Leaving Islam



Divided Loyalty: Islam vs. The State

By Paolo Bassi


After the initial shock of the July 7 2005, London Underground suicide bombings had subsided, another, more sinister, trauma faced Britain. Within days after July 7, the investigations revealed that the bombers were young British born Muslims. How was it possible for young men, who had grown up attending British schools, having British friends and idolizing English sports teams, to murder their fellow citizens in such callous cold blooded murder? It seems the British people and their complacent government had assumed too much. Being born in and living in Britain does not necessarily foster love and loyalty for country and culture.

In explaining the horror of the London attacks, the physical and cultural isolation of Muslim communities, especially in northern British cities like Leeds and Oldham, cannot be ignored. British institutional racism, racial stereotyping, persistent racially motivated violence and economic inequality, all serve to exclude hopeful and capable minorities from full, unquestioned integration. An relatively educated Anglo-Saxon Briton, when he awakes each morning, does not think about his identity or place in the world. Without thinking about it, he expects to be fully welcomed everywhere and goes about his business with confidence and security. His motives and movements are not questioned. This is not so for minorities, especially young men of color, for they are reminded many times a day of their "otherness" and the social limitations invisibly placed on them.

Is racism, isolation and lack of integration of young Muslims into the British mainstream enough to explain why the July 7 bombers turned against their own people or are there other forces that no amount of understanding can defeat? One of the bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan, who was of Pakistani origin, made a video-tape some time before the bombings in which he talks of the British government making war on "his people". Khan makes it very clear that Muslims, wherever they may be, are "his people" and that the British are not. It is also significant that Khan, who was not an Arab nor had any connection with Arab politics, appears in his suicide video wearing an Arab head-dress. There is a reason for this "arabic" appearance. Islam does not simply demand loyalty to itself but also to a broad arabic identity.   

In his video, Khan did not address any Muslim issue, whether Palestine or Iraq, as human rights issues but rather as Muslim concerns—one in which his fellow Muslims are being oppressed by the west. He fully justified his forthcoming suicide bomb since he was making holy war. By this argument, if a Muslim can claims that his loyalty is solely to Islam, then he should accept the right of Christian suicide bombers killing Muslims to protest against Christians being persecuted by Muslims in Sudan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and a host of other Muslim states.

Besides making it quite clear that Khan's people are not other Britons, but only other Muslims, what is particularly chilling to a non-Muslim is that Khan was a teacher's aide and therefore, a protective, authority figure for Muslim, Christian and probably Sikh and Hindu children. However, when it came to fighting for Islam, all of these past relationships meant nothing and Khan would have just as easily blown away these children had they been on that doomed underground train on July 7.

Khan had good reason to believe that his sole loyalty lay with Islam since Islam explicitly demands total submission to Allah, the Koran and Mohammad and teaches Muslims that they are part of a world-wide Islamic nation or "ummah". Time and again Muslim preachers openly and with impunity claim that the role of western Muslims is to foster an Islamic culture in their host countries and little by little to force concessions from western governments so that Islam survives in the West yet untouched by Western political and cultural forces. Therefore, Britons and other Europeans should not be shocked when radical western born Muslims deny allegiance to their host countries. That loyalty always belonged to Islam and its is European complacency and ignorance that caused them to believe otherwise.

Is there any bond as strong as Islam and can western political traditions and culture ever hope to claim the loyalty of young western Muslims? These are the critical question for all western governments with sizeable Muslim minorities. If western governments are not prepared to fight for their secular values and the loyalty of Muslims to western values, a permanently alienated and dangerous group of Muslims in their midst will be created. If the west somehow finds the courage to assert its values, it must morally, intellectually and politically challenge Islam's fanatical demand for loyalty made on Muslims. 







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