Bob and Kenan Say It

Bob from Brockley tells us of a good item on Radio 4’s The World This Weekend. I haven’t listened yet but I’m going to, as well as to Ayaan Hirsi Ali on Start the Week, which Nick S mentioned. (Time! I have no time!)

a very interesting segment on Radio 4’s World This Weekend about who represents British Muslisms…A number of British Muslims forcefully argued that the Muslim Council of Britain completely fails to represent the perdominantly Sufi Sunni British Muslims, who do not have a Muslim Brotherhood worldview, but rather have a much more theologically open perspective…A new organisation is needed to better represent them…Particularly daming was the testimony with Haras Rafiq from the Sufi Muslim Council on the way post-9/11 (and especially post-7/7) the MCB has used the war on terror to channel funds to their corrupt, reactionary affiliates.

I hope the subject of the over-reliance of the BBC itself on the MCB was part of the discussion.

For me, the deeper issue is the ideology – central to the New Labour version of multiculturalism – that ethnic groups constitute homogeneous “communities” who can be “represented” by “community leaders”. French republicans call this ideology “communautarisme”…I am sick of hearing politicians say “The Muslim community wants X”, “The gay community is Y”, “The Asian community feels Z”. These definite articles imprison us, over-emphasising differences between “communities”, under-emphasising differences within “communities”, hiding the oppressive nature of “community leaders” who define what each “community” thinks, feels, is. We need to escape from this foolish and dangerous notion!

Just so. Well said Bob from Brockley.

Kenan Malik in the Times the other day, too.

The starting point in any discussion about terrorism and extremism seems to be that Muslims constitute a community with a distinct set of views and beliefs, and that, for them, real political authority must come from within their community.

Exactly. And what a bizarrely patronizing and stultifying starting point that is.

But the trouble is the bargain itself. Not only is it rooted in a picture of the Muslim community and its relationship with the wider British society that is false, but also the cosy relationship between the Government and Muslim leaders exacerbates the problem it was meant to solve…The Government has long since abandoned its responsibility for engaging directly with Muslim communities. Instead it has effectively subcontracted its responsibilities to so-called community leaders. When the Prime Minister wants to find out what Muslims think about a particular issue he invites the Muslim Council of Britain to No 10…Rather than appealing to Muslims as British citizens and attempting to draw them into the mainstream political process, politicians of all hues prefer to see them as people whose primarily loyalty is to their faith and who can be politically engaged only by other Muslims.

Patronizingly and stultifyingly.

The policy of subcontracting political responsibility allows…self-appointed community leaders with no democratic mandate to gain power both within Muslim communities and the wider society. But it does the rest of us — Muslim and non-Muslim — no favours. It is time that politicians dropped the pretence that there is a single Muslim community and started taking seriously the issue of political engagement with their constituents, whatever their religious faith.

Hear hear.

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