Queen, country and Quran: the intriguing combination thrown up by a new report on Islam. According to the Open Society Institute, British Muslims are the most patriotic in Europe.
Union Jack hijabs and halal Beefeaters? Maybe not, but 78 per cent of Muslims in the UK feel British – a startling figure in a country fixated on “home-grown” suicide bombers and sharia law aficionados. Throw in the UK’s war efforts, and you wonder why any Muslim would have an away day in Leicester, let alone live there.
But Britain is a historic Muslim centre. It once lay at the heart of an empire that included 100 million followers of the religion. This shared past is reflected in everything from architecture to concerns about global warming. (“The world is green and beautiful,” said the Prophet. “Allah has appointed you His guardian over it.”)
Anglo-Saxon notions of fair play mean that most Muslims feel welcome in society and are not corralled into housing projects as in Berlin or Paris. Integration is as much about providing job opportunities for people from all backgrounds as it is about religious freedom. Organisations such as the Equality and Human Rights Commission target racism and xenophobia, generating genuine trust in institutions.
The situation is by no means perfect. Islam is a long way from any romantic conception of European nationhood. Still, the words “British” and “Muslim” have a great deal in common.