Dear University Students

I write this in the hope that you’ll understand some important points about deen at university. We’ve also been (western) British university students and experienced what it means and life after it. The purpose of elders is to help you understand things, a bit like a cheat sheet, so you can take the most efficient, productive way forward. So the following is important to keep in mind:

1. You are probably 18-23 years old. 99% of you do not know Classical Arabic. 99% of you have not studied the scriptures nor the Law of God. You have more knowledge of the subjects you studied at GCSEs than you do Islam, so logically your opinion on deen is severely underdeveloped. What you do have is inherited culture and the preachings of populists (which is little deen and more self-interest). The vast majority of yesteryears university students find that most of what they think they stand for as students, whether religious or political, they deeply question by the end of their 20s.

2. Subservience to God isn’t academic, it’s life. The Sahabah didn’t debate, they lived their imaan throughout the day. Not only are you young but very much inexperienced with life, some of you are living on your own for the first time in your lives (and even then cushioned by campus life or student loans). Others have still not ever had to take care of themselves as independent adults without the parental safety net. In the next two decades (and especially as your kids grow into teenagers) you will learn and experience much joy and pain that will shape you into very different human beings - you’ll hopefully growing in intelligence, sensibleness and maturity. Everything will change: your religious views, your political views, your social views. (If you are) Don’t be so sure about everything, in fact don’t be so sure about anything. Be open to growth and development, revising your views, primarily that which makes you a better and radiant human being. If what you’re doing/thinking/saying isn’t making you nicer, kinder, more polite, gracious and a deeper thinker, it’s not “truth”, it’s a problem. Your debates are not actual debates, they’re banter - uninformed competing opinions. This isn’t just you, we were very much the same! The greatest thing you can adopt at university is intellectual humility - it’ll help you to grow and be amazing.

3. Often you are being played by competing sectarian and political interests. Your salafism or sufism is meaningless and the entire conversation is superficial. What you think is an exhibition of profound shar’i knowledge really isn’t - it is a mishmash of a few verses or hadith, nothing wholesome nor a complete picture. But it works on you and you think it’s “truth” because you know little. It’s been this way for DECADES and has severely limited the experiences of many students before you, or shaped them in unproductive ways where they struggle later on in life.

4. Many ‘speakers’ who advise you on life have never lived yours. They didn’t go to British universities. They didn’t even grow up in your context or western environments (and still don’t!). They have no idea of your experiences, not the ones you live everyday nor those that you will face. They’ve never worked or competed in the environments you will have to. They have no idea how to competently and confidently negotiate tricky situations (so they teach you to run away!). Many of them have yet to grow up themselves - they operate in insular bubbles where juvenile debates take place that are absolutely irrelevant to actual life. They rope you into bizarre and useless feuds and arguments impeding your space and time to grow into highly decent, intelligent and emotionally resilient human beings. You have gone to university to learn - you don’t need ideologues, you need highly educated, informed and experienced cultivators. When you leave university your job is to take godliness into the world informed by divine guidance. Often what you get in university are a bunch of talking points: either practically useless, or progression impeding. Many of these speakers are simply looking to boost their social media profiles, they have no idea how to cultivate you for the future. Or they’re caught up in their own sectarian projects they impose on you. It’s about what YOU need for the future, not the superficial nonsense they’re caught up in today.

5. Focus on Quranic literacy and the skills that will develop your character. Pay attention to Quranic stories and parables. Leave legal debates to jurists. Aqidah will get you absolutely nowhere except probably make you a horrible person, and keep your fiqh differences to yourself - focus on perfecting practice of God’s Law rather than pontificating. Get to know the Quran like you’re meant to know your course texts. You have 3-4 years to be literate. Learn Arabic if you can. Only engage in positive conversation, and avoid negativity. Understand that social media will not help you grow as a human being - there’s a crisis looming: in the future people are going to find themselves emotionally and intellectually messed up in all sorts of ways because they developed on a staple of social media content. Yes, it’s great for entertainment but terrible for cultivating sound minds and hearts.

