British Sufis get a voice


by Sunny
19th July, 2006 at 2:02 pm    

Muslims are starting a new body to combat extremism, saying not enough is being done by community leaders. A number of senior politicians, including a minister, are attending the launch of the Sufi Muslim Council at Westminster in London.

The group’s leaders say that it represents a silent majority frustrated with slow progress since the London bombings in July last year.

Haras Rafiq, co-founder of the council, said the SMC had already formed a partnership with the British Muslim Forum (BMF), an organisation emerging in the Midlands and northern England that represents 300 mosques.

The BMF was recently at the centre of a deal that brought competing Muslim bodies together to develop a watchdog for standards in mosques. [BBC News]

Good luck to them. We have always supported a big diversity of voices from our communities and these people will be a welcome addition.
[hat tip: Expat teacher]


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  1. Geezer — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:10 pm  

    Good stuff.

  2. seekeroftruth — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:11 pm  

    I feel that having a ‘sufi’ grouping alone limits adding many other peaceful humane Muslim. We need groups with carefully phrased and thought out objectives. Even the term ‘moderate’ is disparaged in many Muslim circles not necessarily cuz they are not peaceful but moderate is perceived by many as politically meek or trying to agree with Bush policies.

  3. Kismet Hardy — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:15 pm  

    Sufis. Are they the ones that give women equal rights and sing and meditate and stuff? I wanna be one

  4. Leon — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:24 pm  

    Interesting stuff. Should also be very interesting how often we see them in the news and how this compares with the MCB etc…

  5. Sid — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:32 pm  

    Great news. Although Sufism is a spiritual methodology not a political ideology. A bit like martial arts for the soul. And sufis are usually contemplative, egalitarian types. I’ve never met a sufi who wore their sufism as a badge. But in these days, I’m glad they’ve put aside their quietism to fight the extremists. Hurrah!

  6. Pablo — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    Did you read Bunglawala’s comments at the end? What a slimeball. Can he make a single statement about anything without a snide reference to Jews?

    Good luck to the Sufis, but already you can see that because they don’t engage in Maududi ideology of the pernicious Bunglawala kind they will be called Uncle Toms and much worse behind doors.

  7. sonia — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:43 pm  

    kismet – yes… and take lots of psychedelic drugs as a route to transcending material reality :-)

  8. Geezer — on 19th July, 2006 at 2:48 pm  

    Good luck to the Sufis, but already you can see that because they don’t engage in Maududi ideology of the pernicious Bunglawala kind they will be called Uncle Toms and much worse behind doors.[Pablo]

    True….

    kismet – yes… and take lots of psychedelic drugs as a route to transcending material reality[sonia]

    No sonia we don’t do that as no drinking alcohol, taking drugs is universal to all Muslim groupings.

  9. Rohin — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:11 pm  

    Geezer isn’t there incense or some drug used as part of dhikr?

    I have noticed no end of Muslim websites denouncing Sufism as infidel deviant nonsense during my research about the sect/subset.

    It’s encouraging for Sufis to have a voice to show others that Islam is not homogeneous, but let’s not immediately assume that this ‘representative body’ will be any more accurate in their representation than any other religious group. Wait till they’ve done something and then applaud them, if applicable.

  10. Kismet Hardy — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:17 pm  

    After six days of suffering in a field I’ve decided I no longer worship the sun. Or the gods of ecstasy, nitrous, crack, MDMA, mushrooms, smack and ganja for that matter. I am reborn. I’m going to be a sufi. From today I’m a sufi. How does one become a sufi? I want to be a sufi. Tell me how I can be a sufi please. Is there a website where you can join online? Is there an initiation process? I have long hair and a beard and I can sing. I want to be a sufi please help me

  11. seekeroftruth — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:33 pm  

    Pablo: No one can call Sufis ‘uncle toms’ because sufis were around a 1000 years before Mawdudi was born.

    Kismet Hardy: Most ‘mainstream’ Muslims give women equal rights and find spirituality in their daily prayer.

    Sid: There are some sufis who do wear their Islam on sleeves and have just as much dismissive and patronizing attitude towards rational/modernist Muslims as Wahhabis have for any other group.

    Instead of pigeonholing Muslims into different groups it might be better to give platform to any sensible, humane or intellectual voices which can contribute positively to the dialogue.

  12. sonia — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:41 pm  

    Yes the problem is with the pigeonholing. let’s un-pigeonhole.

  13. Rohin — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:41 pm  

    Kismet I also spent several days under the sun coming to similar conclusions as you. I feel my life has changed, but yet when I texted you about this I got no response, no response.

    Become a Sufi, I’d like a Sufi friend. Twirl.

  14. Geezer — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:43 pm  

    Geezer isn’t there incense or some drug used as part of dhikr?[Rohin]

    Incense is used for its sweet fragrance but drugs are strictly prohibited.

