Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Life through their Eyes

With the rise of the BNP, more and more people are becoming aware of how Islamophobia is growing at a startling pace in England. I think it's critical that one is aware of others' difficulties and problems, especially if he suffers from the similar difficulties under a different 'mask'. So, I asked 6 friends - all British Muslims between the ages of 18-35 - about what they've faced as Muslims in England, their home, and what kind of future they see.

Opinion 1:

The state of Muslims in the UK is one that constantly under scrutiny. The rise of the BNP in recent elections was an eye-opener to many. A damning indication of people losing patience it would appear.

The reality is most Muslims in the UK just want a quiet life, one where they are able to enjoy simple aspects and privileges afforded by being a British citizen whilst practicing their religion. Most of us don't want special allowances to be made for us, we aren't offended by Nativity plays, flags of different nations, Christmas or any other aspect of 'British life' (whatever that is). But unfortunately there's always someone somewhere who sees themselves as being fit to speak on behalf of Muslims as a whole, this voice seems often to be one of demand and anger; that's the voice that Joe Public always seems to hear, after all one loud shout is always louder than a thousand whispers of condemnation. The British public sees the Muslims as 'Other', people who want to dress in a 'foreign' manner, who want to change laws and age old traditions to accommodate them. Who can then blame them for wanting Muslims out of 'their' country?

For Muslims like myself, our own shortcomings as a community are far more disappointing than the ignorance of the average member of the British public who isn't able or willing to look past the headline. Why is it that we seem to constantly fuel the animosity towards ourselves? Instead of displaying the humbleness and wisdom that we as Muslims *should* have? Instead we have ill-informed Muslims looking to fight wars that simply aren't there.

Where it will all end, I don't know. The policies of the BNP should be a sobering reminder of how good we all have it here in the UK, the rights that *every* UK citizen is equally afforded shouldn't be taken for granted. If only I knew how to get this message across to my Muslim brothers and sisters in the UK.

Opinion 2:

So the pseudo-liberalism of europe has been exposed. Leopold Weiss said this of Europe and it's relationship with other races/creeds/religions mainly Islam.

“The traumatic experience of the Crusades gave Europe its cultural awareness and its unity; but this same experience was destined henceforth also to provide the false color in which Islam was to appear to Western eyes. Not simply because the Crusades meant war and bloodshed. So many wars have been waged between nations and subsequently forgotten, and so many animosities which in their time seemed ineradicable have later turned into friendships. The damage caused by the Crusades was not restricted to a clash of weapons: it was, first and foremost, an intellectual damage – the poisoning of the Western mind against the Muslim world through a deliberate misrepresentation of the teachings and ideals of Islam. For, if the call for a crusade was to maintain its validity, the Prophet of the Muslims had, of necessity, to be stamped as the Anti-Christ and his religion depicted in the most lurid terms as a fount of immorality and perversion. It was at the time of the Crusades that the ludicrous notion that Islam was a religion of crude sensualism and brutal violence, of an observance of ritual instead of a purification of the heart, entered the Western mind and remained there; and it was then that the name of the Prophet Muhammad – the same Muhammad who had insisted that his own followers respect the prophets of other religions – was contemptuously transformed by Europeans into ‘Mahound.’ The age when the spirit of independent inquiry could raise its head was as yet far distant in Europe; it was easy for the powers-that-were to sow the dark seeds of hatred for a religion and civilization that was so different from the religion and civilization of the West. Thus it was no accident that the fiery Chanson de Roland, which describes the legendary victory of Christendom over the Muslim ‘heathen’ in southern France, was composed not at the time of those battles but three centuries later – to wit, shortly before the First Crusade – immediately to become a kind of ‘national anthem’ of Europe; and it is no accident, either, that this warlike epic marks the beginning of a European literature, as distinct from the earlier, localized literatures: for hostility toward Islam stood over the cradle of European civilization.

