Sectarian influences within Islam in Britain with special reference to community
Although much is heard from the Media of the Muslim `community' in Britain, the latter is in fact far from presenting a united front. There are divisions between generations and ethnic origins, and a diversity of religious practice and doctrine. There are many different religious groups at work that originate from the subcontinent, and reflect this wide range. Organisations like Young Muslims UK, Tabligh-i Jamaat, and schools of thought represented by the Deobandis and Barehvis, to name but four, play a vital role in the life of many Muslims. They both link them back to their roots in the subcontinent and influence the direction that Islam will take in Britain. The Muslim population in Britain is approaching two million. It is involved in a process of redefining itself as a minority in an alien culture. For the older generation the conflict has been cultural, their own ethnicity being under seige from the values of the receiving culture. Islam becomes an important ally of ethnic identity. For many Muslims born in Britain, however, the process is more complex. Their parents' values can seem as strange, or even stranger, than the values of the receiving culture. For this increasing percentage of the population, their religion can offer an identity. Stimulated by Islam's global revival and the West's reaction to it, some Muslims are attempting to discover a faith stripped of cultural accretions which are considered to be unlslamic. In the process they hope to find the universal Islam which can be practised in any environment. They feel that this is the key to establishing a successful British Islamic community. The ideal of ammah has always been central in Islam, but now becomes an important concept in the development of Islam in Britain. There are several questions to be considered: To what degree does an unmrah exist? What is its form? How is it likely to change? What effect will it have on the development of Muslims seeking a more localised identity in Britain? Within this context, what will be the effect of the various organisations and schools of thought at work amongst Muslims? To what degree will they shape the development of Islam in Britain? Are they free from 'cultural accretion' or are they firmly rooted in idiosyncratic local expressions of the faith? Will Islam in Britain be moderate, or strongly revivalist in nature under their influence? Are they unifying or divisive forces? Can they hope to resolve traditional differences and work together in the new environment of Britain? In spite of the increasing interest in the Muslim presence in Britain, very few major works have looked at the influence of these various groups in the context of these questions. I know for myself that I could have used this kind of study when working for my M. A. in Religious Studies, and I know of many students in the same position. I feel that this study will therefore contribute not only to the study of Islam but also to the study of the various minority faiths found in Britain.