A British Muslim who would rather talk

From The Telegraph:

Britmuslims_1809608c The endless complaints about “Islamophobia” (a word which was invented in the 1990s to serve this end) are a way of shutting down a dialogue that needs to take place just as surely as are attacks by bigoted anti-Muslims. So I find it most interesting to hear the different tone of voice in which Atif Imtiaz speaks. He is a youngish community activist from Bradford, and now works as academic director at the Cambridge Muslim College. This book is a collection of his essays and short stories ordered round the question of what the author calls “the Muslim condition in the West”. It is not Imtiaz’s political views that are striking. He takes conventional, if moderately expressed, positions against the Iraq war, George Bush, Tony Blair and so on. What is different is his desire for genuine discussion – I first heard of him, indeed, when he emailed me, wanting to talk. British Muslims are bad at this, he says, partly because the most able ones tend to be trained in the sciences rather than the humanities. They become doctors or accountants, and do good service to British society in the process but “we [he includes himself in this] remain culturally delinquent and are unable to recognise the subtleties required for the art of persuasion”.

“We jump to condemnations,” writes Imtiaz, but “the English…like to be understated, and in many cases it is worse to be inappropriate than wrong”. That is well put. He also observes – which sounds contradictory, but isn’t – that there is “a tradition within the English culture of argumentation that seeks to offend – to see how the opposing person will respond. They may not mean what they say, they may simply be testing the robustness of our positions.” Muslims, he goes on, should learn these codes: “… those who are familiar… with poetry or literature such as Wordsworth or Dickens seem to me better able to understand the nuances and subtleties of polite conversation that lies at the heart of the British character”. Instead of speaking the “language of rights” all the time, it is better to find “a language of human sympathy”.

More here.