Muslims and governance in Britain: an evolving relationship

MPCG photoIn the last two decades, a wide variety of new partnerships have been formed between government and Muslim representative organisations and individuals. At both national and local levels, Muslims and government have engaged with one another in policy areas including community cohesion, equality and security. These relationships have, however, often been fraught and marked by numerous controversies relating to representation, rights and democratic accountability. For some, they have contributed to a renewal of democratic participation, while for others they have resulted in a weakening of individual rights and been marked by repeated attempts to domesticate British Muslim communities.

This series of articles offers an insight into how Muslim participation has developed in Britain over the past twenty years. Beginning with a contribution based on a major study funded by the Religion and Society Programme between 2010 and 2012 entitled ‘Muslim Participation in Contemporary Governance‘.

The first article, Presence, Voice and Impact: Muslim Participation in Governance, provides an overview and analysis of Muslims’ presence in and impact on policymaking, authored by Therese O’Toole et al of the University of Bristol.

There follows two responses to the project’s final research report, Taking Part, with thoughts on the lessons the research contains for Muslim community organisations, as well as critical comments about the limitations of Muslim participation in governance.

The first by Dilwar Hussain of New Horizons in British Islam asks whether Muslim civil society organisations are Winning the battles but losing the war?

The second by Humera Khan of the An-Nisa society argues that Muslims have been Not part of the process, but the victims of it.

In addition to these short essays, we have included a longer piece from Sean McLoughlin of the University of Leeds looking into how Muslim organisations have worked with government to assist British Muslims going on Hajj: The politics of Hajj-going in Britain. By focusing on this issue, McLoughlin’s essay gives an insight into the competition that has emerged between Muslim organisations, as well as the fluctuating fortunes of these organisations under Labour and coalition governments.

Together, these articles portray a shifting and complex set of relations between Muslim civil society actors and government.