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Does Islam Need A Reformation?

On Friday 26th February 2016, iERA held its fourth ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ entitled ‘Does Islam Need A Reformation?’

The debate was chaired by journalist and broadcaster, Lauren Booth.

She was joined by:

  • Tom Holland – Historian
  • Safaruk Chowdhury – Theologian
  • Zara Faris – Muslim Debate Initiative
  • Theo Hobson – Journalist & Theologian
  • Abdullah Al Andalusi – Muslim Debate Initiative
  • Dr Taj Hargey – Muslim Educational Centre Of Oxford
Is Islam the Cause or Solution to Extremism - Facebook_Post

Exclusive Trailer to iERA’s Extremism Debate

Last Friday, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) held a cross-panel debate on the criminalisation of Islam and tackling extremism in London entitled, ‘The Big Question: Is Islam The Cause Or Solution To Extremism?’

Today, we have released a snippet of what to expect next week when the full unedited debate is published online.

iERA are fully aware of an unauthorised recording being circulated, which was filmed by an audience member who came as one of the panellists’ guests.

We advise everyone to remain patient for a few more days so an objective assessment can be made on the entire 90 minute debate.

iERA’s Head of Public Relations and Media, Mohammed Hussain said: “iERA will be releasing the full unedited debate early next week and we are confident that people without an agenda will make an objective and fair assessment of the discussion.

“I would like to thank Peter Oborne again for being a fair and assertive chairman that intervened when he felt panellists overstepped their boundaries.”

The full debate will be released on Friday 30 October 2015.

See Press Release: Dialogue and Debate is the way Forward in Tackling ‘Extremism’

Read our latest article: ‘Tackling Extremism: Is Islam the Cause or Solution?’

Dialogue and Debate is the way Forward in Tackling 'Extremism'

Dialogue and Debate is the way Forward in Tackling ‘Extremism’

On Friday 16th October 2015, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) held a cross-panel debate on the criminalisation of Islam and tackling extremism in London entitled, ‘The Big Question: Is Islam The Cause Or Solution To Extremism?’

The event was well attended with representatives from leading media outlets including the BBC, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Channel 4, Press TV, The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Islam Channel and 5Pillars.

The panel was chaired by Peter Oborne, the former Chief Political Commentator for The Telegraph, and included Fiyaz Mughal (Tell MAMA and Faith Matters), Mohammed Amin (Conservative Muslim Forum), Hamza Tzortzis (iERA), Dr Anas Altikriti (Cordoba Foundation), Zara Faris (Muslim Debate Initiative) and Peter Tatchell (Peter Tatchell Foundation).

iERA’s Head of Public Relations and Media, Mohammed Hussain said: “Beyond the heated exchanges, Friday’s event was a fine example of a robust and open debate, which is needed in light of the Government’s new counter-extremism policy that was released earlier today.

“Knee-jerk reactions and scaremongering is not conducive towards establishing a cohesive ‘big society’, rather addressing the issues at hand with a fact-based approach is what is imperative in the whole extremism debate.”

The full debate will be released online on Friday 23 October.

Read our latest article: ‘Tackling Extremism: Is Islam the Cause or Solution?’

In this article we examine:

• Ambiguity in definition
• Absurdity in application
• The UK Government’s incoherent strategy
• Mainstream orthodox Islam is the solution

Read the article at http://www.iera.org/dawah/tackling-extremism-islam-cause-solution

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Left to Right: Zara Faris (Muslim Debate Initiative), Dr Anas Altikriti (Cordoba Foundation), Fiyaz Mughal (Tell MAMA and Faith Matters), Peter Oborne (The Spectator), Mohammed Amin (Conservative Muslim Forum), Hamza Tzortzis (iERA), Peter Tatchell (Peter Tatchell Foundation)

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Tackling Extremism: Is Islam the Cause or Solution?

Tackling Extremism: Is Islam the Cause or Solution?

“Extremism in defence of liberty is no vice, moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” [Malcolm X, Oxford Union, 1964]

The word extremism does not have an intrinsic moral value. It is neither good nor bad. The application of the word in various contexts facilitates our ability to pass moral judgement. Echoing Malcolm X, in one context extremism may be virtuous; in another it may be a vice. Before we elaborate with some examples, the definition of the word needs to be understood.

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word “extremism” is defined as “the holding of extreme political or religious views”. This conjures up an array of meanings including fanaticism, radicalism, zealotry, fundamentalism, dogmatism, bigotry, and militancy. Not all of these synonyms are negative. Being fanatical about justice and compassion is not necessarily a bad thing. Providing radical solutions to political and social problems can facilitate progress and liberty. Being zealous with economic reforms to ensure the eradication of poverty is to be applauded.

Nelson Mandela is an apt case study. Mandela was deemed as an extremist by our own British government in the 1980s. In fact the Iron Lady herself, Margaret Thatcher, accused Mandela of being a terrorist, and the Conservative Party at the time were campaigning for his execution. However, before and after Mandela’s death, there has been a global consensus concluding that he was a man of reconciliation. As well as a symbol of strength and power against unjust, racist and tyrannical regimes, he is now remembered as a beacon of peace. From this perspective, it seems that the passing of time is the greatest friend of the truth in understanding who the “extremists” are.

Extremism as a word needs to be applied to a particular context in order to be understood. From the perspective of the British government, extremism is defined as “the public and vocal opposition against British values”. The government have defined these to be democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and tolerance of other faiths and beliefs. We have already elaborated on the correlation between Islam and British values, hence it is not the scope of this article to readdress their compatibility.[i] In a nutshell, Islam and British Muslims are here to stay, and their values are congruent with the government’s definition. However, this must be understood within the obvious differences between the secular and theistic moral ontologies. The article that addresses this issue, entitled Is Islam Compatible with British Values?, concludes:

“In this article, we have shown that there seems to be an overlap between the government’s idea of what British values are and Islamic values. We have been consistently advising and empowering the Muslim community to not only practice these values, but compassionately and peacefully articulate them to the wider society…We strongly urge the Muslim community in Britain to be a manifestation of the values we have discussed in this article. We must be compassionate, tolerant, and obey the law. It is essential that we engage in civic activities, by promoting a just society that takes those in power to account, and is involved in a process that facilitates that. The fact that we have common values must be promoted to encourage community cohesion…Notwithstanding this exercise, it is important to note that values are understood and contextualised via the philosophical foundations of a particular way of life. Since Islam is a comprehensive belief system, it too, has an intellectual basis that shapes its values. Therefore, although we can clearly maintain that Islamic values contain concepts of tolerance, justice, accountability, individual rights and the rule of law – just like the government’s conception of British values – it doesn’t mean that there is an overlap in what it means – for example, to be “just” and what exactly justice entails in a particular context. We have to be mature and understand that even if the government states that British values are “X”, it doesn’t mean the whole country understands “X” the way the government does. Remember, words are vehicles to meanings, we need a nationwide conversation on not just labels and slogans, but on meaning, application and context.”[ii]

Ambiguity in definition

Notwithstanding this, it is critical to highlight the practical and social absurdities with the government’s conception of extremism.

