MAnsar: We live in a time of extraordinary flux, when information can be accessed and disseminated at the speed of light in order to elevate mankind, to blow the whistle or to spark a revolution. Never has so much learning been available at the click of a mouse, and never has there been such overwhelming power wielded by those able to shape the messages we receive. But this flow of information hides an ugly reality.
Today, despite decades of learning built around an increasingly mixed religious and cultural heritage, and after a millennia of engagement, involvement and close contact, 74% of the British public claim that they know “nothing or next to nothing about Islam,” and furthermore, 64% of the British public claim that what they do know is acquired solely through the media. As concerning as this yawning gap in education and sense of our shared humanity might be, it points to an even more significant issue: there seems to be little idea of who we are as a society and what might be the future of our life together. For it is surely now beyond dispute that Muslims living in Britain are the most discriminated against of all social groups, and that discriminatory treatment has reached epidemic levels.
B.Barron: If 64% of the British public claim that they know next to nothing about Islam, it is not because of Islam’s lack of trying to make them aware of what it demands from the UK. Speaking for myself, my knowledge of Islam and its prophet’s commandments to his faithful has been acquired via reading of the Koran and ahadith, as well is first-hand experience of dealing with Islamist attempts to disseminate Islam in my town. Their attitude towards the kufar who approached them peaceably enough to debate, was entirely commensurate with what I had read about how Islam commands them to treat these infidels. They were affronted, then angry that we dared question them at all. For my part, I question your interpretation of the statistics you offer us above, if indeed they are accurate. As for shared humanity, I have little doubt that there are many Muslims who are humane enough where they can surmount the introjected hatreds of “the Other” and approach the rest of us as equals. I am a Jew. I know whereof I speak when I say that very few can.
MA: The word “Islamophobia” entered the popular lexicon most prominently after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, though its widespread usage dates back at least to the 1980s, denoting “the prejudice against, dread, hatred or irrational fear of Islam and by extension the fear and dislike of all or most Muslims.” It includes the perception that Islam has no values in common with other cultures, is inferior to the West and represents a violent political ideology. The seminal 1997 report by the Runnymede Trust also referred to the practice of discriminating against Muslims by exclusion from economic, social, and public life of the nation.
BB: “Islamophobia” is a nonsense word. A phobia is an unnatural and overblown fear often of an innocuous entity. Islam is far from innocuous in its dealings with those of us who are not Muslims. We need only look at its treatment of its own people in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and everywhere that Islam makes its presence felt to realise that any fear on the part of kufar, of Islam and what it represents is well-founded and realistic, particularly when it flexes its muscles in hitherto peaceable communities as there are in the UK and makes unreasonable demands and threatens violence or marches if these are not met. “Islamophobia!” is trotted out by Muslims whenever such behaviour of Islam and Muslims en masse is criticised, in an attempt to stifle any debate about that behaviour. That being the case, I can deal with your “myths” section in short order:
MA: There are five myths about Islam which comprise Islamophobia:
Immovability: it is a gigantic, monolithic bloc unresponsive to change.
Separation: it is the “other,” lacking values in common with other cultures, and it can neither be affected by them nor in turn influence them.
Inferiority: compared to the West, it is barbaric, irrational, primitive and sexist.
Violent: it is aggressive, threatening and supportive of terrorism.
Political: it is an ideology used for political or military advantage.
BB: Taking your “myths” in turn:
Immovability: I note that you have not made clear or given examples of how Islam is actually responsive to change or is capable of changing. Does the Koran not command Muslims to emulate their prophet’s behaviour in every particular? The Muslim prophet lived in the 7th century! The codification of Sharia has not changed significantly since then either. Women are still deemed to be second class citizens who cannot initiate divorce proceedings from cruel husbands in sharia courts. Men are allowed to take more than one wife, (but not women to take more than one husband) even where the law of the country in which they reside forbids this. Islam feels the obligation to push its alleged superiority down the throats of Westerners and yet does not accept the right of others to worship or believe differently from it, much less respect their beliefs, particularly when they are Jews. In the Middle East hatred of Jews and Christians is part of school curricula and even put onto children’s television.
Separation: Islam does indeed separate itself out from the wider community because it refuses to accept that the wider community may have the right to be as it is. An observant Muslim is more likely to take seriously and literally the koranic injunction that he should not befriend or trust kufar, who, again according to the koran, will betray him. That makes for paranoia.
