The Conservative Member of Parliament for Wycombe, Paul Goodman, speaking in the House of Commons, November 15, 2006 (Source: Hansard):
We know that the central theme of the Queen's Speech is the terrorist threat and our security response. I observe in passing that no Labour Back Bencher remains in place to make a speech on this or any other theme on the first day of our debates on the Queen's Speech. I will do my best to fill the gap. This is my first chance to address the House about these issues since my constituents in High Wycombe woke up on 10 August to find themselves in the eye of a media storm about the aeroplane terror plot. Four of my constituents were arrested and two have since been charged with serious offences. I must, of course, presume that my constituents are innocent until or unless a court decides otherwise, but it is important to say that 10 August was an immeasurably sad day for High Wycombe and it is essential to pay tribute to Thames Valley police, to the local mosque committee and local imams, to Wycombe district council and to all local people for the good sense that they have shown during these difficult weeks and months.
More than 9,000 of my constituents are Muslims, almost 11 per cent. of my electorate. I thus represent more Muslim voters than any other Member of Parliament of my party. I therefore necessarily see one of my most important duties as a constituency MP and, indeed, more widely, as being to help to do what I can to create a moderate, prosperous and integrated British Muslim majority. The aeroplane plot, the Dhiren Barot trail and conviction, the Abu Hamza affair, the horror of 7/7, the attempted shoe-bomb atrocity by Richard Reid and the whole terrible history of recent events stretching back to 9/11 and beyond should remind the House--if, with our eyes also on currents events in Afghanistan and Iraq, we need any reminding--that this aspiration and our common security are under threat.
A central question about the Queen's Speech, therefore, is whether both it and Government policy more broadly will curtail terror, build security and help to deliver that moderate, prosperous and integrated British Muslim majority that we all want to see. Ministers must thus convince the House that the analysis that accompanies their actions is thoroughly thought through. I shall risk a medical analogy: relations between Muslims and non-Muslims in Britain are clearly to some degree poisoned. Seeking to drain the poison and heal those relations is a bit like a doctor treating an illness. We have to diagnose the cause of the illness before seeking to cure it.
There is no shortage of diagnoses. Some claim that the main cause of Muslim alienation is racism and Islamophobia; others that it is poverty and lower life chances; and others still that the cause is intergenerational conflict between older people who, in some cases, still inhabit psychologically, if not physically, the hill villages of Pakistan and Azad Kashmir, and more rootless younger people who identify neither with traditional life in those villages nor with modern Britain. Other voices cite the failure of the multi-culturalist experiment in delivering social cohesion, and others point to foreign policy.
For myself, I believe that all those observations are part of any sensible diagnosis. As the first parliamentary Member of my party, as far as I know, to call publicly for an independent inquiry into the Iraq war on 2 June 2003, I am scarcely likely to argue otherwise. However, in my view these observations do not constitute the whole diagnosis. Clearly, there is something missing. Dhiren Barot, for example, cannot originally have been a victim of Islamophobia as he was raised as a Hindu. Jermaine Lindsay, the 7/7 bomber, cannot have been caught in an intergenerational struggle with Pakistani elders as he was black. Mohammed Sidique Khan, another 7/7 bomber, cannot have had his livelihood damaged by lower life chances as he was a graduate of Leeds Metropolitan university.
I suggest to the House that that missing something is the ideology of Islamism. As my right hon. Friend the Member for Penrith and The Border (David Maclean) said, Islamism is not Islam. Islam is a religion--a great religion at that and one, it seems to me, as various, as complex, as multi-faceted and as capable of supporting a great civilisation as Christianity. Islamism, however, is an ideology forged largely in the past 100 years, and that word "ideology" should help to convey to the House a flavour that is as much modern as mediaeval.
Like communism and like fascism, those other modern ideologies, Islamism divides not on the basis of class or of race, but on the basis of religion. To this politician, it has three significant features. First, it separates the inhabitants of the dar-al-Islam--the house of Islam--and the dar-al-Harb--the house of war--and, according to Islamist ideology, those two houses are necessarily in conflict. Secondly, it proclaims to Muslims that their political loyalty lies not with the country that they live in, but with the umma--that is, the worldwide community of Muslims. Thirdly, it aims to bring the dar-al-Islam under sharia law.
