My Stance On Eric Pickles' Letter To British Muslims

I blame selfish, insular unIslamic attitudes.  Indeed many Muslim voices, men and women today are doing what they can to actively shut up debate and opportunity for reforming Muslim communities across the UK. Which so does need reform at grassroots. 

Let me be clear. I am not talking about reforming Islam - I am talking about the corrupt, dogmatic weak and indoctrinated elements of British Muslim communities - whose tribal practices and indoctrination I believe need to be exposed and shamed as being Unislamic. 

There is something so innately destructive and defensive in reading Muslim men decrying any chance for debate. They as well as I -  all know privately elements of our community is rotten to the core. Often it is called  "Tribal Islam".  Where Islam and culture and tribal unIslamic ways are fused into rhetoric then played out by generation after generation - behind the doors of many British Muslims households.  Tis a feral beast - one where indoctrination,  logic, rationality is absent and all noble Islamic concepts as follows are virtually non-existent. 

Ijithad - effort to critical thinking - see here
Fiqh - Islamic Jurisprudence read more here
Akhlaqh - "Islamic morals and manners' see here
Shurah - Need for "counselling' or consultation see here

Even now I am sitting in a house that is playing one of the many 'Muslim TV channels' where Mullahs intone and drone on and on at young children ringing in to recite chunks of the Al-Quran.  Do these same kids know about the above concepts? Can every Muslim child fight to stand tall in those moments when alienation and isolation swoop that might invite in the call of vile false 'Islamic' cult voices of supremacy - be it honour violence or Isis - that urges them to violate other humans in an unislamic way - all in the name of 'Islam?". Hmm.  I am doubtful.  

Every time any opportunity comes along to for us British Muslims to say - hey let us scrutinise? Can we do better? Should we not work together to safeguard the reputation of Islam and our Prophet. Let's get our hands dirty. And get stuck in to root it all out - as Muslims and non-Muslims.  No. Nada. No chance.  So we go back to the old ways. The tribalism.  The whisperings in our community of 'yes we know but what can we do - it is what it is.' Except for what I see as the only Muslim community who do walk the walk and march to the sound of a different beat - check out the UK Ahmaddya led by their spiritual leader Mirza Masroor Ahmad.  While I was born into a Sunni family - and no longer prescribe to any sect as regard myself as one who simply follows and is inspired by Islam. this community is a shining example of what Sunnis could be doing.  But we do not.  We will not. Why bother when it is so much better to allow more non-Muslim to deride Islam.  And how is that done? 

Instantly, bearded Muslim voices (because to have a beard means one is obviously Muslim) are reeled out to denounce and deride such opportunities. Hence -> more divisiveness 
-> more hate -> more problems ->  Islamophobia. And so the merry circle continues. And we Muslim women hope And pray, And wring our hands,  And wait.  Not any more I say.  

It is wrong. 

Scroll on down on my thoughts and reply as a Muslim woman - on why I object to such opinions. And how I specifically address a British Muslim undergraduate hirsuited Areeb Ullah - on his personal stance at being so upset and offended by Eric Pickles letter. Sigh. 

So last week Eric Pickles, the Minister for Communities in UK - wrote this letter to all British Muslim faith leaders.  Here is his letter in full. Written with Lord Ahmed.  A Muslim peer. 

Op-Eds To Eric Pickles 

I read a few op-eds - all of which I thoroughly applauded.  

1. Matthew Ancona "

3. Then.  Came along undergraduate Areeb Ullah - the one op-ed I was really sad to read. 

"Dear Eric Pickles – why single out Islam for this patronising treatment?"

Undergraduate British Muslim man, Areeb Ullah Comment Is Free article for The Guardian offended me very deeply.  Plus his article where he talks about his beard here. The latter is relevant as in my musings I do mention his own reference to his beard.  A worrying trend where many Muslims - especially young men and women seem to pursue the non-stop objectification of the idea of a consensual Muslim dress as an inherent and core symbol of a Muslim's Islamic faith. What the...?  Dress alone doth maketh not a Muslim. 

