|Interview: Dr Ghayasuddin
'No to razzmatazz, personality
The Muslim Institute for Research
& Planning was set up in London in 1973 by the late Dr Kalim Siddiqui.
The Institute, set up in response to the perceived lack of intellectual
leadership in the Muslims of Great Britain, has made a lasting impression
on the British Muslims and beyond.. It has played a larger than life role
at several junctures. It saw its role as possible counterweight to those
unhealthy tendencies which were pervading in British Muslim society at
every level. It played its role quite well. It is credited with the
overall improved awareness among British Muslims. The founder of the
Muslim Institute also floated a political platform, Muslim Parliament, to
take up political and social issues concerning Muslims in Britain. It was
also to improve Muslims’ battered condition and their marginalization in
the British polity.
Recently its current chairman, Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqi who succeeded Dr
Kalim, was on a visit to the capital. Syed Ubaidur Rahman of The Milli
Gazette talked to him on a number of issues concerning Muslims in Great
Britain. Following are excerpts of the interview.
How will you describe Muslims’ condition in
We will have to see Muslims in Britain in historical background.
Muslims’ inflow into Great Britain started after World War II. At that
time industries were ruined and labour scarce. The country needed cheap
and unskilled labour as well as cheap raw materials. And it got both from
those countries which were under its control earlier. Though free, these
countries were still dependent on Great Britain for a number of reasons.
It was the time of full employment in the country, so it basically sought
unskilled labour. At that time Muslims, a large number of them unskilled
labour, started descending upon the British horizon. Most of them who came
there were either bachelors or did not bring their families along with
They were badly impressed by whites. Whites were having god-like image
among them. Whatever they did for them was best. So they followed them.
Later when they brought their families and children, they put them in
schools. In Britain there is no system of pass or fail. A child will
remain in school and will be given new class every year. There are only
sections. If your child is good he will be put with good children and if
poor, he will be kept in the other section.
Muslim students coming out of schools are not good for anything. None is
ready to give them employment. It is same with eighty percent Muslims in
Great Britain. So they become drug addicts, form gangs and fight with one
another. In British Muslim society the rate of divorce is going up,
suicide is becoming quite common and other problems are creeping in.
What the Muslim Institute is doing there?
The Muslim Institute is trying to change people’s perception towards
life. Let me tell you, Muslims there are not in good shape. A large number
of them want to live on unemployment allowance which in some cases is
enormous. For example: if one has a large family it would be even more
than what he could actually earn. It leads to moral degradation. Muslims
there live in ghettos. It is a perpetual cycle of poverty that gets worse
with changing times and generation. It is not that there are no better-off
Muslims, but commonly they are poor and ill-educated.
British people are reasonable. If you convince them, they will accept you.
They look only at one’s ability to deliver. If you do it, they
wouldn’t see whether you have a beard or wear scarf.
The Muslim Institute is trying in these circumstances to provide
intellectual leadership to common Muslims. It is a charitable trust and we
try to research every issue that concerns Muslims. It has embarked on a
programme of positive educational action, eschewing razzmatazz,
personality cults, propaganda and tendentious sloganeering that vitiate
the work of many Islamic organizations.
The Muslim Parliament was launched with great fanfare. Is it still
functioning? What was its purpose?
The Muslim Parliament is a political platform and a lobby group. We
try to work as a pressure group. We guide the government about the kind of
development work Muslim areas need. If any discrimination is made on the
basis of religion or race, in case one is Muslim, we protect him/her
legally. We are against the law that makes helping a freedom movement an
act of terrorism. We are working to quash this legislation.
Is there any change in The Muslim Institute after late Kalim Siddiqui?
Life is changing. You can’t freeze if new issues arise. So in the
wake of new developments, we, like others, try to solve problems in new
You give too much emphasis to the intellectual issues. What is it all
about? Aren’t you for common people?
The Muslim Institute is a research institute. We are working to raise
the intellectual level of Muslims and also to answer the new issue that
arise with every passing day. So stressing on the intellectual aspects
becomes a must. But it does not mean that we are not concerned with common
Muslims. Every activity of The Muslim Institute is aimed towards the well
being of the common Muslim. q