The last few days following the disgusting scenes in Woolwich have brought to the surface once again concerns about the increasing part of our UK population and indeed citizens who are followers of the Islamic faith.
It always seems to me that there is a tremendous dichotomy between what people think of Moslems whilst on holiday and what they think when they come home. This year more than 2,000,000 Brits will have holidays in Turkey, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, the Maldives and other Countries where the vast majority of the citizens are Moslems. What is the overwhelming impression of the people of those Countries? “Very friendly people- they couldn’t do more for you- they have real family values – we had a great time!” When they come home the image reverts to the overstated view of the Islamic terrorist or freedom fighter who wants to bring havoc to our shores.
Let’s be clear there are some really nasty Moslems about. But in roughly the same proportion as really nasty Christians, Jews, atheists etc. Of course there are good and bad people in all faiths and colours and creed and genders. But I doubt that the good/bad proportion varies much in any of those communities. Saying we don’t like Moslems because some of them are bad would be as illogical as saying we don’t like Christians because of the actions of Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland.
I suppose the biggest concerns are, as always, fears of the unknown. For the past 1,000+ years the history of the UK, much of Western Europe and many parts of the former colonies of those countries has been formed around Judeo/Christian beliefs and practices. We do things in a certain way with a certain style because…. Well that’s the way we have always done them. Moslems do some things differently but very differently? I doubt it.
In fact many of the long-held traditions are very similar to the Jewish traditions. Not eating pork, burying the dead quickly all are very practical traditions inherited from a time when all the adherents to those faiths lived in very hot countries with no refrigeration! In fact in scriptural terms the difference of opinion appears to be which person is the prophet as distinct to a prophet or has the real prophet ever arrived! Please I don’t want to get involved in theological discussion as a result of this blog!
So if the problem does largely happen because of ignorance what can we do about it? There is only one way – share experiences and learn with each other. I have been very pleased to attend a number of eye opening events in the past year with various Islamic groups. I was particularly pleased to learn that the UKs first Mosque had been created by a British convert to the Islamic faith in Liverpool. Brougham Terrace if you are interested and there are plans to renovate it to its former condition.
But this takes a two way commitment. Sometimes immigrant communities, of any faith, are reluctant to let outsiders in as they cling to their past and cleave to their traditions. Understandable but wrong. Unless we know about the faiths and beliefs and the societies then those of us (the vast majority of Brits) with an open mind cannot act as a bridge between societies. Similarly all faiths must learn that there are some things that are not acceptable to a host society and must not be done in accordance with our practices and laws if there is to be harmony. I particularly think of forced marriages and female genital mutilation. The host community must make more effort to visit Mosques and Moslem communities and see for themsleves how things happen and what happens so that they can reflect that knowledge back into the wider community.
But there are two other things that could be done:
1. The Government should apologise for the Iraq war. This was an illegal war conducted as a result of prejudice and not fact. Everything we know tells us that the decisions to go to war in both the USA and UK are fictitious and irrational. Many young Moslem men have been radicalised by these clear view that Moslem Countries can be invaded with impunity. Many brave young British soldiers who we should respect paid with their lives for political posturing
2. We must all stand together against extremists whether white or brown; Christian or Moslem. When extremist Muslims or the English Defence League take to our streets we the moderate concerned people of the UK must be there in greater numbers. Not to protest, not to scream, not to descend to the level of the street fighter but to say quite simply we are all equal, most of us are good and tolerant and we will not let our decent society be taken over and moulded by people of any type who threaten the decent virtues inherent in a British way of Life.