It’s time to ban religion?

Symbol of the major religions of the world: Ju...

With the harrowing events in Woolwich last week (see here) I can’t help thinking; why not ban religion once and for all? Ban Islam, ban Christianity in fact ban all sodding religions…

Perhaps that’s a little extreme (and tongue-in-cheek) however; as religious belief seems to be a predominant root cause of so much that was/is wrong in our world, shouldn’t it also be a totally understandable one? Extreme events tend to nurture extreme responses.

There has been a large increase in anti-Muslim incidents since the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby (see here). A backlash of anger (understandably) followed the killing but in our ‘connected’ times, it has also led to several people facing charges over comments posted on social media sites (see here).

English Defence League march in Newcastle

Unsurprisingly, and never to miss out on any opportunity to promote their own particular brand of hatred, the English Defence League (EDL) organised a demonstration in Newcastle (see here).

Tommy Robinson (EDL leader) began his speech to the assembly by pointing out some (perceived) legal inequalities. He asked, can it be right that a few EDL members get arrested for inciting racial hatred prior to the event, yet hundreds of people who have threatened to behead him for his views go unchallenged by the authorities?

Most right-minded civilised people abhor the EDL as a group and I would include myself in that category however; we should also be able to understand many of the issues which breed such groups.

In the case of the EDL  their ‘anger’ has little to do with religion, it’s more a sense of anger at being on the receiving end of government enforced inequality. The clamour to actively promote the value of diversity in our society, mostly from a political popularity point of view, has created a (mistaken) belief that many indigenous people in our nation are being treated differently, and/or being alienated from their own society and the country in which they were born and raised. But isn’t that also a similar view expressed by many Islamic activists?

The emergence (and worrying growth) of the EDL is partly the fault of how people view multiculturalism and diversity in our society. Their far-right agenda and the way in which they capitalise upon support from the (often) less well-educated and disaffected youth of our nation, is partly to be expected. It’s also the same sort of marginalisation that spawns the views of those who turn to the activities of Islamism.

Billy Bragg TweetAlthough I don’t usually agree with the politics of Billy Bragg (but I do like most of his music), I have to broadly agree with many of his recent comments about the EDL and the Woolwich murder on Twitter.

But, by being outspoken on such an emotive issue in public, he has also stirred up a veritable hornets nest of vociferous and opinionated anger. By raising his head above the parapet, of our often socially or legally enforced political correctness, he has also made himself a target for verbal abuse (or worse).

Billy pointed out how his opinion had attracted a lot of criticism from EDL types by saying; “Took a lot of flak yesterday for saying that the murderers of Drummer Rigby and the EDL are flip sides of the same coin.”

He continued on Facebook by saying; “Anyone who thinks the EDL are harmless should watch this report which implicates their supporters in the recent murder of Mohammed Saleem, 75, stabbed to death after leaving the Green Lane Mosque in Small Heath, Birmingham.” The ‘Terrorists?’ picture came from one of his more supportive replies.

The Woolwich murder has rightly shocked the UK but shouldn’t we also be worried about the potential for exponential growth of the far-right because of it?

The method used in the Woolwich killing is being viewed by security experts as something of a new template in terrorism terms; but it is also precisely the kind of attack which security chiefs have feared for some time (see here). The warning signs that a soldier would one day be targeted on the streets of Britain can be found in the heart of Al-Qaeda’s violent ideology (see here). Now French anti-terrorist investigators are also hunting an attacker who stabbed a soldier in the neck in Paris (see here).

The attack in Paris is seen by many as a ‘copy-cat’ attack, and one that tends to fit the modern-day jihad movement however; those who try to understand all the issues involved actually know, it’s not religion per se, or the particular ‘brand’ of religion that is at fault here.

For decades in the UK and abroad, Muslim discourse has been dominated by fundamentalism and Islamism…(Dr Usama Hasan)

Islam, like Christianity does not in it self promote violence. It’s how a minority chose to interpret it, often for their own ends. To be fair the vast majority of Muslim leaders and Islamic faith groups in the UK immediately condemned the murder of Drummer Digby.

