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  • Leadership troubles

    by Sunny
    24th August, 2006 at 4:53 pm    

    Ehsan Masood has written another highly sensible article (the man doesn’t stop) for the Sept edition of Prospect magazine.

    One of the problems we face in the search for better community relations is our insistence on sticking to the idea of the “community leader.” In a modern democracy, the idea that there is such a thing as a community leader and that he has the ability to prevent extremism among “his people” continues to be an important plank of government policy. But it needs rethinking.

    A man definitely after our own heart. Politicians and media please take note: this also applies to Hindu and Sikh groups.
    [Hat tip: David T in the comments]

                  Post to

    Filed in: Organisations,Party politics

    27 Comments below   |  

    Reactions: Twitter, blogs

    1. SajiniW — on 24th August, 2006 at 5:01 pm  

      Amongst the under 35′s I know; only the super-religious/members of sects seem to take ‘community leaders’ and their actions into account.

    2. Leon — on 24th August, 2006 at 5:25 pm  

      From the piece: lack of vision

      In a nutshell.

    3. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 24th August, 2006 at 6:01 pm  


      Can you read anything into the fact that only minority groups have these kinds of community leaders? It is difficult for me to believe that if people in the UK or in any other place had mutual respect or recognition of eachother you would need to summon the Big Wanka in to talk to the white man.

    4. Bert Preast — on 24th August, 2006 at 6:08 pm  

      I see them as religious groups rather than community groups. There’s a difference in agendas.

    5. David T — on 24th August, 2006 at 6:18 pm  

      Bacardi? Miami Vice!

    6. Jagdeep — on 24th August, 2006 at 6:35 pm  


      Down with the community leaders of all faiths. At the most, they must expect nothing more than to be invited for photo opportunities with Prince Charles and the Queen a couple of times a year. And enough with the politicians visiting temples and mosques - if there is anything like that to be done give it to Prince William or someone. Politicians! Stop talking to old men who are conservative religious folk! Treat us Asians as BRITISH just like everyone else.

    7. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 24th August, 2006 at 7:02 pm  

      Bert Preast,

      But a religious group is a community group. Not only that, religious groups, particularly Muslim groups, tend to break down on ethnic and cultural lines too. If you ever visit in mosque, atleast in the US, they are more often than not ethnic based with a few different ethnicities here and there. Yeah they are all Muslim but the clan is everything. If you are english speaking you will not go to a Mosque where they deliver the sermon in Urdu or Arabic.

    8. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 24th August, 2006 at 7:04 pm  

      David T,

      Who is your community leader? I havent been to your bellyaching white boys blog in a while, how is everything?

    9. leon — on 24th August, 2006 at 7:20 pm  

      Who is your community leader? I havent been to your bellyaching white boys blog in a while, how is everything?

      George Bush?:P

    10. Sid — on 24th August, 2006 at 8:14 pm  

      David T and I were born into the community that reveres Morrissey. But our interpretations diverge there: his is the pro-war Morrissey and mine is the Bengali migrant-worker Morrissey.

    11. Bikhair aka Taqiyyah — on 24th August, 2006 at 8:25 pm  


      I was told in high school that only homosexual men listen to Morrissey.

    12. leon — on 24th August, 2006 at 8:29 pm  

      Odd, that was a thing that went round my secondary school too. Even goth fans would shun Morrissey types…

    13. MatGB — on 24th August, 2006 at 8:29 pm  

      We used to have “community leaders”, but then we told the vicars that they didn’t speak for us when they didn’t know us. I know who my local vicar is, he makes an arse of himself in the paper every month or so.

      But I actually know the local imam, and he seems switched on. But you can’t speak “for” anyone these days, we’re a little diverse. The vicars, imams, rabbis, etc speak for the conservative religious, that’s it.

      The rest of us are British. What gets me is the way everyone is so surprised that a small subsection of youth are joining radical, violent, anti-state groups and trying to blow stuff up. It’s not like it’s a new idea, or even a non-British idea, we’ve been doing it on and off for centuries.

      Maybe we need a “radical secular” campaign to bring down the Govt by leafletting. Oh, wait, that’s the SWP, before it decided to merge with a different group of extremists…

    14. Zak — on 24th August, 2006 at 8:35 pm  

      Recently i had a run in with a Muslim guy, which I found a bit disconcerting. He was educated, employed (working in the public setor no less)..very superficially religious, lived quite separate from the Asian ghetto part of his Northern homestead.

      And his views were quite aggressive ..he did not see himself as British..(yet he has barely been to Pakistan). Was fiercely anti jew..and all that.. talking to him I felt a bit uncomfortable with his deep dislike of everything British and on the opposite end, that many of the beards in his community were more rooted into local society and being British (if not by western lifestyle standards) then he was…

      My point being..i don’t see what community leaders can do in the cases of the first person. ..I look at the whole community leaders bit as a form of targetting command and control centres in warfare. But as far as terrorism is concerned its more of a decentralised philosophy.

    15. Sid — on 24th August, 2006 at 9:10 pm  

      Bikhair, I can assure you some of us high school homos went on to become perfectly straight members of the community. ;-)

    16. Bert Preast — on 24th August, 2006 at 10:11 pm  

      Bikhair - I am aware why you see communities as religious and ethnic groupings. I’m saying that’s the idea we have to get away from in order to do things the “British” way. A community group in Britain will often have a vicar on board - but just the one, and he doesn’t have a greater voice than anyone else. The rest would be local business and civil service bigwigs. Most importantly, they’re usually a temporary arrangement to sort out a community problems. Geopolitics is not really their concern.

    17. soru — on 24th August, 2006 at 11:11 pm  

      One point: community leaders _can_ exist, in the sense of people who represent a particular group so well, so eloquently that nearly everyone in that group says ‘wow, he just said what I would like to better than I could ever express, I’d follow that guy anywhere’.

