Tolerant Muslim Preaching and Complaints of Misrepresentation in ‘Among the Mosques’

I’ve started reading Ed Hussein’s Among the Mosques, his account of his journey through Muslim Britain looking at its culture, differences, and values. He did so by going to the mosques and other Muslim cultural and religious centres in Dewsbury, Manchester, Blackburn, Bradford, Birmingham, Cardiff, Belfast, Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. While there, he met and talked to ordinary local people as well as the worshippers at the mosques, hearing their views and concerns. It was met with a storm of controversy when it came out because he talked about the conversations he’d had with Whites,, who’d suffered from racism, bullying and assault from Muslims in their areas. This was angrily denied, and a people went on Twitter to claim that the area he was talking about wasn’t Muslim but a posh White district. But the critics were talking about a different area from that visited by Hussein, and the book states this. The controversy seems to show the inability of some on the left to deal with the reality of anti-White racism by ethnic minorities.

But I don’t think the book does present a biased image of British Islam. Yes, in some areas, such as Dewsbury, the Islam practised – Deobandi – is austere and based on a theology of cultural separatism, in which Muslims are called to create and maintain a separate cultural and religious identity in preparation for the emergence of the caliphate. In other areas and mosques, the preaching and observance is more relaxed. Manchester’s Central Mosque is Barelwi, a sect based on the teachings of a 13th century Indian Sufi preacher. Their worship includes music, song and dance and the imam’s address was about interfaith tolerance as shown by Mohammed’s example.

Hussein writes

‘The imam continues to develop his theme of the need to change and improve ourselves based on our love for the Prophet. He encourages us to study the life of the Prophet Mohammed and how he acted towards people, even his enemies. Each time his name is mentioned the congregation again kiss their thumbs. The imam talks about the Prophet’s compassion, his kindness to his enemies, his message of co-existence with the Jews, Christians and pagans in seventh century Medina.

‘Are we such model citizens? Do we make our Prophet proud? he asks rhetorically, raising his hands with an exaggerated shrug like an Italian.

He quotes:

Qad ja’akun nur. Certainly a light has come to you.

That light is the prophet and the Qur’an, asserts the imam. ‘Are we radiating this light? Do our neighbours and friends in this country see us as carriers of love? The Prophet is shifa, he is healing. Has he healed our lives?’ (p. 46.) This isn’t that far from the various Anglican and other Christian clergymen in this country also preaching about the need for tolerance and love to heal ‘broken Britain’.

Earlier in the chapter he meets with a Muslim woman, Faiza, and her husband, who has come to the meeting as a chaperone as Muslim women may not meet strange men unaccompanied. She wears the niqub, and tells Hussein that she has reported three of her work colleagues to the HR department because they think she’s an extremist for doing so. She also talks about how the Muslim community in Manchester has been misrepresented thanks to the wretched suicide bomber at the Ariane Grande concert.

”One of the suicide bombers, Salman Abedi, was from a mosque in Didsbury here in Manchester,’ Faiza explains, adding in exasperation: ‘We have almost seventy mosques in this city. Yes, twenty-nine innocent kids died. And over a hundred were injured. For what crime?’ she shrugs. ‘One suicide bomber – one salafi – caused the incident, but what about the hundreds of Muslim taxi drivers who immediately took the injured to hospital? The drivers didn’t charge for this, but just offered their compassion and help. And why do we forget all the Muslim doctors and nurses at the hospital>’ Faiza is speaking passionately but intelligently.’ (p. 38). Elsewhere in the chapter he describes how all the mosques in the area condemned the bombing, but this wasn’t reported in the press coverage. And other Muslims tell him that they tried to warn the authorities six times about Abedi but were ignored. It’s a familiar story I’ve heard about other Muslim extremists – the congregation at the local mosque were worried, and attempted to alert the authorities only to be ignored.

