The Markets of Islam.

March 12, 2014

Source:  Wikimedia Commons. Author: Adam Jones, Ph.D.  [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Author: Adam Jones, Ph.D. [CC-BY-SA-3.0]

It would be fair to say that Islam benefits from incorporating earlier traditions and concepts from the cultures that surrounded the early Muslim community, at its conception. Indeed, the Qur’an includes several stories borrowed from earlier gnostic Christian texts, whilst certain practices and rituals borrowed from the Pagan culture from which Islam sprang. The general explanation is that the Muhammad of Islamic tradition was influenced by a mix of cultures and sects during his years as a trader. Islam most certainly benefited from incorporating surrounding traditions into its framework.

So with that being said, one must also ask, if Islam benefited from trade links with different cultures during its early years, what ideological benefits did those cultures obtain from Islam? I would argue that the development of capitalism owes much to Arab culture at the dawn of Islam.

According to Islamic tradition, from his early 20s to his death, Muhammad was a man of commerce and trade. This wasn’t unique to Muhammad. Mecca under the Quraysh thrived on markets – the spice trade of the 6th century helped hugely, as did the accumulation of interest later outlawed by Islam – mainly unregulated and often chaotic due to lack of strong political or judicial protections. Nonetheless, the location of Mecca and the importance of the Ka’bah for pilgrims, rendered it a great environment for trade. Especially true, because inter-tribal fighting was prohibited in this commercial centre, making it a safe place to do business, whilst worshipping. Mecca’s mix of both faith with the Ka’bah, and commerce with the market, is a mixture that Islam would appropriate and make its own.

Indeed, Islamic tradition holds that Muhammad himself married Khadija; an incredibly successful merchant famed for investing in trade delegations, including one in which Muhammad brought back twice the return she had expected on her investment. Muhammad understood how to make money, how to get along in business, and he understood investment opportunities when he saw them. By the time of his death, he was incredibly wealthy.

His business character aside, Muhammad’s economic pronouncements during his time in Medina provided a framework conducive for business and incentivising further trade in the region, whilst Europe languished in a hopeless feudal dark age. Hadith supposedly collected by Abu Dawud in book 013, Hadith Number 3067, gives us an example of early property rights:

“Narated By Sa’id ibn Zayd : The Prophet (pbuh) said: If anyone brings barren land into cultivation, it belongs to him, and the unjust vein has no right.”

– The trustworthiness of this hadith attributed to Muhammad is irrelevant. What is relevant, is that this Hadith was collected in the 9th century, and so it is clear that the concept of property rights over laboured land existed at that period of time in the Middle East. Property rights would be a concept progressed beautifully by the Leveller movement during the English civil war centuries later. It would also become a concept that Locke elaborated upon, and would later define the nature of capitalism and its criticisms.

As well as property rights, one particular Hadith also collected by Abu Dawud gives us a taste of Adam Smith’s later ‘invisible hand’ metaphor:

“one person came to the Prophet and requested him to fix prices in the market but he refused. Another man came and made the same request; the Prophet said it is Allah who pushes prices up or down, I do not want to face Him with a burden of injustice”

– Here, it is quite obvious that debate around interfering with market forces was being had, in the 9th century. For 9th Century Muslim Arabs, price rises and falls were a natural process, and that human interference was a ‘burden of injustice’. It isn’t a relatively new discussion. Later, in the 13th Century, the Hanbali scholar and author, Imam Shamsuddeen Ibn Qudamah al-Maqdisi wrote:

“Two facts can be derived from the hadith. First, the Prophet did not control prices despite people’s pressure on him which should suggest that it is disallowed. If it were lawful the Prophet would have yielded to their demand. The second point is that the Prophet equated price control with injustice (zulm) and injustice is forbidden. The goods whose price was sought to be controlled were property of a man (trader). And that man cannot be prevented from selling his goods at an agreed upon price by the two parties, i.e. the buyer and the seller”

“In a way the control of price may give rise to price rise. The traders from outside will not bring their goods in a place where they would be forced to sell them at a price against their wish. The local traders would hide the goods instead of selling. People would get less than their need, so they would offer a higher price to obtain the goods.
Both parties (sellers and buyers) would lose; the sellers because they were prevented from selling their goods, and the buyers because they were prevented from fulfilling their needs. So this act will be termed as forbidden”

– By the 13th century, Islamic scholars were debating the economic problems associated with price fixing, rather than just in relation to faith and Godly demands. For this, they were relying on hadith as their base. Again, whether Muhammad actually said what is claimed in hadith is irrelevant. What is relevant is that economic theory was being debated – in relation to faith, and justice – by at least the 13th century, with its origin in at least 9th century Arabia.

Relating to market pricing, and also in the 13th century, the Islamic scholar Ibn Taymiyyah wrote:

“If desire for goods increases while its availability decreases, its price rises. On the other hand, if availability of the good increases and the desire for it decreases, the price comes down.”

