Shariah law and cultural wars


by Sunny
29th January, 2007 at 5:00 pm    

What should be said about the Policy Exchange report out today, authored by Munira Mirza, Abi Senthilkumaran and Zein Ja’far? Some of the headline statements from a poll informing this research say that:

- 59% of Muslims would prefer to live under British law, compared to 28% who would prefer to live under sharia law. 37% of 16-24 year olds prefer sharia compared to 17% of 55+ year olds.
- 36% of 16-24 year olds believe if a Muslim converts to another religion they should be punished by death, compared to 19% of 55+ year olds.
- 7% “admire organisations like Al-Qaeda that are prepared to fight the West’. 13% of 16-24 year olds agreed with this statement compared to 3% of 55+ year olds.

There is a saying attributed to Guru Nanak Dev (founder of Sikhism) something along the lines of – a world without problems and challenges is a dreamworld. A shorter and modern version would be: ‘no pain no gain’. I believe the findings present a challenge to British society that we need to sort out together and to this extent I’ve written an article for Comment is Free.

This is not something to be depressed about but rather an opportunity to make our democracy even more vibrant. It’s like the maxim goes: If people are not buying your product, it’s not because they don’t want to listen but because you haven’t sold it properly.

Meanwhile Madeleine Bunting is pounding ‘liberal progressives’ over the head with a pan because of the Catholic gay adoption controversy. Given that I fit into that category, and because I quite admire MB (no, really!), I’m going to take this up. She says:

Increasingly, the stridency with which the non-religious attack the religious belies their own profound insecurity – that the progress they like to attribute to western or enlightenment values is a much-compromised property. It is challenged by almost everything we see around us: climate change, rising levels of mental ill-health, growing economic inequality fuelled by debt and hyper-consumerism.

The atheist attack on the religious is a continual source of annoyance to me too, and I have argued against it, but we can easily turn MB’s argument around. What if the intolerance of religious groups is a result of their own insecurity: watching the world become more secular, chaotic and difficult to understand?

The last 100 years or so have seen conservatives lose almost all the social battles – liberal progressives have reigned supreme and continue to set the agenda on social (if not economic) policy. The battle over gay adoption is simply a continuation of those politics and in our multi-cultural world it is even more important to stress equality and civil rights for all. The only way the religious can get anywhere is if their liberal elements come out of hiding and take over the agenda – showing that religion can also be a force for good not just strife. Madeleine may see it as an ‘absurd reaction’, I think it is business as usual and an important step towards universal equality. Booyakasha!


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  1. Kismet Hardy — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:09 pm  

    “The atheist attack on the religious is a continual source of annoyance to me too”

    It’s not really an attack. It’s more like telling Paul Daniels that those ping pong balls were up his sleeve all along. He’s just too senile to realise it

  2. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:26 pm  

    I’m an atheist, but am generally happy for the theists to get on with whatever they get on with so long as it doesn’t get in my way. However, as religious terrorism gets right in my way I feel something has to be done about it.

    That said when I look at the wranglings over faith schools and so on, it does seem rather unfair that they may all be done away with on the basis of the actions of a single sub-group. But it seems discrimination is the prince of darkness these days, so all religion is under attack. Personally I actively avoid slating those religions that do me no harm because I don’t want to drive them into the camp of those that do. So I discriminate, and I am proud.

    Am I making any sense?

  3. Kismet Hardy — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:34 pm  

    Atheists don’t hurt theists or condemn them to eternal damnation. All I see atheists doing is saying ‘I don’t think you’re right’ and the theist screaming ‘WHAT? how dare you? I WILL KILL YOU’

  4. ZinZin — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:37 pm  

    “Personally I actively avoid slating those religions that do me no harm because I don’t want to drive them into the camp of those that do.”

    No you do not make any sense at all. Like myself you criticise Islam yet have we personally suffered at the hands of Islamist terrorists? I know i haven’t.

    As for the problems with islamist terror blame the Saudis, blame the faith but how about blaming ourselves for allowing such sentiments to go unchallenged.

