Emel Magazine is a lifestyle publication aimed at British Muslims.
It is a glossy and attractive production, which positions itself at the forefront of modern Muslim British identity, suggesting a way for Islam in Britain to exist in a ‘lifestyle’ niche, just one more spiritual path amongst many. It would not look out of place on the magazine stand next to the latest edition of ‘Yoga Monthly’ or any other number of sedate periodicals. The design and appearance of the magazine does not promote a sense of hard religiosity. Overall, the feel of the magazine is positive, promoting Islam in a benign manner, and as such, it seems to be a progressive contribution to Islam in Britain.
Which makes it all the more alarming to see the December 2012 edition of Emel. The magazine has a feature commemorating fifty years of the establishment of the British branch of the UK Islamic Mission, a movement that is effectively a sub-branch of the Jamat-e-Islami. The J-e-I is an Islamist party that originated in colonial India, and became institutionalised in the UK with the immigration of Muslims from Pakistan. It is a highly influential ideological group.
But it is far from progressive. Its instincts are deeply reactionary – startlingly at odds with the kind of liberal, forward thinking version of Islam that Emel seems committed to projecting.
In many ways, this sums up a central tension at the heart of Islam in Britain today. How do you escape the influence of highly reactionary Islamist ideology, and if you cannot escape it, how can you complain about Islam being viewed as inimical to progressive culture when you uncritically promote institutions that advance reactionary Islamism in Britain?
The UKIM describe themselves thus:
"UKIM is not only an organization trying to serve the Muslim community, but it is also an ideological movement, It aims to mould the entire human life according to Allah’s revealed Guidance, following the life example of His last Messenger, Mohammed (peace and blessings of Allah he upon him)"
Emel features an interview with a gentleman called Zia Ul Haq, who devotes himself to community work with the UK Islamic Mission:
Q. Which people do you admire the most and why?
A. One of the main personalities I admire is that of Sayyid Mawdudi. The work in establishing a movement put in by Mawdudi and the most beautiful and comprehensive treasure of literature he left, are a source of practical guidance for any Muslim. The time and effort that he put into research of historical facts, which were then presented with such accuracy, is truly admirable. Yet now we struggle to find the time to read it all.
It is truly astonishing that a magazine that seems to position itself as a leading light of progressive Islam in Britain should uncritically promote Sayyid Mawdudi.
Abul A’la Mawdudi is, along with the Muslim Brotherhood’s Syed Qutb and Hassan al-Banna (the grandfather of Tariq Ramadan), the most influential Islamist ideologue of the twentieth century. Many would say his influence exceeds that of all other fathers of modern Islamism.
His ideology was supremacist, intolerant, ultra-reactionary, bigoted, violent, misogynist and as inimical to liberalism, secularism, pluralism and tolerant, progressive values as it is possible to be. Mawdudi’s ideology can only be described as belonging to the extremist far-right of the political spectrum. So why does Emel find a place for his disciples in their pages?
Let us begin with what Mawdudi believed should be done to ex Muslims and apostates from Islam. They should be killed
“To everyone acquainted with Islamic Law, it is no secret that according to Islam, the punishment for a Muslim who turns to kufr (infidelity, blasphemy) is execution. Doubt about this matter first arose among Muslims during the final portion of the 19th century as a result of speculation. Otherwise, for the full twelve centuries prior to that time, the total Muslim community remained unanimous about it. The whole of our religious literature clearly testifies that ambiguity about the matter of the apostate's execution never existed among Muslims....”
(From The Punishment of the Apostate according to Islamic Law by Abul Ala Mawdudi)
In his book ‘Jihad in Islam’ Mawdudi says:
“Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and programme of Islam regardless of the country or the Nation which rules it.....Islam requires the earth—not just a portion, but the whole planet—not because the sovereignty over the earth should be wrested from one nation or several nations and vested in one particular nation, but because the entire mankind should benefit from the ideology and welfare programme or what would be truer to say from ‘Islam’ which is the programme of well-being for all humanity.
Islamic Jihad is both offensive and defensive at one and the same time. It is offensive because the Muslim Party assaults the rule of an opposing ideology and it is defensive because the Muslim Party is constrained to capture state power in order to arrest the principles of Islam in space-time forces .....it is imperative for the Muslim Party for reasons of both general welfare of humanity and self-defence that it should not rest content with establishing the Islamic System of Government in one territory alone, but to extend the sway of Islamic System all around as far as its resources can carry it.
In his book “Let Us Be Muslims”, Mawdudi describes how Muslims cannot co-exist with non-Muslims, and how adultery should be punishable by by stoning to death:
“Human well-being and happiness, therefore, will only come about by attacking the evil afflicting society at its roots, that is, by getting rid of all powers based on rebellion against the laws of God. If people are free to commit adultery, no amount of sermons will stop them. But if governments forbid adultery, people will find it easier to give up this evil practice.
You know what severe punishment Islam has prescribed for adultery – one hundred strokes on the bare back. The very thought makes a person shudder. And if a married person is involved, the punishment is stoning to death – one trembles at the very mention of such terrible punishment”
What does Allah’s sovereignty imply? That His writ must run supreme in the world: legal judgements must be based on His Shari’ah, the police must operate according to His commandments, financial transactions must be carried out in conformity with His laws, taxes must be levied as directed by Him and spent as specified by Him, the Civil Service and the army must obey His code, people must devote their abilities, capacities, and efforts to fulfilling His desires. Further, Allah alone must be feared, His subjects must submit to Him only, and man must not serve anyone but Him. Unless the Kingdom of God is established, these objectives cannot be realized. How can Allah’s Din accept to co-exist with any other Din, when no other Din admits of such partnership? Like every other Din, Allah’s Din, too, demands that all authority should genuinely and exclusively be vested in it. If it is not, the Din of Islam will not be there, and it will be futile to pretend that it is.
In “Towards Understanding the Quran”, Mawdudi describes what a Muslim’s attitude towards non Muslims should be, as well as what should be done to disobedient women – they should be beaten
“This aim (of Islamic warfare) has two aspects– the negative and the positive. On the negative side, the aim of war is to abolish (fitnah), and on the positive, it is to establish Allah’s Way completely and in its entirety. This is the only objective for which it is lawful, nay, obligatory for the believers to fight.
If the wife is defiant and does not obey her husband or does not guard his rights, three measures have been mentioned, but it does not mean that all the three are to be taken at one and the same time. Though these have been permitted, they are to be administered with a sense of proportion according to the nature and extent of the offense. If a mere light admonition proves effective, there is no need to resort to a severer step. As to a beating, the Holy Prophet allowed it very reluctantly and even then did not like it. But the fact is that there are certain women who do not mend their ways without a beating. In such a case, the Holy Prophet has instructed that she would not be beaten on the face, or cruelly, or with anything which might leave a mark on the body.
The second reason why Jihad should be waged against them is that they did not adopt the Law sent down by Allah through His Messenger. (Humiliation/reduction in status) is the aim of Jihad with the Jews and the Christians and it is not to force them to become Muslims and adopt the `Islamic Way of Life.’ They should be forced to pay Jizyah in order to put an end to their independence and supremacy so that they should not remain rulers and sovereigns in the land. These powers should be wrested from them by the followers of the true Faith, who should assume the sovereignty and lead others towards the Right Way, while they (Jews and Christians) should become their subjects and pay jizyah.
Mawdudi further explains in this book what the attitude towards women should be:
There must be someone as the head of the family so that discipline may be maintained. Islam gives this position to the husband and in this way makes the family a well disciplined primary unit of civilisation and a model for society at large. The head of the family has responsibilities. It is his duty to work, and do all those tasks which are performed outside the household. Woman has been freed from all activities outside the household so that she may devote herself fully to duties in the home and in the rearing of her children – the future guardians of the nation. Women have been ordered to remain in their houses and discharge the responsibilities assigned to them. Islam does not want to tax them doubly: to bring up their children and maintain the household, as well as to earn a living and do outdoor jobs would be a clear injustice. Islam, therefore, effects a functional division of labour between the sexes. But this does not mean that the woman is not allowed to leave the house at all. She is, when necessary. The law has specified the home as her special field of work and has stressed that she should attend to the improvement of home life. Whenever she has to go out, certain formalities should be observed.
To preserve the moral life of the nation and to safeguard the evolution of society on healthy lines, free mingling of the sexes has been prohibited. Islam effects a functional distribution between the sexes and sets different spheres of activity for both of them. Women should in the main devote themselves to household duties in their homes and men should attend to their jobs in the socio-economic spheres. Outside the pale of the nearest relations between whom marriage is forbidden men and women have been asked not to mix freely with each other and if they do have to have contact with each other they should do so with purdah. When women have to go out of their homes, they should wear simple dress and be properly veiled. They should also cover their faces and hands as a normal course. Only in genuine necessity can they unveil, and they must re-cover as soon as possible.
These quotes are genuinely disturbing for anyone who believes in a tolerant, pluralist progressive, liberal society.
That they are taken from the ideological Godfather of the Jamat-e-Islami and UK Islamic Mission is depressing.
That the organisations and activists that promote the world view of this figure are essentially whitewashed and given a platform by a magazine that ostensibly seems to be attuned to the aspiration of the good society is utterly dispiriting.
Emel magazine should be confronting, scrutinising and repudiating the ideology promoted by the UK Islamic Mission for many reasons.
- Because it is rooted in the bigotry and intolerance of Mawdudi.
- Because if you seek to guard against prejudice towards Muslims or negative stereotyping of Islam you are ethically compromised if you in any way white wash the ideology of supremacism and intolerance of Mawdudi and institutions inspired by him in the UK
- Because not doing so corrodes trust between Muslims and non Muslims. If you promote Islam as tolerant and peaceful, when you fail to repudiate, and in fact tacitly whitewash intolerant ideology like Mawdudi and the UK Islamic Mission, you appear to be either dissimulating or not telling the truth.
- Because misogyny needs to be confronted within the Muslim community and promoting Mawdudi inspired institutions that propagate the misogynistic precepts he expounded is shameful.
- Because if you wish to promote Islam as a religion that people can convert to, in a society in which freedom of conscience is absolute, promoting institutions that glorify a man who wrote about how those who leave Islam should be killed, makes Islam seem hypocritically menacing. Ex Muslims in Britain should no longer have to tolerate the propagation of such a figure unquestioningly.
Had a non Muslim said that Islam promotes the kinds of things that Mawdudi writes about, he would most likely be declared an Islamophobe and a bigot. When a highly influential Islamic institution like the UKIM promotes his teachings, and this is further given a sugar coated platform by a magazine that should be opposed to these values, what do we call it?
Links:Emel magazine - The Founding MissionEmel magazine - 10 Questions with Zia Ul HaqUK Islamic Mission - 50 Years of Compassion