Islam in the UK

Since this is such a hot topic right now, some disclaimers off the bat:

  1. This discussion is focused primarily on the the manifestations of the Islamic faith in the UK currently and for the past 20 years or so. I do not at all believe that Islam is inherently violent, crude, misogynistic or anti-science, as evidenced by previous eras of Islamic tolerance and progressiveness. Also I have many many Muslim friends who are wonderful, lovely people, so I don’t think there is any inherent problem with practitioners of the faith either.
    I personally think that in Islam one can find beauty, poetry, and joy, both in the scriptures and other manifestations (art, literature, etc).
  2. I would appreciate it if discussants refrained from outright dismal of people’s points on the basis of “ignorance,” “bigotry,” etc, without even addressing what is specifically idiotic or bigoted about the person’s points. I (and I imagine most of us here) am just trying to learn and not to prove a point.

Also for the sake of time I won’t cite any links here but if anyone is interested I’m happy to provide cites for any of my factual assertions.

So I live in the US, and Muslims here are, IMO and per statistics, fairly well-integrated. Most people who live in cities probably know at least one, if not several, Muslim people who make contributions in all areas of American society. I think I’ve seen the burka/niqab/abaya maybe once or twice, but definitely not daily, although the hijab is not uncommon.
However, in the UK, it’s come to my attention recently that the situation is different. The Muslim migrants to the UK traditionally were poorer and less educated than those to the US, and they came in much greater numbers. Evidently there are cities in the UK where there are large pockets of Muslim immigrants whose interaction with outside society is minimal. It also seems like these communities don’t necessarily want very much interaction with outside society. There was, for example, the Trojan Horse scandal, where it was determined that there were 6+ ostensibly state-run schools whose administration had been taken over by fundamentalist Muslims who had variously eliminated art/music, all foreign languages besides Arabic or Urdu, employed teachers who extolled the virtues of salafist Islam, and taught creationism as fact (not all these things happened at every school), as well as various other offenses.
There are, per my understanding also large, popular mosques whose imams are fairly extremist (Finsbury Park mosque is a good example until it underwent a transformation recently), and there are a number of well-known extremist groups (al-Muhajiroun, Islam4UK are some older ones, I am not sure of the names of current ones). Imams are also imported from Saudi Arabia or otherwise chosen for their hard-line, salafist teachings.

All of which makes me wonder if the whole idea that “extremist Muslims” (however you want to define that) are not actually in the UK a fringe minority, but a substantial minority, if not majority, of British Muslims. Although I will note that the vast majority of these people are non-violent.

Also there are of course many, many well-integrated Muslims in the UK as well.

In addition, I feel that many Muslims in the West, both in the UK and US, become very . . . defensive when their religion is criticized (maybe understandably). They are all quick to condemn acts of terror but also immediately insist that the majority of Muslims are moderate and have values compatible with living in a liberal democracy, etc. It seems that anyone who suggests that there may be problems with the current practice of islam and Islamic communities is branded an Islamaphobe . . . like Maajid Nawaz or Ayaan Hirsi Ali, and their arguments are summarily dismissed. Sure, some of what Ali says is pretty extreme in itself, but she is basically just criticizing the current practice of Islam, not saying all Muslims are terrible people or anything. I don’t think anyone who suggested that the insular, ultra-orthodox jewish areas of New York should be reformed would be branded an anti-semite.
In addition, there seems to be a very “us-vs.-them” mentality, where Muslims feel like they need to present a united front to the rest of the world and avoid any acknowledgement of internal divisions and criticisms. (I have no cite for this, this is just my impression).
Finally, Muslims in the UK come from many different nations, and speak many different languages. However, most of these discussions center around the Muslim population as a whole, not Bangladeshi Muslims or Arab Muslims or whatever, and the spokespeople for the Muslim population seem to be pretty pan-Muslim. So that’s why I keep saying “Muslim” as kind of a monolith.

