I am your Muslim neighbour in London. As there are almost a million of us here (almost one in eight people), I would not think my presence here is strange at all. But it can be alienating to be a Muslim in London these days. While Muslims are a familiar sight, there are still some deep rifts between us and other Londoners. After the terrorist attack of 7/7 (nearly fifteen years ago!) and the recent spate of terrorist attacks, the deep suspicions towards us has increased tremendously. Added to that is the racist Tommy Robinson whose puerile approach to Islamic texts attracts the most intellectually bereft, the situation has actually become dangerous for us.
This is why I write this piece – as your Muslim neighbour. I would like you to know that we are human, just like you, with human failings. Of course, that is an obvious fact, biologically speaking, but I am speaking ideologically and from the angles of culture and civilisation. And being human means we do not express our identities in the exact same way either. There are a myriad of factors which influence our expression and you should know about this.
I will be completely honest with you – most of us know almost nothing about our faith. The reason for this is simple – we don’t have to know much about it. The Islamic priesthood – and make no mistake, that’s what they are: priests – scares with the idea that unless we are guided by a ‘qualified scholar’, we will be guided by the devil himself. This suits the ordinary Muslim just fine. He is content to remain focused on the performance of rituals. Let the ‘qualified scholars’ deal with the deep study.
FULL ARTICLE FROM PATHEOS
At 6am on December 25, 1888, the winter sun was yet to rise over the English city of Liverpool.
A Victorian terrace house was feverish with activity.
The soft glow of candlelight emanating from 8 Brougham Terrace revealed men and women busily putting up decorations and preparing food for the big celebration ahead, Christmas Day.
In one corner, a familiar Victorian scene of a woman playing the piano and directing hymn rehearsals, the singers’ voices muted by the howling of a bitter northeasterly wind as it rattled the thin panes of glass.
This was Britain’s first mosque and Muslim community preparing for their very first Christmas Day.
At 8am, having led the tiny congregation in the early morning prayer, the Imam finally opened the mosque doors.
Imam William Henry “Abdullah” Quilliam founded the mosque after embracing Islam in 1887, aged 31 years old.
He was greeted by more than 100 of the city’s poor, who had been invited to enjoy a charitable Christmas breakfast inside what locals called “Islam Church”.
FULL ARTICLE FROM AL JAZEERA
When Tesco launched its Christmas advert featuring 14 different families, it caused a furore as it included a Muslim household. Some ‘devout Christians’ vowed to boycott Tesco such was their outrage.
But how do Muslim families in Hull spend Christmas?
Walk into their home and you immediately notice the lack of decorations and tinsel. But you quickly realise this warm and friendly family have no desire to snub Christmas.
“The kids around here call me Father Christmas and ask me to get them a present because of my white beard,” taxi driver Waseem Khan, 63, said. “I joke with them and tell them to make me a list and I’ll see what I can do.
“Christmas celebrations have moved away from religion to some degree now.
FULL ARTICLE FROM HULL DAILY MAIL
Just this week we saw another young British Muslim, 22-year-old Salman Abedi disgracefully murdering young children, those of whom were his own peers, in an arena in Manchester.
This is not the first time that young people have turned to violence and terrorism. Whether it has been 17-year old Talha Asmal in Dewsbury or the young girls from Bethnal Green who, unbeknown to their parents and peers, concocted a plan to join Isis in Syria. It has all been seen before: “loving, kind, caring” teenagers who all of a sudden become murderers and members of a death cult. Young people that, in the end, vowed to evil methods to express their grievances.
Yet, how many ordinary young British Muslims have we consulted about this issue? Have their voices really been heard on this issue that primarily affects them? Of course, many of those groomed by radicalisation have accepted an ideological pathway that pits themselves against the rest, no matter how inhumane it might be. But could Salman Abedi’s Libyan heritage have been a grievance, caused by a failed British intervention destroying Libya and leaving a power vacuum filled by extremists, as claimed by one of his friends on Radio 4? Could an open dialogue have prevented such a drastic conversion?
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE INDEPENDENT
Fresh arrivals to any country feel blind and weakened: they seek jobs, housing and familiarity. Newcomers yearn for memories of their old nation state – Italian olive oil, south Indian dosas or Turkish kanafeh. Laws that appear foreign, and values that were never particularly strong at home, are slowly adopted through experience and navigation. Faith provides a shelter from tumultuous change.
In recent years, in no regard has the narrative about immigration and values proved more volcanic than in addressing the role of Muslims. Three new books attempt to cast a light on modern Islam’s contract with the West. Letters to a Young Muslim is a collection of missives written by the United Arab Emirates ambassador to Russia to his elder son, Saif, now aged 16. The author, Omar Saif Ghobash, was six years old when his own father, the UAE’s first foreign minister, was shot and killed by a teenage Palestinian assassin at Abu Dhabi International Airport in 1977. The intended target was the Syrian president Hafez al-Assad’s foreign minister, who was visiting the UAE; the 19-year-old gunman was later executed.
Ghobash’s book is part memoir and part instructional guide to the liberal values he would like to see flourish in conservative Islamic societies. He gives special prominence to educated imams, higher education and a greater tolerance of antithetical views. In the 40th-anniversary year of his father’s death, Letters to a Young Muslim is also a synthesis of grief and purpose. As he writes, “For me . . . it has been impossible to leave my father behind. I have carried his memory with me through the years, always imagining what he might have said to me, or done in my place.”
FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NEW STATESMAN
A great many things have been said about Muslims as UK citizens, mainly by non-Muslims. The prime minister, David Cameron, believes that if more Muslim women became proficient in English, for example, it would help beat extremism and terrorism. Meanwhile, Trevor Phillips, the former chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, says that UK Muslims “See the world differently from the rest of us”.
Phillips also presented a controversial Channel 4 programme called What British Muslims Really Think, which put across the message that Muslims are more conservative than the majority population and don’t want to integrate into wider society.
The debate is often highly intemperate – and both Muslim and non-Muslim voices alike have suggested it contributes to further stigmatisation of an already marginalised and disadvantaged Muslim population. In this highly politicised climate, the relationship between Islam and citizenship has also come under scrutiny by Citizens UK, a charitable voluntary organisation with churches, mosques and unions among its members.
In July 2015, Citizens UK launched its Commission on Islam, Participation and Public Life headed by conservative MP Dominic Greave. Greave somewhat unfortunately framed the Commission’s work as aiming to “help tackle extremism”.
The commission is holding a series of public hearings throughout the UK, asking Muslims to speak about barriers to their participation in society but also asking how “the Muslim community” can improve its participation. Although commendable for speaking with and soliciting views from Muslims around the country, there is also a problem with the approach chosen by Citizens UK, in that it only focuses on the Muslim population. In a febrile political atmosphere, it risks legitimising the isolation of Islamic faith and the prejudiced idea that Muslim citizens in Britain are uniquely problematic and a “one-voice” community.
FULL ARTICLE FROM UK ECONOTIMES
“The Donald” has once again reared his head, this time in an interview with Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. After being called out last year for his lie about no-go areas in the UK by the Chief of the Police, he claimed today that Muslims are sheltering terrorists and not reporting suspected terror cases to the police.
The problem with Donald Trump – other than the fact that his statements on Muslims seem to be a classic case of political fear-mongering: conflating issues of terrorism, criminality, refugees and migration to gain votes with no regard to its consequences – is that he seems to makes claims based on very little real evidence.