6. You don’t have to be contrary, behave weird, or express ethno-cultural difference to everyone else. Practice being tawhidic shar’i-minded westerners. University is a great diverse place, so whilst you will inevitably have differences to other non-believers, you can be a committed and stout believer and still fit in without forcing your difference or making it an identity point. It’s a great place to learn the art of diplomacy and negotiation. This way you can be confident about who you are, whilst being affable with your environment instead of abrasive.

7. University is not LIFE (even though it may feel like it lol). You’re only there for a few years - you’re not going to start some global revolution! And all the talking points today will immediately fade after graduation. Your concerns will turn to marriage, rent, career and social life. But you’ll make some great friends, possibly your future spouse, and carry your university experiences with you. Make them the type that positively launch you into actual life - not the myopic and narrow interests of those using you.

I wish you all the very best and hope you grow to be the intelligent and progress-oriented believers I know you can, that serve God and bring about the outcomes God wanted for all of us. The future will be yours and we'll be gone - we want you to do far better than we could.

Sh Mohammed Nizami

Anti-Asian vs anti-Muslim hatred: The Rafiq case

I’d like to point out that this article desperately simplifies a multifaceted issue with intricacies that require unpicking. I envisage many ‘buts’ with rebuttals and counter-arguments. Here I’m simply attempting to start the conversation on anti-Asian vs anti-Muslim hatred. Before I do so, a few important points:

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Islamophobia and a working definition: A faith-based perspective

I commend the well-intentioned support of the APPG, and the Muslims who have sincerely wanted to address the issue of anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice. But here I comment on the APPG definition from a faith-based perspective and consider wider ramifications which should not be overlooked by those who believe and are committed to the bigger picture that God wants.

To talk about being a Muslim is to claim subservience to God in the way understood by Abraham and his prophetic descendants all the way to Muhammad, to be informed by God's revealed word and seek to live an honourable life within one's context. What God expects of us is to show appreciation and heartfelt reverence towards Him, to deal righteously with others, and to educate and inform people of the entirety of what God has said.

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Islamophobia: Anti-Muslim racism and Muslimness

There is a fundamental question to begin with: what and who does a definition that centres around 'Anti-Muslim racism' and disparaging 'Muslimness' seek to protect and why?

I assert that the paper makes it clear that it wants to protect people of South Asian origin (the who) and their ethnic practices/identity (the what) when they are negatively targeted (the why).

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The problem with the term Islamophobia

In this post I begin with the term ‘Islamophobia’ which poses significant problems, both political and religious. As a reminder, the APPG proposed definition goes: “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness.”

The problem with the term ‘Islamophobia’ is:

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Muslims and racist portrayals

(In comment to: 'Deporting ‘foreign criminals’ in the middle of the night doesn’t make us safer')

“Look at modern British history, and you’ll find that the “criminal” and the “immigrant” blur into one another in popular and official thinking. In Victorian England, crime was often blamed on Irish immigrants (“dangerous classes” were labelled with the Irish-derived name “hooligans”), and then on Jews from eastern Europe. These narratives neatly anticipated the way the spectre of “black criminality” was peddled by the press in postwar Britain, as well as contemporary narratives about Muslims and sexual abuse.”

Now the sexual abuse story, in as much as it was inaccurate and absolutely racist, was largely a south Asian story and particularly Pakistani/Kashmiri (please note I’m NOT legitimising the racist reporting on the issue and the demonisation of an entire ethnicity I neither accept nor condone) but yet somehow it became a Muslim one. How disgusting that sexual abuse and Muslim share the same sentence? And yes whilst I deplore both, for me sexual abuse and Muslim sharing the same sentence in far worse. Yet in the rightly protest against such framing, there was little demarcation made, Muslim and Pakistani were treated synonymous by both non-Muslims and Asian Muslims.

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In my current obsessive thinking about #MuslimFails, something I find to be super consistent on a communal level – of course as individuals they can be highly talented and civilised - I've been wondering why #MuslimFails are the norm, with a hope to identify solutions. Across the board Muslims don't do well, and there's always some external excuse: "He did this…she did that…they don't like me."

