Monday, November 23, 2015

Lord Pearson's memorandum

About ten days ago I wrote about Lord Pearson's Memorandum, Shall We Talk About Islam?, and promised to put up a link as soon as there was one. It is now up on the website Can We Talk About Islam? and you can read find either through that site or just go directly to the document here.

This is a paper for discussion and people are encouraged to respond. Should any of this blog's readers want to do so on it, they are very welcome to do so. Obviously, courteous and rational comments are more welcome than the other kind. In fact, anything truly courteous and rational will be passed on to the authors.

Meanwhile, Lord Pearson has also been active in the House of Lords, as have a number of those pesky unelected members. On November 17 a Statement was made in both Houses about the G20 meeting and the Paris attacks, which took in various measures that HMG is proposing in order to deal with the problem of Islamic extremism that all too often leads to terrorism. It is probably worth reading the whole Statement and the subsequent debate. Naturally, these are only proposals and none of us can predict with any accuracy which, if any of them, will be implemented.

Lord Pearson asked:
My Lords, in that vein, I welcome the Prime Minister’s commitment to inspect and shut down any educational institutions which teach Islamist intolerance and, I presume, violence. Can the noble Baroness confirm that this policy will include all evening madrassahs and, indeed, our mosques, where so much of the poison is spread?
To which HMG in the form of Baroness Stowell of Beeston replied:
My Lords, it will include any establishment where this kind of extremism — non-violent and violent — is being pursued. We can no longer tolerate a situation where it is okay for somebody to espouse extremist views and stop short of inciting violence. Because of that, we are committed to taking all necessary steps. As the noble Baroness said a moment ago, we have to ensure that people are not in a position where they are influenced by or attracted to this kind of ideology, which is so damaging and dangerous.
I am not quite certain what is meant by non-violent extremism but, as I said above, we shall have to see what is actually achieved.


  1. I'm genuinely torn on this one. The libertarian in me says that people should be free to associate as they please, and only be stopped if they commit some illegal acts. It might also fall into the be careful what you wish for category. In the current climate lots of perfectly reasonable things are likely to be re-classified as extremist, and those calling for this sort of restriction might find themselves coming into its remit. There's also the argument that it would be difficult to police, and simply drive it all further underground, where it would be harder to track these people, therefore perversely reducing our security.

    And yet we've clearly got to something, because this is a real threat to our security. It has to be the right something though.

    1. I assume you are talking about HMG proposing to inspect and shut down extremist mosques, madrassah etc rather than the Memorandum, which only says we should discuss Islam. I can see nothing wrong with discussing any religion and see no reason for Islam being excluded. As to the HMG proposals, I would agree with you about the difficulties. Hence my comment about non-violent extremism. After all, there are people who seriously describe anyone who is for Brexit as being extremist. So, it is difficult.

      However, there are two important issues. One is of security, as you have mentioned. The other is the creation of social and legal ghettoes, which is something no country or society can have. Teaching religion is one thing - separating people out for religious reasons and creating fences around them is something else. That is what some of the mosques and madrassahs as well as the sharia courts do.