Over the last decade, in sections of theMuslim community there has been a maturity of debate that has led to the emergence of progressive, British voices. These include T J Winter, Dr Ghayasudin Siddiqui, Dr Musharraf Hussain, Dr Usama Hassan, Humera Khan, Asim Siddiqui, Haras Rafiq, Abu Muntasir, Abu Aaliyah, Khola Hassan, Dilwar Hussain, Yahya Birt, Fareena Alam, Abdul-Rehman Malik, and others.
Among Muslim scholars too, there has been a bolder identi.cation of the nature of extremism. Here, Muslim scholars such as T J Winter, Imam Ba-Bikr Ahmed, Dr Musharraf Hussain, Dr Usama Hassan have been crucial.
To ensure that English-speaking imams do not become mouthpieces for al-Qaeda ideology, Muslim seminaries in Dewsbury, Manchester, Bury, London, and other cities should:
- Re-evaluate their syllabi to ensure that these are in line with the expectations of lives for citizens in a 21st century liberal democracy, not British India in the 1850s;
- Explain religious texts of the past in their context and assess relevance to today’s world (for example, the invalidity of notions of Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam);
- Encourage students and imams to wear clothes that ensure belonging to mainstream society, and not Pakistani ethnic attire designed for a different climate. Islam requires modesty, not Arab or Pakistani clothing. We are not like Polish Jews that insist on wearing black clothes, unrelated to religion;
- Actively encourage more women to become students and teachers at these male-dominated environments;
- Establish strong working relationships with Jewish and Christian seminaries that lead to joint teaching activities and better understanding of other religions among imams, and vice versa.
Friday prayers in key institutions such as Imperial College London, Leeds University, Queen Mary and Westfield College, the London School of Economics and others attract huge crowds. In order to ensure that these young minds do not succumb to Islamist radicalism, we recommend that:
- Where there is a genuine concern of radicalisation on a given campus, university authorities should actively monitor which Muslim faction controls the Islamic society and content of Friday sermons;
- Radical sermonizers should be actively rejected by Muslim student bodies, and not given succour in the name of ‘Muslim unity’;
- Leaders of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies (FOSIS) have a duty to help integrate its student population into British life, not encourage Saudi-style gender segregation in Muslim gatherings at British universities; 4
- Muslim students should not take over multi-faith prayer rooms, and then create ‘Muslim-only’ areas. Rather they should allow for other faith adherents to use these facilities;
- University authorities should ensure prayer rooms do not become an Islamist underworld, a centre for Muslim students to withdraw between lessons and thus avoid extra-curricular interaction with other students;
- Where Islamic societies have invited radical speakers/sermonizers, university management should conduct spot checks on the content of Wednesday afternoon lectures/Friday sermons until sufficient trust in the Islamic society is re-established.
4 For example Faisal Hanjera, a FOSIS leader, has personally been present at meetings at QMW college where gender segregation was imposed throughout this academic year. And Muslim women reduced to asking questions in writing, lest their voices prove lustful to the predominantly male audience.