A conversation on equality, integration and Islam as a religious marker

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SHAFAQNA – “Muslim communities are not like others in Britain and the country should accept they will never integrate,” Trevor Phillips, the former head of the equalities watchdog said at the Policy Exchange think tank in Westminster this January.

Elaborating on his comment, Mr Phillips insisted that it was rather “to assume that Muslim communities would change”, since Muslims “see the world differently from the rest of us.”

Following is an excerpt of his tirade as quoted by The Times: “Continuously pretending that a group is somehow eventually going to become like the rest of us is perhaps the deepest form of disrespect.

‘Because what you are essentially saying is the fact that they behave in a different way, some of which we may not like, is because they haven’t yet seen the light. It may be that they see the world differently to the rest of us.”

While many chose to see the seed of racism in Mr Phillips’ comments, I personally believe he tapped into a socio-religious matter which is absolutely central to the many issues we have seen developed today – mainly Islamophobia, and of course racism in general.

Stating that people and communities are different should not be equated to a measurement of their worth. Why should we understand a simple observation as necessarily judgmental? Wouldn’t that be the very definition of prejudiced?

Here is the problem most of us suffer from: we are only ever capable to see the world but through our own bias and prejudices, comparing all, and judging all, against our own sets of values. As people, as communities, as nations we all look onto others through our own egocentrism.

It is this egocentrism, this need to pass judgement and measure all according to our social, political or religious truths, which stands at the root of intolerance – our inability to accept others’ differences.

Differences in others of course upset our innate sense of order – as defined in our sense of self. While most people are quite capable of keeping themselves in check by acknowledging others’ right to be, some have a hard time recognizing that by denying others such freedom they are essentially denying their own – rooting their identity in the collective rather than their own individuality.

Racism, like all other forms of intolerance is but the manifestation of an identity crisis anchored in the fear that our truth does not measure up to that of others’; that our worth can only be validated through uniform replication. When we reject others’ differences we are in fact asking them to be instead like us – to validate our own sense of self.

Egocentrism, egocentrism, egocentrism!

And so yes, Mr Phillips’ comments that Muslims are like no other religious communities are in fact correct. Muslims are indeed like no others. Now this “difference” needs not be feared, or mocked. Why associate pluralism with such negativity?

Why deny people their individuality? Isn’t personal freedom the very basis of civil liberties?

Interesting how liberalism can become a euphemism for ethnocentrism in the mouth of western politicians – I give you PM David Cameron’s remark on Muslim women’s “submissiveness” … As opposed to what exactly?!

Mr Phillips also noted that people of certain backgrounds in the UK are not going to change their views “simply because we are constantly telling them that basically they should be like us.”

There, the Muslim Council of Britain agrees. The MCB has actually long insisted that Muslims are compatible with UK life, and that the idea of demanding change from Muslims has promoted discrimination.

Speaking on “change” and those calls Muslims have faced over the past decade that they should make a conscience effort to “integrate” a spokesman for MCB told The Times: “It assumes that Muslims are not equal, and not civilised enough to be part and parcel of British society, which they most certainly are.” Good point!

But what is integration? Or rather what does Western society implies when it speaks of integration?

The word integration essentially refers to a desire to bring “foreign” communities to blend in by adopting their new environment’ socio-religious markers – integration has very little to do with individuals/ ability to function within society, or even contribute.

The idea is for the “others” to disappear their otherness.

While Muslims are perfectly capable of functioning within western society … why wouldn’t they?! They are people after all, and they, like everybody else, ambition to have fulfilling, happy and dignified lives; Muslims live by a particular sets of religious rules which few will ever be comfortable compromise with.

I’m referring here to ethics and morals.

For example: while liberals may applaud before the crude expression of women sexual emancipation, Muslims will see the objectification of women. Where liberals will perceive submissiveness, Muslims will recognize piety and modesty.

Question: Why need a woman’s value, worth and modernity be measured by the length of her clothing?

We speak today of integration, equality and multiculturalism, when really we mean forced-absorption conformism, and globalism.

The real problem “society” is having with Islam is that it stands tall in its truth – that its truth needs no validation, and no authorization.

Islam simply is – beyond and above Society. Islam I would argue is actually THE measure we are all measured against, THE anchor, the first and last reference point. Of course many will disagree with me … and that’s perfectly fine.

Islam it is important to remember embraces individuality, and celebrates pluralism as both the expressions of our own collective humanity, while liberalism seeks to impose one uniform diktat.

Why would Muslims abandon their right to be? Why would anyone reject freedom for the shackles of conformity?

The debate Britain should be having today has to do with Wahhabization and radicalization in general – the integration of Muslims into society has little to do with anything.  Britain’s anger and resentment I’m afraid are directed at the wrong parties.

By Catherine Shakdam – The views expressed here are the author’s own. This article was published first in the American Herald Tribune.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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