Sunday, February 17, 2008

BMI letter to Archbishop of Canterbury

"Islahonline" islahonline@gmail.com

British Muslim Initiative
www.bminitiative. com

Dr Rowan Williams,
The Most Revd the Lord Archbishop of Canterbury
123 Kennington Rd
Lambeth, SE11

Dear Dr Williams,

We are writing to thank you for your intelligent, thoughtful and reasoned comments on the legal recognition of communal religious identities in modern British society, and to express support for your spiritual and moral courage in the face of the onslaught in response to your speech.

We have similarly been taken aback by the astonishing scale and vicious tone of the media reaction and the manner in which your comments have been taken out of context and used as a pretext for unleashing all manner of prejudiced and hostile views on Islam and Muslims.

Sadly, what seems to have emerged from this is that one is simply not permitted to engage in a rational discussion about Islam in Britain without unleashing a wave of rabid, racist hysteria that we have witnessed in recent days, and which appears to have become entrenched in public discourse in this area.

The role of some sections of the media in continuing to lower the standards of socially acceptable discourse on minorities is particularly worrying. In addition to the barrage of hysteria, innuendo of disloyalty is being targeted at community leaders and institutions and it seems some public officials are complicit in this disgraceful exercise. This week alone we have had Sadiq Khan MP, a role model for young British Muslims, cast as a potential subversive and Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a scholar of significant eminence, prevented from coming to the UK for medical treatement because of lobbying from divisive quarters.

Nevertheless, we feel it is important to continue this debate. As people of faith, it is understandable that Christians would appreciate the Muslim community's desire to live in accordance with their religious values. We feel it is crucial to clarify that the Muslim community does not advocate parallel legal systems within Britain, but that there may nonetheless be space for accommodating and recognising faith-based
judicial rulings in some areas of communal life, including marriage, divorce and finance.

This is not, of course, to undermine the primacy of the rule of law or human rights, as many sections of the media have sought to allege. Indeed, the existing services carried out by shariah councils for over two decades have largely been sought by women who rely on the councils for help in enforcing their right to an Islamic divorce. The bodies operate on the basis of consent by both parties and have no binding authority unless the parties give their assent. This model is already widely used by the Jewish community whose Beth Din has been offering family and community law services since 1934.

The failure to address this inconsistency in the position of different religious minorities indicates that debates on shari'a in particular, and on Islam and Muslims in general, unleash a depth of prejudice and ignorance that is wholly unparalleled. It is this intolerance and lack of understanding and respect that we wish to challenge, and we look forward to working with you and all other communities to promote a more balanced, civilised debate on the many complex issues raised.

Yours sincerely,

Mohammad Sawalha

President

British Muslim Initiative

British Muslim Initiative

Islahonline

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Daripada Abu Umarah iaitu al-Bara' bin 'Azib radhiallahu anhuma, katanya: "Kita semua diperintah oleh Rasulullah s.a.w. untuk melakukan tujuh perkara, iaitu meninjau orang sakit, mengikuti janazah, menentasymitkan orang yang bersin, menolong orang yang lemah, membantu orang yang teraniaya, meratakan salam dan melaksanakan sumpah."

(Muttafaq 'alaih)

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