When a sophisticated Jordan trained Islamic Scholar becomes a Bigot and Racist: Taking on the Malaysian Indians/Hindus


April 24. 2017

When a sophisticated Jordan trained Islamic Scholar becomes a Bigot and Racist: Taking on the Malaysian Indians/Hindus

by Mariam Mokhtar@www.malaysiakini.com

Image result for dr asri maza and zakir naik

Dr Maza–Zakir Naik bootlicker

Everyone is entitled to his or her own opinion, but when a supposedly learned religious man makes an ‘incorrect’ analysis of another faith, the damage he causes is worse than if the remarks had come from an ignorant oaf.

Of all the muftis in Malaysia, the one from Perlis, Dr Mohd Asri Zainul Abidin (Maza), was considered the most progressive and respected, whose insights resonated with many Malaysians.

His views on Act 355 were applauded when he said that this ruse was just another political ploy by PAS and UMNO Baru. He disagreed with the use of khalwat squads to test people’s morality. He said that non-Muslims had a right to use the word ‘Allah’.

Maza opposed forced conversions of children, when one parent decided to convert to Islam. He blasted the syariah courts for taking years to reach a decision on divorce cases. He courted controversy when he said that religion should not be forced on Muslims.

Whilst Maza’s reputation soared, that of other muftis plummeted. The respect Maza enjoyed ended when he published his poem on Facebook last week. He allegedly claimed the Hindus worshipped cows and practised ‘suttee’.

Maza exposed his poor understanding of Hinduism and its practices. Hindus do not worship cows and suttee has been outlawed for almost two centuries. We cannot say the same about some ‘Muslim’ practices, like female genital mutilation.

Maza’s back-pedalling did not help him. First he said that his poem was directed at Narendra Modi, the nationalist prime minister of India. That simply exacerbated the problem, so he said that Malaysian Hindus should ignore his remarks, because they did not apply to them.

He also alluded to “our preacher” being handed over to a tyrannical government. Was he referring to Zakir Naik, the controversial Muslim preacher who is purportedly seeking refuge in Malaysia to escape two arrest warrants issued by the Indian authorities? Why does Maza harbour a soft spot for Zakir, who seemingly likes to stoke religious fires amongst Malaysians?

Maza’s work and opinions are highly valued and sought after. He is also human and it is possible he made a mistake, and should apologise. The only positive aspect of Maza’s debacle is that he has put the spotlight on Malaysia’s marginalised Indian community.

When government-linked companies (GLCs) took over British rubber estates, they converted land into housing developments, golf courses and oil palm plantations. The displaced Indians drifted to urban areas to form Indian ghettos, which became breeding grounds for gangsters.

Bumiputra policies and quotas denied Indians access to education and work opportunities. Places in local universities were limited and Indian graduates claimed they face discrimination when applying for jobs.

Lack of self-confidence

With so much against them, is it any wonder that the Indian community suffers from a lack of self-confidence, low self-esteem, the highest rates of suicide and low performance in business, equity ownership and employment in professional sectors and the civil service?

A few have escaped the poverty trap, and at the other end of the social spectrum, there are many qualified and successful Indian professionals, who form a large proportion of the country’s top lawyers and doctors.

Image result for dr asri maza and zakir naik

Restrictions on places of worship mean that Hindu temples are forced to be built without planning permission. The Indians could only watch in silence when Hindu temples of historical and cultural importance were demolished.

In 2000, TimeAsia reported that Indians had the lowest share of the nation’s corporate wealth – 1.5 percent compared to 19.4 percent for the Malays and 38.5 percent for the Chinese.

In 2003, The Economist reported that Indian Malaysians comprised “14 percent of juvenile delinquents, 20 percent of wife and child abusers, 14 percent of its beggars, and that under 5 percent of successful university applicants were Indian.”

In 2011, the erstwhile MIC Deputy President, Dr S Subramaniam, claimed that Indians were ashamed of their community, were looked down upon by the other races, and that 45 percent of the country’s crimes involved Indians.

The Indians are viewed as an afterthought, because if Chinese or Malay communities were treated as badly, there would have been a severe backlash; but with Indians, the common response, is “Who cares? They are only Indians. Even their own politicians fail to promote their cause.”

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Zakir Naik granted PR status by Nalaysian authorities

Zakir Naik was granted permanent resident (PR) status, but many Indians remain stateless, and do not have birth certificates or identity cards. The Indians form the highest percentage of deaths, whilst in police custody. The poorest Indians survive on a ‘hand to mouth’ existence.

Ironically, Maza’s faux pas has highlighted the plight of Indian Malaysians/Hindus. Will he help make Malaysians understand that we cannot alienate the Indians? Issues which affect the Indian community are not solely an Indian problem; they are a Malaysian problem.

Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore


April 12, 2017

Image result for farish noor

Listen to Dr.Farish Noor–Public Intellectual and Academic @The Nanyang Technological University, Singapore:

http://www.malaysiakini.com

RUU355 Circus –The Political Game Najib Razak plays


April 4, 2017

RUU355 Circus –The political game pyromaniac Najib Razak plays

by Dr. M. Bakri Musa@Morgan-Hill, California

Image result for Najib's Political Game

Does this circus clown understand what he means–He has, in fact, destroyed everything Malaysia has achieved over nearly 60 years (since 1957) in his  wake.

If I were a non-Malay, I would support RUU355 with unrestrained enthusiasm…As a Malay however, I am terrified at this crude fascistic attempt to make Islam an instrument for repression. It pains me to see my faith debased as a political and social tool to control the ummah. Greatness can never emerge from a controlled and repressed society. Islam thrives only when there is freedom and justice. Oppression promotes neither.–Dr. M. Bakri Musa

Many applaud Prime Minister Najib’s recent U-turn on RUU355, the legislative amendment to “strengthen” the Syariah. That circus, which is far from over, exposes Najib’s mischief and vulnerability. Lauding him for withdrawing the government’s sponsorship of that bill is akin to praising a pyromaniac who had tried to start a fire but failed. Najib should be condemned, not praised, for his dangerous game of stirring religious discord.

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Two Malaysian Clowns with a Mad-Cap Indian Mullah

Whenever Islam enters the discourse in Malaysia, all rational discussions evaporate. Leaders and followers, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, descent with gusto into the gutter of religious and underlying racial bigotry. I would have thought that such a realization would have cautioned leaders to be more circumspect when treading on matters religious. On the contrary, as revealed by Najib’s latest and very crude mischief, they are only too eager to fan the fire.

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With over 60 years of a corrupt and incompetent UMNO-led administration, Malaysia is littered with debris and garbage, literal as well as figurative. Any idiot with a matchstick could start a conflagration with ease. Imagine a mischievous one, if Malaysians let it be. It is time to grab the matchstick away from Najib’s reach.

RUU355 began as PAS Hadi Awang’s private member’s bill. Clueless on matters of statecraft, PAS leaders, well exemplified by Hadi, resort to simplistic and gimmicky maneuvers, as with introducing “Islamic laws” and making Malaysia an “Islamic state.”

For his part, Najib was desperate to be seen as a latter-day Malay hero championing syariah. He also sensed an opportunity to create mischief by driving a wedge in the opposition coalition; hence his over eagerness to take over the bill’s sponsorship. Later, caught and surprised by the unanticipated strong opposition from the now emboldened non-UMNO Barisan partners, specifically from Sarawak, Najib was forced to backtrack.

Clever only by half, Najib now finds himself on the unfamiliar terrain of having to make difficult choices. He opted for throwing PAS under the bus, hoping that his support among conservative Malays would not be too adversely affected. The risk of losing his crucial Sarawak partners, and with that the fall of his government, was much greater and more immediate. Earlier, Najib had hoped to endear himself to PAS followers and entice their party away from the opposition in time for the next election.