“It would seem an irony of history that the age-old Western resentment against Islam, which was religious in origin, should still persist subconsciously at a time when religion has lost most of its hold on the imagination of Western man. This, however, is not really surprising. We know that a person may completely lose the religious beliefs imparted to him in his childhood while, nevertheless, some particular emotion connected with those beliefs remains, irrationally, in force throughout his later life –

“‘ – and this,’ I concluded, ‘is precisely what happened to that collective personality, Western civilization. The shadow of the Crusades hovers over the West to this day; and all its reactions toward Islam and the Muslim world bear distinct traces of that die-hard ghost…

Pre-buscent Europe is up in arms again. When we march against the BNP and EDL(English defence league) outside Harrow mosque, you (the reader reading this) will think one of two things:
1. Go on boy!
2. You deserved to be protested against, Islam is a religion of hate and you haven't exactly done yourself any favours.

I say this to the people who say the latter. It seems to me as person from the inside of religion that is constantly maligned as much mine, that nobody cares to listen. There is a stigma a editorial of sorts that has to be sung from the same hymn sheet.

We protest against extremism and terror. Oh yes we do, and in large numbers. We publicise it and not one media outlet wants to cover it. Yet, when one of our mouth frothing crazy Muslims decides to say death to UK soldiers in Luton (okay there were 10 of em!), the whole world and their cameras are there to show how Muslims are a bunch backward cousin marrying untidy beardy peoples.

When we protest outside Harrow mosque against the right wing BNP, we won't stand by idly if they attack us - we won't hold back like ghandi, we will attack.

We will attack because we came to Europe because our Muslim countries are corrupt, autocratic and oppressives regimes. We came to Europe because after the Holocaust we thought Europe had a higher moral authority, we thought Europe wouldn't allow this to happen again.

Sadly it has. We are in tough place where we fight our own (the terrorists) and we fight the surrogate homeland (Europe). Whose side do we take?

Opinion 3:

Unfortunately (or fortunately) to be honest, I haven't come across much (apart from some comments by people at work) ... probably because people don't realise at once that I'm Muslim so they don't react in a completely hateful way. There'll always be anti-religious sentiment that follows us all everywhere but that hasn't increased in my personal life. The main thing that has changed is the way press portrays Muslims, ie. anything bad done by a Muslim will be portrayed as due to them being Muslim regardless of the fact that other non-Muslims have done the same act. Its the same as people relating suicide bombing to Muslims ignoring that this act was and is also carried out by Tamils in Asia. Now its all blamed on Islam. People forget that Islam forbids suicide in any form and also forbids the killing of unarmed people and children..ie. innocents.

Opinion 4:

English society in general is slowly moving forward into a multi cultural future. I personally feel that if children are educated in other cultures and religions it would help them understand and integrate with people from different walks of life. My main issue is with ignorant people with a complete lack of understanding or willing to accept or adapt to welcome other cultures, this ignorance is my main worry going forward. I personally feel that if people are unwilling to accept other cultures we will never achieve a harmonious multi cultural society in England. The rise of the BNP is something very worrying and again shows an ignorant side to some members of society, I feel that if these are the kind of people we wish to put in power then it reflects alot on the intelligence of society. I personally don't feel the BNP will ever get much further than where they are but people didn't think they would get this far and they have so it is something i'm intrigued to see going forward. From a British Muslim point of view I don't feel that British Muslims do enough to integrate with society, they don't try to fit in and understand other cultures as well as explaining their culture to others, this here is a stumbling block to achieve harmony. I personally have never suffered any hatred but the fact that i'm different to other people has caused me issues. I personally think times will evolve and it will improve given time. I feel a bit of understanding and willing from all parties will help England going forward.

Opinion 5:

Islam is the second largest religion in the UK, it does however fall way behind in terms of numbers to the number of Christians. There are currently about 2.4 million Muslims living in the UK making up just 3% of the population. It’s amazing then how much press this small minority receive. Some good, but much of it negative.

As I write I am reminded today is the 11th of September a fateful day not just in American history but world history. The attack on the Towers were, according to the official version of the story, done in the name of Islam. This lead to a fear and resentment to those who associate themselves with the faith. Muslims around the world were feeling the strain and tension especially here in Britain.

The main accusations thrown at Muslims by most people after 9/11 and also 7/7 was they didn’t come out and condemn the actions, they didn’t come out and join allegiance with the west, that their apparent lack of voice regarding this somehow lead to them colluding with the actions of the terrorists. This was and is the main accusation as most people rightfully understood Islam is not a religion of terrorism, but people needed to vent frustrations and anger and so ‘moderate’ Muslims were asked to answer some telling questions.

