Lord Ahmed on Muslims, Extremism
And Islam at the House of Lords
Dr. Mozammel Haque
Her Majesty delivered a speech in the House of Lords in which Her Majesty said that measures will be brought forward to promote social cohesion and protect people by tackling extremism. There was discussion and debate on this speech at the House of Lords. Lord Sheikh and Lord Ahmed among with others participated in this debate and discussion. Lord Ahmed of Rotherham focussed on several points about the Muslim community.
Changes will have serious and
Lord Ahmed said, there is deep concern over the proposed changes to the UK’s counterterrorism and security framework. He said, “Another of the many anti-terrorism, counterterrorism and now counterextremism Bills was announced and initial reports suggest that the drafting of key terms in the Bill, such as “extremist” and “harmful”, will be so vague as to catch peaceful protestors. These changes have serious and negative implications for the human rights of citizens.”
“There is no doubt that the Government have an obligation to protect the lives and liberties of the public from harm. However, it is imperative that laws intended to do that do not at the same time violate rights,” Lord Ahmed mentioned.
The proposed legislation
Referring to what Lord Sheikh said earlier in his speech at the House of Lords, Lord Ahmed said, “Lord Sheikh, said, the British Muslim community is currently feeling targeted by the proposed legislation. Many of them fear that the Government are launching a cold war against them.”
British values are inherently Muslim values
Lord Ahmed also mentioned about the British values and the Muslim practices according to the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) practices. He said, “British values, as defined by Theresa May, such as democracy, the rule of law, tolerance and acceptance of different faiths, are inherently Muslim values, too. These are exemplified in the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad’s practices. The cliché that there is a dichotomy in being a Muslim and a law-abiding British citizen is untrue and misguided.”
Muslims are integrated and
make positive contribution
Lord Ahmed also mentioned about Muslims integration and their positive contribution to British society. He said, “Muslims have been in Europe in large numbers since the 1950s. They are well integrated and make a very positive contribution to British society. It is only in the last 20 years or so that violent extremism has gained momentum. Every year, Muslims contribute billions to the UK economy. They make a very positive contribution to the manufacturing and textile industries, transport, health, education and other government services. Our national dish is chicken tikka masala and catering industry businesses worth more than £4 billion annually are owned by Muslims. Olympic superstars Mo Farah and Amir Khan, the boxer, and “Dragons’ Den” star James Caan are all from the Muslim community. British Muslims often cite an example of Islamic teachings on human freedom.”
Lord Ahmed said, “I shall quote Qur’an 2:256—I will not misquote as was done earlier—which states: “Let there be no compulsion in religion”. The Qur’an 18:29 states: “Whosoever wills, let him”— or her— “believe, and whosoever wills, let him disbelieve”.”
the law of the land
Lord Ahmed also mentioned in his speech at the House of Lords, how the Muslim community respect and uphold the law of the land. He said, “Muslims living in non-Muslim countries consider it a religious duty enshrined in the Qur’an to respect and uphold the law of the land that they are living in. Nationality and immigration laws are classified as covenants by the majority of Muslims. Thus, violating the law of the land would be tantamount to violating the Qur’anic command to abide strictly by any covenant one enters into.”
In order to support his saying, Lord Ahmed quoted from the Qur’an 17:34 which says, “And fulfil every covenant. Verily, every covenant will be enquired into (by God)””
Lord Ahmed mentioned about stopping drinking and socialising with friends. He said, “Ten days ago, it was reported that Britain’s most senior Muslim police officer, Mak Chishty, has warned that young people who stop drinking, socialising with friends and shopping at Marks & Spencer could be in the process of becoming radicalised. These are ludicrous statements, because it could equally be argued that stopping drinking and socialising and focusing on other things, such as education and so on, could be regarded as typical advice from parents to children.”
“Recently, parents complained about a questionnaire given to year 6 children, aged nine, in Waltham Forest—22% of its population are Muslim. If your Lordships have any grandchildren of this age, like mine, you will know their opinion on grandparents, let alone on identity, arranged marriages, God and much more.”
Lord Ahmed mentioned about the The Radicalisation Leading to Terrorism Programme which has been funded through the EU. Lord Ahmed said, “This is designed, “to identify the initial seeds of radicalisation with children of primary school age”.
Trojan Horse controversy
Lord Ahmed also said, “The recent “Trojan horse” controversy has already fuelled anti-Muslim sentiments. ChildLine reported that the number of complaints of bullying rose during that period. Young people in inner-city schools were ringing in, complaining of being called names such as “terrorist” and “suicide bomber”.
Lord Ahmed mentioned an imaginary binary opposition is constantly propagated by some politicians, the media and extremist elements. He said, “For the vast majority of Muslims living in the UK, the issue of concern is not that they see conflict between Muslim values and British values, but that their children are growing up in a society in which an imaginary binary opposition is constantly propagated by some politicians, the media and extremist elements in their communities. For example, it is always asserted that it is our fundamental right of freedom of speech to criticise the Prophet Muhammad—peace be upon him—and the Qur’an, as we heard earlier from the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on his crusade. He deliberately took things out of context in your Lordships’ House. His reference to the Muslim population was similar to the language used in Germany against the Jewish communities before the war. Yet you may be classified as an extremist if you have supported Palestine or Kashmir.”
British Muslims feel more patriotic than others
Referring again to Lord Sheikh’s earlier speech at the House of Lords where Lord Sheikh mentioned about a number of surveys and studies published in the last few years. Lord Ahmed said, “These surveys and studies referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh—revealed that British Muslims feel more patriotic than most British people or their Muslim counterparts living in other parts of Europe. However, the context and manner in which the debate on British values is taking place can be viewed as marginalising Muslims as the “other”. Muhammad Abduh, one of the most influential Islamic philosophers and jurists of the modern era, once famously remarked, on his return to Egypt from a tour of Europe:
“I visited the West and saw Islam, but no Muslims; I returned to the East and saw Muslims, but not Islam””
Lord Ahmed also said in his speech at the House of Lords, “When was the last time David Cameron or Theresa May visited a mosque or a Muslim community centre to reassure British Muslims that they are part of this country, that this is their home and that their contribution will never be eschewed? I know many young British-born Muslims who are now leaving the UK due to this constant demonisation.”
“Finally, violent extremism must not be ignored. It needs to be rooted out, but we cannot win a war by silencing people. They should be able to hold different views, as long as they do not break the law, and they live in harmony with others. There is a danger that the proposed tougher legislation will have full power to criminalise law-abiding people. What we need as a society is a common language, common principles and dialogue,” Lord Ahmed concluded.