The first point we would like to discuss is the ambiguity of the government’s definition. Words are vehicles to meaning. However, what is meant by democracy, tolerance and liberty for one person can be different for another. The government uses these words in an ambiguous way without providing sufficient details and examples. The words that describe British values obviously have dictionary definitions, however there is an assumption that the real life application of the meaning of these words is universally understood. In order to establish a consensus, a national conversation is required.

We would argue that this ambiguity is irresponsible because it creates a semantic vacuum, which leads to uncertainty and confusion. This is counterproductive, as the whole point of defining what these values are is to establish social unity. We can’t unify on uncertainties; what comes from uncertainty is uncertainty itself. Our humble advice on this would be to elaborate on what these values mean by applying them to appropriate contexts. Once this is done it can facilitate a wider debate on what we want our values to be and look like.

Albeit, trying to establish a top-down consensus on these values would be the antithesis of a modern liberal nation. Liberalism has a principle of neutrality, which means that liberal nations do not, or in theory, should not promote any conception of the ‘good life’. In other words, liberal nations must allow a ‘marketplace’ of conflicting and competing conceptions of the ‘good life’. According to this principle, the best conception of the ‘good life’ will emerge due to the assumption that individuals will make the best choices on how to live their lives. A liberal government has to maintain a principled distance when it comes to the conception of the “good life” or what its citizens should value. Hence, one of the defining features of a liberal state is to remain as impartial as possible concerning people’s personal belief and values. From a liberal perspective, social values are developed from a public competition of contrasting beliefs and values. Citizens under a liberal nation debate and workout these values together via their social interaction and the necessary freedoms they are given by the state. This creates a “market place” of social values, where the “correct” values eventually manifest themselves as the strongest and most coherent. From this perspective, it seems that the government is deviating from traditional liberalism, and appears to have lost trust in its people. They seem to have lost the confidence in their citizen’s ability to work it out for themselves, subsequently they have intervened like a worried parent. We would encourage a national debate on what these values should mean to us as British citizens, and the government should not act like a distressed parent and trust its own people.

Debate, dialogue and discussion has always been the hallmark of British life, and echoing the British philosopher John S. Mill, in the competition of ideas – and by extension values – the best one’s for the nation will be victorious. Anything other than debate and dialogue is an indicator that the government does not believe in the robustness and rational force of their interpretation of British values. A confident government would spark a nationwide debate on what democracy, tolerance, the rule of law and individuality liberty practically means. This would produce the strongest conceptions of these, and ultimately that would be a good thing for the country. Hiding behind ambiguities shows weakness and not strength.

Absurdity in application

The practical absurdity of the government’s definition of extremism is that it can make us all extremists. Let’s take the academic setting as an example.

In various university political philosophy courses, their syllabi include a discussion on the weakness and strengths of democracy. The professor would publicly and vocally provide balanced accounts of the pros and cons of a modern democratic system. In this light, would the professor be deemed as an extremist because he is trying to be academically nuanced? What if one of the professor’s students wrote an essay articulating that Britain is not a true democracy because of its first past the post system, and that democracy is not an ideal form of governance because the minority mob end up ruling? What if the student cites the great Greek philosopher Plato in his critique? What if the student’s intentions are sincere, and desires good for his or her fellow citizens? Is this student an extremist?

Such examples highlight the absurdity of the government’s definition of extremism.

The Government’s incoherent strategy

The government seems to have adopted a three-pronged approach in dealing with extremism.

The first is to narrow the social space of extremists. This includes preventing them from speaking at public institutions. The government wants to exclude them from mainstream forms of social discourse and prevent them from articulating their views. The second is to conflate certain aspects of orthodox Islam with extremism. The third is to embrace a “conveyor belt” theory to violent-extremism. The government claims that harbouring non-violent extremist views is a key milestone that can in some cases lead to violence. The Prime Minister summarised this approach in his Munich speech in February 2015,

“As evidence emerges about…those convicted of terrorist offences, it is clear that many of them were initially influenced by what some have called ‘non-violent extremists’, and they then took those radical beliefs to the next level by embracing violence.”[iii]

All three are very dangerous strategies.

Narrowing the social space where perceived extremists can articulate their views undermines the very values the government espouses. It shows weakness in their conviction in their own worldview. The only way to undermine negative, extreme and incoherent ideas is to expose them for what they are. This can only be achieved via public debate, discussion and dialogue. Blaming aspects of orthodox Islam is also highly problematic. Conservative religious and cultural practices are not the basis for extremism or violent extremism. In actual fact, the conservative Muslim community have done a lot to prevent violent extremism. This is evidenced by their use of robust mainstream and normative Islamic arguments (to be discussed later). The conveyor belt theory is extremely problematic. It essentially argues that Muslims, who have perceived grievances, can subsequently adopt non-violent extremist beliefs, and then later go on to commit violent crimes. There is a strong case for a multi-causal approach to the topic, and one of these causes can include extreme ideological interpretations, but it is absurd to claim that it is just based on the adoption of these extreme views. A recent report by Professor Arun Kundnani that analysed the British government’s approach to extremism, robustly argues that violent extremism cannot be reduced to radical or non-violent extremist views,

“The factors which lead someone to commit acts of terrorism are complex and cannot be reduced to holding a set of values deemed to be radical. There is little evidence to support the view that there is a single cause to terrorism. Accepting this analysis has significant implications for the development of policies to reduce the risk of terrorism.”[iv]

Even the MI5’s behavioural science unit said that the terrorists it analysed “had taken strikingly different journeys to violent extremist activity” and a few had followed “a typical pathway to violent extremism”.[v]

The premise of the conveyor belt theory, when applied to other spheres of social and political life, can lead us down the path of a dictatorship spelling the end to a pluralistic society. Consider the Conservative Party’s backbenchers, according to the assumptions that underlie the conveyor belt theory, it can be argued that their beliefs can lead to violence as some of the MPs are linked to right wing extremism, and it has been shown right wing extremists have engaged in violence. This can be applied to the leader of the Labour Party himself. Jeremy Corbyn is known to sit on the far left of Labour’s ideological spectrum. Many Marxists supported him in the recent Labour party leader election. Some extreme conceptions of Marxism have been linked to torture, mass murder and unprecedented violence. A good way of assessing if a theory is robust is to extend its assumptions to other examples; if it stands its ground then it should be considered. However, the conveyor belt theory falls on its face when applied to other areas of social and political life.

