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“Don’t talk about Sharia in school…”

This is the third chapter in our story of an unsuspecting British Muslim family. Click here for the first chapter, and here for the second.

After little Amina’s ordeal in the classroom, and her father’s Schedule 7 stop, we take a peek into a secondary school classroom where Amina’s brother, Bilal, is on the back foot.

Like any teenager finding his feet, he attempts to think outside the box and question the inherited norms of his teacher. The lesson plan says that our current political system is the best there can be, but Bilal is finding it difficult to reconcile this with the plethora of political and social ills that disturb his God-given natural disposition (fitra) and conscience.

What would be a routine, healthy conversation for any other teenager, turns into something else for Bilal.

The teacher reaches for the usual decontextualised soundbites and Orientalist stereotypes recycled by what appears to be a larger number of people. What was once the preserve of zealous missionaries, xenophobes and racists, appears to be becoming common among “polite” society. This is what Baroness Sayeeda Warsi meant when she famously said that “Islamophobia has passed the dinner table test” back in 2011; the same year David Cameron made his infamous “Munich speech” calling for “Muscular Liberalism” against those “Islamic extremists” with illiberal, backwards beliefs.

As the “conversation” proceeds, it feels more and more like an inquisition into his Islamic beliefs, despite him not bringing them up. As we discussed in the second chapter of this story,[1] it is not surprising that Muslims’ beliefs are under the spotlight, given that the routinely-refuted premise of the pseudoscientific counter terrorism apparatus (the “backbone of Islamophobia”[2]) is that orthodox Islam is inherently suspicious. Incidentally, after class Bilal was reported to his school’s counter-extremism “Prevent” coordinator for espousing “dangerous” views.

However, what is noteworthy is that Bilal—like many of us—lacks the confidence and unspoken permission to articulate his thoughts from his own perspective, instead being drawn into a hegemonic discourse loaded to the brim with presumptions and innuendo. What is more subtle and dangerous than one’s body being restricted is restricting one’s thinking, discourse and permission to articulate their thoughts, for it happens without most people realising.

Many people instinctively know that this is wrong, however do not know how to go about addressing it in a comprehensive, constructive way. It is easy to become emotional and reactive, responding to the loaded questioning of a hostile discourse rather than confidently exposing it and articulating your beliefs with pride.

We are telling this story to show how easy these micro-aggressions on young people’s īmān can be carried out. Do you think Bilal will have the confidence to speak his mind in school after this? What impact will it have on his īmān? Will he able to articulate his views clearly and confidently, without being coerced into submission?

Many of us are lost when it comes to responding to the ideological attack in a constructive, confident way. We often unwittingly fall into character roles made for us by those—knowingly or unknowingly—pushing a hostile agenda. Muslims who naturally hold divine values are painted as extreme, backwards, or just weird—a fate worse than anything else for some teenagers. Objectively, we are none of these, but we are interpreted this way partly due to the difference in power and money behind the different narratives and worldviews, and partly because we do not have crystal clear narratives to articulate our views on delicate matters and disagreements authentically and in a mature, balanced way. And most of us do not know our rights, so are easily intimidated into silence—“Don’t talk about Sharia in school again…”

This makes many Muslims feel stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do we “fit in” into wider society, or do we “stick to our guns”? The reality is this is a false dichotomy; there does not need to be a conflict between remaining steadfast to divine values and being a successful member of society. But we need to invest in strengthening our community’s ability to speak for itself.

Love Sharia

Islam21c has been honoured to be involved in addressing people’s confidence in Islam and Sharia, by providing guidance and narratives that are effective yet uncompromising. Countless articles, infographics, videos and podcasts are crafted regularly to serve one unique vision.

As I mentioned in the first article in this short series,[3] that vision is instilling confidence and impact in Muslims, and everything we do—all of our transformational digital content—has this in common.

Nothing is more fulfilling than engaging with brothers and sisters—particularly young people—and seeing their confidence grow. When they get to see the beauty, coherence and eminence of the Sharia accurately, it takes root deep within their mind and soul as it is, by its nature, irresistible when presented in an untainted way.

Once they have that love and knowledge of Islamic matters that others are nervous to discuss, many brothers and sisters feel a sense of ease around how to approach these issues from our own perspective, rather than reacting to someone else’s provocations.

But the truth is we need help distilling and disseminating these narratives, and helping millions more grow in their confidence and love of Islam.

Many fall prey to massively-funded misinformation campaigns from a billion dollar Islamophobia industry—which operate heavily in the digital world. Do Muslims have sufficient resources and guidance to resist this?

This is why we are working hard with experts to empower the community’s imams, du’at and activists with mature narratives to bridge the polarisation that some have worked hard to create.

The coronavirus pandemic has shown the world that Muslims are undeniably a crucial part of the public landscape, saving lives and carrying out key functions to keep society running—giving up our own lives in the process. We need to assert our presence on our own terms, according to our own values, not be coerced into the ideological or political agendas of other groups.

