J. Reuben Clark Law Society

"One Muslim's Perspective on Religious Freedom" --Mohammed Amin Addresses United Kingdom and Ireland Chapters, and Guests from the House of Lords

The United Kingdom and Ireland Chapter of the J. Reuben Clark Law Society welcomed Mr. Mohammed Amin as guest speaker for the 2016 Annual Religious Freedom Lecture, which was held on Friday, April 15th at the BYU London Centre. Lord and Lady Sheikh and Baroness Elizabeth Berridge of the House of Lords were in attendance as honoured guests.  

Mohammed Amin has on several occasions been listed as one of the one hundred most influential Muslims in the UK. He was recently awarded an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List in June 2016, "for services to Community Cohesion and Inter-faith Relations in Greater Manchester." He is currently Co-Chair of the Muslim Jewish Forum of Greater Manchester, a member of the Consultative Council of the Three Faiths Forum, and Chair of Donors of the Curriculum for Cohesion. He speaks and writes regularly on Islamic finance and on issues connected with politics and social cohesion. Mr. Amin was the first Muslim partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, and prior to his retirement, he was head of Islamic Finance. Since his retirement he has dedicated his time to charitable endeavours, political, social and religious commentary, and the building of interfaith networks.

Mr. Amin spoke from this singular background on the topic of “One Muslim’s Perspective on Religious Freedom.” In an illuminating address, he began by illustrating how social and religious phenomena--both good and bad--result from the interaction of beliefs with the surrounding environment, such as the condition of the economy. He then moved on to his main thesis, which was to show how, in his view, the tenets of Islam are consistent with Article 18 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantees the right to “freedom of thought, conscience and religion,” including the right to change religion or belief.  To do so, he explained the various sources of Islam, distinguishing between the Quran and the Hadith and also provided insight into how Muslim scholars judge the reliability of various Hadith. This was both interesting and eye-opening for the audience, many of whom only had a passing familiarity with the workings of Islam.  

From this foundation, Mr. Amin drew out Quranic principles which support the claims of Article 18, including God’s granting to respect for humans of free will, the accommodation made by Islam for other faiths and the conviction that religious belief is a matter of individual responsibility for which we are only ultimately answerable to God. He also queried some Hadith which are sometimes cited to put forward contrasting interpretations. Finally, Mr. Amin shared a few thoughts on the degree to which historical contingency should be taken into account when interpreting scripture and closed by reference to a useful bibliography should any member of the audience wish to take their study of the topics broached further.

Following his speech, Mr. Amin graciously received questions from the floor. These ranged from the evolving place and perspectives of Muslims in contemporary British society to questions of ‘Sharia law’ (or, more correctly “fiqh,” as Mr Amin pointed out), and its compatibility with the rule of law and democracy to his views on ISIS and the agonies of the Middle East.   

The sheer number of questions, which meant the event ran over by some time, is evidence of the engagement of all who attended. Many members of the UK & Ireland Chapter attended the event, along with many friends and colleagues. All went away enriched and enlightened by an event which has made a noteworthy contribution to the UK Chapter’s dedication to staying abreast of religious freedom issues and fostering interfaith relationships.

By Joshua Stevens, UK & Ireland Chapter Religious Freedom Representative, and Charlotte Steinfeld, UK & Ireland Chapter Chair

Posted: November 17, 2016