Mainstream orthodox Islam is the solution

Orthodox Islam is loosely defined as the traditional adherence to the Islamic source texts, via the understanding of classical scholars. This understanding of Islam is nuanced, compassionate and is applicable across different cultures and times.

A brief look at the source texts of Islam (known as the Qur’an and Sunnah [Prophetic teachings]) it is clear that Islam promotes balance, harmony and prohibits extremism. The Qur’an maintains that Muslims should not be extreme and be excessive in their religious practices,

“Do not go to excess in your religion.”[vi]
The same point has been made by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He instructed believers to restrain from committing ghulu. The word ghulu means extremism, exaggeration, and excessiveness,
“You should restrain yourselves from committing excesses (ghulu) in religion. For it was due to their having gone to extremes in religion that the previous communities were destroyed.”[vii]
The Qur’an also promotes harmony, balance and the middle way. The term that the Qur’an uses is wasat. This word means middle, just and balanced. It is only mentioned once in the Qur’an in that form, and it is interesting that this word is in the middle of the largest chapter in the Qur’an,

“Thus have We made of you a nation justly balanced, that you may be witnesses over the people and the Messenger a witness over yourselves.”[viii]

The ninth century Islamic scholar and exegete At-Tabari opined that the Qur’an describes the believers as the middle, balanced and just nation, “due to their moderation and balance in religion. They are not from those who go to extremes in the religion.”[ix]

The fourteenth century scholar Ibn Al-Qayyim similarly expressed that “the religion of Allah is in a middle position between being aloof from it and exaggerating in it. It is like a valley between two mountains, guidance between two astray positions and the middle, just position between two blameworthy positions.”[x]

It is evident from the above teachings that orthodoxy is anti-extreme and seeks to ensure that believers maintain a ‘middle path’. This approach to religion and life has also manifested itself in history. Orthodox Islamic scholars were central in promoting balance and fighting extremism in all of its forms, including tyranny. In his book, entitled The Case for Islamo-Christian Civilization, the Columbia Professor of Middle Eastern Studies, Richard Bulliet, argues that Muslim societies achieved stability because Islamic scholars were playing their role of constraining tyranny,

“The collectivity of religious scholars acted at least theoretically as a countervailing force against tyranny. You had the implicit notion that if Islam is pushed out of the public sphere, tyranny will increase, and if that happens, people will look to Islam to redress the tyranny.”[xi]

This is why it is critical for the British government to facilitate the civic space for orthodox Islamic teachers and scholars to be able to influence the Muslim community, especially those who have strayed from the mainstream balanced position. It is of paramount importance to highlight that the Woolwich attackers and the 7/7 bombers did not engage with the traditional and orthodox Islamic educational pathway. If they were influenced by orthodoxy, these atrocities would never have happened. This is why the government’s insistence of strategically aligning themselves with secular liberal Muslim organisations will only exacerbate the problem, as the mainstream Muslim community does not trust them or see them as a point of reference. Hence, attempting to silence the voice of orthodoxy will lead to more problems.

The government has obviously been taken down the garden path by ideologically driven neo-conservative think tanks and pressure groups.[xii] They falsely maintain that orthodox Muslim speakers and scholars create an “us and them” mentality. This is far-fetched and deliberately ignores the positive work done by the mainstream orthodox scholars, teachers and speakers. Consider the work by the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) as a good example of promoting peace, community cohesion and dialogue. iERA have established its community development department called ‘One Community’. One of the key aims of this department is to ensure that its speakers, volunteers and the people it inspires, to positively contribute to society. Some of the projects One Community are currently working on include blood donation, campaigning against climate change, neighbourhood clean up, elderly care, random acts of kindness and feeding the homeless.[xiii]

iERA’s speakers have promoted dialogue, debate and tolerance across campuses in the UK and around the world. They have engaged in debates with leading academics, participated in various social cohesion campaigns, and have always maintained the Muslim community to be tolerant, cohesive and compassionate. A passionate and apt example of this is iERA’s Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ piece on the BBC Radio 4’s Beyond Belief programme,

“I believe in fundamental values that are binding and unchanging. I believe that we all are fundamentalists in some way. That we have to be fundamentalists concerning compassion, concerning tolerance, concerning coexisting amongst different peoples. I believe we have to be fundamentalists when it comes to being non negotiable about certain moral values. But does that mean we are inflexible? No of course not. And I do appreciate that the term fundamentalist can mean extremist and can mean someone who is inflexible and intolerant but that is not what I mean…extremism is actually a deviation from the fundamentals.
We even have this perspective from the mouth of the Prophet Muhammad upon whom be peace…he used the term ghuluw. Ghuluw basically means extreme, don’t be extreme in your religion…I would argue that everyone has a fundamentalist worldview from that perspective, we believe somethings are nonnegotiable, some things are objectively morally wrong. I believe killing an innocent child is objectively morally wrong, even if the whole world were to come and say it’s right, I would say no it’s wrong… however the way to transcend this type of fundamentalism rhetoric is by actually saying, you know what I may be wrong, let’s have a discussion, let’s have dialogue, let’s be open.”[xiv]

Conclusion

If the government are serious about dealing with extremism they have to use the best people placed to deal with the problem.

Orthodox Muslim scholars and speakers are well-equipped to deal with the issue, and marginalising them by supporting secular liberal outfits that have zero credibility within the Muslim community will only make things worse. A multicausal model for extremism must be adopted, because research clearly suggests that extremism is not due to the binary and reductionist cause as espoused by the government and their neoconservative advisers. To ensure that the government’s narrative on extremism is robust it must clearly define what British values are, and this can only be achieved via a national open discourse. Even if it takes this illiberal position of wanting to advocate a conception of the good life, it can only achieve long-term adoption of these values if it it engages in debate. Silencing opposition and sincere critique only proves one thing, that they don’t have a strong argument, and that they are willing to break their own principles in order to preserve them. That scenario is not the Britain that the majority of its citizens want to see.