– We begin to see that concepts inherent to capitalism were being debated and practiced centuries prior to early capitalist structures on the Mediterranean coast in Europe.

Alongside the concept of property rights, and the nature of prices, we are also presented with the rules Muhammad supposedly laid down for the creation of the market in Medina. Al-Samhùdfs ‘History of Medina’, gives us a glimpse of that market:

‘Umar b. Shabba transmitted on the authority of ‘Atâ’ b. Yasár: When the Messenger of God wanted to establish for Medina a market, he came to the market of the Qaynuqa’, then he went to the market of Medina, stamped on it with his foot and declared: “This is your market, let its space not be diminished and let no tax be taken in it.”

– Long before the advent of Capitalism in Europe, the middle east – whether from Muhammad’s mouth or not – had a concept of individual property rights, free market prices, and incentives for business growth with the story of the tax-less market in Medinah. These were all concepts being discussed and tested in early Islamic Arabia. It is no surprise that Europe’s early capitalist centres – Venice especially – had strong trade links with the middle east, and were thus exposed to the Protestant work ethic and growing sense of individual freedom largely based in northern Protestant Europe, but also the frameworks developed for trade in Islamic societies centuries earlier.

Further, Abd al-Malik’s reign as Caliph – an indescribably important Caliph, responsible for much of what we know of Islam today, I wrote on here – saw the establishment of the dinar in previously independent currency areas, and thus began an era of monetary policy. Later came deficit financing, and early forms of savings and checking accounts. Modern principles of market economies, were developed within the markets of Islam.

This naturally leads to the question; how is it that the Middle East is now struggling economically, if the religion that it is based on seems just as suited, if not more so to capitalism than its Christian counterpart? Economic historian Angus Maddison points out that in 1000AD the Middle East’s global share of GDP was 10% to Europe’s 9%. But by 1800AD the Middle East’s share of GDP fell to 2%, with Europe’s rising to 22%. Life expectancy in the middle east is 8.5 years shorter than Europe, North America and East Asia. Indeed, in the 19th century global trade increased 64 fold, compared to the Ottomans, for whom it increased just 10 to 16 fold. What happened?

It is true that western economic development relied heavily on slavery at its foundation. But, so did the Ottoman Empire, and most Arab societies. At Istanbul in the early 1600s, one fifth of the population were slaves. According to Robert Davis, professor of history at Ohio State University, around 1.25 million Europeans were captured and enslaved as a result of the Barbary raids by largely Arab and Berber peoples. According to Britannica.com:

“Slaves were owned in all Islamic societies, both sedentary and nomadic, ranging from Arabia in the centre to North Africa in the west and to what is now Pakistan and Indonesia in the east. Some Islamic states, such as the Ottoman Empire, the Crimean Khanate, and the Sokoto caliphate, must be termed slave societies because slaves there were very important numerically as well as a focus of the polities’ energies.”

“Approximately 18 million Africans were delivered into the Islamic trans-Saharan and Indian Ocean slave trades between 650 and 1905.”

– Muslims were imperialist too. Arab towns and ports involved in the slave trade included Zabīd in Yemen, Muscat in Oman, and Aden in Yemen. Indeed, as late as 1963 the population of Saudi Arabia included around 300,000 slaves. Slavery also helped to build the power of the Chinese economy. Korea enslaved people. Slaves existed in India. And so, we must look to other sources for information why the Arab world started to decline economically.

Several theories persist – western imperialism being the most often suggested – though I am inclined to accept Timur Kuran’s argument in his wonderful book: “The Long Divergence: How Islamic Law Held Back the Middle East“. In it, Kuran argues that whilst this early form of Islamic proto-capitalism benefited early Muslims immensely for centuries following Muhammad’s death – the system was far more advanced than at the same point in time in Europe – it later became anchored to very dogmatic faith-based restrictions from Islamic jurisprudence of the middle ages that simply went unchallenged. And so as gradual liberation and evolution of market forces from state power in Europe – ironically, utilising methods cultivated by Arabs – gave the west a steady advantage, Islamic societies in the middle east – despite having clear advantages through past innovations – began to stagnate and fall behind due to a failure to modernise and utilise productive resources.

Kuran points to Islamic law governing business partnerships and inheritance for two examples of the more dogmatic ideological approach Islamic societies enforced through institutions. Kuran does not suggest that Islam itself is incompatible with modern liberal economies, simply that institutions developed – some much later – that severely restricted growth, and that those structures remained unchallenged. Whilst those laws and institutions had their benefits originally – they were particularly egalitarian whilst at the same time promoting innovative commerce and sophisticated partnerships for the time – they later began to hold back innovation with their failure to modernise, whilst Europe was experimenting with far more complex business frameworks.

Kuran notes that during the middle ages, Islamic jurisprudence decreed that business partnerships automatically disbanded the moment a partner died, regardless of how well that venture was doing. Kuran says:

“Active partners carried full liability. Also, an Islamic partnership lacked entity shielding: any partner could force its dissolution unilaterally, and its assets were exposed to demands from third parties. The death of a partner terminated the partnership automatically, giving heirs an immediate claim on a share of the assets; all surviving members incurred costs in the process of settlements. Moreover, the number of heirs could be large, because Islam’s inheritance law assigns mandatory shares to designated relatives of the decedent.”

– This meant that partnerships lasted very little time, were painfully insufficient and institutionally restricted from long term growth. There was just no framework for the development of modern, long lasting businesses and corporations that emerged in the west. This structure in the Middle East remained largely untouched right up until the 19th Century.

It must be said that this is a very quick summary of Kuran’s book. He elaborates and articulates the point far better than I ever could. I would strongly recommend getting a copy for a deeper explanation of the connection between Islamic jurisprudence in the middle ages, and the economic structures built around it.

The west’s enlightenment era philosophers on both social and economic theory – like Locke and Smith – seemingly took ideas already long in circulation – like property rights – developed them further, and structured a wonderful concept of individual civil and economic rights from that base. It took two revolutions in France and the US to begin that huge social and economic transformation. This was the key to the explosion of economic growth in Europe and the west. The separation of church and state, liberation of market forces, secular democratic protections, gender, race, and sexuality equality, and the limited power of the state over the rights and freedoms of the individual combined to give western economies far more room to innovate and grow. Secular democratic institutions have the remarkable quality of constantly reviewing social issues and updating accordingly; a quality lacking when a state and economy are under the control of one prevailing ideology.

As some largely Islamic countries now begin to embrace those modern concepts, invest in infrastructure, and liberalise socially and economically – Tunisia is a good example – I have no doubt that it will unleash innovation and creativity on a grand scale again, benefiting the entire planet.

It is easy in the west for us to overlook the contribution of Arab Muslim theorists throughout the ages on the development of structures we now take for granted. Many Arab economic theorists were centuries ahead of their European counterparts. Equally, it seems just as easy for Arab Muslims – particularly Islamists – to dismiss the developments – both socially and economically – since the days of the Caliphates, as a product of the big evil imperial west existing only to conquer ‘Muslim lands’. I would argue that there needs to be a systematic change to the prevailing narrative in so much as it currently seems to place notions of equal rights, secularism, and market liberalisation as ‘western values’ rather than universal. This naturally then leads to both Muslims and non-Muslims extolling the equally as misguided presumption that Islam itself is incapable of modernising and liberalising. It is a defensive reaction from both sides. This needs to be addressed, because it seems to me that equal protections and individual liberties manifested as free expression, the right to worship according to one’s own personal conscience, to associate, to trade, to love, and to pursue happiness regardless of gender, race, belief, or sexuality without oppression from any exclusive ideological principles, are universal principles that benefit all.

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Dawkins, Hasan, and the Tale of the Night Journey.

August 10, 2013

al-buraq-5

At the end of 2012, Richard Dawkins met with Mehdi Hasan to discuss religion as a force for good or evil, and if religion can coexist with science, at Oxford Union. During the talk, Hasan was asked if he believed that the Prophet Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged horse, in reference to al-‘Isrā’ wal-Mi’rāj. His answer was yes, and you cannot prove he didn’t. I wanted to address this answer, because it seems to be the argument from people from the three major religions, that their ‘miracles’ are believable, and thus, rational, because Atheists are unable to prove that they didn’t happen. Moses parted the sea, we can’t prove he didn’t. Jesus returned from the dead. We can’t prove he didn’t. Noah managed to fit millions of species into his boat. We can’t prove he didn’t. The Prophet flew 700 miles on a winged horse named al-Buraq (though, this detail is not mentioned in the Qur’an, but in later Hadith) and up to heaven from Jerusalem, met Jesus, Adam, Abraham, and Moses, all in one night. We can’t prove he didn’t. And so to believers, this suggests that if we can’t definitively prove he didn’t, it somehow increases the probability that it happened, to “checkmate Atheists!”. I find this a uniquely unintelligible position to hold.

Firstly, I wanted to discuss what I believe to be the motive behind Sura 17 of the Qur’an that briefly mentions the Night Journey. As noted in my previous article, the oldest Qur’anic text we currently have – Sana’a manuscript – dates back to the rule of fifth Uyammad Caliph, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan. I have come to the conclusion that Abd al-Malik was an exceptionally gifted ruler and political genius. The foundations of the Islam we know in the 21st Century, can be traced back to him. The legends around the Prophet Muhammad, can be dated back to him. The bringing together of tradition, state power, dynasty legacy, and religion, can be dated back to him. He knew how to secure an empire. He was a master of PR. Muhammad’s name was used to strengthen Abd al-Malik’s position as Caliph. One of his most impressive shows of power and wealth, can be seen with the Dome of the Rock and the ‘expansion’ of Al-Aqsa Mosque. The importance of this project cannot be underestimated. It’s placement – in the centre of Jewish Jerusalem, and towering above the Church of the Sepulcher – was a show of power. In a single architectural blow, al-Malik had overpowered thousands of years of Jewish and Christian history, in their most Holy of places, and designated himself and his dynasty as its successor. The winged horse, the flight, is irrelevant. The point was the importance of Jerusalem.

