7 Integration and Friction
All human beings define who they are in society by their choice of clothes. Social conventions narrow the range of options people have, and deviation from the conventions attracts extra attention, whether the deviation is self-imposed, the habit of another society or imposed by another custom. Since clothes communicate the crucial ‘first impression’, people often react to unconventional clothes as an antagonistic or challenging statement, and apply whatever prejudice and stereotype they have in their minds, no matter how far-fetched it is. Regardless of other defining personal attributes that reveal social status, such as accent, wealth and career, people’s assumptions about him or her will be formed by the clothes they see him in. For many, when they see someone in distinctly Islamic clothes, their only reference point is a demeaning tabloid cartoon or a newsreel of some far-away violent conflict.
Muslims have three conflicting choices in dress, to follow non-Muslim conventions and fashions, including ‘rebellious’ ones, to follow cultural customs that create ethnic identities that are not explicitly Islamic, or to adopt a clearly Islamic identity. Many of the younger generation grown up in Britain, reject the ethnic conventions of their parents’ generations and the loss of Islamic identity of Western fashion. Instead they fashion a distinctly Islamic but ethnically nondescript identity out of the range of options available to them. It is the “distinctly Islamic” aspect that is important for them yet it is the same aspect that makes others assume that they have failed to integrate. Ironically it is because they have integrated that they have discarded the clothes of their ethnic identities, but criticism that they have failed to integrate comes from those who cannot distinguish between ethnic tradition and Islamic assertion. People choose distinctively Islamic clothes because they want to be recognised as Muslims in the wider community.Problems arise because whatever other measure of integration is used, every religion is exclusive – you can’t ‘be’ two different religions, no matter how generously disposed you are towards other religions (including secularism), so wearing distinctively Islamic clothes immediately marks you out as ‘other’.
It is obvious from the preceding paragraphs and from the controversy it arouses, that Islamic dress is an extremely important issue. The following sections are intended to show that a pragmatic approach should be adopted. For all the controversy that surrounds it, and efforts to accommodate it in uniforms and the workplace, there is no generally agreed single proper dress accepted by all Muslims themselves. The least desirable outcome for all is where a particular Muslim organisation or an external non-Muslim body such as a court is asked to define Islamic dress – it cannot do so in undisputed terms, and the former will inevitably include its own ethnic and factional prejudices in the decision.
Most arguments against Islamic dress per se are specious; for example there is no general reason why loose and long clothes should be more of a safety hazard than tight, restrictive ones. Likewise the argument that multiple standards of dress induces rivalry ignores common sense – everyone knows that degrees of piety and sincerity are not defined by clothing but by more profound senses.
Examples of a pragmatic approach include minor adaptations to uniforms so that they can include token features of Islamic dress; organisations with a corporate uniform can provide cloth using the corporate colours to allow members to prepare their own clothes from it. Specialist protective clothing is provided for in the Shari’ah by virtue of common sense and analogy with armour.
Just as in everything else to do with selecting a level of religious practice to adopt, individual Muslims claim a whole spectrum of requirements for Islamic dress according to their conscience and their enthusiasm. The spectrum for men ranges from ‘no difference at all’ to copycat Arab costumes, and for women, from Islamo-chic little headscarf to full face veiled, full length black burqa.
The Islamic principles of dress are that a man must cover from his navel to his knee at all times, and a woman must cover everything except her face and hands. How that translates into practice depends on interpretation of the Qur’an and Sunnah. The Messenger of Allah invariably wore a lower garment called an izhar identical in style to a sarong. This is rarely seen on the street in Britain, except for older generation Bangladeshi men. Besides izhar, his companions also wore a salwar, or shalwar, a loose, very full cotton trouser as maintained typically by Pakistanis. His upper garment was a qamees, which is a shirt split at the sides and which came to the midpoint of his calves, with open sleeves down to his hands. His head was covered with a simple hat wrapped in an imamah, the Islamic-styled turban. He had a thick woollen over-garment called a Jubbah, a word nowadays used for the long Arab-style cotton full length shirt because it has the same cut. None of his garments was allowed to fall below the ankle. He and all his companions kept at least a fist-length of beard and trimmed his moustache to no more than the length of a rice grain (not long-grain rice).Qur’anic revelation commanded his wives to receive male visitors from behind a hijab, literally a screen or curtain (rather than the new use of the word hijab to mean a scarf). Hadeeth record how the Muslim women of the time covered themselves entirely with a sheet large enough to take two together, and the Prophet’s wife Ayesha commanded that when she be taken to her funeral, the cloth should be arranged so as not even to reveal her height.
