Thursday, July 21, 2005

It's with a little fear and trembling that I put together a post about this subject- the subject of the recent fatwa issued by the British Muslim Forum, presumably not on its own authority but on the authority of the scholars and clerics that it called to the task.

For one thing it's complicated- and its complication is enhanced by the BBC's presentation of it, invloving the presentation of two declarations from separate groups (BMF and BMC) side by side. Furthermore, as Melanie Phillips points out, the text of the BMF statement is slippery (though I really only want to concentrate on the quotation from the Koran which underpins the 'fatwa'.)

I'm of the view that statements such as these are as important to us as the Koran is to Muslims, since they regulate the status of our relationship to them, so no amount of scrutiny can be too great. There are several reasons for this scrutiny. One is that muslims take the Koran so seriously that every punctuational mark, every word, is vital for their interpretations. Secondly, the Koran, being written in Arabic, is not valid for them in its English form, so that statements in English that link precisely to the Arabic are the best you can hope for, and even these may not really be felt binding held against backdrop of the the Arabic whole.

As The Adventuress reports, there is a serious problem with some of the quotation from the Koran in the BMF 'fatwa', which the BBC in turn appears to be covering up in its presentation of the 'fatwa' (this latter point is my view in particular, which I explain in an evolutionary way in the comments to the post).

As I understand it the Beeb journalist who listened to the statement quoted the Secretary General of the BMF, Mr Gul, in this article, and inserted ellipses where he quoted the Koran saying '"Whoever kills a human being ... then it is as though he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a human life it is as though he had saved all mankind."'. Various English versions all include an extra line thusly, 'unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land', where the Beeb's ellipses are (see T.A. for more English Koran versions).

But the statement that was issued by the Muslim Forum, which Mr Gul read and the BBC quoted, had no ellipses- thus '"Whoever kills a human being, then it is as though he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a human life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Koran, Surah al-Maidah (5), verse 32).' - which is, imho, a lovely line when shorn of context.

What's weird is that to know to include the ellipses would require an impressive level of knowledge of the Koran- kudos to the BBC's Islamic education, or their equal opportunities policy, or their links to British Islamism and penchant for affirmative action.

The problem is that it helps to cover up the BMF's dishonesty, highlighted by Melanie Phillips. It might seem insignificant but it's not- it's deadly serious. That little line, which could never have been overlooked by serious muslims seeking a serious resolution, opens the whole issue up to a breadth of interpretation that plays havoc with the BMF's declared determination. It's just typical of the kind of contempt, not just for British non-Muslims, but of the English language (as opposed to the holy one, Arabic), which means that the Muslims in Britain play their poker with two hands, appearing to lose with their 'British' one, while appearing to win with their 'Arabic' one. (nb. please forgive my frequent sins of capitalisation and non-capitalisation- I really need to think it through, and I may update, but I'm impatient to post now)

Oh yes, I almost forgot, this Belmont Club post inspired me to write about this subject, and so did Mark Steyn.

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