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Outdated attitude to British Muslims

by
07 December 2006

iStock

From Mr Andy Lie
Sir, — Professor Peter Riddell’s assumptions and views (“The question no one wants to ask”, Comment, 24 November) demand a response from discerning readers.

First of all, while I fully ascribe to the biblical injunction to “love the stranger”, there is the danger of falsely assuming that, among the religious traditions, Christianity has the monopoly of hospitality. This has more to do with a history of imperial superiority and arrogance than with the fact that Britain (or, for many these days, “England”) operates from supposedly Judaeo-Christian principles.

Second, in this day of globalised thinking and action, the fact that Professor Riddell still uses archaic terms such as “host society” truly betrays his lack of grasp that the discourse has moved forward. This is in the light of his insidious assumption that so-called immigrant families and their subsequent generations will always be “guests” in the “host” British “society”. It begs the fundamental question how far down the line subsequent generations will be considered “non-strangers”.

Third, the way the article made the mental leap from showing hospitality to strangers to focusing on an apparently small section of the Muslim community is remarkable. Surely, we must accept that the biblical notion of “stranger” is a very inclusive term, which today could refer to people who are like us and already part of the community, but are experiencing various forms of exclusion.

So, the focus on a small group of so-called Islamists as “foreigners” will detract from the fact that such people are already well-integrated into British society. It is important to recognise that such “Islamists”

do have legitimate political, social, and religious concerns to which others need to listen. Further-

more, Professor Riddell’s use of

the term “moderate Muslims” is

at best offensive, and betrays

naïvety on the part of an expert in Islam.

Fourth, to describe the biblical Ruth as an “integrationist model” surely begs the question whether it was not in fact “assimilation” that was the driving force in ancient Hebrew society. Professor Riddell has adopted a simplistic form of hermeneutics, based on certain proof texts, which do not do

justice to a complex cultural background.

Furthermore, to assert that “recent comments by Jack Straw and Tony Blair have been designed similarly to emphasise togetherness rather than separateness” is baffling. I think the contrary has been the perception of many clear-headed people in Britain.

Last, but not least, it is not “the question no one wants to ask” but much more “the wrong sort of question to ask” which is at stake. I dare say that we cannot even begin to ask the questions until we have truly listened to the unlikeable interlocutors.
ANDY LIE
6 Ridgeway, Fenham
Newcastle upon Tyne
NE4 9UL

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