APPG on British Muslim
‘A Very Merry Muslim Christmas’ Report

Dr. Mozammel Haque

All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims launched a Report entitled titled ‘A Very Merry Muslim Christmas’ Report at the British Parliament on 19 December, 2017. The APPG on British Muslims submitted its report on the untold story of British Muslim charities which the APPG on British Muslims wants to highlight in this summary report, drawing on oral and written evidence presented to the group during hearings held in Parliament in November 2017.

 

‘A Very Merry Muslim Christmas’ Report

Acknowledges British Muslim Contributions

All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims organised a meeting at the Palace of Westminster, London, on 19 December, 2017 which presented findings of “A Very Merry Muslim Christmas” Report highlighting ‘Faith as the Fourth Emergency Service’. This meeting was chaired by Anna Soubry & Wes Streeting, MP. In her Opening remarks, Anna Soubry, Member of Parliament (MP) narrated the background to APPG on British Muslims and why it was formed. In her remarks she also mentioned a short background on this being the first report and why such a report is so important.

 

Anna Soubry in her opening remarks enquired what is Christmas. And immediately added, you Christians have completely lost the essence of Christmas. “But Muslims have not lost – huge celebration of what Muslims do all this time of the year.” She also mentioned about Islam the religion which thinks of other people; this report is part of that.

 

The second speaker was Naz Shah MP who spoke about the untold stories of British Muslims. She mentioned, How we are often told about the negative stories regarding British Muslims and not those that are just getting on and making a positive difference. She gave some examples of positive stories from the report.

 

The third speaker was Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Member of the House of Lords of the British Parliament, who spoke about the findings of the report. Baroness Warsi mentioned, How the findings of the report are just a drop of the ocean? She said more research is needed on this subject. We often see further research carried out on Muslims in relation to Extremism, Grooming, Integration and other negative areas; we should also see further research in this area.

 

Baroness Warsi also mentioned what were the findings? The findings of the evidence sessions, i.e. Muslims often give because of their faith. Give with one hand without the other knowing. Lots of groups work purely as volunteers and how most of the recipients of Muslim donations are non-Muslims.

 

Report

In the Foreword of the Report, Anna Soubry and Wes Streeting, Co-chairs of the APPG on British Muslims, mentioned, “Too Often, Muslim charities come to our attention because of negative media coverage of governance issues or bad practice among a handful of individuals working in the charity sector, or because of latent fears about charities being abused for terrorism financing, even though evidence assembled by the Charities Commission  recognises the near non-existent level of threat of such abuse in the sector.”

 

Anna Soubry, Member of Parliament, also mentioned in the Foreword, “What is less well appreciated, and rarely celebrated, is the fantastic range of work done by Muslim charities in the UK which evoke the very best of our British Muslim communities: a commitment to giving to those less fortunate than themselves, a desire to help those in need, a willingness to volunteer time, professionalism and extend friendship to those who are simply in need of a warm embrace, a friendly face and/or a place to go for a free hot meal.”

 

It was also mentioned in the Foreword: “Muslims quietly go about charity giving in a way that is consistent with the emphasis in Islam on discretion; of ‘giving charity so that the left hand does not know what the right hand gives’; but this is a story which needs to be told and we want to be the ones to tell it. Let us celebrate the benefits of a multi-faith society, where people from different faith traditions focus their charitable activities on helping their neighbours in towns and cities across the UK.”

 

“What we hear even less about is the ‘Muslim Merry Christmas’. The soup Kitchens, the food banks, the Christmas dinners, the New Year clean up – work Muslim charities will be busy doing during the Christmas period,” mentioned in the Foreword.

 

The Foreword clearly said, “British Muslim charities haven’t received the kind of attention they deserve. At this time of year, when Muslim charities are working alongside many other faith based charities to spread good cheer, peace on earth and goodwill to all we hope our preliminary findings highlights and celebrates their work.”

 

Findings of the Report

Following questions were raised when the investigation was going on: ‘Why was it necessary to establish an inquiry into Muslim charitable contributions to the UK? Would it even be possible to quantify the impact of the Muslim charity sector in the UK? Would we be able to do justice to the work of Muslim charities in the UK and in doing so, shine a light on the myriad contributions British Muslims are making in their local communities and on the national scene?

