Sunday, May 13, 2007

Spinning religion and winning the Muslim vote

(Cranmer blesses ConservativeHome for this graphic)

Now we know that the next General Election will be fought between the son of a Scottish manse and a nominal Anglican, Cranmer looks forward to a detailed investigation into how matters of faith shape these men. Gordon Brown gives his prescription straight, and it is puritanically monochrome and two-dimensionally boring; David Cameron embraces the Church of Engalnd's via media (no pun intended), and communicates creatively. He may indeed have something of the chameleon about him, but being all things to all people in order that some may vote Conservative is precisely what is demanded in politics, and in this postmodern, relativist era, why not use religion and spirituality? Politicians may no longer 'do God' or advocate any particular religion, and if they do, they ought not to advocate it strongly, for therein lies suspicion and accusations of bigotry. And Mr Cameron cannot afford to have his shiny new brand tarnished by such perceptions.

So in The Observer is an account of what Mr Cameron learnt this week from his stay with a Muslim family. How this family was chosen is unknown to Cranmer, but living in a £500,000 house in the leafy suburbs of Birmingham, overlooking Warwickshire’s cricket grounds and unpressured by trivial matters of economics, unhindered by the complexities of educating their children, untroubled by mosque dynamics, and unconfused by their view of the family and the role of women in society, this was not a typical Muslim family, nor even a typically Asian one.

However, Mr Cameron has used his experience of this family to highlight the UK’s ‘challenges of cohesion and integration’, and for the need to end ‘racism and soft bigotry’. Cranmer is unsure what Mr Cameron means by ‘soft bigotry’, but perhaps a meaning may be elicited from the context. He talks of the ‘deep offence’ felt by Muslims by the use of the word 'Islamic' or 'Islamist' to describe terrorist threats. He refers to it as a ‘lazy use of language’, and is thereby sending a message to his MPs and candidates that they may no longer use such terms. This will trouble Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, and Paul Goodman, to name but three, because to use such terms now means that one may suffer the same fate as Patrick Mercer, and yet to be denied the right to do so silences the intelligent and eloquent identification of the true roots of this terrorist threat. Fanatical religio-political ideology may be distasteful, but it should not silence legitimate debate or mean that one may not discuss such concerns in the vernacular.

Mr Cameron exhorts faith-based schools, yet the example he gives is that of an undoubtedly successful Jewish school which has a mixed roll with some 60 per cent of Muslim families, who study alongside Jews, Christians and Sikhs. Mr Cameron’s Muslim hosts explain that they send their children there because of ‘good discipline and good results’. But such attributes are not unique to faith schools, and had Mr Cameron probed further, he would almost certainly have discovered the desire of this Muslim family to send their children to an Islamic school. The question then becomes one of how many Jews, Christian, Hindus and Sikhs would send their children to such a school, and this is territory into which Mr Cameron dare not tread.

In talking of society, the Leader of HM Opposition sates: ‘the picture is bleak: family breakdown, drugs, crime and incivility are part of the normal experience of modern Britain’. This is profoundly pessimistic, and Cranmer doubts indeed that this is Mr Cameron’s experience in Wantage. But whilst it is doubtless true that many marriages end in divorce, some youths are drug addicts, crime is a constant fear in some areas, and expressions of incivility have become more commonplace, to focus on these ills is to negate the immense positives of those marriages that last for 50 years, that many young people strive to achieve, that policing strategies often result in falling rates of crime, and that polite expressions of civility are intrinsic to being British. Yet Mr Cameron credits these positives to ‘the British Asian way’; he insists that these are values only ‘they hold dear’, and this is an expression of racism itself. Ignoring Mr Cameron’s superficial suggestion that Asian and Muslim are synonymous, his most offensive proclamation is in his conclusion that ‘it is mainstream Britain which needs to integrate more with the British Asian way of life, not the other way around’. What is this 'mainstream' if it is not the Judeo-Christian heart that gave the nation its foundation, and still nourishes the richness of its spiritual life?

No, Mr Cameron, you will find such virtues in people of the Christian faith, and of the Jewish faith, and (had you bothered to spend a week with such [dare one say?] ‘indigenous’ families), you would have discovered that the British values you identify – ‘hospitality, tolerance and generosity’ – are intrinsic to 'religious conservatism', and may therefore be found in households of all faiths. And we do not, as you assert, need Muslims ‘to show us what those things really mean’, and, moreover, it is not ‘racist’ or ‘soft bigotry’ to say so.


Anonymous Observer said...

Mr Cameron’s Muslim hosts explain that they send their children there because of ‘good discipline and good results’.

and I bet they say something very different in Urdu but that would offend Mr Cameron if he knew

13 May 2007 at 14:41  
Anonymous John Hayward, The Difference said...

While Muslims are right to feel "deeply offended by the use of the word 'Islamic' to describe the terrorist threat we face today," Mr Cameron is wrong to suggest that it is a "lazy use of language" to describe the threat from radical, militantly ideological versions of Islam as "Islamist". His distinction between "IRA terrorist" (fine) and "Catholic terrorist" (would have been a disaster) suggests "Al-Qaida" might be a preferable alternative to "Islamist", but this then implies far too much coherance and gives far to much credit to what is no more than a dispersed cluster of diversely-motivated extremists.

"Islamist" and "Islamism" are the carefully chosen academic terms used to distinguish the extremists and the distorted ideology from the wider Islamic societies with whom they purport to associate. These terms deliberately link the Arabic prefix referring to the religion of Islam to the Latin suffix indicating the politicisation of aspects of the religion. Until such time that a better successor to this label is suggested-preferably one arising from within the majority community of moderate Muslims-this remains the best way of distinguishing between the "moderates" and "extremists" and of demonstrating to "impressionable young Muslim men that to be a 'good Muslim'", you have to be Islamic, while those who become Islamist are to be ostracised just as much as are fascists and communists.

