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Muslim life in Britain

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For many Muslims across the world the 1.8 million Muslims in the UK represent a success story unmatched anywhere in the world where Muslim immigration has taken place. With over 1000 mosques, the adoption of halaal food across the nations institutes and high street chains, Muslim MP's and a dozen Islamic schools, for many the Ummah in Britain has achieved more living in dar ul-Kufr than Muslims in the Islamic world. Muslim thinkers in the West such as Tariq Ramadhan and journalist Yasmine Ali Bai Brown have consistently asserted that the freedom to practice Islam afforded to the ummah in Britain is not available anywhere in the world even in the Muslim world.

 

History of British policy

After World War II the British Government advertised jobs in its former colonies. For Britain this was primarily the Indian sub-continent and the Caribbean. Based upon the notion that life would be good when they arrived in Britain many Muslims from Pakistan arrived on British shores throughout the 1950's and 1960's.

On arrival they faced a number of problems. With housing and employment major issues in post-war Britain, this led to immigrants to compete with others for resources. Many blacks from the Caribbean as well as Hindu's and Sikhs from India also arrived on British shores at the same time in the hope for a better life. The biggest problem all immigrants faced was the fact that most native Britons viewed the newcomers in the light of an ingrained racism and racial tension escalated by far right groups that encouraged people to view their privileges as under threat.

Prejudice and racism was a serious problem in the UK and even though migrants wanted to be part of British society the outrageous racism they encountered pushed many into their own desperate ethnic enclaves. The situation left them isolated to the stage where it was felt they would soon become a point of social division, leading totally separate lives and the nation began to debate the issue.

The engrained racism led by the far right discriminated against those who didn't share similar racial characteristics to them, so they called for stricter immigration controls and tighter policing on immigrant communities. Others, proud of Britain's history instead pressed for migrants to commit to certain, core ideas and actually like them. The outcome of this was that immigrants had to be ‘integrated' to prevent them segregating to live parallel lives in parallel societies and upsetting the solidity of society. France, Scandinavia as well as continental Europe all faced similar challenges of how to integrate immigrants into their ‘superior' culture.

In Britain some accepted racism had to be fought and were prepared to help ease the transition of immigrants willing to adapt into citizens. They saw their part of the two-way bargain as fighting racism. With this in mind the focus in the 1960's was two-fold: on the promotion of citizenship for newcomers, and also on immigration controls and a framework of legislation against racial discrimination to give immigrants a sense of belonging, to make them feel at home and facilitate integration. Integration in reality meant tolerance of immigrant culture as long as newcomers acceded to the common public identity and culture.

Hence in Britain just after Canada, minority culture was celebrated as ‘diversity' with minority activities in private life tolerated as long as minorities accepted the hegemony of indigenous British culture and a common cultural framework built on core liberal values in public life. The assumption here was if some tolerance was shown to immigrants then they would partake in society and eventually see themselves as British and adopt British values which included support for the nation's history, policies and all that it stood for.

 

Multiculturalism

Multiculturalism became British policy with the aim of integrating immigrants including Muslims. Multiculturalism as a concept recognised one's group and would in fact become a defining factor in recognising people. Multiculturalism can be summed up as: "The recognition of groups by society and the celebration of their diversity in order to equalise relations between minorities and the dominant majority in the conviction that no way of life was correct and all were deserving of equal respect".

This policy focused on equality for all and as a result many mosques were established, Halaal food was made available in high street fast food chains as well as many town centres. Islamic schools were also established, where an Islamic curriculum was offered to students. If Muslims were successful then it was felt they would adopt British culture, and as a result the permission for a number of Islamic institutes was seen as the means to achieve this.

 

9/11 and 7/7

The 1990's brought the Muslim community more and more into conflict with the host population. Rather than moving closer to Britain's culture, the ummah continued to adhere to Islam and in fact questioned British policies. A number of landmark events led to the politicisation of the Ummah in Britain, events such as the reaction to the publication of the Satanic Verses, the first Gulf war and Bosnia. Other conflicts such as those in Algeria, Chechnya, Dagestan, Kashmir and Gujarat increased activism while stoking tension. Then came the attacks on New York and Washington where Muslims found themselves unwittingly the minority group at the very centre of British politics.

As the ‘War on Terror' was announced the perceived threat of Islamic extremism was given wide attention in public debate. This was epitomised by hostility towards, and suspicion of, Muslims.

