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LucyGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 11-Jun-15 15:35:55

A clash of cultures? Not so much.

Author Zia Chaudhry is the founder of the Just Your Average Muslim project and has been involved in opening inter-faith dialogue for many years now. Here, he questions whether today's media are too quick to dismiss the everyday co-operation going on all over the country between people of different faiths and what effect this will have on the outlooks of the younger generations.

Zia Chaudhry

A clash of cultures? Not so much.

Posted on: Thu 11-Jun-15 15:35:55


Lead photo

Zia Chaudhry

A few days ago the former chief crown prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service in the north west of England had this to say about radicalisation: "The problem of radicalisation is misunderstood. Some suggest that it is a battle between two ways of life, when it is nothing more than the grooming of the most vulnerable by those who target them."

This seems like common sense, the best advice usually is, but common sense is perhaps by its very nature not glamorous or sensational and, therefore, less likely to attract the public's attention.

We live in an age when the news industry is just another business which needs to sell a product to its consumers. And those charged with the responsibility of selling things know that certain items are much easier to peddle than others. So, as far as the news is concerned, tales of conflict, violence, fear, enemies and threats to our very existence provide an almost guaranteed audience.

Peace and calm hardly make exciting headlines and therefore rarely feature. We may find the occasional light-hearted good news story tagged on at the end of a tale of woe to make ourselves feel a bit better about the world but it is often trifling and insignificant. Do we ever hear stories about communities getting along and helping each other?

These religions have co-existed for centuries during which there have been periods of calm and periods of conflict.

You would be forgiven for thinking that such co-operation must not exist given the scant coverage it merits. But, although we may have to search harder to find it, its significance is immense. I remember not so long ago a story about the Muslim community in Bradford helping raise funds to ensure the survival of a local synagogue. Or the story of a synagogue in the USA which opened its doors to Muslims at the time of their Eid festival when they needed extra space to accommodate the worshippers. Such examples may not make the headlines but are vital to illustrate that there is no clash of civilisations or religions. These religions have co-existed for centuries during which there have been periods of calm and periods of conflict.

The question is not whether faiths can co-exist or whether one faith is inherently violent but, practically, what can we do to make our communities stronger and our youngsters less vulnerable. Of course we must seek out and apprehend those targeting them but we must also do what we can to help prevent them becoming vulnerable in the first place. We need to make them feel that they have a stake in society and the responsibility for this falls on all of us. I have a duty to bring my children up to be decent law-abiding compassionate members of society but my efforts can be undermined by others. The media, the education system and others in positions of authority, whether political or otherwise, need to play their part. And if we all do, the end product of harmonious co-existence will be worth it, glamorous or not.

Zia's book Just Your Average Muslim is published by Grosvenor House and available now from Amazon.

By Zia Chaudhry

Twitter: @JustYAMuslim

soontobe Thu 11-Jun-15 16:37:23

Excellent blog in many ways.

Our church, and group of churches has links with others, as I suspect most do.
As he says, hardly newsworthy or noteworthy, but there nonetheless.

jinglbellsfrocks Thu 11-Jun-15 19:18:49

I don't think for one moment that ordinary people think of Muslims as potential radicalised terrorists. Wherever you go at this time of year particularly, there are Muslim mums and grans raising funds for the local primary school and suchlike, by having a stall cooking and selling Indian finger foods. Very popular they always are too.

I don't think us ordinary mortals think that way.

Maggiemaybe Thu 11-Jun-15 19:46:15

Good people always have to be on their guard for any threat to "harmonious co-existence" though. The Bradford Muslims ensuring the synagogue survived was brilliant. Knowing that the Imam took the synagogue key and kept an eye on the place when the Rabbi was away was heart-warming. Then we got Galloway declaring Bradford an Israeli free zone and emphasising that ordinary Israeli students and tourists should stay away. My favourite memory of Election night is of him getting his marching orders by Bradfordians.

vickya Fri 12-Jun-15 14:25:25

In 1969 I, a Jewish-English girl, married my boyfriend of three years, a Moslem-Syrian, although my family were not in favour of the marriage. He came to the UK to study and work and we were married happily for 26 years and had two daughters and now two grandchildren. We're divorced now but we did better than lots of same-culture couples.

I think in many ways we had more in common than either of us had with native UK people. At the time we didn't think Syria and Israel would ever be at peace but they were for many years. As a child of refugees from Nazi Europe I probably have more sympathy for Syrian refugees than most do.

Ex and I are still in touch as we share grandchildren and daughters. After he re-married I visited quite a few times. We respected each other's families and were able to agree about many things. The radical Moslems are not really representative of Moslems in general. There are few of them and many decent, moderate ones.

Iam64 Fri 12-Jun-15 19:00:17

vickya - I don't want to be patronising so forgive me if the way I express myself isn't 'perfect'. There have been discussions on many gransnet threads about the predominantly white British culture of most posters, I include myself in that. Great to have your comments and I believe you are right about the many things you and your former husband had in common. It's also good to read that you are still in touch as you share children and grandchildren.
I live in a north west, former cotton town where we have a large Pakistani and Indian muslim community. We seem to manage to live harmoniously and learn a lot from each others cultures.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 12-Jun-15 19:40:04

I think we all have a huge amount of sympathy for Syrian, and other, refugees vickya.

granjura Sat 13-Jun-15 11:19:39

Excellent blog indeed. A large part of our family in South Africa, Indonesia, Australia and Tasmania are Muslims- and sharing our roots has certainly enriched our lives. They are actually very different depending on location- some wear a scarf or pill box, some do not- but all are respectful of us as non-Muslims, and all are well integrated in their communities- and not a terrorist or extremist in sight either...