Leaders, Take a Break

Ehsan Masood talks sense.

One of the problems we face in the search for better community relations is our insistence on sticking to the idea of the “community leader.” In a modern democracy, the idea that there is such a thing as a community leader and that he has the ability to prevent extremism among “his people” continues to be an important plank of government policy. But it needs rethinking. Each time there is news of Muslim terrorism, ministers invite television cameras to film a cavalcade of mostly male Muslims who appear to have been summoned to explain themselves to government ministers.

I wish he’d said a little more about the ‘mostly male’ part. But no matter.

[G]overnment should understand that command and control through third parties might be how you run an empire of sceptical Muslim subjects, but it isn’t a smart way to build a sense of belonging among sceptical Muslim citizens. Among other things, it allows Muslims to see themselves as separate from the rest of the society – which all too many would be happy to do. The community leader, too, has to recognise that his job of trying to represent his community to those in authority is over. It will be hard, because some of them enjoy being snapped standing next to the prime minister or foreign secretary. But Muslim citizens can look after themselves…

And many of them simply don’t want to be ‘represented’ by self-appointed (all male) leaders anyway.

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