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Letter to Extremism Commission
Letter to Extremism Commission
Update 8th November 2019: A reminder letter plus a response to Sara Khan's speech sent to the commission. This emphasised that, in our view, the proposed new definition of 'hateful extremism' that the commission are currently working on needs to have the ECHR judgment on sharia and subsequent follow-ups that can be found in our Key-Documents as part of the foundational principles on which their new definition is based.
Update 14th October 2019: Receipt of the letter is acknowledged and the Commission will respond in due course.
Letter sent: 12th October 2019:
With reference to your report of 8th October 2019, “Challenging Hateful Extremism”, a major theme running through your report concerns either actions by 'Islamists' or by people concerned about the effects of Islam-sharia as a belief system on the body politic.
Firstly, we are concerned about the use of of the rather loose term 'far right' in your report as it seems to be applied almost exclusively to those with concerns about Islam and that is the way it is frequently used elsewhere in a pejorative manner to tar anyone expressing concerns regarding Islam as a neo-Nazi. In effect a backdoor Islamic blasphemy law.
Your own analysis shows that 'far right' is an umbrella term covering a multitude of opinions and themes which includes people from neo-Nazis to the centre ground of the Tory party. However, polls show that a majority in the UK have concerns about Islam as a belief system, with 56% believing that Islam isn't compatible with UK values:
Across Europe, a majority want an end to Islamic immigration according to this Chatham House poll:
On that basis, we feel that you really need to scrap the term 'far right' and use separate terms to describe the sub-groups as you do for animal rights etc. on the far left. For those concerned about Islam a better term would, in our opinion, be counter-jihadists.
Specifically, your reference describing Anne Marie Waters as 'far right':
Page 73: “Anne Marie Waters said, when talking about Sunderland at a rally in Middlesbrough, “Islam teaches these men that women are nothing and that they can beat and abuse them at will. They come here enmasse and they do the same to us.”
Let's be clear here, Anne Marie Waters is correct. Please kindly either remove your reference on page 73 of your report to her and the description far right or at the very least add in that she was paraphrasing sura 4:34 and an interpretation by the Council of Europe Justice sub-committee of the principles of sharia law and how they align with human rights:
"Sharia law is understood as being ‘the path to be followed’, that is, the ‘law’ to be obeyed by every Muslim...
In this study I shall be looking at the general principles of Sharia law in relation to the European Convention on Human Rights...
In Islamic family law, men have authority over women. Surah 4:34 states: ‘Men have authority over women because God has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because God has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them. Then if they obey you, take no further action against them. Surely God is high, supreme...”
The reader can then decide for themselves whether paraphrasing the Quran and the Council of Europe constitutes being 'far right'! For clarity, Anne Marie Waters has not requested this clarification nor even mentioned the report to us although we have made her aware of the report and this letter.
Secondly, leading on from that, in our opinion one of the biggest drivers of the polarisation of opinions over the past two decades has been the refusal of both successive governments and wider institutions, especially the media, to countenance discussion of or even consider the possibility that problems with Islamic jihad, grooming gangs etc. might have something to do with Islam texts and teachings. We believe that until that failing is addressed to lance the boil all initiatives like this will be doomed. Admitting the truth and facing up to reality is the first step. Some examples of the media avoiding questioning Islam-sharia as a belief system are appended at the end of this letter and in the spirit of “open debate” that you have called for, we believe those examples should be openly and robustly debated. You are in a good position to initiate those debates.
That evasion by the media and politicians on scrutinising Islam as a belief system plus, it must be said your own report, matters because people know what is happening and the activists your report criticises generally know that the picture the media and politicians present to them regarding Islam-sharia is a distorted version of reality.
Reading your report, one wonders whether the real aim is combating extremism or suppressing dissent, particularly in regard to Islam. Therefore can you please respond to the following questions:
Does the commission agree with the 2003 ECHR judgment summary here?
