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Dr Taj Hargey of Oxford persevers with his vision.
FromThe Daily Mail, an interview with Dr Taj Hargey
. . . An Islamic cleric; perhaps the most controversial imam in Britain today.
In an age when the highest-profile Muslim preachers are bearded, anti-Western firebrands such as Abu Hamza or Omar Bakri Dr Hargey seems an anomaly.
He does not care much for male facial hair. He believes that women can be both seen and heard, even in a mosque at Friday prayers.
And don't even get him started on the sort of fanatics who blow up London buses, or the poisonous teachings that inspired them.
After three men were cleared this week on charges of assisting the July 7 bombers, there have been calls for an inquiry into blunders made by the security services.
But Dr Hargey has little doubt who, and what, is truly to blame for unleashing such terrorism on our streets.
'It is the extremist ideology present in many UK mosques which is the cement behind nihilistic plots such as this,' he says. 'They are twisting Islam.'
He has little or no time for the Government's 'pussyfooting' policy of encouraging multiculturalism.
'That is the biggest disaster to happen to Britain since World War II,' he says. 'It has given the extremist mullahs the green light for radicalism and segregation. We have to, we must, adjust to British society. And we can do so without losing our faith.'
Hardly surprisingly, such statements have made him wildly unpopular among those who adhere to the brand of ultra-conservative Saudi-funded Wahhabi Islam which currently makes most noise in Britain and around the world.
Certainly, if you Google Dr Hargey's name you will find him vilified as a 'charlatan' on any number of Islamic website forums.
In return, he is quite happy to describe his critics as 'fanatics'. Recently, one hostile publication went too far.
When we meet, Dr Hargey, 56, is still basking in the glow of his successful libel action against the English-language Muslim Weekly newspaper, which had accused him of being a heretic.
Earlier this month it agreed to pay him a five-figure sum and issue a grovelling apology, which was a little more esoteric than most heard in the High Court.
It stated: 'Dr Taj Hargey has never subscribed to, belonged to or been affiliated with any sect or minority group, religious or otherwise. On the contrary, Dr Hargey has consistently and openly reiterated his unconditional belief in the absolute finality of prophethood in Islam and Mohammed (peace and blessings upon him) as God's last prophet and final messenger.'
But despite his victory, or perhaps because of it, when his phone rings now it is still almost as likely to be an anonymous death threat as a request for spiritual guidance.
Certainly more people hate him than follow him.
'The masses have been brainwashed by the mullahs,' he says.
Which begs the question: can this intellectual Oxford imam really succeed with his ambition to lead a 'reformation' of British Islam? Or will medieval orthodoxy triumph in the end?
Dr Hargey was born and raised in apartheid- era South Africa. The racist state classified him as 'coloured', a second-class citizen. One of eight children, his father was a supermarket packer; his mother illiterate. But Hargey was a natural scholar and destined for a better, if consistently controversial, existence.
His first battles were against the Pretoria government, rather than fundamentalists from his own faith.
His latest venture is the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford, of which he is founding chairman
He also leads the city's Summertown Islamic congregation. 'The most progressive pulpit in the land, from which we do everything in English except prayer,' he states.
From a borrowed Masonic hall rather than a dedicated mosque, his enemies sneer.
The ideological core of his opposition towards the fashionable Islamic fundamentalists lies in his rejection of the absolute importance of hadith and Sharia law.
And so he explains his position: 'These people say they have a right to stone adulterous women. We say show us where it says that in the Koran.
'The Koran must have precedence. It must be sovereign. Everything else is supplementary or subservient. All that stuff about jihad, women's rights, apostasy, all these issues come from the hadiths.
'We do not say get rid of the hadiths. But we do say that every hadith must pass two litmus tests.
First, it must not conflict with the Koran. Second, it must not conflict with reason or logic.
