Posts Tagged ‘Secular Humanists’

UKIP Candidate: Licence Islamic Clergy and Mosques

February 17, 2015

I found this piece on the Ham & High site through Hope Not Hate’s news column. Entitled, Hampstead and Kilburn Ukip candidate: ‘My great aim is to licence the mosques’ it reports the highly controversial views on Islam by Magnus Nielsen, the UKIP candidate for Hampstead and Kilburn. It describes Nielsen’s background and career, including his reasons for joining UKIP in 1993. He seems to feel that the EU is about to collapse, and that UKIP has the necessary policies for getting the country ‘back on track’ when it does.

However, the article begins with his highly controversial attitude towards Islam. It notes that he got into the news last year for describing Islam as ‘organised crime under religious camouflage,’ and that it’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad, ‘was a gang leader of criminals’.

He now declares that his ‘great aim is to licence the mosques and licence the clergy’.

“So that if the clergy are preaching doctrine that is in contravention of UK law and human rights then they lose their licences.

“If the mosque can’t find a licensed imam, they have to close down until they can.”

When asked if the same should apply to other religions, whose preaching he could find offensive, such as Roman Catholic priests or Jewish rabbis, Nielsen shrugged it off with the reply “I don’t think the other religions would present the same sort of problem”.

The interviews at http://www.hamhigh.co.uk/news/politics/hampstead_and_kilburn_ukip_candidate_my_great_aim_is_to_licence_the_mosques_1_3956520.

Now Nielsen should be entitled to express his view of Islam and its founder, no matter how bigoted and offensive others may find it, without fearing for his life in attacks like those against Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket in France, and Lars Vilks and a local synagogue in Copenhagen this weekend.

Nielsen’s anti-Islam Comments close to Hate Speech

His attitude to Islam is, however, extreme and some would consider that they border on the illegal. His description of the religion as ‘organised crime’ seems to me to come very close, if not actually into, hate speech. It suggests that all Muslims are criminals, or criminal sympathisers, simply because of their religion. It is illegal in Britain to make comments designed to stir up racial or religious hatred. While anti-Islam bigots like Geert Wilders are generally very careful to argue that they’re aren’t racists, because Islam is not a religion, it certainly comes close to what they act would consider as provoking religious hatred.

Licencing and the Erosion of Freedom of Belief

As for his plans to licence Islam and the mosques, this is a profoundly dangerous and deeply counterproductive policy. Firstly, gives the state the power to regulate and interfere with citizens’ private religious beliefs. While there should be limits to what is legally acceptable, such as the promotion of terrorism, this gives the state too much power to decide what their citizens may or may not believe. It brings the country close to having the same highly authoritarian attitudes towards religion, like China, where only government approved religious groups are officially tolerated. The result of this has been the vicious persecution of Falun Gong, as well as those Christians, who do not wish to submit to official government control. And this is after the vicious persecution of all religions, including Taoism, Buddhism and Christianity, by an aggressively atheist form of Communism during Mao’s bloody ‘Cultural Revolution’. If such laws are applied to one religion, it could quite easily be applied to another, or stretched to include a secular philosophy that, in the view of the authorities, presented a similar danger. It isn’t hard to see how an intolerant, fiercely nationalist regime could move from licencing and banning Islam as potentially terrorist, to prosecuting conscientious objectors and anti-War activists amongst other religions or secular Humanists for being ‘insufficiently patriotic’, or harmful to morale in wartime.

The Libertarian Alliance’s Attack on Charities for Political Liberalism

The threat presented by such legislation isn’t an exaggeration. In the 1980s what became the Libertarian Alliance carried out a long campaign to have various charities and international aid organisations deprived of their charitable status. These charities’ campaigns against hunger and poverty in the Developing World were, they argued, political. And hence they attacked respectable charities like the Roman Catholic organisation, CAFOD. And this is quite apart from the concerns American liberals had about the sweeping provisions of Bush’s Patriot Act, and the powers granted to the authorities to investigate perceived anti-American individuals and groups. Among those placed under suspicion were even Quaker anti-war protest groups.

Official, Reforming Islam vs. the Islamist Counterculture

It’s also useless and counterproductive. The Egyptian-German scholar, Bassam Tibi, in his book Islam and the Cultural Accommodation of Social Change, points out that the mosques in Egypt are already strictly controlled by the state. Furthermore, the country’s westernisation and modernisation movement came from its Islamic leaders in the 19th century. These were members of the ulema – Muslim clergy – who were impressed by the great advances in the natural sciences and engineering that the West had made. They wished to introduce these to the Egypt and the Islamic world so that their people could also enjoy the benefits.

The radical Islamism of the terrorist extremists comes from outside this official milieu. It’s an underground movement that has been formed in opposition to the official, liberal Islam of the 19th century reformers and their 20th and 21st century successors. Despite the close supervision of the mosques in Egypt, and the proscription and persecution of the extremists, these groups still emerged to become a powerful, destructive force. I can’t see that licencing the mosques over here would have any effect in stamping out extremism. Most of the domestic terrorists appear to have been radicalised outside the mosques, often on-line. This form of propaganda by the extremists would continue, and it is probably that an underground Muslim counterculture would emerge, parallel but outside and beyond official, tolerated Islam.

Licensing Islam Would Drive Moderates Away

It may even have a negative effect. Lobster’s columnist, Corinne DeSouza, has written about the failure of the British intelligence agencies, particularly in Iraq. She notes that since Bush and Blair’s invasion of Iraq, far fewer Iraqis have offered their services to British intelligence. It’s not hard to see why. While some would be prepared to pass sensitive information on to a sympathetic foreign power in the hope of overthrowing an oppressive dictatorship, far fewer would want to take the step of becoming an active collaborator with a foreign occupying force. Similarly, if the mosques and their clergy were licenced, it would possibly drive away liberal Muslims and actively discourage them from passing on information about terrorism or extremist preaching to the authorities. Licensing the mosques would be a sign that, as far as the British authorities were concerned, Muslims did not really have a place in British society and were barely tolerated. Few Muslims would wish to co-operate with authorities in a regime that automatically viewed all Muslims, regardless of sect or shade of belief, as potential terrorists and traitors. Any Muslim that did so could easily find themselves reviled as a ‘chocolate Muslim’ – an Islamic ‘Uncle Tom’.

Bigots Also Unpopular in British Islam

There is a problem in this country with preachers of hate. Finsbury Park mosque was closed because it was a centre promoting terrorism. I also recall a number of other scandals with other extremist preachers, like Kalim Saddiqui. He was actually filmed by the Beeb back in the 1990s telling his congregation that ‘British society is a massive killing machine, and killing Muslims comes very easily to them.’ Saddiqui was one of the most notorious of the bigots, and there were demonstrations and protests against him by moderate Muslims. One of the complaints of the moderates is that you don’t hear enough of the counterdemonstrations, only of the protests and ranting of the militant firebrands.

Stress Common Britishness; Treat All Extremists with Same Rights and Contempt

Much more positive is an even-handed approach to tackling extremism, to show that it’s not Islam that is under suspicion or attack, but simply those, who would preach murder, hate and death in its name. And that those prosecuted for such offences will be treated exactly the same as their non-Muslim counterparts, demanding death and horror in the name of whatever they believe in.