Abdul Hakim Murad is the Islamic name of a convert to Islam called Tim Winters. He is a lecturer and tutor and director of studies at Wolfson College, Cambridge University. Over recent years he was the sort of fellow who was forever being produced as a ‘moderate’, enlightened Muslim scholar. I always had doubts about this claim.
For instance, a couple of years back, on a BBC radio programme, I pressed him on the fact that all the main schools of Islamic law still mandate the death sentence as penalty for leaving Islam. Abdul tried to pick me up on this. ‘Are you sure of that’ he pressed. I said I was. At which point he revealed that he had recently been at a seminar in Jordan where a number of muftis had discussed the idea of ‘maybe a custodial sentence – certainly not the death penalty’ as punishment enough for leaving Islam. ‘Too kind’ I remember replying. [6 mins 30 here]
It seemed then – and seems to me now – unthinkable that a Christian chaplain (for instance) and pastoral tutor at a Cambridge college who thought that imprisoning students who left Christianity was a progressive step would go down all that well. One would like to think that on campus there would be a certain amount of opposition to such a figure. Certainly a pro-imprisonment of ex-Christians chaplain would be unlikely to be promoted by the British government and other authorities as a voice of progressive Christianity.
So it is not a surprise to me – at any rate – that Tim has just been rumbled in a scandal involving a pile of anti-gay stuff. On a video which appeared – and has now disappeared – from the internet Tim Winters / Abdul Hakim Murad of Cambridge University attacks homosexuality as ‘an inexplicable aberration’ and much more. It is clear that the speaker really doesn’t like gays.
The sermon is still available to buy online. But I was lucky enough to watch it while it was up for free. The video showed a speaker much exercised about the people of Lut – the story in the Koran which copies the Bible’s story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Tim is swaying slightly as he speaks and is clearly in great perturbation of mind. He rants about the ‘sins’ of the people of Lut. He says:
‘Stretch your imagination as you might, you cannot conceive of any abuse of the form which Allah has given human beings which is more extreme, more blasphemous, a denial of its manifest created purpose than the crime of the people of Lut.’
Since the video first came back to light in recent days there has been an attempt at damage-limitation. Abdul / Tim has apologised and said the video is at least 15 years old and a ‘youthful enthusiasm’ (if it was 15 years ago that would have made him 37 at the time). Cambridge University is pitching it further back and saying the video is nearly 20 years old. Some doubt has already been cast on these claims, and there appears to be a possibility that this video was in fact recorded only two years ago.
I know that complaining about such statements made by such a pasty-white convert only makes one a racist ‘Islamophobe.’ But oughtn’t one to be troubled by this? Were a Christian man called Timothy to have said such things he would almost certainly have been sacked by Cambridge University by now. Students, LGBT groups, unions – everyone wanting to make a stand against bigotry – would be screaming about this. But Timothy is so lucky. Because he became Abdul I think he’ll be just fine.