The story of Usama Hasan, an imam at a mosque in the UK, who came out in support of harmony between Islam and evolutionary science and as a result had to abandon his job and go to ground for fear of death threats, was covered in 2011 by those interested in reasons for scientific underachievement in Islamic nations, including evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne from the University of Chicago. He has now reappeared, and it turns out that the list of “crimes” for which he had to go into hiding was not limited to encouraging Muslims to embrace science; it also accepting a secular society in general (remember, we are talking about Britain here). What is more, what forced him to flee boils than to one thing: foreign meddling in UK affairs, for lack of a better expression.
A visiting Saudi cleric issued a fatwa, from the Green Lane mosque in Birmingham, that supported his enemies in the congregation: not only did it explain that anyone who denied creationism was an apostate, who could (and should, in an ideal state) be killed, but that his support for women going bareheaded if they wished, and for a secular form of government, were also sufficient grounds for a death sentence.
Since these judgments were circulated in jihadi circles, Hasan and his family were in real danger as a result and were granted police protection for a while.
The article goes on into some more details about how prevalent creationism in among British Muslims, and how recalcitrant a problem it is to tackle. (In France they may have been more successful due to overt secularism and not being intimidated by accusations of Islamophobia”.)
When in my past writings I have mentioned that apparent deeper radicalism among British Muslims compared to Muslims in other European countries, I was asked what the difference could be attributed to. Well, here is the answer: the blatant death threat against a Muslim considered not orthodox enough by a Saudi cleric.
I have made no secret about my pessimism about the likelihood of an Islamic transformation into a more modern, tolerant religion (at least in my lifetime), and while this is a complex problem, one reason for it is very clear: the endless flow of cash from oil rich, ultraconservaitve Muslim nations such as Iran and Saudi Arabia trying to export their own versions of Islam the world over.
In the end, another quote from the article on Usama Hasan may shed more light on the problem:
I asked him which of the three “crimes” he had been charged with was the most serious. It’s not easy for the western mind to understand how they fit together. To us, evolution is a scientific theory, the headscarf is a matter of fashion, and secularism is a political programme. How can any of them – let alone all of them – be considered so dangerous that their proponents must be killed? Which was the real offence?
He replied that they were all equally serious, except that to some people the headscarf mattered less – to others it was the most important. They all appear to fanatics as unpardonable violations of a pure Muslim identity.
…creationism can remain an invisible marker of Muslim identity and there’s some reason to suppose that it remains so.
…since creationism is adopted and transmitted as a marker of identity, contempt becomes aimed not at the idea (which is most unlikely to be understood, even assuming it is coherent) but at the identity which it expresses.
And let’s not forget that the most popular TV network in Arab world, Al Jazeera, promotes creationism in its Arabic programming, while its English channel sidesteps the issue.
That is precisely the problem with Westerners hoping for a tolerant Islam-failure to grasp the meaning of “a Muslim identity”: replace creationism with homophobia, or tolerance of apostates, and you’ll see the reason for my pessimism.