Whether we like it or not, nothing important is an easy ride and there are always hurdles. God tells us to suck it up, look inwards and take ownership, achieving as much as we can in the constrained environment. Yes, external variables might mean you can only achieve 70% of an objective. But Muslims will achieve 20% (instead of the 70%) and put down the rest to impediments from others. And then they expect the help of God. It is a credal belief of mine that when believers achieve the 70% (or whatever the maximum % possible in a constraining environment) God literally does the rest - do you to your fullest extent and then leave the rest to God: the definition of tawakkul (trust) in practical terms.

current complaint and reactionary culture is inspired by the devil. How

Well, the drive to be productive: being tolerant (flexible and easy to work with), commanding what is right (focusing on positivity), and paying no attention to foolish people (being coldly focused on getting that 70%) is something righteous that the devil despises (Qur'an 7:199). So, he prompts you to emotional reactions and to behave recklessly, to forget the bigger picture and what your own responsibilities are (Qur'an 7:200). You will be asked about what you do, not what they did. So God tells you to seek refuge in Him, not only because God is the supreme helper and protector, but because seeking refuge also reminds you of your priorities and responsibilities to God.

Now Muslims are easily tempted. They’re triggered by the most mundane issues. There are two reasons: 1) lack of cultivation, and more nefariously 2) being riled up and emotionally spiked by their leaders - always in a defensive stance with a village pitchfork mentality. They’re made to believe that everything revolves around them, yet God consistently reminds them of their insignificance, and wider society cares less for what they have to say or complain about. Maybe it’s me, but I find that consistently putting yourself in a situation to be undermined and belittled is quite embarrassing (I’d rather punch myself repeatedly in the face). So rather than look inwards when things clearly aren’t panning out well, they blame ‘outsiders’ even more. The more they fail, the more they blame. Clearly, it’s not a very productive response.

relatively recent example of this was a debate on social media about the
eschatological event on Jesus’ return. Some people erroneously advocated that
he certainly won’t be, and many went berserk. Now usually social media tends to
stay virtual, but this time I was left fielding questions about it in mosques and
after my Friday sermon. It consumed conversation for months, especially when we
had far more important things to resolve, and where in reality it’s an
insignificant debate. So why were people so crazed?

  1. Because people are
    bored. With little going on it provided good religious entertainment and dinner
    table conversation.
  2. Because people are
    obsessed with everyone else - they got to police who’s ‘in’ and ‘out’.
  3. Because they were
    told it was disbelief and they worried about a (dis)belief they don’t even

Now interestingly, there weren’t many scholars that got involved. It was all bluster between personalities. Scholars (in the context) saw it generally for what it was - the next pitchfork hype. Why isn’t it important? Because righteous action cannot be built on it, and as such it is a talking point. But then the theology police came out and sounding like medieval Catholics they made out like the world would crumble and the masses would deny Jesus and his return if this wasn’t addressed right away. Given that the normative view has lasted around 2000 years, a reasonable person recognises that a couple of personalities on Facebook wouldn’t be a serious challenge. But the amount of energy people put into reading about it, discussing it and arguing (not to mention misunderstanding, mischaracterising, and speaking without knowledge) they could’ve completed a degree in physics. Or learnt Arabic and memorised a third of the Quran.

Another example: Offensive cartoons that intend to represent the final Prophet (obviously they’re not really him).

the disbelievers say: “Let’s rile up Muslims so that they’ll do something
stupid or behave in a way that undermines their standing even more amongst
wider society.”

openly acknowledging that they’ve realised that this is the intention: “Let’s
react recklessly and give the disbelievers what they are after. And yes, we’ll
win!” Does anybody on God’s green earth play into the hands of the opposition,
fall for their game, and assume that’s a winning strategy?! Can the inanity get
anymore surreal?

“But…but…but…it’s the people of kufr who hate us!” Well then why are you acting so surprised? Do you expect anything less nefarious?! Do you expect your antagonists to stroke you and sing songs about how wonderful you are? And if you logically conclude that they’ll repeatedly try to provoke and undermine, where’s your strategy to gain the upper hand in such situations so it backfires for them each and every time?

The saga around the Return debate (and there are many other case studies) exemplifies the uncivilised ways in which impoverished impulses, childishness, and ignorance drives a lot of Muslim public culture. And like kids, when people are easily triggered, they don’t question their own juvenile impulse, they blame what's often an innocuous trigger. When people are told about their behaviour, they blame someone or something else (and often through mischaracterisation). In politics it’s usually the Tories or the right, in society it’s the racists/Islamophobes/kuffar, and on Christ’s return it was the ‘deviants’.


