We have read the High Court Judgement relating to the case brought by the Imam, Shakeel Begg, against the BBC for their admitted defamatory labelling of him as ‘extremist’.
Some people might be shocked at this judgement, thinking it betrays the personal bias of the judge – who names Hassan al-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Maulana Maududi in a list of people he describes as ‘notorious political Islamists and violent extremists of recent times’. Others will be surprised that the positive supportive statements from Muslims and non-Muslims in the local community are explained as part of a ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ personality.
But this judgement is not about one individual and one case.
The real issue with this judgement is that it affirms the accusation made against the British State’s counter-‘extremism’ strategies – that they label people as ‘extremists’ for expressing orthodox Islamic views and dissenting political views. It is dangerous because it sets a legal precedent in libel cases on what is ‘acceptable Islam’ in Britain. It is confirmation that the secular State is interfering in matters of theology and the political opinions of the Muslim community in a way they would never do for another community.
Putting aside what the Imam is supposed to have meant by the various statements attributed to him, there are criteria and conclusions expressed in this judgement which has implications for ALL Muslims, who might be similarly smeared as ‘extremists’ based on these criteria.
Examples of the factors that affected the judgment in accepting the BBC labelling the Imam as ‘extremist’ include:
- The use in speeches of statements such as “every soul will taste death” and “you will meet Allah”.
- The judge seemingly deciding the appropriateness of linguistic and Shari’ terminology – and concluding a debate about ‘offensive’/’defensive’ Jihad that ‘it is clear in my view, that the Qur’an permits only defensive jihad’; so threatening to close all juristic debate on a matter through the labelling of other views as ‘extremism’.
- Accusations that the ‘American Government of “tyranny”, “oppression” and “terror” against the Muslim people’ – or similar statements when criticising governments for policies that are viewed as hostile.
These examples and others reinforce the fact that what is called ‘counter-extremism’ is in fact countering religious and political expression by Muslims, if they diverge from secular liberal values and British State policy – showing that in such cases the judiciary is not politically neutral in any ideological sense.
We would respond to such a judgement with the following thoughts:
- Islam is not defined by the British government, courts, so-called experts or any other form of establishment clergy. It is based on Islamic texts, interpreted according to the principles of Islam. Allah says in the Quran that ‘It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair’ (Translated meaning of Surah 33:36). If believing men or women cannot distort the deenof Allah, then it cannot be twisted or distorted just to suit the domestic or foreign policies of any government.
Muslims must study these Islamic concepts correctly according to Islamic principles – and not be duped by any court judgement, so-called ‘experts’ or others who attempt to manipulate texts according to their norms.
- ‘Extremism’ is a propaganda term used to silence any dissent from the Muslim community – and then used to change the Islamic values to fit within the modern secular world-view. It is those policy makers and their supporters who have a ‘Manichean’ world-view – most famously expressed by ‘George W. Bush’ as ‘with us or against us’!
We do not accept the maligning of noble concepts such asJihad. The Messenger of Allah ﷺ established clear rules forJihad – long before Western governments adopted – and serially violated – their own Geneva Convention. Jihad under his example and that of the righteous Khulafaa saved people from the oppression of tyrannical systems.
Similarly, it is not ‘extremism’ to criticise the brutal and oppressive nature of policies of states that have destroyed nations, and plundered and colonised the world, then lecture others on violence. This is part of enjoining maaroof (good) and forbidding munkar (evil).
We are not afraid to debate and discuss these matters. However it’s clear that the liberal ideology much rather slander and slur islam and muslims, as its got nothing to offer on any front, its economic melt down, be it Brexit or the US elections, its politics has become a circus and not caring for the affairs of the people, not to mention the constant bullying of minorities into submission. We are looking at an ideology which is intellectually bankrupt and can only now resort to such measure to keep its grip on the people.
The community is under immense pressure to surrender its beliefs and views but remember that Allah sees all we do and say.
فَاسْتَقِمْ كَمَا أُمِرْتَ وَمَنْ تَابَ مَعَكَ وَلَا تَطْغَوْا ۚ إِنَّهُ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ بَصِيرٌ
So stand you (O Muhammad) firm and straight as you are commanded and those who turn in repentance with you, and transgress not. Verily, He is All-Seer of what you do. [Surah Hud, 12:112]
Chairman, UK Executive Committee, Hizb ut-Tahrir
30 Muharram 1438 / 31 October 2016
Dr. Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy and Prospect magazine. He can be followed on Twitter @abdulwahidht or emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Note: The judgement makes much of the labelling of Jihad as being the ‘greatest of deeds’ and linking this to opinions of Salafi preachers, such as Shaikh Bin Baz or political Islamic thinkers, such as Hassan al-Banna, whom the judge says: ‘extolled death and martyrdom as an important end of jihad and reminded members of the Brotherhood of the Prophetic observation: “He who dies and has not fought [ghaza, meaning literally ‘raided’] and was not resolved to fight, has died a jahiliya [i.e. pagan, nor non-Muslim] death”’.
This point illustrates how no one should be under any illusion that this is merely targeting Salafi or political Islamic viewpoints, because there are examples of other Islamic scholars and thinkers who have written similar things, based on their understanding of the Quran and Sunnah.
A very similar narration is mentioned in Chapter 50 of the ‘Key to the Garden’ by the Shaikh, Al-Habib Ahmad Mashhur Al Haddad, [Published in London (1990) by the Quilliam Press], titled Jihad in the path of God, and aspiring for martyrdom, which mentions jihad as ‘the foremost foundation of religion and its most exalted duty’ and discusses in some detail some motivational aspects about Jihad and martyrdom.
Indeed, it is not unusual for motivational addresses to be decoupled from the detailed legal injunctions and conditions for Jihad – or in other matters such as prayer, fasting, zakah etc.
By criticising the ideas expressed, and disingenuously linking them to a particular methodology, the judgement obscures the fact that it is actually criticising Islamic thought and expression across all schools of thought and madhhab.