Last week, Julian Bond – the Director of the Christian Muslim Forum – and I had a twitter spat with someone who identified themselves as a patriot. During the conversation, said patriot stated that I (and Muslims in general) need to “deal” with “radical Islam”, and inferring from that I presume, also extremist Muslims. The same tweep also mentioned Woolwich and Drummer Lee Rigby’s horrific murder.
To be honest it isn’t the first time I’ve had that thrown at me, but I am frustrated and annoyed at being expected de facto, because I am Muslim, to have to deal with “Muslim or Islamic” problems.
That same day Rolf Harris had been charged with 13 counts of various indecency and sexual assault charges. I don’t, and thankfully so, see any of my older white male colleagues or friends being told that sexual deviancy and preying on children is an “old white man problem” and that they need to deal with it! Or else “don’t you remember all the victims of these terrible crimes?” Instead we are finally (near enough) coming to acknowledge that there is a pervasive sexism problem within our society that must be dealt with, as it is leading to sexual violence against women and children.
I am fed up of being expected to, or urged to, apologise for horrific crimes committed by people who are so alien to me and the Muslims that I know. If in our society young people are being radicalised then we all need to step up and deal with it. We need to reflect on what sort of community we are developing where young men are so easily preyed upon by extremists, that they do not feel they are part of society, and their only recourse to be heard is to commit terrible acts of violence. What made these young men become so filled with hate that they took their own lives along with the lives of others? And dare I say it, this also means having difficult and considered conversations on our government’s foreign policy.
Could the crisis of masculinity amongst ethnic minority men be a factor? Or the fact that in today’s world and culture, boys are socialised to be violent? Has anyone noticed or researched a correlation between men with extremist views and gender based violence?
Without taking collective responsibility for these crimes, we’ll never be able to move past the tired and age-old barriers of stereotyping, racism and prejudice that fuel extremism and provide fodder for the “us versus them” narrative.
I should point out that some of these questions have been interrogated and researched. However, to date, much of the focus has been on extremist Islamic ideology. Additionally in some instances, the conclusions of research constructed a narrative that essentialises British Muslims by attributing all responsibility to deal with extremism to the Muslim community only, rather than taking a holistic approach in which all of society deals with extremism collectively.
If you would like me as a British Muslim to integrate, then here are five tips to help you facilitate that process:
1. Integration is a two way relationship; accept me for who I am, not the stereotype perpetuated by bigots.
2. Trust is two way; don’t expect me to deal with all the crimes of “Muslims” around the world.
3. Accept me as an individual and do not lump me into a homogenous group of “all Muslims” which is pretty much the equivalent of saying, Christians such as the Pope, Queen, Tony Blair and Pastor Terry Jones (of Quran burning infamy) are all the same.
4. Do not balk when I call myself English.
5. Accept at face value when I say, I am discriminated against because of my faith and deal with anti-Muslim prejudice.
Fortunately, in the Forum we strive to implement the points above. Christian and Muslim colleagues across the spectrum of both faiths come together to work on projects that create cohesiveness and social bonding across and between communities which can sometimes be polarised and isolated.
Since the recent spate of attacks on Mosques, I have felt that it is now time for other communities to stand up and vocalise their support for British Muslims, in the same way that Muslims have done so every time there has been an instance of Muslim extremism and violence. There have been some good examples of this but more needs to be done to send a clear message that British people will not tolerate anti-Muslim bigotry, hatred or violence, in the same way other forms of bigotry are denounced.Akeela Ahmed Family Specialist, Christian Muslim Forum