  5. Don — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:41 pm  

    That’s us non-theists; strident, aggressive, militant, fundamentalist and just so damn disrespectful. I seem to be reading these articles three or four times a week these days, and almost all either construct a straw-atheist to smack down or focus on the perceived tone rather than content.

    I don’t think ‘atheists’ as a group are particularly attacking religion per se (some individuals may be, as is their right), so much as challenging their claimed special rights to intrude increasingly in the public sphere and make the rules for the rest of us.

    MB is quite at liberty to attack the philosophical underpinnings of the enlightenment (although her previous ventures into this area suggest she’s not exactly an expert), but blaming it for global warming is a bit of a stretch. Rational enquiry = science = industry = pollution?

  6. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:44 pm  

    “No you do not make any sense at all. Like myself you criticise Islam yet have we personally suffered at the hands of Islamist terrorists? I know i haven’t.”

    I believe I’ve explained before that I’m a tight-arsed bastard, and paying taxes for protection from citizens of my own country over and above the understandable type of crime is indeed making me suffer greatly.

  7. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:46 pm  

    “As for the problems with islamist terror blame the Saudis, blame the faith but how about blaming ourselves for allowing such sentiments to go unchallenged”

    Which political party wanted to challenge such sentiments? Don’t go there.

  8. bananabrain — on 29th January, 2007 at 5:47 pm  

    Atheists don’t hurt theists or condemn them to eternal damnation. All I see atheists doing is saying ‘I don’t think you’re right’ and the theist screaming ‘WHAT? how dare you? I WILL KILL YOU’

    but that’s the point – a very small (albeit loud and dangerous) minority of theists are responsible for this – but the rest of us are with you atheists and against them. do we get thanks from you lot? no, we get lumped in with the Beards of Terror.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  9. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:01 pm  

    From the CiF piece:

    “Last weekend I asked Daniel Pipes how he squared up promoting democracy and “civilisation” with building and maintaining Guantanamo Bay. Gitmo was a “marvelous” place to be, I was told”

    Bit of a misquote there – wasn’t it:

    “Well you know, those people are treated marvelously they have their rights and facilities”?

  10. Ravi Naik — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:05 pm  

    >> but that’s the point – a very small (albeit loud and dangerous) minority of theists are responsible for this

    Does it really matter if people who commit terrorism or support terrorism do it in the name of theism, atheism, or the teletubbies?

    9/11 and 7/7 was planned and commited by Al Qaeda. Let’s frame terrorism with organizations, their leaders, their recruiters and ultimately the people that executed those vile actions.

  11. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:06 pm  

    “The political classes may not want to accept this but the apathy towards democracy is not just a British Muslim problem – it goes across the board and is an issue with young, white, working-class women too.”

    Blimey Sunny, even Jade Goody wouldn’t advocate a return to pre-Magna Carta England. At least once someone had given her a vague understanding that it meant keeping your gob shut.

  12. ZinZin — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:09 pm  

    Bert
    Forgive me if I am mistaken but don’t you reside in Spain?

    As for the problems with islamist terror blame the Saudis, blame the faith but how about blaming ourselves for allowing such sentiments to go unchallenged.

    “Which political party wanted to challenge such sentiments? Don’t go there.”

    Bert you wilfully misrepresented my viewpoint. To Clarify i am attacking Britains political establishment which has failed to stand up to the Islamists for the past 20 years. In fact it gave the fundis who wanted to silence Rushdie political power and prestige instead of prosecuting them.

  13. El Cid — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:10 pm  

    Funny that. I was in hospital today when I read that very article and I thought of PP and some of the top-down and occasionally hysterical dogma of silver spoon uber-liberalism I’ve seen on previous threads. I thought Sid’s nemesis MB made some very good points. But then so do you Sunny. Your concluding paragraph is powerful stuff. So I generally agree with you.

    However, rights are more complex than are sometimes made out. They often need careful case-by-case judgement rather than righteous attitudes.

