British Muslim scouts to pledge allegiance to Allah
The Oath of Allegiance has occasionally been questioned by Atheists and Roman Catholics, the latter because of the recognition that the Queen is not only Head of State, but also Supreme Governor of the Church of England.
Despite these objections - which are undoubtedly sincerely held - the Oath of Allegiance has never been amended in the UK to meet their demands or to recognise their sensitivites.
But Muslim Boy Scouts in Dundee will now be able to pledge allegiance to ‘Allah’ and drop the traditional oath to God and Queen, says the Scout Association in Scotland.
In the oath Muslim recruits will be able to replace the name ‘God’ with ‘Allah, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful’.
Cranmer has absolutely no objection to this. It is manifest common sense that, in order to accommodate the movement's 28 million members around the world, the words of the Oath can and ought to modified to encompass non-Christian faiths. Since ‘Allah’ simple means ‘God’ (actually, ‘The God’), it is (to all scouting intents and purposes) no different from swearing allegiance to God. There will be very few scouts who have a developed doctrine of God, and the theological implications are irrelevant when it comes to fishing, backpacking, tying knots and fire-making.
The Scout guidelines state: ‘The phrase “to love God” and “duty to God” implies belief in a supreme being and the acceptance of divine guidance and therefore the word “God” can be replaced by “Allah”, “my Dharma” or others as appropriate to suit the faith or religion of the individual concerned.’
So what is Cranmer’s problem?
Muslim scouts in the UK will not only be swearing allegiance to ‘Allah, the Most Beneficent and the Most Merciful’, but they will pledge to honour ‘the country in which I am now living’, instead of Her Majesty the Queen.
Drummond Cox, a spokesman for the Scout Association, claims the change ‘represents a tweak rather than a major change’. But he is quite wrong. This is nothing to do with denominational sensitivity or issues of inclusivity,
It is curious that Muslims have achieved what Roman Catholics could not. If there is a desire to ‘cater for Muslims specifically’, and this is ‘affirmative action’, why were the concerns of the Atheists, Roman Catholics or Republican-minded scouts never ‘catered for specifically’?
On a superficial level, the change ignores those very many Muslims in the UK who are proud monarchists, but, more significantly, it is a charter for scouts to demand to swear upon whatever they see fit. It is not so much a ‘two-tier Scout Movement’, but the eradication of that which has unified British scouts for a century – allegiance to the Monarch in his or her role as Head of State.
And Cranmer is rather concerned that allegiance to ‘the country in which I am now living’ does not specifically demand allegiance to its customs, traditions or to liberal democracy, of which Her Majesty is both symbol and guardian. Islam is a religio-political construct which is territorial – the Dar al-Harb must give way to the Dar al-Islam. Scouting has not yet introduced that Jihad Merit Badge, but swearing allegiance to a geographic entity is convenient and somewhat portentous.
This is the time for the UK’s Atheist scouts, Roman Catholic scouts and Jedi Knight scouts to demand an oath tailored to suit their sensitivities. To be denied this now would be rather blatant religious discrimination.