To link the Prophet – who never stepped foot in Jerusalem – to Jerusalem, al-Malik needed to be creative, and to send out a powerful message that this city now belonged to the new empire, and the new dynasty. The first step, was to create the most impressive architectural marvel; the Dome. Now, he needed to link this to the new religion that would be the centrepiece of the new empire (religion and empire were intrinsically linked, this wasn’t lost on al-Malik). But there was no obvious link at first. Afterall, the Qur’an names the spot that the Prophet flew to as “the furthest place of worship“, not Jerusalem. There is no reason to suspect the Qur’an meant Jerusalem. Al-Aqsa mosque was not built during Muhammad’s life time. There was no mosque in Jerusalem at this time. The myth must have developed later (though some Muslim writers have found elaborately creative ways to get around this glaring mistake). And so, It will not come as a surprise to you, that the Mosque in Jerusalem, was built by the Uyammad’s, just as a narrative was developing. And so we see attempts from that era, to link the Ka’bah in Mecca, to Jerusalem. To do so, creates a city of Islam out of the city of Jerusalem.

There are two possibilities: Firstly, Muhammad flew on a winged animal, to the middle of Jerusalem, and then up to heaven, which he did either by passing through a portal to another dimension, or… there is a physical place called Heaven somewhere in the universe…. he then met with the obvious characters from the Biblical and Jewish narratives (coincidentally), and then came back (we can discount the spiritual interpretation, because Hasan is quite clear that he believes the Prophet DID fly to Jerusalem and then to heaven). He passed this story on, which continued to be passed on word for word, until the Qur’an was written down, and further discussed in Hadith.

Or secondly, it is all myth. And it started around the time we’d expect, given the PR effort the Umayyads were making to secure their dynasty by appealing to the earlier history of the Arab surge out of Mecca, in an attempt to forge an imperial identity.

I’m inclined to go along with the latter, and I say this because it is the only rational position one could possibly adopt, after studying the evidence, and weighing the probability of the two options. To believe the former, you dismiss the latter, and by doing so you must conclude that the laws of physics are in fact, not laws after all. They can be broken. You also have to decide whether ‘heaven’ is a supernatural realm, in which case al-Buraq managed to pass through a magic portal to get there, or ‘heaven’ is in the universe somewhere, in which case, where? How fast must the winged horse travel to get there? Either way, you see there might be trouble with the finer details of your story. If you chose to believe the story of the night journey, you have a lot of evidence building to do in order to destroy the very foundations of all science. I look forward to your thesis.

Indeed, belief in the validity of al-‘Isrā’ wal-Mi’rāj, means that the work of thousands of wonderful scientists, those who laid the foundations of our understanding of physical universal principles, must be wrong. That their work, built upon by thousands more well established, peer reviewed scientists from across the planet, repeated experiment, with centuries of thorough investigation and intense calculations and evidence building; must be wrong. To suggest that these principles that have been slugged out over centuries to give us a firm understanding of the way the universe works, are all actually wrong, requires more evidence than simply “well, you can’t say that he didn’t“. To believe it to be true, means you directly contradict, and in fact, dismiss, all known phsyical properties of the universe. You cannot claim reason, after abandoning reason.

The two positions; that of “he did fly to heaven“, and “he didn’t fly to heaven“, do not have equal weight. The evidence is weighed heavily in favour of science. It is true, I cannot prove beyond any doubt, that the Prophet Muhammad didn’t fly on a winged animal, to heaven. I wasn’t there. But I can make an educated guess, using what we know of the universe and the laws it operates under, because we have nothing to suggest those laws are untrue in any way. Even if suddenly evidence were provided to suggest that universal principles can be broken, we would then need to provide evidence that they were indeed broken on that particular day. A suggestion, in an 8th Century book is not evidence. It is no more evidence, than if I were to write down that I have an invisible monkey that flies me to the moon every Sunday. And it requires of me than just “You can’t prove otherwise.

If I am to contradict & dismiss absolutely everything we know about the fundamental workings of the universe, then the burden of proof is on me to show that it is at least possible first, and then to show that it did happen as I say it did. As far as I am aware, no religious “miracle” has so far destroyed the foundations of modern science in that way. This includes the night journey.

Hasan asked Dawkins:

“Do you regard them all [people who believe in God and the supernatural] as intellectually inferior to you?”

