Feb 072007

It looks like the Muslim issue is set to remain the subject of political polarisation for years to come: every time in a new guise and under a new title, from terrorism to integration, and from faith schools to the veil. This politically lucrative subject is now favoured by politicians of all colours and hues, from far right BNP extremists to centre left Blairites, and centre right Tories.


The latest to join this frenzied exploitation contest is the Conservative leader David Cameron. Bar the fake smiles and warm words, his speech last Monday looked like it could have been delivered by a Howard or a Duncan Smith, betraying the same commitment to a rigid notion of national identity, the same contempt for cultural pluralism and the same hostility to immigration. The Conservatives’ transformation it seems has only been skin-deep.

After vowing to break the ghettoes, Cameron now promises us to tear down the barriers. Like other politicians of the right and the left, he speaks as though it was the minorities who had created these high fenced rings of marginalisation and wretchedness, not the socio-economic system where they had found themselves as cheap oil for the wheels of British industry. For decades, they had been left to rot amidst the poverty and deprivation. And when they are finally remembered today, it is only as extremists and potential extremists. It might come as a surprise to Cameron and his Westminster colleagues, but Muslims, like other blacks and Asians, are not particularly fond of their ghettoes. They would certainly jump at the chance to abandon their housing estates and move next door to the aristocratic Tory leader.

On the same day that Cameron delivered his speech, the right wing organisation Policy Exchange published a report on extremism among British Muslim youth. The survey mixed a host of wildly unrelated questions together: faith schools, the Hijab, Sharia law, with support for violent anti-Western organisations. It is as though a girl’s wish to cover her hair, or family’s desire to send their child to a religious school were no less sinister than support for al-Qaeda. The underlying assumption is that Islamic religious expressions themselves are a danger and a problem.

Of the youngsters polled, 37% expressed a desire to live under Sharia law, a result reported by the Daily Express as “more than one third [of young Muslims] want Islamic law imposed in the UK”. The implication is that if you want to eat Halal food, marry according to Islamic law, or buy an interest free mortgage -which is what most Muslims understand by “Sharia”-, then you are a threat to the existing social order, legal system and cultural identity of the land no less. The truth is that the survey’s authors, like those who warmly greeted their words in the media and political class, have exploited the ambiguity and controversy surrounding the notion of Sharia in the minds of most Britons – which crudely simplifies this wide term and equates it with amputations and beheadings – to spread fear, suspicion and prejudice. Far from tearing down barriers, these are raising the “Berlin walls” ever higher, building, not breaking ghettoes.

The report concludes that multiculturalism is largely responsible for the emergence of a strong religious identity within Britain’s Muslim community. If this is the case, then the authors need to answer the following question: If cultural segregation, which is what they take multiculturalism to mean, is at the root of the surge in Muslim religiosity, then why are Muslim youngsters more, not less religious than their parents? After all, the elders are hardly more proficient in English, or more familiar with British culture and norms than their offspring. If multiculturalism were really to blame, then it is these culturally isolated Urdu or Bengali-speaking elders who should be the object of the political elite’s concerns and the target of its integration projects.

Reading the report, one would be excused for thinking that religious resurgence was peculiar to Britain, or to societies where multicultural policies are implemented. The reality, however, is that the world is witnessing an awakening of religious identities, in the US as in Russia, in Egypt as in Indonesia. Britain is no exception. In Muslim lands, the process is detectable in societies ruled by radically secular governments, such as Turkey, Tunisia, and the former central Asian Soviet republics like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, as in ones whose governments are more conservative like the Gulf countries and Pakistan, among ethnically and religiously homogenous populations as in diverse ones like Malaysia and Nigeria. This is true of countries where Muslims are a minority as in ones where they form the majority. Across all these, the phenomenon tends to be more common to modernised sectors of society than to those where traditional social patterns prevail. To understand complex socio-political phenomena, it is wise to avoid ready-made answers and easy scapegoats.

The bitter truth most seem unable to face is that the young Muslims endlessly scrutinised and analysed are British by birth, language and culture. They neither need to be coerced nor to be “inspired” into being British. If they have failed, then they are a living testimony to the failure of the system where they were born and brought up, with its class-ridden society, structural inequalities and discriminatory practices, and of the policies our government is pursuing abroad. For the reality is that these catastrophic policies are not just damaging our social fabric, they are destroying faraway societies, turning them into abysses of internecine killing, sectarianism and civil war.