Clearly few Muslims adopt these original examples, but to salve their consciences they make various interpretations of the principles. The sarong-like izhar is so closely tied to ethnic identities of aging Bangladeshis that pride defeats almost any attempt by anyone else to wear it, except perhaps Indonesians and East Africans in private. Shalwar approximates to trousers sufficiently to convince most people that trousers are acceptable, though their origins are quite different. Most men will accept the qamees, though young Asians are troubled about looking too much like their ethnically-encumbered parents, so they often prefer the modern Arab shirt since Arabs have more kudos than Asians. (Many Arabs regard Asians as miserable servants and ignorant of Islam, so there is little incentive for status-conscious young Asian Muslims to prolong the humiliation.)
Any headgear is decidedly unfashionable for young Muslim males unless it is a uniform nondescript hood or a Mark 1 reversed baseball cap, though Arab-style scarves have their place. The Imamah is altogether too conspicuous for all but those totally impervious to public opinion. Many young Muslims take comfort in a Hadeeth in which the Messenger of Allah took off his imamah and used it as a sutra to pray behind. For them the taking off is a technicality, they prefer the more advanced stage of not having it there at all.
The beard is a special subject in its own right. Sayyadina Muhammad never cut his beard and commanded his followers to grow their beards long and shorten their moustaches, as an explicit religious duty. Some among them trimmed their beards to a generous fist’s length, which was acceptable. In modern times, just as it is possible to find a supposed Islamic religious authority who will accept almost any deviation, so such authorities can be found with token stubble or even no beard at all. There was reputedly a Turkish imam in Paris who kept a woollen ‘beard’ that he attached to lead the salaah! For the sincere, practising Muslim, a beard is often the first, most conspicuous and most enduring sign of his devotion, and therefore it is highly symbolic among Muslims. Even if a youth or man is unable to grow a full beard, the fact of not cutting or shaving it gives it equivalent religious status. There have been cases in schools where Muslim youths have been ordered to shave their emerging beards, where the school authorities have failed to accept its religious significance at that early stage. In a military context, Queen’s Regulations also have explicit beard-related instructions which conflict with Muslim religious requirements.
Recognising the importance of clothing to communicate a message, many young Muslims seek protection in attitudes, posture and clothing that suggests belligerence through for example adopting militant-chic, camouflage styles. This must not be mistaken for genuine militancy, instead the exemplars are rather like the harmless hoverfly that looks like a wasp. On the other hand, dressing in accordance with the Sunnah is seen as a distraction from “the real struggle” both for militants and for militant-chic Muslim ‘hoverflies’. A young Muslim man in white or black imamah, long beard and long qamees is far more likely to be a devotional Sufi mystic than a fan of ‘Usama bin Laden.
Muslim scholars do agree that it is not permitted to wear the symbolic clothing of another religion. While archbishops’ mitres have not been in the High Streets recently, as to whether the injunction includes the evangelist’s pin-stripe suit is debateable. (Ironically the original Hebrew mitre was an eight-metre long roll of cloth, not dissimilar to an imamah.) It is believed by some Muslims that to wear a tie is reprehensible as it symbolises a Christian cross. However sartorial history does not support this – the origin of this belief is more likely to be the pronouncement of a challenged imam who cannot find persuasive arguments to encourage his followers to wear Sunnah dress so he resorts to ‘bogeyman’ arguments against the alternative.
