The West is blind to its own hypocrisy: Faith & Reason

For Muslims the festival of Eid should be a joyous celebration at the end of a month of fasting. But this year it is wrapped in a cloth of suffering

FOR ME as a British Muslim this Ramadan has been one of the worst. It was preceded by the bombing of Iraq, a country already full of the dead and dying. Then, during the month of fasting, innocent Britons were kidnapped and murdered in the Yemen, a land the Romans called Arabia Felix (Happy Arabia). Five British Muslims are still being held there on charges of terrorism. There will be little to celebrate in the coming week on Eid-ul-Fitr, the festival which in Islam marks the end of a month of self-discipline and denial. America and Britain could well resume attacks on Iraq once the holy days are over. This Ramadan will be wrapped in the cloth of suffering.

Thirty days of the fast and one day for the feast: an apt ratio for a life where the days of sorrow and denial far outnumber those of reckless joy. Scientists, when asked about life on other planets, speak of the many factors that need to be delicately balanced in pre-requisite; but how much more delicate is the balance of the conditions that must obtain for the achievement of happiness in any individual life: good health, no deep personal tragedy, an aim in life, some love from someone, the will to continue despite daily disappointments, and a relatively just, politically stable and safe world.

Muslims, even in a land where doubt is virtually an orthodoxy, continue to see the hand of merciful providence sheltering them from calamity. In Britain, as in Malaysia, Pakistan, Iran and Arab nations, Ramadan is a time of intensified devotion and charity. The Koran is recited in ornate styles in holy precincts in Bradford as in Cairo, Mecca and Tehran. The British convert Marmaduke Pickthall described his holy book as "that inimitable symphony, the very sounds of which move men to tears and ecstasy" - an ecstasy in the original Greek sense of "standing outside" oneself with joy.

These are the manifestations of the ideal. In practice many Muslims fail to attain the purity of heart or sincerity of intention which the month of Ramadan requires. Throughout the long hours of the fast they merely hunger after food and drink, not for righteousness. But that is among the failings of our common humanity.

For Muslims observing the fast in Western lands there is a suffocating feeling of being surrounded by Westerners for whom religion is a branch of archaeology. Angry exchanges at the workplace with white colleagues centre chiefly around their dismissal of all religion with secular disdain. But many Westerners seem not to fear Muslim vices so much as Muslim virtues. Perhaps there is a sense of envious guilt in seeing so many people attain a hallowed level of abstinence even in unsympathetic environments. Understandably many Muslims become insulated in their own self-righteousness.

Western Muslims are a friendless and wounded community deserving condolences. Had the five British Muslims detained in the Yemen been white, would there have been the same apparent indifference to their plight? Formal citizenship does not guarantee economic, political or intellectual citizenship: having a passport is only the beginning of equality. The right to be different does not imply extra rights for a minority. It implies the same rights.

The media have generally tended to assume the guilt of the five Britons accused of sabotage and terrorism against Western targets. Robin Cook has asked the Yemenis to allow British consular staff to attend sessions in open court and due process of law has been promised. Mr Cook is, however, being urged by many MPs to allow Islamic law to take its course in the case of these men. But why should their innocence be doubted? Their families say they went to the Yemen to learn the purest dialect of Arabic. It is uncharitable to doubt this claim. Hate generalises; love specifies, and seeks to understand. Think of the sympathy shown to a white British au pair accused in America and the two nurses who were actually convicted of murder in Saudi Arabia.

With the collapse of Communism, Western intelligence services have little to do other than monitor the activities of animal rights and Muslim "fundamentalists". Muslims are seen, as Communists were before them, as poor people in search of social revenge. Even rhetorical violence, by justifiably angry Muslims, against all too real Western violence is seen as subversive. Unsurprisingly, we have a British Muslim community that increasingly sees self-segregation as the only way to maintain its dignity and identity. Soon we shall need trained intermediaries to negotiate between it and the state.

There will be little to celebrate on Eid, yet the Koran lays a firm veto on despair. Muslims suffer because they believe: they take Western rhetoric about universal human rights at face value and are subsequently disappointed to find that behind the idealistic language lurks the brute fact, which is sadly true in all civilisations, that Might is Right. Perhaps there is an implied flattery in the accusation that the West is, in practice, unconsciously hypocritical. Muslims believed that integrity prompted the high-principled statements of Western politicians. It is a shock when the realisation comes that they are too myopic to see into the heart of their own double standards.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Henry Marsh said he was rather 'pleased' at the nomination
booksHenry Marsh's 'Do No Harm' takes doctors off their pedestal
Arts and Entertainment
All in a day's work: the players in the forthcoming 'Posh People: Inside Tatler'

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne plays Stephen Hawking in new biopic The Imitation Game

'At times I thought he was me'

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
One Direction go Fourth: The boys pose on the cover of their new album Four

Review: One Direction, Four

music
Arts and Entertainment
'Game of Thrones' writer George RR Martin

Review: The World of Ice and Fire

books
Arts and Entertainment
Sean Bean will play 'extraordinary hero' Inspector John Marlott in The Frankenstein Chronicles
tvHow long before he gets killed off?
Arts and Entertainment
Some like it hot: Blaise Bellville

music
Arts and Entertainment
A costume worn by model Kate Moss for the 2013 photograph

art
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Len Goodman appeared to mutter the F-word after Simon Webbe's Strictly performance

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T makes his long-awaited return to the London stage
musicReview: Alexandra Palace, London
Arts and Entertainment
S Club 7 back in 2001 when they also supported 'Children in Need'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Bruce Forsyth rejoins Tess Daly to host the Strictly Come Dancing Children in Need special
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan plays Christian Grey getting ready for work

Film More romcom than S&M

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

Review: The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
The comedian Daniel O'Reilly appeared contrite on BBC Newsnight last night

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
The American stand-up Tig Notaro, who performed topless this week

Comedy...to show her mastectomy scars

Arts and Entertainment

TVNetflix gets cryptic

Arts and Entertainment
Claudia Winkleman is having another week off Strictly to care for her daughter
TV
Arts and Entertainment
BBC Children in Need is the BBC's UK charity. Since 1980 it has raised over £600 million to change the lives of disabled children and young people in the UK

TV review A moving film showing kids too busy to enjoy their youth

Arts and Entertainment
Richard Flanagan with his winning novel

Books Not even a Man Booker prize could save Richard Flanagan from a nomination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin