In 2002 Pnina Werbner recorded the micro-politics of first generation Muslims in Manchester, noting how these relatively new settlers drew upon ethnicity and race relations to create social capital and establish themselves within local political systems, whilst also creating the infrastructure necessary to develop their communities. Werbner notes that the settlers ‘felt sufficiently secure in Britain to express their political opinions, however contentious’ (p. 1). Much has taken place over the last fifteen years, and the work under review develops our understanding, building admirably on Werbner’s beginnings. The book is an edited collection containing twelve essays written by a number of scholars ranging across several disciplines including political science, sociology, education and international relations. Unsurprisingly, the dominant discipline is political science. The majority of contributors are themselves Muslims from a variety of ethnic backgrounds and include community activists. The book is formed of four parts: voting and elections, social movements, exploring the political amongst young people, and finally representation. Since Werbner’s time, the Muslim presence in Britain has increased, diversified and become the subject of intense scrutiny from the media, policy makers, intelligence services and right wing critics. The authors of this work are aware of the securitization and politicization of Muslims and, although demonstrating how these forces have influenced political participation, they are also aware of the need to address the involvement of Muslims, both nationally and locally, in British political processes that have nothing to do with the more sensational events of contemporary history, but are rooted in the everyday establishment of the community in British life. This is one of the major strengths of the collection. For example, in the first section, the opening contribution by Parveen Akhtar explores the ‘paradox of patronage politics’ and argues that extended kinship networks (birāderī) amongst Pakistani origin Muslims influences voting patterns as it creates bloc votes exchanged for political patronage. The downside of this system is that it disadvantages women and younger voters while it has provided access to policy makers. However, it is clear in Ekaterina Kolpinskaya’s article examining the behaviour of ‘Muslims in Parliament: a myth of futility’ that Muslim parliamentarians are engaged in committee and other activities that transcend ethnic politics or even Muslim global concerns. A similar conclusion is portrayed in Erin Tatari and Ahmet Yukleyen’s article on the political behaviour of Muslim councillors in London boroughs. Jamal Sherif, Anas Altikriti and Ismail Patel also chart Muslim electoral participation and assess the positive role of the MCB (Muslim Council of Britain) in encouraging active participation in mainstream politics. They note the increasing number of MPs and, particularly, point to the representation by younger British Muslim MPs concerned with social justice and global foreign policy. Siobhan McAndrew and Maria Sobolewska demonstrate that even the often demonized mosques and their religious leaders can be positive role models for civic participation. The problem here is that so little research has been carried out in the UK compared to the USA, but British Muslims tend to be less well educated comparatively than their North American counterparts. The authors conclude that religion is not the key factor in civic participation but rather a sense of grievance arising from alienation, social deprivation or racism. This can bring many to engagement but can also cause a sense that such engagement is futile. Several of the chapters engage in various ways with the role of the MCB, particularly their relationship with the Labour administrations of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. In addition to the chapter mentioned above, Khadijah Elshayyal shows their significance in her article ‘From crisis to opportunity—9/11 and the progress of British Muslim political engagement’, and Ekaterina Braginskaya explores their contribution in a case study titled ‘The Muslim Council of Britain and its engagement with the British political establishment’. The book’s second section focuses on a number of case studies, for example, women (Khursheed Wadia), environmentalism (Rosemary Hancock) and the anti-war movement (Timothy Peace), all showing the rich vein of Muslim participation in the civic life of the nation. In the third section the attention is on young people, showing how they utilize social media for political engagement (Brooke Storer Church), whilst Asma Mustafa challenges the notion that all Muslims agree on the role of Islam in politics, have similar attitudes towards British foreign policy and have deeper loyalties to their religion than the nation state. She concludes that British Muslims perceive their citizenship in a variety of ways, and the book would appear to argue overall that younger British Muslims are converging with the norms of younger British citizens when it comes to active participation or voting patterns. Overall, the articles included demonstrate that the major concerns of young (under 30) Muslims in this country would appear to have shifted to citizenship as opposed to ethnicity. Islam provides a moral compass for discerning the causes of concern, as opposed to its previous role in defining the differences between religion and ethnic customs, or the older concerns of the primary settlers to establish ethnic communities in British cities. © The Author (2017). Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: email@example.com
Journal of Islamic Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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