Wednesday, December 22, 2004

London is a dump for Muslims

In 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.

13 comment(s):

  • This sounds a lot like the US, esp. the guardian articles you mentioned. Similar stuff have appeared here - that is supposed to suggest "look they're like "us" " --- well, that's not the issue is it? Those kinds of articles are a subtle and sometimes not so subtle way of saying "these are the good Muslims."

    One other thing about our dear friend Abu Dharr's entry: - while it is true that many Muslims (but not all, by any means) of immigrant background might be of middle class backgrounds. That is not at all so of African American Muslims... Now, the question is what happened between Malcolm X - and now...? Part of this has been the drive towards "assimilation" - that the task of Muslims in the US is to get "our" share of the pie.

    By Blogger redwood, at 12/22/2004 11:36:00 PM  

  • Yeah, African-American Muslims and their issues are very much ignored by the professional sections of the immigrant Muslim community in the U.S. which tend to dominate Muslim organizations. And the question of where the legacy of Malcolm X went is a good one...the response by many leaders of African-American Muslim communities has been to out-do their immigrant counterparts in supposed orthodoxy, and this has meant a focus on personal/individual responsibility, and a decline in appreciating the larger socio-economic systemic pressures and ills that severely affect African-American Muslims, the majority of whom are working class.

    I agree with Adam. Something like the Black Panther/Malcolm X sytle of politics is desperately needed, but will be difficult to come by in these hard times in which Muslims are struggling against so much Islamophobia.

    Abu Dharr

    By Blogger Abu Dharr, at 12/23/2004 12:05:00 AM  

  • This is so interesting, and inspires so many thoughts that I may need to post my own response instead of simply using the comments forum.

    Bro. Abu Dharr your voice and perspective are as refreshing for me as spring rain. Its time for our community spokespersons (self-appointed or other) stepped out of the ivory towers and come take a look at how folks are really living and then begin the dialogue on Activism that focuses on uplifting Muslims in need as opposed to all the "we is just like yall" shuckin' and jivin' that seems to have invaded so many Muslim circles, regardless of their interpretations of Islam.

    From my experiences here in the US, there are a number of problems with our youth. One of them is that they know so little about Islam and what they learn is often so oppressive and twisted or outright wrong that they reject it. As they should, because it isn't Islam that they are getting and I think its in our fitra to reject such things. The problem is that they often have nothing to turn to.

    Another issue is that youth are naturally passionate, energetic and somewhat rebellious. We give them no means of channeling this energy to effect positive change. If they could learn about Islam as a liberation theology, as a means of growth, achievement and social justice I think that they would see Islam as something greater than a tribal identity and perhaps begin to embrace it for its beauty.

    I also think our young people have a lot of sexual tension and no one is addressing it for what it is. Or thinking about how to offer them workable solutions. This is also leading to a lot of problematic behavior.

    As far as the African-American community. There are now and always have been leaders in the African American Muslim community who have opened their hearts and worked hard against racism and for social justice issues for their neighborhoods and communities.

    By Blogger blagdiblah, at 12/23/2004 09:19:00 AM  

  • As Salaam u Alaikum,

    While the issue of classism is rarely discussed in the US Muslim context, when it is it gets an occaisional African American reference....and the immigrant muslim population is generally regarded as middle class professionals...

    that may have been true of the immigrants that came in the 60s, 70s, and some in late 90s on professional visas....however, AT LEAST HALF of the Muslim (arab, south asian, and african) community, esp that arrived in the 80s and 90s are working class folk...cabbies, restaurant workers, construction workers, sweatshop workers, day laborers and some small/family business workers and owners....

    they are always left out of the broader US discourse on 'model minorities' (except to take jabs at cabbies and kwiki-mart folks) for particular reasons, mainly to further pit immigrants/other folks of color against existing african american (and to lesser extent native and latino) populations....

    EVEN more so, they are left out of the broader muslim discourse (progressive and otherwise) along with african american muslim community in general as unwanted folk or undesirables....

    and in the cases of harassment, violence, INS sweeps and deportations since 9/11 its the working class community that has been hit overwhelmingly...yet most of the 'high profile' cases within the muslim community, READ: those receiving support money and help, have been from the professional class.....

    i think these same patterns are seen in general in immigrant communities all over the US, but the dichotomy is heightened moreso in so called 'model minority' communities....

    By Blogger malangbaba, at 12/23/2004 12:03:00 PM  

  • Good point. We must emphasize that this professional middle class South Asian Muslim model may have dominated at one stage, but certainly does not do so any longer. A lot of the extended family of many of the original folks has arrived in the U.S. and now you do have a good deal of South Asian Muslims in the working class in the U.S. in the types of jobs described. Again, I stress that I am focussing on South Asian Muslims since that is the community I know and have studied carefully.

    By Blogger Abu Dharr, at 12/23/2004 02:29:00 PM  

  • Great article, there. It's also similar to the experiences of many Muslim youth in France as well...

    By Blogger Leila M., at 12/24/2004 01:27:00 AM  

  • interesting article

    By Blogger person, at 12/24/2004 03:03:00 PM  

  • Social activism is non-existent among South Asian Muslims or is restricted to Tablighi-type activities. Salafi dawah is about the only public 'activism' that Muslims engage in, and Salafis (in an effort to scrub away any "cultural deviations" and turn us into Arabs), force new adherents to lose their identity as a "Pakistani" or "Indian" or whatever. I suspect it is different up North.