Image result for Sarawakians must remember Adenan SatemIn respectful memory of Adenan Satem and a stark reminder to his successor and Fellow Malaysians in Sarawak. Embrace Najib Razak at your own peril since he will destroy harmony with his Islamism and embrace of Zakir Naik and Hadi Awang

With Najib’s vulnerability now exposed, expect more challenges and shifts in the wind, and for him to be jerked around like a yoyo. It would be quite a sight! As for PAS, it is but the flighty woman jilted by her hitherto ardent suitor and now not welcomed by her previous partner. Not a pretty sight for a far-from-pretty old maid.

For Malaysians, the choice is simple. Deny Najib the privilege of leading Malaysia. Snatch the matchstick away from him.

If I were a non-Malay, I would support RUU355 with unrestrained enthusiasm. I would do likewise for all Islam-centric legislations, including the introduction of hudud. My assertion here is not meant to shock or raise eyebrows, nor is it a clumsy attempt at sarcasm or literary spoof, rather a matter of pragmatism if not blatant opportunism.

As a Malay, however, I am terrified at this crude fascistic attempt to make Islam an instrument for repression. It pains me to see my faith debased as a political and social tool to control the ummah. Greatness can never emerge from a controlled and repressed society. Islam thrives only when there is freedom and justice. Oppression promotes neither.

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Perlis Mufti who is a Fan of Qutbist Zakir Naik

Our ulamas and scholars have failed us here. They they have subverted what should be a political debate into a test of our faith. Oppose RUU355 and you are destined for Hell! How infantile!

There are many reasons (most are selfish and self-serving) why non-Malays should support the expansion of Islamic institutions. One benign rationale would be not to interfere with the wishes of the majority (Malays), as long as those do not impact you adversely. The constitution protects and spares non-Muslims from hudud. You could say that they do not “deserve” such divinely-derived laws!

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Malaysia’s Political Ulamas

Non-Muslims should for example, push for public executions and whippings, following Afghanistan’s example. Turn those into revenue-producing events, with “premium” front-row seats commanding hefty prices, and market them as showcasing the “beauty” and “superiority” of Islamic laws.

Sell ads to whip and sword manufacturers, much like oil companies advertise at Formula One races. Such public executions and whippings could rival major spectator events like boxing to draw foreign tourists.

It is also in the self-interest of non-Muslims to encourage Malays to be obsessed and consumed with matters religious and the pursuit of the Hereafter. With more young Malays preoccupied with studying revealed knowledge and prophetic traditions, there would be that much fewer to pursue STEM. Meaning, less competition for non-Malays wishing to become doctors, scientists and engineers.

With young Malays opting for Al Azhar and Pakistani madrasahs, there would be less competition among Malaysians aspiring for Oxford and Harvard. Not that our community is a formidable competitor on that front.

For non-Muslim politicians, embracing pro-Islam postures would be a sure way into the hearts of Malays and capturing their votes. Those politicians would become instant darlings of the Malay community, fast eclipsing the likes of that mualaf Ridhaun Tee, and without having to change your name or religion. You don’t have to suck up to UMNO or PAS politicians either! All you have to do is don white kopiah (or hijab, for a woman) at Muslim functions, and of course support RUU355 and similar legislations.

Non-Malays should be heartened that the Padang Merbok pro-RUU355 rally drew thousands; overwhelmingly Malays. It went well past midnight. Not even the early evening rain dampened the mood. They came from as far north as Perlis and Kelantan, giddy with the excitement of doing God’s work, as they had been led to believe.

Imagine the acres of paddy fields not tilled that day and the next, the thousands of rubber trees not tapped, and hundreds of fishing boats idle in port. You do not need to be an economist to see the impact; all negative. Or perhaps it was minimal as they were marginal participants in the modern Malaysian economy, consumed as they were with the Hereafter.

