journey for the quest of the self
fact that the trend to activate the Muslims role in the British
political life has accomplished a relative success in last June 2001
elections (won by the Labor Party) something that troubled the Jewish
lobby (the same happened in the U.S.), the results that Muslim
candidates have achieved were not good. The reason for that was not
because the public has rejected them, but because the
disagreement-sicknesses were passed along to Britain's Muslims who
fell into disputes and then faltered.
delegates have stood for the elections only two have won. Despite the
fact some may consider this as a victory knowing that only one deputy
in the former house represented Muslims and now they have two
deputies, some election-analysts considered this as a defeat to
Muslims who failed to take more than two deputies to the House of
majority attributed this failure to the division among the Muslims in
Britain and their inability to unify their ranks in the constituencies
apart from the fact that some have moved according to pure partisan
principles without considering the Islamic identity. For example,
Mohammed Riyad (the first Muslim candidate for the Conservative Party)
after being the more fortunate candidate has lost a seat, which could
have been won in West Bradford constituency, by a difference of more
than 4000 votes in favor of the labor party candidate.
Britain, a history that extends over centuries:
the Islamic presence in Britain reverts to centuries particularly the
age of the British King Aufa (who ruled between 757 and 796 A.D, and
whom there were British Islamic coins that had his name on, which
raised predictions that he was a Muslim), but the official Islamic
presence goes back to the early forties of the twentieth century when
the first Muslim emigrants from the Indian sub-continent, which was
under British colonization, reached the industrial city of Glasgow .
began organizing themselves in an establishment that was called
“Muslim Union Association” officially founded in 1943. Shortly
after this, the first small mosque was inaugurated in a house at 27
Oxford Street in the city, in addition to the first (small) Islamic
school to teach the Muslims’ sons.
to the weight of Muslims in this city that candidate Mohammed Sarwar
won in the 1997 elections marking the first Muslim to ever occupy a
parliamentary seat in the whole of Britain’s political life.
presence in Britain was connected to the former colonial relations.
After the end of World War II, emigration waves started especially of
those who worked with British colonizers in the different colonies.
Emigrant’s nature varied , many immigrants were workers scientists,
academics, economists, and businessmen. Although this has changed with
time, the kind of
emigrants looking for a job, political asylum, or for education and
innovation has always prevailed.
there is not a precise official census of the Muslims in Britain, but
statistics indicate that around 3 million Muslim are living in the
British Islands most of whom are concentrated primarily around the
capital London and other industrial cities such as Birmingham,
Manchester, Bradford, and Glasgow.
issued by Ranimid Statistical Institute indicated that the number of
Muslims in Britain have reached 10.5 millions in late 20th
century. Of those, 610,000 of Pakistani origin, 350,000 of Middle
Eastern and North African origins, 200,000 of Bengali origins, 160,000
of Indian origins, in addition to 180,000 their origins are from other
countries like Malaysia and Nigeria.
represent a remarkable percentage of political asylum applicants in
Britain. In 1999, for example, 6000 Somalis had such applications, as
well as more than 2500 Afghans and thousand of Pakistanis, Turks, and
Kurds. These percentages are subject to the ever-mounting aggravated
and ravaged areas in the Islamic world.
Britain in return for churches in Arab countries:
of building mosques in Britain is somehow odd. Even the idea of
building mosques in the beginning was connected to the condition of
building corresponding churches in Arab countries like Egypt. The
journey of building mosques in Britain probably started in the advent
of the year 1860 when a mosque was built in the city of Cardiff, the
capital of the Wales province, at Glenn Ronda Street. Another mosque
by the name “Shah Jihan Moseque” was built in Waking in 1889 where
a student dormitory was annexed to it.
London had remained for decades without a prominent mosque. On October
24, 1940 during World War II Winston Churchill, the late British
premier, in a cabinet meeting endorsed the idea of partially funding
the building of a mosque in the capital by governmental funds. In the
coming year, the Egyptian ambassador Hassan Bahjat Basha inaugurated a
mosque in east London and an Islamic Cultural Center, which was
administered by the “Muslim Association.
king George XI inaugurated London’s Central Mosque and the Islamic
Cultural Center built in Regent Park officially after an agreement to
build this mosque in return to building a church in Cairo was made.
The Egyptian government had an active role in prompting the request to
build the mosque in the British capital.
donated the cost of the real estate and started preparing it while a
board of trustees, which included ambassadors of Islamic countries as
members, was formed.
Islamic presence multiplied in London, the old Central Mosque in
London was demolished in order to rebuild it according to the plans of
the English architect Fredrick Gebhart. It was inaugurated with its
current marvelous design with a golden dome in 1977 and can
accommodate about 4000 prayers. After a century and a half of building
the first mosque in Britain, almost every city has now a mosque, where
the number of mosques around the country exceeds 1000.
organizations in the “British Islamic Council”
growing number of mosques, Islamic schools, and specialized schools
for the Muslims in Britain, the absence of a comprehensive
coordination framework that expresses the demands and the aspirations
of three million Muslims in the country represents a disadvantage
(weak point) that can hardly be ignored. Therefore, and during a
historic meeting they held in the city of Bradford on may 25, 1996,
some Muslim groups sought to form a framework that can comprise them.
They agreed to form an umbrella foundation where the entire Muslim
minority works under, so as to represent them in the British general
life and to best accomplish their interests.
British Islamic Council came to existence and was able in the first
few years to gain a high credibility and an apparent reputation among
Muslim ranks despite the humble financial resources that were put in
its possession. The council also acquired remarkable interest from the
British political class especially the leadership of the three major
parties the Labor, the Conservatives, and the Democratic Liberals.
Islamic Council includes as members 22 major pan-British
organizations, 7 regional organizations, in addition to 293 local and
of this council was the cornerstone of the unification of the Muslims
in Britain. This British government helped in fulfilling their
demands by supporting their Islamic schools and their traditions just
as it does with the Jewish minority that is less, in number, than the
Muslims were also successful in acquiring a decree from London Police
that allows Muslim women to join the police work while wearing veil.
against Muslims in Britain:
to what happened (and is still happening) to the Muslims in the United
States, the Muslims in Britain suffered from racism against them. This
has been confirmed by a study in 1997 by the Ranimid British Institute
under the title of “Islamophobia” which talked by the record about
targeting the Muslims in the general life and the media in a negative
discriminatory manner whereas the simplest accusation to them is
March 2001, the Interior Ministry admitted this truth in an extensive
study under the title “Religious Discrimination in England and
Wales”. The study, which was carried out by Derby University in
cooperation with Cambridge University, noticed that discrimination
against the Muslims has a religious background, which then covered all
aspects of life.
other hand, there are certain achievements
the Muslims in Britain achieved as a result of their
struggle. Yet there are real problems confronting them, the most
prominent of which is their disunity and division which allows other
forces to take advantage of. And if whatever the Muslims had achieved
is primarily due to their unity and organization as a unified body,
their losses are due to their disunity. This is a simple equation that
can be easily solved with good will and good intentions.