Jahangir Mohammed argues that British Muslims would be better off outside of the European Union.
Over the past few months, I have been talking to Muslims around the country on whether we should Brexit or not. It has been quite interesting hearing arguments at street level, most of which have been for Brexit. Like the rest of the UK, Muslims have been engaged in social media debates, but from my limited observations, there’s been a lack of genuine discussion of substance on a community level pertaining to what option would best safeguard and advance the interests of the Muslim community.
Some Muslims organisations on the other hand have issued reasons for remaining in the EU. Their arguments appear to be the same as the official Government and Labour Party positions.
In my humble opinion, Muslims should always use their own independent judgment and reasoning to determine their political thinking and actions, and not be led by party politics. We should not become a mouthpiece of any political party, nor should we let the fact that the Brexit campaign is headed by some pretty unsavoury personalities sway us in our thinking.
I do not wish to tell Muslims which way to vote, or not to vote, but here are some points I would like to bring to the attention of those who are still sitting on the fence…
- The EU is both a self-serving secular bureaucracy and politicracy. Both are unaccountable to ordinary people. We have little influence over its laws or regulations. The EU Parliament where MEP’s sit is not a legislative body. Making laws and policies is left to the other institutions of the EU. In the UK at least, I know who the law making politicians are. I know the process, personalities, and characters I am dealing with. I can examine their ideas, and engage with and challenge them. I understand the UK’s social and political traditions. If we disagree with something, we can challenge and eventually bring about change. Prevent is an example of how Muslims have been able to challenge a policy in the UK. Fighting for state funding of Islamic schools is another. How does one challenge, prevent or overturn a policy at an EU level?
- The EU cannot be compared the United States. It is more like a Soviet Union with a bureaucratically managed and regulated economy, society, and self-serving political class, but serving the interests of big businesses and institutional finance. Like the Soviet Union, it will become more repressive as it tries to impose a shared secular, culture and identity on the rest of Europe, which it is doing already. Like the Soviet Union, it will eventually fail and breakdown, and lead to resistance by people, and possibly lead to sporadic violence (this may take decades). We have witnessed what has happened in Greece. We don’t want to be in the EU if and when the breakup happens elsewhere. We just need to remember what happened in Bosnia after the breakup of Yugoslavia.
- Soviet style bureaucrats and political apparatus lead to a stifling of economic and political talent, growth and change. The EU is shrinking economically – not growing.
- Europe is composed of diverse nations with different traditions and identities. You cannot suppress people’s histories, identities, religious or otherwise. This is the lesson from history. When you do, it breeds hate and violence; and it is usually minorities that are blamed for social, political and economic problems; and are usually at the receiving end of violence. We see this already happening with Muslims in Europe. Nationalism does usually re-emerge in a much more extreme form.
- Anti-Muslim sentiments are much worse in most European countries than in the UK. We do not get nearly 30-50% of people voting for a far right party in UK general elections, but it has already happened in some EU countries. These countries have a different history to the UK; and have a harsher tradition, and political instinct of forced cultural supremacy. The EU will reflect this tradition in its law making, which will affect us all. This is different to the British tradition of multi-culturalism, which has been embedded at grassroots level. This approach will come under threat from the EU. An organic reshaping and adaptation of identities and cultures is a much better approach, and it is one of the reasons why British politics never descended to fascism or communism, or extreme nationalism, when large parts of Europe did.
- As many countries in Europe seek to suppress Islamic identity, there will be increased numbers of Muslims from the EU coming to the UK. That will be counterproductive, we need Muslims and progressive partners in other countries to develop the ability to resist and challenge hate in their own societies. We can assist them better being outside of the EU.
- The accession of many weaker European nations to the EU creates an internal source of labour to move around Europe, which is needed, and cheaper. That Labour force is mainly white Christian, and replaces the need for workers outside of Europe. This is about preserving the white identity of Europe in a globalised world. It constitutes a fortress of Europe mentality.
- Neo-conservatism is essentially a movement which reflects diehard European orientalist and supremacist ideas in the US. It has found its way into the UK and Europe. The defeat of neo-conservative ideas will only come about through a greater engagement with the non-European world like the Commonwealth nations, by other means than war.
- These newer European states entering the EU and the proposed accession of Serbia are leading to greater linkages and organisation of extreme far right groups, who are militarily trained and have access to weapons. This, not Muslim political violence, will be the major threat to the EU and the UK in the foreseeable future. It poses a grave threat to Muslim communities and those who are seen to be supportive of them.
- We are told that we will lose some rights if we leave Europe. I disagree. Britain has a long and rich history of people’s struggle for social and political reforms pre-dating the EU. Politicians don’t hand you rights. They have to be fought for and won. Rights of Muslims are already being eroded in the UK, and the EU has little impact on that.
- Finally, we do have hostile anti-Muslim policies in the UK at the moment. Leaving or staying in the EU will not make any impact on foreign policy in the Muslim world. However, it is easier to deal with one hostile state that you know how to deal with, than the combined strength of 28 or more nations who have hostile policies to Islam and Muslims that you are unfamiliar with.
Allah (swt) knows best, but whether the UK votes IN or OUT – do not assume there is an easy option. The struggle we need to engage in to change our condition will need to be stepped up.