Condemnation isn’t enough. Muslims must take ownership of the problem in their midst, and the war on terror must be rethought..(Dr Usama Hasan)

Dr Usama Hasan, a senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation and a part-time imam, went some way  towards explaining many of the issues involved. In his recent BBC article – What is it that radical Islamists actually believe in? – he also pointed out how much of the historical and misguided ethics of Jihadism are perpetuated by individuals for personal gain.

The universal verses of the Koran (eg 49:13, “O humanity! We have created you from male and female and made you nations and tribes so that you may know each other: the most honoured of you with God are those most God-conscious: truly, God is Knowing, Wise”) promote full human equality and leave no place for slavery, misogyny, xenophobia or racism.

In light of the Woolwich attack, there have been fresh calls to place the radical preacher Anjem Choudary under a new terror control order (see here) but; how far is Britain willing to go to prevent modern jihadis?

It is estimated that one in five terrorists convicted in Britain over the past decade were either members of or linked to al-Muhajiroun, the extremist group founded by Choudary and the exiled preacher Omar Bakri Mohammed…(The Telegraph)

The choice is not only how hard we fight to protect ourselves, but what we are prepared to sanction in order to pre-empt attacks. Already our government is in danger of making knee-jerk reactions to the Woolwich murder, they are desperate to enhance and/or preserve their self-interested political popularity. Now David Cameron has launched an “anti-terror task force to tackle extremism” (see here), there has also been renewed calls to speedily introduce the so-called ‘Snoopers Charter’ again (see here).

The Prime minister is right to try to do something about radical preachers but it won’t be easy. That said, the ‘Snooper’s Charter’ would not have stopped the attack on Drummer Rigby (see here) and, it certainly won’t come to fruition within our statute books if Liberty et al have any say in the matter.

The choice is not only how hard we fight to protect ourselves, but how far we are willing to go to pre-empt attack. Each society makes such a choice, but must keep it under constant review. It is to defend that unending debate against the psychosis of certainty that brave men like Drummer Rigby put their lives on the line every day…(The Telegraph)

Many of the answers to the problems of this Islamic Radicalism actually lay within the Muslim community. Muslim organisations must fight the radicalism from within. They can, if they so chose, do something to stem the anti-British propaganda that is rife among (predominantly the young) converts to Islam.

Britain is a tolerant and diverse society. But speech and literature that incite violence and impinge upon the rights of others cannot be tolerated…(The Telegraph)

Back in 2011 David Cameron took steps to combat rise of radicalism. Government funding was removed from various Islamic groups “suspected of perpetuating radicalism”, reports were commissioned and written and another ubiquitous ‘task-force’ was put in place. None of these measures prevented Drummer Rigby’s demise, neither were they likely to. We can’t combat fanaticism by legislation alone. Which is why David Cameron has now told Muslim Britain to “stop tolerating extremists” and that those who don’t hold ‘British’ values will be shunned by government (see here).

Previously I’ve said that religion should be a personal thing, not something which is peddled to others at every opportunity, in a free society no one should have to endure being ‘sold’ religious belief, neither should they be forced or coerced into being a believer, no matter what the religion is. But Jihadism is only an extreme form of ‘sales-pitch’ employed by other religious missionaries.

The ‘salesmen’ from the Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormons) and the Jehovah Witness types, who come knocking at your front door at inopportune moments, are simply a little more covert and friendly with their methods than your average jihadi. Our world is (supposedly) ‘civilised’ enough now to negate any need for missionaries, fire & brimstone evangelical preachers or indeed jihadists, it’s time to move on.

It seems to me that the underlying causation factor of all this extremism is anger, from both extremities of the divide. This anger is expressed due to passionate belief in what is right or wrong, from the individuals own personal point of view. A personal perception that is also often capitalised upon by radical preachers, those who see the advantages in ‘brainwashing’ the minds of the (initially) less well-educated youth of today. A younger generation that, often due to immaturity or stupidity, see themselves as abandoned and cast aside by society.

I have to say our media machine is also at fault in here; in less than a week since Woolwich and true to form, they have produced an almost constant supply of emotive fuel for the opposing fires of anger!

Perhaps the answer is to turn ‘anger’ and ‘stupidity’ into criminal offences and not to ban religion after all? But how do you legislate against stupidity or even the emotion of anger? If it was possible our prisons are already full in any case!