When listening to the news about Islam in the UK, a term that is frequently heard is ‘British Muslim’, but I have been saying for almost a decade now that such a notion – certainly not just a name – is anathema to those who live in Muslim lands. Islam does not recognise frontiers and neither does it allow the gradation of being Muslim, which is exactly what the term implies, that is, if you are a British Muslim, then there must be something about the Islam that you follow that is different from other Muslims and their beliefs. In short it is considered heretical. We in the West have acknowledged this subtle distinction for over a decade now, as it has been currency since the aftermath of 9/11, but the shift is not so subtle for hard-line Muslims abroad. Their core belief is ‘either you are a brother, or you’re not’.
Muslims based in western democracies have had a hard time since 2001, as non-Muslims have attempted to elicit from them the condemnation that most people in a democratic society would want to hear, from those who share a religion with fundamentalist terrorists. That can’t have been easy as they grappled with the political and religious implications of what was taking place. Worse was to come.
British police issued a warning on Friday to prominent Muslims in the UK of a video made by extremists linked to Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants, which reportedly threatens the lives of prominent British Muslims who it claims are “enemies of Islam.” Don’t underestimate the threat therein: it is not just aimed at Britain and the deportation of Abu (the Hook) Hamza as it names several prominent Muslims that condemned terrorist attacks, such as the murder of Lee Rigby. They argue that ‘British Muslims’ have assimilated into British society, thereby acquiring a bastardisation of the straight path – al mustaqeem – that the radicals deem is Islam.
The Prophet Muhammad is supposed to have lead a perfect life and the Qur’an is supposed to be the ‘perfect word of Allah’ thus neither can be changed, not by a covenant nor failure to emulate the Prophet in all his beliefs and deeds. An example of this is the Prophet’s marriage to 6 year old Aisha, which he consummated when she was 9. It is perfectly reasonable to argue that that is what happened 1,500 years ago and, indeed, many European kings contracted marriages to children in the middle-ages, though normally for the purposes of ensuring peace. However, the Prophet’s ‘protected’ and ‘perfect’ life leaves many arguing that what was good enough for the Prophet is good enough for them. This is but one example of the difficulties facing Islam in the 21 century.
The fact that Muslims are making jihadist death threats to other Muslims means that they no longer consider them to be following the faith – al mustaqeem – and thus they are kafireen because they are deemed to be ‘denying’ their religion. This is indeed a serious and unprecedented development because now the intimidation and even execution of ‘British’ Muslims may well follow in the wake of this watershed threat.