The overall intention of the multi-cultural and multi-religious Commission on British Muslims and Islamophobia chaired by Prof. Gordon Conway is twofold: (a) to counter Islamophobic assumptions that Islam is a single monolithic system, without internal development, diversity and dialogue, and; (b) to draw attention to the principal dangers which Islamophobia creates or exacerbates for Muslim communities, and therefore for the well-being of society as a whole.
The committee recommended the following for practical action against Islamophobia:
ü Islam seen as diverse and progressive, with internal differences, debates and development.
ü Islam seen as interdependent with other faiths and cultures – (a) having certain shared values and aims (b) affected by them (c) enriching them.
ü Islam seen as distinctively different, but not deficient, and as equally worthy of respect.
ü Islam seen as an actual or potential partner in joint cooperative enterprises and in the solution of shared problems.
ü Islam seen as a genuine religious faith, practised sincerely by its adherents.
ü Criticisms of ‘the West’ and other cultures are considered and debated.
ü Debates and disagreements with Islam do not diminish efforts to combat discrimination and exclusion.
ü Critical views of Islam are themselves subjected to critique, lest they be inaccurate and unfair.
Case studies of diverse nature of Islam include:
ü Kenneth Dike (1965) ‘As a historian myself, I have taken the keenest interest in this development, for it is through the aid of these Arabic documents and those written in African languages in Arabic scripts that the scholar will be aided. It had been a revelation to the whole world of scholarship to realize for the first time that Africa before the European penetration far from being a “dark continent” was in fact a continent where the light of scholarship shone brightly as the Arabic works now being discovered bear testimony….’
ü Glubb (1969) states ‘the indebtedness of Western Christendom to Arab civilization was systematically played down, if not completely denied. A tradition was built up, by censorship and propaganda, that the Muslim imperialists had been mere barbarians and that the rebirth of learning in the West derived directly from Roman and Greek sources alone, without any Arab intervention’.
ü Wickens (1976) said ‘In the broadest sense, the West’s borrowings from Middle East form practically the whole basic fabric of civilization. Without such fundamental borrowings from the Middle East’, he adds, ‘we should lack the following sorts of things among others (unless, of course, we had been quick and inventive enough to devise them all for ourselves): agriculture; the domestication of animals, for food, clothing and transportation; spinning and weaving; building; drainage and irrigation; road-making and the wheel; metal-working, and standard tools and weapons of all kinds; sailing ships; astronomical observation and the calendar; writing and the keeping of records; laws and civic life; coinage; abstract thought and mathematics; most of our religious ideas and symbols’, And he concluded that, ‘there is virtually no evidence for any of these basic things and processes and ideas being actually invented in the West’
ü HRH Prince Charles of Wales said at Oxford in 1993 “If there is much misunderstanding in the West about the nature of Islam, there is also much ignorance about the debt our own culture and civilization owe to the Islamic world. It is a failure, which stems, I think, from the straight-jacket of history, which we have inherited. The medieval Islamic world, from central Asia to the shores of the Atlantic, was a world where scholars and men of learning flourished. But because we have tended to see Islam as the enemy of the West, as an alien culture, society, and system of belief, we have tended to ignore or erase its great relevance to our own history”
ü The British philosopher Robert Flint wrote the following on Ibn Khaldun, a pioneer muslim polymath of Sociology and Anthropology: "as a theorist of history he had no equal in any age or country until Vico appeared, more than three hundred years later. Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine were not his peers, and all others were unworthy of being even mentioned along with him".
In the end, it was strongly reiterated by the commission that “We are anxious that our report should be a spur to timely action, by many people, in many places, of many kinds. Everyone, we stress, has a relevant and important part to play. Islamophobia is a challenge to us all.”