As post-Nice soul-searching continues – and Britain has been so far spared the worst – solutions that are as radical as they are farsighted are urgently required, says RABBIL SIKDAR
After the atrocity of Nice, nothing summed up the weariness and despair over another attack better than the Daily Telegraph front page.
No propaganda or accusations. Just a sad reel of where attacks have fallen recently and asking where it will end. The world is a grim place right now, rocked by wave after wave of terrorist atrocities.
France is grimly soldiering on because the alternative is to surrender to fear, a sore temptation now, and renege on the liberal, secular values that are the foundation of its society.
As the far-right threatens their stretched social fabrics, the French establishment faces a huge question in how to solve what’s becoming increasingly home-grown terrorism.
French secularism is very different from the British brand but often creates identity issues for religious minorities.
Increasingly, French Muslims have become disadvantaged and discriminated against, suffering huge levels of poverty and hardship. It’s no surprise that most of those turned jihadists have not been inspired by religious materials and have been barely religious themselves, drawn to petty crime amongst other things.
But some things need to be addressed. Stating that the French government needs to look at the position of its Muslim community should not be conjured as an excuse that absolves the true villains of responsibility. Nor should some see this as a “blowback” for French foreign policy. France didn’t invade Iraq. Nor are they responsible for the crisis in Syria.
The response of Europe should not be like that of the US which essentially caved in to the terrorists by veering from their liberal ideology and adopting security policies that breached civil liberties and human rights, underlining that the values which separated them from their enemy were weak.
Britain coursed down a similar path unleashing the extremely regressive Prevent Strategy which has just further alienated and marginalised those it needs to help.
The other point is that integration is a two-way process. Wider society needs to tackle its bigotry — more on this later — but the role of the Muslim community in promoting integration is also crucial.
You wouldn’t attack a society if you regarded it as your home. Most Muslims living in Europe are integrated — something too conveniently overlooked — but there are those who still cannot accept it as their home.
Being a Muslim therefore becomes some kind of counter-colonial political expression reflected in detachment from society. This doesn’t necessarily lead to extremism — there are plenty of Muslims for whom this means critique of Western imperialism rather than blowing yourself up or ramming a lorry through a crowd of people. But it does lay seeds for extremism to grow from.
However, as I said, integration is a two-way process. After the Nice attacks there came the predictable racism. The Sun has form on this but it truly outdid itself here. Kelvin MacKenzie wrote a truly disgusting piece regarding a Channel 4 presenter, Fatima Manji, criticising C4 for allowing a Muslim to report this.
British Muslims are criticised for being too isolated and withdrawn. Media attack us and say we don’t feel British enough and don’t try to fit in.
So what happens when Muslims do? They still get treated terribly. The Sun piece by that trash journalist regarding a C4 news presenter wearing a hijab in the wake of the Nice attacks is one example.
The vilification of Sadiq Khan during the London mayoral contest is another. Where we have public-figure Muslims we still see them slammed and slandered.
So no matter how hard the British Muslim community tries there are parts of this society that will never accept us. That is just racism, plain and simple.
It’s not upon us to fight the stereotypes you have shackled and chained us with. It’s upon you to educate yourself, to not be such a bigot and understand the position of Muslims as a disadvantaged and discriminated minority in this country.
So don’t blame Muslims for it. Next time you want to know why some don’t integrate — look at how high-profile Muslims are treated and you find your answer.