Dennis MacShane, writing in today's Telegraph:
At long last, the debate on Islamism as politics, not Islam as religion, is out in the open. Two weeks ago, Jack Straw might have felt he was taking a risk when publishing his now notorious article on the Muslim veil. However, he was pushing at an open door. From across the political spectrum there is now common consent that the old multicultural emperor, before whom generation of politicians have made obeisance, is now a pitiful, naked sight.This is not confined to the labour Party, but it is most obvious there, with Ruth Kelly leading the charge. The idea that Jack Straw would have published his thoughts on the veil without reference to his party and then held his breath is not credible.
In their recent letter to Ruth Kelly, the Muslim Council of Britain said:
In recent months there has been a veritable regular drip-feed of ministerial statements stigmatising an entire community. We have seen ministers' tours and even legislation being proposed on the premise that 'mosques are a problem'. We have been told to accept that greater numbers of Muslims will be stopped and searched and also to 'inform' on our children. This relentless barrage has been disheartening and you will understand our worry about where all this is leading. Some Muslims have even sought the MCB's advice on whether they should change their names in order to avoid anti-Muslim remarks. This is what happens when a community is singled out by those at the helm of affairs.
The MCB is right about this.
The consequences of giving preferential treatment to extremists like the MCB for a decade, of deferring to the real or imagined sensitivities of a small section of the population, and thereby causing genuine resentment, dislike and even hatred of all Muslims generally within society, then reversing the position and releasing a constant stream of remarks, initiatives and policy changes that feed this cultivated dislike could be horrendous.
Why are Labour doing this? It must be a deliberate policy. I can see no other explanation than that their private polling has revealed a serious threat to their position with the bedrock of their support, the white working class. Having caused the problem, by favouring Muslim extremists to the great personal cost especially of moderate Muslims in the country who have had to endure a surge of religious conservatism, veilings, forced marriage, curtailed female education, lost voting rights for the weakest (especially women) and "honour" violence, they are now reversing the position, also to the potential great cost of moderate Mulsims in this country.
The problems we now face that are associated with supremacist, absolutist, "fundamentalist", fascistic Islamism are entirely the fault of the governing and media elites in western countries, and in this country mainly of the liberal and Labour left. All religions have conservatives and extremists; the great thing is to avoid giving them undue, or even any, influence in society. From the government's contacts with the MCB to the BBC's "Prophet Mohammed" bullshit, this problem has been caused not by the Muslims who are trying to get on with their lives, but by those whose unconscious, automatic racism finds it appropriate to treat all minorities as "communities" with strange and unique properties, lacking the common humanity that should bind us into one great community.
Let's remember, though, that Michael Howard set the ball rolling for recognition of the MCB - who are now so conspicuously worried that the gravy train is about to resume its journey without them.
This is a mark of the collective failure of the entire British establishment. Members of the awkward squad might soon find themselves moving from attacking radical Islam to defending ordinary Muslims. This sort of reversal happens: Libertarians have found themselves moving from having to defend homosexuals against discrimination to having to defend the right of homophobic bigots to free speech.
The best stance to take is very simple indeed. It's better to have free speech and have to listen to idiocy from time to time than to have censorship. Religion should be an entirely private matter but the right of people to follow their religion, or lack of it, privately must be defended. Free markets suck and on humanitarian grounds need safety nets but they have the merit of being the only economic system that works. In a democratic system, the only thing a community leader can do is weaken the democratic basis of society. You can't participate in society if you don't speak the language. There is no humane alternative to integration but integration is not homogeneity.And so on.
Above all, we share a common humanity that binds us and transcends any and every difference of race, sex, religion, sexuality or opinion.
We need to focus the spotlight where it belongs, on the people who have caused these problems, on the political and media elites and the civil service. We need to shine it on those who supported the "at-least-he's-our-son-of-a-bitch" tyrants abroad, raised up community leaders at home, turned a blind eye to terrorists planning outrages so long as the outrages were to be committed elsewhere, who distorted media coverage to suit their political prejudices.
We should not let the focus turn to ordinary Muslims. Not even to extremist Muslims, who would never have gained the prominence they have without the sins of the establishment.
And that establishment includes Dennis MacShane.