Joan Smith: Lord Tebbit didn't go far enough

Share
Related Topics

Anyway, there Tebbit was, on Friday morning's Today programme, suggesting that last month's terrorist attacks on London might have been avoided if we had only listened to him in 1990. He has learned to moderate his tone in the intervening period and his question for British Asians, as he framed it last week, could sound innocuous: are they looking forward or rooted in the country from which they've come? Of course, by this stage in migration patterns, the country from which many British Asians come is not Pakistan or India but the UK, a point which demonstrates how out of date Tebbit's thinking is. And as his argument developed, it quickly became clear not just how confused he is but how much he has in common with the Muslim extremists who have failed, in his vocabulary, to integrate.

Lord Tebbit denounced modern culture with as much spleen as the most committed Islamist, even going so far as to sympathise with Muslims whose moral code is offended by the "depravity of our inner cities". This isn't surprising, for Tebbit is a puritan whose attacks on homosexuality in the House of Lords are savoured by connoisseurs; last year, on the Today programme, he even accused the Government of doing "everything it can to promote buggery".

His position on multi-culturalism seems to be that on the one hand it's a bad thing, but on the other it's not very surprising if Muslims don't want to assimilate into a society where homosexuality and single motherhood have been made compulsory by a succession of wildly libertarian home secretaries. Now I am going to take a charitable view and assume that he doesn't have the faintest idea what he is talking about, for as tonight's edition of Panorama demonstrates, the alienation of some young Muslims in this country has its roots in a vicious, separatist theology that goes far beyond characterising Tony Blair's ministers as unpleasant pinkos.

Last year the East London Mosque, whose chairman Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari is also deputy general secretary of the Muslim Council of Britain, invited a prominent Saudi cleric to be guest of honour at the opening of a £10m Islamic centre. Sheikh Abdur-Rahman al-Sudais came to London and talked about tolerance but on other occasions he has denounced the "enemies of Islam" - a predictable list of Jews, Christians and secularists - as monkeys, pigs and rats.

Some faiths and ideologies are inherently opposed to respecting difference; the position of extreme Muslims is not just that some aspects of British culture are objectionable, which is the bit that appeals to Tebbit, but that Islam is superior to any other belief system. It's no more possible to build a multi-cultural system with the Wahhabis or followers of Jamaat-e-Islami than it would be with the Taliban, which is why the influence of such movements in this country is so frightening.

Lord Tebbit's cricket test addresses trivialities, the kind of difference I am happy to live with, when the urgent question thrown up by the London bombings is this: do we all share a set of values which includes the obligation to report a suspected terrorist to the police, regardless of his or her religion? That is where tolerance quite properly draws a line, and tonight's Panorama suggests that we have yet to acknowledge the extent to which extremists have successfully promoted hatred of British culture among young British Muslims.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

NQT Secondary Teachers

£100 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is actively r...

A Level Chemistry Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: A Level Chemistry Teacher - Humb...

RE Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Teacher of Religious Education ...

Maths Teacher

£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education are currently...

Day In a Page

 

i Editor's Letter: Still all to play for at our live iDebate

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering