Back in 2003, we marched…

Over at Bradford Muslim, Atif Imtiaz offers up “The Marcher’s Song“, a detailed account of a single day, when he recalls a big anti-war march he went on in September 2002. This was the prelude to an even bigger march on the 15th February 2003, the day when millions marched around the world to stop the invasion of Iraq. The marches still represent the single most decisive political intervention in Britain against the prevailing political consensus around how the “war on terror” ought to be conducted: witness, for instance, Gordon Brown’s recent reiteration of his pledge to make Parliament — and not the Executive — responsible for taking the nation to war. An unthinkable proposal, without the precedent set in 2003 of a Parliamentary vote on whether to go to war or not, which would not have been conceded without the largest protest march in British political history — a mobilisation of the British people in which British Muslims played a significant role.

In five parts [1] [2] [3] [4] [5], Imtiaz recounts the religious and political conversations that go backwards and forwards over the course of a long day between Sufis, activists, “Rude Boys”, namazis — and curious non-Muslims. With humour and insight, Imtiaz unpacks the difficult issues around Islamic activism in the early Nineties, and the legacy of that period, with greater clarity and precision than does Ed Husain’s The Islamist, and is more direct about the motives of marching than is Ian MacEwan’s Saturday. How much was the Islamic scene of the early Nineties to do with growing up, with cultural self-absorption, with the visible and not-so-visible barriers that prejudice sets up? Imtiaz sets this all out as well as offering a proposed solution: the need to “only connect” within and beyond the horizon of liberal self-understanding. Camus and Nietzsche, two authors Imtiaz preoccupies himself with to wile away the miles from Bradford to London and back again, are seen as arguing not against the “death of religion” but against the “dearth of meaning”. Religion will continue to play a central role, Atif insists, in the human search for meaning.

Imtiaz offers a fuller analytical analysis of these issues in an earlier series of six posts, The Muslim Condition, which ought to be considered as obligatory reading for anyone who wants to understand the current trends and concerns among British Muslims.

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