So my questions

  1. What, if anything, is incorrect about the above statements?
  2. If this is the case, what can we do about it? Should we do anything about it? Why did this situation come about?
  3. If you think I’m mostly right, how do you reconcile this with the ideas of modernity in british Islam, like the fact that the mayor of London is Muslim and popular, or that in a recent poll ~79% of British Muslims said they felt very proud to be British, which was a larger percentage than the white, non-Muslim British population?

Again, I’ve left off cites completely but I’m happy to provide them (although many of the cites can also be quickly found by googling) if anyone wants.
We can also debate what terms like extremist and fundamentalist mean.

What are you hoping to accomplish? Criticize Muslims? Why? The only appropriate response to such criticism is “Fuck off”.

Nawaz, Ali, and that doofus Nomani are pretty transparently selling a product to liberal and conservative Westerners. They sell books that say things their audiences want to hear.

There are Muslims who want to do illegal things in the name of their religion. But there are laws by which they can be prosecuted. So gather evidence and conduct a trial. Just as we would with anyone else.

If they want to do things or express opinions that you don’t like but it isn’t illegal, then criticize the action or words, not the religion.

Quit acting like there’s a Muslim problem or some Muslim enigma and the real problems will magically appear once you suppress this silly “What to do about Islam” question.

See, this is what I don’t get. What do you disagree with from what Nawaz and Ali say? And I am criticizing their actions and words, but those are very directly related to their religion (or their interpretation thereof). Why is it so hard to have a reasonable discussion about this?

And honestly your response did not address the meat of my post, which is do many/the majority of Muslims live in highly segregated areas, and have what we would consider “extremist” beliefs, and if so why and how can we change it or should we even try to change it?

You appear to have taken a number of specific incidents and generalized them to be significant social phenomena.

The accusations of closed neighborhoods, for example, are too broad with a mixture of some phenomena that have a tiny basis in truth along with typical xenophobic claims aimed at all immigrant groups: Jews, throughout history and, in the U.S., against Irish, Mexicans, Italians, Somalis, etc.). Newly arriving people in a strange place are going to associate with people who share language and customs to allow a “softer” landing in the larger society. They are then greeted with hostility, and, often, persecution, and band together for protection. That, in turn leads to accusations of clannishness.

There is no evidence that the British Muslims are more clannish than any other Muslim group. The “Trojan Horse” scandal, for example, appears to have been a bit of stupidity on the part of some administrators that were blown out of proportion, not a “Muslim” attempt to set up madrasas that would create new radicals.

Most of your conclusions echo the sort of rhetoric that Pamela Geller has been promoting in her various anti-Islamic diatribes for years. She takes small factoids, (or invents lies), then turns them into large claims against Muslims to promote hatred. If one listens to her (or her disciples) radical Muslims make up the majority of the Islamic community. It is not true.

As for being defensive: why would they not be defensive? If you encountered nonsense, day after day, claiming that your beliefs were terrible attacks on humanity, would you not be just a bit defensive?
This is perfect. Attack people with false claims, (Pam Geller, Robert Spencer, the English Defense League, etc.), then accuse them of being “defensive” when they deny those false claims.

Since it is not the case, the best thing will be to let the Brits work out their own issues. We have too much trouble hating on Muslims and Hispanics in this country to start getting excited about someone else.

A very educational article, especially the part with the town meeting. Those who are quick to spout anti-muslim propaganda should read it for a little sanity and perspective.

But then why are mainstream politicians and news outlets discussing it? If i google “muslim segregation uk” the first result is a bbc article quoting dame louise casey, who is, per wikipedia, a “british government official working in social welfare.” As far as I can tell she’s not known as some right wing nutjob. And her statement is that Muslim segregation is at “worry levels” in some parts of Britain.

And there are literally dozens of articles from the guardian, express that are about this. I’m not sure of the standards of the express but I’m pretty sure the guardian is a reputed paper.

She also notes that she thinks other government officials are not speaking out about this more because they don’t want to be called racist.

And the Islamic spokesperson they quoted in the article had this to say in response:
“Iqbal Bhana, a government adviser on anti-Muslim hate crime, rejected the report’s claim that Britain was becoming more segregated.
“I don’t think we are divided,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.”

