It is now two weeks since that turbulent priest, the Archbishop of Canterbury, dared to say there could be some room for sharia’h law in today’s Britain. I don’t think he could have foreseen the anti-Muslim backlash which followed – driven by groups with different agendas and motives.
There are those who portray themselves as cuddly lefties, secular socialists who believe it is fashionable to bash up Muslims. And then there are those driven by racism who see Islamophobia as the last legitimate refuge to peddle their race-fueled hate. But perhaps the worst are the political opportunists who use the politics of fascism to win popular votes and approval.
This is not the first time Labour has made the revolting decision to place the politics of religious identity at the centre of public debate, in the same opportunist way that Jorg Haider's Freedom Party does in Austria and Pim Fortuyn's List Party has done in Holland. But let’s return to the latest outcry over Dr Rowan Williams’ speech. The reality was that he really tiptoed gently around the whole idea of sharia’h in Britain. Each sentence was delicately embraced with a huge qualification. The reality, as most Muslims know, is that sharia’h is already here and practiced in the way we eat, sleep, pray, marry and divorce … very much in the same way that orthodox Jewish courts operate. The media and political reaction has been hysterical downright nasty: from the Sun's declaration that Williams had "handed al-Qaida a victory", to the BBC showing images of chopped off limbs to illustrate sharia’h.
We should thank the Archbishop because what he has done is rip wide open a far more serious debate – and it is up to all of us to demand that this debate is confronted in an equally intellectual and thoughtful way. The debate I am talking about is why equal rights for Muslims are being denied? Yes, Muslims, quite simply, do not have equal rights in Britain and in this incendiary atmosphere of growing Islamophobic intolerance things are going to get much, much worse.
Government Ministers like Phil Woolas have cynically jumped on the bandwagon. He created hysterical headlines about "Muslim inbreeding " with his comments about the health risks of cousin marriages among Pakistanis. The way he spoke about the issue was as though some Frankenstein-like creatures were filling the baby wards in maternity hospitals around Oldham, Bradford, Burnley and Birmingham.
That great Muslim martyr Malcolm X once said: Sitting at the Table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on the plate. Being here in America does not make you an American. Being born here in America does not make you an American.” Now substitute America for Britain and give me the answer, Mr Brown.
While many of us would not recommend cousins marrying cousins, it is a practice traditionally favoured by European royals. Perhaps Woolas should have gone right to the top on this issue and taken it up with The Queen. May be he should have checked out Queen Victoria’s family tree before putting his foot in his mouth! But first, I would just like to remind Woolas, that the practice of marrying first cousins is perfectly legal in this country, so stuff him and his comments about elephants in the living room. If it is a huge problem then change the law. The real elephant in this Government’s living room is the Islamophobia which is rife in government and establishment circles.
No wonder Muslims are feeling isolated and targeted – they are beginning to realize that no matter how hard they try to fit in, when it suits the politicians they will be dragged out and whipped. I would like to remind Woolas, everytime he opens his gob, some sister somewhere gets bashed up or verbally abused by some racist oik. And if he wants statistics as proof he should go to the Islamic Human Rights Commission. What an odious, rancid little creep Woolas is. Christians of any sect would be reeling if they were pilloried for their practices and traditions. (Can you imagine what would be said about Muslims if in any of our services we drank ‘the blood of Christ?’) And several Jewish friends of mine, some who lost grandparents in the Holocaust, have drawn parallels with the Nazi abuse their families received way back in the 1930s to the weight of the hostility thrown at Muslims today.
Leon Kuhn, an excellent cartoonist and illustrator told me last year that the Nazis began their propaganda against the Jews by publishing vile cartoons depicting rabbis as untrustworthy, dangerous subversives.One of the biggest Islamophobes sitting in Government is Phil Woolas, who deserves further scrutiny in this column. He was the minister for race relations in the autumn of 2006 when he intervened in the row over the classroom assistant Aisha Azmi by calling for her to be fired. Aisha was the girl who work a nikab over her face whenever a male colleague entered the room, but by the time he and the media had finished you would have thought Aisha spent her entire teaching days in a full face veil. This is the MP who during the last General Election stamped the Union Jack emblem on his campaign literature and highlighted 'anti-white racism' as a vital issue in his Oldham constituency. His mates told him it was political suicide and that he would lose his marginal seat but in fact his votes increased and sent the anoraks in Labour’s spin machine into statistical overdrive. They realized then they didn’t need to try and win back the disaffected Muslims who ditched Labour over Iraq and Afghanistan. So instead of trying to bring them back into the fold, these cynical politicians opted instead to stir up racial tension as a means of appealing directly to the white working-class vote.
