Islam in the Heart of England and France

The city of Birmingham in the West Midlands, the heart of England, the place where the Industrial Revolution began, the second city of the UK and the eighth-largest in Europe, today is Britain’s most dangerous city. With a large and growing Muslim population, five of its electoral wards have the highest levels of radicalization and terrorism in the country.

In February, French journalist Rachida Samouri published an article in the Parisian daily Le Figaro, in which she recounted her experiences during a visit there. In “Birmingham à l’heure islamiste” (“Birmingham in the Time of Islam”) she describes her unease with the growing dislocation between normative British values and those of the several Islamic enclaves. She mentions the Small Heath quarter, where nearly 95% of the population is Muslim, where little girls wear veils; most of the men wear beards, and women wear jilbabs and niqabs to cover their bodies and faces. Market stalls close for the hours of prayer; the shops display Islamic clothes and the bookshops are all religious. Women she interviewed condemned France as a dictatorship based on secularism (laïcité), which they said they regarded as “a pretext for attacking Muslims”. They also said that they approved of the UK because it allowed them to wear a full veil.

Another young woman, Yasmina, explained that, although she may go out to a club at night, during the day she is forced to wear a veil and an abaya [full body covering]. She then goes on to speak of the extremists:

“In England, they are free to speak. They speak only of prohibitions, they impose on one their rigid vision of Islam but, on the other hand, they listen to no-one, most of all those who disagree with them.”

Speaking of the state schools, Samouri describes “an Islamization of education unthinkable in our [French] secular republic”. Later, she interviews Ali, an 18-year-old of French origin, whose father has become radicalized. Ali talks about his experience of Islamic education:

“There are plenty of private Muslim schools and madrasas in this city. They pretend that they all preach tolerance, love and peace, but that isn’t true. Behind their walls, they force-feed us with repetitive verses of the Qur’an, about hate and intolerance.”

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About OyiaBrown

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