Sunday, July 27, 2008

British regime's committee of "Islamic" scholars

An interesting piece by Soumaya Ghannoushi on the British regime's attempts to impose a pro-empire "Islam" on Muslims. However, it needs to be noted that the problem here is not just that these "scholars" are accepting government money, nor is the problem in Muslim countries merely that the "official ulema" are government employees.

The issue here is what kind of a government: the British regime is partners with the US in its war on Islam, the problem with most Muslim governments are that they are little more than colonial puppets of the US.

Similarly, the problem with a "Prince" or any other super wealthy individual, funding a so-called "Islamic studies" program at the pro-empire Harvard University, is his ideological background that leads to himself being called a "Prince" in the first place. And how such individuals amass such huge quantities of wealth, while most of the rest of planet is barely struggling to get by.

It is important to highlight these issues because, otherwise, we can end up not examining what the "sultan" is about - what are his/her political positions, and the kind of pro-empire "Islam" they are promoting.

The question to ask is: when all the noise has died down, what will this initiative have achieved? The answer is very little. The likelihood is that Blears' committee of theologians will fare no better than Ruth Kelly's Muslim Action Committee, Sufi Council, or any of the other government-created paper bodies. The terrorists and would-be terrorists won't look to the government's scholars for fatwas, and ordinary Muslims are unlikely to give them much attention. It may help Blears, who insists on poking her nose in all things Islamic, to learn this old Islamic piece of wisdom: "If you see the scholar frequent the sultan, then point your finger at him and beware."

Islam may not have an ecclesiastical institution that monopolises religious interpretation, but it sets rigorous requirements for the acquisition of the title of "alim" or "learned scholar". At the forefront of these is autonomy from the ruling authorities and their agendas. The scholar is the voice and conscience of believers, not rulers and ministers.

Blears would do well to ponder the fate of religious ministries, government fatwa councils and muftis in the Muslim world. In the eyes of Muslims, they are part of the state apparatus, and thus devoid of moral authority or religious legitimacy. Their imams and muftis are state officials in religious clothing. They receive their salaries, like their sermons and edicts, from the government. This, in a nutshell, is the crisis of the Islamic religious establishment.

Terrorism is, in many respects, an effect of this reality. With the erosion of the traditional learning institutions generated by the process of modernisation and the emergence of the official scholar, radical groups became their own source of interpretation. They scavenge scripture for texts that validate their political positions. If they are to be confronted, it is not through government-picked and sponsored figures, committees and councils. Only the model of the honest, proficient and independent scholar can challenge them.

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