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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 September 2005, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
British Muslims and the Ummah

How much should British Muslims let their focus on the Ummah - the global family of Muslims - affect the way they approach life in Britain?

If you wish to add your view to the debate please use the form on the right of the page. The Panorama team will try to publish as many as possible but they may not be able to publish every comment.

Irfan Chishti

Irfan Chishti, Imam and RE teacher, Greater Manchester

I feel some British Muslims may have got the idea of the global Ummah wrong. Whilst it is absolutely true that the Prophet of Islam described Muslims worldwide as "one body" that would feel the pain of each limb, he equally laid down individual civil obligations especially whilst living in foreign lands.

There are obligations to live as peaceful, law-abiding citizens, and to be grateful for the peaceful abode that the land gives Muslims.

Secondly, a Muslim who does not fulfil a promise is described as a hypocrite bound for hell. How many of us realise that upon taking citizenship of this land, whether by birth or naturalisation, we pledged an oath of allegiance to Queen and country?

We must strike a balance between these sometimes outwardly incompatible allegiances - getting it right is the challenge.

Asim Siddiqui

Asim Siddiqui, Chair, The City Circle, London

Muslims are under the spotlight right now , but the feeling of concern which they have towards their co-religionists abroad is not unique. All such groups in this country have a sense of belonging to their co-religionists overseas.

If Israel or Sri Lanka were perceived to be threatened by the British government then British Jews and Buddhists were come to their aid. Likewise British Muslims feel agitated when they see their brethren being oppressed overseas. This does not undermine their sense of Britishness. If anything, it follows in the great British tradition of supporting the underdog.

Mona Siddiqui

Mona Siddiqui, Head of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Glasgow

The Ummah exists as a global fraternity but the real challenge for British Muslims is to see the Ummah in local realities. It's a common error to conflate the concept of the Ummah with the dream of a worldwide Islamic state - but that is an abstract ideal which is not about Islam but about political dominance.

British Muslims should concentrate more on the issues within their diverse communities rather than on events abroad. In this way, they will be able to strengthen ties across society as well as showing their loyalty to the state.

Masud Ahmed Khan

Masud Ahmed Khan, traditional Muslim webmaster, Home Counties

The notion of an Ummah is part and parcel of being a Muslim. It is a sacred bond and a part of religious duty to have concern for one's fellow Muslims. However, this should not be taken to mean that as a Muslim one has a "tribal" mentality towards the Ummah.

God, in the Qur'an, commands us to bear witness even unto our own selves. As Muslims we should condemn in justice wherever we see it, whether perpetrated by Muslims or non-Muslims. As Muslims living in Britain and in most cases born and raised here -- we have a sacred duty and allegiance to Britain.

If there are issues internationally that are of concern to Muslims, then we should use our collective voices and influence through proper democratic means to help highlight these issues.

Dilwar Hussein

Dilwar Hussein, Researcher, Islamic Foundation, Leicester

What is often meant when people discuss this is, "are you British or Muslim first?" The question is actually ridiculous; it's like saying "are you a Christian or English first?" Or asking a philosopher "are you a post-modernist or French first?"

We all have multiple identities and part of the human miracle is that we can negotiate them with ease. I am a father, a husband, a son and a brother - all at the same time.

Muslims who live in Britain (or indeed any state) live under a social contract with the state just as any other citizens. There is a clear allegiance to the state. Some British Muslim scholars have said it is illegal for Muslims from here to fight British troops, for example in Afghanistan. Still, connection with the Ummah is natural and normal. It is a bond of familiarity.

This is seen among many other people too, be it in the form of global Anglicanism, Catholic affiliations to the Vatican, international Socialism, Jewish sentiments about Israel, etc. Loyalty is not blind but is measured with reference to truth and justice.

Therefore, even if one has a connection to the Ummah , if Muslims are in the wrong one has a duty to oppose them. The Qur'an says, "stand up for justiceżeven if it be against yourselves, your parents or closest of kin.

Salma Yaqoob

Salma Yaqoob, Political activist, Birmingham

A focus on the Ummah around the world should not preclude British Muslims from engaging in 'doorstep' issues in Britain. The well that we should be drawing on is a commitment to justice and betterment of society - there is a brotherhood in faith and an equally important brotherhood in humanity.

This necessitates participating in our neighbourhoods as well as a contribution to national and international life. An awareness and sensitivity to the plight of others suffering injustice, both Muslim and non-Muslim, is the hallmark of a heightened citizenship.

