1st March 2019
Today, The Times have published an Op-Ed written by the MCB’s Secretary General, Harun Khan, in their Red Box morning briefing.
Entitled, ‘From Brexit to Begum, Britain is divided. Muslims can help to break down barriers‘, the Op-ed focuses on key concerning issues we see on the news everyday – Brexit and the case of Shamima Begum. Whilst these issues affect British life, Harun Khan writes about the pragmatic solutions to break down barriers and forge stronger ties and understanding with Britons across the country.
Full text below.
From Brexit to Begum, Britain is divided. Muslims can help to break down barriers
On the face of it, our country and society seem to be in the midst of turbulence and division. Our leaders are unable to agree on the best Brexit outcome and both our governing and opposition parties are themselves facing upheaval. Those divisions are replicated across dinner tables across the country.Polarisation in our national conversation has also been present in the plight of Shamima Begum, the so-called Jihadi Bride who has been stripped of her British citizenship and is unable to come home.
There is rightly a firm consensus that views Shamima Begum’s decision to go to Syria and join Daesh as wrong and deplorable. But divided opinion quickly emerges on the question of whether she should be allowed home and whether Sajid Javid, the home secretary, was correct to deny her her birthright, an action that would be unthinkable for Britons without immigrant parents.
Her case once again puts British Muslims into sharp focus. I am in no doubt that as the week progresses we will be treated to new details from her case or of the handful of Britons who have ended up in Syria. The issue once again questions the British Muslim commitment to this country and belittles our track record in enriching British life.
We are a political and cultural football kicked about in a game not of our choosing. Islam is used and abused both by those who have little grasp of the faith but still join the Daesh death cult, and by those who are ever determined to sow division among us and blame society’s ills on Muslims.
In spite of all this, mosques up and down this country are once again opening their doors as part of Visit My Mosque day this Sunday, March 3, to welcome neighbours of all faiths and none. More than 250 mosques across the UK will be holding an open day, inviting in their neighbours for tea, biscuits and a friendly chat. We are resolute in our efforts in building bridges, renewing old bonds of friendship and forming new ones.
And in this febrile Brexit atmosphere, this year’s national open day aims to demonstrate that all faiths, not just Islam, have the energy to reach across divides and seek common cause.
Ahead of Sunday’s festivities, I personally visited a synagogue in London earlier this week to learn more about the Jewish faith and its relation to my own faith as a Muslim. And my colleagues at the Muslim Council of Scotland, Muslim Council of Wales and Belfast Islamic Centre visited centres belonging to their local Christian, Hindu and Sikh communities as well to do the same.
While a few British Muslims have turned to the wrong path and joined Daesh, the vast majority of British Muslims have repudiated the death cult. They are doing this by asserting their values. Those values will be demonstrated loudly and clearly this Sunday as more than 250 mosques representing tens of thousands of congregants invite the great British public to get to know their fellow Britons better and break down barriers.
Harun Khan is Secretary-General of the Muslim Council of Britain