British Muslims split along sectarian lines over Arab uprisings

HA Hellyer writes: For more than a decade I have been studying the community dynamics of Muslim Britons. Their views on the Arab uprisings are intriguing: sectarian fears, disappointments, scepticism, hope and ethnic concerns are all there.

Muslim British community activists have not ignored the Arab uprisings. They could not have. The Arab world is at the heart of the Muslim world.

True, most Muslim Britons do not have Arab ethnic backgrounds, and most have evolved to become essentially “post-Islamist”. Post-Islamism, in this sense, means their initial impetus for engaging in political life was from an emotional attachment to Islamism, but they have a secular rationale in the public arena that is not dissimilar from British social conservatives. But many of them have roots in Islamist community organisations and links, if only symbolic ones, to the Muslim Brotherhood.

So even the many Muslim Britons who are post-Islamist are deeply interested in the Islamist project in power, and in the challenges that project finds in Egypt and Tunisia, in particular.

There are, of course, differences of opinion. Many ordinary Muslim Britons of Pakistani descent, for example, now consider Pakistani politics to be utterly hopeless – and instinctively assume that the political state of the Arab world is likewise impervious to constructive change.

In activist circles, however, there is something of a quandary. On the one hand, many Muslim British activists came to political maturity in the anti-war movement, and their stances on the Arab uprisings are imbued by that experience, and by left, and far-left, opinions.

After the Nato intervention in Libya, I heard an interesting interview illustrating that tension. An activist intellectual was talking to a representative of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood who had lived in the UK for many years. The activist, as a staunch supporter of the anti-war movement, was opposed to the intervention. But the Libyan was very much in support of it.

That activist was not alone; his opinion is common among many Muslim British activists, who have come to be sceptical of any western engagement in the Muslim world. [Continue reading…]

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