Baroness Warsi, are these people Muslims?
Last week, UKIP's Lord Pearson of Rannoch raised a question in the House of Lords: "To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the basis for the statement by the Prime Minister on 3 June that 'There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror'." He explained:
“But there is a problem within Islam—from the adherents of an ideology that is a strain within Islam. And we have to put it on the table and be honest about it.Baroness Warsi was having none of this ignorant islamophobic racist bigotry:
Of course there are Christian extremists and Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu ones. But I am afraid this strain is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view about religion and about the interaction between religion and politics that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies.
At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the world view goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So by and large we don’t admit it. This has two effects. First, those with that view think we are weak and that gives them strength.
Second, those within Islam—and the good news is there are many—who actually know this problem exists and want to do something about it, lose heart”.
Those are not my words but those of Tony Blair, after the Islamist murder last summer of Drummer Rigby—the same Tony Blair who, as Prime Minister, dismantled our borders to,
“rub the noses of the right in diversity”.We must be grateful that his subsequent experience as our Middle East envoy has taught him something about the reality of modern Islam, and that he had the courage to say what he did. In these few minutes, I want to talk about some of that reality.
Islam does not enjoy the separation of powers that we take for granted in our liberal, western democracies. Islam’s Sharia law is a legal, political and religious system all in one, which takes its authority solely from the Koran, the Hadith and the Sunnah, as interpreted by its religious clerics, collectively known as the ulema.
Our Muslim friends tell us that the jihadists are a misguided minority who misinterpret the Koran and the holy texts. They point to verses such as Surah 2, verse 256, in which Muhammad commands that there shall be no compulsion in religion, and to other verses of peace. There are millions of Muslims who live their lives guided by those verses, and many thousands who have been murdered by their violent co-religionists.
...if Islam justified terror, we would not have seen the out-and-out condemnation of this brutal murder by the British Muslim community.And she swatted away Lord Pearson's superficial theology with an authoritative appeal to The West Wing:
After that attack, we saw the Ramadhan Foundation, the Muslim Council of Britain, the Christian Muslim Forum, MINAB, the Al-Khoei Foundation, the British Muslim Forum, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association, the Karima Institute, the Islamic Forum of Europe and many, many others come out and say, “Not in our name”. They were united with the country in grief and horror at what happened on a London street. I wholeheartedly support this clear and unequivocal condemnation.
President Bartlet: “I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality an abomination”.And the Noble Baroness concluded:
The TV presenter: “I don’t say homosexuality is an abomination, Mr. President. The Bible does”.
President Bartlet: “Yes it does. Leviticus 18:22. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I have you here. I’m interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She’s a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be?”. While thinking about that, can I ask you another question? My Chief of Staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police? Here’s one that’s really important because we’ve got a lot of sports fans in this town: touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean. Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves, can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side by side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you?”.
I could not make this point more clearly. These texts from the Old Testament could so easily be manipulated to cause mischief and indeed have been manipulated in the past. But being religious means making choices and understanding the central values of your faith. It also means considering the context in which that faith was formed.
As many noble Lords have said in this debate Islam, like all world religions, neither supports, nor advocates, nor condones terrorism. I am saying that the values of al-Qaeda and like-minded terrorists are not only contrary to what we as a country stand for, they are a distortion of the Islamic tradition itself. Al-Qaeda’s ideology is fundamentally at odds with both classical and contemporary Islamic jurisprudence. That is why the majority of Muslims across the globe reject their ideology.But Lord Pearson of Rannoch was irked:
My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, she has not answered the two questions that I put to her. I believe that I am in order to repeat them.. Will the noble Baroness answer the two questions I put to her?And the Noble Baroness waffled on:
Everyone in this house knows Muslims in British life—doctors, engineers, scientists, journalists, MPs, teachers, business people, local councillors and so on...And on and on..
An exasperated Lord Pearson intervened:
With respect, that does not answer the question. The question I put to the noble Baroness was about the persecution of Christians, to which she so bravely referred in Georgetown last Friday. Is it or is it not mostly the work of the jihadists? That was the question I put to her.And so she did:
It was mostly the work of extremists who do not follow any faith, as far as I am concerned.So, those who burn down churches, blow people up or cut their heads off while quoting the Qur'an, declaiming "Allahu Akbar" and invoking the name of Mohammed are not Muslims at all: they are really followers of no faith: they are secularists or humanist atheists; buddies of Professor Dawkins.
This is the socio-religio-political depth of understanding of the UK’s first ever Minister for Faith and Communities. She says it is her job "to ensure that freedom of religion and belief remains at the top of the Government’s agenda both at home and internationally". But while doing that, there can be no scrutiny of the virulent salafi-wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam, for, to her, that is not Islam at all. And even to mention the possibility that it might be invites allegations of bigotry. These 'extremists' are simply not true Muslims and are completely ignorant of the real Islam.
And yet.. and yet..
At a Muslim Peace Conference in Norway (yes, a peace conference in Europe), when asked if the Muslims in attendance agreed that adulterous women ought to be stoned, the speaker praises Allah that all the men's hands were raised. His Grace says "men's hands", for there appears to be no gender diversity at this gathering. Unless, of course, the women were in the basement. When asked if they believed in the strict separation of men and women, all hands again were raised (except the bloke on the front line, whom the speaker ignores). This video is not of a group of 'extremists', but ordinary believers in a run-of-the-mill expression of moderate Islam.
These ordinary, everyday moderate Muslims want sharia law in their country; not secular democracy and human rights. The moderate and enlightened speaker mocks the media portrayal of their beliefs as 'extreme'. One wonders, if they had been asked, whether all hands would have been raised to affirm the death penalty for apostasy. Surely, if stoning women for adultery is considered just, then hanging for apostasy or blasphemy is a fortiori the will of Allah. And it is a very small step indeed from that belief to burning down the odd church and beheading the occasional kafir.
But these are not Muslims. They do not follow any faith.
As far as Baroness Warsi is concerned.