The killing of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford has spurred some to call for the arming of the British police force, while others have demanded stiffer laws in curbing gun crime. Speaking BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Tom McGhie the chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation called for a rethink on routinely arming officers.
The number of offences involving firearms in England and Wales has been increasing each year since 1997, according to the Home Office. Firearms incidents recorded by the police have nearly trebled in eight years. This is despite the government’s efforts to curb violent crime involving guns. In 2003, the then Home Secretary David Blunket introduced a host of measures which included a new gun amnesty, a five year prison sentence for illegal possession of firearms and greater protection to witnesses who testify in gun crime cases. The measures were in response to the brutal killing of two young girls in Birmingham. The initiatives did little to combat violent crime or address its root cause.
Over the past few months the British public has witnessed a large number of high profile crimes involving murders, stabbings, child abductions, rapes and robberies. Anyone turning on the television or listening to the radio will not fail to notice that a fair proportion of these crimes do not involve the use of firearms. There are countless incidents, where knives are the primary means of perpetrating violent crime and still ministers, politicians, social workers, and police officers choose to focus on gun control as a means of reducing violent crime.
This reactionary approach towards tackling crime is not only limited to violent offences but extends to all forms of crime. Instead of solving the problem the current approach leads to more crime, extra legislation and further strain on the over populated prison system as well as a greater burden on the judiciary, a demoralized police force, a vulnerable public and a huge drain on resources estimated to be in the region of £60 billion. A similar trend can be found in all other Western societies. In these societies the public is resigned to accept that crime is on the increase and very little can be done to reduce it. This does not need to be the case. Rather, what lies at the heart of the issue is the incorrect understanding in Western societies of crime and its causes; this has led to Western governments implementing ineffective solutions to combat crime.
The fundamental cause of crime in capitalist societies is the capitalist goal in life, which each member of society strives to achieve. This goal in life only recognizes the pursuit of sensual pleasure for human beings as the sole way to attain happiness. The capitalist goal in life has no room for spiritual, moral or humanitarian pursuits and therefore people are not concerned about the moral or religious implications of their actions. Emphasis is purely on the pursuit of all things material and the principal concern of every individual is the complete satisfaction of their carnal desires, irrespective of the harm it may cause to individuals, groups or the wider society. Hence phrases like ‘you only live once’, ‘life is too short’, and ‘looking after number one’ epitomize this goal. Naturally such a self-centered outlook towards life leads people to be irresponsible, callous and rebellious towards law and authority. Consequently, people see nothing wrong in breaking the law, as long as they can secure their happiness. Even the severity of the law does not deter people from committing crime. Thus for many years, Western governments have struggled to reduce the growing number of paedophiles, rapists, drug addicts, joy riders, burglars, fraudsters and the like – no matter how many laws they enact or how much time and money they spend on policing.
The capitalist goal in life has greatly affected the public’s attitude towards preventing crime. The public in capitalist societies are more concerned about preserving their ability to pursue sensual pleasure to the extent that they would not intervene to help other people enjoy their right to pursue pleasure, particularly if such intervention was associated with difficulty or danger. Unless it is something that threatens their collective pursuit of enjoyment, the public rarely intervenes to stops crimes committed in front of them. This mindset has molded the public in Western societies to become apathetic towards crime, thereby allowing criminals to thrive amongst them. For instance if a thief ran out of a shop in a crowded shopping centre, the majority of the shoppers would be hesitant to give chase . If a group of people were attacking an individual on the bus, most people would remain quiet in their seats. If a pensioner was being mugged in the street, most people will ignore it.