It concerns me as a Muslim woman because in my opinion dress, facial hair is so utterly irrelevant WHEN compared with the swathe of forward thinking instructions in the Koran. Advice and suggestions that addresse fundamental ground breaking solutions for social injustice, gender rights and reform of a highly greedy, warring, money orientated society of the 7th century Arab peninsula known as pre-islamic "Jahillyya' - the age of divine ignorance - in which slavery, female oppression and exploitation was rife. 

Moreover - the more I see men and women crowing about their right to dress and look Muslim - I think utterly does injustice to noble Islam.  And lends itself - especially for some women - more acts of evil by men to subjugate their 'sisters' so that they confuse the covering of a woman's body as a snide and secret means to perpetrate honour violence with their own morbid obsession and control over a woman by conniving to argue her need to be 'modest.' And let me be clear. The hijab and niqab is indeed a forceful expression of freedom but only when worn to hide a woman's body because SHE opts to do so as a means to banish sexual objectification of herself. It then surely becomes an incredibly empowering weapon for a woman, in a society, who seeks to eschew sexual objectification - to become a role model.   But for that to become and ends to the means of Islam as I keep seeing - shocks me.  What has Islam become>? 

So here is my response via my Guardian profile here to Areeb - also in full below.  I am sure he means well but am starting to worry about the number of voices shouting and talking about Islam and Muslim - from ivory towers. That obfuscated the real issues. 

 "Areeb Ullah
Walaikum salam warahmatullahi wabarakatuhu.
You wrote: I’m afraid your letter will be received respectfully, but with disappointment, up and down the country."
Quite frankly, I think your article is a disgrace. I am Muslim. I wholeheartedly and 100% disagree with your stance. Eric is right to write as he does. I saw it as a cry for help to Mosques.
It is very concerning to see a Muslim man decry and shut down any potential debate or opportunity for Muslims to reform. Change that might help women and our vulnerable youth. Instead you opted to keep the lid nice and tight on the dross, the stench and stain of those Muslims behind secret doors trashing Islam. Thereby shutting down any chance to help British opinion formers and society access and see the real beautiful Islam.
Eric says all those statements about how wonderful Islam is - but how many non-Muslim people REALLY think it is? What saddens me is to see you, a undergraduate, choose to moan about a SOS letter. Is that really what gets you upset? Really? And to find you speak on behalf of swathes of British Muslims. Esp for us Muslim women. You do NOT speak for me.
Why is a minority of Muslim youth going through a cycle of angry resentment? Why have they an inability to redirect their passion and energy towards constructive means. Some turn to Isis - others hijack Islam to hide under its banner to undertake deprave acts. Oh - do you not know about Muslims suffering teen pregnancies, rape and STDs. really - or are you going to deny they exist?
Heard about the phrase 'Hojabi'? 'Whores' who do not wear correct hijab. The 'Dawah' men who tell Muslim women to be ashamed for not covering and protecting their honour. Like I said. A crisis. Nothing to do with Islam and all to do with corrupt Muslims. They are the rotting flesh on the bones of my lovely Islam - an Islam which today is rarely recognised positively.
Are you also blind to British Muslims, especially women suffering at the hands of evil indoctrination. Which results in financial control, oppression and abuse. Do you not read how culture and tribal attitudes have swept and infected the Muslim community? We could all try to reform bad habits. Instead they are left to rot. Still us women wait. To see more Muslims beseech Mosques to effect any change.
Bizarrely what happens is all the Muslims agree privately the Ummah (the community of Muslims) is a mess. But while they wring hands, where is the support from Mosques to engage young weak minds clearly passionate about Islam. Help stop them going on the internet to be radicalised? Surely they do so as there cannot be much joy in the mosques sermons. Staffed by alien Mullahs who are not in touch with British culture. Combine that with parents who are practising tribal Islam, no wonder these indoctrinated weak minds are easily swayed by evil brainwashers. Is that not something you are interested in?
All this is further perpetuated by all the many Muslim men and mullahs, who gather every Friday, up and down the land, but refuse to truly address so many of the freakish elements that is a huge cause of disturbance for so many Muslims who are suffering. Wow - an insular version of Islam.
So I throw down a challenge. Perhaps you can take time out of your lofty educated towers? (When you are not waxing lyrical about your beard*, which along with the hijab by the way does not maketh one more Islamic. Muslim hirsuit faces are merely a form of dressage used to indicate a man's private need to honour the Prophet, just as those Xtians who wear the crucifix). Instead why not start to help address the sickening abuse, alienation and indoctrination of Muslims who easily recite huge chunks of the Quran - yet have no concept of Aqlaqh (manners), spend their time controlling and deriding fellow non-muslim and Muslim women and strip away all the good stuff that Islam does say - about looking after women.
I am coining this as 'UnIslamic Tribalism'. Which not many Muslims want to talk about. Nor address. Why would they? Given the Mosques are the preserve of mostly men. A little space that Muslim men have dominated - with little engagement for women - except for the oft neglected cramped spaces where the women are segregated and kept to one side.
I do want the mosques to engage and start educating the real Islam. I get offended at just one person citing Islam to enact evil. Muslim sisters are suffering, some Muslim youth are in crisis and crazy enough to join ISIS. Yet your priority is to slam Eric and talk about the beard while failing to mention the many rights given to Muslim women under Islam.
Finally. Next time you get upset? Try smelling salts? Tis only a letter.
*Incidentally, I await the day non self-serving Sunnah is adopted. Those which Muslims hypocritically ignore. Our Prophet married a much older woman. And polygyny was to rescue vulnerable women. That is not Sunnah we see today, is it? @yasminisyasmin"