References

[i] Hamza Andreas Tzortzis. Is Islam Compatible with British Values? Available online here: 2015. http://www.iera.org/research/essays-articles/is-islam-compatible-with-british-values.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/pms-speech-at-munich-security-conference.
[iv] http://www.claystone.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Claystone-rethinking-radicalisation.pdf
[v] http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/aug/20/uksecurity.terrorism1.
[vi] The Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 171.
[vii] Al-Nasai, Ibn Majah, Musnad Ahmad, 1/215, 347.
[viii] The Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 143.
[ix] Al-Tabari, Jaami al-Bayaan, vol. 2, p. 6.
[x] Ibn al-Qayyim, Madaarij al-Saalikeen, vol. 2, p. 496. Also see ibn al-Qayyim, al-Fawaaid, pp. 139-140; al-Shanqeeti, Adhwaa al-Bayaan, vol. 1, p. 494.
[xi] http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/features/2004/0411.hirsh.html.
[xii]http://www.iera.org/media/response-student-rights-henry-jackson-societys-preventing-prevent-report.
[xiii] Please visit www.ouronecommunity.com.
[xiv]http://www.iera.org/community/we-must-be-fundamentalists-concerning-compassion-hamza-tzortzis-bbc-radio-4-beyond-belief.

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David Cameron’s speech highlights the need for fact-based dialogue on extremism

In his first party conference speech since the general election, Prime Minister David Cameron singled out Islamic schools as “teaching intolerance” and announced plans for more regulation on British faith schools.

During his speech, Cameron announced a proposal to give the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), more powers to inspect all religious schools that were “causing division” and teaching inappropriately.

The Prime Minister expressed concerns about Muslim students attending madrassas who allegedly had “their heads filled with poison and their hearts filled with hate.” He went onto say, “…in some madrassas, we’ve got children being taught that they shouldn’t mix with people of other religions; being beaten; swallowing conspiracy theories about Jewish people.

It is deeply concerning that the leader of this country has resorted to such unsubstantiated assertions, mirroring the kind of “conspiracies” he frequently condemns. The Muslim community has seen an unprecedented rise of Islamophobia in recent years, and this kind of rhetoric is not conducive for a cohesive “big society”, and only fuels anti-Muslim bigotry.

Knee-jerk reactions absent of empirical evidence and academic grounding has led to the recent passing of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, which was heavily criticised by civil rights group Liberty, the National Association of Head teachers (NAHT) and the National Union of Students (NUS) for being “heavy-handed”. Similarly, the Government’s proposed Counter-Extremism Bill includes within it, a number of questionable measures that contravene the very founding liberal values of this country.

To that end, on Friday 16th October 2015, as part of the ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ initiative, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) will be holding a cross-panel debate on the criminalisation of Islam and tackling extremism in London entitled: The Big Question: Is Islam The Cause Or Solution To Extremism? The panel will include prominent journalists, academics and activists, whose opinions on the subject matter have shaped the current debate.

iERA’s head of Public Relations and Media, Mohammed Hussain said: “The Prime Minister’s comments about some madrassas “teaching intolerance” and “causing division”, is a testimony to the importance of having a fact-based approach in understanding the causes of violent and non-violent extremism. I fail to understand how Mr Cameron claims on the one hand that some madrassas are divisive and intolerant, but on the other hand champions “religious tolerance” as a fundamental British value.”

Mr Hussain added: “Next week’s debate on whether Islam is the cause or solution to tackling extremism is a sincere and robust effort towards improving community relations, as opposed to paying mere lip service to wanting a big society.

To register please visit www.iera.org/dhd

If you are a member of the press, please email media@iera.org to request complimentary access.

Extremism-Evil

Can Believing In Islam Lead To Violent Extremism?

On Monday 20th July 2015, Prime Minister David Cameron delivered a passionate speech on tackling extremism. The speech came in light of the proposed Counter-Extremism Bill, which includes within it, a number of questionable measures that go against the very founding liberal values of this country.

The suggested bill includes policies like banning speakers from preaching in public, proscribing Muslim organisations for advocating mainstream Islamic views, forcing venues not to host certain groups and individuals, as well as granting the Charity Commission powers to shut down charities and mosques. Whilst the Counter-Extremism Bill does not mention Islam or Muslims by name, it is very likely that if the bill becomes legislation, it may disproportionately target Muslims like previous laws have done.

During this climate of increasing Islamophobia, Muslims have found themselves in a situation where they are regularly scrutinised for believing in and holding normative Islamic beliefs, which are described by the Government as “extreme”, and are thought to lead to violence in some cases. Even though this ‘conveyor belt’ theory cannot be empirically substantiated and has in fact been academically disproven, it is important that its propagation as a credible narrative by the Government, the right-wing media, and neoconservative think-tanks is addressed head on.

To that end, on Friday 16th October 2015, as part of our ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ initiative, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) will be holding a cross panel debate in central London entitled: The Big Question: Is Islam The Cause Or Solution To Extremism? The panel will include prominent journalists, academics and activists, whose opinions on the subject matter have shaped the current debate.

iERA’s head of Public Relations and Media, Mohammed Hussain said: “Events such as these are aimed at raising the standard of intellectual discourse. iERA encourages debate on topical matters that affect people of all faiths and none. In this case, government policies that directly concern the Muslim community.”

To register as a member of the press, please email media@iera.org.

british-values

Does Islam Clash With British Values?

On Friday 12th June 2015, iERA held its second ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ event on the compatibility of Islam and British values.’

After the successful launch of the ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ campaign, and the huge support for its inaugural ‘How Free is Speech?’ event in February, there was a big demand from the general public to see a second cross panel debate to discuss another contentious topic relating to the Muslim community.

The ‘Does Islam Clash with British Values?’ event took place at the Hallmark Hotel in Croydon. Alhamdulillah, after three venue changes at very short notice, more than a hundred people attended. Unfortunately, due to differing reasons, three of the panellists were not able to participate. For a detailed account of what took place during the build up of the event, why venues were changed and speakers pulled out, please read the following article on 5Pillars News.

Nevertheless, the unforeseen complications did not stop people of all faiths and none, and members of the press attending the event to see a robust discussion with iERA’s Head of Education and Research Hamza Tzortzis, Reverend Frank Gelli and Abdullah al Andalusi from the Muslim Debate Initiative .

The cross-panel discussion will be broadcast on Islam Channel at the end of this month or at the beginning of September.

The next ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ event will take place in October, where a diverse group of panelists will discuss religious orthodoxy and extremism.

iERA are planning to make ‘Don’t Hate, Debate!’ a national campaign and is collaborating with other Muslim organisations across the UK to relay a positive and holistic message of Islam.

Please follow iERA on Facebook and Twitter for further information insha’Allah.

WATCH: What are British values?
READ: Is Islam Compatible with British values?