    We should never forget thought that rights compete. It’s not good enough saying a pregnant woman’s got rights, so has an unborn child. It’s not good enough saying childless couples have rights, so do parent-less children. A mother has rights, but so has a dad. A pupil has rights but so has a teacher. A criminal has rights but so does a victim of crime. A politician has rights but so does an electorate. etc

    We should also recognise that some rights are more important than others. The principle of free universal healthcare means access to doctors and hospitals if we ever fall ill. I’m not so sure it means a right to breast implants or a sex change.

    Kerrrching

  14. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:14 pm  

    Zinzin – I do live in Spain, and sadly we have both taxes and terrorism here too.

    And I wasn’t seriously suggesting you were a BNPer, just that while myself among others have been concerned about islam in the UK since the book burnings of 1989 our mainstream politicians and media have consistently denied it was any sort of issue until 9/11, and some even to this day. I just get the hump at people blaming islamism on people like me.

  15. Robert — on 29th January, 2007 at 6:41 pm  

    I’m sick of people like Madeline Bunting falling for the disingenuous trap laid by the Church on this issue. Crucially (and Bunting must realise this), the religiosity of the groups, and their beliefs, is nothing to do with the issue. Even if the same beliefs were to arise in atheists (as they must frequently do) they would be treated with the same short shrift. There is no targeted attack.

    I can just about countenance people getting exemption from the law when it applies only to them and their body (e.g. Sikhs and motorcycle helmets), but not when it applies to how you treat other people, or (arguably worse) how you treat other minorities.

  16. SajiniW — on 29th January, 2007 at 7:00 pm  

    Re: gay adoptions. I heard some of the Catholic agencies considered closing their books in light of the new proposals.

  17. Sunny — on 29th January, 2007 at 9:25 pm  

    Blimey Sunny, even Jade Goody wouldn’t advocate a return to pre-Magna Carta England.

    Neither have I. I’m simply saying we still don’t have a perfect democracy in place and it needs a lot of work… and to be honest if people are apathetic towards it, blame the political classes not just Muslims. I bet a high percentage of Britons don’t really have much faith in their democracy either (my guess about 25%)

  18. Leon — on 29th January, 2007 at 9:32 pm  

    What if the intolerance of religious groups is a result of their own insecurity: watching the world become more secular, chaotic and difficult to understand?

    The world wasn’t chaotic before secularism?

    Personally I don’t have much a problem with religious people having to come to terms with a world without religious influence at important levels (i.e. state etc).

  19. Bert Preast — on 29th January, 2007 at 9:43 pm  

    Sunny – there’s a big difference between not having faith in one’s democracy and supporting an autocratic theocracy in it’s place. And which perfect democracy are we aiming for here? Does it include the BNP and the MAB? Do we really want that kind of vibrancy?

    The British take on democracy has lasted long and is well respected internationally precisely because it’s sat there through untold ages of revolution and strife being predictably grey and dull. Nobody ever loved it, much less thought of it as vibrant. But it lasted, and no one could come up with anything better.

    It’s like the current debate to define “Britishness”. All bollocks, what’s great about it is it’s undefinable. It relies not on hard and fast laws, but rather on trying to keep calm and expecting that our way will turn out for the best in the end. Of course it’s gone horribly wrong now and then, but still noticeably less horribly wrong than other systems. It trouble me that people now think we need to get some written rules in place – who are we going to look to as a role model for this?

  20. ZinZin — on 29th January, 2007 at 9:48 pm  

    Perhaps these muslim youths should try living in a state which practices shariah law within a week they would be boarding the next plane back to the UK. These kids wants it both ways they want shariah yet they want to enjoy the benefits of the west such as the social freedoms (sex before marriage), the consumer culture and its wealth. The older muslims just want the shoplifters to have their hands chopped off.

  21. Jagdeep — on 30th January, 2007 at 12:25 pm  

    The thing to worry about is whether the ‘youth’ questioned are just teenage blowhards mouthing off in a macho style with a punk rock attitude. And when they get married, have children, have to get a job and work for a living they understand that those attitude originated from a location on their ass crack and become normal people. If not, there is going to be a lot of traction ahead, and unpleasentness in British society, this time with the shadow of semtex in nightclubs full of dancing sluts to worry about.

