The Guardian today publishes its annual report on what British Muslims are thinking about and how they see themselves. It was first published last year and given the events in July, they saw it fit to carry on.
This is how it works: they gather about 60-80 Muslims in a room, send them off to discuss various issues, then report back on the consensus. A discussion ensues with (this year) Tariq Ramadan and govt. minister Paul Goggins there to address the issues. I know this because I was present at the event last week and the only non-Muslim to take part.
Here are my observations:
1) The group was not reflective of young British Muslims. This was a middle-class, socially conservative group that was passionate about political Islam. And it was full of Pakistanis, with only a few African Muslims and Bangladeshis. Ordinary Muslims not too obsessed by religion were not to be found either. In other words treat these words as those of a significant, but vocal (and educated) minority.
2) A lot of the “usual suspects” were there. That was to be expected of course. I get the feeling there is a bunch of us who go from event to event
3) I’m annoyed that the Guardian has no mention of the word “extremist” next to Hizb ut-Tahrir. Either way, people at the conference mostly ignored them or did not get riled up about the issues they raised (incitement of hatred legislation).
4) Most Muslims were there about active engagement in British politics and again marginalised HuT on their stance of non-engagement. The consensus was also that Respect was merely a protest vote against the war.
5) I wish the Guardian had printed Tariq Ramadan’s speech in full. It cussed the audience pretty brutally, in his nice way of course.
6) The two biggest issues were the need for British born imams and more women Muslim to participate in community affairs. Don’t expect the MCB to take up those causes up anytime soon. Infact they’ve been campaigning hard, along with Sikh and Hindu groups, to allow external priests.
7) Mostly likely I will be changing my position on the religious hatred law. Will write more about this later.
8) The most potent discussion was about the subject: ‘Who is to blame for the 7/7 attacks’. The level of denial on this subject was hilarious. Madeleine Bunting writes:
In one exchange, participants pondered the respective responsibilities of Tony Blair and the bombers for the July attacks: 50/50, said one; 80/20 Blair, said another; while the last concluded that the attacks were Blair’s fault alone.
Even she admits there is a lot of denial over the issue, but then spoils it by offering excuses around government policy of engagement and alcohol (wtf? this is more social exclusion than a reason for terrorism).
Tariq Ramadan was straight up. There were two issues here: a religion issue and a political issue, he said. Opposing the war was a political issue that should be dealt politically (getting organised, lobbying MPs etc). The religion issue was the one British Muslims had to confront and oppose. The bombers were not just “un-Islamic, they were anti-Islamic”, and it essentially came down to British Muslims to confront that ideology head on and defeat it otherwise they would forever be mired in confusion.
I really wish the Guardian had published his lecture. I have to be honest here – many British Muslims are mired in denial and victim mentality. After the Moroccans were bombed, they marched against Al-Qaeda. Last week even the Jordanians turned against Iraqis and Al-Qaeda (going to the extent of praising USA). When will British Muslims march against Al-Qaeda?
Why is the global Ummah referred to when talking about issues such as Palestine and Iraq, but after 7/7 it was “well you can’t blame all British Muslims for that”. No, you can’t, but they have the responsibility to confront Al-Qaeda and its ideology, as Fe’reeha pointed out last week.
All us Asians need to move away from a victim mentality because it is de-moralising. Blaming someone else for your problems, or allowing people like Bunting and Lee Jasper to blame others, means you don’t gather the courage to deal with the problem. It is not empowering.
When our parents came to this country they didn’t blame racism and sat around the house doing nothing. They worked twice or four times as hard to get somewhere. To defeat terrorism, racism, bigotry and xenophobia: we all need to work twice as hard too – rather than just blame others.
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