Salman Rushdie was an English novelist of Indian descent. He was educated in the English school system and was a highly regarded writer. Salman’s publication of The Satanic Verses came as a surprise to many Muslims across the world. Despite their sect, sunni or shi’a, Muslims came together in protest. The Ayatullah Rouhullah Khomeini went as far as pronouncing Rushdie an apostate. In other words, the leader of the Iranian revolution said it was okay for Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie.
The Muslims in the U.K. looked at this betrayal of their faith with mixed feelings. A majority were against the writings and the meanings portrayed him Rushdie’s novel. There were several demonstrations against the book including a ritual burning of it. Considered blasphemy, there was an appeal made to apply and ancient British law against it that was applicable to blasphemy against Christianity texts. At the same time, many modernist supported Rushdie’s right to freedom of speech and his ability to write the novel.
The main thing brought out by Salman Rushdie was the need for the British Muslim community to become more politically organized.
Compared to several other countries in Europe, the limitations to Muslim assimilation in the U.K. are few depending on which section of the population that is observed. There are several Muslims that have made it to the upperclass of the U.K. and appear to have assimilated with no obvious difficulties.
The working class however, fields a few more burdens. Many of these are based on the views of multiculturalism, or the lack of acceptance of such. There is still a general distaste for dark skinned individuals by the whites in Britain. To these individuals, they accept the idea that there will be multiple cultures in the U.K., but they do not accept the equality of the individuals. Recently there has been a push, led by Daniele Joly, for “making a place for Muslims in British society.”
The largest problem debated is the one on school. It is here that we see the Muslim communities hesitance to fully assimilate into the Western culture of the U.K. Muslim communities support separation of girls in school, as well as allowing time for prayer, respect for Muslim dress, and halal meat in school meals. The school systems are working with the Muslim communities to meet as many of these accommodations as possible.
Basically, in years past there have been roadblocks provided by the government that prevented the Muslim communities from a smooth road to assimilation. Today, there are more guidelines to promote equality and reduce racism, at least on the government level. Now the communities have to look to move outside their home communities if they want to assimilate.
The Musawah organization gets their name from the word “equality” in Arabic. Based of their name, you can get a basic understanding on what they are are about. More specifically, the Musawah organization is working towards equality within the family.
There are a few key messages I would like to highlight:
– Equality in the family is the foundation for equality in the society. Families in all their multiple forms should be safe and happy spaces, equally empowering for all.
– We use a holistic framework that integrates Islamic teachings, universal human rights, national constitutional guarantees of equality, and the lived realities of women and men.
– We believe that equality and justice in the Muslim family are necessary and possible
Through these key messages we get more of a scope into what the organization is about. It is mostly focused on the Muslim family where there is still a large amount of inequality, but is not limited to that. The musawah organization also works with Islamic teachings instead of against them. The Quran is cited and looked towards for answers which is useful especially to the more traditional families.
I was impressed with the approach that the Musawah organization has taken. It is the first I have heard of an organization starting with the small level problems in the family, most likely because American families are considered fairly equal. Based on the other articles I have read that have pitted the Western culture against Islamic teachings, I find it interesting that they use Islamic teachings to promote their messages.