As one of the few non-Malays present at that rally noted, the only non-Muslims affected by RUU355 would be casino operators. Few, Muslims or non-Muslims, have sympathy for them.

I compliment that the non-Malay for his deep understanding of Malay culture and values. It is a sad commentary that individuals like him are a rarity today. Not so a few generations ago.

Following the failed Malayan Union, a coalition of populist Malay organizations under PUTERA, together with the primarily non-Malay trade union group AMCJA, put forth a proposal for self-rule.

A central feature of that proposal would have liberalized conditions for citizenship. The leftist Malay leaders in PUTERA enthusiastically embraced that simply because those new citizens would be called Melayu, not Malayans. Non-Malays, being pragmatic, too accepted that. They could not care less about the label as long as they were granted citizenship.

Malays were easily seduced into relaxing the citizenship requirements in return for the Melayu label. Never mind that those would-be culup Melayus were not Muslims and could not speak Malay or give a hoot about Malay mores and customs!

Thank God the British rejected the PUTERA/AMCJA idea and instead imposed the Federation Agreement.

To Malays, the label is all important. Do what you want with the content, in line with our culture’s premium on peragga (appearance). It was true then and it is even more true today. Label something as Islamic or hudud, and Malays would swallow it without question. Likewise, anything from the land of the Prophet is holy. Even the flies in Mecca are hallal! It is not a surprise that Najib’s receiving millions from a Saudi sheik be viewed as borkat (divine bounty) by Malays and not, as the rest of the world sees it, blatant corruption.

Two centuries ago the British nearly succeeded in destroying the Chinese civilization by giving the masses what they craved for–opium. In the process the Brits made tons of money and controlled China. The Chinese elite, from the emperor down to the mandarins, were aware of the dangers opium posed but they could not prevail against the mighty British.

With Malays on the other hand, our leaders are the biggest pushers of the metaphorical opium. Non-Malays should let that be and let Malays be narcotized. Then like the British in China of yore, non-Malays could control the economy and country even more. If Malays were to complain or be resentful, flatter them that a much bigger and better reward awaits them in the Hereafter.

That however is a distracting issue. The key conclusion from Najib’s latest U-turn on RUU355 is that he and the party he leads are now vulnerable. Najib is floundering. As any boxer will tell you, that is the best time to knock your opponent out.

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia


March 14, 2017

Gauging The Hudud Thing in Malaysia–Political Islamism out of UMNO’s desperation

by Rashaad Ali

http://www.eastasiaforum.org/2017/03/08/gauging-support-for-islamic-law-in-malaysia/

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The Desperate Godfathers of Hududism in Malaysia–UMNO’s Najib Razak and PAS’Hadi Awang

The 18 February 2017 rallies both for and against the bill to amend the 1965 Criminal Jurisdiction Act, known as RUU 355, have opened yet another political and social schism in Malaysian society. RUU 355 began as a private member’s bill by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party’s (PAS) President Hadi Awang and seeks to raise the penalties for certain crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of sharia courts in Malaysia.

Public opinion appears divided on the issue, as the continued politicisation of religion takes precedence over authentic religious debate on the matter. Some see the bill as a facade for the eventual entry of hudud — Islamic — laws into the country. PAS held the rally in support of the bill, which drew a reported 20,000 people, while the counter rally was organised by the non-governmental organisation Bebas and drew a much more modest crowd of around 200.

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Hudud –The  Political Hypocrisy of  It All

Support for the bill is significant enough. Various surveys, including one conducted recently amongst university students, indicate Malay-Muslim support for the amendment and for the implementation of Islamic laws. The pro-RUU 355 rally emphasises this and the numbers indicate some level of moderate success for PAS — mobilising 20,000 odd people for a rally is no small feat.

But as the subject of this bill is central to the party’s aims, larger numbers could have been expected. This suggests a difficulty in appealing to urban folk and that mobilised supporters from other, more remote parts of the country account for the majority of the turnout.

