LONDON (AFP) – British Muslims need to overcome their “victim mentality” and focus more on improving their lives than protesting about issues like Iraq, a Labour MP said Wednesday.
Sadiq Khan, one of four Muslim members of parliament, said Muslims need to do more to integrate into British society, for example by learning English, denouncing sexism, and condemning forced marriages.
“We need to take responsibility for our own lives,” he said in a booklet for the Fabian Society, a leading left-of-centre thinktank, adding: “Muslims need to recognise childcare is as important as Kashmir.”
“We need to take more responsibility for our own families, ignore those who propagate conspiracy theories, and above all we need to leave behind our victim mentality,” he said.
Relations between Britain’s 1.6 million Muslims and non-Muslims have been strained by the so-called “war on terror” mounted after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and July 2005 suicide bombings which killed 52 people in London.
Khan, a lawmaker representing the south London constituency of Tooting and an assistant government whip — a junior member of the government — said Muslims should not let concern over British foreign policy deter them from seeking to improve their everyday lives.
“I challenge British Muslims to accept that, as strongly as they feel about Iraq or counter-terrorism measures, poverty and inequality… do most damage to life chances and prevent potential being fulfilled,” he said.
And he added: “Even if your passion is foreign policy, your ability to help people thousands of miles away is made much greater if you are an active citizen and player at home in the UK.”
In the 80-page booklet, Khan said all mosques in Britain should consider letting women in, urged Muslims who do not speak English to learn it, and called on them to condemn forced marriages and honour killings.
“We must all agree that honour killings are murder and forced marriages are kidnapping. These traditions have no place here or anywhere,” he said in the booklet, entitled “Fairness, Not Favours.”
He added: “The requirement to learn English is not colonial. English is a passport to participation in mainstream society — jobs, education and even being able to use health services.”
But Mohammed Shafiq, head of Muslim youth organisation the Ramadhan Foundation, said Khan was out of touch with ordinary Muslims.
“To suggest we are obsessed with foreign policy, when Muslims are being killed around the world, when over a million people have been killed in Iraq … that’s an obsession I’m proud of.
“I think any Muslim would be proud of it too,” he added, saying: “It’s time for the government and ministers like Mr. Khan to really address the real failure of 10 years of missed opportunity.”