UK mosque registration plans is a secular oxymoron

Activist Kasim Javed describes the UK Government’s mosque registration plans as a “secular oxymoron”.

On the 26th November 2015, as part of the Government’s Prevent Strategy, the Department of Education launched a consultation period calling for evidence regarding the Government’s proposals for Out-of-School education settings with a response deadline by 11th January 2016. This comes on the back of the keynote speech to the Conservative Party Conference, by David Cameron on the 7th October 2015 who continued to proliferate the strawman argument of “non-violent extremism” and using the cloak of national security, unleashed his ideological war against Islam. Only this time, he announced a far reaching consequence that marks the zenith of contradictions for the secular belief system of Britain.

“So I can announce this today: If an institution is teaching children intensively, then whatever its religion, we will, like any other school, make it register so it can be inspected. And be in no doubt: if you are teaching intolerance, we will shut you down.

david-cameron-433941Earlier this year, David Cameron was flaunting the Magna Carta as “a great document in our history,” adding: “It is what my favourite book, ‘Our Island Story’, describes as the ‘foundation of all our laws and liberties’. In sealing it, King John had to accept his subjects were citizens – for the first time giving them rights, protections and security.”

Besides the fact that, Cameron himself had no idea what “Magna Carta” literally meant when challenged on US television in 2012, the proposed policy to inspect faith based educational settings (which will obviously disproportionately target Mosques/Madrassas) contradicts the first clause of the Magna Carta, ‘The English Church shall be free, and shall have its rights undiminished, and its liberties unimpaired’.

A secular state intervening into religious institutions is an oxymoron. So long for the 1559 Elizabethan Church-State settlement that set out separate spheres for the Church and State which was done in the coronation oath sworn by every monarch as well as in the 39 articles of the Church of England. So long for the 1689 Toleration Act, which effectively legalised the existence of non-Anglican places of worship ceasing to define ‘true Christianity’. So long for the 1719 repeal of the Schism ACT that meant teachers were no longer required to subscribe to particular beliefs, and the 1779 Dissenter Relief Act which meant that teachers no longer had to be licensed by the Government. So long for the 1812 repeal of the 1664 and 1669 Conventicle Acts and 1665 Five Mile Act that gave full legal freedom for the existence of unregistered places of worship. And so long for the 1855 Places of Worship Registration Act that extended religious liberties and exempted places of worship from having to subject their funds for inspection.

The theory that vindicates all of these counter-extremism policies, the theory of radicalisation, has already been unequivocally refuted. The argument that terrorists are motivated by the Islamic ideology irrespective of the political circumstance would inevitably undertake violent acts do not stand-up to academic scrutiny. John Horgan, the director of the International Centre for the study of terrorism in the University of Pennsylvania from 2007-2013 said: “The idea that radicalization causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research … [First], the overwhelming majority of people who hold radical beliefs do not engage in violence. And second, there is increasing evidence that people who engage in terrorism don’t necessarily hold radical beliefs.”

In fact according to the government’s own officials and experts, suggesting that “Islamist extremist” aspirations are a gateway to terrorism is incorrect. Perpetrators may hold these specific beliefs have not been proven to be a causal factor of violence, and such beliefs are similarly shared by millions of other Muslims globally as well as many living in the West.

The killers of soldier Lee Rigby said their motives were to do with UK foreign policy.
The killers of soldier Lee Rigby said their motives were to do with UK foreign policy.

Moreover, sophisticated analysis carried out by MI5’s behavioural science unit, based on in-depth case studies on “several hundred individuals known to be involved in, or closely associated with, violent extremist activity” found that a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practise their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. MI5 says there is evidence that a well-established religious identity actually protects against violent radicalisation. In addition to this, a report by the Royal United Services Institute published on the 16th October 2015, found that the hypothesis that ‘Madrassas should be the primary focus of attention in education as their students are particularly vulnerable to extremist narratives’ was not supported.

Mosques and Madrassas are seen by the Muslim community as institutions in which their children can be protected from the tribulations of secular liberal culture. There is a reason why Muslims opting out from the mainstream is an upward trajectory. Increased number of Mosques, Shari’ah courts for regulating personal affairs such as marriage and inheritance, Islamic finance to avoid interest based mortgages, Islamic schools, Islamic student loans, Charitable causes specifically for the Muslim world etc. No, Muslims are not hijacking Britain. Rather, they simply want to protect the Islamic identity and raise Muslim children. All of the additions of “fostering terrorism” etc are completely exaggerated if not outright lies. The obvious evidence against the policy to register Mosques is that there has not been a single case of terrorism directly connected to the education curriculums of Mosques since the early waves of Muslim migration in this country over half a century ago. All of a sudden we are led to believe that Mosques and Madrassas are breeding grounds for terrorism, really where is the evidence?

Surely, if you wanted to identify a citizen who is a threat to national security you would invest your resources in looking for clues that indicate a citizen is a physical threat such as possession of weapons, a criminal record or association with violent groups. If one wishes to find a needle in a particular haystack, the least productive strategy of all is to spend time searching all the haystacks in the field just in case there might be another needle in one of them. The only reason you would do this is if you had an insidious agenda which is not actually to find citizens who are a national security threat but to use this as a pretext to look for something else. In this case it is clear that what the Government are looking for is to intervene in Islamic teaching settings to concoct signs of “extremism” and then invade them with liberal ideas. “Extremism” is a pejorative that has been juxtaposed to key Islamic beliefs and values on issues such as morality, sexuality, gender roles and political views such as the idea that Israel is an illegal entity, belief in the Caliphate, the Shari’ah and many other ideas of Islam that are not palatable to liberals. In other words, the more your beliefs and loyalty rest with Islam, the more “extreme” you are.

If these proposals are to go ahead it would be the greatest ideological suicide for secularism since its inception and a key milestone of its demise, akin to the radical reforms of Gorbachev that eventually led to the demise of the Soviet Union. In a way such proposals are a sign of exoneration, not despondency for Muslims, for they expose the fragility, not potency, of Secularism to win the hearts and minds.

In response to the Gov proposal to register Madrassas, over 300 Mosques, Madrassas, Imam’s and teachers have signed a joint-statement on a campaign launched called “Keep Mosques Independent” unequivocally rejecting the Government’s proposal to register Mosques and expressing their desire to “Keep Mosques Independent”. You can find out more on www.keepmosquesindependent.org

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