The East London Mosque. Photocredit: Tupinambah http://www.flickr.com/photos/luciah/236631055/sizes/m/in/photostream/
The English Defence League, known as the EDL, organised a demonstration last week in London’s Tower Hamlets, outside the East London Mosque. It was not, however, successful, as police put a stop to it and hundreds of anti-fascist campaigners stood in their way. Far right groups are rising across the country – tensions are being exacerbated. What can be done to rehabiliate the image of Muslims in the country, and halt the rise of racism?
- Power for peace lies with European Muslims. Never before has there been so much interaction between Muslims and Western culture, said Ed Husain in The Daily Telegraph. Yet in Muslim countries there is still hatred towards America and Britain. Why? There was the battle narrative between Islam and the Crusaders; a refusal to believe that Muslims were behind the 9/11 attacks. When it comes down to it, “we cannot kill our way out of danger”, and to face the threat of Islamist terrorism, “our most potent weapon” is the Muslims in the west. Muslim leaders must find harmony between Islam and the modern world. They should not fall into “angry, sectarian faith.” Europe, too, needs to work out where it stands by following America’s patriotic lead. We must do all we can to make al-Qaeda’s narrative “worthless.”
- Yet the struggle for peaceful perception continues. Mehdi Hasan in The Guardian asked why the US and UK governments were giving influence to people like Patrick Sookhdeo, who was “quoted approvingly” in the “manifesto” of Norwegian killer Anders Breivik, and Robert Spencer, who founded Stop the Islamicisation of America. Both have advised governmental organisations. Western Muslisms are only seen “through the prism of counter-terrorism.” This means that many Muslims fear speaking out about radical issues on politics and religion – ironic when the number of Muslim MPs in Parliament has doubled. Dissent by Muslims seems to have been “criminalised”. The constant suspicion meted out to Muslims is tiring. But though people like Tariq Jahan, whose calm reaction to his son’s killing was applauded, have made strides, British Muslims “struggle against demonisation is far from over.”
“We will never forget, we will never forgive, we will be unwavering in our struggle and we will never surrender to the dark forces of radical Islam, not now not ever!” said the English Defence League website, in response to the forthcoming anniversary of 9/11.
- We must not let class snobbery cloud our judgements of the far right. Laurie Penney in The Independent said that though the EDL are fascists, we should not use hatred and violence back against them. The class snobbery shown recently by two members of Unite against Fascism against a woman EDL member (they laughed at her being kicked) is not representative of such organisations. This highlighs “a stubborn strain of snobbery” which needs to be addressed – such talk won’t stop the far-right. Anger is growing amongst working-class communities – they see that immigrants get jobs, benefits and houses, so why can’t they? Perhaps it’s time to listen to them, rather than dehumanise them: “the language of hatred and suspicion will do nothing to precent civil breakdown in Britain.”
- Muslims’ allegiance. Cristina Odone in The Daily Telegraph said that a study just published by Policy Exchange, “The Ties That Bind”, should “put paid” to fears about Muslim allegiance. “90 per cent of Muslims here feel British”, whilst “79 per cent of low-skilled Muslims would consider joining the Army.” Muslim “loudmouths” who proclaim hatred of the west are like the “shop stewards during the 1970s trade union” – they want to make it seem like “us against them.” Most Muslims would be happy to serve in Britain’s institutions – “That’s something to be encouraged. Muslims who have a stake in Britain won’t want to blow it up.” Although commentators on the article did not necessarily agree, with jeongu saying: “Cristina you aren’t living in reality … British culture is something which must be aligned to Sharia Law, and is barely tolerated, not appreciated,” whilst sick2 (backteeth) added “I wonder if people would love Islam so much if they lived in Bradford or quite a number of other places that have been enriched.”