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Interview Prof Silva Prof Bleher on the Politics of, For and Against Islam

Interview Prof Silva Prof Bleher on the Politics of, For and Against Islam

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Professor Paul Silva explores with Professor Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, historically contentious issues in the relationship between the principles and practice of Islam on the one hand and the political history of Islam in view of its paradoxical reality today. Namely, that although Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in modern times, its political influence remains limited at state level in the Middle and Far East and Africa as well as at the international level whilst it is viewed radically as a threat to world stability by the West in contradistinction to its dictum of Peace.
Professor Paul Silva explores with Professor Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, historically contentious issues in the relationship between the principles and practice of Islam on the one hand and the political history of Islam in view of its paradoxical reality today. Namely, that although Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in modern times, its political influence remains limited at state level in the Middle and Far East and Africa as well as at the international level whilst it is viewed radically as a threat to world stability by the West in contradistinction to its dictum of Peace.

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Published by: ProfPAS on Mar 20, 2013
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Journal Academic Marketing Mysticism Online (JAMMO). Vol 6. Part 22. 311-325 January-June 2013 Available Online athttp://www.journalacademicmarketingmysticismonline.net ISSN 2146-3328
 © 
2013 JAMMO Issue 1 / 2013ISSN 2146-3328
 © 
2013 JAMMO
Interview 
Prof. Dr. Paul Silva, Editor-in-Chief, JAMMO,Talks to Prof. Dr. Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, onThe Politics of, for and Against Islam
Prof. Dr. Sahib Mustaqim Bleher, PO Box 844, Oldbrook, Milton Keynes MK6 2YT, UKinfo@mustaqim.co.uk +44 7092 233 559
9 March 2013
INTRODUCTION
 
Prof. Dr. Sahib Mustaqim Bleher 
, Islamic Scholar and Professor of Linguistics, Member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists, UK, andChartered Institute of Journalists, UK; Co-founder and GeneralSecretary of the Islamic Party of Britain.
Professor Paul Silva
explores with Professor Sahib Mustaqim Bleher,historically contentious issues in the relationship between the principlesand practice of Islam on the one hand and the political history of Islamin view of its paradoxical reality today. Namely, that although Islam isone of the fastest growing religions in modern times, its politicalinfluence remains limited at state level in the Middle and Far East and Africa as well as at the international level whilst it is viewed radically asa threat to world stability by the West in contradistinction to its dictum of Peace.
PS:
Dr Bleher, introducing
you to our readership; you’ve written many books on and about Islam
amongst your other writings on the Media and Education. You have even translated the Qur 
anfrom Arabic to English and are a linguist proficient in English, Arabic, French, Urdu and German,which is your mother-tongue; put briefly, how and why did you become a Muslim?
 SMB:
Travelling through Turkey, Iran and Pakistan as a young man in the late 70s brought meinto contact with Muslim culture and people for the first time. Back in Germany, I wanted to find
out more about Islam and, luckily, started with reading a translation of the Qur’an rather thansome Orientalist refutation. From the outset the Qur’an struck me by the beauty of its language,
which shone through even in translation, and it became soon apparent to me that thiscombination of simplicity in style, yet complexity in meaning could not perceivably be of human
authorship. Moreover, the Qur’an mentions events and facts which were not known at the time
and place of its revelation and it was revealed over a 23-year period, often commenting on thedaily affairs of its recipients then, yet in its present arrangement, which is entirely different fromthe original chronological order of revelation, it still is entirely coherent. Convinced of the
 
Journal Academic Marketing Mysticism Online (JAMMO). Vol 6. Part 22. 311-325 January-June 2013 Available Online athttp://www.journalacademicmarketingmysticismonline.net ISSN 2146-3328
 © 
2013 JAMMO Issue 1 / 2013ISSN 2146-3328
 © 
2013 JAMMO
Bleher 312veracity of Islam I began wondering whether it was something I could also put into practice andstarted by fasting for the first time in my life. The
beauty of the Qur’an also
spurred me on tolearn Arabic to allow me to read it in its original, and progressing in my studies I subsequentlytranslated several titles from Arabic into German, which in turn led to a professional shift of moving from journalism to translation.
PS:
Speaking
about the lucidity of the Qur’an
, can you talk about the revelations and authorship
of The Qur’an
and draw distinctions and parallels between its contents and style to The Torah,The Bhagavad Gita and The Bible?
SMB:
From the perspective of Islamic
theology, the Qur’an is seen as
a direct verbal revelation- not merely inspired - and as
the culmination of God’s revelation to mankind, “confirming whathas gone before” of earlier revelations, yet also setting the record straight where those earlier 
teachings have been corrupted. Islam perceives a continuous guidance delivered through along chain of prophets, from Adam through to Muhammad, and adapted to the needs of 
humanity at its state of development at each point in time. In my book “The Bible’s Witness” Ihave shown how the Qur’an and the Old and New testaments of the B
ible agree with and reflectQuranic teachings. (Bleher, 1984). Unlike those earlier scriptures, however, writing was extant
at the time of the revelation of the Qur’an, and whilst Isl
am, like earlier scriptures, is also based
on an oral tradition, it was committed to writing during the prophet’s lifetime in a language which
continues in existence today, therefore, the problem of authenticity does not arise as it doeswith, for example, the books of the Bible, which were written down many generations after theevent and also largely only survive in translations in a language other than that of the originaltext, the original language, like for example Aramaic in the case of the New Testament, havingbecome extinct.The Muslim approach is essentially the same with regard to the scriptures and oral traditions of other religions: they are owed respect as potential divine revelation, but their content is onlyaccepted as valid in as much as it is confirmed by the
teachings of the Qur’an.
 