Inferiority: The conduct of Muslims (who one assumes are devout from their cries of “Allah hu akhbar!” as they wade in for the kill) in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi, Iran, Egypt and other countries where Islam is the official belief system is more inclined towards barbarism than in the West. Western men do not murder their children, sisters or wives for alleged crimes of “honour.” I have referred above to the Muslim treatment of fellow Muslims in Syria and elsewhere, and I have not yet mentioned the low status of women in Islam (your prophet deemed them to be intellectually deficient to the extent that their testimony in a sharia court is worth half of that of a man). The “scientific” claims made in the koran (again, meant to be taken literally by the faithful) are indeed irrational, see this article in the saudigazette.
The sexism is self-evident even from the photograph above, as well as from what I have written previously about the low status of women when compared with men in sharia.
Violent: Zakat is regularly given to support Islamist terror, particularly in the Middle East. Regular rallies are held in London and elsewhere in support of Hamas and other terrorism against Israel, by Muslims who, one has to assume, speak as Muslims. Islamic aggression elsewhere is self-evident and I have referred to it above. Such inclination towards violence and bloodletting is not the norm among other faiths or cultures. Even in the UK, where successive governments have bent themselves out of shape to accommodate the exaggerated self-entitlement of the Muslim communities who insult but yet demand the right not to be insulted, areas of London are patrolled by gangs of Muslim youths who confront women they believe are dressed “improperly” or men they believe look as though they are gay, and Muslim spokesmen are quick to threaten or imply violent outcomes if their demands are not met or their wishes not acceded to.
Political: Are Muslims not commanded to spread the da’wah until Islam rules the whole earth? Is it not true, as Prof Moshe Sharon argues, that there can only be peace between Muslim and Muslim, and until that time there must be war between the House of Islam and the other nations in which it finds itself until those nations submit to the rule of Islam? I have written elsewhere on FaithFreedom about the Muslim lobby which is antisemitic as well as Israel-hating but which tries to put its ideas onto Muslims with little education who know no better. The activities of Lutfur Rahman in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (in which the Sharia police operate unimpeded) should give any decent person, of whatever religious or political persuasion, serious pause for thought about the nature and agenda of Islam.
MA: These five myths are accompanied by three recognisable Islamophobic behaviours:
Silencing: criticisms made by Muslims of “the West” are rejected out of hand, even though they may be well founded.
Hostility: negativity towards Islam is used to justify discriminatory practices towards Muslims and the exclusion of Muslims from mainstream society.
Normalisation: anti-Muslim hostility is seen as natural, normal and even recommended.
BB: Again taking your “recognisable Islamophobic behaviours” in turn:
Silencing: I note that you do not spell out how these may be well founded. Perhaps I should say, rather, that the criticisms should be made in a more respectful way than they often are, and that lack of respect is the mostly likely cause of any rejection. Muslims are but one people among other peoples in the West, not the sole entity of whom notice must be taken. More often and not, and I suspect that you know this although you choose not to admit it, Muslims’ criticisms of the West are tactless, lacking in respect and come from a place which assumes that Islam is morally superior. When they are countered in strong terms and dismissed accordingly, then Islamic factions feel far more aggrieved than they have the right feel, and their behaviour towards others shows it.
For example, although some people in the West might not approve of homosexuality as a practice, they rarely go to the same lengths to express their disapproval of it as do Muslims who live in the West. The lives of gays are not endangered by Western society’s attitude to homosexuality, but by that of Muslim attitudes there.
Police and other official bodies give the same if not more attention to Muslim complaints as they do to those from others.
Hostility: Not so. In the UK at least, as I have written above, official bodies such as the police bend themselves out of shape NOT to discriminate against Muslims. Indeed, given the likely reaction from Muslim communities, they are not above giving preferential treatment to Muslim complaints. In the UK many Muslims are good citizens and belong to Parent Teacher Associations in schools, are Members of Parliament, and, as I have said, are positively discriminated in favour of. Where they are excluded this is because of the Muslim prophet’s injunction to them not to befriend kufar because kufar cannot be trusted, or they are engaged in spreading the da’wah. I would imagine that the former come from among the least educated and I know from my own research that the latter come from the misguidedly discontented, who believe that Islam has not the status it deserves (ie superior) and engage in activities to force the rest of us to acknowledge its alleged superiority.. It is dishonest of you, to say the least, to use their choice to stay apart as evidence that this is widespread or forced upon them.
