Beyond the Dysfunctional Family

Beyond the Dysfunctional Family: Jews, Christians and Muslims in Dialogue With Each Other and With Britain

By Alan Race, Tony Bayfield and Ataullah Siddiqui (Eds)

This book contains a series of articles by people of Jewish, Christian and Muslim backgrounds involved in interfaith discussions about the evolution of their communities.

My article, Chapter 3, is on: How Did the Muslim Community Come to Be Where it is Today?

A short extract:

“So the question of ‘being British’ was not a major issue for me, but for many Muslims of the second and third generation discussions of identity have been quite vocal debates. Are these Muslims British or Pakistani, Bengali, Gujarati, etc? This evolving debate has seen new twists and turns in the post 9/11 and post 7/7 era. For the vast majority the story has always been of people who saw great opportunities in the UK, people who were born, or at least brought up, here with a sense of pride and belonging – right down to the neighbourhood level and often displayed in the local accents, cultures and customs adopted by Muslims across the country. This process of adoption and adaptation has quite naturally created a gradually developing sense of hyphenated identities such as ‘British-Pakistani-Muslim’, or later just ‘British-Muslim’. It seems that the crux of the matter is how Muslims can become entirely comfortable being British and at the same time remain loyal to their faith. Can this apparently dual sense of loyalty be harmonised?…”

Summary of the Book

This book is the fruit of 15 years of face-to-face interfaith dialogue between practitioners of the three Abrahamic faith communities, Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The focus is on how the dialogue cannot be avoided if we are to build a society based on shared humane values. Theological questions are interwoven with a narrative of how tortured relationships from the past do not have to determine the future. There are 16 contributors but it is definitely not a collection of unrelated essays. The book builds in argument as writers interact with one another. It is a work of critical thinking, but free from unnecessary jargon. The authors are convinced that the next phase of religious identity needs urgently to embrace the growing dialogue between religious traditions, both as a search for a fuller account of religious truth and in the cooperation needed for overcoming the impression of endemic violence which many associate with religious conviction. The three religions share a positive sense of the goodness of creation, moral purpose in history and believing as a dynamic enterprise of persons. This book embraces a critical approach in all of these matters and accepts that such an approach is positive in outlook leading to a future based more on respect and mutual learning than on the suspicions which have characterised much of the past. Although the book’s context is the place of the three communities in Britain, it is also clear that the dialogue which it embodies will also contain lessons for other contexts beyond the confines of the shores of the United Kingdom alone. The beauty of this book is that it does not aim for dispassionate analysis. Over 15 years the contributors learned the value both of listening deeply and of responding empathetically, including sometimes sharply, to one another. They ended up convinced of their need of one another for the sake of a religious identity which will be more authentic for the 21st century if it is shaped by critical friendship. From now on it will not be possible for Judaism, Christianity and Islam to exist in isolation if the real truth of our human religious situation is to be grasped.

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