Believers do not afford anyone but God such levels of power,
and they take proactive ownership:

“Those who responded to God and the Messenger after suffering defeat, who do good and remain conscious of God, will have a great reward. Those whose faith only increased when people said, ‘Fear your enemy: they have amassed a great army against you,’ and who replied, ‘God is enough for us: He is the best protector,’ returned with grace and bounty from God; no harm befell them. They pursued God’s good pleasure. God’s favour is great indeed. It is Satan who urges you to fear his followers; do not fear them, but fear Me, if you are true believers.”
Qur'an 3:172-175

"Go back to Pakistan" and the MCB's response

Very recently, Conservative activist Theodora Dickinson tweeted that if Labour shadow minister “Naz Shah hates this country so much why doesn’t she go back to Pakistan?!” This vile show of racism was in response to Shah discussing her experience of poverty. Of course, the foolish Dickinson exposed her racist impulses - here there is no doubt. Neither is there any doubt that Tories have continued to tolerate hatred towards Muslims as well as racism towards minorities.

However, the point of this article is to point out something we’ve highlighted for years, that the public conversation in the UK on Islam is being subsumed under the banner of being Asian, and most notably Pakistani and Bangladeshi. Whilst it's convenient to put this corruption on non-Muslims, the truth is that it’s driven by major Muslim organisations claiming to represent Muslims but who in reality use Islam in politics as a form of ethnic protest. The latest significant example is that of the Muslim Council of Britain (MCB). I am neither picking on the MCB nor do I claim that the organisation doesn't do good things, and here I differentiate between the organisation and its individuals (and the great things they've achieved). This post is about what the organisation stands/speaks for - as an organisation.

Now MCB's response to the Dickinson episode is unsurprising given its advocacy of the British Muslim APPG's definition of Islamophobia which subsumes racism towards Asians as anti-Islam. When I raised this previously, the MCB were quick off the mark to tell me this wouldn't be the case, yet as we suspected, that's exactly how the MCB has functionalised it.

The response of the MCB to the tweet was simple: by the racist Dickinson telling Shah to go to Pakistan (although the UK is her country) she was being Islamophobic. For the MCB, anti-Pakistani racism is anti-Islam - which obviously it’s not - it’s racist. This seemed clear to Shah herself who said, “Over the last few weeks BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) communities have been coming to terms with the racism they have faced over the years. In 2020 to be told to go back to Pakistan highlights the level of racism that still exists in some quarters of society.” Note that Shah DIDN’T conflate the episode with Islam.

Pakistani is not Islam and for the MCB to make such a crude conflation says that either it is wilfully appropriating a religious identity for Asian interests, or that it is ignorant of what Islam and Muslim is in which case it has no legitimate claim to representing Muslims and ought to rebrand as the Asian (Muslim) Council of Britain. Please note that the issue here isn’t with being Asian - people are free to celebrate their ethnicities (and we like to join in!), but with how the MCB is diminishing the level of Muslim public discourse in the UK instead of rectifying it and raising it as is the MCB’s moral responsibility. And this issue would equally need to be raised if a mainstreamed Muslim organisation did the same with Somali, Moroccan, Nigerian or Albanian ethnicities.

As believers we are stoutly against racism, xenophobia AND political anti-religious hatred. But we also acknowledge that they’re not all the same thing (although they obviously coalesce in particular situations). And as believers, we must be concerned for the future and how such organisations are feeding into it - the MCB are frequently called upon by the media where it positions itself as a mainstream Muslim organisation but where it actually seems occupied with ethnic rights (obviously admirable in and of itself). And no matter how much we raise the problematic nature of the conflation or call on self-labelled Muslim organisations to be Muslim rather than something else, whether we do so in the open or behind the scenes (which I’ve done for years), the MCB doesn’t seem interested. To be clear, our only interest in this is God’s cause, what it’ll mean to be a believer in the near future for us and our descendants, and our moral obligation to deliver the message. No matter the circumstances THESE will ALWAYS take precedence to the sincere believers. Yet the MCB and other such public organisations seem committed to something else.

