I explain in Islam Unveiled what is a recurring feature of Islamic history: whenever a crisis occurs, especially in a period of relaxation of Islamic strictures, there are voices that call for more Islam. Every disaster is attributed to a failure of obedience to Allah, and more Islam is called for. In The Independent (via Arab News, thanks to LGF), former pop star Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam calls for just that: more Islamic education in Britain to counter the alleged Islamic ignorance of the bombers.
It is interesting to contrast this story with this one, in which a would-be bomber challenges an imam’s Islamic purity. Clearly the bomber did not perceive Islamic ignorance within himself, but within the imam. This underscores all the more the need for such moderates to refute jihadism on Islamic grounds, if they can. And if they can’t, they should stop trying to make non-Muslims believe that the bombers are ignorant of Islam, and start devising effective ways to deal with jihadism among Muslims. If that is really what they want to do.
LONDON, 1 August 2005 “” Today Muslims are being challenged to face up to the fact that crimes are committed in the name of their religion. Like many, I am finding it hard to accept.
One of the crucial factors about the London bombings, I think, goes right back to school: Where did those who carried out the attacks get their teachings from? What curriculum were they following “” or not following “” when they decided it was OK to blow up themselves and people they didn’t even know? What background have the bombers come from and who taught them? As a new Muslim “” I wasn’t born a Muslim and didn’t have the customary upbringing “” receiving an English translation of the Qur’an as a gift in 1976 was a wonderful chance to learn from scratch what the teachings of this misunderstood religion really proclaimed. You may or may not know that the word Islam is rooted in the word “peace”.
Yes, some have claimed that there are verses in the Qur’an which endorse violence and fanaticism. But all that proves is that, when you quote out of context to further your own particular brand of extremism, you can choose any book on the shelf. Islam is not alone.
Great, Cat. What other book on the shelf today is being used to further any “particular brand of extremism” anywhere in the world today?
The message I picked up from the Qur’an was quite different. I found the light of knowledge and godliness shining from the verses and stories, linking mankind together as one family, regardless of color, status or nationality. It told me of the wondrous universal teachings of peace and unity advocated by the greatest of educators, people such as Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others. Yet the followers of these messengers, in defiance of their noble teachings, have indulged in countless wars. You can’t blame the teachers. You have to blame the distortions and ignorance of their followers.
Again, Islam is not unique in this. At the end of every Friday sermon around the world, in every mosque, the imam usually recites the following words from the Qur’an: “Verily, God commands justice and kindness and giving to relatives and He forbids indecency, objectionable actions and extremism. God instructs you that you may be reminded.” Yet no matter what the teachings convey, some listeners will be selective, and may choose not to be reminded.
Yes, but what were those imams saying in those sermons? We have seen many samples here over the last year and a half — not all of them about peace and tolerance, either.
It’s uncomfortable but easy to imagine youths today “” many of whom are fugitives from the mosques in the first place “” growing up against the backdrop of the injustices lambasting the Muslim world, being impressed by the fiery rhetoric of the sharp-tongued dogmatists. Youngsters are naturally attracted to short-cut solutions. This is where many of the problems start.
Education is crucial. Here in Britain, the education system has been slow, at best, in allowing Islamic teachings to be taught in their full breadth. There is a lack of commitment to the rigors of traditional learning. In the West, where Islam is denigrated and prejudice abounds, where headlines designed to shock and mesmerize dominate people’s minds, the real teachings of the faith are left for people to fall upon by chance. In terms of spiritual and moral nourishment, it has been left to largely irregular and inadequate models of religious education to deliver the goods.
An hour-long mosque sermon, once a week “” which most Muslims attend “” or a lecture by a visiting scholar who barely speaks English and has little understanding of British and European life, are never likely to deliver the balanced curriculum necessary to build the conscientious believer, one who not only knows his duty to God but also to the society and world he lives in.
The July 7 bombers attended state schools in Britain, not faith-based schools. Some of them, we are told, briefly visited madrasa schools in Pakistan. This may or may not be relevant, but it suggests that they felt they had had insufficient Islamic education in Britain. By going abroad, they laid themselves open to influences outside normal scholastic parameters.
If we fail to provide authentic and traditional spiritual values within everyday schooling, we allow rogue ideologists to distort the essence of religious concepts. We also exclude invaluable wisdom and repress the strong spirit of devotion that many believers naturally feel.