31 July 2008

Social cohesion – excluding Muslims

Several UK newspapers on Sunday and Monday published alarmist stories based upon a new report entitled Islam on Campus by the Centre for Social Cohesion and a YouGov poll also commissioned by the CfSC. The website of the CfSC explains its purpose as trying to generate: "new thinking that can help bring Britain's ethnic and religious communities closer together while strengthening British traditions of openness, tolerance and democracy."

The headlines included "A third of Muslim students back killings (Sunday Times), One third of British Muslim students say it's acceptable to kill for Islam" (London Evening Standard) and "Killing for religion is justified, say third of Muslim students" (Sunday Telegraph). Clear enough? [Guardian CiF] Read more

‘Divisive’ study on Muslim attitudes comes under fire

A THINK-TANK ACCUSED OF promoting Islamophobia has clashed with the leaders of Scotland's Muslim student associations over claims that a majority of their members believe murdering in the name of religion is justified.

A new study by the controversial Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC), which is to be released tomorrow, says that 60% of students in Muslim associations who were questioned believed religious killings were acceptable.

In findings which appear to damn Muslim organisations as potential hotbeds of extremism, the report points out that among all Muslim students, including those not members of Islamic associations, only 32% claim killing to protect religion is acceptable. Support for the introduction of sharia law into British law for Muslims was also stronger with active Muslim student association members than with non-members. [Sunday Herald] Read more

24 July 2008

In death's shadow

With some exceptions, an increasingly hard line across the Muslim world. In the West, many prominent Muslims would agree with the mufti’s scripturally-based view that leaving Islam is a matter between the believer and God, not for the state.

But awkwardly, the main traditions of scholarship and jurisprudence in Islam—both the Shia school and the four main Sunni ones—draw on Hadiths (words and deeds ascribed with varying credibility to Muhammad) to argue in support of death for apostates. And in recent years sentiment in the Muslim world has been hardening. In every big “apostasy” case, the authorities have faced pressure from sections of public opinion, and from Islamist factions, to take the toughest possible stance. [Economist.com] Read more

18 July 2008

Government funds Muslim thinkers

The British government is to fund a board of Islamic theologians in an attempt to sideline violent extremists. The move will see Oxford and Cambridge Universities host a group of scholars who will lead debate on key issues such as women and loyalty to the UK.

The plans have angered some hardline activists who accuse ministers of trying to create state-sponsored Islam. But Communities Secretary Hazel Blears said it was government's job to support Muslim leaders on controversial issues.

Under the plans, the two universities will bring together about 20 leading thinkers, yet to be named, to debate critical issues affecting Muslims in the UK. The Department for Communities is responsible for the government's strategy to combat violent extremism, known as "Prevent". [BBC] Read more

06 July 2008

Tolerate sharia, yes, but never respect it

.... He must have known, from the experiences of the Archbishop of Canterbury, that no matter what he said, his speech would be inflammatory; as Usama Hasan, an imam and an adviser to the Islamic Sharia Council here said at the time, it is very difficult to have a sensible discussion about sharia here because the subject is “like a red rag” to the public mind.

So, if such an important Establishment figure as Phillips takes it upon himself to stir up this nest of hornets, he must surely have something extremely important to say or to recommend. Yet – and this is the mystery – he appeared to be saying nothing new at all.

The headlines following his speech sounded predictably alarming: “British Muslims should be allowed to live by sharia law”, “Law chief backs the use of sharia law to solve disputes in UK”, “Sharia law could have UK role” and so on. No one quite said “sharia to be let in through back door shock”, but that was the general impression. [Times Online]Read more

04 July 2008

There's a place for sharia

Back in February, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, got into hot water when in a Radio 4 interview he suggested that the adoption of certain aspects of sharia law in the UK 'seems unavoidable'.

Most commentators did not seem to have bothered to read Williams' actual speech which drew parallels between the already existing and well-established network of Orthodox Jewish beth din courts and the more recent sharia councils that have been set up mainly to deal with matrimonial disputes and other civil matters amongst British Muslims. [Guardian Cif] Read more

See what Guardian Cif readers think of this post here.

Sharia law 'could have UK role'

Lord Phillips, the most senior judge in England and Wales, said there was no reason sharia law's principles could not be used in mediation. However, he said this would still be subject to the "jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts".

In a speech at the East London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel, Lord Phillips said that sharia suffered from "widespread misunderstanding". Lord Phillips said: "There is no reason why sharia principles, or any other religious code, should not be the basis for mediation or other forms of alternative dispute resolution. "It must be recognised, however, that any sanctions for a failure to comply with the agreed terms of mediation would be drawn from the laws of England and Wales." [BBC] Read more