Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | ‘Politicians need to stop making Muslims scapegoats’

‘Politicians need to stop making Muslims scapegoats’

Ismail Patel, 42, optician, Leicester

Tuesday November 30, 2004

Ismail Patel
Ismail Patel

The Muslim community in Britain is made up of individuals with many different viewpoints. There is a British Muslim community, but its views are incredibly varied and therefore it doesn’t have a single, united leadership.

British Muslims should be able to contribute to British society and put forward ideas that can better society. But Muslims shouldn’t have to do this at the expense of our teachings and ideals.

Since September 11, British Muslims have felt under siege. Some members of the community have recoiled and made barriers for themselves. A lot of Muslims’ faith has been strengthened because of feelings of persecution over the last few years, and many Muslims have gone back to the grassroots teachings of Islam.

The government lumped all Muslims together after September 11. Not just abroad, in countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but also domestically. The government demanded that Muslims condemn the terrorist actions of other Muslims. This meant British Muslims were associated with terrorists. You can see the effects of this in the increased number of assaults on Muslims, and the fact that the use of stop and search on Muslims is being used by the police more frequently.

One of the problems within the British Muslim community before September 11 was that we hadn’t engaged with mainstream culture. British Muslims were happy to live within our own communities, we felt like we didn’t need to participate in the running of the country because we were safe.

This meant that when September 11 happened, most British people didn’t know who Muslims were. Most non-Muslims in Britain don’t have everyday contact with Muslims. So most Britons believed exactly what the media and the government told them about Islam.

To fight this ignorance, British Muslims need to go out and engage with as many non-Muslims as possible, we need to join organisations from the women’s movement to socialist movements, so that we are seen and heard and our ideas and ideals are understood and appreciated. In the last few years groups within the Muslim community have become more dynamic and are working with mainstream organisations expressing their views openly.

I want to believe that the future for British Muslims can be positive. But in order to create a multicultural, united country, politicians need to stop making Muslims scapegoats.

Interview by Tom Lutz