Representing 'Diverse' British Muslims

Man has always been preoccupied with the fundamental issue of defending his interests and how best to do that.

Representing 'Diverse' British Muslims

Man has always been preoccupied with the fundamental issue of defending his interests and how best to do that, which is probably how trade unions, syndicates, pressure groups and lobbyists came into being.

The need for representing the very diverse, sizable Muslim minority in Britain has gained more urgency and importance in recent years, especially after the 7/7 terrorist attacks and its aftermath.

"There are crucial issues that you need a representative body to act on your behalf in order to safeguard," Dr Daud Abdullah, Deputy Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, told

He asserted that British Muslims, estimated at 2 million, suffer "disadvantage" in economics, in employment, in housing and in schools.


"We can only represent those who want to be part of the MCB and who they represent in turn in their respective regions," said Dr. Abdullah. (IOL photo)

"There is also discrimination in the law and in how the law is interpreted in terms of arrest, searches, detention."

Dr. Abdullah noted that all the figures of arrest and detention over the last five years have shown that Muslims have been overwhelmingly the majority of those detained.

He added that the controversial police practice of stop and search has largely singled out Muslims.

"On top of that we have a very hostile climate of Islamophobia led by sections of the media and supported by certain politicians for their own reasons."

The MCB leader underlined that because Muslims are not organized they have little, if any, political clout.

"The truth of the matter is although we are the largest religious community, in fact more than Jews, Hindus and Buddhists combined, we do not have as much influence as the others."

Needed Work

Zareen Roohi Ahmed, Chief Executive of the British Muslim Forum, agreed on the need for representation.

"Due to the socio-economic deprivation experienced by Muslims, particularly within inner city areas of Britain, it is clear that the needs of Muslims require representation and action on their behalf to address their needs," she told IOL.

"The establishment of Muslim organizations such as the British Muslim Forum and other groups (local and national) is essential given the amount of work that needs to be done to improve the position of Muslims in this country," Ahmed maintained.

The BMF seeks to establish a network of official, political, social and educational organizations of Muslims addressing their problems and concerns and taking appropriate steps to resolve them.

It promotes values that are common to all humanity through teachings of fearing God and serving humanity as per the education of the Sufiya (spiritual leaders).



Yahya underlined the need to develop Muslim representational bodies to become "more inclusive and professional." (IOL photo)

Yahya Birt, a Muslim community activist, also recognizes the need for Muslim representation.

"British Muslims do need to be properly represented where collective
interests can be identified," he told IOL.

"But our community also needs to put more emphasis on identifying issues in common with fellow citizens and working as part and parcel of the political mainstream for the common good," Birt insisted.

"We need to develop our community institutions, including our representational bodies, so that they become more inclusive and professional, and we also need to reach out and work with wider society too. These are not mutually exclusive goals."

Birt also heads the City Circle, a registered charity that promotes the development of a distinct British Muslim identity.

Since establishment in 1999, it has sought to assist the process of community cohesion and integration by building bilateral strategic alliances between Muslim and non-Muslim communities.

It also strives to harness and channel the skills and resources of Muslim professionals into practical projects thereby facilitating and empowering young Muslim women and men to give back to the wider British community.


Though they do agree on the need for someone to represent them, British Muslims are divided on how does.

"I don't think any organization can say they represent all Muslims, some individuals choose to affiliate to organizations such as ours and others tend not to," said Zareen Ahmed of the British Muslim Forum.

"Every other section of society hosts a plethora of groups representing different denominations; so why not welcome a range of different Muslim organizations too?" she asked.

"After all, the Muslim community is very diverse and no one group could represent the needs of all Muslims," Ahmed indicated.

The majority of British Muslims have Indian, Pakistani and Bengali backgrounds. Others have Arab, Mideast or African origins.

"After all, the Muslim community is very diverse and no one group could represent the needs of all Muslims," said Ahmed. (IOL photo)

The BMF strives to instill such values in the next generation of Muslims that will lead to improved cohesion in a multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-racial and intellectually open thinking society.

"In the UK there are an estimated 2 million Muslims we are not homogeneous," said Rohema Miah, a community activist involved with the Center for Muslim Affairs, Commission on British Muslims & Islamophobia and the all-party parliamentary group Friends of Islam,

"We come from very diverse sets of cultures and traditions but share the same faith," she asserted.

That said, one thing troubled the mind of the Muslim activist.

"How is it that all of the Muslim MP's in parliament are from Pakistani origin and all are men. Are their no Muslims from Europe, Arab states, the Orient, Africa etc. Does ego come to mind?"

Councillor Mohammed Khan, Deputy Leader of the Council of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, agrees on the issue of diversity.

"The Muslim community in Great Britain is not really united to be represented by MCB as you know there are a number of different sects in the Muslim community," he told IOL.

"They all want their own point of view to be expressed to local government, regional government and central government," added Councillor Khan.

"My personal opinion is that the political representation by the Muslim elected Member is the best way forward to represent the community as a whole plus the view points of the Muslim community."

Blackburn with Darwen has a population of approximately 140,000 out of which 22% is of Asian, mainly Muslims of Indian and Pakistani origin.

It has 64 Councillors out of which 26% are of Asian Muslim origin.

Largest Representative

Dr. Abdullah, the MCB Deputy Secretary General, drew the line between defending the interests of Muslims and claiming to speak on their behalf.

"The Muslim Council of Britain lays no claim to be the only representative body of British Muslim," he asserted.

"We say that we are arguably the largest representative body but we are not the only one."

He pointed out that within its fold the MCB has the largest national Islamic bodies such as the Federation of Students Islamic Society, Islamic Forum Europe, Islamic Society of Britain, the Muslim Association of Britain and the United Kingdom Islamic Mission.

"These are the largest Islamic bodies in the United Kingdom. Then after that we have the various mosques and others."

Dr. Abdullah noted that when people speak about representation they do not ever mention the fact that Tony Blair got only 33 percent of the electorate votes on the last occasion.

"But he is representing Britain and he has gone to war on behalf of Britain on the basis of a 33 percent vote, most of which did not even support the war."

The MCB leader asserted that his group is trying to reach out to the younger generation.

"In the summer of last year, our Secretary General Dr. Abdel Barri went on a nation-wide tour. He visited 22 cities primarily to have a feel of what Muslim across the country are thinking about key issues and to clarify to them what the policies of the council are," said Dr. Abdullah.

He recalled that in September 2005, the MCB organized a convention of young people involving the youth wings of several of the MCB affiliates.

"We have adopted a policy of working through the youth wings of our affiliate bodies.

"We can only represent those who want to be part of the MCB and who they represent in turn in their respective regions."

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16