Saturday, 17 January 2015

There is a debate going on about the future of British Islam. Labour needs to join it

Charlie Hebdo's brilliant, poignant cover after the fatal
attacks on its offices, depicting Mohammed as on the
side of the victims
Following last week’s fatal shootings in the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, Monday night’s superbly-timed Panorama: The Battle for British Islam gave an insight into Islamic radicalism and the narratives which feed it.

The most notable thing, as a number commented on Twitter during the programme, was not so much that it was telling a few home truths about radicalism on prime-time television; but that it was being broadcast on the BBC, the heart of the liberal media establishment. (It is also a great tribute, incidentally, to why we still need public-service broadcasting, the Beeb being practically alone, among its not-so-brave British mainstream media competition, in showing the offending Charlie Hebdo cartoons.)

It was also possibly the first mainstream documentary which has homed in, correctly, on the poisonous “grievance narrative” – that Muslims are oppressed in Britain, singled out and victimised for their beliefs – which, as the program points out, is helping drive young Muslims away from their families and towards jihad. Racism exists, yes: but it also exists in non-Muslim ethnic communities, where the results are undeniably less extreme.

Finally, it seems, rational debate on what all this means is starting to reach ordinary people, and there is a glimmer of hope for resolving the deep problems currently faced by Muslim communities in Britain; in turning impressionable youth towards British culture and away from radicalism.

In short, there is a sensible position which neither mollycoddles Islamist extremists nor attacks moderate Muslims, and the lines of it were gently sketched out in the programme: promoting a positive vision from within, of an Islam which embraces Britain, rather than recoils from it.

Cut to the Home Office, where Theresa May and her Tory colleagues are preparing a raft of measures to nibble away at free speech and, very likely, the liberties of ordinary citizens; not to mention introducing populist controls on immigration.

In an election year, we should hardly expect anything else: we, they coo, are the party who will take your security concerns seriously. About the schools in Birmingham, the gangs in Rotherham. Not to mention how UKIP are handling the subject, especially in the North.

What has been Labour’s response to date? With a few noble exceptions, to largely hide its collective head in the sand about Islamist extremism and sideline it as a political topic; that is, when some of its members and MPs are not actively embracing it. Or to pretend that the security threat is overstated; or to insinuate that it wouldn’t happen anyway, were it not for Britain’s foreign policy (or ourformer foreign policy, which is even more futile). Worse, to try and compensate, we then mumble something vague about curbing immigration, when we should rather be stoutly defending it.

Well, it’s too late for all that. Most of the above mentioned problems are getting worse, not better. British Muslim youth is already fighting in Syria, in larger numbers than they are present in our own armed forces. And as Simone Rodan-Benzaquen, director of the American Jewish Committee in Paris commented after last week’s killings, maintaining Jews safe from jihadistic attacks in France was now “a very, very profound problem”. That’s the France of the 2010s, not the 1930s, by the way.

And the debate on European and British Islam is moving, like it or not. We either join in and shape it, or we will be on the outside, letting the political right shape it instead.

The frustrating thing is that Labour is the one party which can truly inform the British debate for the better, without resorting to either Tory populism, UKIP xenophobia or EDL racism. We should be leading it. But instead we seem to be afraid of that debate, because we are nervous of upsetting this voting bloc, that interest group or the other union leader.

And that is because the biggest losers in this whole sorry picture of Labour’s failure to lead the debate, it goes without saying, are Britain’s majority of moderate Muslims. The very people the party of the many, the party of peaceful, multi-ethnic communities, should be supporting.

At one end of the spectrum there is the fact that we will never secure real integration for our communities until the wicked narrative of the extremists is undone. That alone should be enough. It will take time.

But at the other, Muslims themselves suffer specifically from the more extreme aspects of extremism: the death threats to those who leave the faith, as Panoramapointed out; female genital mutilation (FGM); or the very real threat of honour killings of Muslim women who supposedly bringing shame on their families.

That is the debate that we need to join. Because our loss will be British Muslims’ loss. And it will be UKIP’s gain.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

1 comment:

  1. The Solution:

    Procedure By Which conservatives Could Control Parliament

    If UKIP  is  Lucky,  UKIP could  get,   perhaps,  get   ten to thirty   seats
    in  Parliament.  Do  not   forget,   the  public  still regards  UKIP  as   a
    one  issue  party.  To gain  control of  Parliament  UKIP  and  (and frie-
    nds) should  form a  new  conservative  party  with  a  platform that is 
    close to that of the existing Conservative party, omitting, of course, 
    policies that are objectionable to conservatives. The purpose would
    be to make a bed that would be easy for conservatives to slide into,
    including  the eighty  percent  of  the Conservatives who left Conser-
    vative  associations. UKIP and the  conservatives  should   then  form
     a  political  association  in  each  parliamentary  district.   UKIP   could
    merge with the new party, thus getting rid of the one issue problem. 
    Every one who would have worked  to  form  the new,  conservative,
     party   should   be   prevented   from    joining    the    new   party    for
    a  period   of time  to  prevent  the  impression  that  UKIP  controls  it.
    The two or three conservative parties should hold a primary election
    to determine who runs as the Parliamentary candidate, with the losers
    to help the winner. The cost of forming new associations can be raised
    by local contributors. It is suggested that the  new   conservative   asso-
    ciations and the political party be controlled by the lowest level of con-
    servatives, such as teachers, small businessmen, solicitors, professionals
    etc. If the  above   procedure   can  not  be  completed  in  time  to   get 
    candidates   elected   to    Parliament,  the  new  party  must  wait  until
    after the  election  and  hold  a  petition  demanding  that  the  elected
    MP  resign. Note: an MP  represents   every  person  in  his  district,  not
    just members and   supporters of his party. When the petition reaches
    fifty percent of those who voted in the prior election, the conservatives
    will be morally justified in demanding their MP"s resignation. Then the
    new party could run their  candidates  in  the  following by elections. 
    To select a candidate, a local  association should  advertise  for applicants
    or the position of candidate for  Parliament, then  select   the   best  app-
    licant  by using rigorous tests, including, most importantly,  psychological 
    evaluation. psychological evaluation is an absolute necessity as the psych-
    ological evaluation is the only way to tell who is honest and who is a con-
    artist; members of the public  cannot.  Testing  could  be  required  of the 
    association  officers,  committee  members and delegates, etc.

    The platform, selected by new party associations,  should be some what
     vague in order to facilitate integration  the platforms of the  new  assoc-
    iations into one platform. It is suggested that self forming cliques of those
    who are   honest  and   trust  worthy  be formed;  then form   self  forming
    cliques of those who have   political skills  and  capabilities,  within  the
    first described clique.

    The corruption in Ukip is a cause for concern. Information about the corr-
    uption may bee seen on the following websites:


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