“UNITE BUT FOLLOW ME” ;THE TRAGIC COMEDY OF MUSLIM REPRESENTATION


UNITE BUT FOLLOW ME”

THE TRAGIC COMEDY OF MUSLIM REPRESENTATION

Unite but Follow me ;British Muslims

There is almost something eerie about writing on British Muslim
representation. For decades Muslim political and public aspirations
have either been focused overseas or hijacked by angry young
men who believe it is ‘haram’ to engage in politics in a non-Muslim
country.
That was then and due to the relentless global traumas hitting the
Muslim world, British Muslims have been forced to stand up and be
counted. One sign of our coming of age has been the acceptance of
the term of British Muslim. Regular readers of Q-News will remember
the barrage of letters that greeted the use of this term by the ‘angry
brigade’ who made differentiating between being a ‘British Muslim’
or a ‘Muslim in Britain’ the central thesis of their political agenda.
Thankfully, this is no longer the case and we can get on with dealing
with the really important issues.
British Muslim political awareness has been slow and reluctant.
Two main factors have contributed to this. Firstly, has been the ‘goinghome’
syndrome amongst Muslim first generation settlers resulting in
the lack of investment in community infrastructure other than essential
prayer facilities, madrasah provision and halal meat. The second
factor is the legal invisibility of the Muslim community, thanks to an
institutionally Islamophobic and race biased political system.
But, to suggest Muslims have been politically inactive during the
last four or five decades would be erroneous. While not engaging in
mainstream British politics in any organised way, Muslim communities
settling in Britain have kept a vigilant eye on politics back home.
Newspapers and channels like the Daily Jang and Al-Jazeera have
diligently been reporting on the state of the Muslim world helping to
both form and forge opinion. The British Muslim understanding of
these issues is relatively more passionate, more articulate and more
organised.
When not keeping an eye on back-home politics, mosque committees
became the next focus of Muslim ambition with aspiring leaders
of the fledgling community vying with each other to win the hearts
and souls of the faithful. Eventually or inevitably, factions and subfactions
developed representing the various religious, political and
cultural divides in the Muslim world. As the small rooms and terraced
mosques rented or bought through the hard earned money of early
migrants evolved into purpose built structures funded from the
Middle East, so too did the increase in internal conflicts and intrigues.
In this vacuum, some Muslim groups formed with the intention of
doing dawah. These groups were not interested in engaging in mainstream
society and were often hostile to it. They were mainly interested
in gathering Muslim allegiances to their theological or political
faction.
As the need to engage in mainstream political processes became
Muslim candidates once elected found themselves in an agenda dilemma – were they there to repre

Showing the right Path BRITISH MUSLIM POLITICS HAS ALWAYS BEEN A
BIT LIKE MONTY PYTHON’S LIFE OF BRITiAN.
SMALL GROUPS OF MEN CALL FOR UNITY
BUT WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN IS ‘UNITE BUT
FOLLOW ME’. FAR FROM UNITING THE
COMMUNITY,ARGUES HUMERA KHAN,
THESE CALLS USUALLY RESULT IN A MYRIAD
OF SPLINTER GROUPS ALL ESPOUSING
VARIATIONS OF THE SAME IDEA WITH THE
ONLY REAL DIFFERENCE BEING THE ORDER
OF THEWORDS: ‘MUSLIM’, ‘ASSOCIATION’,
‘COUNCIL’ OR ‘BRITAIN’.

