About the author
Dr Siema Iqbal is a GP in Manchester and writes about British Muslim affairs for The Guardian, Huff Post and 5Pillars . You can follow her on Twitter @siemaiqbal.
Thanks to a poll recently carried out by Channel 4 and presented by Trevor Philips last night I discovered I may be okay with my husband having another wife and I should always obey him; I may want homosexuality banned; I wouldn’t report someone going to Syria; and of course I would want Sharia law implemented instead of British law.
I must say that was certainly a surprise to me.
Philips claims the poll supports his belief that there is a “chasm” opening between Muslims and people of other faiths in the UK. And he’s right there probably is, but ironically what he fails to acknowledge is the reasons why this is the case and who is responsible. It’s polls such as this one and that carried out recently by The Sun which is creating a “them and us” narrative.
Trevor Phillips also claims there is the creation of a “nation within a nation with its own values and separate future,” but why are differences such a bad thing?
I know I am different to my friends of other or no faiths. As a Muslim my beliefs and values do differ and that is not something I should be expected to explain or apologise for, any more than a person of Christian or Jewish faith should have to. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t have a sense of belonging or consider myself to be British. I also know there are issues that need to be addressed in the Muslim community as there are in all communities. But I also know this isn’t the way to address them.
I could point out the flaws with the methodology of this study resulting in distorted results, such as the fact that the survey polled those living in an area where Muslims formed more than 20% of the population and in areas of socio-economic deprivation. Therefore the results may reflect a more conservative mindset.
Also, the size of the sample couldn’t be reflective of almost three million Muslims in the UK; and while Muslims were interviewed face-to-face the “control group” (which polled the views of the wider population) was done over the telephone.
I could also go through each statistic and place it in context. So for example although only 34% of Muslims would report to the police suspicion that someone they know harboured terrorist sympathies, in the “control group” the figure was also as high as 30%.
Philips worries that “integration of Muslims will be the hardest task we face.” The poll states that one in five Muslims have never entered a non-Muslim household but I wonder how many non-Muslims have entered a Muslim home or visited a mosque on an open day?
Is integration a one-way process? No, integration is a two-way process where there are cross-influences from both cultures and compromises from all sides to integrate the minority culture into the majority culture. If communities maintain their identities and live peacefully alongside each other by accommodating each others’ viewpoints surely that’s integration? Moreover, perhaps addressing issues affecting integration like education and job discrimination and socio-economic deprivation is what needs to be done.
I could go on but I won’t because there is much a bigger point that is being overlooked. Why was there a need for the poll in the first place?
This is the question that sincerely needs to be asked. Why are Muslims repeatedly being questioned about their thoughts and religious beliefs? And this is where as a British Muslim I worry we are sleepwalking towards assimilation which is one-directional and relies on minority communities giving up on their beliefs and cultures in order to be accepted. In this case to fit in with so-called “British Values.”
Perhaps if Philips had asked what ideas, concerns and expectations Muslims have (ie what Muslims “really” think) instead of telling us what we should think, then that may have been the start of a constructive dialogue to promote integration.