Islam encourages social justice

Islam is associated with terrorist activities but this is most unfair, for my faith teaches me to sp

Some believe praying five times a day and fasting in the month of Ramadan are all that you need to do to be a good Muslim. While these are fundamental features of the faith, in order of closeness to God, they are rated less.

Standing firm for justice is considered closest to Godliness. In other words my religious and social responsibility is to work for just causes. In my faith I am required to stand witness to justice, fairness and equality not just in words but in practice. In Qur’an God says "be just, that it closest to Godliness".

My faith demands that I do not lead a passive life. I am reminded in the Qur’an that I have to stand for justice at all cost, even if it means I have go against myself, my family or friends. I must serve justice even against my bitter enemies. For God does not favour the unjust.

In a trouble filled world my faith has become synonymous with violence and hate. It is often associated with terrorist activities and suicide bombing. Unfortunately this is most unfair, for my faith teaches me to spread peace on earth. In fact unless I submit to peace, i.e. peace inside myself and at peace with everything around me, I am not considered a good Muslim. No wonder the blessed Prophet used to make this prayer on a regular basis –

“Oh God,
You are peace.
From you comes peace
To you returns peace
Revive us with a salutation of peace
And lead us to your abode of peace”

For me social justice starts at home. I must care for my parents as my responsibility especially when they reach old age. Qur’an reminds me that after being loyal to God I must be good to my parents. Once a man came to the blessed Prophet and said “O prophet I have performed Hajj – pilgrimage, carrying my elderly mother on my shoulder, have I paid her back for everything?” The prophet replied, “Not even for one contraction”.

One of my regular prayers to God is “O God please be merciful to my parents just like they were merciful to me when I was little”.

To lock up my parents in a care home when they are old, frail and most vulnerable is simply cruel and unjust. Thus in Islam social justice starts from home. I must be just to my wife and my children as I will be asked about my duties and responsibilities on the Day of Judgement.

I must do everything possible to sustain a good relationship with my relatives. I am reminded by the prophet who said “one who cuts relations with relatives; God will cut relations with him or her”.

Social justice in Islam extends to even to those who are not related to me such as the neighbours, orphans and the needy. I am not considered a Muslim if I go to sleep with my stomach full while my neighbour sleeps hungry. I must help the orphans and the needy by sharing with them part of my wealth through paying Zakat (a proportion of my surplus wealth which must be given on a yearly basis to poor and the needy) and voluntary charity. The blessed Prophet once said “he is not a Muslim who sleeps with his stomach full while his neighbour stays hungry”.

Social justice is about my struggle against inequality. In today’s world I must fight against poverty. We have excessive amount of wealth that is often wasted in the developed world while millions of people in the developing world die of hunger. Islam stands firmly against such inequality and encourages me to be involved with initiatives that would eradicate poverty and challenge the root causes of inequality. Everyday many people from Africa and Asia risk their lives to cross to the West simply looking for a better life. Most do not make it this far and perish on the way. Islam teaches me to be prepared to share what I have with those who do not have it.

I am concerned about the abuse of our environment and exploitation of our natural resources. My faith says that I am a “custodian” of this earth and its surrounding. As a custodian I do not have the right to either abuse it or stand by watch it get destroyed. I have to take active steps to ensure its healthy longevity. This too is my struggle for justice.

Ajmal Masroor is regularly invited to speak on issues on integration and Islam in the modern world. He leads Friday prayers in several Mosques across London.
Matt Forde
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Matt Forde: “Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are indistinguishable on Brexit”

The Dave host and former Labour adviser on why comedy is so much better than politics.

Matt Forde gave up his Labour Party membership after Jeremy Corbyn’s first leadership victory, according to Wikipedia, because he is a “committed Blairite”. Presented with that information two years later, the host of Dave’s satirical chat show Unspun, and former Labour adviser, says the description isn’t entirely accurate. “I left politics because I wanted to concentrate on my comedy career full-time. I’d always done both; I did my first gig when I was 16 and carried on doing them during my early activism. I guess when I was working for MPs and Labour, I didn’t have as much time and I wasn’t sure if it was appropriate. I also felt that the direction Labour was going in wasn’t for me. I don’t write my own Wikipedia page, in any case.” 

