Secular UK benefits Islam, says Cambridge report

A new report on what it means to be a Muslim in Britain says that a secular British state allows Islam to be practised freely in an atmosphere of respect, security and dignity.

The report exploring the philosophical and theological perspectives of the issue is titled 'Contextualising Islam in Britain: Exploratory Perspectives', and is the outcome of a nine-month project hosted by the University of Cambridge. A total of 26 Muslim scholars, academics and activists representing a diverse spectrum of views from Muslim communities in the UK took part in discussions about what it means to live as a Muslim in modern Britain.

The report covers a wide range of issues including secularism, democracy, Sharia, human rights and citizenship.

The group agreed that Muslims should assert and teach what they see to be the truth of their faith, but also recognise the existence of different religions and the right of others to do the same.

The study urges Muslims to identify shared values between Islam and other world views, pointing out the Holy Qu'ran's emphasis on qualities such as good neighbourliness, charity, hospitality and non-aggression.

The report also redefines a number of terms which the authors believe have been misinterpreted. It notes, for example, that both Muslims and non-Muslims often have "skewed understanding of the term Sharia, which conjures up images of floggings and beheadings."

"The process has already succeeded in bringing together Muslims from a wide range of backgrounds who, in spite of those different backgrounds, have been prepared to work together. What we want to do now is stimulate further dialogue with a wider group of Muslim leaders and communities," said Suleiman.

Minister for Communities Shahid Malik said: "This is a ground-breaking report from a wide cross-section of British Muslim scholars, academics and community leaders. I hope that this report by Cambridge will inspire wider debate from communities across the country on the values that we all share".

He added: "Following the terrorist attacks in New York and London, many Muslim leaders expressed concern that their religion was being misrepresented and misinterpreted. The silent majority of Muslims have since fought hard to restate their religion as they see it and this report is an important contribution to that."

This article first appeared on Zee News on 27th October 2009.