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  • Are British Muslims in peril?

    by guest
    5th March, 2010 at 11:47 am    

    This is a guest post by Shaaz Mahboob of British Muslims for Secular Democracy (BMSD)

    The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia appears to be at a crossroads today. For decades the alliance between its powerful clergy and the royal family has proved to be one of the most stable and blissful. However, King Abdullah’s recent flirtation with modernity appears to have backfired. Cracks are now visible in this alliance that has up until now successfully acted as a vanguard against attempts to democratise the oil-rich state or to bring any progressive reforms to its society.

    The ‘King Abdullah University of Science and Technology’ (KAUST) is indeed a welcome step by the King, who has experimented with putting men and women together in a learning environment, never seen or heard before in a country governed under strict ultra-orthodox Wahabi variant of Islam. Not only has this initiative been well received by the Saudi public, the King has to be credited for his boldness in crushing any dissent by the clergy who are disdainful of this attempt to change the fundamental structure of Saudi society. They are not only taken aback by this blatant liberalism allowing gender-mixing, but also by the scientific elements that are being taught at the university, such as evolution and other aspects of modern technology. It is indeed ironic that such clerics in Saudi Arabia and across the world shun topics like the theory of evolution as “blasphemous” yet are equally comfortable using the wonders of science such as mobile telephones, internet and the good old television to spread sectarianism, inequality of men and women as well as hatred for all those who do not adhere to their version of Wahabi Islam.

    They attempted to counter the King’s initiative using their age-old tactic, the infamous “Wahabi Fatwa” (religious edict), which criminalises anything and almost everything enjoyable from gender-mixing to music, hearty laughter to befriending the non-believers, Jews in particular.

    In a latest of such endeavours to undermine the King and his unholy university, a leading member of the Saudi religious establishment Abdul Rehman al-Barrak has gone too far this time. His Fatwa denounces all those who “promote” gender-mixing, be it in educational institutions or workplaces. This rhetoric not only lashes out at the King, but it will also have serious repercussions on Muslim communities living in relatively liberal societies such as those in France, North America and Britain. His choice of punishment for parents who send their children to mixed-gender schools and universities is simply to put them to death. The fact that such Fatwas are taken rather seriously by extremist and other conservative minded Muslims across the world is alarming. His views on the role of women in a Muslim household is questionable but what is far more disturbing is how it is being used by Muslims who blindly follow and spread such edits without giving it a second thought.

    Alarmed at the seriousness of this Fatwa, British Muslims for Secular Democracy has written an open letter to the Saudi government via its Embassy in London. BMSD has called upon the Saudi Government to hold Mr Abdul Rehman al-Barrak to account and issue a public statement stating the position on his fatwa. Furthermore BMSD seeks greater monitoring of the statements and actions of clerics in Saudi Arabia, particularly when they contradict the principles of equality and fairness that underpin progressive initiatives.

    There should have been a collective outcry from all Muslim organisations in response to Barrak’s Fatwa, but instead there is criminal silence in particular from the likes of Muslim Council of Britain who claim to be a Muslim-representative umbrella body. In their recent press releases they have repeatedly raised alarm at anti-Muslim violence in the UK, yet have chosen to ignore this threat of physical harm against the vast majority of Muslims, who could be targeted as a direct result of this irresponsible Fatwa. Muslims have the right to protect themselves from any threats, be it the far-right or the religious extremists from within. BMSD and its allies are responding to one such threat, and hope that the Saudi government will play its due part in safeguarding the lives and lifestyles of fellow Muslims here in Britain and elsewhere.

                  Post to del.icio.us

    Filed in: Moral police,Muslim,Religion,Sex equality

    36 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs
    1. pickles

      Blog post:: Are British Muslims in peril? http://bit.ly/b1nuaU

    2. earwicga

      RT @pickledpolitics Pickled Politics » Are British Muslims in peril? http://bit.ly/devi9C

    3. Peter M Dingle

      Pickled Politics » Are British Muslims in peril? http://bit.ly/bqmYfq

    4. Radical Muslim :: How to Tackle Islamophobia and Reduce Street Violence Against British Muslims :: March :: 2010

      [...] alot of work to be done, but what I think is counterproductive is when apostates, ex-extremists and liberals put their confused and twisted oar in serving to focus negative attention on Muslims by drawing [...]

    1. Hampster — on 5th March, 2010 at 12:19 pm  

      The Muslim Council of Britain is a British organisation. So it speaks about things affecting British people. I don’t recall Catholics in the UK being asked about speaking out against the activities of their co-religionists in the US, or the Anglican Church speaking out against the recent murder of Muslims by their co-religionists in Nigeria. Nor do I recall the Board of Deputies being asked to speak out against the activities of far-right Israeli settlers in Israel.

