Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Perspective: The British Muslim -- chasing shadows | Jeremy White-Stanley


A 2016 ComRes poll commissioned by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association found that 43 percent of the British viewed Islam as a negative force in the UK and 28 percent believe that Islam is compatible with British values.

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | US Desk
Source/Credit: Daily Times
By Jeremy White-Stanley | April 27, 2017

The acceptability of Islamophobic rhetoric has clearly become more commonplace in Western politics, perhaps best exemplified by Trump’s Muslim travel ban and the rising popularity of European anti-Islamic populists such as Marine Le Pen or Geert Wilders. Britain’s mainstream politics has never been as overtly anti-Islamic as of its continental counterparts.Even UKIP’s former leader Nigel Farage has stressed that he wanted to attract the support of sensible moderate Muslims. In the light of such extremes across the West, the vote to leave the EU, although stoked by xenophobic threats such as floods of Turkish immigrants coming to the UK, was not an explicit reaction to Muslim immigration. In fact, fears of Eastern European immigration matched the fears of their Islamic counterparts. The shift to hard stance on Islam in British politics seems a way off, as there have been no laws in Britain to ban the Burka like in France, and is no closer to entering mainstream political discourse.

However, outside of Britain’s political institutions, the lives of British Muslims are becoming increasingly complex.

Moderation from Westminster also does not negate the everyday discrimination felt by the British Muslim community. A 2016 ComRes poll commissioned by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association found that 43 percent of the British viewed Islam as a negative force in the UK and 28 percent believe that Islam is compatible with British values.

Baroness Warsi, the Tory peer, said that Islamophobia had passed the dinner table test, but it is still considerably distasteful for the middle class to engage in anything like the EDL’s street marches. This is still seen as the domain of the angry white working class male. The British middle class is less overt in its discrimination and is also the domain of many of the liberal Remainers, who see the discrimination against Muslims as a part of the toxic nationalist culture brought in by the Brexit. It is clear that Britain’s anxieties about its Muslim population and Muslim immigrants are complex and are currently part of a wider picture of the current reimagining of British identity in Brexit Britain.

The picture of a typical British Muslim is also a messy one.In typical British fashion, it is marred in class strata with many Muslim communities from the Commonwealth, in particular, Pakistan, aspiring to be a respectable middle class. Regional differences also play a significant role as a high percentage of radicalised Muslims in the UK come from urban areas with ghettoised Muslim communities, such as Birmingham.The Birmingham Post declared in 2013 that the city had become a byword for Islamic terrorism. In Louise Casey’s 2016 report on integration, she said,“there was a ‘vicious circle’ in which Muslims felt besieged with the blame of terrorism.This in turn leads to feelings of distrust and resentment.” This siege mentality is amplified in ghettoised communities, forcing them to look inward as their identity increasingly becomes tied to being a Muslim and an outsider.

However, the Muslim experience of a city like London – which has a Muslim mayor in Sadiq Khan and voted against Brexit, is seen as the seat of liberal and internationally focused demographic – is very different.  This is especially true for the professional middle-class Muslim Londoners who mix within the liberally minded metropolitan bubble.

The problem with summarising the Muslim experience in the UK is that there is no one Muslim community, but more of a multitude of different Muslim immigrant communities such as Somalis, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis, which exist in a fractured Britain and are painted in the broad strokes of ‘being Muslim’. One thing many Muslim communities share is the feeling of being outsiders in Britain, but even this varies massively by region and socioeconomic status. If anything, a unified Muslim community in Britain – in its infancy – is being formed under the pressures of polarisation and ghettoization. In creating caricatures in the media, we forge them in real life as simple ideas and lines in the sand are easier to digest than complexity. Generalising is how humans comprehend society and history, but sometimes recklessness can summon the demons we imagine into animation.


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