Asked by Lord Pearson of Rannoch
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what was the basis for the statement by the Prime Minister on 3 June that “There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror” (HC Deb, 3 June, col 1234).
Lord Sheikh’s speech in the House of Lord on 19th November 2013:
My Lords, I speak as a Muslim, as a proud British national and a supporter of all faiths and communities. I am privileged to live in a country where people of numerous religious beliefs live alongside each other in relative peace. This is a testament to our nation’s tolerance and unity in equal measure.
I was brought up in Uganda, where there were people of different racial and religious groups, and learnt to respect all communities. I am a patron of several Muslim and non-Muslim organisations that promote harmony between people. I believe that there must be dialogue and respect for others if we are to continue to coexist peacefully. Without these, there is lack of understanding which leads to suspicion and tensions.
I believe this debate today has been called as a result of such misunderstanding. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, questioned the basis for the Prime Minister’s statement that:
“There is nothing in Islam that justifies acts of terror”.
I believe the basis for the Prime Minister’s statement was obvious. There is nothing in any religion, teaching or scripture that condones causing indiscriminate harm to others. It is the interpretation of corrupt minds that seek to justify these actions for themselves and those they manipulate.
The actions of a few fanatical individuals must not be the yardstick by which we judge Islam or any other religion. If we allow this to happen, the culture of fear and division takes hold. When that culture permeates, the terrorists realise their intentions. Later on in the statement, the Prime Minister referred to the murderers’,
“extremist ideology that perverts and warps Islam to create a culture of victimhood and justify violence.”
It is that ideology that we are facing, not the religion itself. Terrorists’ motives have time and again been revealed as political grievances. Terrorists twist these grievances, through the prism of religion, into an ideology to justify their actions. It must therefore be clear that these actions were not motivated at root by religious teachings. The united condemnation of the Woolwich attack from prominent Muslims illustrated this.
Let us look specifically at Islamic teaching. As a Muslim, I was taught that human life was sacred. It is written in the Holy Koran,
“whoever kills a human being … it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human life, it is as though he has saved all mankind”.
That is why I have consistently spoken about Islam as a religion of peace, and continue to do so. In fact, I even represent that in my coat of arms, which features two doves. I believe that every Muslim should be an ambassador to convey that message and help to promote peace and harmony with other religions. I also believe that both the media and politicians must play their part. Some media circles, in particular, are guilty of vilifying Islam and portraying us with an unfair image.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world, and in the United Kingdom, there are more than 2.6 million. Such large numbers of people and their faith must not be used as a scapegoat or a political football. It is important that our politicians of all persuasions act responsibly and use moderate language. I find the use of the term “Islamic terrorist” to be improper in the same way that I would the term “Christian terrorist”. That kind of language stokes fear and creates a psychological tie between the religion and the terrorist.
The opposite is in fact true. A report by Demos in 2011 revealed that 83% of British Muslims feel proud to be a British citizen, compared with 79% of people across the whole population. That reasserts that our problem lies with a very small minority. The vast majority of Muslims enjoy practising their religion peacefully in the United Kingdom. I do not believe that anybody looking to cause disharmony should be allowed to come here from a Muslim country or a European country, such as the Netherlands. If we demonise Islam or any other religion, we are doing a disservice to the concept of religion as a whole and the societies that embrace it. I therefore totally endorse the comments made by our Prime Minister.