The Revival Tells Tony How It Is!

Manchester University student Hayder Khan, member of 'The Revival' Editorial Team, was invited to a consultation with Prime Minister Tony Blair. Here, he gives his personal account of what went on:

‘You have an opportunity to communicate directly with the Prime Minister’ said the letter from 10 Downing Street. ‘A consultation with young Muslims in the UK’ it said. Wohooo!

A few moments after jumping with joy and dancing like a madman, I stopped and thought, ‘would there be any use in attending? Is this just a publicity stunt by the PM? Is Mr. Blair trying to patch things up with Muslims, in particular the ‘youth’, the very same youth who could turn to extremism because of his policies?’

I discussed this with my friends and family. Many of them thought it was pointless. Some told me to give him a good ol’ hiding, or to try converting Blair to Islam! But it’s all good sitting at home talking about things, we as an Ummah need to stand up, speak, and be heard. At least when I am asked by Allah (swt), I can say I actually did something rather than discuss the issues facing us Muslims on the sofa in front of the telly!

On the day of the ‘consultation’ I was put into a group tackling the issue of ‘extremism’. Our discussion was ‘facilitated’ by Farzana Hakim from the Racial Equality Commission. ‘Lets be realistic, our community has issues’, we were told – indeed I agree, but are we the only community? What about ETA or IRA?

A guy from the Home Office told us to ask the Prime Minister three questions about how he can ‘make our lives better’. But what we could say was limited due to time, and one Muslim bloke was ‘gagged’ when he attempted to ask the Prime Minister a question!

Farzana Hakim, Shahid Malik MP and Tony Blair kept mentioning one point again and again that showed where they thought the blame lay: parents and the ‘language barrier’. To be quite frank, this is disappearing and hardly a problem anymore.

Is terrorism being pushed under the carpet by our communities? We were told that we aren’t really doing a great

deal to tackle the problem, nor have we got any real voices representing us. A view many of us agreed with. Suggested solutions included: working with the police and our MP’s, open discussions, getting the Mosques to make their stance clear, and boost the voices that can and should be representing us.

But let’s get this straight – it isn’t our fault entirely. Indeed some radical folks need to be sorted out, and we need to offer some support for the confused, but the government has to take their fair share of the blame too.

Why could they not stop groups who glorify terrorism earlier? It’s hardly like they don’t have any information on them, and with their massive powers, they probably know more about our local terrorist than we do. As the day progressed, the more my urge grew to speak to the PM about what the real burning issues were. I got my chance, and boy I didn’t waste it!

I made it clear to the PM that Muslims have lost faith in him and have no confidence left in the government. Although he probably doesn’t see it, foreign policy does affect Muslims here in the UK. At the end of the day, if this man can’t justify any of the wars to the general public, how does he expect us Muslims to take the news of our many innocent brothers and sisters dying?

I had to remind him that many years ago, Muslim communities were voting Labour, especially some of our elders who were new to the country – it was the party that represented them very well. However, since then he has moved ahead without our consultation, and left us behind completely – and that’s the public in general, not just the Muslims! So who represents us now? Precisely… nobody.

A lack of guidance can lead to confused people being misled by radicals very easily. Quite bluntly, I told him if he expected us to co-operate, he needs to row back a little, work for us again as he once kinda did, and take us forward with him. That’s of course, only if he wants. The only way to combat issues within our communities is by working with whichever government we have – which clearly isn’t happening at the moment.

Some other topics that were discussed included TV programmes about Islam, Islam in the National Curriculum and the need for Muslim role models.

‘Britishness’ was up for discussion too. Being a Muslim should always come first and we should be proud of that. However, Islam does command us to obey the law of the land we live in, providing it does not go against the teachings of Islam, and in the UK it mainly doesn’t. Some of my peers agreed with Mrs. Hakim when she said ‘There are two extremes…either you’re religious, or completely off the road’. But can we not live in the West without hating it? Of course we can!

In a speech to all the gathered youth Tony Blair made the point that fear is based on ignorance and that there is a need for understanding across faiths. Going on to highlight the similarities between Christians, Jews and Muslims, he also emphasised the need to realise the difference between Islamic teachings and ‘extremist’ teachings, as there is a barrier between true Islam and perversion from the terrorists. We were told to go back and stand up to the terrorists. Don’t know any myself, so how am I to do that then?!

In addressing my point on foreign policy, he said ‘it doesn’t matter if [foreign policies] are agreed upon, but it’s important not to imprison them with religion’. I think he missed the point. Firstly, his primary duty is to stand with public opinion. Secondly, I am not too bothered about foreign dictators - I was referring to the innocent: Yes, the many innocent thousands if not millions who had to suffer at the hands of aggression in the name of liberation.

Blair concluded by urging the Muslim community to come forward, as he can only show the doors which we have to walk through. The PM recognised that consultations such as these should be held more regularly as our thoughts were more informative than those of government ministers and their reports. He may have awed or convinced some of the 40-odd people who attended – but as we all know, its just talk as of yet. We want to see more positive ACTION!

I also got the opportunity to give Blair a copy of The Revival magazine! I briefly explained to him what its all about and what we’re trying to do. He nervously took a copy and then gave his usual ‘I’m on TV’ smile for the cameras.

That’s Hazel Blears grilled, Tony Blair addressed…here we come George Bush!