On Friday the 12th June 2015, the organisation iERA set up their second debate of the ‘Don’t Hate Debate Series’ titled ‘The Big Question: Does Islam Clash with British Values’, featuring a Discussion On The Compatibility of British and Islamic Values. Those that were invited on the panel:
• Sajid Varda – (Chairperson) Islam Channel
• Tommy Robinson – Former Head of the English Defence League (EDL)
• Hamza Tzortzis – Head of Education and Research at iERA
• Reverend Frank Gelli – Blogger and activist
• Abdullah Al Andalusi – Muslim Debate Initiative
• Anne Marie Waters – Head of Sharia Watch and UKIP
I was looking forward to encountering Tommy Robinson again since our last debate between me and him was on a TV show in 2012. Anne-Marie Waters I had debated recently at the Oxford Union on the topic of whether Britain should increasingly secularise (Video coming soon).
However Friday wasn’t to be the debate I expected, it ended up being the strangest debate I’ve ever attended, one where three people,Tommy Robinson (former EDL leader), Paul Golding (Britain First) and Anne-Marie Waters (ShariaWatch), pulled out last minute, resulting there are no opposing points of view (mostly)!
Now each speaker has produced their own reasons, which varied from ‘security concerns’, police/probation office pressure, and in the case of Anne-Marie Waters, feeling ‘outnumbered’ (despite the fact the organisers offered to turn it in a one-vs-one debate). Full details of which can be read in this article.
According to the article, apparently, the powers that be in the UK didn’t want the event to take place. The police, apparently had been pressuring Venues to cancel the event (not the first time I’ve encountered this) because of the speakers that were invited (Paul Golding and Tommy Robinson). Why doesn’t the police want Muslims and the Far-right to speak to eachother and perhaps coming to an understanding that would help reduce tensions, mistrust and misplaced hatred? Allahu alim (God knows). It could be speculated that the UK government has positioned itself these days as a self-proclaimed mediator to ‘community cohesion’ in British society that only permits such cohesion through itself, under its conditions, not through people doing so by themselves on their own terms (so much for David Cameron’s ‘Big Society’claim). Of course, this could just be the police being over-protective. I’ll leave it to the reader to enquire further beyond my speculations.
The discussion took place regardless of the pulling out of three speakers. I hope the video of the event will be released soon. It was a good discussion, with many of Tommy Robinson’s supporters attending in the audience and being offered the chance to makes questions, and reply to the answers given! A very good engagement.
Many things were discussed, from concerns about terrorism, to the false ‘asian rape gang’ slurs. These were disproved by me citing simple statistics showing that convicted paedophiles in Prison are not overrepresented by asians, in fact there is greater proportion of convicted paedophile prisoners defined as ‘White English’ than there there is in the general population (85% ‘White English’ in population vs 93% in prison for Paedophile Convictions according to 2007 HMP Report). I stressed that ethnicity or religion has nothing to do with crime, whether ‘White English’ or ‘Asian’, and can simply be explained by sociological factors. I made the obvious point that Humans are all, well, Human, and unfortunately criminals capable of disgusting and heinous crimes arise in all cultures, religions, ethnicities and nationalities in equal proportion under identical circumstances. The same goes for Terrorism too.
One of the members of the audience, asked why they didn’t hear many Muslims condemning Terrorism. I responded, citing an answer I had given to an EDL member I was debating in a previous debate, do they actually bother to search online for the thousands of reports, videos and posts demonstrating mainstream Muslim condemnation of terrorism? No. The problem is, that the media doesn’t feel Muslims condemnations of Terrorism are newsworthy, and people generally don’t bother searching online for Muslim opinion on terrorism – hence ignorance and media selectivity is the reason many people don’t hear about the unanimous condemnation of terrorism coming from across the Muslim community.
I made the point that British Values do not clash with Islam, because British Values do not exist, which is why no one can define it. Nations do not have values, people have values. There is nothing about ‘Britishness’ that makes one more honourable, tolerant, honest or righteous than any other person from another nationality. Therefore, it is because Islam can peacefully coexist with people of different values, that there can be no clash, as the Quran says: ‘To you your Way of life, and to us, ours’.
We should not be desperate to prove how ‘British’ (American, French, German, Swedish etc etc) we are, but rather we should be desperate to prove how Muslim we are – in our good deeds, in helping our neighbours, the weak, the poor, the elderly – Muslim or non-Muslim. This fulfils our God-given role as being witnesses to mankind (shuhada’ ala al-nass), not chameleons to mankind. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t ‘fit in’ to societies we live in, but rather, as long as we keep the limits of Islam, Muslims will naturally adopt the language, clothes, mannerisms and culture of the societies they live, it’s a sociological inevitability and natural. We should stop being so hung up over it.
Of course this brings me to those who truly are the cause of the problems, neoconservatives, and the various skittish Western governments who worry over Islam as a factor they can’t control, and therefore they put pressure on Muslims to conform, not just in superficial cultural accoutrements, but also in our beliefs, until we end up justifying the status quo and ceasing being Witnesses to the truth. National Values are not National, nor does Nationality give Values. Only the Truth can give Values. Public opinion changes and can be misled, but truth doesn’t. If we make ourselves slaves to Nationalistic slogans and claims of ‘National Values’, we become unwitting slaves to those who self-appointedly claim to the masses unique authority to define them, who are usually cynical manipulative politicians or xenophonic fanatics waving the biggest flag, or both.