    Everyone should be worried.

  22. soru — on 30th January, 2007 at 12:29 pm  

    ‘Does it really matter if people who commit terrorism or support terrorism do it in the name of theism, atheism, or the teletubbies? ‘

    Largely not. However, there is the issue of overseas support.

    As far as I know, there aren’t any organised TinkiWinkist groups that run training camps teaching weapons training, explosives and so on. Such training does seem to be the difference between an essentially joke threat, like the Angry Brigade or most of the stuff you read of in the papers, and bombs that actually go bang properly.

    Downloading recipes off the internet is over-rated, as anyone who tried to cook something reasonably complex that way will tell you.

  23. Jagdeep — on 30th January, 2007 at 12:34 pm  

    ZinZin, the older Muslims of Pakistani background were by and large chilled out and tolerant and respectful of British society. The jihad-chic hooligans you see today are like Paki-bashing skinheads of the 1970′s. self-alienating self-perpetuating bigots with a victimhood complex stewing in their own hatred, because they don’t have the wit or intelligence or imagination to do anything else. Count Saudi money and a coterie of Maududi spouting morons of the Sacranie/Bunglawala/Holocaust Memorial Day Boycott generation for setting the scenery. The original working class Muslim immigrants were keep-your-head-down, gentle, respectful and dignified men.

  24. bananabrain — on 30th January, 2007 at 3:48 pm  

    *yet again, claps for jagdeep for saying what i was about to say*

    the saudis are at the root of this. because of our desire not to upset their precious royal family with its grubby little hands on the oil taps, or for fear that the alternatives aren’t people you can bribe (or won’t be interested in tax-free shopping trips to london so they can bang hookers and drink in casinos) we have allowed their ghastly clergy to poison the minds of an entire generation of muslims by effectively allowing islamic education to be outsourced to the wahhabis. and it’s too late to fix that, because they have got thousands of jobs in marginal constituencies and billions in defence contracts for our GDP tied up in all those things like the al-yamamah deal. that’s why we need to find something to replace oil – then you’d see some reform, pronto.

    unfortunately, the only thing i could do straight away was a) complain about it loudly on places like PP and b) start driving a prius. and neither of those are exactly a solution.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

  25. ZinZin — on 30th January, 2007 at 6:26 pm  

    Jagdeep #23
    I wasn’t being entirely serious about the older muslims wanting shoplifters hands chopped off. Still good points well made.

    As Om Puri says as he throws out his Islamist son in My Son the Fanatic “I have had enough of your anti-democratic and anti-jewish bullshit”. Many will see the errors of their ways and reject such views and will be embarrassed by them in the future.

  26. Jagdeep — on 30th January, 2007 at 6:28 pm  

    Or invent an alternative fuel source quick time, bananabrain. How’s your chemistry? I think I got a B grade at GCSE. Let’s see if we can stuff the Saudis by inventing a car that runs on orange peel and tootpaste or something.

  27. DR1001 — on 30th January, 2007 at 7:27 pm  

    ” we have allowed their ghastly clergy to poison the minds of an entire generation of muslims by effectively allowing islamic education to be outsourced to the wahhabis.”

    I cannot agree more with this statement.
    Those nutcases that are penetrating the mosques from Somalia etc almost have a completely different religion to the majority of law abiding Sunnis living in the UK.
    There are so many ordinary hardworking young muslims that just want to get on with live and tired of all the crap going on also.
    I find the stats shown here about them wanting sharia law just incredible…i blame also those people on the cable channels.
    I can’t see even a Muslim country like Bangladesh accepting Sharia law let alone these hotheads wanting it in the UK.
    As someone said they are just mascho driven , bravado youngsters probably.

  28. sonia — on 30th January, 2007 at 9:08 pm  

    I’ve seen something said sensible about sharia – people who mindlessly want ‘sharia’ law for the sake of it – because they’re ‘Muslim’ – should think about what mezba’s being saying here

    i think the sensible thing that came out of the report was that government shouldn’t be trying to engage with people on the basis of religious identity.

