Our politicians must end their fear and evasion on Islam
The fear of offending Muslims by speaking the truth is endemic in the mainstream British political class, and has been so for decades. We cannot afford politically correct evasions
The Home Secretary Theresa May has promised -- or threatened, depending on your point of view -- new measures to deal with increasing extremism in Britain. Everyone knows what she meant, but what she meant was not quite what she said.
What she meant, of course, was the urgent need to deal with Islamic extremism, but like most mainstream western politicians on this subject, Ms May, in her Conservative Party conference speech, became all culturally sensitive rather than speaking the blunt truth.
After the usual pre-emptive reassurances about Islam being a religion of peace etc, Ms May referred to the need for radical changes to personal freedoms that Britons have enjoyed for hundreds of years. She will introduce Banning Orders and Extreme Disruption Orders targeting, as she put it “neo-Nazism and other forms of extremism as well as Islamist extremists”.
Note the train of thought in that last sentence, “as well as Islamist extremists” takes third place to “neo-Nazism and other forms of extremism”, even though Islamism is by far her greatest worry.
The problem here is more than some linguistic sleight-of-hand. This generalising of the problem of Islamic terrorism to include “other forms of extremism” really could become a threat to freedoms we have always taken for granted.
For example, expressed opinions that are within the law could be banned on social media. The British National Party (BNP) and the English Defence League (EDL) could be virtually outlawed.
And this can happen because politicians are desperate not to offend Muslims by pointing out specific problems relating to their community. Instead, everyone, for reasons of “balance” and excessive deference to Muslim sensitivities must be tarred with the same brush.
Loss of freedom is too high a price to pay for failure to confront Islam and Islamism head-on.
Most people view the EDL, and the fascistic BNP in particular, as loud-mouths and often foul-mouths, at minimum, but they are not apologists for terrorism and therefore, in any tolerably free society have a place in the public sphere of debate. (To repeat, that is what the law currently says too.)
The same cannot be said of some Muslim groups, and we must not be afraid to say so.
True, Islam and Islamism are not the same thing. But the British Islamists fighting in Syria and Iraq (perhaps 1,000 of them) come from the British Muslim community and claim to represent that community.
The Islamist coward who beheaded Alan Henning is thought to be from south London. That’s a sobering thought for all of us and is the problem that needs to be addressed directly, not the problem of “other forms of extremism”.
This fear of offending Muslims by speaking the truth is endemic in the mainstream British political class, and has been so for decades. That fear lies behind the catastrophic failures to protect children in Rotherham. State institutions such as the police and social services failed to protect vulnerable children out of fear of offending Muslim sensitivities.
There are some signs of welcome change here. Part of the strong appeal of UKIP is its willingness to say what the public are thinking and saying. The party’s Home Affairs Spokesman Diane James understands the point:
“The Government and the media are now waking up far too late to warnings that have been deemed taboo for well over a decade. Theresa May proclaimed that IS has nothing to do with Islam. Trying to separate the two for fear of causing insult is illogical and will not help us to investigate and really tackle the causes of the problem.”
That’s how the British public want their politicians to speak. The public are fed up with evasions and misplaced respect for Muslim sensitivities.
That the British police and social services would turn a blind eye to the sexual exploitation of children, simply because the abusers were mainly Muslim, is a deeply disturbing failure in the state’s prime responsibility to protect the public against criminal behaviour.
A similar failure over IS and British Muslims would be catastrophic and would not be easily forgiven.
Vincent Cooper is a regular contributor to The Commentator
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