– But I Think Hasan has the question the wrong way round. It seems to me, if you’re willing to so flippantly and easily believe a story that contradicts and disregards extensive research, studies, evidence of all those who have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of understanding of the laws of the universe, and forcefully squeeze your book of unsubstantiated myths and legends, without any evidence to back up what any of it says; you’re the one who believes yourself to be intellectually superior, not just to the person you’re talking to, but to the entire scientific community. Hasan says “I’m willing to say, I can’t prove that he did“. This is irrelevant. If you’re a Muslim, you believe that Muhammad flew to heaven on a winged animal, because the Qur’an and Hadith say so. You therefore believe it more probable than not, which in turn means you believe all scientists to be mistaken. This is a sense of intellectual superiority on an extreme level. Dawkins is simply reflecting the work of thousands of scientists – including many incredible Islamic scientists – when he suggests that the Prophet did not fly to heaven on a winged animal. This isn’t about what Professor Dawkins believes, it’s about what science has taught us. Belief of one Professor is irrelevant.

It seems more probable to me that the universal physical laws, which have never been observably broken, and show no reason to believe they ever will be; were not suspended to allow a man to fly around on winged animal that can either break the speed of light, or can travel between dimensions. It seems far more probable that the story of the night journey was created to provide more strength to a brilliant dynasty that had become obsessed with creating a narrative to justify its power. Thus, staking their claim over Jerusalem. Then came coins, huge stunningly crafted buildings of wealth and prestige in politically important places, patronage of great artists and poets, the centralisation of power into a more bureaucratic state, the nationalisation of Arabic as the language of Empire, and a need to link all of this back to the man that was – undoubtedly – considered the hero of the Arabs in the 7th Century, Muhammad. This all happened at the same time, for the same purpose. This isn’t coincidence. This is design. This is Abd al-Malik’s, and his sons design. The night journey conforms to that design perfectly. It is therefore more probable that the night journey is a myth, for reasons stated above, than it is probable that the physical order of the universe be broken.

The discussion between Dawkins and Hasan at Oxford Union can be seen here.


The Ironic Nature of The “Global Peace & Unity” Event.

April 5, 2013

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There seems to be a growing incapability of Western ‘liberals‘ (and I consider myself a Western liberal) to criticise anything to do in any way, with Islam, or any of those who preach hate in such open forums, if they happen to be Muslim. It is taboo. We register our “disgust” with those who make “offensive” cartoons of the Prophet, and attempt to defend those who burn down embassies simply because they are “offended“. It is treated akin to racism, to criticise, mock, satirise Islam, in a way that isn’t present when speaking of Christianity, for example.
We will for example see countless ‘Unite Against Fascism‘ counter-demonstrations against the Fascist EDL or BNP. We wont see the same anti-fascist sentiment from the UAF aimed at preachers of Islamic hate at the ‘Global Peace and Unity‘ Event. Excuses are made; we are told it’s our fault in the West, for the behaviour of Islamic extremists, rather than taking any sort of critical analysis of the Qur’an, Hadith, the history of Islamism, the autonomous nature of its ideology, or Scholarly works. It is a curious form of liberalism, an extreme form of cultural relativism. A form in which we see ‘Respect‘ councillor Salma Yaqoob tell us that any attack on the ‘Global Peace and Unity Event‘ must come from ultra-zionists. She doesn’t mention the countless vile hate preachers that speak at the event, nor does she speak out against the vile rhetoric employed by some at this event. Instead, she used her time to lecture us, predictably, on how terrible the West is, and how anyone who says otherwise, is Islamophobic. She goes on to say:

“The kind of politics motivating these attacks on the GPU and IslamExpo events is highly dangerous. If, inside the Muslim community, the public space to even discuss concerns and distress over foreign policy gets squeezed, a dangerous vacuum is created….

…We should also challenge and seek to eradicate hateful ideologies which seek to divide us, whether this is Islamophobia, anti-Semitism or any other form of racism. ”

– I will demonstrate in this article, what those “concerns and distress” amounts to. It amounts to Salma herself, referring to 7/7 as a “reprisal attack“. It includes promoting terrorism, killing those who insult Islam, and insisting that society should not tolerate homosexuality in any way.
She unreasonably suggests that those of us criticising the GPU events, wish to silence discussion on foreign policy. Which is utterly ridiculous.

Notice also that her only inclusion of what constitutes ‘hateful ideologies‘ are based on religion. She mentions racism, but in the same context as religion. This follows the Islamophobia line, that to criticise or satirise the concept of Islam, is inherently racist. This is a supremely effective way of silencing criticism from a liberal perspective, making sure criticism of Islam in any form is regarded as the realm of the far right only. This has to change.
She does not include homophobia, hate for “the West” (which i’m now calling Kuffarophobic), or calling for the death of anyone deemed to have “insulted” Islam. Her position, is indicative of a Muslim superiority complex. Her sentiment, that we should all love each other, be one, fight those who seek to divide; is a beautiful sentiment. Yet when applied to the event that she is defending here, it is completely devoid of reality.

When you hear that an event entitled ‘Global Peace and Unity‘ will again be staged in London, and that it is usually attended by many tens of thousands of people, it inspires a sense of hope for humanity. That perhaps, people are able to put aside their religious, social, and economic differences and call for a time of unity for humanity based not on silly little prejudices, but on our common connections. Unfortunately, that is not what the annual ‘Global Peace and Unity’ event promotes, when we take a look at who is asked to attend and speak at these events. The conclusion is far more sinister.

