Even now, even after everything that has happened, even after the recent tough talking about defeating Islamist extremism on the battlefield of ideas and the apparent waking up to the extremism of bodies like the Muslim Council of Britain, the British government still doesn't get it. Yesterday, at a conference on Islam in London, Tony Blair launched a new initiative to promote Muslim moderation and defeat extremism. He attacked the
often crude portrayals in the media or by those who deal only in stereotypes and seek to whip up Islamophobic sentiment
and said that the
‘still, small voice of reason and moderation' used by the majority of Muslims should not be drowned out by ‘those willing to come on television and articulate extreme and violent views'.
Unfortunately for him, the ‘still, small voice of reason and moderation' was demonstrated that very day by a Channel Four opinion poll which revealed, inter alia, that fully one quarter of Britain's two million Muslims believed government agents staged the July 7 2005 human bomb attacks in London; nearly seventy per cent believed Muslims were not responsible for them; almost sixty per cent said the government has not told the whole truth about them; and more than half also felt the security services had made up evidence to convict terror suspects, with some even dismissing as fakes the ‘martyrdom' videos left by the terrorists Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer admitting responsibility for the bombings.
‘Crude media stereotypes'? Hardly. From their own mouths, more than half of Britain's Muslims reveal they believe in demented and paranoid theories, refuse to take responsibility for the part played by their community and its faith in Islamist terrorism, and believe instead that Britain is a giant conspiracy against them. A very small voice of reason indeed. Are such people really to be called ‘moderate'? Mr Blair apparently thinks so. As he was reported saying:
The voices of extremism are no more representative of Islam than the use, in times gone by, of torture to force conversion to Christianity represents the true teaching of Christ.
Dear oh dear. What a muddled man. Whatever the true teachings of Christ may have been, the fact remains that in medieval times torture and numerous other forms of clerical terror designed to enforce the faith at sword-point upon heretics and unbelievers was the norm for Christianity. Such terror wasn't ‘unrepresentative' of the church; it wasn't confined to a ‘few extremists'; and it certainly wasn't got up by the media. As was demonstrated by the plight of the Jews who were routinely butchered by Christians for refusing to convert, Christianity was a savage faith until the Enlightenment separated out church and state. The problem with Islam is that it remains stuck in that pre-reformation state of clerical savagery; and while there are many Muslims in Britain and around the world who do not wish to live under what has been called Islamic fascism (and are indeed among its principal victims) the jihad currently dominates the Islamic world just as pre-modern Christianity was dominated by priestly violence and intimidation.
This refusal by Blair to acknowledge the scale, scope and reach of the jihad causes him persistently to introduce policies against extremism that merely entrench it even further, because he persistently defines extremism far too narrowly and is too quick to hail as moderate those who may be against violence but whose views are anything but moderate according to any reasonable definition of the word. Yesterday's initiative designed to screen out extremism from university courses in Islam was a case in point. It is throwing a million pounds at such courses which it has designated as ‘strategically important' to national interests, allowing tighter official scrutiny of their syllabi. This is apparently because it believes that such courses expose students to narrow interpretations of Islam and must be reformed to combat violent extremism.
But as the national curriculum debacle has so graphically demonstrated, such initiatives almost invariably have a boomerang effect. When central government tries to shape what is taught in order to combat one vested interest or another, the new courses are invariably hijacked by those very vested interests which then become even more entrenched by government imprimatur. Thus the national curriculum was instantly captured by the very same cultural Marxists that it was aimed to confront. And so it will be with the new Islamist courses, as has already become plain.
According to a report by the government's designated expert on the matter, Dr Ataullah Siddiqui, many university courses focused too narrowly on the Middle East and failed to reflect the ‘realities' of Muslim life in multi-cultural Britain. It said that the teaching of Islam had been conducted in ‘complete ignorance of the Muslim community and their patterns of belief and practice and called for a shift from courses that focus purely on an ‘Arab and Middle Eastern perspective to that of a plural society in Britain.
Accordingly, it recommended that Islamic studies courses be brought up to date, look beyond Middle East, and include modern day practice in Europe and Britain, involving Islamic scholars; that all universities should employ part or full-time male and female Muslim chaplains or advisers; that Islamic studies should be linked with job opportunities such as teaching, chaplaincy and Islamic banking; that universities should offer add-on modules for all students to have the opportunity to study Islam; and that guidance should be given to all universities on Friday prayers, Ramadan and halal food.
But this is all about making such courses more Muslim-friendly. It has nothing to do with addressing extremism. Indeed, it sidesteps completely the most important and pernicious element of many such Islamic courses —that Islam is not taught in the same way as other religions, as objective disciplines which place the religion in the context of its time, but as the literal word of God.
Drummond Bone, the president of the vice-chancellors' organisation, Universities UK, yesterday sonorously intoned:
It is important that all academic disciplines follow the normal quality procedures that ensure critical intellectual rig-our and openness.
