, , , , , , , ,

A comment on my last blog post from Swiss/Irish journalist, writer and blogger, Clare O’Dea, had me searching for an Irish Times article which claimed Ireland was the ‘most Muslim country in the world’. What? The bait was too delicious to ignore, especially for an Irish-born Muslim who has been following the recent backlash against Islamophobic comments by Peter Robinson, The Northern Irish First Minister. The six counties known as Northern Ireland that are part of the United Kingdom, not the Republic of Ireland (ie, the other twenty-six counties south of the border) have, for centuries, been home to many with a deep-rooted fear of the ‘other’. Hardline Unionists wouldn’t trust a fellow Christian of the Catholic persuasion as far as they could throw them, so why should it surprise anyone who grew up in Northern Ireland that Mr Robinson wouldn’t trust a Muslim but might condescend to let one ‘go to the shops’ for him? I must admit, I laughed when I read that, but in a bitter way. How sad that someone in his position can remain so ignorant of other faiths and their values. I wondered if he’d ever met a Muslim before going to the Belfast Islamic Centre after the proverbial you-know-what hit the fan, to publicly apologise to Northern Ireland’s Muslim community.

'I wonder how the health service is managing tonight with all these doctors here!' said Peter Robinson. Pic: Arthur Allison, Belfast Telegraph

‘I wonder how the health service is managing tonight with all these doctors here!’ said Peter Robinson. Pic: Arthur Allison, Belfast Telegraph

But back to the ‘Islamicity’ world rankings which places Ireland at the top of a league of 208 countries, with only two Muslim-majority countries (Malaysia and Kuwait) in the top 50. Basically, the study measures aspects of political, social and economic activity in the states in question and is not an indicator of how citizens view Islam or indeed, how religious or secular a place may be. The findings suggest that the theories of Islam, as laid down in the Quran, are grossly misinterpreted in the majority of Muslim countries worldwide, and that, ironically, the true tenets of Islam are more likely to be operational in the governments of European and other Western countries. No surprise really to anyone who can see the gap between the ideals of Islam and the sad failure of many Muslim-by-birth leaders to put these into practice.

The academic study by Professor Hossein Askari and Dr Scheherazade S Rehman (both Iranian and Muslim, I think) was not well-recieved by some, for example, the London-based writer Shelina Zahra Janmohamed. She focused on the findings in her weekly column in The National, Abu Dhabi, under the heading: Islamicity Rankings Ignore the Realities.

The National article irked me. It reminded me of the outcry by citizens of the USA when the UAE ranked 14, above their country in a survey on International Human Rights. I wrote about that in my blog post, It’s Not Saudi, You Know. So, although I don’t make a habit of writing to newspapers, I did in this case. Here is my response to the article by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed which The National published on Monday 16 June.

‘Islamicity’ study seen differently

The article by Shelina Zahra Janmohamed on Saturday June 14, was interesting but misses the point about recent findings by Hossein Askari, an Iranian professor of economics working in the USA. The study referred to found that Ireland ranked highest in the world on ‘Islamicity’, ie, how closely a society adheres to core Islamic ideals as per the Quran. The study scrutinised economic achievements, governance, human and political rights, and international relations.

The findings were not concerned with how Muslims and Islam are viewed by citizens of the 208 countries studied, or indeed, Islamophobia, eg in the UK, yet this is what Ms Janmohamed focused on, inaccurately citing the First Minister of Northern Ireland (part of the UK) who is a staunch, anti-Republican Unionist. Peter Robinson did not say Islam was ‘evil’, but supported a bigot’s right to say so. He has since issued a public apology to Muslims.

Studies like this are important. Not only do they highlight the gaping chasm between the beautiful theory of Islam and some Muslim-majority countries’ failure to put the ideals into practice, but they also educate non-Muslims as to what exactly Islam is about. I converted to Islam seven years ago – not a difficult transition because the core values are what I grew up with in my Irish Presbyterian childhood. Inequality, discrimination, bigotry, and abuse of power can be found in varying degrees in every country in the world. Turning a blind eye to these practices in the governments of Muslim countries is an insult to the citizens of these places and to Islam. I hope the leaders of Muslim countries ranked low in ‘Islamicity’ do not dismiss the findings as readily as Ms Janmohamed did.

Safia Moore
Ras Al Khaimah

I would really welcome your view on this hot potato!