Last week, Dr Farhan Nizami was quoted by the Telegraph1 as saying that Muslim parents are to blame for leaving their children open to the lure of ‘Islamic extremism’. However, any individual who actually has grown up, lived amongst, and engaged in discourse with ‘Islamic extremists’ will inevitably come to know that ‘Islamic extremism’ is not as simple as people have been making out in mainstream media. With every new bombardment of a Muslim country by the Western Allies, discussions about Jihad and supporting the Muslim ummah is raised. Many a time such discussions have lead to whether we may classify the UK as dar-al-harb (abode of war), and if so, are attacks on UK (and Western) soil legitimate? While paying no heed to such debates, everybody (especially Muslims with ‘Dr’ preceding their names) seem to assume that they not only have fully understood the dynamics of the Muslim community, but that they also have the most perfect and logical conclusion.
However, under-thought ideas attempting to answer the government’s rally-cry for solutions to the ‘extremism’ problem is not a new phenomenon, especially after 7/7 as Muslim pockets began to be filled and promotions and TV appearances were up for grabs. Unexpectedly, everybody had an idea, a simple solution that paved the way to a utopia, where Muslims assimilated into society and left Islam in the closet.
Our so called ‘Muslim thinkers’ are either not thinking in the way that they should be, or are extremely ignorant of the realities on the ground. Dr Nizami painted an extremely grim picture of Muslim children, saying that they ‘would never play a full role in British society until they improved their education, language and aspirations.’2 His comments, in actuality do not solve a thing, but instead espouse a very ignorant view that ‘terrorists’ are uneducated foreign agents who have no will nor hope for a future. On the contrary, ‘terrorism’ has attracted people from a wide spectrum of people, university graduates and post-graduates, those of Asian, African, Arab, Afro-Caribbean, and British White origin, as well as those from a range of professions (including medicine, law, and the teaching profession).
Allah the Most High states in the Qur’an ‘O you who believe! Save yourselves and your families from the fire…’3; the Companion and fourth caliph Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) said ‘this means to teach them (your family) and discipline them’4. Thus there is no doubt that it is an obligation upon parents/carers to inform and teach those under their care the correct aqidah (creed) and ways of living according to the shari’ah (Islamic law). However, the fact that mass immigration of Muslims to the UK has only taken place in the last fifty years where most migrants were quite ignorant of Islamic scholarship and tended to migrate for economical gain, Dr Nizami’s comments (about education and language) raise two fundamental points; the first being that although it is undeniably an obligation upon parents to teach their children (as illustrated in the above quoted verse), one can only teach what one knows. It is well known that the majority of elder Muslim Britons are extremely ignorant about their religion, especially fundamental concepts surrounding faith and creed, so how can we suddenly expect them to be grounded in shar’ii (juristic) knowledge? Additionally, scholarly debate and discussion5 regarding Muslims living in the UK is quite a recent phenomenon, so how can it be expected from the laity, who yet have simple things to learn as one’s aqidah, reciting the Qur’an correctly and learning the Arabic language? Of course, ignorance is never advocated (and knowledge fervently encouraged), but this is the reality of our situation.
The second point is that most individuals in the UK who are inclined towards attacks on the UK and other Western nations tend to speak English fluently (it being their mother tongue) and graduate from university. Thus, at such an age they are inevitably beyond the clutches of their parents, especially parents quite ignorant of Islamic law. As Wayne-Jones comments ‘The four suicide bombers who murdered 52 people in London on July 7, 2005, were all born in Britain while the four Islamic terrorists jailed for plotting to blow up Bluewater and the Ministry of Sound with half a ton of fertiliser were all raised and schooled here.’6
In his statement to the Telegraph, Dr. Nizami quite clearly contradicts himself, stating that ‘In fact some of the more radical elements of British society are British-born…’ but soon thereafter stating that ‘Immigrant communities have to do more to get integrated, particularly on issues of language and education’. It seems that once again, we have been privy to an individual (who happens to have ‘Dr’ preceding his name) espousing half thought out solutions. According to him, we need to send our children off to learn English and go on to university with big aspirations, not ‘just being self-employed and looking for small-jobs’ (which in itself is quite disrespectful to those who are self employed or work in the lesser prestigious sectors of society), but affirms that most ‘extremists’ are British born which means that they have either been through the education system or are currently on their way through. Thus, according to the good Dr Nizami’s contradictory statement, encouraging your children to higher education will inevitably raise the chance of your child becoming an ‘extremist’!
The major problem with these so called ‘solutions’ is that they are usually based on comments such as, ‘Muslim families have to realise the importance of education for their children and make an effort to push them into achieving more…They need to make them aspire to things higher rather than just being self-employed and looking for small-jobs.’ Dr Nizami again displayed his ignorance to the realities of ‘extremists’ and those inclined to such thought, by assuming that secular education would radically alter theological views among young Muslims. Muslim children and young people (even those with ‘extremist’ leanings) are not as dim-witted and docile as Dr Nizami comments may be construed to mean, as Pitcher writes in the Telegraph (article titled Let’s not condemn the children) ‘The first danger (and I don’t ascribe this view to Dr Nizami) is that greater education of Muslims can imply that they are more stupid than the rest of us, that if only they were educated more fully then their worldview would be more consistent with western freedoms (and then, presumably, they could embrace the joys of the Big Brother House, super-casinos and happy-hours). Patronising, or what. A second implication that, again, I don’t impute to Dr Nizami’s comments is that all young Muslims are potential terrorists.’7
Generally speaking, those inclined to ‘extremism’ tend to be young people, educated and have the ability to see clear contradictions in Western foreign policies. Additionally, they do feel marginalised, but not because they speak a foreign tongue or weren’t intelligent enough to pass their GCSE’s, but because of constant harassment and lies propagated by the media on Muslims. These things coupled with a so-called ‘shaikh’ who shows them seemingly air-tight theological evidence from the Qur’an and Sunnah leads to a mentality where all disbelievers are considered the enemy who should be fought and killed. Any Muslim involved in attacks inevitably believes that this path will lead to paradise, and is willing to give their lives to that end. Given this view, when Dr Nizami puts ‘extremism’ down to low aspirations in material matters, he is only stating the obvious. However, such low aspirations should not and do not (according to Islam) hold negative connotations as a true believer awaits his/her reward in the hereafter. Even in seeking a high status or position in British society, the believer does so for the sake of Allah and to help in establishing Islam, not for worldly gain. The reality of any solution is that it must be a theological one, where Islamic law is taught and discussed, where notions such as jihad and al-wala’ wa al-bara’8 are not rejected but taught in their correct context.
Muslims in the UK have come a far distance from the days were they were Pakistani or Nigerian Muslims, one’s nationality being of more importance. Contemporarily, Muslims are beginning to see themselves as Muslims first (in all aspects of life such a belief and culture) and everything else thereafter. This is greatly due to an increase in knowledge, not secular but religious. Thus, any view that Muslims (including ‘extremists’) will be willing to adopt must in conformance with the Qur’an and Sunnah, not what a lecturer in their university tells them. Therefore given the situation, nothing will change until scholars actively and openly discuss matters of Islamic law, regardless of its palatability, or lack thereof, to a non-Muslim audience.
4. See tafsir (exegesis) of 65:6 in Ibn Kathir, Ibn Al-Jawzi, Ibn Al-Qayyim Al-Jawziyyah.
5. Such as ‘fiqh al-aqqalliyah’ (jurisprudence governing laws for Muslim minorities).
6. Allegiance and enmity for the sake of God.