I would recommend Yusuf Smith’s article in The Sharpener, particularly for its informed account of the theological and political history of the Brixton mosque.
I’d take issue with a few points Yusuf makes.
Hizb’ut Tahrir is an organisation which wants to establish the Caliphate, with all that that entails. I accept that if you think that establishing a Caliphate is a good thing, you won’t think that this is an extreme political goal. But if you think that liberal democracy is better than rule by submission to God’s will, then you will think it is extreme. Let me make my position clear. I think liberal democracy is a better form of government than theocracy. I am opposed to Islamism for that reason.
I do agree that Hizb’ut Tahrir is not the most paranoid and racist of islamist political organisations. Partly, that is because they take great care to keep their nose clean. That they have taken a racist rant about jews off their website is good: but why did they put it up there in the first place? My guess is that they only took it off because it clashed with the outward image they want to present.
The Begum jilbab case may well be of interest to muslims of a variety of political persuasions. However, it should be noted that Hizb’ut Tahrir – Aslam’s own party – clearly instigated and had close involvement in the conduct of that case.
My take on the Aslam affair is that disguised Islamist views and propaganda pieces are out of place in a liberal and left wing newspaper. The Guardian frequently runs pieces in its Comments page by the MAB/Muslim Brotherhood which are labelled as such. If Aslam had written articles saying “as a member of a political party which seeks to re-establish the Caliphate” that would be one thing. But to present himself as simply “a Yorkshire lad, born and bred” is extremely and deliberately misleading.
Secondly Ramadan is, by any standards other than Islamist ones, an extremely reactionary social conservative. Sure, he talks a lot about Baudrillard and the like. But if liberals, socialists and democrats took his arguments and removed the references to Islam, nobody would think of him as a progressive. It is suggested also – not simply by islamophobes, but by Islamists trying to reconcile themselves to some of the more surprising things that Ramadan says – that Ramadan is dissembling. Whether or not that is true, I think that Ramadan’s stated position is a moderate theocratic one.
I can live with moderate theocrats, but would hope to see them opposed by muslim liberals. Liberal newspapers should be championing those muslim liberals: not the moderate theocrats.