Wednesday, August 26th, 2015
The British Muslim community is young, rich, dynamic and as diverse as the nations from which it originates, and is both challenging and compelling. The community is undergoing rapid change while it is also under a lot of scrutiny and pressure from both the media and government. But do we really know what exactly is going on in the community? What are the positive developments? What are the challenges? What should we be worried about? What should we ignore?
So much of what we know and what we don’t know about our own community is dependent upon three sources of information: firstly, anecdotal knowledge and our everyday experience; secondly, the media, and thirdly, academic studies. Looking at academic studies first, there are now many academics studying the British Muslim community but an overview of their work shows that much of their research is skewed heavily towards certain topics and agendas that are perhaps media-driven. Unfortunately, few academic studies on the British Muslim community have been conducted precisely because of their academic interest i.e. purely for the sake of intellectual curiosity. So, the body of knowledge on British Muslims is skewed towards topics like radicalisation, the hijab and education – reflecting discussions in the mainstream media.
Our anecdotal knowledge is limited to our life experiences and the range of our social contacts in real life and through social media. If we hear about a certain controversial topic, then one way to check is through checking our own experience and the experiences of our friends. This is of course a very limited source of knowledge.
Then there is the media. ‘Muslims’ have been item number three or four in the hierarchy of interest for media producers and editors for some years now. Whereas twenty years ago you would have to make a strong and persistent case for the attention of a media editor on a Muslim-related story, this is clearly no longer the case. Nowadays it doesn’t take much to get the interest of an editor and facts seem not to get in the way of a good story either! The choice of story is often biased and even prejudiced. This representation of British Muslim community life is not only dangerous for intercommunal relations but it is also deeply damaging towards the self-image of what is still a young community.
This is why we need MuslimView. We need to challenge negative stereotypes, but we also need to collectively contribute towards a more holistic and truly representative picture of our own community. This is for our own awareness and it is also to inform others of what we are really like. There are numerous positive developments in all aspects of British Muslim life, and these need to be highlighted. There are also many challenges facing our community and these challenges also need to be highlighted and tackled.
One of the most prominent historians of the British Jewish community was the late David Cesarani, author of the book “The Jewish Chronicle and Anglo Jewry”. Reading this book it is clear that a community-focused newspaper was essential for the healthy development of a minority community. It is our view that the British Muslim community needs such a community newspaper and we invite you to support us to help make MuslimView an integral part of our national community infrastructure.