Image result for zaid ibrahim dapThis Guy does not  know where he is coming or going in Malaysian Politics–UMNO to PKR to DAP and what next?

The counter rally, held at the same time but at a different location to the PAS gathering, better demonstrates the mood regarding the bill. While the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) was critical of the bill when it was first announced, it eventually distanced itself from the counter rally completely. The only DAP name who attended was Zaid Ibrahim, and that was in his individual capacity rather than as a party member.

The DAP’s absence is unsurprising as the issue puts it in a difficult position: the DAP may not support the bill, but attending the counter rally would cement the perception that they are an anti-Malay and anti-Muslim party. The discourse surrounding this issue has been very black and white; support for the bill is seen as a Muslim’s religious duty, while opposition to it is deemed vehemently anti-Islamic.

The general public’s low attendance at the counter rally suggests that the issue was not significant enough to take to the streets in numbers. For Malay-Muslims, the fear of reprisal for attending a rally seen as anti-Islamic is a significant factor in keeping people away. It appears easier for the pro-RU 355 rally to draw Malays, as the narrative is more populist, keeps with a conservative Islamic position and is supported by major Malay parties like the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and PAS.

As for non-Muslim participation, it appears this issue is neither relevant nor attractive enough to drag would-be participants out of bed in the morning. They can hardly be blamed as many voices from the pro-RU 355 camp constantly state that the amendment will not affect non-Muslims.

Although this amendment does not mean that non-Muslims are suddenly going to be tried under sharia law, having two legal systems for two different groups of people brings the notion of equality before the law into question. For a multicultural country that should seek to be inclusive instead of exclusive, these amendments are not helpful, especially when considering the knock-on effect it will have on the country as a whole.

Past cases of overlapping jurisdiction between sharia and civil courts, such as conversion cases or burial rights of non-Muslims indicate that the separation of the courts is not clearly defined. While the bill aims to raise the penalties for certain crimes under sharia law such as murder and theft, some constitutional experts argue that these crimes fall strictly under the purview of federal, not sharia, law. This bill exacerbates an already highly polarised society divided along racial and religious lines.

It is also another episode in the overall Islamisation trend happening in Malaysia that directly and indirectly affects all groups in society. Various incidents in the past few years point to how religious relations in the country can easily sour. A church was forced to take down its cross display in 2015, there have been recent issues with the usage and distribution of paint brushes containing pig bristles and there is now moral policing of dress code at government buildings.

The issue is complicated further because it is primarily for political rather than religious purposes. Putting aside PAS’ ambition to see this through, the bill is an obvious affirmation of the party’s own religious credentials. In the current climate, this helps to regain the trust of its core supporters, which also explains why the UMNO has jumped on the bill’s bandwagon. It helps the UMNO bolster its image at a time when the administration has suffered a dip in popularity. The timing of this issue is also convenient, as elections are due to be held by 2018.

As it stands, it would not be surprising if the bill passes next month when it comes to parliament. Opposition members who oppose the bill are likely to be absent from the vote for fear of being branded anti-Islamic. If the amendment passes, the biggest concern is whether it will worsen existing racial and religious polarisation in the country. Given the political dimension of the bill and the looming general election, a more inclusive Malaysia is not yet on the horizon.

Rashaad Ali is a research analyst with the Malaysia Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.

This article was first published here on RSIS.

 

 

Malaysia Takes a Turn for the Religious Sinister Side


March 7, 2017

Najib’s Malaysia Takes a Turn for the Religious Sinister Side

by Asiasentinel Correspondent

http://www.asiasentinel.com

The fate of Koh is evidently meant as a warning to non-Muslims. In the context of Peninsular Malaysia, where Malays are deemed to be children incapable of making their own decisions about religion, it is also a racist message to the non-Malay 30 percent of the population: leave us to our intolerance or we will punish you.