When Muslims with British passports were found to be fighting with the Afghan Taliban against British forces a discussion began on the loyalty of Muslims who were also British citizens and who were now seen as a people apart with a vision very different to what Britain had. 9/11 and then 7/7 brought Muslim identity, values and loyalty into question and Muslim minorities all over Europe found themselves bearing the brunt of violence and victimisation as suspicion of them rose to disproportionate levels.

 

Hatred for Islam

The terrorists attacks in the US and Britain proved to many that the Muslim ummah rather than integrating and adopting Capitalism has in fact held onto Islam and has rejected Western values by not openly condemning the bombers. It was this scenario that led to the collapse of multiculturalism as a tool of integration and the re-emergence of policies which demanded immigrants to adopt and like British values and history. These gave many liberals the much needed legitimacy to openly attack and defame Islam.

Hence the shari'ah, Hijab, hudood and Khilafah all came to be attacked in public. When Shabina Begum won her case giving her the right to wear Jilbaab in school after being expelled, the hijab was attacked as backward and oppressive, even leading to some Muslims condemning Shabina Begum for going to court in the first place. British MP Jack Straw also played his part by writing an article for a local newspaper where he mentioned he felt intimidated when Muslims women came to his political surgery in their Niqabs. A national debate ensured where it was said fully covered women would be difficult to communicate with and hence Islamic rules have no place in Britain. This debate intensified when a number of Muslim teachers were removed from their teaching positions due to being fully covered.

Britain wasted no time in passing legislation to silence Muslim dissent at its actions in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The anti terror laws made supporting Muslim resistance movements in Iraq and Afghanistan or criticising British foreign policy as criminal offences.

 

Understanding British policy

Britain has always been a racist state which views itself superior to others. Britain has a long history of racism, from medieval times, through years of the slave trade to the modern day. An apartheid-like system existed in early Anglo-Saxon England, which prevented the native British genes getting into the Anglo-Saxon population by restricting intermarriage and wiped out a majority of original British genes in favour of Germanic ones. For all the talk of Britain being a place for people of all colours, race riots have been an all too common occurrence on the British horizon. There were race riots across the UK in 1919, with further riots by immigrant and minority populations in East London during the 1930s. In the 1980s, perceived societal racism, discrimination and poverty sparked riots in areas with substantial African-Caribbean populations.

Britain realised with significant immigrant population needed to rebuild Britain after WW2 it was necessary to deal with this racist attitude amongst the populace so they could be part of Britain post war reconstruction. Unlike France which required immigrants to actually like French culture and show loyalty before they received anything from the state, the French refused to accept Multiculturalism, but rather only recognised the individual with the states job of protecting individual rights. The Hijab ban in France was a result of a symbol which represented a group (Muslims) and was seen as an obstacle to integration.

However, Multiculturalism as a policy in Britain was only a means to an end, and in no way was the acceptance of diversity and an acceptance of Islam. For these reasons the British government today is handpicking who the imams should be in mosques, it wants the teaching of British history alongside Qur'an classes, it wants the Muslims to spy on those who practice Islam and wants open support of British foreign policy aims abroad - even against Muslims.

The so called success many Muslims attribute to the so called tolerant British has in fact handcuffed Muslims as the British government expects payback in the form of support for British foreign policy. Britain's wants loyalty in return for privileges provided such as Islamic schools and mosques. All these so called pro-Islamic policies always had strings attached. It was very short sighted by many Muslims to think a colonial state like Britain actually liked Islam and Muslims.

It is Britain that leads the Islamic reformation debate across the world. Britain has poured money into overseas ventures and conferences inviting modernist thinkers across the world to develop policies to reform (change) Islam to a more compatible version.

 

Conclusion

Although the situation in Britain is difficult for Muslims one should actually view the situation through a different lens. That is the change in policy by Britain in directly attacking Islam means the ummah in Britain to her credit never integrated and abandon the deen but actually held onto it. The attack on Islam and Muslims in Britain is because Muslims refuse to abandon political Islam and support British policies around the world. The British government understands very well as the Qur'aysh did at the time of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وآله وسلم that political ideas always end with government. This is why the Khilafah is continually branded as totalitarian and dictatorial.

It was Britain that destroyed the Khilafah and created the state of Israel. There should be no doubt that any perceived policies which appear to be in favour of Muslims are in reality a precursor to something Britain would want to be repaid for. Since the 7/7 bombings Muslims in Britain are in no doubt that for all the so-called success they are praised for, in reality Britain expects loyalty in return for this.

