Some of Michael Gove’s observations about the Muslim hierarchy in Britain (24 June 2006) are endorsed by numerous open-minded Muslims who are often ignored by the political establishment. For far too long, the British government has given unwarranted credibility to bodies like the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) and MAB (Muslim Association of Britain). These allied politico-sectarian factions are not fully inclusive or representative. They vicariously foster rightwing fanaticism and an ultra-conservative theology, as well as grant undue priority to Indo-Pakistani and Middle Eastern politics. Their unrelenting fixation with imported Wahhabi, Ikhwani, Salafi or Deobandi extremist doctrines and / or with Blairite foreign policy diverts them from resolving the pressing concerns facing British Muslims today. This, in turn hinders expeditious Muslim integration, thereby fueling further alienation.
While organisations like the MCB and MAB (which have separate ethnic followings) revel in having the government’s ear, they give mainly lip service to effective Muslim engagement with the British mainstream. In private (and even in public), many of their ecclesiastical and other backers are not reconciled with life in Britain and aspire to impose shari’ah law or convert most Britons to Islam. Even before 11th September and 7th July, any solid scrutiny of the MCB and MAB reveals both a lack of strategic planning and an old-country obsession with anachronistic dogma and foreign causes. Rather than dealing with increasing Muslim estrangement stemming from deficient education, employment discrimination, disproportionate criminality, negligent health, inadequate housing, escalating drug abuse, cultural misogyny, female disempowerment as well as other related crises, these groups highlight largely irrelevant issues. Without any coherent programme to tackle the real problems facing British Muslims, the MCB and MAB have tended to enhance a-socio-religious dynamic where disaffected youth gravitate to violent reactions that are authenticated by rabidly anti-Western clerics spuriously interpreting the Holy Qur’an.
In contrast to bodies like these, MECO (Muslim Educational Centre of Oxford) is in the vanguard of a burgeoning local movement of liberal and progressive British Muslims who reject a mullah- dictated faith by promoting a rational Islam that is rooted in and relevant to 21st century Britain. When original Qur’anic principles are analysed, there is no incompatibility between British citizenship and our Islamic identity. We make a positive contribution by belonging to Britain and enriching society in the process. Instead of affording theological ideologues, irreconcilable militants and other out-of-touch spokesmen a virtual monopoly in articulating Muslim perspectives, it is incumbent that the officaldom recognise valid alternative home-grown voices that are actively striving for an equitable rapprochement between Islam and the West. Such a move would facilitate the extinction of an overseas-inspired zealotry within the British Muslim community.
MECO can be contacted by telephone on 01865 766032, by fax on 01865 742612 or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
This MECO Media Statement was published in the TIMES NEWSPAPER on 17th June 2006