The current conflation of ethnicity and religion in the public realm is heinous in God’s eyes. It causes people to believe Islam is an ethnic identity specific to certain groups of people and their culture, rather than a natural (fiṭrī) inclination that enhances ANY culture and historical way of living.

God does not want to undermine British culture in the UK but to maintain it and bring out its best aspects. He wants the British people to be the best they can be, and the final Prophet of God showed us how to constructively situate the sharī’ah in any cultural context. Just as he did with the ancient Arabs, we too are expected to do so amongst us Brits. Calling to God is the believers’ priority, and where there’s a necessary contradiction, the narrative that promotes universal tawhīd (monotheism) and hanīfīyah (Abrahamic subservience) always takes precedence even if it means a negligible injury to ourselves or our ethnic interests.

Selfless commitment to God and His deen is what God calls to, and where we’re having an internal communal dialogue then yes, the matter is clear: “Do people think they will be left alone after saying ‘we believe’ without being put to the test? We tested those who went before them..”

No one ethnicity has more right to the Abrahamic truth than another, yet those deliberately making such conflations suggest otherwise. When believers speak in public then it’s clear: “Who speaks better than someone who calls people to God, does what is right, and says, ‘I am one of those devoted to God’?” (41:33) But not only is this call severely hindered, I believe the Establishment are very happy about it - they love to see a weak and unthreatening cause. The narrative that the MCB assist has meant that people literally tell you that they wouldn’t be Muslim because they don’t want to be Pakistani, or view the true religion of Abraham and the sharī’ah given to Muhammad as simply a foreign culture. Not only has something gone VERY wrong, the failure to actively counter this erroneous narrative demonstrates moral culpability.

Of course, to those who seem to have little knowledge of the final message (the Quran), the obligation of the believers, and the intersection between political theory and public theology, it’s not surprising. So rather than separate the pristine sharī’ah from what taints it (all cultures are fallible with problematic elements), the MCB has been adamant not to do so. The very simple point seems lost on the MCB that you cannot suggest Asian and Muslim are the same thing, but then when Asians do things you don’t like (like in Rotherham) you argue that it’s not a Muslim issue and calling it so is Islamophobic, then you’re clearly not getting the optics.

Allegiance to God and the godly cause, which the MCB seems to conflate with contemporary social justice activism and the interests of the Asian community, compels us to challenge such state of affairs. (Of course, a shar’ī approach includes social justice, but our activism is shaped by shar’ī objectives and variables.) Again, were it not for the damaging consequences of a major organisation in the public eye misrepresenting the Muslim cause, posts like these would be unnecessary. But alas, they stray into territory that necessitates it.

For clarity, here are some of the ways in which this is a grave problem for those committed to the advocacy and spread of Abrahamic monotheism and the sharī’ah (da’wah). It undermines:

  • The call to true Abrahamic monotheism free from foreign cultural baggage and an ethnic character
  • The basis of a public conversation that starts with revelation rather than defending against ethnic conflations
  • The presentation of God’s final word that sits within the British cultural context
  • Legitimately locating problematic ethnic attitudes and shar’ī rectification required within ethno-cultural communities
  • Actual anti-Muslim hatred face by believers of various heritages

If Dickinson had told a Nigerian/Malaysian to go back to Nigeria/Malaysia, would the MCB have called that Islamophobia? Probably not (and of course, it wouldn’t be). Either Muslim organisations must stop using Islam as a shield for ethnicity-related issues, or we must accept that being a Muslim in the public realm is basically to be ethno-cultural. And if the latter is true then we can't blame believers who'll refuse the Anglicised appellation of 'Muslim' or rail against its misuse. If such organisations refuse to listen or chart a course built on both shar’ī and social knowledge, how long do we go and how perverse must the public discourse on Islam become until we say, “Not in our name?"

Race, Ethnicity and Community: Where do we go?

It’s simplistic to argue that religious spaces need to be inclusive when we factor in that these spaces are less ‘religious’ than they are significantly ethno-cultural and sectarian - intended to protectively maintain an ethnic and denominational environment. Resolving feelings of marginalisation and prejudice won’t simply boil down to addressing anti-blackness and racism in ethno-cultural communities. There’s much more going on and much of it interrelated. Having thought about this issue and how to proceed effectively for a while, and trying out various things on the ground, here are some conclusions which I briefly explain.

