I had thought of writing a detailed review of Professor Abdal Hakim Murad’s new book Travelling Home, Essays on Islam in Europe which he kindly sent me recently. Instead I felt moved to pen this heartfelt cri de cœur. Be advised: I say some rather rude things about Muslims in the UK. Nevertheless I have sent it to him.
I’m reading with fascination your new book.
Your whole approach to Islam and our English and European history is rich in its analysis and credible in offering solutions.
But something bothers me about it. Hard to put my finger on what it is.
Perhaps something along these lines:
I don’t know any Muslims who express your vision of an Islam inculturated and at home here in England and who understand the nature of the task ahead.
Most Muslims of my acquaintance turn a blind eye to violent extremists in our midst and condemn those (like me) who speak out publicly of the real dangers. No Englishman would think twice about taking action.
Most Muslims I know seem to dislike this country, its traditions, history, and culture, and know nothing of its literature, art, and music. You mention in passing George Herbert’s poetry (p. 67) as if it was the most natural thing in the world. For you – and me – it is! But no Muslim I know will have ever heard of him. If I tried to explain why he is a much loved poet I would meet with incomprehension. A 17th century priest of the Church of England who wrote metaphysical poetry? You have to be joking! Yet he is part of our cultural DNA. So is John Donne, John Milton, TS Eliot…
Muslims in the main come across as complete philistines. Yet you are different. The reason is obvious: you are an educated (white) Englishman with a long ancestry in Cambridge (the city and university). An outlier from the herd. In my own way I am similar.
So I remain pessimistic about an English expression of Islam. I would guess that 99% of Muslims (ie nearly all the non-revert Muslims) show no interest in this nor have the faintest idea of what it would look like. I wish it were otherwise!
Sorry to end on such a negative note!