The threat of Islamic terrorism remains the greatest challenge faced by our security services.
We know that there are Islamic extremists in Britain and abroad.
And we know that they are actively plotting to commit more terrorist atrocities.
We know that not all terrorists are Muslims, but we also know that attacks by Islamic militants far outnumber attacks by any other group, either religious or political.
We know that the Muslim community has specific a problem with so-called ‘honour-violence’, that British Muslim men account for the majority of child-grooming offences and that numerous British mosques teach separatism, supremacism or even outright hatred of non-Muslims.
From all of this we have come to one simple conclusion: Islam needs reform.
Not all British Muslims are extremists – far from it. But most extremists turn out to be Muslims, so clearly there is an underlying problem.
It’s not easy to determine exactly what is wrong and exactly what needs to change, but surely there shouldn’t be any stigma attached to simply recognising the need for reform?
But, sadly, there is. Often we find that even the slightest criticism of Islam is portrayed as if it were a vicious attack on all Muslims.
In the Channel 4 programme ‘Proud and Prejudiced’ the filmmakers followed EDL Leader Tommy Robinson around his home town of Luton.
Tommy was (and still is) concerned that Luton remains a breeding ground for terrorism. He said, quite simply, that there will be more terrorists from Luton:
For this he was portrayed by some commentators and politicians as a scaremonger, as someone out to divide communities or to wreck the harmony that Luton’s citizens usually enjoy.
Rarely was he portrayed honestly, as a decent person worried about the spread of extremism and not afraid to speak the truth as he sees it, however unfortunate or unpleasant it may be.
But, of course, he was right. Luton is not ‘in harmony’, as much as he wishes it were.
Earlier this week, exactly as Tommy predicted, four Luton men were charged with terrorism offences, including the collecting and supplying of funds for terrorist purposes overseas.
Is this really what we want our country to be known for exporting!?
The BBC didn’t think the men’s religion was worth mentioning in their article, but then no one was going to leap to the conclusion that these with Sikh or Buddhist extremists.
The Guardian, The Independent and The Telegraph all managed to use the word ‘Jihad’ when reporting about the case, but only because they were quoting the title of one of the pieces of extremist literature that the men are accused of possessing.
None of them actually mentioned the word ‘Islam’ or the word ‘Muslim’, even though it is abundantly clear that the perpetrators were Muslims, inspired by al-Qaeda and the Islamic concept of Jihad.
Perhaps this was simply too obvious to be worth mentioning. But compare how these major media outlets whitewashed all mention of religion from their articles with how Bedfordshire Police announced the arrests:
“In the planning of these search warrants, full consideration has been given to treating those arrested, and especially their families, with appropriate respect for cultural and religious identity as far as is possible.”
These are terrorist suspects, not petty thieves. Of course that doesn’t mean that the police should go around ram-raiding mosques and searching under burkhas (unless absolutely necessary!), but as far as we know, they don’t. Should they really need to announce to the Muslim community that in the process of arresting yet more Muslim extremists they’ve been sure not to upset anyone?
What does “appropriate respect for cultural and religious identity” even mean? We’d expect the police to always treat people with appropriate respect, so why do they appear so concerned with cultural and religious sensitivities?
Our guess is simple: they recognise just how sensitive the Muslim community in Britain is to the slightest criticism or imagined insult.
Why else would major newspapers avoid mentioning Muslims or Islam in connection to acts of terrorism, whilst the police make a point of ensuring that no one’s ‘sensitivities’ are provoked?
This sensitivity is not something that we should be encouraging, because it prevents the Muslim community from being receptive to criticism. And without accepting fair-minded criticism, how can the Muslim community ever support the reforms necessary to defeat extremism?
We don’t want to insult Muslims, to divide communities, to spread hatred, or whatever else we are sometimes accused of. We simply want Islamic extremism to stop. We want an end to terrorist attacks, an end to honour-violence and an end to all other forms of extremism that are in some way connected with Islam.
It might not be an easy task, but it’s an important one.
Surely we should expect the Muslim community, the government and the media to be doing all they can to educate the next generation of British Muslims so that they may avoid the appeal of extremism?
Unfortunately, we don’t believe they’re doing anything like enough. Further arrests in places like Luton make this abundantly clear.