Muslims in Britain and Europe have faced unrelenting pressures since the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon in 2001.Governments and media in the West have followed the flawed idea that the adherence of Muslims to Islam is proportionate to the risk they pose to the safety and security of people in the West – so merging the issues of loyalty, citizenship and identity with terrorism.
Most Muslims want nothing more than to live in peace, according to their beliefs and values. They might hate governments’ policies towards Islam and Muslims across the world, but they are happy to maintain good relations with friends, colleagues and neighbours. They believe that violent attacks on civilians like 9/11 and 7/7 are haram, but are frustrated that labels of ‘terrorism’ are fixed to those legitimately resisting violent military occupations in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan and Kashmir. They try to live their lives according to Islamic values without imposing them on others, only to see those values ridiculed and misrepresented. They are proud to be part of a world-wide Muslim Ummah, but face accusations of being a ‘fifth column’ and failing to integrate – despite being told the world is now a globalised village.
However, after invading two Muslim countries in the name of spreading ‘freedom’, we saw the ban on the Islamic dress of women in France, the ban on minarets in mosques in Switzerland, and calls to ban the Quran. It became open season to vilify Islam’s beliefs and values; and a parallel system of justice was established for Muslim communities across Europe using anti-terrorism powers, including the profiling of individuals based on their political and religious beliefs.
These anti-Muslim policies and propaganda have been established for distinct but related reasons.
Firstly, there was a very real concern that the Islamic revival in the Muslim countries will challenge the hegemony of the United States and its allies in the Muslim world. There are huge pressures in the Muslim world for a change away from the current despots and tyrants, who serve only their own interests and those of their Western backers. Growing numbers of people wish to replace these current oppressive models, whether democrats, dictators or occupying powers, with Islam.
Similarly, Muslims in the West have also voiced this desire for change, this opposition to the regimes in the Muslim world, as well as opposition to the anti-Muslim colonial foreign policies. As a consequence, the ‘Muslim Diaspora’ has become the front line of a global ideological struggle.
Secondly, there have been concerns that years of soft policies have failed to win the sub- missive loyalty of Muslims to the State, and had left them unconvinced of secular liberal values.
This led to a process of coercion of the Muslim community, indicating a lack of confidence in the ability of secular values to win the hearts and convince the minds of Muslims.
Thirdly, regardless of how productive and decent Muslim citizens are in the community, successive governments have had anxieties about the ties that are maintained with a global Ummah that are manifested by a refusal to endorse British military policy in Afghanistan and Iraq, and criticism of the West’s creation, and slavish support, of Israel.
This booklet is set against this background and aims to do three things:
- To illustrate the policies of the British State, under successive governments, in dealing with Muslims in Britain. It is an updated understanding of the policy since the general election in 2010 together with a brief historical overview, and is based on statements by ministers whilst in government and in opposition, as well as supportive material that is in the public domain.
- To highlight the points of ideological pressure on Muslims, as illustrated by the attacks on Islam. We highlight these key areas so Muslims can recognise the nature of the attacks, when they occur, and can therefore stand for Islam – i.e. understand how to respond in a way that does not compromise our beliefs and values.
- To try to define a positive Islam-based agenda for Muslims living in Britain, which provides clarity amidst the mass of confusion and present a clear set of actions that can be agreed upon and pursued by the Muslims collectively.
We welcome feedback on the contents of this booklet and hope that it will spur a debate amongst the Muslim community regarding one of the biggest challenges that faces us today.
History teaches us that since the age of empire the tactics of these Capitalist states, and the corporate wealth they represent, may change – but their aims remain the same – i.e. to maximise their own power and wealth at the expense of all else. It is the independent and liberating force of Islam that they see as the biggest threat to their hegemony. The words ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ and the fear they represent are used to cloud matters and deflect attention away from Islam as a political system at a time of a global resurgence in Islamic awareness.