Last month, the independent regulator for the newspaper and magazine industry found that The Sun newspaper had breached Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice. The newspaper published an article on its front page with the headline ‘1 in 5 Brit Muslims’ sympathy for jihadis’ after conducting a survey of British Muslims. The headline generated more than 3,000 complaints which were submitted to the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO). The Times was also found guilty of breaching Clause 1 of the Editors’ Code for reporting the results of the The Sun’s poll as fact.
The success of the complaint against The Sun newspaper was the result of Muslims coming together to call out Islamophobia and is an example of active Muslim citizenship. It shows what influence the Muslim community living in Britain which the Government estimates is around 190,000 can have if it rallies together to channel its frustrations and grievances be it about domestic and / or foreign policy.
Islam places a responsibility on Muslims to be active citizens of the society in which they live and so Muslims must rise to this responsibility and be supported in doing so. They are part of this society and have a lot to contribute towards British social activism and social community cohesion. Marginalising Muslim youth and shutting down debate about the issues important to them is not conducive to tackling the threat of extremism and radicalisation. In order to make Muslim youth feel a part of civic, social and political life they must be encouraged to share their views and at the same time they must feel as though they have been heard. Part of living in a democracy is the ability to tell, ask, speak and lobby about the issues you feel strongly about.
This is something we at JAN Trust have emphasised since we were founded in 1989 and which we communicate to the women and young people we work with through the training, services and community projects we run.
In our work with women and young people, which includes many from different Muslim communities, we raise awareness of the ways in which they, as citizens of the UK, can air their views and make a change be it locally, nationally and / or internationally. These include advocacy, lobbying and campaigning. All of this is designed to empower them to make their voice heard in the society in which they live. In the communities with which we have worked, we have had Muslim mothers bake cakes to raise money for charities, run marathons to raise money for a number of causes, and write letters to the Prime Minister. Active Muslim citizenship is happening but it must be strengthened.