The International Union of Muslim Scholars (IUMS), headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader Youssef Qaradawi, has issued a statement supporting the recent remarks by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s comments suggesting that some aspects of Muslim Sharia law could become part of British law. The statement illustrates some key themes of the Brotherhood in responding to criticism. The statement opens by suggesting that Islam is under attack under the pretext of support for human rights:
The International Union for Muslim Scholars (IUMS) received with much surprise the fierce attack that has been launched against Dr. Rowan Williams, Head Archbishop of the Anglican Church and the Archbishop of Canterbury. His opinion that Muslims in the UK could choose to have marital disputes or financial matters dealt with in a Sharia court were received with antagonism in British society. It is surprising that this attack, which is accompanied by excessive support of the opposite opinion, comes at a time when it is allowable for everyone to underrate the feelings and beliefs of others on the pretext of freedom of opinion, and to violate the sanctuaries of millions on the plea of freedom of expression and human rights. This is happening when human rights are being violated on a daily basis.
The IUMS statement goes on to allege that the Islamic world historically has been a bastion for freedom of religion:
The IUMS would like to remind the entire world that the Islamic state ‘“ since its establishment at the hands of the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) and over hundreds of years – allowed all citizens, regardless of their religion, to practice their personal law (marriage, divorce, inheritance, and so on) in accordance with their religion. They did so with freedom and respect in spite of its contradiction to the laws of the Islamic state in many cases. Moreover, the Ottoman Islamic state issued laws to organize these practices; thus, non-Muslim citizens were allowed to resort to their own courts in many cases. Paradoxically, these bright ages are called the medieval ages and times of backwardness and underdevelopment, while the countries in which an archbishop is attacked because he expressed his opinion are called developed countries, which set a (democratic) example that is expected to be followed on the path of civilization and progress.
The close of the statement is an interesting repetition of the Islamist view of the ideal relationship between Islam and Christianity/Judaism:
While denouncing these shameful attitudes, the IUMS acknowledges the Archbishop of Canterbury and commends his fair and free attitude. The IUMS calls upon the followers of the other religions and others to adopt equity, which is called for by every true religion and living conscience, and to draw the line on such backward attitudes that are being expressed against the Archbishop of Canterbury. In addition, the IUMS calls upon them to come to common terms, by which the human right of freedom of expression are preserved, and to do so in a way that does not harm the rights, sanctuaries or beliefs of others. “Say: O People of the Scripture. Come to an agreement between us and you: that we shall worship none but Allah, and that we shall ascribe no partners unto Him, and that none of us shall take others for lords beside Allah. And if they turn away, then say: Bear witness that we are they who have surrendered (unto Him).”
This would appear to be reflective of the Islamic notion of “ahl al-dhimma”, the “pact of protection” that covered a non-Muslim subject of a state governed in accordance with Islamic law. A Dhimmi had more rights than other non-Muslim religious subjects, but fewer legal and social rights than Muslims