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    Losing my religion (at the Labour conference)


    by Rupa on 1st October, 2007 at 4:12 pm    

    “British Muslim Citizenship and Integration” - four words, almost Rubiks cube like in the number of implications, associations and combinations that could come out of them.

    Similarly like a Rubiks Cube, every time “British Muslims” are referred to they are seen as a problem that resolving.

    All this was left at the door of the Fabian Society to address in the last session at the last fringe meeting on the last day of Labour’s annual conference in Bournemouth.

    Diehard delegates gathered in the surroundings of Connaught Hotel to hear Higher Education Minister John Denham MP, John Biggs (GLA member for East London), Zareen Roohi Ahmed (British Muslim Forum) and little old me spout forth on these subjects.

    Denham has credibility amongst lefties and Muslims alike for his principled resignation from his previous post at the Home Office following the 2003 Iraq invasion. He seemed a decent bloke and although he did the “some of my best friends are Muslim” thing, he was honest in admitting that often policy had been formulated only for the question “what about the Muslims?” to arise as an afterthought.

    Zareen echoed some of his points; claiming there is a danger to “Islamise” everything when we need to address deprivation and structural problems that exist where large numbers of Muslims are concentrated. She said that she was encouraged by the new tone on foreign policy as it has been an aggravating factor in Muslim discontent. Everyone pointed out that Muslims are a highly differentiated group not easily categorised.

    Biggsy was thoughtful and not just scared if saying the unsayable. He pointed out that if you were nth generation white Tower Hamlets living in a crappy flat… erm I mean substandard housing… you might well be disenchanted and looking to point fingers and blame others.

    Questions from the floor were wide-ranging. Many elicited much head-nodding from panel and public alike like the need to disentangle terrorism and Islam or for more Muslim women councillors. Others were more controversial like a lady from the humanists arguing against faith schools as divisive. Denham diplomatically told us that “a party such as ours should have tolerance of the desires that people have for these, despite our individual opinions”.

    An Asian doctor spoke out against residential segregation and declared that he was the first Asian to buy a house in his street. I had to interject that what have been called ethnic ghettos from those Hovis advert-like places often oop north to the suburban avenues of Southall arise by constraint as well as choice. White flight, discriminatory council allocations and the need to stick together for fear of racial attack all are explanatory factors.

    My own take on this is that it’s not necessarily disadvantage that explains the rise of Islamic extremism. After all Omar Sheikh was from a well-off family who put him through public school before the LSE. It’s more what the French call l’insecurité, a general sense of insecurity and disillusionment.

    The chair wanted to know what could be done by the Labour Party to improve things but I feel it’s a disconnection from politics at large.

    People generally feel let down by, and detached from, institutions. It’s not long ago that extremism meant the far right but now it seems synonymous with mad Muslims.

    You could connect Hizb ut-Tahrir, the BNP and Respect all in a line for all whipping up people in often race-based single issue campaigns and offering easy answers. The whole cycle of flashpoint event (Danish cartoons/ Straw on veils/ terrorist attack/ failed terrorist attack) followed by tabloid vilification of Muslims and airspace/ headline-hogging by headbangers up in arms can leave the silent majority felling their voices are being crowded out.

    It’s also led to degrees of Muslim “extremist, devout, moderate” and even the oxymoron of “secular Muslim”. Regarding women there is also the to veil or not to veil debate and it’s subsidiary full-on niqab or less in-yer-face hijab.

    Interestingly the government has recently shied away from former bedfellows like the MCB and found new favourites but most Muslims are just regular folk; who do not join such groups and may not even primarily choose to define themselves on the basis of religion in the first place.

    We didn’t really get onto Community Cohesion. Apparently this term is still valid. Whatever it means, inter-racial mixing has got to be more than… white bloke goes into Asian cornershop and says “20 B+H and the Sun please mate”. Mind you the cornershop option is maybe eschewed these days in favour of the big Tescos by the ringroad where you can get cheap petrol and a set-top box for a tenner but then that’s probably another post for another day.

    —————-
    Rupa Huq is author of Beyond Subculture (Routledge) and a senior lecturer in Sociology at Kingston University.
    She blogs at www.rupahuq.co.uk.
    This is a guest post.



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    37 Comments below   |   Add your own

    1. In a Pickle… « Rupa Huq’s home on the web — on 1st October, 2007 at 4:30 pm  

      […] in Uncategorized Promised a longer post on Muslim sesh at Labour Party conference. It’s here. The photo is not captioned but I’m on the far right (in terms of spatial setting I mean). […]

    2. Rumbold — on 1st October, 2007 at 4:57 pm  

      Rupa:

      “You could connect Hizb ut-Tahrir, the BNP and Respect all in a line for all whipping up people in often race-based single issue campaigns and offering easy answers.”

