THE BLOG

Islamophobia Will Not Make Us Safer?

07/07/2015 11:54 BST | Updated 06/07/2016 10:59 BST

The UK, and a number of other countries - both western democracies and a number in the Middle East - are facing threats to the safety of their citizens from a group of violent and ruthless people calling themselves the 'Islamic State' or IS. It is a conflict being fought on several fronts - on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq and as a war of terror in many other countries including the UK.

It seems clear there are a number of individuals claiming to believe - or actually believing - that they have a religious mission to bring the world under their control - a violent and intolerant ideology that must not succeed. That they must not succeed is something which most of the rest of the world appears to agree on - including the vast majority of Muslims - obviously so since many Muslims are fighting and dying to resist IS.

The UK Government is under immense pressure to respond to murderous acts of terrorism - especially after the recent killing of innocent British tourists who were enjoying the hospitality of Tunisia.

This week we mark the 10th anniversary of the 7/7 bombings on the London underground - another attack inspired by a similar violent religious ideology.

Our instincts are to demand a response from the Government - a demand to exact some form of retribution - or some act aimed at slowing down or defeating IS, but we should be careful about what we ask of our Government.

Even as we remember the victims of these atrocities we need to be careful not to blame some of our own citizens - who happen to share the same religion as these violent men. We should be careful because it should be obvious the vast majority of Muslims in this Country reject the violent extremism perpetrated by IS - we know this because they live peacefully side by side with us.

Our own Muslim citizens are no more to blame for the violent ideology of IS than the vast majority of white cultural Christians are to blame for the recent racist attack by Zack Davies on Dr Sarandev Bhambra in a Tesco shop in Wales which left the victim with life-changing injuries. This was a vicious and unprovoked attack which would surely have been reported differently if the perpetrator had been a Muslim.

The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, has suggested that children who speak in class against homosexuality could be viewed as potential extremists. She is quoted as suggesting that because IS is intolerant of homosexuality and that any child with similar views should be viewed as a potential extremist. This is, of course, aimed at Muslim school children although pupils from many different backgrounds could hold similar intolerant views on homosexuality.

For instance - the Church of England believes homosexual behaviour to be a sin but I suspect that a Muslim pupil who expressed that view would be treated differently from a pupil from a white conservative Christian family expressing the same view in the classroom. In short - a Muslim cannot share the same (intolerant) view as those in the State Church without running the risk of being seen as a potential extremist.

David Cameron recently suggested that many Muslims 'quietly condone' extremism - an unfair charge that Muslim citizens would find it hard to disprove since it is allegedly being done 'quietly'!

We tend to project all sorts of intentions onto violent groups like IS - some might be accurate - some not. However I think it must be safe to assume they would welcome greater tension and conflict between communities in the UK because this would surely make it easier to recruit people to their violent cause from this Country.

But more than that - we should not allow ourselves to turn on innocent people in the UK because we aspire and want to have a fair and just society - or as near to it as ordinary human nature will allow.

Human nature is such that we tend to generalise and to look for patterns in the world around us so that we can see threats more easily. If we are attacked by someone - we will be careful of people that look similar to our attacker. In our prehistoric hunter gatherer communities this sort of crude rule of thumb probably served us well - not so in the complex modern world. We should work hard against the primitive instinct to blame one person for the acts of another - just because they look the same in some way - or share the same religion.

More than that though - we should not encourage our leaders to stoke these tendencies in the name of being seen to do something. There are enough problems with some in the media who like to sell newspapers on the back of encouraging mistrust and division - we certainly don't need our political leaders making it worse - no matter how tough their job is right now.