Session 5: Islam in a secular democracy – Maajid Nawaz

Posted By on January 4, 2020


good afternoon Thank You Raoul raza as
always you make a compelling case for the need for a slam to reform today my
name is Majid now as I stand here before you as you heard in the introduction as
somebody who spent many years of my life in particular during the period of my
teenage years and into my early to mid-20s as a man who campaigned against
secularism as an Islamist theocratic in fact as somebody who rejected secularism
and liberalism and democracy as being something akin to apostasy within Islam
the verdict and the ruling that I had adopted was that any Muslim who
willingly and wholeheartedly ascribes to secularism liberalism and democracy has
in fact a pasta sized from the religion of Islam yet I now
stand here before you as a soon-to-be 39 year old man having found it Quilliam
you heard Rahil just referred to Quilliam I am founding chairman of
Quilliam it’s what we like to dub as the first world’s first counter extremism
organization whether it is or not I’ll leave for you to decide but we do indeed
challenge extremism we’ve been doing so for a particular we challenge Islamist
extremism Islamism as I like to define it is the desire to impose any version
of Islam over Society yet I also stand here before you as a Muslim I stand here
as well before you as a secularist I stand here before you as a liberal and I
stand here before you as a Democrat in fact I stood as a liberal Democrat
in Hampstead in Kilburn and i suspect many of you laughing because you know
how that turned out but i lost in fact we lost across the country and I am now
proud to say also I stand here before you as an honorary associate of this
very national secular society and the reason I agreed to be and have been for
a while a honorary associate of the National Secular society is because I
firmly believe that Islam and secularism can be today can be made compatible I
firmly concur with what Rahul has just said that actually there is plenty of
historical and Theological precedent for Islam to be compatible with secularism
today and that’s why because it’s so important for Muslims to speak out in
favor of second ISM today that I agreed to be a honorary associate of the
National Secular society and my mission statement if I were to summarize it in
one sentence would be that the ideology of Islamism as I have briefly defined it
the desire to impose any version of Islam over society anywhere at any time
that ideology of Islamism today must be intellectually terminated and the
religion of Islam today must be reformed and it can happen as I said there’s
plenty of historical and Theological precedent for why it can happen my own
journey and my own experience standing here before you win as was introduced a
let’s say interesting past demonstrates that one person if they can go through
this transformation in their own mindset it certainly is possible but let me
point to some of those historical examples of how we as Muslims who know
our history and the history of our trajectory as a religion know that it
hasn’t always been the way it is today in fact even if you take your minds back
to what is known as the caliphate which was a succession of medieval Arab
dynasties in truth in reality that’s what it was for all their medieval
faults for all their lack of liberalism as we would understand it today and for
all their lack of democracy and certainly there was a lack of liberalism
and a lack of democracy anyone well-versed with history will know that
if you look back to the history of those caliphates the Abbasids do amaze all of
them they’re defined primarily by the fact that they did not enforce one
version of what is known as the Sharia overall of society in fact the exception
to this was in Europe when the Andalusia or Maher dynasty adopted the Maliki
version of Sharia enforced it over Society in an attempt to build a
cohesive Society so that he could push back against the Frankish incursions
coming from the north the other exception again part the European were
the Ottomans who in an attempt to reform being impressed with the colonization of
law in Europe and the idea of a unitary legal system decided to codify the
Hanafi version of Sharia and attempted to implement him as law as state law
over society in what was known as the thumbs he made reforms those reforms
failed however before those reforms the Ottomans had what was known as a minute
system a legally pluralistic system there was more than one law running at
the same time because Sharia was for those Muslims who went to the court for
arbitration now I willingly concede that there may not have been liberal and it
may not have been democratic but what Islamists are calling for today which is
the wholesale adoption of one version of Sharia to be enforced over Society at
the end of in many cases a gun in other cases a butcher’s knife is something
that is known as an innovation it is an innovation and I can point you point you
