Glasgow shopkeeper, Asad Shah, was murdered by another Muslim for what appears to be a religiously motivated crime. Mr. Shah had wished Christians a Happy Easter. This event is significant because it marks the levels of intolerance Muslims themselves are facing from a fringe minority within their own communities. I worry this minority is growing. How have we ended up in this situaton? Muslims are now regularly castigated online by other Muslims for expressing greetings such as 'Happy Birthday,' 'Happy Christmas and even 'Happy Mothers Day!' It never used to be like this.
Who influences these bigoted Muslims? Is it (pseudo) scholars such as Zakir Naik who promotes his propaganda through his Satellite station, Peace TV? He is popular amongst South Asian Muslims and was banned by Home Secretary Theresa May in 2010. Or is it those who have their own slots on the various Asian and Islamic UK based satellite TV stations, some of whom are also invited to speak at University Islamic Society events? Or is it the growing number of international celebrity scholars online with huge social media followings?
Of course people should be free to express their views providing they don't incite violence. If they think it is against their faith to say 'Happy Easter' or 'Happy Diwali' then they should be able to say so. However, it is important to try and identify why some are policing other Muslims and think it is acceptable and perhaps even their religious duty to punish them because they have a different religious perspective. The attacks can be verbal or physical. In Islam we believe only God declares what is lawful (halal) and what is unlawful (haram). It seems now to be a regular occurrence being told things are 'haram' and therefore against Islam. We have good scholars who are moderate in their views but unfortunately those with hardline opinions often drown their voices out. In fact they are also attacked and maligned in an attempt to discredit them so their views don't gain traction amongst Muslim youth.
Islam has a long tradition of recognising differences of opinion and debating with respect (Quran 16:125). The fringe that claims to be an authority on Islam are devoid of the most basic Islamic etiquette and blatantly ignore the Quran's spirit of mercy and tolerance. Muslims who express views regarded as too moderate and therefore against their narrative (and according to them against Islam), are often bullied and smeared including incitement of hatred. Many Muslims have been subjected to such aggressive behaviour regularly through social media. The Online trolls who go after Muslim men and women in this manner are often connected to each other and sometimes operate in packs. Muslims like myself are also regularly referred to in derogatory terms such as 'House Muslims,' (derived from the term House Negro) 'Uncle Toms,' and 'Sell Outs.' It is used to dehumanise any Muslim who disagrees with their worldview. They are portrayed as traitors pandering to the interests of White people, especially those in media and government. This is arrogant, dangerous and also bigoted rhetoric. Contrary to what they may believe and want, Muslims are diverse in their religious and political views and can think for themselves and engage with people in power on their own terms. We are a part of British society and should be engaging on every level and not shouting and whinging from the margins.
These bigots can disagree and move on but they don't. They want to harass in an attempt to silence and shut alternatives voices down. They want to enforce one religious and / or political ideology. They will stop at nothing to achieve their aim including accusing Muslims of changing Islam and refusing to accept that Muslims are diverse and believe in different interpretations. This deliberate tactic now being employed against British Muslim is a sinister one because the consequences of implying that someone is a heretic or is committing blasphemy can be fatal. It is a subtle and covert form of extremism. There are 50 shades of extremism and this is one of them.
Unfortunately I am now on this hit list of Muslims to target. After being trolled on Twitter recently, an anonymously written article appeared online criticising a number of Muslims. Interestingly the article was called, Deformist Subversions: British Islam Architects and Shaista Gohir. It is clear the intention of this piece is to promote that we (and especially me) are distorting Islam. I have even been given my own Islam and it is called Gohir's Islam. The next step can easily be accusing me of heresy and blasphemy or hope that others will do that after reading the article. Perhaps the author wants to remain anonymous to avoid responsibility of any consequences from this article.
We know what happens to those deemed as heretics and blasphemers in some Muslim countries. In fact a few UK imams have been glorifying Mumtaz Qadri who murdered a Pakistani politician, Salman Taseer, who stood up for Christians and questioned the blasphemy law, which is often abused and used to persecute minorities. Muhammed Asim Hussain, an Imam from Bradford called Qadri a martyr and that he had honoured the Prophet. His comment was liked nearly 136000 on his Facebook. Muhammad Masood Qadiri, who presents a weekly programme on Ummah TV, also told his Facebook followers that Qadri was a martyr. Most recently Imam Maulana Habib Ur Rehman of Glasgow Central Mosque has also praised the extremist. I can't help but wonder given such comments, was the Glasgow shopkeepers murder a copy cat killing especially considering that the victim is believed to be from the Ahmadiyyah sect of Islam who are often vilified both in the UK and abroad and often routinely declared as not Muslim.