Hence in reality there is no difference between all the nations in the West when it comes to Muslims. They all aim to integrate them (i.e. leave political Islam), they just differ in the means to achieve such aims.

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ahmed said:

great article, except it needed to integrate the reality of the main british money making system into the argument a bit more. Its always been like this, wether , black slave trade, or opium wars, or Iraq....
Britain has its grubby fingers in all of the worlds pies, and its methods involve sending back assimilated brown faces with white coats to front the global blood sucking.
The main argument UK has with Muslims here, is we are more aware of the blood sucking, and so are capable of exposing this major artery, and if the public were given enough time to think about it, it would cause the UK major income source to have a heart attack....The Muslim victims are brutally suppressed from complaining, so any 'assistance' in breaking free of the global system, from uk muslims has to be dealt with. Naturally it is the truth..but the truth cannot be argued against...that is why the negative lying propaganda has been used to cover up the awfull truth...muslims have to be silenced with dirty tactics.

The answer to this is for Muslims to have our own indepenedent business/ social networks..the jews, hundus, gays, and sikhs allready operate such networks..
 
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October 29, 2012
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Junaid Zafar said:

Aslaam-o-Alaikum!

I have lived in the UK for 4 yrs during my childhood and I have seen the public life. There was much hatred against Muslims in 89. British boys would shout ‘Paki’ ‘Paki’. But now things have gone for the worse as recent terror bombings in London have shown:muslims are looked at with skepticism and deep sense of disloyalty.
There is no point in living in Western Countries after one has completed his or her education. Islam is not about rituals like praying, fasting and Hajj. Muslims should first carve out a state on the principles of Shariah i.e. Koran and Sunnah, where all the laws as prescribed in the Holy Book are followed in letter and spirit. Then they should decide about leaving their homeland for the purpose of dawah.
I would suggest the Muslims living in Western countries to contribute towards their own homeland. The mother country needs the talents and skills of such talented individuals.
 
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March 31, 2010
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sale said:

i love islam
 
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March 23, 2010
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Adnan Khan said:

Salaams

Jzk for your comments Ahmed,

I won’t speak about Canada and its experience with Migrant communities, primarily because Canada was never a colonial state, hence I don’t think we can compare Canadian and British attempts at integrating migrant communities

Fundamentally When Britain speaks about integration it means something very specific, It is not speaking about wearing a suit, goings to Pubs etc. When the British government and politicians alongside many thinkers speak about Integration it is akin to assimilation, essentially they want Muslims to like Britain, its colonial history and abandon parts of Islam, mainly Political Islam.

It is Britain who is imposing its values on Muslims, not the other way round. All this is at a time When the Bangladeshi Muslims and Pakistani Muslims set up the most companies every year in the UK, Muslims are professionals, doctors, engineer’s and partake fully in contributing towards the UK economy, Although Many Muslims have disagreed with political participation in the UK, there exists 4 Muslim MP’s.

Hence Muslims have ‘been themselves,’ but the British government still isn’t happy with the state of Muslims. Muslims live as normal citizens, and in no way impose Islam upon the nation.

The point being brother, Britain has failed to convince Muslims of liberal secularism now they are just forcing it upon Muslims
 
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May 04, 2009
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Ahmed said:

The best thing you can do is integrate yourselves into society. You don't have to Drink, go to bars, eat pork, or anything unIslamic for that matter.
Just be yourself, and don't push your religious beliefs on others.

In Canada I've lived a very prosperous life living with these rules.
Yes there were instances where people questioned our religious beliefs, thought certain things were strange, did not understand our religion... but that is just it... they did not understand... they had not been educated about different religions or cultures.

I have always integrated myself into society and never purposefully made an attempt to stick out.
When people live & visit Muslim countries, they adhere to the countries rules. This means wearing Hijabs and refraining from drinking, and public displays of affection.

It would be hypocritical to NOT expect a certain level of this while living in western civilizations.
Luckily it is not even close!!! We are afforded the opportunity to live exactly how we want.... and most people don't object at all.

When we ask for too much accommodation, that's when you will see people getting upset.
We're allowed to worship, take breaks to read prayer, take religious days off.

The best thing we can do as Muslims is show people how good we actually are.
This will come from integrating with others, people of other creeds religions and backgrounds..... let them see that 99.5% of us are not confrontational, militants, or terrorists. (very few of them believe it anyway)

I was able to be elected as a leader many times in my life, when the population around me was 95% white.
I never had issues until the events of 911 scarred the Islamic Religion and all those who follow it.