I am not an expert on Islam, but I have learned enough about it since I was first elected to this place in 2001 to recognise that its view, and our inherited view of the difference between the sacred and secular, diverge. In our inherited view, the sacred and the secular are separate. The Christian tradition from which our inherited view springs has always acknowledged a distinction between what is God's and what is Caesar's. In Islam, that distinction is harder to perceive.
It is, of course, true that in the Muslim societies in which I have travelled sharia law and secular law exist side by side. In Pakistan, for example, there are both secular and sharia courts. None the less, the distinction is anathema, so to speak, to the Islamists. They look back for inspiration to Mohammed's original political settlement, in which the religious and political were, in effect, one and the same. They are, as the phrase has it, "dreaming of Medina." They seek to restore the caliphate to a glory that is tinged with nostalgia and longing.
Let me give a hard example of what that means and its significance in the context of the Queen's Speech. The Home Secretary was recently and notoriously heckled at a public meeting in Leyton by Abu Izzadeen, another convert to Islam, who was formerly known as Trevor Brooks. He said to the Home Secretary:
"How dare you come to a Muslim area?"
That was not some random insult or interruption; Mr. Izzadeen knew what he was doing. He was asserting that Muslims are in a majority in the part of Leyton in which the Home Secretary was speaking. He was therefore claiming that part of the country as part of the dar-al-Islam. He was saying, in effect, that sharia law, not British law, should run in Leyton. Mr. Izzadeen's version of sharia law would be consistent with dispensations for Muslims from some aspects of British law, the application of a sharia criminal code, special taxes for non-Muslims, a public ban on alcohol consumption and the closure of pubs and bars, and a ban on conversions from Islam to other faiths.
We can, of course, choose to dismiss Mr. Izzadeen as an isolated fanatic, but such a view may be unwise. There is polling evidence to suggest that his views tap into a reservoir of sympathy and support. For example, an ICM poll that was commissioned last February found that four out of 10 British Muslims want sharia law introduced to parts of this country. It is important to note that that almost certainly represents a degree of support for what I would call soft sharia--in other words, for the application of some sharia law in relation to family arrangements alone. None the less, even the implementation of soft sharia would mark, I think for the first time, one group of British citizens living under a different set of laws from other British citizens.
We must consider what the likely future effect would be on domestic Muslim support for sharia, and even for terror, of a further downward spiral events, of further international tensions between Muslims and non-Muslims, of further domestic terrorist incidents--which, alas, there may be--and of racist and xenophobic backlashes against British Muslims. That is the challenge that we all face together. In my view, it is a challenge to Britain that is no less pressing than the challenge of climate change, which has occupied much of the debate today. That is the challenge for the political and media classes as a whole, and it is especially the challenge for this Government and the security and terror-related aspects of the Queen's Speech.
There are three tests for those parts of the Queen's Speech and, in concluding, I will put them as questions. The first question is: does the whole Government machine clearly recognise that Islamism is a key element in poisoning relations between Muslims and non-Muslims? The evidence is ambiguous. The Prime Minister has said, crucially:
"The rules of the game have changed".
Individual Ministers, such as the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, whom I heard speaking on this matter last week, see the scale of the problem. However, as a brilliant pamphlet--Martin Bright's "When Progressives Treat with Reactionaries"--for the think tank Policy Exchange indicated, the foreign policy, Home Office and security establishments are divided on how to deal with the Islamists. Anyone who doubts that those divisions exist should ponder the leaked memos from Government in relation to the proposed visit by Sheikh Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, with which Mr. Bright illustrates his pamphlet.
The second question for the Government is: can they prove to the House and to the country that the proposals in the Queen's Speech on security are inspired by the long-term good of the country, rather than by short-term political manoeuvring? That is a crucial question. Ministers must recognise that the yoking together of spin--which my hon. Friend the Member for Southend, West (Mr. Amess) mentioned and which I describe as the practices devised originally to deliver new Labour from the failures of the Kinnock and Foot years--and the selling of the Iraq war has eviscerated trust in the Government.