Normalisation: Where, officially, is this “recommended”? In fact the opposite is the case, as I have argued above. I would refer you to my earlier points in answer to your “Islamophobia” accusation, where some popular antipathy towards Muslim behaviour may be stem from Muslim barbarism towards fellow Muslims. This is not as widespread, however, as you would have us believe.
MA: According to Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, over the last decade or so anti-Muslim discourse in Britain has become seen as respectable, and hostility towards Islam and Muslims is increasingly accepted as in some sense normal.
BB: It is unfortunate, and it certainly does not advance your argument, that you quote Baroness Warsi as an expert on anything. She is notable for her admission that some Pakistani males see white women as fair game and for having eggs thrown at her in Luton, UK because the Muslims who threw them thought that she was not a “proper Muslim”, but she has also been shown to have singularly poor judgement about the company she chooses to keep:
The most recent scandal surrounding her is about her business partner in the spice manufacturing company, one Abid Hussain, who accompanied her on a ministerial trip to Pakistan where he met leading politicians. We are also told that Hussain “had been” a leading member of Hizb-ut-Tahrir, an Islamist group which wants a global caliphate, and which Tony Blair’s government failed to ban after 7/7 in spite of his promise that they would and the Tories promised to ban as part of their election promise. Hizb-ut-Tahrir has not, of course, been banned.
According to this account in the Sunday Telegraph, it is unclear whether Hussain had been subjected to the usual vetting procedures before he accompanied her. Judging by Warsi’s reaction, that she was “unaware” of Hussain’s involvement with Hizb-ut-Tahrir, he cannot have been vetted properly.
Hussain was a prominent member of the group set up in Britain by Omar Bakri Muhammad, the Islamist preacher subsequently deported from the UK. It is unclear when or why Hussain left the organisation. Perhaps it was politic for him to do so, and link up with the formerly blameless and flawlessLady Warsi, who has said: “I am not aware of any involvement between Abid Hussain and Hizb ut Tahrir, and no such relationship has ever been suggested previously.” That is difficult to believe because Hussain and Lady Warsi were on close terms by the summer of 2009. When Warsi married her second husband, Hussain was in the front row of one wedding picture. He has also accompanied her on two trips to Pakistan. The first was while she was in opposition, but on the second, in July 2010, he attended at least two Foreign Office events.
Hizb-ut-Tahrir is behind Islamist belligerence in UK universities and is on the rise in Pakistan.
MA: It is taken some time, but Islamophobia has at last become internationally recognised as a form of intolerance akin to anti-Semitism. Academics are now openly commenting on the similarities between Islamophobic discourse and European pre-Nazi anti-Semitism. For instance, Cora Doving from the Norwegian Centre for Studies of Holocaust and Religious Minorities outlines ten rhetorical arguments:
- The takeover – a minority will overrun Western countries through international underground networks and high birth-rates, and existing minorities will act as a “fifth column.”
- Institutions at risk – the key institutions and convictions of Western society (such as the Church, the family, the monarchy, secular society, freedom of the individual, gender equality within the family) are somehow at risk.
- The naive left – those left wing policies aimed at integration are hopelessly naive and ultimately masochistic.
- Hate commanded by God – the minority is portrayed as unable to draw a distinction between religious identity and the real world. The minority’s religious identity is essential and universal, or always the most prominent. Minority religions are claimed to be exclusionist and inherently political.
- The sexualized man – there is an obsession with gender, essentializing sexual crime and the minority’s inability to adapt to the mainstream ideals of manhood.
- Treatment of women and children – for that minority, children’s education is unimportant and women are portrayed as passive passengers who cannot think for themselves.
- Using history – negative incidents in the minority’s history are linked to present-day practices, while one’s own history is portrayed as a result of contrasting positive achievements, commonly involving major distortions.
- Lack of will to integrate – integration is dismissed as impossible, bolstered by fuelling fears of enforced intra-cultural marriage and the creation of parallel societies.
- Absence of humanism – the minority is deemed intractably irrational, calculating and manipulative; The cultural and intellectual achievements of the minority are downplayed or else ignored altogether.
