One of the most joyous aspects of our work at WARN is seeing strong, Muslim women achieving great things – both for themselves and their families. To me, it’s a great reflection on British society that freedoms enshrined in our laws and culture allow everyone to get on in life, regardless of religion or gender.
That’s not to say there still aren’t challenges and hurdles to overcome. But plenty of statistics show that Muslims in the UK are playing an ever more important role in business, politics and culture. Basically – the only way is up!
However, the doom-mongers are never far away. Far Right and Islamist extremists are busy trying to create a culture of grievance by spreading the lie that it is impossible for Muslims to be accepted in Britain. They even reject the very term, ‘British Muslim’. They both claim – erroneously – that it is a contradiction in terms.
The level of discussion in the US presidential elections can be depressing and feeds into a sense of victimhood. Meanwhile here in Britain, the media’s portrayal of Muslims can often be unhelpful to put it mildly. We have a long way to go educating some newsrooms on how to avoid giving grist to extremist mills.
However, Britain is becoming a more tolerant place. Younger people in particular are more open minded and accepting than previous generations. The bigots have loud voices and can seem to dominate social media but they are not a reflection of the majority of this country. The only people who would disagree with this are the Far Right who don’t want Muslims to live here and Islamists who want to portray Britain as a hostile and unwelcoming place. Neither of those things are true.
Can you be Muslim and British?
It’s more important than ever for us to celebrate and remind ourselves of what our country offers us – especially when we compare it to the kind of state Daesh wants to create. We have laws protecting us from hate crime in the streets and discrimination in the workplace. We have the freedom to worship, whatever our religion or sect - or we can choose not to worship at all.
We have an increasing number of positive British Muslim role models in business, entertainment and politics. Sadiq Khan recently became London’s first Muslim mayor. We have gender equality. And we have a government which celebrates diversity and works to unite rather than divide.
British Muslims are not dreaming of a caliphate, they are building their futures in Britain – getting their children into university, paying the mortgage and trying to get a pay rise. We are patriotic. We believe in the British values of fairness and justice, which we believe are also Muslim values.
Therefore, we should reject Daesh’s claims that it’s ‘impossible to be British and a Muslim’. And British Muslims should do it by celebrating everything that we are and all the incredible things that come from living in our beloved Britain.