Islam is way more English than the English Defence League

The English Defence League’s definition of what constitutes the English working class is a classic case of projection. To take the “working class” tag, never mind that Tommy Robinson (the leader of the EDL) owns his own business and so is technically petit-bourgeois – making him officially entitled to buy a cream and gold bathroom. The more contentious bit of the EDL’s identity is its claim to represent “the English”. The problem with this claim is that a hundred people will come up with a hundred ways of defining Englishness and each with disagree violently with each other. To quote George Bernard Shaw: “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”

 

So while football hooliganism (out of which the EDL has spawned), covering your car in St George’s flags (English flag as opposed to the Union Jack), wearing balaclavas (a prevalent item of clothing at EDL marches and rallies) and spending time in prison (Tommy Robinson the leader of the EDL has been convicted of assault) is one definition of Englishness, others do exist. Today our meetings with foreign cultures are awkward precisely because we lack a solid sense of who we are. A lot of the fear shown towards Islam comes from the death of the Christian soul – we see a people who actually believe in something and we are intimidated.

 

By contrast, most Muslims cling on to values that were once definitively English and that we could do with rediscovering. Islam instructs its followers to cherish their families, to venerate women, to treat strangers kindly, to obey the law of any country they are in (yes, yes, it really does), and to give generously. One recent poll found that British Muslims donate more money to charity than any other religious group. Much is written about the need for Muslims to integrate better into English society, although states that 99 per cent of them probably already do.

 

This is a blog post written for the Daily Telegraph by Dr Tim Stanley. He is a historian of the United States. His biography of Pat Buchanan is available now. His personal website is www.timothystanley.co.uk and you can follow him on Twitter @timothy_stanley.

 

Radstock Town Council Deems St George’s Cross Offensive to Muslims

15 May 2013

 

The town council in Radstock, Somerset, voted not to fly St George’s flag on the town’s civic flag pole because the flag’s association with the crusades and the “hijacking” of the cross of St George by far right organizations may make it an offensive symbol to local Muslims. Instead, the council decided to purchase a Union Jack and to design a flag specifically for Radstock. Eleanor Jackson, a Labour councilor, has called for dropping the flag for 20 years.

 

Many, including Nasima Begum, spokeswoman for the Muslim Council of Britain, disagree with the decision made by the council. Said Ms. Begum, “St George needs to take his rightful place as a national symbol of inclusivity rather than a symbol of hatred.” Similarly, the vice-president of the Royal Society of St George labeled the decision “nonsense.”

 

In April, a multi-faith coalition issued a call to “reclaim” St George from far right organizations, arguing that St George has no place in extremist right wing politics. In acknowledging the association of St George’s Flag with right wing extremist groups, the Radstock town council has angered many who argue that St George, having lived before the advent of Islam, should not be associated at all with anti-Muslim politics.

 

Amir Khan speaks about Union Flag controversy

Boxer Amir Khan spoke out for the first time over the controversy surrounding his Union Flag shorts. Exiled radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammad launched a tirade against the Bolton-born Olympic silver medallist accusing him of setting a bad example to Muslims. “He wears shorts with the Union Jack. That is a sin,” Omar Bakri, who left London for Lebanon in 2005, was reported as saying. “He should not be wearing the flag because sovereignty is for God. His only allegiance should be to the Prophet Mohammed.” Politicians and senior British Muslims leapt to Khan’s defence, with Muslim Council of Britain general secretary Inayat Bunglawala describing Amir as “a wonderful role model”. Khan hit back at a press conference ahead of Saturday’s lightweight fight with Dane Martin Kristjansen at his Gloves gym in Prince Street, Halliwell. “I am not going to change,” he told reporters.http://themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=E46FB273F0644330240102DB&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

Amir Khan accused of bad Muslim example

British boxer Amir Khan is setting a bad example to Muslims according to the radical self-proclaimed cleric Omar Bakri Mohammad. Living in Lebanon, it was reported that he said: “Amir Khan is not a good example for Muslims. He wears shorts with the Union Jack. That is a sin. “He should not be wearing the flag because sovereignty is for God. His only allegiance should be to the Prophet Mohammed.” The Commonwealth lightweight title-holder, who is from Bolton, Lancashire, is draped with the Union Flag in photos on his official website and often wears shorts featuring the emblem. The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) called Bakri Mohammad’s comments “bizarre”. Inayat Bunglawala, assistant secretary general of MCB, said: “He’s a hugely successful boxer, proud of being Muslim and British. I can see why that could upset Omar Bakri, but to hundreds of thousands of British Muslims, Amir Khan is a wonderful role model.”http://www.themuslimweekly.com/newsdetails/fullstoryview.aspx?NewsID=72EE34F172E2C1B2A28320F2&MENUID=HOMENEWS&DESCRIPTION=UK%20News