By using such knowledge to ensure that the democratic process can be utilised to inform and shape our government's domestic and foreign policy in a genuinely ethical direction would be an enormously positive contribution to British lives here as well as showing solidarity with those suffering injustice abroad.

Hasan As-Sumaalee, Salafi Muslim teacher, Cardiff

The term "Ummah" (Nation) has been used in these times as a political term to agitate and indoctrinate the Muslims into extremist ideologies and action. Yet the concept of Ummah as used in the Quran, speaks of a people who are worshippers of Allaah, devoted to Him.

In the Quran and Prophetic Tradition the Ummah is described as being balanced, just, not falling into extremes, caring for one another, not dividing based upon partisan groups. Concern for Muslims around the world and wishing good for them should never involve contravention of the Quranic texts.

YOUR VIEWS

The representatives of Muslims in Britain only emphasise on facts and the questions put forward today were carefully put together to corner the reps to send a message of condoning recent events. The non-Muslims need to be made more aware that every issue labelled as "terrorism" is an individual investigation and not connected with each other the way the west is making out. You people hide the facts and control the nation by extreme bias, and never fully succeed because Allah (swt) is the best of planners, and He knows what mankind knows not.
Muhammed Afzal, West Midlands & United Kingdom

The Prophet of Islam described Muslims worldwide as "one body" that would feel the pain of each limb, he equally laid down individual civil obligations especially whilst living in foreign lands.

However one must look within themselves and ask the question can they live with themselves whilst our muslim brothers and sisters are being tortured abroad. It is easy to ignore their cries for help from here but is that right. What if this were happening, God forbid, to Jews or Christians would we, Britain, allow it? Indeed we condemn the Holocaust and to this day remember the dead. Why the double standards. Why is it a question of Ummah when this basic human rights.
Abudullah Ansari

Perhaps Panorama might retain more respect amongst its audience if it recruited interviewers rather than inquisitors. I suggest however that the presenter's next assignments involve the BNP, Christian Evangelist around George Bush and members of the Israeli Knesset close to Ariel Sharon.
Shehla Khan, Islamabad, Pakistan

As a British Muslim, born and bred in the UK, I feel torn up and have mixed feelings about the whole sitution. I believe every Muslim in this country feels the same way. For the people that do not understand the way we Muslims feel, I would like to give an example. It is like when parents of a family split up for their own reasons, the way the innocent children feel. Maybe one feels bad towards the father and the other feels bad towards mother, but every child has their own way of dealing with the problem.I think it will take time for this sitution to cool off in the UK.

We need to change the foreign policy of this country and get more involved with the problems faced by the countries around us.
Fozol Miah, London

Why do questions like this arise anyway, and who asks such questions?

Do the Jews in New York get asked the same question regarding the terrorism their brethren in Israel commit against innocent Palestinian civilians? Do they not feel pain when a suicide bomber explodes in a bus killing many civilians?

Of course they do. It is natural human instinct to feel, be part of and want to belong to people that are like us. Furthermore, what most non-Muslims don't realise is that it is an obligation on Muslims to help, support and join with fellow Muslims (the Ummah) anywhere around the world if they are in difficulties.

This is manisfested in the vocal demands for justice in countries where Muslims are oppressed. In conclusion, this sort of bigoted question seems always to be reserved for Muslims, as if to suggest that we should not be having any links with the Ummah.

Can we please treat the feelings and opinions of Muslim on world events as not any different to a non-Muslim and not pre-judge or stereotype with negative templates, generously provided by certain Islamaphobic sections of the media?
Rauf Mirza, Stoke-on-Trent

British Muslims should adhere to British life and law, and still retain a healthy connection with the rest of Muslims, and all other religious groups throughout the world, as God wishes both for the Christain and Muslim, not to mention all the other faiths.
P Burne, Newcastle

I think people have to understand that Muslims share a unique global bond which is the Ummah, which helps to empathise with the frustration of Muslims over foreign policy. Yes we are all one nation (of Muslims), however this has no contradiction with me being a Brit or someone being a Palestinian or Indian or Egyptian or French and so on. In the Panorama programme, Mr Ware tried to put out a negative image of believing in an "Ummah", which should not be the case, as Muslims are peaceful people with a lot to offer the world collectively. Furthermore the only way we can combat the extremism amongst us is by working together.
Hassan

If all Muslim views in the UK were as balanced, concise and open minded as Mr Irfan Chishti then we would not be facing the problems we are today. Well done Sir. A true role model who is thankfully teaching our children the correct message.
Rick Green, London

Nothing wrong with the idea of the global Ummah. But as Muslims living in the West we should realise that we have more opportunity to bring up these concerns, due to the way that the laws are structure in the West. Here in the West, just by using our intellect, we can do more for the Ummah than we could ever do fighting physically and that message needs to be taken out there for the Muslim masses.
Kashif, Bedford

In Islamic jurisprudence, the Ummah is of two types. Firstly, the term 'Ummah' (or 'Nation')refers to a people sharing the same belief in their Lord and that which is contained in Revelation (Quran and the Prophetic tradition). This 'Nation' of believers has responsibilities to each other as it does to those who do not believe in Islaam. The responsibilities may be different, but are still guided by revelation.

