Sectarian chickens flock home to roost, eggshell thin security cracking open. 
Yahya Birt has very properly raised serious concerns about what looks like a witch-hunt by the Ministry of Justice or at least by the media on the MOJ's behalf, against the majority of its own Muslim Prison Chaplains due to their Deobandi origins. Playing the sectarian card: Britain’s Ministry of Justice is unfairly targeting Muslim prison chaplains. He specifically mentions the arch-sectarian Quilliam Foundation as the provider of ducking stools to prove the Wiccan intent of these perhaps 140 out of 200 Muslim chaplains.

Several ugly points arise from this development. Firstly is the extent to which sectarian influences from within the Muslim community have distorted Government's, and especially the major political parties' view of what constitutes extremism among Muslims. It is hard to imagine a less extreme, more safe-conservative, world-view than that of the largely Gujerati graduates of the half a dozen Deobandi Daar ul Uloom in the UK. Yet the anti-Deobandi sects, primarily the Bareilvi movement, have succeeded in pursuading gullible journalists and politicians that they themselves are the voice of moderation while their own children turn their backs on the mysteries of Bareilvi belief to join together and learn how to make the chemical bonds required for TATP.

Secondly is the complacency with which the Deobandi movement itself has continued its deference towards its own disengaged religious leadership with their heads in the sands of essentialist piety. Its Tablighi Jama'at grassroots maintain constant vigilance to ensure that the majority of UK masjids (moderate to a man) are the exclusive preserve of the Deobandi doctrines, oblivious to the frustrations of youth who want something more engaging than a lecture on the six points of tabligh ritually repeated every Thursday night. They remain oblivious to the increasingly underhand rearguard actions of Bareilvi "gatekeepers" and Biraderi votespinners who end up with council seats and directorships of entities such as Quilliam, the reciprocation of their own sectarian exclusiveness.

Thirdly is the irony that while the Deobandi spectrum is skewed well away from community engagement, among their intellectually capable and religiously schooled, it is these prison chaplains who will be far and away the most committed to engagement, the very ones who are being targetted for not being so. Furthermore, there should be no doubt that their experience of dealing with prison inmates will have forced upon them the need to be openly inclusive, anti-sectarian, and tolerant of all manner of deviations from the sanctified pure Islam of their safe upbringing. (This point is reinforced by a study that Yahya quotes in his blog, the AHRC/ESRC ‘Religion and Society’ research study on Muslim chaplaincy in Britain (2008–2011).)

Fourthly and finally, if the bulk of two thirds of the UK's Muslim chaplains are lost from that service, where on earth will they be replaced from? There is no credible 'liberal Islam' seminary training anyone. There is no credible Bareilvi seminary producing anyone but arch-sectarian Sufis, and actually only one of those. Again ironically, the best engaged, most knowledgeable and probably likely to be the most successful at turning lags back into civil citizens, are, yes, Salafis! Somehow I don't think that was what was intended.

In the absence of a credible and capable cadre of Muslim chaplains, there is every likelihood that extremist propagation in prisons will run unchecked and definitely unrecognised and uncountered. The outcome is that we all will be placed in substantially more danger from Muslim political violence due to this resoundingly stupid initiative. Who is to blame? Muslims may be tempted to blame the government, but in truth we ourselves are the origins of the sectarian powerplays that underly the policy.



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