The capitalist goal in life has also undermined the ability of capitalist states to fight crime. This is because the role of Western governments is to pass laws and implement policies which enable individuals to realize their optimal level of sensual fulfillment. All too often, the true benefactors are a small minority of people who are able to influence governments. They pass laws that protect their right to pursue enjoyment at the expense of the vast majority of the people. In turn, this vast majority feel that these laws unfairly impinge on their right to pursue the capitalist goal and hence many resort to breaking the law. For instance, the majority of the British public abhors firearms, but fails to understand why the government has repeatedly taken no action against the media companies that glorify gun violence as the quickest way of attaining happiness through films, music, books and video games. Equally in America, the public’s demand to ban the selling of guns is met with government silence. In both cases governments are more interested in allowing the media moguls and gun companies to maximize profits at the cost of the public. The same argument applies to the redevelopment of deprived inner city areas, which governments and wealthy capitalists intentionally ignore as they are deemed to be commercially unprofitable. Understandably, people living in such areas will resort to crime. Even the punishment of criminals is based upon the capitalist goal; instead of designing punishments to deter potential criminals in society, punishments exist merely to restrict the convicted criminal’s pursuit of pleasure. For example the millionaire Geoffrey Archer was able to follow his lavish lifestyle, even though he is serving a custodial sentence.
Therefore, at all levels of human behavior the capitalist goal in life is the main driving force behind crime in Western societies.
On the other hand, Islam produces a society where crime is not the norm but an exception. This is because the Islamic goal in life is about seeking the pleasure of Allah. It is through seeking the pleasure of Allah that a Muslim attains happiness. Therefore Muslims are extremely careful when undertaking actions, large or small because they know that in the hereafter they will be held accountable for them. The outcome of which will be either paradise or hellfire determined by the Muslim’s compliance to Allah’s commands and prohibitions in this life. This belief instills in Muslims a strong sense of Taqwa (fear of Allah), responsibility towards others and obedience to Islamic laws and authority. At an individual level this becomes a very powerful deterrent against crime, as one is constantly aware of the consequences of one’s actions. Allah reminds us in the Quran: "And We are nearer to him than his jugular vein". [TMQ Al-Qaf: 16]
The manifestation of this self policing would mean that unlike capitalist countries, the future Islamic state will not need to spend huge resources in fighting crime, use large numbers of surveillance techniques to catch criminals or employ a large police force dedicated to crime prevention.
Similarly, the Islamic society’s yearning to seek the pleasure of Allah will produce a collective mentality amongst the public where the preservation of society and Islamic laws will be regarded as more important than one’s own interest. This is because for Muslims, the transgression of the commands and prohibitions of Allah) by offenders is a sin that must be stopped. Islam has obliged Muslims to enjoin Mar’uf (good) and forbid Munkar (evil). The Prophet (Sallalahu Alaihi Wasallam) said in a hadith narrated by Abu Sa’id al Khudri: "Whosoever sees a Munkar (an evil or wrong) let him change it by his hand, if he could not let it be by his tongue. If he could not let it be by his heart, and this is the weakest of Iman". [Muslim]
In the case of non-Muslims citizens it will be the justice of Islam that will be the motivating factor for them to prevent crime. This will galvanize public opinion to become an effective deterrent against crime.
However, there will always be a minority that would violate the laws imposed by Islam. For them Islam has laid down a comprehensive punishment system which is administered by the state. The punishments in Islam are not intended to restrict the offender, but are meant to dissuade others from carrying out crime. For instance concerning the thief, Allah says: "As to the thief, male or female, cut off his or her hand. It is the reward of their own deeds, an exemplary punishment from Allah. Allah is Mighty, Wise." [TMQ Al-Maida: 38]
In Islam the individual through his Taqwa, the public through their concern about the preservation of society and the state all act in unison to ensure that the Islamic laws are implemented and that crime is minimized. The Islamic history bears testimony to this fact. For example, when Imam Malik was appointed the judge of Madinah, he had to wait almost a year before he presided over his first case. Also the records of the courts that existed in the main cities in the Islamic State show that the types of cases dealt by courts were primarily social issues like divorce, inheritance and business related disputes. The number of cases involving murders, muggings, rapes and the like were nowhere near the figures that occur in Western societies today.
Whilst capitalism struggles to cope with rising crime, Islam demonstrates a comprehensive mechanism to deal with it. Muslims living in the West should take it upon themselves to expose the flaws of capitalism and present to the wider society, Islam as the only solution to mankind’s problems.