Britain, Let’s Talk, Say Muslims

By Dominic Casciani The organisers insist it is a coincidence, but the fact that IslamExpo fell on the first anniversary of the London bombings was the powerful symbol British Muslims needed to say very publicly what they stand for. The $1.8m show at London’s Alexandra Palace could have been just another event where Muslims talks to Muslims about being Muslim. But instead the organisers found a simple formula of exhibitions, market stalls, and robust debate that very successfully managed to bring in a healthy proportion of white, non-Muslim people and, critically, create some dialogue. And so, while the two-minute silence came and went, and Britain reflected on how we find, in simplest terms, a way to all get on, the many different people at IslamExpo just got on with it. For Ihtisham Hibatullah, co-ordinator of the massive enterprise, this was what it was all about. Taking his guests through the entrance hall of a Bedouin-style tent, and a very lavish interactive history of Islam, he said the show’s mission was to give confidence to Britain’s Muslim communities.
Black in the Union Jack Stopping at a gallery of work by British Muslim artists, he said the images were a perfect way of understanding the reality of the modern world. “Islam is not just part of the East anymore,” said Mr Hibatullah. “It began there, but is now very much part of Europe, part of Britain. “Look at these pictures. Here is one of the Union Jack in the style of Islamic calligraphy. I don’t think the flag is the trade mark of the British National Party anymore, is it? “We are trying to give people a sense off Islamic history, of identity but, crucially, we are trying to provide means through which British Muslims can show how they have contributed to our society.” Among the thousands trooping through the doors of Ally Pally were an estimated 4,000 school children from all over the UK.
History comes alive In the marquee of Exhibition Islam, a touring organisation that takes historic artefacts into schools, children of all backgrounds crowded around Imtiaz Alam as he showed them a 16th century Koran. “It has been fantastic to be here and see the non-Muslim kids taking an interest,” said Imtiaz, who has received invitations from American and Australian organisations. “I am really glad that so many people have taken the time to listen and learn. “Every time we do our show, and we must have taken it to 250,000 people by now, we find a good reception. People want to learn and understand and appreciate what Islam means to Muslims.” And this was key for the diverse audience. While the tough lectures and deep thinking went on in some of the marquees, the biggest attraction for the children were workshops with a lighter touch. Khayaal Theatre Group was among those holding music and dance shows for the kids, drawing on traditional Islamic stories from around the Muslim world. Luqman Ali, founder of Khayall, has long campaigned among Muslim communities for them to use the arts to both understand themselves and forge links with wider society. “It is through story-telling and the universal values that they contain we can improve inter-cultural understanding and start dealing with issues like alienation, isolation and segregation,” said Luqman. “It’s through stories that people and civilisations better understand each other, rather than through dogma and doctrine.” Luqman said however that he had mixed feelings a year on from the bombings. “The consequences were not uniform – in some parts of society it’s been a catalyst for much more dialogue and for individuals to bridge the gap of understanding. “In other ways it has increased anxieties – I have times when I am optimistic and times when I am very pessimistic.”
New generation Intissar Khreeji-Ghannouchi shared Luqman Ali’s mixed feelings, saying the past few years had been an “emotional rollercoaster”. A recent Cambridge law graduate, Intissar is representative of a new emerging generation of confident Muslim women determined to take on prejudices stereotypes. “I think there is a lot of optimism created by this event – it shows how we can all overcome the actions of individuals [the bombers] who want to break the Muslim community away from the rest of society. “We need to find ways of having a genuine dialogue with each other and I feel IslamExpo is a very important step. Look at what you have here today – you have an opportunity to properly introduce people to Muslim culture. The public perception is very negative but if we are open, we can combat it.” Intissar said that she had personally found it frustrating to sometimes explain to non-Muslims why she wears a headscarf. “Then I started reminding myself that while it is a normal part of me, I should put myself in their shoes – they are curious and may not understand. I would be naturally curious about another culture and what it means. “I think since 9/11 we [the British] have had to think more deeply about identity. “This has been an invigorating experience but also one of urgency because Muslims now recognise that it is not enough to be passive.” And the pro-active stance taken by people such as Intissar was one that went down well with the non-Muslim visitors who had come to learn and talk. South London A-level students Laura Burtonshaw, Lucie Robathan and Katie Carpenter were among the significant number of non-Muslim visitors. They said they had been enormously enthused by the experience which had helped them understand the relationships between Islam and Christianity. “We really think it has been brilliant,” said Katie. “It is really what we all need to see and hear. I just can’t get over how friendly everyone has been.” Laura said the trio had been studying the roots of religion at school but the show had given them a real opportunity to really understand the daily lived-in culture of Islam. “The most important thing is that we find a way to learn and understand each other,” she said.