    I have noticed no end of Muslim websites denouncing Sufism as infidel deviant nonsense during my research about the sect/subset.[rohin]

    These are Wahabi/Salafi run sites and if you look closer they pretty much hate everyone who does not ascribe to their creed.

  15. Pablo — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:48 pm  

    seekeroftruth

    Yeah but they will call them Uncle Toms because they don’t follow the party line of all these people like Bunglawala and the other Islamists extremists who want to turn the harsh sound and cheese and onion crisps being eaten loudly within earshot of a Muslim on a bus as an example of the oppression of the Ummah and a call to arms of Islam’s manifest destiny to rule the world and the perfidy of the unholy Jews. This is the mentality of these narrow minded intellectual totalitarians.

    I support the sufis, but I know what the response of the Mawdudi chamchas will be.

  16. Rohin — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:53 pm  

    chamchas, great word. Must use that more often.

    Cheers for the answers Geez.

  17. Rakhee — on 19th July, 2006 at 3:58 pm  

    Kismet, you could always try and sing your little sufi heart out like Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan…

    And yes, there is a website .. http://www.uksufi.co.uk

    Christ, you lot are distracting – will need to be at work late today now.

    *(hot and bothered) humph*

  18. Sid — on 19th July, 2006 at 4:01 pm  

    Seeker

    Sure, most sufis will be orthodox Muslims who follow the “form” of Shariah-strictures but few will mention their sufi affiliations. This comes as a throwback to hundreds of years of bearing the projectiles flung at them by snarky mullah types. So, Bunglawala’s comments are wholly characteristic.

    I once met a sufi who asked me how many djinns my Sheikh kept, as he was proud that his sheikh had 7000 of the blighters! Oriental hyerbole and the human condition have not escaped sufism.

    But they do pack a great chillum as many happy hours spent amongst Bangladeshi “pagols” have shown me!

  19. seekeroftruth — on 19th July, 2006 at 4:21 pm  

    Sid: That was exactly my point: some orthodox sufi groups have as much disdain for any one who is not as ‘orthodox’ or conservative which defeats the sufi spirit. My point was that being a sufi means different things to different people. Hasan al Banna, the founder of Ikhwan was a sufi!

    There will always be differences of opinions. Key thing is keep searching for the divine will with out losing our humility, spirituality, humanity and rationality.

  20. Sid — on 19th July, 2006 at 4:40 pm  

    Hasan al Banna? Isn’t he Bungalwala’s number one poster boy?

  21. seekeroftruth — on 19th July, 2006 at 4:50 pm  

    I guess. He is Tariq Ramadan’s grand father although Ramadan has different views on many issues compared to al Banna. Banna was a product of the times when Israel had defeated the Arabs in 1948 and Banna came up with a ‘revolutionary communist style group’ repackaged with Islamic terminology. He along with Mawdudi are known as responsible for modern politicized revivalist fundamentalism.

  22. Kismet Hardy — on 19th July, 2006 at 5:05 pm  

    Rohin, I lost my phone along with my mind. But now that I am a sufi, I can say ‘communicate with the soul, not the cell’. I’m not sure it’s a sufi saying but I insist it sounds like one. Sing with me now

  23. Kismet Hardy — on 19th July, 2006 at 5:10 pm  

    ‘Kismet Hardy: Most ‘mainstream’ Muslims give women equal rights and find spirituality in their daily prayer.’

    No seeker of truth. The Qu’ran does. Muslims most certainly do not. Show me a mosque where a woman can walk in and stand shoulder to shoulder with men and not stuck in some pokey back room and I’ll recite you every hadith that came from the mouth of a woman

  24. seekeroftruth — on 19th July, 2006 at 10:34 pm  

    Kismet Hardy: Yeah I agree. There are some serious issues. Moreover many times, the most retrogressive views take precedence in the mosque and many Muslims are hesitant to speak out. Even if women get an exactly similar hall, I still don’t understand the insistense on complete segregation on other events held by Islamic societies in universities.

  25. Expat Teacher — on 20th July, 2006 at 12:20 am  

    The Guardian covers the response to the Sufi Muslim Council by the Muslim Council of Britain with the wonderfully Guardian-like headline “Criticism for new Muslim organisation”.

    The money quote is “When contacted by Guardian Unlimited, the spokesman for the MCB, Inayat Bunglawala, claimed Mr Rafiq was an “unknown”. “Who is he? Who does he represent? Let’s wait and see just how many groups affiliate to his group, but at the moment it’s obscure and unknown.”

    Uh, duh! The organisation just started. Talk about a turf war.

  26. Pablo — on 20th July, 2006 at 12:47 am  

    I think this is the money quote from Bunglawala from that link you give:

    In a press release, the MCB accused Mr Rafiq of being part of a “motley crew of discredited figures” wheeled out to support the “ludicrous arguments” of the programme. The journalist who presented the documentary, Martin Bright, was labelled an “Islamophobe” seeking to divide British Muslims.

