The Value of Investing in Culture
Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
The British Muslim community is not without financial resources. There is a flourishing Muslim middle class and economic mobility, though slow in places, is nevertheless underway. But as we are becoming wealthier as a community, we are now facing decisions about how to spend this wealth. We are a generous community, we give an incredible amount of our money towards charitable ventures, so much so that it was noted by the Prime Minister David Cameron in his 2014 Ramadan speech where is said “Charity is one of the things that Islam is all about. Here in Britain, Muslims are our biggest donors – they give more to charity than any other faith group.” Muslim charities are now amongst the most successful Muslim organisations in the United Kingdom.
What is missing though is a recognition of the importance of investing in culture. This is also required for the successful establishment of our community in the United Kingdom. By culture, I mean the traditional English usage of the term: literature, intellectual pursuits, journalism – i.e. the trade of the pen. We are from a civilisation that values the pen and the book. We value scholarship in Islam, because it is the knowledge of Sacred Law that helps us to gain felicity in the Eternal Life. But if we are to gain peace and harmony in this life, and surely this is one of the aims of our faith, then we need to invest in culture or to recognise – through financial commitment – the power of ideas.
Many of our brightest are busy and successful in the service professions. What we need to do is send some of our brightest and best into the cultural industries. An argument against this is how will someone make a living if he or she works in the cultural industries? Well at present, the cultural and media industries are amongst the most important, financially lucrative and influential in the United Kingdom.
It is after all the media that ascribes value i.e. decides where to place us within modern Britain’s hierarchy of value. Simultaneously, ‘Muslims’ are third or fourth in priority and interest-value on the national news wire. Any personality or institution that has this kind of exposure in today’s world has a public relations machine that works to protect and positively project its image. British Muslims cannot expect a PR machine to work on their behalf, but because we are on the receiving end of much media hostility we should nevertheless have our own space for self-representation. We also need to support the institutions that will help make this possible, as it is only through institutional infrastructure and support that we can make some real progress in this area.
MuslimView will aim to be one such institution: a national, online newspaper for the British Muslim community.
Any community that seeks to define its own future must be willing to at least respect, value and represent itself. This is the least that dignity demands of us. We can do this by valuing the importance of culture by investing in our own cultural institutions.