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Dr Murad Hoffman – Rebels with a Cause

Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Islam, May Allah ta’ala bless you all, Assalaamu
alaykum wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu.

In one of my books which is called Religion on the Rise- Islam in the Third
Millennium, I described two Muslims from the Muslim world coming to Europe to
study. Now, one of them feels that this is paradise. Everything technically is working,
the bus comes in time, the heating doesn’t fail, the news is covering almost
everything, there is Parliament, there are freedoms, the courts protect minorities.
There is a division of labour, there is a division of powers, high standard of living,
one takes care of the old ones, the hospitals are clean and efficient and so on. So he
comes back and says, “Gee, that’s where everyone should like to be.” The other one
says “What a horrible place to be.” There is a lot of pornography, alcohol, divorce,
people get drunk daily, they eat pork, they don’t pray; full of atheism, there is racial
discrimination, even young kids become autistic sitting in front of their television or
computer because parents have no time or more time for them. So he returns and
says, “Don’t ever go there.”

Now the question is: did any one of the two lie? No. They both observed correctly and
reportedly correctly, however, selectively. And that’s why their picture of Europe was
black and white.

Next, I described two European reverts to Islam going to the Middle East to live
among Muslims there. The same thing happens. The first one says, “I don’t want ever
to return.” These people have the call to prayer, and when they call to prayer, people
go to prayer; and there is no alcohol, you find hardly anybody smoking, there is so
much family spirit, a great sense of hospitality; people take their time for you, they
don’t act as if time was money, and so on. The other one says, “Thank God that I
became a Muslim before I met Muslims in the Muslim world.” And he describes the
corruption in Government, the inefficiency in industry, the low quality of goods, the
waste of resources, the waste of time, and all that can be described as less than
perfect in the Muslim world. And again the question is not has one of the two said
something that is untrue, it is true; just think of the high rate of illiteracy in the
Muslim world, and the high degree of intolerance among Muslims in some parts of
the Muslim world. But, again, what happens ins the two observed correctly a certain
part of reality, but not reality in its totality. So the point I am trying to make is, the
world really is not black and white. And therefore we should react to the world
around you here in England, in Britain also selectively by choosing what is good and
by acknowledging what is good but rejecting what is bad and saying so, that it is bad.
I don’t promote here a wishy-washy attitude of indifference, saying some things are
good, some things are bad, it all depends – no. It doesn’t depend on you, there is
really a difference between good and bad. But it exists close to each other.

Now the second thing I wanted to tell you is, I can look back over the last 30 – 40
years in Europe, and I distinguish three periods of Islam in Europe. The first period
was the folkloristic period, when your parents came from Indo-Pakistan, Indonesia,
from the near East, from North Africa and from Turkey, and this first generation had
really no problems because they added a bit of colour; the way they dressed, the way
they spoke, with their music and their restaurants. All of a sudden we had couscous
and doner kebab and you know, that was a period when there were no problems and
the Muslims made no problems because they didn’t want to build mosques
downtown. They were content with having a masjid arranged in the backyard. And
they were mortally afraid to be sent home, so they accepted whatever was demanded
from them, they were almost timid.

Then came the 2nd and the 3rd generation, and they were assertive. They spoke the
language like everybody else, they had gone to the same colleges, they knew how to
handle the law. Now we had Muslim medical doctors, Muslim lawyers, Muslim
engineers, Muslim architects, and it looked as if Islam was really taking off, building
its infrastructure with magazines and television programmes and travel agencies,
organisations, you name it. And then came 11th September, and now we are in the
third period. Now we are in the dark, we are under assault, we are under suspicion,
we have to defend ourselves. We are frightened sometimes to the point of wanting to
withdraw and live again in the ghetto in which our grandfathers had lived.

Now let us look back about the mistakes each of these three generations made. The
first generation did not do a service to Islam by hanging on to their cultural and
civilisationary aspects because they presented Islam as a foreign, as an exotic
religion. They did not present Islam as a world religion meant for everybody. So to be
a Turk meant to a Muslim in Germany, but nobody wanted to be Turkish, so you
didn’t want to be Muslim. The second period I described when Islam really took off
and built the infrastructure, there we may have not done at the grassroots level what
we should have done at the grassroots level because we were so successful in
organising ourselves and presenting ourselves to the Government, that is a
possibility. Another thing is we may have been not patient enough. You must after all
recall that for 1400 years there was confrontation between the Occident and the
Muslim world. Wars on end. The Turks tried ever so often to conquer Vienna. There
was for hundreds of years fighting in Spain between the Muslims and non-Muslims.
So this is the collective memory -in the collective memory of Occidental people, Islam
is associated with a threat, even a physical threat. And it would be extraordinary if
within a generation or two one could overcome this backlog of prejudice. So perhaps
we should’ve been a bit more patient with the people around us. It came to point
where some of the French people I knew, but German people as well, and certainly
British people too said they don’t feel at home anymore where they are because the
change is so fast, they feel surrounded by things they don’t understand, at such a
speed that they become panicky.

