How an Islamist made the case for secularism

A Pakistani cleric has found himself a victim of the very laws that he promotes.

A Pakistani cleric has found himself a victim of the very laws that he promotes

Pakistani pop singer turned religious cleric Junaid Jamshed has been accused of blasphemy recently. Jamshed has now taken refuge in London, rightly fearing for his life in Pakistan.

The allegation occurred after Jamshed re-enacted a hadith which suggests that the Prophet Muhammad’s youngest wife Ayesha occasionally faked illness to seek her husband’s attention. The re-enactment was entitled ‘even the prophet’s company cannot tame a woman’.

Jamshed is notorious – or renowned, depending on who you talk to – for his misogynistic views. He is on record as saying:

“If you want a happy life, do not teach your wives how to drive a car. Do not let her go outside. She might leave you.”

He has also said that “A husband only involves himself in an extra marital affair because his wife isn’t doing enough. She is to be blamed.” 

He has also advocated a ban on women driving, drawn connections between respect and how much a woman covers herself, and generally espoused the view that women are men’s possessions.

Ironically, it was his supposedly Islamic endeavour of sanctioning women as the ‘inferior species’ that led him into the quagmire of blasphemy.

Jamshed has since apologised for his ‘naivety’. The same scholars who dubbed blasphemy an ‘unpardonable sin’ when minorities were burnt alive or sentenced to death are now seeking forgiveness for their man.

The entire episode, however, is not just about an individual’s misogynistic endeavours or the collective hypocrisy of the Pakistani clergy. If anything, the hypocrisy can be cashed in on by the state to finally modify the stringent blasphemy law in the country, which has been blatantly used to suppress religious minorities.

Pakistan’s blasphemy law is a virtual death sentence for minorities, with an allegation enough to sanction murder, or at the very least make it impossible for the accused to remain in the country.

Jamshed’s case holds pertinent lessons for those who endorse religious law in the 21st century.

Jamshed, who is on record as saying that ‘secularism is a curse’, is now taking refuge in a society that has secular laws, vying to dodge the ramifications of the jurisprudence that he has endorsed for 17 years.

Despite Britain’s increasing number of Sharia courts – 85 at time of writing – which are limited to financial and familial matters, Jamshed knows he is perfectly safe in Britain, a country that epitomises everything that’s ‘wrong’ with the ‘evil West’.

He was wise enough to not go into exile in Saudi Arabia, the country that is the epitome of Jamshed’s version of Islam, which is intolerant, fundamentalist and extremist.

The Saudi legal system is based on Sharia law and does not have a penal code. Therefore, in Saudi Arabia, where Jamshed’s endorsed law prevails, the punishment for his comments about Ayesha would be left at the mercy of a judge’s interpretation of the Sharia law, which more often than not leads to decapitated heads.

This is not to suggest that Jamshed’s understanding of Islam, or the Saudi interpretation of Islamic law is the sole authority. This is just to highlight how religious law can be, and is, interpreted to result in barefaced human rights abuses, as cases in Saudi Arabia and Iran have shown.

It is deeply ironic that it is an Islamist who has unearthed the obvious downside to the outmoded Sharia. It’s ironic that it’s an Islamist who has vindicated the importance of secularism as a societal and legal necessity.

Regardless of what the ‘true’ interpretation of any ideology is, no state can exist in the modern world, or remain functional in the future, if it isn’t founded upon universal equality and freedom of thought.

Sharia law doesn’t guarantee equal rights for all – this is also the case in British Sharia courts where women and adopted children are denied equal inheritance. Not to mention the 13 Muslim states that sanction death for apostasy, scepticism or for the lack of belief in a deity, owing to their implementation of the Sharia law at varying scale.

United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights gives a pretty good idea of the rights that a modern state needs to ensure. Only a secular state can guarantee that all citizens are equal before the law, regardless of their beliefs, or lack thereof.

And when a human’s life is at stake over the vague interpretation of religious law and the even more ambiguous interpretation of ‘respect’ – as is the case with Junaid Jamshed right now – you need jurisprudence that values human life more than the respect of any ideology or religious figure of the past.

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid is a Friday Times journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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43 Responses to “How an Islamist made the case for secularism”

  1. swat

    Serves him right. I’ve just about had enough of mad mullahs and crazy clerics especially after today’s events in Sydney. The sooner they are eradicated the better. That cleric had a string of alleged convictions criminal domestic and sexual, which is generally the case with clerics and holy men. Religion has a place, in the broom cupboard, and not during public discourse and engagements.

  2. Matthew Blott

    And we’re giving him sanctuary here because…?

  3. Matthew Blott

    And we’re giving him sanctuary here because…?

  4. Leon Wolfeson

    Well, for starters Britain is better than Saudi Arabia.

  5. Leon Wolfeson

    They’re not courts (i.e. courts of law) in the UK, they do arbitration and mediation. There’s a distinct difference.

    The right’s attacks on that system are often as not aimed at the Jewish Beis Din, using Sharia “courts” as an excuse.

  6. Matthew Blott

    Indeed but he’s not a British citizen so we don’t have any obligation towards him. If he doesn’t want to claim asylum because he wants to worm his way back into favour with the mullahs as the article suggests then stick him on the next plane to Islamabad.

  7. Leon Wolfeson

    So you’re blaming people widely for someone who’s plain mentally ill.

    And then you demand the same sort of persecution against religious people as has been aimed at gays, showing your hate clearly. Only the “right” kind of views can be expressed in your world…which would make us far more like Saudi Arabia.

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    So you basically deny every last bit of refugee law, and you have no problem sending people off to be murdered, simply because they don’t have the right piece of paper.

    You are making complete assumptions not stated in the article either there. Feel free to keep arguing we should NOT be better than Saudi, though.

  9. Matthew Blott

    I asked if he had attempted to claim asylum. If he does then that can be looked at but if he just wants to hedge his bets then tell him to get lost. I’m fed up with this country hosting hate preachers as it has some pretty nasty consequences.

  10. Guest

    So per your previous post, get lost.

  11. Matthew Blott

    Get lost where? I already live here mate.

  12. Matthew Blott

    Right wingers like Gita Sahgal and Pragna Patel of Southall Black Sisters. You are aware that Sharia courts clearly discriminate against woman aren’t you?

  13. Guest

    Keep arguing against adults being able to *chose* the ruleset for arbitration and mediation.

    Moreover, you’re complaining about GUIDELINES as how to draw up wills which are compliant with both British law and Sharia. *Information*, which you are fighting.

    And you keep making excuses for the National Front, etc. – as well as some anti-theist groups.

  14. Guest

    And that matters not at all, of course, as you haven’t by your own logic claimed asylum, and you are trying to justify sending people off to be killed, in clear contravention of British law.

    Follow your own rules, leave.

  15. swat

    Being ‘mentally ill’ doesn’t absolve him of the responsibility of killing innocentr people. The sooner people like you stop making excuses for these kinds of people the sooner we are going to solve this problem of extremism.
    I don’t accept that the actions of this mad nmullah ‘hasn’t anything to do with Islam’. It has everything to do with Islam. Every Muslim is responsible. Its time they realised that. The Muslim Community had better get used to the idea that they create these fanatics, and I’d like them to deal with these fanatics, and put them back intheir boxes.
    I doin’t accept that by pleading insanity, you can escapre the sanctions of the Law either..

  16. itbeso

    The women at these ‘courts’ have no choice.

  17. Matthew Blott

    Oh hush you Islamist loving fool.

  18. greg

    I would also ask, wouldn’t this be someone we would ban from coming to the UK?

    If so why would we give him assylum if under any other circumstances he would be barred?

  19. greg

    Why’s he mentally ill exactly?

    He seems to be very much of a particular type of religious extremist. That’s not the same as being mentally ill (well I would argue it is, but it’s a separate issue) is it?

    So is the legal system of the worst Islamic countries, or are the epople who wrote the hadiths and quaran where people devise also mentally ill?

  20. CGR

    Ah yes. Its that “Religion of Peace” yet again !!!

  21. CGR

    “because…” Our law is dominated by trendy lefty Human Rights nonsense that takes no account of the British peoples’ best interests.

  22. Leon Wolfeson

    He was a “faith healer” and a bunch of other things before, it’s quite telling.

    Your attempts to conflate that with Islam in general shows your nasty mindset, frankly.

  23. Leon Wolfeson

    So there you go again – not reading my post and using mentally ill people as an excuse for your Jihad.

    Keep saying that every Muslim’s responsible for mass murder, though, and that they must be suppressed because they can’t stop all mentally ill people from claiming to be part of them.

    And no surprise you’re against treating ill people rather than blaming them, you’re a good regressive who opposes the law in i.e. the UK.

  24. Guest

    I don’t love you. Get out this country, follow your own rules. Stop attacking Britain from the inside!

  25. Guest

    Yes, your far right’s here to try and stir up more violence.

  26. Guest

    So you officiate at one? I see.

  27. Guest

    Ah yes, that “trendy” oppoistion to murder and torture, “nonsense” which you think is in *your* best interests to unleash onto those British peon’s….

  28. Guest

    Read the article?

  29. Guest

    And it’s no surprise your standard far right friends agree with you.

  30. Matthew Blott

    LOL oh dear, you really are a headcase aren’t you?

  31. guest

    The religion of piss. May pig shit and diapers be upon him.

  32. Guest

    Ah yes, I’m a “headcase” for saying you should follow your own standards. Nope, you only apply your “standards” to the Other.

    You’re clearly a hypocrite.

  33. Karin Karejanrakoi

    Well written, Mr Shahid.

    Send the slimy piece of faecal matter back to face the ‘law’ that he espoused.

  34. Karin Karejanrakoi

    Ah, so you’re one of those ‘leftists’ who, ever since the “end of the Cold War” in 1992, have been suffering from a sort of PTSD prompted by the apparent consigning of any form of liberal thought to the trash-can of history. Some of you, of course, have simply turned your coats inside out and joined the world’s Conservatives, while others have grasped like drowning swimmers onto the ‘shiny’ of post-modernist cultural relativism (the view that, as journalist Johann Hari once wrote, “the world is carved up among ‘cultures,’ and they should not try to comment critically on each other. Instead, they should be ‘respectful.’ You can criticize Your Own Kind, but not Foreigners, because they are unbridgeably different from you”).

    Add to this a notion of anti-imperialism that is so badly defined that it is meaningless – including the misguided belief that islamism is *always* bred in poverty –and a fair serving of “European guilt” and we have a situation where we must hold our tongues or sit on our hands and excuse barbarities because “we’re not allowed to preach to ‘the Natives’ and tell them how to live their lives.” No wonder the ‘Left’ is something of a joke in most of the world.

    It is not racist to defend equality or tolerance or social, economic or juridical rights for all. What *is* racist is to deny people the same rights and freedoms because they were raised in a “different culture.” And to say that people *choose* to live in a society where they must wear a mobile black tent to go out in public or where they can be stoned to death for love or have their throats opened for talking to a man to whom they are not related is an *insult* of the highest order – people live in such circumstances because those in power in those ‘societies’ (usually men) *benefit* from these shenanigans and convince their ‘societies’ that their imaginary friends have sanctioned it.

    Nor is it “arrogant Western cultural imperialism,” or “neo-colonialism” – much less “Western decadence” – to wish to share those rights and freedoms with every human being on the planet. Yes, they arose in the context of the *European* Enlightenment and the capitalism that spawned it, but – just as capitalism was a huge step forward over slaveholding and feudalism – they can become the common currency of the human race and be used to create world-historic advances in human well-being.

    To reject these ideas just because they first emerged in Europe is a particularly short-sighted form of nativism – any revolutionary worth the name doesn’t care that Marx was German, Trotsky a Russian Jew, Stalin Georgian or Mao Chinese, but only whether their ideas will be useful.

    Moreover, before you folks on the ‘Left’ enthuse on how ‘progressive’ it is to support islamism against imperialism, you should take thought for the fact that islamism is a *creation* of imperialism. The British were happy to encourage islamic fundamentalism in Central Asia to stalemate Imperial Russian expansion in the nineteenth century, then in the Middle East in WWI to frustrate the Turks, and again in Central Asia in the wake of the Russian Revolution. After the First World War, the Muslim Brotherhood was founded under British auspices to counter Egyptian nationalism, and this rationale was inherited by the US after WWII, when ‘nationalism’ was equated with ‘communism’ (1) and islamist movements – from the anti-Soviet mujahidin in Afghanistan, to ‘al-Qaida’ and IS – have become the weapons of-choice for Washington to further its agenda of global conquest … and are, moreover, invaluable in scaring the population of the ‘Homeland’ into giving up their freedoms in exchange for a bogus “national security.”

    Those who would be called ‘progressive’ should be willing to oppose reaction *wherever* it raises its head, and as happily speak and act against the islamic right as against the christian one.

    (1) John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower’s Secretary of State, wrote, “The religions of the East are deeply rooted and have many precious values. Their spiritual beliefs cannot be reconciled with Communist atheism and materialism. That creates a common bond between us.”

  35. Karin Karejanrakoi

    Don’t you have the backbone to tell us your name, Imam?

  36. Karin Karejanrakoi

    GUIDELINES that discriminate against women!

  37. Karin Karejanrakoi

    *I* oppose Beit Din *and* christian “faith-based tribunals” *and” “sharia courts (or whatever you want to call them)”

  38. Matthew Blott

    Very good points, I couldn’t have put it better myself. Have an up vote 🙂

  39. Trofim

    Surely, poetic justice would require that he be killed by his co-religionists in Pakistan? If he seeks sanctuary in a secular society, then he should required to renounce his previous views in writing. It is outrageous that he is being giving sanctuary here. But then, it’s all good for UKIP.


    Where is the Tolerance.. We should learn to forgive…


    Islamic system is the best. Anyone with knowledge of history can see how things were during the times of Prophet PBUH and Four Caliphs. We need to model our laws according to Quran and Hadith. Thinking Islam teaches intolerance or injustice etc is completely absurd.

  42. imran

    While hearing the enquiry into the electoral rigging, the commission rejected the request of Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), and asked it to present its witnesses on June 9, 2015. The commission also asked Jamaat-e-Islami to give a list of its witnesses in the case.

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