The Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia delivered its report today. This report is a followup to the 1997 Islamophobia report [pdf] which found systematic hysteria against Islam in the British society. As a result of that study, a new Commission was created and today they released their findings:
The cumulative effect of IslamophobiaÏ€s various features, exacerbated by the contextual factors mentioned above, is that Muslims are made to feel that they do not truly belong here â‰ they feel that they are not truly accepted, let alone welcomed, as full members of British society. On the contrary, they are seen as "an enemy within" or "a fifth column" and they feel that they are under constant siege. This is bad for society as well as for Muslims themselves. Moreover, time-bombs are being primed that are likely to explode in the future â‰ both Muslim and non-Muslim commentators have pointed out that a young generation of British Muslims is developing that feels increasingly disaffected, alienated and bitter. ItÏ€s in the interests of non-Muslims as well as Muslims, therefore, that Islamophobia should be rigorously challenged, reduced and removed. The time to act is now, not some time in the future.
British society has had a stranger path to integration than most. On the one hand, the metropolis was always open for the "bright" natives who came to get civilized and educated. On the other hand, the natives were there to get civilized and educated - which meant not being so uncouth as to dress or act differently from the OxCam crowd. The massive Indian immigration after WWII (and Indian independence) though was a different affair. The migrants during the booming reconstruction of 50s and 60s Britain duly felt themselves to be "second class citizens" and congregated in socially cohesive neighborhoods. The subsequent generations of British Indians or Pakistanis have had intermittent successes in integrating. Sure, everyone in Britain loves curry and kababs, the English novel is saved bybrown people, bhangra is king BUT there is no integration of the wider ethnic communities into British life.
Hence, it is not surprising that the British Muslim youth find themselves at loggerhead with their homeland. The hate-preachers have a receptive audience and a welcoming, universal identity for these kids. The racism, though, has a even deadlier consequence that the Report highlighted:
The most subtle and for Muslims perilous consequence of Islamophobic actions,Ï€ a Muslim scholar has observed, Ã¥is the silencing of self-criticism and the slide into defending the indefensible. Muslims decline to be openly critical of fellow Muslims, their ideas, activities and rhetoric in mixed company, lest this be seen as giving aid and comfort to the extensive forces of condemnation. Brotherhood, fellow feeling, sisterhood are genuine and authentic reflexes of Islam. But Islam is supremely a critical, reasoning and ethical frameworkÃ¤ [It] cannot, or rather ought not to, be manipulated into “my fellow Muslim right or wrong”.Ï€ She goes on to remark that Islamophobia provides Ã¥the perfect rationale for modern Muslims to become reactive, addicted to a culture of complaint and blame that serves only to increase the powerlessness, impotence and frustration of being a Muslim.
And that, to me, is the gravest danger facing Muslim emigrant communities in Europe and the US. How to deal with that dilemma?