Is Islam good for London?

with 9 comments

The promise that 21st century’s new epoch of tolerance and co-existence would subsist irrespective of differences in race, gender or creed is continuously reiterated by world leaders. A new era of human rights, liberty and freedom to think do or say whatever you wish. In turn, the media continues to irresponsibly question whether or not Islam can contribute to British society – the most recent study being compiled by the Evening Standard entitled “Is Islam good for London.”

As the Evening Standard asks, “Is Islam good for London?” In the interest of balance – let us deport the word Islam from the debate and ask: Is Judaism good for London? Christianity? Is Hinduism, Buddhism and as a matter of fact, is Atheism good for London? Doesn’t sound so rational now, does it? This shouldn’t be about Islam, as a matter of fact, it should not be about religion. In a society that is supposedly tolerant of other faiths, the question seems rather deplorable, wouldn’t you agree?

Extreme negativity is certainly the picture that emerges for many; as some are unable to fathom how any religion can make either a positive or negative contribution towards a city. One might just as well ask whether vegans can positively contribute to society and then depict muddy conclusions that a non-vegan could possibly make a better economic contribution by eating more meat. As dim-witted as the example may seem, it’s almost as dim as the study. A commentator left his thoughts on the matter, and if truth be told, his reflective statement is what has created the desire to write this piece. Ian Barsley, East London, said: “Why not ask what fat cockneys like me bring to our lovely capital? Am I contributing anything or taking away more than I bring? Is my presence on the Tube every morning acceptable or am I just another one bringing my own thoughts, beliefs and feelings into a city where they are not necessarily welcome. I’ve probably got some opinions and beliefs that would make your hair curl but I’m not an obvious figure to be agonised over and discussed.”

Profound words to say the least. It is comments like these that restore hope in Britain for many of us. Surely, each and every being should be probed according to their individual contribution to society, not according to their religious identity. If a felony has been perpetrated, then “so and so” has done it, not a person of a certain religious orientation. Those whom attribute and conform to religion should not have to worry about the actions of confused, callous and negligent individuals. As the old English proverb goes, “Every man for himself,” how can one focus on working tirelessly to contribute to the betterment of society if they are constantly being ostracised for the actions of a minute few?

This debate is a gloomy mirror image of British society, where liberty is no more than an expression. With Islam in the limelight, it is noteworthy to consider the impact this has had on British society. Perhaps this discussion should promote a time of reflection for the British: what defines being British, in our time?

After discussing this issue with a non-Muslim friend who sarcastically noted: “Well at least they’ve realised the discussion is about religion and not race,” I was taken back and bizarrely enough the only thing that came to mind at that moment is a press conference I attended a while back where prospective Tory candidate Shaun Bailey proclaimed in his speech “Muslims are the new blacks.” And that statement has resounded in my mind for a while now. But has it really come to this? That this so-called Western liberal society has taken one step forward and 10 steps back? Whatever happened to what our forefathers fought for? Whatever happened to our dream? Our enact vision that our colours, our identities, our thoughts would not dictate how others may perceive us to be. It is somewhat excruciating to see how the focus has shifted to Islam as the cause of the world’s entire problem. It’s like living in Europe in the 1930s and blaming all of Europe’s woes of the time on the Jews. Clearly all religions have been seen as unwelcome by its residents at first, Muslims are part of London like everybody else. One should not focus on what a particular religion contributes to society but rather ask if what each one of us brings is of any value.

In the light of the question posed “Is Islam good for London?” let’s bear in mind that there are over 1.5 million Muslims living in Britain today, most of whom live in harmony and with utter respect toward their British fellow citizens. As a content British Muslim I  can affirm with certainty that Islam has been a positive force on this striking city and in some strange and divine way, the anti-Islamic oratory that we are being assailed with, is actually drawing people into this noble faith, whose simple holistic message is the peace and salvation of mankind through submission to the Almighty. Lynne Ali, a female commentator said: “Thousands of Western women are donating their miniskirts to charity only to replace it with the Hijab, me being one!”

I leave with a final excerpt from Christian socialist, Larry Mack who said: “There are many Christians, Jews and non-believers I know who share similar perspectives. The Muslims have reminded us of this essential societal value.” In this frustratingly orchestrated climax created by the media; it is easy to succumb to such narrow-mindedness. Then again there’s a good old saying that nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide. We hope that the Muslim influence can be a positive one in restoring some sense of correct moral conduct. It is necessary to mark mutual respect between each member of society, no matter what religion we attribute ourselves to. Muslims, Jews, Christians, all faiths and none, let us all join hands and better our understanding of all faiths, re-evaluate and challenge stereotypes in others and more importantly within ourselves.


Written by Magda M Ali

January 21, 2008 at 9:27 pm

Posted in Features

Tagged with , , ,

9 Responses

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  1. Thought-provoking piece. I see your blog is new… I will certainly add your blog to my blogroll…

    I look forward to your future posts. And can you please do a post on your idea of the clash of civilisation by SH, would be great the hear from a muslim who doesn’t speak so ill of their own faith. (i.e. eddy and ayan)



    Lee Kovskick

    January 21, 2008 at 11:21 pm

  2. I am best pleased that there is a good challenge to the question ‘Is Islam good for London?’

    Such questions are always a reminder of the negative image that Islam has lately been a victim of.

    The author has done well to highlight main points such as the fact that Muslims are a major part of London and live with fellow citizens in a respectful manner quite happily.

    I hope that such negativity ceases to exist in this beautiful city that is blessed with all the different cultures which gives an experience that is not available in several other countries.

    As a muslim, I would like to thank the author for highlighting many points and making an attempt to neutralise the negative image of Islam and making her points such unbiased manner.


    January 22, 2008 at 12:09 am

  3. masha’allah, thanks for this sis.. insha’allah i will be moving to london so always good to hear how things are for islam over there.. insha’allah i will read this all soon (im at work, shhh!) Fi amenallah


    January 22, 2008 at 1:32 am

  4. Salutations all…

    Thanks for the pleasant comments, though I really don’t deserve it…

    Lee – I will definitely take you up on that piece, I’ve always wanted to write something about SH’s theory on the clash of civilisation.

    abdul – thanks… your comment has also left further room for reflection mA.

    Ammena – I look forward to hearing your thoughts sis, Ps I can’t seem to access the link to your blog on your profile, I would love to see your work inshAllah.

    Warmest regards



    January 22, 2008 at 3:29 pm

  5. maybe i didnt add it 🙂 its let me know what you think 🙂 shukran


    January 23, 2008 at 12:11 am

  6. Asalaama Aleykum to you all,

    Well written and well analysed peace of work. It’s through this kind of material that we may one day be able to show Islam and it’s beauty to the west.

    JazakaAllah Kheyrun for the effort sister.


    January 23, 2008 at 3:44 am

  7. I look forward to the clash of civilisation, can you set up a feed so that we know when to expect it 🙂

    thanks Magda.

    Ps i’ve written a piece about your article on my blog, let me know what you think. Though it’s from a non-muslim perspective, i hope that it’s a good read.



    Lee Kovskick

    January 23, 2008 at 11:22 am

  8. Bint Ziinah, jazak sis, i so should have thought of that name… Mum’s name is just so beautiful. mA…. Anywho post the link to your blog that you were harping on about, i clicked the link on your profile but it took me to a whole new place… v dodgy!!

    I miss you dearly!



    January 25, 2008 at 1:29 am

  9. Interesting piece, very topical too.

    Though I’m not a muslim i can relate to it too.


    January 25, 2008 at 1:45 am

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