Next.  After my reply below in full but can be better read here. I have followed on with some of the comments from people writing in to me.  I found it all interesting. I chose to keep them anonymous.  But make of it what you will. 

1. "Your letter was thought provoking and eloquent Woman such as your self should have a louder voice in the community . It is unfortunate that Islam has being hijacked by some self serving men who probably deep down feel an inadequacy and have to repress woman to prove that they are men . I hear men talking abut the Honour of there sisters whilst by their own actions dishonouring another man's sister . The hypocrisy is astounding . You are absolutely right that some brothers these days are only taking from the deen parts that suit them and not the whole , even by their own standards they should question if they really are believers."

2. "Areeb, care to reply to this letter instead?"

3. "Here, have around of applause, heck, have two. Cheers."

"4. I'm sure you're right about the patriarchal element in Islam. You make your points with great strength. Don't stop! In my experience, true Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and no doubt other faiths, all agree on one thing: that God is love. That's where they all meet. And I just want to add, because I'm sure you were unaware, and I think you'd want to know, that many Christians are offended by the substitution of 'X' for 'Christ', as in 'Xmas'. That said - all power to you!"

5. "If there was any justice LovedeshScout's post should have a Guardian pick."

6. "Hi Yasmin. just read your posting in response to article by Areeb Ullah in the Guardian.
I was very impressed by your common sense, passion, sincerity and above all by your courage
love and respect"

7. "As technically I can't find a way of posting a comment on your contribution on Areeb Ullah's article, just want to say that it was excellent. Critical without being hateful, constructive rather than destructive and so well written! Bravo.
Wish you the best of luck in what you are doing and hoping to achieve.

8. "I know what you're saying. I have grown to know Islam in depth, but have never wished to convert as I'm agnostic. Until his death 2 years ago, I lived with my non-practising but "believing" Muslim partner  from Agleria for 15 years. He was the kindest, gentlest, most selfless person I have ever met. His family was a different story, however.  Problem is that is difficult for non-Muslim Western ladies like me to wade into the debate as I often find myself accused of meddling in things I know nothing about, so I tend to hold back. Anyway, I'm sure progress will be made - once we succeed in raising awareness both for Muslims and non-Muslimes of what Islam is really about.  Don't know if you read French but there is a very good article in Le Monde to read about that: here's the link:

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