I’m cosmopolitan, she’s not: On Happy British Muslims.

For a video made to promote the values of community and possitivity, I find it deeply hurtful to find it so polarising and marginalising towards the people it claims to represent.

“We Brits have a bad rep for being a bit stiff, but this video proves otherwise. We are HAPPY. We are eclectic. We are cosmopolitan. Diverse. Creative. Fun. Outgoing. And everything you can think of.

This video is to show  the world despite the negative press, stereotypes and discrimination we are burdened with we should respond with smiles and joy, not anger.

Anyway we hope you like it.”

 

We have to like it, otherwise, we are anti-creativity, pessimistic, close-minded, backwards, boring. We need to lay loose a little. We need to not be angry. We should just be happy.

That’s fair enough as an individual attitude towards life. Some people like to cruise through life chirping and humming and skipping. Some people have YELLOW personalities and joy and happiness to them means exerting social energy. It means extroverted expressions.

I’m not opposed to this for anyone who feels compelled to assert and reduce us to a certain type of Muslim personality is mistaken in their Islamic understanding,  as the prophet peace be upon him welcomed the boastful and the quiet – hearted of the sahaba.

Of course, within boundaries that are all too familiar and mainstream. Though I’m not here to argue that unIslamic Muslim behaviour needs to policed, because simply, it can’t be for there are Muslim groups and individuals who find a space within Islam to express themselves as in the video. I’m not here to deny their voice or call them not proper Muslims. What concerns me is the background severed relations behind videos like this and the reactions towards them.

It is very clear that the video is rebelling against popular opinions within our community that consider music and mixing forbidden. This is not my assumption, but the implication of their provocative reaction posts on facebook:

Reaction post #2: 
Results just in:
Team Halal > Team Haraam

Reaction post #4: 
It’s crazy how one negative comment can make you forget the thousand positives that came before it. #Stayresolute
#happymuslims

Reaction post #5: 
Advise from our supporting scholars. Stand firm and speak out against the dogmatists, don’t let your silence be confused for submission. Keep spreading the positivity and drown out the negativity with more positivity! 
Hashtag #happymuslims

The polarisation and divisive discourse is reflective of the psychology of this group, working against the mainstream and trying to ‘right’ what has been done so badly. They’re sick of the angry reactions. They want to show that we can be happy. They no longer want the angry Muslims to represent them. They want to be the voice.

But who is the angry Muslim in this context? The Muslim who doesn’t listen to music and refuses to attend mixed gatherings? The hijabi who

doesn’t shake hands let alone skip to the beat? The child who misses music class at school because their parents don’t want him learning to play the flute of the shaytaan? The friend who skips weddings because they’re not her envrionment? The sister who covers her face with niqab in piety and modesty?

Because these Muslims are not in the video, and many are angry about this video that showcases ‘our’ diversity. These Muslims are left behind, are outsiders.

I understand that when many Muslims go to the mosque or activities in the Islamic community they feel unrepresented. They mix, and are put behind a blind in the mosque. They listen to music but can’t put their most heart felt clip in their graduation video at the Islamic school. But does this experience legitimate the we are cosmopolitan though other Muslims are not attitude? Does this mean we now appeal to popular, dominant values to gain a stronger standing in internal battles within the community?

If this is the attitude the group wants to take and distance itself from the mainstream, dominant voices representing Muslims, that’s what it wants to do, but not in the name of British Muslims. This claim to representation is precisely what they are rebelling against, isn’t it?

We are British Muslims, authentic. Those other Muslims you hear about or see, those ‘conservative’, strict ones who make you feel everything is haram, they’re not the proper Islam.

I don’t know, is it just me or is this just undignified finger-pointing to please the Western gaze that is always watching, always interrogating?

I really do understand that we are under pressure and sick of the stereotypes and discrimination, but what, we tackle our marginalisation by marginalising our brothers and sisters who practice differently? By making them the Other, and we the integrated?

I can’t swallow the campaign. If it was just a video to a song out there like the thousands on youtube by everyone including Muslims, I wouldn’t care, for this video is just happy people and I don’t have to judge or agree. But we don’t need to dig deep to find that the makers are trying to tell the story,  not their story,  but the story of British Muslims, and Muslims in the West.

It’s sad that this story even needs to be told. We’re happy, we’re not a dynamic, normally human community. No, we’re extroverted, chirpy, people. Lest we be angry for the Muslims are scary when they’re angry.

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