When speaking of non-white grooming gangs, the media is quick to highlight their race, labelling them as ‘Asian’ or ‘Muslim’, whilst simultaneously ignoring the fact that the culture of alcohol consumption, fornication, prostitution and drug-dealing that characterise such gangs are completely forbidden in Islām. These men have acted on an individualistic and shallow mentality towards life and are a product of a society which has glorified violence, sexualisation and objectification of women through its music culture, and left people enthralled by gladiators with violence held on a pedestal.
In the wake of any putative”terror attack”, many Muslims can be seen sitting with bated breath, keyboards and phones at the ready, waiting to condemn any act associated with Islām or Muslims, before details even emerge. We find it has become almost a precursor of belonging to the Islamic Faith that one must be ready to apologise for the acts of both the mentally unstable and inherently un-Islamic personalities who choose to act in their own interests.
It would be naïve to assume that political leaders as well as high profile Muslims in British society have succeeded in making the Islamic creed more palatable to Western society through dispelling myths that surround the faith; attempting to represent it more accurately. Rather, it is evident that a liberal and unorthodox “brand” of Islām is seen as the only reasonable version to follow if one wants to succeed or be accepted in wider society. This can be seen in attitudes towards women choosing to wear the hijāb routinely perceived as a symbol of failed integration. This is further reflected in London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s comments that Muslim women wearing the hijāb is tantamount to being forced to adopt a lifestyle. Khan’s statement remains of interest with his words being reminiscent of a bygone era in which women ‘even in Pakistan’ did not wear the hijab or the niqāb, followed quite strategically with, ‘in London we got on,’ as though to say the choice to wear hijāb or the niqāb leaves one unable to interact with the general public, and becomes a conscious effort to not ‘get on’ with the wider world. Thus we see how there remains an underlying assumption that following all the tenets of Islām in daily life compromises one’s participation as a member of British society.
The British Media also has a lot to answer for when it has come to the “radicalising” of mentally unstable youth by giving platforms to pariahs who have been linked to the recruitment/conviction of scores of British terrorism suspects. The example of the London Bridge attacker stands as a stark reminder that individuals whom the Muslim community have long disassociated with have been hailed by the British Media as community leaders and representatives of the Islamic Faith. When a community refuses to allow an individual into their mosques due to his views, what business do Newsnight, The Big Questions, and This Week have in inviting him to speak on behalf of British Muslims? By doing so, they paved the way for other news platforms, such as Fox News, to label these people as “leaders of Islām”.
The media also highlights what convicted terrorists’ (often ex-) wives wore, be it a hijāb or a niqāb, alongside a focus on ‘traditional clothing,’ all as potential signs of “radicalisation”. It is unequivocally clear that the general rhetoric associated with “terrorism” carried out by those who happen to be Muslim, presents traditional Islamic culture as synonymous with signs of “radicalisation” due to the mere incidental Muslim-ness of perpetrators. Yet individuals like the Westminster attacker, formerly known as Adrian Elms, were understood to regularly frequent clubs, use prostitutes, and indulge in recreational drug use. Lauren Booth notably highlighted that “The Westminster bomber was known to take drugs and use prostitutes. The Tunisia bomber took drugs, the Paris attacker took drugs,” which begs the question, why are these elements that are rife in Western societies, not also linked to terrorism? Booth defended the Muslim community during the segment discussing whether it was ‘time to get tough on terror’, after Theresa May announced a four-point plan including tougher sentences and a crackdown on communities suspected to be sympathetic to terrorists. Even though it is apparent that terrorists are a product of their society, it is no surprise why we do not see a crackdown on propaganda machines and communities that are sympathetic towards white supremacy and are stalwart supporters of Tommy Robinson and co.
There are many things that we as a Muslim community can actively engage in and do in order to shift the current status quo and come to a sustainable balance of a Muslim identity.
The first is to recognise that whenever Muslims are pressured to condemn things, or the idea is pushed that Muslims are at the heart of any catastrophe, confidence remains key. This means having unwavering strength in one’s belief, and knowing that “the Muslims” are not to blame for terror attacks. Once we are able to cement this confidence, there will be no reason for an individual, part and parcel of the same society as everyone else, to apologise and condemn in the name of Islām – because the blame should not exist.