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A Response to Student Rights’ & Henry Jackson Society’s “Preventing Prevent?” Report

A recent report published by Rupert Sutton of Student Rights entitled ‘Preventing Prevent?’ analysed the activities of alleged “extremist” organisations and speakers on UK university campuses. The report argues that the most frequent incidents in which students are exposed to extremism are when speakers with a history of extreme or intolerant views, or with a history of involvement with extremist organisations, are invited onto campuses. The report suggests that a number of graduates of UK universities involved in terrorism-related offences were partly radicalised during their studies. It also addresses the delivery of the government’s counter-terrorism Prevent strategy, as well as its criticisms, and recommendations for its future implementation.

The report mentions the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA), and it’s head of Education and Research, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis. There are a number of misrepresentations and inconsistencies present throughout the report:

1. Extremism:

The report falsely implies that iERA is an extremist organisation. iERA’s work focuses on empowering the Muslim community to educate their fellow citizens on the intellectual, tolerant and merciful message of Islam. Since its inception, iERA has trained over 40,000 Muslims and not once has it expressed messages of hate and intolerance. In fact, iERA’s lectures, training and writings are available to all to scrutinise. iERA has an anti-extremism policy which has been accepted by the Charity Commission, and all of its trustees, staff, speakers and volunteers have signed the document. Therefore, the accusation that iERA and its speakers are extremists is completely false.

iERA’s work on university campuses has received endorsements and positive feedback from distinguished academics. Pro Vice Chancellor of University of Southampton, chaired Hamza Andreas Tzortzis’ lecture ‘Does Morality Need God?’ and provided the following feedback:

“I think it’s very important that on campus we could have people espousing ideas, matters of faith, diverse opinions and have an honest and robust discussion about it. I am delighted with how Hamza’s lecture tonight went and a broad range of questions, and a very engaging discussion afterwards. I was very happy.” [1]

Mr Tzortzis has also received a public endorsement from Chair of Moral Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin:

“On several occasions I have engaged with Hamza Tzortzis in public discussion about the issue of theism versus atheism, and the implications of taking one side or the other in the debate. At all times I have found him to be an articulate, well-informed and challenging debater, yet at the same time someone who is restrained, respectful and affable in discussion. There has been in our discussions none of the rancour that often mars debates in this area. While reserving the right to disagree with him, I am happy to endorse him as an honest and engaging speaker and debater on theism, Islam, morality and society, one in whose company it is a pleasure to exchange views.” [2]

The current government’s definition of extremism is a rejection of British values. These values include:

• Belief in democracy
• The rule of law
• Individual liberty
• Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

iERA has written an article on this topic showing how these values correlate to Islamic teachings. The article concludes:

“In this article, we have shown that there seems to be an overlap between the Government’s idea of what British values are and Islamic values. We have been consistently advising and empowering the Muslim community to not only practice these values, but compassionately and peacefully articulate them to the wider society. We strongly believe that another core British value that must be included in the Government’s list is compassion.” [3]

Part of iERA’s work also includes visiting schools and teaching pupils that Muslims who take their faith seriously can live peacefully and harmoniously within British society. Last week, Hamza Andreas Tzortzis was invited by the assistant headteacher from Hayes School in Bromley to deliver a series of short presentations on Islam and British values. The pupils left the workshops understanding the definition of values, what British values are, and how Islamic teachings are aligned with these values. They also understood the need for dialogue and discussion around the different conceptions and applications of these values based on the pluralist nature of British society. Mr Tzortzis told the group of pupils:

“We are going to talk about Islam now…and we are going to relate it to these values. To show that Muslims who believe in Islam are inline with core British values.” [4]

iERA continues to educate the public on Islamic teachings in a peaceful and tolerant manner. In light of the above the report grossly misrepresents iERA and its speakers.

2. Previous retracted and clarified statements:

The report regurgitates old, clarified and outdated statements made by some of its speakers. We strongly recommend the author to represent iERA speakers’ current mainstream views, and not to selectively quote and misrepresent what they have said. The report focuses on Mr Tzortzis’ statements on apostasy and freedom of speech. These statements have been retracted and clarified on his website, which can be read here and here.

3. Islamic State:

The report falsely maintains that at least two of “iERA’s members” have since been killed fighting for the group known as “Islamic State”, in Syria. This accusation has been rebutted in a previous press release:

“iERA would like to make it clear that none of the Portsmouth group are part of the iERA organisation. iERA supports local community teams and individuals by providing basic literature and t-shirts to help in creating Islamic awareness and in supporting local community engagement. iERA is not responsible for the acts of any teams or any individuals that order our material online.

iERA has openly spoken out against violence, hate crime and extremism and works with the Police, Councils and other such organisations on these issues.” [5]

iERA has publicly spoken and written against the Islamic State group, explaining how its is un-Islamic. For example one their essays on the topic, How Islamic is the ‘Islamic State’?, can be read here. [6]

In light of the above the report is poorly researched, and once again, misrepresents iERA’s views.

4. Aims of iERA:

The report claims that the iERA have admitted that the aim of its on-campus training is to recruit students. There is nothing sinister about this aim as iERA seeks to empower Muslims to articulate a compassionate and intelligent case for Islam.

iERA have established its community development department ‘One Community’. One of the key aims of this department is to ensure that iERA’s speakers, volunteers and the people it inspires positively contribute to society. Some of the projects it is working on involves blood donation, campaigning against climate change, elderly care, feeding the homeless, and the Against Racism, Against Hatred campaign.

The report grossly misrepresents iERA and its work. iERA would like to invite Student Rights and the Henry Jackson Society to engage in warm dialogue. They both were previously invited to attend two of iERA events under the Don’t Hate, Debate! campaign; unfortunately iERA did not receive a reply.

iERA hopes that they are now willing to engage in productive and positive dialogue.

[1] Feedback from Pro Vice Chancellor of Uni. of Southampton after an iERA Lecture – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhivqV4nxcU
[2] Distinguished Professor Endorses Hamza Tzortzis – http://www.iera.org/community/distinguished-professor-endorses-iera-lecturer-hamza-tzortzis.
[3] Is Islam Compatible With British Values? – http://www.iera.org/research/essays-articles/is-islam-compatible-with-british-values
[4] The audio recording is available on request.
[5] iERA responds to report about the death of Portsmouth men in Syria- http://www.iera.org/media/press-releases/iera-responds-recent-report-death-portsmouth-men-syria
[6] How Islamic Is The Islamic State? – http://www.iera.org/research/essays-articles/how-islamic-is-the-islamic-state

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Is Islam Compatible with British Values?

Is Islam Compatible with British Values?