PS:
Moving on from you becoming a Muslim to your leadership role as the Secretary General of 
the Islamic Party of Britain, which is now defunct and as an Imam, “flying Imam” the title you
chose for your 
political blog “flyingimam.com”. How did that come about and what’s your 
assessment of the purpose, success and failure of the Islamic Party of Britain circa 1987-2003?
SMB:
 After having moved to the UK, initially benefitting from the library resources of a researchinstitute, the Islamic Foundation in Leicester (now the Markfield Institute of Higher Education),whilst working on a translation, I became interested in the promotion of Islamic Education in the
UK and founded “The Muslim Education Services” in L
ondon with the help of some sponsors todevelop a unified approach amongst the then still fledgling Muslim full-time schools and acommon curriculum. In the late 80s we spearheaded a political and media campaign around
one of the school’s bid for state fun
ding which coincided with the so-
called “Rushdie Affair”.
 (Rushdie, 1988). I have been actively involved in politics since the age of fourteen, and boththese events left no doubt in my mind that if Muslims in the West wanted to make seriousprogress, they needed to engage at the political level. In spite of having been in Britain for wellover half a century at the time, Muslims were generally still marginalised. The majority of themwere convinced by their leaders to unquestioningly follow the Labour party and obtained
 
Journal Academic Marketing Mysticism Online (JAMMO). Vol 6. Part 22. 311-325 January-June 2013 Available Online athttp://www.journalacademicmarketingmysticismonline.net ISSN 2146-3328
 © 
2013 JAMMO Issue 1 / 2013ISSN 2146-3328
 © 
2013 JAMMO
313 Journal Academic Marketing Mysticism Onlinevarious local concessions in return. The purposeful vilification of Islam during the Rushdie affair,in many ways a test run for the more wide-spread vilification of Islam after the first Iraq war andever since, made it apparent to me and other like-minded Muslims, many of them also converts,
that political engagement had to be “on our own terms” outside the fold of the existing parties.We founded the “Islamic Party of Britain” in 1987 with the two
-fold aim of organising Muslimsand moving them from a purely cultural to a more political expression and, at the same time,communicating to the host community that Islam had serious alternatives to offer for the benefitof society as a whole, doing away with the notion of minority rights which had hitherto been theonly political expression of Muslims in the UK. A key focus was on the propensity of an interest-based economy to self-destruct and the promotion of interest-free alternatives. (Swan andPidcock, 2009). Sadly, it was too early for these concepts to be understood, especially by aMuslim community with a lack of political experience and acumen, and rather than supportingour endeavours the majority of established Muslim organisations saw us as a threat to their ambitions of controlling the agenda of Islam in Britain on behalf of their usually foreign sponsors. After the hysteria of 9/11 campaigning as an Islamic Party in Britain became more or lessimpossible. Since the more recent banking crisis the validity of our focus on banking andeconomy has proven correct, and we continue to campaign on those issues but no longer through the vehicle of a political party, and the means of restarting a political movement are notavailable to us.However, we learned a lot about Islam in the West and the structures which hold it back from
progressing, and the materials we produced through our party magazine “Common Sense” of 
which I was the editor throughout, remains available in the archive section of our website whichwe continue to maintain.(http://www.islamicparty.com/commonsense/comsense.htm)The Islamic Party of Britain was founded in 1987 and is still a going concern, although greatly scaleddown. Political campaigning and the regular magazine were suspended in spring 2003, partlydue to a lack of finance and partly due to the hostile climate after 9/11/2001.
“Flying Imam” is based on being both an Imam and a
private pilot. I was an imam at Woodhillhigh security prison from 1995 till 2004 and I continue to give guest sermons at variousmosques in the UK.
PS:
The term, “Islamic” in its current usage by ‘tight
-neatly
controlled Media today isunderstood pejoratively denoting radicalism or what is commonly referred to as Jihadist; is thereradical Islam and what is its effect on the perception of Islam as a religion of peace, if any?What are the structures and leadership of what is considered radical Islam historically?
 SMB:
What is termed radical or Jihadist Islam is not just something invented by the media todiscredit Islam, but it is a reality, although it is a small minority of vociferous groups within Islamas a whole, given a disproportionate exposure in the mainstream media for evident politicalreasons. A few years ago I teamed up with David Livingstone, a historian of religion and convertMuslim living in Canada to research this phenomenon, culminating in our publication
“Surrendering Islam
- The subversion of Muslim politics throughout history until the presentday
”.
(Livingstone and Bleher, 2010). What I wanted to figure out is why a near century of settlement in the West had left Muslims at the margins and without meaningful politicalrepresentation or influence. Nor had their religion, in spite of its potent message, had much of an effect on their host communities. What we found out was that Islamic activities had been

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