THE BRITISH MUSLIMS
Who are the ‘British Muslims’? They are, in general, children born in this country to parents originally from the Indian subcontinent - that is, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their home is Britain and they BELONG here. The religion, by nature of their birth, is Islam, and hence they are BRITISH Muslims. These children are different from immigrant Muslims because, for them, Britain is THEIR OWN country and they do not wish to go to any other country later on in life. They measure their hopes in life in relation to the hopes of white Britons, so they respect certain aspects of British "high" culture — for example, they desire to get good qualifications in educational institutions and to get on" in society, by enjoying a good lifestyle. British Muslims, generally, though retaining their religion, have many white British friends (with whom, for example, sports — football, cricket, badminton — are played), and they participate in society as if it were their own homeland, as indeed it is (cultural awareness of society: they watch television, go to the cinema, and are at ease in their interaction with white Britons).
One tends to hear many words which indicate the existence of racial tension in Britain’s inner—city areas today — ‘racism’, ‘racialism’, ‘prejudiced’, and discrimination are only a few examples. In my view, racial friction is caused in two ways. Firstly, some members of the ethnic minorities keep themselves to themselves — they dislike white Britons, don’t wish that their children attend native schools, and will not make small-talk with the neighbours, for example. I do not agree with all this. I think all members of the ethnic minorities have a social duty to co—operate with every type of member of their community — indeed, to participate fully in all walks of life, if possible.
The second reason for racial tension is the existence of critical views of ethnic minorities’ presence and actions as held by white Britons - ‘they’re here for the social security’ (or jobs or housing or education). These remarks are damaging for social cohesion and co—operation. Just as minority groups have an obligation to co-operate with native Britons, so, too, is the case vice—versa.
Many white Britons are surprisingly ignorant about the way of life of ethnic minorities. henceforth, I will concentrate in this book only on Muslims who are British, rather than on ethnic minorities as such, Why do British Muslims act in some ways than others? What are the reasons for their actions? These questions are best understood by the following diagrams:
The above diagram shows that Muslims follow Islam as a religion — this contains rules which they follow. A custom Is then formed as obedience to the rules is passed on from generation to generation. So a culture is made by doing what is required, so that the person sees himself! herself, and is seen by others, as ‘Muslim’.
It is important to note that sometimes customs way develop which are not based on the key foundation of religion (I). Thus, for example, Muslim marriages which take place in cases where the bride and bridegroom have never even seen each other are not religiously justified — they are part of man—made custom, and for this reason it is not a defect in Islam, nor is Islam to be blamed.
An interesting fact to note is that British Muslims, though more ‘westernised’ than their parents, by virtue of the rearing, are just as ‘Muslim’ and firm in the Islamic belief as their parents, while at the same time being more at ease in their interaction with white Britons. But it is these very British Muslims who, I think, are thrust into most confusion by their religious beliefs. This is inevitable, since they are caught between two cultures. I myself, when a student, always felt that it was tiresome having to tell my white friends that, unlike them, I did not wish to eat sausages or to drink wine. However, once I told them that I was, in this way, fulfilling my religious obligations they were very sympathetic. This illustrates what I said earlier just as there is a duty on the part of British Muslims, and Muslims in Britain, to "join in" society, whilst at the same time retaining their identity, so white Britons have a duty to understand, tolerate and appreciate Muslim beliefs. The information in the next few chapters will, I hope, make this task somewhat easier for these white Britons.
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