We’ve just finished watching ‘My Hometown Fanatics: Stacey Dooley Investigates’ on BBC Three.
The programme’s about the rise of radical Islam in Luton and those who are trying to stop it.
Unsurprisingly for the BBC, the message was very much in line with the BBC’s official take on Islamic extremism: the extremists are just a minority, and anyone who seems to suggest otherwise is also an extremist.
What we should make immediately clear to anyone unfamiliar with the EDL is that we don’t doubt that most Muslims are perfectly pleasant people.
But that doesn’t mean that problems associated with the Muslim Community are just down to a few bearded lunatics.
If we’re to put an end to ‘home-grown’ terrorism, so-called ‘honour-killings’, child grooming (which, sadly, is dominated by Muslim men), the preaching of extremism on our streets and in British Mosques, and all of the other problems that stem from the Muslim Community, then we can’t be afraid to make serious and considered criticisms.
We don’t claim to have all the answers, but we do believe that the government, the media and the Muslim Community itself must do more to address these problems.
The Muslims that the BBC likes to call ‘moderates’ may well be in the majority. But why are they moderates and not reformists?
Some British Muslims are making efforts to counter extremism. But how many?
How many would stand up against the radicals?
How many would even accept that people can have good reasons to be critical of the Muslim Community, or even fear it?
The answer is very few.
We do not need to be lectured about the importance of tolerance, or of understanding other cultures, because England is already a tolerant country.
Most people, most cultures, and most religions, do live in harmony. It’s exactly that sort of society that we want to protect.
The demand for Sharia Law is just one threat to our diverse communities (and it’s worth noting that there are already over 80 Sharia Law Courts operating in the UK!).
This limited form of Sharia may not have to include the cutting off of hands for theft, or stoning for adultery. It doesn’t even have to allow martial rape or the murder of homosexuals.
But even if it doesn’t include these things, it is still founded on the belief that Muslims and non-Muslims, and men and women, should not be given equal rights.
And that’s a legitimate worry.
What’s also true is that Sharia Law is rarely considered to be a limited system – one that could exist alongside the laws of the land. Instead, it is widely considered to be a complete moral and legal system, like that practiced in Saudi Arabia (where women are not permitted to drive, and your Bible will be burnt at the airport).
Britain is not Saudi Arabia, and we’d like to keep it that way.
We’re not saying this is going to happen tomorrow, but we are saying these sort of views are under-exposed – much like some of the other forms of extremism that thrive within the Muslim Community,
Unfortunately, the BBC didn’t see the irony of stereotyping the EDL as ‘the sort of people who stereotype Muslims’.
And we were not at all surprised to see the EDL depicted as a group of people who all believe exactly the same thing – exactly what we are accused of doing to the Muslim community!
But, this double standard aside, the documentary did manage to provide a reasonably accurate picture of the divisions in Luton; the divisions between the inhabitants of Bury Park (“It’s like a Muslim country; you’ll hardly see a white person some days”) and the rest of the town, as well as the divisions between the extremists and the radicals.
There is a need for documentaries like this, because few people do have an accurate impression of the tensions that exist in towns like Luton – unless they live there of course.
But not everyone can make a BBC documentary. Most people need to find other ways to talk about these issues, or other ways to protest.
Luckily there’s the English Defence League, an organisation that helps give a voice to people who have been constantly belittled, ignored and let down.
And, luckily, we’re becoming better and better at making sure that people’s understandable frustrations do not result in violence, intolerance, or any other kinds of extremism.
As Kevin Carroll famously said, we’re not racist, we’re not violent – we’re just no longer silent!