Current Affairs

Op-ed: Young Muslims raise their voices to call for justice and end oppression

The shadow of the War on Terror hangs heavy over Muslim communities in the West. Exploding into existence with George Bush’s Operation Enduring Freedom sixteen years ago, it now smolders with no end in sight, its wounds weeping the world over.

For Muslim youth growing up in Britain today, living as members of a permanently suspect community, marginalised in every sphere from society to employment and being the objects of ire for media and politicians alike, is the only world they have ever known.

But any straightforward narrative of Muslim life in Britain solely defined by the oppression facing Muslims can overlook their legacies of resistance, their proud history of speaking truth to power, and the way that their collective histories can inform action in the present.

From the outset, Muslims in Britain – especially the youth – threw themselves into challenging the War on Terror and its impacts. Mobilising around injustices inflicted in its name, Muslim youth animated and energised the anti-war movement.

From school children writing letters to political prisoners in Guantanamo, to Jumu’ah khutbahs reporting on the state of an ummah under pressure, this growing political consciousness connected generations.

Within mosques, colleges and communities, the collective organising potential of a Muslim civil society was harnessed – with Muslims building power far beyond the halls of Parliament and outside traditional channels of political representation, whilst drawing unapologetically upon Islam as their defining creed and motivation.

It is inevitable that such a movement would need to be kerbed to defend the state’s interests.

Prevent served that need.

But despite government measures to silence them, young Muslims have been the engine of change in Britain, giving voice and vitality to the struggles that have defined a generation. What lies ahead is never certain, but Muslims in Britain now face a critical junction.

A generation before us, strategies of state multiculturalism splintered and pacified antiracist Black and Asian organisations, dividing them up through funding for insular ethnic enterprises.

The promise of assimilation and political representation has corrupted many communities of past – the temptation to abandon underclass status for a turn in the seats of power has often proved overwhelming.

Whilst fighting our own oppression, Muslims will need to remain wary of attempts by the state to offer ‘easy outs’ that allow the cycle of oppression to continue on to another community, or marginalise the most vulnerable among us.

The struggle before us isn’t just about tackling Prevent, or turning the clock back to a simpler time pre-War on Terror, or even reclaiming the space to organise and practice our faith as Muslims in peace.

Rather, the true test can be found in whether we can bring forth the spirit of resistance that has compelled us to combat injustices against Muslims, remain firmly on the side of the oppressed, and continue to hold a mirror to the state in all that we do.

by Azfar Shuja

On November 18th CAGE are hosting exclusive spoken word event inspired by the truths from inside the wire that laid bare to the world the human voices that were caught up in the War on Terror. Fourteen years on, we invite you to listen to those same words and beyond in the hope that we do not just stand as witnesses but also work to empower and seek justice.

Register at


CAGE is an independent advocacy organisation working to empower communities impacted by the War on Terror. The organisation highlights and campaigns against state policies, developed as part of the War on Terror, striving for a world free from oppression and injustice.

1 Comment

  1. School uses PREVENT to Threaten Muslim Parent Who Requested Pupil Removal from Christmas Assembly.

    My sources have heard from parents that teachers have been overly keen to get Muslim children involved in Christmas celebrations. Until recently, however, I have not been able to obtain any hard evidence to corroborate this anecdotal evidence. My sources have now forwarded startling information in the form of a letter which disturbingly issues a PREVENT-based threat to a Muslim parent for effectively requesting that his child be removed from the school Christmas assembly. The assembly entails singing the Christmas carol called a “Silent Night”, a poem written by the priest Joseph Mohr in 1816.

    My sources in London state that the distraught father, who does not speak English as his first language, simply stated that he did not want his child to join in with Silent Night, as it is for Christians. This however, has been interpreted “intolerance” and therefore contrary to “British values”.

    Muslims are supposed to respect and tolerate those who are different. It is the native Brit who has never learn to respect and tolerate those who are different. A report by the Institute for Community Cohesion found that native parents were deserting some schools after finding their children out numbered by pupils from ethnic minorities. Schools in parts of England are becoming increasingly segregated. The study focused on 13 local authorities. Many of the schools and colleges are segregated and this was generally worsening over recent years. This is RACISM because British society is the home of institutional racism. My statement regarding Muslim schools where there is no place for non-Muslim child or a teacher is based on educational process and not on racism. Muslim children need Muslim teachers during their developmental periods. For higher studies and research, Muslim teacher is not a priority.

    Before they come to Europe they thought they are moving to a civilised tolerant countries. When they come here they find that the so called civilised do not respect and tolerate those who are different. They face discrimination in every walk of life. A tiny minority of them becomes extremists. Do not blame all refugees and immigrants. 99.9% are law abiding people and working for the prosperity of Europe.

    7/7 bombers and all British Jihadis who are in Iraq and Syria are the product of British schooling. None of them were educated in a Muslim school. There will never be an end to extremism as long as Muslim children keep on attending your sinks schools with non-Muslim teachers. Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers as role models during their developmental periods. There is no place for non-Muslim child or a teacher in a Muslim school.

    Have you read the Wikileaks and the war crimes by USA and the west. They are not leaks by Muslims. In that it suggest war crimes by the USA and its allies. Now imagine if west didn’t kill millions of people for oil it’s not a secret anymore they have even apologised for Iraq. Funding isis in Syria, Gitmo, Palestine, by killing millions of innocent people don’t you think some will seek revenge? I don’t condone terrorism but I can see why they do it.

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