I agree with Yusuf about Hijra. It is not fair for the few to ask everyone else to change for them... we must remember that we came here... not the other way around.

Maintaining a positive image of Islam is the only way we will win and undo the damage of 911 and the other attacks.

 
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May 01, 2009
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Haziq said:

I believe life is bad for muslims everywhere on this world right now, west or east. We could always leave our home and find somewhere we can practice Islam more freely, but I don't think that's the best thing to do. Take an example of the life of our prophet Muhammad S.A.W. at Mecca before Hijra: if life was really just about going to the mosque 5 times a day and fasting, would it really be logical that they were oppressed until their life was threatened? No, they are discriminated and violated because they tried to propagate Islam (da'wah) into the life of others. They didn't immediately leave their hometown so they can practice Islam more easily, although that's an option. Or retaliate with force; that too is an option. But instead they stayed put, keep propagating Islam. They didn't even retaliate with violence. They only left Mecca because Allah told them to Hijra, to form an Islamic State: a Khilafah. So, in my opinion, I should just stay put where my home is, keep propagating Islam, and try my best to chip in some effort to revive our Khilafah. If right now there's a Khilafah somewhere, I should keep doing my da'wah where I'm at until even my home town enjoined the Khilafah State as well. I think, leaving is only an option to me when I'm forced against my will to leave my Islamic responsibilities. That's my opinion, though.
 
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April 20, 2009
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winds of change said:

Where do you except 2 million odd muslims to go and do Hijra?


Seeing as there is already a view that muslims from other countires hold of us:

bounty bars, hafe muslims ect.


The face is things will get worse for us here; jsut like what happend to the jews all over Europe.


Seems its the same old tune being played on muslims.


The west has a leader, it has a structre for its people, it has a army ect.


We on the other hand; do not have leader or Union that protects muslims all over the world, be they in the west or East.

Go out and ask muslims in london, in bradford, anywhere in the U.K, how secure they feel here, and you wont find many that will say everything is hunky dory.


Most muslims don't feel welcomed and they don't see the U.K as a place called home.

anyway just an opnion.


 
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March 22, 2009
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mahdi said:

zazakallah brothers glad to know about the reality of muslims in UK
 
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January 30, 2009
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heri said:

Assalmu'alaikum. subhanallah this article helps me to understand muslims life in Britain, but we have to remember that Islam teaches us to be proud of our identity as muslims. be ghuraba generation that's the point, may Allah bless us to be the best muslims wherever we live, just say yes... i am a muslim. Jazakallah brothers..from Indonesia.
 
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December 19, 2008
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Adnan said:

Salaams

According to Hukm shari, you would need to migrate if you are unable to fulfil your Islamic responsibilities. This was deduced from the incident of the Muslims migrating to Abyssinia after they faced much persecution. The migration can be to anywhere where one can fulfil their Islamic duties such as praying, fasting etc. So the Muslims went and lived in the land of Negus even though he was non-Muslim.

In Britain I don’t think we are quite there yet, also Britain’s problem is one of Islamic identity and public displays of it. This is why the hijab is constantly attacked because it a statement in the public domain so it’s seen as rejecting capitalism and representative of Islam.

At present we take on the challenge and defend the deen the way it should be, Britain’s problem is with political Islam not the ibadat aspects of it (well not yet) so its not time for hijra yet
 
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October 29, 2008
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yusuf said:

Jazak Allah brother Adnan for your response, I see what it is that your are getting at now, I did look at life in britain through my own eyes, which is why i asked other readers to give their views also, I don't thin they need to now as your response was sufficient, yes I didn't take into account the arrests etc which have taken place in this country and as for cctv in the mosque we have one installed in our local one! What I meant by the backlash to 7/7 wasn't meant to paint a rosy picture after the event, what I meant was I literally thought we were going to come under constant physical attack from neighbours, bnp, basically everyone, sort of like a holocaust of the muslims similar type of things that have happened to muslims in bosnia or india, gujarat springs to mind, thats why i said incidents from individuals I apololgise I should have been more clear, I understand about the media branding us terrorists this has been happening for years and in no way am I suggesting otherwise. The main point that I can see now is britain is keeping us happy at home with mosques, jobs, halal food, islamic schools in order to win our loyalty while causing chaos in our countries. Can you please answer my other 2 points, specifically hijra because from how you have described it it doesn't look like things will get any better, especially if the tories come into power, is it the correct thing to do? is it running away from problems? how can we face the problems here in the west, what if my nightmare scenario above of pogroms does happen what then(I know its a bit far fetched!).
 
