The M Connection

Saturday, 14 June 2008 00:25 Emdad Rahman
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Fundamental misunderstandings about the fastest growing faith on earth


“Thanks to a moronic, violent few I have a completely irrational fear of groups of teenagers in hoodies.

“And now, after the events of the past few weeks I'm suspicious of young Asian or Middle-Eastern men, with or without beards. Just looking like someone similar to those who bombed or tried to bomb London is enough.

There I've said it, and I hate myself for it. But, just ask yourself - would you get on a bus if you had queued next to such a guy with a rucksack? I'd like to say I would, but in truth I know I'd wait for the next bus.”

These were the words of Daily Mirror columnist Fiona Phillips (30 July 2005) and it really had an effect on me.

Firstly I thought that was the most pathetic justification for generalized views that I have ever heard.

Phillips goes on to describe an Asian man with a bag sitting like a leper on the train. No one was brave enough to take a chance on the fact that he was just like them.

Hmm… Is stereotyping built into the British psyche because there’s no getting away from it?

I am a front line worker and in my experience racism or stereotyping is either on the increase, or people feel it's acceptable.

I was born in the UK and am extremely proud and 110% loyal to the country of my birth. I will always strive to adhere to its rules and regulations. (read Amerigo Bonasera; “America has been good to me.”)

For 29 years I too have played the role of a guest who has been put up by his generous host. For this I am eternally grateful.

But, I don’t think non whites will ever be accepted. Remember there is a difference between acceptance and tolerance. I listened radio comments after 7/7 and it was full of some chav describing black ,purple, yellow and martian friends but he’d never been to the pub with a Muslim (or as my buddy John Dangas would say; “I’ve never consumed alcohol with you brother”) and hence could not understand why he had no such friends. Hmm…”If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.”

What’s religion got to do with it?

I am a practicing Muslim and my loyalty to the British flag stems largely from the fact that my religion encourages me amongst many things to respect my host. We should never forget that at the end of the day we are all guests and grateful we should be. Which other country in the world would you be able to assemble Muslim leaders to discuss concerns with the PM.

When western citizens are kidnapped by extremists with Muslim-sounding names, the reputation of Islam is hijacked. When western citizens are murdered and executed, Islam is also being murdered and executed. When western citizens are the target of injustice, Islam is treated unjustly. Yes, the worlds not fair and I can hear you squeal “but these incidents happen in all conflicts, not just with Muslims. Look at Srebrenica.”

1.48 billion Muslims worldwide have been smeared with the ghastly events of recent years.

Nearly one in five people in the world today are Muslim. Spanning the globe over fifty countries have Muslim-majority populations, while other groups of believers are clustered in minority communities on nearly every continent.

Although Islam is often associated with the Arab world and the Middle East, fewer than 15% of Muslims are Arab.

Like it or not, White is the new black and Muslims are the new bogeymen. Grown men are crying into their conflakes. Hmm… smell the coffee man, you’re a guest remember. Deal with it.

By the way amidst all this has anyone ever asked the sisterhood, the female Muslim populace of their feelings. Surely they too must be seething and have a lot to get off their chests.

It is inevitable that Muslims will continue to face hostility.

 

A middle aged male came out of a newsagent last Thursday and as he walked past I lip read “expletive Paki expletive off back to your expletive hole in expletive Afghanistan.” As he walked off I told him that native Britons were actually pagans who were massacred by the Christians and if he checked his lineage he might be surprised. It was only when he opened his mouth did I walk away. I mean he was South African. Give me strength. It’s the revenge of the springboks part 1. Hmmm….. Pot calling kettle…

We must educate our children, more or less from birth, not only to tolerate each other but also to be grateful and to feel honoured that we live in a multicultural, multifaith country. By the way if a multi-racial and multi-cultural society is so popular, why are so many native Britons not hanging around to enjoy it, but instead, selling up and moving to parts of the country or to continental Europe that George Galloway would probably describe as being "hideously white"?

Integration is another buzzword. Will social problems end if we fully integrate? I don't think so. What does it mean to me? Most people everywhere prefer to live among people of their own race and culture and social background. Can you imagine a predominantly Jewish, Hindu, Sikh or any other such population, being happy to see their society slowly transformed before their eyes by an infusion of different ideologies and culture no matter how worthy and wonderful they are? I certainly cannot. In fact, I'm pretty sure that they wouldn't allow it to happen. I think I am a perfect example of what integration should be.

