7 April 2010


In a first step towards open engagement with its critics (see previous post), the City University Islamic Society has published this diatribe against me and my colleague Rosie Waterhouse. I have reproduced it in full as the ISoc wishes and shall respond in my own time. The original is here.

Secularism is not Islamophobia, but secularists are Islamophobic

On Thursday the 18th of March 2010, Rosie Waterhouse, a senior lecturer and course director at City University announced that she and some of her colleagues believed the niqab (face veil worn by modest Muslim women) was incongruous with British values. She said “I was particularly disturbed by the sight of Muslim female students wearing the niqab, a dress statement I find offensive and threatening. Don’t they value the rights and freedoms they enjoy in Britain?”[1]

A few weeks later, on Friday the 2nd of April, Paul Anderson, a programme director at City University stated that the banning of the niqab was “a stance that is routinely adopted by secularists in France and Turkey, but is less commonly taken in Britain.”[2] Although somewhat surprisingly claiming he is “not a niqab-banner,” Mr Anderson then proceeded to say “the leaders of City ISoc (Islamic Society) have relentlessly pushed a separatist and intolerant version of Islam, repeatedly promoting apologists for terrorist violence and the most reactionary social attitudes. They have consistently and insidiously played the role of victimised innocents in order to gain sympathy, without any solid evidence, to further their cause.”

Despite Ms Waterhouse and Mr Andersons political opportunism, their ideological contradictions expose their conscious ignorance, and some may say, out right hatred for the Islamic way of life and all Muslims that adhere to the principles of their religion. Both Ms Waterhouse and Mr Anderson are people who advocate and propagate liberal secularism who have forgotten their intellectual heritage. Liberal secularism rests upon the premise of individualism, in other words, viewing the self – the human being – as an abstract entity divorced from social attachments. Two key values are built from this premise, individual freedom and individual rights. According to individual freedom, also explained as freedom of choice, the niqab and the orthodox classical principle based interpretation of Islam the ISoc follow shouldn’t be a problem and should always be tolerated under British liberal values. So why the contradiction?

You see, Ms Waterhouse and Mr Anderson are liberal secular ideologues who do not want to understand or discuss the Islamic way of life. The Islamic way of life is not based upon the false premise of individualism, rather it views the human being as an entity with social links and obligations. This correct view on mankind develops and builds sublime values, which in Ms Waterhouses case, includes honouring and protecting women far greater than what Western values can ever offer. How else can we explain all four British-born Muslim girls referred to by Ms Waterhouse in her article, who said they began to wear the niqab only after coming to City and joining the Islamic Society say they found it “liberating?” Or male and female Muslim students at City University segregating themselves even when forced to sit in the same room? Islam teaches sublime values that penetrates hearts and souls, making Muslims feel content, comfortable, at ease and “liberated.”

With regards to Mr Andersons claim mentioned above, then surely by being a programme director of journalism he should know better than anyone that citizens of the United Kingdom are given liberties that allow them the freedom of action and freedom of choice, whereby a person is not obliged to pledge allegiance to anybody except the Crown and it may be argued that there are none above it. In this manner, they enjoy a certain quantity of freedom of thought, academic emancipation, and self-expression. After all, it was Franklin D Roosevelt, the 32nd President of America, who in 1941 stated his vision, “A world founded upon four essential freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.“[3]

City ISoc are perfectly within their rights of freedom of thought and self expression to follow whatever version of Islam they want to. Let them and another 1.6 billion people around the world worship and remember God in their own way, let them believe and practise what they wish. This is their freedom of action and their freedom of choice and thus it is from common decency for Mr Anderson not to draw upon their religious practises attempting to make them “seem” intolerable and to be working against the progression of society, when in reality he has no knowledge of the aims, goals and objectives of such acts of worship. Indeed it is time Mr Anderson takes a really good look at himself and sincerely contemplates why he possesses so much hate to a society that proudly adheres to principles sent by Allaah and His Messenger. Surely, there must be more to it than what the eye can see.

Finally, it should be noted that freedom of speech does not give one the right to cause disputes, and argue for the sake of quarrelling, but it does however give one the right to a debate and this would only be constructive if done so in a thoughtful and intellectual manner; understanding that a certain level of respect and decency must be maintained at all times. A person has his or her right to freedom of speech, but a certain level of decency and appropriateness needs to be maintained at all times. On the 18th of March, the ISoc organised a press conference to explain its stance and its decisions throughout the past several years. It invited the journalism department to listen and pose as many questions as possible, all be it written on paper and without external recording. Student journalists, the press office and newspapers attended in their numbers, displaying perfect manners and characteristics, benefiting greatly after hearing the ISocs explanation. However, Mr Anderson, as the programme director felt the urge to storm out the room using foul language, making a big scene for himself instead of sitting and debating in a rational and logical manner like some of his students. Surely it is this attitude that is “intolerable,” provocative, backward and works against social integration and cohesion. All too often has the ISoc and Muslims at City University witnessed senior staff members like Mr Anderson who have a tendency of making “a mountain of a mole hill,” attempting to dupe their students and readers into firstly acknowledging, and then accepting their side of the story, which yet again, is merely a snippet of the whole situation at hand. But the ISoc will no longer remain silent and take a back seat whilst innocent students and readers are manipulated into blindly following what some may say are Islamophobic secularists. No, it is time the ISoc stands up, defends itself and fights back against the likes of Ms Waterhouse and Mr Anderson; two confused secularists that promote significantly preposterous views. So where do we go from here? Well, a new vice-chancellor is due to take over in August, indeed it will be a brave vice-chancellor who confronts this issue. But at least we have started a debate at City.

And all praise and thanks are due to Allaah.

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