ECHR Judgment Summary: "sharia law is incompatible with democracy and human rights"
Noting that the Welfare Party had pledged to set up a regime based on sharia law, the Court found that sharia was incompatible with the fundamental principles of democracy as set forth in the Convention. It considered that “sharia, which faithfully reflects the dogmas and divine rules laid down by religion, is stable and invariable. Principles such as pluralism in the political sphere or the constant evolution of public freedoms have no place in it”. According to the Court, it was difficult to declare one’s respect for democracy and human rights while at the same time supporting a regime based on sharia, which clearly diverged from Convention values, particularly with regard to its criminal law and criminal procedure, its rules on the legal status of women and the way it intervened in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts.
Source: “Annual Report 2003 of the European Court of Human Rights, Council of Europe”
Does the commission acknowledge that, given the 2003 ECHR judgment summary and the 2016 Council of Europe report below which clearly refers to “looking at the general principles of Sharia law “, that sharia law is clearly incompatible with British values?
Does the commission agree with this 2016 report by the Council of Europe, especially paragraphs 12 to 15?
Does the commission agree with Council of Europe resolution 2253 of January 2019 to which the UK government is a signatory? In particular the following statements:
“The Assembly considers that the various Islamic declarations on human rights, adopted since the 1980s, while being more religious than legal, fail to reconcile Islam with universal human rights, especially insofar as Sharia is their unique source of reference.”
“The Assembly is also greatly concerned about the fact that Sharia law – including provisions which are in clear contradiction with the Convention – is applied, either officially or unofficially, in several Council of Europe member States, or parts thereof. “
The request in paragraph 7 asking Greece to “to abolish the application of Sharia law in Thrace”? Although this is outside the UK and your remit, we are asking specifically because Sharia Watch would like to see both the teaching and application of sharia law banned in the UK.
Also paragraph 8, especially “The Assembly is also concerned about the “judicial” activities of “Sharia councils” in the United Kingdom.”. Are the commission equally concerned about the “judicial” activities of “Sharia councils” in the UK given the 2003 ECHR judgment summary and subsequent follow-up quoted above?
To be transparent, we will be publishing both this letter and answers on our website. Further, we would like to see your future work publicly acknowledge and reflect in your future proposals the following to provide guidance to politicians, the media, social media companies and social media users generally. It would be appreciated if you could indicate whether or not you will adopted or at least consider these suggestions.
Public acknowledgement of the ECHR 2003 ruling that sharia law is “incompatible with democracy and human rights”. Given your focus on human rights and an evidence based approach we feel that the role the Islamic belief-system plays as an enabler for the actions of 'Islamists' and in driving concerns regarding Islam, the nature of sharia must be highlighted.
Publicly acknowledge that, given the Council of Europe report clearly referred to “looking at the general principles of Sharia law “ and the summary given by the ECHR, sharia law is clearly incompatible with British values.
Propose actions to curb the teaching of, as a minimum, the aspects of sharia that contravene the European Convention on Human Rights as set out in paragraph 6 of Council of Europe resolution 2253 from January 2019. The UK government is a signatory to this resolution.
Ideally, Sharia Watch would like to see a complete ban on both the teaching and the practice of sharia within the UK extending the request in paragraph 7 of the above resolution asking “asking the Greek authorities to abolish the application of Sharia law in Thrace“. For the present, we accept that openly showing the nature of sharia is the best that is likely to be achieved.
To publicly acknowledge that it is a legitimate and reasonable position to consider that Islam-sharia as a belief system constitutes a threat to non-Muslims given the hateful way the Quran and other Islamic texts describe non-believers and the way sharia law discriminates against non-Muslims (Council of Europe: “non-Muslims do not have the same rights as Muslims in civil and criminal [sharia] law”).
We are also very concerned about how your definition of “hateful extremism” could easily lead to people viewing groups like Sharia Watch as extremists. We would like to clarify that you do not view the activity of gathering and propagating evidence relating to sharia law and the jihad it endorses ( “Reliance of the Traveller – manual of Shafi'i sharia law - section o9.0: “Jihad means to war against non-Muslims, and is etymologically derived from the word mujahada, signifying warfare to establish the religion.” ) as being covered by your definition of “hateful extremism”?
Further that calls to abolish or ban the teaching and/or practice of sharia law do not constitute “hateful extremism”? Note the UK government have already endorsed calls in resolution 2253 for the abolition of the application of sharia in Thrace, Greece.
