Not an extremist in sight at my local Mosque today!

pennylane-mosque

Penny Lane Mosque which is a key player in our local community

Today was “National Visit My Mosque Day” and I was pleased to take up the invitation from our local Mosque, the Penny Lane Mosque to once again visit them. I’ve always had a great reception at the Mosques in the City of which there are now six. Indeed the first Mosque in the UK was reopened two years ago in Brougham Terrace. It was established by an Anglican convert to the Muslim faith Mr Quilliam.

I particularly wanted to visit them today because of the thoughts, behaviours and actions of Donald Trump. I don’t too much about this snivelling individual other than to say that his actions against Muslims are wrong. That’s was the big reason that I turned up to the demo against Trump last week.

In this Country we have a peculiar ambivalence about the Muslim faith if indeed we can differentiate a Muslim from any of the other faiths that now happily co-exist in our communities. Sikhs, Hindus, Muslims aren’t they all the same? Well yes and no. Of course they worship different Gods and do so in a different way than we do so they are different from each other and those that profess the Christian faith. But go inside a Mosque, Gurdwarah, Temple, Church or Synagogue and you will basically find the same sorts of people that you do in the rest of the community.

People from the majority of faith groups are open and tolerant. The fact that they believe in one story of creation or another or that they choose one prophet over another in practice makes little difference. They have their beliefs and tolerate others. They work within the community and with each other for the community. They co-exist happily with the exception of a very small number of extremists that exists in every faith and in secular society.

Repeatedly we were told today that there is no conflict between the Muslim way of life and the British way of life. That is what their youngsters are taught in the evening and weekend school. That is the way they carry out their work in the Mosque and in the community. From the reception that all the external members of the community were given today I have no doubt that it is true. For those that choose to live here to be a good Muslim  is to be a good Briton.

So let’s look at the small number of extremists. Why has there been a big increase in that still minority of people who are jihadists. Well it could be partly our fault. I believe that the most effective recruiting sergeants for the Jihadists were George W Bush and Tony Blair. They went into an illegal war with no sound foundation of fact. They followed that up with a war in Afghanistan. They followed that up with targeted bombing in Libya and Syria but with no ‘boots on the ground’. There is no excuse for people to become extremists because of any of these actions but we need to understand the mind set of those that have chosen this path.

We chose our allies in the Middle East not because of principle but because of expediency. Did you notice, for example, that the List of countries that trump chose to offend did not include any Country where his business empire has investments? Instead he chose to make enemies of 7 countries which to date have failed to provide a single action which results in the death of Americans.

Do you notice our craven support for the appalling regime in Saudi Arabia? Chop, chop, chop go the heads, lash, lash lashes fall on the backs of people only wanting to express an opinion but hey so what? They buy lots of arms from us. They give us preferential deals on oil. We’re not going to be honest and principled and take them on.

In this Country the vast majority of Muslims are model citizens. They have come here and created businesses which employ other people and they contribute their taxes to our economy. I noticed that many restaurants owned by Muslims opened their door to the homeless over Christmas free of charge. They want to contribute to the wider economy of the Country that they call home. Increasingly third and fourth generation immigrants and not immigrants at all. They pay obeisance to the faith of their fathers but are a part of the secular multi-racial, multi faith society that the UK has become.

But we cannot ignore that fact that extremists exist. I argued with the Labour Government against their ‘Prevent’ strategy where they provided money on the basis of the number of Muslims in an area. I argued instead that they ought to give money and work in areas where intelligence showed that there were the greatest risks of the growth of extremism. No joy with that one I am afraid.

We need to have a seamless system whereby information on extremism goes to the right quarters. We need to think carefully about those returning from Syria. Some of them have come back even more determined than when they left. Most of them are sickened by the reality of what they have seen. For those in the latter category we need to be assisting their return into society and helping them tell their story to dissuade the young and impressionable to follow them into arms.

Those not of the Muslim faith need to publicly stand shoulder to shoulder with the Imams and other leaders of the faith to show that we are the same as each other and that there is mutual trust and respect in society between people of good faith.

I am proud to live in a city region where people from more than 100 Countries live in peace and harmony. A region where there is racial and faith conflict but it is minimal and where we do come together in the aftermath of personal, local, national or international events.

Together we can defeat extremism. Together we can show the [prejudiced that all faiths have the same ration of the good, bad and the nasty. Together we can create a Liverpool and a Country where our children can live in peace.

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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One Response to Not an extremist in sight at my local Mosque today!

  1. Sadeea says:

    We were honoured to host you at the Penny Lane Mosque and look forward to welcoming you again !
    Musa and Sadeea Kaleem

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