- Something must be done – control over culture must be regained, and laws that limit freedoms of specific groups must be passed (paradoxically, in the name of the defence of Western freedoms).
BB: For you to call Muslims the “new Jews” or liken “Islamophobia”, nonsense word that it is, to the antisemitism Muslims are instrumental in promoting and driving forward, in public discourse, in universities and by means of rallies against Israel, where their “anti-Zionism” cloak, so often used as a defence for their Jew-hatred is becoming more and more threadbare, really adds insult to injury. I would wager that the “academics” you refer to are either Muslims themselves or are pro-Palestinian and therefore anti-Israel, which further proves my point. Given your arguments so far, and the fact that you do not name these “academics” I feel entitled to assume that.
As for your use of Cora Doving’s points, this again is disingenuously nasty. Throughout the Middle East and other Muslim countries, Islam paints the Jews as exhibiting the very behaviours you number and describe above. This means that you are employing the defence mechanism very common in paranoid splitting, that of projection. Islamic teaching encourages paranoia and the tendency towards conspiracy theorisation. It forbids the sort of critical evaluation of information which is essential to reality testing and the rejection of the sort of outlandish ideas you ascribe to non-Muslims above. To take some at random, which cry out to be addressed:
4. “Hate commanded by God – the minority is portrayed as unable to draw a distinction between religious identity and the real world. The minority’s religious identity is essential and universal, or always the most prominent. Minority religions are claimed to be exclusionist and inherently political”
Where, in the koran or ahadith are Muslims instructed to love Jews, Christians, polytheists and others and allow them to practise their religions unmolested alongside and equal to Islam rather than as dhimmis? There may be a vast swathe of moderate Muslims who are content to live and let live, but why do we not hear from or about them except in arguments like yours to advance very tenuous arguments which are disingenuous if not downright dishonest? Are not the following the case instead?
Firstly evidence of your prophet’s narcissism:
Q. 2:65-66 “And ye know of those of you who broke the Sabbath, how We said unto them: Be ye apes, despised and hated! And We made it an example to their own and to succeeding generations, and an admonition to the God-fearing.”
And of his inveterate hatred of Jews. Muslims are commanded to emulate him and they live out that hatred in the Middle East:
Q. 2:96 “And thou wilt find them greediest of mankind for life and (greedier) than the idolaters. (Each) one of them would like to be allowed to live a thousand years. And to live (a thousand years) would be no means remove him from the doom. Allah is Seer of what they do.”
And your prophet’s encouragement of his slaves to hate Jews:
Q. 5:12-13“Allah made a covenant of old with the Children of Israel… And because of their breaking their covenant, We have cursed them and made hard their hearts. They change words from their context and forget a part of that whereof they were admonished. Thou wilt not cease to discover treachery from all save a few of them.”
All this hatred is taught to and introjected by Muslim children and, because the injunction on them against questioning what they are taught, many grow up without realising that the hatred is misplaced.
11. “The sexualized man – there is an obsession with gender, essentializing sexual crime and the minority’s inability to adapt to the mainstream ideals of manhood.”
The Muslim male grooming gangs in the UK were certainly sexualised and organised enough to get their grisly needs met. Islam itself is obsessed by gender, otherwise it would not hesitate to confer equal rights in sharia upon its women and allow sharia to be overruled by the courts of the lands in which Muslims may find themselves, to protect the rights of its women and children.
Why do Muslim males insist that their women be covered up if they are not obsessed with gender? How is it “manly” to allow a man to beat his wife “lightly” or kill her, or his sister or his daughter if she “dishonours” him?
12. “Absence of humanism – the minority is deemed intractably irrational, calculating and manipulative; The cultural and intellectual achievements of the minority are downplayed or else ignored altogether.”
Are honour killing, the veiling of women, the refusal to admit that one may be wrong, the poor impulse control which results in violence at the drop of a hat because of real or imagined insult, at all rational? For examples of the calculating nature of Muslim power one need look no further than at the election of Lutfur Rahman in Tower Hamlets in London UK, and the published intention of Hizb ut Tahrir. Cultural achievements are negligible when compared with Islam’s greatest enemies, the Jews and Christians. Where are the great Muslim musicians, actors, playwrights? How many Nobel Prizes have been awarded to Muslims in the last ten years compared with those earned and won by Jews and Christians?
