A side-note to the story of Munir Mohammed, the Muslim jihadist who plotted a Ricin and bomb attack on Britain, has the effect of shining a light onto what Muslim reformists and those who wish to leave Islam, have to put up with from other Muslims. This is notable in the way that Mohammed treated his much more religiously liberal neighbour. Mohammed bullied Afghani asylum seeker Haji Ahmadi who lived next door to the jihadist Mohammed in the city of Derby in England’s Midlands over little things, such as Mr Ahmadi wearing shorts.
The jihadist Mohammed amassed bomb making equipment and materials along with instructions on how to prepare the poison Ricin. Police say that this Islamic savage was plotting to commit an atrocity in the city of Derby itself. This savage was so damned savage that he, and his co conspirator Rowena el-Hassan of London, was prepared to kill or maim people he must have seen every day and maybe said ‘hello’ to everyday. These are the actions and intentions of of a psychopath and they are similar to the views of other Muslims who hold similar views to Mohammed. When people talk about Islam creating a fifth column in the UK it is the likes of Munir Mohammed that they often have in their minds when doing so.
This case is one of a growing number of cases that involve Muslims, whether born here or imported like Munir Mohammed, going ‘full Islam’ and plot our deaths or oppression. There are far too many of these sorts of cases and I believe they represent the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Islamic extremism. However, it’s the way that he treated his much more religiously liberal Muslim neighbour that has caught my attention.
According to a report in the Derby Telegraph, Munir Mohammed was ‘always talking about religion’, criticised Mr Ahmadi for wearing clothes not approved by Islam and urged him to be a ‘strict Muslim’. It appears from reading the article that Mohammed bullied and attempted to cajole Mr Ahmadi, a man who said that he wants to integrate into British society, into being more extreme than he was comfortable with being.
What struck me about this story was that it is one that is probably being repeated up and down the country in Islamic communities. Those who hold to ‘strict Muslim’ views like those held by Munir Mohammed are probably also applying similar if not worse pressure on those within their communities who express criticism of Islam or profess reform minded sentiments. Those who step out of the Islamic line have their own versions of Munir Mohammed berating them for asking awkward questions about Islam or even wishing to openly debate the aspects of Islam that trouble them or which they feel are worth rejecting.
This case gives some inkling into the difficulties faced by both Islamic reformists and those who wish to leave Islam. If, as Mr Ahmadi wished to do, wearing Western clothes is an issue for the likes of Munir Mohammed then how much more difficult must it be to even debate with other Muslims about some of the more challenging texts in Islamic scripture or the more negative aspects of Islamic culture?
As someone who has lived for a while on the periphery of a strictly Orthodox Jewish community and who has met and conversed at length with Christian Monks and Nuns, I can understand how comforting it is to live with the order and structure of a very religious life. But the flip side of that sort of life is that it can be intolerant of dissent. For some individuals the life of a Haredi Jew or a Christian Monk or Nun has not turned out to be the correct path for them and they have left their previous communities and have taken up a life of freedom in the outside world. In the vast majority of cases those who leave these paths suffer little more than shunning by their previous religious compatriots. They will rarely if ever be subjected to violence by the followers of their former faith path. However, the situation for Muslims who wish to leave or reform or re-interpret Islam in the light of later religious and secular knowledge, is not so good. Those who challenge Islamic orthodoxy are too often, even in the United Kingdom, subjected to violence and intimidation from believing Muslims who are commanded by the Koran to kill those who leave Islam.
In Islam even asking awkward questions about theology, Islamic law or Islamic history can quite easily get a person tagged as a ‘kufar’ (non-Muslim) or murtard (a person who has previously accepted Islam but has latterly rejected it). These words have much power in Islamic culture and theology. Once a person from and Islamic community is described as a kufar or a murtard then they are at very real risk of physical attack.
Although there is no suggestion in the Derby Telegraph story that Munir Mohammed was physically violent towards Mr Ahmadi this may well be because he was self-confident and probably knew how to look after himself. The position for those who may be more vulnerable than Mr Ahmadi in Islamic communities may not be so good. I dread to think how large the number of people questioning Islam must be in Britain’s Islamic communities, but who fear to voice these questions because of the very real threat of physical violence, including murder, that is likely to be aimed at them for speaking up. I wonder how many hundreds of thousands of ostensibly Muslim men and women there must be who bite their own tongues lest it be cut off by their more violent religious compatriots?
One of the ironic things about this story is that Mr Ahmadi appeared to be motivated in part to come to the UK in order to escape the sort of violent Islamic religious knobwittery that he had experienced in Afghanistan. Sadly for him he has found that the British government had stupidly imported the very same Islamic savagery, in the form of Munir Mohammed, that he had sought to escape.
To conclude: We should always attempt to support where we can those who leave Islam or who wish to see radical reformation of this ideology. This is because not only do such individuals know about the bits of Islam that Islamic clerics try to hide from or lie about to non Muslims, but also because they are fighters for religious freedom and their opponents are nasty and violent. If you have ever been in the position where you may have had to re-evaluate your faith or engage in criticism of aspects of it, then you will know how hard this can be. Now imagine how much more difficult and challenging this would be if every question voiced, every doubt raised and every criticism articulated, brought with it the prospect of violence or death to you and your family? That is the sort of nightmare situation that questioning Muslims have to deal with and it’s a nightmare that we should all help to end.