Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | ‘We want a just society’

‘We want a just society’

Sultanah Parvin, 27, of Ilford, east London, is on the women’s executive of Hizb ut Tahir, which seeks the establishment of a single Islamic state

Tuesday November 30, 2004

I don’t identify with the term “British Muslim”. It suggests allegiance to Britain and connection to the country’s secular system of rule, which is based on capitalist ideals. How can Muslims feel part of this when the government is involved in sending British troops to Iraq resulting in the killing of Muslims?

Britain is a secular society that separates politics and religion, and that is in contradiction to what Islam teaches. Muslims cannot accept compromising core Islamic values just for the sake of wanting to be labelled “British”. The feelings of the Muslim community were not taken into account over Iraq and there is scepticism about how a secular government can protect us and our rights.

I believe that the need to integrate Muslims by government creates many difficulties for the Muslims who live here. Most Muslims in the UK came over from the Asian subcontinent and at first they believed that they too could live harmoniously in British society and hold onto Islam by building mosques etc.

But in recent years intolerance has risen, and the real face of secular values has reared its head where unless you abandon all religious, moral or political views, you will be increasingly targeted. We want a just society, which exhibits a true form of justice and sanctity for human life unlike the western governments have shown. We believe the Islamic Sharia in its true form can and will provide this.

Some may say that in comparison to some other European countries, Britain is arguably a better place for Muslims to live. There is not the obvious levels of violence against Muslims witnessed in Europe but Muslims can see that this is all relative. This war on Islam exists in all parts of the world and the UK in some ways has been more instrumental for this than other countries. There is great anxiety in the Muslim community about the future here.

We worry about things like the case of the judge in Luton who ruled that a young Muslim girl could not wear the full hijab to school. It would not be unexpected if the UK became like France where Muslim women are not permitted to wear this dress in some public buildings, including schools.

With all the negative press, we need to help change people’s perceptions of Islam. The idea [that] there are many young Muslim men who are waiting to commit acts of wanton violence is sensationalist and wholly inaccurate.

There is more interest in Islam generally and this provides an opportunity for people to consider Islam’s place in the west and whether it can offer any solutions for some of the problems such as drugs, binge drinking, and disaffected youth.

Interview by Mark Oliver