| ||It’s no surprise that the right-wing paper the Daily Mail should promote the likes of Taj Hargey in this puff piece. His ‘be neither seen nor heard’ variety of Muslim existence in Britain would be of obvious appeal to the Mail and its readership. |
The paper introduces Hargey contrasting him to ‘the highest-profile Muslim preachers, the bearded, anti-Western firebrands such as Abu Hamza or Omar Bakri’.
No mention, of course, that these firebrands enjoy the ‘highest profile’ on account of the news coverage offered them by, among other newspapers, the Daily Mail and not because of any mass support amongst UK Muslims.
Here is just a selection of Hargey’s remarks in the Mail’s feature story:
'It is the extremist ideology present in many UK mosques which is the cement behind nihilistic plots such as this [7/7]’.
Which is what the government tried to argue in 2005 and was forced to retreat after the Muslim Council of Britain, with the support of churches and other organisations, challenged the assumption that the 7/7 bombers were the product of teaching in British mosques.
'This is a big fight for the hearts and minds of Islam. There is nothing in the Koran which is incompatible with (living in) British society, unlike what I call "Mullah Islam" and their reliance on hadiths.
‘All that stuff about jihad, women's rights, apostasy, all these issues come from the hadiths.
'We do not say get rid of the hadiths. But we do say that every hadith must pass two litmus tests.
‘First, it must not conflict with the Koran. Second, it must not conflict with reason or logic.’
As genuine Islamic scholars have long noted, much of the religious instruction in the Qur’an relies on the hadith for its execution. For example, the five daily prayers. Their requirement is stated in the Qur’an but how the prayer is to be performed is gleaned from the prophetic example and its documentation in the corpus of hadith narrations.
More worrying is Hargey’s argument of the ‘litmus test of reason and logic’ that hadith ought to be subjected to. For Muslims, the litmus test is essentially the hadith’s accuracy in terms of its chain of narration, determining whether the source of the narration is reputable and its transmission, reliable and verifiable.
To subject hadith to the litmus test of reason and logic begs the question, whose reason and whose logic? Hargey’s? No, thanks.
Hargey asks: 'How can we be dependant on 10th-11th-century jurists and scholars? It makes no sense.'
No it doesn’t. But it makes less sense to pose this question when Hargey ought to know well that Muslims in every era seek instruction and opinion from the scholars of their age. Posing this false regressive position may make Hargey appear avant garde to his supporters, but for those of us that know only too well that Islamic thinking is grounded in its context, the idea that Muslims are only ever looking backwards and not forwards is a false representation.
Hargey’s remark also bears a tinge of nihilism. 10th and 11th century Islamic scholars may not be absolutely relevant to Muslims in the 21st century, but for as much as their scholarly output belongs to the body of Islamic archives and Islamic thought’s historical development, there is still much value in their appreciation.
Finally, on the MCB, Hargey claims:
'They are Indo-Pakistani and sexist’ … ‘a reactionary group, infused with the repressive ideology of the Wahhabis.’
'If we go along their path we will have a ghetto mentality, segregated and giving our enemies such as the British National Party the opportunity to target us like the Jews in the 1930s. Isolation is our greatest peril.'
'These people are religious fascists. The view that Islam is incompatible with British society is something that the Muslim Council of Britain and their hangers- on have promulgated.'
Unpacking all of this:
(a) The vast majority of Muslim organisations in Britain could reasonably be labelled Indo Pakistani simply because they represent the majority ethnic groups from which British Muslims hail.
(b) ‘Sexist’ – really? Is that why the current Assistant Secretary General of the MCB, Dr Reefat Drabu, is a woman and the former Treasurer, Unaiza Malik, also a female? And what sex is Taj Hargey?
(c) ‘Infused with the repressive ideology of the Wahhabis’ – a frequent allegation made by those that prefer to trade in lies and not facts. The MCB’s ethos and aims are very clearly stated on its website and its work in ‘promoting the common good’, in partnership with other faith and non faith based organisations on a myriad of issues, are all well documented on its website.
Mis-labelling the MCB and its work is a familiar ruse employed by those who try so hard to appear revolutionary in their methods and thinking. All too often, their need to stand out from the crowd requires them to mis-portray others.
(d) 'If we go along their path we will have a ghetto mentality… The view that Islam is incompatible with British society is something that the Muslim Council of Britain and their hangers- on have promulgated.'
The MCB has never advocated isolation, a ghetto mentality or the view that Islam is incompatible with British society. With a motto that has at its heart ‘the common good’, how could isolation ever be an objective? And the MCB has in its very name the focus of its identity and work, ‘Britain’.
Hargey is no more than a self publicist and but another example of someone trying desperately hard to claim for himself a mantle he neither warrants nor enjoys.
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