Follow the leader

Why does Ruth Gledhill call Bari ‘leader of Britain’s Muslims’? Why would anyone (apart from aspiring MCB aparatchiks at least) call him that? Britain’s Muslims don’t have a leader, as I imagine most of them would agree. Britain’s Christians (for instance) don’t have a leader, so why say Britain’s Muslims do? In fact why even talk about ‘leaders’ at all? Think of who else liked to bandy about the word – there was the dear Duce, and the dear F├╝hrer – but anyone else? It’s not really a very exact term, so why use it? (Because it’s not an exact term. Yes I know, but that’s what I’m complaining of.) We don’t even call heads of state ‘leader of X’s Ys’ – we call them presidents or prime ministers or juntas, as the case may be.

I’m tempted to think it’s sinister and infantilizing, but when I grab my elbow and tell myself to think more carefully, I have to conclude that it’s just an artifact of the excess deference that was paid to the MCB for a long time. The head of the MCB has to be called something, and since everyone seemed to think the MCB was in some way representative (even though it wasn’t), it doubtless seemed to make sense to call him (it always is a man, of course; one of many strikes against the ‘representative’ delusion) ‘the leader.’ But the whole idea has been getting a second look lately, so let’s pull our socks up and not flatter the head of the MCB any more.

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