to even the theology and by the way you know I’ll speak a bit about some of the
terms in the Quran but I want to make something absolutely clear so nobody’s
in any doubt I am NOT a devout Muslim I don’t pray every day five times a day I
used to but just to make it clear here I’m not speaking as a religious leader
nor a religious role model I’m speaking as somebody with an obvious
interest in the subject who knows the history and knows how an understanding
of the theology changed when with the advent of modern Islamism Islamists
today obsess over the notion of creating an Islamic state the word for a state in
Arabic I also happen to graduate in Arabic so trust me when I tell you this
the word for a state in Arabic is Dola and if you were to take a computer
program and search the entire Holy Quran and every single hadith in the volumes
of collected highly hadith collections both those hadith that are known as
Sahil verified and those that are known as weak or died Eve and everything in
between I guarantee you you will not find one reference to the word state or
Dola I promise you that I’ve done the search I memorized half the Quran I used
to preach for an Islamic state for 13 years part of my transformation involved
coming to this realization there is not one reference to the word state in the
Quran and the Sunna and the reason is obvious when you think about it the very
concept of a state didn’t exist if you look at the volumes and volumes of books
of jurisprudence that classical Islamic scholars you know they pined on
everything from how to wash how to bathe downtown to get married how to trade in
various forms of currency where the gold and silver are mandatory for Muslims to
trade or you’re allowed to trade in copper known as loose they discussed
everything and again I can guarantee you that at best you’ll find two books that
spoke of what a ruler should do didn’t speak of a state it wasn’t even called
Islamic state these two books authored by it one authored by a man called
Aladdin Morandi abu hassan ahmadi a camisole Fania Anibal jana who wrote
another book also called a camisole Taniya the title of the book the rules
of governance they couldn’t even call it an Islamic
state because they didn’t have the concept of a state the concept of a
state is a modern European notion the idea of a unitary legal system is a
modern a thoroughly entire modern construct so not only is the
state and the and the idea of a state missing in Islamic theology so is the
notion of a constitution you hear Islamists today insist that the
constitution must be Islamic well the word for Constitution in Arabic is
distort and again if you were to perform the same hypothetical search throughout
in the entire Islamic reference books the Quran and all of the hadith
collections the word Constitution simply does not exist retrospectively you could
perhaps go back into winter time and say ah you know these particular theological
passages are what form the basis for me wanting to enforce this a version of law
this could be seen as a Constitution but the very notion of a constitution is a
modern idea let’s take the word law known as car noon in Arabic or carnal on
water if you want to be technically precise placed more is what the Arabs
refer to it as its placed because it’s created the word car noon is absent in
the Quran and hadith collections and what we often refer to as Sharia law
Sharia being the adjective for the noun law is again not how Arabs refer to the
word they refer to Sharia as a noun Sharia is not an adjective to describe
the noun law it’s a stand-alone noun historically we heard how the Islamists
are using it today from where Hill’s video and the need to speak frankly
about the subject is something I hope I’m known for doing but historically and
in the books of theology the word Sharia appears as a noun because it means the
path to water that’s what it means in the Arabic language and the fact that
when Islam was first translated into English for those Muslims born and
raised here like me and for those orientalists who are seeking to study
the religion it was translated by those Arabs who were political asylum seekers
many of whom from which who are concerned with the issue of discussing
Islam and modernity most of whom were Islamists and so these words when they
were translated with with assumptions they stuck in the
English lexicon so whenever you say the word Sharia law know at least that
you’re not using it in its proper historic usage Arabs who don’t say con
una Shariah they simply say Sharia as a noun so Islam today can be reformed
there’s plenty of historical and Theological precedent for doing so and
I’m touching on the tip of the iceberg in 1925 an incredibly brave and
visionary man who happened to be a graduate of SUNY slams foremost school
of learning in Egypt who also happened to be a judge in a Sharia Court ali
abdul razak wrote a book an egyptian Azhar
theologian Sunni Muslim Arab in 1925 wrote a book called a soul and hokum
fill Islam the the basis of ruling in Islam in which is a small pamphlet you