The resposibilties to each other include that we enjoin each other in adherence to the correct creed of Islam, to worship our Creator as He has ordained, to aid each other in times of need in a manner that does not include injustice and oppression of others.

The second type of 'Ummah' refers to the whole of mankind to whom the 'Servant-Messenger' Muhammad was sent, this includes Muslims and non-Muslims. It is the duty of Muslims to be just with non-Muslims, be excellent examples of worshippers of the sole Creator, morally upright and truthful and not treacherous to those with whom we live with in this land.

The term 'Ummah' has been hijacked in modern times by 'Jihadists' to agitate Muslim youth in Britain into extremist ideologies. They use highly emotive speech highlighting Iraq, Palestine, Kashmir etc, to justify killing and murder.

Muslims living in the UK should remember that there was a time when the Prophet was living in a non-Muslim land (for 13 years in Mecca). He never raised the sword to them, nor agitated the people into assisinations and killings - he had mutual dealings with non-Muslims such as buying and selling. And that was never regarded as treachery to his faith, nor was every treacherous to the non-Muslims.
Abu Khadeejah, Birmingham, UK

How can British Muslims talk of the Ummah without realising their own hypocricy? Feeling a sense of solidarity with other Muslims across the world and, in some cases, even dying for this makes no sense when muslim communities are incredibly sectarian. Even in this country they will often only pray and marry with those who are from the same sect as them.

Many stricter Muslims don't even mix with Muslims from other communities. This does not even begin to take into account the difference between Sunni's and Shi'ites.

How can British Muslims feel that the British, American, Israeli and other governments oppress and kill their fellow Muslims but are not in uprising about Muslims killing other Muslims? In Iraq the Sunni insurgence are killing Shia Muslims, but this does not seem to have got their passions in quite the same way.

Muslims who talk about, and use, Ummah to justify horrific actions and feel a sense of global islamic solidarity through it are contradicting the aspects of the Muslim 'lifestyle' that many of them live by.
S Ballard, London

I think there is pressure on Muslims to conform to Western expectations even if sometimes at the expense of their religion.

Why do Muslims have to lose their identity to become 'good citizens' in their adopted socities? Why is it acceptable for Jews for instance to maintain their Jewish identity and roots and support Israel, while Muslims are expected to give up their attachment to their roots and ignore other Muslims?

I dont think its realistic to make Muslims choose since there is no conflict in being both British and Muslim at the same time. I think its all part of the Islamophobia that widely exists in Western societies. It wil lead to more alienation of Muslims, especially the young.
Ahmad Abdullah, London

It is natural for Muslims to feel a special connection with other Muslims around the world just as much as it is natural for Brits to feel special affection to fellow English-speaking people in Australia, New Zealand, Canada and so on. Why is it that Muslims are singled out to choose one identity while others can have as many as possible? Sounds like a case of double standards to me.
Sam Roza, London

Considering how much British Muslims claim to care about their Muslim brothers and sisters overseas, it is interesting how few Muslims comment on the situation in Darfur in Sudan, where hundreds of thousands of members of the Ummah are being butchered by their fellow Muslims.
Dan, Cardiff

As a Muslim on the road to British citizenship, I realise that I have certain obligations to myself, my family, my community, my country, my Muslim brothers and sisters, and mankind.

Each of these has their own boundaries/laws/etiquette in which we are allowed to conduct ourselves. If a Muslim sees an injustice in any of these, then he has the obligation to address it, within the prescribed boundaries.

Today, it is obvious that the majority of international injustices are committed against Muslims hence it is only natural that there is a heightened concern amongst Muslims, and some Muslims may be tempted to cross the boundaries.

