It has been widely reported that, when the House of Commons returns, in October the Home Secretary will announce plans to introduce ‘gagging orders’ (perhaps similar to those imposed on members of the IRA in the 1980s) against named individuals and organisations who promote jihad and the radicalisation of British Muslims.
As Teresa May takes this welcome action to silence these vile few; we should also be making attempts to break the deafening silence of the vast reservoir of ordinary and hardworking British Muslims who remain true to their faith while being respectful of the culture and norms of the society in which they grew up or adopted as their home. The unified power of these voices would indeed be immense and reflect the views of the overwhelming majority of British Muslims. However, fear of reprisals, a desire to avoid conflict with neighbours and family members, and the hope that others will speak on their behalf – keeps that vast power latent.
Meanwhile, lurking in the stagnant pond of the few, the repulsive and vile preachers and perpetrators of hate – who encourage Muslim to fight Muslim and glorify the beheading and defilement of fellow man in the name of Jihad. People who promote martyrdom as a career and life choice are in a grotesque feeding frenzy; consuming the very social media channels that carry messages of consumerism, sexual, educational and democratic freedoms that they find abhorrent to put out their messages of hate, to show graphic video footage of savagery and to radicalise the young, impressionable and vulnerable.
Hopefully Parliament will speedily approve the Home Secretary’s plans and the oxygen of media will be turned off- choking off the ability to send the poisonous messages of hatred, terror and violence.
A welcome first step in mobilising the voices in that mighty reservoir of the good was the resignation of Imam, Mohammad Bashin Uddin of the Jalalis Mosque in Cardiff. He made a stance and has been a brave voice against the radical preachers. Cardiff has seen too many of its young get caught up in the fighting in Syria – it has brought devastating consequences to families and communities in Wales and the Imam has spoken out to avoid more young men and young women from being radicalised. Let us hope that more people will follow his lead and speak out. Let us listen to those brave family members of the young turned by the hate preachers, let them speak of the devastating effect on their families as the hate preachers turn brother on brother and son against father. Let more Imams speak out if they encounter speakers peddling the message of hate at their Mosques and let those involved in teaching in the Madrasas be vigilant and bring into the light any malpractice.
When I first came to Britain in 1966 there were only two mosques in England. It is a mark of how Muslims have been welcomed by the land I chose to be my home that today there are over 1000 mosques here spread around the country and serving the good, honest and hardworking people of the Muslim faith in the communities in the south, north, east and west of this land. The Muslim people that are helping to build a better Britain for our future and the future of our children and for their families and generations to come. It is these quiet, unassuming and humble people who must also find their voice and show vigilance.
The tools and products that have brought sexual, religious and educational liberation to many and fuelled consumer choice, and helped reduce the democratic deficit are now being harnessed by the very people that despise these thing so much – the hate preachers who are harnessing the power of social media and its ability to reach out to younger and more vulnerable people. But they are not using it as a power for good – the way in which they encourage those they have radicalised to show the grotesque beheadings and debasement of their captives knows no bounds and is depraved. The Jihadists they have radicalised are given celebrity style status on the channels and radical preaching supplements this mix of celebrity, glory in killing and Martyrdom.
It is time that as the present Government closes down access to these tools for the radicals’ local community leaders, educational institutions and civil society embraced them as tools to open dialogue with young British Muslims and for the young themselves and their families and friends to raise the alarm of radicalisation. Let’s turn that deafening silence into a song of hope, joy and celebration.