And do you really mean “humanism?” One definition of “humanism” is “belief in human-based morality.” Even you must admit that the devout Muslim must submit to the will of his Allah, which means that he has an external locus of evaluation which governs what he is told is right or wrong and how he behaves. To stone women to death or hang homosexuals in the 21st century is hardly evidence of human-based morality or humanity in Islam, but nevertheless it is perpetrated against women and homosexuals because the Muslim koran decrees it.
MA: Admittedly, rhetoric can often be harmless and the preserve of academics and commentary. But when such rhetoric resonates with the daily reality on the ground of alienation, marginalisation, discrimination and physical attack, then we face a broader societal problem and something significantly more serious. I would argue that the reality of Islamophobic rhetoric and actual anti-Muslim prejudice has resulted in a tangible civil rights crisis for Muslim communities – not just within the UK, but throughout the Western world.
BB: Muslims in Tower Hamlets, UK do not hesitate to attack non-Muslims, nor do Muslim leaders, secular and religious miss opportunities to attack Jews and other religions in their sermons. Obsessed as they are with the plight of their “poor Palestinian brethren” they displace their Jew-hatred onto the state of Israel, but most of us are not fooled. Successive UK governments, have acquiesced to Muslim demands, so fearful are they of a violent backlash, and as a result of which Muslims have demanded yet more. As I have said above, your accusation of “Islamophobic” rhetoric, when Islam in the West is the most powerful driver of antisemitic and anti-Christian rhetoric there, is profoundly insulting to the intelligence.
MA: In the UK, the largest and oldest Muslim communities are comprised of immigrants from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and their British-born children and grandchildren. Almost 80% of these households are either on or below the poverty line, compared to only 20% of white British households. Muslims consistently suffer higher levels of unfair treatment than other religious groups, and face more unfair treatment in all aspects of services provided by local government. White European Muslim converts experience more mistreatment and prejudice proportionately than Muslims from any other ethnic background.
BB: I would like to see a source for your statistics, but what of Muslim zakat? I know that the Jewish communities throughout the UK take good care of their poorest and most vulnerable. Why not the Muslim communities? When I have used the public services in the UK there is always provision made for Pakistani, Indian and Bangladeshi people, including printing of information in their own languages and dialects as well as the provision of interpreters where needed, all provided free. As for the treatment of white European Muslim converts, again, please give your sources.
MA: When it comes to education, Muslims perform less well in schools. A third of all British Muslims of working age have no qualifications and young Muslims are more likely to be unemployed than any other group. On leaving school, they are more vulnerable to job losses and cuts to services. A report backed by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation states that there is now record levels of discrimination against Muslims in employment, and the unemployment rate for British Muslims is approaching 20% compared to the 8% national average.
BB: Again, I would like all your sources. If what you say is true, then I would imagine that schoolchildren who do not perform well are disadvantaged because their home circumstances do not privilege study. How many of those failing children are girls, and how many boys?
MA: While it is important not simply to disregard the real fears that exist in the minds of many about Islam and Muslims, it is an inherent hatred and even an irrationality that fuels Islamophobia.
BB: As I have said, I believe “Islamophobia” to be a nonsense word, often over-employed to silence criticism of Islam and/or the behaviour of Muslims.
MA: Consider, for example, the oft expressed believe – a favourite of certain right wing politicians and media commentators – that “all Muslims may not be terrorists, but all terrorists are Muslims.” In reality, we know the truth to be quite different. Europol surveys state 99.6% of terrorism in Europe is not committed by Muslims. But even taken within a purely historical context, historian De Lacy O’Leary insists:
“History makes it clear however, that the legend of fanatical Muslims sweeping through the world and forcing Islam at the point of the sword upon conquered races is one of the most fantastically absurd myths that historians have ever repeated.”
BB: De Lacy O’Leary died in 1957, long before the current wave of Islamism made its presence felt in Europe. He was also an Arabist, which makes what he argues far from neutral, perhaps even biased.
MA: And while other polls have claimed that 99% of all media reports on Islam and Muslims are negative or overwhelmingly negative, Unitas has gone further. In a submission to the Leveson Inquiry, Unitas’ Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed writes that:
“the predominant narratives about Muslims in our media are overwhelmingly negative, inaccurate and racist. But also that this has had a devastating social impact, undermining community cohesion and contributing to a dramatic rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes.”
