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Muslims: Islamists' Enemy #1 By: Charles Moore
London Daily Telegraph | Tuesday, December 21, 2004


On Wednesday, I wrote a letter to David Blunkett. As he resigned 15 minutes after my fax arrived (I cannot claim the two events were related), I do not complain that I have not yet received an answer, either from him, or from his successor, Charles Clarke. But an early response, as they say on bills, would be appreciated.

What I asked the Home Secretary concerned his department's proposed law against "religious hatred". Readers may remember that, last week in this column, I defended the right of people to say - though it is not a proposition with which I agree - that the Prophet Mohammed was a paedophile.

So my question to whoever happens to be Home Secretary is whether it would be an offence under the new law to assert this proposition. Muslims are also very offended by any pictorial depiction of the Prophet; so I asked whether such depictions would also be an offence under the law.

Fiona Mactaggart, who is minister for race equality, has accused critics of the new law of a misunderstanding. It is not a blasphemy law, she says. You can say anything you like about the beliefs: what you will not be allowed to do is to insult the believers because of what they believe. I do not see how this distinction will be possible to maintain: it is certainly not one which Muslims accept.

On this page on Tuesday , Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, clearly saw the law as a way of preventing "the vilification of dearly cherished beliefs". He sees attacks on the Prophet as attacks on all Muslims - therefore, in his view, they should be banned. That is what Muslims think Labour has promised them.

The reaction to my own article shows the problem. The Muslim Association of Britain (not to be confused with the MCB) said that what I had written was "repulsive", composed out of an "arrogance borne by only the most zealous of racists". Because of my "filth and drivel", I should be dismissed from The Daily Telegraph, and the paper should apologise. Just in case the point was missed, the MAB reminded the paper of the lessons of the Salman Rushdie affair.

It also referred readers to a website, IslamOnline.net which globalises the denunciation of my column with a Cairo dateline and offers a link to a discussion of what should happen to non-Muslims who insult the Prophet ("In Islam, it is well known that the punishment for the one who insults the Prophet is to be killed… However, we Muslims are advised to be forgiving and pardoning.")

Who are the Muslim Association of Britain? I've been looking them up. They have close links to the extremist Muslim Brotherhood, one of whose leaders, Qutb, advocated takfir, the branding of all Muslims as infidels unless they conform to sharia. Some MAB activists support Hamas and its policy of suicide bombing.

One of its senior chaps, Azzam Tamimi, has boasted of this "human bomb" against the Israelis: "We love death, they love life." The IslamOnline website is the mouthpiece of Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi. It debates, among other things, whether the best treatment for homosexuals is 100 lashes or chucking them over a cliff, and Qaradawi rejects interfaith dialogue in favour of "the language of the sword and force". The Taqwa Bank, of which he is a shareholder, has had its assets seized by the US Treasury because of its suspected terrorist links.

On the same programme on which Miss Mactaggart appeared (Radio 4's Today), a spokesman for the MAB popped up to support the religious hatred law and said that people should not be allowed to shout things like "Bin Laden" at Muslims in the street. (By the way, why does he see that, from his point of view, as an insult?)

So here we have a body with activists who support the killing of Israeli Jews, telling people in Britain that they must stop displaying religious intolerance - all of this listened to respectfully by the BBC. I am trying to avoid the word "Orwellian", but I can't.

It will be said, and it is true, that the MAB does not represent moderate Muslims. But one has to wonder, different though their tone undoubtedly is and personally decent though most of them clearly are, whether moderate Muslims really disagree with the extremist doctrines. I have not been able, for example, to get the MCB (the main moderate organisation) unequivocally to condemn the killing or kidnapping of British soldiers in Iraq.

And it is clear from Iqbal Sacranie's piece that he thinks that what he calls "taking liberties with the Prophet" should be against the law. In a country where taking and exercising liberties is a profoundly important part of our way of life, that is not a moderate position.

And even when moderate views are held, are they acted on? Elsewhere in this paper today, we report the secret meeting that recently took place at Clarence House in the presence of the Prince of Wales. The idea, prompted by the Christian contingent, was to try to shift Muslim attitudes to "apostasy". All the main Islamic schools of law state that apostasy - the abandonment of one's Muslim faith - is punishable by death.

That is the law in several Muslim states - Saudi Arabia, Iran, Sudan - and it is imposed, informally, in many more. In Holland, the politician accused of apostasy, Ayyan Hirsi Ali, has had to go into hiding to avoid being murdered. You might think that such a penalty for such a "crime" was a more dramatic example of religious hatred than anything offered here in Britain by paltry yobs such as the BNP, yet this is the prevalent, mainstream teaching of the religion whose critics the Government now proposes to criminalise.

What happened at Clarence House was interesting. The distinguished Muslim delegation agreed that the law on apostasy was extremely unsatisfactory and should be changed.

They were adamant, however, that this was something about which Christians should say nothing - even though the Nigerian archbishop present explained that members of his flock are being murdered under the apostasy law - and that it was not a matter that Muslims could pursue in public at this time. What they were saying, really, was: "We're too frightened to do anything."

And that is the worst of it. The word "Islamophobia" is thrown at people who criticise some aspects of current Islamic thought. But "phobia" means fear, and I suspect that it is moderate Muslims who are, in that sense, Islamophobic, frightened of what the Islamists are turning their faith into. They cannot find the courage and the words to get to grips with the huge problem that confronts Islam in the modern world.

This is: how does a belief system founded, in part, on conquest, and preaching a virtual identity between religious and political power, live at ease in plural, free, secular societies? Instead of answering this question, they tend to attack the people who ask it, and ask for special laws to silence them.

I don't want to give offence, but I'd just like to wish all my readers, whatever their faith, a very happy Christmas.




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