When first asked to review the book, my first comment was “Who was Ghayasuddin Siddiqui?”. Then it dawned on me, I quickly resurrected the constellation of major political events of the past five decades and the role of Ghayasuddin played in them became clear.

This is a book which looks back at the history of British Muslims and how far they seemed to have travelled ideologically (from once looking for a Muslim counterweight to Western domination to assimilation into Western political landscape).

It pays tribute to outspoken individuals whose radical thinking shaped the agenda at the time and whose influence is still felt today.

In reading the book it brought to mind the early Labour union activists – fighting powerful industrialists with little more than passion and conviction that moral right was on their side and theirs was a fight for universal rights.

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Malcolm X exchanging words with Ghayas who had arranged for himto speak at Sheffield University on 4 December 1964

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At the huge anti-war demon-stration at Trafalgar Square organised bythe Stop the War Coalition on 2nd March2002 with George Galloway (far left, back to camera), Tariq Ali and Jeremy Corbyn. ©Salim Bhorat

In the 1980s British Muslims were being acclimatised to their new home and the political structures, this set against a painful memory of destructive and racist colonialism. Other themes inferred from the book; that whilst we age as individuals the wider political agendas transcend generations and haven't change very much.

It also reminds us of the time when demanding rights according to identity seemed normal.

The book tracks the journey of the two unrelated Siddiques (Kalim and Ghayas) who bravely walked into the political storms of their time with sleeves rolled up. These included the aftermath of the Iranian Revolution, the Salman Rushdie affair and the “Bosnian” war. It touches upon the universal desire for Muslims to have their voices heard and respected. 

In creating the “The Muslim Parliament of Great Britain” for instance the duo expertly used the hostile media to their advantage knowing the paradox created by appropriating the word “Parliament”.

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Recieving an award from Sindh university in 1961 as secretery of the union

This was a tough book to read because it felt the author had the difficult task of accurately reporting events and simultaneously representing Ghaysasuddin as a sage/saint/statesman.

This is evidenced in the use of the old photo of Ghaysassudin on the cover it could be any 1001 Pakistani gentleman in the sixties.  Why would you make the assumption that the audience know who this is? Certainly, young people may not be aware of the nature and importance of the achievements documented here.

Yet, we must pay respect to the dedication, wide-ranging ideas and deep political thought documented in his book.

I may not agree with some of them but I do think the Muslim community could learn a lot by unpicking some of the key decisions. As British Islam finds itself constantly in the media for all sorts of reasons many of us could benefit from reading the journey of those who came before us.

A Very British Muslim Activist:  The Life of Ghayasuddin Siddiqui By C. Scott Jordan & Ghayasuddin Siddiqui can be purchased here