One of the greatest myths – and a monstrous and dangerous one – that has grown up in recent times is that British and Muslim values are somehow incompatible.
It has been encouraged by ignorant voices in the media, by bigots with their own evil intent, on all sides, and by the activities of preachers of hate. The discovery of a hate literature at a London mosque that calls for the murder of Ahmadi Muslims, who extremists regard as apostates and thus liable to the ultimate penalty, is certainly disturbing.
It is especially chilling in the context of the recent death of an Ahmadi shopkeeper in Glasgow, allegedly stabbed to death by a Muslim for "disrespecting" Islam. Those responsible for the leaflets need to be found and made to account for what they seek to do.
Grim though such discoveries are, they have always to be placed in perspective. If it were really the case that Muslims were conducting an internecine war in Britain we would, by now, know about it. If they were intent on killing their neighbours, then again we would know about it. The overwhelming majority simply are not.
Meanwhile we have, in the UK, quite a number of what might be termed “extremist” Christians, whose intolerance for other varieties of their faith has few parallels – in Northern Ireland, though not as virulent as it once was, and in other pockets of sectarianism. And we still have the far right and the far left.
All that said, the Government is right to continue to co-operate with Muslim networks in the constant struggle against extremism and the preaching of violence and war. But they should not be punished for holding views simply because they are, sometimes, at variance with other British values.
For example, individual Muslims and Muslim groups are as entitled to their opinions on homosexuality as anyone else; all they should be required to do is obey the law. In fact, many Christians from African and Caribbean backgrounds often hold similar views, yet far fewer seem to want to single them out for attention as being somehow unbritish
Britain, in many ways, is a more tolerant place than it has ever been before; people are more mindful than ever about gender issues, LGBT sensitivities, race and religion. Much the biggest problem in society is in fact the intolerance of our Muslim fellow citizens by the majority.
They are entirely compatible, and the peaceable lives of millions of decent Muslim people in this country bear witness to that fact. All they wish to do, and have ever wished to do, is to make a life for themselves and their families as best they can – the same as everyone else. Terrorists and hate preachers should not be given the attention or space to succeed in dividing us.
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