Islam and the British Dream: A Response to David Goodhart

David Goodhart in the Daily Mail

On 24th March 2013 David Goodhart wrote a piece in the Daily Mail titled, “A mega mosque in a suburb that was 90 per cent white 30 years ago and the polite apartheid dividing Britain.” [1] In the article he stated that “for many of the white people who have remained as the area’s personality has changed, the disappearance of familiar mental and physical landmarks has happened too fast – symbolised by that giant Ahmadiyya mosque with its capacity for 10,000 worshippers.” In looking ahead, Mr Goodhart argues that a “new patriotism can unite our nation again” through which a “confident and inclusive national identity can emerge.”

In many ways Mr Goodhart is right. We do need unity, integration and patriotism in the UK. In fact, we need these very British values more than ever as we face new political, economic and social threats. However, we suggest that upon further inquiry Mr Goodhart would find that Islam, rather than presenting an obstacle to the realisation of these democratic values in Britain, does in fact offer a clear path to realising the ‘British Dream’ which he so passionately calls for. Indeed, these were the exact values and principles that were being called for and discussed by the leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Hadhrat Mirza Masroor Ahmad, which Mr Goodhart referred to in this article.

Patriotism and Integration

Let us start with the building of community. Mr Goodhart calls for integration not segregation, stating that:

 “what we need to do now is to find a surer way of binding our communities together. One essential tool, I believe, is a national story that everyone can tap into: a story that can underpin a sense of ‘emotional citizenship’; a belief that despite many different values and backgrounds, we’re also part of the same team.”

The leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, has offered clear guidance on how this patriotic vision can be achieved:

“Sincere patriotism is a requirement in Islam … As love for one’s country has been made a part of Islam, it is quite clear that a Muslim must strive to reach the highest standards of loyalty to his chosen country, because that is a means of reaching God and becoming close to Him.” [2]

He has further explained how this patriotism can ensure migrant and indigenous communities integrate rather than segregate, declaring that “with regard to the immigrants, they must enter with a willingness to integrate with the local people, whilst the locals should be ready to open their hearts and display tolerance.” [3] In short, rather than being a means of division, Islam offers a tangible method of securing the British Dream of a nation united in peace and tolerance.

Eradicating Racism and Prejudice

However, Islam is explicit in its condemnation of all forms of racism, bigotry and prejudice. In particular, the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, may the peace and blessing of Allah be upon him, famously declared that “Your God is One and your ancestor is one … A white is in no way superior to a black or a red, nor, for that matter, a red or a black to a white, but only to the extent to which he discharges his duty to God and man”.

Thankfully, Mr Goodhart recognises these key moral imperatives, arguing that: “very few British people think you have to be white to be part of this [British Dream].” Thus, again, Mr Goodhart may be right to conclude that Islam’s core teachings work to advance, rather than hinder, our vision of a tolerant, integrated and unified British society.

Islam and the British Dream

If we look closely we can see that, in many ways, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community stand as a shining example of how communities can integrate and unite across the UK through a shared British vision of goodness. Take for example, the national flagship event of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Youth Association, the Charity Challenge, which has raised in excess of a million pounds over the past 27 years. The success of the Charity Challenge was again demonstrated in 2012, with over 2,000 participants and £240,000 being raised for various national and local charities. [4]

In Merton, the location of the mosque which Mr Goodhart visited, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community have mobilised a range of projects in collaboration with the local community including blood donations, visiting of homeless shelters to provide food and volunteers, spending time at nursing homes and supporting the elderly. [5] The Ahmadiyya Muslim community appreciates the fact that Mr Goodhart has said and acknowledged that “the Ahmadiyans [sic] are model immigrants in many ways. They preach an ecumenical form of Islam and are grateful to be given refuge in this country.” On closer inspection, we suggest that Islam, rather than dividing communities, has the potential to act as a catalyst for community service and cohesion in local suburbs across the UK, such as Merton.

Conclusion

We live in an ever globalised world and the maxim of a global village is becoming more and more real. In such a globalised world, the free movement of persons and immigration is not just an inevitability but also can be harnessed as a valuable commodity. This is not restricted to the UK but is taking place throughout the world. Rather than fighting against these trends, societies should look to embrace them by promoting integration and inclusivity. Through mutual cooperation and understanding these societies are much more likely to flourish, and indeed, through an open heartedness to each other, there is a greater chance of peace throughout the world.

And so, rather than worry about the presence of immigrants on British soil, our collective efforts should be focused on tangible measures to facilitate integration. And hand in hand with this, immigrants must seek to integrate: they must look to follow the laws and be kind and considerate to the local people; they must take the appropriate steps to become a valuable part of British society.

The UK is a society that is built on immigration. Over the past centuries communities have come to the UK and made homes for themselves, and as a result, the UK is an exceptionally diverse and flourishing place to live. For this to continue, we all have a duty to promote the mutual tolerance and understanding that is necessary for true integration to take place. There is certainly hope, but what is needed is effort on the part of all people and societies to work together for this end. This is certainly the goal which the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community works towards in the truly Great Britain, in which we live.

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4 thoughts on “Islam and the British Dream: A Response to David Goodhart

  1. Fantastic article that really shows the true message of Islam in regards to patriotism. It also clearly demonstrates the lengths the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community goes to in order to help foster strong relationships with their neighbours and hence, integrate with the locals. Integration does not mean you become an exact copy of the locals…it means that you are able to live together harmoniously whilst demonstrating mutual respect for your differences and making a sincere effort to recognise the common features. Differences in the way of life and points of views have always existed between people of the same ethnic origin, so we can’t expect there to be no differences with people from other countries. Its all a matter of wanting to get on with each other…that is integration.

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