If we put the British foreign policy aside, there is no conflict of interest between being a Muslim and being British. If we include foreign policy in the equation, again there is no conflict between being British and opposing government policy. Let us not forget the million marching in London against the Iraq war, are those protesters any less British?
Ibrahim, London, England, UK

99.9% of injustices against Muslims - disenfranchising, theft, extortion, rape, torture, enslavement, murder - around the world are committed by Muslims.
Alex Dryden, Ottawa, Canada

Many of the Muslims interviewed have compared the Ummah to Jews defending Israel. There are many obvious differences, but I will focus on the fact that Israel is the only jewish state in the world, and that over the last few centuries the Jews have been persecuted and hunted like no other religion. Jews feel a visceral need to defend Israel because it is their last port of call if anti-semitism should emerge. There is no comparison with Islam, which is thriving - there are billions of Muslims and over 50 Muslim countries in the world. Islam is not under threat. Quite the contrary: it appears to be one of the healthiest religions in the world. So the sense of Ummah is understandable, but perhaps it is better if Muslims look at problems closer to home, rather than feeling such strong brotherhood with Muslims abroad.
Greg, London, England

As someone who lives and works with Muslims (I work with Muslim young people with mental health problems) it seems to me that they actualy now very little about their own religion. Most of our 'Muslim' young people and famalies have not read or studied the Koran. However, they have an almost blind trust in Muslims from abroad. In order to get a better understanding of Islam I am reading the Koran, unfortunatley much of it concerns what unpleasent things Muslims can do to those who refuse to become Muslims. Religion should be a private personal matter - when groups start forming the trouble begins.
James, London, England

The word Ummah should be seen as a wonderful concept. It is a concept that encourages us to think locally and globally. At a local level to tackle issues facing us in our climate, and at a global level to look into issues relating to Muslims anywhere on the planet.
J Ahmed, London

The British government is democratically elected by the British electorate, which consists of both Muslims and non-Muslims. 'Our' government's foreign policy will not always appease everybody all of the time, but because we do live within a democracy we do have the right to air our opposition and to cast our vote. The decision to send our soldiers into Iraq, for example, was made after considerable public debate and a demoratic vote in the house of commons ('our' House of Commons). We live in a multi-cultural society and there is no hidden anti-Islamic agenda. 'Our' brothers and sisters live right here in Britain as we do, so we'd better start learning how to tolerate and understand each other, and then together we can set our common course. There are many ways to fight injustice - the angry man never acheives anything.
Daniel Sugrue, St Albans

It is only because of Britain's colonialist foreign policy in her support for America against Muslim countries like Iraq and Iran that the "Ummah" issue is so controversial. Were Britain to be more neutral in the international arena things back home would be calmer. Thus the recent criticism towards Muslim groups and individuals in the Panorama program is seen as attack on Muslims because in most cases they are at odds with the foreign policy. For example, supporting Muslims of Palestine in the resistance when they shouldn't. These people have broken no laws, yet they still find themselves under fire. The recent posturing by the government and media which is designed to intimidate Muslims into abandoning their support for foreign causes and Islamic ideals will be unable to change the Muslims because its provocative foreign policy continuously reminds everyone of the injustice.
Asim Khan, London

Why is the Muslim community so arrogant as to think they are the only ones in British society today who feel for the injustices around the world? Muslim do not have a monopoly in this matter. Britain is rather good at working towards removing such injustice on the world stage. Also the 'world bond amongst fellow Muslims' should be overruled by the wider bond with humanity. Please stop viewing non-Muslims as lesser human beings.
Daz, Bradford West, Yorkshire

I think the question is wrong here. The question is: how do Muslims strike a balance between global and domestic issues. For example, do they think that our country's commitment to freedom should extend to a resort to war, in order to spread our British values?
M Khan, Manchester, UK

It entirely appropriate that we, as Muslims in Britain, should focus on the Ummah. However, that focus should not be blinkered to exclude or ignore the suffering of non-Muslims. Nor, when focusing on the Ummah, should we as Muslims consciously or unconsciously ignore the suffering caused by Muslims to others, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, thereby inflaming the numbing sense many of our co-religionists feel, that of being members of global fraternity of victims.

