Madeleine Bunting writes in The Guardian on the internal debate within the British Government of how to best engage with the Muslim community, in regards to eliminating Islamic terrorism: “The venomous media voices who think no Muslim is worth talking to“. This article generated over 300 online comments, including one from me, which was in response to one from “aleph“.
ALEPH’s post is the most considered and enlightened. Religiosity in society is not incompatible with Enlightenment and reason. The separation of church and state does not beget a Godless society. The point is that religious freedom is conferred to individuals, not communities.
And this is where Ruth Kelly and other Government ministers get it all wrong. Consulting ‘community representatives’ for consent/greater understanding of one’s public policies is to base community relations on the strongest voice of any particular community.
The Government straight out telling ‘the Muslim community’ must sort out its extremists is as absurd as telling ‘the Catholic community’ in Northern Ireland to sort out its extremists during the Troubles. It completely transfers responsibility to those law-abiding citizens who have no truck with the violence of the extremists, but who certainly are not going to react submissively to the wishes of other authorities. If anything, the approach makes community relations even worse.
Instead, there should be no apology for living in an open society, where tolerance is based on the knowledge that no sect will suppress any other. Unfortunately, at times politicians as well as journalists behave as though this is a weak principle under perilous threat. If we remember what makes a diverse society actually work then we won’t jeopardise its future.