I’m going to start this with two disclaimers:
- I have no word count on this one.
- I am no expert in Islam, nor Islamic history.
I’m going to prefix this article with a statement: I do not know the race, religion or name of the man who put the bomb on the train in London on the 15th of September 2017. At the time of writing this, the news outlets haven’t named any suspects.
The media have used this incident to springboard a cross-examination of Islam, as well as calling Muslims onto TV and radio to hear their views. What I have heard has disgusted me. I am aware that not all Muslims I know feel this way, but we need to talk about Conservative (or moderate) Islam and why the ideology is becoming increasingly dangerous.
Let’s start with a brief understanding of what Islam is: The word literally translates to “submission” in reference to how seriously an adherent of Islam is to the will of their god. Any Muslim/moslem (whichever way you want to spell it) has 5 main parts, or pillars.
- Zakat- giving 2.5% of what you earn on a certain term to charity, especially to widows, orphans and the poor. Some Muslims give to mainstream charities, others tend to give to charities that aid countries that have been ravaged by western imperialism (and I’ll get to that in a bit).
- Prayer- Adherents to Islam must pray 5 times a day, when it is practical to do so. Some people take this incredibly seriously, others do this only on Sabbath, which for them is Fridays.
- Hajj- Literally meaning pilgrimage, this means that if they can, Muslims must try to go to Mecca (their holiest site of worship) at least once in their life.
- Shahada- The statement of faith- “I believe in one god. One god alone, and without measure or partner. He is called God (or Allah) and Muhammad was his messenger.” The moment someone utters this, they become a Muslim. Some variants on Islam differ about whether the person has to say this in 8th Century Arabic or whether in their own language.
- Sawm- The Great fast. In a similar fashion to Christianity, Muslims take on a fast every year, providing it is healthy. They do this for 4 weeks, in a month known as Ramadhan. This fast takes place from sunrise to sunset and involves not even swallowing your saliva when it becomes uncomfortable. In my opinion, this is frankly suicidal.
Islam tends to look back to a “golden age” (if you’re Sunni, not Shi’a), in which the first four leaders of Islam after Muhammad’s death lead a completely holy state, called Sharia, or God’s, law. This law was created during the reign of the first leader (or rightly-guided caliph), and takes lessons from the Qur’an (which Muslims literally believe is the very spoken word of God) and the Hadith (which is basically what Muhammad was said to have said). The problem with the hadiths, and some of the Qur’an itself is that they were both written at times of great war and population decline. This means that some parts are liable to extreme misogyny, homophobia and hate. For example, in Chapter, or Surah, 2, the Qur’an speaks at length as to what Muslims must do to non-adherents: “And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah [disbelief or unrest] is worse than killing… but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah [disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah] and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun(the polytheists, and wrong-doers, etc.)” Let’s break this down. God is telling them to take back the land of his followers via murder or conversion.
So far, this doesn’t sound any different from the Old Testament. However, Christianity had a reformation, of sorts, and despite the Westboro Baptist Church and KKK taking violent parts of the Bible literally, Christianity as a whole had a reformation. If you go and ask 10 christians if they look back to a golden age where LGBT people and those who don’t believe in Christianity should be stoned to death, they will reply with a resounding answer in the negative.
This brings me nicely onto what I’m getting to. I’m sorry it took me 750 words and several edits that took me right through the night to get here, but I cannot talk about this without acknowledging what the history is and giving some context. There is a worrying trend in Islam in the UK. An overwhelming 90% of Muslims in the UK are Sunni, which means that they believe they had the perfect state, or caliphate at some point. However, within this number, there are numerous different strands of Islam. The one I am getting incredibly concerned about is a very literalist tradition of Islam known as Wahhabism. Wahhabism teaches paranoid Xenophobia, misogyny, extreme homophobia, a hatred of science, a refusal to accept straightforward facts and promoting a very strict “them and us” culture. I have to admit, the British media and recent military action and interventions by western countries has contributed, but we cannot leave the blame at Rupert Murdoch’s and George W Bush’s door. Wahhabism bans Muslims from testifying against each other in court, allows Sharia courts inside Muslim-minority countries and vehemently separates men from women, even as babies. I won’t go on to mention as to where this toxic brand of Islam comes from as I don’t really want to incite any misguided racial hatred. It harbours fugitives from the law if they happen to be Muslims and it prevents them from reporting cases of radicalism, which I suspect, may have caused this recent act of terror in London.
What can be done? Well, if you have an answer, please let me know, but here’s what I suggest: Mosques in Islam aren’t just places of worship, they’re community centres and most importantly, schools. Well, let’s treat them as such. I would argue every school needs and inspection every now and again, and that having an examination into what is preached at mosques up and down my country is not only responsible, right now, it’s necessary.
I’ve typed my piece,