I mentioned 9/11, 7/7 and the questioning of ‘moderate’ Muslims as they are the spark that lit the Islamophobic fire in the UK, and other parts of the western world. The aftermath of 9/11 and 7/7 lead to a number of attacks on Muslims and Muslims places of worships. An Afghan Taxi driver was left paralysed and there were countless reports of women who had their hijabs ripped of, some of these stories and also the story regarding the death of a Muslim man kicked to death by a groups of white youths while shouting ‘Taliban, Taliban’ did not reach the nation press. These incidents tend to be classed as ‘racist’ by the police rather than ‘Islamophobic’ and so tend to go unreported, this means the figures for ‘Islamophobic’ incidents are not accurate when presented to the public.

The point here being the press do and will report what they wish, the number of deaths and incidents of Islamophobic activity are not reported, and the number of Muslim voices who condemn terrorism and other barbaric acts done in the name of Islam are not given the time they deserve. There are voices in the mosques and among the Muslim communities, of British Muslims who condemn such actions but the voices that receive the news lines are those of the likes of hardliners from organisations such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, or the random Muslims who shout and scream at MP’s.

Researchers in Warwick University have been noticing a changing trend regarding how Muslims are portrayed in the UK. They report that headlines in the red top newspapers have moved away from calling Islam a religion of terror and death, but have now moved towards claiming Muslims are unable to live in the UK, and being Muslim and British are two things that do not go hand in hand.

This changing trend and claims that Muslims wish to have Shariah Law in the UK for all citizens, and the apparent Islamification of Britain has given ammunition to the likes of the BNP. The BNP have used these claims to justify their policies and gain large numbers of votes and a seat in Europe.

More recently in UK is the emergence of the English Defense League, a group set up to highlight the apparent Islamification of the country, in reality it is a group of football hooligans and racists. The planned protests and marches have brought out counter protests and marches and have lead to a number of arrests from both sides.
This reminds me again of 2001, but this time the summer of 2001 where there were running battles in Burnley, Bradford and Oldham between mainly Asian youths and Far Right groups. The reality being as journalist reported it is a group of young men excited for a fight.

Most people don’t know or understand very little about Islam, those who are racist and preach Islamophobic violence would preach anti-Semitism, or racism against Blacks and Asians. Those who are against such groups then hit back, not with wisdom and words but with fists and feet, the vicious circle continues and leads to a deep dislike of the ‘other’ groups involved.

The majority of Muslims in Britain like the country we live in, like the freedom and opportunities afforded to us in the west, like the sense of belonging we have in the country. The majority of us will seek counsel and guidance of matters relating to Shariah Law when we require from Imams and scholars but do not believe Shariah law should be implemented on all the citizens of the UK.

The majority of British Muslims speak out against terrorism whether is it done in the name of Islam or otherwise and will continue to do so.

Opinion 6:

At the time of the terrorist attacks I really didn’t think much would change until I boarded an over-ground train with a back pack, when a man who was just about to step onto the train took one look at me and stepped back off. Since then I’ve noticed an ever growing wave of fear, anger and ultimately hate toward my people expressed in protests and throughout the media. It’s impossible not to want to explain one’s beliefs when writing such text, however it is simple to highlight that there is such a huge level of ignorance in government and of those who claim to be learned people when talking of Islamic beliefs on TV, radio and online. I fear that this will stem into protests towards the existence of mosques within society in the coming years, and ultimately can see some right wing groups aiming to drive Muslims out of small towns and cities. I pray that this doesn’t happen but for many it is hard not to associate the word terrorism from Islam. Due to the fact that terrorists try to justify their actions by the words of Allah it isn’t hard to see why these associations are made. However, what is shown to the masses hardly ever distances these actions from the true principles of Islam, again stemming from the limited knowledge of Islam shown by reporters. As a Muslim, I can’t help but feel that I could be in danger if I cross the path of the wrong person, simply based on my name or my looks and I believe the only way to correct such a growing polarisation between Muslims and non Muslims is to show non Muslims more signs of Muslims being kind, gentle people since at present they only see a negative image of us pretty much everywhere.


Kassana said...

I thought I was your only muslim 'friend'!

Avram said...

I'm full of surprise K! :)