Why migrate to another country and then stay away from its people?
In an effort to preserve their identity many migrants, particularly those from Pakistan, keep themselves and their children aloof from the wider community in their adoptive country.
‘I am so grateful our mother lives with us here,’ said one lady whose family had migrated to the US a few years ago. ‘Ammi neither lets my children go anywhere after school, nor does she let their friends visit them at home.’
‘By the grace of God,’ declared anotherPakistani expatriate, this time in Australia, ‘we have never visited any kafir nor has any kafir visited us’, referring to all non-Muslim Australians out there. The speaker and her family had migrated to Australia several years ago, and were happily availing all facilities afforded to Australian citizens.
Far from preserving their identity such people remain eternally insecure, neither part of their adoptive country, nor of the country they have left behind. On the other side of the fence, their aloofness creates some very justified resentment. Perhaps it’s time for integration seeing that segregation has so patently failed to work.
After the acts of terror in Paris and California, Muslims and mosques have been threatened and in many cases attacked all over the world. Baroness Warsi, a British lawyer, politician and conservative parliamentarian of Pakistani descent, has suggested that mosques should be constructed to look more like other British buildings.
Integration is defined as fusing, meshing, blending into a larger whole. This could be in an emotional sense, or in the physical, which is what Baroness Warsi’s suggestion sounds like. A box-like brick structure with a sloping roof and no minarets that still houses Muslims who shun the influence of British society is a cosmetic solution that hardly solves any problems. What is needed is a stress on the values shared by different societies. There are plenty of these, more affinities in fact than differences.
Most Muslims, like most Christians, Jews or anyone else, are law abiding, peace loving citizens of wherever they happen to live. We donate to charity, we help our neighbours, we celebrate festivals, we cook interesting food, educate our children, and try not to lie, steal or hurt anyone. These are the things that should be stressed in a bid for integration. A group that is seen to participate in such values together with everyone else becomes part of the community and is better liked and understood. What they worship or wear becomes less important to others then.
As much as the Muslim public, its clergy (which isn’t really supposed to exist) needs reformation — education for a start. Seeing that it exists, it wouldn’t hurt for the clergy to study the strengths and weaknesses of its counterparts in other religions.
The current head of the Catholic church Pope Francis, probably the most popular Pope in the history of Catholicism, is known for humility, charity, and for his willingness to reach out to other faiths. He is also more prone to stress on Divine Mercy rather than punishment. He has chosen for himself a less opulent lifestyle than previous Popes. Rather than the papal palace he lives in a modest suite of rooms in the Vatican guesthouse, and wears an iron cross rather than the gold one worn by Popes before him. For his first appearance as a Pope he wore a plain white cassock rather than the elaborate red ermine trimmed one normally worn on the occasion, and on the night he was elected he went back to his hotel with other cardinals in a cab, rather than to his palace in solitary splendour in the papal car. Pope Francis has initiated dialogue with other faiths including the Islamic community as well as non-believers. His election has been welcomed by the Muslim world which had a strained relationship with his predecessor.
Muslim clergy and scholars for the most part are an unwelcoming lot who label any kind of lighthearted enjoyment as haram. In their sermons, too, they lay stress on what is forbidden and incurs punishment. It is their indoctrination of divisiveness and mistaken ideas of jihadthat is responsible for much of the violent extremism currently prevalent in the Muslim world. In a letter to every mosque in the UK earlier this year, the British government urged Muslim leaders to force out extremists so as to ‘protect young men and women from being radicalised’. In a letter to a newspaper a resident of DHA in Karachi mentioned that theImam at a local mosque praised the Taliban, ISIS and Al-Qaeda, and was drumming up support for these organizations in his sermons.
Muslims everywhere need to get organised and involved in community work. They need to educate themselves, strive for rationality in religion, and participate in academia, politics and legislation. They need to be part of community groups, corporations, public and government organisations, strive for a presence in whichever country they live in. It is only when children have Muslim friends, adults have Muslim colleagues, friends who attend their parties, who come along to the Friday evening at the pub (choosing to drink orange juice… nobody insists on anyone drinking alcohol except in Pakistan) that the Muslims in society will become part of it. It is only then that locals and immigrants will understand the issues that face the other. This understanding will inevitably reflect in foreign and internal policies on either side, going a long way towards creating a better world; there can be little doubt about that.