On 13th February 2008, Maajid Nawaz, alongside Professor Yahya Michot and Shaikh Dr Ali al-Saleh, spoke at an event organized by Oxford University’s Oxford Union and Islamic Society. The discussion was chaired by Dr H. A. Hellyer.
Maajid Nawaz spoke first and commented about the media hysteria surrounding the recent comments of the Archbishop of Canterbury. He explained that normative Islam and Muslim history never obliged the authorities to enshrine Shariah as state law. Maajid continued that there were many interpretations of “the Shariah”. He also explained that what was important was not the means used in the 7th century, but rather the Maqasid – aims which needed to be sought such as justice and protecting religious practice – which according to modern scholars like Dr Sherman Jackson, are already safeguarded in Western political entities.
Professor Yahya Michot is the KFAS fellow in Islamic Studies and Islamic Centre lecturer in the faculty of Theology, Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, University of Oxford and the West’s leading authority on Ibn Taymiyya and Avicenna. He spoke passionately about the distortion of terms such as Shariah – a path to God – often misunderstood to mean law, or Qanun in Arabic. He compared different notions of Islam and politics and rejected the idea of ‘State’ having any correlation with Islam and Muslim history – but rather a fruit of western history. The learned Professor explained that scholars such as Ibn Taymiyya explained that it was not the role of rulers to impose religion or religious interpretation.
Dr Ali al-Saleh a scholar from the renowned Hausa in Najaf, and Imam from Ireland, explained that Islam, democracy, human rights, women’s rights did not conflict, unless one misunderstood Islam and had a devious interpretation of it. Any Islamist must accept this as fundamental to Islam. The question and answer discussed issues such as the Hudood (prescribed punishments) and the modern world, rules of apostasy and was a lively and vibrant discussion. The event was chaired by Dr H. A. Hellyer who is a senior research fellow in the University of Warwick and a fellow at the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies.