‘Sour’ism

In my relative short stay in the UK, I have been able to attend many interesting and informative lectures and events. A recent one turned out to be a tad different- the first sign was the queues outside the venue. Who queues to listen to a lecture, I thought. But this was a high profile lecture that had attracted the level of attention it seems it intended to attract.   

The speaker was a Maajid Nawaz, an ex-Hizb ut-Tahrir, senior member. To my knowledge, the group does not have a very visible presence in South Africa, so I was interested in the inside scoop from this ex-member. I guess I was misinformed; because an inquest into the faults and flounders of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) was not forthcoming. Maajid is a brilliant public speaker, perhaps a trait that served well in HT, which I came to understand, is a political movement. A political movement with an Islamic ideology. To be honest, I was not sure what HT was about before the lecture, and I am still not sure.

But this is what I took away from the lecture.  Maajid explained his colourful history with HT, and some of the interesting experiences he had with them- from establishing HT as the power on his college, to spending time in a jail in Egypt. I was loving this guy and savouring every word he so eloquently delivered.  But as he went on, I found it difficult following his logic.

For the sake of brevity, and to convey my understanding, I will merely explain the picture he painted in my head. ‘HT wants to establish an Islamic state. This is a fallacy that cannot exist in the world as we know it.’ (I could not agree more.)  But then he somehow came to the conclusion that, ‘Islam is not meant to interfere with politics. Islam is about your spirituality and personal life- for your political life you need to rely on pragmatism and logic only.’ 

Based on my base knowledge of HT, this thought of his seemed like the direct opposite, and most definitely not the balanced view. And when challenged by some of the audience members, apparent HT members and not, Maajid shamefully either evaded most of the challenging questions, or merely failed to respond in an intelligent manner.  

I knew little of HT before this lecture, and I still don’t know much. I must admit that this has encouraged me to look into them at some point and see for myself what they are about. However, for what I have benefited from this lecture, I am thankful. 

I remember not the challenging questions from the eloquent sister on Maajids view on ‘Islamism’, or the elderly gentleman’s caution against using ‘loaded’ terminology or the young mans implied accusation that this was a publicity stunt.  What I do remember is that Maajid mentioned his blog too many times. I could almost imagine him saying, ‘And if you visit my blog today, you will get an opportunity to be a member of my political campaign!’

Because that is the impression that soured my thoughts- was this guy just here on a PR campaign to build his reputation as a politician? Why was he saying the ‘right’ things, quoting the ‘right’ people and making it known of his association with the ‘right’ people?  The advert to the lecture asked these questions- What should Muslim politics really look like? How do we disentangle Islamism from Islam? Should our political attention not be more focused on developing our communities, contributing to wider society, and using all the democratic means at our disposal to inform, campaign and lobby on the greater issues affecting the Muslim world? Sadly, I don’t see how this came even close to answering any of them.  

The City Circle brother at the end made it clear that City Circle is an open platform for discussion and debate. I remember thinking to myself, this is brilliant. This is exactly what Muslims need- a platform where different thoughts, opinions and views can be expressed. Because from this, we can only grow and improve these thoughts, opinions and views and hence become better Muslims and better people.

But sadly, this brother messed it all up by resorting to juvenile insults of HT. And I didn’t need to be a member of HT to then leave with a sour taste in my mouth!

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