Three Monkeys Online

A Curious, Alternative Magazine

The Multi-Culturalist. William Dalrymple in interview with Three Monkeys Online Magazine.

The Islam that I love is under threat. Popular Islam, as has been lived for centuries, is now under threat, and one finds in Moslem communities in India, Pakistan, or wherever, that they are often besieged by fundamentalists, often wearing Saudi clothing. You can see in Nigeria, where the calls for Shari’a and the death penalty, have shocked the Western world – you can see the influence of Wahabism.

White Mughals is very much the story of British integration in India, integration with Moslem India. One of the signs of this, the indication of integration, is often the dress code. What are the challenges for Moslems in Europe – where for example we have this rift in France over the wearing of the veil?

Well, in Britain, I think, we have the highest degree of integration in Europe. There are many positive signs of multi-cultural Britain, and of how things can be. But then again, and to be honest it's understandable to an extent, for people who don't know anything about Islam and who turn on the television and see crowds throwing stones at the Israelis, or suicide bombers or whatever – and these have led to misunderstandings about Islam, and indeed hostility to Moslems. I think Islamophobia has well replaced anti-Semitism as the principal British expression of bigotry. I think one finds more open expression of hatred, dislike and hostility towards Moslems than against any other religious or ethnic group be it Black, Jews, or Catholics, all of whom have at one point or another been on the receiving end of British bigotry.

I think it's a very confusing time for British Moslems, because they are very often confronted by great hostility by the host community, and there is a great temptation for many to turn towards extremism. They see themselves rejected, and they take refuge in the teachings and writings of extremists. I think it's the job of all of us who have seen the other side of Islam, to make sure that Islamophobia is confronted, and combated. That the other view is put out there, and that we do what we can to make Britain's Moslems feel at home.

There's a brilliant quote from Jason Bourke's book on Al-Qaeda which says that the thing that will win the war on terrorism is not intelligence experts, or security operations, but rather the battle for the hearts and minds of the Moslem world. And that is a battle that at the moment we're not winning.

William Dalrymple’s Home Site

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