The second is the ability to explain how the actions of a few does not give society at large a permit to tarnish anyone associated to an idea with the same brush. The judgement of a concept is through evaluation of the idea, not through a person’s actions in trying to carry out this idea. This is especially relevant given the overwhelming evidence that these persons have often been under the influence of drugs, have been mentally unstable, or “radicalised” in other instances by being social pariahs and already outcast from their respective communities because of their unnatural stance.
The third point is exposing hypocrisy – that is, exposing the fallacy that Muslims are guilty of the existence of terrorism. To this there are two main points.
- When we talk about the idea of terrorism, it is encompassed and signified most by the actions of Western states, whereby they have an ideology which they enforce down the barrel of a gun. The colonial past of Britain, France and America bears witness to this reality. This use of force is not a show of brute strength and confidence in an idea, but rather gives way and exposes the weakness of the secular-liberal and capitalist ideologies.
- When we want to evaluate an idea, we must stick to evaluating the idea. When we want to evaluate an action, let us fairly evaluate the action and the need for an apology. Very recently we saw four British soldiers being linked to a banned Neo-Nazi group, but where is the condemnation from every single solider in the military? From every family of a soldier? From Army generals and commanders? The issue remains underplayed, scarcely mentioned, and deemed unnecessary as headline news.
This brings us to the final point; recognising the ideological basis underpinning this wave of apologism and strategic play in demonising the Muslim community. When we speak about being apologetic, it is something which only seems to exist in the context of Muslims, with only Muslims needing to apologise. One must ask why. Why is this exclusive to Muslims? Because apologism in this regard is not about clearing the air, it is not about building a case for Islām, it is not about making people feel comfortable. This is an ideological stance requiring one to distance himself from Islamic ideas in every single sphere of life, with the end aim of reducing the Dīn to a set of doctrinal beliefs and ritualistic actions that do not pose a threat to established power and norms. Some argue that Western society now requires assimilation to the point that anyone who looks visibly Muslim can be regarded as too conservative. Thus, be firm in your Islamic principles; do not water them down for fear of becoming an outcast as doing so sets a dangerous precedent that the only type of acceptable Muslim is one who cannot be identified as a Muslim at all. Not doing so, I fear, is to be complicit in the regressive rhetoric defaming the very essence of being a Muslim.
Britain’s Questionable Morals
When speaking of non-white grooming gangs, the media is quick to highlight their race, labelling them as ‘Asian’ or ‘Muslim’, whilst simultaneously ignoring the fact that the culture of alcohol consumption, fornication, prostitution and drug-dealing that characterise such gangs are completely forbidden in Islām. These men have acted on an individualistic and shallow mentality towards life and are a product of a society which has glorified violence, sexualisation and objectification of women through its music culture, and left people enthralled by gladiators with violence held on a pedestal. One need only look at what a ‘life sentence’ constitutes to appreciate that an average of 15 years in prison is what the taking of life has been equated to. Modern Western society itself is built and structured on a colonial, supremacist ideal that has placed the desire of the individual (traditionally white male) at the core of morality. Britain’s problem is not Muslims. Sadly, ours is a morally bankrupt society that has produced some of the worst and most rampant cases of systematic sexual abuse across the globe. Our political leaders themselves have been embroiled in vile crimes against innocents which have been routinely ‘covered up by the establishment.’
There also remains an expectancy of gratitude to Britain and to the land of so-called progression. ‘If you don’t like it here, go back to where you came from.’ This idea that Britain is a safe-haven from the instability of ‘The Orient’ and serves as a land where Muslims can live free from oppression is amongst the most flawed and contradictory ideas of the modern age. The moronic comments made by white nationalists do not consider that the land of the free has subjugated and enslaved millions, and is still very far from progressive. These are comments which are ignorant of the international climate that Britain as a superpower actively crafted, ignorant of the reality that acted as the impetus behind Muslim migration to Britain, ignorant of the desire to aid the countries entrenched in poverty and corruption as a result of Britain’s colonial past. Though Britain is on a front-nose dive out of the EU, as it stands the European Court of Justice ruled that headscarves can be banned in the workplace. This has removed the right of all European states to criticise Muslim countries of oppressing Muslim women by choosing to define their dress code and in turn infringing on their right to expression.