Now the Conservatives want the government to add to its list of failed policies by targeting the Muslim minority’s leadership. Full of simplifications and generalisations, their policy report issued last Tuesday betrayed little understanding of the Muslim political and intellectual scene in the UK. The document lumps scores of vastly divergent positions together, democrats with theocrats, reactionaries with quietists, defenders of women’s rights with those opposed to them, all under the vague and misleading title of “Political Islam”. Yusuf al-Qaradawi, a highly respected figure celebrated by millions around the world as the voice of moderate mainstream Islam is thrust in the same category as extreme groups whose ideology he vehemently opposes. And where the reasoning is flawed, the same is expected of the conclusion. Having listed most active Muslim organisations in the country, the report recommends dispensing with these altogether and treating Muslims as “individual equal citizens” instead.

So the Muslim will, under the Tories, have to face the state as a naked individual, without the protection of any community organisations, or lobbying groups to defend his/her interests. What other communities take for granted is thus deemed unacceptable and declared forbidden for Muslims. The truth is that, beautiful as it is, the notion of equal abstract citizenship is meaningless to the resident of a housing estate in Tower Hamlets, who is five times more likely to live in overcrowded accommodation than his “equal” fellow white citizens, four times more likely to be unemployed, twice as likely to have no qualifications, live in social rented accommodation, and suffer from ill health. In the real world, the equal citizen is little more than a sweet myth.

The report speaks of increased alienation and politicisation within the Muslim minority, as though these were the creation of the community organisations, not of objective conditions on the ground and of the surrounding global climate. The current government is demanding that these bodies act as its arms, eyes and ears in the community, much like the colonial intermediaries of old, whose job was to regulate the local populations’ movement and communicate orders issued by the metropolis.

The Tories propose to go further, to eliminate these structures and operate in the vacuum, under the deceptive slogan of equal citizenship. This is a dangerous game to play, which would only benefit the extreme militant groups mainstream organisations are doing their utmost to marginalise. The question is: in the absence of such institutions, who would offer guidance and rationalisation to angry Muslim youth lacking in religious understanding and sound political experience, frustrated by lack of opportunities at home and provoked by scenes of occupation and destruction in a world growing tighter by the day? Our politicians would do well to pause and reflect. They should know better than to play with fire.


First Published in The Guardian, Wednesday 7 February 2007

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/soumayag/public_html/wp-includes/class-wp-comment-query.php on line 399

  44 Responses to “Playing with fire”

  1. It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without a doubt donate to this outstanding blog!
    I suppose for now i’ll settle for book-marking and adding your RSS feed to my Google account.
    I look forward to fresh updates and will share this website with my Facebook group.
    Talk soon!

  2. I once attempted to-use it all over my experience not only as being a spot treatment but being a preventive therapy.

    Also visit my page best face wash for acne marks (Shanna)

  3. Regularly use Acne Treatment Product to prevent potential outbreaks once spots have been manipulated.

    Also visit my web page acne scar cream walgreens (Roland)

  4. Howdy just wanted to give you a brief heads up and let you know a
    few of the pictures aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried
    it in two different browsers and both show the same results.

  5. Good blog you’ve got here.. It’s difficult to find high-quality writing like yours
    nowadays. I really appreciate people like you! Take care!!

  6. I’d like to thank you for the efforts you’ve put in penning this site.
    I’m hoping to see the same high-grade blog posts from you in the future as well.
    In truth, your creative writing abilities has motivated
    me to get my own, personal blog now 😉

  7. Magnificent site. Plenty of helpful info here. I’m sending it to
    a few friends ans additionally sharing in delicious.
    And naturally, thanks in your effort!

  8. Appreciation to my father who stated to me regarding this blog,
    this website is truly amazing.

  9. To begin with, nothing is completelyy wrong having adoring to enjoy.

    There are many people that reside you can eat and alpso
    there are many which try to eat to reside in. Though thhe complete people doesn’t are part of
    often of such categories. There are numerous that really like very good meal, nevertheless the lifestyles relly
    oon the meal. Nighttclub meals Cheshire can be liked in many parts of the country as well as forr anyone who iss a foods fan,
    you have to practical knowledge the type of food yoou have
    in this article. Go to a household pub Cheshire and benefit from the ideal
    foodstuff along with cocktails using your total
    family. Nothing is inappropriate with supportive you
    can eat. There aare numerous people that are living to eat
    and there are many exactly who take to reside in. Nevertheless the
    total people doesn’t remain in either of sjch different types.
    There are many who appreciate very good foodstuff, but the lives depend onn the food.
    Bar meals Cheshire can bbe beloved in many
    areas in addition to if you are some sort of meal fan, you
    need to practical knowlkedge the sort of eal yoou ave right here.
    Go to a family club Cheshire and you’ll enjoy the best food and also products with all your whole family members.
    The phrase bbar is usually linked to grownups.
    The greatest bars near your vicinity are gesnerally filled
    by simply sporting activities addicts exactly who love to notce their paticular squads battle the item out
    when they glass alcohol and also lager and so forth. But it’s not necessarily required that the youngsters cajnot cbeck out a nightclub.
    Of course, there are several pubs that you wouldn’t prefer to consider your kids to bee able to.

