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Interview: Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui
'No to razzmatazz, personality cults..'

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 Great Britain?
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 them. 

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 ways.

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. 
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