Opinion: Muslims Need Allies In Establishing Institutions and Identity

May 10, 2004

Source: The Guardian

http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1213031,00.html

On May 10, 2004 The Guardian ran an opinion piece by Madeleine Bunting on Muslim immigrants' need for allies in their the establishment of their identity in a new society. She writes, "The struggle by Muslims to establish their own institutions and identity in this country, in the face of hostility and suspicion, is comparable to that of the Catholics at the time of the Irish independence movement in the late 19th century. But the stakes are higher, and the international context and its global repercussions more insistent. So, where are their allies? Who's helping? In the US, interfaith groups have mushroomed in a bid to build understanding between Christianity and Islam, and there have been comparable initiatives here, but they are less significant in a secularised Britain. The allies one might expect on the liberal left hold back. They find the religiosity alienating, they can't get beyond the hijab issue, and in many quarters they're no longer prepared to take up the cudgels on human rights - accepting the government line that such is the threat of terrorism that some rights have to be curtailed. What the Muslims in Tooting most want is understanding of their faith - of its principles of community, peace and its abhorrence of violence. The same message was evident at an event in central London last week, addressed by the American Muslim convert Hamza Yousef. Over a thousand young Muslims turned up to discuss 'Islam, citizenship and the west.' There's a battle going on as to what kind of a religion Islam is; schools, public debates and clinics rarely make headlines, while bombs always do. Too many non-Muslims have listened only to the terrorists and have already closed their eyes and ears."