Opinion: A personal view of the Paris tragedy

With the recent tragic developments in France I urge the government and political leaders to re-think our approach in facing fundamentalism and terrorism. The concept of security and defence alone is the traditional tested & failed approach. So is our approach in seeking alliance with suppressive regimes in the Middle East that prevent decent or religious movements that would allow their ideology to evolve in a non-violent manner. The end result is Middle East instability spilled onto our streets and politicians starting to take sides. This is the wrong approach and does nothing to help keep such conflicts away from our shores. We need to urgently and seriously consider the following key policy changes;

We need to help develop a more tolerant version of Islam within Europe which respects our values and principles. We should do this with the help of moderate religious leaders and scholars. We should help drive this approach throughout Europe.

We should refrain from supporting sides in the ME conflict neither by word nor action until the parties actually get involved in a peace process. We can encourage peaceful resolution and help bring them to negotiate but we should not  provide any kind of political or financial support until they demonstrate seriousness about resolving the issue;

Europe has changed and we need to ensure that our approach in securing our values evolves with time so we don’t begin fighting extremism with extremist policies that will tear the country down. We need to fight this battle on our terms mainly using our belief in freedom, democracy and human rights.

Passions are high at the moment so let’s be mindful of that as well so that we don’t make the wrong judgment calls.

Beyond all the above heartfelt condolences to the families and friends of all who lost their lives in these attacks.


* Fadel Gala is a Lib Dem member working in the IT industry who has participated in policy working groups for the party mainly in the area of international law.

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  • Steve Comer 13th Jan '15 - 9:20am

    Easy to say “We need to help develop a more tolerant version of Islam within Europe which respects our values and principles. ” I know millions of Muslims in Europe would support that sentiment, BUT that comment does not look at where much of the problem really lies.
    For decades ‘the West’ has seen Saudi Arabia (where Mecca is located) as a key ally. This is an autocratic feudal Monarchy that denies Civil Liberties to its own citizens, but is protected and supported by the USA and it allies because of the vast oil reserves on its territories.
    Saudi Arabia has been actively engaged in building ‘a more INtolerant version of Islam’ for decades, it has funded Mosque building, Imam training, publications in every language etc. And the variant of Islam preferred by the Saudi religious leaders is the authoritarian conservative Wahhabi version. It is very difficult for millions of Muslims comfortable in Western Europe to promote a more modern, tolerant interpretation of their religion when they are competing with billions of pounds being splashed around by Saudi interests promoting the opposite.

  • We should refrain from supporting sides in the ME conflict neither by word nor action until the parties actually get involved in a peace process.

    Regardless of the loss of civilian lives? Mass rape? Torture?

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jan '15 - 9:33am

    I think what you write can be summarised as “Europe should get involved and it should not get involved. It should not pick and choose between sides but it should pick and choose between sides. And if we get it wrong, it’s our fault”.

    You claim that there has been a specific policy of “seeking alliance with suppressive regimes”. Do you have any evidence for that? Didn’t we do just the opposite when we interfered to help bring down one of the most suppressive ones in Iraq, and how did that go down? We are damned for intervening there and damned for not intervening in Syria. Somehow both situations are used to justify the line “it’s all the West’s fault” and none of it the fault of the people out there killing each other in the names of their various factions.

    Is not “helping develop a more tolerant version of Islam within Europe which respects our values and principles” precisely the sort of interference for our own benefit which is often decried? When you say “We need to fight this battle on our terms” isn’t that just the sort of arrogance lack of consideration of how others feel attitude that we are so often told is wrong with us?

  • Helen Dudden 13th Jan '15 - 10:00am

    The attitude to Jews has to improve. My people are always scapegoats for others.

    It is time that the EU woke up to reality, woke up to human rights and justice.

    Time too, that others like some MPs thought differently, they know they are. I would not be that rude to then in public, not recommended within our laws.

  • David Cooper 13th Jan '15 - 10:04am

    @Steve Comer
    The message from Charlie Hebdo is one of forgiveness, both for the prophet Mohammed and his religion. I agree with Op-Ed that we need to help develop a more tolerant version of Islam within Europe which respects our values and principles. We can start by subjecting religious donations from overseas to laws just as political donations are. This would deal with your concern of “billions of pounds being splashed around by Saudi interests”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Jan '15 - 10:14am

    Steve Comer

    For decades ‘the West’ has seen Saudi Arabia (where Mecca is located) as a key ally. This is an autocratic feudal Monarchy that denies Civil Liberties to its own citizens, but is protected and supported by the USA and it allies because of the vast oil reserves on its territories.