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Racialisation, Muslim spaces, and ethnocultural communities

In order to meaningfully discuss the ‘black experience’ in British Muslim
spaces, there are a few things that we need to consider. There are many things
to unpick, a few of which I attempt here:

1. Communities in the UK often characterised as religious are in fact ethno-cultural; an ethno-cultural community is one that believes it’s ethnically or culturally distinct from other groups. In what way? In its cultural practice, tradition, solidarity, and (can include) religious outlook. If these Muslim communities are in fact ethno-cultural, which ethnicity predominantly? The statistics show that the vast majority of ‘Muslim’ communities across England strongly identify as South Asian, where Islam is an aspect of their South Asian cultural heritage. (I refer to a broad South Asian characterisation here merely because the sub-cultures are similar and exhibit a greater level of solidarity to one another than to others, and I also distinguish between believers of Asian-heritage and those who primarily identify as South Asian with a deep commitment to cultural values.) This has led to the widespread conflation amongst Muslims and non-Muslims that ‘Muslim’ and ‘Asian’ are synonymous. This false conflation allows for:

(a) the perpetuation of the ‘black experience’ in communal ethnic spaces to be seen as a ‘Muslim’ problem when they're not: “Muslim communities are racist…”, and

(b) misleads racialised 'black' (and other non-Asian) believers into seeking a sense of belonging with ethnic communities inaccurately taking them to be faith-based ones.

What many people overlook is that the ‘black experience’ of believers is
often far more pronounced in South Asian spaces (due to its conflation with
being a Muslim space) than wider society and many will affirm that the first
time they experience overt racism and/or prejudice is amongst South Asian
Muslims. Now if wider anti-Black prejudice affects the opportunities of the
marginalised, then prejudice and marginalisation faced by racialised believers that
affects their faith is even more problematic, and that’s my interest here.

The impact of ethnic motivations on ‘Muslim spaces’ has resulted in the

  • ‘Muslim spaces’ are highly racialised as South Asians tend to have a strong sense of ethnic identity in comparison to others. For a mundane example, “Where are you from?” is the opener for most conversations.
  • Just like ‘white’ is viewed as normative in wider discourse, South Asian customs and attitudes acquire a presumed normativeness around all things ‘Muslim’. The culturally insular nature of South Asian communities also means that in reality, Muslim spaces are firstly South Asian spaces. I am not problematising this (as it’s somewhat inevitable) but it’s important to recognise for the purposes of these posts. Under these circumstances, when issues such as ‘Muslim unity’ is raised, what is meant de facto is an accord centred around South Asian norms, values, interests and approaches – both social and political, and in most situations the promotion of unity and/or the empty platitudes of “Islamic” utopianism merely maintain a (usually South Asian) ethnic dominance of the Muslim narrative, along with immigrant interests. To a far lesser extent this also happens in non-Asian communities that present a normativeness based in a historically and culturally specific ‘Immigrant Islam’.
  • In the public realm, ‘Islam’ and ‘Muslim’ is highly politicised both by Muslims and non-Muslims. Due to their own misperception that merges ethno-cultural commitments and religion, they identify as Muslims through the lens of multiculturalism adopting a secular expression of Islam to maintain their interests under political liberalism.

2. Keeping these brief points in mind we must recognise then that the unity and sense of belonging many believers seek is not to be found in this context. It is a misplaced aspiration and one based on a mythical notion of sameness. The uncomfortable reality is that we all don’t share significant capital. So whilst one may support local Gujrati and Turkish communities in the preservation of their civic rights just as he would other ethno-religious groups, he's wholly conscious that he's not a member of their respective ethnic communities and that their mosques, schools and cultural Muslim centres exist to serve their own ethnic groups, of which he's not a member. They may kindly permit him to use their facilities for salah at specific times (many kind Christians have also welcomed Muslims to use their facilities), but he's not lulled into a false sense of belonging and/or community. One may acknowledge that in many situations, it’s not that they have sought to actively marginalise those unlike them but to maintain the dominance of their own cultures in the spaces they consider to be theirs.