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October 29, 2008
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Adnan said:

Jazakhallah for your point’s brother in essence you have raised two issues,

1. Is Britain REALLY bad for Muslims, and
2. Is not Britain when looked at relatively to the Muslim world the best place to live in the world for Muslims?

This discussion about Muslim life in Britain needs to be put into perspective; my analysis was not an individual account but rather an observation from a societal perspective. All your examples of supposed ease of life on Britain are your own experiences which is not the correct way to view this issue. Although we can go to the mosque, such people now fit a profile, which the government consider a as a potential radical, you said we are not being spied upon by this country as is the case in the Muslim world, but over 1000 Muslims have been arrested and only 10 charged under the anti terror laws, Is this not harassment.

The British government has a very dismal record in stopping what it calls radicalisation as a result it has cast a very wide net to catch individuals with many innocent people captured in the process - just ask Mozzam Begg. Muslims are being stopped regularly under stop and search rules which many senior civil servants have admitted strained relations with the Muslim community. The governments anti terror laws allow for the proscription of groups and individuals who espouse any ideas not in conformity with British foreign policy and is now considered glorifying terror. You and I may be able to pray five times a day in mosques but mosques across the UK are being forced to install CCTV, handover information of active youth, they have even been asked to spy on individuals and the carrot used has been funding cuts.

With regards to Britain being the best place in the world to live as Muslims, this is exactly what Britain wanted to achieve with its Multicultural polices, where loyalty is even conferred to it rather then the umrnah. This is not a hidden fact anymore, since 7/7 various policy papers have said this was always British policy, it should be remembered that although Britain may allow you to practice Islam more then many nations in the Muslim world it is Britain that carved the Muslim world up and placed the very dictators that spy on Muslims, imprison them and monitor them in mosques. The non-Islamic scenario in the Muslim world was a direct result of Britain’s doing. It was Britain that led the discussions with Benazir Bhutto in London for her to return, her return was not for the love of the nation but rather the preservation of British interests.

I am shocked you can say the backlash after 7/7 wasn’t big, the whole nation lead by the government and aided by the media branded all Muslims as terrorists and future suicide bombers, even though they knew such actions were by a few Muslims. The Muslim community was treated like the Irish community who were blamed for the actions of a few.

Lastly I disagree that the British nation didn’t support the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, I agree initially there was much opposition as it was seen as a US war, however once British troops went in, the nation got behind its troops, that’s why you are lambasted if you do not support the troops. How can you be against the war and then at the same time support the troops.

This issue needs to be looked at from a societal perspective and not from an individual account, we must also ask what is Britain expected of us when Britain gives these so called privileges.
 
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October 28, 2008
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Zeeni said:

Fantastic article - JazakAllah Adnan
 
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October 28, 2008
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yusuf said:

I agree with most of what you say in your article, however, it can be argued is britain really bad for muslims, is it difficult to be a muslim in britain even with the war on terror, I can go to the mosque 5 times a day and not worry about if i'm being spied on as i've heard happens in some muslim countries, at work they are very accommadating to my needs, I must admit after 7/7 there was some suspiscion however through showing them my character I feel that I overcame this, another point is that after 7/7 there was not that big a backlash as you would have thought, there were incidents however these were carried out by individuals and not by society as a whole, generally muslims can go out and interact with society and not face problems, again incidents which have occured with people not getting jobs etc etc are few and far between, the people of this country rejected the war on iraq, only the hooligan drunken types accepted iraq had weapons of mass destruction, these are just my experiences, I would like you and other readers to comment on how they find life in britain as a muslim, have you had bad experiences? do you find people intolerant towards Islam? do you think britain is the best place on earth for muslims like a friend of mine described it?

This leads me to another argument, if the attacks that took place on 9/11, 7/7, madrid were carried out by muslims then what do you expect from western governments ( a muslim actually asked me this after 9/11 i.e so what they are defending themselves whats wrong with that), no nation in the world will let someone else threaten its way of life, hence what we are seeing is the western world protecting their ideology from another e.g you mentioned britain leading the "reformation" of Islam, some may argue they are only doing what is normal, would muslims not defend their ideology in similar circumstances? how can we answer such questions which almost seem to justify what is happening to muslims these days.

Finally what is your opinion on hijra? if life is bad for muslims in britain/west should we not move out and go back to the muslim world were we can practice islam more freely, one scholar does propagate this.
 
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October 26, 2008
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