Defining ‘British Muslim’ seems quite easy on the surface. But in reality, defining being both a British and a Muslim is very difficult. It involves a long history of political, social, cultural, and economic struggle…
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Issues of identity in Britain have largely centred on the concept of ‘otherness’. Muslims were considered ‘aliens’ in the 1950s and 1960s. The term ‘alien’ means otherness, and also means difference, threat, and inequality (Ahmad and Sardar, 2012: 2). Towards the latter part of the 20th century, cultural difference became very popular and otherness became the latest thing. Difference is no longer intimidating; and otherness today is valued for its commercial aspect, the exoticism and delight it could provide. Still, identity has been one of the most important concerns for Muslims living in Britain. Contrary to earlier thoughts on identity, which view it in quite permanent terms, the present belief is changeable and continuously influenced by the evolving environment. This essay critically evaluates how Muslims living in Britain can be both British and Muslim. This essay analyses the historical events, social and political aspects, and cultural factors that contributed to the creation of a distinctive Muslim identity. The different features of identity class, ethnicity and religion are believed to be subjected to historical dynamics, and it is viewed as being continuously reinterpreted and recreated according to external and internal factors. The diverse and worldly characteristic of British society is believed to create various opposing identities. A large number of Muslims living in Britain have had to harmonise their religious and ethnic features at the individual and societal levels. All have been made difficult by drastic cultural and social transformation in the latter part of the 20th century, forcing them to adjust and compromise (Norcliffe, 2004). As the impact of the cultural and societal norms from which they came from on behaviour and beliefs has disappeared with the appearance of a bigger population of Muslims born and educated in Britain, they have become more and more integrated into the British society. Being British and Muslim A national narrative that includes Islamic history would allow Muslims, especially younger generations of Britain-born Muslims, to understand how much of their own traditions are an important aspect of British traditions. This would help present and future generations gain a strong identity as British Muslims. However, there is a much larger benefit to be gained from Britain’s acceptance of its Islamic influences and the acceptance by British Muslims that British traditions are an important aspect of Islamic culture. Diasporas have historically influenced Islamic societies. Even the Prophet Muhammad moved from his homeland; and the community he formed in Medina were shaped by a diaspora (Ahmed, 2012). The historical Islamic culture was formed not by Arabs but by groups from Africa, the India, and central Asia. The Abbasid caliphate, widely viewed as the high point of Islamic learning and wisdom, was the product of a diaspora. The autonomous Muslim states that were built in the 20th century, like Malaysia and Pakistan, were usually formed in Britain by a diaspora (Gould, 2011). British Muslims can take advantage of this history to change Islam, as well as Muslim societies across the globe. The British Muslim scholars consider Britain as a perfect site of change. The study of Waqar Ahmad shows that British Muslim scholars have a dream of a democratic and diverse Islam. There are major internal changes that reveal “the fruition of a tangible Muslim consciousness among Muslim communities” (Ahmad and Sardar, 2012: 8). Muslims adapt to socially created and faith-oriented identities, and carefully choose how they define themselves. They made use of British history to defend their status like on Islamic schools, they formed their public
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Such influence becomes unfortunate when tainted with racial bias and Eurocentrism that unfortunately still permeates in the UK. The book, Islamic Peril: Media and Global Violence (2003) succinctly detailed how the growing number of Muslims in Western countries such as Britain is being subjected to hostility because they cannot conform to the dominant ideology.
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