I haven’t finished the book yet, but it seems to me that Hussein is trying to present a fair picture of British Islam. Islam, like most other religious, isn’t a monolith but composed of a number of sects, which may differ considerably in their theology and practise. Indeed, the title of one book we had in the library at College on Islam was The Sectarian Milieu. There are serious issues and challenges from some of the more austere sects, which reject mainstream cultural values and integration. And Muslims are like everyone else – human beings -, and so may have their own prejudices and biases. And some are no doubt racist thugs and bullies, just like some Whites.

These issues have to be squarely addressed, not denied, or distorted so that all British Muslims become tainted due to the actions of violent extremists. If we don’t do this, then it’ll be left to the real bigots and Islamophobes like Tommy Robinson and the EDL.

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6 Responses to “Tolerant Muslim Preaching and Complaints of Misrepresentation in ‘Among the Mosques’”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    Good critique. I do agree that there is a tendency of self-segregation among certain Muslim communities in some deprived Northern cities such as Bradford- with the district of Manningham being 90 percent Muslim. However, I suspect the Usual Suspects such as Jayda Franson, AMD Waters, Tommy Robinson don’t know about the Muslim communities in some port towns such as South Shields, Liverpool and indeed, I think, Bristol from as early as the 1890s. Neither, I suspect, do they know that there is a whole denomination of Islam (Ahmediyya) that rejects any form of violence. Nor do they probably realise that Christianity and Islam are pretty closely related- Jesus (Isa) is recognised as a prophet in the Qu’ran for instance.
    Maybe they do, but they’re just grifting for their largely-rabid-racist audience?

    • beastrabban Says:

      Hi Mark – I remember seeing on various TV programmes that some of the Muslim communities here date from the 1890s. I wasn’t aware Bristol was one, but it’s a port, so who knows? The city handled ships from India and the lascar seamen were a familiar sight on the docks in the 1920s, if not before, so who knows?

      Yeah, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are all related ‘Abrahamic’ faiths. I don’t know whether Fransen, Waters, Robinson and the rest of them are aware of this either. I don’t think it would make much difference to them if they did, because they see Islam as uniform and worried about repressive, theocratic regimes like Saudi Arabia, Iran and Pakistan as representative of the religion’s true nature and the threat it poses to freedom of conscience and secularism in the UK, regardless of Islam’s connection to the other two religions. I also think it’s a mistake to underestimate the Islamophobes. Robinson’s a thug and the rank and file of the EDL don’t seem to be the brightest either, but somewhere within that milieu there do seem to be people who do know a considerable amount about Islam, despite the daft antics and thuggery of the others.

      • Mark Pattie Says:

        If anything, the situation is worse in Sweden, as the Muslim population there is much more concentrated than in England (mainly in one city)- and is also much higher (9 percent compared to 6 percent in England).

      • beastrabban Says:

        That’s the impression I’ve had from looking at various documentaries on the net, snippets of news and comments from Sargon of Gasbag and the Lotus Eaters. The real islamophobic sites also discussed the situation in Malmo a lot, which is supposed to be a no-go zone for White Swedes.

  2. Mark Pattie Says:

    That being said, despite what the genuinely rabid Islamophobes believe, Britain isn’t in danger of becoming an Islamic-majority country by 2050. Even with the current wave of refugees from mainly-Islamic countries currently crossing the Channel, plus the Afghan refugees, it will still only be 7 or 8 percent now, and by 2050, 17 percent.
    My source for this:
    https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2017/11/29/europes-growing-muslim-population/

    • beastrabban Says:

      Thanks for this, Mark. I remember the ‘Eurabistan’ nonsense that was being promoted a few years ago, which said that in a few decades Europe would be dominated by Islam and White non-Muslims would be the minority in their own countries. A friend of mine looked at the census and demographic data, and concluded that it was all nonsense. Without sounding paranoid here, I wondered if it was psyops disinformation put out by the Israelis. The Israelis are worried because the Arabs have a higher birthrate than they do. Apparently Golda Meir used to lie awake at night worrying about Arabs making more little Arabs. It looks to me very much like Israeli demographic concerns transferred to Europe as a way of getting Europeans to see themselves in a common struggle with the Israelis against Islam.

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