It might sound like a bit of a cliché to call Britain a melting pot, but every day I see proof that it really is. I am lucky to be able to talk to people from a wide variety of ethnic groups who have an incredibly diverse range of beliefs. This diversity enriches us all.
British Muslims are one of several groups in Britain who hold beliefs and values that come from different cultures. For most of us, there is no contradiction in this. The mixture gives us a powerful sense of identity.
And within that identity there is huge variation, because there are so many different ways of being both British and Muslim.
This is what being British is all about. We don’t just accept differences, we welcome and celebrate them.
However, it concerns me that there are a number of groups based here in the UK that promote themselves as self-appointed representatives of British Muslims. They perpetuate the idea that we are one homogenous bloc. That we’re like a herd of sheep waiting to be led. Or worse, to be indoctrinated.
These organisations present their supremacist Islamist ideology as ‘normative’ Islam, and claim that anybody who opposes them is Islamophobic. They sometimes resort to intimidating those who bravely contradict them. A hail of abuse is unleashed on social media if you dare to suggest that Islamism is not the same thing as Islam. But it isn’t.
Their underlying world view can be bigoted, anti-democratic and extremist, peddling the idea that British Muslims must reject their mother country and support the idea of a caliphate governed by their cruel and oppressive version of Sharia law. This would include capital punishment for apostasy and adultery as well as being LGBT.
Islamist extremists have a kind of symbiotic relationship with the Far Right. Their version of what Islam should be is so unpalatable to most Britons that it’s latched on to by the Far Right as part of their narrative that Muslims can never fit into Britain. Islamist extremists also believe that Muslims can’t fit in to British society, from a different perspective. Both the Far Right and Islamist extremists revel in greater polarisation.
It’s important that as modern British Muslims, we reject these groups, avoid their interpretation of Islam and stand up to their bullying tactics. The Quran teaches us that Muslims should fully engage with their home country, provided that religious rights are respected. As British Muslims, our rights are protected by law.
It is important that we think critically about the information we are fed and remain steadfast in our identity as British Muslims.
Watch our film about this subject by clicking here.