The recent dissociation of the Luton on Sunday paper in connection to a 2 page advertisement from the Ahmaddiya community throws up a lot of issues and concerns for our work. More on the incident can be found here.
The concerns for our work are simple, though before we go into them, we want to raise a couple of basic fundamentals that are facts.
– The Ahmaddiya community is a law abiding, socially active and highly driven set of communities and they are usually involved in donating and supporting good causes up and down the breath of our country. For example, recently in Manchester, the Ahmaddiya community raised over £240,000 which was distributed to local Muslim and non-Muslim charities. This in one city alone.
– The Ahmaddiya community has been persecuted by law in Pakistan and is looked down upon because they are regarded by many in Muslim communities as heretical. Yet, some Muslims do not see this division, but most, very sadly, do.
– This means that discrimination, albeit subtle, is present against this community and if this is reported to us, we would log it under the TELL MAMA project as anti-Muslim in nature if the victim perceived it and there was evidence to corroborate this. If someone therefore regards themselves as Muslim and feels that they are discriminated against because of their Islamic faith, then we will record the incident. (However, this does not necessarily mean that it will feature in the 6 monthly and annual reports that we produce since cross verification of data needs to take place, with one element being whether it is anti-Muslim in nature).
So what dilemma does this throw up? Well, the first is the decision for Luton on Sunday to distance itself after a group of ‘community leaders’ met with them, means that the Ahmaddiya community feel that they are, subtly, being discriminated against. It also brings to the forefront divisions and fractures within Muslim communities in Luton, which are dealt with by taking open and public positions on them. (No doubt some within Muslim communities in Luton feel that the Ahmaddiya strategy may be to proselytise to their fellow Muslims through the newspaper article.)
After careful consideration of the Luton on Sunday incident, our position is as follows. Intra-Muslim hate incidents will be logged by us though we reserve the right to publish or not publish them in our six monthly and annual reports. However, they will be logged if reported in and the victim provided with care and due attention. Furthermore, the term ‘cohesion’ has been bandied around for over a decade and tens of millions of pounds of public investment has been put in to ensure that community cohesion is implemented at local levels. This is why, actions like those taken by Luton on Sunday do not only throw up strong feelings of being discriminated against within Ahmaddiya communities, they also serve to re-enforce divisions. We think that this is unhelpful, though we also note that some within Muslim communities will never change their positions on perceived ‘heretical’ groups. Last but not least, we believe that Luton has had its fair share of problems in the past. Deciding who is and who is not a Muslim, should be the least of its worries.