Young Muslims talk about the ‘chasm’ between them and the rest of the UK
A recent poll found that half of British Muslims think homosexuality should be illegal
This weekend “extremely worrying” results about the views of British Muslims were published. Many claimed a chasm had opened up between Muslims and the rest of the UK when it came to views on marriage, equality and freedom of speech.
The poll was conducted by ICM, and was entitled “What British Muslims Really Think”.
It revealed that 52 per cent of British Muslims think that homosexuality should be illegal, 47 per cent think that it would be unacceptable for an LGBT+ person to teach in a school and that 23 per cent would support there being areas of Britain in which Sharia law overrides British law.
Trevor Phillips, the man behind the research, has said it is “extremely worrying” that on the matter of some contentious issues, Muslims now represent a “nation within a nation”.
On the flip side, however, some positive facts have emerged from the findings. Amongst those surveyed, 86 per cent felt a strong sense of belonging to Britain and 91 per cent felt a strong sense of belonging in their local community. This is far above the national average.
We spoke to young British Muslims to gauge their thoughts on the recent survey.
Allan Hennessy, 2nd Year at the University of Cambridge and political commentator for The Independent
“Last week, it was revealed that the Catholic Church would never accept gay unions. The media were not interested. Yet this week they’ve chosen to come out after British Muslims. Why is it that homophobia in the Catholic church is seen as an ‘institutional’ problem whereas Islamic homophobia is attributed to Muslim *people*?
“The message painted by the media is inaccurate: the Church is shackled to tradition against its own will, but Muslims have the choice to be more accepting – they just choose not to because they are inherently ‘bad’ people. The truth is that in every religion, sexuality is the white elephant in the room.
“The way to tackle this is through dialogue, not inflammatory headlines which go on the offensive. In this world where Muslims, Christians and Jews are divided by strict religious walls, where interfaith is rare rather than common, sexuality breaks down these artificial barriers. It forces us to question how compatible traditional dogmas are with modern society. This is a challenge faced by all religions, not just Muslims.”
Zoe, 2nd Year at the University of Edinburgh
“These statistics are unfortunate. It is wrong to label all Muslims as culprits of homophobia. Yes, some Muslims are against homosexuality, but so are some Christians, Jews and people of various other faiths. Islam preaches tolerance and part of that is tolerating homosexuality, especially in our modern day and age.
“The Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) stated that people come from Adam and Adam came from dust and that there is no superiority of an Arab over non-Arab, or of a white person over a black.
“It is popular nowadays to condemn Islam, and 9/11 has created a culture that is unwilling to see Islam for what it truly is – a religion of peace and tolerance. The actions of a few should not impact the reputation of over 1.6 billion people worldwide. It is horrifying that people see you as less of a person because of your religion, which should not impact the way people judge your character.
“It can be difficult being a Muslim in the UK. In Edinburgh, I went to a supermarket that had Arabic writing outside and walked in. When I went up to pay I asked the young man behind the counter if he spoke any Arabic – I was shocked by his response. He looked at me in disgust and said ‘you are in Scotland now, if you want to speak Arabic I suggest you go back to wherever it is you came from’. I was too shocked to speak, so I politely told him that I didn’t want to buy anything anymore, and I left the store and haven’t been back since.”
“The results of the poll were very worrying indeed. Paying attention to the statistic that half of British Muslims want homosexuality outlawed is completely contradictory to the history of Islamic culture. The first modern country to decriminalise homosexuality was an Islamic state in the 1858 Tanzimat reforms – nearly 100 years before Britain did.
“These reforms were deemed rational, and more importantly, compatible to the pluralistic message they believed Islam promoted. Therefore what is needed is more awareness of such reforms and an empowerment of Islamic narratives that add to the universality of human rights. Through the Right2Debate campaign we believe in creating a partnership of different faiths, cultures, genders etc. to build a partnership that promotes human rights and debate ideas that impinge upon individual liberty, such as homophobia.”
Orhan Ahmed, 2nd Year at the University of Aberdeen
“Most of these results don’t come as a shock. I agree that most Muslims would say they have a strong belonging to Britain as they feel like home here. It is safe for them and they are free to practice their religion without being punished. I am sure 50 years ago this study would have shown completely different results as racism was still on a high, but now we live in a mixed society where most people are living together in cohesion.
“With regards to the 52% and their views on homosexuality, I think that is a bit extreme. Yes, in Islam, we don’t believe that homosexuality should be the way to live your life, but we live in the 21st century. Even if we don’t practice it ourselves, doesn’t mean we should ban others from being gay. If this survey was asked to purely young Muslims, the results would be different.
“But also, 1,000 people’s views is not enough for all British news outlets to make headlines that ‘Half of Muslims want Homosexuality Banned’. Once again it seems troubling that the British Media is trying to stir up things and use Muslims as an example.”
Josef Linnhoff, PHD student at the University of Edinburgh and Islamic Society President 2016-17 (speaking in a personal capacity)
“It certainly is a difficult one, though. The cultural zeitgeist in the West is very much one where the liberal voice on these kinds of issues is the only one that is tolerated. To express a conservative opinion on these issues is increasingly problematic. The liberal position is becoming more assertive and dominant and that puts some members of religious communities in a difficult position.
“This isn’t really fair – the true hallmark of a liberal, democratic society is how well it accommodates difference and disagreement. So why can’t we agree to disagree on the issue of homosexuality, and others? This seems fairer than wanting people to compromise what are, for many, sincerely held and deep religious convictions.
“That being said, the Muslim community needs to be more open to the reality of homosexuality, both inside its own borders and on the outside. The reality is that there are many gay Muslims out there, in Britain and beyond and they have little voice, little sympathy and their existence is simply swept under the carpet, like so many other ‘problems’ that occur within Muslim communities.
“This is my issue with the British Muslim community: for a community that considers itself under siege, the British Muslim community may be the only ‘persecuted minority’ that actively discriminates against other persecuted minorities”.