Now as far as the third generation is concerned, of course none of you could have
prevented what happened in New York, or in Madrid, or in Britain, or in the
Netherlands, but, I do feel that for all too long we did not draw a line where a line
should’ve been drawn. This has good reasons. The Qur’an forbids us to say to anyone,
you are not a Muslim. If I say you are not Muslim, it means I am not a Muslim and
the Muslims therefore, go by the beautiful saying right or wrong, not (…..) right or
wrong my brother. But this does not exclude to say you are my brother and you’re a
Muslim, but what you’re doing is wrong. And that we did not do sufficiently well. We
know that the Qur’an, and this is Allah ta’ala’s word, forbids anybody to commit
suicide under any circumstances, but we hesitate to say that. We know that the
Qur’an forbids us to commit acts of violence against non-combatants, innocents,
women, children; to exercise what would be called mass terrorism. But we were
perhaps not fast enough to make that clear. Of course, when we do say that, the
media usually don’t carry it because good news is no news, bad news is the better
news. Nevertheless, we must take a stand in favour of the ummah al wassattiya, the
straight middle ground way, which is the Muslim way, away from any kind of

Now lets go again back over these three periods and say what can we learn from that.
We can learn from the first generation that we should avoid confusing aspects that
are only part of our civilisation with what is part of our religion. For me that is much
easier than for you, because you come from Muslim civilisations and therefore you
have more difficulties to say this is Islam, and this is Bangladesh; this is Islam and
this is Afghanistan. I don’t have that problem because I don’t come from a Muslim
civilisation, so for me what is Islam the religion is very clear. But you all must make
that effort. Yesterday in Birmingham I said that one day in Cairo, I counted the
different ways of covering one’s hair. From Fez and turban to other ways, and I
counted 47 different headgear among the 120 nations represented, and each one
thought his headgear was Islamic. Not Muslim, no, Islamic. And that of course is
ridiculous. The way we eat is Islamic only in as much as we eat without alcohol and
pork. For the rest, these is no Islamic food, there is food that Muslim nations like
here, and other Muslim nations like other things there. The same is true for dress, for
ways of speaking. What I’m trying to say is if you have chosen to live in this part of
the world, you must want to integrate without assimilating. Integrate; you can only
by speaking the language of the land, studying the law of the land, understanding its
history. This helps you to integrate and function within the society, but you must not
assimilate, you must not give up a dot of what Islam as a religion is.

The next generation was perhaps a bit too triumphant. In Germany, currently we
have 70 mosques built as mosques in addition to 2000 masajid, and 170 mosques are
under construction currently. The Christian churches are up for sale. Not only is not
a single church being built, but so many are abandoned, that there is a market for
churches. Want to buy a church? Go to Germany. Now some Muslim organisations
made the mistake to buy a church and convert it into a mosque. Now, can you think
of something more provocative? For the formerly Christian by not really believing
any longer much, it will be a cultural shock to them. One simply mustn’t do things
like that. So this showed a sort of overconfidence, a triumphant approach, which we
should not have.

Going to the present situation, what can we learn? We must learn to avoid a bunker
mentality. When you are under assault, you are likely to become like your opponent.
If he is intolerant, you are likely to turn intolerant. When his argumentation, George
Bush’s argumentation turns narrow, you are likely to turn narrow, into a
confrontational mode and stance. We must avoid even under the suspicion under
which we live, the discrimination which is exercised against us, we must avoid falling
in to the trap of developing a victim’s mentality and a bunker mentality when we
become narrow and constricted. Because our chance, and this chance is still there,
lies in convincing our environment that we have something to offer, which may be
the saving of the civilisation. The values for which we stand are sorely missing in this
current civilisation. When you go back, how England became great, or other
European countries became great, it was because they had values very close to our
Muslim values in the beginning, and they became materially so successful that this
success killed the foundation upon which it had been built. I’ve heard America
Muslims say, we, the American Muslim community are the last people in the United
States who still stand 100% on the foundations of the United States as it was laid in
the 18th century because we are the last ones that defend all the values.

Brothers and sisters, sisters and brothers, this is the message I wanted to bring, I
hope it came across, if it didn’t, I love you anyway.