Tankevekkende story fra Alex Massie i The New Republic om problemet med britiske muslimer, som er muslimer først og pakistanere dernest.

There are few things more agreeably English than cricket. Time passes and times change, but cricket remains much the same. Like Shakespeare and P.G. Wodehouse, it is one of the great English gifts to civilization. This summer, however, cricket has also opened a window onto the vexed, troubling issue of how best to integrate and assimilate Great Britain’s approximately two million Muslims into British society. The good news is that Muslims and other minorities have become sufficiently integrated as to grow up wanting to play cricket for England. The bad news is that many of their Muslim schoolmates consider them traitors for doing so.

This week, Sajid Mahmood, a 24-year-old fast bowler born in the northern town of Bolton, produced the finest performance of his career to lead England to a vital victory against the touring Pakistani cricket team. For his troubles, Mahmood was heckled and labeled a traitor by a section of the crowd. Mahmood took the abuse–hurled by a group of vocal British Muslims–in stride, but the moment offered a snapshot of two possible futures for British Muslims: welcome integration into the mainstream or a retreat into isolation, bigotry, and violence.

The challenge of assimilation in Great Britain is daunting. A recent opinion survey of Muslims carried out by Channel 4 News concluded that just 44 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds feel Britain is their country, and 51 percent of them believe September 11 was the result of an American-Israeli conspiracy. Furthermore, 30 percent of British Muslims would like to live under sharia law, and 28 percent would like Great Britain to become an Islamic state. These findings, alas, cannot be considered the result of a rogue poll. A Pew Research Center survey this year found that 81 percent of British Muslims consider themselves Muslim first and British second. As Timothy Garton Ash noted in a prescient piece in Thursday’s Guardian, «This is a higher proportion than in Jordan, Egypt or Turkey, and exceeded only by that in Pakistan (87%).» No wonder the Channel 4 pollsters concluded that nearly one in ten British Muslims «can be classified as ‘Hardcore Islamists’ who are unconcerned by trifles like freedom of speech.»

The dilemma for the British government is simple: Can it really continue to engage radical Islam overseas and crack down upon radicals at home? And how much can it realistically do to change the attitudes of the angry, radical, terrorist-supporting elements of young Muslim Britain? How do you wins hearts and minds that are closed?

The challenge of Muslim assimilation in Britain