“These people/actions have nothing to do with Islam.”
“Islam is a religion of peace.”
“Islamic values are British values.”
“Why should Muslims have to prove their loyalty?”
I’m sure you’re familiar with all of the above and they constitute the stock responses of most mainstream Muslim commentators, the doyens of the community as well as the hoi polloi, in the aftermath of any unfortunate incident involving Muslims. If an opposing view – from within the community that is – is presented by the media then it is inevitably from Anjem Choudary (or one of his acolytes) for whom gratuitous provocation seems to be an article of faith.
In light of Eric Pickles letter the other day to some 1100 imams and in light also of its robust endorsement by the Prime Minister, David Cameron, I believe the time has come for the Muslim community to address in clear forthright terms the key sticking points of communal identity, compromise, integration and assimiliation. We need to move beyond the usual obfuscation and ducking behind bromides and instead lay our cards on the table, in full view so to speak, in order to initiate a meaningful dialogue as to how we can advance beyond the current impasse to forge a workable paradigm for peaceful co-existence.
While for some it may seem easier to sell the mantras listed at the top, the painful and increasingly apparent reality is that society at large – from the man-in-the-street to the politicians and influential personalities – aren’t buying it anymore. Today you have EDL members quoting tafsir Ibn Kathir and discussions rage daily in the mainstream media regarding core aspects of Islamic theology e.g. the Qur’an’s viewpoint on disbelievers; trying to close down the debate by shouting “racist” or “islamaphobe” in such a scenario will serve only to exacerbate rather than palliate, tensions.
The truth of the matter is that Islamic values are NOT British values (nebulous a term as that may be) in many respects (although naturally they do coincide in part). There IS a question of loyalty when it comes to British foreign policy as it impacts the global Muslim ummah. Islam is NOT a pacifist religion and Jihad – referring to physical warfare for the sake of making God’s word supreme – is most certainly an integral constituent of it. Oh and while foreign policy grievances indubitably provide the primary impetus for those European Muslims who perpetrate (or attempt to perpetrate) attacks within their respective countries of birth, to deny the nexus between classical Islamic theology and their actions is fanciful and disingenuous. Integrating a community whose beliefs, values and social outlook vastly diverge from society at large’s is clearly problematic and to pretend otherwise would be foolish.
As it happens I agree with Eric Pickles in one of his key contentions. As a community we DO have “a precious opportunity, and an important responsibility: in explaining and demonstrating how faith in Islam can be part of British identity.” Despite everything I do believe Muslims can make a positive contribution – both materially and spiritually – to the United Kingdom and we can do so without compromising our deen. If our community leaders prove incapable advocates for our cause then perhaps it’s time individual Muslims shed their apathy and embraced their responsibility to speak out for the truth.
While it may prove tough and will undoubtedly require some gritting of teeth on both sides the obstacles to peaceful co-existence are not insurmountable. What is required is some honest, frank talking, the political will to accept certain unpalatable verities and a media focussed on fostering inter-communal harmony rather than availing every opportunity to vitiate it. It’s in all our interests that we make it happen.
May the peace and blessings of Allah (swt) be upon sayyidina Muhammad.