The Muslim World
"KHILAFA" FOR BRITAIN?
by Shirley W. Madany
Every year we add new words to our vocabulary, as the followers of Islam settle in our midst. At first they brought us such words as "mosque" and "Ramadan." Next came "jihad" and plenty of divergent meanings for it. The most common use of the word means a holy war. Many Muslims would contest this simple meaning and replace it with a qualifier"spiritual jihad" which would mean a deep personal struggle. Then we picked up on the word for the persecuted minorities in the Muslim lands. That word was "dhimmi." Recently the proposal of "Khilafa," as an alternative form of Islamic government, was actually debated in London, England. Something new for us to think about.
Unlike the other world religions, Islam, from its earliest days, was both religion and state in one entity. Eventually, after the emergence of Islamic empires, there developed also a distinctively Islamic culture. This is hard for us to grasp in the West because we think of religion in the narrow sense of the word, specially those of us who live in the United States where the constitution stipulates that there be no established religion in the country.
With todays revival of Islam there are many Muslim intellectuals who claim that all political systems in the world have failed. They look back longingly at a system of government called "Khilafa." This implies a return to the early days of Islam when the successors to Muhammad (as political leaders and not as prophets) ruled a good deal of the world, first from Damascus, then from Baghdad and finally from Istanbul (Constantinople). All the variously known Islamic regimes were known as the Caliphates, in Arabic, Khilafa.
It was Ataturk, the founder of the new Turkish Republic, who abolished the Khilafa regime in 1924. At that time, almost all the Muslim world was under colonial rule of some kind. In the years following the Second World War, many nationalist leaders in the Muslim world struggled to liberate their countries from foreign rule. They made the unfortunate choice of adopting socialism as their ideology hoping that it had a blueprint for the betterment of their societies. After several decades of trying the magic of socialism, various Muslim countries found themselves far behind other nations. This fact, as well as the defeat of socialist-led Egypt in 1967 by Israel, was the beginning of a political/spiritual crisis, which gradually spread all over the Muslin World. The cry went outlet us return to the fundamentals of our faith. Let us re-establish true Islamic regimes everywhere. The old word "Khilafa" summed it all up.
When sizeable Muslim communities emigrated from their homelands and settled in various western European countries, some of their leaders began to dream not simply of seeing a Khilafa regime being established in traditional Muslim lands, but why not in their new host countries. Various radicals began to propagate this dream. The mosque provided an ideal place from which to spread this attractive idea. And the United Kingdom became an ideal testing ground with its unique, bordering on self-destructive, attitude towards the practice of the freedom of speech.
Tourists seeing the sights of London might stumble on the "Speakers Corner" of Hyde Park and marvel at the crowds of listeners milling around the proverbial "soap boxes." Engaging in this type of ministry requires a special calling. Jay Smith is one such person. He became well known as a Christian believer among the Muslim listeners. He built up a reputation for forthright declaration of the Gospel and at the same time a willingness to answer the questions of Muslims. Jay Smith is a part of the Hyde Park Christian fellowshipan informal network of Christian researchers in the United Kingdom, whose primary interest is the academic study of all issues relevant to Islam and Christianity. They have developed over a number of years some very attractive and comprehensive web sites. One is www.answering-islam.org.uk and the other is The Debate web site at www.debate.org.uk.
When Sheikh Omar Bakhri, founder and leader of the Muhajiroun party in Britain, wanted to have a debate on the Islamic Khilafa, he invited Jay to participate. On November 12, 1999 the debate took place in the Friends Meeting Hall in central London. It drew a crowd of around 1000 men and women; with perhaps 300 of them being Christians. The title of the debate was: "What is the future of Britain, the Islamic Khilafa or Christianity?"
A well-produced video of this meeting is available from Yorba Linda Friends Church, 5211 Lakeview Ave, Yorba Linda, CA 92886 for $10.00. It is excellently done and we would recommend it heartily to anyone who wishes to get the feel of both Hyde Park and this kind of confrontation between Christians and Muslims in a free society. We were delighted with the way in which Jay Smith handled himself in this unique setting, and in the content of his presentation.
