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Medina in Birmingham, Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on 16 June 2014
This is a very important book. Islam in Britain is varied in terms of the schools and traditions followed. It cannot be reduced to a monolithic entity. And yet there is remarkably little understanding in the wider British public about how varied the traditions and schools of Islam in Britain are. This means that there is not a realistic appreciation of the beliefs and ideas of many Muslim organisations and institutions, and how they relate to modern secular liberal British values.

The strength of this book is that it both highlights how many Muslims reconcile their faith with modernity, and how they do so as individuals. But it also does not pretend that the ideas and beliefs of all forms of Islam as practiced in Britain are aligned with secular notions of equality, tolerance and pluralism. As Britain becomes more liberal and secular, there is no real sign that specifically illiberal traditions and institutions of Islam are responding by reconciling themselves with prevailing British values of individual rights, secularism, female equality and tolerance. And this may have consequences for issues of cohesion, trust, and security for society as a whole.

Moving beyond inter-faith platitudes is important to achieve an understanding of Islam in Britain today, beyond defensiveness and white washing. It is only by acknowledging these issues that a real dialogue and discussion can take place. Innes Bowen's book is important for this reason. It should not only be read by the public at large, it should be read by journalists, editors, politicians and people in the public sector who would benefit from appreciating the ideas and beliefs of the varied schools of Islam in modern British society.

The style of the book is engaging, mixing research and personal stories to give the book real insight, bringing the issues it raises to life excellently.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 26 August 2014
This is a fantastically well researched and informative book on a very important subject. Far too little is known about the various Muslim communities in Britain, and too many ill-informed assumptions are made. This book is a great go to guide, not just for people interested in Islam, but for anyone who cares about Britain in the 21st century. I'm just sorry I didn't get to read it a few years ago, it's long overdue!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 15 April 2015
A real insight into the Muslim communities of Britain. Both Sunni and Shia Muslim communities are covered and the various groups within those communities described. The overall conclusion seems to be that, although only a limited number of Muslims are involved or likely to become involved in terrorist and jihadist activities, the great majority have values quite different from the British majority population, wish to lead separate lives according to Muslim religious and cultural traditions, and do not wish to become fully integrated into British society.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Good to read a calm well informed book about a very complex subject
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 6 September 2014
Great book. Provides historical/political and spiritual background to the various groups of Islam being practised in the UK today.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 6 August 2014
This 230 page book is simply an exceptionally useful guide to who British Muslims are and what they think (about their religion). They are a minority, which is growing, spreading out of the inner cities, are increasingly found in the professions and can often have differences with the rest of us – they need to be understood better. So read this book!

Loyalty to the nation, not a cricket team, regularly features in public discussions. In a 2011 survey by Demos they showed that Muslims were more patriotic than other Britons (83 per cent said they were proud to be British as opposed to 79 per cent of the general population).

The vast majority of urban English British Muslims have been here for at least fifty years, traditionally supporting the Labour Party. Alongside smaller groups like the (now growing rapidly) Somali and Yemeni for far longer - often in port cities. Not all British Muslims have an overseas origin, there are growing numbers of converts, black youths in London and white English academics – all of them have a place in the book.

Rightly the book concentrates on Muslims of South Asian origin (60% of all British Muslims). The book helps to explain that often their faith is expressed via mosques and community organisations that are sectarian, with strong South Asian / Saudi Arabian links. One consequence is that these groups produce very conservative clerics – not the externally desired British “moderate” ones.

In the media British Muslims appear to come in from small vocal minorities. What better example than the columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown; she is an Ismaili, one of fifty thousand. Or the Muslim Brotherhood whose main influence is in London's Arab community and control just seven mosques out of over sixteen hundred. Then there are the angry, shouting “radicals”.

One hopes that those in national and local government, the politicians and bureaucrats, read this book too. Innes observed many 'knew shockingly little about them'.

It should be on the desk of those responding to British Muslims as individuals and communities, such as community workers and the police.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 12 August 2014
Still reading this, but well worth buying and studying. Well researched and well presented.
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on 21 June 2015
Innes Bowen presents a well research and objective account of the political groups with in the UK, their back-stories, influences and dynamics. It is a fascinating read and will provide a sound context if you are looking understand the role of non-secular and political Islam in the UK. Bowen presents little commentary into the subject matter and, despite the controversial subject matter, is very matter of fact and non-judgmental. Its a book I often refer to when looking for a context of a Muslim commentator on TV on what exactly and why they are saying what they are saying.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 11 July 2014
Although I feel that the author approaches British Islam from the point of view of an outsider, and doesn't see Islam in its Britishness, as part of our common culture - this is a solid and informative work. This really is the first aerial perspective of the fastest growing faith in the UK, warts and all!
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on 17 June 2015
This book does exactly as claimed. It gives a detailed breakdown of the various forms of Islam practised in the U.K. There is a lot more to Islam than the obvious division into Sunni and Shia. It is hard to remember all of the varieties such as Deobandi, Salafi, Ismaili, etc but this book is a must for anyone wanting a description and history of Islam in the UK and beyond.
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