My friend and I used to sit and drink coffee on Edgware Road, to talk about life, and about his passions. What he said made me think about issues of tolerance in western liberal society.
His own overriding concern is promoting his faith. For this, he runs an organisation devoted to propagating the Muslim message in the West.
They call this activity Dawa (invitation), the issuing of an invitation to all peoples to submit to the Allah (God). Islam means ‘submission’.
To this end, they have organised debates with many groups in Britain: Christians, Jews, feminists, gays, even the far right.
This is in order to advocate a space for their own practice of religion, to ensure tolerance for their beliefs.
But they also hope to persuade other people to make the profession of faith which would make them Muslims.
They believe that sharia should be applied in western countries, indeed worldwide; a suggestion which shocks both right-wing and liberal opinion.
Besides sharia being God’s absolute norm for life, however, they believe it would safeguard human life, and even human rights for all minorities.
There is no sacred-secular split, as we find in some forms of Christianity. Instead, God’s writ applies to the whole of life, and requires the complete re-ordering of society according to his laws.
Capitalism’s pursuit of profit, and the practice of lending at interest, are seen as destructive of human relationships and social solidarity.
A Muslim economic system would, they believe, create a more just and equitable society, where all are cared for.
Concerning homosexuals, they believe sex between people of the same sex is immoral, against God’s laws. But they welcome people who submit to Allah and leave such practices behind.
In their call for wholesale islamification of western society, and their opposition to certain trends in personal sexual ethics, this group runs counter to the liberal consensus of the West.
They delight in exposing the contradictions within liberal thought.
Firstly, they claim that talk of tolerance is shallow when the law discriminates against religions which reject liberal values themselves.
This group raises important questions about the foundations of western society, and the place of deviant minorities within it.
Liberalism is exposed as an absolutist ideology which, despite claiming to promote diversity, requires others to embrace its values in order to be accepted.