'One of the hadiths, for example, says the majority of people in Hell will be women. But let's do a forensic examination of this. First, let's look at the fact that 88 per cent of crimes are committed by men rather than women.
'How then, logically, can there be more women in Hell? Theologically, the Koran says that every human irrespective of gender will be rewarded for what they did and punished for what they did not.'
Of Sharia law he is even more dismissive. 'The Koran is clear that blasphemy is dealt with in the next life by God. The Sharia, meanwhile, is a medieval compilation of religious opinion which is not immutable, not eternal.
'I know I am a Muslim in my heart and my actions, not in my beard or the niqab face mask. The niqab only comes from a hadith and even that only refers to the Prophet's wives. This is a big fight for the hearts and minds of Islam. There is nothing in the Koran that is incompatible with (living in) British society.'
Of the cries of 'heretic' to which he is frequently subjected, he argues: 'Faith is between the person and God. No one can pronounce you a heretic (in Islam) and I think that is a wonderful thing.
'But we do need a reformation in Islam. We have to go back to the pristine principles in our faith. We need a British Islam and by that I do not mean a compromise. . . We do not appeal to those who have been brainwashed by the mullahs.
These people refuse to debate with me and instead send their minions to do their dirty work on the internet or via anonymous phone calls. We get death threats, intimidation and blackmail tactics. But it does not dissuade us. Our group is based on the "Three Es": Enlightenment, Egalitarianism and Erudition.
He is also utterly dismissive of the Muslim Council of Britain, which until the Government's recent reversal of policy, was the state's contact point with British Islam.
'They are Indo-Pakistani and sexist,' he says. 'It's a reactionary group, infused with the repressive ideology of the Wahhabis. If we go along their path we will have a ghetto mentality, segregated and giving our enemies such as the British National Party the opportunity to target us like the Jews in the 1930s. Isolation is our greatest peril.'
For the record, he supported BNP leader Nick Griffin's recent appearance at an Oxford Union debate, although he certainly did not endorse his views. 'We should not silence him. We should expose him.
'I love this country, I follow Spurs and I go to the pub, if only to drink orange juice. I am also a Muslim. But I am not a threat. If people like me are smothered then we will all sleep less safely in our beds.
'These people are religious fascists. The view that Islam is incompatible with British society is something that the Muslim Council of Britain and their hangers- on have promulgated.'
And with that, he adjusts the knot in his mustard tie, drains the last drop of his (non-alcoholic) drink and leaves the bar. He may be a deeply controversial imam. But he is undoubtedly a brave one.
He has also invited Gert Wilders to meet him for a debate at a neutral venue. From The Oxford Mail
Dr Taj Hargey, Imam of the Summertown Islamic congregation, and leader of the Muslim Education Centre of Oxford, has invited Mr Wilders – barred from Britain in February because of his anti-Muslim views– to meet at a neutral venue, saying his ideas need to be challenged publicly rather than boycotted.
Dr Hargey, who wrote to Mr Wilders last week, said: “I think it is important to address these issues instead of boycotting the man.
“If we ban people like him, and try to stop people like BNP leader Nick Griffin from speaking at the Oxford Union today, then who are we going to ban tomorrow? If we don’t have free speech for everyone we do not have it at all.”
As Mr Wilders is still barred from entering the UK, Dr Hargey has suggested they meet somewhere neutral, such as Ireland for an “open, peaceful and moderated discussion on Islam in the West”.
Dr Hargey said: “If he does not accept the invitation, his criticism of Islam has no foundation.
Yesterday, Dr Hargey received a call from Mr Wilders’ office saying they had received the invitation for a public discourse but that the MP was currently travelling and would not be able to respond until next week.
As Dr Hargey says that the unacceptable elements of Islam come from the ahadith, and Mr Wilders has shown how much that is unacceptable comes from the Koran a debate would be very interesting.
I believe Dr Hargey to be a sincere man,not a taqyyia merchant and so I do wonder how long he can remain a Muslim.