Forde’s admiration for Tony Blair, though, radiates off him. The ex-Prime Minister appeared as a guest on Unspun last year. Pressed on Blair’s legacy, Forde insists that it encompasses “far more than people care to admit” beyond the Iraq War. “I think a lot of people on the hard left would equate Blairism to Iraq and I really struggle with that," he says. "Millions of people voted for New Labour and millions of people still reflect on that period of politics in a positive way.

"Social justice was still at the core of New Labour. It was about tackling inequality and using the state to do that. But it was also about being pro-business, pro-Europe and having a pragmatic view of the world.” That Labour won three general elections on Blair’s watch, Forde suggests, is considered by some factions of the party to be an inconvenient truth.

The Nottingham-born comic believes Labour’s broad church represents a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the party’s lurch to the left has resulted in its biggest increase in the share of the vote by a party leader since Clement Attlee in 1945; on the other, the success is only relative, as it still hasn’t been enough to get back into government. For all the talk of renewed unity under Corbyn’s bright banner of socialism, Forde says there remains a distinct disunity regarding the party’s position on Brexit. “The thing is, on Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May are pretty much indistinguishable from each other," he says. "They will allow it to happen and deny us access to the single market. Brexit is the single biggest threat to our economy and society and I don’t feel like the scale of that issue is being reflected by the two major parties. It feels like those of us who do care about it and can see what a car crash it’s going to be are stood screaming behind a piece of soundproof glass.”

In fairness, the idea of a Labour split along European faultlines is not one that started with Corbyn. Aside from not being in government, what makes the current Labour squabbling different? Forde smirks. “I know there’s a view that Blair sort of hijacked Labour and rubbed a lot of noses in the dirt. The difference between that era and this one is that people like Corbyn and John McDonnell were actually allowed to rebel. They weren’t threatened with deselection for having a different opinion. The leadership and culture of the party at that time understood the broad church. At the end of the day, it was better to have a hard left MP in Islington than to deselect him and not have one at all. The idea that some Corbyn supporters would rather that a Blairite MP lost their seat is baffling.”

The Labour MP Chuka Umunna recently tabled an amendment on the Queen’s Speech calling for the UK to stay in the single market post-Brexit. Some shadow ministers decided to join him in defying the whip. Was Umunna right to table the amendment? “Yes, I think so,” says Forde. “We don’t have plurality right now. We’re too binary in Labour. There’s an idea that you’re either with us or against us. That’s not just immature, but deeply disrespectful to some very valuable assets in the party.” 

Arguing against Corbyn in the context of Europe does seem a bit of a moot point – “it shouldn’t” Forde objects – but it does. Whatever Corbyn’s perceived failings on Brexit are, he has mobilised a formidable youth wing and campaigned with immeasurably more verve than the current Prime Minister. Forde nods. “The Maybot did herself no favours, sure. He’s a natural campaigner and he deserves credit for that. Look, Corbyn is a nice guy. He’s affable; you can talk football with him. But as for the culture around him, that isn’t always the case.” 

Is Corbynism a cult? Forde sighs. “The problem with investing so emotionally in an individual is that all of your politics end up being processed through them. You suspend critical thought. You think that if this person represents what you believe, then they can never do anything wrong.” 

Corbyn, though, won’t be Labour leader forever. “Tell that to his supporters,” jokes Forde. What happens post-Corbynism? Who should be in the frame to take over? “I guess that depends on whether he does actually become  Prime Minister, which to be fair is a distinct possibility now. If he does, you might see the party want to stick with that far-left tract, but then what happens to the rest of us? You’ve already seen Paul Mason [the journalist and Corbyn supporter] telling centrists that if they want a pro-European centrist party then they should leave Labour. That’s horrendous.” 

Forde’s frustration with the Brexit imbroglio is forthright. It’s something that clearly troubles him and overarches his comedy. So, would he ever go back into politics himself? “I doubt it. Comedy is so much better. Politics is exhausting and for a lot of the time a thankless task that ages people at a rate that no other industry does.” At 68, incidentally, Jeremy Corbyn is entitled to retire. 

Matt Forde performs A Show Hastily Rewritten In Light Of Recent Events - Again! at Pleasance Forth at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe from 2-27 August.

 

Rohan Banerjee is a Special Projects Writer at the New Statesman. He co-hosts the No Country For Brown Men podcast.