My Lords, we welcome, acknowledge and indeed thank the many people who are already confronting extremism in this country. The Government are absolutely committed to strengthening our partnership with all those who want to see extremism defeated in all its ugly guises.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for that reply. I suppose that it would be dangerous for our Muslim friends to fulfil this Question with the energy which many people would like. Does the noble Lord agree that our Muslim leaders also face the problem that there are more than 100 verses in the Koran which order violence towards non-Muslims and so give theological justification to the jihadists? What does the noble Lord have to say about those verses, not to mention the bellicose example of Muhammad himself, which all Muslims are supposed to follow and which therefore undermine the Government’s strategy?
I can say clearly that I totally disagree with the noble Lord in his assertion about the holy scripture and the example of the holy Prophet of Islam. What is true, is fact and is real in this country is that Muslim contributions today, yesterday and for many decades—indeed, centuries—have been widely acknowledged as a positive contribution to the progress of this country, and long may it continue.
What is important is that we must stand together and unite against all forms of extremism. I acknowledge that Islam is being challenged by those who seek to hijack a noble faith and misrepresent it. I commend the fact that we as a country—all communities and all faiths—come together in saying, “Not in our name”.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is a danger that asking questions in this way and hearing questions in the way that some might could demonise the Muslim community, the vast majority of whom are peace-loving and are as appalled by terrorist acts as the rest of us? Will the Minister agree that it would be far better to ask faith communities and others of good will to work together for social cohesion?
The right reverend Prelate is of course correct. It is the Government’s view and, indeed, the view of our country, that no one should be demonised. We celebrate the diversity of our country and the fact that we are a multifaith society, with everyone contributing. I acknowledge the fact that, yes, the Government are committed—as I believe all in this House are committed—to ensuring the strengthening of partnerships.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that the last time the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, intervened on this subject, he circulated to some of us a piece of paper in which he claimed that the Prophet Muhammad renounced the verse in the Koran saying, “To each his own religion”. I checked this with an imam in London and found that what the noble Lord said was quite incorrect. Through the Minister, I extend an invitation to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, to come with me to the mosque I visited in north London recently where it was explained to me that, contrary to what he has said, the word “infidel” or “kafir” does not mean non-Muslims—Christians and Jews—but people who do not act according to God’s will and can apply to Muslims as well. Is it not absurd for the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, to set himself up as an authority on the Koran?
I could not agree with my noble friend more. I also acknowledge receipt of the documents sent by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. But I rely on the interpretation of God and his noble Prophet rather than, with respect, the interpretation of my faith by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that much of the conflict in the Middle East and the radicalisation of young Muslims in this and other countries is due to the export of a cruel and medieval interpretation of Islam from Saudi Arabia that has been rightly criticised by Dr Shuja Shafi, the Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain? Should we not be doing much more to help people counter this extreme interpretation of their faith, which is doing incalculable harm to the image of Islam?
My Lords, I was the police spokesman following the 7 July bombings in 2005. In a press conference, I said that as far as I was concerned, Islamic terrorism was a contradiction in terms. I went on to say that from my professional experience as a police officer, the UK was a much better and more law-abiding country for having strong Muslim communities. I stand by what I said then. Does the Minister agree with me?
I totally agree with the noble Lord, and perhaps I may put this into context. It is why our Prime Minister said recently when referring to Daesh that it is neither Islamic nor is it a state. That underlines how we deal with those who seek to hijack the noble faith in this country.
My Lords, in November the Muslim Council of Britain took out an advert in the national press to underscore the united condemnation by Muslims of terrorism, especially after the Paris attacks. On 9 December thousands of Muslims took to the streets of London to participate in a peace rally, which received limited media coverage, presumably because such a story does not sell papers. Does the Minister think that all who are in a position to do so, whether they are individuals or organisations, have a responsibility to reflect in what they say and write the real abhorrence and rejection of terrorist activities by all key sections of our diverse nation?