Islam,  Secularism

David Goodhart on ‘Conservative Muslims, Liberal Britain’

Last night’s Analysis (BBC Radio 4) explored the tensions between more conservative sections of the Muslim community and ‘liberal Britain’. Demos’s David Goodhart approached the topic robustly – listen, for example, to where he expresses scepticism about the claim that finding out more about Islam is going to make people feel more positively about it (from about 13:30).  However that challenge was issued to Mufti Muhammed Ibn Adam, one of the more hard-line interviewees, and made specific reference to his understanding of Islam. Elsewhere Goodhart finds several Muslims who share his concerns about rigid teachings and separation between communities. Gina Khan, for example, speaks passionately about the dangers of political multiculturalism (15:30ff).

Academic Jytte Klausen raised parallels with some ultra-orthodox Jewish communities in the UK, and noted the tension between the rights of a ‘community’ and the rights of the individual (17:50). Myriam Francois-Cerrah’s first intervention seemed a bit evasive, as she invoked a comparatively soft kind of ‘conservative’ view (traditional approach to gender roles) which she could reasonably claim was shared by quite a few non-Muslims, glossing over more extreme (if disputed) teachings associated with Islam (19:00).  However she did go on to say, at the end of the programme, that people with intolerant views should not be running schools.

Goodhart gave his liberal interviewees plenty of space to articulate their more welcome views, but didn’t cut Mufti Muhammed Ibn Adam any slack whatsoever. He is keen to ensure that readers don’t miss the full significance of the Mufti’s words – the way he doesn’t condemn hudud punishments but explains they are only to be carried out in an Islamic state. He concludes crisply ‘secular liberalism for him is just a convenient mechanism’ (25:40) and rightly insists that ‘it is not intolerant’ to express anxieties about such views.

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