      Indeed. People too often treat Respect as some sort of benign anti-war party, rather than as a rabid far-left one.

    3. Leon — on 1st October, 2007 at 5:25 pm  

      People too often treat Respect as some sort of benign anti-war party, rather than as a rabid far-left one.

      Some people treat Respect as a party rather than a mish mash of competing interests under the vague term ‘coalition’…

    4. rupahuq — on 1st October, 2007 at 5:36 pm  

      You could call Respect a one-man vanity project for a spoilsport who was kicked out of the Labour Party. Islamo fundamentalists teaming up with Trotty types is an arranged marriage too far for some…

    5. Leon — on 1st October, 2007 at 5:40 pm  

      You could but I wouldn’t. Respect would’ve still happened without George Galloway; it just wouldn’t have been as ’successful’.

      They aren’t the only party with extremists in their midst…not that it matters much, I expect they’ve only a few years left, at best, before they implode.

    6. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 1st October, 2007 at 6:16 pm  

      oxymoron of “secular Muslim”

      Spoken like a true Islamophobe! Who is this “Rupa” Nick Griffin in disguse?

      TFI

    7. Boyo — on 1st October, 2007 at 6:49 pm  

      “Others were more controversial like a lady from the humanists arguing against faith schools as divisive.”

      That we have reached the point where this plainly obvious and valid point is “controversial”. God, or Dawkins, help us.

    8. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 1st October, 2007 at 7:15 pm  

      That we have reached the point where this plainly obvious and valid point is “controversial”. God, or Dawkins, help us.

      Hear bloody hear!

      TFI

    9. Don — on 1st October, 2007 at 8:09 pm  

      ditto

    10. Sid — on 1st October, 2007 at 8:29 pm  

      double ditto

    11. El Cid — on 1st October, 2007 at 8:34 pm  

      stop being so divisive

    12. Rumbold — on 1st October, 2007 at 8:37 pm  

      Actually, a secular Muslim is not an oxymoron, as it simply describes a Muslim who does not want religion to dominate the political and the legal spheres (look at Turkey for example).

    13. Siddharth — on 1st October, 2007 at 8:55 pm  

      yes Rumbold, absolutely correct.

    14. El Cid — on 1st October, 2007 at 9:11 pm  

      so a secular moslem can still be ok sending his kid to a moslem school?

    15. Siddharth — on 1st October, 2007 at 9:19 pm  

      as ok as a secular Jew or Christian can send their kids to Jewish or Christain faith schools. Shit happens but I find the concept of faith schools wholly retarded.

    16. El Cid — on 1st October, 2007 at 9:38 pm  

      cool. just making the point.

    17. Nyrone — on 1st October, 2007 at 10:32 pm  

      It really is utterly remarkable how snobbish the anti-respect squad can be….Ok, so you can diss George Galloway into the ground for being a bit publicity-obsessed man….aren’t you amazing? So, they all represent a mixture of leftie marxist hippies and Islamic terrorist-types do they?…wow, that’s so original, I’ve never heard of that one before, I guess it must be factually correct.

      No mention of anything else they stand for or represent, nobody appears to have read their manifesto with an open mind, or goes halfway to understanding the changes they propose, they just assume that the party is some kind of living embodiment bastard offspring of Galloway and Islamo-facists…this is a lazy, stupid, idiotic lie.

      at least these people tried to set something new up. What did you do? Write another dreary column? go back where it’s safe and predictable? Has anyone here been to a Respect public meeting and met some of the brilliant people working hard behind the scenes to establish it? Discussing matters that matter to concerned citizens in an honest, frank manner that puts other public meetings to shame..

      I’m not even a big fan, but I fail to understand why supposedely progressive people are keen to stick a sharp knife into the entire project based on a narrow understanding of what it is about, and a bunch of (naturally) distorted media stories…Respect raise enormously important issues that many of us agree with, but they are simply discounted as lunatic BNP opposites, I just do NOT get this…someone explain this to me.

    18. Ravi Naik — on 1st October, 2007 at 11:26 pm  

      “I’m not even a big fan, but I fail to understand why supposedely progressive people are keen to stick a sharp knife into the entire project based on a narrow understanding of what it is about, and a bunch of (naturally) distorted media stories….”

      Being progressive, I tend to dislike dictators, and those who suck up to dictators, specially the murderous kind. I also think that one sign that a party has become fringe, is when people start complaining about all the distored stories coming out in the media.

