Earlier this month the Communities Secretary Hazel Blears set out the government’s policyon combating violent extremism (why only ‘violent’ extremism one might ask – but that’s another article!). In this she listed 6 ‘shared values’: 1. a belief in democracy 2. the rights of minorities 3. the need for competing political parties 4. a free press 5. an independent judiciary and 6. free elections. She declared that:
‘These fundamental tenets of democracy form the great dividing line between us and the extremists.’
Really? Three things concern me here.
First, the government evidently lacks a clear understanding of exactly what are our historic core British values: do they not include freedom of speech for everyone – not just the press? Where is freedom of religion – particularly the right not to have a world-view whether religious or secular pluralist imposed on people by legislation? Where is the Magna Carta provision of no arbitrary imprisonment without trial by jury etc. I could go on…
Secondly, this government – as I will briefly demonstrate below – has itself been undermining many of these core British values, particularly some of the more significant ones that Hazel Blears chose to omit from her list.
Thirdly, not only is the government’s list of ‘shared values’ that are ‘the fundamental tenets of democracy’ wholly inadequate, the government appears to be equally hazy as to the precise points at which Islamic law (sharia) conflicts with our historic core British values. For example, I wholeheartedly agree with Ms Blears that the independence of the judiciary from the government is an important British value, but it is not as Ms Blears asserts ‘one of the great dividing lines’ between us and Islamic extremists (in Islamic countries sharia courts are normally independent of the government).
So, for the sake of the ordinary decent people in this country – like the teacher I met recently who, knowing nothing of my interest in this area, spontaneously spoke of how worried he was by a newspaper headline stating that the Lord Chief Justice advocated British courts using sharia, for the sake of such ordinary decent British citizens as that man, I’ll briefly explain to Ms Blears and the rest of the Labour government some of the key points on which Islamic law (sharia) conflicts with some of our historic core British values – including a number that the present government are themselves actively undermining.
In order to do that I would suggest the following as ‘historic core British values’, by that I mean ones that have evolved to their present form over a significant period of British history and are central to the maintenance of our present freedoms. Most, though not all, of these values are expressed through our parliamentary and legal institutions. I am sure others will want to modify or add to this list. That will be a very constructive debate to have. I make no claim for completeness!
1. Parliamentary Democracy. This has several aspects:
a) One citizen one vote in free and fair elections to vote/out the government of the people’s choice (and not as a ‘one way street’ to introducing an Islamic government as a significant number of non violent Islamist groups in the UK see it).
b) The right of any sane adult citizen not convicted of a serious crime to stand for election. (In modern applications of Islamic law if non Muslims are allowed to stand for election or vote at all, this is often only in a tiny handful of special seats for non Muslims, which completely marginalises their influence on mainstream politics).
c) Choice of government being based on being able to command a majority of elected members of parliament. (In traditional interpretations of Islamic law non Muslims are not permitted to be part of government).
d) Multi party participation in elections – with an official opposition in parliament.
e) Only parliamentarians becoming ministers so that they can be held to account in parliament.
f) Parliament being independent of government – including in its finances – so able to hold government to account.
g) Government by consent of members of parliament – originating in the Magna Carta provision of ‘no taxation without representation’.
h) Laws being made by parliamentarians. (In Islamic law – laws are ‘discovered’ by sharia theologians interpreting the Qur’an and Hadith. Parliament and government can only apply laws that the sharia courts tell them are compliant with Islamic law).
2. Constitutional Monarchy – the sovereign as a non political head of state, but with the ultimate right to dissolve parliament. (In Islamic law non Muslims are excluded from being head of state).
3. One law for all – with absolute equality for all before the law – whether male/female; Christian/Muslim/Jewish/Secular – or anything else, one law for all. (Islamic law gives significantly lesser legal rights to non Muslims and to women – including a Muslim man’s testimony in court being equal to that of two non Muslim men or four non Muslim women).
4. Independence of the judiciary from government (as stated above this isn’t actually a major clash with agenda of Islamic extremists – despite Ms Blears seeming to think it is!).
5. Freedom of speech – including both freedom of the press and the right of individuals to criticise another’s worldview – whether Christian, Muslim or Secular Pluralist or any other. (Criticism of Muhammad or the Qur’an is the most serious offence in Islamic law and carries the automatic death penalty even in ‘moderate’ Islamic countries such as Pakistan).
6. Freedom of religion – including:
a) Not having a worldview whether Christian, Muslim, Secular Pluralist or any other imposed on individuals or private organisations by legislation. (Islamic law as a single religious and political system legislates a world-view).
b) The right peacefully to practise and eirenically persuade others of the truth of one’s beliefs. (In Islamic law the death penalty applies to any Muslim man who embraces another faith such as Christianity and may also be applied to anyone trying to persuade a Muslim of the truth of another faith).
7. No imprisonment by the state or its agents without a fair trial before a jury of one’s equals. (Islamic law does not require a jury – only a judge who according to sharia must be a Muslim).
8. Loyalty to Britain as a nation state before loyalty to any other state or organisation. This includes – but is not limited to – not giving any form of aid or assistance (political, financial or military etc) to those fighting against British armed forces, actions that have traditionally been described in Britain as ‘treason’.
9. The sovereignty of Britain as a nation state – whose laws are solely determined by her parliament rather than by any non British power. (In Islamic law parliaments do not ‘make’ law – see comment on 1h above).
