Below is a short extract of a letter written in 2002 by Tariq Modood, Professor of Sociology, Politics and Public Policy at the University of Bristol, a response to an academic paper written by Alison Shaw titled ‘Why might young British Muslims support the Taliban?‘. Both Shaw’s paper and Modood’s response appear in the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland’s journal Anthropology Today and are well worth reading.
“Bridge-building, however, does not simply mean asking moderate Muslims to join and support the new project against terrorism. Muslims must also ask where the moderate Western governments are when moderate Muslims call for international protection and justice in Palestine, Bosnia, Chechnya and Kashmir, or for the easing of sanctions against Iraq after it became apparent that it was the weak and the poor who were bearing the brunt of their effects? Western policy in relation to the Muslim world and many other parts of the world has been far from moderate. Now that a terrible tragedy has happened to the US [ie 9/11], the US is asking moderate Muslims to join its campaign. The fundamental question, however, is whether there is a recognition by the West of a need to radically review and change its attitude towards Muslims. As for domestic politics, the possible involvement of a small number of British Muslims in international terrorism should not lead us to overlook the need for policies to further the democratic inclusion of Muslims in Britain, any more than the existence of the IRA was a reason to neglect the democratic inclusion of Catholics in Northern Ireland. In each of these cases, the opposite is true.”
Modood’s piece is poignant to the British Muslims who believe in political participation by all communities in the political arena, and not only as a means of asserting themselves but also in an attempt to influence political decision-making, especially domestically, and a part of their rights as citizens.
Considering Muslims make up nearly 5% of the population of the United Kingdom (2011 Census figures), it is a real shame that the number of Muslim politicians in Britain doesn’t even reach half this figure. Even more worrying is the number of Muslims who don’t even bother to vote – Ken Livingstone’s 2012 London Mayoral bid would have been helped considerably had Muslims in London bothered to get out and vote, for example. Yet there exists some Muslims in Britain today who are still debating whether voting is Islamically lawful or not.
The ‘need for policies to further the democratic inclusion of Muslims in Britain’ that Modood mentions in his letter is important because not only do Muslims and other communities have a right to fully participate in the democratic process, research has shown that lack of involvement could contribute to radicalisation. In fact the political settlement in Northern Ireland that acknowledged all sides in the conflict resulted in a marked decrease in terrorist activity in the region, suggesting that political participation, ie democratic inclusion, is a necessary tool to fighting radicalisation as well as allowing citizens to exercise their political rights.
Participation by all communities enhances democracy, forcing it to go down the route of deliberation and consideration – a deliberative democracy, if you like. The result of the apathy exhibited by British Muslims today is that they are ignored when decisions are being made – why should politicians consider the views of those who are not holding them to account?
Originally published at MPACUK
- Inter Faith Relations: British Muslims for Secular Democracy (goldenroomblog.wordpress.com)
- The pursuit of integration requires that citizens have a sense of belonging to the whole, as well as to their own ‘little platoon’ (blogs.lse.ac.uk)
- I spy with my many eyes… (abdelxyz.wordpress.com)
- Modood, “Multiculturalism” (clrforum.org)
- Muslim helpline reveals majority of faith attacks on women (guardian.co.uk)
- UK: ~Looking Back~ Muslim Culture, British Identity (ionglobaltrends.com)
- Looking For Someone to Blame: Reactions to the Boston Bombing (unshacklingprogress.wordpress.com)
- The reaction to the Woolwich murder denies British Muslims a political voice | Rachel Shabi (guardian.co.uk)
- Britain’s wars fuel terror. Denying it only feeds Islamophobia (guardian.co.uk)