Medina in Birmingham; Najaf in Brent Inside British Islam By Innes Bowen (London: C. Hurst & Co., 2014. 230 pages)

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Rebecca Masterton

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Medina in Birmingham; Najaf in Brent: Inside British Islam by Innes Bowen
seeks to explain to a mainly non-Muslim readership the complexities and nuances
of different Muslim groups that have come to live in Britain since the
1950s. The book aims to be “a guide to the ideological differences, organisational
structures and international links of the main Islamic groups active in
Britain today” needed in order partly to counter the perception that Muslims
form one homogenous mass. It follows in the tradition of ethnographic works
begun in the colonial period, that were produced in order to inform the British
Government about the thinking and culture of those under its administration
and, more importantly, about whether they were planning any uprisings or
posed any threat. An example of this approach can be seen in Bowen’s assurances
that the Twelver Shi‘a living in Britain do not unequivocally support
Iran:
The most striking feature of Britain’s Shia community is the lack of influence
that the Islamic Republic of Iran exerts over it, despite all of its resources.
[…] The fact that Najaf school secularism has triumphed over Tehran’s Islamism
will be something of a relief to [the] British government. (p. 162)
Bowen also remarks on how little Britain’s police force know about the Muslim
groups with which they have co-operated: ...

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