"God does not change the state a people is in until they change what is in themselves." (Koran S13:11)

There is a tendency to blame all the Ummah's woes on Western imperialism. The weakness, inequality and corruption we perceive in the Muslim world today is not the fruit of Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in the 18th Century, or of the Britain's siezing power in India. The seed was sown long before; colonialism was just a fertiliser.
Roderic Vassie, York, England

As an atheist born and brought up in the UK, I do not feel that it is necessary for me to be concerned about Ummah, or any one belief system's cultural practices. This is a country, not a theocracy - and everyone is equal under the rule of law. If, as Irfan Chishti says, Islam puts an obligation on Muslims to live as peaceful, law-abiding citizens, that is great. But to live in the UK, there is only one prerequisite - to obey the rule of law above all other. There are no religious opt-outs. How would that be fair for atheists? The bottom line is: Islam is as good a religion as Judaism, Christianity or whichever system of belief you choose to follow. But the only way this country can work is on the basis of "no special cases". If Muslims choose to follow the sharia to the exclusion of UK law, they are expecting preferential treatment. Why should they get it?
Jonathan Jones, London, England

Reading the comments here, it is without doubt the Ummah is as yet the unformed Islamic world state. Pretty worrying if you are a non-Muslim..
Mark, UK

The Ummah is no different to the concept of the Jewish Diaspora, or indeed the alliances between the white English Speaking nations. People have memberships of a number of groups simultaneously. A person can be Male, Muslim, British, Chinese and an Accountant at the same time. Being a member of the wider Ummah does not come before membership of your immediate community.
Munir, Guildford

I am a Hindu. When some Muslim scholars say 'Ummah' means, Muslims worldwide as "one body" that would feel the pain of each limb I have a problem with it. Does is it mean that they would not feel the pain at all of non-Muslims or at least not in equal measure?

These kind of debates arise when verses from religious texts(any religion) are taken either out of context or to the exclusion of other quotes. And also another important point is the same concept of 'Ummah' is mostly applied to issues relating to 'non-Muslim aggression' and not to issues of poverty, corruption and social problems within the Ummah.
Sunil, London

Muslims in Britain are no different than any other Muslim all over the globe, they are all the same and part of the global Muslim community and at the same time they belong to one global society, "humanity". Thus, whatever affects anyone in Ummah should concern everyone in this Ummah. A brother in pain in Palestine should be a focal point for all Muslims over the globe.
Mubde Absi, Beirut, Lebanon

The main problem with the entire debate is that the more one wishes to engage in it, the more complicated it becomes. Just take the suggestion that British Muslims should "do more" to prevent extremism: Who speaks for British Muslims in the first place amongst the various, disparate, almost irreconcilable, self-appointed (and therefore evidently unrepresentative) groups?

Add to this the fact that almost every Muslim has his/her own understanding of every imaginable concept (the "Ummah" being just one example) and you begin to appreciate how complicated the debate is. The same is true of the notions of "jihad" and "matyrdom."

My suggestion is that no concept should be ascribed to Islam until there is broad (even if not unanimous) agreement on its meaning amongst the Muslims themselves. Otherwise, the "debate" will merely generate much heat without much light.
UE, UK/Nigeria

Jesus Christ described all Christians as the body of Christ. I often feel disgusted and deeply offended by the frequent cruelty and injustice inflicted by Muslims on Christians throughout the world today as such acts are committed against all Christians and Christ himself. However, I am not motivated to harm Muslims because of what they do to my brothers and sisters. They will be punished by God at the end of their life.
John Peters, London

To Mr Abudullah Ansari : I totally agree with you about "the Ummah" and you should condemn the problems faced by your brothers worldwide but please do not blow yourself up to sympathise or to make a point. Secondly, if you read all of the above scholars, each one of them is just trying to beat round the bush and one could hardly derive much sense from it all.
Austin, Goa, India

Why is a human allowed to be a part of humanity while a Muslim is questioned why he is a part of Ummah. What's wrong in me having a political view which differs others. Or should everyone think in the same way. Is it wrong when I say that innocent people are being killed? By the way alot of British non-Muslims hold the same views too. Britishness does not mean staying quiet when attrocities are happening all over the world. I am British and would keep up the tradition.
Toosy, Guildford, England

There is nothing wrong when a Muslim uses the word Ummah. It does mean the collective Muslims unity. However, I believe in the Ummah principle but also, as a UK citizen, felt the pain and utter disgust at the suicide bombings in London. Just because someone believes in the Ummah does not make them extremists but a lack of true understanding may make them follow the wrong path. I also believe, as a UK citizen, that we must abide by the UK laws and live in harmony with all in this country and abroad.
Ahmed Patel, Batley, West Yorkshire

One can compare the worldwide Muslim response to Palestine versus Kurdistan. One can also note the lack of response to the problems in Sudan or Niger. What these two have in common is the Muslim Ummah values Arab lives more than other Muslim lives.
Professor Arun Khanna, Indianapolis, USA

