Reg. No. 1084047
Editorial supervisor, Dr. Helmy Guirguis
 
Dr. Helmy Guirguis 71, the president of the UK Copts, passed away on the 31 of January, 2015 after a struggle with illness. UK Copts mourns its founder and leader. He is a leader that touched so many by his life and has been fighting for the coptic case till his last breath. The commemoration mass for his 40th day will be held on Sunday 15th of March, 2014 starting 8 AM in Saint Mary and Saint Mark Coptic Orthodox Centre of Birmingham (Lapworth) .For commiserations, please send us an email to info@copts.co.uk

The Wise Mufti

June 5, 2007

A visiting Egyptian tells the truth about Islamist extremism.
There was nothing inaccurate about Tony Blair’s remarks to a conference on Islam yesterday. Nor was there much that was new; he has extolled the virtues and diversity of moderate British Muslims many times before. The contribution that deserved to be singled out for its courage and clarity came, instead, from Dr Ali Gomaa, the Grand Mufti of Egypt. His subject was Islamic law and governance, in which he is one of the world’s foremost experts, and his message was simple: ill-trained Islamic “scholars” who take it upon themselves to issue fatwas, or religious edicts, with little understanding of the contemporary world have no authority to do so. And extremists declaiming in mosques and via the internet that the only legitimate Islamic form of government is a restored “Caliphate”, such as that which stretched from Fez to Samarkand 500 years ago, are simply wrong.

It is extraordinary that such basic truths needed restating in Britain two years after the July 7 bombings. Yet they did, in large part because so few in Dr Gomaa’s audience of fellow moderate Muslims have been as forthright, or as brave. “The best lack all conviction,” as Yeats wrote, “while the worst are full of passionate intensity.” This is as true, and as critically topical, as when the poet wrote it of his native Ireland in 1920.

This week’s conference, hosted by the University of Cambridge, has been criticised for supposedly excluding critics of Mr Blair’s foreign policy, among them Lord Ahmed. But it and similar events have a crucial role in the long struggle against extremism and extremists, who seek to silence the moderate voices through intimidation. Those voices must now follow Dr Gomaa’s lead, and use the podium to denounce the radicals who have cowed so many of them. There was some truth in Mr Blair’s remarks yesterday that the media give disproportionate time and space to extremists’ goadings – but Britain’s moderates have hardly distinguished themselves in articulating their convictions for mainstream consumption, nor in seizing the microphone to express them.

The second purpose of this conference has been to debate the central question of how to neutralise religious extremism. Dr Gomaa picked the right target, aiming carefully at British-based imams preaching a hateful distortion of Islam that is rooted more in medievalist fantasy than the Koran. The Government, in basing policy on the Siddiqui report on the teaching of Islam in universities, risks pursuing the wrong culprit. Universities clearly cannot be allowed to become hotbeds of extremism – but there is little evidence that this is a real danger, and a real risk that meddling in academic coursework in the supposed interest of national security could backfire. When Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, called for “the effective and accurate delivery of Islamic studies in our universities”, he might as well have been quoting Orwell.

When moderates preach moderation to more moderates, little is accomplished unless they go home and turn their words into action. Imitating Dr Gomaa’s style as well as his substance would be a good start. There is a strong case for British Muslims to appoint their own mufti to embody the “authentic, contemporary, tolerant Islam” that he and they hold dear.

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