Dispelling myths about British Muslims

June 21, 2014

Many people have come to regard Muslims as a backward group of religious extremists estranged from wider society and incapable of coming to terms with what it means to be British. This impression has been heightened by misleading press reporting and inflammatory statements from senior politicians. The so-called “Trojan horse” controversy concerning an alleged Muslim takeover of Birmingham schools – based on what looks like a fabricated document – has brought fresh ugliness to an already putrid public debate.

There are elements of truth in the popular narrative about British Islam, but much of it is based on ignorance. A 2011 Demos survey showed that Muslims are more patriotic than other Britons (83 per cent said they were proud to be British as opposed to 79 per cent of the general population), and are more integrated than is often thought to be the case. So the publication of these two books could not be timelier. Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam by Innes Bowen and The Muslims Are Coming! Islamophobia, Extremism and the Domestic War on Terror by Arun Kundnani.

Innes Bowen, a BBC radio journalist, has written an admirable and clear- headed study which has much to teach anyone with an interest in British Islam. She explains the beliefs, historical background and political engagement of the main Muslim sects and organisations: Deobandis, Barelwis, Tablighi Jamaat, Muslim Brotherhood, Salafis, Shia and Ismailis.

Bowman dispels a long list of myths about the role of Saudi teaching in mosques, the influence of Iran among British Shia (very little), the connection between the doctrines of Tablighi Jamaat and terrorism (none), and the alleged shortage of British-born imams (there are plenty). Bowen’s book is gentle and optimistic. She suggests that over time there is no fundamental contradiction between Islam and the modern Western state.

Arun Kundnani has written a very different kind of work. It is angrier and more polemical. Yet it too is grounded in research from both sides of the Atlantic. The case studies from the United States are shocking. He shows how Muslims there can be ensnared by the FBI into so-called plots which have been devised by the US government, arguing convincingly that Islam has taken over the role of public enemy from communism. It dispels myths, pointing out that “there is no Islamic doctrine of ‘kill the unbelievers’ as anti-Islam propagandists often maintain. Islam, like other religions, provides a broad moral framework for thinking about questions of violence.” Again and again this book challenges your assumptions. It is worth reading for its examination of the word “extremism” alone. Martin Luther King, Kundnani points out, was denounced in this way. Kundnani is fiercer and more pessimistic.

Equality and Human Rights Commission Report No. 72: The Impact of Counter Terrorism Measures on Muslim Communities

This independent, qualitative research looks at the impact of counter terror measures on Muslims in Britain, and if this was different from other people. It examines the diverse experiences of Muslims on the street and in the community, at ports and airports, and in mosques, schools and universities, as a result of counter terrorism measures.

FECOM warns about scams to Muslim Associations

23/02/2011

The Federation of Muslim Communities of Castilla La-Mancha has warned in a press release of a new type of scam that affects the Muslim Communities of the autonomous region of Castilla La-Mancha. The mafia modus operandi is to offer help for the fundraising in Saudi Arabia in exchange for an in advance payment from the communities for the “financial costs” of the operation, money that never is given back.

US State Department reaches out to the Muslim world

A new division opened in the State Department this year: the office of the Special Representative to Muslim Communities. Farah Pandith’s mission is to reach out to the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims. She tells Steve Inskeep the office will influence how Muslims perceive the United States.

Obituary: Larry Shaben, Canada’s First Muslim Cabinet Minister

Larry Shaben, 73, was Canada’s first Muslim cabinet minister. The son of Lebanese immigrants, Shaben was born in Hanna, Alberta and eventually settled in the north of Alberta represented Lesser Slave Lake. This article in The Globe and Mail chronicles how Shaben spent much of his youth at Canada’s first mosque, Al Rashid in Edmonton. Shaben became involved in politics early in his life in High Prairie, and retired in 1989 and returned to Edmonton to focus his energies on ecumenical groups like the Edmonton Council of Muslim Communities, the Islamic Academy of Edmonton and the endowed chair of Islamic Studies at the University of Alberta. The cabinet minister is also known for miraculously surviving a deadly twin-engine plane crash in 1984.