In short, Muslim men may pass off more or less anything as Islamic dress, and few of the more popular choices have any relationship with the Sunnah. This makes it hard for those men who do choose to follow the Sunnah closely to justify their choice by reference to the practice of other Muslims or the pronouncements of scholars.
Just as with men, women’s practice ranges from dress rooted in ethnicity, through token gestures of Islamic identity, to the full Sunnah. Unlike men, there are no specific examples from the Sunnah that describe the type and style of women’s clothes, other than the general requirement of being loose, and covering all except hands and face, or being fully covered under a veil and burqa-equivalent..
There is an assumption made by many observers that Muslim women in Britain who wear a long burqa or similar coat, and those who veil their faces as well, do so because they are forced to do so by their parents or husbands. The precise opposite is closer to the truth. Younger generations of Muslim women reject the ethnic traditions of their parents, so those who are conscientious Muslims strive to assert their Muslim identity instead of their ethnic identity – e.g. British Muslim, not British Bangladeshi. They do so by adopting strictly Islamic dress and veiling their faces (the face veil is usually referred to as a niqaab). Meanwhile their own mothers wouldn’t be seen dead in a burqa. For first generation settlers it carries a stigma of backward villagers, not fashionable progressives in the big Western city. Some older generation women prefer to maintain their ethnic traditions, whether it is sari and scarf, shalwar-kameez and dupatta, long skirt, blouse and scarf or similar. Other older generation women tried to integrate by adapting western clothes such as trouser-suits when ethnic clothes were the target of racial abuse and workplace prejudice, or reserved for self-conscious dressing up.
Organisations that have tried to accommodate Muslim dress have often been tripped up by failing to recognise that Muslims cover diverse ethnicities. For example some schools have allowed shalwar kameez to be incorporated in the uniform code, but have failed to recognise that for stricter Muslim families this is only for indoors, or that some Arab girls and even some Bangladeshis would feel humiliated wearing Pakistani-style clothes.
A vexed issue concerns identity verification and veiled faces.. Clearly this is not easy to resolve. In the ports of those Muslim countries that respect Islamic practice (some are openly contemptuous of it), separate facilities are provided for men and women. UK Immigration will also provide women to check veiled women’s passports, but they are not always present and travellers can be delayed for a long time waiting for a woman to appear.
For men and for women, any interference with clothing would be considered an assault, e.g. lifting or removing a face veil, scarf, imamah or other Islamic-style of headgear, unless done voluntarily.
Muslim racial identity is as varied as the rest of society. However Muslim dress code is distinctive, so inevitably many Muslims are, and feel, conspicuous. As explained in the previous section, nowadays many Muslims make a clear distinction between ethnic and religious identity, expressed most clearly in the way they dress. While routine racial harassment is on the decline as society becomes more comfortable with multi-ethnic communities, that often serves to make Muslims more conspicuous and more likely to be targeted for routine harassment. Most harassment goes unreported because perpetrators are extraordinarily difficult either to confront or to take action against. Yet these incidents are the most corrosive aspects of poor race, religion and ethnicity integration because they reinforce on a daily basis the notion of not belonging, of not being on the same terms as everyone else. A typical example might be a verbal assault in which words sound ambiguously like abuse, shouted out by a passenger in a commercial van, driving past, with no obvious witnesses. The abuse carries no material loss or direct threat of injury, and even if basic details are recorded, the time wasted waiting for a police response and the obviously poor prospects of a resolution all contribute to make the crime unchallengeable. Such incidents are literally everyday life for anyone in a visibly distinct and disadvantaged minority.
Mechanisms exist for reporting minor incidents, e.g. via the internet and through distributing reporting forms to the local Muslim community. Some work of this nature has already been attempted by the Muslim Safety Forum and the Metropolitan Police, but there are limitations in what has been done. The forms might serve merely to record incidents of low-level crime and there should be no expectation of a direct follow-up. However accumulation of a body of such material, from which hot spots can be identified, or even sufficient detail for individual persistent behaviour can be identified, could allow local police to target resources accordingly.
The majority of petty abuse incidents occur from vehicles, obviously because the vehicle provides security for the perpetrator. The DVLA has made available on the internet basic details of the registration state of vehicles queriable by their type and registration number. Anecdotal evidence shows that a significant number of harassment incidents from vehicles involve cars that are unlicensed. This suggests there may be follow-on benefits from addressing low-level harassment since there is already a recognised association between unlicensed vehicles and other kinds of offences.
One aspect of the disempowerment felt by Muslim victims and recognised by perpetrators, is the reluctance of witnesses to become involved. This occurs (as in all cases) partly through apathy and inertia, and also partly due to clannishness by which people assume that other members of the targeted community will help if help is really needed (racialism through inertia, in effect). But it is also partly due to the failure by ordinary people, unaffected by racialism or Islamophobia, to recognise the insidiousness of the otherwise petty crime. A campaign is needed to encourage people who are not directly affected, to make a stand against petty harassment, to report incidents even when the victim doesn’t, and to challenge trivial instances of racialism, xenophobia and religion-based abuse and discrimination.
All stop-and-search incidents are humiliating and a cause for resentment, unless perhaps the target is a conventionally-dressed, white, English middle-class, middle-aged, male professional stopped among similar socially secure people. Searches are de-stigmatised only if they are applied uniformly to everyone or through a well-defined, visibly randomising process.
Regardless of claims that profiling is not used to identify targets for stops, profiling is inevitable, but profiling is also worthless, at least if it isn’t supported by specific intelligence. It has already been noted above that normal Muslim appearance is intentionally distinctive, so any Muslim involved in an sinister activity that could be intercepted by stop-and-search would be pretty stupid not to make his or her appearance inconspicuous, or at least not distinctively Muslim. Furthermore the huge ethnic diversity of Muslims, including significant numbers of black and white converts, makes it very difficult to apply an ethnic or appearance-related profile to targets, e.g. based on skin complexion. On top of that, the Muslims that have been associated with the kinds of activities that stop-and-search is intended to disrupt, have included a disproportionately large number of converts and people of a generally European or Afro-Caribbean appearance. In short, regardless of the ethics of profiling, ethnic or appearance-related profiling is likely to be counter-productive from a practical policing perspective.
This fact is borne out by reference to recent events and recent studies. Practically every significant UK terrorist incident and many individuals involved in extremism have included white British or African-Caribbeans. A Security Service study was reported on in The Guardian, which stated, "It concludes that it is not possible to draw up a typical profile of the "British terrorist" ...".
Systematic stop-and-search activities, such as followed the 7/7/05 London bombings, involves an enormous amount of police resource for minimal gain, but if approached differently could have considerable fringe benefits. The following anecdote illustrates the issue. “My local railway station has been patrolled by the same four or five police officers and PCSOs for nearly four weeks now, yet none of them have made any attempt to engage in any informal way with any of the people who attract their attention among the ethnically and religiously distinct people who use the station daily. This is a huge opportunity squandered. There has been an enormous wave of revulsion at the violence of the bombings and a deep-felt anxiety to contribute, and this would have been a brilliant opportunity for thousands of police in London to get to know individuals in the minority community better. We all spend a few minutes waiting for the train and we now have a topical subject on which to start a conversation. Individual police officers have no particular reason to assume hostility towards them from ordinary travelling Muslims. Using this opportunity to strike up a friendly relationship over a number of days (i) could encourage a better, more personalised relationship with the police, (ii) could give the minority person an opportunity to demonstrate his integrity to the officer, and (iii) could demonstrate to other people around that he deserves to be on the same footing as everyone else, not an object of suspicion.” It would also provide local police officers with an opportunity to understand better who the Muslim members of the local community actually are. Furthermore, the anecdote continues, “I suddenly felt a lot more vulnerable than previously. The search was an affront to my dignity, regardless of the necessity of the policy and regardless of the fact that I had no complaint about the manner in which it was done. Had anyone been present who could have exploited my discomfiture, for example, had a group of racialist youths been present, their boldness would have been succoured by my exposure and by my humiliation at being a police target. Meanwhile my moral disadvantage and the wound to my pride would have made it far more difficult for me to turn to the police for assistance if I had been subject to abuse afterwards. Indeed I felt it much more likely that I would have reacted violently as a response to any subsequent abuse.”
There are significant differences in the way in which different powers of stop and search are used. These differences have helped to cause confusion about people’s rights and expectations. Under Terrorism legislation searches can be carried out for specific items of any people in a designated area. “The police officer should tell you:
- that you must wait to be searched;
- what law they are using and your rights;
- their name;
- the station they work at;
- why they chose you;
- what they are looking for; and
- that you have a right to be given a form straightaway showing details of the stop and search.”
However anecdotal evidence suggests that only ‘what they are looking for’ was told to people stopped and searched at railway stations following the 7th July bombings.
“You should not be stopped or searched just because of:
- your age, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion or faith;
- [skin colour, age, hairstyle,] the way you look or dress, the language you speak; or
- because you have committed a crime in the past.”
Of these, the first two are clearly contradicted by ‘profiled’ targeting of stops.
“The police will ask you for your name, address and date of birth. You do not have to give this information if you don’t want to, unless the police say they are reporting you for an offence. If this is the case you could be arrested if you don’t tell them.
“You will also be asked to say what your ethnic background is from a list of the national census categories which the officer will show to you. You do not have to say what it is if you don’t want to. But this information is used to show if the police are stopping or searching people just because of their race or ethnicity.” The National Census categories make no distinction between religious identities yet these latter are emphatically the identities used to select people for stop and search under counter-terrorism operations. On the other hand at the time of a Muslim-related anti-terrorism stop-and-search, to be asked explicitly what religion you are would be bluntly inflammatory.
On a number of occasions search incidents have caused consternation because the police officers concerned were unaware of what constituted normal Muslim habits. The following list identifies items that might normally be found on Muslims and that have perfectly normal explanations.
- Ittar – It is conventional for Muslim men to carry a small bottle of oil-based perfume. Using it and giving it as a gift is a Sunnah.
- Miswak – Miswak, Sawaak or tooth-stick is a straight piece of fibrous root, about the size of a finger, used for cleaning the teeth at frequent intervals, especially when making Wudhu.
- Bottle – A discreetly carried plastic bottle such as a shampoo bottle is sometimes used to make up for the absence of Istinjah facilities, i.e. washing the private parts in a stream of water after toilet.
- Tasbeeh – a chaplet or rosary of beads is commonly carried to practice for Dhikr, meditation on the name of Allah.
- Taweez – a coded form of a few verses of the Qur’an on a small piece of paper, wrapped up and sealed inside a cloth package about the size of a tea bag, and usually hung round the neck. It would be extremely discourteous to unwrap this.
- Qur’an – If carried, the Qur’an will usually be kept in a protective bag, enabling it to be handled without wudhu. It is extremely disrespectful to handle the Qur’an directly or open it to read without wudhu.
- Leaflets – Elsewhere this booklet describes how numerous leaflets are distributed in the vicinity of masjids. Regardless of the content of the leaflet, if a Muslim thinks there may be sacred text in it such as a quotation from the Qur’an, he or she will be careful not to throw it away and may carry it for a considerable time before finding a respectful way of disposing of it, whether or not it has incriminating statements on it and whether or not he agrees with its sentiments.
- Shaven armpits – an intimate search will reveal that Muslim men and women habitually shave the hair from their armpits and private parts. This is not an indicator of some ritual purification in readiness for a dastardly act!
- Stone – When travelling, it can sometimes be difficult to make wudhu. In certain situations an acceptable alternative is to make tayyamum, by rubbing hands, face and arms on a clean, sandy or stone surface. Sometimes a fist-sized rock or smooth piece of clay is carried in luggage to achieve this, e.g. inside an aeroplane where there is no equivalent stony surface on which to make tayyamum.
