There are probably four Tory MPs who lead the parliamentary party’s efforts to understand Islam in Britain – Dominic Grieve, Paul Goodman, Michael Gove and Damian Green (the 4Gs).  One of these MPs – Wycombe’s Paul Goodman – made a very thoughtful contribution on the subject during Wednesday’s Queen’s Speech debate.  Some key extracts are printed below and you can read the full speech here.

Goodman_paul_9My aspiration is to see British Muslims integrated into society: "More than 9,000 of my constituents are Muslims, almost 11% of my electorate. I thus represent more Muslim voters than any other Member of Parliament of my party. I therefore necessarily see one of my most important duties as a constituency MP and, indeed, more widely, as being to help to do what I can to create a moderate, prosperous and integrated British Muslim majority. The aeroplane plot, the Dhiren Barot trail and conviction, the Abu Hamza affair, the horror of 7/7, the attempted shoe-bomb atrocity by Richard Reid and the whole terrible history of recent events stretching back to 9/11 and beyond should remind the House – if, with our eyes also on currents events in Afghanistan and Iraq, we need any reminding-that this aspiration and our common security are under threat."

A major threat to integration is Islamism: "Islam is a religion – a great religion at that and one, it seems to me, as various, as complex, as multi-faceted and as capable of supporting a great civilisation as Christianity. Islamism, however, is an ideology forged largely in the past 100 years, and that word ‘ideology’ should help to convey to the House a flavour that is as much modern as mediaeval."

What is Islamism? "Like communism and like fascism, those other modern ideologies, Islamism divides not on the basis of class or of race, but on the basis of religion. To this politician, it has three significant features.

  • First, it separates the inhabitants of the dar-al-Islam – the house of Islam – and the dar-al-Harb -the house of war -and, according to Islamist ideology, those two houses are necessarily in conflict.
  • Secondly, it proclaims to Muslims that their political loyalty lies not with the country that they live in, but with the umma – that is, the worldwide community of Muslims.
  • Thirdly, it aims to bring the dar-al-Islam under sharia law."

The demand for sharia law from many British Muslims: "The Home Secretary was recently and notoriously heckled at a public meeting in Leyton by Abu Izzadeen, another convert to Islam, who was formerly known as Trevor Brooks. He said to the Home Secretary: ‘How dare you come to a Muslim area?’  That was not some random insult or interruption; Mr. Izzadeen knew what he was doing. He was asserting that Muslims are in a majority in the part of Leyton in which the Home Secretary was speaking. He was therefore claiming that part of the country as part of the dar-al-Islam. He was saying, in effect, that sharia law, not British law, should run in Leyton. Mr. Izzadeen’s version of sharia law would be consistent with dispensations for Muslims from some aspects of British law, the application of a sharia criminal code, special taxes for non-Muslims, a public ban on alcohol consumption and the closure of pubs and bars, and a ban on conversions from Islam to other faiths.  We can, of course, choose to dismiss Mr. Izzadeen as an isolated fanatic, but such a view may be unwise. There is polling evidence to suggest that his views tap into a reservoir of sympathy and support. For example, an ICM poll that was commissioned last February found that four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced to parts of this country. It is important to note that that almost certainly represents a degree of support for what I would call soft sharia-in other words, for the application of some sharia law in relation to family arrangements alone. None the less, even the implementation of soft sharia would mark, I think for the first time, one group of British citizens living under a different set of laws from other British citizens."

This challenge is no less pressing than climate change: "We must consider what the likely future effect would be on domestic Muslim support for sharia, and even for terror, of a further downward spiral events, of further international tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, of further domestic terrorist incidents-which, alas, there may be – and of racist and xenophobic backlashes against British Muslims. That is the challenge that we all face together. In my view, it is a challenge to Britain that is no less pressing than the challenge of climate change, which has occupied much of the debate today. That is the challenge for the political and media classes as a whole, and it is especially the challenge for this Government and the security and terror-related aspects of the Queen’s Speech."

Paul Goodman challenged the Government to ensure that its whole of its machine clearly recognises that Islamism is a key element in poisoning relations between Muslims and non-Muslims.  Noting Martin Bright’s important expose of Government interaction with reactionaries, he noted that much of the state machine is still giving credibility to extremists.  Mr Goodman’s second concern was whether the Queen’s Speech measures were inspired by the long-term good of the country or short-term political manoeuvring.  There has been a lot of talk of tough action but often little delivery.  There has, for example, been no centrally issued instruction to prison governors on the receipt of Islamist publications by prisoners.  Mr Goodman’s third point concerned the need to stop the process whereby a lack of debate and sustained concern about the growth of Islamism was producing a steady crowding out of moderate Muslim opinion.  "The moderates," Paul Goodman said, "are in a position strikingly similar to that of the Social Democratic and Labour party in Northern Ireland, which has, in the past 15 years, been outpaced, outwitted and outsmarted by Sinn Fein-IRA, with consequences that are still fully to be seen. Deferring the debate further will only allow this process to continue."

Paul Goodman’s conclusion:

"George Orwell once wrote of the ‘deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs. ‘On 7/7, we heard the roar of bombs in London. I sometimes worry that the deep, deep sleep that Orwell described in the 1930s is still here in relation to Islamism in sections of the Government, parts of the political and media establishment, the House and the country. This is one of the most urgent problems facing us, and if we are in that deep, deep sleep, it is time for all of us to wake up."

Related link: Paul Goodman MP on YourPlatform – Wycombe, the Muslim community, and the battle of ideas

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