    So, what do you propose that we do? Intervene to overthrow that feudal monarchy? Wouldn’t that be seen as unwarranted interference, and give the role of that monarchy as the protector of those places so central to Islam, wouldn’t it be painted as an attack on Islam itself? I mean, given that overthrowing a secular dictator was painted as an attack on Islam so serious that it required brutal killing of thousands of Muslims and Christians and Yazidis etc and selling off women as sex slaves as a necessary part of defending the religion, do you seriously think any attack on the Saudi monarchy would be cheered on?

  • Tsar Nicolas 13th Jan '15 - 10:17am

    The West has spent a great deal of time undermining progressive, secular leaders in the Muslim world, leaders like Abdel Gamel Nasser, and indeed helped fund religious opponents like Sayyid Qutb.

    Scroll forward to the present day and the US regime was active in supporting Mohammed Morsi in his rise to power. Ordinary Egyptians recognised this when they came out against the Morsi regime in their millions, many of them with banners and placards condemning not only the Muslim Brotherhood, but his main backer, US Ambassador to Cairo Anne W Patterson.

    I am not sure why the west has been so receptive to these extremists – is it because they want Arabs to be stuck in the poverty and backwardness of the Middle Ages? In any event, if you want to have moderate Islam in Europe or north America, it strikes me that an absolute precondition for this is to have moderate Muslims in power in the Muslim world.

  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Jan '15 - 10:30am

    I agree with Steve Comer.

  • Stephen Hesketh 13th Jan '15 - 10:31am

    Fadel Galal | Tue 13th January 2015 – 8:55 am

    I am at work and on a short break so my post must be correspondingly short so … Thank you for raising this. I agree with your basic point – what we are doing now just isn’t working.

    I hope contributions are more positive than one or two of the above – yes, there are huge problems but we need to think, talk and above all, try something new!

    And Helen, that must include you. Israel and its Jewish and other peoples would be much safer in a peaceful Middle East.

  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Jan '15 - 12:08pm

    ‘ We need to help develop a more tolerant version of Islam within Europe which respects our values and principles. We should do this with the help of moderate religious leaders and scholars.’

    I agree but it is already happening. There are scholars like Tariq Ramadan and others who are indeed developing theological approaches in Islam which build on the best of tradition but are open to the situations muslims in Europe find themselves in. It happened in Judaism and it will happen in Islam.

    However, let’s please remember that the drift into terrorism is first and foremost a problem of alienation and rootlessness – this is not just youthful alienation from elders in the muslim community but socio-economic and political. France is a deeply divided society and has gone out of its way in recent years to foster alienation eg: arresting women for choosing to wear headscarves and niqab in public, not addressing the deprivation in the numerous banlieu where most muslims live, not allowing in schools any history but French history (how about teaching colonial history from the point of view of the colonised?).

    The west has got to face up to its colonial past too and its continued intervention in the middle east, plus its alliance with countries like Saudi Arabia. Saudi was in part a British construct, helping to build the nation and land borders of a bunch of medieval bedouins who landed on trillions of dollars of oil – catapulting them into the modern world.

    Saudi embraces a particularly deeply conservative, medieval version of Islam and takes it further than its fellow wahabis in the gulf states like Dubai for example. It has to be helped by fellow muslims to reform its religious system. They could learn from their neighbours for a start.

  • @ Helen Tedcastle

    When Tariq Ramadan wrote a piece in the Guardian a couple of days ago someone posted the following in the comments section:-

    “Tariq Ramadan’s words to a Muslim audience in Germany, on May 21, 2008, quoted by Dr. Sami Alrabaa:
    Ramadan said, My brothers and sisters, we must exploit the so-called democracy and freedom of speech here in the West to reach our goals. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, and the Koran teach us that we must use every conceivable means and opportunity to defeat the enemies of Allah. Tell the infidels in public, we respect your laws and your constitutions, which we Muslims believe that these are as worthless as the paper they are written on. The only law we must respect and apply is the Sharias’”

    I would dearly love to have it confirmed whether this is true or not. The comment had hundreds of “recommends” and is so damaging to the position of moderate muslims that I am surprised that neither the author nor the Guardian appears to have rebutted it as far as I can see. Can anyone shed any light?

