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Last Updated: Wednesday, 19 July 2006, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
British Muslim voices
Four people from across the country share their thoughts on being a British Muslim today, and on the creation a new group which aims to represent what it calls the silent majority of UK Muslims.

The Sufi Muslim Council says it is aiming to promote internal debate in the Muslim community and tackle extremism.

Najeeba Durrani
Najeeba Durrani
Coventry

Zuber Bunglawala
Zuber Banglawala
Leicester

Jubril Alao
Jubril Alao
London

Saiaq Aftab
Saiqa Aftab
Birmingham

NAJEEBA DURRANI, 40, COVENTRY, YOUNG PEOPLE'S WORKER

Najeeba Durrani
Najeeba says she has seen changes in the Muslim community
My experiences of being a British Muslim growing up in the UK have been largely positive.

The UK is my home and I see no problem with being both British and being a Muslim. I pray five times a day, observe fasts and try to do the right thing, but I don't wear a headscarf.

I feel a part of normal British society. I mean, I don't go clubbing or go to the pub, and I don't drink, but I am a part of the wider society.

But I have seen Muslims changing. There is no unity in the Muslim community any more. Mosques are dividing communities and families rather than uniting them.

Why can't we celebrate Eid on the same day, for example?

I see no problem with being both British and being a Muslim
I also think there is a greater problem of extremism among younger people.

I work for the NHS in mental health, delivering workshops around the different aspects of mental health to young people.

Amongst younger people I've met, I've noticed some with extremist views. People tell me as a Muslim woman I shouldn't be working, and there are some who say I shouldn't even be watching TV.

And I've worked with five-year-olds who don't want their picture taken and don't want to draw faces because they say it is forbidden.

I think the leaders of mosques have a pivotal role to play in influencing young Muslims, and to steer them away from narrow views about Islam.

Maybe the creation of the Sufi Muslim Council could be a good thing. If they promote moderation and debate within the Muslim community then this would be great.

Of course there also needs to be greater leadership from world leaders like Bush and Blair. They need to show they are being neutral when controversial events occur - such as the current troubles in the Middle East

While I think Mr Blair's foreign policy is wrong, for example over Iraq, this is still no excuse for extremism.

I also think Arab countries should have a greater involvement in shaping Islam positively. Sadly even amongst the Arab countries there is no clear strong leadership.

ZUBER BANGLAWALA, 34, LEICESTER, WEB DESIGNER

I am a fairly religious person but am lazy about going to mosque. I go once a week, try to do my prayers regularly and fast during Ramadan.

I used to think that Britain was the best place on earth to live but there has been a gradual change in the mood.

It's something that started after 9/11 and has got worse recently - especially since the 7 July attacks. There is almost a feeling of "them and us".

Zuber Bunglawala
Muslim community leaders seem to be doing a good job, says Zuber
Most people I know are still nice, but it is the attitude of some politicians and sections of the police.

Muslims feel a connection with other Muslims around the world in a way that most other British people do not. This doesn't mean I don't feel a connection to other people in the UK - I have very good non-Muslim friends.

I feel obliged to help my friends and neighbours, of course, as I would do wherever I happened to live.

I don't agree with the idea that Muslims need to prove themselves, to prove they are part of society. Why should we have to choose between being British and being Muslim? I don't see a reason for conflict.

Actually, I think we should get rid of national identity, or it should be made less important. I think it's more for administrative reasons than anything else. It doesn't mean anything for people.

I believe in unity - you should have one voice for the community

And I don't think the creation of another council is such a good idea.

I believe in unity - you should have one voice for the community. If you have twenty different voices you just have divisions and every reason not to get anything done.

And I don't see what they can do to promote moderation. If you're off the deep end, an extremist, you're not going to come and talk with community leaders anyway.

JUBRIL ALAO, 23, LONDON, IT ANALYST

Some would say I am very religious because I am president of the Muslim network at work.

The network helps people find a balance between faith and work.

It also introduces Islamic issues to employers, such as how to consider employees who are fasting.

Actually, I don't see any conflict in my daily life between life and religion. I am able to work and still pray five times a day. My work colleagues understand, for example, it wouldn't be a good idea to invite me to a pub.

Jubril Alao
A new council could be divisive, says Jubril

As a black Muslim, I feel I've been insulated from some of the backlash from the 7 July attacks. I think the pressure from the police and the media has mainly fallen on the Asian community in Britain.

I've met people with extremist views over the years, and most of them haven't studied the religion closely and base their ideas on pamphlets and a cursory idea of Islam. Extremism has no basis in religion.

I read the recent poll of British Muslims in the Times and was shocked that so many people sympathise with extreme ideas. The pressure is on us not to be deluded and to root out extremism. We must try to educate such people.

As the new Sufi Muslim Council suggests, I think there has long been a need for an internal debate in the Muslim community about how to promote moderation.

But I think the way they are doing it is not wise. It is divisive to set up a new council, especially as the name of the council is synonymous with one particular strand of Islam.

Extremism has no basis in religion
There are problems with British foreign policy and certain aspects of it have contributed to extremism.

But we must not overreact. The prophet Mohammed, peace be upon him, faced worse situations and did not react in a severe way.

We must not repay evil with evil. We can't use foreign policy as an excuse for extremism

A million people marched against the war in Iraq so that is the real voice of the British people.

SAIQA AFTAB, 26, BIRMINGHAM, WORKS IN PUBLISHING

Saiaq Aftab
Saiqa says people are not aware of the range of Muslim opinion

I'm not a practising Muslim, I don't wear a headscarf or go to the Mosque, although I do have a basic knowledge about Islam, and I am culturally Muslim.

If people ask me about identity I would probably say I am firstly a Muslim.

But it depends what question you ask. If you ask about my nationality I would say British, and if you ask about ethnicity I would say Pakistani.

Actually I find being a Muslim in Western society difficult to cope with because I have been living with the British culture all my life.

Other people say it's easy but I don't think so. British or Western religious values contradict the notions of being Muslim.

I find being a Muslim in Western society difficult to cope with
I sometimes feel that other members of the Muslim community don't want to listen to me because of the fact that I don't practice.

What people don't realise is there is a whole range of Muslim in this country. Some are strongly religious, some are not at all, some in-between.

I don't really feel community leaders speak for me. Where do leaders get their information from? When they say "most" Muslims believe a certain thing, how do they really know this?

As for the new Sufi Muslim Council, in some ways it is a good idea to set up a new council, it can be a new channel for participation.

But we already have lots of divisions in our community, so is it really a good idea to divide the community again?

They must also make sure they include all parts of the community - including women. I can just imagine another group of boys - imams and community elders that doesn't include any women.

Readers sent in questions to the panel. Click on the link below to read their answers.






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