Fears as young Muslims ‘opt out’

Navid Akhtar is a practicing Muslim deeply concerned about a growing trend among his contemporaries toward a separatist ideology that turns its back on Britain.

He wrote this personal account for Sunday’s Five Live Report.

Young Muslims are opting out.

They’ve renounced the Islam of their immigrant parents and feel disillusioned with a society that they perceive as racist.

Many are turning their backs on democracy and Britain.

And they are finding a new identity in a brand of Islam that is radical and intolerant.

Islam / Islamism

Islamism is a totalitarian ideology adhered to by Muslim extremists (e.g. the Taliban, Hamas and Osama bin Laden). It is considered to be a distortion of Islam. Many Islamists engage in terrorism in pursuit of their goals.

Adherents of Islam are called “Muslims.” The term “Arab” describes an ethnic or cultural identity. Not all Arabs are Muslims, and not all Muslims are Arabs. The terms are not interchangeable.

Out of 1.8 million Muslims living in Britain today, the highest proportion have their roots in Bangladesh and Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Pure Islam

Both these groups came to Britain as economic migrants from rural villages.

Settling into Britain has not been an easy experience and many feel excluded from the mainstream.

The worst hit are the young, who find themselves at odds with their parents’ insular Asian culture and a Britain they believe is hostile towards them.

Many young Muslims, confused about their identity, have turned to their faith to provide answers and stumbled upon what they call “pure Islam”.

Pure Islam is austere, intolerant, harsh, and very heavily influenced by the teachings of the dominant Saudi sect known as the Wahhabis.

When the Saudis were flush with money from oil revenues, their government exported the Wahhabi version of Islam.

Mosques were financed, books, videos and cassettes supplied, scholars and imams trained at theological universities.

Extremist adherents have propagated a message of violent Jihad.

Fareena Alam is the editor of British-based Muslim journal Q News.

He said: “I know that they are themselves not willing to give up their lives for a greater cause.

“If they really believe in fighting the West or fighting in Afghanistan they should go themselves but what they are doing is they step in, pretend to be leaders and they propagate this violent message to young people who start to believe in this us versus them discourse.”

Pure Islam has claimed the mantle of being the only real Islam as practised at the time of the Prophet Mohammed and his companions.

It regards the Islam that came from the Indian subcontinent as corrupted and polluted by “cultural” values such as music.

In particular, pure Islam rejects any new developments in Islamic thinking, and refuses to understand that Muslims living in the West face a unique set of challenges.

This has led to a split within the British Muslim community, creating a belief amongst many young people that there is no compromise between Islam and life in the West.

Privately some within the community acknowledge a failure of leadership.

However, moderate Muslims leaders have remained largely silent and have yet to provide a credible alternative.

Most mosques in Britain are run along the old tribal lines.

The all powerful Mosque committee retains an iron grip on what is taught, how it is taught and who teaches it.

The major failure has been the inability to produce imams and scholars who speak English and understand the issues and problems that the second generation are going through.

Chair of the Dudley Muslim Association Khurshid Ahmed told the programme: “I’m quite ashamed to admit that the leadership within the Muslim community, not just in Dudley, but nationally have let our young people down.

“The quality of education provided in our mosques has not been very adequate.

“We have not been able to connect sufficiently with our young people and that has led them to being a lot more alienated from their own families and from the community. “

‘Let down’

The failure of elders to connect with young Muslims and the impact the ideology of pure Islam has had run like a generational fault line through the British Muslim community.

Without effective leadership and guidance, young Muslims feel marginalised not just by lack of opportunity, or Islamaphobia, but a real sense of being let down by their elders.

In such a climate, pure Islam will continue to thrive, attracting young Muslims to a separatist ideology that rejects the values of a modern secular and democratic Britain.

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Mar. 7, 2004

Religion News Blog posted this on Monday March 8, 2004.
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