Muslim communities must stand tall and engage with the government

The paranoia within sections of Britain's Muslim communities is toxic to integration


I understand that there is a genuine fear within Muslim communities around the counter-terrorism agenda. I also understand that the fear is based on mistakes that have taken place within the counter-terrorism agenda and that we need a genuine debate about this.

However there are sections of Britain’s Muslim communities that believe the world revolves around bizarre conspiracies. For them, seeing the wood from the chaff is increasingly difficult.

For example, a legitimate attempt by Faith Matters to engage with young people across the country – to see what impacts far-right and Al Qaeda or ISIS influenced rhetoric has on them online – has been portrayed by such groups as a ‘spying exercise’.

In reality it is an initiative to develop a report which can give young people at a grass roots level the opportunity to have their voices heard at a policy level.

It does not matter that the initiative will be resourced and organised independently by Faith Matters with no funding from the government; according to these conspiracy purveyors it is, as mentioned, a ‘spying exercise’.

This seems to be the over-riding narrative for them: that Muslim communities are hard done by and that progressive organisations that want to work with government – as critical friends – are the problem.

Such paranoia feeds a dangerous victim narrative. It also affects a sense of identity, integration and dare I say it, injects a desire in some Muslims to leave the UK.

About four months ago I was quoted in this article, leading to a flurry of bullying, abusive and slanderous comments from sections of Muslim communities which had previously praised the decade of work we at Faith Matters have done on cohesion, integration and supporting faith communities.

Some of these critics had used and quoted material from TELL MAMA, a national project I founded to support victims of anti-Muslim hate. This project which was supported for two years by central government (between 2012- 2013) provided material, data and information that many of these individuals, groups and activists used to shore up the fact that anti-Muslim hate and bigotry exists.

However after the Telegraph article their conspiratorial mind-set kicked in. This led to a campaign of smears, intimidation and hate directed at TELL MAMA – and directed at me in person.

These are the sorts of individuals who today attempt to hold sway and play to a victim narrative within Muslim communities. I regard such people as being part of the problem we have to deal with. These are the ‘Del Boys’ who trot out half-truths and peddle condiments that sicken and weaken Muslim communities through disengagement and introversion.

Instead of supporting the only project nationally that has produced tangible evidence of anti-Muslim hatred, these ‘Del-Boys’ of the Muslim world are only interested in the one occasion when we were invited to speak on a TELL MAMA report at the Quilliam Foundation – which we did, given that we will speak at any platform, (apart from extremist groups and those who have used prejudiced terms against whole communities).

This example sums up what they do. They are the Pied Pipers whistling a tune leading to further misunderstanding, greater barriers and a political cliff where disengagement becomes the norm.

This is certainly not the Britain I want, nor a future I want to see for Muslim communities and co-religionists. My view is one of confident Muslim communities and citizens, equals who do not feel victimised but who are willing to be critical when required and constructive for the greater good.

The Quilliam Foundation is the bogey man used by these groups to smear anyone who does not dance to their tune (if only the Quilliam Foundation were that connected and powerful). Some of those pushing this line are characters who developed ‘media personalities’ through Twitter and who, thankfully, have been outed as the manipulative ego-centric people they are. Today they hide in the shadows posting items anonymously on Islamist blogs.

The time has come to take a stand against such groups. This does not mean there have been no problems in how counter-terrorism work has been developed and implemented at community level. There have; but what is the alternative proposed by the government’s critics? They simply have none.

Lastly, this does not mean practitioners like me have not made mistakes in our partnership choices on occasion. We are human and, sadly, mistakes do take place and we have to be honest and open about these when they take place since we have placed ourselves into the public sphere.

But the future is not all doom and gloom. It is – and should be – one where Muslim communities stand tall and engage with government.

Fiyaz Mughal is the director of Faith Matters and the founder of Tell Mama, a project which records and measures anti-Muslim incidents

37 Responses to “Muslim communities must stand tall and engage with the government”

  1. damon

    Very good post from Fiyaz Mughal. I fear it’s too late to make real progress though. In the short term anyway. Islamism is more attractive than the kind of views made here.
    I was listening to one Muslim mother on the radio recently who was trying to make sure her children did not fall for the radical Islamist message, and she mentioned that her daughter will of course have been swayed towards it as a teenager, and that it was her job to counter that and tell her why that was wrong. So she was admitting that a young Muslim in Britain could have a default setting to be attracted to an Islamist outlook, and it was parents and the wider community who had to then make sure it was curtailed.
    I think ”we” need to go back to basics somewhat and remind people that what makes this country good is that it isn’t a Muslim country and many or most Muslims who came here wanted to make a different kind of life. To live amongst the secular English people.
    Even this morning I have seen Somali mothers in London walking along with small daughters who wear hijabs. Someone ought to tell people from that community that we don’t see young girls as sexual beings so there’s no need to put them in hijabs at the age of six. It kind of annoys me to see it, as those people came here to escape Somalia.
    The same goes for too much after school madrassa classes. I think we should say they shouldn’t indoctrinate too much and the children shouldn’t go too much. One hour a week should be enough.

  2. stevep

    Britain is broadly welcoming to religious diversity. However, religious leaders of all faiths should realise that is why Britain is special and not try to proclaim their faith above others. they should all try to learn from one another, for there are kernels of truth common to all.
    Britain is a secular country, with rights we all enjoy, regardless of religion. Those rights should take precedence to religious proclamations and beliefs. If religious leaders or communities see no value in our rights, then the rule of British law must apply to preserve them.
    Anything else surely negates the reason for living in The UK in the first place.

  3. Mark

    I shall tell you how I see it from one perspective. We are told that the “vast majority” of the Muslim population do not support extremism. Fine. At that point, if the Government make it clear they are targetting extremists, then all should be comfortable about that. However, some groups and individuals pop up to essentially say that the “vast majority” will be demonised by this. It makes no sense.

    I hate the terms “moderate or extreme” which seems to me to be a media made-up term, but all sorts seem to run with it. What does a “moderate” even mean? Maybe TELLMAMA or the associate organisation should push the point that a broader society exists. Those who are Muslims and only do the mosque for weddings and funerals (much like a huge number of “Christians”). Those who don’t bother with the clothes/modesty thing, those who are secular/liberal about all of this, through to the orthodox.

    And I read a Facebook post from a Muslim activist who is part of PREVENT, who complained how people were undermining it. One of the comments to the Facebook post said, “We have an Islamophobic Home Secretary.”
    Well ok, all I’ve heard from Teresa May is that extremism is to be tackled, and then her being at pains to tell the TV viewing public that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

    What on earth is in the mind of the person who called her an Islamophobe, based on that? Unless they have been listening to the IHRC.

    I’m also fed up with imams telling us that no radicalisation is happening in mosques, as if that imam knows about all (1500?) mosques and has visited, unannounced on a frequent basis, which would be impossible.
    Surely a more reasonable statement would be that “radicalisation *might* be happening in *some* mosques.” But apparently, that cannot be said.

    The point is that I see groups and individuals on my TV who are totally against sorting this problem out, whatever they may say, and it has been going on for years, but now with a growing confidence.

  4. KarlGRice

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  5. itbeso

    “Instead of supporting the only project nationally that has produced tangible evidence of anti-Muslim hatred”
    this organisation lost funding because it was shown to be part of the problem. Old Fiyaz is desperate to remain in play.

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