can get English translated translations on it free online in which he advocated
for an entirely secular state and the separation of religion from politics now
he happened to be competing with the Islamists in 1923 the Muslim Brotherhood
was established by Hassan al-banna in that same country of Egypt history tells
us who lost the fight but the fact is that struggle continued that struggle
continued to a point where a bill will have Effendi wrote his book who needs an
Islamic state when professor Abdullah named a
professor of Emory College in the United States wrote two books Islam and the
secular state and also towards the Islamic Reformation academic Islamic
theologians who work in this field for a living have long been making the case
for secularism and Islam all the way back to 1925 but they have been losing
the argument and there are two reasons that have been losing this argument one
of them is that the Islamists organized on the grassroots and beat
them within Muslim community contexts I know because we would be to them every
day on the streets the second is because what I call the regressive left those
who are the Neo Orientalists adopted the arguments of the
this assuming they were Islam and began defending the Islamists under the name
of political correctness cultural tolerance and freedom of religion
without recognizing that what they had inadvertently done was adopt Islamism as
if it was Islam and argued for freedom of religion when in fact they were
arguing for theocracy what I would argue is that though Islamism needs to be
intellectually terminated and Islam today needs to reform I would argue that
secularism is the prerequisite secularism must be the first stage so
before we attempt seriously a reform of Islam today and many aspects of Islam
even after secularism will require reform because if you remember I said
very clearly that historically it doesn’t mean it was liberal and it
doesn’t mean it was democratic it was maybe evil today we’re not maybe evil a
lot of things will need to change even in what normative Islam was I don’t just
concede that point I advocate for it very publicly but to achieve that
realistically muslim-majority context secularism must come first and for
secularism to come first those reformers those solitary in many
instances voices those voices who risk everything to speak out within Muslim
community contexts need to be supported all of you here need to be able to and I
hope you do differentiate genuinely between those who are the apologists for
Islamism or fundamentalist Islam today those two not necessarily being the same
thing to differentiate between those apologists and the genuine Muslim
reformers because sometimes there’s a danger the secularists and especially
non-believers who believe that Islam says something in particular about
women’s rights gender rights or whatever diversity pluralism liberalism will end
up sounding very much like the Islamists when arguing what Islam says and we’ll
end up getting into arguments with performers themselves who are attempting
to reform the situation and as we know with the history of Christianity in
Europe Christianity is slowly in the state the Church of England today where
for the I’m a gay bishop has declared themselves
gay and in a relationship I just did a whole hour on it on my for my LBC radio
show so Christianity needed to secularize first and then it started to
liberalize and what I would put to you is that secularism is the prerequisite
for the liberalization of attitudes within Muslim societies let’s take two
cases in point an example of the guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia and
the blasphemy law in Pakistan if you’re going to argue for either of those laws
to change those laws are justified it specifically by religion and they have
religious justifications backing them so to argue for those laws to change and
it’s quite clear that with the guardianship laws in Saudi Arabia went
without those laws reforming women cannot move around that country of their
own free will without the blasphemy laws changing in Pakistan people cannot
question a lot of what we’re speaking about here because they’ll be accused of
blasphemy the punishment for which is death but those two specific laws are
justified by religion and a pragmatic approach would recognize that laws such
as these need to be removed before that society can move towards in earnest
towards that reform process and to remove them you will need to be able to
make a religious case for their change because they are defined constant
constitutionally they are justified by that religion I hope and in my
concluding remarks that I stand here before you with a sufficient enough
track record and a moral standing to make the case that I’ve just made and
that Raheel has just made and for you to lend us your support for the continued
efforts to challenge and intellectually terminate it the ideology of Islamism
and then to reform Islam today thank you very much

