This is a guest post by ami
How many BBC programmes does it take to change a zeitgeist? Not sure yet, but the last month has been a good start. Even before the Andrew Neil interview with Farooq Murad of the Muslim Council of Britain, there was Sunday Morning Live which asked: Are Muslims doing enough to stop the radicalisation of young people? On the panel was Muhammad Al-Husseini, about whom I have posted previously and who is involved in this event, which promises a further shift in tectonic plates:
Also on the Sunday Morning Live panel were Yvonne Ridley, Peter Hitchens, counter terrorism researcher Usama Hasan, Professor Peter Neumann, Director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, and Yasmin Alibhai Brown.
Give this line-up, the civil tone of discussion, conducted by the very able Samira Ahmed, was a pleasant surprise.
You can watch the clip here.
Ridley lamented that political discussion was banned in mosques, whereas when she was still a Christian, in St James Piccadilly, political discussion was part of the programme. (Like this, perhaps?)
She added that discussion was also being closed down in universities, to which Usama Hasan pointed out that it was the extremists who in some cases had shut down discussion in those places.
Yasmin Alibhai Brown continued to impress, as she has done lately, in her response (at 14.20 in). She described how she was subject to threats and pressure in response to her reasoned debate on subjects such as hijab. She saw a problem now with a growing idea that you could never belong to the societies in which you live.
Significantly, Samira Ahmed observed at this point that along with a growing conservatism in the public face of Islam in the UK, there is a growing sectarianism; for example, she said, there were a lot more attacks on Ahmadiyya Muslims in modern Britain.
Yasmin lamented that it appeared there was only one way to be a Muslim now. It was bad enough when others say you can’t belong, but it is worse when we start saying we don’t want to belong.
After hearing what Muhammad had to say (starting at 14.25) Alibhai Brown was wide eyed with admiration: “he speaks for so many of us. What he has had the courage to say, even I sometimes don’t have the courage to say.”
Ridley’s solution to radicalisation was to open discussion at universities, and bring in “the so-called extremists”. “University students are not idiots, if someone is spouting nonsense, they are not going to be sucked in.” Said the no-nonsense Ridley.
Yvonne was particularly exercised by criticisms by Muhammad of groups (such as the MCB) You cannot talk about interfaith and talk about exclusion. It was just not acceptable as far as she is concerned, to talk about excluding any groups, especially in an interfaith situation.
I am sure Yvonne would be disturbed then, to learn that the Interfaith Network does have a problem with certain groups whom it bars from membership, Amhadiyya Muslims being just one such group.
I look forward to learning more about this at the event on Tuesday evening.