By Hamza Andreas Tzortzis

(Last updated 24 June 2015)

Sometimes responding to a question with another question opens the window of opportunity to find the right answer: What are British values? This however, is a tricky question to answer. There is no “Divine” revelation or a set “Moses tablets” that we can refer to in order to aid our investigation. Therefore, trying to find a reference or a consensus is not an easy job.

In our view, and we appreciate that it is quite limited; we think we might be getting there, but we need much more work in this field. A survey conducted by ComRes in February 2015 interviewed 2,017 people from the British public who were offered a list of values. They were asked to choose which values were the most important. Notwithstanding the inevitable methodological constraints, (NB: the participants were asked which values were important, and not what British values are) the results were as follows: [1]

• Freedom of speech 46%
• Respect for the rule of law 33%
• A sense of humour 29%
• Politeness 27%
• Tolerance of others 26%
• Equality 23%
• Fairness 22%
• Political freedom 20%
• Responsibility 14%
• Religious freedom 13%
• Multiculturalism 10%
• Don’t know 6%
• Aspiration 4%
• Curiosity 3%

The results may seem obvious to many, but what do these values actually mean for each person? Words are vehicles to meanings, and it is without a doubt that when two people use the same word, it can carry a different meaning, and can be applied in a dissimilar way given a particular context. A previous poll by ComRes interviewed a random sample of 1,045 people in February 2009, and the results were weighted to reflect the British population. 63% of those questioned agreed that laws should be respected and be influenced by the UK’s religious values. [2]

So can we assume that the values above have religious connotations? Who knows? The point we are raising here is that relying on polls and surveys is problematic and doesn’t provide us with a consensus on what British values actually are. We just seem to have a collection of words, that although may have some meaningful common denominator, can have varying manifestations and expressions in a real world context. It can be argued that we need a qualitative approach to the question of British values. It would give us more of an idea on what people mean by “tolerance” and “freedom of speech”. Picking up a dictionary is not enough when trying to understand human beings. Some of us may tolerate a wide range of religious beliefs, but others may draw the line when it comes to Scientology or Satanism. We need more of a national conversation rather than a quantitative and binary reduction of our values. Therefore, the next question we should be asking our fellow citizens is: what do you mean by that?

Nonetheless, for the purposes of this article, we will take the current Government’s definition of British values and correlate them with the values emanating from Islamic thought. This is important because a substantial number of the wider British public believe that Islam is bad for Britain. [3] This exercise is important for community cohesion, and can facilitate in easing the wider public’s fears about their Muslim friends, colleagues and neighbours.

The Government have stated that fundamental British values are:

• Belief in democracy
• The rule of law
• Individual liberty
• Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs [4]

So let’s take each value and correlate them to Islamic teachings. Before we do this, please note that this is not meant to engage in philosophical hair-splitting, rather it is a practical discussion to show that practicing Muslims, who take their religion seriously, want to be part of a cohesive British society.

Democracy

Now this is a tricky word because some argue that in a British context there is no true democracy. [5] Take for example the “first-past-the-post” (FPTP) system that Britain has adopted. The Electoral Reform Society argues that it is “the very worst system for electing a representative government.” [6], and Catch21 a charitable production company set up by a group of students at the University of Hull, which produces videos to help engage young people with their communities, argues that Britain may “not be truly democratic”. [7] Putting this all to one side, from a perspective of values, democracy is associated with justice and accountability. Islamic teachings have profound insights that can help shape our understanding of these values.

Justice

Islamic scripture and texts resonate with justice. The Qur’an provides timeless and profound advice on treating others with justice (‘adl) and equality (qist) across all communities. The Divine book commands that justice must be maintained and implemented regardless of whom it supports:

“O You who believe! Be upholders of justice, bearing witness for God alone, even against yourselves or your parents and relatives. Whether they are rich or poor, God is well able to look after them. Do not follow your own desires and deviate from the truth. If you twist or turn away, God is aware of what you do.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 135]

“…and that when you judge between men, you judge with justice. Verily, how excellent is the teaching, which He gives you! Truly, Allah is ever all- Hearer, all-Seer.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 4, Verse 58]

In the Islamic spiritual tradition, obtaining God’s love and mercy is the ultimate goal. The Qur’an provides deep spiritual motivations to adhere to justice by saying that,

“… God loves the just.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 60, Verse 8]

Islam teaches that justice must be meted out irrespective of friend and foe:

“O You who believe! Show integrity for the sake of God, bearing witness with justice. Do not let hatred for a people incite you into not being just. Be just. That is closer to faith. Heed God [alone]. God is aware of what you do.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 5, Verse 8]

The ninth century exegete and historian, At-Tabarī, wrote that justice in an Islamic context means: “that towards all peoples and religions you must treat them justly and equitably.” [8]

Communities across the Muslim world once implemented these timeless teachings. They created justice and impartial societies where even minorities who were persecuted in Europe fled to the Muslim world to find justice. The Jewish historian, Amnon Cohen, describes the historical manifestation of justice under Islamic values. Cohen states that the Jewish minorities sought justice from the Islamic courts rather than their own:

“The Jews went to the Muslim court for a variety of reasons, but the overwhelming fact was their ongoing and almost permanent presence there. This indicates that they went there not only in search of justice, but did so hoping, or rather knowing, that more often than not they would attain redress when wronged…” [9]

Accountability

Accountability in the Islamic tradition is a spiritual and political concept. Muslims are encouraged to engage in a process of self-accountability by reflecting on their mistakes, transgressions and injustices in order to rectify the negative consequences of such errors. From a political point of view, accountability has always been understood by scholars to be part of al-amr bil ma’ruf wal nahy an al-munkar (commanding the good and forbidding the wrong). The Qur’an states:

“Let there be among you people that command the good and forbid the wrong. They indeed are the successful.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 3, Verse 104]

This concept of “commanding the good and forbidding the wrong” led the citizens of the Muslim lands to account those that were in power. The fact that the early Muslim communities were not afraid to even take to account the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), shows the extent they internalised and implemented this value.