And again what is so offensive or blantantly incorrect in what Ali and Nawaz (especially Nawaz) are saying?

While this is a very interesting piece with a unique perspective, I never said that there are no moderate Muslims at all, particularly in the US. I am not sure how this addresses my post.

I can’t comment on how significant the scandal actually was, and you may be right. But of note many high level government officials did comment on it, including Tony Blair and David Cameron (which of course does not necessarily indicate that it wasn’t blown out of proportion).

There’s nothing in your second paragraph that I care about. So what if people choose to live near those most like themselves? So what if people have screwed up beliefs? It’s their right to do these things because they are free.

I will assume for this one last post about charlatan authors that you believe I am a reasonable person. On cspan there was a hearing on Violent Extremism in 6/14. There was Nomani, Ali and some other Islamocritic named Lenczowski and there was Michael Leiter, the former National Counterterrorism director. The Senators pretty much ignored everyone but Leiter. Senator McCaskill did spend some time debunking Lenczowski’s lies about Muslim no go zones though. They ignored the other 3 because they had nothing to offer. The Senators just weren’t their fanbase. The Senators want to actually solve problems, so they focused on Leiter.

I’m not saying that I think that they don’t have the right to live and believe as they please. I’m just asking if it’s problematic.

Like let’s say if Utah had lots and lots (like >30%) fundamentalist Mormons, who in general believed in dressing their daughters a certain way, sending their kids to certain schools, and overall are relatively isolated from the rest of Utah society and the country in general. Would we be mormonophobic if we started discussing why this might be a problem?

Also, if we are going to use “government officials talk to them, therefore they are useful mouthpieces for islamic reform” as a standard then nawaz got lots of money from the british government (until he lost it) for his antiterrorism efforts.

I generally don’t take issue with what Nawaz has to say. Ali definitely makes a LOT of inflammatory statements, and unfortunately the kernel of what’s reasonable in what she says gets drowned out by the noise of her rhetoric. But I do generally think there is a kernel of logic in there that would be useful to discuss.

Geller I agree has nothing useful to contribute. The other people you mention I am not familiar with but I’ll go and read about them.

Edit: Oh I have read a bit by Nomani. For those of you reading, I would ask you to read this Q&A from the NYT with Ali and Nomani and see what is so islamophobic in it.

Of course, this piece does not reflect the more extreme of Ali’s beliefs, but I think it shows that she has something useful to say.

(sorry for all the consecutive posts. I have a lot of thoughts about this that I am trying to articulate)

So regarding what can fairly be termed “islamophobic” . . .
Lets say many different people vocalized that there was a problem with mainstream conservative Christianity in America, because of the way they stigmatized gay people. They would cite documents, speeches etc by influential southern baptist pastors that were homophobic, and would also point out the high rates of suicide among gay teens raised in conservative Christian households. They would also note that while rare, there were also several murders of gay teenagers by conservative christians, which were of course denounced by mainstream conservative christian organizations. And from that came a general consensus of the above people that conservative Christians really needed to step back and take stock of what they were doing and figure out what the problem was and how to correct it.
Would anyone call that “conservative christianophobic”? Would anyone accept this as a response from the leader of the Southern Baptist Convention?
“This is not an issue. These things are blown out of proportion by the media; most conservative christians have no quarrel with gay people and want everyone to just get along.”

If this analogy isn’t valid, why not? Is it because Christians are a majority in this country and not repressed? Is it because persecution of gay people is not equivalent to calls to extremist beliefs and occasionally violent actions?

…before even delving into that article, it starts with this logical fallacy:

You can’t compare legal things like the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination to illegal things like honor killings, sex slavery and female genital mutilation. What point is there in having a march against murder? Murder is already illegal, will a march convince legislators to make murder even more illegal?

So before I read even further: does it get better than that?

I agree the first line is illogical, and I think it does get better, although there are other parts of questionable value.

Although I will say that marches against illegal things can be of use for the general purpose of awareness-raising. There are lots of demonstrations against rape, like Take Back The Night, but they aren’t considered pointless because rape is illegal.