- Rucksack and sleeping bag – One large mainstream Muslim organisation, Tablighi Jamaat, sends small groups from masjid to masjid to preach, staying at one for 2 or 3 nights before moving on to another. Each member will invariably carry a pack with sleeping bag and personal effects and they may be travelling very late or very early depending on convenient intervals between salaah times.
- A small tablet of earth or possibly wood – Shi’as consider that it is better to make the prostrations of prayer directly onto the earth, and fulfil this by placing a small tablet of hard-baked earth on the ground in front of them while praying. The tablet may have intrinsic religious significance, e.g. it may be made from clay from the site of the martyrdom of Imam Hussain.
Muslim-Jewish relations are notoriously strained. Although there are several reasons for this, the obvious, overwhelming one concerns the Palestinians. For most of the time since 1947 the Palestinian struggle has been essentially a secular and Arab issue, but the Israeli occupation of all of Jerusalem made it a cause célèbre of the whole Islamic world, because of Israeli restrictions on access to Masjid al Aqsa, one of the three holy sanctuaries of Islam.
Islam is rooted in the same tradition as Judaism. There are far more aspects of Islam and Judaism that are held in common than in conflict. It is for exactly this reason that (i) the Jews feature extensively in the Qur’an and (ii) Jewish responses to the Messenger of Allah were critical in shaping Islam’s relationship with the Jews. The Qur’an includes passages which explicitly exhorted the Jews to accept Islam, passages to be recited verbatim to them, which they would recognise. For the benefit of Muslims, it also cites extensively from their history to illustrate righteous and wrongful behaviour and the consequences of both, as a warning and example to Muslims of those that preceded them.
Many Jews converted to Islam during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah , and many did not. Among the latter, many rebelled against or undermined his rule when he was appointed by the people of Madinah to rule them. Those who converted to Islam were quickly absorbed into the heterogeneous Muslim society (including one who was married to the Messenger of Allah ) and, quite properly, little attention was then given to their origins. However the net result is that the early conflicts with Jews and the examples of misconduct in the Qur’an are the ones that Muslims are most conscious of.
Before the foundation of Israel, there were many Jewish communities that were well established in the heart of Arab Muslim societies, and some of these remain. However most have gone and memories of harmony have faded quickly in the continuous war over the land of Palestine. Many non-Arab Muslim communities, especially Asians, have no direct experience of living alongside Jews at all. In these countries, and in modern times in most Arab countries too, the only Muslim image of Jews is entirely negative. In a few more complex countries, e.g. South Africa, Muslim minorities and Jewish minorities have learnt to respect each other, and the Jewish community was recognised by Muslims for its strong stand against Apartheid. But for most Muslims, anti-Zionist, anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish sentiments are indistinguishable from each other. Without the direct heritage of the infamy of the Second World War in Europe, few Muslims have automatic revulsion for Hitler and Nazism, and some express equanimity. In the Indian sub-continent, equanimity towards Nazism is quite normal, being a far-off, European problem and one which led indirectly to their independence.
There is an enormous gap to cross before a more sophisticated relationship between Muslims and Jews can be expected. The gap means that anti-Jewish feelings among Muslims is largely unchallenged. Currently, even Interfaith principles barely protect liberal Muslim leaders from being compromised by sharing a platform with Jewish leaders. The problem needs to be handled carefully and systematically because of its pervasiveness, and needs constructive participation from all sides, each community, their generations, and institutions affected. Noting that there are significant numbers of British Jews who are at least uncomfortable with Israeli actions against Palestinians, that historically there have been stable relations between Jewish and Muslim communities, and that a lot of anti-Jewish sentiment stems from complete isolation from Jewish communities, some attempt could be made to whittle away at this potential target of extremism by carefully managed dialogue, e.g. through the use of Jewish converts to Islam and of orthodox scholars as intermediaries from those with knowledge of their common heritage.There are some converts to Islam who vocalise the level of anti-Jewish sentiment that one would otherwise only expect from neo-Nazi groups in the UK. A few of these are indeed rooted in extreme right-wing ideas. Others, more typical of some Muslim militants, have built up a following by using endemic anti-Jewish sentiment and emotions stirred by the oppression of Palestinians. The implications are that there are two separate problems, (i) to tackle the extremist rabble-rousers and (ii) to tackle the idea that this kind of racialism is ‘normal’.
