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 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.
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.