One of the stalls selling merchandise at the 2010 event, was a group calling themselves “Wearaloud“. The stall sold tshirts (one of which the Telegraph brought, at the event) with the logo of al-Qassam Brigade, the militant wing of Hamas, responsible for countless terrorist attacks. Shirts showing militants holding rifles, and others with the flag of Hezbollah. This isn’t surprising when we see who organises the event that Yaqoob thinks is a symbol of peace and unity.

The event is organised by the ‘Islam Channel‘, for the sake of promoting dialogue within Islam.
This, from a channel in which Islamist propaganda is spewed daily, whilst also, rather curiously, playing the victim card with constant references to “Islamophobia“. Mehdi Hasan similarly uses the victim mentality, shouting “Isamophobia” at anyone slightly critical of his faith, or satirising his Prophet, whilst at the same time insisting that it’s perfectly reasonable to refer to non-believers as “animals” and that we are a “people of no intelligence“, see here for my article on the hypocrisy of Mehdi Hasan, and the right and responsibility of all to be free to question and offend ideas that demand authority over the lives of others.

In the past, the Islam Channel has openly advertised DVDs for the sermons of al-Awlaki; a regional commander of Al Qaeda, a preacher of hate including to 9/11 hijackers, himself involved in the failed Christmas day airplane bombing, and in contact with the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. A terrorism expert referred to al-Awlaki, the hero of the ‘Islam Channel‘ as:

“one of the principal jihadi luminaries for would-be homegrown terrorists.”

In 2010, Nazreen Nawaz, a reporter for the channel, and member of Hizb ut-Tahrir; a group that wishes to impose a resurrected Islamic Caliphate upon non-Muslims across the World, by destroying Secularism, and feels the need to insult everything – including the concept of Democracy – that doesn’t conform to Islamist standards as “kufr” (an abusive term for non-muslims) said this:

“The idea that a woman cannot refuse her husband’s relations…. this is not strange to a Muslim because it is part of maintaining that strong marriage. But it shouldn’t be such a big problem where the man feels he has to force himself upon the woman.”

– So keep that in mind, when these kuffarophobic, extremist, sycophants attempt to mould the words “peace” and “unity” to their horrific cause, whilst referring to anyone who disagrees as “Islamophobic“.

One of the speakers at a past ‘Global Peace and Unity‘ event was Sheikh Shady Al-Suleiman. He is active with the “Muslim Youth” (also known as, indoctrinating impressionable minds). On his website, his group gleefully announces that they have invited al-Awlaki to speak in front of thousands of young people. The forum is full of excited extremists. According to Lakemba mosque, which put on the event, Al-Suleiman was the man in charge of booking the speakers at the time. Of all the people he could have chosen, why one of the most extreme, violent, and deadly men on the planet, linked to practically every major terrorist incident in decades? Sheik Shady Al-Suleiman is advertised here on the ‘Global Peace‘ website.

It isn’t only Al-Awlaki promoters invited to speak on ‘Global Peace & Unity‘. Here they are advertising the Pakistani Muslim fanatical politician Mohammad Ijaz ul-Haq. They describe his previous statements rather flippantly with:

“Ijaz is famous for his comments supporting nuclear engineer Abdul Qadeer Khan as well as his public denunciation of the knighthood of Salman Rushdie.”

– “Public denunciation” it was not. Public incitement to terrorism and suicide attacks, it was. On the subject of Sir Salman Rushdie receiving a Knighthood, ul-Haq (invited to the Global PEACE and UNITY event) said this:

“If someone exploded a bomb on his body he would be right to do so unless the British government apologises and withdraws the ‘sir’ title.”

– Here, he presumes he has a right to threaten the UK, and the life of a man who simply wrote a book that he and others found “offensive“, unless the government does as he wants, and conforms to his ideals on ‘blasphemy‘; ideals that the rest of us grew out of centuries ago. Ijaz is a member of the Pakistani Government, whose delegation to the UN demanded their role extend to finding and publicly shaming:

“abuses of free expression including defamation of religions and prophets”.

– Defamation of a religion, consider an ‘abuse of free speech‘? Can we similarly search out and publicly shame those who constantly defame the “kuffar“, or “The West“? or homosexuality? Do those Islamist ideals fall under ‘abuses of free expression‘? I suspect not. We are all entitled to defame, criticise, satirise, and mock, ideas that demand authority over the lives of others. It is a right, and it is essential. It is horrendous for any liberal minded person, to defend these illiberal, totalitarian, Theocrats. It isn’t just offensive to Western values, it is offensive to liberal values. He is entitled to his views, he is entitled to say what he thinks, we cannot, and should not silence him. But the moment he starts inciting violence, he should no longer be tolerated.
This is a violent man, advocating the World conform to his standards, by threat of violence, based on an extreme interpretation of Islam, which places it above all forms of criticism or satire. A civilised, liberal society is no place for a man like that.

