You are hereMay Meeting: Islam in the Modern World

May Meeting: Islam in the Modern World

By Kim - Posted on 13 June 2012

We had a good turnout on Tuesday 22nd May to hear Imam Abdul Qadeer Rashid of Westbourne Road Mosque. Abdul has been at the Mosque for about three years, having previously worked in Information Technology for HSBC. He said that he had to study for 11 years to become an Imam, including five years learning the Quran. This put me in mind of London taxi-drivers doing ‘The Knowledge’. Wouldn’t it be great if aspiring imams drove around the streets on mopeds while learning the Quran?

Anyway, the audience were extremely keen and at times fell over each other to ask questions. It isn’t often at humanist meetings that the Chair has to intervene to get people to ask questions in an ordered manner!

We established that Islam is pro-science, and that Muslims encourage their children to go off and study science. Further, when Allah recited the Quran to Mohammed 1400 years ago, he actually included information on the Big Bang, the expanding universe, star formation, and so on.

We questioned this claim quite thoroughly. We asked how it was that humankind was not aware of these elements of modern cosmology until quite recently, rather than having known them for the last 1400 years. We didn’t really get an answer to that one. But when we argued that it was more likely to be a case of taking modern knowledge and reading things into the Quran with hindsight, we got more of a reaction. Abdul was adamant that this wasn’t so, and at one point he actually started reading part of a science textbook to us, complete with references, in order to demonstrate that the Quran really was science. He took a long time to understand that we were not questioning the science, just the Quran. But of course the Quran was correct, how could it be otherwise?

We discussed social issues. Abdul roundly referred to terrorists as ‘disgusting’. This was not the Islam that he knew. He said he knew of the Muslims in Luton who cause trouble, although he did not know them personally. When asked why the community didn’t do something about them, he asked why the police didn’t do something instead. It was an anti-Islamic conspiracy he said, to allow them to go on giving Islam a bad name. This is an illuminating attitude, because the ‘Daily Mail’ would take the opposite view entirely.

We learned that Muslim women cover up in public by free choice. We were told that men and women pray separately in the mosque because the women like to pray without the distraction of the men. They were always referred to as a block, who all think the same thing. We could not establish if they had been asked individually or what would happen if one expressed a wish for mixed praying.

We did establish that Muslim children are allowed to make up their own minds whether to become Muslims or whether to adopt a different religion. Abdul conceded that any child choosing a different path would be ‘brave’. Changing your religion is allowed in Islam, he said, and the community would accept it.

We suspected by the end that Abdul’s view of Islam was maybe a little on the moderate side. His unexpected swearing was a good indicator of this maybe. He offered to come back as there were many questions outstanding when we ended. We offered to visit the mosque to reciprocate. Abdul said he would welcome it, but the governing committee probably would not.

It was a good evening. I think everyone who attended enjoyed it. We have provided more notes that we usually do for our meetings simply because there has been a lot of interest in this one.



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