      It is alarming what is happening in Saudi Arabia, and we all need to speak out. Doing so by framing it in sectarian terms is certainly not the way to go about it.

      It is fashionable now to talk against one sect, the Wahhabbis, but it is curious for you, as a supposedly ‘secular’ organisation (British Muslims for Secular Democracy - A Contradiction in terms), to get involved in sectarianism too.

      As far as I’m aware, the MCB isn’t in the business of talking up one sect against the other.

    2. Agnieszka Tokarska — on 5th March, 2010 at 12:51 pm  

      I would like to say that it is not true that Catholics in one country are not interested in issued from another country. Definitely this is the case in Poland, where we have been discussing very openly the recent events of child abuses in Ireland or the decision of the Hague tribunal which condemned the display of the cross in classrooms. In my opinion everything what has happened in Ireland reflects badly on the whole Catholic church, including the Polish church and it was treated and discussed in this way.

    3. cjcjc — on 5th March, 2010 at 12:52 pm  

      So the Ummah concept is dead, Hampster?


    4. Bill Corr — on 5th March, 2010 at 1:26 pm  

      As oone of the [few?] readers / contributers here who is resident in K.S.A., I’m a weeny bit puzzled by this short article.

      All sorts of things are going on as K.S.A. modernises and as a new and educated generation enters adult life.

      Some things are ‘progressive’ and some are preposterously reactionary:


      One important fact to grasp is that Saudis who crave real sin usually have the sense to nip off to Bahrain and Dubai to slake their lusts.

      As for freedom of speech and so on, the ‘net has transformed the way the educated young perceive the world.

    5. Bill Corr — on 5th March, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

      On Al-Barrak, this is of interest:


    6. Ravi Naik — on 5th March, 2010 at 2:11 pm  

      The Muslim Council of Britain is a British organisation. So it speaks about things affecting British people.

      Yeah right.

    7. platinum786 — on 5th March, 2010 at 2:22 pm  

      Why does what Wahhabi’s do affect British Muslims. Wahhabi’s probably only make up like 5-10% of British Muslims, that’s being generous.

    8. Hampster — on 5th March, 2010 at 3:39 pm  

      @ Ravi Naik

      ? So what. Denmark is in Europe, so is Britain. Do point me in the right direction for statements made by the organisations/institutions I mentioned and their condemnation of the stupidity of their co-religionists.

      Al-Barrak is an arse. The best thing to do is to laugh at him.

    9. fugstar — on 5th March, 2010 at 5:12 pm  

      I’m not sure how a cultural take on gender interaction ethics applied within Saudi Arabia’s stupid westoxified and depressingly colonised science and technology education policy imperils british muslims.

      maybe you should retitle the piece ‘Look we can be just as white as you, look at us Master arent we doing well?’

    10. Yakoub — on 5th March, 2010 at 5:55 pm  

      BDSM, sorry, BMSD takes a fatwa that nobody except the Saudis gives a flying fuck about and tries to use it as a truncheon to beat Muslims they don’t like (that means 95% of Muslims worldwide). Does it expect the MCB et al to continuously comment on the internal affairs of every Muslim nation on Earth? This is ludicrous shite. How about commenting on the relationship between the Saudis and the UK and US governments? Or how about telling this bunch of Eurocentric uber-liberal Muslims to toss off and blog somewhere else?

    11. Random Guy — on 5th March, 2010 at 9:24 pm  

      Fug @ #9: LOL, classic :D

    12. Bill Corr — on 6th March, 2010 at 7:15 am  

      Fugstar is totally wrong!

      Our hosts here in K.S.A. will never say “We can be just as white as you! Look at us, Master, we are Westoxified and we are doing well!” until and unless they learn to drive like responsible adults rather than like kids on the dodgems at the fairground.

      Actually, one could add a lot more but the driving issue will do for a start.

      I wonder where Fugstar lives … if s/he is in a cave in Tora Bora or a mud hut in the Sudan, well and good.

      Otherwise, s/he is a hypocrite and that is all that need be said about Fugstar.

      I wish KAUST all the best, of course. The reality is that is will almost certainly function as a very expensive shop-window. Here at KFMMC in the Eastern Province, the yound ladies in the nursing school are almost all veiled and there is no gender-mixing.

    13. douglas clark — on 6th March, 2010 at 11:14 pm  

      Bill Corr,

      Y’know what is interesting about you? You appear to have found a place where they pay you a lot. And yet you find so much time to say, what, exactly?

      Are you the only nihilist in the whole of the KSA?

      The complete failure of the KSA to properly invest for it’s future, or it’s women come to that, is why it will be a failed state in years to come.

      Frankly I don’t know what you are revelling in. You appear to think you have greater insights than the rest of us. If the KSA was not a loyal ally of the west, do you think it would be free of the wests’ invasion polemic? After all, quite a few of the 9/11 jihadists were Saudi, were they not?

      Should it be inviolate, just because? If so, just because of what, exactly?

      Do you think it beyond credible to accuse your milch cow of a nuclear program? Which seems to be the excuse de nos jours…

      Just asking.

    14. JB — on 6th March, 2010 at 11:22 pm  

      This seriously is a ridiculous statement. The BMSD always harp on about how muslims in Britain should think about “British Islam” (whatever that is) and now they criticise British institutions for not condemning antics of foreign clerics! Yup, why hasn’t the Archbishop apologised for the sermon carried out by a priest in Senegal the other day…..

    15. douglas clark — on 6th March, 2010 at 11:30 pm  


      Whoever you qre

      It is a basic principle of our democracy that BMSD can say whatever they like, I’d have thought that was obvious?

      Your affectation is that British Muslims should remain silent on the antics of foreign clerics.

      Why should they?

      I suspect JB hasn’t actually thought this through.

    16. douglas clark — on 6th March, 2010 at 11:36 pm  

      “Whoever you are” would be better…

    17. Bill Corr — on 7th March, 2010 at 7:21 am  

      Douglas Clark -

      I make no claims to omniescence.

      Some things here in K.S.A. do puzzle me greatly. Woman ARE being educated - more of them every year - but they are not treated as equals and will not be until and unless the Religious Elders relinquish their grip on the power-behind-the-throne they currently enjoy. Don’t hold your breath.

      For a long time I was broadly sympathetic to secular Arab nationalism, wilfully overlooking the cruelty and repression in Egypt, Iraq and Syria.

      There ARE those who claim that the CIA [boo! hiss!] snuggled up to the Muslim Brotherhood as a counterweight to Nasserism.

      The soft despotism of the Gulf is far easier for the average person to bear than the oppressive despotism of the Baathists and Nasserists, but in the Gulf the hydrocarbon revenues guarantee that all the scut work is done by Third World foreigners.

      There are obviously strains and stresses within the regime; a nuclear power station? Whyever not? We can afford it!

      Use pivot irrigation to grow wheat, tapping fossil acquifers? Why not? We can afford it.

      This pivot irrigation is, supposedly, likely to be quietly abandoned as a silly and bad and very expensive idea worthy of Krushchev’s ‘Virgin Lands’ program, the one that messed up the Aral Sea and made hundreds of thousands very ill. Or dead.

      As to the 9/11 bombers; most, if not all, were from comfortable backgrounds because the wind shakes the tops of the trees first. The immediate parallel would be with the Narodniki of Russia in the last decades of Romanov power.

      For decades, the regime in Riyadh tolerated demented preachers; now most of the sillier ones have been muzzled.

    18. Mezba — on 7th March, 2010 at 2:01 pm  

      Nobody cares about this fatwa. People think Muslims place fatwas in high regard. No we don’t. We don’t have a centralized structure unlike the Pope and Catholics. How does this guy’s fatwa affect anyone in the West?

    19. fugstar — on 8th March, 2010 at 8:48 am  



      tell me all about the Muslim world oh Bill of Arabia, deliver us from neo-ottomans.

    20. persephone — on 8th March, 2010 at 1:19 pm  

      Its important to hear about a positive movement, however small and regardless of location. Given the criticism that muslims face for being silent on issues (including blogs that are peppered with commenters providing links to overseas news as supporting ‘evidence’ of such silence) it seems churlish to criticise a group such as BMSD which was set up to create a voice.

      BSMD are courageous in deciding to tackle this issue, particularly in directly challenging the stance of others.

    21. persephone — on 8th March, 2010 at 1:29 pm  

      “ They are not only taken aback by this blatant liberalism allowing gender-mixing, but also by the scientific elements that are being taught at the university, such as evolution and other aspects of modern technology”

      It is interesting that the fatwa is against the gender mixing alone – it seems there is less disturbance as to the scientific content conflicting with religious beliefs on creationism ie evolution etc being taught.

      Seems to be a greater human fear of the sexes mixing rather than the fear of Gods wrath as to this aspect of ‘western corruption’.