In the longer run, it may also be a message to the peoples of more tolerant Sarawak (where only 33 percent are Muslims) and Sabah that they do not belong in a nation whose political leaders rely on religious bigotry for their survival.

Image result for Pastor Raymond Koh Keng Joo

Two very worrying trends in Malaysia may have come together: the rise of religious intolerance and the use of murder as a political weapon.

The well-organized kidnap and disappearance of a Chinese Christian pastor, Raymond Koh Keng Joo on Feb. 13 in the middle of Petaling Jaya, a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, was clearly driven by his promotion of Christianity. His disappearance and the lack of any news or ransom demand suggest he has likely been killed and his body disposed of. If so, whether his corpse was blown up in the manner of Altantuya Shaaribu, the pregnant Mongolian model and translator murdered by then-Defense Minister Najib Razak’s security personnel, or in a drum of concrete like 1MDB investigator from the Attorney General’s department, Kevin Anthomy Morais, or otherwise, remains to be seen.

What is clear is that the broad daylight morning kidnap operation was brazen and highly organized. Witnesses and a video posted on-line reported that three large SUVs, two following cars and two motorcycles were involved, with masked men holding up traffic, blocking Koh’s car, seizing him and bundling him into one of the vehicles. Witnesses reported that there were at least five abductors, who were driving black 4x4s, and that one of them calmly filmed the incident. The operation of less than a minute took place just 100 metres from a police complex.

Despite the evidence of witnesses and the video, the police have made no progress either in identifying the kidnappers or tracing the victim. Koh’s family has offered a RM100,000 (US$22,500) reward for his safe return but there has been no response. It is not clear how much effort an increasingly politicized police force has invested in finding Koh and his kidnappers.

Koh was viewed by some Christian groups as being too high-profile for his own good given the rise in Muslim fanaticism in what is supposed to be multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation. In 2011 Koh was accused by the Selangor Religious Affairs Department of trying to convert Malays to Christianity. However, the issue was dropped due lack of evidence.

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One the Islamic Hypocrite and the other the Islamic Bigot–God Help Malaysia

The kidnap and possible murder coincides with the introduction into parliament by the head of Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS) leader Abdul Hadi Awang of a long-delayed bill to increase the powers of sharia courts which in turn could lead to the introduction of hudud, seventh-century Islamic corporal punishments including amputating limbs of thieves and stoning to death of adulterers, more likely, in this society, adulteresses while their lovers walk free.

Although the bill is unlikely to become law, the massive 1Malaysia Development Bhd. scandal, in which as much as US$1 billion of public funds is suspected to have flowed into Prime Minister Najib Razak’s  bank account, and other scandals besetting the prime minister are making him ever more susceptible to trading religious intolerance for support at the polls, a scenario that the rural-based PAS is only too happy to take advantage of.

Although an absurdly skewed electoral system makes a nonsense of democracy in Malaysia, Najib has become increasingly ruthless in his treatment of critics and is open to all methods of keeping himself in office ranging from asking Chinese state companies to help to bail out 1MDB and Muslim extremists who claim they represent Malay interests but in practice like to impose medieval Arab forms and dress on Malays.

Image result for Najib the hypocriteKetuanan Melayu Leaders

The fate of Koh is evidently meant as a warning to non-Muslims. In the context of Peninsular Malaysia, where Malays are deemed to be children incapable of making their own decisions about religion, it is also a racist message to the non-Malay 30 percent of the population: leave us to our intolerance or we will punish you.

In the longer run, it may also be a message to the peoples of more tolerant Sarawak (where only 33 percent are Muslims) and Sabah that they do not belong in a nation whose political leaders rely on religious bigotry for their survival.

 

NY Times Book Review: Jesus Christ in Islam


March 4, 2017

NY Times Book Review

Recommended Read:  Jesus Christ in Islam

Image result for Latest Book on Islamic Jesus

Jesus in Islam

Mehdi Hasan

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/dec/23/religion-islam

Muslims don’t worship Jesus, but they do revere him and believe about him much that Christians do.