  • “We need to help develop a more tolerant version of Islam within Europe which respects our values and principles. We should do this with the help of moderate religious leaders and scholars.”

    I understand what you are trying to say but I often hear people say this assuming there isn’t already a decent amount of this already there, just denied oxygen in wider circles, with the BC still calling a small group to comment. Sometimes being caught out as their selection criteria appeared to be “look he wears funny clothing and says he’s a moderate.”

    I can’t imagine the topic being covered seriously though as that would require a in depth discussion of faith based issues which the BBC has proved it is incapable of doing, with many other outlets not even trying.

  • OllyT

    It illustrates the problem with the Media’s preference for celebrity “moderates” I have no idea if the quote is accurate (though I have seen it a fair few places other than the Guardian).

    If the coverage was of the ideas and the interpretations not over what the latest favourite “expert” summarises the issue as, then the dis honest double speak would be harder, the ignorant imposters would be weeded out and perhaps the discussion would be just about watchable.

  • Ollyt 13th Jan ’15 – 12:19pm
    “..,, Can anyone shed any light?”

    Yes Ollyt lots of people can shed light on this for you.
    Instead of reading about someone whom I assume you have never met talking to people In Germany and having his comments reported on social media and apparently commented on by lots of people you have never met I suggest you go and ask some real people.
    As I said in an earlier reply to you, why not go to your local Mosque and talk to some real Muslms rather than the dangerous extremists that seem to inhabit your imagination?

    Are all the Muslims you have come across in real life gun-toting nutters?
    There are 1.6 billion Musims around the world — do you really think they’re all some sort of danger to you ?

  • Helen Dudden 13th Jan '15 - 12:50pm

    Maybe you should consider a Jewish contribution to your page.

    One comment by email to me this morning. The Jews were killed because they were Jews.

    The EU were aware of the problems with antisemitism, I complained again, just days before this awful situation. Lack of understanding and concern, though that is well proved now.

    The EU does not seem to be the answer to why it was formed, it is failing badly on many fronts.

    If in the future it wishes to remain, I can only suggest it seriously considers it future.

  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Jan '15 - 12:51pm

    Olly T

    This is what Tariq Ramadan wrote in the Guardian in response to the Charlie Hebdo attack the other day and it seems completely at odds with the quotation you gave. He is not just a celebrity muslim but a solid academic thinker and professor at Oxford University:


  • Jayne Mansfield 13th Jan '15 - 1:20pm

    @ Helen Tedcastle,
    Whilst not necessarily disagreeing with you, I think that when one uses alienation and rootlessness as a cause or explanation of extremism, one could also use it as an explanation/ excuse for the extremist behaviour of some non Muslim working class youths, some National front , BNP members, EDL members etc.

    As a teacher you work on a one to one basis with young people and it is this bottom up approach that I think will eventually succeed. ( My children missed out, but I hope that my grandchildren have the opportunity to be taught by you). I also believe that harking back to the wrongs that we did under colonialism hasn’t helped. I and my children are ashamed of what happened but we cannot do anything about it. The past is past.

    When I have had conversations with young people who feel rootless and alienatated. ( I started working as a volunteer in a children’s home whilst still at school), and my husband and I have always had a home and open house to children from disadvantaged backgrounds, I am quite hard- hearted. I tell them that there is nothing that we can do to change their past, but there is a lot we can do to change their future.

    There are plenty of role models who can show them that one can overcome disadvantage and discrimination. I believe that is what we should help them to focus on. For example, in the case of young Muslims, Amir Khan , a devout Muslim has visited Peshawar and is helping to rebuild the school where extremists struck and is now raising money for amongst other charities, the building of boxing academies across Pakistan. He is not the only successful person who has shown that there is another way.

    People may well be disadvantaged and alienated, but they also have agency, and they can make choices on what path they choose to follow.

  • Hellen Dudden,
    I agree there’s too much emphasis trying to explain the attacks and what the possible effects on the Muslim community might be. These killers were not just anti-free speech they were deeply racist. I definitely would like to see a Jewish contribution.