You also need to recognise that there is, at a minimum, a reasonable evidence based case to be made that the beliefs of salafists and jihadi groups are rooted in authoritative Islamic texts. Facts should not be suppressed because they happen to reflect badly on a group of people:
Yahya Cholil Staquf – General Secretary of the largest Muslim organisation in the world:
“The truth, we recognise, is that jihadist doctrine, goals and strategy can be traced to specific tenets of orthodox, authoritative Islam and its historic practice. This includes those portions of Shariah that promote Islamic supremacy, encourage enmity towards non-Muslims and require the establishment of a caliphate. It is these elements – still taught by most Sunni and Shiite institutions – that constitute a summons to perpetual conflict.”
“The way I see it, what ISIS did was that they want to force the reality of today’s living to be following what is in the source of Islamic teaching. Everything they [ISIS] did, they have the justification from the authoritative references of Islamic teachings.”
The rest of that last paper, which was presented to an Islamic conference in Istanbul in Nov 2017, is worth reading.
Consider an individual who is sceptical regarding Islam as a set of beliefs as one of the proposed deputy commissioners. Suggestions for this would include Denis MacEoin (Academic), Baroness Cox or Lord Pearson.
We would appreciate a timely response to our questions as your future work has the potential to impact greatly on Sharia Watch UK.
Sharia Watch UK
Examples of where the media silence criticism of Islam as a belief system by omission:
The ECHR judgment has, to the best of our knowledge, two mentions in the MSM in the last 16 years. One is an audio clip on the BBC web page on sharia. Notably, it is ONLY in the audio clip not in the text although it is highly relevant. The second is a single reference recently in an Australian newspaper.
Following the Charlie Hebdo attack no mention was ever made of the various well recognised hadith that state that the Prophet Muhammad had people killed for mocking him. That must be considered something to could have influenced the attackers. As are the various Islamic texts on blasphemy: https://shariawatch.org.uk/?q=tags/blasphemy .
The misquoting of Quranic verse 5:32 which frequently happens following a jihad attack is never challenged by either the media or by politicians even after horrific slaughter.
The media are very quiet about the fact that sharia law and some imams reportedly recommend or even mandate FGM as a practice:
In 2009, the Fatwa Committee of Malaysia’s National Council of Islamic Religious Affairs ruled that “female circumcision”, as it has become known, was obligatory for Muslims but if harmful must be avoided.
Bias: The media will question Tim Farron about his views on gay sex but won’t ask Muslim MPs the same question. To the credit of the Spectator and Charles Moore they have broken ranks on this:
As the media chase various Tory MPs and Liberal Democrat leaders round the country and force them to say that gay sex is not a sin, why do they not do the same to Muslims in elected office? A glance at Muslim websites suggests a hard line. According to JustAskIslam, for example, homosexuality is ‘a corruption of a man’s sexuality [no space is given to a woman’s sexuality or homosexuality] and a crime against the opposite sex’. Homosexual acts are therefore to be punished: ‘Most Muslim scholars have ruled’ that the punishment should be ‘one hundred whiplashes for the man who has never married and death by stoning for the married’. The real toughies, it adds, say that the punishment should be ‘death for both partners’. In the Parliament just dissolved there were reportedly 13 Muslim MPs. Presumably there will be similar or higher numbers after 8 June. What’s holding back the fearless foes of homophobia from smoking out these people’s opinions?
“There may be some positive things to be said about Mohammed, but I thought this was pushing things too far and mentioned just one occasion when Mohammed didn’t welcome a critic. Asma bint Marwan was a female poetess who mocked the ‘Prophet’ and who, as a result, Mohammed had killed. It is in the texts. It is not a problem for me. But I can understand why it is a problem for decent Muslims. The moment I said this, my Muslim colleague went berserk. How dare I say this? I replied that it was in the Hadith and had a respectable chain of transmission (an important debate). He said it was a fabrication which he would not allow to stand. The upshot was that he refused to continue unless all mention of this was wiped from the recording. The BBC team agreed and I was left trying to find another way to express the same point. The broadcast had this ‘offensive’ fact left out.”