    22. sofia — on 8th March, 2010 at 3:29 pm  

      Shaaz you really need to quit with the nihilistic titles to your articles. They defeat the object.

    23. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 4:54 pm  

      I like the titles..gets people reading as well!

      “and hope that the Saudi government will play its due part in safeguarding the lives and lifestyles of fellow Muslims here in Britain and elsewhere.”

      Eh? very sweet and idealistic though this is : it assumes that the Saudis actually care what happens to Muslims anywhere!

      What we actually see in Saudi arabia is the dispelling of the myth of the Muslim ummah (and in the Middle East in general). the muslim ummah idea seems to be much stronger “illusion” amongst british muslims or other diasporic Muslim groups. Most of these folks have never set foot in the middle east or perhaps have been on a jaunty shopping trip in Dubai, mind you they are on british passports anyway.

      Can’t we just have the BMSD admit that the Saudis are rubbish examples of current day Muslims and precisely the reason why Muslims are in peril full stop, by giving them some kind of moral guardian legitimacy.

    24. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 4:59 pm  

      Of course, this is where it gets really interesting. :-)

      ah looking forward to some juicy discussions now. See the problem that Saudi Arabia presents to current Muslims is very interesting and rather complex. It reminds those -shall we call them “reform-minded muslims” loosely (and not get too hung up on terminology) that they are an uncomfortable throw-back to what we don’t like to admit is violent/blood-thirsty within our religion. the Saudis with their human rights abuses (having a penchant for assuming they have the right to sexual intercourse with their foreign maids who are little better than slaves) and their simultaneous insistence that they be the ‘custodian’ of our religion brings things to the surface and perhaps it is too close for comfort.

    25. Bill Corr — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:01 pm  

      Sonia says that the Saudis [all of them?] are “rubbish examples of current-day Muslims” and I wonder if she’s ever met the sort of convert-to-Islam who arrives in KSA with a work visa and a job and promptly takes it upon himself [rarely herself] to harangue Saudis - and Pakistanis - about how they’re slipshod and unobservant Muslims and aren’t taking all the rules seriously enough.

    26. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:03 pm  

      Or to say it the other way around, I would put it that Islamophobes have no cause for alarm : precisely because there is all this stuff in our texts that we could have been getting away with (think of all the privileges available to Muslim men!)but haven’t been doing so, is surely re-assuring about the Muslim world. What sweet dears and all the rest of it, having access to 4 wives and only having 1, etc. etc.

      Its the Saudis though who fail on this front, and so that’s the problem.

    27. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:04 pm  

      fugstar, elite saudis who are pale think they are white anyway.

    28. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:05 pm  

      and far superior to everyone else on this planet.
      if you’d actually been there your racism paranoia about your life here, would suddenly be put into context :-) you’d be ‘hindiya’ to them, heh. and they’re very classist, given so many british muslims here are descended from poor folk who migrated here and had jobs like bus drivers, factory workers, cleaners and the like, they would totally look down on most of you lot.

    29. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:08 pm  

      there should be a collective outcry by all Muslim organisations about the state of Saudi Arabia full-stop.

      I have read Hajj websites giving advice to pilgrims to stand very close to their female pilgrim rellies so they don’t get groped - !! there ought to be a collective outcry about that. the whole country is nuts, veiled women get groped there for goodness sakes, its PSYCHO.

    30. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:14 pm  

      and yes,i have to say, I lose all sence of objectivity when it comes to the Saudis. as a nation-state and a place to live it is an abject failure.
      the women are just as fucked up and imperialist as the blokes and perpetuate the problem, abuse the female domestic servants almost as much or enable their husband’s abuse and then on top of that, enslave them, don’t pay them, take their age-old jealousy of ‘right-hand possess’ out on these victims. and spend all their time wallowing in designer clothes and materialism to soothe their souls. and its dog eat dog, oppress next person down.

      I have been many depressing and deprived and fucked up places, and seen many a fucked up thing, but it is usually in some sort of balance, or there is something redeeming,some joy at least.
      the nauseating hypocrisy and madness in saudi arabia is too much for me.

    31. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:20 pm  

      Yeah Mezba has a good point. Most muslims wouldn’t heed fatwas anyway.

      however I dare say the converts all seem to be in to it and a small percentage of the ‘dawah’ muslim types. (who seem to be abounding on facebook, i’ve recently been having fun with a few of them :-) )

    32. sonia — on 11th March, 2010 at 5:21 pm  

      BIll corr your insight is interesting.

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