For several hundred years, people have thought of Britain as the epitome of modern civilisation and land of Enlightenment that gave rule of law, individual freedom and democracy to the world. In early decades of the 21st century, this image is being eroded, as pockets of Britain are being transformed into isolated enclaves, administered by Islamic clerics associated with different mosques and madrassas.
The Darul Uloom madrassa in the village of Chislehurst, modelled after India’s Darul Uloom Deoband, seeks to produce “an Islamic elite who will rule the Muslim world” — as reported by British Indian journalist Edna Fernandes, who also reported that music, drama and modern foreign languages are deemed un-Islamic and Shakespeare is seen as evil for dealing with subjects like love and revenge. Mufti Muhammad ibn Adam of Darul Iftaa, an Islamic institute in Leicester, delivers fatwas such as: driving a taxi is forbidden by Islam because it may entail taking passengers to a pub. Such fatwas impinge on individual freedom, a fundamental basis of modern societies.
In 2008, Wesley Paxton of a teachers’ union warned that faith schools are causing segregation in Britain, adding: “More faith schools is probably going to mean more Islamic schools.” There are 166 madrassas, engendering segregation in British society along religious lines. The madrassas and mosques, established by Islamic clerics coming from Pakistan and other Muslim countries, are run along sectarian lines such as Barelvi, Deobandi, Ahmadi, Shia and the like. Ahmadi Muslims, who found shelter in Britain following discrimination in Pakistan, are being denigrated by Pakistani clerics visiting Britain to deliver sermons, sowing seeds of sectarianism. Gender segregation prevails at campus events, approved by British universities. Muslim students walk out of science classes on evolution, saying it conflicts with the Quran.
Islamic Sharia law is enforced by clerics in parallel to the British law. In pockets of British society, Muslims do not report criminal cases to police. Tom Winsor, chief inspector of the Constabulary, warned recently that Muslims do not call police in cases as serious as honour killings, sexual assaults and murder, choosing instead to administer Sharia-based criminal justice. Last month, Rebekah Dawson, standing trial for witness intimidation, refused to show her face before a court in London and was permitted to wear full-face veil. However, when told that she must remove the veil to give evidence, Dawson, a convert to Islam, decided not to take the witness box. Muslims are creating ghettos. As immigrants move into an area, natives sell their homes and move to another area. While there are more possibilities of integration in London, Muslim ghettos are emerging in areas of Birmingham, Bradford, Leeds, Manchester, Oldham, Dewsbury and Leicester, says Sajid Iqbal, a British journalist of Pakistani origin who sees British democracy as being weakened.
Reportedly, over 85 Sharia courts operate in Britain, delivering verdicts that contradict British law in cases of marriage, inheritance, child custody, polygamy, et al. In addition to Sharia courts operating informally, the government in 2008 approved five Sharia courts in London, Birmingham, Bradford, Manchester and Nuneaton, allowing their rulings to be enforced through the British judicial system. Sajid Iqbal warns that in next fifty years, if these trends continue, sections of Muslims would likely have left the British justice system. Informally, rulings are also issued by mosques and madrassas and enforced by Islamists. Last December, three Muslim youth were jailed for assaulting people in the streets of London’s Bethnal Green area for not meeting Sharia codes. Significantly, they were intimidating not Muslims, but non-Muslim couples for holding hands or girls for wearing skirts.
In streets of London, vigilante Muslim youth enforce no-go areas, designated as Sharia zones. Last December, dozens of Muslim men and women protested in London’s Brick Lane, demanding that shops and restaurants stop selling alcohol. Muslim families from Pakistan take their daughters to their country and have them married without their consent. In the recent past, Muslim parents have killed daughters for going out with non-Muslim boys or simply for a night out. Inside British prisons, Islamists convert inmates to Islam and enforce Islamic Sharia code. In 2010, officials at the Long Lartin jail reported that non-Muslim inmates were forced to stop playing Western music and remove pictures of women from their cells.
In April 2013, a British Muslim woman, a relative of former Pakistani singer Junaid Jamshed, quit Islam and, writing under the pen name Layla Murad, reported that members of Al-Murabitun — an Islamic movement started by neo-Muslim and former Scottish playwright Ian Dallas — practise polygamy in modern Britain. In 2012, the Islamic Sharia Council of Britain noted that Muslim career women are choosing to become second or third wives for varying reasons. Mizan Raja, a matrimonial consultant, reported that he received hundreds of calls from women asking about becoming second wives. At the end of 2013, the population of British Muslims was at 3.3 million, about 5.2 percent of the UK’s 63 million population. British Muslims have a young population. Journalist Ami Sedghi wrote recently that nearly half of all Muslims are aged under 25. There are concerns about Sharia-inspired ideals being transmitted to the next generation of Muslims.
There is also the concern that London could look like Islamabad in next five decades. In towns, politicians of Pakistani origin talk of the day one of them will take residence at 10 Downing Street.
As Islamism looms in British society, these issues cannot be seen in isolation from Islam and immigration. Layla Murad, who studied at an Al-Murabitun-run seminary in Morocco, discovered that she bonded with Moroccan women on a school holiday to the tune of a Kareena Kapoor number. If not Bollywood, democracy is a model for multi-cultural countries, but in Britain, due to the British leadership’s surrender before moral relativism, democracy appears to have lost its way under the Islamist assault.
Tufail Ahmad is director of South Asia Studies Project at the Middle East Media Research Institute, Washington DC.