by Umar Zeshan Bhatti
When a report highlights that more than a third of Britons believe that Islam is a threat to the British way of life, we have to question how and why?
Does the way Muslims are reported in the mainstream media have an impact? It is difficult for anyone to argue that Muslims do not receive disproportionate amount of negative media coverage. For instance, between 2006 and 2015, on average in the US, a terror attack committed by a non-Muslim (or where the religion was unknown) received 15 headlines, while those committed by Muslim extremists received 105 headlines. it any wonder then, that the first image that comes to people’s minds when you say the word ‘terrorist’ is of a Muslim.
The British values, according to Ofsted, are democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs and of none. However, when someone talks of British values, it is thought of going to the pub and drinking late into the night. But could that change now? Could we have The Great British Bake-Off as part of the values? The point is that values are always changing. They may not have been similar 50 years ago and are always evolving. So it makes you wonder what really are ‘British values’ and are they very different to, say, European, or American, Australian or Indonesian values?
Another point to ponder is, are British values the same for every Brit? Does each household within the UK believe in and emphasise the same values? There are bound to be similarities of course, but who really decides what is ‘officially’ a British or non-British value?
To be frank, the only time in the recent past I have come across a discussion of what British values are has been in a context of a discussion about Muslims. Muslims have been accused of not integrating into Westerns society properly and have been seen as a living threat.
Does the fact that Muslims look different, dress differently in some ways mean their values are any less ‘British’?
I believe as a Muslim who goes to the Mosque, doesn’t hang out at the pub, doesn’t even like tea very much, I am no less British than anyone else. I’ve seen a lot of definitions of integration, but the one that really resonates is one by the Caliph of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community who put things into perspective when he said:
“If there are religious differences that exist between us, such as men and women sitting separately or if Muslim women observe Hijab, it does not affect our integration into society. Rather, true integration requires that all people live peacefully with one another, manifest a spirit of love and kindness and, whether male or female, use all their faculties and capabilities to serve their nation and to help it advance.”
Conflict of interest
I don’t think a uniformity in behaviour equals integration, because will always behave differently to one another in some respects and similar in others and that’s how we are as humans. Rather, uniformity in a desire to help one another and to help one’s nation progress and to contribute towards its advancement is in reality the yardstick for integration.
Otherwise, will a thief be more integrated into Britain than an immigrant just because he drinks tea or speaks with a fluent British accent? Even if the immigrant come to the UK and raises funds for charities to help his adopted nation?
There will always be clashes in how people behave, dress and speak and so tolerance is essential. Some practices in Islam are viewed as backwards. For example, not making physical contact with people of the opposite gender or women choosing to wear a burqa or Hijab.
When taking this into consideration and seeing if these practices fall into the category of ‘British values’, I would urge the reader to remember that that freedom of choice is also a value that we so proudly champion here in the UK.
In life, there will never be a complete acceptance.
Therefore, we should be willing to accept the differences in modern multicultural Britain we live in and move forward. Our efforts should be concentrated on what brings us together – as stated by the Holy Qur’an.
Umar Zeshan Bhatti has completed his LLB at London South Bank University in 2019. From September 2019, he will be studying the LLM in International Human Rights at City University. He is interested in Human Rights. He is trying to challenge the negative perception of Muslims in the media and he is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association. Follow him on Twitter @UmarZBhatti97