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Editorial Comment

Integration of Muslims Problems with extremists, ter- rorists, fundamentalists, and waves of protests and demands from Muslims living in the West have sparked demands from both the media and politicians for greater integration of Muslims in western society. So what is integration, and what level of integration would be appro- priate? Integration does not mean that we all need to look the same, dress the same and behave the same way. It does mean that we need to find common values and create a climate of mutual respect and tolerance. We need to commu- nicate effectively with each other. Muslims alone belong to a universal religion – no other religion can authenticate their universality from their teachings – and are best equipped to integrate in a global village. Muslims have and can integrate in so many ways. They can become volunteers in their local communities to help the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the homeless. They can visit those in prison and give them hope. They can play an active part in charity work. Muslims have been doing this integration which is appreciated by all. Muslims are encouraged by their faith to be loyal to their country. They are encouraged to obey and respect the Laws and institutions of these countries. In Europe or North America, the state has not made worship impossible or forced people to abandon their values. Muslims are also directed by the Qur’an to show respect for all faiths and cultures. Moderate Muslims throughout the West have been promoting construc- tive dialogue between faiths just as this magazine has done for over a century. Integration also means that 2 The Review of Religions – November 2006 Fazal Ahmad–London, UK EDITORIAL COMMENT Muslims can adopt the good traits of the host communities such as honesty, environmental awareness, charity, liberal thinking and freedom of conscience that are all integral to Islam. Integration does not mean that Muslims must abandon modest dress and adopt the dress code of the West. Integration does not mean that Muslims must adopt local customs of eating and drinking, particularly alcoholism and partying. If anything, abstinence from alcohol, although seen a while back as a hindrance to our integration, now is accepted as a virtue to which the rest of society should aspire. The appalling activites of a tiny minority of political extremists who have hijacked the name of Islam have made life much harder for the vast majority of Muslims who are moderate and well-balanced. Western poli- ticians are now being drawn into debates about what Muslims should wear and lecture Muslims on how they must behave and bring up their children. What is needed at this time is a sense of calm and unity among all decent people in society. This situation needs strong and responsible leadership on both sides to foster a climate of tolerance, security and mutual respect. Many Muslims already play an active and productive role in society, and this helps achieve true social integration unlike the unhelpful prodding of a minority of politicans picking on divisive issues such as veils, or deliberately insisting upon their right to freedom of speech that leaves the community feeling vulnerable and offended. 3 EDITORIAL COMMENT The Review of Religions – November 2006