When I say ‘demand’ more of British Muslims, I don’t mean ‘ask’ more. That isn’t enough. Governments and civil society have been asking for long enough now, yet we still have a frightening lack of cohesion within communities where a large percentage of Muslims live. Nor has it encouraged a tolerant, inclusive attitude amongst huge swathes of Muslims.
The soft approach has failed; we have seen a rise in complacency by successive governments who have taken to handling the groundswell of problems involving Muslims in British society with kid gloves. Now it is surely right to be more demanding.
A few years ago, the British novelist Martin Amis gave a scathing polemic during an interview with The London Times about the political correctness towards Islam in the West. His own experience came from the ridiculous scenario of his daughter, a small white Jewish girl, having her bag stripped out and searched at airport security, to save face and make up the numbers on the supposed ‘random bag searches’ for politically correct reasons.
Amis suggested that Western society be more restrictive on Muslims, saying that “the Muslim community will have to suffer until it gets its house in order.” His language was crass, sure enough. And he later went on to retract the bulk of what he had said. I still think his message was for the most part right.
It’s quite clear that Western Muslims in the large are not doing in any way near enough to integrate, stop radicalisation, or respect the values of the countries they enter. A recent book written by a BBC reporter, Innes Bowen, gives testament and empirical evidence to this claim.
The findings of Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent are harrowing; we find historical data pointing at every front to the worrying conclusion that British Muslims and Muslim organizations are far less ‘liberal’ and progressive than perhaps we would like.
It alleges, for example, that the Muslim Council of Britain, ever the flagship of representation of Muslims in Britain, has its ideological roots in the message of Jamaat-e-Islami, the political group which imposed sharia on Pakistan. Surely you must remember when the same group boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day.
It also says that the Muslim Association of Britain was founded by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, by all intents and purposes a terrorist Islamist organization. Also, only a tiny number of mosques (single figures amongst a sea of thousands) support a progressive stance within Islam, Bowen tells us.
Moving from the academic to the practical: my friends are for the most part a pretty liberal crowd, desensitized by years of drinking in Soho and Dalston. But many of them have tales to tell where they’ve experienced verbal or physical assault by Muslims, based on ethnic or religious prejudices.
This is true particularly of my white friends; especially the white female friends. Examples include men steering their niqab-clad daughters away from passing them in the street, shouting at them and being pushed for making very slight physical contact when stepping onto a bus, and (in my own case) having a man ask me why “I let my woman dress like that”. I do not have any women, per se, and I have never made a woman dress in a particular way as to avoid offending sensibilities. But this of course makes me my friends and most of British civilized society filthy kuffar to these people; didn’t you know that?
With the seemingly endless stream of ultra-orthodox tendencies amongst a large amount of Muslims in Britain, particularly amongst young male Muslims, you would think mosques in Britain would recognize this, right? I mean, have you ever been to a religious service? The imams and workers don’t just teleport away at the beginning and end of the service, having no interaction with these people.
These religious leaders interact with their flock, the members of the Dar al-Islam, on a daily basis; and somehow, the extremism continues, the antithetical stance to liberal Western tolerance is maintained, the orthodoxy is fed.
This is not good enough; it should be the civic duty of imams and community activists to not only preach the message of tolerance, but also to inform the authorities if any Muslim is showing increasing signs of radicalisation. It is time that Islamic authority figures stop being seen to be consistent in their saying one thing to please a British audience, whilst encouraging something starkly opposite amongst their kin.
Contrary to the drive of this article, I am not at all fond of collective blame. I deplore the treatment of Israelis and Jews, who are perceived as being unjust by extension for the supposedly disproportionate actions of the government of Israel. I also know full well that most British Muslims aren’t planning on cutting off any heads for holy jihad any time soon.
But, to be frank, there is no problem with Jewish extremism in this country. There is no credible risk of radicalization amongst Protestants in our schools or university systems. Quakers do not desert their jobs and native countries to try and establish brutal rogue states. Islam is the anomaly, and failing to give both the religion and its adherents special focus would be a grave mistake.
It is becoming my belief, and no doubt has been the belief of many others for some time, that there is a really crisis with Islam in the West. We are constantly told that there is a battle within Islam to turn it into a progressive, inclusive religion. I wish those involved in that the very best of luck. But that doesn’t mean that in the meantime, civil society in Britain can have such a palpable threat against it. Enough is enough. It’s time we started demanding more of British Muslims.