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Naz Shah – great story, but what about her politics?

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If you have not yet heard of Naz Shah, you must have been living in a cave for the last two weeks. Naz is Labour’s candidate for Bradford West, who will stand against Respect MP George Galloway in the general election in May.

Naz, the chair of mental health charity Sharing Voices Bradford and mother-of-three, was forced into marrying her cousin when she just aged 15. Her biological father ran away with their 16-year-old neighbour.  She spent 12 years campaigning, with the support of Southall Black Sisters, for the release of her mother – a woman imprisoned for murdering the man who beat, raped and pimped her for over ten years.

No doubt her inspiring story could not be further from the Westminster elite of professional politicians. But none of the interviews have revealed much about her political views. As interesting as her background story is, what does she want for Bradford? What can she do that George Galloway has not done for the city?

The word ‘biraderi’ (patrilineage) has become synonymous with Bradford politics. I worry that Naz may not be so dismissive of identity politics as her background might have initially suggested, judging by some of the comments she made in The Times this weekend (£) about the headscarf (“To a Muslim man you’re more respectable, it’s not because you’re a victim”) and integration (“People can live amongst each other with different identities and different languages because that’s the way the world is.”)

I guess we will have to wait until after the election to find out.

Do British Muslims have a problem with apostates

Nothing riles Muslims more than the presence of ex-Muslims.

On the Big Questions Abdullah al Andalusi, who describes himself as a ‘thinker’ (no, me neither) was very aggressive towards Amal Farah, an ex-Muslim of Somali origin, and constantly interrupted her while she was making her point. He claimed that Islam has no apostasy laws – try telling that to the Muslim countries who have blasphemy laws and punish those who speak out against Islam. He translates “irtida” as “sedition” or “treason”. Misinterpretation – that old chestnut eh? So then I ask, what is the punishment for treason?

Andalusi then took to writing a post-show blog, denouncing the entire thing as an “anti-Islam fest”. Of course it was. That is the problem with people like Andalusi. They want a debate, but on their own terms. They claim they will not compromise on their Islam but in certain public forums they will twist and turn so much so as to hide their real views.

The BBC also wheeled out Mohammed Shafiq who spoke about the importance of religious freedom. This is the same man who once described Quilliam Foundation’s Maajid Nawaz as ‘gustaakh-e rasool” (defamer of the prophet) when Nawaz tweeted a Jesus and Mo cartoon. Thankfully, he has now apologised though I am not sure if it is much of an apology if he still stands by his reasons for saying what he did.

Shafiq also said we cannot have a rational debate with ex Muslims – in other words, don’t bother talking about Islam unless you are a Muslim. Some Muslims do, however, discuss and and even denigrate other religions but get defensive when their own religion is attacked. Why the double standards?

I have met many ex Muslims and they are not anti Muslim at all. All they want is the right to leave Islam without being persecuted or disowned by their families.

If, as Muslims, we preach that Islam is peaceful and tolerant, and “there is no compulsion in Islam” then we need to accept people like Amal Farah and other ex Muslims who do not wish to follow Islam. We happily wave the Islam-is-the fastest-growing-religion” banner and talk with such pride when someone converts to Islam but silence those who are no longer Muslims. Some will say, leave Islam, fine, but why do you need to talk about it?

My response would be, why shouldn’t they talk about it? Do other Muslims ever consider the possibility that the reason why ex Muslims continue to talk about Islam once they have left is precisely because it is still such a taboo? Perhaps if they weren’t met with such hostility they would not need to do so. Let us not forget the fact that many ex Muslims are still “in the closet” – they still cannot openly talk about the fact that they no longer believe in Islam because they now the consequences.

Well done to Amal who stood her ground despite being shouted down by some Muslims on the panel and in the audience, and to Dr Usama Hasan, imam and a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, for preaching the message of peace and tolerance.

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  1. Well done. That episode demanded a response and I agree with every bit of it.

    What I saw was:

    Andalusi use Amal’s first description of her experiences to deflect away from Nicky’s direct question to him on apostasy. I feel that Nicky should have gone to Andalusi first for his thoughts, and then, he’d have no previous responses to use as wriggle-room.

    Andalusi use the old and tired “I don’t agree with that (Victorian) translation”

    Andalusi use “only in colonial states with dictators” (paraphrased) regarding where apostasy is a crime.

    Shafiq sigh heavily and moan when Amal said, “Mohammed is no prophet of mine.” Why should he immediately get upset about that, when she was obviously stating the truth? She’s not a Muslim!

    Shafiq moaning that the debate included “ex-Muslims” – erm… that was part of the point wasn’t it?

    Andalusi and Shafiq use the “witch-hunt” argument when faced with difficult questions with weasel answers.
    What on earth do they expect when people try to dig deeper to get a proper answer?

    Andalusi and Shafiq were obviously wound up about everything.

    Of course we had some “verse/scripture” tennis being played.

    An equivalence being made about the abuse people get for converting to Islam. This may be a point, but things like this are always used to deflect away from the absolute point in hand. I’d have absolutely no problem if The Big Questions tackled that in the future as a subject.

    I think one mistake Amal made in her first explanation, was to say (regarding her leaving of Islam), was “I got educated”. This enabled Andalusi to jump on that in terms of deflecting away from direct questions to him.
    Even Usama Hasan made a reference to that in his closing statement because he is obviously educated. It’s strange how people on the “same side” against extremists can often offend each other.

    Overall, I think the “death penalty” overtook the debate title of “Do British Muslims have a problem with apostasy?” because the references to family and friends problems were overlooked by arguments on scripture regarding the death penalty.

    bootjangler1

    March 15, 2015 at 5:27 pm


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