It was only a day or two ago that I learnt of the death in April of a great scholar of Islam and its relations with the West, Fred Halliday, Professor of international relations and Middle East politics at the London School of Economics. He was opposed equally to the critics of Islam in the West, who condemn Islam for preaching intolerance, oppression and violence, and to Islamic fundamentalists who approve of the same image of Islam. He was the voice of reason and true understanding, but was passionate and forthright about his rational views.
As someone writes, one of his books “repudiating the idea of a clash between Western and Islamic civilisations, has provoked hostile reaction from both Muslim and non-Muslims”. I am sure you can guess which type of Muslims and non-Muslims these would be.
There is one in the Daily Telegraph, illustrating more clearly what I mean. The link to it is here but unfortunately the obituary is followed by a comment from a bigoted reader who is suffering from a deep malice against Islam, and indulges in false anti-Islamic propaganda.
At this link is an interview with Prof Halliday, which will give you a good idea about his views. For example:
“The dogmatic image of Islam, which is both projected by the enemies of Islam and enforced by fundamentalists, is false to the great richness of Islamic tradition.”
“The reason in my view why fundamentalism has made such an advance here in Europe is because people [meaning Muslims in Europe] are not educated and literate in their own history and culture.”
“People who don’t like Muslims say ‘Islam can’t be democratic’ and certain Muslim rulers say ‘this is a Western system, we don’t want it’ – but it’s got nothing to do with Islam. … I don’t see democracy or human rights conflicting with Muslim culture.”
I first saw Prof Halliday in a TV panel discussion in the early 1980s. Appearing also was one Kalim Siddiqui, a UK Muslim scholar and fundamentalist supporter. Siddiqui said that things had gone wrong in the West since the age of reason began 500 years ago because people no longer accepted religious teachings obediently without question.
Fred Halliday was enraged by this comment. He replied something like: I am proud of the age of reason, and I know you don’t represent Islam, and I look forward to the day when Muslims, exercising reason, throw mullahs like you out of politics.
Yes, Fred Halliday did not mince his words. He will be missed terribly by all those non-Muslims who don’t demonise Islam and all those Muslims who know that the Mullahs have perverted the teachings of Islam in order to gain power over the Muslim masses.
by Zahid Aziz, admirer of Professor Fred Halliday.