British Muslim Identity and Loyalty

Can you be British and Muslim? The answer is a resounding ‘YES’.

Some years ago this was a debate within Muslim communities particularly as first generation migrants to this country felt culturally displaced from the countries of their origin. But for second and third generation people of Muslim heritage, Britain is their home. True, they may visit Pakistan, Bangladesh or other countries, but usually as holidaymakers, businessmen, or to visit extended family, in the global village that we all now live in.

Increasingly, we have seen the presence of Islam in Britain take on a more ‘British flavour’ and this is something that the Islamic Society of Britain has been keen to nurture. Since its inception in 1990, the Society has been at the forefront of discussions to evolve a British Muslim identity. That journey may not be complete, but at least we can now see a community that is largely comfortable with its presence in our country and appreciative of the freedoms, progressive culture and democratic norms that British citizens enjoy.

Loyalty to the state is also an important aspect of this discussion. Muslims can be British, just as Jews, Christians, Hindus and people of other faith background. These identities are not at odds, rather they operate at very different levels. Some Muslim scholars have gone as far as saying that when a point of tension exists between British interests and the interests of a Muslim nation abroad, then British Citizens who are Muslims should support Britain by virtue of the social contract of citizenship they have entered into. At the end of the day, the yardstick will be justice – what is right – not based on ‘who is my brother’.