Why have many Muslims in the UK resisted full integration into British society?
The British government has been trying to address this issue for the last decade, mostly by using the discourse of "multiculturalism." According to that line of thinking, solutions to alienation among Muslims include community outreach and empowerment programs, funding for youth groups and social networking sites, and large inter-faith conferences.
British Muslim leaders have largely supported these initiatives and helped generate the impression, at least in government circles, that everyone is working together to separate rogue extremists from the religious establishment. But Monday night, the Dispatches documentary series revealed a very different picture of what goes on in some of the UK's flagship Muslim institutions.
The filmmakers went undercover at the London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, one of the most prestigious in the country, to show the discord between what imams preached outwardly to the public and what they preached to their faithful in private. Many exalted interfaith dialogue to the government and mainstream media, but turned to teaching radical and isolationist doctrines once behind closed doors.
According to the documentary, they teach the faithful that God orders them to kill homosexuals and apostates; that they should curtail the freedom of women; and that they should view non-Muslims in a derogatory manner and limit contact with them. Many of these leaders are trained in Saudi Arabian Wahhabi philosophy, and use Saudi-approved textbooks and pedagogical materials to teach young students.
When the first installment of the series ran in January 2007 (Monday's program was an update), it generated a Rev. Jeremiah Wright-style controversy. Liberals were shocked; right-wingers were fearful of the continuing influx of Muslim immigrants. The government redoubled its efforts at community outreach.
Some Muslims accused the filmmakers of showing a distorted view of the Muslim population, portraying the views of those who attend mosques as the views of all of Britain's two million Muslims. Others, especially those who appeared in the film, said their words had been taken out of context and selectively edited. The complaints led to a police investigation into the program, but ended up with the police paying libel damages to the film company.
Still, the controversy missed the point of the filmmakers' intentions, which were not only to highlight certain Muslim leaders' hypocrisy, but also to expose Saudi Arabia's role in disseminating hate-filled propaganda.
Saudi Arabia's education and religious outreach programs, whether in the form of textbooks, library endowments or madrassah construction, constitute one of the largest aid programs in the world - roughly $4 billion a year - and introduces hundreds of millions of schoolchildren to radical Wahhabi doctrine via Saudi Embassy-run schools and educational programs in mosques.
Here's my question: Let's take a step back from the UK debate and look at the larger, hegemonic picture presented by Saudi ambitions. Why are the British government and others so uniformly focused on community outreach here, when the message being spread through these mosques has a very clear source?