I noticed that the proudly Secular Liberal Maajid Nawaz, who describes himself as ‘a reforming liberal’ [sic] who founded the ironically titled Secular-Liberal campaign group, ‘Quilliam Foundation’ has recently taken umbrage at an event that is due to happen on 13th November 2015 called ‘Quiz a Muslim’, because it has on the panel Muslim speakers Maajid presumably doesn’t approve of (i.e. Muslims who are not Secular Liberals like himself). He described the panel as ‘all-male Islamist Rogues’.
Maajid’s argument on this, is that all the panellists are ‘Caliphate-advocating Islamists’. His argument is ‘they believe in every core principle ISIS believes in, and they reject ISIS merely because they made their move for a Caliphate ‘too soon & too fast’.
As usual, Maajid not only uses strawman arguments, but also absurdly fallacious ones. Muslims already know this, so the rest of this article is mostly intended for non-Muslims who may not be so clear about Islamic teachings, and may not be able to detect Maajid’s misrepresentations (although Muslims may benefit from the arguments too).
The Fallacy of the ‘You Share the Same Ideology as ISIS’ argument
Maajid leaves out and fails to mention the very strong objections and complete rejection of ISIS by ‘Islamists’ due to ISIS’s use of violence against civilians, dissenters and ISIS’ brutally criminal and cynical un-Islamic practices.
The first fallacy of Maajid is called the ‘guilt by association fallacy’ which Maajid appears to use to malign all Muslims who believe in a holistic Islam. The method goes that if there is anything similar between you and a commonly disliked group/movement, the arguer will disingenuously claim it is caused by your similarity. The problem with this argument is that any similarity can be used no matter how vague, and many people who hate Islam use the same weak argument.
Some Atheists say ‘Religion causes terrorism because ISIS and religious people both follow the same ideology of theism, they just differ on method’.
Far-right Islamophobes say ‘Islam causes terrorism because ISIS and Muslims both follow the same Ideology that believes in Muhammed (saaw) and the Quran, they just differ on method’.
I could argue, Maajid Nawaz and the far-right National Front (NF) and British National Party (BNP) all follow the SAME IDEOLOGY of British Nationalism (i.e. believing in moral worth of the British nation-state), they just differ on method…
I could also argue, Maajid Nawaz and the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) terrorists of South Africa (who blew up civilians in shopping malls, restaurants and cafes in their fight against Apartheid) follow the same ideology of Secular Liberalism, they just differed on method…
I could argue that Maajid Nawaz and Adolf Hitler both believe in the concepts of Secularism and Nationalism and both follow many core ideas and Western traditions born in the European Enlightenment, they just differ on method…
You see the fallacy of Maajid’s weak rhetoric?
A British man may believe in the nation-state, and be proud of the British nation-state, but completely oppose the BNP, EDL, NF and the current Conservative Party in power. How is that possible? Well, just because you believe in the same label, doesn’t mean you agree on what that label means, how it works or what it does. ISIS were Secular Baathists, who use brute power, force and intimidation to get power, while using religious rhetoric and religious iconography on their flag. They seek legitimacy by appealing to the religious sensibilities of the people in the region. This is no different to their ‘father’ Saddam Hussein who put ‘Allahu Akbar’ on the Iraqi flag, claimed he was a descendent of the Prophet Muhammed (saaw), named massacres of Kurds after Suras of the Quran, and urged his security forces to recite Quran to justify torture and killing. Secular President Sisi of Egypt is no different.
Muslims who believe in the classical Islamic concept of Caliphate believe in a leader appointed/elected by the Muslim people in the Muslim world, who rules by our consent (bayah), establishes justice and mercy, oversees the implementation of Sharia, protects the Muslim and non-Muslim citizens, and gives non-Muslims rights to practice, preach, worship and even intellectually criticise Islam in debates free from fear. Yazidis have lived in the region under three Caliphate dynasties (Umayyads, Abbasids and Ottoman) in peace and were unmolested. I highly doubt ISIS share this concept of Caliphate – Baathists are not known for their religious education, nor Saddam-era ‘Islamic institutions’ known for teaching the political aspects of Islam.
Of course, I could argue that Maajid Nawaz’s ideology, Secular Liberalism, is actually the only one here that holds MAINSTREAM opinions that terrorism is permitted under ‘Supreme Emergencies’. In comparison, Islam prohibits terrorism under all circumstances. MDI’s Zara Faris recently highlighted Liberalism’s dark side being the REAL Ideology that justifies Terrorism, in a recent debate held by iERA (1).
