Muslims are allowed to remain isolated within immigrant communities in Britain, often leaving them feeling like outsiders, a Muslim leader said Monday."The British do not poke their nose into your lives," Zaki Badawi, director of the Muslim College in London, told a symposium Monday hosted by the Syracuse University London Program. "Democratic societies do not bother about minority communities until they become unpleasant. Then they do something about it."
As a result of this separatism, Muslims often do not learn English or adapt to British customs, he said.
Muslim parents initially worried about sending their children to Western schools, he said. School lunches could contain foods like pork, which is not permitted under Muslim law. Parents also worried that girls' school uniforms were not conservative enough.
Badawi condemned terrorist activities as not representative of Muslims as a whole, saying the Koran opposes discrimination on the basis of gender, race and denomination.
Other speakers at the "Encounter with Islam" conference included Yusuf Islam, formerly the Catholic-educated recording artist Cat Stevens who converted to Islam after a near-fatal bout of tuberculosis led him to read the Koran.
In the late 1970s, he found himself in difficulties while swimming in the Pacific Ocean, and started to pray. "I said, 'God, if you'll save me, I'll work for you,"' he recalled. A.M.