As I wrote a month ago in The Rise Of Islam, "we need to understand Islam and the differences between moderate Islam and fundamentalist Islam, or Islamism."  This is all the more important for our leaders - especially those in politics, the Church, and the media.

13 May 2007 at 21:31  
Anonymous worried said...

All this stuff might be nice, if Islam were just another religion. But it isn't. Its the only religion whose holy book calls for the subjugation of non believers, and their murder if they refuse to be subjugated.

Some branches who called themselves Christian may have done that, but Christ made it very plain that such was not the way of the one true God. So those who conducted such murderous campaigns were not doing what their Holy Bible tells them to do.

Muslims who read their Koran know only too well that the only peace in The Religion of Peace is that reserved for fellow "submitters". For the rest of us there can be no peace from Islam. No matter what the stupid politicians try to say.

13 May 2007 at 23:07  
Anonymous Voyager said...

David Cameron is Blair MkII in this as in so much else. These are just the words I expect Tony Blair to utter after reading his Penguin Koran.....Anthony Eden however could read it in Arabic and readily quoted it to his reception committee when landing in Arab did the Old Arabist bearer of the Military Cross little good at all...because at the end of the day Al-Qaeda is not campaigning forfree nursery places or longer opening hours for pubs orthe right for women to wear is intent on eradicating all the values David Cameron thinks he represents.

This silly game of Triangulation Blair imported from Karl Rove and the silly Tory slither towards a New "Third Way" is getting mindlessly tedious.

Anyone who believes a British Government will defeat the terrorism emanating from Islamic groups is deluded; there is a game of trying to make the British public feel responsible for these politico-criminal actions so they do not demand too much of weak, supine, and Saudi-funded British politicians.

WE have political leaders who are simply clueless but need a soundbite - we have had Blunkett, Blair, Reid, Kelly, and now we get Cameron.

It is absolutely pathetic and will simply lead to the Balkanisation of the country as already happens in cities like Bradford where the middle class migrates in direction of North Yorkshire or Australia.

Cameron is courting bloc votes. No doubt he will go to The Yorkshire Coalfield and promise new work for miners made redundant by Michael Heseltine or visit Sangatte and promise them all homes and cars if they will vote for him.

This is the very worst aspect of democracy, group identity politics and pandering to deluded self-image. Mosques are not Churches, they are community centres and in Iraq they are arsenals. Islam is not a religion - it is a politico-religious identity.

David Cameron probably knew some fun-loving, affluent, libertarian Communists at Eton but probably would not want to associate them with the kind that ran countries like China or Russia........he might even find examples of "good Nazis" who were patriots and "inwardly rebelled" against the regime......but delusion is not an inspired approach especially after we have had 10 years of this preening self-regard and duplicitous inertia.

People do not believe the government is running the country for their welfare and benefit; and David Cameron is rapidly becoming as untrustworthy as those he seeks to supplant

14 May 2007 at 07:48  
Anonymous G Orwell said...

I think Muslim schools are a good idea. Look at Northern Ireland - seperate schools there worked SO well.

14 May 2007 at 09:57  
Blogger Joseph said...

Is seems Dave has finally lost touch with reality. His rather hedonistic early lifestyle at eton and oxford suggest he is not in a position to accuse the rest of us of decadence.

He now colludes with the grievances that drive the fragmentation of the country. It seems to me it doesn't matter what you call the terrorists. The threat remains and is growing.

As long as Cameron refuses to put forward an alternative programme what is the point of voting for him. We have had ten years of another "nice toff" and look at the mess he has left behind.

Cameron might win but he will be penned in by the promises he has made to the groups he has appeased on the way.

14 May 2007 at 11:08  
Anonymous Observer said...

Cameron tries to please the last group he met. He is so like A C L Blair that he could be an understudy.

He maybe should focus on the comments about Croydon Council on the front of today's Daily Express where it appears Christians are subjected to harassment unlike other religions

He is simply a holographic Blair

14 May 2007 at 13:22  
Blogger Elaib said...

It appears he has been taking his instructions from the EU again.

14 May 2007 at 17:20  
Anonymous Observer said...

I thought he was getting them from somewhere. Up to know I had thought it was a case of Mork & Mindy

15 May 2007 at 07:40  
Anonymous Colin said...

Blair or Cameron, what is the difference. Apparently, the British people don't have any no real choice.

Compare that to Denmark, Germany and France, where a certain counter-revolution is already under way.

Today, Sarkozy said during his inauguration speech that political correctness didn't bring any solutions, that problems have to called by their name and that solutions are needed. He gave a rather nationalistic speech criticising aggressions and emphasizing the values of France's culture and democracy.

Compare that to the speeches of Blair and Cameron and it is obvious that "something is rotten in (the state of) Britain ..."

16 May 2007 at 19:13  
Anonymous Colin said...

"what Mr Cameron learnt this week from his stay with a Muslim family. How this family was chosen is unknown to Cranmer, but living in a £500,000 house in the leafy suburbs of Birmingham, overlooking Warwickshire’s cricket grounds and unpressured by trivial matters of economics.."

Miss Jelly Bean,

It seems that Mr. Chameleon stayed with your family. Could you please tell us about your impressions. What kind of chap is he? Is he trustworthy? Would you buy a used car from him?

16 May 2007 at 19:23  
Anonymous najistani said...

Brilliant British piss-take of Islam! Make sure you see it before it's banned!!!

20 May 2007 at 00:40  

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