Integration, Multiculturalism or isolation, A British Mulsim Perspective - By Javed Malik
Integration, Multiculturalism or Isolation?
A British Muslim Perspective
Javed Malik is a British Muslim Lawyer & Televisioon Journalist on ARY Digital’s programme – The Muslim World.
Another anniversary of September 11 is approaching, this and the recent tragic events that shook London in June this year has once again brought British Muslims under the spotlight. Inadvertently it has also re-ignited a debate among those who seek a diverse and ‘multicultural’ society as opposed to those who would prefer a more "integrated Britishness"
British Muslims, just like members of other minority ethnic communities would tell you success stories of integration, where individuals from relatively humble backgrounds, have achieved success in their respective fields. Achievement or Success can have different meanings to different people. To some in the minority communities, it can even mean simple things like going to a university, obtaining a quality degree, or entering professions such as Lawyers, Accountants, Pharmacists, Journalists, or even civil servants or nurses, while to others it may mean climbing up the social or political ladder, yet to others it may mean becoming an entrepreneur, starting and growing in business. Whatever your definition of success may be, you would find British Muslims excelling in that area, and achieving success too.
The debate between ‘integration’ versus ‘multiculturalism’ will undoubtedly continue with varying degrees of intensity as the British society tries to take stock of the situation of either promoting multiculturalism or redefining ‘integration’. Debates are always good for they provide an outlet to promote understanding. Multiculturalism is not new in British Society for it has been a part of British society since the days of the Empire when a number of religions, races, and cultures were part of what was then the British Empire. ‘Integration’ however is relatively recent and something that was previously not considered politically correct. Some analysts will argue that the solution does not lie in integration but rather stems out of ‘isolation’. If you look at all these observations objectively you will find that there is a greater need of ‘engagement’ with young people in general, and young British Muslims in particular and to make them feel more ‘involved’ in the mainstream British Life, while at the same time not forgetting Britain's complex history of race relations and multiculturalism, and how to negotiate a faith-based political identity among the Young British Muslims.
Well, the Younger Generation of British Muslims is perhaps more vital, primarily because they are the ones who hold the future in their hands. Young British Muslims will not only shape the future of the British Muslim Community but also have an impact on British society as a whole. Steps are needed to prevent them from being ‘isolated’.
As a generation they have much better skills than what their parents had, many of them are university graduates and better equipped with the knowledge to make a positive and civic contribution to society. There is a greater need to accommodate diversity and equality within a western democracy like Britain, and to ensure that these young people are not allowed to divert and feel ‘left out’. A feeling of being ‘involved’ needs to be promoted.
There is also a need to understand their problems, and share their experiences. One of the main problems facing Young British Muslims is unemployment. Some that do have jobs are trapped in low end jobs or suffer discrimination, this contributes to feelings of Insecurity lacking self-confidence which is further bolstered by personal experiences of deprivation, racism and an increased level of Islamophobia. These issues need to be addressed and not ignored if we are to promote a feeling of ‘co-existence’ among the younger generation of minority ethnic communities in general and the British Muslims in Particular.
Unfortunately the recent events of some individuals have brought the entire British Muslim Community under fire, with hate crime being reported against individuals and religious institutions like mosques. It is therefore becoming more and more important that the British Muslim community rather than adopting ‘victimized’ look, should instead bring into the lime light the positive contributions of British Muslims to British Society. As far as positive role models are concerned the British Muslim community certainly does not lack any of those, Ranging from successful business men who employ thousands of British citizens like, Sir Anwar Pervez and Sir Noon to English Cricket captain like Nasser Hussian, Or from Political heavy weights like Lord Nazir Ahmed, and Mohammad Sarwar MP to World champion Boxers like Prince Naseem Hamed who have brought glory to Britain. Only recently the Miss England contest was won by a Young Muslim Girl of Afghan extraction and she spoke of how pleased she is to represent England. These are all positive role models.
Many communities, races, and people of diverse cultural backgrounds have lived in Britain and have called it home. Britain continues to remain one of the most culturally diverse and rich countries on earth and that is what makes Britain great. While debates are healthy and promote understanding one must always remember that both multiculturalism and integration are relevant and its only a matter of balance.
Pakistan Origin Card, & Its Implicatons on British Pakistanis - Javed Malik
Pakistan Origin Card, & Its Implicatons on British Pakistanis
By : Javed Malik, President, British Asian Youth Alliance, London
Dated: April 2000.
I was present at the London ‘Launching Ceremony ‘ of the Pakistan Origin Card which was attended, among others, by the Interior Minister of Pakistan, the Chairman of NADRA, the High Commissioner for Pakistan, and Pakistanis from all over the UK. The ceremony was impressive albeit late. We were told that the delay was occasioned because a meeting was taking place between the Pakistani Ministers, High Commissioner and Lord Ahmed of Rotherham in an effort to gain his support for the POC. We now know that the talks proved futile and Lord Ahmed stood his ground in opposing the issue.
This has raised a controversy with conflicting opinions on the issue being aired by members of the Pakistani community in Britain.
In my humble view, the initiation of a Citizens Database is a positive step by the government towards setting up the infrastructure which is undoubtedly a need for many future projects, including the establishment of a transparent electoral role, which can pave the way for fair elections and return to democracy.
I am sure that everyone with an objective approach can only be appreciative of this step. However, the introduction of the card and the database will have long-term implications for every Pakistani, and it is therefore an issue which concerns each one of us whether we happen to be in Pakistan or stationed abroad.