This requires us to continue our work to overcome obstacles to Muslim confidence and empowerment, such as that shown in this story. But the coronavirus lockdown has also had a severe impact on our financial situation, and we are in danger of not being able to carry out this work.

If you missed the opportunity to donate last night to support this cause, you have the chance to support it right now.

You can help today: click here to donate to support Islam21c for our Ramadan Heroes campaign.

Remember to share this and help increase the impact on your scales of good deeds, in shā Allāh.

Stay tuned because tomorrow we will be releasing the final chapter in this story: the tragically common story of Amina’s mother.

Source: www.islam21c.com


[1] https://www.islam21c.com/editorials/where-are-they-taking-daddy/

[2] https://www.islam21c.com/news-views/the-main-reason-we-have-islamophobia-is-the-counter-terrorism-apparatus/

[3] https://www.islam21c.com/editorials/when-the-lights-at-islam21c-almost-went-off/

About Dr Salman Butt

Salman studied Biochemistry at Imperial College London followed by a PhD in Chemical Biology, carrying out research into photosynthesis. During his years at university he became involved in Islamic society da'wah and activism, and general Muslim community projects. He is the Chief Editor and a regular contributor at Islam21c, and also has a blog on the Huffington Post.


  1. Reality check

    May Allah subhana wata Ala open the eyes of the ummah. Islam21c and haitham Al Haddad urged and implored everyone to vote with a nudge wink to Labour- even implying it was either Wajib or close to wajib to vote.
    We all know it was New labour that began this liberlisation with the repealing of section 28. The Tories whom used to have some Christian morals ended up having to surrender and accept many changes. Less then 8 months ago Jess Philips of labour in Birmingham was patronizingly promoting the no outsiders program which these guys are campaigning against, yet they unashamedly implied voting is wajib and tried to help Labour win as many seats as possible !
    Here they are unashamedly exploiting the situation to ask for funding !!!! Do you think everyone has forgotten about the trouble you guys stirred up and encouraged in Syria or other parts of the middle East during the Arab Spring ?
    May Allah subhana wata Ala give this shaikh the humility and ability to reflect on his call and support for the uprising in Syria. Some 9 year’s later and hundreds of thousands of deaths, and millions made homeless this shaikh needs to raise Sadaqah for the orphans and displaced, not Sadaqah for his MRDF pet Project Islam21c.com.
    Yaa Raab be my witness that I made this statement to highlight the truth and double standards of those affected by the Ikwaani mindset !
    People warned against the dangers of rising up and we’re shutup with labels of Madkhali. It’s easy to call for revolution when you live in a nice London house and have 3 square meals a day, with nothing to lose. What benefit has the S.O.A.S parchment brought to this man in this dunya ? Except aid his ego and increase his blindness to the fitnah he has participated in. What benefit will it give him on Yaumal Qiyamah ? All these grand self made titles and organisations set up with E.U and New Labour Grants ! The European Fatwa Council and others.
    People need to wake up and realise that Dawah is a big business for these egos.
    They profit off of Islamphobia too with their unashamedly request for funds to help counteract islamaphobia allegedly.
    What has happened to doing things fee Sabeel Allah ? The latest campaign – £100,000k otherwise islam21c will close down. What’s happened to the 10’s of thousands transferred from MRFD to islam21c over many years, and from as far back as at least 2008/09.
    Please donate to the Syrian People, Yemeni People, and amongst others the Horn of Africa instead URGENTLY.
    NOT TO THESE PEOPLE or their organisations which have been trying to have their cake and eat it for too long.
    These words may seem harsh to some, but look at the uphevel caused by these people who promoted sedition and rebellion in the Middle East.
    Yes Bashar Asad is a vile dog, however the population was able to practice their deen in relative peace. The only ones getting arrested were the political rivals or those calling for the downfall of his state.
    9 years later the facts speak for themselves in Syria, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt. The timing of these peoples unified letters and fatwas spoke volumes. Where were they before ? Suddenly as sheep the youth of the ummah are asked to rise up when it suits certain people’s agenda. They are then abandoned to their fate of death, war or Jail. War is Terrible and was needless. Sad thing is these people were warned against stirring up trouble, but they chose to ignore the advice and instead advocated for rebellion.
    SHAME ON THEM ! AND SHAME ON US FOR NOT SHAMING THESE IKHWAANIS MORE ! Please donate urgently as I mentioned, but NOT to these money grabbing groups. Donate in abundance to places like Syria, Africa, Yemen amongst others. Islamic relief, Al Khair foundation are probably much better then most of the other charities, but please do enquire and enforce the message that you want as much of your donation as possible to to the causes and not on admin.
    Peace be upon all my brother’s and sisters in humanity Inshaa’Allah, may Allah subhana wata Ala guide us to the truth. Apologies if my words are harsh, but sometimes a reality check is needed.

  2. Iftee Khar Ul Islam

    Please make a short film out of this, take Onepath network or other Islamic channels support for producing the contents, you can reach a lot of people through that and in sha ALLAH it will be helpful for people …

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