apparent, those frustrated with internal shenanigans turned their
attention towards mainstream society. This development operated
more at an individual level with some Muslims becoming active in the
struggles against racism and others standing for local councils. To
what extent this development actually engaged the Muslim community
is dubious, as mainstream political parties were often looking
more for ‘racial’ window dressing than meaningful engagement.
Muslim candidates once elected found themselves in an agenda
dilemma – were they there to represent Muslims, the politics of
their party or the constituents who elected them? While the latter two
are obviously correct, representing Muslims and Muslim issues became
more contentious. Muslim councillors found that being Muslim and
speaking on issues that concerned a ‘faith-based’ community was not
easy. But, this was not so for other minorities as representatives from
the Irish, Caribbean, Hindu and Jewish communities found that they
were not penalised for speaking as members of their specific community
or on its behalf. The result of this was that the politics of Muslim
councillors went sideways and focused more on internal ‘nest-making’
than community building.
Muslim representation in other areas of public life like the media,
sports, public bodies and the legal profession has also been slow and
meandering. Those that have succeeded have usually had to park their
Muslim identity outside the door. Individuals that have succeeded have
not done so because being Muslim was anything significant to them
and in fact, the few that get through are over-represented by those who
feel alienated or hostile to Islam. Professionally speaking, these
Muslims usually kept their faith low-profile until it became more lucrative
to ‘step out of the closet’ and tout for available opportunities particularly
since 9/11.
Prior to 9/11 Muslim participation in mainstream British society
had been limited primarily due to the inadequacies of the Race
Relations Act and the reluctance of successive governments to recognise
the existence of faith based communities and their experience of
religious discrimination. More specifically, there has been a reluctance
to acknowledge historical and institutionally entrenched Islamophobia.
While the men formed groups in never ending variations, it was left
to Muslim women and young people to get on with the work that needed
to be done. Most Muslim organisations are void of women and
young people. Those women who are involved are rarely given authority
and most are kept in the margins. Women and young people are seldom
acknowledged, consulted or appreciated and the role of women
more often than not is relegated to that of a women’s auxiliary – providing
tea and cooking the after meeting nosh for our elder male statesmen.
Being excluded from decision-making, Muslim women, who tend
to be in the frontline of meeting social needs, have been forced to make
themselves relevant. While you may not necessarily see them at photo
calls and high powered delegations you will see them getting training in
education, media, social work, health care and counselling. Muslim
women are now a quiet but potent presence in statutory bodies and
other public arenas increasingly becoming team managers, directors of
departments and chairs of committees. Women’s organisations have led
the way in setting agendas and developing much needed social welfare
projects that support families and heal communities. All of these efforts
contribute significantly to the development of Muslim-sensitive social
welfare services.
For young Muslims the Rushdie Affair proved to be a major catalyst.
For the first time young people took to the streets more concerned
really about their own discontentment than any pertinent
understanding of the Satanic Verses. But, unfortunately no one listened
to their voices and while some Muslims organisations set up youth initiatives
they tended to be dawah orientated and not responding to real
needs on the ground. Young people experiencing racism,
Islamophobia, social and family disintegration needed more tangible
help. They needed a multitude of resources for activities such as sports
and leisure, personal development, employment opportunities and
most importantly they needed support through the various challenges
posed by being young, British and Muslim.
It took the riots of 2001 for young British Muslim to make their
discontent heard and then it was already too late. Responding once the
horse has bolted requires the double effort of not only resolving the
current crisis but also in investing in avoiding crisis from erupting
again. Once again Muslim trouble spots have been the focus of attention
and endless reports have been written, but we remain without
with any real objective understanding of the issues, without any meaningful
leadership and without the development of a forward thinking
Muslim agenda.
Given our checkered history with public participation and representation
the burning question, that still needs to be asked, is: Who
represents British Muslims?
present Muslims, the politics of the party they represent or the constituents who elected them?

Courtesy; Q-News

READ THIS ISSUE ONLINE

Images ; Mylondondiary.co.uk

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5 comments

  1. If you look at the problems muslims have in Britain and the US and else where regarding racism, islamophobia, etc. I think that you would have to admit that muslims bring alot of these problems on themselves. They have a tendency to come to a new country and expect that new country to bend and conform to the islamic way of doing things. When I went to Tehran in ’78, I did things the American way when in American company, tried to do things the Iranian way in Iranian company. I made every effort to engage in Iranian company. I don’t see muslims do that when they come here usually. There are a few exceptions, I have had some rather interesting debates with muslims who are willing to be open to speaking and debating with non-muslims on any subject without getting angry. There is also the failure of muslims to openly distance themselves from the extremists that give islam a bad name. In short, improving islamic relations is in the hands of the muslim community, they have to be willing to accept and allow different cultures. They have to be willing to be part of the larger community. And they have to be willing to distance themselves from people who would deny others the right to choose their own religious and social beliefs.

  2. Mr.Goodtime politics U have Very Bad time to Come if Ur Sick Thinkings couldnot Stop.

    Muslims are not danger to any One they are Just Protecting themselves by the western Atrocities around the World.

    The Tecahings of Muslims if followed Can Make this World Heaven.the High level of respect,Morality,Co-existence ,Peace ,brotherhood,Human Rights ,Tolerance with Live and Let Live with Progress of Muslim societies.

  3. Kashif, I won’t say that all muslims are bad, I have know some very good muslims, but mgp is right to an extent. There are muslims trying to force everyone to bend to islam, that is what September 11 was all about. Bin-Ladden, Al-Zahawri and Ahmedinejad have all said that we have to convert to islam to stop the war. A Fox News reporter, Steve Centani and his camera man were abducted in the Palestinian territories and forced to convert to islam under the threat of death. Those muslims are NOT just protecting themselves. And from what western atrocitities? From buying the oil that gives the OPEC nations the money to advance the local standards of living? By selling cars, computers, etc to the mideast? Your response to mgp just goes to prove the point of the post as I read it. Muslims have to stand up and take responsibility for their actions, they have to be part of the local society without trying to force the local society to bow down to islam. And they have to be fair, the “teachings of respect, morality, co-existance, peace, brotherhood, human rights, tolerance with live and let live” seem only to apply to muslims, not to non-muslims.

  4. We seem to have one here running for president, if his sister was telling the truth! He has lied to all Americans and even to his own supporters. I just do not think that his sister had a reason to lie. I agree all muslims is not bad, but there are many that is, and many of them has died!
    http://xrl.us/nxzjd

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