To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, as part of their strategy against Islamist terrorism, they will encourage United Kingdom Muslim leaders to re-examine the Muslim tenets of Taqiyya and Al Hijra.
My Lords, as I stated before Christmas, freedom of speech and religion are core values that make our country great. Britain is home to diverse communities, which are free to practise their religion in accordance with the law. The Government’s strategy for tackling Islamist terrorism is firmly based on strengthening our partnership with communities, civil society groups and faith organisations across the country.
My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness.
I am advised that Taqiyya allows Muslims living outside the Muslim world to be deceptive in their promotion of Islam and that Al Hijra encourages Muslims to emulate Muhammad’s emigration from Mecca to Medina, which he then took over.
Do the Government agree with the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury, who I am glad to see is in his place, who said recently that religious leaders must stand up and take responsibility for extremists who do things in the name of their religion; that in order to defeat terrorism, we need to understand the mind-set of those who perpetrate it; and that it is not helpful to go on claiming that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam?
Is it not time we had an open, national debate about these matters, preferably led by our peaceful Muslim friends?
I most certainly agree with the most reverend Primate, who speaks so much sense on so many things. I also agree that Daesh has nothing to do with Islam. As for the noble Lord’s original Question, both Taqiyya and Al Hijra are very old terms in Islam. We can think of all sorts of terms in all sorts of religions that can seek to misrepresent those religions, and we must take that in context and not allow poisonous twisting of religion to disrupt our society.
My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware that, according to the authorities that I have consulted, Taqiyya refers to the Prophet’s flight from Mecca to Medina and is about concealing your own religious beliefs when confronted with the threat of persecution and death? Surely it would be as wrong to criticise Taqiyya as it would be to criticise Jews who concealed their identity in Nazi Germany, or Christians in Raqqa. Is there not a great danger that the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, will be interpreted as meaning that Islam promotes deceit and lies, and is it not important that he should make clear that is not what he meant?
I totally agree with my noble friend, and as he was asking that question I was thinking about Catholics during the Reformation and Jews during the Second World War. Sometimes religions have to preserve themselves not by denial but by concealment on pain of death.
My Lords, it is the turn of the Cross-Benchers.
My Lords, since the noble Lord is so familiar with the Koran, he will know that it is addressed directly to the believers, and that there are no intermediaries between the Koranic texts and the believers. It is also the case that many of the so-called Muslim terrorists have probably never read the Koran. What is important is not to define terrorism in terms of a faith, but rather to think about why some of the brightest and best young Muslims turn to terrorism, and look at the roots of despair that cause that.
The noble Baroness is addressing her question to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, but I hope I can answer it. We all know that terrorism and terrorist ideals have absolutely nothing to do with faith; they are used to stir up hatred against different faiths. In fact, some of the biggest victims of Daesh have been Muslims.
My Lords, I think the House wishes to hear from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York.
My Lords, first, would the Minister agree that the term Taqiyya came into being at a time of terrible persecution? It did not get invented because people did not want to be difficult or awkward. Of my friends who escaped Amin’s torture, some left dressed as women. You would not say these Christians wanted simply to be deceptive; things have to be read in context. Secondly, the lecture by the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury was a one-hour lecture in France; he is more than happy to repeat it if your Lordships’ House wants.
I am sure that this House would be very happy and more educated for hearing from the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury. I thank the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of York for putting the whole thing into context. Fleeing persecution is not the same thing as denying your religion.
My Lords, we should leave to one side what appear to me to be blatant attempts to stir up hatred against the Muslim community. Instead, I want to ask the Minister a question on what she said in her Answer about strengthening partnerships with communities. Do the Government agree with the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, David Anderson QC, the Joint Committee on Human Rights and the Home Affairs Select Committee that there should be an independent review into the Government’s Prevent strategy, and if not why not?
The noble Lord will know that we regularly review Prevent. In fact, Prevent has been reviewed quite recently, and has been seen to help those who might be targeted by people who wish to put poisonous ideologies into their heads—in other words, the victims of these people—to turn their lives around.
My Lords, given that the meaning of the two concepts has been well laid out before us by the noble Lord, Lord Lamont, and their relationship to one another, I wonder whether the intention of the Question is to put British Muslims on notice. Therefore, does the Minister accept that terrorism has no home in any religion and that, in his Question, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is either being naive or it is a wilful act of incitement to Islamophobic prejudice with the presumed intent to insult Islam?
I do not know what is behind the noble Lord’s Question. This is his second Question of the year and perhaps in a future debate he will explain. However, yes, terrorism and religion do not sit together. No religious text promotes terrorism, and terrorism just seeks to twist what our faith teaches us.