Friday, 15 April 2016

What British Muslims Really Think?


BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Friday 15th April 2016
Dr. Amanullah De Sondy
Senior Lecturer in Contemporary Islam
University College Cork, Republic of Ireland
 
How do we live together as a society? This is something I’m left pondering after watching ‘What British Muslims Really Think’, a programme presented by Trevor Phillips on Wednesday, featuring the findings of an ICM poll. The survey of 1,000 British Muslims presented details that has led some parts of the media making generalisations about Muslim beliefs and their way of life.  In the last few days I’ve also read a large number of comment pieces by British Muslims countering these generalisations.  British Muslims are not a monolith and the various differences from gender, sexuality, denomination or regional variations have been voiced loud and clear. 

I’ve been left thinking how we move forward from this survey.  I’m also left wondering how we would react if a similar poll told us what British Christians or British Jews, or indeed British Sikhs, really think.    

Having spoken to many of my Scottish Muslim friends there is a general discomfort with the findings and it has led some to take a defensive stance.  This is mainly due to the way the findings paint quite a sad picture of British Muslims, but it’s making me question if we can turn this to something positive.  It’s reminded me of when I was a phd student and one of the early reviews of my work deemed it so bad that there was concern I wouldn’t actually be able to complete it.  It only led to me returning to the library with renewed energy and working hard to strengthen my thesis case. 

In a similar way British Muslims have been pushed to self reflect and have those internal discussions on critical subject matters.  Open and honest self-criticism is not easy and has its limits, but it’s important – not just for British Muslims, but for all groups who make up this wonderfully diverse nation. Rather than highlight what one group thinks, perhaps if we can all be more open - both with ourselves and each other- about our thoughts and beliefs, we will be on the road to creating a society where differences are better understood, and we are less suspicious of one another.