How loyal do British Muslims have to be?
Categories: Latest News
Monday March 11 2019
With an estimated population of about 3.4 million in the UK contributing over £31 billion to the UK economy and wielding an incredible spending power of £20.05 billion, while also donating more than £100 million every year to charity in both national and international humanitarian causes; Muslim communities have contributed a great deal to the British society. However, why is it that Muslim loyalty to our country of birth or settlement is continuously questioned?
Historically, the first significant influx of Muslims to Britain can be dated back around 300 years ago, during the 1700s in the form of Yemeni sailors, with numbers increasing over the coming centuries. An estimated 2.5 million Muslim soldiers fought on behalf of Britain in World War I and a further estimated 600,000 to 1 million during World War II. Shortly after, during the wave of postwar immigration in Britain, many Muslims, particularly from the Indian-subcontinent migrated and settled in Britain making it their home. As an example, during the 1960s, many doctors of Muslim origin from India and Pakistan came in considerable numbers in response to an appeal by the then Health Minister, Enoch Powell, as the NHS needed rebuilding.
Regarding the NHS, as of September 2016, 29,200 Muslims were known to be employed in NHS trusts and clinical commissioning groups in England. Muslims made up 4% of the 730,000 staff who disclosed their religion (out of 1.19 million staff in total). Over 31% (9,200) of the 29,200 Muslim staff were employed as doctors, compared to an overall NHS rate of 10%. Muslim doctors made up 15% of the 61,900 doctors who disclosed their religion (out of 113,600 NHS doctors in total). For a community that constitutes 5% of the national population, Muslims are certainly over-represented within the NHS.
So more than 3.5 million Muslims fought for Britain during the World wars and the significant Muslim contributions to the NHS cannot be ignored. Muslims, should, therefore, be proud in the knowledge that their relatives and ancestors played a significant role in securing the freedom enjoyed in the nation that is their home. Despite this, questions regarding loyalty and patriotism continue to loom over British Muslims. Why is this?
In 2017, former Conservative cabinet minister Baroness Warsi said that British Muslims feel as if they must take a daily ‘loyalty test’. A BBC poll conducted in 2015 showed that 95% of British Muslims felt loyalty towards Britain and 93% believed that they should obey British laws. While a Channel 4 commissioned ICM poll in 2016 showed that 86% of British Muslims felt a strong sense of belonging to Britain – this was higher than the national average of 83% (1081 Muslims polled).
The results suggest that the majority of Muslims in Britain do indeed feel at home and loyal to their country of birth or settlement. Further major surveys conducted showed that the majority of British Muslims (88 per cent) reported that they are reasonably satisfied with their “life as a whole nowadays” and feel positive about the community spirit in their area. A majority (73 per cent) also engage in British cultural traditions, such as sending Christmas cards every year, sending Mother’s Day or Father’s Day cards, and wearing a poppy on Remembrance Day.
Repeatedly questioning the Jewish community in regards to their patriotism towards Britain would, quite rightly, be called incredibly unjust and discriminatory, thus constituting an act of anti-Semitism leading to possible prosecution. Meanwhile, it is socially acceptable to question Muslims only regarding their loyalty regularly publically? This would of course not be discriminatory if it was done for all religious groups equally. However, the fact is that it appears that it is only Muslims who are questioned regarding their loyalty and this is seemingly not considered Islamophobic. Why such double standards?
The general public is more likely to encounter negative news coverage of Muslims through the media than it is to encounter positive. Indeed, research shows that for every one neutral or positive mention of Muslims within print media, there are around twenty-one negative mentions. Since much of the media representation of Muslims is overwhelmingly negative, the narrative that Muslims may be somewhat ‘disloyal’ or unpatriotic’ is more commonly accepted within media and political circles despite the evidence clearly showing otherwise.
What the general public might fail to understand is that by singling out one particular group with questions concerning loyalty and patriotism is not only discriminatory and Islamophobic but it decreases the confidence in identity for some Muslims, exacerbating feelings of alienation and disenfranchisement from British society. Some Muslims may feel accused that by being Muslim they are not ‘British enough.
Moreover, the questions of loyalty do far more harm than any kind of benefit in encouraging active civic involvement. It is important that people recognise that to be Muslim and British are far from being mutually exclusive and are perfectly compatible.
It is important to remember that while the much-enforced term ‘British values’ remains woefully ill-defined, the Government does include within them ‘mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs and those without faith‘. If the British public truly cherishes such British values, it is incumbent upon us (and politicians especially) to apply this tenet equally to all faiths.