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Do Muslims have British Values?


Do Muslims have British values?

By Khalil Charles

Ever since the former education secretary, Michael Gove insisted that school should promote and reflect British values, there has been much debate on what exactly constitutes these values.

The UK’s Prime Minister, David Cameron attempted to explain what the government meant and in an article published on the Government’s website, he said “The values I’m talking about – a belief in freedom, tolerance of others, accepting personal and social responsibility, respecting and upholding the rule of law – are the things we should try to live by every day. To me they’re as British as the Union Flag, as football, as fish and chips.”

However, as Iftikhar Ahmad of the London School of Islamic Trust points out that some of the negative aspects of life in Britain might also be included under the same definition, “Teenage pregnancy, promiscuity, binge drinking, rape culture, victim blaming, casual racism, escalating homophobia and sexism are (also) basic British values!”

Iftikhar is of the belief that there is no such thing as British values, “There is, however, a British way of doing things.”

Call it what you will, Cameroon said he is convinced that these positive British values are a means of uniting the people of this country – bringing together different backgrounds, cultures and ethnicities and ensuring that, “We build a common home.”

The Prime Minister advocates that British values should be actively promoted to avoid communities getting fragmented and allowing extremism to emerge.

However, Iftikhar believes the talk of values will do absolutely nothing to aid societal cohesion. He believes Muslims should not be blamed for following a path one trodden by the British when they colonised countries in Asia and Africa, “We have enabled a people of some 4 million souls to create their own culture and nation within our nation. Don't blame Muslims. This is perfectly natural and what people of very different cultures do when establishing a life in a different country. It is what we Brits did in Africa and India and other countries.”

The debate has been fueled by comments made by the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams who said that Muslims had brought back “open, honest and difficult public discussion” in one of their “greatest gifts” to Britain. He criticised sections of the press for portraying Muslims as “un-British” and complained of “illiteracy” about religion among figures in government.

Asked if he meant that Islam was rejuvenating British values, Dr. Williams said: “Yes. I’m thinking of the way in which, for example, in Birmingham we have seen a local parish and a mosque combining together to provide family services and youth activities, both acting out of a very strong sense that this is what communities ought to do.”

Nevertheless, the feeling in government is that by not promoting ‘British values’ the backdoor is opened to allow ‘extremism’ to enter. The Prime Minster warned that the notion of values was essential to improve the economic and social welfare of the UK.

He concluded, “Britain has a lot to be proud of, and our values and institutions are right at the top of that list. It’s not just important to promote, understand and celebrate these things for their own sake; it is absolutely vital to our future. And that is why I’m absolutely committed to doing so.”

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