Islam is the fastest-growing religion in Britain: the number of Muslims has grown from 1.6 million to two million since 2000. Moreover, every major public institution has changed its policies to accommodate the demands of Islamic “community leaders”. The Government, the Opposition, the police, schools, the Church of England, the BBC and now Channel 4 are all helping Muslims construct a parallel Islamic state.
Early next year, the think tank Civitas will publish a survey of 100 British Muslim schools. Entitled When Worlds Collide, it will argue that some of them are pushing pupils into ghettos. Young women, in particular, are forbidden to pursue career opportunities. “Every year, an incalculable number of Muslim young women are lost to the wider world,” says the report. One school website links to al-Qaeda; another directs pupils to a scholar who advocates the murder of Jews.
Until recently, these radical mullahs were blamed for turning disaffected youths into bombers. But, in August, a leaked MI5 report revealed that Islamist terrorists tend not to be obvious religious extremists. The Muslim community usually knows nothing about them.
For years, the Government has offered Muslim leaders self-governance in return for information about “dangerous” elements. But if terrorists cannot be accurately identified, this is a waste of time. Unelected community leaders extend control over Muslims, yet society is no safer.
Self-censorship is crucial to this growing separatism. The BBC’s director-general, Mark Thompson, says that Muslims should be treated more sensitively than Christians.
In America, Random House cancelled publication of Sherry Jones’s novel The Jewel of Medina, about Mohammed’s six-year-old bride Ayisha. But Martin Ryna of Gibson Square in London did agree to publish. Three men were subsequently charged with conspiring to damage his home. Islamic groups have threatened Borders bookshops with violence if they sell the novel.
Although most Muslims do not condone such attacks, many support the proposal that Islam should enjoy privileged status. After the 7/7 terrorist murders, the Home Office commissioned reports from Muslim working parties. Their recommendations included “Muslim teacher accreditation” to ensure special treatment for Muslim children; Muslim oversight of policing methods; and a new verbal etiquette in which Islamist terrorism should be referred to as “criminal” rather than religiously inspired. There were also hints that British Muslims should be allowed an unofficial veto over foreign policy.
In the event, the Government backed away from the more extreme demands. Others have been quietly met. A National Association of Muslim Police was set up in 2007 and is regularly consulted by senior officers.
Government ministers rarely put the words “Islam” and “terrorism” in the same sentence. Conservative front benchers follow the same practice, except when addressing the Conservative Friends of Israel. “I have been told off by three members of the shadow cabinet for using the phrase ‘Islamist terrorism’ when I have appeared with them,” says Douglas Murray, director of the Centre for Social Cohesion.
The major development, however, has been the encroachment of Sharia law into public life. Last February, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, declared that British Sharia was “inevitable.” In fact, instruments for expanding it already exist. A network of Muslim Arbitration Tribunals (MATs) has been set up with Home Office support. In theory, these bodies are just a form of “alternative dispute resolution”. They are “unable to deal with criminal offences”, says the MAT website. Yet it also confirms that they can “assist” the police with domestic violence, sometimes “with a view to reconsidering criminal charges”.
MATs also deal with wills, where Sharia discriminates against females. The Government is also anxious to attract Muslim investment by regulating British Islamic banking; the only way to do that is to grant legal recognition to Sharia.
According to Murray, “what we are seeing is the state deferring to a seventh-century Arabian tradesman as a source for secular law”. He was speaking on Christmas Eve. The next day, Ahmadinejad spoke to the nation. Yesterday it was reported that Baroness Butler-Sloss, one of Britain’s most senior legal figures, wants Sharia divorces to be enshrined in law. For the first time in decades, religion is moulding public life in this country; but that religion is not Christianity.