Muslim Students: taught to complain

A conference of young Muslims played up their victimhood to an audience of political and media luminaries

by Josie Appleton

...The panels boasted a cross section of the political elite: London mayor Ken Livingstone, solicitor general Mike O'Brien, home affairs editors from the Observer and Channel Four, and deputy assistant commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Brian Paddick. Yet all the delegates would talk about was how marginalised they were.

A FOSIS survey found that over 90 per cent of students feel that the way Muslims are presented in the media needs to be changed. 'Why is the media allowed to get away with it?', asked one young man...

The students saw insult everywhere. One young woman said that 'Muslim students are marked down. If I go for a job with a Muslim name, I'm less likely to get that job. When people are political they are demonised.' Many brandished statistics as evidence of victimhood....

These students had a slanted reading of media reports. The press release for the event reported one student's comment that 'my local paper recently had a picture of Muslims praying on the front page, with the headline "Extremism hits our town"'. In the conference discussion, this report transmuted into something more sinister. 'In one paper there was a picture of people praying, and it was labelled as "extreme"', said one woman. 'Wearing a scarf, having a beard, this is seen as extreme. What are you going to do about these images?'

Some media and government figures provided voices of relative reason. Martin Bright from the Observer argued that most of the media had 'bent over backwards' to distinguish Islam from terrorism, devoting column inches to 'understanding Islam' and explaining the true concept of jihad. Immigration minister Tony McNulty pointed out, from bitter personal experience, that the media always looked for faults rather than successes - and in any case, giving everybody a good press wasn't the media's job. He also argued that it wasn't all bad for the Muslim community: 'To resist and not see progress is to belie reality.'

But the students were only talking in terms invented and popularised in the government and media. Their cries of 'Islamophobia' and 'listening to diversity' weren't born in university Islamic societies, but were thought up in the New Labour elite, and spread through institutions like the Home Office and Metropolitan Police. The way to gain the ear of authority today is to talk about your difference and marginalisation...
Muslim organisations are encouraged to stake a claim in terms of their marginalisation - all those government-Muslim advisory boards aim to 'listen to concerns', or report hate crimes. The FOSIS students were savvy about how to play their cards, with young organisers skilfully chairing sessions then knocking off media interviews. One delegate told me that the event had been sold to him as a 'leadership training session'. Young Muslims are being sucked into this way of staking their claim. One FOSIS organiser told me that: 'I don't like to play the victim card. If there is a disagreement, the only way I can convince you is to argue with you, not to put my fists up.'

Young Muslims are left unable to make a proper political argument. In the case of the Iraq war, for example, they argue not that it was wrong but that it hurt their feelings. FOSIS president Wakkas Khan said that the war 'seems to be causing more resentment among young Muslims'. Like a child threatening to have a tantrum, they tell Blair to change his policy to appease them.

In truth, the government and media don't ignore Muslim youth. They are obsessed with listening to their concerns, which is why so many media and government figures turned up at this conference...

Young Muslims can't move for microphones pushed under their noses... to find out what they really think, what is really wrong. This is antithetical to eye-to-eye political engagement. One young man noted: 'I am a passionate supporter of the EU, but nobody calls me up to talk about politics. I only get called up about Muslim youth identity. Next week there's another conference about this.' The more 'listening' conferences, the more grievances will escalate.

These young students seemed bright and keen to get on in the world, but they are being spoiled by a system that sees complaint as a basis for integration. Muslim youth would do well to break out of this poisonous cycle, and stand on their own two feet.

5 Responses to “Muslim Students: taught to complain”

  1. # Anonymous Sunny

    Fosis are a bunch of donkeys  

  2. # Blogger blueslord

    Well, they are just playing their role in the part. They must make us have a lot of pity abour their situation. And so tima elapses while they are preparing for the next assault.
    Very good summary.  

  3. # Blogger jonz

    LOL Sunny.

    What annoys me is the media swarming around the wrong kinds of voices in the Muslim community/youth. Sunny is a good example of someone they should be talking to - even though he's an anti-war lefty!!  

  4. # Anonymous Sunny

    Heh - and proud of it too j0nz! ;)  

  5. # Anonymous sonia

    i do think that portraying oneself as a victim and carrying on and playing that part is silly and unconstructive. ( now that doesn't mean that people shouldn't highlight inequalities..but once that's said, they need to make as much effort as next man.) my personal opinion is always including yourself in one group is a bit like 'othering' another group - and hence has a negative dimension to it. i can understand the social dynamics that lead to this sort of stuff- its not one-sided and results from the interaction of individuals and insitutions - but individuals we have to take responsibility for ourselves and the future..that's true for everyone regardless of minority/majority/colour/race/religion/football club/ whatever political position anyone holds or doesn't hold/any other group-ism you can think of!

    bottom line- "us vs. them" never works just screws things up and people keep trying to get revenge on the 'other' lot. Whether you're with 'us' or 'them' - its the same thing.these are funny constructs to me but clearly are very important to some people..  

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