UK Muslims Reconsider the Compatibility of Secularism and Islam

22 May 2012


Living in a secular environment has been a challenge for Muslims in the West. Islam is a religion that does not accept the separation between the public and private space. Thus it expects believers to adhere to its rules regardless of their environment; this inevitably positions it in a fundamental conflict with the secular system that has been fashioned to keep religion out of the public space.


However, recently the rigid interpretation of secularism has been put to question. Prominent scholars like Tariq Modood (1997, 2005) have suggested that secularism and Islam can co-exist provided that the former soften ups its radical discourse on religion and tries to recognize and support the religious needs of people.


The article published by Tehmina Kazi further examines the issue in the light of recent events and research and examples from the past, in order to find answers regarding the compatibility of the two concepts.

University Course in Women, Islam and the Media


The University of East Anglia has developed a degree module to teach students about women, Islam and the media – topics, which are often found in close conjunction, but, as the Guardian notes, “not always in the happiest of circumstances”. The module with cover a variety of “inflammatory” topics, including veil wearing, arranged marriage and “honour” crimes. A particular focus is on the representation of Muslim women in the media and how this reflects biases in both the east and west. By offering the course, the convenor is hoping to challenge stereotypes often associated with Islam.

New Hackensack cops include first Muslim on force

HACKENSACK — The city swore in two new police officers Tuesday, including the department’s first Muslim member.

Mohammad Sheikh, 24, joins the department after four years in Paterson, where he was among 125 officers laid off last April.

Both officers said they hoped to add to the department’s diversity. Sheikh, who speaks Arabic and was born in Palestine, said he wanted to serve as a liaison between the city and its Muslim population.

“Ever since Sept. 11, the stereotype about Muslim Americans has been very bad,” Sheikh said. “I wanted to challenge that stereotype. This is one way of giving back to the community.”

Official counts of the number of Muslim officers in Bergen County are not available, but Sheikh and police Capt. Tomas Padilla, the acting officer in charge of the department, said they know of one in Bergenfield and one in the county Sheriff’s Department.

Welcome to the Counter-Jihad

The Arab world is poised for an era of political and cultural renewal. In dramatic succession, popular uprisings have toppled long-reigning dictators even as others cling to power. Amid these momentous events, scholars, journalists and politicians are scrambling to explain how these revolutions came about after years of political stagnation and dashed attempts at reform.

Robin Wright’s “Rock the Casbah,” though it was mainly reported before this year’s convulsions, tackles these questions directly. Wright, a veteran foreign correspondent, argues that the Arab world’s younger generation is at the vanguard of a sweeping and seductive cultural revolution. Setting out to challenge the lazy trope that Islam is incompatible with modernity and democracy, she traveled across the Middle East — with forays into the wider Muslim world — to profile hip-hop artists, poets, playwrights, feminists, human rights activists, TV imams, comic book creators and comedians.

Book: “I Speak for Myself” – American Women on Being Muslim

A group of Muslim American women has embarked on a quest they have long considered overdue. Feeling neither heard nor understood, they told their stories in a collection of essays which encapsulates an overarching challenge they face daily – how to find a balance between staying true to their faith and navigating established societal norms in a country partly accepting, yet also partly weary of Islam.

Compiled and co-edited by Maria Ebrahimji and Zahra Suratwala, the book – “I Speak for Myself” – contains first-person narratives by 40 Muslim women born and raised in the United States who, as the editors point out, have been “negotiating a dichotomy of Islamic and Western values since birth.”

Representing many walks of life, the women point out that the book is not intended as a response to existing stereotypes nor as a pontification about a post-9/11 world, but is simply an attempt to provide others an honest and unfettered glimpse into their lives.

French artist arrested for wearing a French-flag burqa

News Agencies – June 21, 2011

Yohan, AKA ‘Yo du Milieu’, a French artist from Caen, was recently arrested during a protest for ‘insulting the flag’ by wearing a flag burqa. At the protest Yohan played ‘Nadine Amouk’, a ‘spokesperson for French Muslims, transsexuals and patriots’. He says he meant to humor, not insult, and that he wanted to challenge the anti-burqa law and lumping together Islamists and Muslims.

French couple in Britain in legal challenge to veil ban

A French Muslim husband and wife living in Britain are to challenge France’s ban on full-face coverings at the European Court of Human Rights. The couple lodged an application at the Strasbourg court to challenge the French government over the ban on wearing Islamic veils, which they argue is “unnecessary, disproportionate and unlawful.”

They claim it restricts their right to free movement across the EU, according to documents sent to the court. The wife is seeking £10,000 (11,200 euros, $16,400) in damages for the alleged human rights breach. The couple live in central England with their two children. They have chosen to remain anonymous, citing “considerable hostility” in Britain and France to Muslim women wearing the full veil in public.

In the latest case, the documents sent to Strasbourg say the couple want to “reside and work in France” but the ban means “they have considerable reservations about living there on a permanent basis.” The principal applicant is the husband who “expects and instructs” his wife to wear the burqa and the niqab. But she “respects and follows” her husband’s instructions of her own free will, the Strasbourg court is being told. Her lawyers argue Muslim women in France are “not able to exercise their rights free from coercion, harassment and discrimination.”


US Teen being kept out of Country

An attorney for a Muslim rights group says it plans to file a legal challenge for a U.S. teenager it claims is not allowed to board a flight back to the U.S. According to the authorities, the teenager is on a no-fly list.

CAIR attorney Gadeir Abbas says the Alexandria, Va. teenager is on a no-fly list and the group plans to file a federal court challenge claiming the United States is wrongly blocking the return of a U.S. citizen.

German president Wulff recognises Islam as part of Germany in reunification speech

5 October 2010
Leading conservative German politicians assailed President Christian Wulff on Tuesday for comments intimating Islam had gained a status comparable to Christianity and Judaism in Germany. Wulff riled his fellow Christian Democrats by saying Islam had become an important part of German society in a speech commemorating the 20th anniversary of German reunification on Sunday.
While several Christian Democrats and their Bavarian Christian Social Union (CSU) allies grudgingly admitted Muslims had earned a place in Germany, they bristled at the idea they were changing the core social fabric of the country. “The speech was easily misunderstood,” CSU politician Norbert Geis told Bild on Tuesday. “If the president wanted to equate Islam in Germany with Christianity and Judaism, then I’d consider that wrong.”
In his first major speech on Sunday since taking office in July, Wulff extended the hand of friendship to Muslims, saying the challenge of integrating them into society was comparable to reunifying the country after the Cold War. “Christianity is of course part of Germany. Judaism is of course part of Germany. This is our Judeo-Christian history… But now Islam is also part of Germany,” he said in his speech. “When German Muslims write to me to say ‘you are our president’, I reply with all my heart ‘yes, of course I am your president’.”
His comments were welcomed by leading German Muslim groups as an important sign that they were not second-class citizens in Germany.