      Examples would be Mandela, Martin Luther King, Churchill, maybe de Gaulle, even poor old Arafat.

      It just happens to be the case that nobody like that, nobody regarded that way by UK Muslims, exists.

    18. Bert Preast — on 24th August, 2006 at 11:21 pm  

      I reckon they exist. The chap who wrote this article could well be one. But they’re getting shouted down by those claiming religious backing, and at the moment that works too well.

    19. Don — on 24th August, 2006 at 11:28 pm  

      ‘… I’d follow that guy anywhere’

      Please, let’s not have any of those.

    20. Clairwil — on 24th August, 2006 at 11:37 pm  

      I want to join Sid’s Morrissey community. Failing that I’m willing to act as a community leader for anyone who is interested. I promise to do my best to misrepresent our views and incite public hatred against us all. Then I’ll sue…..

    21. AsifB — on 25th August, 2006 at 10:50 am  

      Don’t the media realise members of the community are too busy ‘watching their parking meters’ to follow leaders.

    22. Arif — on 25th August, 2006 at 11:15 am  

      I agree with soru. Whether people like it or not when others affiliate with someone they feel expresses with clarity their innermost ideals, whatever the dangers, that kind of leadership is a form of authority which is hard to beat in terms of legitimacy in a free society.

      But there are other kinds of authority as well, which representatives are expected to wield (very unfairly at times).

      We want skilled diplomats to put a point of view with maximum impact and minimum damage to the right people in the right ways.

      We want disciplinarians who can hold people they represent in line and can negotiate on their behalf.

      We want bold visionaries who make us look at thingsthrough new eyes to see new ways forward.

      We want people who can bring unity - whether by raising the fear of a common enemy or engendering pride in a common identity.

      We want people who are inspirational moral paragons, representing the highest possible achievement we can aim for ourselves.

      We build people up out of a desire to be represented and knock them down in fury at their imperfections. Yes some people are bad leaders. And some of us are also bad followers!

    23. Chairwoman — on 25th August, 2006 at 12:32 pm  

      MatGB - are the magic word ‘British’. Why do we have to be British? Why can’t we be English, Scottish, Welsh, or Northern Irish or wherever else we’ve been born. Or failing that, why can’t we be Pakistani, or Indian, or Jewish, or whatever else English etc., like Americans who aren’t happy with just being Americans are Blank Americans.

      Perhaps if we changed that mindset, we could dispense with all ‘Community Leaders’. And we can start with those esteemed Knights, the Chief Rabbi and the Chief Muslim (to coin a phrase).

    24. Uncleji — on 25th August, 2006 at 5:01 pm  

      You do near community leaders ( as long as their is some diversity) as to (paraphrase Kissinger) who do the government/ media call when they want to consult the Muslim, Pakistani, Sikh etc community. What’s the alternative ? individually consult everyone called singh, a hotline to Yasmin Brown or even G*d help us Sunny ! :)

      There’s interesting development in the Sikh Community.
      Before we had one lot who represented Network of Sikh Organisations aka Inderjit Singh OBE who didn’t say anything wacky, had the “Thought for the Day” Gig on Radio 4′s Today but had zero consulation with the community apart from the selfmade grey beards (no phone number no email address zero).

      There come along the wackos from Sikh Agenda/ Sikh Federation young professional using the web & media savy to inflate their influence far beyond the reality.

      This has freaked out the old school leaders who now have email and appear on discussion groups actually get off the backsides and do stuff (belated reponse to forced marriages and honour killings etc).
      So I think good can come from it.

      Yet anyother waste of an afternoon at work

    25. MatGB — on 26th August, 2006 at 2:58 pm  

      Chairwoman: Why do we have to be British? Why can’t we be English, Scottish, Welsh, or Northern Irish or wherever else we’ve been born.

      I refer you to my basic tenet of identity. I’m a Devonshire, Westcountry English, British, European citizen of the world. I can be all of these things, they’re all part of my identity. I speak for me. Although, sometimes, I find that others say the things I would have better (as observed above about MLK et al).

      Identity is self defined; who speaks for you should also be self defined. A lot of “community leaders” are self appointed. But they don’t, regularly, speak for any real community, just a manufactured grouping that they imagine is there.

    26. Sunny — on 26th August, 2006 at 5:12 pm  

      I think it’s important to separate out a few issues.

      1) This is about identity. People can have multiple identities, as MatGB points out above, and I think this needs drumming into the govt. They treat people not only as homogenous groups, but also expect them to have only one identity.

      So previously, we only had racial identities. Newspapers, politicians and others could not see past our skin colour, regardless of work. Thankfully we are slowing getting past that, but…

      now we have faith identities. So rather than treating them as individuals, people have been taken out of race politics and being put into faith politics. You’re Muslim or Sikh or Hindu and should only be referred to in that context, they say.

      2) What follows on from this is that so-called community leaders can exist, but within a tight framework and with regards to certain issues only. For tackling crime, unemployment, consulting citizens (even over foreign policy), a person’s religion is irrelevant. So a Muslim complaining about foreign policy is the same as a christian complaining about foreign policy.

      Where community leaders can play a part needs to be debated. Should they be formulating education policy, as many are now getting into - I’m not sure. Should they be advising on issues that relate to certain areas of religion - sure.

      So my point is - they can exist but within a tight framework. After all, the Archbishop of Canterbury exists too.

      3) The third point is about transparency and consultation. If these groups say they represent the voice of a particular group within certain contexts - then they need to be transparent in their actions and they need to be accountable to that public. This is not happening.

      I feel another article coming on… :(

    27. Bert Preast — on 26th August, 2006 at 6:14 pm  

      multiidenticism > multicultuaralism.

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