Quite a few British Muslims are eager to abandon the path of Mohammed and the faith of their forefathers. Some are brave enough to convert to Christianity and make a public profession of their new faith in Jesus, but most commit quietly and incrementally (and often unconsciously) to morph to the secular-non-theistic attitudes of society. It’s no big fuss: they just prefer texting girls to reading the Qur’an, and watching Gogglebox instead of listening to some tedious imam drone on about dīn and duʿā. Not many would call themselves atheists, but there are very many thousands of young British ex-Muslim agnostics. They daren’t go any further for fear of..
Well, the grainy picture above is of Nissar Hussain being bludgeoned not-quite-to-death with a pickaxe. He and his entire family converted from Islam to Christianity in 1996, and life in Bradford has been hellish ever since. So hellish, in fact, that they gave up on the Church of England (though correspondence directly with Nissar Hussain subsequent to that report elicited nothing of substance at all: promised documents were never received).
But his persecution is manifestly real:
West Yorkshire Police are at last treating this as religiously motivated ‘hate crime’ (though why it isn’t attempted murder is another investigatory policing mystery). Nissar Hussain’s persecution (for that is what it is) has now been reported nationally by the Daily Mail, Express and the Telegraph (why is this only of concern to the ‘right wing’ media? Why nothing in the Guardian or on the BBC?). He is clearly intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent: wouldn’t he make a good guest on Channel 4 News or Sunday Morning Live? Speaking from his hospital bed, he said:
“The Muslim community are largely decent people but because of the taboo of converting to Christianity we are classed by them as scum and second-class citizens. Over the years our lives have been subjugated and stripped of any dignity. Our lives have been jeopardised and subjugated, we have been forced to live under a climate of fear, this is not England. I grew up in in to a free decent country accepting British values and the British rule of law. I think multiculturalism has failed, I think David Cameron’s Big Society has failed and I think there is two laws, one for them and one for us.”
There’s a lot in here to chew over, but there is one fundamental dichotomous tension: “The Muslim community are largely decent people but because of the taboo of converting to Christianity we are classed by them as scum and second-class citizens.”
No “decent people” classify converts to Christianity as “scum and second-class citizens”. All decent people will respect the fundamental freedom of religion and the inviolable human right (and ‘British value’) to manifest whatever faith one chooses and to abandon that faith if one wishes and do so with impunity. Perhaps Nissar Hussain’s mistake was to talk about “the Muslim community” when there are, of course, a myriad of disparate Muslim communities. It’s easy but lazy to lump them all together. Not all have sympathies for the Charlie Hebdo murderers: it’s just 27%. Not all think acts of violence against those who publish images of Mohammad are justified: it’s only 24%. But that BBC poll needs urgently to extend the scope of its enquiry.
How many British Muslims favour the quranic exhortation in ayah 256 of Al-Baqara that “there is no compulsion in religion”? And how many instead incline toward the hadith which records Mohammad saying: “Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him” (Bukhari 9.84.57)?
O, we can debate the relative authorities of the diverse schools of Islamic jurisprudence, and ponder the principal Sunni and Shi’ite soteriological divergences. But the fact remains that you don’t hear many British imams (or representative Muslim community leaders or councils) contending against the view of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, who has stated, seemingly somewhat authoritatively: “The Muslim jurists are unanimous that apostates must be punished, yet they differ as to determining the kind of punishment to be inflicted upon them. The majority of them, including the four main schools of jurisprudence (Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi’i, and Hanbali) as well as the other four schools of jurisprudence (the four Shiite schools of Az-Zaidiyyah, Al-Ithna-`ashriyyah, Al-Ja`fariyyah, and Az-Zaheriyyah) agree that apostates must be executed.”
If British Muslims are not free to reject Mohammed as a false prophet and embrace the lordship of Jesus Christ without being beaten and battered on the sharia streets of Bradford, then Nissar Hussain is right: “this is not England.”