Jihad or mujahida in Arabic means ‘struggle’, ‘the act of struggling’. It has precisely the same range of direct and abstract associations as the English word ‘struggle’, e.g. to apply oneself to overcome a difficulty, to fight, a power struggle, class struggle etc. The Arabic word ‘qatila’ is the word that literally means to fight or wage war. Within Islamic practice, jihad means both to fight for Islam militarily and to struggle against the personal and spiritual obstacles that hold one back from the fullest practise of Islam.
It is not the purpose of this booklet to justify the extent to which military campaigns occupied much of early Islam, but it is necessary to state that in their proper historical context these campaigns were a proper part of Islamic history. Islam has a concept of a ‘just war’ in much the same way as Christianity does, with the difference that it is explicit in Islam from the earliest times. The differences between the situation of Islam and that of Christianity in modern times highlights important factors in understanding support for militant jihad among many Muslims. Firstly Christian churches have been relegated to a background role among powerful countries and are used to give moral endorsement (‘a just war’) to governments’ military adventures. Islam on the other hand is a potent force set in opposition to oppressive governments in weak countries, and is used to give moral endorsement to violent anti-government action. Very few Christian communities are having to struggle to assert their identity or existence, whereas many Muslim ones are. So for Christian groups, questions of a ‘just war’ nowadays turn on the morality of governments currently waging war, allowing Christians the luxury of anti-militant, moral high ground.
By contrast, for Muslim groups, questions of a ‘just war’, justification for jihad, turn on the morality of supporting communities in desperate plights by militant action against repressive forces of law and order. Hence jihad becomes equated with underground movements and terrorism instead of legitimate struggles for honourable ends. The situation has made more complex for Muslim movements because of shifting and contradictory policies among Western countries, favouring repressive regimes in Muslim countries with Western sympathies, e.g. in Algeria, or cultivating anti-Soviet groups in the Cold War era and then dumping them e.g. in Afghanistan, or by attempts to contain an unviable entity e.g. Yugoslavia. Many of the more recent and therefore less well established ethnic communities among Muslims in Britain are refugees from conflicts such as these, and discussion of violent struggle is discussion about their everyday experiences before coming to Britain and remains the everyday experience of their relatives left behind. Proper, legitimate channels need to exist to channel their preoccupations through, but currently there is much debate and little understanding about struggles around the Muslim world, so it is extremely difficult for anyone to define what is a proper channel and what is unacceptable support for terrorism.
It is obvious that Muslim extremists have already and will continue to exploit struggles against oppression to draw attention to themselves, to win supporters and to increase tensions for their own purposes. It is also increasingly clear that impressionable youngsters from well-settled families unaffected by these struggles, are drawn to dramatic claims, and sometimes to dramatic acts, that take them into terrorism and related activities. If it not clear what constitutes legitimate channels for those people who are directly affected to express their support for a popular Islamic cause, it is even less clear for those on the fringes such as extremists and disaffected youngsters, never mind moderates wanting to campaign for justice and human rights. And if it so unclear among the supporters of a Muslim campaign, it is likely to be deeply opaque to non-Muslims.
In short, while some forms of expression of support for militant jihad are clearly illegal, others are not clearly illegal, some are legal and some are historical reality. If the reader has matters of concern around issues such as these, it is imperative that specialist advice be sought.