The Muslims feel a great deal of affinity for other Muslims and mankind in general. In countries where they are allowed to express their displeasure at their country's policies, they do. But it would not make sense for Muslims to complain to Britain about Indonesia's, or Saddam's, or Sudan's, policies. But ask yourselves this: whenever there is a tragedy in the US, there is a minutes silence in the UK and an outpouring of grief. There are tragedies every day in Muslim lands, yet we are expected to ignore these for fear of being disloyal to Britain.
Ibrahim, London, England, UK

I hate the way Muslims call for Britain to change its foreign policy in accordance with Muslims' views. Muslims are a tiny minority in Britain. They have every right to participate in the democratic processes of this country, but they do not have the right to dictate them. A little humility from Muslims would be a welcome thing.
Jamie Shepherd, UK

Muslims are not concerned when actual oppression or violence occurs at the hands of Muslims to Muslims (e.g. Iran/Iraq war or Saddam killing his own citizens) but they are concerned at supposed oppression of non-Muslims to Muslims (e.g. Britain and the US freeing the Iraqi and Afghan people by killing Baath Party and Taleban members). Muslim solidarity should not be used as an excuse to justify or overlook evil committed in the name of their religion
Anonymous

This is to answer the comments by a few gentlemen asking why Muslims are quiet when it comes to Muslims oppressing other Muslims. The answer is they are not, you are just unable to hear them. I, being a Sunni Muslim in the US, condemn those who create differences between Sunnis and Shia Muslims. It is for God and not us to decide who is a better Muslim. It doesn't matter what sect we are in, we all are Muslims after all. I don't know if my response will be heard but, trust me when I tell you, the same happens with a huge Muslim population in Sudan and Pakistan which is totally against creating differences and killing fellow Muslims.

About being both a British and a good Muslim, I think a good Muslim has an obligation to/can be a better British citizen (or any other nationality) due to the teachings in Islam which order us to be best citizens of the State possible.
Muhammad, Bloomington IL, USA

When Muslims speak of the Ummah and of feeling the pain of oppressed Muslims around the world, they should remember that there is a greater family, that of humanity. The vast majority of Europeans and others around the world are opposed to the war in Iraq and also to the oppression of the Palestinians. Unfortunately, despite the fact that our governments are 'democratic', many of their actions go against our wishes and feelings. They also have a distressing habit of lying to us in order to justify their actions.
R, Xativa, Spain (ex UK)

I am somewhat confused as to the strange attitude of Muslims with respect to non-Muslims waging war against Muslim states. It appears that if Muslim countries are attacked, all Muslims must come to their assistance as brothers irrespective of the merits of the case. When Hitler was rampaging through Europe and murdering Jews, Britain did not take the view that he could not be attacked because he was a fellow Christian. In addition, where is the brotherhood when one Islamic State is flattening another, for example: Iraq and Iran or Iraq and Kuwait?
Paul Mullery, Walsall, West Midlands

I'm confused by this term Ummah. On the one hand when Muslims commit acts of terror, like in London, we are told that all Muslims are different and these bombers do not represent Islam. Yet at the same time Muslims claim to be a global family, who feel other Muslims' pain. So which is it? Can't have it both ways. If you feel their pain you must also feel their guilt.
Sam Wright, London

When I see innocent people suffering on TV, my heart bleeds for them, whoever they are. I do not ask what religion they are before expressing sympathy and those that do seem very prejudiced and racist to me.
Roger Bate, London

Dan makes a good point. Muslims, like other people around the world, can be incredibly self-pitying in a way that seems very hypocritical. We speak of crimes against Muslims and expect non-Muslims to be equally vocal. I myself was shocked to hear some Muslims try and downplay Darfur. It can give the impression that like many other 'nations' we are are not interested in justice - but are motivated by self-interest alone.
M Khan, Manchester, UK

I am Roman Catholic and I respect my Muslim brothers. It gives me a lot of energy to see young guys showing their faith so openly, like in some Muslim areas. I hope they understand that they are one of the keys of the future of a multicultural Britain. It is a bit annoying though when I read or hear some very limited interpretation of the Ummah. In example, most of the British Muslims blame Tony Blair's foreign policy towards Iraq as one of the main causes of the current social situation. Where were they when Saddam Hussein was killing hundreds of thousands of people?

