Saturday, June 10, 2006

Abdul Bari says Britain should be more Islamic.

UK: Give the man some respect, at least he is being open about turning the UK into being more Islamic. The last MCB head just skirted around that issue.

Dr Bari, a 52-year-old science teacher and author of several books on Islam in Britain, became arguably the most influential Muslim voice in the country after taking over from Sir Iqbal Sacranie this week. Every five minutes he takes calls: from the media, Downing Street, the police, mosques. They all want to know his response to the protests against the shooting. His aim, he says, will be to encourage Britain to adopt more Muslim ways, as well as to encourage Muslims to be good British citizens. He thinks that non-Muslim Britons would benefit from having arranged marriages and espousing stronger family values; they would also do well to stop drinking and gambling and to follow many of the teachings of Islam. But, first, he must calm the tensions between Muslims and the rest of Britain.
As the new secretary general, he wants to encourage Muslims to help Britain to become a better place. "We want to help fight hooliganism, drugs and broken families; we want the British to become better neighbours. Muslims can give and teach Britain so much: looking after the elderly, enduring marriages, respect, strong faith, no alcohol." But instead of integrating, do not some Muslims insist on imposing their values? For example, the schoolgirl in Luton who demanded to wear the jilbab left some feeling threatened. "We supported her right to wear what she wanted," Dr Bari says. "It was wrong for her to lose out on an education just because of her dress. As Muslims, we are far more shocked by pupils' short skirts, but we don't complain. That is another thing the British could learn: modesty is very attractive."
All Muslims here, he believes, must learn English. "It is a vital skill. At my home, we speak Bangla but my children speak English fluently." However, he does not think that Muslims should adopt too many British practices; Britain should espouse many more Muslim traditions, he says. "Arranged marriages are a good idea. These are not forced on children but it is a way of parents helping to guide their children to make the right choices. In youth, you are very emotional; you just go on instinct. Elders can look at compatibility, background, intentions. It is a wonderful system. "I had an arranged marriage. My daughter is 22 and we will help her to choose a man. But it will be a choice made by all of us. It would be a good thing for British society to take on board. Traditionally, you had far more of this; now, it is all done on impulse." British schoolchildren, of course, might not take that kindly to their parents interfering: "There are so many broken marriages here, so much divorce, and it causes terrible social issues. "I work with children with behavioural difficulties, with one-parent families, broken families. If only parents had helped to guide their children to choose partners they could spend their whole lives with." He warms to his theme. "Pre-marital sex is wrong, cohabitation is wrong; by the time you get married, you are bored. There is no mystery. Muslim marriages tend to be more successful, more of a partnership. "And gambling is terrible here. All physical and mental effort should go into earning money, working for it. I think that Muslims can help the British here." He admits that non-Muslims are unlikely ever to forswear alcohol but says: "Britain would definitely be better off without it. Alcohol addiction is worse than drugs - it destroys families."

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