    What a twisted, paranoid man he is. A perfect specimen of a Mawdudi Chamcha.

  27. Pablo — on 20th July, 2006 at 12:48 am  

    I wish the Sufis all the best luck. Bunglwala and the other Mawdudi nasties have poisoned British society and British Islam with their religious politics.

  28. Sunny — on 20th July, 2006 at 1:12 am  

    The Muslim council of Britain keep talking about promoting solidarity and wanting unity amongst Muslims. In fact Dr Abdul Bari’s first speech after taking over the MCB was about promoting unity amongst Muslims.

    And then Inayat Bunglawala comes out with – “well let’s see if their dick is bigger than ours”. Yup, lots of unity there.

  29. Refresh — on 20th July, 2006 at 1:12 am  

    “Uh, duh! The organisation just started. Talk about a turf war.”

    Well here we go – no news there at all.

    I for one am much more interested in what they both have to say on what is going on Israel, Lebanon and Gaza.

    How will they influence Blair for a ceasefire? As should all parts of our society.

    That’s their immediate concern. Not who has biggest sway with which organisation.

    Oh and how Blair will laughed – with two puppies to pat.

  30. Pablo — on 20th July, 2006 at 1:24 am  

    How will they influence Blair for a ceasefire? As should all parts of our society

    Refresh, why do you think all parts of our society should drop their tools and orient themselves to ‘influencing Blair for a ceasefire’?

    How do you think they can influence him? Warn him that if he does not do as they say some Muslim lads might blow themselves up?

    You don’t understand that this priveliging of Islamic-political imperatives and importing them into British society is exactly what has gotten us into this mess in the first place, communalism, sectarianism, the arrogance of special interest groups shouting loud and looking the other way as extremists run rampant, boycotting Holocaust Memorial Day, all that squalid politics is bound up in this.

  31. Sunny — on 20th July, 2006 at 1:27 am  

    Refresh – Why does every Muslim organisation have to be obsessed with Israel/Palestine? Let’s assume they issue a statement like the MCB calling for Israel to withdraw immediately. Do you think anyone will listen to them or the MCB? If Minge Campbell and half the papers cannot influence Blair towards a ceasefire, what chance does the MCB have. They didn’t even get anywhere on the 28 days detention thing or incitement to hatred legislation. I think you’re deluding yourself in thinking the govt actually listens to the MCB. It uses them as cover to give the impression it listens.

    But that does not detract from the fact that when the govt does want opinions from what people are saying on the ground – it should listen to a wide variety of Muslim opinion. Or do you oppose that too?

  32. seekeroftruth — on 20th July, 2006 at 10:15 am  

    “Why does every Muslim organisation have to be obsessed with Israel/Palestine? ”

    Sunny: By taking such a critical attitude to any kind of organizational unity of Muslims on certain issues such as concern for Palestinians, I don’t think you will be able to affect many Muslims. MCB is clearly issuing statements about Israel because it has a lot of pressure from many Muslims to do that and if they don’t they would be considered ‘govt. puppets’ by sections of the Muslims.

    I understand your concern that Muslims should engage as citizens but every one has a prism from which they perceive things and this applies to every other group. What would be better is to engage with these groups and try to convince them that they should be consistent in their policies: that they should speak out against anti-semitism, suicide bombing, hatred against non-Muslims etc. Perhaps we can highlight the insecurities of the Jews considering their history. Perhaps you could also counter some of the prejudice against Muslims in the right wing media. Positive proactive approach is key. Why not form a ‘Muslims for Peace’ or ‘Asians against forced marriages’ NGO’s. Let’s keep the issues in front of us instead of getting too obsessed with organizations. If these NGO’s get support from people, what is stopping them from getting a platform/media coverage etc?

  33. sonia — on 20th July, 2006 at 10:52 am  

    why should Palestine be a ‘Muslim’ issue? Others – not only Muslims – are involved.

  34. seekeroftruth — on 20th July, 2006 at 11:08 am  

    Sonia: I’m not saying it is a Muslim issue. But to expect Muslims not to be concerned about Palestinians is asking for too much.

  35. seekeroftruth — on 20th July, 2006 at 11:12 am  

    I’m not saying it is a Muslim issue. But to expect Muslims not to be concerned about Palestinians is asking for too much.

