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May 25th 2009 print

Bill Muehlenberg

Thinking About Islam and Public Policy

How Western governments deal with the threat of militant Islam is a vexed issue. Easy answers are hard to come by. Yet a new volume seeks to carefully explore such issues. I refer to Islam, Human Rights and Public Policy, edited by David Claydon (Acorn Press, 2009).

How Western governments deal with the threat of militant Islam is a vexed issue. Easy answers are hard to come by. Yet a new volume seeks to carefully explore such issues. I refer to Human Rights and Public Policy, edited by David Claydon (Acorn Press, 2009).

The nineteen essays contained in this book deal with a number of aspects of Islam, and how politicians and policy makers should think about this faith. It examines a number of topics, including: sharia law, the role of women in Islam, the nature of jihad, Islamic financing, the place of Muhammad, and the state of human rights in Muslim nations.

Although this is mainly an Australian work (it is published in Australia and 9 of its 15 authors are Australian), most of this volume looks at Islam from a global perspective. Only several chapters deal specifically with the Australian situation. Thus all Western policy makers can find much of profit in these pages.

Australian expert on Islam Mark Durie has written a number of chapters in this volume. One deals with the importance of Muhammad in Islam. He is viewed by Muslims as the perfect model for human behaviour. What he said and did serves as the template for all Muslims.

Durie reminds us that reformation movements in Christianity drive us back to its founder – Jesus Christ. But the question arises, if Islam was to be reformed, and a strict return to the example of Muhammad was urged, would it result in Islam becoming more moderate or more radical?

Given what we know about Muhammad, Durie suggest the latter. While positive aspects of his life can be mentioned – his faithful twenty-year marriage to Khadijah, his compassion on the poor and orphaned, eg. – his less than ideal traits are what should worry us.

These negative aspects to his character “fall far short of the ethical standards accepted in modern secular democracies”. These include his general treatment of women, his treatment of enemies, his military career, and his use of violence.

As John Azumah notes in his chapter, Muhammad “took part in 27 battles and ordered 46 raids against non-Muslims”. He discusses jihad, and reminds us that Islam teaches a “perpetual struggle between Allah and Satan, good and evil … Islam and non-Islam, Muslim and non-Muslim”.

Seen in this light, there is “no room for dialogue or compromise. Islamic teaching is absolute and demands complete approval”. And Azumah warns that we should not be lulled into thinking that jihad is simply a spiritual struggle: “Muslims have always taken pride in the military exploits of Muhammad and have written books on these as proof of Muhammad’s prophetic mission. In fact, a very large portion of Muhammad’s biography written by early Muslim observers deals with battles, raids, plunder, killings and assassinations ordered or carried out by the Prophet of Islam.”

Patrick Sookhdeo examines Islamic finance, and notes how Western institutions and governments have been eager to introduce it into the Western system.  Sookhdeo shows how Islamists have been pushing this, thus weakening the position of moderate Muslims. They are using it as part of the takeover of Western financial systems, and the eventual rule of global sharia.

Elizabeth Kendal writes on the lack of religious freedom in most Muslim nations. She especially focuses on apostasy laws and blasphemy laws: “These laws, combined with the demographic trend of particularly high Muslim birth rates, guarantee an expanding community, but one that is experiencing repression through the denial of freedom of belief and freedom of expression.”

Daniel Pipes examines the situation in Europe. It is not looking too good: “The secularism that predominates in Europe, especially among the elites, leads to a sense of alienation about the Judeo-Christian tradition, empty church pews, and a fascination with Islam.”

This makes for ideal growth conditions: “Muslims display a religious fervour that translates into jihadi sensibility, a supremacism toward non-Muslims, and an expectation that Europe is waiting for conversion to Islam.”

Paul Stenhouse documents how Islamic “humanitarian NGOs” in Australia may be anything but. He reminds us that government attempts to promote and understand Islam are often really pushing the radical Islamist agenda. For example, Griffith University’s Islamic Centre has “links with the International Institute of Islamic Thought based in Malaysia, which is currently under investigation in the United States for funding terrorism”.

He also notes that Australian taxpayers have been “funding madrasas [Koranic schools] in Indonesia to the tune of many millions of dollars” through overseas aid programs. Says Stenhouse, this “should be ringing alarm bells in government and security circles”.

Peter Day looks at how misguided and naive Australian government attempts to educate people about Islam in fact simply become the channel for Islamic propaganda. For example, in 2004 the Federal Government produced a glossy booklet on Islam entitled Muslim Australians.

It was designed to teach Australians that Muslim are just like us, and that Islam is a peaceful religion, allowing full freedom of religion. The author of the booklet was Abdullah Saeed. But as Day informs us, Saeed penned another book in 2004, which did not get a mention in the glossy government publication.

That book was called Freedom of Religion, Apostasy and Islam, and it paints a very different picture from that found in the tax-payer funded booklet. In it Saeed admits that death for apostasy is clear Islamic teaching. Anyone who dares to convert out of Islam is regarded as an apostate, and death is the just punishment for this.

Saeed even admits that the “vast majority of Muslim scholars writing on the issue of apostasy today follow the pre-modern position” – namely, that apostasy warrants death. Strange, but readers of the Government booklet are never informed of this.

All in all this collection of essays is indispensable reading, certainly for government officials, but for all concerned citizens. David Claydon and the authors featured here have produced a valuable resource and reference on how the West should think about Islam, especially in terms of public policy. It deserves a very wide reading indeed.