They need to do their best to avoid the feeling that the outrage for the current situation in Iraq is determined by a sincere and objective social interest and not by the idea of "Infidels" being in Iraq. I wish the Muslim world, so attentive now at the Iraq's issue, had raised their voices against Saddam's atrocities a long time ago, with the same energy they are opposing US and UK foreign policies. Maybe Saddam Hussein would have gone without the need of what happened.
Alex, London

There is no doubt that Muslims wherever they may be across the world form one Ummah. It is important that as Muslims we keep abreast of developments in the media concerning Muslims so that we do not become out of touch.
Javaid Ramzan, Oldham, UK

I think it is symptomatic of the problem that two of the Muslims writing on this page have quoted "especially whilst living in foreign lands". They clearly see Britain as a foreign land.
Adam Greaves, Dubai, UAE

A Muslim's duty is to live in submission to Allah. British Muslims owe white British nothing.
Chanel, London, England

I think this the root cause of the problem is the false sense of "victimisation" amongst the Muslims. As an Indian, I very well know how this was carefully cultivated by Pakistani establishment in Kashmir to start a violent terrorist campaign which took lives of more than 40,000 people, including the terrorists inspired and trained by them in this process. Today,the same psychological warfare is being played by Muslim "hardliners" around the world to foment trouble in around the globe ,the latest being the UK. I hope the sanity prevails soon.
Rajeev, UK

We should recognise that there are some exceptionally selfish people behind this problem whose only concern is their own egotistical ambition. The war in Iraq is wrong, the oppression of the Palestinians is wrong, but those who are even worse than our politicians are those who sponsor further injustice such as the murder of innocent people who have nothing to do with harming Muslims. In fact some of the murdered Britons were Muslim. We should not allow such people to make us hate indiscriminately and recognise that this is not a war between Islam and Christianity or a battle between the values of East and West, but rather a division between the decent and those selfish devious leaders and their followers who are either naive or stupid.
Matthew White, Bristol, UK

I found the Panorama programme and this debate fascinating. I am an atheist, born in South Africa but living in Britain since I was a small child. Despite living here for many years I, like many British Muslims, fail the Norman Tebbit test of Britishness. Put a South African rugby or cricket team in front of me and I will support them even against England or the Lions. That is because my roots were in South Africa. However, my parents left South Africa because we were unhappy with apartheid and I certainly do not support South Africa right or wrong. So I can understand it when a British Muslim of, say, Pakistani origin still feels emotional ties to Pakistan. But I have more problems when they translate that into their unity with the Ummah. Apart from religion what affinity does a British Muslim feel for one from Indonesia or Algeria. Which part of the Iraqi Muslim world do they feel part of, Sunni or Shia? What worries me here in Britain is why a British Muslim complains of bigotry in the Panorama programme but says nothing against the murder of one Iraqi Muslim by another?
Kevin, Kent

It is well and good to say the Koran is tolerant. What matters is how this tolerence is practiced. Where are the Muslims voices condemning Saudi Arabia for religious intolerance shown to millions of expat workers working in Saudi Arabia?
Bertha, Wembley

The ability of "We in the West" to delude ourselves is boundless. Iraq was invaded at the request of the Nethanyahu think tank, now PNAC. The USA is not going to leave Iraq: the building of ultra-modern 17 military bases is afoot. Bremmer dismantled the Iraqi army, police and civil service as a de-Baathisation scheme.

The country is now in the hands of gangsters, extortionists, black marketeers and profiteers. All this was after 14 years of sanctions, continuous bombing and deprivation that left every family bereaved and distraught. The destruction of Iraq as a society is now complete. The psychopathy of "We In The West" is still difficult to fathom. What is happening in Iraq is small fry if compared to the eradication of Homo, fauna and flora of North America, the slaughtering 150 million of their own in two world-wars or the Jewish Holocaust. If these are "Our values" I doubt if decent people would want them.
Dr Yousef Abdulla, Orpington Kent

Irfan Chisthti is indicative of the new breed of Imam evolving in the current climate of fear and paranoia. Wrong is wrong, whether it's the London Attacks or the tens of thousands murdered by the coalition in Iraq. Why should Muslims be stigmatised for empathising with Muslim suffering? If the Islamic world attached media savvy dates like 9/11 and 7/7 for each atrocity that they have suffered then I'm afraid our calendars will be filled with Palestine alone.
V Ali, Birmingham Uk

The concept of globalisation of communities is neither new or restricted to Muslims. The Communist international since the late 19th Century, The Socialist International, the concept of United Europe and indeed the Global village are all similar concepts to the one reflected in the concept of Ummah within the Islamic world. Indeed, the International Brigades fighting against Franco's Spain were not that different. They were showing solidarity to those they perceive as suffering injustice and oppression.

