Still stuck on the ‘Muslim causes’ ticket

Osama Saeed has a review of a recent debate held by The Cordoba Foundation on political participation of Muslims in Britain.

Disappointingly, it seems, from the brief review, that the participants in this debate were still stuck on fighting for so-called ‘Muslim causes’ and there seemed to be no wider context to the apathy towards political engagement expressed by the Muslim audience in this debate.

What are these ‘Muslim causes’?

Poverty? This is not a ‘Muslim cause’.

Social exclusion? This is not a ‘Muslim cause’.

Alienation? This is not a ‘Muslim cause’.

Racism? This is not a ‘Muslim cause’.

Attacks on civil liberties? This is not a ‘Muslim cause’.

Even foreign policy, like opposition to the Iraq invasion and subsequent occupation, is not a ‘Muslim cause’.

Indeed, even demands on the state which are more directly the outcome of religious beliefs and practices (e.g. dietry requirements and dress codes for school children), are about religious freedoms and civil liberties.

It is not that the above may not disporportionally affect Muslims; I agree many of the above issues will affect Muslims at this present moment more than others (e.g. some of the more draconian security measures). Rather, the point I want to emphasise is that they do not, and will not, affect Muslims only. They do, and will, affect the country at large.

Muslim organisations should, therefore, realise that working against these issues requires them to form alliances with other groups; that is what politics is about. Portraying them as ‘Muslims causes’ will probably result in their efforts being dismissed and may help perpetuate the idea of ‘separatism’ (even regardless of what the data says). Would some of the apathy amongst Muslims that Saeed criticises the outcome of flawed strategies? That would be an interesting question to answer.

I am also not convinced by discussions which simply concentrate on religious beliefs of the individual. It suggests Muslims exist in some kind of vaccum (a commong tactic used by anti-Muslim critics). Instead Muslims, being human, are as much informed by parental upbringing, educational background, class etc. as they are by religious texts (indeed, I will say the interaction of Muslims with such texts is ‘coloured’ by these other factors). Thus, when talking about the apathy of Muslims with respect to the political process requires discussion of wider trends, including the factors I noted earlier, without which the entire exercise is a waste of time.

Time for Muslim organisations to form cross-political alliances
I agree with Shiraz Maher shocker! (disclaimer: only broadly)


1 Response to “Still stuck on the ‘Muslim causes’ ticket”

  1. 1 Julaybib Ayoub March 13, 2008 at 6:20 am

    I wonder whether this is a confusion of identity politics. After all, I see Palestine as a ‘Muslim cause’ because I believe it is my duty as Muslims to work for social justice and there is a tradition of it being a ‘Muslim thing’, but my political allegiance is to a peaceful pro-Palestinian group headed by a Palestinian Christian.

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