At a recent meeting of a borough-level alliance of an umbrella group in Eastern London, attendees were lamenting the decline of community influence by the Muslim community, and how terrorism and international events are influencing local engagement.
This particular alliance was founded in 1981 and worked for simple Muslim community issues such as cemetery blocks, funerals, mosque parking etc. It had managed to keep almost all groups and mosques under a common agenda. It won the cemetery issue with local authorities in 1989 and lobbied unsuccessfully for a borough-level community centre in 2001 and changes to Coroner’s laws — the year in which things changed for the worse.
Terrorism and wars waged on Muslim countries by UK contributed to a feeling of being outsiders when dealing with Town Hall. Suspicion of being informants with intelligence agencies increased mistrust and unity. Finally, every one agreed tat the Prevent funding to different Muslim groups who had no ties to local communities was the last straw.They are planning to restart some activities, but are finding it increasingly difficult with aging founding members and disaffected youth.
One member opines, ‘Perhaps the rapid increase in the numbers of Muslims in this area means that we are now a major part of the local community and do not need to have to organise and try hard to make our voices heard’. It is a thought, but most present disagree — the reality is that Muslim community relations with the local communities in the UK are strained and there is little hope for a way back. There is still a need for community centres, counselling and helping members and grass-roots organising on common issues.
However, the world has changed.