Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

[0] Losing the Hearts and Minds of Young Muslims

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

[0] Losing the Hearts and Minds of Young Muslims

Article excerpt


HERE'S a mystery. Last week, a poll for Eastern Eye, Britain's biggest-selling Asian newspaper, indicated that 87 per cent of British Muslims of all ages feel loyalty towards this country. Yet other recent polls, for The Sunday Times and BBC Radio 4 among others, indicate the opposite - that a majority of British Muslims feel a deep sense of disaffection and unease about living in a country which, as they see it, is at war with Islam. Where does the truth lie? Certainly no place where opinion polls are likely to uncover it. It will have to be drawn from witnesses within the Muslim community, which is why the testimony of a Channel 4 News producer, Sarfraz Manzoor, in the current issue of Prospect magazine is so enlightening.

Manzoor grew up in the Seventies in a working-class area of Luton. His father, who worked in the Vauxhall car plant, and his mother, who stayed at home and made dresses, had emigrated from Pakistan, which for both of them always remained home. Like other first-generation immigrant Muslims, they were determined that their son should maintain their Islamic faith, partaking in the good things Britain had to offer - work prospects, education, the NHS - while rejecting the individualism of the British which corroded religious belief.

But Sarfraz Manzoor, perhaps because he was not sent to the mosque or to Islamic classes after primary school, was seduced, like so many secondgeneration Muslims, by western culture, its movies and music.

The songs of Bruce Springsteen drowned out the austere melodies of Islam. At university, he became a " multicultural tourist", taking the things he liked from his heritage, especially the strength of the family unit, and rejecting the rest - "arranged marriages, overwhelming deference, bad haircuts".

Then came 11 September. Manzoor decided to give a talk to students in his old school, Luton Sixth Form College.

These were the next generation of British Muslims, and their attitudes shocked him.

Manzoor was an example of what his father had prophesied, that with assimilation would come dilution. But these third-generation Muslims had put the clock back.

His classmates had worn western clothes; most of the Asian students today (78 per cent of the class) were in traditional dress: the boys in flowing kurtas and the girls wearing shalwar kameez under their denim jackets.

They were confident, articulate and virtually unanimous in condemning the West's response to the bombing of the World Trade Center.

They put more credence in emails from their friends than in what they heard on TV or read in the British press, doubting Osama bin Laden's responsibility and suspecting the terrorist attack might have been an anti-Islam plot.

They queried Manzoor's Muslim credentials: if he was a Muslim, why didn't he fast? …

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