Earlier today, I received a copy of the following email which has evidently been sent to some senior UK Muslim figures from an organisation called Hizbul Ulama UK. It is about the short piece I wrote for the Guardian yesterday about Salman Rushdie’s book the Satanic Verses:
Subject: The member of MCB who used MCB platform for his name and fame
Date: Sun, 16 Sep 2012 13:20:32 +0100
Assalamu Alaikum WW
This so called leader of British Muslims again shows his true colours. Many innocent Muslims lost their lives campaigning against Rushdie’s book, we in the UK spent valuable time, money and put huge effort into mobilising the Muslims of the UK into acting against slander of the Prophet SAW and his companions. One of our lasting achievements from the Rushdie affair was the establishment of the UK Action Committee on Islamic Affairs, through this we eventually established the MCB.
When we read Bunglawala’s views about our campaign, the most depressing point is that it was this very MCB that promoted Mr Bunglawala, gave him a platform and made him famous by appointing him as the MCB spokesman. Now that very same person calls our work, “…totally over the top and very embarrassing.” How did it come to this? How is it possible for us to be so callous and irresponsible that we could actively promote a person who held such nefarious views and allow him to use the MCB platform to promote himself, a platform directly built upon the very foundations of the anti-Rushdie campaign?
And what about the timing, his views were given in the very week when Muslim protesters have again sacrificed their lives campaigning to defend their faith, this time against the disgusting American film denigrating Prophet Muhammad SAW. It is clear that Banglawala is more concerned with pleasing his liberal friends than representing British Muslims. This man is seriously lost and Muslim groups have to disassociate themselves from this opportunist once and for all. This is a huge lesson for the MCB and he cannot be allowed to associate himself with the MCB or take part in or be a member of its activities. Unlike last time his apologies cannot be accepted.
Please forward this message to other eminent UKACIA & MCB colleagues.
I don’t really know a lot about Hizbul Ulama (Lit: ‘The Party of Scholars’). I used to see a couple of figures from their organisation from time to time when I was active in the MCB. I think they were from the Bradford area or thereabouts.
What is unfortunate about their email is that they do not seem to be able to grasp the fact that other Muslims might legitimately be able to have a different opinion from theirs about how to deal with Salman Rushdie’s book, The Satanic Verses. They do not offer any arguments about why they think I am wrong – it seems to be enough to upset them that I just disagree with their approach!
Over the years I have become increasingly concerned about the poor state of Muslim scholarship. Many of our ‘scholars’ are not particularly learned outside a very narrow field indeed. If Hizbul Ulama are so horrified by my views on the Satanic Verses just think what they will make of my views on Gay Rights, Evolution, etc.
I really do think it is important that we Muslims broaden our understanding of who constitutes the ‘ulama (scholars). A number of years back, during a visit to the Sudan I recall the extremely learned Muslim thinker Dr Hasan al-Turabi saying that an experienced doctor was an ‘alim (scholar) in his field, as was an engineer, a scientist etc.
We should develop and strengthen a culture of life-long education and be willing to learn from others. There is a heck of a lot of good in Europe and the West generally, and we should be willing to learn from the good in everyone.
I am a bit puzzled by the last sentence from Hizbul Ulama: ‘Unlike last time his apologies cannot be accepted.‘I am assuming that the ‘unlike last time’ bit refers to the fact that I have aired my views on Salman Rushdie’s book previously, but what do they mean by implying that ‘last time’ I ‘apologised’ for my views? I have never made an apology to them or anyone else.
Perhaps whoever from Hizbul Ulama wrote that email might want to come here and clarify what he (or more implausibly she) meant.
Anyway, I am hopeful that a newer younger generation of Muslims in the UK will agree that calling for a book to be pulped and withdrawn from sale is perhaps not the most intelligent way of dealing with a similar situation.