 

The Report says: “the elision in the public imagination of Islam with violence and conflict, the perception of Muslims as ‘takers’ not ‘givers’ and the pervasive narratives which portray British Muslims as resistant to integration in British society, seemingly preferring to set themselves apart than be alongside their neighbours.”

 

“But such perceptions of British Muslims, and of British Muslim charities in particular, are wide off the mark,” the Report said and added, “We did so because Muslim charities are illustrative of those facets of British Muslim lives which we rarely hear about: expressing compassion for those less fortunate than themselves, exemplifying Islamic teachings to give generously to alleviate poverty, hunger and to care for the elderly, the sick and the needy. Being civic-minded and socially aware are among the primary teachings of Islam”.

 

The Report finds: “It is well-known that charity giving is integral to Islam, as it is in other great religious traditions but what is less well known, indeed what is often wilfully ignored, is the role Muslim charities play in bringing communities together by facilitating integration and social cohesion through civic solidarity, interfaith social action and crisis response.

 

“Muslim charities engage in such charity work without regard for the age, gender, racial, religious or ethnic background of the beneficiaries. They do so with a poignant focus on responding to need,” the Report mentioned.

 

The Report also finds, “Another aspect that is also unknown and largely overlooked, but which deserves much wider attention, is the specific functions Muslim charities undertake during winter and in the Christmas season. It is at this time, when we are reminded of peace of earth and goodwill to all that Muslim charities come into their own.”

 

The Report mentioned, “British Muslims we spoke to were keen to exude Islam’s true teachings through their charitable works. They want the British public to recognise them for who they really are: British Muslims. Their Islamic faith and their British identity increasingly motivates them to respond to crises and social problems on their doorstep, from flooding to homelessness, domestic violence and prisoner rehabilitation.”

 

The Report also said, “This is social conscience, community spirit and civic engagement working together at its best. This is only a short summary of some of the findings from the evidence sessions held by the APPG in Parliament in November and the written submissions presented to the group by British Muslim charities as part of our call for evidence. This report showcases our preliminary findings.  It is merely an indicative of some of the impact made by the Muslim charities. It is in no way exhaustive of Muslim contributions to British society.”

 

Key Points of the Findings of the Report

Followings are some of the key points of the findings of the Report:

“Major festivals are a time to celebrate the values shared between religions. Values of charity, goodwill and caring for one’s neighbour all come to the fore during Ramadan, Eid, Christmas and other festivals. Muslim charities do tremendous work during Christmas and winter season by providing hot meals for the homeless, ‘Winter Warmer’ kits to keep the elderly and vulnerable groups warm in the colder months, and through provision of other essential items.

 

“Media narratives portray Muslims as rejecting, even calling for the banning of Christmas, but as our findings reveal, Muslims are busy preparing for a ‘Merry Muslim Christmas’ with charities distributing food parcels, hot meals, thermal clothing and other essential items to spread good cheer and help individuals celebrate the season.

 

“Some of the larger Muslim charities are recalibrating their distribution of charitable funds to commit more money to domestic projects and services. As the size of the young British Muslim population grows, they are increasingly focusing more of their time and money to charity at home.

 

“Muslim charities are at the forefront of domestic crisis response. One notable example illustrated in this report is the Grenfell Muslim Response Unit; a collaboration between a handful of British Muslim charities that have spearheaded emergency response, food and shelter provision, burial services and ongoing support to individuals and families affected by the Grenfell Tower fire.

 

“Muslim charities are increasingly responding to social needs in innovative and creative ways whether prisoner rehabilitation programmes or medical aid for homeless people to alleviate the strain on local A&E services. They are stepping in where other support or service networks are failing and in doing so demonstrate solidarity with their fellow citizens and exemplify the best of their religion.

 

“Substantial models for running food banks are being developed by Muslim charities such as UK Education and Faith Foundation, UK Islamic Mission and iCare. There is learning in the Muslim charity sector that is applicable to the wider charity sector.”