The Muslim Community on Extremism and Apologism
The problem we face lies with the belief that terrorism is solely a ‘Muslim issue’. Terrorists are a product of their society, they are often young, senseless and impressionable. Their acts have flourished in the postcolonial world due to wide ranging socio-economic factors including but not limited to, underprivileged backgrounds and social deprivation. Western countries have played a significant and detrimental role in the destabilisation of many Muslim states over the last century, beginning with the destruction of the Ottoman Caliphate. Furthermore, when evaluating the lack of social harmony and fearful climate in Britain, we must pay attention to statistics of racism over the last few decades, which reveal the rise in white supremacist ideology that has left ethnic minority communities feeling marginalised. It falls on the entire British community at large to work together in addressing these problems. This means engaging with Muslims, and calling for stricter punishments on those who push them on to train tracks and rip their hijabs offs. This means re-evaluating foreign policy and understanding it to be a direct cause behind acts of political violence. This means taking imbeciles such as Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins, who have called for genocide against the Muslim community, to be stripped of the platforms they use to ignite hatred in the hearts of many of the ignorant. This means working to bridge the socio-economic divide in Britain which has rendered Muslim communities some of the most underprivileged and deprived, and has left them facing the brunt of the disparity. This means getting rid of Orientalist stereotypes of Muslims as inherent extremists, regressive, misogynistic, and so on. This means understanding that the few do not represent the many.
This courtesy is apparently given to everyone of other faiths and backgrounds, Muslims are deserving of the same. Why has there not been outcry at the doubling number of acid attacks, with the highest being in the Muslim majority area of Newham? Why has policy not been enacted so that acid is sold only to those with a license? Why have laws not been stipulated to protect the Muslim community of Britain? The essence of a state is to be a politically organised community in servitude to the people, to govern them and ensure their safety, yet Muslims are quite readily being left out of this equation. The clear disregard for Muslims being massacred abroad (Rohingya, CAR, Palestine, Kashmir, Syria, India, and so on) alongside the growing hate climate against Muslims in the West, is indicative of the rhetoric that has manifest in the very fabric of society. ct his friends to come out and say in media interviews that he was a “nice” guy who kept to himself. I expect the Pubs he frequented to be investigated for potentially radicalising him through the people he met there and for arrests to be made nationally of white males who have posted their intentions to “kill all Muslims” online. I expect Katie Hopkins, Tommy Robinson and their ilk to be arrested for inciting hatred and for radicalising this terrorist with their extremist preaching. I expect every single white, clean-shaven male to stand outside mosques and hand out free hugs and roses to show the Muslim community they are peace-loving and removed from terrorism. I expect white males to organise marches against white terrorism and to hold placards that state “not in my name” so that media organisations like the Independent can post it with the caption “Awesome”. I expect Theresa May to organise an emergency cabinet meeting and to tell all white clean-shaven males that “enough is enough”. I expect police security outside all Mosques and Islamic establishments with public sentiments calling for Muslims to have access to guns because “this would never have happened” if they did to be to be hailed. I expect a minute of silence for the victims. I expect……If this doesn’t make you understand the type of anti-Muslim reactionary rhetoric enforced every single time a terror attack is reported then you are part of the problem.
From hijāb-clad women featured in Playboy to Muslim women described as ‘breaking stereotypes’ for going against basic Islamic rulings (such as leading men in prayer), there is a slow but sure erasure of traditional Islamic principles to pave the way for a Faith that is more pleasing to the Western gaze. The sexualisation of Muslims, in particular women, can be seen on the Catwalk, in Playboy, and even now in the porn industry. The Muslim woman has become an object of desire that is rendered passive and without autonomy, an exotic vessel to be explored and, in turn, exploited in a typically Orientalist trope. Through this need for acceptance and to be seen as people who are part of this society, who are ‘normal’, Muslims have been pushed to redefine their basic Islamic principles, to water down their religion, and be ready to castigate their entire community at the crack of a whip. And this needs to stop.
Boldly setting the parameters for engagement will allow Muslim communities to counter demands for assimilation in a more objective and principled manner. Positive and critical engagement requires major efforts on part of the Muslim community’s scholars and intelligentsia. The process is not merely an intellectual one but will also involve the gruelling task of soul-searching and re-appropriating our identity.