BB: Again, these are arguments without rigorous and unfalsifiable statistics to back them up. “99%” sounds hyperbolic, and the pollsters have obviously never read UK newspapers such as The Guardian.
MA: Despite this, it appears Muslims are often more British than the British. Recent research shows that Muslims are more proud to be British citizens than the general public and feel they “belong” in Britain slightly more than British Christians do. Contrast that with the following statistics:
BB: All the “recent research” you linked to shows is that 2,561 people participated from Pakistan and Bangladesh. These were self-selecting. That is hardly sufficient data from which to draw the conclusion that all or even most Muslims are proud to be British.
Not all Muslims see themselves as British at all. The performance of Anjem Choudary’s clowns at the Royal Anglian Regiment’s homecoming belies what you argue. Anjem Choudary’s “pride” in his Britishness means that he can claim state benefits of £25,000 per year whilst lining up to curse British soldiers.
And as for the following, I must dismiss them out of hand given that they come from a distinctly biased blog which regularly hosts actual and apologists for Islamist terror. You can hardly expect us to trust them.
- 47% of Britons see Muslims as a threat;
- 28% believe Muslims want to integrate into British society;
- 52% believe that Muslims create problems;
- 45% admit that they think there are “too many” Muslims in Britain;
- 55% would be concerned if a mosque was built in their area; and
- 58% associate Islam with extremism.
If one considers such widespread perceptions, coupled with the rise in attacks on Muslims, violence, street crime and the proliferation of far right movements both in the UK and across Europe, and placed in the context of an economic depression the likes of which have not been seen since the 1930s, and it isn’t hard to discern chilling similarities with a dark and recent chapter in European history.
BB: This comparison of attitude towards Muslims with the anti-Jewish terror perpetrated by Hitler is almost nauseating, coming as it does from the follower of a faith system which perpetrates very similar tropes. I have heard no Muslim spokesman publicly and unequivocally condemning Muslim Jew-hatred. Perhaps you could screw your own courage to the sticking place and be the first one to condemn this unequivocally and not only in Iraq? Jew-hatred is not the sole preserve of Islamists. As I have already argued it is central to the teachings of Islam.
The most chilling aspect of what you say above is that you dare to evoke that same equivalence. Perhaps you are ignorant, for example, of the fact that Hitler admired Islam’s attitude to Jews and that, among his allies in the Middle East was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem who promised to make what was then Palestine “Judenrein” once Hitler won the war. Muslims are too angry and inclined towards violence to be in as great a danger as were Jews at the hands of the Nazis or Muslims of the time in the Middle East.
MA: It is thus most welcome that politicians and academics have come together, through initiatives like the joint All Party Parliamentary Group on Islamophobia and Education, to look at the role subjects like history can play in combating anti-Muslim prejudice. The fair representation of Islam and of Muslim contribution are desperately needed within the educational context, and it is now widely accepted that a clear strategy must be in place to identify and tackle the growth of Islamophobic sentiment. This represents a multi-phase process which must include both a willingness robustly to challenge misinformation about Islam and Muslims, and a willingness to embrace recommendations for new “social, moral, spiritual and cultural” guidelines, vital for any inclusive academic setting.
BB: Perhaps, perhaps not, but Muslims in the UK can do themselves the most good by modelling that very mutualism and reciprocity towards other peoples and faith systems as you imply they do and which they demand from those peoples and faiths. This means consistency in their behaviour and consistent condemnation of the extremists and haters among them. So far any condemnation has either been lukewarm or conditional.
Having been to the link for the All Party Parliamentary Group I note that among its members are Simon Hughes MP, who has some pretty unsavoury views about Israel and was willing to work alongside the viciously antisemitic Jenny Tonge and the advocate of Israel boycott Caroline Lucas MP. I am concerned about what “social, moral, spiritual and cultural guidelines” such a group might come up with.
MA: Furthermore, a review of subjects across curricula is needed, to allow for a fair representation of the contribution of Islam and Muslims where appropriate – something currently, and notably, absent. So, for example, it has been a long-held tradition in the West to privilege classicism and Aristotelianism, while the natural and arguably closer links to scientia and a near-Islamic history go almost completely unacknowledged. As Cambridge theologian and historian Tim Winter argues, “Islam was for much of its history the principal heir of Hellenism, geographically and intellectually.” But as long as our schools ignore the place of Islam in world history and as a vital component of European Enlightenment, Renaissance and indeed of contemporary society itself, we will continue to feed the perception gap where adults cannot help but see Muslims and Islam as utterly “other.”
