Tag Archive: British Muslim

Unlocking British Muslim potential is long over-due!

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Qari Asim MBE is the senior Imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds

Qari Asim MBE is the senior Imam at Makkah Mosque in Leeds

 

Integration matters to all of us. We all want to live together well in Britain, without stigma or fear of each other. Sharing values and opportunities with fellow Brits - an aspiration that is strongly shared by Muslims and others alike - is of paramount importance post the Brexit vote.

The “Missing Muslims” report, commissioned by Citizens UK and chaired by Dominic Grieve, former Attorney-General, is a timely and valuable addition to the literature about Muslims. It recognises the huge contribution of Muslims, makes useful recommendations to achieve greater integration and avoids the trap of conflating religion and ethnicity. The report follows an 18-month Commission that listened to a wide range of voices politics, business, faith and civic society.

The report makes 18 practical and inexpensive recommendations to unlock the potential of Muslims for the benefit of all. The report does not seem to seek ‘special treatment’ for British Muslims.
There are three recommendations of that stand out for me.

First, the government needs to adopt a workable definition
of anti-Muslim prejudice and legislate against it. Following the atrocities at Manchester Arena and London Bridge, attacks against Muslims went up fivefold, and more recently there have been reports of a number of acid attacks on Muslims.

The 2016 hate-crime action plan, set out by the government, and assurances by the Home Secretary following the Finsbury Park are commendable steps but there is a need to legislate against such hatred.

A working definition of anti-Muslim prejudice could be informed by the definition of anti-semitism adopted by the government in 2016. In addition to legislation, there needs to be a change in civic attitudes towards Muslims so that they are neither treated as suspects nor stigmatised.

Recently, I held a workshop between our mosque and local third sector organisations and we learnt that most people are still either in denial of anti-Muslim hatred or are unaware of the impact it has on young Muslims. Anti-Muslim hatred is a notable obstacle to integration and participation in public life.

Second important recommendation is for the Government to develop an integration strategy. There seems to be significant scepticism across British society about the integration, and even the shared allegiance, of fellow Brits. This has resulted, at times, Muslims not sharing equal status or access to equal opportunities.

A member of my congregation in Leeds applied for the same job - one application filled in with a Muslim name and the other with an English name. He had positive replies from employers on the application with an English name but never heard back on the other application. Similar experiences are shared by many young Muslims across the country.

The government and the business sector must help to identify and break down the barriers to equal opportunity.

Of course, integration cannot solely be achieved by governments' actions. We all need to pay attention to the places where our society looks more fragmented. No community should become segregated or cut-off – whether that’s because of a lack of contact with people from other backgrounds, or not speaking fluent English, or because some people don’t want them to be part of our shared society. The report acknowledges that integration is a two-way street and we all need to find ways of engaging across ethnic lines.

It goes without saying that protection from anti-Muslim prejudice and greater integration requires meaningful engagement between the state and parts of the Muslim community, including those with whom the government may disagree. Both parties need to proactively address the 'broken relationship' to develop a more united, cohesive and stronger nation. The politicians need to reach out beyond community gatekeepers and include women and young in their engagement, and the Muslim communities must also provide access beyond the usual gatekeepers.

Third, the cluster of recommendations made to the British Muslim communities focus on Muslims investing in their mosques and Imams, capacity building and improving the governance of their institutions.

The recommendation for Muslim umbrella bodies to introduce voluntary standards for mosques and Islamic centres is critically important, although enforcement of such standards is going to prove extremely difficult without mosques fully recognising the importance of those standards for the development of the Muslim community.

Stronger safeguards, better governance and more access for women to these institutions is long overdue. If the Muslim community excepts equal opportunities in society, they must provide similar opportunities to young men and women in their own institutions.

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THE ENEMY WITHIN: Sayeeda Warsi explores the tale of a Muslim Britain

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Being a British Muslim for the past decade or so has been a brutal affair. How did this state of affairs come to pass? What are the lessons and challenges for the future - and how will the tale of Muslim Britain develop?

Sayeeda Warsi draws on her own unique position in British life, as the child of Pakistani immigrants, an outsider, who became an insider.

