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It’s time to stand up for what we believe in
31/05/2013 10:06:00


The whole country was shocked by the barbarity of the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich a fortnight ago. As we recover from the initial shock, the question that confronts us – not just politicians, but all of us – is how should we respond? We should start by asking how the murderers would want us to respond - and then do the exact opposite.

Adebowale, Adebolajo and those who share their ideology want to divide our society into Muslims and non-Muslims. They believe there is an unbridgeable gap between the West and Islam. In that sense, they have much in common with the English Defence League and others on the far right of British politics.

And they are both wrong. Of course religion can divide us if we let it. It has done so plenty of times in human history. But there are also plenty of examples of Christians, Muslims and people of other religions living peacefully alongside each other. If you have Muslim neighbours or colleagues at work, you won’t need convincing. But maybe your perception of Islam is shaped solely by what you see on TV or read in the papers – the murder of Drummer Rigby, the 7/7 bombings, 9/11. If so, let me reassure you that the actions of those responsible for these atrocities are no more representative of British Muslims than those of IRA bombers were of Irish Catholics. The South Norwood Islamic Community Centre in my constituency isn’t just a masjid, it’s part of the community. It hosts visits from local schools. It’s a venue for the annual South Norwood Arts Festival. I hold surgeries there.

Yes we face a threat from extremists but the vast majority of British Muslims don’t share Adebowale and Adebolajo’s ideology – indeed, they regard it as a perversion of Islam. If we let the actions of Adebowale and Adebolajo turn us against millions of our fellow citizens, they will have achieved what they set out to do, we will be doing a grave injustice to people who share our values and our society will be much the poorer.

The right response is to come together, not drift apart. We must make a concerted effort to get to know each other better, to understand each other’s beliefs, to dispel ignorance and prejudice and most of all to confront the ideology of both Drummer Rigby’s murderers and the far right.

In today’s globalised world, Croydon’s diversity can be a great strength. But events in Woolwich a fortnight ago and the reaction of the far right since then remind us that there are people in our society who don’t share British values. We have turned a blind eye to them for too long. It’s time to stand up for what we believe in.

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Readers' Comments

On 04/06/2013 23:48:00 RS wrote:
The time has also come to realize Islam does indeed have two faces, has always had two faces since its birth, a peaceful face and a communal face. Prophet Mohammad destroyed the statues of the gods of other religions and participated in wars of conquest, and that violence and intolerance is reported in Muslim and non-Muslim accounts of his life.

So Islam does have a communal/intolerant side to it. If we ignore the communal face of Islam claiming it is a perversion of Islam rather than a genuine face of Islam, we will be doing so at our own peril.

Only when we accept that it is the religion that inspires the terrorist, that also inspires the peaceful, can we attempt to realistically strengthen the peaceful side of Islam. Until then the terrorists will always call the shots by their disproportionate impact, and the world will get more polarized as a result, which is obviously what we don't to happen but what we are causing to happen by not recognizing terrorism as a legitimate (though not the numerically stronger) face of Islam.

My own opinion is the UK would be much better off limiting immigration from Muslim countries and promoting skilled migrants from secular countries like India, US, Australia, Canada and South Africa which are respectful of plural, secular, democratic values themselves and whose cultures are by and large not just economically successful the easiest to integrate into British society. The lack of immigration from these secular countries is going to result in Muslims becoming an ever bigger proportion of British population, and who knows how many more are going to get radicalized as a result?

On 10/06/2013 23:57:00 Chris Brown wrote:
No, it has not been the actions of the far right that have reminded that there are people in our society who do not share British values. I have observed the tiny number of protestors who were reported to have turned up in London to object to the murder and so I conclude that there is no reason to think that they have any potential democratic authority. It was the televised scene of a bloody handed British Subject that reminded me of the problem. I think the your post is a typical politicians sticking paster applied to a gross wound. While I would expect many matters concerning the anti-terrorist matters to be secret I would be assured to hear a clear and unequivocal statement from the Home Secretary that the Islamic faith in the UK is vigorously assisting in the detection and prevention of terrorist crime.



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