalisation strategy CONTEST 2. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith announced in December: “We will host a core network of people who will put forward positive messages from the British Muslim community on the internet, directly challenging the extremists that set out to groom vulnerable individuals.” Academics however doubt the effect of SEO, as it is more likely for young Muslims to encounter extremist material in web forums and offline associates than through search engines, the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation (ICSR) has found.