The Islamic teachings created a social awareness that made the community understand that political accountability was an obligatory duty. This was demonstrated by one of the Companions of the Prophet (peace be upon him), Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (may Allah be pleased with him). During his leadership there was an understanding that it was both the state’s and its citizens’ responsibility to account and be accounted. Umar once asked the public what they would do if he went astray in his office of power. A normal citizen who heard what Umar had asked the public, replied by saying that that he would correct him. Umar responded by saying:

“Praise be to God, there are people in the nation who would put me right if I go astray.” [10]

This display of recognising the responsibility to hold those in power to account, and the acceptance of being taken to account, indicates the fact that accountability is a key value in Islam. Another example of accountability is when a Christian won a legal case against the ruler of the time, Ali Ibn Abi Talib (may Allah be pleased with him), a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him),

“[Ali] returned to Kufa, when he came across an armor in the hands of a Christian. He said to the Christian, ‘This armour is mine, I have not sold it or given it away’. The Christian said, ‘It is my armour and it is in my hand.’ He said, ‘Let us go to the judge.’ Ali went first, sat beside the judge, where the judge said, ‘Speak O Leader of the Faithful’. Ali said ‘Yes this armour which this man has is my armour; I did not sell it nor did I give it away’, the judge said to the Christian, ‘What do you have to say?’ He said, ‘It is my armour and it is in my possession. But I do not call the Leader of the Faithful a liar.’ The judge said to ‘Ali, ‘Do you have any evidence, Leader of the Faithful?’ He said, ‘Yes. Qanbar and Hassan (the son of Ali) will bear witness the armour is mine’. The judge replied, ‘A son’s testimony is not acceptable on behalf of his father’, and so the judge ruled in favour of the Christian.” [11]

Professor of International and Comparative Law, Mark Welton, argues that the Islamic concept of accountability meant that people could use the courts to seek redress and argue against the government and its officials in a court system free from political bias:

“The courts were open to, and used often by, the people to seek redress of their grievances not only against each other, but also against the government and its officials. The judges were usually and sometimes famously noted for their independence from political control.” [12]

The Rule of Law

In the absence of the rule of law, what remains is chaos and social disharmony. Islam encourages the use of reason, and it is only rational to want to build and live in a society where there are laws, and law-abiding citizens. The Islamic scholarly tradition spent centuries formulating and codifying laws and principles of jurisprudence based on the Islamic texts. Professor Hallaq has noted that this is what gave formative Islam “what we call today the rule of law.” [13]

Professor Mark Welton maintains that it was the work of the Islamic legal scholars, in trying to codify laws and principles from the Qur’an and the words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), which created a complex legal system that led to achievements that could only have happened with the rule of law in society:

“This sophisticated legal system in turn helped support the artistic, scientific, and commercial achievements of the classical era – achievements that a Western scholar like Joseph Raz might well argue are the virtues, if not inevitable outcomes, of a society based on the rule of law.” [14]

Individual Liberty

Following the above discussion on the rule of law, it was from the key Islamic values that the scholars developed the concept of huqūq al-‘Ibād; the rights of the people. This concept was derived from Islamic texts, which included a myriad of rights ranging from the right to life to the right to due process. The Qur’an is clear on establishing decency, good conduct and forbidding oppression, which is the path to liberty,

“Indeed God commands justice, good conduct and giving help to you kin, and He forbids indecency and oppression. Thus He admonished you so that you may be mindful.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 16, Verse 90]

Al-Ghazali, the eleventh century theologian taught that Islam and its underlying moral and legal objectives aim to preserve an individual’s life, religion, intellect, lineage, and property.[15] This was developed hundreds of years before John Locke’s conception of natural rights and the Declaration of Colonial Rights in 1774. In summary, the concept of individual rights and liberties are established values in the Islamic tradition.

Mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs

Islam teaches mutual respect and tolerance of people with different faiths and beliefs. This is exhibited in the unprecedented treaty between the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the Christians of Najran. The Prophet (peace be upon him) offered the people of Najran unprecedented tolerance, freedom of religion and protection, which they never experienced under the Byzantines. The Islamic historian, Al Baladhuri narrates the text of the treaty in these words in his book Futuh ul Buldan:

“The lives of the people of Najran and its surrounding area, their religion, their land, their property, cattle, and those of them who are present or absent, their messengers and their places of worship are under the protection of God and guardianship of his prophet. Their present states shall neither be interfered with, nor their rights meddled with, nor their idols deformed. No bishop shall be removed from his office. The intention being that no change in whatever state everyone is, shall be made (status quo shall be maintained). Neither the people shall be punished for any past crime or murder, nor shall they be compelled to do military service. Neither shall ‘ushr (the tax on grain) be imposed on them, nor shall any army enter their area. If anyone of the people of Najran demands the rights, justice shall be done between the plaintiff and the respondent. Neither oppression shall be allowed to be perpetuated on them, nor shall they be permitted to oppress anyone. Whatever has been written in this pact, God and Muhammad, his Prophet, are guarantors for it, unless there is an order from Allah, in this connection, and as long as the people of Najran remain faithful and adhere to the conditions, which have been made for them, except that someone compels them to do otherwise.” [16]

The Islamic teachings of tolerance manifested themselves throughout history. Heinrich Graetz, a nineteenth century Jewish historian expressed how Islamic teachings in Spain favoured the Jewish community in the context of kindness and liberty of belief:

“It was in these favourable circumstances that the Spanish Jews came under the rule of Mahometans, as whose allies they esteemed themselves the equals of their co-religionists in Babylonia and Persia. They were kindly treated, obtained religious liberty, of which they had so long been deprived…” [17]

Ulick R. Burke, a prominent historian specialising in the history of Spain, reached a similar conclusion of the treatment of the Christian community:

“Christians did not suffer in any way, on account of their religion, at the hands of Moors…not only perfect toleration but nominal equality was the rule of the Arabs in Spain.” [18]

Islam promotes intellectual debate and dialogue, and forbids disrespecting other people and their beliefs.

“Invite to the way of your Lord with wisdom and good instruction, and argue with them in a way that is best.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 16, Verse 125]

“People, We created you all from a single man and a single woman, and made you into races and tribes so that you may get to know one another.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 49, Verse 13]

“And do not insult those they invoke other than God.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 6, Verse 108]

“Nothing will be heavier on the Day of Resurrection in the Scale of the believer than good manners. God hates one who utters foul of coarse language.” [19]

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

The Islamic teachings of respect towards other people and their beliefs is echoed by Associate Professor Andrew F. March’s study on liberal and Islamic values. He opines that the Islamic scholarly tradition supported the idea of recognised religious difference and the contribution to non-Muslim welfare:

“…there was surprisingly strong support from classical, conservative jurisprudence, particularly on questions relating to the terms of residence, loyalty to a state of residence, recognition of religious difference, and contribution to non-Muslim welfare.” [20]

This toleration and respect is not just for other religions, but also for people with no religious beliefs. The Qur’an teaches that we must share our beliefs and values with “wisdom and good instruction” while discussing “in a way that is best.”