Posted by Lewis Heart

This article has 18 comments

  1. The always impressive Maajid Nawaz speaks great sense. However, that common sense approach to Islamic reform is not supported by many Muslims, or by the political elite for that matter. Despite what Maajid says, Islamism is so pivotal to the core Islamic texts, that I struggle to see how Islam con truly reform to fit a more western liberal approach. I hope I am very wrong.

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  2. Love this guy. Adore him even. Sadly though, He's so far leftfield with historical Islam that I just can't see his vision happen. I wish it would. But it won't. A tragedy really 🙁

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  3. This should have millions of views. Maajid has changed my opinions immensely and undoubtedly the world would be a better place if this view became mainstream.

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  4. Maajid is a brave fighter for secular liberal values. However, the problem I have with his rhetoric is the difficulty to secularize Islam. Do you know the amount of mental gymnastics you have to do to bring your average Muslim to see that secularism is compatible with Islam? But I support him and his cause because what can you do? Expect 1.6 billion people to wake up tomorrow as atheists? Not likely. This is a war of ideas that needs to be opened up on many fronts. The reform movement is one front, ex-muslims another and western secularists and true liberals another. They all need to work together to alter the landscape of this backwards ideology.

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  5. As always, Maajid eloquently summed-up the problem and the solution in a quarter of an hour. Here are my fears: he doesn't carry enough support among the Muslims and his "precedences" will not be enough to outweigh the teachings. Having said that, I do wish this brave man all the luck in the world.

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  6. Whilst I admire his enthusiasm..

    The Islamists will get him eventually. They have nothing to lose and will kill at the drop of a hat. I fear he may be the first to go when things go tits up eventually.

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  7. An ideology that hides its true face while it continues to infiltrate other cultures is more dangerous than an open confrontation

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  8. You do realise. This guy is not a Muslim right? His ideology is as follows “i am a Muslim, but I do not want anything to do with Islam nor do I want Islam”

    Biggest Islamaphobe there is.
    Lol. What a joke

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  9. Majid stop talking about islam for crying out loud your views about islam are completely inlined with democracy an not sharia! Just shut up already.

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  10. Please do me a favour and show us where in the sharia law it says you can
    commit murder or rape? because i know 100% you will not be able to find it. the
    media are brainwashing a lot of people, open your eyes to the real truth. Islam
    is about peace, something the media doesn't portray. why don't you take the time
    and effort to talk to a well known and respected Muslim scholar before you start
    writing utter nonsense?
     
    Back your theories up with facts!!! you wouldn’t though, would you, because
    you'll never find your theories in the sharia law.
     
    Islam is the fastest growing religion in the West. Nevertheless, the West
    has many stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam that are due to the media,
    prejudice, and ignorance. Islam is often looked upon as an extremist, terrorist
    religion. Many people hate Islam and do not want to acknowledge its true
    teachings. In contrast to what many Westerners think of Islam, Islam is a
    peaceful religion, which does not promote any forms against the teachings.
     
    Terror is the biggest business today at home and abroad. Everyone is a
    beneficiary. The government gets more clout and more powers over the lives of
    its hapless subjects through new terror laws and activation of old ones in an
    atmosphere where no one dares to question the motives of the politicians over
    the vital issue of "security". Security forces get immunity for illegal acts and
    crimes for which they win medals, rewards, promotion and huge funds with no
    accountability attached.
     
    Newspapers and TV channels improve their circulation and ratings
    sensationalising real and imaginary terror stories with total impunity as no one
    would dare question their rightful concern for our safety and security.
     
    The vast majority of Europeans and Americans know very little about Islam.
    They know hardly any thing about its history and its teachings and do not
    particularly want to learn, according to a German academic. Very few westerners
    are bilingual. On the other hand, majority of Muslims are bilingual and have an
    associated knowledge of other cultures. In this respect, they are far ahead of
    many western citizens.
     
    Islamic studies is a "Strategic subject" that, when accurately and
    effectively taught, can aid community cohesion and extremism, according to
    British Ministers. Islamic studies should be part and parcel of National
    Curriculum instead of citizenship education so that all state , church and
    private school children could learn and understand Islamic traditions and
    values. The subject must be taught by Muslims.
     
    Bilingual Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual
    Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no
    place for a non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.
     