Quilliam’s All-Male (and all-Secular Liberal) Panels
In the recent iERA debate ‘Is Islam the cause or solution to Extremism?’, it featured Muslims yet again having a mixed gender panel, but this was conveniently forgotten by Maajid when he lambasted the Muslim panel of speakers in the upcoming ‘Quiz a Muslim’ event that happen to be only male on that occasion. It’s funny no one ever takes the Quilliam Foundation to account when their panels happen to be all-male too (2). It seems it is one rule for Secular Liberals, and another for Muslims. And what is Maajid actually arguing? That ‘Islamists’ should have 50% female ‘Islamist’ representation? Would Maajid be happy with the event if half were ‘Islamist’ women? No, because the issue of women on the panel is not Maajid’s concern, rather its ideology.
However, if Maajid argues that he wishes for Secular Liberal representation on the panel, we should all ask him when was the last time Quilliam set up a panel discussion or even debate and invited ‘Islamists’? None springs to mind. Whereas the ‘Islamists’ he so dislikes have invited many Secular Liberals onto their debate panels, including Liberals who self-identify as Muslim. Funny that…
The Fallacy of the Term ‘Islamism’
The second fallacy is the Western invented term ‘Islamist’, which the West uses to distinguish between colonialised ‘spiritual-only’ Muslims and pre-colonialised holistic-Islam Muslims. Ironically, the term ‘Islamisme’ was invented by the French philosopher Voltaire as a label for ISLAM. He was one of the first Western thinkers to stop using the term ‘Muhammadanism’. The West continued to use ‘Islamisme’ until it fell out of favour during the 20th century (around the time many Muslim [secular] countries were created by the West.
Considering that Islam has for 1400 years consistently been associated with a holistic system, which includes ruling, economics and political affairs, the word ‘Islamism’ adds nothing to the word ‘Islam’ and is therefore irrelevant and mostly used to mislead non-Muslims (and Muslims alike), in order to make a distinction without a difference. According to Maajid’s ‘criteria’ of what an ‘Islamist’ is, the Prophet Muhammed (saaw), who ruled Madinah according to revealed divine law, would himself fall into Maajid’s definition of an Islamist! Seeing as Muhammed’s teachings constitute what we call Islam, ‘Islamism’ is a useless modern description at best, and harmful Western invented deception at worst.
Caliphate: a mainstream belief from Islam’s own point of view
Islam for 1,400 years has had the concept of leadership according to the Prophet’s (saaw) model as a fundamental obligation upon the Muslims, to establish Islamic laws upon Muslims, rule with justice and mercy, protect the Muslim community and protect the weak and oppressed amongst our non-Muslim brothers and sisters in humanity (min bani Adam), and propagate the message of Islam to the world.
The successorship to the Prophet as political leader and executor of the revealed laws of Islam is called a ‘Caliph’ (khaleefah) and the government system a Caliphate (Khilafah). It is a widely accepted obligation in Islam. This obligation is rooted in the Quran and the commands and sayings of the Prophet Muhammed (saaw) [which is where we got the word ‘Khilafah’ from].
Maajid arguing that ‘mainstream Muslims’ don’t believe in Caliphate is like saying that ‘mainstream Catholics’ don’t believe in a Pope or the ecclesiastical authority of the Church of Rome.
So vital was the obligation of Caliphate, that the Shias and Sunnis split merely on the question of who should be the Caliph (it would’ve been pretty pointless for both sides to disagree so strongly on the position of Caliph, if Khilafah wasn’t an even obligation in Islam). So absurd is Maajid’s position that Caliphate isn’t an obligation, that he would have to condemn the Prophet Muhammed (saaw) for telling Muslims to adhere to it in the first place.
God says in the Quran:
‘[We said], “O David, indeed We have made you a Caliph upon the earth, so judge between the people in truth and do not follow [your own] desire, as it will lead you astray from the way of Allah .” Indeed, those who go astray from the way of Allah will have a severe punishment for having forgotten the Day of Account’ [Quran 38:26]
The first six Caliphs were companions of the Prophet Muhammed (saaw), and quite literally, every single classical Islamic scholar until now believed in this, Imam Abu Hanifa, Imam Shafi, Imam Malik and Imam Ahmed bin Hanbal, to later and notable ones like Ibn Khaldun (considered the grandfather to Sociology), Al Ghazali, Nawawi…
Every school of thought affirmed the obligation of Caliphate, all four Sunni schools of fiqh, the three Shia schools and all the creedal schools (Ashari, Maturidi, Athari…), including even the Mutazilla (mislabelled ‘the rationalists’), of whom three Caliphs were Mutazilites!