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Guide to help housing workers reach Muslim communities

Housing Minister Caroline Flint launched a new guide Tuesday showing how housing and regeneration professionals can successfully reach Muslim communities – who can often be more marginalised, socially excluded and poorer than other groups – and improve their participation and acceptance in the wider community. There are over 1.6 million Muslims in the UK, the largest minority faith group in the country, and statistics show that they more likely to be unemployed – 13 percent of Muslim men are unemployed as opposed to the national average of 5 percent – less likely to be owner occupiers and more likely to live in poor housing and in overcrowded conditions. The new Guide to Engaging Muslim Communities from the Chartered Institute of Housing and Matrix Housing Partnership, published on June 17, demonstrates successful work in engaging diverse Muslim communities in housing and regeneration, including women and young people, who can be particularly hard to reach. Many of the examples show how important it can be to help isolated communities build their self-confidence. All the examples show the need for professionals to avoid being insensitive about faith issues and to have a basic knowledge of how a faith such as Islam governs people’s daily lives.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=285B864FC440671C08CAD8D8&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

Some Muslim Communities Concerned ‘United 93’ Creates Anti-Islam Sentiment

Take off your f***ing burqas and get the f*** out of this country. We don’t want you in this country. Go home. These words were allegedly spoken by a middle-aged couple to a group of three young Muslim women wearing head scarves Apr. 29 at the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Scottsdale, Ariz. According to the young women, the couple approached them calmly and asked if they were Muslim. After answering yes, the women said the couple became enraged and verbally abused them, indicating they had just watched the film United 93. The event raised concerns throughout several Muslim communities after one of the women, Bushra Khan, the office manager for the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Arizona chapter, sent a message out to all 31 CAIR offices nationwide about the incident.

Why Europe Has to Offer a Better Deal Towards its Muslim Communities

Our rigorous quantitative results, based on the first systematic use of the Muslim community data contained in the “European Social Survey” (ESS), compatible with much of the rest of current European political economic thinking regarding the future alternatives for the European Union, and contradict the very extended current alarmist political discourse in Western Europe. Those give strong support to the hypothesis that passive support for Islamist radicalism in Europe and the complete distrust in democracy does not exceed 400.000 persons. We also compare our research results with the recent PEW data. By and large, the two datasets yield the same results. We also find that Muslim economic and social alienation in Europe very much corresponds to deficiencies of the implementation of the “Lisbon” process. We also present a rigorous re-analysis of United States Department of State data on acts of global terrorism in the framework of Kondratiev cycle waves. Further dispelling irrational immigration-phobias and Islamophobia in general, the present work also shows that, by and large, pretty much the same functions of key (positive or negative) UNDP development indicators (y-axis) hold in comparison with purchasing power per capita (x-axis) in the Muslim world and the non-Muslim countries.

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The Social building of Muslim Communities in Europe

A Roundtable By The Network On Comparative Research On Islam And Muslims In Europe (NOCRIME)

Session 1: The Social Building of Muslim Communities in Europe: Internal Factors

Opening remarks and Introduction by Jean Baubérot, President of EPHE (Sorbonne) and Director of GSRL (CNRS-EPHE) and Jean-Paul Willaime, EPHE, Associate Director of GSRL (CNRS-EPHE).

CHAIR : Dr Martin Van Bruinessen, Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World [ISIM] Leiden.

  • Jorgen Baek Simonsen, Copenhague University , “Social Networks of Muslims in Denmark and Interactions with the Muslim World”
  • Nico Landman, Utrecht University, “Social and Religious variety of the Muslim Presence in the Netherlands”
  • Sean McLoughlin, Leeds University, “British-Muslims Today: National Recognition, Local Polarisation?”
  • Gema Martin-Munoz, University Autonoma of Madrid, “Cultural and Religious Dimensions of the Moroccan Immigration in Spain”
  • Ottavia Schmidt di Frieberg, University of Trieste, “Transnational Networks of Muslim Migrants in Italy”
  • Discussion led by Pierre-Jean Luizard, GSRL (CNRS-EPHE) and Hocine Benkheira, GSRL (CNRS-EPHE)

    Session 2: The Building of Muslim Communities in Europe: External Constraints

    CHAIR: Jean-Paul Willaime, EPHE, Associate Director of GSRL (CNRS-EPHE)

  • Jocelyne Cesari, GSRL (CNRS-EPHE) and Harvard University, “New forms of Muslim Leadership in France”
  • Chantal Saint-Blancat, University of Padova, “Social Construction of Islam in the Italian Public Sphere”
  • Valerie Amiraux, CURAPP/CNRS and European University Institute, “The Production of Discourses on Islam in Western Europe”
  • DISCUSSION of the Session and General Discussion led by Tariq Ramadan, University of Fribourg and Olivier Roy, CNRS.

    CONCLUDING REMARKS