Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam

Christopher de Bellaigue in The Guardian:

Mosque-009Along with the “Trojan Horse” controversy about the imposition of a strict Islamic ethos on a number of Birmingham schools, the disclosure that several hundred Britons have been to Syria and Iraq to fight with the jihadis has fired up those who believe that Islam represents an urgent threat to this country. Amid the hype – some of it justifiable, much not – nuance has inevitably been lost. It is significant that the British jihadis have chosen to realise their fantasies not here but in Mesopotamia. From a theological point of view, a caliphate can only be set up in Muslim lands. Britain would be a poor choice even for a pilot scheme – it has a substantial opposing majority and a competent intelligence service. As for the Birmingham “conspiracy”, that, too, is more complicated than it seems: while there have undoubtedly been moves to Islamise the schools' curricula and atmosphere, much of the pressure in this direction has come from parents. It would be understandable if law-abiding families with children at schools such as the formerly “outstanding” Park View Academy – now deemed “inadequate” and placed in special measures – felt targeted by former education secretary Michael Gove's campaign to “drain” the fundamentalist “swamp”. While in opposition, Gove authored a famously error-strewn and intemperate screed on Islamic fundamentalism, “Celsius 7/7”. And before his unexpected sacking, he wanted to inculcate “British values” in people whose social attitudes suggest they have had a bellyful.

The deeper concern is that a significant number of British Muslims are getting more conservative while much of the rest of society – including, of course, very many other Muslims – liberalises apace. Exporting high-profile hate preachers such as Abu Qatada is no solution, for whether one likes it or not the values of conservative Muslims are “British”, too. As the shortcomings of “Celsius 7/7” demonstrated, and as Innes Bowen confirms in her sober, meticulous and revelatory new book, the state's attitude towards British Muslims has been defined in part by ignorance.

More here.