    However a family nightclub Cheshire is juust not amid most of
    these institutions. This pub meal Cheshire on this bar is indeed amazing that will every pereson gets to get
    pleasure from in some way or perhaps one other.
    This particular family members pub Cheshire
    offers the finest inside English food. You’ll discove a
    lot of people stating of whch British foodstuff
    seriously isn’t just like the meeal hat is certainly organized inside
    various other nations including Italy along with Spain yet others.
    Also, the trend regarding American indian curries possesses
    even more changed the olour scheme of the British foodies.
    Yet the fact is iin which British isles foods possesses its very own excellent preference.
    You consume normal United kingdom food therefore yoou can’t aidd however nearly coat your
    palms. Of course, this concerns how thee chiwf cook iis
    extremely good, however if you pay a visit to the
    absolute right place pertaining to pub food Cheshire, you
    coulkd expect this chef to become at the top of their own food preparration skill.
    On this family club Cheshire you have anything you
    wish to tske as wwll as take in. Inside beverages section you’ve optimum cask beers, United kingdom as well ass imported beer,
    cider in addition to a substantial number of bottls of wine.
    The meals selection is axditionally considerable
    and also you have the option to choose fom the restaurant selection, this 2-for-1 menu, this tavern food list plus the On the
    menus. Thiis mouth-watering dinners tend to be certain to produce you sense more than pleased.
    In case you would like obtaining that tavern foodstuff Cheshire,
    visit the web site in addition to check out the particular selection. All the details that you might want can be granmted within thee site
    ssuch as the amount to phone tto produe your
    own booking. Uppon weekdays chances are you’ll
    arrive at the actual cafe and find tthe place, yet during weekends, it can be
    foolhardy lloking to find a place with no booking.
    Regardless, it makes sense to pre-book beforehand inspite of whnen you are.

    Gather more informattion on-line to sample fantastic nighttclub meaqls Cheshire.

    When it reaches this loved onnes nightclub Cheshire you mijght have all those food products that make anyone happy.

    Thhe prices are usually well affordable, however
    the foodstuff is actually out from the planet.

    Take a look at my web blog – bokep

  10. For tech-savvy players, they become more inspired to improve their craft.
    One of the best things about the Rummikub game is that you can tailor any game
    to meet the needs of the people playing it. All this provides
    hours of fun at no cost, helping to sharpen the brain, improving memory and hand-eye coordination.

  11. Cheap Jerseys,Buy our official shop online jerseys top five seller – San Francisco 49ers,save up to 50% off.China nfl apparel supplier offer at the
    wholesale price.
    more from : 49er Jerseys supplier

  12. Hello every one, here every one is sharing such familiarity, therefore it’s good to read
    this webpage, and I used to pay a quick visit this webpage daily.

  13. IFTTT is a (Blog Writing Software Free Download)
    internet service that allows you to join Channels” (their terminology) collectively so that if one
    thing specific occurs, IFTTT can produce another desired
    end result on another related Channel.

  14. You can directly move to the next Asana without spending time in relaxation between positions.
    Take the information I provide for you in this article and apply it for great results.
    In fact, use of nidora in such food items which the dieter
    feel fuller from stomach very soon and he or she doesn’t feel hungry for more number of hours even if he or she performs extra
    physical workouts.

    Look into my web site :: hypothyroid treatment

  15. I could not resist commenting. Exceptionally well written!

  16. If it’s trying to find some, I mixed Cool Blue with some white froen eggs paint wiith Pink
    Parfait to lighten the pink? And young girls and produced by the ponies into
    something of a lasting friendship.

    My weblog – disney movies

  17. The enactment of video game habits as addiction is another
    area of controversy. The letters are spoken while selected by kids and assist them as how to pronounce them.

    We don’t know exactly what was going through these
    individuals head’s when they did what they did.

  18. My family always say that I am killing my time here at web, however
    I know I am getting experience all the time by reading
    thes good articles or reviews.

    My web blog :: web site (Edwardo)

  19. As the admin of this web page is working, no question very shortly
    it will be well-known, due to its quality contents.

  20. Concesso, molto utile messaggio

  21. Hi there mates, its enormous article on the topic of tutoringand
    entirely explained, keep it up all the time.

  22. The top spot-treatment of acne while in the less mainstream class, you’ll
    hear about Tea Tree Oil.

    Feel free to surf to my blog; best over the counter acne dark
    spot treatment, Marylyn,

  23. wonderful issues altogether, you simply won a emblem
    new reader. What may you recommend in regards to your submit that you made a few
    days ago? Any sure?

