Here is an article publsihed in the Middle East Times by Stephanie Carnes who interivewed me several times:
LONDON -- Practicing Islam in the United Kingdom has become as easy – if not easier – than in many majority-Muslim states, according to a leading British Muslim cleric. But concerns have been raised over rumors that the British government is preparing anti-terror legislation (known as Contest 2) that would classify British Muslims as extremists if they have refused to condemn the killing of British soldiers in conflict or have described homosexuality as a sin.
Supporting jihad in any form, including in the Palestinian territories, or promoting the institution of Sharia law or the establishment of a Caliphate (an Islamic state transcending national borders) would also legally fall within the parameters of extremism.
Even so, many British Muslims believe that leading a truly pious Islamic life is facilitated by the benefits of living in a liberal democratic society such as the United Kingdom.
"In some respects, living in the UK can actually make leading a 'God-centered' life easier than living in some, or even many Muslim countries," said Abdur Raheem Green, an imam at the London Central Mosque. "This is partly due to certain freedoms, civil liberties and adherence to a code of human rights that are essential components of liberal democracies."
A British convert to Islam, Green explained that because of these key features of democratic societies, "one is able to practice all of the essential components of the religion and even many non-essential ones, as well as being able to invite others to accept this truth."
With legislation such as Contest 2 looming on the horizon, the limitation of key liberties in democratic societies such as the UK to members of its Muslim population pose potentially disastrous risks for Muslims themselves, not to mention societal solidarity and inclusion.
Although British Muslims like Green appreciate the freedoms afforded them in the UK, without prejudice toward their religion, they often express concern over the compatibility of Islamic values and the mainstream British way of life.
Green described the process of child-rearing with the Islamic ethos in mind as particularly challenging in the UK. "It is a time consuming and mentally challenging task since at its heart, life here is a materialistic, consumer-based one," said Green.
"Islam teaches us to struggle against our desires and submit to God, whereas UK society teaches to surrender to one's desires and submit to the societal norms," he said.
Ed Husain, a former Islamic extremist and ex-Hizb ut Tahrir member, argued that Britain is still largely failing its population of approximately 2.4 million Muslims. Speaking to the Independent last year, Husain described British society as "ridden with class snobbery, soft racism, patronizing multiculturalism, imperial hangovers, binge drinking, and an inability to rid itself of 'English reserve' – the Rudyard Kipling variety."
Although the United Kingdom is far less "racist" toward its Muslim population than states with similar immigrant populations like Germany and France, greater cohesion between Muslim and non-Muslim segments of the British society is needed, according to Husain.
A poll among British Muslims by the Gallup Organization revealed that only 8 percent consider themselves to be "thriving," a figure which seems to underscore a sense of dissatisfaction. It also supports Husain's call for greater societal cohesion and understanding. As a point of reference 41 percent of Muslim Americans and 49 percent of Muslim Germans – along with 51 percent of Saudi Arabian citizens – rated their lives as thriving.
In Britain, then, is having the personal rights and freedoms to pursue a devout lifestyle overshadowed by the seemingly hedonistic tendencies of a secular society?
Integration and compromising one's piety are not mutually exclusive, says Green. "I certainly don't think it is impossible [to reconcile the two]; it just makes it more challenging for some," said Green. "Those who preserve their faith are quite possibly a lot stronger for it, but many, or perhaps most, don't manage."
"Integration does not necessarily mean that one has to lose that perspective, but in fact that's most often what it comes down to," he added. "One loses the 'God-centered' perspective. And in reality, one begins to think and act like a consumer."
Ultimately, the British government, through its policies, has the power to shape a society in which both pious and secular lifestyles can coexist. Failing to accommodate its increasing number of Muslim citizens could fuel radical Islamic sentiment. More inclusive policies, on the other hand, could minimize the lure of violent extremism.
see the article here: