There are those who think that calling individuals ‘House Muslims’ who are in the public domain and who work on issues affecting Muslim communities, a perfectly normal and acceptable statement. There are those who believe that by Muslims trying to give people the best opportunities through equality, they automatically become Muslims who serve the ‘white master’ and who promulgate the ‘slavery’ of Muslims.
Yes, there are such people within small sections of Muslim communities, (no doubt there are others in other communities), who promote this statement actively on social media and who then take offence, when they are told that if they promote a ‘them and us’, a ‘white and black’ style of thinking, then they should leave the UK and go back to places of their cultural ancestry. For them, the most offensive issue is the latter with no consideration of the divides which they promote and when they effectively call other Muslims, ‘House N…..s’. This is what we are dealing with in modern day Britain.
One can be forgiven for thinking that such commentary probably took place in the United States in the 1960’s as movements like the Black Panther movement took off, partly driven by police brutality and a sense of deep injustice about the legal, social and civil status of African American communities in the United States. Yet, we are talking about individuals making such statements today in modern day Britain.
So here is the issue at hand. Having sat on a Committee that looked at the balance between free speech and diversity in the University of Westminster, in the wake of concerns about extremism on its campuses, the findings of the committee were highlighted in this report which they recently released. The resulting abuse on social media directed at me included the following:
The work undertaken in Faith Matters and Tell MAMA does not get funded by Prevent, which is the usual smear thrown about by some small sections of individuals in Muslim communities, as though the Government is the most significant threat to Muslim communities. But to hear a young Asian man, probably born and brought up in this country, call another individual a ‘House N…..r’ is pretty shocking. Yet, he is not the only one. Other public figures who happen to be Muslim and who have stood up and got involved in complex issues around tackling extremism, radicalisation and integration have also been labelled, effectively as the House Slave of the ‘White man or woman.’ Furthermore, these are not isolated incidents and in 2015, it is deeply worrying to see people who believe that working within the mainstream is being a slave to ‘white power structures,’ as they imply an association between ‘House Muslim’ to ‘House N…..r’. These are young men who believe that mental separation, segregation and alienation is perfectly acceptable, yet they live here in the UK and in this instance, in East London.
My response to such an individual on my Facebook page was to say that if he did not like the UK, (and by default other communities), then he should go back to Bangladesh and Pakistan. Maybe the response was flippant, I accept that, but it does not take away from the very basic fact that we have people living in the heart of our capital and in our country, who regard wider communities as subjugating them, when they themselves promote a state of division. It seems that the people with a closeted and imprisoned mind-set are these young men who think that they live in a state of perpetual separation and as though anyone beyond the circle of whom they find acceptable, is a cultural, societal or even religious threat.
What I am demonstrating here, is the fact that there are some within Black and Minority Ethnic communities who believe this and who believe that there is a state of subjugation which they themselves self-perpetuate to some degree. Racism and prejudice exist, I know that from the heart of the work we do in Tell MAMA and bigotry affects lives and economic chances. I know that on a daily basis and we have countered those who deny anti-Muslim hate, on many occasions with little or no support from others. But the key point is this. This corrosive thinking can become all-encompassing and self-perpetuating and we need to highlight this, acknowledge it and counter it.
Let’s be clear. White men and women are not ‘the problem’, nor is any race, culture or religion. Power structures are and if we go back to the very basis of the root of the discussion, to the Westminster University report, the findings show a power structure within the Islamic society that went against pluralism and diversity. The subsequent response by a small minority of Muslims on social media is to re-enforce a ‘them and us’ mentality and in some ways, perversely accept those power structures as if they are the moral guardians of what is right and wrong, good or bad.
We have a long way to go on integration it seems, so next time someone raised the issue of ‘House Muslim’ in the public arena, don’t forget what they are saying. They are perpetuating, in their own way, the very segregation and separationism that is a cancer and blight on communities.