Mehdi Hasan: Was this a religious hate crime?

by - 7th December 2010


LONDON 6 December:- STUNNED LAST NIGHT at a Progress group event at the House of Commons to hear the Prevent strategy's architect, former Minister for Counter Terrorism, Hazel Blears, admit ignorance on what Islamism is.

 ‘We don’t know enough about Islamism,’ she told the meeting. 

So she has been bluffing all this time.  Now we know.  Yet she gave £70million to 'capacity build' mosques and projects that would prevent extremists becoming violent, without a real clue about what she was doing.

That's what lost Labour the election.  Cluelessness about race, religion, English civilization and why that civilization has enemies.  Instead, as Blears admitted, Labour recklessly sought to build a broad coalition of minorities against the national consensus to gain and then hang on to power - and didn't care what views those minorities espoused so long as they voted Labour. 

 You could say that Labour bombed the tube then.  They'd deliberately ignored for a generation the widely available writings and sayings of Islamists like Maududi and Qutb whose disciples carried out this atrocity.

 Islamism is the modernist ideology that makes of Islam a political strategy for the seizure of power and is prepared to use violence. 

 The problem for the British political system with its left-right thinking is that it doesn't do obnoxious mainstream.  Not only do our rulers not know what Islamism is; they don’t know what Islam itself is either.  Just pinning our own categories of thinking onto Muslims is not going to work.  All that results in, as the anthropologist Roger Ballard has written, is the ‘Protestantisation’ of Islam. 

Rowan Williams once told me that government ministers tended to think of imams as vicars in fancy dress. 

Religious illiteracy needs exposing for the menace that it is.

For instance, wearing the burqah doesn't make you an Islamist.  Believing in shariah law doesn't either – yet we would, before anti-racist legislation wrecked our ability to think discriminatingly, regard both as fairly extreme. 

And indeed they are in a civilization that once believed modesty and mild-manneredness were attributes to celebrate (think Superman).

So we just cannot really get our heads around someone like Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Egyptian scholar feted by Ken Livingstone, whose programme on al-Jazeera is evidently enormously popular with 'ordinary' Muslims. 

He advocates ‘children bombs’ and clitoridectomy – cutting the clitoris for ‘a woman’s dignity’.  Rather horrifyingly that still does not make him an Islamist, or even an extremist.  

Hazel Blears began her oration on Monday night by reading the learned opinion of this ‘scholar’ on the right of fathers to have their daughters ‘circumcised’ if they thought it for the best. His full opinion can be found here.

‘Actually, Muslim countries differ over the issue of female circumcision; some countries sanction it whereas others do not. Anyhow, it is not obligatory, whoever finds it serving the interest of his daughters should do it, and I personally support this under the current circumstances in the modern world. But whoever chooses not to do it is not considered to have committed a sin for it is mainly meant to dignify women as held by scholars.’

Some fairly lively discussion ensued as panel members chased each other down this particular rabbit hole.

Qaradawi, said one, also believes in death for homosexuality.

‘That makes him like the Pope then’ quipped the New Statesman’s Political Editor Mehdi Hasan.


Was that meant to be witty?  It came across as more than a tad defensive.

As I said, Qaradawi is no Islamist.  But he is undeniably a Muslim.

And that seemed to be just a little bit uncomfortable for the journalist on this august panel.

 Hasan cannot disavow Qaradawi, so he uses a different strategy:  compare him to the Pope and get a laugh.  Both are, as the ergot has it, ‘anti-gay’; that makes Qaradawi more culturally 'normal' by association, and puts the Pope beyond the pale. 

 Ha ha.  We all laugh.  But the national debate just got degraded again.  We can’t see it happening, but it’s slowly, imperceptibly desensitising us.

And that’s why Lapido Media has made Mehdi Hasan the first recipient of its new Religious Illiteracy Award. 

The Pope is nothing like al-Qaradawi.  Even as a joke it’s in the poorest taste; disrespectful and just plain stupid.

If facts are irrelevant for the press, what’s the point of it?


The facts

Unfortunately facts really are irrelevant when politicians still get away with prating that 'all religions are the same' as the MP for Poplar, Jim Fitzpatrick did at the same meeting.

 But let’s look at the facts anyway, however disturbing they are.

British-based Muslims in recent times have called for gays to be ‘pushed down the cliff’; in Saudi Arabia and Iran the punishment for homosexual sex is death, irrespective of the fact that there is a thriving male-on-male sex scene there. For most Afghan males, sexual initiation is likely to take place with another male, so inaccessible are their women.  And yet in 1998, the Taleban ordered the execution of three men for sodomy in the southern town of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan.

 They were ordered to be buried alive under a pile of stones and a wall was pushed on top of them by a tank.

 Where are they getting these ideas from?  From the Muslim Holy Book, the Quran of course, which many follow literally, and from the traditions.  Qaradawi is merely citing the hadith, the alleged sayings of Mohammed. 

One such, in Mishtak Vol 1 has it as follows:  ‘Ibn Abbas and Abu Huraira reported God's messenger as saying, 'Accursed is he who does what Lot's people did.' In a version...on the authority of Ibn Abbas it says that Ali [Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law] had two people “burned” and that Abu Bakr [Muhammad's chief companion] had a wall thrown down on them.’

In an interview on al-Jazeera TV in June 2006, Qaradawi advocated the death penalty, whether by ‘throwing from a high place, or by burning’, whatever ‘in our era . . . is most appropriate, and what is lightest, recognising how widespread the tribulation is.’  Very thoughtful.

In Britain, sodomy was also a capital offence, based on Old Testament readings, until the mid-seventeenth century.  But Christianity seems to have a more transformative dynamic  than  Islam.

Even though female genital mutilation may not be in the Quran, may be an African custom, may not be practised in Pakistan, and may be justified only in a 'weak' hadith, Islam has done nothing whatsoever to eradicate it in Egypt for instance, where 98 per cent of all women have  been circumcised (according to Unicef). 

 The Pope may see homosexuality as a sin, and unlikely to contribute to the reproduction of the human race.  But he’s not going after them with whips and nooses.  His views also are widely published on the web and I need not repeat them here.

But a vignette of Anglican life may be instructive in pointing up the difference between Islam and Christianity on this vexed topic.  Where Islam and indeed the Jewish texts on which so much of it is based would kill, Christianity seeks to redeem, believing as Jesus said that ‘God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’  And Paul said in his letter to the Romans: ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)’ 

St Martin-in-the-Fields, the London church famous for offering sanctuary to all those whom society rejects, recently undertook the funeral, with full honours, of a transvestite male social worker who’d been pushed under a tube train by a schizophrenic homosexual asylum seeker he’d been trying to help.  And the church was packed - lawyers, social workers, gays, transsexuals, friends, and clergy who knew this ‘man’ (whom the family chose to celebrate in his female mode, with photos of him in wig and high heels) - and they cared for him in his struggle and encouraged the good he tried to do around him.  Even the most confused - and that even includes Mehdi Hasan so this faith has it - have the divine image within them, and the chance of perfection.

 Not much difference there then.