By L Amatullah
My experience of British Muslim activism in the university and community scene has caused me to observe that the diversity of Muslim demographics is not usually reflected in our various campaigns. In a world where conflict and oppression and the fight to end them are constant features in our lives, campaigns related to the Middle East are always much more prominent and prioritised.
Palestine, for example, has an especially undying place in all our hearts. It is the home of the third holiest site, where our Muslim brothers and sisters suffer relentlessly under Israeli aggression. It is therefore a campaign that I have been and continue to be wholeheartedly a part of. I have determinedly picketed, demonstrated, occupied lecture theatres, signed and promoted petitions and delivered speeches in protest of the suffering in the region.
However, the question arises – do we not feel that we are neglecting some countries while almost exclusively focussing on others? According to sacred teachings, the Muslims are one body and the suffering of one part should be felt by all; nevertheless, Bosnia, Kosovo, Chechnya, Somalia… all came and went quite briefly. More ‘obscure’ communities such as the Chinese Uyghur continue to suffer with little recognition or response.
There is of course the position that British Muslims should be most concerned about those causes where Britain or Europe is an actor or influencing factor. However, we tend to ignore the many less reported but nevertheless critical ways in which we are actually engaged or able to influence a host of world situations. Enquiry is also needed into the curious hierarchy of ummah priorities that is beginning to emerge in the politics of British Muslim identity and identification; there are those identification-causes which prove our Britishness, others enable modish identification with much admired struggles. While some are termed ‘Islamic’ there are those that are only humanitarian – deserving our pity, charity and inevitable condescension.
It has further been observed that somehow Arab causes are seen as ‘Islamic concerns’ whereas others are seen as more regional matters, and those wanting to address them through collective Muslim platforms here, are often viewed as far too parochial! We must in all conscience avoid the unjustifiable turning of our backs to little profiled, but in many ways equally critical issues, particularly when we are sometimes the only port of call in the West for their support.
Clearly, the scale and diversity of issues around the world that confront us may induce crisis fatigue or a feeling of being simply overwhelmed. To avoid this, our thinkers and organisations need to provide better direction as to serious, constructive long term activity and assignment of community resources. A part of this must be a much more balanced and considered response with regard to how and which issues are given priority and organised attention by the Muslim communities in the UK.
For example, the last 18 months has witnessed the very worrying exacerbation of conflict and instability in Pakistan and Bangladesh, documented by Amnesty International amongst others. Yet the almost nonexistent response – from both the British South Asian and the British Muslim community – is quite remarkable. These two countries alone account for almost a quarter (24%) of the total ummah; and the majority of British Muslims in fact originate ethnically from there. I believe it certainly is time that we carry out very possible and perhaps preventative work for human, faith and political rights in such countries as well. It is important that leaders from all communities join hands to signal that these are a worthy ummah concern; just as we all do stand together for every Middle Eastern crisis.
As far as protecting people from suffering and oppression goes, the Muslim duty is to humanity. Over the past years the older generation of activists, through their natural engagement with their homelands throughout the world, usually ensured that many different world issues were given the necessary prominence in the UK context. In the coming years, we must now wait and see whether the younger generation of activists and leaders can begin to delineate possible and actual spheres of influence and engagement in relation to the whole body of the ummah and beyond. It is my hope that this new decade will see a new broadening of horizons.
L Amatullah completed her undergraduate degree at the University of London where she is currently engaged in postgraduate study. She has led and been actively involved in charitable work and human rights campaigns, both on and off campus, for several years.
Reclaim Your Stage:
The Platform is a groundbreaking blog that provides current affairs and cultural commentary. Our pieces offer challenging opinions from a range of spectrums; that’s why we love hosting a platform for them.