    You might like to point fingers about the "state of Islam" for 15-21 year olds, but we ought to look closer to home. Whose responsibilty is their Islam? "Societies"? The state? 21-30 Muslim graduates? Ask yourself how many parents of these children willingly take on responsible work and do not lounge about sponging off state benefits. Whenever a local imam is brave enough to chastise Muslims for being lazy layabouts who do not work and earn halal income, there is always noise and unhappines after the Juma. (Of course, it is only the imam who doesn't visit the Post Office every Tuesday, or whenever, who will dare say this.)

    Groups like Hizb al-Tahrir represent nothing in reality, except hot-air and shallow paper-thin "intellecualism". Kufr political systems that offer them and their families free schooling, housing and medical care; kufr economics that they happily participate in when working (bank accounts), driving (insurance) and for their latest mobile phone on line rental (credit facilties). One such member I knew, a medical student, happily spent kufr tax money resitting his finals several times over because he kept on failing (HT "activism", which revolves around silly cnoferences and nonsensical debates with their "arch-enemies" the Saudi Salafis, took up most of his time). Others happily filed kufr assessment forms to their kufr local authorities to have their kufr tution fees paid for by the kufr government. The further we move from HT type groups the better for "UK Muslims".

    Social activism from Muslims ought to include cleaning up the local sink estates; anti-drugs projects; literacy and numeracy drives; charitable work for homeless the and poor. Ask yourself when was the last time any Muslim bothered to help a poor person on his doorstep -- not just someone in Kashmir (which is a good act, alhamdullilah)? Do we open soup kitchens to feed the poor? Do we drive food buses and knock on the door of the elderly to provide them with care and food? Where are the Muslim charities that open drug rehab centres? A few small projects do exist in Tower Hamlets and this is a good first step. I know these people personally, and they are run by the same "detached professionals" you dislike.

    I've seen Tariq Ramadan in person. What he actually asked these students to do was make their own lives in these countries. He was asking the students sitting around me at SOAS to read the English literature, for example, and make it their own. One in the eye for his critics, left and right of him, religious or secular.

    In short, I don't think "London is a dump for Muslims" is a fair or very accurate assessment.

    By Blogger thabet, at 12/25/2004 04:33:00 AM  

  • actually the london is a dump thing was meant to be funny, im always cussing london with my mates, the place hasnt been cleaned since the bloody dark ages, that constitutes a dump in my book, and indeed as the financial centre of global capitalism it is therefore a dump for everyone.

    By Blogger adam, at 12/25/2004 11:59:00 AM  

  • Salaams

    First off, I am a gora/ghoora, which is Panjabi slang for 'white'. I'm a white Muslim. I use to teach in a 99% Asian school and I forbade children from using this term. I am aware of more polite Muslims who consider it vulgar, no better than calling someone who is black 'coloured'.

    This article brings me to reflect on the idea that 'educated' Muslims should gear their quest for change to the culture they are dealing with.

    It's an idea I feel uncomfortable with, though I can see its good intentions. But there is the risk of either being patronising, or tolerated norms which need to be challenged. I believe in telling the truth, not running a PR agency for Allah. Leave social engineering to governments.

    The article evokes the sense of militancy which is prevelant amongst British Muslims at the moment, and its uniting force, but I have deep reservations about the direction some British Muslims activists are taking. I know I am not alone if feeling alienated from the more militant activists, particularly groups like the MPACUK, whom one leading Muslim academic described to me as being 'arrogant and ignorant'.

    I am also concerned about the way highly politicised Salafi groups such as MAB have been ingratiating there way into the mainstream by their ability to organize on key issues of interest to militants, such as anti-war and hijab. They seem very reluctant to say much about their 'Islamic' perspective in public.

    Although I am at one with Muslims on issues such as Islamophobia, the crass behaviour of police and security services, Belmarsh and Iraq, and have written and protested as Allah knows, I am utterly opposed to the laddish, macho, vituperative yobbism that poses as 'Muslim politics' in some quarters of the British Isles today.

    The Islam I understand is one of taqwa, kindness, compassion, beauty and social justice - none of which are incompatible with one another. How can physically assaulting people evoke laughter? It is a crime and those responsible should have been reported to the police and may Allah forgive them.



    By Blogger Julaybib, at 12/26/2004 09:17:00 AM  

  • The word gora simply means white however I believe that the way some people use it today has been constructed through the context of struggle, im sure people used it during the British Raj, its not different to the way Mexicans and Latinos use the word los blancos. Therefore it is simply not the same as a white person using the word nigger or paki, but yes i agree we should refrain from using it in the way we do nevertheless there is a tendency to take things to seriously and I find that white liberals must understand that political correctness does not apply to them.

    By Blogger adam, at 12/26/2004 12:51:00 PM  

  • As in gringo - here in the Americas...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 12/27/2004 09:19:00 AM  

  • fuck off u Muslim piece of shit...go back to u desert hunk of shit u call a country...all towel heads...leave Europe...GET THE FUCK OUT!!!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7/08/2005 09:11:00 AM  

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