Faith and representation

A ‘system of self-appointed leaders’?

STEPHEN H. JONES ET AL: Critics of Muslim representation have become more prominent over the last decade. Today, though, Muslim representation is more dynamic, with new Muslim voices using a range of different channels to engage with government. The dominant understanding of Muslim representation as a ‘system of self-appointed leaders’ needs to be reassessed.

Representing Jews

KEITH KAHN-HARRIS: The British Jewish community is one of the oldest religious minorities in the UK, and its main representative bodies date back hundreds of years. Today, these bodies benefit from the continued desire for a prominent public Jewish voice, but with the UK’s Jewish population becoming increasingly diverse and politically divided, it has become much harder for any person or organisation claim that they speak for British Jews.

Who speaks for British Sikhs?

JASJIT SINGH: To date, no Sikh organisation has managed to command legitimacy across the whole Sikh community. But despite this Sikhs have managed to occupy a distinctive position in the history of multiculturalism in Britain and have often been the first group to negotiate opt-outs relating to religious dress.

Religious leaders don’t represent religious people

LINDA WOODHEAD: Traditionally it has fallen to the leaders of churches and other religious organisations to represent the views of the faith communities to government. However, the divide between religious leaders and the general public, including ‘lay’ religious believers, is becoming greater. New forms of religious representation are needed.

Not easy being in the British media

PAUL STATHAM: Many Muslims in Britain have come to regard the press as an institution that consistently misrepresents their interests and paints them as unreasonable or politically extreme. Yet a growing number of Muslim organisations have started to take steps to improve Muslims’ media representation, including concerted efforts to introduce new Muslim spokespersons to the British public.

Representing British Hindus

JOHN ZAVOS: The first national Hindu representative body was set up 1978 with the modest aim of helping British Hindus set up temples. But with growing emphasis being placed on the role of ‘faith communities’ in public life, new organisations have begun to emerge, offering advice to government and developing a public response to issues affecting the British Hindu population.

Presence, voice and impact: Muslim participation in governance

THERESE O’TOOLE ET AL: Thanks to events such as the Rushdie affair and the publication in Denmark in 2005 of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslim political activism has been associated primarily with protest. The last fifteen years have however seen Muslims increasingly participating in governance. Though less remarked on, this type of political action has had a significant impact on national politics in Britain.

The politics of Hajj-going in Britain

SEAN MCLOUGHLIN: The Hajj is one of the largest annually occurring pilgrimages in the world and is a major event in the lifetime of many Muslims. In the UK it has also been at the centre of complex negotiations between Muslims and between Muslims and government. Indeed, by exploring the politics of Hajj-going in Britain one can get an insight into the fluctuating relations between Muslims and the state over the last twenty years.