But this is sheer humbug. The essence of the problem about so many Islamic studies courses is that they have departed from the core principles of education and turned into a form of religious indoctrination — with university lecturers being forced into this, on pain of demotion or other disciplinary measures, by professors and vice-chancellors who have been intimidated by Islamist pressure and have cravenly sold academic principles down the river. No longer universities as much as dhimmiversities.
This alarming trend is illustrated by the body running yesterday's conference, the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, which appears to be run by people who believe not that Muslims should integrate into British mores but that Britain should integrate into Islam. Dhimmi Watch quotes Professor David Ford, Director of the Cambridge Inter-Faith Programme, saying this:
In the past, policy has too often focused on the question of integrating Muslims into secular society. In fact we live in a complexly religious and secular society where the expression of religious beliefs remains important to huge numbers of people…Speakers and guests will be encouraged to consider the contribution Islamic debate has made to a host of contemporary topics including citizenship, the place of Islamic law, women and human rights.
But of course, on all these important topics Islam stands in total contradiction to western principles of citizenship. In addition Timothy Winter, lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Cambridge in whose Divinity faculty the Inter-Faith programme is based, said:
The question facing British society, and society as a whole, is not how we encourage minorities to engage with western countries, but how those countries define themselves as a collage of different religious cultures. We hope that this conference will enable those responsible for encouraging and building unity in communities to approach the task from that perspective.
But British identity is not a ‘collage of different religious cultures'. It is a Protestant Christian culture which practises tolerance towards minorities, a very different matter indeed. With such people in our universities showing nil understanding of British or western values, what chance do we have of defending them?
As David Conway of the Centre for Social Cohesion commented yesterday:
For those for whom the government's previous zeal for multiculturalism is at least as much to blame for the recent radicalisation of so many young British-born Muslims as its foreign policy, Mr Winter's statement is not exactly reassuring. This is so, especially when it turns out that, under his Muslim name of Abdal Hakim Murad, this same lecturer, a convert to Islam, delivered a BBC Radio Thought for the Day broadcast in September 2003 that was made the subject of an unsuccessful complaint for ‘preaching bigotry and hatred towards Israel' because in it he had referred to Israel as ‘the traditional enemy of the Arabs'.
Such misgivings as to the firmness of the government's previously announced resolve to eschew dealings with immoderate Muslims are reinforced by details of which other speakers are speaking at the conference besides the Prime Minister. They include Shaykh Ali Gomma, Grand Mufti of Egypt. Among his ‘moderate' credentials according to a report in the Daily Telegraph last June, was his having delivered a fatwa banning all ‘decorative statutes of living beings'. This fatwa reportedly led to a black-clad woman screaming ‘Infidels, Infidels' attacking three statutes in a Cairo museum. Its curator reportedly said that the attacker ‘had been listening to the mufti and was following his orders'. A spokesman from the Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo was also quoted as saying of the fatwa: ‘We are seeing an increase of conservative , Islamist feeling. The Islamisation of Egyptian society is happening from the bottom up. And now it has reached the middle classes – the doctors, the lawyers'.
Another speaker at today's conference is John Esposito, director of the Prince Waleed Bin Taleel Centre for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University in Washington DC. Although not himself a Muslim, he has in the past served as a consistent apologist for many Muslims extremists, as I pointed out in a recent posting.
No less disappointing is it that the government should have turned to Dr Ataullah Siddiqui for advice on how Islam and British imams should be taught here, given reported close links between the rector of the institution where he works, the Markfield Institute of Higher Education, and the Pakistani Islamist party, Jamaat e-Islami of which the rector at Markfield is vice-president. Another ex-lecturer there is Azzam Tamimi, head of the Muslim Association of Britain, whose own version of Islam and views are very bit as extreme as those of the Muslim Council of Britain. Furthermore, last year the Charity Commission ordered the charity that established and controls the Markfield Institute to sever all its links with two of its trustees because of their links to violent extremist Muslim organisations.
Yet this is the British government's view of moderation, and it is to these people that it is turning to combat Islamist extremism. We are still on the fast track to cultural suicide.
* Definition of ‘dhimmi' from the Dhimmi Watch site:
Dhimmis, ‘protected people,' are free to practice their religion in a Sharia regime, but are made subject to a number of humiliating regulations designed to enforce the Qur'an's command that they ‘feel themselves subdued' (Sura 9:29). This denial of equality of rights and dignity remains part of the Sharia, and, as such, is part of the law that global jihadists are laboring to impose everywhere, ultimately on the entire human race.
The dhimmi attitude of chastened subservience has entered into Western academic study of Islam, and from there into journalism, textbooks, and the popular discourse. One must not point out the depredations of jihad and dhimmitude; to do so would offend the multiculturalist ethos that prevails everywhere today.