Saturday, April 23

Shariah TV

I just watched two of a series of eight televised discussions involving an audience of young British Muslims asking a panel of three Islamic peers various questions regarding the Shariah.

Overall they were pretty sensible even if they were only able to scratch the surface of the issues, and they did choose to stick to common sense issues that shouldn't really need to be asked in the first place (and I'll suggest why this was in a while). Example questions include:

  1. Are we allowed to cryogenically freeze ourselves in the hope for a future cure to any ailment we may currently have?

  2. What does the Shariah say to the guys who decide to marry back home in order to find a younger and subservient wife?

  3. Would a women who has been forced to have an abortion be liable for it on the Day of Judgement?

  4. What would Islam say about us finding aliens on Mars?

I could see the panels trying (sometimes in vain) to explain the more abstract principles of Islam and how these can and should be applied to any general question rather than the quite specific (and sometimes clearly redundant) ones above. They failed in this, of course, and you could see the signs of exasperation (and sometimes sarcasm) as they gave up and gave concrete answers anyway just to move on to the next topic ("Aliens on Mars? No problem; we'd treat them like any isolated community and tell them about Islam, convert them, start building mosques there and establish an Islamic state". Superb).

It's actually something I've noticed in the unusually high number of debates I've been witnessing over the past few weeks. The people in panels are often super great - they know where they are and where they are going, and most importantly what they think. For me, it's the confused audience that lets the whole show down. Of course I realise the irony of such a statement and that I was as much a part of the audience as anyone else there. It reminds me of something a wise man[1] once said to me about individuals being intelligent while people carry on being stupid. But still I often wonder how much wasted potential there are in these things and how powerful they'd really be if used correctly.

I guess if the audience reflects the current fabric of British Muslims, then programmes like these will be necessary. Unfortunately that doesn't really console me.

Although the current series has ended, you can usually find Shariah TV on Channel Four at the insane time of midnight. Having said that, it's probably not something I will make too much effort in catching.

[1] Well ok, not quite. It was only Niall from Risk, although he is smart.


  1. >> ("Aliens on Mars? No problem; we'd treat them like any isolated community and tell them about Islam, convert them, start building mosques there and establish an Islamic state". Superb).

    Tim Winter's not bad in general. I've not been entirely convinced by some of the other scholars they'e had on, and I don't think that's simply down to my personal views, but rather that some of them at times don't even seem to be able to understand the question being asked of them!

  2. what i find quite intriguing is how muslim people in britain are on a constant quest to understand their religion better while a larger proportion of muslims i have come across in india are comfortable with Islam and what they have been taught. Sorry, i realise this is nothing to do with the topic but i'd be interested in the answer. the only one i can think of is to draw analogies with the indian community in the uk- they're far more strict than indians in india itself- it's because they're so isolated from the mass of indians on the subcontinent. could the same be applied to muslims in the uk- there are a few isolated pockets (especially down south) and they have been brought up in a more disciplined manner. even more interesting for me is that the muslims in india might not question their religion or quest to gain deeper insight but man are they stuck in a mire of cultural wasteland without any forward thinking that's nothing to do with religion at all. hmm...quite interesting (for me anyways).

  3. interesting post. i think there's all sorts of things going on within the british muslim community.

    the movie "Yasmin" depicted some of this. However, to an extent, I think "Yasmin" was somewhat negative. I know of British muslim aquaintances who are positive about their british identity, positive about their south-asian cultural identity, and also positive about their muslim identity. thing is, in school you get to 'learn' about your british identity / culture, at home you get to learn about your south asian identity / culture and also possibly about your islamic identity. (i hesitate to add culture there as some claim there's no such thing as islamic culture, but i think they're wrong on that).

    however what you learn about islam at home can be a) limited and b) culturally influenced. so i think quite a few young (and i do think this is mainly a young british muslim thing) british muslims are simply learning more about their religion.

  4. Well I watched Shariah TV and was expecting the usual band of bearded men preaching dogmatically about Islam. But I must say I was pleasantly surprised. There were some thoughtful panellists who addressed the practical side of dealing with life in the UK without just giving a black and white answer.

    You're right Shak some of the audience were frighteningly stupid. My fave was a gelled haired, Nike clad, guy telling one Imam that "dis country give us nuthin'". To which the Imam pointed out the freedom to worship and to eat halal etc. Of course this was ignored and instead the young man went on "dis cuntry and Islam are not compatable". And nothing the Arabic speaking, Quran quoting Imam said, mattered.

    There have been some strange panellist too though. The guy from Manchester Central Mosque proved to be a bit of closed mind, even accusing the female uni leacturer panelist of preaching against Islam. Til she pointed out the difference in din and religion.