As a British liberal I wish it were otherwise but have come to accept there is some truth.

However - and it’s a big however - the argument is better framed not as ‘Islam’ but as a cultural issue, predominately cultural identity and practice.

An example; I worked for a while with a late 30s Pakistani guy who I would swear had arrived in the UK probably about 5 years ago; he spoke English with a second language accent, he dressed like he was trying to relate, we had zero cultural connections in terms of music, tv, zeitgeist, etc, etc. Turned out he was born and raised in Bradford, in the north.

Also, a friend of mine lives just outside a northern town, not far - somewhat coincidentally from Bradford. We were looking at house values and I was surprised at the low prices - he said they only sell to muslims. Interesting.

So yeah, even if I cite just a couple of things off my head, there is no question in my mind the UK let things go to far in trying to avoid offending minorities.

But it is mostly cultural, though religion is of course central to that culture.

Who are you referring to as charlatan authors?

…I’m sorry, I struggled to get past the second paragraph, where Ayaan started accusing the “left today” of “a growing tendency to prioritize group rights over individual rights”.

And then there was the claim that:

“Excusing men of color, Muslims, immigrants or men living in non-Western societies for bad behavior toward women is an expression of the bigotry of low expectations.”

I’m “progressive.” I don’t excuse men of colour, Muslims, immigrants or men living in non-Western society for bad behaviour. These are strawman attacks. If the article does get better then please feel free to summarise. But I’m not going to read that nonsense. They may or may not be spouting stuff that is islamophobic. But they most certainly are spouting a whole lot of bullshit.

It is a noble effort **Gestalt, ** but unfortunately it seems that people fall at the first hurdle with this.

It takes no effort at all to to simply cry “islamaphobia” (a bullshit term) or try to reframe the argument so that any criticism of Islam is equated with a hatred of muslims in general.
That’s an easy “win” and ensures that no further discussion is possible. It is a childish and cowardly debating tactic and for sure you’ll see it in some responses to you.

There seems to be an instinctive “cringe” from people when discussing any potential problem with Islam, Islamic cultures and the politics that arise from such an ideology. A reluctance that would not be present when discussing other philosophies, ideologies or cultural practices.
Imagine what a fuss there would be if you started a thread on the problem with communism…exactly. No fuss at all.

Islam is a growing religion with a massive majority of peaceful adherents who interpret it in a peaceful way. By nature of the numbers involved and the belief by so many of scriptural perfection it will also have a lot of extremists who seek to cause harm. That’s the reality for all of us in the west.
The difficult balancing act is to tackle the latter whilst not demonising the former. This will not be helped by defenders of the former not recognising the danger of the latter.

I often notice a little quirk of thinking and a double-standard with some people that debate on this subject. They treat religion and politics on totally separate footings. So that a person who’s voting swings slightly left/right can be comfortably lumped in with those who are far left/right rabble-rousers. The same thought process is not extended to religious ideology of course, I’m not sure why. Even though, ultimately, ideology is ideology.
Certainly the person who leans to the left/right is on a continuum of ideology that can lead to extremism but they are not extremist themselves nor necessarily supporters of it. I’d suggest that it is possible to explore and criticise political ideology, culture and tribalism to better understand and prevent extremism whilst protecting and supporting the majority of peaceful and moderate adherents. And that the same can be done (indeed should be done) for any and every ideology or philosophy as the need arises.

We can but hope. I would suggest that those who are also interested in taking such an approach do read and listen to the likes of Majid Nawaz, Ayan Hirsi Ali, Douglas Murray et al. They are very good moderate starting points (regardless of what Inbred Mm domesticus may say)

No, no one on the SDMB would ever have a problem with people implying that there were a lot of secret extremist communists infiltrating America :slight_smile:

Well the “secret” nature of communist spies during the cold war was sort of part of the job description. Plus it is an indisputable fact that it did and does happen.

My point is, communism (or liberalism, humanism, secularism) is an ideology and a discussion on its pros & cons would not raise as much heat as a discussions on Islam.