    There is no compulsion in Islam, otherwise, there would be no Hindu in
    India and not a single Christian in the Middle Eastern countries. Muslim rules
    Spain for 800 years but one can’t find a single Muslim in Spain. All of the were
    either slaughtered, exiled or converted to Christianity by force. Even Jews were
    expelled from Spain but the Ottoman Sultan gave them asylum in Turkey and you
    can still find them in Istanbul. What you have done with American Indian,
    Aborigines and Black community. You have destroyed their cultures, languages and
    faiths. They have adopted all your evil traditions and values and still they are
    the underdogs of western society. You want to do the same with Muslim
    communities living in the west. You want them to adopt your way of life and
    forget our languages. This is the main reason why we do not want to send our
    children to your rotten schools with non-Muslim monolingual teachers. Muslim
    children need state funded Muslim schools with bilingual Muslim teachers as role
    models during their developmental periods to preserve and transmit their
    cultural heritage and languages and to enjoy the beauty of their literature and
    poetry. At the same time they need to learn and be well versed in Standard
    English to follow the National Curriculum and go for higher studies and research
    to serve humanity.
    A Muslim is a citizen of this tiny global village. He/she does not want to
    become notoriously monolingual Brit.
    IA
    www.londonschoolofislamics.org.uk

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  11. Everyone who is supporting majid nawaz and saying all the warm marshmallow comments "oooh! We need more people like majid" or "oooh! He has changed my views on islam" you all are fucking dicks and because of people like you, the entire Europe is sucking allah's dick.

    Idiots, beware that this bastard (majid) is a muslim and a double Ph. D. in "takiya". Don't defend him and his cause anymore. If he wants to reform islam, than he must know that islam cannot be reformed because only allah can make changes in the quran and because allah never existed (was totally a fictional character introduced by mohammad) so he cannot change it. The one who claimed to be a messanger of allah (the fiction) is 10 feet under the ground and cannot change it even if he wanted to coz if he could see what crap he invented, he would probably kill himself several times within the grave. And majid cannot change islam because it is not permitted. And as per all the muslim imams and sheikhs, his punishment is death. But he is not dead or even threatened by any muslim organisation or any fatwas issued to his name because he is on the payroll of Allah the subhan a wata dick.

    Now the job of this multiple faced pig is to do a different coating of sweetness on islam and offer it to you. The whole point is to bring people in to this mess. Because he knows, once people are reeled in they can't go back out because the entire muslim community in different groups will start issuing fatwas against those converts and majid is not going to defend them. He is going to sit in his warm little shoe box and count all the cubes of cheese that he is going to recieve.

    One question, he talks about all the pretty things or changes that islam should adopt. But what are his views on muhammad as a child rapist, as a murderer, as a slave trader, as a sex maniac, as an abuser of everything, as a lier as a trickster etc. X infinity. Is majid going to deny to follow allah's instructions to follow mohammad as a role model for every muslim in their day to day life? NO

    Bottom line is, if he was a reformer, he was to firstly reformed himself by quitting Islam. Secondly, this all a trick to bring people in to a quick sand of islam. Once you are in, there is no retrieval and majid knows that.

    Hence, no matter what, "STAY AWAY FROM islam". MAY GOD (The real one and not allah) BLESS YOU ALL.

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  12. I'm a Christian but this dude looks like a hypocrite. He's like an illuminati puppet who's out to devour any believer from any religion. Just saying.

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  13. I'm not at all convinced that Islam, (rather than merely Islamism), is compatible with secular democracy.  We should have listened to Anne Marie Waters when she was prominent within the National Secular Society – her analysis of this dilemma is more realistic than Maajid's, I'd suggest.