Of course, there is one group that didn’t believe the Caliphate was an obligation in Islam, they were the Khawarij of Najd (they were the Muslim version of anarchists, who believed that Muslims didn’t need a government in order to perfect religious practice. So they waged war against what they saw as the pretentious Caliphate, and all those who supported it, leading to many killings and deaths. They even argued against the Prophet’s (saaw) cousin, Imam Ali (ra) that humans shouldn’t rule in government based upon revelation and only God could judge. They argued that it was shirk – claiming God’s rights – for any human to do so. I’ve heard modern day Secular reformers of Islam use the same argument, there is a poetic irony in there somewhere). Seeing as only the sects of the Khawarij rejected the obligation of Caliphate, Maajid Nawaz is in good company.
And last but not the least, the Ottoman Caliphate was the last Caliphate, and lasted until the 20th century until it was destroyed as part of the conditions of victory imposed by the British Empire after World War 1 on the defeated Ottomans (poppies anyone?).
In a series of communications throughout 1915, Sir Mark Sykes, British MP and adviser to the British Cabinet on the Middle East (and author of the Skyes-Picot division of the Middle East), advocated the reduction of the “the malignant power of political pan-Islam” (3) of which he proposed to carry out by means of destroying the Ottoman Caliphate: “To defeat the enemy, it is essential to destroy the Ottoman Empire” (3)
Sir Mark Skyes wanted to build a coalition of forces in the middle east that would permanently suppress Islam in the Middle East, he said on August 1917 in a memorandum: “I want to see a permanent Anglo-French Entente [i.e. alliance], allied to the Jews, Arabs, and Armenians which will render Pan-Islamism innocuous [i.e. neutralised] and protect India and Africa from the Turco-German combine [i.e. alliance]” (4)
That’s right, the British Empire identified that ‘Pan-Islam’ must be defeated by destroying the Ottoman Caliphate. So I’m not very surprised the British government (and those it supports) seek to prevent the return of something their predecessors spent so long and so much dismantling, in order to open the middle east for exploitation.
If Maajid Nawaz was truly concerned in stopping terrorism and the ideology of ISIS, he would be supporting Muslims who advocate the true Islamic conception of Caliphate, which emphasises accountability, rule of law, justice, mercy, compassion and multicultural and multi-religious pluralism. Instead, Maajid Nawaz jumps on the UK government’s bandwagon of indiscriminately condemning all Muslims (5) for believing in an idea shared with Prophet Muhammed (saaw) and his companions, Caliph Abu Bakr, Caliph Umar, Caliph Uthman, Caliph Ali and Caliph Hasan.
If you look back before 2014, Maajid Nawaz has always been condemning Caliphate long before ISIS arose with their fake proclamations. It is clear that it isn’t ISIS that caused the UK government or Maajid to campaign against the idea of Caliphate, but it is the rejection of Secular Liberalism by Muslims, and what a Caliphate represents as part of an alternative way of life, that is the true target for his and the UK government’s intellectually bankrupt and intolerant Liberalism.
The Poetic Irony behind Quilliam Foundation’s Name
Of course, there is one last (and hilarious) fact. The Quilliam Foundation named itself after a victorian English convert to Islam, Abdullah Quilliam (1856-1932), who they thought would be a good model of ‘British Muslim’.
I have reason to believe that they weren’t aware of his full views at the time they named themselves – which when it came to light made the situation absolutely hilarious in light of the mission statement of the Quilliam Foundation (QF). QF opposes ‘the Islamist narrative’, namely:
- the obligation of the Islamic concept of Caliphate in Islam,
- the narrative that the Western governments are at war with (pan-)Islam,
- and that Muslims should be loyal to the global Ummah above the nation-states they live in.
Can you guess what Abdullah Quilliam’s openly professed ideas were?
‘Among Muslims none should be known as Turks, Arabs, Kurds, Ajem, Afghans, Indians or English. They are all Muslims, and verily the True-Believers are brethren. Islam is erected on the Unity of God, the unity of His religion, and the unity of the Muslims. History demonstrates that the True-Believers were never defeated while they remained united…At the present time, union is more than ever necessary among Muslims. The Christian powers are preparing a new crusade in order to shatter the Muslim powers, under the pretext that they desire to civilise the world. This is nothing but hypocrisy, but armed as they are with the resources of Western civilisation it will be impossible to resist them unless the Muslims stand united in one solid phalanx.
