London is a dump for MuslimsIn reply to Abu Dharr, i have been wondering if the association of being Muslim with being South Asian is a correct observation. In the UK half of Muslims are apparently Pakistanis not including the other south asian muslims, nevertheless in north london where I live there is a huge Turkish and Somalian community. In my school, my Muslim experience was diverse, unlike the experiences of other Muslims that I know down East London or Bradford who went to schools where south asian muslims constitute 90 percent. In my school I met brothers from other immigrant backgrounds; Somalians, Turks, Kurds, Mauritian Muslims and then maybe Bengalis but no Pakistanis. Nevetheless we all linked together, advocating some kind of Muslim unity, giving gora a beating when he needed it and cheating in exams which was a necessity for many brothers who didnt speak much english and also becaue of the ignorance and racism of the school system in general.
Muslim identity in the UK is perhaps stronger as a reaction to oppression and Islamophobia, these days despite my "progressive" credentials, I find myself agreeing with the brothers from HT and using the word kuffar more then i used to. Nevertheless alot of brothers and sisters between 21-30 that are graduates, seem more religious and Islamically aware and especially those that I meet in the anti-war and anti-racist movements. Many of these graduates and have a very professional outlook on life and are focused on what they want in their future. However I find that there is another group of young Muslims, many of whom facing many social problems such as drugs, unemployment, alienation, gangs and police harassment. I find that sometimes the state of Islam and aqeedah among them is perhaps more complicated and among some young Muslims it is also almost non-existent or a burden. I remember Tariq Ramadan writing something about how he believed that the future of Islam will be found amongst Muslim communities in the West. I find that much of this utopian rhetoric is sometimes extremely detached from the reality of what is happening at the grassroots level. The middle class Muslim intellectuals may be interested in celebrating the wonders of multi-culturalism and cultural hybridity but from what Ive seen, its a disaster.
But the propoganda continues, recently The Guardian newspaper did a big piece on British Muslims, in fact since 9/11 The Guardian has done countless articles on how Muslims are more integrated then the public may think, they're not fundamentalist blah blah blah. There have also been more documentaries on TV about this patronising issue. Not once are the issues of ordinary Muslims addressed and in particular the Muslim youth. Instead we see an illusion being propgated to the public of the high flying young Muslim professional that advocate white washed ideas of integration and how Muslims have to blame themselves for their problems. One young Somalian brother from Camden was talking to me about gangs and how there is one Muslim gang down South London that dresses in traditional Islamic garms, but goes around beating up and mugging people who are not Muslim. My first reaction was laughter and almost happiness at this unpleasant form of resistance. He then went on to tell me of his Somalian group, and how they sometimes "jack" people for money, but how he knows its haraam and one time they mugged someone but then decided to return the money to the person with compensation. The victim then went on to say how he always thought Muslims were righteous people and was grateful. I found this shocking and hilarious at the same time and I said to the brother "mashallah, the Prophet used to bring people to Islam through his actions" and other religious waffle which may not have been viable considering that rasoolallah never made "jacking" people a requirement for the sahaba.
Still, I wonder what type of activism is needed to deal with these issues, I believe that these are the same kind of youth that rebelled against the fascist scum in the Northern Towns in the summer of 2001. Alot of us "progressive" Muslims activists involved in the social movements are also extremely detached from many of these brothers and sisters, the type of activism needed to deal with these issues will have to be of Black Panther proportions if we are to suceed in reaching out to the most marginalised groups in society.