Monday, July 10, 2006

Representing Muslims

While doing some work around the house yesterday, I half-caught a very interesting segment on Radio 4's World This Weekend about who represents British Muslims. You can listen here this week; it's about half-way through the programme. A number of British Muslims forcefully argued that the Muslim Council of Britain completely fails to represent the predominantly Sufi Sunni British Muslims, who do not have a Muslim Brotherhood worldview, but rather have a much more theologically open perspective. Crucially, the interviewees suggested that the issues that British Muslims really care about, on the whole, are day to day issues of living in shit estates, sending their kids to shit schools, having shit jobs - exactly the issues other working class people care about. The MCB's obsession with "foreign policy" issues (i.e. hatred of Israel and America) completely skews the debate. A new organisation is needed to better represent them.

An academic from Birmingham, Tahir Abbas, was particularly interesting and articulate. Interestingly, by the way, he points out that it was Michael Howard as Conservative minister back in the day as key in calling upon Muslims to set up a "representative body" to deal with the government. Particularly damning was the testimony with Haras Rafiq from the Sufi Muslim Council on the way post-9/11 (and especially post-7/7) the MCB has used the war on terror to channel funds to their corrupt, reactionary affiliates.

For me, the deeper issue is the ideology - central to the New Labour version of multiculturalism - that ethnic groups constitute homogeneous "communities" who can be "represented" by "community leaders". French republicans call this ideology "communautarisme", which points to its links to the philosophy of communitarianism that has been so influential on Blair, Blunkett, Miliband, et al. (See the Observatoire de Communautarisme if you read French.)

I am sick of hearing politicians say "The Muslim community wants X", "The gay community is Y", "The Asian community feels Z". These definite articles imprison us, over-emphasising differences between "communities", under-emphasising differences within "communities", hiding the oppressive nature of "community leaders" who define what each "community" thinks, feels, is. We need to escape from this foolish and dangerous notion!

Links: Nick Cohen, Butterflies and Wheels, Kenan Malik, Pickled Politics
Archive: Daniel Pipes a year ago
Previous: Faith schools and civic culture; Islam, multiculturalism and 7/7; The identitarian logic of multiculturalism; Whales and leftists.
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Anonymous said...

Well said, Bob.

OB from Butterflies and Wheels.

Bagrec said...

Excellent post, Bob.