Book Read: Tablighi Jamaat and the Quest for the London Mega Mosque

Book Read: Tablighi Jamaat and the Quest for the London Mega Mosque

The book charts the attempts of Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), to build Europe’s biggest mosque in London – the so-called Mega Mosque. The story of TJ and its struggle to build the mosque is one of learning to navigate a shifting sociopolitical context. The book illustrates how the TJ are best understood through comprehending both the context from which they emerged as well as the context in which they are currently found, whilst also detailing how the wider group is structured.

After providing a historical view of Muslim communities in Britain, the book explores how TJ engagement works at a practical level and emphasises catalysts in TJ’s process of adaptation. The use of two Public Inquiries display how TJ was caught in a juxtaposition between adapting to rules of a liberal state and the belief that the only way to achieve one’s goals is through living a theologically authentic way of life.

The book addresses the wider issues over the role of religion, and specifically Islam, in Western liberal democracies.  At the same time, the place of religion in liberal democracies generates profound questions over the moral basis and legitimacy of liberalism.

Book Read: The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800 by Humayun Ansari

Book Read: The Infidel Within: Muslims in Britain since 1800 by Humayun Ansari

The striking diversity is the most distinctive feature of the Muslim community in Britain. Yet, as Humayun Ansari argues in this mammoth history of Islam in Britain, British Muslims have consistently been portrayed as denizens of a monolithic and undifferentiated world, ill at ease with modernity, secularism and democracy. Through painstaking research, and an inspired exploration of the issues of identity, Ansari sets out to dispel this absurd, but widely held, myth.

The Infidel Within demonstrates that Muslims are as loyal to the Crown as any other community. The majority population, suggests Ansari, must appreciate that Islam is an integral part of British history and a living reality in Britain. Instead of focusing on a group of “hegemonic” extremists, we should provide support and space for alternative interpretations to blossom.

Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox

Religion in Britain: A Persistent Paradox

Professor Davie’s long-awaited second edition to her original 1994 book, Religion in Britain since 1945, should not be a disappointment to those who believe that religion still continues to play an important role in the fabric of the United Kingdom, despite the onward march of secularisation. The central theme of the original book was the contradiction between religious belief and practice which manifested itself in the subtitle of Believing without Belonging, a theme which was quickly taken up during subsequent sociological discussions or studies into religion. This follow-up book deals with another central paradox; that half way into the second decade of the twenty-first century, and despite diminishing church attendances and increasing secularism within mainstream society, religion still commands a growing influence in public life and debate, hence the Persistent Paradox of the title.

Gang Leader for a Day

Gang Leader for a Day

Some time ago The Economist ran an article about the market for drugs, describing the sophisticated marketing strategies adopted by sellers – entry level products, loss leaders, special offers – in order to reel in the punters. Only at the end did the piece carry the reminder that oh, by the way, all of this is also illegal.

In a reversal of the process, Sudhir Venkatesh presents a largely jargon-free account of his ten-year sociological study of urban poverty, and particularly the attendant gang culture, in the projects of Chicago.

Moving to the city as a graduate student in 1989, Venkatesh wants quickly to make a name for himself and to that end walks unknowingly into the territory of the Black Kings (BKs) to ask the folks therein what it’s like to be black and poor. Initially suspected of being a spy for a rival gang and incarcerated overnight on a urine-soaked stairwell by the BKs, Venkatesh soon becomes in quick succession a source of entertainment for, potential immortaliser of, and most unlikely confidant to gang leader JT.

JT himself is both compellingly charismatic and chillingly brutal in the disposition of his duties as a Director of the local BK enterprise. Venkatesh finds himself constantly conflicted by the activities he witnesses, fascinated by JT’s leadership abilities and nauseated by some of his methods. On the pivotal Day for which Venkatesh becomes “Gang Leader” he is given an intimate view of JT’s day as he resolves dilemmas many managers will recognise – agency problems, motivational issues, supplier relationships – sometimes in ways most of us as managers don’t (often, at least!) resort to.

Here is a short background video:

Slim’s Table – Race, respectability and masculinity

Slim’s Table – Race, respectability and masculinity

Silence and ignorance are among the greatest enemies of America’s minorities. They work like this: Isolate a people in a part of town that the majority never has business in; create a history in which these minorities have played no significant role; portray these people in the media as halfway believable stereotypes. And if somebody gets loud and goes to court or, better yet, brings his dissatisfaction to the streets, you get a camera out there and show the most negative side of people’s reaction to being left out of things. You have pictures of radicals and rioters who seem to threaten the fabric of society. The real citizens are ignored. Nothing is known and nobody cares–it’s a social model of Freud’s repressed unconscious.

This is only part of the message of Mitchell Duneier’s “Slim’s Table.” This l book is about a loose-knit group of older, working-class black bachelors who spend a significant amount of their time in each other’s company at a restaurant called Valois near the University of Chicago. These men are given voice in Duneier’s book in a setting that is alien to most middle-class Americans. The finest moments of this lucid book are when Duneier allows the men at Slim’s table to speak for themselves. You hear opinions on the state of morality in their world. You get to know these men and understand them in a way that no newspaper article or television special could encompass. You might even be drawn to the society of Valois at Slim’s table.

Black and white come together at Valois because of its geographic placement in Chicago, and because it serves up real food. You can see them preparing meals back in the kitchen. It’s a haven for men who remember the days before Wendy’s and Burger King.

The book tries to get you into the lives of these men so that you can see they are men. It’s a funny thing that a book needs to be written to prove humanity to humans. But that’s just what this book does–and it is sorely needed.

A man at Valois complains bitterly about how the university warns its students to steer clear of men like him, the black residents of the ghetto surrounding the school. He doesn’t want to be seen as a criminal or a pervert. Who would? These men want to walk down the streets and say, “Hi, how are you today?” without being shunned and instilling fear.

Duneier makes the argument that men like these working-class ghetto dwellers have much to offer but are ignored for more upscale role models. What’s so great about the middle class and sports heroes? Does monetary success make a more deeply moral and thoughtful person? A millionaire basketball player drives a Jaguar and boasts of his sexual exploits; is that who our children should pattern themselves after?

Advice for those starting University

Advice for those starting University

Starting University? This might help

Recently, I had been asked to share some advice for people going University. For someone who has been through university life (and is in many ways still  a part of it) I wanted to use this as an opportunity to reflect on my own experiences and, hopefully, inspire you. I’ll keep this short.

When you think about University, its a very short episode in your life. But it can be the most critical. It can alter the trajectory of your life in many ways.

The first thing I would suggest you do is befriend someone who can act as mentor or role model. You might already have someone from back home, thats fine. Look for qualities like piety, sincerity, hard work, drive, ambition and so forth. Once you have someone, keep in touch with them regularly and let them how you are getting along. You are bound to come up against challenges so use them as someone you can go to. For me, it was my teachers I studied Islamic knowledge with before coming to University. I am glad I did this, for it kept me focused on what my whole journey is all about. Not to mention steering me away from all the unwanted distractions I was sure to regret later on.

Secondly, excel at whatever you are studying. Try and be the best student in the class. Use your time wisely and engage critically with your learning. Alongside this, its very important that your intention is not simply to land a “career” and makes lots of money – you will never find contentment if you do this. Believe me. Make your intention more broader, more noble, more fulfilling – you want to make a living AND you want to serve humanity, serve your Ummah, to act as a role model for the next generation of youngsters and so forth.

Finally, remember the friendships you forge at University will last you a lifetime. So choose your friends carefully. Many of the people that I met at University are still some of most honest, inspirational and sincere people around. They’ve gone on to achieve great things and I have gone on to meet many of them on my travels.

I pray that you are all blessed and achieve all that which is in your best interest. May you all become the coolness for your parents eyes.

Hāroon Ibn Ebrāhīm Sidāt

Child Brides? Really? Since when did we become superior?

Child Brides? Really? Since when did we become superior?

Br. Daniel Haqiqatjou makes some very interesting observations about a recent Washington Post article of ‘child brides’ in Bangladesh.

This is what he writes:

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Spare me the sad bride pictures, Washington Post
Comparing “child marriage” in countries like Bangladesh to marriage in the US or Western Europe — where the average age of marriage is in the late 20s and early 30s — is comparing apples and oranges. This article is at pains to portray 14, 15, and 16 year olds as innocent little children forced into an institution against their will. The pertinent comparison to make is with Western 14, 15, and 16 years olds, who, due to circumstance, are sexualized by peer pressure, the influence of pop culture, fashion, sex education, and so on. Look at the pressure “sexting” culture puts on children and how the internet and cell phone technology have dramatically changed youth sexuality in the West.
It is now very common for 12 and 13 years olds to be sexually active, and that is not see as a problem here in the West. Rather than teach abstinence, educators have decided that elementary and middle school children need to learn about “safe sex.” There is nothing objectionable for two teens under 18 to have sex (with protection), to pass around naked pictures of themselves through snapchat (as long as it’s only other teens seeing the pictures,) etc. In fact, it’s healthy, empowering, and all but encouraged by parents, schools, and society at large. But if a 15 year old gets married in Bangladesh, that is a “heartbreaking,” “infuriating” violation of a girl’s dignity.
So the problem can’t be that teen brides are “sexualized.”
If the problem is that getting married at a young age hinders a teen’s education, that is also something that can be said about sexually active teens here in the West. How much time, mental energy, and resources are spent by our children participating in all these cultural practices revolving around dating, hooking up, sexting, prom, and on and on? Again, no one thinks of any of that in terms of opportunity cost vis-a-vis education.
Finally, if the problem is about coercion and consent and that these teen brides really don’t want to get married, I would simply argue, as I have done elsewhere, that coercion is a subjective and context-dependent concept. I am sure that nowadays there are many brides in countries like Bangladesh that truly do feel miserable and coerced to have to get married at 15. But these feelings do not arise in a vacuum. They arise in context of a society that has, through the influence of satellite TV and internet, adopted Western cultural norms, norms that portray being a teenager as a time for casual dating, boyfriend/girlfriend relations, and so on. If you grow up thinking that that is what it means to be normal, free, and liberated, then of course you will have to be coerced to follow a path that diverges from that model. But absent that context, what is inherently wrong with getting married young? What exactly is it that makes contemporary Western norms superior? Ironically, it is precisely that context of casual sex being imported from Western sources that is scaring traditional families into wanting their children, and especially their daughters, married at a young age, whereas before, there may have been more of an allowance for education.
Point being, this is a complex issue but the Washington Post prefers to push a highly ethnocentric, simplistic narrative punctuated with manipulative pictures of one particular bride’s wedding. It is telling that the report includes no actual quote from the bride herself or any other Bangladeshi bride. Everything we get is filtered through the perspective and ideological bias of one Western photographer.
Also, to be perfectly clear, I am not defending all the cultural practices surrounding marriage in Bangladesh or wherever else. For example, forcing anyone to get married against her will is certainly something contrary to Islamic law. My point with this post is to highlight some of the double standards and unfair caricaturing Western media engages in in their portrayal of cultures they believe to be inferior.…/the-saddest-bride-i-have-e…/

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