  36. bananabrain — on 20th July, 2006 at 11:29 am  

    and where are the muslim organisations concerned about, say, nigeria? climate change? tibet? darfur?

    oh yeah – all very silent unless there are perfidious yahoods to blame everything on.

    it seems to me that the plethora of muslim organisations all choose names which enable them to claim umbrella status. the mcb, mpac, mab and all the others clearly want to be the only “legitimate” voice, when in fact they represent a subsection of the community. sooner or later they’ll have to swallow their pride and set up something like the jewish board of deputies. otherwise, what’s to stop any self-declared community leader settiing up an organisation – let’s call it “the council of british islamic communities” – and saying “you don’t represent us, mr bungalawala – we represent you!”

    then watch the fur fly!

    in fact, i hereby declare myself the sole representative of british islam.

    “i’m british islam!”

    “no – *i’m* british islam!”

    “no – *i’m* british islam!”

    “no – *i’m* british islam!”

    “no – *i’m* british islam and so is my wife!”

    can anyone say “people’s front of british islam”? or “british islamic people’s front”?

    deary deary me.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  37. Refresh — on 20th July, 2006 at 10:37 pm  

    “sooner or later they’ll have to swallow their pride and set up something like the jewish board of deputies. otherwise, what’s to stop any self-declared community leader settiing up an organisation – let’s call it “the council of british islamic communities” – and saying “you don’t represent us, mr bungalawala – we represent you!””

    This is precisely what I would want. No turf wars, it can only do more harm.

    Pablo – please don’t pull out that old – “if we don’t listen to muslims they’ll blow us up” rubbish. Its been well rehearsed – across a zillion blogs. Its lost its value – for the simple reason, its designed to silence and its a slur.

    Sunny,

    “But that does not detract from the fact that when the govt does want opinions from what people are saying on the ground – it should listen to a wide variety of Muslim opinion. Or do you oppose that too?”

    I don’t have a particular stance on which or what – but I do get concerned with a plethora of organisations which do not amount to much in terms of influence.

    What is the point of having any organisation with a view? Why do we have trade unions, why does the AA think it can speak for the motoring public etc etc. They have some expertise as well as represent members.

    Great having different organisations, but if they are going to end up fighting amongst themselves – and believe me most of their energy could end up being wasted in such a way. Then what good are they to anyone.

    As for Israel/Palestine – you can wish for what you like – the attitude to this great injustice aint going to change – get used to it.

    I only wish muslims would wake up to all the other injustices and speak up more including of course Darfur.

  38. Sunny — on 20th July, 2006 at 10:55 pm  

    SpeakerofTruth:

    I should have explained my stance a bit better. Of course British Muslims are going to be concerned about Palestinians. I have no problem with that. But there are inconsistencies here.

    1) The issue is too politicised. Firstly, 300 Indonesians died from a tsunami earlier this week, most of them likely to be Muslims. That is more than all that have died in Lebanon, and yet guess what everyone is talking about.

    2) Over 6000 Iraqis have been killed by other Iraqis in the past 6 months, through suicide bombs. In fact on the second day of the assault on Lebanon – two Iraqi suicide bombers killed over a hundred people in one day. No mention on Muslim blogs or Muslim media.

    3) We are ALL worried about the Palestinians, not just Muslims. A close Sikh friend of mine is going, along with many others, to the Stop the War rally coming up. But I’d love a bit more concern about all human life, not just the Palestinians.

    4) It’s also kinda sad that the MCB has to release a statement to placate some people and prove they’re not govt lackeys. It makes no difference. I just got annoyed because Refresh asked whether they’d release a statement on Lebanon – which smacks of the same thing. As if it makes any difference. As if the MCB statement made any difference other than be a token offering.

    Refresh: but if they are going to end up fighting amongst themselves

    The only person fighting and accusing others of not being representative, and having a turf war is Bunglwala. He did the same with Q-News and later with Fareena Alam specifically when they profiled her in New Statesman. The man has a huge chip on his shoulder.

  39. Refresh — on 20th July, 2006 at 11:30 pm  

    Sunny,

    “I just got annoyed because Refresh asked whether they’d release a statement on Lebanon – which smacks of the same thing.” – sorry wasn’t intended to annoy – I said it to make a point. Related to something you said which suggested muslim organisations should not make a fuss about Israel/Palestine.

    With regards the other issues that are affecting us all – and nothing being said by muslim organisations – is probably to misunderstand or not even know what has been said and not heard.

    And if the MCB has made a statement on Israel, you’re of the view they’re wasting their time. Which may well be the case – it is after all in the hands of Tony Blair and George W. Bush – and probably no one else.

    On the point of showing concern for all human life – I think you’re mistaken again if that is not the case. You don’t know what is being said as a family watches the news and sees the horrors that unfold relentlessly.

    Its dangerous to think for other people as it is putting words in their mouths. If the MCB has put out a statement – I would like to see them back it up by pushing for people to turn up for the Stop the War emergency demonstrations this weekend. I shall be at my local one.

    On the question of turf wars – I will personally add to the voices which will object to any one organisation trying to silence another. I don’t share the same antipathy to these organisations as you do. Maybe I don’t know as much about them as you do.

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