10. British citizenship being the birthright of every child born in Britain of British parents and conferring both rights (including an inalienable right of residence) and responsibilities.
I have written before on Conservative Home of how the present Labour government have a relationship with ‘non violent’ Islamist groups that is similar to the relationship Labour had with the unions a decade or so ago. Put simply, Labour doesn’t want all of their agenda, but it does want their votes (and in the case of the unions their money!). So, it has appeased them by giving them part of what they want – for example: the incitement to religious hatred legislation – widely viewed by Islamist organisations as an Islamic blasphemy law; a leading Islamist commissioned to write a government report alone (!) on how Islam should be taught at British universities; sharia treasury bonds (sukuk) currently being introduced by the government etc.
However, aside from its appeasement of ‘non violent’ Islamist groups, there are other ways that the present Labour government’s ideology, policies and actions have significantly undermined historic core British values:
a) Free and fair elections – in 2007 Labour MPs voted to give themselves a £10,000 ‘communications allowance’ from public funds to promote themselves to their constituents – on top of the existing postage and other allowances that all MPs receive (a future Conservative government is pledged to abolish this in the interests of democracy). While just to skew the playing field even more in favour in sitting Labour MPs, in June this year Justice Secretary Jack Straw proposed banning prospective candidates challenging a sitting MP from spending any money from any source in advance of an election. To put this into perspective – one of the major criticisms Britain has made of elections in in countries such as Russia is the huge advantage given to government MPs in terms of state funding etc.(See Greg Hands MP’s excellent article on this).
b) Only parliamentarians becoming ministers i) Unelected Labour political advisors have unconstitutionally assumed part of the role of ministers by giving orders to civil servants. ii) Immediately after becoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown appointed Sir Digby Jones as a minister when he wasn’t a member of either house of parliament, an action which led to the Prime Minister being censured by an all party parliamentary committee for this.
c) Parliament independent of government – Gordon Brown unconstitutionally sought to interfere in decisions over MPs pay – which constitutionally should be set by parliament without government interference.
Freedom of speech
a) An unusual coalition of writers, actors and churchmen strongly condemned Labour’s attempt to pass incitement to religious hatred legislation in a form which (before being amended) would have severely curtailed the fundamental historic British right of being able to criticise another person’s worldview – whether Christian, Muslim, Secular Pluralist or any other.
b) Highly respected children’s author Lynette Burrowes was subjected to a police investigation after saying in a radio interview that she had reservations about homosexual male couples adopting girls. Here was a perfectly legitimate expression of a difference of opinion from the Labour government’s policy – but she was subjected to a police investigation for it. The police action is a massive erosion of freedom of speech. Unfortunately hers is far from being an isolated case.
Freedom of Religion
a) Not having a worldview (Christian, Muslim, Secular Pluralist or any other) imposed on individuals or private organisations by legislation. In 1559 Elisabeth 1 passed the Act of Uniformity requiring everyone to assent to a particular worldview – that of the established church. It was not until the abolition of the University Tests Act in 1871 that Britain attained full religious freedom. However, the Sexual Orientation Regulations passed by the present Labour government reversed Britain’s 400 year march to religious freedom by requiring Catholic adoption agencies to do something (place children for adoption with homosexual couples) that their own worldview said was morally wrong. In effect it enforced a world-view (a Secular Pluralist one) by legislation on individuals and private organisations. (I’m not a Catholic by the way, but this was a fundamental erosion of our historic core British value of religious liberty).
b) The right to peacefully practise and persuade others of the truth of one’s beliefs. The Labour government now plan a further significant erosion of this in its proposed Single Discrimination Act, which in its present format may make it illegal for Christian ministers to state that homosexual sexual practice is morally wrong. The Church of England – hardly a bastion of radical fundamentalism – has already warned that this is a serious erosion of religious liberty. When the government tries to tell the church what it can and can’t call ‘sin’ there is a very real possibility that some Christian ministers will go to prison rather than obey it.
No imprisonment by the state or its agents without a fair trial before a jury
Massively undermined by the government legislating 42 days detention without trial for terrorist suspects.
Loyalty to Britain
A bit of an open question this one, but I do have a question mark about exactly why the government thinks NOW is an opportune time to review Britain’s treason laws…
The sovereignty of Britain as a nation state – with laws determined solely by the British parliament
Dare I just say the words ‘Lisbon Treaty’ a.k.a. ‘The EU Constitution’ – which the government was elected on a manifesto of allowing us a referendum on – but hasn’t; which Gordon Brown promised parliament line by line scrutiny of – but didn’t allow; but which does transfer huge amounts of power from our elected British parliament to unelected EU officials.
Now that means that of these 10 main areas of historic core British values – whilst Islamic extremists challenge 80-90% of them, the Labour government themselves are actively undermining at least 50% of them.
Many like me will find it deeply worrying that the Communities Secretary, Hazel Blears’ list of the ‘shared values’ that are in her words the ‘fundamental tenets of democracy (that) form the great dividing line between us and the extremists’ does not include many of our historic core British values – like freedom of religion and no imprisonment without trial by jury – precisely those core British values that the Labour government are actively undermining at this very moment.
When the SS Great Britain is being holed below the waterline by her own captain and officers, it is clearly time for a change of crew if the good ship Great Britain is to have any hope of defending our historic core British values against the hidden U-Boats of Islamic extremism.