  29. Sahil — on 30th January, 2007 at 10:02 pm  

    Sonia, that’s an excellent link!!! :D

  30. Bert Preast — on 30th January, 2007 at 11:09 pm  

    Jagdeep wrote: “How’s your chemistry? I think I got a B grade at GCSE. Let’s see if we can stuff the Saudis by inventing a car that runs on orange peel and tootpaste or something.”

    Despite scoring a grade U in chemistry CSE, I reckon I can do better than that. The compound I have invented is a veritable godsend to plumbers everywhere, a glue that sticks firmly even to ceramics, and even underwater, setting in seconds. It’s revolutionary. All I need is someone with the expertise to bottle it to get in touch. I call it “beer pooh glue”, and it’s a winner in waiting, no error. How am I not rich?

  31. hardeep — on 31st January, 2007 at 5:07 am  

    Hey Sunny,

    Any idea where that quote from Guru Nanak is? I wanted to hopefully check it out. Thanks!

  32. Tasneem Khalil — on 31st January, 2007 at 11:47 am  

    59% of Muslims would prefer to live under British law, compared to 28% who would prefer to live under sharia law.

    One obvious question that is missing in this survey: What is the exact definition of shariah or What definition of shariah does the surveyed endorse. IMHO, you can not compare “British law” — a civil code — with “shariah” — a religious code. This is a flawed question in the first place. While immense debating is going on in the Muslim quarter whether shariah is binding even on a “Muslim” society or not how can PEx put the “British law” (note UK is, as we know till date: “Dar al-Harb” not “Dar al-Islam”. By that count shariah is NOT APPLICABLE for the British society) at par with “shariah”. PEx should have done their homework on shariah before throwing in their questions.

  33. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st January, 2007 at 11:51 am  

    “Retarded to the point of religion”

    Circular beliefs are bad, full stop. There is no debate. The religous logic always does come down to “This is the truth because I really FEEL that it must be true”.

    Bring back the Enlightenment. Bollocks to ID. Ship the religous waccos off to the moon. After all America hasn’t managed to full digest the last batch we sent over. In fact why are we recieving these exported waccs? Is this some kind of religous wacco revenge being waged on ourselves?

    TFI

  34. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 31st January, 2007 at 12:24 pm  

    One thing that gets right on my tits about these religous waccos is their retarded insistence to view those of us without a religion as another religion, where darwin is considered our false prophet.

    Arrrrggggghhhhh!

  35. soru — on 31st January, 2007 at 12:45 pm  

    ‘What is the exact definition of shariah or What definition of shariah does the surveyed endorse.’

    That’s a key question. The one I would like to see asked is something like: ‘what does Sharia mean to you?’

    non-religious: ‘nothing’

    ultra-liberal: ‘parables and stories that provide wisdom and insight about choices to be made in life’

    liberal: ‘a set of rules (e.g. don’t drink alcohol) for an individual to task themselves with following’

    conservative: ‘a set of rules governing the personal relations (marriage, parentood, etc.) of muslims’

    theonomist: ‘a set of rules for a muslim nation analagous to the legal system in the UK’

    theocratic: ‘as above, but with clerics instead of judges and politicians’

    radical: ‘a plan that will transform the entire world into something radically different and better than the world today’

    terrorist: ‘an excuse to kill you’

    The problem with this discussion is it tends strongly to someone from one of those camps saying they are simply and obviously right and that none of the other groups, if they will even admit they exist, count as any kind of Muslim.

  36. El Cid — on 31st January, 2007 at 1:32 pm  

    Great post Soru

  37. El Cid — on 31st January, 2007 at 1:34 pm  

    TFI,
    Depends what you mean really.
    The key issue is dogma and intolerance.

  38. ZinZin — on 1st February, 2007 at 4:35 pm  
  39. bananabrain — on 1st February, 2007 at 4:49 pm  

    *claps for soru* – spot on! and i love the word “theonomist”. describes halakhah (at least the way i look at it) perfectly.

    TFI – in that case, stop quacking like a duck and i’ll put the hoisin sauce away.

    b’shalom

    bananabrain

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