Mr Bonasera again offers a useful insight; “I believe in America. America has made my fortune. And I raised my daughter in the American fashion. I gave her freedom, but - I taught her never to dishonor her family. She found a boyfriend, not an Italian...Two months ago, he took her for a drive, with another boyfriend. They made her drink whiskey. And then they tried to take advantage of her. She resisted. She kept her honor. So they beat her like an animal...She was the light of my life - my beautiful girl. Now she will never be beautiful again...I-I went to the police like a good American. These two boys were brought to trial. The judge sentenced them to three years in prison - suspended sentence. Suspended sentence! They went free that very day! I stood in the courtroom like a fool. And those two bastards, they smiled at me.”

Despite my love and loyalty to the UK I am also fiercely proud of my heritage and despite dialogues galore with my colleague Jason Beazley I FEEL I am Bangladeshi, simply because I AM A HUMBLE GUEST in the UK. There’s nothing wrong with that. Our differences are what makes this island GREAT.

And how should we Western Muslims respond to the backlash? Should we cry discrimination? Should we remind our fellow citizens that we are just as English or American or French or Australian as they are?

Or should we appreciate their fears and uncertainties? Should we empathise with their feelings of vulnerability as they feel besieged by what appears to be yet another attack by extremists using our faith as an ideological weapon?

Which leads nicely to whether Muslims and non-Muslims can live together?

Palestine was captured by Umar, the second caliph of Islam. The entry of Umar into Jerusalem, the incredible tolerance, maturity and kindness he showed towards people of different beliefs introduced the beautiful age that British historian and Middle East expert Karen Armstrong describes in her book Holy War;

The Caliph Umar entered Jerusalem mounted on a white camel, escorted by the magistrate of the city, the Greek Patriarch Sophronius. The Caliph asked to be taken immediately to the Temple Mount and there he knelt in prayer on the spot where his friend Mohammed had made his Night Journey. The Patriarch watched in horror: this, he thought, must be the Abomination of Desolation that the Prophet Daniel had foretold would enter the Temple; this must be Antichrist who would herald the Last Days. Next Omar asked to see the Christian shrines and, while he was in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the time for Muslim prayer came round. Courteously the Patriarch invited him to pray where he was, but Umar as courteously refused. If he knelt to pray in the church, he explained, the Muslims would want to commemorate the event by erecting a mosque there, and that would mean that they would have to demolish the Holy Sepulchre. Instead Omar went to pray at a little distance from the church, and, sure enough, directly opposite the Holy Sepulchre there is still a small mosque dedicated to the Caliph Umar.

In short, Muslims brought 'civilization' to Jerusalem and all of Palestine. Instead of barbaric beliefs that showed no respect for other peoples' sacred values, and which killed them simply out of differences of belief, there reigned the just, tolerant and moderate culture of Islam. After its capture by Umar, Muslims, Christians and Jews lived together in peace and harmony in Palestine. Muslims never tried to use force to make people convert, although some non-Muslims did so of their own free will.

On 2 October 1187 Saladin and his army entered Jerusalem as conquerors and for the next 800 years Jerusalem would remain a Muslim city. Saladin kept his word, and conquered the city according to the highest Islamic ideals. He did not take revenge for the previous massacre of Muslims. Not a single Christian was killed and there was no plunder. The ransoms were deliberately very low...

The Ottoman Empire was administered under what is known as the 'nation (millet) system,' the fundamental feature of which was that people of different faiths were allowed to live according to their own beliefs and even legal systems. Christians and Jews, described as the 'People of the Book', found toleration, security and freedom in Ottoman lands.

I know it’s controversial but I think that if we are to continue living in the UK then we must play the role of guest and host. I mean it worked for our parents right?

Historically Muslims emigrated to Abyssinia in 615 and 616 AD. The king of Abyssinia welcomed the Muslim refugees into his kingdom. He gave them sanctuary, and they enjoyed peace, security and freedom of worship under his aegis.

Muslims spent 13 happy years in Abyssinia and lived there in peace before returning to their new home in Madinah.

London has been to many Muslims what Abyssinia was to the early Muslims who fled to its Christian government, seeking sanctuary and protection from their oppressors. And just as the King of Abyssinia granted the early Muslims a fair hearing, natural justice and security, so has London done the same.

Amongst too many to mention young Ken Livingstone has been a prominent supporter of human rights for Muslims whether it’s the war in Iraq or the Hijab ban in France.

I guess by allowing an insight into my world I may have dived headfirst into a hornets nest.

Don’t all write in at once.

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