He walks like one, he talks like one, except for certain reservations I do believe he is a true moderate Muslim!

Salafism: greatest obstacle to Muslim integration
Ghayasuddin Siddiqui

Research has highlighted three major obstacles to human development within Arab countries. They are: absence of freedom; gender inequality; and knowledge deficit. Although these findings relate to Arab countries, they apply to all Muslim societies.

History of integration of all minorities in Britain has followed a certain pattern – whether they be Jewish, Irish, Afro-Caribbean or others. Initially, they are despised because of their history, language, culture or colour. They are treated as a threat to British values, even a fifth column or enemy within. They are told who is in charge, and what is their place in society. Minorities adjust to these pressures, begin to engage, build bridges and begin to find a space. For Muslims it is too early to be definitive as to why the Muslim community has become an “odd one out” and not following the same pattern. The purpose of this presentation is to highlight possible obstacles in their integration into British society. The three shortcomings highlighted by the Arab Human Development Report (2002) were good enough reasons to ensure the Muslim community was going to take longer to adjust and integrate into British society. But the presence of ideology of extremism and confrontation has made it difficult for the community to understand British society, learn from the experience of others, and carve out a space for them within the British ethos, where they may also have freedom to pursue their own community goals.

… writings of scholars like Maududi, Syed Qutb et al have changed the goalpost. Now, according to their interpretations of Islam, the priorities of Islam are to re-create the seventh century society of Arabia, establishment of an Islamic estate, or the global Khalafa, and pursue jihad for the re-conquest of the world for the application of shariah, the Islamic law. An opportunity to fulfil this dream came when the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The CIA, British Intelligence Services, Pakistan Intelligence Services, and Saudi Intelligence got together and created an alliance between godfearing corporate America and the Salafism against the godless communism. The war of liberation was turned into a religious war. As a result a dramatic development began taking shape – salafism, which was itself a minority ideology within Islam became globalised and militarised. Thousands of young men were attracted to Afghan jihad where they were trained the by CIA and British Intelligence Service to make explosives among other things. This, equipped with radical Islamic literature, they found themselves setting Muslim agenda globally. These Islamists with new narrative of Islam also had a well oiled and well organised infrastructure. Now, people who believe in salafism in any form are the ones who are occupying the main ground within the Muslim communities in Britain, although they are no more than 15% of the Muslim population.

It is known that Muslims are at the bottom of all piles: social, economic and educational. But for the salafist leadership the hijab (HH:women covering their hair), the jilbab (HH:women covering their bodies) and foreign policy (HH:any support for Israel) are the main Islamic issues. None of them talks about social exclusion, marginalisation and racism. They do not realise that a socially excluded community cannot influence foreign policy of any country (HH: except by violence and intimidation)but a community, which has a clout due to its excellence in the society, might.

Whether Islam came to create a society or a state is an internal debate. Muslim scholars and societies ought to decide what is the right course of action. The salafists push the foreign policy argument to increase their internal legitimacy within the Muslim groups without realising that this approach is further marginalizing the community. Politicians are good at using external conflicts to distract attention from real issues on ground and salafists are politicians of highest order!

There ought to be open discussions on these issues within the Muslim communities. But this is not happening. Whatever debate and discussion that is taking place is within religious settings. As long as these draw backs are not understood Muslim integration will remain slow. They will defy the normal pattern of integration and continue to provide ammunition to the rightwing groups.

The salafists have managed to turn the war on terror into war on Islam. I see it as a war on resources and markets. If we look at the history of the US since the second world war, they have killed far more Christians than Muslims in their wars… But Muslims have a very limited memory of the world events. They suffer from victimhood. They think that the whole world is against them. We need to explain this to our younger generation to win their hearts and minds so that they understand how dangerous this ideology is! Research on this is needed, and should be done by Muslims themselves, so that the research is not misunderstood. Unless we liberate ourselves from this ideology, there will be no peaceful future for us.

[A paper presented at a workshop on Comparative study of Jews and Muslims in the UK, organised by Royal Holloway, University of London, on 29 November 2006]

(HH: Now I know there are those who will attempt to tear to shreds anything a man like this says. They will spin it all to be nothing but a whitewash for radical Islam. But that is not how I see this man. At least in this article. There is some question whether he supports Muslims remaining outside the political system. But as long as he is not Saudi financed and hiding their agenda I say let him have his voice.)

Law to protect the young must cover madrassas as well

Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui
Commentary The Times
10 December 2008

Child protection legislation may as well not exist for Muslims who operate and teach at some of Britain’s 1,600 or so madrassas, or Islamic schools. For such people, who either consciously flout the law or are completely ignorant of it, beating children is not a form of abuse but a method of enforcing discipline.

It may surprise many people to find that, unlike schools and other institutions dealing with children, madrassas are not subject to government regulation. The situation is compounded as even many mosque-run madrassas are not registered with anyone.

A recent survey by the Charity Commission found that 11per cent of mosques in London were unregistered. Travel north to the Midlands and that figure mushrooms to 70 per cent. But even the registration of mosques is limited in the type of protection that it offers children, because, while registration ensures random checks by the commission, it does not ensure the regulation of madrassas within the mosques.

Only two years ago my organisation, the Muslim Parliament, published a report to highlight the problem of child abuse in madrassas, including the mentality that holds such abuse as a taboo subject that is best kept quiet. We said then that too many members of the community seemed more interested in protecting it from embarrassment than in ensuring the wellbeing of innocent and voiceless children.

The report highlighted that up to 40 per cent of madrassas exclude uncooperative pupils, and its estimate of 15-20 cases a year of sexual abuse was considered an understatement. Those parents whose children are abused remain silent for fear of being ostracised by their community or stigmatised by mainstream Britain.

Many local safeguarding children boards have begun to engage the faith and voluntary sector and have organised workshops and training courses in their respective areas. However, it seems that these activities have been attended by only a handful of mosque and madrassa organisations.

In the absence of a national register of mosques and madrassas, it is difficult to say what percentage of them have taken advantage of these provisions and have gone on to put in place child protection policy and procedures in their own madrassas. I am not sure how many madrassas have even done Criminal Record Bureau checks on staff who routinely deal with children.

Sadly for the 200,000 children in Britain who attend madrassas, however, the situation will not improve and may even get worse unless new laws are introduced to ensure that every madrassa is regulated by a government body. Such laws could force the closure of madrassas in breach of the Child Protection Act. Until then, children who attend madrassas, whether those connected to mosques or one of the many makeshift varieties operating from people’s homes, will remain at significant risk of physical and sexual harm.

– Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui is head of the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain.

Read it all by clicking on the title