Two Big Challenges Facing British Muslims

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The blessed month of Ramadhan has recharged our spiritual battery, so we are kinder and more patient. We’re more willing to serve those around us. However, when we step out of the Masjid, we face the challenges of materialism and Islamophobia staring right at us. How has Ramadhan prepared you to face these challenges?

British Muslims are passing through an important phase of their settlement. They have been here for over 60 years, not a long time in the history of a community. Undoubtedly, they have made significant developments in making Britain their home, like establishing businesses from grocery shops to high-tech companies, there are Muslim professionals in medicine to engineering, but a majority work as semi-skilled or unskilled workers running the British transport system and driving taxis. They have built more than 2,500 Masajid, 1000’s of charities, 400 full-time schools and nurseries and 1000’s of welfare organisations. This is a testimony to their social engagement. The contribution of the Muslims to the British economy is estimated at around £50 billion. Despite these achievements, we face two giant challenges.

Firstly, the challenge of crass materialism, aggressive secularism, and militant atheism. The new generation faces the real danger of losing their faith, but how you may ask?

  1. Losing perspective of reality: This is to say that what we have is everything, material wealth is the be-all and end-all of life and to ignore the fact that this life is only temporary.
  2. Loss of morality: As characterised by individualism; simply selfishness, this is putting oneself at the centre stage of everything where you have no empathy for others, you don’t care about the needy, and you are unwilling to forgive. Patience is not even in your vocabulary.
  3. Blind faith in science and technology: The belief that science and technology will eventually solve and cure all human problems. Science is rediscovering some of the realities and facts that Muslims have known for centuries.

British Muslims adopted the United Kingdom as their home, and it was a good choice, they are proud of this country as it upholds values like protecting human rights, equality and justice. Furthermore, the secular nature of Britain gives Muslims religious freedom and rights that are unimagined even in some Muslim countries.

Secondly, the challenge of Islamophobia is defined as the dread of Muslims and dislike of their presence. It has made Muslims feel like foreigners in their own country. Unfortunately, since 9/11 and 7/7 the tensions between Muslims and the wider community have grown to a dangerous point. It’s a small group of white extremists (including the likes of Tommy Robinson and Katie Hopkins) who believe that Muslims are a threat to UK security that is driving this agenda. Because they have different values from theirs, and Muslims are increasingly making their presence felt in public spaces.

The growing number of incidences of Islamophobia is unacceptable, and we demand the government to do more to tackle it. In our society, Muslims must display open-mindedness, cooperation and friendship. Our religious traditions and teachings demand it, they offer us resources for building mutual trust. Deeply embedded at the heart of our spiritual traditions are the values of peace, compassion, patience and forgiveness. However, this does not mean that we should compromise on our religious values or identity as is often misunderstood by some people when discussing this topic.

Here are three Quranic instructions about developing friendships:

  1. Mutual understanding not disengagement: Here is an invitation to mutual understanding to discover commonalities. “People of the book, let’s come to common terms that we worship none but God, we associate no partner with him, and not appoint lords and patrons other than God” (Ale Imran: 64).
  2. Cooperation not conflict: Allah commands us to “Cooperate in matters of righteousness and piety” (Maida: 2). There are many fields of activity where Muslims and Christians can work together to promote the development of moral values in society at large. Support the family institution; rejuvenate traditional marriage, re-educate young people about the rights of parents, tackle problems of divorce and domestic violence.
  3. Friendship not hatred: The Majestic Quran says “…You will find nearest in affection to (Muslims) are those who say, ‘We are Christians’ since amongst them are priests and monks who are not arrogant. When they listen to that which was revealed to the Messenger, you will see their eyes fill with tears as they recognise its truth” (Maida: 82).

So, the long fasts during the day and long vigils of Tarawih prayer at night were training programmes that equipped us to meet these challenges. Ramadhan is a perfect antidote to materialism. The Ramadhan devotions strengthened the faith, fasting and prayer have deepened the love of Allah. Materialism is no longer our god, worshipped day and night. We are more aware of the trappings of materialism.

Now we can shun them. We don’t live to chase careers, houses, cars and children, in a spiritual vacuum. Nor will we let the pressures of popular culture that glamorises sex, drugs, alcohol and extreme hedonism overwhelm us. Let us together beat the evil of Islamophobia by understanding, cooperating and making friends with our neighbours.