Saudi Gazette 26 April 2005
Young, British and Muslim
by Susannah Tarbush
In recent days Channel 4 has been screening daily one-hour programmes in the Shariah TV series, in which young British Muslims discuss with scholars issues of particular relevance to them. This is the second series of Shariah TV, and in the run-up to the general election one might have expected it to generate interest among non-Muslims also.
After all, there is constant media speculation over how Muslims will be voting on 5 May, and the decisive role they could play in deciding the result in certain marginal seats. At the same time a vocal minority of Muslims has resorted to disruptive tactics to try to discourage Muslims from voting at all.
So it was disappointing to find that Channel 4 had pushed the series into a graveyard slot beginning at five minutes past midnight.
In the programmes a studio audience of young Muslims poses questions to a panel of three Islamic scholars, with a different audience and panel for each of the eight programmes. The presenter is So Rahman, who was born in Chester England and has won various TV awards.
The series shows that young British Muslims are a more diverse and open-minded group than they are often portrayed in the media. Some of the women wear hijab, others are in casual clothing. Some of the men are in traditional Islamic garb and headdress.
The exchanges between the young people and the scholars give a flavour of the debates taking place between Muslims in Britain and in the wider world. Among the subjects tackled in the series are the clash of civilisations, the environment, art and culture, women and families, Islam in the modern world, and what it is to be young, British and Muslim.
The first programme, on politics and leadership, considered whether Muslims in Britain should participate in political activity, and what form such participation should take.
The panellists were Timothy Winter, a Cambridge lecturer and convert to Islam, the principal of the Muslim College Dr Zaki Badawi and Professor Tariq Ramadan, who teaches philosophy and Islamic studies in Switzerland, at the College of Geneva and the University of Fribourg.
The panel disagreed with those who thought Muslims should not vote in non-Muslim Britain, and said that, on the contrary, voting is a duty and maybe an obligation. Asked if political activism is a form of jihad, the panel said voting, protesting, campaigning and working to make the world better are all forms of jihad.
Should Muslims become involved in secular political parties? The panel considered that although obeying the party whip could be a problem for a Muslim MP, it is worth becoming involved and inserting Muslim values into policies and political culture.
When asked if the Shariah can guide Muslim as to how to vote, the panel said Muslims should look at the ethics of those for whom they vote. “Consider general principles, such as social justice and human rights. Don’t ask your imam how to vote!”