UK: Contextualising Islam In Britain report
If both Muslims and non-Muslims 'misunderstand' terms like 'Shariah' and 'Jihad' then it's not really an issue of 'misinterpretation'. If both speaker and listener agree on a term, then it means exactly what they agree it to mean. Having a passer-by start to argue with them that it really means something else is pointless.
But, if these researchers really think that Jihad means self-reform and active citizenship, then it is only logical that they should urge all British Muslim to strive for Jihad. Why does that sound ridiculous?
A report which explores the philosophical and theological perspectives on what it means to be a Muslim in Britain today has been published.
The study, entitled Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives, is being launched today (Tuesday, October 6th), and can be downloaded at (http://www.cis.cam.ac.uk/CIBP.html).
It marks the culmination of a nine month research project which was hosted by the University of Cambridge in association with the Universities of Exeter and Westminster.
A total of 26 Muslim scholars, academics and activists representing a diverse spectrum of views from Muslim communities in the UK took part in discussions about what it means to live as a Muslim in modern Britain. The report covers a wide range of issues including secularism, democracy, Shariah law, human rights and citizenship.
The report presents the group's conclusions and aims to act as the basis for a wider discussion with other Muslim leaders and communities around the UK. In time, it is hoped that this will lead to the development of a virtual "House of Wisdom", providing space for discussion among both Muslims and non-Muslims on how Islam should function in modern Britain and contribute to wider society.
Despite its exploratory nature, the report puts forward conclusions concerning a number of key areas.
The authors argue, for example, that a secular British state provides many benefits for British Muslims, not least by allowing Islam to be practised freely in an atmosphere of respect, security and dignity.
The group agreed that Muslims should assert and teach what they see to be the truth of their faith, but also recognise the existence of different religions and the right of others to do the same. Their study urges Muslims to identify shared values between Islam and other world views, pointing out the Qu'ran's emphasis on qualities such as good neighbourliness, charity, hospitality and non-aggression.
The report also redefines a number of terms which the authors believe have been misinterpreted. It notes, for example, that both Muslims and non-Muslims often have "skewed understanding of the term Shari'ah, which conjures up images of floggings and beheadings."
In fact, it stresses, Shari'ah is a way of life based on an ethical code that emphasises dignity, equality and justice for all. Islam, it says, teaches the equality of all human beings regardless of gender.
Similarly, the study notes that "jihad" in its true sense refers to active citizenship, and is meant to encourage Muslims to strive for social justice, fight against poverty and make efforts to reform themselves.
In some, clearly defined, cases, it can also mean the legitimate use of force in self-defence. The authors add, however: "It is important to stress that Islam is opposed to all forms of terrorism, regardless of who sponsors them. While all legal systems recognise self-defence as a legitimate rationale for the use of force, it is clear that foreign conflicts cannot justify violence in Britain."
Finally, the report says that Muslims have a responsibility to be active citizens and engage with society in a positive way. Political engagement is described as an obligation for Muslim citizens and voting is to be encouraged. This can, however, also involve questioning and challenging the state when it fails to uphold principles of justice.
Source: University of Cambridge