On Zia Sardar and the Power 100

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Once in a blue moon I find myself agreeing with the ultra-modernist Ziauddin Sardar, who writes a column in the New Statesman (you can see what I’ve written about his other writings in the “ZiaWatch” category). In this week’s New Statesman, he has an article in reaction to the recently published “Muslim Power 100”, which was sponsored by the Islamic Bank of Britain and Carter Andersen (I’m not sure what they do, because the only website under their name is at the time of writing suspended for non-payment of hosting fees). This is supposedly a list of the hundred most powerful Muslims (or people with Muslim names) in the UK right now. Sardar’s article sums it up:

A careful reading of the Muslim power list shows a parade of the usual suspects. Some of them may be millionaires, but they are totally without influence. Some of them may be community leaders, but they have never bothered to gather a real following, or build substantial institutions that engage with and minister to the needs of the mass of British Muslims. Many are self-selected and surrounded by their contacts, their friends and others with whom they organise meetings and conferences in desperate attempts to show that not all Muslims want to turn Britain into an Islamic state.

He also notes that the list “follows a time-honoured Muslim tradition” in that several of those at the top of the list just happened to be on the judging panel. He suggests that “real power” exists in organisations like City Circle and websites like MuslimYouth.net. I notice that virtually an entire class of people with actual influence within the Muslim community - religious scholars - are absent. The nearest we get is Dr Farhan Nizami, founder of the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies (founding chairman: Shaikh Abul-Hasan Ali Nadwi); Tariq Ramadan is also on the list. However, I would have thought that Shaikh Yusuf Motala, who founded the Bury madrassa from which a fairly large number of the imams trained in Britain come, would deserve a place; there is hardly any other representative of an actual British Muslim religious institution on the list, and given how well-represented we are in the medical profession, it is surprising that there is not a single person on the list involved in medicine.

The list is mostly full of “industrialists”, many of them financiers, and few of them actual entrepreneurs (that is, people who have risked their own wealth in starting a business). There’s the chairman of Bournemouth (!) football club, the actor Art Malik, Amjad Hussain (“Director General Logistics (Fleet)”), Anila Baig of the Sun, the “author and garden designer” Emma Clark, Ghayasuddin Siddiqui (head of the so-called Muslim Parliament, an unelected body which started out as the Khomeini fan club and now busies itself attacking “Wahhabis”), Dr Hassena Lockhat (“author”), Mohamed al-Fayed, the photographer Peter Sanders (they don’t mention his Islamic name, Abdul-Adheem), Shami Ahmed of the Joe Bloggs fashion chain and the non-Muslim (Isma’ili) columnist, who writes articles attacking the hijab in the Evening Standard, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown.

No doubt there are a few worthies on the list who have made genuine contributions to the lives of Muslims and given good service to society in general (such as Hany el-Banna, founder of Islamic Relief), and I’m sure that there have been many Muslims (and others) who have cause to thank Muhammad Khalid for founding Chicken Cottage. There are one or two lawyers who have given the community good service also. However, I doubt very much whether many of the industrialists and financiers are even known within the Muslim community, however much renown they have in their particular sector. It speaks volumes about how much political power we have that every single Muslim MP, and various other minor politicians, are on the list; it does, however, completely ignore people who are held in huge respect and who have considerable influence over the Muslims.

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