The alleged 'Trojan Horse' and burden on Muslims
There is no denying the fact that post-Woolwich, Muslims are increasingly been seen through a monochrome security lens by many in the political class and by the right wing media. Creating a baseless fear of a 'Muslim takeover' of Britain has become a pastime of some columnists, bloggers and activists. Criminality of individuals was racialised in the past, now this is 'Islamised' if someone from the Muslim community is involved. No wonder why so many people have a negative idea about Muslims. This is an embarrassment for the modern pluralist Britain we live in today.
Many in the British Muslim community genuinely feel they often come 'under siege' by the right wing media, and are not helped by our political class. The protracted sensational depiction of the Birmingham 'Trojan Horse' concern, widely believed to be fake, has aggravated the situation further in the last few months.
The issue has recently been blown out of proportion by the ministerial spat between two political heavyweights on the right of the Conservative party on how to deal with 'extremist plot'. The frustration among parents and in the community is enormous. Due to disproportionate prominence and political tone Muslims are going to carry a burden of suspicion on their head before something more sinister probably comes up to demonise them further. There is little respite for the community from the post-9/11 'war on terror' narrative.
Out of a number of investigations the education watchdog, Ofsted, has now finished inspections of 21 schools, five are placed in special measures and the sixth labelled inadequate for poor educational standards. The irony is some of these were rated highly for their academic results and inclusivity not long ago. The main among them, Park View School, responded angrily to the Ofsted findings. The vice-chair of the academy trust attacked the "knee-jerk reaction of politicians" and said ''The speed and the ferocity with which the school had been condemned was truly shocking."
But Muslims should not turn inward
While the ideological agenda of 'draining the swamp of Muslim extremism' continues and the McCarthyite witch hunt may follow there is a fear that some hotheads within the community may get frustrated and angrier; extremism that is sadly seen in a miniscule section of the Muslim community may even get worse.
The other fear is that many Muslims who are socially active and put their time and energy in voluntary public service - in charity, school governorship, etc - may increasingly feel de-motivated by their characterisation and turn inwards. This will be unfortunate for our vibrant civil society and a recipe of further alienation of the Muslim community; ordinary citizens are already frustrated with our politicians, bankers and journalists for the high profile misdeeds of some in the professions in recent years.
Both the fears mentioned above, while music in the ear to extremists on all sides and actively promoted by powerful people, could bring danger for the community and also to our nation. Muslims, and in fact any community, cannot afford to leave the public space for others, as this is every citizen's rights to work for the society. The Muslim community should not allow ideologues and extremists to 'drain public space from Muslim presence'. A ghettoised or insular community has no sustainable future and is problematic to the wider society. The Muslim community and its leadership should work hard that this does not happen.
The Muslim community has come a long a way in its educational achievement in British schools. In inner city areas where many people with socio-economic disadvantage Muslims had to find their abode, Muslim children have performed miracles over the last couple of decades. From the bottom of the pile they have come on a par with average British pupils in GCSE League Tables - thanks to the hard work of teachers, parents and LEAs - with some extra help by successive education departments and support from local businesses. This must not be allowed to be reversed at any cost.
Ideological politics and the politics of disempowerment to squeeze the Muslim community from public space must stop. Muslims are as British as any other people and they have the same hopes, aspiration and anxiety in Britain's civic life; they are at the heart of solution in our national life and should not be seen as a problem.
For Muslims it is important to remind themselves that as equal citizens they have a unilateral responsibility to work for the common good of all, without any fear or favour. While uprooting the scourge of Islamophobia and racism is a collective responsibility and political and media establishment has a critical role in it, their own role is also vital. Rumi, the master of love and spirituality, has a poignant reminder of one's inner empowerment.
You suppose you are the trouble.
But you are the cure.
You suppose that you are the lock on the door.
But you are the key that opens it.
(Dr) Muhammad Abdul Bari is an author and commentator on social and political issues. He was the former Secretary General of Muslim Council of Britain (2006-10).
The views expressed in this article are the author's own.