BBC Two’s latest attempt to bring out the Muslims (as it were) and show the nation how “like us” a group of homogeneous people are was successful in what it set out to achieve; to allow the growth of fringe ideas within the Muslim community i.e from Muslim “homosexuals” and “liberal aka cultural” Muslims to move to a more center ground of views held among Muslims, more importantly among the third/fourth generation of Muslims living the UK. Rather than trying to shed new light on the positives of Muslims living with the indigenous British population.
Putting aside all the common arguments which cultural Muslims present where are to completely integrate into society to the extent where someone would be willing to go out for drinks, clubbing and have occasional intimate relations with multiple partners disregarding what the Islamic views are, what was more subtle in its attempt was to show to the growing Muslim population in the UK that it’s okay to chill (in the manner depicted in the programme – club scene), to be more accepting towards new ideas, ideas which were traditionally rejected as blasphemous and seen clearly as stepping over the boundaries. #MuslimsLikeUs is the latest attempt in a long line of controversial programmes which carry ulterior motives. For instance to bring about a reformation of Islam from within by making younger generation of muslims willing to say and do things which in other situations would have be shunned immediately, a de-radicalization attempt have you will. Just like cultural Christians and Jewish followers have done, the focus is now on the Muslim community to create a discussion by cultural muslims to help rid itself of tyrannical limits of religion forced on everyone and to try to limit religious aspects of being Muslim only to the occasion of marriage, birth and funeral. To break away from the centuries old religious traditions and become more free with oneself. This was clearly represented by the women participants (no I am not trying to blame all the problems on them) in the show who were always trying to deliberately manipulate some of the conservative participants. For example, they continually cut into conversations or forcibly made the seemingly traditional muslims in the group shut up for being too extreme.
Maintaining appropriate barriers and not engaging in unnecessary relations between genders, lowering gazes, speaking about the roles and responsibilities of the Muslim man and woman, wearing of the hijab, rejection of homosexuals and other traditional Islamic values (minus Abdul Haq’s views on ISIS, killing etc) are authentic Islamic beliefs which were synonymous with all the monotheistic religions, and for many centuries Muslims of old and new lived by these and taught their young about them.
But the show was an occasion to finally throw these values into the bin and lead the young Muslim population embrace a wider socially “acceptable” ideas which have grown in recent times i.e everyone should be free to wear, whatever they like, skin-tight clothes, little amount of clothes or no clothes at all, religious homosexuals (ironic i know), liberal views on life, death, that good and evil, heaven and hell are just light and dark, nothing more. Growing up in the nineties I and those from my era and before hardly knew what a homosexual was, let alone a “Muslim” one. I saw Muslims who practiced the sacred Islamic laws in ernst with full devotion and authenticity, where women and men addressed each other when required with respect and nobility, where family values and tradition was an heirloom passed down from one generation to another. Not a version of Islam where someone would pray but also go for a night to karaoke and dance with anyone in a club! Television programmes like #MuslimsLikeUs have brought unheard discussions into the Muslim foray, exemplified by Fehran (GAY “muslim”) in the group when he openly announces at one point when they are round the dinner table that he is what he is. – Then the camera pans out showing the reaction and views of the rest. All of them except Abdul Haq felt utterly disgusted and left the gathering whilst others began to accept, and some were trying to learn to accept him for what he said.
These instances and brazen programmes leave a train of thought in the minds of the audience, a seed which grows these thoughts and ideas which were once alien. These secular concepts where the flesh leads the way and the mind follows announces to people maybe it’s time to break the mold of traditionally accepted ideas and what were not.
So that eventually when someone hears ‘let’s go partying at Harry’s after evening prayers or go for a few drinks’ no one feels the need to be shocked or display any uneasiness at the bizarre request. Or, when someone hears ‘fehran and bashir make a good couple’ no one from the Muslim community feels repulsed at the idea. The point being there is a clear attempt in some cases to draw the Muslims into the same modernist ideologies afflicting the other religions which have been successful in order to discredit any person who have still hold onto the conservative values. It is an attempt to make clear that the old ideas of conservatism is the new idea of extremism and the new idea of liberalism is in fact the norm and common sense approach to life; I felt as though this was shaped in the form Abdul Haq who is the conservative muslim and the neo-conservatives were in the form of the liberal women in the show. Although Abdul Haq had some extreme views on killing, ISIS, and other similar things, his general view on other aspects (apart from ISIS related issues) are that different from conservative views of all mainstream Muslims. We all say homosexuals are not allowed in Islam, women should wear the hijab, men and women should lead by example in their lives, not go out to clubs, free open mixing between genders, that hell and heaven actually exist, etc. His approach may have been harsh and lacked wisdom but beliefs are no different. This was an occasion to show anyone with these views are extreme fundamentalists and anyone with the views like the women on the two-part programme are the moderates, out with the old and in with the new. my post on #MuslimsLikeUs was not an actual scene by scene autopsy of who said what and what happened in the BBC programme but the subtle, in-between-the-lines message it was carrying.