Challenges Facing British Muslims

Sadiq Khan MP

I did not come into Parliament to be a Muslim MP. And I have never set myself up as a Muslim spokesperson

or community leader. Just as ordinary citizens have multiple identities, so do MPs.

[…]

Our priority [in the Labour Party] must be to address the major obstacles that prevent many Muslims becoming fully active participants in mainstream civil society, while helping individuals to climb the social ladder and take up new opportunities.

Before we can put together a good package of policies, we need a much more sophisticated political narrative on which we can build those policies. A politics of fairness as opposed to favours. Without this, policy measures risk being short-term, vulnerable and divisive.

In my pamphlet published by the Fabian Society, Fairness not Favours, I lay out a range of specific policies in work, education, language and childcare which build on this new politics and aim to link communities together through the recognition that everyone has a stake in the improvement of the life chances of the worse off.

But there are two sides to this. British Muslims also need to step up to the plate. We need to take responsibility for our own lives. We need to take more responsibility for our own families, ignore those who propagate conspiracy theories, and above all we need to leave behind our victim mentality.

I challenge British Muslims to accept that as strongly as they feel about Iraq or counter-terrorism measures, poverty and inequality have the biggest impact on the lives of the majority of British Muslims and do the most to prevent potential being fulfilled. Even if your passion is foreign policy, your ability to help people thousands of miles away is made much greater if you are an active citizen and player at home in the UK. Of course, foreign policy is important to British Muslims. Not just because of our ethnic origins, but also because of our interconnectedness with our co-religionists overseas. I argue in my pamphlet that rather than this being a reason to fear us as fifth columnists, it gives UK plc a unique opportunity to tap into our faith and background to improve and enhance the UK business community’s global links. Britain’s diaspora links can also help reshape often negative perceptions of the UK and can achieve outcomes through engagement with overseas Muslim audiences that would not be possible through formal diplomatic channels.

British Muslims will know they have understood the challenges facing them when they realize that childcare should matter more than Kashmir. And they will know the Labour party finally understands them when they hear politicians say that addressing the problems of British Muslims is about fairness, and not favours or fear.

At the time he wrote this article (The Guardian, 17 September 2008) Sadiq Khan was MP for Tooting. In June 2009 he was appointed Minister of State for Transport.



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