This nasty strategy has upset the Tories – this was their traditional territory! Gordon Brown, a man who comes from a nation where men wear tartan, pleated skirts, waded in to Jack Straw’s nikab row with gusto has now upped the ante. As Prime Minister he has banned the leading Islamic cleric Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi from entering the UK on the pretext he supported Palestinian suicide attacks during the Intifada. Let’s look at the plain, cold facts.
Sheikh al-Qaradawi, an 81-year-old scholar has been to Britain several times since the Intifada. And, to be more precise, he was encouraged to come to Britain by the government after the Iraq invasion because of his opposition to al-Qaida. No, the real reasons for the ban is two fold. First it’s another slap in the face to the Muslim community and therefore a vote winner. And secondly, the ban is enforced to punish him for his links with the Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential Islamist organisation in the Arab world and please the Zionist lobby. The fact is when Qaradawi last visited the UK in 2004, the Board of Deputies of British Jews handed to the police a dossier of Qaradawi's alleged statements and called upon them to prosecute him. It took the Crown Prosecution Service less than 48 hours to decide that there was simply no case against Qaradawi. The only Labour politician who refused to bow to the pressure was Mayor of London Ken Livingstone who ignored the media frenzy and welcomed the sheikh. The spokesman for the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, has emerged with some credibility for his party when he said: "Many of Yusuf al-Qaradawi's views are repugnant; the job of a truly liberal society is to defeat such abhorrent ideas by arguing forcefully and persuasively against them." An interesting question to now ask this Government is this: “Since you have banned Sheikh al- Qaradawi on the grounds that he promotes violence will you also seek to ban George Bush from returning to the UK?” After all, this is a man whose lies have so far cost the lives of one million Iraqis and created more than four million Iraqi refugees.
Are we seriously going to enquire what the views of all visiting non-British nationals are on issues such as Israel and gay rights, before deciding to let them in? The hypocrisies of this cowardly government – and Hazel Blears' Department for Communities and Local Government in the main – are self evident. Brown seems to ignore the fact that the sheikh has huge support and credibility across the Muslim world but the ban has made him popular with those rabid, little dogs from the right-wing think tanks who want to introduce a Gucci or Versace-style, designer style Islam.
Let’s not forget how the now discredited think tank Policy Exchange tried to use fake and/or forged documents to hoodwink a Newsnight investigation to demonise the Muslim community in Britain. Thankfully, not all investigative journalists are asleep, and last October Newsnight’s editor Peter Barron ditched a so-called exclusive report on the Policy Exchange findings that claimed that a quarter of the 100 mosques their researchers had visited were selling hate literature. Anyone who has not seen this report should go on to this thread and get the BBC’s version of events which expose the Policy Exchange – http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2007/12/disastrous__misjudgement.html
The enemies of Islam are circling and they want all Muslims to adopt an Islam which is servile to the West, an Islam devoid of sharia’h, jihad and caliphate. What have they got to fear from Muslims in Britain who simply want to uphold family values which were once held so dear in British communities before binge drinking, promiscuity and pill-popping became so commonplace?
There is no reason why Muslims can not contribute positively to Britain and elsewhere in the West without diluting their faith. You don’t ask it of other communities so why single us out for special treatment other than we are not equal in your eyes.
That great Muslim martyr Malcolm X once said: Sitting at the Table doesn’t make you a diner, unless you eat some of what’s on the plate. Being here in America does not make you an American. Being born here in America does not make you an American.” Now substitute America for Britain and give me the answer, Mr Brown. And to those self-elected Muslim leaders who sit in government circles I have a polite request: “Get up off your knees. You can only demand to be treated like an equal if you act like one.”