The quote in my title is attributed to Sadiq Khan, a high profile Muslim who is standing for candidacy at the 2016 mayoral elections for London but have “we” been too quick to latch onto these words. The speech, made to journalists and commentators came to my attention after one well respected columnist wrote a column for The Telegraph that was published online. Mr Khan may now be a hostage to fortune. Information from UK security services suggests that Muslims cannot possibly deal with the “cancer” on their own. On the contrary secularists may have to start searching their souls and ask if they are also letting young people down.
The columnist was like a cat on hot bricks and jumping for joy. Here was a Muslim was telling Muslims to root out the radicals in their midst. Had a non-Muslim been as straight and forthright s/he would be branded racist or Islamophobic. The commentator then proceeded to have pop at halal meat. The columnist seemingly felt liberated.
I challenged the columnist on Twitter and was told that I was missing the point. Really?
Apparently among Mr Khan’s concerns was the two-way lack of integration between Muslims and non-Muslims – ‘Too many British Muslims grow up without really knowing anyone from a different background; without understanding or empathising with the lives and beliefs of others. And too many British people have never befriended a Muslim.’
The columnist was empowered to write: “As any scholar of Islam will tell you, the ideology behind ISIL and al-Qaeda is as rooted in the Koran as are daily prayers and eating halal meat. Like Christianity, it just depends which verses you care to read and how literal an interpretation you choose to give them.”
At first this statement appears to be innocuous but why refer to “eating halal meat”?
This is an indication that the columnist has little or no empathy with Islam. Perhaps the reference to Christianity achieves some balance but there was no need to include to have a pop at a dietary code that when understood make sense. That so many secularists choose not to engage on the halal issue says much.
Importantly this one columnist omitted this: “And too many British people have never befriended a Muslim.’ To their credit most if not all others reporting this speech did not omit it.
Sadiq Khan is surely calling on both Muslims and non-Muslims to make an effort to understand each other better than they do. The columnist clearly has no intention of doing so – as shown by the gratuitous reference to halal meat, which the media almost anonymously will take and every opportunity to attack.
What neither Sadiq Khan nor the columnist could have known was that The Guardian had had sight of an MI5 review that shows that radical Muslims inhabit the fringes of Islam. Many are converts. They do not pray regularly. They lack the protection that an established religious identity provides.
I see a failure of the secular value system. At least state schools are meant to provide a multicultural climate or environment. People leaving schools these days should have been empowered to be tolerant. Perhaps they are so where is it breaking down. Why, according to official statistics do as many as 25% of young people “mistrust” Muslims? Where is the disconnect between the tolerance they should learn at school and how the perceive the world as they set out on their adult journey? Who is turning them?
For those who are not keen on Islamic faith schools and believe that they must be the source of radicalisation the MI5 evidence suggests anything but. Where is it all breaking down?
I do not have the answers but disaffection seems to be an issue. If disaffection means that young people are not engaged or do not engage well with society it is surely a concern for the whole of society and not merely Muslim community leaders alone. The MI5 evidence links radicalisation to conversions to Islam but from what? I imagine the comfort and social support provided by all established religions provides the protection that the MI5 refers to. What reason would most young Christians, Hindus and Sikhs to convert to a Muslim fringe that offers no protection – none whatsoever. Converts from other religions are likely to be on the fringes of their religion and not fully connected to or protected by their respective religion. For all practical purposes they are living a secular life that is not providing security and protection.
Seemingly the problem may be down as much to Secularism’s failure to provide protection and support as that of Islam and Muslims.