Jay had done his homework. With clarity and rapidity he challenged the large group of Muslims to consider some rather unwelcome facts. We should explain that there is quite a strong radical element of Islam to be found in the British Isles. It must be ten years ago that we talked about their attempt to have a Muslim Parliament and we have copies of that manifesto. This particular group under the leadership of a very radical man had had numerous public meetings during the year, always intent on pointing out the failing of the West and the supremacy of Islam both as a faith and a system of government.
It must have been a shock for them to hear this westerner challenging them to provide a model country, which represented the benefits of a Muslim government, which they proposed for Britain. They had had 1400 years, surely there was some place to which they could point with pride. Would they choose Sudan? Would they recommend Pakistan perhaps? Then he proceeded to give them a run-down of some points of Islamic history.
He knew that the devout Muslim often fantasized about going back all the way to the beginning of the days of the Caliphs or successors of Muhammad. That was the era closest to perfection, in their minds. But surely they should realize that that "golden era" never truly existed. There were so many assassinations among the first Caliphs. They had a very hard time to decide on proper succession. In fact, they did not succeed in establishing an orderly manner of transition from one ruler to another. With all their faults, Westerners have developed constitutional and democratic systems of change. We enjoy replacing our leaders in an orderly and civilized way.
Then Jay Smith referred to the Ottoman Empire that dominated for centuries large areas of Eastern and Southern Europe. History records the Muslim practice of taking young Christian boys forcibly from their families, making them not only Muslim converts but training them to be part of a special army called the "Janissaries." Eventually they were used in the wars against their own kinfolk, against Christians. Smith made frequent references to that unfortunate classificationthe "dhimmi." We have dealt with this at length in other articles. The "dhimmi" was supposedly a Christian or a Jew, who was protected by his Muslim conquerors. However, this status of "dhimmi" was a camouflage for an insidious type of persecution.
Several times, Jay Smith talked about being second class citizens if you were a minority living in an Islamic country. He said that he wouldnt want that. He pointed out many practices which were what he called discriminatory. One of these was the treatment of women and the stark evidence of this treatment was before their very eyes that evening. Any women attending the meeting, Christians included, were forced to sit in a special section, just for women!
Just as Christianity has been relegated to a special compartment in the USA, the advent of the aggressive Muslim thrust within our nation has revealed how that practice has affected our ministries. Christians are so intent on bringing the Gospel to Muslims that they are not usually prepared to fight the battle in the areas of challenge which the Muslim presentssuch as education, family, law, local government and the media.
In the Chicago area, from which we write, you find a Pakistani immigrant who has successfully created a television show for Muslim children which will fill the cultural gap and at the same time teach them the fundamentals of their own religion. It is called "Adams World" and is a good substitute for Sesame Street. Through the antics of cartoon characters named Aneesah and Asad, instead of Bert and Ernie, these children are able to see themselves and their community represented in a positive way and to have control over it. There were special shows explaining Ramadan and fasting, as well as the Id al-Fitr feast at the end of the month of Ramadan. In these video segments Adam learns how to pray, including how to perform the ritual ablutions of washing hands, face and feet before prayer. Local newspapers have been printing their usual spate of Ramadan articles to educate the American public. In our local paper this piece was titled: "Adams World fills cultural gap for Muslim-American kids."
Nowadays, Muslim citizens quickly step forward to accept public office. They want to normalize their citizenship as soon as possible, and in this way they are far ahead of the fourth-generation Christian who has renounced all civic duties and concentrated on his church activities without rubbing shoulders with his Muslim neighbor.
Unfortunately religion in Britain is of little consequence. Churches are almost empty. Christianity is more related to the past, than the present. And it is the Muslim, newly established in Britain, who is raising issues that the church has long neglected. We know that it is the Gospel, when believed and practiced, that provides the real answers to moral and social questions troubling our society. But how are we to tackle the situation. The Hyde Park group has found a way through Internet and through this form of debate. Let us thank God for their faithful witness to the Gospel in this new and vital way.
Return to list of Articles
Return to Middle East Resources home page