I think it’s absolutely right to speak out against the repressive theocratic regime in Iran. I believe Anjem Choudhary’s views are horrific. I have concerns about Sharia councils, or courts, concerns shared by, for example, Sunny Hundal and the One Law for All campaign. But I’m not sure how helpful it was of Christina Patterson to mix these issues together in the way she does here.
This is a significant passage.
In this country, we don’t have Sharia courts – courts which turn a religious code for living into an actual legal system – but we do have at least 85 Sharia councils. And we have a growing number of people who are trying to turn whole areas, like Waltham Forest, into “Sharia controlled zones”, and who are sticking stickers saying things like “no alcohol, no gambling, no music or concerts, no porn or prostitution, no drugs, no smoking” in shop windows, and saying that they will patrol the streets to enforce the Sharia code. And we have an Archbishop of Canterbury who thinks it might be a good idea for some of those Sharia councils to become, in certain areas, for example to do with money, or marital disputes, Sharia courts.
Mohammed Asif, from iengage, is surely quite right to point out that these stickers are the work of pretty marginal figures, who delight in stirring up trouble.
Shari’ah “zones” are the deliberately provocative idea of that extreme fringe element among British Muslims, Islam4UK and Muslims Against Crusades (MAC), who try to outdo themselves in dreaming up publicity stunts that are designed to incite mischief and polarise our communities.
Pieces like this have two potentially negative effects. They are likely (I assume) to make many Muslim readers feel put upon, even ones with reservations about Sharia courts, Iran etc. There are four references to men with beards in this short article – how does that help? For similar reasons, neither is Patterson’s article likely to appeal to non-Muslim Independent readers who will pick up on the bigoted tone, and perhaps not unpick the reasonable points. Then, if they happen to stumble upon a good piece such as this they’ll feel on their guard, too distracted by fears of anti-muslim bigotry to worry as much as they should do about sexism. Just by contrast, here is an eloquent response from Maryam Namazie, when questioned about the possible overlap between the EDL and her own views.
And it is also clear who they are from their tactics, one of which is organising demonstrations in front of mosques and terrorising people passing by or entering. Look, if you are concerned about the political Islamic movement and mosques being funded by Islamic states to promotes Islamism, then by all means demonstrate but why not do it at the Qatar embassy (if you are concerned about the Burnley mosque for example) or for that matter Jack Straw’s office (who is thought to be responsible for the Emir of Qatar’s £1.5 million gift to the mosque). Yes I am opposed to faith schools but I wouldn’t stand with a group that brings out thugs in front of an Islamic school and threatens children going in who are sent their by their parents…
Her forthright condemnation of the EDL’s tactics and ideology is rhetorically and strategically effective, making a clear distinction between opposition to Sharia which arises from a concern for universal human rights and mere bigotry.
update In response to Abu Faris’s comment below, I’d like to note that a further reason for taking issue with the article is the way it gives Mohammed Asif the opportunity to avoid the less sensational, but more substantive, concerns about Sharia, and simply focus on the easy target of MAC etc. As Abu Faris points out, another letter draws attention to these problems in a much calmer way than Patterson does.
And just a further clarification – I forget sometimes that people may really believe I sit on the fence, rather than just say I do as a joke. For that reason I saw no need to explain that my agreement with Asif on this one point was of the stopped clock variety, or assert my opposition to iEngage or my complete approval both for Lucy Lips’ article here, and the events it reports on.