O Muslims…Unite yourselves as one man. Let us no longer be separated. The rendevous of Islam is under the shadow of the Khalifate. The Khebla of the True-Believer who desires happiness for himself and prosperity to Islam is the holy seat of the Khalifate…’
W.H. ABDULLAH QUILLIAM, The Crescent, Vol. VII, No. 171, April 22nd 1896, pp. 681-682
He was appointed by the Ottoman Caliph as Sheikh of Islam to the British Isles, and he opened up the first Mosque in England. Abdullah Quilliam not only believed in Caliphate, he called all Muslims to ally themselves with the Ottoman Caliph. He openly spoke out that the British Empire and the Western nations were at war with Islam and were planning to launch a war to suppress it. He urged Muslims in Britain to leave and join the Ottoman armies and defend the global Ummah against the British armies.
[To read Abdullah Quilliam views in more detail, see: (6)]
Quite literally Abdullah Quilliam is the diametrical opposite of everything the badly-named Quilliam Foundation stands for – which must have caused Maajid Nawaz considerable chagrin when Quilliam’s views were pointed out to him! I’d dare say that if Abdullah Quilliam were alive today, Maajid Nawaz would equally call Quilliam an ‘Islamist’ too. QF naming themselves the Quilliam Foundation is as absurdly hilarious as if the white-supremacist KKK named themselves the Martin Luther King Foundation…
Conclusion – Why Muslims dislike the Quilliam foundation
In conclusion, Maajid Nawaz demonstrates the intolerance of Secular Liberals. He and his organisation, the Quilliam Foundation, advises UK government to clamp down upon Muslim mainstream opinions. Maajid Nawaz, using the label ‘Muslim’, act as enablers for the UK government to clamp down on Muslim community’s right to hold and express the opinions of their conscience and religion. It is hard for the UK government to be seen denying a minority the right to believe and preach their faith, but it becomes so much easier when they can always point to a fringe group, such as QF, and say ‘the beliefs we clampdown upon are not necessary to Islam, as QF shows you can call yourself a Muslim and not believe these things, therefore those beliefs we find illiberal will get no protection’.
Question: What if those beliefs are part of the religion? What if people want to consicentiously follow Islam in its unadulterated form? Will Liberalism demonstrate tolerance of this? or will it tolerate only beliefs which it agrees with? If so, how it is tolerance, to tolerate only those who agree with you?
Seeing as Maajid defines ‘Islamism’ as ‘a desire to impose any given interpretation of Islam’ (7), what do we call those who want to impose Secular Liberalism on people, or an interpretation thereof, whether by the state or by ostracism of a minority by wider society? Liberalism-ism?
Food for Thought.
1) Zara Faris exposes the real ideology that justifies Terrorism:
2) One example of a all-male Quilliam panel
2nd example of an all-male Quillam panel
3rd example of an all-male Quilliam panel
I stopped looking after three, but feel free to find more.
3) CAB 23/4, Eastern Report, Appreciation by Sir Mark Sykes, 14th November 1917
4) F.O. 371/2490/108253, Sykes to Callwell, 14th July 1915, enlc. in W.O. to F.O., 6th August 1915; F.O. 371/24982, Sykes to D.M.O. (W.O.), 15th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 28th November and 2nd December 1915, encl. in McMahon to F.O.; F.O. 882/13, Sykes to Callwell, memorandum, dated 28th October 1915.
5) “We need to recognise that we’re not just fighting terrorism here, we’re also fighting extremism…there are many extremists who fall short of actually condoning terrorism, but they buy into a lot of the narrative of the terrorists [e.g.] they support [belief in a] Caliphate…we have to say in our country, those views while they fall short of condoning terrorism, they’re not acceptable either…We need to do more to help integrate people into our country…there are some organisations and some people…to those people we have got to say, that is not an acceptable view, and we’re not going to engage with people who believe that their ought to be a Caliphate” David Cameron, 29th June 2015, BBC Radio 4
7) Maajid’s definition of Islamism is also flawed and absurd. Every government in the world imposes an interpretation of the culture, ideology, morality system, law or religion on its people, for people do not agree on the same interpretation of anything. The purpose of all government is to select an interpretation that best fits justice and the principles of the society that established it, and rule by it all everyone equally. This is called the rule of law. Does Maajid Nawaz want an Islamic government not to make any rules based upon an interpretation, and therefore no laws – while at the same time, he is happy for Secular Liberal governments to IMPOSE an interpretation of Secular Liberalism (conservative, liberal, social liberal, libertarian etc etc) upon their people after each election? One rule for the Secular Liberals and one rule for the Muslims it seems.