On 22nd January 2011, Shaykh Usama Hasan gave a lecture on “Islam and Evolution” at a mosque in Leyton, re-iterating his personal views on the issue. A fatwa had already been issued against him, and this was followed by death threats. This is not unlike the threats that scholars and scientists receive from Creationists in the US.
- BMSD believes that freedom of expression is a right of citizens in a democratic society. However, it comes with concomitant responsibilities. While open debate should be encouraged, individuals and groups should refrain from using threatening words or behaviour that stirs up hatred against individuals or groups of people, as defined by their beliefs. Theologians and other religious educators must be able to express multiple opinions on various issues, without fear of vigilante threats or violence.
- Shaykh Usama Hasan’s case highlights the need for immediate action on at least two fronts. Firstly by the state, and secondly by Muslim individuals and communities:
- The state must provide adequate protection for Shaykh Usama Hasan.
- Action must be taken against people who incite vigilante violence and hatred.
- Within Muslim communities, imams and religious scholars must affirm the importance of proper etiquette when faced with differences of opinion. There are established traditions of debate and disagreement within Islamic societies. Furthermore, Muslim scientists’ contribution to this debate must be given due appreciation.
BMSD (British Muslims for Secular Democracy) is made up of a group of Muslim democrats of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, who support a clear separation between religion and the State.