| ||Alex Massie on Spectator blogs writes an excellent piece titled 'Ground Zero Mosque: Another moment of truth for open society' in which he untangles frenzied arguments and much of the prejudice underlying the debate about the construction of a mosque at ground zero (New York) and also perceptions about British Muslims. |
'Are the muslims you work with or play cricket with all would-be jihadis? Of course not. Is the muslim running your local corner-shop or the mini-cab driver who'll take you south of the river a would-be jihadi? Of course not. There are two million muslims in Britain. If they constituted a fifth column undermining Britain we might have endured more than just two (successful) Islamist terrorist attacks in this country since 9/11.
'Of course, it's not just a question of terrorism. It's about culture too. But that doesn't mean that every time a publicity-seeking preacher (of whom, admittedly, the law may sometimes have been too indulgent) says something idiotic or inflammatory or repulsive we must treat his words as proof that his congregation is, if anything, just as foolish or unpleasant or malevolent as he may be.
'It doesn't mean we must believe that the muslim goons who take to the streets when the coffins of British soldiers are brought back from Afghanistan are representative of anything other than their own tiny unsavouriness. They deserve all the scorn and mockery they receive but we demean ourselves by inflating their significance.
'That is, we cannot in good faith judge the beliefs and standards of the law-abiding majority by the excesses and ghastliness of a few. No-one of sound mind disputes that radical Islamism is a real threat. Nor does anyone dispute that there's a problem with "home-grown" radicalism. The question is how we minimise and in time, we hope, eradicate these problems. Turning everything into a Them and Us struggle is just about the last thing we could do to achieve those goals.
'Instead, however, we get up in arms every time a chip shop ceases to sell pork products or when any muslim declines to reject any and every aspect of sharia law. See! They're winning! We cannot permit a Chip Shop Gap.'
'The more British muslims, especially the young, the unemployed and the poorly educated, are told or given the impression that they're the enemy or that their religion is somehow a threat to or incompatible with British life then the more likely they are to see themselves eventually in those terms too.'
On the supposed 'Islamification' of Britain, Massie writes:
'To my commenters and the others worried by the "Islamification of Britain" I would ask only this: why are you so afraid and why do you lack such confidence in this country and its people's ability to solve these problems? Perhaps my confidence is misplaced but I think we can probably do it. This is, in many ways, a better, more tolerant place to live than it has been in the past and, unless we blunder, it should remain so. The annoyances of idiotic council regulations about Christmas trees and crucifixes or inflammatory articles in the press ought not to distract us from that fact. The open society is an achievement to be proud of - for conservatives and liberals alike - but the most likely way it can be defeated is if we allow ourselves to be defeated by our fears and, thus, in the end by ourselves.'
Massie, who has previously addressed sensationalised apocalyptic visions of an 'Islamized' Europe, rightly argues that 'diversity need not be a threat' and that Britain 'is, in general, a comfortable, tolerant place made of people with complex identities that make it a more, not less, interesting and decent place.'
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