Some would say we're treated as 2nd class citizens. We're demonised by the media. There are calls for the Niqab to be banned. All Muslims are seen as potential terrorists. Others would add that Muslims have to prove they are not the 'enemy within'. Some would even go as far as saying that Muslims have to prove they are 'British first, Muslims second'.
The above doesn't paint a pretty picture now does it?
On the flip side I suppose that's how most Muslims are, or can be expected to be, treated in most non-Muslim countries in the current environment, especially post 9/11, 7/7 and the rise of the suicide bomb worldwide.
Now apart from the dodgy weather let’s see what the real challenges are for British Muslims living in the UK...
The Crown Prosecution Statistics for 2007 alone showed that 82% of convictions for religiously aggravated offences were for attacks on Muslims. This includes incidences where children have been bullied, sisters have had their veils ripped off and sadly much worse happenings. Since 9/11 Islamophobia has definitely increased worldwide but even more so after 7/7. However, on the positive side it has also led to the public questioning and studying Islam more and as a result understanding misconceptions and even embracing the religion.
Government's obsession with terrorism
The reality for a long time now has been that Muslims have been arrested simply for owning an A-Z of London, or carrying a tent, or even religious books! And it's true that with each new act or legislation the Government is widening the scope of what defines extremism. Not only that but these never-ending government plans very successfully fuel the climate of fear. The following info really hit me hard when I first came across it:
From 11 Sept 2001 to March 2007 in regards to Terrorist acts in the UK: 1,228 people were arrested from which ONLY 41 were convicted to date, others are said to be convicted of "other criminal offences". Whilst 669 were released with NO charge, and 114 still awaiting trial. (Source: Home Office)
I suppose the eye is on the Muslims due to increased terrorist activity carried out by Muslims. If we're innocent we have nothing to worry about and should treat it as the Government doing its job. If we're mistreated or abused then that's a different kettle of fish altogether.
Yes, the media like in most non-Muslim countries can be anti-Muslim in some of its reporting and articles, but it’s better to have a free media than a controlled one. If there are attacks it’s better to have a defence instead of removing the attack altogether.
Now other points which can be seen as negatives are the British values, or more accurately, the British 'culture' which is portrayed as being the norm, such as having a boy/girlfriend, having one-night stands, binge-drinking, promoting homosexuality and so on. But I would say this is universal in non-Muslim countries and of course most of this happens in Muslim countries too but undercover! Also every nation has its own cultures which are dodgy but it doesn't mean that everyone from that culture or nation is like that; for example in the Indian sub-continent you get a lot of dodgy cultures like forced marriage, honour killings and so on, but that doesn't mean all or most Asians do that or even agree to it. More importantly it's up to YOU if you want to be affected by certain behaviour as nothing is forcing you to adopt any such aspects of western culture. If your Islamic identity is strong then none of these issues should be a problem for you.
You see challenges like the governments take on terrorism and the media’s focus on Muslims will pass over time and aren't permanent, but our gains, if we remain good law abiding citizens which our Deen tells us to, will always be the same. And never forget that the benefits of living in the UK as a British Muslim totally outweigh the negatives. Let's be honest - the standard of living in the UK is as good as it gets and the freedoms that we get here you don't get in most countries. Let’s just go through some of the luxuries we take for granted...
We have a wonderful (in my opinion) health care system called the NHS. Although not everyone likes it as waiting times can be long and the food not fantastic, I still think the ability to simply go to a doctor or hospital whenever I need to and be given the treatment I need without hassle or money issues is excellent. It is a service that hasn't failed me personally yet. I pay for this through my wages with a relatively small tax called National Insurance. It's a small amount which I never miss for which I get a lot for in return. Most people in the world, especially those in poor Muslim lands, would see this as a blessing.
Right up until college. At uni you have to pay a fee but now there are Grants available to aid that.
We live in a democracy not a dictatorship. There is peace here not war. There is law and order and not civil war or anarchy; to many people worldwide this is indeed a blessing.
This enables you to travel very easily to almost any country in the world and be able to work in any European country legally without a work permit or emigrate to other countries easily.
You get the opportunity to meet people from all walks of life, colour, religion, background or nationality. This enhances your personality and your mentality. This is something which is probably lacking in most Muslim countries.
Government not Anti-Islam/Muslim
Unlike Turkey where you can't wear a headscarf in public office, or France where you can’t wear it in schools, or Switzerland where even minarets are banned - in the UK there are no laws that target Muslims or Islam.
Freedom To Practice
You are free to practise your faith in the UK. Free to keep a beard, wear a headscarf, wear religious clothes, build mosques, hold events, have religious marches, have inter-faith forums, have a public call to prayer (Adhaan) on Fridays and so on. You don't get this in a lot of non-Muslim countries or even in some Muslim countries.
Chance to give Dawah
Living in a non-Muslim country, it's a great opportunity to become walking, talking adverts for Islam. Through our behaviour and practise we can give a good image of Islam to the West and also eradicate any misconceptions.
We have Halal food everywhere even at most work places. The same cannot be said in a lot of other countries. A friend of mine just came back from Malta and mentioned there was just one Halal meat shop in the whole town he was staying in!
Prayer Room At Work Places
This is now widely available and if it isn't you can ask for it. At my work place we have two prayer rooms and even an ablution room!
Opportunity To Create Our Own Media
We complain about the media but don't realise we're free to create our own media. We have many local and national magazines and newspapers as well as radio stations and now several Muslim TV Channels based in the UK.
Opportunity To Succeed All The Way
No matter who you are - black or white, Muslim or Atheist - you have the opportunity to reach to the top. We have Muslims in the House of Commons and the Lords, professional sportsmen like Amir Khan and Sajid Mahmood, a prominent Muslim lawyer Imran Khan, comedian Shazia Mirza and many more Muslim professionals in all fields. You can do or be whatever you want, it's really up to us and how badly we want it!
As British Muslims we have more rights here than in some Muslim countries, so rather than moaning and playing the victim we should be proud of being British Muslims. We need to ask ourselves how do we as British Muslims contribute to the British way of life? Do we want to convert everyone to Islam and implement Shariah Law here like one or two crackpot groups call for? Or do we want to make sure that as Muslims we help and contribute to make this country a better place. That we do our bit for the economy, do our bit for the environment, do our bit for charity, do our bit for peace and security and so on.
Living in the UK is actually something we should thank Allah (swt) for. Britain is our home so be proud of it and contribute to it. You're free to practise your faith so don't abuse your freedom but appreciate it.