Alas, the habit of spin continues. The Chancellor now tells us that he wants to get tough on security, but, as I pointed out to the Prime Minister this afternoon, only 476,000 [Pounds] has been seized from suspect sources in six years and only four enforcement actions have been taken against Islamic charities--not that I am criticising Islamic charities as a whole, of course. The Home Secretary--that rival to the Chancellor, we read--will no doubt claim that he will be even tougher, but according to a written answer that I received recently:
"There has been no centrally issued instruction to prison governors on the receipt of Islamist publications by prisoners." [ Official Report, 26 October 2006; Vol. 450, c. 2126W.]
That is remarkable. The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, for her part, must realise that those who sit on her new Integration and Cohesion Commission are unlikely to be optimistic, given that its predecessor, the huge "Tackling Extremism Together" project, has had only four of its proposals implemented. The Secretary of State for Education and Skills, in the wake of the collapse of his policy on admissions to faith schools, must now ensure that university principals strike the right balance between allowing free speech to flourish on campuses and closing down the incitement of violence, whether by Islamists or by anyone else. The Government as a whole must recognise that their motives in arguing for 90 days' detention are greeted with deep suspicion, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Member for Folkestone and Hythe (Mr. Howard) pointed out in his characteristically incisive speech earlier today.
The third and final question for the Government is: if they acknowledge the dangers posed by Islamism, and if their analysis is correct, will they see the necessary action through? The aftermath of the recent remarks by the Leader of the House about the niqab--remarks that I suspect were driven by his own concern about shariaisation--revealed deep uncertainty within the Government. Soon after he spoke out, voices were heard suggesting that his remarks had alienated moderates and driven Muslims into the hands of the extremists; that his words could have been better chosen; and that now was not the right time to have a public discussion about Islamism. I am not so sure. There is a deep problem. Politicians' words can nearly always be better chosen, and now is never the right time, it seems, to have a public discussion about Islamism and integration. Broadly speaking, we have not been having this public discussion since the Rushdie affair, and my main concern about not having an informed, decent, consistent and rigorously thought through public discussion about Islamism centres on the effect that that postponement will have, not only on the non-Muslim majority, but on the Muslim moderates--the moderate and prosperous greater share of Muslims to whom I referred earlier.
The leadership of the Muslim community that I know best, in High Wycombe, is moderate and sensible. The community makes a huge contribution to the town. It is well integrated into both the main political parties and it produced the first Conservative Asian mayor in the country--Mohammed Razzaq--in the 1980s. However, it is clear that nationally, and especially among the alienated young, the moderates are not making the running; the Islamists are making the running. The moderates are in a position strikingly similar to that of the Social Democratic and Labour party in Northern Ireland, which has, in the past 15 years, been outpaced, outwitted and outsmarted by Sinn Fein-IRA, with consequences that are still fully to be seen. Deferring the debate further will only allow this process to continue. When it finally takes place, which it will, it will probably be noisier and nastier than would otherwise have been the case. It is essential that the moderates grasp that the main threat of the Islamists is as much to them as to anyone else.
This Queen's Speech thus presents us with a choice--we can either take an approach that tends to lurch from pacification in the wake of future highly charged public rows, such as the veils controversy, to panic in the wake of future terrorist attacks, which we are, alas, told are only too likely to happen, or we can rise to the challenge in an informed, decent and consistent way. In facing the challenge, Opposition Members must acknowledge and be mindful of the fact that Ministers have a responsibility that none of the rest of us at present has to bear.
George Orwell once wrote of the "deep, deep sleep of England, from which I sometimes fear that we shall never wake till we are jerked out of it by the roar of bombs."
On 7/7, we heard the roar of bombs in London. I sometimes worry that the deep, deep sleep that Orwell described in the 1930s is still here in relation to Islamism in sections of the Government, parts of the political and media establishment, the House and the country. This is one of the most urgent problems facing us, and if we are in that deep, deep sleep, it is time for all of us to wake up.