Muhammad Alshareef, a speaker at the 2010 ‘Global Peace & Unity‘ festival, is a big fan of attacking, and Jews, as much as possible. Here he says:

“When a Prophet came to them, if what he taught did not appeal to them they either rejected that truth or slit the throat of the Prophet and followed what was to them appealing.
[We had already taken the covenant of the Children of Israel and had sent to them messengers. Whenever there came to them a messenger with what their souls did not desire, a groups (of the Messengers) they denied and another party they killed.] – al-Maa’idah 5/70
And we must remember here that this is not the commentary of some human journalist who claims to be neutral. This is the Lord of the Universe telling us – in verses to be read till the final day – the deepest secrets that lie in the pits of Judaism.”

– The “deepest secrets that lie in the pits of Judaism“. The Islamic superiority complex; one that feels it can insult whomever it wishes, whilst condemning to death anyone who “insults” Islam.
Alshareef’s Islamic superiority complex continues:

“The Qur’ân tells us of snakes in the grass that bit the Jews. Allâh tells us this so that we may take warning of what led them to evoke Allâh’s anger and not be bitten by the same snake………. A Muslim may never marry a Jewish or Christian man that remains in his beliefs.”

– The Jews are presented as wicked, in need of saving, by a vicious God that Jews don’t believe in, in the first place.
That Muslims are not supposed to keep their faith private, but instead, must get in the face of innocent Jewish people, minding their own business, to parrot the line that they’re wicked and in need of saving. This has nothing to do with Israel. We are lead to believe that Islamists simply dislike the violent nature of Israel. It just isn’t true. One look at the Constitutions of Hamas and Fatah, will show you that Islamists dislike Jews, because they are not Muslim. Hamas are currently teaching Hebrew to children in Gaza, not to advance a peaceful resolution through dialogue, but to “understand the language of the enemy”. Here, watch this rather harrowing clip. Those who preach anti-Jewish hatred, are given a platform in what Yaqoob describes as “uniting all in favour of peace and unity“.
Notice as well, a Muslim may never marry a Jewish or Christian “man“. It doesn’t matter who the woman falls in love with, according to alshareef. She’s a woman. And therefore must do as the patriarchal Islamists demand. Horrendous. Illiberal.

It’s not just Jews that Alshareef hates, and tells others to hate. It’s also gay people. Homosexuality is only stigmatised, because of the bile that people like alshareef spew. The bullying continues, because of religious hatred. There is no logical reason to stigmatise homosexuality. Nothing. It is just religion.
Religious people, who insist we are intolerant of their beliefs, then spew hate like this:

“Whenever there is a gay rally – isn’t it interesting that they call them gay, they’re happy people, right? – there are a type of people who go to these rallies and stand up for the truth. They have signs that tell them to stop what they’re doing or they will go to hellfire. Do you think they are Muslims? No, they are not Muslims, they are Christians. They are Christians who stand up for this. … I pray to Allah that you will join the ranks and start to stand up and speak against things like this.”

– “Stand up for the truth“. Muslims are most definitely a group of people that do not quite understand the word “truth“.
He doesn’t quantify what he means by “truth“, but he argues that the Christian aggression against homosexuality, is correct, and so we must look at the “truth” of the Christian arguments. It usually falls into three rather ridiculous arguments. Firstly “It’s unnatural“. In fact, there is not one reputable scientific source that will in any way, suggest that sexuality is merely a choice. There is not one reputable scientific source that will say: “You know, turns out Leviticus and homophobic Muslim were right. TRUTH!”. None. This includes:The American Psychiatric Association, The World Health Organisation, The American Psychological Association, The American Medical Association, The Academy of Pediatrics, The UK Royal College of Psychiatrists, Council on Child and Adolescent Health, The British Psychological Society,The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy…. all of these intensely reputable sources, with a wealth of research and evidence, will all tell you that sexuality, is part of a natural spectrum. There is no debate here. We could also point to homosexuality spotted in over 1000 species. Do you know what isn’t natural? Do you know what isn’t noticed in over 1000 species? A Prophet claiming ‘divine‘ revelation from a God that spends an eerily convenient amount of time proscribing a large array of women the Prophet is allowed to marry or have sex with, whilst murdering his way across the World. I could go on, but I cover the silly religious arguments against same-sex marriage here. We must be intolerant of religious intolerance. It is based on nothing but ‘belief‘ in absurdities, obscure teachings, and 7th century ‘morality‘. And yet, this man is given a platform to announce his hate to even more people, at an event manipulatively entitled “Global Peace and Unity”. It should come with the subtitle: “Unless you’re gay. Or Jewish. Or a dirty Kuffar“.

