Britain is in the grip of rampant Islamophobia. But their response to the recent alleged terror plot shows that British Muslims are getting stronger and wiserby Tahir Abbas / September 24, 2006 / Leave a comment
Published in September 2006 issue of Prospect Magazine
The recent “foiled terrorist plot” on 10th August has revealed an interesting new mutation in the nature of Islamophobia in Britain and the responses to it. The nation is under the grip of rampant Islamophobia. And it is a media-driven phenomenon that is supported by a wider geopolitical campaign to undermine, destabilise and effectively remove the ever-growing presence of Islam. Islam is simply a threat to a new world order.
What has been quite remarkable about 10/8 is how Muslim elites and commentators have gone on the offensive. After 7/7, Muslims felt a double pressure: as Britons, many were frightened by the terrible acts of indiscriminate violence; as Muslims, communities did not have the confidence of leaders to take on the establishment. A year on, leaders are stronger, wiser and more articulate, and they have come to appreciate that a great many people in this great country are with them too. The actions in Forest Gate and the brutal mowing down of Jean Charles de Menezes are fresh in the memory. Inevitably, there has been a backlash, as Muslim criticism in relation to such matters is often dismissed out of hand—another quite specific feature of Islamophobia.
The nation state has failed Muslims at many different levels. Most recently there has been a wholesale failure to implement the vast majority of the recommendations of the working groups that were created in the wake of 7/7. Internationally, the impact of foreign policy on the perceptions of already severely disaffected groups is brushed away as irrelevant. Poor education and high unemployment continue to influence life chances in starkly negative ways. There is little, if any, inward investment in the areas in which south Asian Muslims are concentrated. These circumstances are further compounded by the traditional rural origins of first-generation migrants, who have largely organised community and political culture around clan-based kinship networks, where opportunities for the subsequent generations to break out do not always exist. Local Muslim leadership is weak, and inter-generational tensions are not being resolved, particularly in relation to patriarchy.
Instead of the “Muslim community,” we should talk about “British Muslim communities.” Many south Asian Muslims—especially of Pakistani background—are trapped in a cycle of decline and are far removed from the growing body of high-income, well-integrated and savvy class of professional Muslims. The debates in relation to integration and multiculturalism have been sidelined by a focus on religious minorities and their supposedly alien values. But if one peels away the layers it becomes obvious that this sentiment is about Muslims. How long we are to endure this phenomenon is not yet clear.