Many masjids have books of collections of anecdotal tales from the early history of Islam, such as “Teachings of Islam” or “Fazail-e-Amal” by Maulana Muhammad Zakariyya. Many of the anecdotes concern examples of chivalry or self-sacrifice expressed in jihad by the founders of Islam, in the sequence of battles in which the opponents of Islam sought to crush it at its inception, or occasions in which they ill-treated Muslim captives and converts from among them. These events are all taken from the body of Hadeeth literature, the formalised historical records of the roots of Islam, and are widely known and recounted. They are not a source of encouraging militancy among Muslims, rather they are comparable to many of the stories of tribulations of Christian saints. Indeed the Tablighi Jamaat movement which makes most use of the particular books cited, is spurned by militants who disdain its introspectiveness and timorousness.
Most Muslims when drawn on the issue of militancy will state that Islam is a religion of peace, that Islam means ‘Peace’. This is undoubtedly true, save for the need for Muslims to defend themselves and the ultimate need to protect the holy sanctuaries of Islam (which include Masjid al Aqsa next to the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem). ‘Salaam’ actually means peace and ‘Islam’ means ‘Submission’ [to the will of Allah], the sense of which is that one only truly believes in Allah when one accepts one’s fate in His Hands – then one is at peace with oneself.
The Messenger of Allah stated after the battle of Tabuk, the last significant military campaign of his life, in which the Byzantines were defeated in a bloodless victory, “The little jihad is over – the great jihad has begun.” He explained that, “The great jihad is the struggle against one’s self” by which is meant the struggle against base and selfish desires. He repeated this exhortation in his sermon when performing Hajj a few months before the end of his life, “The Mujahid is he who fights against his self and subdues it to the obedience of Allah.”One of the scholars most respected by many of the more militant young Muslims is Shaykh Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz bin Baaz. He published a response to recent acts of terrorism including the following quotations from the Qur’an, translated here: ‘Allah said: “O you who believe! Fulfil your obligations.” The unjust killing of a human being in Islam is forbidden. Allah said: “And kill not anyone whom Allah has forbidden except for a just cause.” Corruption on earth is considered a major sin in Islam. Allah said: “And of mankind there is he whose speech may please you in this worldly life, and he calls Allah to witness as to that which is in his heart, yet he is the most quarrelsome of the opponents. And when he turns away from you, his effort in the land is to make mischief therein and to destroy the crops and the cattle, and Allah likes not mischief. And when it is said to him ‘Fear Allah,' he is led by arrogance to more crime. So enough for him is Hell, and worst indeed is that place to rest.”’
Not only petty crime: '"Experience has shown there are very strong links between illegal use of motor vehicles on the road and other types of serious crime," said Merseyside Police's Assistant Chief Constable, Simon Byrne' quoted in The Guardian, September 15 2008.
The DVLA's public website where enquiries can be made about any vehicle, is www.taxdisc.direct.gov.uk/EvlPortalApp/ and it required the registration number and make of vehicle.
"MI5 has concluded that there is no easy way to identify those who become involved in terrorism in Britain, according to a classified internal research document on radicalisation seen by the Guardian. The sophisticated analysis, based on hundreds of case studies by the security service, says there is no single pathway to violent extremism. It concludes that it is not possible to draw up a typical profile of the "British terrorist" as most are "demographically unremarkable" and simply reflect the communities in which they live. [...] They are mostly British nationals, not illegal immigrants and, far from being Islamist fundamentalists, most are religious novices. Nor, the analysis says, are they "mad and bad". Those over 30 are just as likely to have a wife and children as to be loners with no ties, the research shows. [...] The research, carried out by MI5's behavioural science unit, is based on in-depth case studies on "several hundred individuals known to be involved in, or closely associated with, violent extremist activity" ranging from fundraising to planning suicide bombings in Britain.
"The main findings include:
- The majority are British nationals and the remainder, with a few exceptions, are here legally.
- Around half were born in the UK, with others migrating here later in life. Some of these fled traumatic experiences and oppressive regimes and claimed UK asylum, but more came to Britain to study or for family or economic reasons and became radicalised many years after arriving.
- Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices.
- Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households, and there is a higher than average proportion of converts. Some are involved in drug-taking, drinking alcohol and visiting prostitutes. "