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Sunday, April 04, 2010

Have we contributed to the growth of far right groups?

A few years ago I rang a news reporter to complain about an article that a reporter wrote about Islam. We spoke for half an hour or more and he had made his points and so had I. When we talked about a particular party he said, quite abruptly, that it was because of Muslims that the dead far right groups had been revived. I had answered all his objections except this one but there was little that Muslims locally could do about world politics.

After ending the call I began to think about what he said. The events that are played out on a world level were taken advantage of by the far right groups. They played on this fear then fed the public their nonsense. Then the following thought began to plague me, was it because of our lack of engagement of Islam in our communities? Had it contributed to the growth of these groups? For the first time in history these groups are having a greater impact and they are winning votes as well as seats in local councils.

They used to propagate fear and hatred about foreigners but now they openly attack Muslims. Another contributing factor was the growth of political apathy that had lead to resentment of the ruling party.

They also used badly reported localised events to drive their message home.

What was our reaction?

Like anything else, in this country, our reaction was minimal if anything. Other groups who are against these groups continued their opposition to them. These groups are mostly made up of non-Muslims. Local leaders did speak up but were their voices drowned out by the media and relegated to a line or two. Or was it the quality of the speakers who could not speak English fluently, so could not get their views eloquently across.

What is the solution?

The only solution is that we must engage in forms of outreach that are relevant to the countries that we live in not the countries that we come from. Some forms of outreach work in countries that we come from but do not work here. For example the Naat or Qasida gathering was an event that anyone could attend. This was relevant in places that we come from but not in the UK, as these events are held behind closed doors. So they do not have the same relevance that they would have if they were held in the Indo-Pak world.

We also need to have people who are trained to speak to the media.

We need to engage with religious societies and use interfaith gatherings to our advantage and not use them to discredit the religion. At the same time it does concern me that many people are not into faith so a large amount of the target audience is missed out.

We have deep social problems that need to be tackled and solved. These problems are swept under the carpet and are ignored. We have to show some courage and attempt to resolve our problems.

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