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  14. If only Majid Nawaz’s views and opinions were the general consensus of all Muslims, that would be great. But they are not. They are not simply because of the fact of Majid Nawaz ignoring verses and ahadīth that talk about a Caliphate (i.e. a verse saying that if the believers come together and worship Allāh alone – in Tawhīd – then Allāh will grant them a Khilafah so that they cannot be persecuted); or other verses that instruct Muslims to stay away from laws other than what Allāh was revealed (and that those that go to these ‘false laws’ are following the ‘desires of the Shaytān’ and ‘only claim to believe’, but not truly do. Hence, are called “munafiqīn (hypocrites)”; etc. The fallacy with Majid, if I haven’t been clear enough, is that he states, for e.g., that the idea of the Khilafah does not exist in Islām because you cannot find the word, “Dawla (for state); Dustūr (for legislation); etc. One, when it comes to Islām, the word “Sharī’ah” is used (as Majid clearly knows), and this refers to legislation. Ignoring this simple fact is tantamount to intellectual dishonesty when addressing the issues of tackling extremism and fundamentalism. Nothing can be tackled and addressed if the problem is not recognised, for you will end up falsely making something else the problem (when it could not be). Two, even if we were to ignore/concede that words such as, “Sharī’ah” and “Khilafah” do not exist in the Qur’ān and ahadīth, this does not change the fact of the concepts, themselves, existing in the scriptures of Islām. Let alone the commentaries and explanations of scholars, which solidify these concepts further into Islāmic theology. Three, Islāmic history, (a few that Majid touched on), which shows Muhammad – the founder of the religion – instructing others to migrate from Mecca, to Medina (leaving a pagan Arab society for an Islāmic society), and the procedures that came with the Medinan caliphate (of the ‘Caliph (leader of a state)’ being discussed concerning how they are voted into power; their roles; etc). These cannot be ignored, for it is central to Islām that Muhammad’s life should be emulated, “for he is the best human being to have ever lived”; “best example”; “role model”; etc.

    Thus, Islām does need to be reformed. Nobody can hide from the fact that it propagates for a violent political framework that calls for other (non-Muslims) subjugation if they do not submit to the religion.

    Also, just to highlight:

    14:41 “Sometimes there is a danger (with) with secularists and especially non-believers, who believe that Islām says something in particular with women’s rights; gender rights; diversity; pluralism; liberalism; (they) will end up sounding very much like the Islamist when arguing (highlighting) what Islām says, and we’ll end up getting into arguments with reformers themselves who are attempting to reform the situation”. Unfortunately, the reality of affairs is that the scriptures of Islām are indeed violent, and this again, cannot be ignored. Every normal-minded and tolerant individual that calls for secularism; liberalistic; and democratic values stand strongly against violent extremism in any form (whether from the far-right; or from a theological perspective in the form of a theocracy, or/and from what comes from one). However, Islām is a violent religion. It is a religion, that in history, has had religious injunctions for military conquests, and Muhammad’s life (in his Sīrah) show this. Like I said above, Islām cannot be reformed if individuals (such as Majid), do not recognise that Islām is a violent religion. Therefore, it must be reformed in the aspect of verses/ahadīth being changed. One cannot simply argue from trying to change meanings/context of the scripture, for there is a rich history concerning these traditions, and it would be silly to suggest that modernist reformers like Majid can turn all of these explanations and commentaries on their heads. Hence, what Majid is essentially saying in this time stamp is that one must not expose Islām’s teachings for what they really show/mean, for it indirectly supports the extremist cause. Perhaps, this can be true for the short-term, but if many Muslims know of what their religion truly teaches, do you expect them to follow it to that extreme standard (or at all anyway)? And just to be clear, when I mean, “extreme standard”, I mean, “following Islām in totality”. In the long-term, if the true teachings of Islām are exposed to the world (and not watered down in attempt to hide these violent beliefs), then the violent ideology found in Islām will be destroyed. And I say Islām, not “Islāmism”, for terms such as, “Islāmism” try and deflect the violent origins of Islām towards other areas (i.e. that violence, from Islāmic terrorists, is the product of western colonialism); etc. No, Islām is inherently violent, and these terrorists are a product of their religion. But yes, factors such as geopolitics do increase the violence further, as it offers these extremists the voids and opportunities to take advantage of political uproar to then go one step further in implementing their violent Islāmic beliefs (specifically concerning a theocracy). This is also the stance of security services that are combatting Islāmic extremism.

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