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A Stopped Clock And All That

This piece by Effendi is cross-posted from The Spittoon

It’s not often that I find myself agreeing with anything MPACUK have to say, but an article currently on their website hits the nail (almost) on the head, proving that even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

We would hereby like to express our strong opposition to a statement issued by the ‘Home Office Islamic Network’ (HIMN) which is designed to create more hatred in the hearts of non-Muslims and plays on the fears of those that claim that Muslims are intent on the Islamification of Europe by sneakily asking for more and more privileges until total domination.

We don’t care how much non-Muslims eat in front of us. It’s never been an issue and never will be and we have never asked for any special treatment or sensitivity from non-Muslims whilst fasting. Non-Muslims can eat as much as they like in front of us. Islam has never imposed any such restriction on anyone who isn’t Muslim.

The HIMN should be utterly ashamed of this ill thought out if not sinister statement and should apologise for the blunder which causes more division and animosity between Muslims and non-Muslims.

The Home Office is a secular institution so why does its “Islamic Network” think it appropriate to issue patronising guidance to non-Muslims about what they should and should not do during Ramadan for fear of annoying The Muslims™? This kind of advice (don’t eat biscuits in front of Muslims during Ramadan) contributes nothing to making Muslim colleagues feel more accepted in the workplace, indeed the only people served by this advice are anti-Muslim bigots who want to complain about Muslim exceptionalism and rant about Eurabia.

No, The Muslims are not coming for your biscuits and they’re certainly not coming for you.

Last night, the Home Office Islamic Network (HIMN) hosted an iftar for Muslims and non-Muslims with speeches from the Home Secretary and Asim Hafeez, who works (pdf) for the Office for Security and Counter Terrorism. I have no particular objection to the Home Office holding events at iftar; no doubt they also hold Christmas parties and events to mark Hannukah. But this event, or so my correspondents tell me, was a bit different.

Firstly, Whitehall chatter has it that the MCB’s Secretary General Muhammad Abdul Bari was invited, although he did not turn up. This is the man who refused (pdf) to sack Daud Abdullah, his deputy, for signing a pro-Hamas declaration which has been understood to condone attacks on the Royal Navy if it tries to stop arms being smuggled to Hamas. It would certainly be a very interesting development if, despite this, Abdul Bari had been invited to the HIMN event.

Secondly, Asim Hafeez took the opportunity to deliver a half hour lecture on the spiritual benefits of fasting, leading to several members of the assembled masses making their excuses and leaving – they were not expecting to be preached at. Why did HIMN think this was an appropriate topic to invite Asim to speak about to a room in a secular institution full of Muslims and non-Muslims?

Anyway, have a look at this video.

In this speech from February of this year, Asim is addressing questions about “Misconceptions About Islam”. Perhaps this is a misconception, but at 60:30 he does appear to be talking about how a “Muslim state” should be run. It would be great if Asim could clarify what he means by this. Does he believe that a Muslim state should be run differently to, say, Britain? What does this mean for his commitment to the secular state he serves in a very delicate role?

The Home Office Islamic Network seems not to understand that our government is secular. They should not be lecturing civil servants about how they should act in Ramadan, nor is it their role to spread the message of Islam. It is concerning that a group at the heart of government has failed to understand that government should be a secular space. Whilst the decisions and opinions of individuals will be influenced by their personal religious convictions, the Home Office is no place for proselytisation. Nor is it a place you would expect to be prepared to host Muhammad Abdul Bari.

And aren’t civil servants supposed to keep their views to themselves and maintain strict standards of impartiality? Whilst most of his other colleagues maintain the utmost discretion, Asim Hafeez is giving Friday khutbahs in the Home Office and speaking at Islamic societies at various (Welsh) university campuses. It is rather reminiscent of Azad Ali, a civil servant at the Treasury and president of the Civil Service Islamic Society, who wrote some rather interesting articles for Islamic Forum Europe.

Everyone is entitled to their own beliefs, but civil servants should not use their position in government as a pulpit.