Who is Salman Rushdie? What is the significance of his novel, The Satanic Verses, with respect to Muslims in the U.K?
Salman Rushdie was born in British India and is a controversial novelist, who in 1988, wrote The Satanic Verses. His novel caused immediate controversy because of the way that Muhammad is depicted. While his novel was not non-fiction, it was still seen as very offensive to Muslims around the world. A year later, Rushdie published a newspaper column explaining that the novel was not meant to be offensive, but was supposed to show that Muhammad too was a human man. In Iran, a fatwa or legal opinion was offered by the leader of Iran that called for Rushdie’s execution. The UK protected Rushdie, but in turn was forced to break diplomatic relations with Iran over the controversy. This sparked other violent controversies around the world, where bookstores were firebombed.
What limitations to Muslim assimilation in the U.K. exist? Do all British Muslims want to assimilate?
A 2016 ICM survey interviewed 1081 Muslim adults for a British documentary and the results relate very much to the topic of assimilation. Here are some of the statistics that were found:
- 31% of respondents said that Muslim British men should be able to have more than one wife
- 52% believe homosexuality should be illegal
- 23% support replacing British law in some areas with Shariah law
- 7% support the support the establishment of an islamic state
- 4% sympathize with the idea of committing terrorism “as a form of political protest.”
While 4% and 7% are small numbers, if these numbers were generalized, this could include 100,000 to 200,000 British Muslims. While the poll has been questioned for its choice of respondents from mostly poor neighborhoods who don’t necessarily speak for all of the British Muslims, it has definitely raised eyebrows for many British people who believe there may be a “state within a state” in the UK in regards to the Muslim population, which is very segregated. Making English learning a visa requirement is a consideration the UK may make because according to former PM David Cameron, it will allow 190,000 Muslim women who speak little English to participate more fully in British life.
From the above data, I think it is safe to say that we can clearly see the rifts in society. The article also mentioned that Muslim communities were trying to work towards creating public schools that were specifically for Muslim youth, which the government wouldn’t allow. It seems that there is definitely a portion of British Muslims that do not wish to assimilate into British culture and society. If the UK finds this threatening, which in many cases it seems like they do, then further measures will further be taken to try and bring more Muslims, especially Muslim women in British culture.
What is the musawah organization about? What does musawah mean? What are some of their key messages? What is your assessment of this association?
Musawah, which means equality in Arabic, began in 2009 in Malaysia as a global movement for equality and justice in the Muslim family. This movement is lead by Muslim women and their goal is to work to advance women in Muslim contexts so that the family overall can move forward.
In order to do this, the movement is multifaceted and takes on numerous roles. First, there is a knowledge component, in which they conduct research and then share their results. Examples were research projects on the concepts of qiwamah (male authority over women) and wilayah (male guardianship of women and children) that includes four main components. They look at these traditional ideas through feminist and human rights lenses and are able to come up with more contemporary understandings. I think this is a really cool aspect of this organization. Often times, when you grow up in a religious household, no matter what the religion is, you are taught a specific way of looking at certain rules and practices. You aren’t taught to question this logic, so a research project that does just that seems really powerful. I think applying religion to contemporary times is the best way to be able to bridge a gap between older and newer generations and their connection to the same religion.
The organization works to give voices to Muslim women who are able to take courses and learn from other women who are in the same situation as them. Musaweh also works to promote international advocacy for women’s voices to be heard around the world. They have created a network of women are are constantly spreading their messages around to other women in order to create more visibility.