  • @ Helen Tadcastle

    Of course what Ramadan is purported to have said in Germany is totally at odds with his Guardian article, that is precisely the point. What I want to know is whether what he said in the Guardian was genuine or is he simply paying lip-serce to free-speech etc as the German speech would suggest?

    @ John Tilley

    I am trying to find out whether what Ramadan is reported to have said in 2008 is true or not, your post offers no help whatsoever. Do you care whether it is true or not? I spent 30 years living within a mile of the Abu Hamza’s Finsbury Park Mosque so please patronising me and telling me to go and talk to some local muslims, I have talked to plenty and I was not impressed with what I heard. I also lost a very good friend in the London tube attacks and I am sure her family would be delighted to know that “dangerous extremists are a figment of my imagination”

  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Jan '15 - 2:03pm

    Jayne Mansfield

    Thanks for your comment. Yes, alienation or deprivation should become an excuse letting those who drift towards terror networks off the hook. They are responsible in the end for their own actions and choices.

    However, what I was really getting at was that deprivation, alienation, rootlessness create the conditions for the disaffected to drift towards those in radical Islamists who offer the illusion of certainty and simple solutions to complex questions.

    On colonialism: Sadly I think the colonial past is still with us. Britain has dealt with multi-culturalism and integration on its own shores much better than France. But there is no getting away from ongoing effects of colonialist policies in the middle east : ie; over the division of land, including Israel/Palestine, Iraq and Saudi. The effects of colonialism are long-lasting on the colonised and displaced.

    I agree with you about Amir Khan – good role model.

  • David Cooper 13th Jan '15 - 2:04pm

    @Helen Tedcastle
    You say: France is a deeply divided society and has gone out of its way in recent years to foster alienation eg: arresting women for choosing to wear headscarves and niqab in public

    I think you underestimate the inherent morality of most people, including Muslims. My grand-daughter may have a tantrum when preventing from wearing the dress she wants, but does not go out and murder people. Are you saying that Muslims have less self control than a small child? Why do you make this infantilizing assumption?

  • Helen Tedcastle 13th Jan '15 - 2:06pm

    Jayne Mansfield: Correction to my previous comment: ‘ alienation or deprivation should not become an excuse for letting those who drift…’

  • Ollyt

    You say you ” spent 30 years living within a mile of the Abu Hamza’s Finsbury Park Mosque.”.

    Abu Amza was associated with that Mosque for six years in the late 1990s.


    His time at Finsbury Park Mosque was from 1996 until April 2002 when he was suspended.

    According to the published evidence, he had only arrived in the UK in 1979 when he was 21.   He then studied civil engineering in Brighton and is then alleged to have spent time in various countries outside the UK until in the early 1990s he turned up in Bosnia.


    He is now in the USA in prison having previously served a separate prison sentence in this country.

    So it is now 19 years since he began his 6 year association with the Mosque and 12 years since he was sacked.

    There are about 1500 Mosques in the UK.   
    People might think it a bit misleading that the media persists in highlighting and quoting one period in the history of one man at one Mosque in Finsbury Park as if he or it was somehow representative of all the others in the UK.

    I expect you chose to highlight it because you lived so close to it rather than for any other reason.

    BTW – did you ever visit it?

  • I can find no evidence that the quote attributed to Dr Ramadan is accurate, or, indeed, any evidence that he ever visited the Islamisches Zentrum in Bielefeld in 2008 or at any other time. The allegation represents entirely on one article by Sami Alrabaa (without any indication by him of his source for the claims) and Alrabaa does not seem like a reliable source.

  • @ David-1

    You may be right, I simply don’t know, but do you therefore not find it distinctly odd that neither the author or the Guardian refuted the quote? If you had been falsely accused of saying that wouldn’t you have leapt into print to defend yourself? Perhaps he has and I have missed it, hence my original question.

  • @ John Tilley

    How long Abu Hamza was there is a red herring. I pointed out that I lived near that Mosque for 30 years because of your endlessly patronising insinuation that I never met any “real” muslims.

  • Ollyt 13th Jan ’15 – 3:06pm
    “………. I pointed out that I lived near that Mosque for 30 years .”

    Yes I noticed that. I provided you with a link to information about the Mosque. It indicates that the building was opened in 1994.

    ” Brief History of the Mosque
    The main 5-storey mosque building was opened for the public in 1994 at a ceremony attended by HRH Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales. It is located two minutes walk from Finsbury Park underground station, close to the Arsenal football stadium. ”

    You see how it is possible to take published information and put all sorts of interpretations on it?

  • @ John Tilley

    You seem to be deliberately evading the point. You are entitled to disagree with my opinions as strongly as you like but I find it extremely patronising for you to constantly imply that my opinions are invalid because I haven’t been out and met any “real” muslims.

  • David Cooper 13th Jan '15 - 5:07pm

    “do you therefore not find it distinctly odd that neither the author or the Guardian refuted the quote”

    It is not the job of the Guardian or anyone else to refute the garbage peddled by anonymous web trolls. Life is simply too short.

  • @ David Cooper

    There is no doubt about the authenticity of Dr Sami Alrabaa’s quote, it whether it is accurate or not that is uncertain. Do you have any evidence for your assertion that it as “garbage peddled by anonymous web trolls” or is that just a supposition that most comfortably fits with what you would like to believe?

    I would also point out that authors regularly respond to comments on their articles in the Guardian

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan '15 - 10:45am


    As I said in an earlier reply to you, why not go to your local Mosque and talk to some real Muslms rather than the dangerous extremists that seem to inhabit your imagination?

    A local priest I know did just this, in the sort of friendly inter-religious dialogue that is actually commonplace with Christians of other denominations, and says that he and a few colleagues were in effect shut in and subject to a long harangue about why they were all wrong and Islam was the only true religion. Mind you, this was the mosque which the Woolwich killers went to.

    Sadly, I have to report that from my own experience of attempted dialogue with Muslims, and what I have heard from others, this is generally how it goes. Once you go beyond very surface pleasantries, they are not willing to budge an inch, and it is always take, take, take and no give.

  • Matthew Huntbach 14th Jan ’15 – 10:45am

    Interesting — very different from my experience.

    Mind you we perhaps helped things along in the mid 1990s when we took an initiative whilst we were running the council. There had been a tradition of starting council meetings with “prayers” by a CofE vicar who was appointed as “Mayor’s Chaplain”. My ward colleague, the excellent David Twigg as Mayor appointed several “chaplains” – if I recall correctly Muslim, Bhuddist, Hindu, Jewish and various Christian demoninations. To be honest both David and I would have sooner banished prayers altogether for council meetings but a significant number of the then Liberal Democrat Group were believers in one faith or another.

    Nevertheless, I think this chaplain initiative had a positive impact not just in the Council Chamber but in the wider community. My infrequent visits to the local Mosque have always been pleasant and polite occasions.

    We frequently have Muslim stands in Kingston’s busy shopping centre where nice young people from a nmner of Mosques amd the University discuss politely with anyone and everyone whonwalks up to the.

    My copy of The Koran was a free gift from a stall. It is a translation into English although I still find it hard going.

    It is a shame that you were subjected to a long harangue on your visit. But I know how you must have felt. The local Roman Catholic priest in our ward used to loudly campaign against Liberal Democrats and I was subject to more than one harangue. He used to take the trouble to phone me at home and tell me exactly what he thought of me, our local MP, Liberalism in general and David Steel. He had a particular dislike of David Steel. Turning the other cheeks and Christian forgiveness seemed low down his ist of priorities. I never saw any evidence of him being aware of the concept of loving your enemy.

    But everyone is different and I doubt if he was very representative of the millions of Roman Catholics around the world. I find the new Pope a breath of fresh air, a man who appears to be genuinely interested in reform and the poor.

    My gut instinct on politics and religion ( which I try to keep under control) is best summed up Denis Diderot who a famously said –
    “..Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.”.

    Which is no doubt enough to get me shot by all sorts of people.

  • Might I have a word with all those French free-thinkers , before they vanish onto Cloud Nine? They have sadly just hosted one of the numerically smaller jihadist massacres this year, apparently occasioned by the repeatedly anti-Muslim cartoons in a small-circulation satirical magazine. Jews, Muslims and atheists alike were murdered by gunmen claiming to be avenging The Prophet ; millions took to the streets later in protest at this attack on free speech, and great stress was laid on the French state’s essentially secular, lay character, and the fact that this has created a culture in which all religions can feel welcome, and free to express themselves.

    These free-thinkers then allowed ( or even state-financed) a much-enlarged edition of this political comic, the cover of which blatantly carries a picture of Mahommet which, as every non-Muslim knows by now, is a blasphemy worthy of death in the eyes of extremist Islamists, and even many moderates. How welcome do we think this makes French Muslims feel? How reconciled to their adopted state? How is this meant to reflect the recent pledges about philosophical co-existence, and everyone’s right to practice their religion unmolested?

    If this is the best philosophical and practical reaction France can produce to jihadi threats , it may as well surrender now.

  • A Social Liberal 14th Jan '15 - 12:53pm

    I have to say that my experience with my muslim neighbours is completely at odds with that of Matthew Huntbachs priest. I and two other Liberal Democrats went to our local mosque last June (interestingly only a hundred yards or so from where I live) during a series of by elections. We were well received and listened to politely by the elders (the occasion being transmitted into the homes around the mosque) and the only time my movement was inhibited was when one of the elders grabbed my arm whilst commenting on a series of repetitive petty vandalism.

    I have never, EVER been treated by the muslim community within whose bounds I live with anything but friendliness and respect. They all know my political and religious beliefs and when we differ, we do so with respect for each other’s positions.

  • john Oakes,
    The French are not the British. They do not have a gentleman’s agreement amongst their press and TV to operate quasi blasphemy laws on behalf of Islam, which with a world wide following of 1!,6 billion and with numerous countries using it for the basis of their legal and political systems is far from a minority faith. Do the French tell Saudi Papers what to publish or Pakistan or Qatar or Yemen, do any of these countries consult with the French or with Israel to police minor publications that produce anti-Semitic and anti Western propaganda or just try to tell any of theses countries what is a permissible form of humour. Tolerance is not a one way street.
    If we are not to criticise a one religion or police cartoon that people from another culture may find offensive Why not apply the same logic then why not apply that logic to the America and the Christian Right. After all we’re their former colonial oppressors so what right do we have to insult one of most important branches of faith in the USA or question their culture and legal system or comment on any of their social issues!

  • John Oakes
    Much of what you say s perfectly reasonable.

    The problem with blasphemy is that the definition is not shared across religions or even across Christian Denominations.
    What was Blasphemy to The Rev Paisley in Northern Ireland was not apparently Blasphemy to any of the Popes that the Rev Paisley used to throw extravagant abuse at.
    Whilst I might have smiled when Paisley described Thatcher as a Harlot (with appropriate reference to the Bible) I did not think he should be charged under the Blasphemy Laws of this country. Although it would have made an interesting show trial.

    As for the response of the French to recent events. I think the French with their Republican traditions have a better grip than we do in this country. What would the UK government response have been? To send Prince Charles on another state visit to Saudi Arabia to dance with swords with Wahhabi despots who fund the sort of terrorists that kill cartoonists? Or maybe to send his brother the Duke of York who loves to be royally entertained in the Gulf whilst pretending to be a “trade ambassador”?

  • @ Matthew Huntbach

    One of these days it might dawn on John Tilley that it is his experience of muslims in affluent suburban Kingston-upon-Thames that is untypical.

  • David Cooper 14th Jan '15 - 4:42pm

    @John Oakes “everyone’s right to practice their religion unmolested?”

    If gunning down blasphemers is part of “Islamic religious practice”, then molestation is the very least that is required. I have no objection if they gun blasphemers down to their heart’s content, or for that matter stone them to death, provided they do it outside Europe.

  • David Cooper 14th Jan '15 - 5:01pm

    Outside Europe … or any other civilized country (I meant to add).

  • OllyT

    “One of these days it might dawn on John Tilley that it is his experience of muslims in affluent suburban Kingston-upon-Thames that is untypical.”

    I’m not sure it can be described as untypical as I’m not sure how easy it is to judge what is typical.

    I have never experienced that from someone I have been speaking too, one on one I have seen flashes in some people that they could turn that way. (Though my experience when briefly staying close to Finsbury Park was unpleasant).

    As a counter point I have also never received an aggressive response discussing religious topics from Christians but seen flashes in some indoviduals have it below the surface and know others who have felt the way Matthew did.

    The point is the individual matters. Often the most aggressive/inclined to harangue are often lacking in a deep understanding of what they are trying to discuss, they may have read and memorised whole texts but lack a thoughtful consideration of the many interpretations and interrelations of different aspects of the topic.

    The matter is often not helped by the previousl law in the UK requiring Imams to be trained abroad and Saudi Arabia funding so much “religious training.” Sadly the response you would receive across the country will resemble a Jackson Pollock canvas.

  • Ollyt 14th Jan ’15 – 3:50pm

    Did you notice the comment from A Social Liberal 14th Jan ’15 – 12:53pm ?

    I seem to recall A Social Liberal mentioning that he was from Yorkshire but I have no doubt that you could go to some of the least affluent, inner city neighbourhoods in any big city in the UK and find plenty of people whose experiences reflect those of A Socia Liberal when he said — “I have never, EVER been treated by the muslim community within whose bounds I live with anything but friendliness and respect. They all know my political and religious beliefs and when we differ, we do so with respect for each other’s positions.”

    I have family who live in Glasgow, the part of Glasgow where you will see a lot more Muslims than Methodists. My experience there has been the same as here. I come originally from Wythenshawe – if you think it is an area of suburban affluence I recommend you take a trip there.
    The point is – I am allowed to travel outside of Kingston sometimes and believe it or not have I met some of the 3 million UK Muslims who do not live within a one mile radius of my front door.
    None of them conform to the media stereotype of dangerous militants that you seem keen to promote.

    My conclusion, and I was never trying to be patronising and apologise to you if that is how it came across, my conclusion is that in real life you have not met many Muslims.
    If you had I cannot understand how you could have made some of the comments that you have made.

  • It has just been pointed out to me by a friend who has read through this thread that the entire population of Northern Ireland is smaller than the number of Muslims in England and Wales.

    As he said to me — if Muslims had wanted to mount a violent attack on the status quo they would have been a lot better placed to do so than the Provisional IRA before 1999.
    What more evidence do you need that almost 100% of UK Muslims are peaceful, law abiding people ?

  • I used to live in Highfields Leicester, the Muslims I met were mostly fine. I don’t really recognise any of the stereotypes either way, The thing I remember most is that the kids used to play cricket and football in the streets, Contrary to popular opinion quite a few of the blokes used to go to the local pub and the Mosques were usually fairly small and they’d occasionally talk about which one they supported and who was the best imam etc. In my experience Islam as it is practiced can much less formal than people seem think it is. However, when I talked to a couple of lads from Bradford they said things where very different there.

  • @John Oakes
    “a picture of Mahommet which, as every non-Muslim knows by now, is a blasphemy worthy of death in the eyes of extremist Islamists, and even many moderates.”

    Moderates? Are you joking?

    “How welcome do we think this makes French Muslims feel?”

    I’m astonished that anybody of a remotely liberal persuasion could criticise Charlie Hebdo for printing this cover. Several of their colleagues just died for the sake of free speech – in the emotion of the moment, what other choice did they have? Give their friends’ killers exactly what they wanted?

    Here in Britain, I don’t recall too many liberals criticising Jerry Springer: The Opera, or the Gay Times Jesus poem – both of which were far more offensive to Jesus than the CH cover is to Mohammed. So what criteria are you proposing we apply to protect religious people from offence? The more violent and extreme they are, the more we cave in to them? That seems to be the way a lot of people expect things to work. It’s an attitude that should be resisted.

    That said, there are no winners here. Secular Westerners feel like their free speech is under threat and wearily expect more terrorism. Muslims feel picked on and affronted. Jews are under attack and fleeing Europe again. It’s a grim picture with no solution in sight.

  • Glenn 14th Jan ’15 – 9:56pm

    A story from Bradford in 2013
    ….Bradford Reform Synagogue’s future is brighter than ever after the intervention of Bradford’s Muslim community, which according to the 2011 census outnumbers the city’s Jews by 129,041 to 299.

    A fundraising effort – led by the secretary of a nearby mosque, together with the owner of a popular curry house and a local textile magnate – has secured the long-term future of the synagogue and forged a friendship between Bradfordian followers of Islam and Judaism. 

    All things being well, by Christmas the first tranche of £103,000 of lottery money will have reached the synagogue’s bank account after some of Bradford’s most influential Muslims helped Leavor and other Jews to mount a bid.


  • Matthew Huntbach 15th Jan '15 - 11:11am


    It is a shame that you were subjected to a long harangue on your visit. But I know how you must have felt

    It wasn’t me personally, I’m just recounting what I was told. The mosque in question does have some notoriety, but south-east London has a lower proportion of Muslims than most other parts, and there aren’t any others I know of in the area apart from the Ahmadiyya one in Downham. I like the Ahmadiyyas, as their founder is described “he believed his object was to defend and propagate Islam globally through peaceful means, to revive the forgotten Islamic values of peace, forgiveness and sympathy for all mankind, and to establish peace in the world through the teachings of Islam. He believed that his message had special relevance for the Western world, which, he believed, had descended into materialism”. But they are regarded as heretics by most Muslims. One of my students a few years back was a keen Ahmadiyya, and he was subjected to some quite nasty bullying by other Muslims over it.

    Now, back to this incident, the priest in question felt the Muslims were being sincere, they genuinely felt that all they had to do was tell those who had come to come to them about why Christianity was all wrong, and the scales would fall from their eyes. Of course, there are Christians like that as well.

    Where I work in East London is very different from south-east London. In Lewisham it sometimes seems there’s a Pentecostalist church on every corner, each offering a slightly different form of their religion almost all to people of African origin, in Tower Hamlets it’s similar with mosques. I’m dimly aware of the different factions just within the Bengali Muslims, mainly because at one time each faction had made links with one of the political parties.

    My experience, however, is always friendliness on a personal front, but you just don’t go anywhere near mentioning anything religious, because the “agree to disagree” mentality is just not there. If someone wanted to argue the case of why Islam is right and Christianity is wrong with me, I know very well the arguments I would put back, but that very soon it would turn very nasty. A large proportion of the students I teach are Muslims, and just very occasionally one or two have tried this with me, I know from that never, ever continue with a discussion on religion with them.

  • John Tilley,
    And you’re telling me this because? All I was saying that my experience of Islam in practice doesn#t really gell with the g public misconception that Muslims do this. that and the other sort of argument. In the case of the Brafford lads I was talking about they had both moved to get away from their families. The synagogue in Leicester is also in Leicester is also in Highfields. The point I was making is that Islam can be practiced very differently in different communities. In my experience a lot of what gets called Radical Islam is really the Muslim equivalent of Fire and Brimstone Christianity. It’s a very complex religion with often very different strands of thought because it doesn’t have a strict clerical structure as such and like anything else is made up of individuals. People talk about Muslims as if they are one thing or the other which I think is born of ignorance and desire for all kinds of reason to see Muslims as a fixed group.

  • Matthew Huntbach 16th Jan '15 - 11:55am


    In my experience a lot of what gets called Radical Islam is really the Muslim equivalent of Fire and Brimstone Christianity.

    Indeed, and a lot of what I have been saying comes from my own concern at the way “Fire and Brimstone Christians” tend to be loud-mouthed and domineering and like to call themselves just “Christian” rather than admit to being just a fringe, to the point that people who know little about Christianity tend to take them at their word and think they DO represent mainstream Christianity. That is why I myself, though I don’t really like talking about religious issue in political forums, often feel I DO have to make a stand and bring them up and mention my own affiliation to a different sort of Christianity. I very much feel that more “moderate” Christians (though I don’t really like those words “moderate” and “extremist” since I feel those called “extremists” are NOT extreme in mainstream belief and practice, rather they are narcissists who have just taken a few fringe issues and ignored the core) do need to be more vocal in opposing the “extremists” and not let them dominate the agenda and public image.

    Yet, when I say similar things about Islam, I keep being accused of saying these things out of prejudice, of having an ignorant belief that all Muslims are the same and so on, which is the very opposite of the truth. It has made a proper discussion on these things so difficult, this kneejerk reaction from liberals with a guilt-complex that anyone who says anything critical about any aspect of Islam is some old-style racist who should be treated with contempt.

  • I agree with both Glenn and Matthew Huntbach on the point that there are all sorts of Muslims and all sorts of Christians.

    I am neither Christian nor Muslim and to me the cultural baggage of both religions can be as exotic and inexplicable as those of the Druids that gather at Stonehenge now and again —
    but I recognise that the vast majority of Christians and the vast majority of Muslims are OK people.

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