So you’re telling me you believe in Jesus, as well as Muhammad?” I remember the perplexed look on my Christian friend’s face a few years ago. I had dropped a theological bombshell on him in revealing that Jesus was considered by Muslims to be a prophet of God.

“Not only do we believe in Jesus,” I replied, pausing for maximum dramatic effect, “we also believe in the Virgin Birth.” My friend’s eyes widened with surprise, his mouth agape.

Christians, perhaps because they call themselves Christians and believe in Christianity, like to claim ownership of Christ. It thus comes as a huge surprise to many of them – my friend included – to discover that the world’s second-largest faith, Islam, also stakes a claim to him.

Jesus, or Isa, as he is known in Arabic, is deemed by Islam to be a Muslim prophet rather than the Son of God, or God incarnate. He is referred to by name in as many as 25 different verses of the Quran and described as the “Word” and the “Spirit” of God. No other prophet in the Quran, not even Muhammad, is given this particular honour.

In fact, Islam reveres both Jesus and his mother, Mary (Joseph appears nowhere in the Islamic narrative of Christ’s birth). “Unlike the canonical Gospels, the Quran tilts backward to his miraculous birth rather than forward to his Passion,” writes Professor Tarif Khalidi, in his fascinating book The Muslim Jesus. “This is why he is often referred to as ‘the son of Mary’ and why he and his mother frequently appear together.” In fact, Mary, or Maryam, as she is known in the Quran, is considered by Muslims to hold the most exalted spiritual position among women. She is the only woman mentioned by name in Islam’s holy book and a chapter of the Quran is named after her.

But the real significance of Mary is that Islam also considers her a virgin and endorses the Christian concept of the Virgin Birth. “She was the chosen woman, chosen to give birth to Jesus, without a husband,” says Shaykh Ibrahim Mogra, an imam in Leicester and assistant secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain.

For Muslims, however, the Virgin Birth is not evidence of Jesus’s divinity, only of his unique importance as a prophet and a messiah. The Trinity is rejected by Islam, as is Jesus’s Crucifixion and Resurrection. The Quran castigates Christianity for the widespread practice among its sects of deifying Jesus (and Mary), and casts the criticism in the form of an interrogation of Jesus by God:

And when Allah saith: O Jesus, son of Mary! Didst thou say unto mankind: Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah? he saith: Be glorified! It was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I used to say it, then Thou knewest it

Muslims cherish and venerate Jesus the prophet – but, I often wonder, are we paying only lip-service to his life and legacy? Where, for example, is the Islamic equivalent of Christmas? Why do Muslims celebrate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad but not that of the Prophet Jesus? “We, too, in our own way should celebrate the birth of Jesus … [because] he is so special to us,” says Mogra.

In recent years, the right-wing press in Britain has railed against alleged attempts by “politically correct” local authorities to downplay or even suppress Christmas. Birmingham’s attempt to name its seasonal celebrations “Winterval” and Luton’s Harry Potter-themed lights, or “Luminos”, are notorious examples. There is often a sense that such decisions are driven by the fear that outward displays of Christian faith might offend British Muslim sensibilities, but, given the importance of Jesus in Islam, such fears are misplaced and counter-productive. Mogra, who leads the MCB’s interfaith relations committee, concurs: “It’s a ridiculous suggestion to change the name of Christmas.” He adds: “Britain is great when it comes to celebrating diverse religious festivals of our various faith communities. They should remain named as they are, and we should celebrate them all.”

Amid tensions between the Christian west and the Islamic east, I believe a common focus on Jesus could help close the growing divide between the world’s two largest faiths. Others agree. “We don’t have to fight over Jesus. He is special for Christians and Muslims,” says Mogra. “He is bigger than life. We can share him.”