In the Independent, Mamadou Bocoum, a Muslim chaplain in the prison service who “works in the heart of Muslim communities” and sits on a sharia council, discusses what he thinks British Muslims need to remember this Ramadan. He observes that the level of fear within Muslim communities has grown over the past five years as a result of the significant rise in anti-Muslim hate incidents and attacks, a particularly viscous reality for Muslim women. The result is a feeling of victimisation amongst the community, which he notes also results from certain groups “who spread the malicious message that Islam itself is under threat”.
But, he says, “The reality is that not everything is as doom and gloom as it sounds. There is social vibrancy and energy developing within Muslim communities” and a “cultural and social revolution of ideas” which “will change the face of British Islam and challenge the prejudiced views that some may hold”. For example, Muslim women are engaging in the creative industries, representing a break from the stereotypical traditional careers of medicine, dentistry, and law.
Bocoum continues, “I also see a religious revolution taking place. Young female Islamic theologians are challenging the religious space, asking for mosques to provide better facilities for Muslim women … Today, more and more of these female theologians are also reclaiming the historical narrative of women being at the heart of Islam’s inception and development, thereby actively challenging the misogyny within some communities”.
“Yet”, Bocoum observes, “we cannot discuss the change happening within mosques without discussing the need for extra security around them”. Mosques have become securitised as a result of taking precautions to ensure their protection, causing some to feel like they are embattled and located in conflict zones, and a sense of division and separation with the outside world.
He writes that, as Ramadan approaches, he believes “Muslim communities can do a number of things to address the issues they now face. They can support organisations that are able to build the capacity of these communities to ensure safety and security through information, practical links and partnership. These can be built through community confidence. Many Muslims also give to international causes – while this is laudable, it’s time we supported local UK based community organisations that tackle hatred and intolerance. They are on the frontline of challenging intolerance on our doorstep”.
The premise of this is Bocoum’s belief that the Muslim community cannot take its security for granted anymore. As he writes, “The events of the past couple of years have proved this point. We need to work with the police, government agencies and bodies like Tell MAMA to ensure that our collective freedoms are protected”.
He concludes, “Ramadan is a time for reflection, but it is also a time to redouble our efforts to protect all communities, including the most vulnerable. It is also a time to protect the most precious gift of all – the right for anyone in our country, to be who they want to be”.
Bocoum, M. (2018) ‘As an imam, this is what I think British Muslims need to remember this Ramadan’. [online] 14 May. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/ramadan-start-imam-british-muslim-communities-security-mosque-a8351236.html. [Accessed 17 May 2018].