There’s an article by Rod Liddle in the current issue of the Spectator, about the “Muslim Fun Day” that’s taking place at Alton Towers on September 17th. It’s being organised by a company called Islamic Leisure, who say they’ve “arranged with Alton towers to ensure no music, gambling or alcohol is allowed on the day as well as segregated adult ride areas, halal food stalls & designated prayer areas”. Liddle writes that “there is a fervent debate taking place right now on the messageboard of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC). ‘Isn’t this haram?’ one correspondent asks, a little plaintively – haram being a word from the Koran meaning the sort of naughty behaviour which Allah really, really hates. Another insists ‘as Muslims we should not have fun’, which is at least commendable for its lack of equivocation. One blogger points out – although he fails to source his information – that ‘The Prophet never went to leisure parks’ and that ‘the money is going to a Kufr enterprise’”.
For some reason he’s implied that these are comments from 3 separate people. In fact, as you can see from a glance at the MPAC messageboard, these all form part of a single comment from a single commenter, the 2nd on the thread. Other, more representative, comments include the following:
The message this kind of foolishness sends to the wider population is quite worrying (and embarassing). I’ve never heard of of any other religious group organise such events. Holding events of a religious nature catered for a particular group is fine, but I draw the line firmly at so called Fun Days. We need to start asserting ourselves as a group that can exist harmoniously within British society, this kind of stupidity doesn’t help.
Interaction is the key. We need to mix with each other. Get out there and mix with the mass population. Do it as Muslims by all means, but mix is what we must do.
Go to places like Blackburn and burnley, bradford etc in the north and you’ll see how segregated the muslims are from the wider population. Yes the communities are more practicing in that they are 100% covered in jilbabs, niqabs, beards, etc – but there’s very little interaction with the non muslim community. We really are in danger of cutting ourselves off from the wider population, at our own detriment!
This echoes some of the findings in the recent Populus poll of British Muslims, where the fact that 13% said that the bombers a year ago today “should be considered martyrs” was allowed to overshadow the fact that 64% thought the number of Muslims who sympathised with the July 7 bombers was either “a tiny minority” or “none”, 87% said they were close friends with non-Muslims, and 65% said that Muslims need to integrate more. Kenan Malik wrote in the Times yesterday about one of the obstacles to this, ie the insistence by Government and “community leaders” that “Muslims constitute a community with a distinct set of views and beliefs, and that, for them, real political authority must come from within their community”: Rather than appealing to Muslims as British citizens and attempting to draw them into the mainstream political process, politicians of all hues prefer to see them as people whose primarily loyalty is to their faith and who can be politically engaged only by other Muslims…Far from promoting integration, government policy encourages Muslims to see themselves as semi-detached Britons“. And Sunny Hundal added on Comment Is Free that the BBC is also guilty: “The BBC’s cluelessness when dealing with Muslim organisations is well known. Diversity of opinion? Perish the thought. Usually they get away with simply calling up the MCB, MAB or MPAC since, apparently, no one else exists to ‘represent the Muslim community’.”
A letter in the Times today suggest replacing “simplistic phrases such as “the Muslim community” with more precise and meaningful phrases appropriate to the issue being discussed”. I agree that often it’s not a helpful term, and ignores the fact that members of the Muslim community can also be members of other communities – the student community, Manchester United fans, chartered accountants, lawyers, gays, Afro-Caribbeans, divorced former Daily Express journalists. I’ll leave the last word to another commenter on the MPAC board, about the Fun Day: “I don’t see why we can’t go Alton Towers on normal days. Why do we need a special day just for Muslims? Makes me feel as if we’re outsiders, can’t go to Alton Towers with ‘normal’ people and that we need a special reservation just for Muslims. It’s a theme park, not a strip club so there should be no reason to why Muslims can’t go there on any given day.”