Desperate Dan pictured above in his Dundee statue, was a creation of the Dandy Comic, made in Dundee and read throughout Britian until recently, when it went online for lack of readers. DD was clearly an American cowboy but survived his comic exile in Scotland. There were never any complaints that the cow pie- eating hero did not share Scottish or British values. He was universal in his appeal.
David Cameron has once again targeted Muslim citizens as being insufficiently opposed to the thugs who claim Islamic justification for crimes against humanity, and insufficiently militant in favour of “British values”. He has never defined fully these values but has mentioned respect for the rule of Law and recognition of pluralism as the basis of society.
The roots of a pluralistic UK go back to the seventeenth and eighteenth century philosophers who opposed the notion of one religion for all citizens of the state, and proposed that people of differing faiths could have a common interest in recognising each other’s faiths as legitimate. They took it for granted that a person’s primary allegiance would be to his own God, but that a genuine civic allegiance could be offered to the laws of the state including those that permitted mutual toleration of religious groups. Vestiges of the older notion of one approved religion lingered in the establishment of the churches of England and Scotlland, and in laws excluding Roman Catholics from certain positions of state.
Given the understanding that religion might determine the eternal destiny of the soul, no-one expected that anyone’s first loyalty would be given to the state; and even non-religious moral convictions, such as those that kept Bertrand Russell out of the First World War, were recognised as legitimate acts of conscience.
Now the Britisn Prime Minister is harassing one religious group to declare their allegiance to Britain and Bristish values as if adherents of all other religious groups had already declared such allegiance and were paid up members of the Britsih Values Club.
This is based on the apparently world-shaking discovery that some kinds of Islam are “ideological” meaning they say things about the real world, including the foreign policy of the UK and the USA. Much of what is expressed is crude and wrong, being designed to justify violence. The Government therefore should enter into public debate and prove them wrong. But asking Muslims to treat British (government) values as of equal importance to their faith is foolish and very unlikely to succeed.
One aspect of this harassment is particularly insidious: the identification of widely-held Muslim views on the status of women as one aspect of the “extreme ideology”. It is true that many Muslims hold views on this topic which I think are pernicious but which my great grandparents would have taken for granted.The idea that anyone who holds to such primitive beliefs and does not welcome with open arms the wonderful UK culture that sexualises girls from the age of three, is a proto- terrorist, is so loopy and self-defeating that it can only come from a politician. In fact, one of the successes of Isil propaganda is the way it makes young women feel wanted and given a key role in the coming caliphate. Their propaganda is a lie, but it will not be countered by urging British versions of female equality which are immediately refuted by pictures of naked and semi- naked women everywhere. In any case lumping socially conservative Muslims with terrorists is surely poor tactics.
Although the critique of British Foreiign policy by Isil is sectarian and anti- Jewish, it is not utterly without substance. Why has the UK engaged in violent conflict in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, and why is it considering armed action in Syria? The answer has less to do with fundamental values than with perceived opportunities of national interest. One of the most powerful answers to Isil would be a very public review of our part in these conflicts.
Above all however we should show trust that adherents of one of the world’s great religions will be able to oppose a bunch of heretical thugs without constantly being harangued by people who have little understanding of their or any faith. As a Christian believer I have opposed much of British foreign policy in the name of Jesus and am critical of the laissez faire economic values of this government. I guess that makes me an extremist, radicalised by the cunning ideology of Jesus Christ, and even worse, a person with a warped narrative about my country.
I hope that Christian citizens whose allegiance to Jesus comes before allegiance to the state, and who may also be critical of our foreign policy, will publicly defend their Muslim brothers and sisters from
government interference in their faith, and will encourage them to find resources in their own faith to dismiss the violent pretensions of Isil.
We are a pluralistic society because we consider that many religions express values which do not be long to any one culture or region, and will therefore oppose sectarianism and nationalism. We should have confidence that the Muslim citizens of Britain are already doing this in ways that no Government can prescribe.