This summary of a seminar opens with an introduction by Manazir Ahsan highlighting problems confronting the Muslim community in Britain, including perceived increases in "Islamophobia," verbal and personal attacks, "irresponsible" media reports, and legal problems.
Responses include a wide-ranging paper by Tim Winter, using a psychosocial perspective, analyzing sources of identity crises for many Muslims, including "young zealots," who may be driven by fear and despair to apocalyptic measures. He suggests that such desperation is unworthy of the umma (nation) of Islam and should be replaced by a via positiva through loyalty to "the balanced, middle way." Muhammad Anwar's paper details statistics of socioeconomic problems, including unemployment, educational underachievement, and political representation. Other papers specify responses, including more political involvement and jihad in various manifestations.
As chapters are interspersed by contributions from seminar participants, the publication may be seen as an overview of concerns felt by the British Muslim community. While it is important for such concerns to be on the record, it is also interesting to note the omission of relevant perspectives—such as appreciation of positive characteristics of the host community.
There is no appreciation of democratic freedoms enjoyed by Muslims—such as freedom to build mosques, establish schools, publish books, papers, and websites, and to participate in public life, with representation at every level from local government to both houses of Parliament. There is also no mention of the asymmetry between Muslims' freedoms in Britain and the lack of such freedoms for minorities in Islamic societies—ranging from dhimmi (second-class citizen) status of Jews and Christians in countries such as Egypt to the total prohibition of Christian activities in Saudi Arabia. If Muslim leaders were to acknowledge the freedoms, as well as the multiple social welfare benefits, available in Britain, many Muslims, especially the younger generations, might feel less hostile, alienated, and negative about living in Britain.
The vast majority of British Muslims are peaceable and law-abiding, wishing to dissociate from violence and terrorism. For them, some of contributions in this book may be helpful, playing a positive role in identifying legitimate concerns and responses compatible with the values of democracy. But the overall impression is one of partial interpretations of complex issues that may have detrimental effects on feelings of loyalty and belonging. Such an outcome would not only be regrettable academically and politically but could be dangerous for everyone—helping to promote interpretations of Islam resulting in the kind of violence unleashed on New York, Madrid, Moscow, Amsterdam, and London.