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2019-11-08 Follow up letter to Commissioner for Countering Extremism

2019-11-08 Follow up letter to Commissioner for Countering Extremism


Dear Commissioner,

We read your recent speech given in Leeds (5th Nov 2019) with interest and we have published a brief response to it on our website. We are enclosing a copy in the attached PDF for your information.

We hope you will take on board the points we have made in the attached response to that speech. They are an attempt at honest feedback because like yourself, both myself and others linked to Sharia Watch do sincerely want to improve the situation in the UK and address the fracture lines in our society. We believe that can only be done by being totally honest and open about the problems and issues involved, difficult though that may be sometimes.

Also, we note that the Home Office standard is to try to respond to queries within 20 working days, therefore we would be grateful if you could indicate when we might expect a reply to our initial letter or at least the first four questions therein regarding the Commission's views on the ECHR judgment (2003) regarding sharia law and the Council of Europe follow ups (2016 and 2019)? We recognise that questions relating to potential future policy may take longer hence we are suggesting you may like to respond in two stages.

The reason we are anxious for the first four questions to be answered is that, if your proposed new definition of “hateful extremism” is to provide a fair and balanced view for all parties to the national debate then the principles enshrined in that ECHR judgment and the subsequent follow ups need to be both publicly recognised and embedded as part of the foundations on which the proposed new definition is constructed.

It is our view that a failure to recognise and adopt an extremely pertinent ECHR ruling, described at the time as a category 1 (most important) would probably render any definition as open to challenge and potentially untenable. It would certainly make any definition open to claims of bias and could be seen as such by a large swathe of the population. That would be likely to have the effect of increasing the polarisation in society which is an outcome none of us want.

As you have noted in your report, one of the issues is a lack of respect for official bodies and part of that stems from the reluctance of those bodies to recognise that equality before the law is a primary tenet of our society. Giving some groups protected characteristic status and telling people what to think and who to respect will not work in the long run. As an example:

“Extremism is the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist”

Asking people to respect a belief system without considering the characteristics of various belief systems is unworkable. That definition asks non-Muslims to respect the belief system of Islam-sharia which refers to them as “ worst of creatures” etc.

The holiest book of Islam (most of which is about non-Muslims) draws the sharpest of distinctions between Muslims, the best of people (3:110),  and non-believers, the worst of creatures, (98:6).  Praise is lavished on the former while the latter is condemned with scorching generalization.
and that legally condemns them to 2nd class status:
Council of Europe:
"non-Muslims do not have the same rights as Muslims in civil and criminal [sharia] law"
That is functionally no different to Nazi Nuremberg laws!
The evasive nature of that definition is also shown in the authors need to state “We also regard calls for the death of members of our armed forces as extremist”. Really! The 'man on the Clapham omnibus' would generally have held that to be plain common sense!
It may seem like a suitably liberal compromise to say a lack a “mutual respect and tolerance” is extremism to avoid facing the hard realities of what Islamic doctrines actually say but that blurring of the lines is a part of the problem.
If you look at our fundamental values as stated by David Cameron as PM, they do not include respect and tolerance for the good reason that they are a very subjective. As this article from Conservative Home states, he articulated our values as:
It must be noted that Islamic sharia law breaks everyone of those values.

“Inappropriate literature includes work that undermines the promotion of fundamental British values or which does not encourage respect for people with one or more protected characteristic.”

The book’s contents promote violence and intolerance towards groups protected by law. An excerpt from the book states ‘Homosexuals advocate a view of human relationships that is at odds with the natural order and stability of human society. Tolerating homosexuality and promiscuity means encouraging them and pushing more and more people to practice them.’ Another excerpt states ‘A person who is married and commits adultery, and who either confesses or whose act is proven, pays for it with his life.’
The use of “protected characteristics” is telling people what to think which avoids confronting the reality which is that ‘A person who is married and commits adultery, and who either confesses or whose act is proven, pays for it with his life.’ is part of sharia law – Reliance of the Traveller, section o12 The Penalty for Fornication or Sodomy.
We realise that homosexuality is regarded as a sin by several faiths and by some who hold no religious beliefs and that abuse of homosexuals and other groups needs to be tackled, however, in our view, it is of little use stopping such teaching appearing in schools open to Ofsted inspection if those teachings are then permitted in mosques and madrassa. Would a Christian Sunday school teaching that adulterers and homosexuals should be stoned not be subject to savage scrutiny? We doubt it.
It is a difficult balancing act between the right to hold views that homosexuality is wrong and the rights of homosexuals to be free of molestation and abuse. The key in our view is that religious belief is a purely personal matter and as soon as it starts to impact on others it becomes politics. In our view, the death penalty (the phrase “pays for it with his life”) and other legal sanctions and religious edicts of Islam-sharia and for that matter, other faiths that stray outside the boundaries of purely personal belief to impact on wider society, are clearly politics not religion.
In the case of Islam-sharia, the breadth of those edicts should not be under estimated or as the ECHR said “and the way it [sharia] intervened in all spheres of private and public life in accordance with religious precepts”. A key difference here is, as we see it, the Islamic view that politics is subordinate to religion. That is clear from the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights which is the subject of the Council of Europe report in the way it makes sharia the foundation for legal doctrines.
That is why we believe claiming 'respect and tolerance' are values cannot and does not work.
As was pointed out in the addendum to our initial letter regarding the article in the Spectator, the dominant philosophy to which the media and others hold today is that Islam is unquestionable whilst Christianity is fair game. A clearly inequitable position as the hounding of Tim Farron for his views on homosexuality whilst giving the views of MPs of the Islamic and other faiths a 'free pass' shows. Your own speech alludes to that in the reluctance of some councils to question the Islamic belief system.
Such inequalities are noted and contribute to the polarisation of society we believe. Therefore to reiterate, we believe the ECHR judgment on sharia and the subsequent follow-ups need to be part of the principles on which future definitions of 'hateful extremism' are based. We would consequently urge you to give us speedy response to the first four question in our initial letter to you.

Yours faithfully,

Our response to the speech by the Commissioner given in Leeds on 5th Nov 2019 can be found here.