Here’s another horrid little Islamic Preacher invited to the 2010 ‘Peace and Unity‘ event. Yasir Qadhi. A man who has spoken and written on “Islamophobia“, also seems to enjoy propagating his disturbingly vicious views on Homosexuality. He speaks of living in the ’80s, when names were given to “these people“, when the “average” person viewed gay people with disdain. With apparent nostalgia, and admiration for that period of time, that led to such vitriol, and uninformed hatred, Yasir Qadhi suggests we have now “regressed” out of that ’80s mindset, because it is unacceptable to present weak and dangerous arguments that promote the further stigmatising of homosexuality. Here, is presents a hugely illiberal and curiously uninformed idea, as acceptable.
He is a typical religious extremist, fighting tooth and nail against any evidence that contradicts his position. It isn’t that he’s banned from speaking out, he can be as hate filled as he wishes. It is simply that Western, liberal society does not accept his arguments are legitimate any more. They are baseless. They are vicious, and they have been crushed by reason along with a huge amount of verified research pointing the fact that sexuality, is just as natural as eye colour or skin colour, and that to stigmatise based on something so natural, is just not right. This is what Qadhi doesn’t like. He wants to be free to be a homophobe, without being called a homophobe. His freedom to abuse people, he feels is under threat. Good.

He then, rather amusingly, states that its unfair to call anti-homosexual remarks “hatred” or “homophobia“…. he follows this by telling us a story about his mythical fairy sky man lifting up a city of gays into the air, turning it upside down, and smashing it into the ground, to punish them for being gay; that the Dead Sea is full of “evil waters” because of gay people, hinting to us, that gay people should be punished for being gay…. but then insisting that its not hateful for saying so. Given that it is a fact that homosexuality has a genetic element, it would seem that his God created gay people, only to kill them all for being gay. What a nasty little game.
He then argues that our Western values ‘change day to day‘. This is of course what all Islamists like to suggest, when arguing a case for religious “objective morality“. What they mean is, Western values are based on reason, and evidence, which progresses over time. We change based on the information we have available to us, and according to humanist principles. Some times we get it wrong. But we learn and we move on.

Perhaps he’s right. Perhaps we should base our entire system of morals on the life of a Prophet who married a 6 year old girl, sold women captives into slavery, and waged war on anyone who disagreed, along with his band of thugs. Maybe we should find it acceptable to demand death for apostasy. Maybe, instead of employing actual thought, we should look at the suspicious ‘revelations‘ given to one man, whenever he or his friends had an idea and take it as the quite obvious word of God. For example, It seems from the Qur’an that Allah didn’t actually wish women to be veiled originally. But Muhammad’s friend Umar ‘wishes’ it, and suddenly Muhammad gets a conveniently timed call from Allah, and women are to be veiled from then on, for the most mundane reason:

And as regards the (verse of) the veiling of the women, I said, “O Allah’s Apostle! I wish you ordered your wives to cover themselves from the men because good and bad ones talk to them.” So the verse of the veiling of the women was revealed. (Qur’an 24:31)

How dare we suggest that it is not reasoning to include the ‘wishes’ of a friend of a suspiciously ambiguous historical figure, or the remarks of a suspiciously ambiguous 7th Century Middle Eastern book into consideration when framing out system of values. How silly of us. Maybe we should all kill people for land that we claim divine right over. Maybe we should suspend all of our faculties of reason, and critical abilities, and just unquestioningly accept the authority of one religion. Maybe that’s the way forward. And in the meantime, we’ll slay all gay people, demand death for anyone who wrote a book we didn’t like, and belittle Jews. Global Peace and Unity!

This isn’t an event that cares too much for peace and unity. It certainly doesn’t conform to Salma Yaqoob’s grotesque manipulations residing in the shadows of all the straw men she employs. It is an Islamic exercise and showcase in superiority, another chance to call “Islamophobia” against any criticism, whilst affording the opportunity for bigots, racists, extremists, violent people who wish to silence all criticism of their faith through threats, stall owners profiting from selling terrorist merchandise, and regressive ignorant homophobes to shout down any hint of Western ideals and liberal values. It is the show case of the Kuffarophobes. It is dangerous, it is divisive, and it offers a huge platform for fascists and thugs. Do not be deceived into believing it is a liberal event, calling for peace, unity, and an end to divisions. It isn’t. Quite the opposite.

Those, like myself, who consider ourselves truly liberal, must be prepared to speak out against illiberal, and vastly destabilising and divisive rhetoric and actions, regardless of where they come from. We must accept that within a secular, and liberal framework, far-right Muslims have just as much right to express their views as the rest of us. But to be tolerant of diversity, is to be suspicious of, and speak out against those preaching intolerance, and hate as unfalsifiable dogma, rather than points that can be argued rationally against and confined to the history bin of bad ideas. Islam is an idea. Like Conservatism. Like Democracy. Like Liberalism. Like Christianity. As such, it is open to all the satire, criticism, and mocking that comes with every idea; especially those that seek authority over others. We must not consider those ideas freee from criticism, ridicule, satire, or any form of questioning simply because the illiberal nature of the view is cloaked in “faith“.