Charles Moore, Daily Telegraph, Jan.24, www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/columnists/charlesmoore/8277811/A-British-Muslim-who-would-rather-talk.html
In ‘Wandering Lonely in a Crowd’, S?M?Atif Imtiaz’s desire for genuine discussion about Islam in Britain is striking and compelling.
Last week, I reviewed a book by John Gross about growing up Jewish in London 70 years ago.
Much of the book’s interest lies in the encounter between Jewishness and Britishness. The young Gross was well educated – much better than most Gentiles – in the history and culture of the country his parents had adopted. Jewishness and Britishness intertwined, each benefiting the other. Since there are now something like two million Muslims in Britain – a far larger grouping than the Jews – one longs for some comparable process with them.
So I find it most interesting to hear the different tone of voice in which Atif Imtiaz speaks. He is a youngish community activist from Bradford, and now works as academic director at the Cambridge Muslim College. This book is a collection of his essays and short stories ordered round the question of what the author calls “the Muslim condition in the West”.
This book starts with an essay which the author wrote shortly after 9/11. I am glad that he included it because it shows how his attitude has developed since then. There, he indulges some of the paranoia about the media that often afflicts Islamic conversation, and seems to find it impossible to understand why non-Muslim reaction to a massive terrorist attack committed by Muslims in the name of their religion should be alarmed and hostile.
In the rest of the book, though, Atif Imtiaz is trying hard to get his fellow Muslims to move outside their half-comforting, half-terrifying world of conspiracy theories and play their part in the life of the nation which they inhabit. And he wants to persuade the rest of us that there is no absolute contradiction between Islam and freedom.