    19. douglas clark — on 2nd October, 2007 at 12:15 am  

      Politics, it seems to me, is now about triangulation, not straight lines. I am not happy about that, as geometry was not my favourite subject, but in a political sense, it is pretty plain that triangulation is a better option. What you do is take three points on the political compass, and try to embrace all of them.

      Straight liners are essentially single issue campaigners, whether it is a caliphate in Bradford, or Kalashnikovs at Dover or Law ‘n Order in sink estates.

      Triangulation matters, simply because good triangulation could encompass, or send to the pits of hell, the views of the linearists.

      On that basis, I think Gordon Brown has got it more right than David Cameron. In other words Gordon does seem to see the world as something more complex than David ever envisaged.

      Still voting SNP next time round, mark you.

    20. TheFriendlyInfidel — on 2nd October, 2007 at 12:24 am  

      Rumbold, you are entirely correct and it a point I tried to make in my post where I jokingly try and point out that anyone that thinks that a secular Muslim cannot exist must be one of those Islamaphobes I hear so much about.

      Who is this retard Rupa Huq who lecturers in Sociology at Kingston University? Do my taxes pay for his idiocy? Can’t we find him alternative governmental role emptying bins or counting traffic?

      What sort of Social Scientist doesn’t understand that schools, let alone religious schools, are by definition divisive? We were always fighting the kids in the school up the road. Fortunately they weren’t partitioned on faith or skin color, they were equal opportunities beatings and black, white, yellow or brown we fought side by side united by a the torment of a horrible yellow blazer.

      Ah, the good old days … how I don’t miss them.

      TFI

    21. Sunny — on 2nd October, 2007 at 12:35 am  

      Do my taxes pay for his idiocy?

      What article are you reading TFI? What do the lines at the end indicate?

    22. Rumbold — on 2nd October, 2007 at 10:09 am  

      TFI:

      “You are entirely correct and it a point I tried to make in my post where I jokingly try and point out that anyone that thinks that a secular Muslim cannot exist must be one of those Islamaphobes I hear so much about.”

      So that is what you meant- now I understand.

    23. Rumbold — on 2nd October, 2007 at 10:11 am  

      TFI:

      Also, Rupa is a lady.

      I disagree with some of what she has to say but I still think that she is an intelligent commentator. As for faith schools, I am undecided, and I think that there are good arguments on both sides, so neither side should be dismissed lightly.

    24. El Cid — on 2nd October, 2007 at 12:12 pm  

      purely fyi, but does this sound familiar (I’m sure you can get the gist, even if its in spanish)
      http://www.elpais.com/articulo/sociedad/Generalitat/obliga/admitir/clase/menor/hiyab/elpepusoc/20071002elpepisoc_10/Tes

    25. sonia — on 2nd October, 2007 at 12:49 pm  

      good points nyrone in no. 17.

      what i find surprising is that being publicity obsessed is an accusation people throw at specific politicians. the whole politics game is publicity and media obsessed. media commentators nowadays have a better chance at getting into elected office. ( and dont they know it)

    26. Chris Stiles — on 2nd October, 2007 at 1:12 pm  

      I’m not even a big fan, but I fail to understand why supposedely progressive people are keen to stick a sharp knife into the entire project based on a narrow understanding of what it is about

      Because a bunch of unsavoury elements running around claiming all the while to have some kind of *purely* progressive agenda tends to tarnish the entire progressive ‘movement’.

    27. Leon — on 2nd October, 2007 at 1:56 pm  

      Same could be said about Tony Blair…

    28. Nyrone — on 2nd October, 2007 at 2:33 pm  

      @ Ravi

      Don’t you see what you just did? You connected Galloway to the word dictator with a shrug of your soldiers, you seek to undo all his good work in the world by (overtly) pointing to the 10-sec clip of him in that famous meeting with the Iraqi tyrant. Is the assumption here, that he is as bad as a dictator for having addressed a dictator in generous terms? Are they really the same thing? Are you going to discount all good because of the video clip that has bled into your brain?

      It appears to be nice and clear-cut in your mind. YOU saw the clip, YOU were disgusted and YOU boycotted everything he ever did that followed…it’s the eqivalent of forever hating someone because you dont like their face.

      If you want to believe that being publicity obsessed is the same thing as being some kind of child-killing monster rapist, then fine…but It’s not, and if people that claim to be ‘progressive’ are going to exclude Respect as a weirdo-fringe party of nutters for their ‘crime’ of having Galloway as a founder member then I think it’s quite sad.

      Chis makes a good point, I think there are a lot of so-called progressives that can recount stats and facts like hymn sheets, but will snobbishly laugh and lock-out/exclude anybody they sense has a whiff of SWP/Respect/Marxism about them…what’s the result going to be from this? The ‘Progressive’ left are going to fight between themselves, and become more and more disconnected from each other.

