Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Muslim speaks

For some time, but mainly on other blogs, I have found myself in debate - often strident debate - about Islam.

I am not an apologist for Islam but some of the apallingly ill-informed things which I have seen written needed challenging. My lovely colleague Halima, a role model for all young Muslim women, was reduced to tears by one particularly vitriolic post but sadly felt that it simply wasn't worth engaging with.

Here in Britain we have a significant Muslim minority and I work on the edge of Bradford, a city with a large and vibrant Muslim community. I am privileged to work with five Muslim colleagues who I have got to know well and count as friends. I feel I have some insights and experiences to offer.

I would not say that all is always rosy in terms of community relations and we have the spectre of the far-right with their scare tactics and misinformation carefully aimed at the politically disaffected white working classes who feel that they have lost out somewhere. What better thing for the far right to do than whip up some anti-Muslim feeling with a campaign of misinformation and lies? Let's not let a little thing like factual inaccuracy get in the way of a good piece of scapegoating.

And yet within the Muslim communities here are those who are happy to play into the hands of the far-right with their own brand of terror as seen on the streets of London on 7/7 and to the great consternation of many Yorkshire Muslims, those men came from Leeds and Dewsbury.

I am familiar with this landscape and I understand it and can discuss it. What I find hard are those blogs based in the U.S. who speak with spurious authority of the Islamisation of Europe and the spread of Sharia law.

It is rubbish.

I let my friend Shakir speak:

These are just some of my thoughts.
Not sure if this is what you want.

Living in the UK as a muslim has never really been an issue in the past, however, after some of the recent atrocities that have been carried out by extremist groups I have seen a definite change in peoples attitudes. In the past non-muslims would be interested in what Islam was about even if they had no interest in becoming a Muslim. It is now viewed with constant suspicion and if you are a Muslim then you must be a nutter.

Many of the extremist groups that take verses of the Quran and interpret them to enforce their own agendas are totally lost in their distorted ideology. To really understand why these people exist one has to delve into who these people are.

Most of the individuals have been brainwashed to some extent. Also, you have to understand that some of these individuals genuinely put their trust in individuals who they believe to be religious scholars. From some religion can be difficult to decipher, it shouldn’t be and isn’t, but, some people find it difficult to understand. The so called scholars use the confusion of people, who want to learn, and turn them into fanatics. The scholars will tell them that if you do what I ask it will give you entrance into heaven.

Furthermore, the extremist groups are no different from a gang on the street. The people in these groups feel they are part of something special and feel they are the only ones doing right and the world is against them because they are right (cult mentality).

In Islam, all you have to do is believe in God, Pray 5 times a day, Fast for 30 days a year, Give money to the poor and visit Makkah if you have the money (I’m not trying to educate you Jack). All this to some seems a boring religion and they always crave for more. This then creates groups who want to change the world. However, you can see from the above 5 pillars it is really straight forward. There is no mention of killing, on the contrary it is all to do with peace. The vast majority of Muslims in the world hold a similar view to me and it is the minority that has tarnished what is a genuinely a peaceful religion.