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Open letter to Dr Evan Harris from Shaikh Riyad Nadwi

Dear Dr Harris

I have listened to a recording of your lecture at the Hijab Conference at St. Catherine's College, Oxford University, on 28th February 2004 and I am astonished at the various claims you have made. Firstly, you claimed that you were unable to respond to my letter because of the absence of any contact details. Both you and I know that you did contact OCCRi and that there were several email exchanges relating to my letter. In fact, when you sent us your first email, claiming that we had misrepresented you, we requested that you clarify your concerns. We wrote: "We would appreciate it if you could provide us with details of the areas in which you feel the letter has misrepresented your views. Your comments will be given careful consideration and we will make the necessary corrections if need be." (Our email to you dated 04 February 2004 10:26)

You have chosen to ignore this request and continued instead to attack and intimidate those who published my letter. You should be aware that some Muslims do understand English and frankly find it condescending to hear you claim that we are misrepresenting what you actually said, even though we quoted you verbatim and provided the context. Anyone who listens to the whole programme of 29th January will agree that you did indeed argue for schools in this country to have the right to implement a similar ban.

As for your remarks that suggest that you have absolutely no affiliation to anything remotely connected to Israel, I think you should know that the Muslims of this country are well aware of the fact that you are the Treasurer of the All-Party British-Israel Parliamentary group and that you were part of a Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel group visit to Israel in June 2000. It came as no surprise to the Muslims of Oxford that in your reading aloud of my entire letter, the only sentence you chose to omit was the sentence dealing with the sacking of Jenny Tonge. Jenny Tonge was dismissed due to pressure from 'Friends of Israel' MPs in various parties (e.g. Louise Ellman, James Purnell et al). On the one hand, Jenny Tonge was sacked by Charles Kennedy for expressing reasonable sympathy with the Palestinians and the party publicly dissociated itself from her remarks. On the other hand however, your remarks on the radio, which were deeply offensive to Muslims, received not even a reprimand. My demand was merely for consistency.

In addition, despite your secular rhetoric in the lecture, you are a committee member (Treasurer) of the Council of Christians and Jews All-Party Parliamentary Group and your official Party website describes you as a member of the Jewish congregation in Oxford. As a result, it would have been entirely natural for you to discuss the rulings and views of Rabbis in regard to the ban on skull caps. Instead however, you have chosen to adopt a fatwa from Shaikh Tantawi as your campaign slogan against hijab and you continue to ridicule and sneer at anyone who challenges your 'clever' criticisms of Islam and Muslims. You are not an expert on French society, or French politics, or French culture, and you are dependent on translations to understand French. What right do you have to tell the Muslims of France, or of this country, which fatwa they should follow?

It is time you and your friends stop interpreting the generosity and hospitality of Muslims as idiocy. If you wish to respond to anything that I have written about you or your comments, I suggest you get in touch with us (as you have before) using the contact details on our website.

Yours sincerely

Shaikh Riyad Nadwi, M.A., Ph.D.
OCCR Institute
29th February 2004

p.s. - I am interested to know the source of information for your erroneous claim that my area of expertise is computing.