It is being said that it would be mandatory for everyone to obtain the New Computerized Identity Card if he/she is to have a place in the future system, and the Pakistan Origin Card would serve as its equivalent for overseas Pakistanis. We are also told that the demand for the introduction of the Pakistan Origin Card (or POC ) was made by overseas Pakistanis. Such a demand was certainly not made by Pakistanis living in Britain but it could have come from Pakistanis living in the United States or in countries which do not allow ‘dual citizenship’. Such a demand is undoubtedly valid and the step taken by the Government of Pakistan to address the problem is indeed laudable. By obtaining a POC, the US or French citizens of Pakistani origin, who previously required a visa to go to Pakistan, will now be able to go to the mother country without a visa and enjoy all benefits mentioned in the introductory leaflets of the POC. A fee for such a service can also be justified, as those obtaining the POC would clearly be making a gain.
If in the future these overseas Pakistanis are deprived of their voting rights, as the minister said, it would also make sense, as it can be said that when they chose to surrender their Pakistani passports to become US ( or French) citizens, they also chose to give up the rights which go with being a Pakistani citizen.
However the situation in Britain is quite different in that the Pakistanis living in Britain have ‘DUAL CITIZENSHIP’ and retain their Pakistani passport. Thus, it can be argued that they should not be asked yet again to prove their ‘origin with Pakistan’ by obtaining a POC as surely a Pakistani passport is enough proof of being of Pakistan origin. Being Pakistani citizens, they should have all the rights and privileges (including the voting rights when they are in Pakistan).
We understand from the Minister that the Pakistanis living in Britain who obtain a POC will be registered in the NADRA database as ‘People with Pakistani origin’ and as such loose their identity as ‘ Pakistani Citizens’, and as such also lose all future voting rights and other rights of FULL Pakistani citizens. In other words, by obtaining the POC, they would be losing rather than gaining anything. This seems even more unfair when a fee of $200 - $300 is also imposed for the acquisition of the POC.
My question is: What will a British Pakistani, with dual citizenship, gain by obtaining a POC? Would he not be better off in the first place by retaining his FULL Pakistani passport (along with his British one) and subsequently obtaining a Computerized ID Card when it becomes available ?
In view of the above, in my opinion the POC scheme, which in itself is a great scheme for US, French, or German Pakistanis, may not be appropriate for Pakistanis living in Britain with Dual Nationalities. I think we should place the facts before the people in their entirety and let them make their own decision, and those who choose not to obtain a POC, should be free to obtain a Computerized ID Card when it becomes available on production of a valid Pakistani passport.
Muslims in Britian
Although Muslim migration to Britain began from the mid nineteenth century, the immediate opportunity was brought about in 1869 by the opening of the Suez Canal. This facilitated increased trade between Britain and its colonies, and a contingent force of labourers to work on the ships and in the ports. The obvious choice of such labourers were the Yemenis. They were the first group of Muslim migrants who arrived at the British ports of Cardiff, Liverpool, Pollockshields and London. Between 1890-1903, nearly forty thousand seaman arrived on British shores and about thirty thousand of them, according to one report, spent some part of their lives in Britain.
Inevitably, there was a language barrier between the Yemeni workers and their British employers. This, the Yemenis solved in tribal fashion. Yemeni workers, upon their arrival at British ports, assigned themselves to a particular leader for their daily needs and work requirements. The leaders were usually chosen because of their relatively better communication skills, and their awareness of employers’ needs and government requirements. Sometimes this transit period could be extended by months, and this could be a very difficult time for Yemeni sailors. Bit by bit, some of them began to settle for longer periods and married local British girls. In port cities like Cardiff and Liverpool, there are now several generations of Muslims in the community.
Additionally there were others who migrated and settled in Britain. Civil servants of the British Raj used to visit Britain either to acquire work experience or to take civil service examination in order to gain promotion in their jobs. A small number of them settled in Britain. People such as Abdullah Yusuf Ali, a civil servant and translator of the Qur’an into English, lived, married and died in Britain.
On the one hand, then, we have the British Empire, which attracted increasing numbers of immigrants to Britain, whilst on the other, we have native Britons who were attracted to the faith and beliefs of these immigrants. Pursuant to their regular visits to Muslim countries, these Britons were attracted by the mystical dimension of Islam. Others came into contact with Muslim professionals and students in Britain because they mingled with the British aristocracy; they shared a similar background. These two factors played an important role in establishing Islam in Britain.
During the latter part of the last century and until the beginning of the Second World War, two key institutions emerged, one in Liverpool and the other in Surrey. William H Quilliam, a lawyer in Liverpool, visited Morocco in 1887. There he was attracted to Islam, and soon became a Muslim, founding The Liverpool Mosque and The Muslim Institute. He edited The Islamic World (begun in 1890) and The Crescent, a weekly publication in which he wrote extensively about Islam and Muslims. A number of tracts were also published. Quilliam also established Madina House, a house for orphans in Liverpool. His works attracted both Muslims and non-Muslims alike and also seem to have had a lasting audience abroad. He received a personal gift from the Amir of Afghanistan and the Ottoman Sultan invited him to visit Istanbul and soon appointed him Shaykh al-Islam. The Muslim Institute established a Muslim College where it enrolled both Muslim and non-Muslim students. Quilliam’s activities attracted a large number of critics and eventually he left Liverpool for Jersey, later returning to work under a pseudonym.