SOCIAL AFFAIRS UNIT £16.99 (236pp) (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897

From Rushdie to 7/7, by Anthony McRoy

Extremely wrong about British Muslims

What motivated the young Muslim bombers of 7 July 2005? For a viable answer, argues Anthony McRoy, we must look towards the idea of the ummah, the global Muslim community. It is the primary community to which Muslims in Britain belong; and the principal loyalty of their second and third generations. They distinguish themselves from the rest of the population by their "scriptural" membership of a religious community on whose behalf they are ready to fight and die.

This is McRoy's basic thesis. It is the concept of the ummah, he argues, that led young British Muslims to be concerned about Palestine, Bosnia the Gulf War and Iraq. They see the ummah as an oppressed community, and its suffering as their own. It is this idea of oppression and suffering that led a bunch of British-born Muslims to turn against their compatriots.

This is partly true, but nevertheless a simplistic thesis. Not just the radicals, but all Muslims see themselves as part of the ummah. So to give his assertion some bite, McRoy, an evangelical Christian, takes an inductive leap.

All Muslims, he suggests, have now become radicalised - "Islamic radicalism has become mainstream". The obvious example is how Muslims are trying to influence British politics. Just look at the emergence of tactical alliances with the left over Iraq and vocal interventions by organisations like the Muslim Council of Britain, he screams. A more sensible suggestion would be that Muslims have become politically savvy. Active participation is a sign of good citizenship, not of radicalism!

McRoy is on more solid ground in suggesting that racism and lack of sympathy has fuelled the alienation of Muslim youth. The patronising suggestion that Muslims should integrate often comes out as a tabloid headline to "Behave British, or don't live here". But occasionally he draws bizarre conclusions from the plethora of material he quotes. For example, he suggests I labelled Rushdie as a "brown sahib" because I feared that the new generation of Muslims would become "contaminated" with "infidel ideas". This is laughably absurd. The "brown sahib" is a recognisable sociological type on the Subcontinent: an uncritical Anglophile. My point was that Muslims should not be surprised by what Rushdie had done. A brown sahib, somewhere, sometime, was bound to do just that.

McRoy's suggestion that the time for "offensive jihad" has now passed is equally absurd. Jihad is never offensive; it is undertaken to defend Muslims from aggression. So we are presented with a construction that is totally imaginary, then told that Muslims have realised that "offensive jihad" is irrelevant in the 21st century because the West is just too strong! There's a clear case of distorted imagination at work here, with one fantasy feeding into another.

The author's evangelical zeal, masquerading as objectivity, is only half of the problem. The other is that this is a half-baked PhD dissertation and does not work as a book. It comes complete with ludicrously extensive footnotes, designed to show the student has read the literature. Unfortunately, McRoy's reading is limited to extremist literature, so we end up with a rather skewed picture of British Islam. He needs to read much more widely, and learn to write a book.

Ziauddin Sardar's 'What Do Muslims Believe?' is published by Granta

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power