There are several interesting aspects of recklessly throwing money at a problem. For one, it is a visible, verifiable effort on the part of the spender, who can cite the money he parted with as a measure of his sincerity. It is also a gesture of trust that the recipient of a charitable donation will do with the money what the donor intended — a trust that the recipients here have not earned. Lastly, money buys convenience: When wishing to avoid directly confronting a problem on one’s own that is uncomfortable or intimidating, pay someone else to do it.
In the spirit of all of the above, Islamic studies programs in Britain can expect a parting windfall of jizya from Prime Minister Blair.
Tony Blair yesterday pledged to spend Â£1m improving the teaching of Islamic
studies at universities, as Downing Street said more imams should be trained in Britain to
reduce reliance on foreign-trained clerics.
One small problem, Mr. Blair: The studies will still rely on the same Qur’an and the same hierarchy of ahadith, certainly with much of the same commentary and accompanying literature originating with Middle Eastern scholars. Blair seems to envision a team of British imams who would craft a sort of “Western Reformed Islam.” However, even if that were achieved, those teachings would largely be condemned as bida, or innovation, in the Islamic religion.
In a speech to a conference of moderate Muslims in London, the prime minister
accepted that British politicians should listen more carefully to the views of “the calm voice of moderation and reason” within the community. He insisted that his government’s
foreign interventions had not been based on religion.
Mr Blair said: “The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use in times gone by of torture to force conversion to Christianity represented the teachings of Christ.”
Key words: “Times gone by.” In addition, Blair would do well to take note that while such acts by Christians contradicted the teachings of Jesus, the imperative to offer unbelievers conversion, subjugation, or war until the world is under Islamic law comes from the words of Allah himself in the Qur’an (9:5) in what is widely considered the last revelation Muhammad received. Blair can then have a staff member do a web search on the doctrine of naskh, or abrogation, and discover what that means for the earlier, peaceful verses so often quoted to non-Muslims, according to long-respected Qur’an commentators such as Ibn Kathir (1301-1372).
Among those invited by the Cambridge inter-faith programme were the grand muftis of Egypt and Bosnia, but not representatives of more extreme or politicised lobbying
groups. The guest list was criticised by the radical Islamic group Hizb ut-Tahrir, and also
by the Labour peer Lord Ahmed, who told the BBC: “The conference is fronted by Cambridge
University but organised by Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the communities department, who have deliberately chosen to exclude those Muslims who disagree with
Government policy … It’s a colonial style of governing.”
The conference coincides with a government-commissioned report which criticises university courses for concentrating too narrowly on the Middle East and insufficiently on the modern realities of Muslim life in Britain.
The report, published yesterday by the Islamic Foundation-funded Markfield
Institute, recommends that universities should recruit traditionally trained scholars, consider the appointment of Muslim chaplains or advisers, change syllabuses to focus on aspects of Islam relevant to the contemporary practice of the faith and provide “add-on” elements to help give students an edge in the jobs market.
The report said: “The study of Islam and its civilisation remains anchored in
the colonial legacy and mainly serves the diplomatic and foreign services. Teaching and
research programmes need to be reorientated.”