I recently watched the BBC documentary ‘Muslims like us’. As a Muslim, I did not feel it was a fair or accurate representation of Muslims in this country. Far from it. It looked to me as though the producers had managed to find 10 people who would conflict with one another to make ‘good television’. They found individuals with extremely differing views on Islam and put them together in a house to watch the outcome. Funnily enough there were many arguments. Furthermore, several of the participants in this documentary have used the platform of social media to express their views that the documentary was extremely misleading and manipulative in how it was edited. The end result of this documentary made Muslims look extremely divided and conflictive amongst ourselves, never mind about with non-Muslims! I am not denying the fact that within Muslim communities there are conflicts, there are unfortunately many sects within Islam and this in itself causes many struggles and major problems. However, this is not what Islam is about and for the most part Muslims are extremely united. Unfortunately, I fear that this documentary has given ammunition to people who already criticised Muslims and Islam.
The participants of this documentary were given the results of a survey which explored the public opinion of the Muslim community in this country. 1708 members of the public were asked questions for this survey. Among those that took part in this survey 44% stated that they disagreed with the statement that Muslim values were compatible with British values.
Although initially I disagreed with this, upon reflection I questioned whether they really are compatible. One of the arguments raised by Abdul Haqq was that fundamentally they cannot be compatible on the basis that alcohol is a part of British values. Without a doubt alcohol is a big part of British culture but is it really apart of British values? If drinking alcohol is really so important and considered a ‘value’ then no, my values as a Muslim are definitely not compatible with that. However, if we work the other way, if we look at Muslim values and see if they are the same as British values we may arrive at a different conclusion. Muslim values include being kind, to not backbite others, looking after those who are sick, maintaining good ties with family, looking after neighbours, being presentable and tidy, leaving an argument even if you are right… I could go on. Are these not a part of British values? If not, why not?
Every question in this survey produced a disappointing response in my opinion. 60% agreed that women should be banned from wearing the niqab in public. That in itself I find shocking. Maybe I’m fooling myself but I did not think the general views in this country were that far gone. It may be a fairly small sample number used for this survey and it can’t represent the views of the millions in Britain but then again perhaps it does. I don’t wear the niqab but I fully support my sisters who do and I believe everyone should have the freedom of choice in what they wear. I don’t believe the government would ever impose a ban on the niqab in this country but if they did where would it stop… I shudder to think of the possibility of it. The way we have seen Muslim women treated in France, is that what is to come in this country as well? Even if the government never impose any kind of ban, the fact is there are clearly members of the public who think there should be. That in itself makes me feel uncomfortable because from that stems hate crime and discrimination against Muslim women in particular. Furthermore, I’m not entirely sure if the majority of the British public are aware of the differences in the ways in which Muslim women choose to cover. I often see people commenting in a negative manner about Muslim women wearing burqas in this country – I have never seen anyone wearing a burqa in this country. What concerns me is the fact that Muslim women are often targeted in hate crimes as they are Islam in its most visible form.
The issue which I find most disturbing from this survey is that 40% agreed with the statement that ‘Muslims in Britain have failed to integrate into British society’.
I mean, seriously? Muslims work in every sector of employment in this country, men and women alike. I myself am a mental health nurse, I know of Muslims who are solicitors, chefs, retail assistants, students, housewives, make-up artists, business owners, police officers, engineers, estate agents etc. etc. etc. The mayor of London is a Muslim. A hijab wearing Muslim woman won the Great British Bake Off in 2015. She baked the Queen’s birthday cake. Does it get any more British than baking a cake for the Queen?!
It is somewhat disheartening to think that such a large percentage of the British public think Muslims have ‘failed to integrate’. What more can we really do. The fact is that by the standards of westernised culture, nothing Muslims do in terms of integration will ever be good enough for the simple fact that we identify as Muslims. We don’t go to pubs and nightclubs so we have failed to integrate?
As the Prophet ﷺ said “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange, so give glad tidings to the strangers.” Meaning there will be a small number who will adhere to the teachings of Islam, even though its followers are many.
Some Muslims in the west have compromised their faith to be a part of western culture. For those of us Muslims that choose to hold firmly onto our faith although it may be hard, it will be worth it insha’Allah.
Here is the results of the survey: