Follow what leader?

A bishop says something worth saying for a change:

‘It is very common in the world today, including in this country, for people who have changed their faith, particularly from being Muslim to being Christian, to be ostracised, to lose their job, for their marriages to be dissolved, for children to be taken away,’ [Bishop of Rochester Michael Nazir-]Ali said. ‘And this is why some leadership is necessary from Muslim leaders themselves to say that this is not what Islam teaches.’

Who are these Muslim leaders though? As we know, that phrase gets bandied around a lot, but seriously, who are they? There was a time when that translated pretty straightforwardly (and unfortunately) to people at the top of the MCB, but that facile and unwarranted equation has gone a little out of fashion – but then who are these Muslim leaders? There are prominent Muslims, of course, but they’re not necessarily leaders, and it’s really not clear that they have any particular standing to say what Islam teaches. That’s part of the problem. The lack of an official hierarchy makes Islam in a way less coercive than the Vatican or even than the Anglican hierarchy, but it also makes it harder to control. There isn’t really anyone who can say ‘this is not what Islam teaches’ and be heeded by all Muslims. In that sense Michael Nazir-Ali is sort of asking for the impossible.

The bishop warns that Muslims who switch faiths in Britain could be killed if the current climate continues. ‘We have seen honour killings have happened, and there is no reason why this kind of thing cannot happen.’ In 2004, Prince Charles asked British Muslim leaders to renounce laws of apostasy and the death sentence for converts in Islamic countries, but no public statement was ever made.

Maybe they all pretended it was some other set of Muslim leaders P.C. was asking. At any rate, it’s not surprising that no public statement was ever made, since it’s difficult to claim that ‘this is not what Islam teaches’ when it is what Islam teaches. I hope the Bishop has success with his suggestions, but he has his work cut out for him.

Dispatches obtained Islamic texts sold in Britain that say the punishment for apostasy is death – according to all four schools of Islamic jurisprudence. One text called for Muslims to cut off the head of those who reject Islam. The radical Islamist group Hizb ut-Tahrir…states in its constitution that in countries that practise Sharia law, apostates are to be executed…A poll of more than 1,000 British Muslims, conducted by the Policy Exchange think-tank this year, found that 36 per cent of Muslims aged between 16 and 24 believe those who convert to another faith should be punished by death.

That’s what I mean. Not an easy job.

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