Unfortunately, many ‘outsiders’ are easily caught up with superficial claims
of unity and/or sameness, but the existence of these communities isn’t premised
on faith as the overarching identity – faith is subsumed under the greater
umbrella of their own ethnicity. This of course does not justify racism and
colourism that may emanate from these ethnic communities, but we need to
acknowledge that these spaces simply aren’t for us, and never were they meant
to be. To expect shared religious and cultural capital with those from intensely
insular ethnic communities is highly misplaced. And the reason much of this is
not said, although intuitively acknowledged by most, is because ‘outsiders’ are
reticent of being charged with ‘disuniting’ Muslims, and many of these
communities are apprehensive of exposing the reality of their ethnic commitments
and allegiances.

3. Now to be clear, my point isn’t that racism/colourism doesn’t exist in such spaces, but that we need to unpick racism from ethnic preservation – is it ‘Muslims’ being racist, or South Asian’s preserving their ethnic identity which happens to include religious practices? From a point of faith-based interests in the UK both are problematic, but for very separate reasons. For a case study of this conflation: there are complaints of the ubiquity of Urdu in communal Muslim spaces such as Asian mosques or seminaries with the accusation that this marginalises non-Asians, but we fail to realise that these spaces principally exist to promote distinct cultural values and (subcontinental) Asian Islam. Even where the argument is made that it’s about denominational commitments such as Deobandism or Barelvism and not ethnicity, the reality is that these are specifically ‘ethnic’ denominations and modes of thinking vis-a-vis the Asian immigrant experience. In real life this is borne out: neither do Deobandis nor Barelvis seem to envisage non-Asians converting to their denominations, nor do cultural ‘outsiders’ on the whole find these denominations particularly compelling or enticing.

4. In the interests of fairness we must be nuanced. Anti-Blackness is deeply entrenched in many structures and cultures so we ought to acknowledge that many people do not know how to recognise anti-Blackness and its various manifestations, nor have they lent a conscious thought to the ways in which they might subconsciously hold racist views that contribute to the ‘black experience’. Whilst it is true that we cannot hold all racial offenses of all people to be intentionally racist (whether they’re South Asian, ‘White’, or whatever), we can hold them to account when it’s brought to their attention, and current events afford us even less of an excuse. As many have witnessed, often there is a strong resistance to change which exposes how deeply entrenched racism is. Some of the following act to impede change:

  • Asian fragility’: a profound sensitivity around highlighting racism or prejudice within Asian communities, often dismissed or deflected onto older members: “It’s only the older generation.” And the preoccupation with maintaining a positive view of ethnic-self means that there’s a white-washing of the past and little resolve to consider it, namely the impact Hindu heritage has had (such as the Indian caste system) on their current norms and values.
  • Hypocrisy: Many South Asian communities will criticise ‘whites’ for their racism, even joining the movement against anti-Blackness but then do exactly what they accuse ‘whites’ of. Aside from whitewashing their past, many will refuse to speak out or challenge wildly racist sentiments in their own communities whilst expecting ‘whites’ in the same situation to do so. Many will acknowledge the structural racism in their institutions yet remain committed to upholding those structures whilst denouncing others for not tearing theirs down. Many underplay anti-Black microaggressions whilst protesting the same microaggressions in wider society when perpetuated against them.
  • Either a complete denial of racism such as “I’ve never seen it/we don’t think we’re superior”, or an absurd counterclaim based on a generalisation that isn’t even made: “You’re a racist for calling us racist.”
  • Justification with even more racism: “We’re not anti-Black, but Blacks do commit more crime…”, or "You just sound angry" feeding into the Angry Black Man/Woman trope.
  • False retorts: “You’re calling us racist just because we won’t let you marry our daughters” when the anti-blackness goes far beyond denying marriage.
  • Whataboutery: “But what about [insert another ethnic group]?”

5. The complexities of social change means that because so many
distinct variables are interrelated that to change one significant thing can
necessitate rethinking the entire structure. In the next post I discuss what I
mean by this. It is easy to say that we simply need to inform Muslims about
“what Islam says” since what it means to be a Muslim as well as our views on
subservience to God and what it necessitates across the board can wildly
differ. Furthermore, we assume that simply making people aware of their implicit
biases will change them, but there’s a lot to suggest that it doesn’t work like
that. So what to do? In the next post I discuss possible answers and certain