There are many leaflets, web pages, books and other material that seek to introduce Islam as a religion either to explain it in a religious context or to seek to persuade readers to convert to Islam themselves. This one however seeks to explain Muslim practice and behaviour in a practical sense, for non-Muslims who need to accommodate or recognise normal Muslim practice
- in the contexts of integration with Muslims in a shared environment such as the workplace,
- when hosting community events which depend on the full participation of Muslims,
- in professionally intimate, invasive or antagonistic situations such as policing, where normal Muslim practice is susceptible to misinterpretation.
Therefore the content of this text attempts to be both succinct and comprehensive, and includes little by way of religious explanation, history or justification, but includes many practical details that are sometimes complex or are rather more earthy than polite over-dinner conversation (and are therefore often overlooked for being too intimate to mention), or are frequent causes of unspoken but toe-curling embarrassment. It also raises a number of miscellaneous points that are frequently misunderstood.
Copies of the printed book, “Islam and Muslims In Britain, A Guide for Non-Muslims”, are available from City of London Police. Please contact
Race and Diversity Unit,
City of London Police,
P O Box 36451
This press release may assist your enquiry:
City Police launch 'Guide to Islam'
All text reproduced here is copyright, ownership and intellectual
property rights remaining jointly with Mehmood Naqshbandi and Police
Authority for the City of London at all times. If you would like to use
any of this material please contact City of London Police using the
address or link above.
Inevitably Muslims differ in their personal commitment to practice and differ between doctrinal and cultural traditions, and have differing knowledge about the correct practice of Islam. Therefore it is by no means the case that what is described herein is always observed in practice. However I have tried to be as objective and comprehensive as possible, so it is likely that readers will observe at least partial fulfilment of these practices among most Muslims rather than something significantly different to them. On the whole the Muslim community is far more aware of its religious beliefs and practices than most of the rest of British society is of their religious traditions, regardless of how much the individual Muslim actually practises. The extent to which individual Muslims are prepared to compromise the rigidities of their practice is a matter of conscience, so for many Muslims some of the issues raised here do not apply. However one should not suppose that other Muslims would also accept the same compromises. By definition, religious practice is a matter of conscience, and what is acceptable compromise for one may be objectionable to another.
It is often presumed that the Muslim community
is a single entity, speaking with one voice and with clearly defined
leadership. Indeed it is a point of religious principle among Muslims
that the community is united and oblivious of ethnic or other
divisions. Unfortunately in practice the very opposite is true. Local
communities are subject to local, ethnic, doctrinal, political or other
rivalries. It is important to be aware of these when dealing with
individuals from a particular group or locality, and it is important to
avoid situations where whole sub-sections of the Muslim community are
overlooked because they are not represented by the individuals with
whom contact is made. Therefore the booklet highlights the factional
aspect of the Muslim community even though the Muslim community tends
to be very coy about its factionalism. Muslim readers may object to
this emphasis, but the evidence of its pervasiveness becomes all too
clear e.g. when in a masjid (i.e. a ‘mosque’ – throughout this booklet,
the word masjid has been used instead of the meaningless word “mosque”)
someone has to be picked to substitute for an absent imam, or a new
convert is confronted with rival claims to his attention. In spite of
these factional difficulties it is generally conceded that Muslims in
Britain are far and way the most organised and involved in society of
any Muslim minority in Europe.
Muslims in Britain are extraordinarily well integrated … with each
other! There are more diverse Muslims from more different countries and
communities living together harmoniously in London than any other city
in the world. A vital element of that integration among Muslims is the
ability to project a distinct Muslim religious identity over and above
any ethnic identity or culture. The problem for the wider community is
that unlike food, fashion, sport, music, drugs, slang, humour or the
arts, religion is indivisible and un-shareable. That is not to say that
Muslims do not have a lot to discuss with Christians, Jews and
Humanists – on the contrary Muslims now have a central place in
religious debate in Britain. But invariably people define integration
as the extent to which culture has been shared and absorbed, from
popular entertainment to tastes in narcotics. Islam has become
shareable in the narrow sense that most people in Britain now know
something about it, and that conversion to Islam is not unusual, but it
is not like an entertainment or cultural source from which people can
take as they please. Therefore the only measure of integration of
Muslims into wider society is the extent to which distinct Muslim
practice is accepted by the latter.
This guide is a generalised view and in some cases it will be necessary
to seek more specific advice, preferably from someone in the Muslim
community with direct, local community knowledge, if that is possible.
While this guide describes a number of situations where normal Muslim
practices may be misinterpreted, it does not address issues of
political extremism, militancy or political violence. These areas are
complex and subjective, so if the reader has concerns of that nature,
it cannot be stressed strongly enough that expert guidance should be
sought. The Muslim Contact Unit, Metropolitan Police, New Scotland Yard
provides assistance of exactly that kind.
A glossary of non-English-language terms is included at the end.
Contact information is included on the Contacts page on the banner menu at the top of the page.
Throughout this booklet, the symbol has been used as a token of respect after every reference to the Prophet of Islam, and it represents in Arabic, “salallahu alayhi wa salaam”, ‘Peace and Blessings of Allah be upon him’. Also the word ‘masjid’ is used throughout instead of ‘mosque’ since the latter is a meaningless word and would be considered patronising if it wasn’t so widely used.