In the Indian sub-continent itself the concept of the global Ummah was used to argue against the division of India by Muslim scholars and activists of the time. The Panorama programme was very badly researched in looking at this aspect. It somehow attributed this quality of globally showing solidarity with those who suffer injustice and oppression as the source of terrorism.

All one can say is that the globalisation of solidarity is the source of fighting against injustice and oppression and that oppression and injustice are terror and contribute to counter terror, both of which are two faces of the same coin.
Naeem Malik, Birmingham

I believe that the concept of the Ummah should be praised. For a philosophy to teach a basis of unity, locally and globally, is surely a good thing. Not only does it teach one to be aware of issues internationally and universally but it also brings a wondrous sense of humanity, in terms of a strong feel of global socialism.

The reason why such topics are being raised is because there is now a huge fumbling round for a żBritish identity.ż Something that cannot possibly exist: in that, British culture is wonderfully diverse. For example, listing to The Beatles is as British as eating a curry. Surely showing ones unique identity is something that should be praised instead of conforming to the sheep that surrounds us all.

The Qurżan teaches tolerance, something that is fundamentally a huge part of being a Muslim. Surely such a philosophy should be praised (now, more than ever) instead of being degraded and alienated from?
Liam Hutchinson, Newcastle

Islam is essentially to "witness that there is no god except Allah and that Muhammad is a Messenger of Allah". That is all an average Muslim first of all needs to worry about before thinking about an Ummah.

If you witness that, the Ummah is automatically formed.
Zayed Zaheer, Canterbury, Kent

I am a Catholic, and the conflict between loyalty to my country (Scotland, not Britain by the way) and my faith is a difficult one - but no matter what, you don't see Catholics isolating themselves from society, and only associating with each other, even though we are an ethnic minority.
David Russell, Glasgow, Scotland

Muslim do voice their anger when war strikes and innocents are killed, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, but whether their voice was heard is questionable. The media will not show that Muslims are against any violence towards humankind because it will show Muslims are as normal as any Christians, Jews, Buddhists or Hindus. But what the media love to show is when a small minority of Muslims seem to celebrate others' suffering.

The media can make or break a society despite their religion teaching.

Ummah is like a very big family scattered everywhere. They are bound to have a good and a bad child in a family. Don't other religion have that too among them?

What is wrong being a British Muslim? If the person practises Islam in the proper manner, he/she will be a good citizen of Britain. People have to stop stereotyping Muslims as terrorists. There are more than a billion Muslims but when 1% of them commit crime, all Muslims are being judged. Lets be fair and the world will be a peaceful place to live.
Siti Maktob, Surrey, BC Canada

Muslims in non-Islamic lands must, and will, eventually exist as a separate nation bound to the Ummah, and not to the non-Islamic laws of the host country. Muslims have a supreme constitution, the Quran, that superceeds any earthly constitution
Gulam Rasool Khan, Lahore, Pakistan

I wonder if there is such a thing as an Ummah? All I see on the news is different groups of Muslims killing each other in the Middle East. I may be misinformed, but the usage of the term Ummah in the media reminds an awful lot of what I read in the history books about the term "Volk" in Germany about 60-70 years ago.
Dave, Netherlands

I do believe Muslims have a problem in relations with non-Muslims. I spent years working in Turkey. Like most people who visit, my feelings towards the Turks are overwhelmingly positive. In religious terms, Turks are usually considered moderate. However, on the occasions when I did experience prejudice, it was always religious not racial. I have been called "gavur" (Turkish for "infidel/kafir") more times than I can remember. Most westerners are unaware of this aspect of Turkish culture because they don't speak the language.

I believe there is an element of prejudice in the way Muslims approach international issues. They seem blind to the sufferings of non-Muslims. Or even of Muslims, when they are inflicted by other Muslims.

The situation is Somalia, a Muslim country, is much worse than Iraq. A recent BBC report said that more than a quarter of children in Somalia die before the age of five. When the Americans and UN tried to restore order in Somalia, al-Qaeda helped to get then out and perpetuate the anarchy. But Muslims don't seem to care because this case doesn't fit with the "oppression by the west" paradigm.
Michael Tabona, London

I'm afraid that many Muslims do not feel the pain of other Muslims at all. They merely latch on to an image in the media. Muslims being killed in Darfur? The widespread mistreatment of Asian Muslims working in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait? Sunni against Shia in Pakistan? Malaysian Muslims mistreating Indonesian Muslims working there? It appears that many Muslims prefer to blame outsiders for all that is wrong rather than look at themselves in a critical manner.
L Witney, Amsterdam, Netherlands



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