UK Politics

The Myth of the Ummah

Saleh Bechir and Hazem Saghieh make an important, and familiar, point in a recent Open Democracy article:

European countries are all worrying about their Muslim populations, but there is one reality they have failed to grasp: that they have played a part in creating the problem, in the form of “Muslim communities”, in the first place. The immigrants and their descendants who fall under this designation may have arrived as Pakistanis, Turks, Moroccans, Algerians, or Iraqis; it was only after they settled in the west that they were transformed into “Muslim communities”. Such communities are, to a certain extent, a “virtual reality” that exists above all in the minds of western politicians, “experts” and journalists – and, of course, in the minds of their supposed and self-appointed “spokesmen”.

After all, no one free from ideological preconceptions can fail to notice that immigrants from majority-Muslim countries are not a homogenous group, which can be dealt with simply on the basis of its religious character. Islam is a core but not an exclusive component of their identities: it has a central but diverse role in the construction of who they are.

[The equivalents of the bombers of 7 and 21 July] who took such action three decades ago, after all, were clearly identified as sympathisers with defined political causes – the sub-Maoism of the Weather Underground in the United States, the neo-fascism of the Bologna railway-station bombers, or the anti-capitalism of Germany’s Baader-Meinhof gang – rather than as representatives of amorphous “communities”. The July attacks, like the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, certainly do not represent any wide-ranging “Muslim community” – for in reality such a community does not exist, except by virtue of misguided policies and thinking that evade the primary necessity in Europe today: a common, equal citizenship for all.

The rest is here.