She became the UK's first Muslim Cabinet minister, to explore questions of cultural difference, terrorism, surveillance, social justice, religious freedom, integration and the meaning of 'British values'.

Looking at changing attitudes and policy, especially over the last fifteen years, ‘The Enemy Within’ examines in close focus whether our counter terrorism strategy has been effective or counterproductive and what Britain's Muslim communities might have become had the war on terror not happened.

Britain has often found groups within its borders whom it does not trust, whom it feels have a belief, culture, practice or agenda which runs contrary to those of the majority.

From Catholics to Jews, miners to trade unionists , Marxists to liberals and even homosexuals, all have at times been viewed, described and treated as 'the enemy within'. Muslims are the latest in a long line of 'others' to be given this label.

Uncompromising and outspoken, filled with arguments, real-life experience, necessary truths and possible ways forward for Muslims, politicians and the rest of us, this is a timely and urgent book.

Sayeeda Warsi, Britain's first Muslim Cabinet minister, is also a lawyer, businesswoman and racial justice campaigner. Appointed a life peer at the age of thirty-six, she served as Chairman of the Conservative Party, in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and as Minister for Faith and Communities. In the summer of 2014 she resigned from government, citing its 'morally indefensible' policy on Gaza.

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Prison for Prince Harry death threats

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A British Muslim convert who told police he wanted to kill Prince Harry was jailed for three years last week after pleading guilty to threatening murder.

Ashraf Islam, 31, was told by the judge who sentenced him at Isleworth Crown Court that his plan had been ‘vague and unlikely to succeed’, but he nevertheless posed a danger to the public.
Ashraf Islam

Police said Islam, who was born Mark David Townley and changed his name around 2010 after converting to Islam, walked into a police station in Hounslow, West London, and openly confessed to officers his intentions to endanger the life of the 28-year-old member of the Royal Family.

Police searched the hotel room, where he had just checked in after flying into London from Thailand, and seized his laptop. They found no weapon. Islam, originally from Belfast in Northern Ireland, had no fixed abode at the time.

Media reported that Islam had said he felt he had a ‘moral right to judge’ Prince Harry, a captain in the British army, because he disagreed with the actions of the military.

Prince Harry, grandson to Queen Elizabeth and fourth in line to the throne, has carried out two tours of duty in Afghanistan, the most recent as an attack helicopter pilot.

prince harry
Islam's defence lawyer told the court he had a personality disorder, according to media reports.

Islam made the threat on the day after soldier Lee Rigby was murdered in broad daylight by two British Muslim converts on a busy street in southeast London close to an army barracks.

News of the killing and its aftermath dominated British media headlines for days. The killers, Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, were convicted of murder on 19th December and will be sentenced on Thursday 20th February.

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Islamic Relief head to Number 10

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As news reports the suspected murder, torture and mutilation of 11,000 detainees by the Syrian regime, British Muslim students and Islamic Relief and community representatives have delivered a UK-wide call for action signed by thousands to 10 Downing Street on Tuesday the 21st January.

This was followed by an address from Secretary of State for International Development, Justine Greening, in which she set out a £2m grant for Islamic Relief’s work supporting Syrian refugees in Jordan with education, shelter and cash assistance.

“I think we could be seeing the start of a significant change in the way ordinary Muslims are engaging and campaigning with the government,” says Islamic Relief’s UK Director Jehangir Malik.

“Mosques, students and community members increasingly want to do more than just give money when they see suffering or injustice.

“They are now demanding political solutions and taking peaceful direct action. Islamic Relief’s Stand up for Syria petition reflects the compassion and passion of our supporters, and sends a strong message to the Prime Minister on the eve of the Geneva peace talks.”

islamic relief downing street
Liverpool psychology student Raisah Chowdhury added: “My local community has worked hard to collect signatures for the petition. Doing this has made me feel that we are at last doing something proactive to help and that our concerns will be heard.” Nadia is one of four students to hand in last week’s petition.

International Development Secretary Justine Greening said: “The UK has been a leading voice on the Syria conflict. We have pledged £600 million, our largest ever response to a crisis, and have been clear that others must step up with the funding and the political will required to get aid through.

“I welcome the chance to hear from Islamic Relief’s supporters and to look at how we can work together to reach even more people in need.”

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