Wednesday, July 05, 2006

UK Muslims on a different planet

Culture: Interesting undercover piece in the London Times, but the conclusion by Ali Hussain is not surprising and but scary.

"....Once again, I felt as if I had entered a strange bubble, a world where the reality I had known before had been suspended. Bham then asked me if I would ever blow myself up for Islam. I replied that the Koran says you should not harm innocent people. “What Koran was that?” he countered. “Don’t fool yourself by saying jihad is a struggle within, to get on with life, to motivate myself to get up for prayers and that sort of thing,” he said. “That’s not jihad. Who told you that?” AFTER six weeks I left Beeston quietly, slipping away to Leeds and back to London by train. As I travelled out of the Victorian streets towards Leeds city centre, I felt the claustrophobia lifting. It was relief to rejoin a wider, more diverse world. I felt, too, guilt at having moved among the people of Beeston under a false guise. They had welcomed me; but they had also revealed an important facet of Muslim life in Britain today. While I was there an imam of the Bengali mosque, Hamid Ali, had praised the bombers, saying their actions would make non-Muslims “prick up their ears” and listen. I had learnt such sentiments are, one way or another, widespread in Beeston. Ghani, Bham, Jabbar and many others believe in some form of conspiracy against Muslims. Even the seemingly sensible Sabeer insisted the western “enemy” was out to get him. “It’s the way of the enemy really, the kuffar,” he said. “I’ve always known it as divide and rule.” He’s utterly wrong in seeing a conspiracy, in my view — but he’s right that there is division. The Muslims of Beeston and other such areas are retreating, not engaging. “Look what we can do if we stick together,” Sabeer had told me as we drove through an area completely dominated by Muslim shops, houses and schools. But look at the price isolation also exacts. Sabeer’s view was, I believe, a defensive reaction to a perceived threat. But it is also a stance coupled with an idea of a global Islamic “brotherhood” taking precedence over other communities. Unless the cycle of Muslim suspicion and separation can be broken, the dangers will remain. Ghani and his friends will continue to feel that, as he claimed, the western mind and the Muslim mind are irreconcilable. But for me this is a false dichotomy. Beeston brought home that I cannot separate what is Islamic about me from what is “western”. I do not see myself through the prism of us versus them, good versus evil, Muslim versus kuffar. I’d far rather embrace the things we share."

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