Ed West has a nice article over in the Spectator entitled “Ex-Muslims are living the British dream – Britain should support them”. He writes …
There was an excellent Radio 4 documentary on yesterday in which Sarfraz Manzoor interviewed a group of people you don’t hear much about – ex-Muslims.
… the ex-Muslims are right. They’re right to question the beliefs they were brought up with, and they’re right to see the inconsistencies and those aspects where Islam’s morality clashes with theirs, and to follow what they think to be right.
It’s also good for the society around them; the irony is that ex-Muslims have embraced the British dream like no others by adopting the mainstream British mode of belief, that is unbelief and scepticism, and yet society not only does not welcomes this, it almost discourages it, is embarrassed by it.
OK, so where is he going with this?
Labour has promoted the mosques for their own ends, but our current government is trying to make itself more ‘pro-faith’, whatever that means, both pro-church and pro-mosque, as if all religions were just a variation of colourful outfits, rather than belief systems that inherently clash
And then he drives home a rather key point …
In reality the ideal for British social cohesion would be for lots of Muslims (and Hindus and Sikhs) to become atheists, agnostics or very wishy-washy Anglicans. That we can’t admit this is at the heart of the integration problem facing an unbelieving society.
In other words, we get one very basic aspect right, namely “Freedom of Thought”, but sadly to a rather excessive degree such that the various political factions that currently prevail attempt to tap into religion for their own ends and try to not only nurture and nourish beliefs, but hand over state responsibilities to them and trust them to do a good job. If nothing else, you would have thought that they could learn from history by observing how political parties that attempt to utilize belief as a tool of statecraft often end up not only being badly mauled by it, but utterly consumed by it.
So yes, people should indeed be free to believe whatever they wish – that’s fine. However, when the state steps in and starts handing over its own responsibilities to a belief-system, the end result is not social integration but is instead less social cohesion and a great deal of polarization.
For an example of this we need look no further than the recent disaster of the Al-Madinah co-educational Muslim faith free school. This supposedly free school for all in the community funded by public money ended up not only mandating prayers, reading, translating and memorisation of the Quran as their primary educational goal and ditched the official national Curriculum, but they also openly discriminated against female pupils and staff, and indulged in some rather dubious financial irregularities. When the Ofsted inspectors turned up last October it did not take them too long to work out that this entire fiasco was a complete and utter disaster, so they correctly classified the school as “dysfunctional” and closed it.
When it comes to statecraft, the folks in the US really have got it right (well, apart from the increasingly batty Republicans) by keeping a strong wall of separation between belief and state. The key point is this, beliefs have demonstrated over and over that they simply cannot be trusted and will end up polarizing society by promoting their specific belief agenda, so when you see both Labour and also the current unhappy band of coalition partners vigorously climbing over each other to get into bed with an assortment of various beliefs and hand them the keys and responsibilities for things such as education and social services, then what can one do except face-palm.
So yes, Mr West in many way nails it, cultural assimilation should not be about nurturing lots of religious diversity and making them responsible for the duties of the state, but rather be about stepping back from them all and instead nurturing a skeptical attitude towards the lot of them …
Religion used to be the way to join the tribe. In the 19th century a second or third generation immigrant could put away his ethnicity by one single act – joining the Church of England. … The issue of assimilation is more important today than it was in the 19th century
…So how does one become British now? Sitting in a pub talking about how there is no God seems pretty close to me. How typically perfidious and hypocritical that British society does not acknowledge or welcome this.
So perhaps in many ways, this quote more or less sums all this up …
“Religion Is Like a Penis It’s fine to have one. It’s fine to be proud of it. But please don’t whip it out in public and start waving it around.”