  24. Striking designs in gold and silver hues are duly decorated with
    black as a supplement color are generally preferred.
    If you’re wearing just about any darker solid color, you can look into white and
    black shoes. It might just be time to go bold and get into a pink North Face jacket.
    A little girl dressed up in dark should still look like just a little girl, therefore, the cut with the dress have to reflect solely child-like styles.
    One of the reasons men are drawn to black dress shirts is
    that black shirts no matter what style never seem to truly make
    it beyond the casual category. And make sure you adjust your skin care
    routine during the winter months when you are spending more time indoors, in artificial heat.

    Also visit my weblog little black dress apron pattern

  25. “It isn’t like in the United States or Japan – giving the canines manicures, dying their fur pink – that is human insanity.

    my blog – pitbull dog fights on youtube

  26. I like reading a post that will make people think. Also, many thanks for permitting me to comment!

  27. After allowing it to sink in for a few hours I always implement product to
    my experience For tiny areas and with destinations that are large I set everywhere avoiding the large area.

    Also visit my website best face wash for acne prone skin while
    pregnant; Tressa,

  28. Since the admin of this website is working, no uncertainty
    very shortly it will be famous, due to its feature contents.

  29. I’m not suгe whү but tһіѕ
    site іѕ loding extremely slow fⲟr me.
    Ιs аnyone else ɦaving tҺiѕ issue ߋr іѕ іt a ρroblem
    օn mʏ end? І’llcheck ƅack later օn and ѕee іf tҺᥱ ρroblem ѕtill exists.

    Ꮮоοk into mу рage; osca commercial design (Judith)

  30. It’s really very difficult in this busy life to listen news on TV, thus I just use world wide web for that reason, and get the most up-to-date news.

  31. These are actually wonderful ideas in regarding blogging.
    You have touched some pleasant factors here. Any way keep up wrinting.

  32. Obtain unlimited Gold, Gems, and Elixir with our clash of clans assault strategy town corridor degree 7 youtube Cheats

    Take a look at my homepage :: password for clash of clans hack tool v3 1 txt

  33. Disclosure: I am a member of the Collective Bias®
    Social Fabric® Neighborhood. This shop has been compensated
    as a part of a social shopper insights study for Collective Bias and their client.

    Feel free to visit my blog; tso host shared hosting [Jade]

  34. You really make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be actually something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!|

  35. Mix a simple web site (similar to those provided by ) with a £ area identify from
    Tsohost to make your title on-line… and push these embarrassing vacation pictures down the
    Google rankings, in addition!

    Here is my blog post – tsohost reseller

  36. Website internet hosting is what’s wanted once you’ve got constructed your website.

    Web site Hosting is the cornerstone of the world extensive internet and good Web site Hosting can and does mean the distinction between a successful web
    site and an unsuccessful one.

    Here is my weblog; web hosting and domain names (Doris)

  37. Hi! Quick question that’s completely off topic. Do you
    know how to make your site mobile friendly?
    My weblog looks weird when browsing from my iphone
    4. I’m trying to find a template or plugin that might
    be able to resolve this problem. If you have any recommendations, please share.
    Appreciate it!

    Review my web-site: divorce lawyer in frankfort il (Della)

  38. It allows the prevailing key users to turn out to be moderators and
    exercise powers reminiscent of banning/unbanning
    of profiles, new membership approvals, report dealing with and many others.
    Neighborhood Builder fetches your members some special privileges
    equivalent to permitting them to create content on your website, running a blog,
    membership teams and many others.

    Look at my webpage; web hosting for blogs

  39. Hey there I am so delighted I found your webpage,
    I really found you by mistake, while I was browsing on Google for something else, Anyways I am
    here now and would just like to say cheers for a
    tremendous post and a all round enjoyable blog
    (I also love the theme/design), I don’t have time to read
    through it all at the moment but I have book-marked it and also
    added in your RSS feeds, so when I have time I will
    be back to read much more, Please do keep up the awesome

    My website :: Decatur Illinois Marketing Agency

  40. Clean and Clear Acne Spot Treatment is one of the best acne spot
    treatments available on industry.

    Here is my blog – best face wash for acne scars [Nina]

  41. If you want to get a good deal from this paragraph then you have to apply such strategies to your
    won web site.

  42. In brief, we are able to say that Berber jewellery is one other factor that shows the rich and
    diverse Moroccan craftsmanship.

    Review my website; silver necklace women (Kevin)

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.