The Islamic scholar and grammarian al-Zamakhshari said that “in a way that is best” meant:

“using the best method of argumentation which is the method of kindness and gentleness without gruffness and harshness.” [21]

Hence, Islamic teachings advocate mutual respect and kindness for all. This value is manifested in early Islamic history. By around the eighth century a group of people labelled as the Dahrīyya emerged. They were the modern equivalent of what we now call atheists. For example Faraj al-Iṣfahānī, in his Kitāb al-aghānī, mentions an intellectual amongst the Dahrīyya to have engaged in a public debate with the famous jurist, Abū Ḥanīfa. Details concerning the Dahrīs can be found in the works of various classical Muslim scholars, such as al-Jāḥiẓ, Muḥammad b. Shabīb, Ibn Qutayba, and Abū ʿĪsā al-Warrāq. This clearly shows that there was an environment of intellectual discussion and debate, which could only have been facilitated by mutual respect and tolerance. [22]

The Qur’an makes it absolutely clear that having a myriad of beliefs is part of God’s will, and that there should never be any form of compulsion, but mutual respect and tolerance:

“And had your Lord willed, those on earth would have believed – all of them entirely. Then, would you compel the people in order that they become believers?”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 10, Verse 99]

“There is no compulsion in [acceptance of] the religion.”

[The Qur’an, Chapter 2, Verse 256]

The Islamic thinker and scholar, Jaafar Idris, aptly summarises Islam’s stance on other beliefs:

“Existing peacefully with non-Islamic beliefs is an essential Islamic principle that is clearly stated in many Qur’anic verses, and that has been practiced by Muslims throughout their history. It is not something that Muslims impose on their religion or something that they have to resort to because of exceptional external circumstances. It is a requirement demanded by the nature of the religion…” [23]

Concluding, compassionately

In this article, we have shown that there seems to be an overlap between the Government’s idea of what British values are and Islamic values. We have been consistently advising and empowering the Muslim community to not only practice these values, but compassionately and peacefully articulate them to the wider society. We strongly believe that another core British value that must be included in the Government’s list is compassion. This is evident in the compassionate charitable giving of the British public, and it is something encouraged and promoted in Islam, for example the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

“The Merciful One shows mercy to those who are themselves merciful (to others). So show mercy to whatever is on earth, then He who is in heaven will show mercy to you.” [24]

“God is compassionate and loves compassion.” [25]

“Love for the people what you love for yourself and you will be a believer. Behave well with your neighbours and you will be a Muslim.” [26]

“Love for the people what you love for yourself.” [27]

We strongly urge the Muslim community in Britain to be a manifestation of the values we have discussed in this article. We must be compassionate, tolerant, and obey the law. It is essential that we engage in civic activities, by promoting a just society that takes those in power to account, and is involved in a process that facilitates that. The fact that we have common values must be promoted to encourage community cohesion.

Notwithstanding this exercise, it is important to note that values are understood and contextualised via the philosophical foundations of a particular way of life. Since Islam is a comprehensive belief system, it too, has an intellectual basis that shapes its values. Therefore, although we can clearly maintain that Islamic values contain concepts of tolerance, justice, accountability, individual rights and the rule of law – just like the Government’s conception of British values – it doesn’t mean that there is an overlap in what it means – for example, to be “just” and what exactly justice entails in a particular context. We have to be mature and understand that even if the Government states that British values are “X”, it doesn’t mean the whole country understands “X” the way the Government does. Remember, words are vehicles to meanings, we need a nationwide conversation on not just labels and slogans, but on meaning, application and context.

We would humbly argue that since Islam is based on some irrefutable truths, including the fact that God exists, He deserves our love and worship, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is his final messenger and a mercy to all mankind; then it follows that whatever values emanate from this foundation are going to be true and a benefit for the whole of the country.

To conclude, like with most things human, there will be some inevitable differences in the application and understanding of values, even if the same language is used (NB: we are not undermining or refuting the universality of the common denominators of these values. The Islamic concept of the innate disposition of humanity dictates that we accept a commonality). These differences should be discussed openly in the public sphere. If we anchor ourselves on the values of compassion, tolerance and mutual respect, we will be able to create a public space to engage in dialogue and start a debate on what these values mean, and how they should be implemented.

References

[1] http://comres.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/February2015_Poll_Tables.pdf
[2] http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7906595.stm; Young, P. (2014), A matter of pride, NatCen Social Research
[3] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/10251827; http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/aug/02/poll-islam-negative-britain
[4] Read the Government’s guidance here.
[5] http://debatewise.org/debates/1841-is-the-uk-truly-a-democracy/
[6] http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/first-past-the-post#sthash.MnlK33L8.dpuf
[7] http://www.catch21.co.uk/2012/01/how-democratic-is-britain
[8] Jāmi’ al-Bayān, commenting on chapter 60 verse 8
[9] A World Within: Jewish Life as Reflected in Muslim Court Documents from the Sijill of Jerusalem (XVIth Century). Part One, 1994, Pennsylvania.
[10] Shibli Nu’mani, “Al-Farooq: the life of Omar the Great”,Translated by Zafar Ali Khan, New Delhi, Idara Isha’at-e-Diniyat Ltd, 1996, p 379.
[11] Al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya, Volume 8 page 5, see also Tareekhul Khulafaa, page 193
[12] Mark David Welton, Islam, the West, and the Rule of Law, 19 Pace Int’l L. Rev. 169 (2007)
[13] Ibid
[14] Ibid
[15] Al-Mustafa Min ‘Ilm al-Usul
[16] Al-Baladhuri, Futuh al-Buldan, translated by Philip. K. Hitti, New Jeresy, 2002 (Reprint), p. 100-1.
[17] H. Graetz. History of the Jews. London,1892, Vol 3, p. 112.
[18] Ulick R. Burke. A History of Spain, London. 1900, Vol I, P. 129
[19] Narrated by At-Tirmidhi
[20] Andrew F. March. Islam and Liberal Citizenship: The Search for an Overlapping Consensus. Oxford University Press. 2009, p.263
[21] Al-Kashshaf, commenting on chapter 16 verse 125
[22] See Atheism (pre-modern). Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Edited by: Gudrun Krämer, Denis Matringe, John Nawas, Everett Rowson. Brill Online , 2012.
[23] An Islamic View of Peaceful Coexistence, 2007. Accessed on 27 May 2015 from www.jaafaridris.com/an-islamic-view-of-peaceful-coexistence
[24] Narrated by Abu Dawud and At-Tirmidhi
[25] Al-Adab Al-Mufrad
[26] Narrated by Ibn Majah
[27] Narrated by Ibn Majah