What British Muslims Really Think: My Analysis


Firstly, I thank all those who have (and continue) to send me messages of support, following my appearance on Channel 4’s documentary “What British Muslims Really Think”. I appreciate this very much.

 A two hour interview reduced to a few seconds

In my opinion, my views on the topics raised in the documentary that I spoke on (polygamy and gender relations) were represented to a good extent, however it could have been extended further for this was only a snapshot of what was actually said by myself and my co-panellists (namely Hamza Andreas Tzortis, Amra Bone and Atif Nawaz).

The snapshot was part of a two-hour panel discussion on the issues raised in the documentary, which were discussed at a much greater length also including other topics which was not aired. One of those issues raised was gender separation. In this discussion, Trevor Phillips brought up the incident that happened at University College London, regarding the seating arrangements at a gender segregated event in 2013.

I mentioned that gender separation is something that indeed does have a basis in Islam, and how the understanding of gender segregation in the mind of Mr. Phillips and liberal society differs greatly to that of the Islam. The differences I highlighted were the fact that separate does not mean unequal, and that even within the wider society this separation occurs in various aspects of social life.

It is unfortunate that my points made and based upon orthodox Islamic teachings, were drowned out by the reformist voices complaining about being a “dying breed”, as if the breed were some WWF panda at risk of extinction.

 

 Muscular Integration and Liberal Inconsistencies

 “In my view, we have to adopt a far more muscular approach to integration than ever, replacing the failed policy of Multiculturalism.” – Trevor Phillips

Essentially, what Trevor means is that forced assimilation of the Muslim community is needed, which entails imbibing secular liberal values in place of Islamic values. In order to try and achieve this, it involves shaming the Muslim community into recanting their views and/or shaping these views to be in consensus with the opinions of secular liberal society. Of course one ought to raise an eyebrow at this suggestion for a myriad of reasons:

Firstly, considering that our society is a supposedly a liberal society, one of the tenets of liberalism is pluralism. Under pluralism this means you would have to tolerate people’s conceptions of a good life, and even allow these conceptions to flourish! Even if they are contrary to the prevailing norms of what society characterises as a good life, or in this case Trevor’s. Unification does not mean uniformity, and the key to achieving that unity amongst people is by accepting their differences. What Trevor has done is exposed the inconsistencies in liberal thought, liberal intolerance, and by default himself.

 

Second, the use of reformist voices from within the Muslim community is used to employ a divide and conquer strategy of Muslims.

Mr Phillips’ argument pretty much emphasised the fact that Muslims are different from the wider society, because Muslims hold more socially conservative views on issues that many in our society would hold with general liberality.

As Mr. Phillips prides himself on being a staunch liberal, this social conservatism of Muslim is heresy in a secular liberal society – therefore making Muslims “some distance away from the centre of gravity of everybody else’s”.  I find this problematic as the findings do not ONLY make Muslims “out of step” with the rest of Britain as Trevor may want people to believe. He could have equally conducted a similar survey on sections of religious communities such as: Roman Catholics, Mormons, Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews, or any other religious minority. It is likely that outcomes of such surveys would produce similar results.

But of course Channel 4 would unlikely commission such a documentary to feature this as it wouldn’t be as newsworthy. Even if it did, it would be balanced with the spiritual benefits that religion brings to the individual.

In Mr. Phillips attempt to bridge the gap and close the ‘chasm’ between Muslims and the wider society, he’s failed abysmally instead alienating them and reinforcing a clash of civilisations narrative.

 

Final thoughts

The findings of the documentary served to only castigate Muslim for their views, and thereby place Muslims at a variance with British culture. Correspondingly, this can foster a climate of hate and fear to flourish and further the neo-conservative agenda intent on trying to reform Islam.

In order for Muslims to successfully counter these narratives, calls for reformation, and media scrutiny of our teachings and principles, this requires us to be unified and staunch in our faith and be unapologetically Muslim and practice our faith according to its teachings. This also includes each and every one of us, whether collectively or individually, making a voice for ourselves. One should never allow another to tell their story, because if they do, it is highly likely that it could be construed to your detriment.

 

Lastly, in engaging in discourse on Islam, Muslims and community cohesion this must come from a positive place not from the beginning point of Muslims being ‘the other’. Similarly it should not be born out of a preconceived notion (based on colonial undertones), that Muslims must conform to liberal thinking, and therefore need ‘civilising’.

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