      Galloway may say a hundred things many of us agree with, but when we find out it’s coming from that MONSTER Galloway, we discount everything we heard and kick him into the ground…I don’t recognise this left.

    29. Homi K Bhaba — on 2nd October, 2007 at 2:40 pm  

      Nyrone

      Many good points there about George “call me Muhammed” Galloway.

      But after he won an election on an anti-Semitic platform, I think it’s right that he is demonised as an idiot.

      Also, his obsession with Israel/’the Zionists’/Mossad etc is (1) boring (2) schizophrenic and (3) rivals Anas for sheer stupidity.

    30. Chris Stiles — on 2nd October, 2007 at 3:01 pm  

      Chis makes a good point, I think there are a lot of so-called progressives that can recount stats and facts like hymn sheets, but will snobbishly laugh and lock-out/exclude anybody they sense has a whiff of SWP/Respect/Marxism about them…what’s the result going to be from this?

      Lest I be mistaken, let me say that I think that this is mostly a good thing so long as it is done sensibly and doesn’t descend into factionalism. The answer for ‘progessives’ is articulate those concerns seperately - and mostly ignore Respect on everything else.

      You seek to undo all his good work in the world by (overtly) pointing to the 10-sec clip of him in that famous meeting with the Iraqi tyrant

      To be facetious, this is arguably as relevant/irrelevant as the photo showing Saddam meeting up with a certain Donald Rumsfeld.

      In any case, Galloway is not the main problem - it’s most of his fellow travellers - he merely gives them a platform.

    31. Nyrone — on 2nd October, 2007 at 3:17 pm  

      I’m not here to defend Galloway against those accusations Homi(e) I agree he’s probably made a world of mistakes, but does that warrant the mud thrown exclusively at him and not other quiet-politicians that do far worse on a weekly basis?

      the word Galloway has become such a loaded term, that brings to mind so many pre-conceptions, many of which are to put it politely, Bullshit. It appears that people take great pride in HATING him, is it like a hobby for wannabe bored political commentators?

      Firstly, where is the conclusive evidence that he ran on an anti-semitic platform? and secondly, what you describe as an obsession with Israel is beyond-urgent as a political matter in itself, and has been for the past 4 decades.
      A lot of people I know had no idea about what was going on in Palestine/Israel until they heard about it from Galloway interviews….what is wrong with that? It’s an enormously important issue to highlight for obvious reasons….you see him as obsessive and schizophrenic, but isn’t a lot of what he says true? Isn’t it consistent? Have you researched what he says? Doesn’t he have a right to bring this issue to the forefront? Isn’t it a matter of urgency for the people currently locked in that open-air prison called Palestine?

    32. Anas — on 2nd October, 2007 at 3:24 pm  

      Also, his obsession with Israel/’the Zionists’/Mossad etc is (1) boring (2) schizophrenic and (3) rivals Anas for sheer stupidity.

      Huh? What did I ever do to you?

    33. rupahuq — on 2nd October, 2007 at 3:41 pm  

      Well if you look up “controversial” in a dictionary it means provoking disagreement. Seeing as Labour Party conferences nowadays are not about showcasing dissent, the debate was welcome for getting people going. I have never been a huge faith school fan despite what some posters here seem to think. I haven’t got much time for Respect either and if you look at the defections in recent weeks to Labour from them on Tower Hamlets Council, this fragile alliance is coming apart at the seams. And I am indeed a “she” as Rumbold points out to the poster who got in a tizz above (#20).

    34. ZinZin (doing the chairwoman's job) — on 2nd October, 2007 at 3:48 pm  

      Anas is misunderstood, leave him alone.

    35. simon — on 4th October, 2007 at 10:19 am  

      Regardless of whether or not his actual campaign was anti-semitic, the fact he chose to stand in a seat he has absolutely no connection with, but which happened to have a black, female, Jewish MP (something for every one of his fanbase to latch onto there) put me off the whole “party” for good.

      Faith schools - I too was slightly surprised to see that describing faith schools as “divisive” is controversial at Labour conference these days.

    36. Ruby — on 6th October, 2007 at 4:33 pm  

      Rupa, you make some good points about the need not to ‘Islamise’ every problem and issue, but I think that this emanates to a large degree from Muslims themselves. In as much as Muslim organisations and Muslim individuals assert their identity by Islamising every issue, seeking a Muslim angle, and this is a very robust form of identity politics.

    37. World Religion Resources — on 7th October, 2007 at 3:28 am  

      World Religion Resources…

      I couldn’t understand some parts of this article, but it sounds interesting…



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