BB: Many schools in the UK no longer observe exclusively Christian worship and learn about other faith systems routinely. Many Muslim children I know go to madrassas . And although Islam may have been the principal heir of Hellenism, its intellectual development froze when it denied its followers the study of critical thinking and scientific advancement and forbade anything except imitation of religious belief. There is a tale of Ibn Gazali which has him refusing to eat watermelon, having scoured the koran and ahadith and found no mention that his prophet had ever eaten one. Islam is inimical to innovation or change and while that is the case, you cannot seriously argue that it contributes much to science or the arts or modern studies.
I find it interesting that you give Tim Winter his English name rather than his Muslim one.
MA: Western civilisation owes a huge debt of honour and gratitude to Muslims and to an Islamic history that we have all but redacted from public consciousness. The unparalleled contribution of Islam to science, philosophy, algebra, chemistry, physics, geography, navigation, medicine, pharmacology, cartography and much more besides, is something which has long been recognised by academics. Take Robert Briffault, who claimed that Europe owes “everything” of its progress to the golden age of Islam; or even H.A.R. Gibb, who wrote in his 1932 book Whither Islam:
“But Islam has a still further service to render to the cause of humanity. It stands after all nearer to the real East than Europe does, and it possesses a magnificent tradition of inter-racial understanding and cooperation. No other society has such a record of success in uniting in an equality of status, of opportunity, and of endeavours so many and so various races of mankind … Islam has still the power to reconcile apparently irreconcilable elements of race and tradition. If ever the opposition of the great societies of East and West is to be replaced by cooperation, the mediation of Islam is an indispensable condition. In its hands lies very largely the solution of the problem with which Europe is faced in its relation with the East. If they unite, the hope of a peaceful issue is immeasurably enhanced. But if Europe, by rejecting the cooperation of Islam, throws it into the arms of its rivals, the issue can only be disastrous for both.”
BB: Firstly, I am a Jew and you know as well as I what Islam teaches the faithful to think of Jews. Jews and Christians were treated as dhimmis in Muslim societies. My family is in constant danger in Israel because of the barbaric teachings of Islam, supported or at least not condemned by Muslims around the world, so you will forgive me if I say that I owe Islam nothing. As for H.A.R. Gibb, what he wrote may well have applied when he wrote it in 1932, but (again as regards non-Muslims) it cannot have applied in entirety then (for Christians, Jews and slaves had no equality in status with Muslims, and that Muslim superiority mindset still obtains). Gibb was hardly disinterested either – he was an Arabophile and Islamophile in the overly romanticised tradition of the day.
MA: Whether we can now stem the tide of Islamophobia remains to be seen, but there remains an opportunity for those of good faith to work towards a society of tolerance and understanding. The role of education has never been more crucial with the weight of history bearing down upon us to do what, essentially, each generation is charged to do: to leave the world in a better state than in which we found it.
BB: If “Islamophobia” exists, (and I repeat that I believe it to be a nonsense word uttered more for effect than it has meaning) then Muslims themselves can do much to stem it by, as I have said above, moderating and modifying their behaviours towards other faiths so as not to alienate them with their claims of superiority over them.
Muslims can also integrate much more into the societies in which they find themselves rather than demand to be treated differently and more specially.
Most importantly, they can align publicly with what is good, open and honest and condemn unequivocally criminal behaviours, such as the sexual grooming of children, where these are perpetrated by Muslim males, and distance themselves publicly from the activities of extremist Muslims and from antisemitism rather than remaining silent in the face of them. Their leaders can also refrain from insulting Jews by calling Muslims the “new Jews” when Muslim teachings are riddled with Jew-hatred.
I feel the need to end with a question. I note that your original article appeared on an Australian blog. I am curious – why have you chosen to quote UK statistics rather than Australian ones?
Mohammed Ansar is a theologian, lecturer and social commentator. He tours extensively and works in the areas of education, equalities and interfaith. An outspoken advocate on Islamophobia, hate crime and civil rights, he is a regular contributor to television and radio.