A Leap Of Faith

November 11, 2013 12:21 pm

There may just be hope for the rest of us. If the co-founders of the English Defence League can take the brave leap of working with Quilliam, an Islamic think tank set up to combat radical Islamism, then there cannot be any excuse for every community, faith-based or otherwise, not to come together in a spirit of cooperation.

Tommy Robinson announces departure from EDL to join Islamic Think Tank Quilliam which specialises in avoiding extremism.

Tommy Robinson announces departure from EDL to join Islamic Think Tank Quilliam which specialises in avoiding extremism.

While many members of British society may covertly harbour the view that Islam and all its followers are simply a deep reservoir of terrorists and extremists, there are just as many who have their preconceptions confounded by Muslims every day. The creeping realisation that the vast majority of Muslims, who, like everyone else, simply aspire to build a better life for themselves and their children, bear no semblance to the headline-stealing extremists who believe that violence is a necessary means of progressing their agenda, brings a flicker of hope that the deeply engendered misunderstandings and suspicions will eventually fade.

Apart from the common ground shared by the main Abrahamic faiths, the values espoused by British society marry well to the values inherent to the Islamic faith. Contrary to propaganda, most Muslims, either here or abroad, could not be less interested in conquest or imposition of dogma. They are interested, like you and I, in educating themselves, in getting a decent job and paying their bills.

Of course, there will be some who find it far easier to pigeonhole people that they don’t understand into labels that they can then attack. It will always be this way. Human nature is fight or flight; lash out or run in fear first, understand later. But Tommy Robinson, the face of the EDL, has led by example, opening his mind to challenge his views and understand those he might otherwise have rallied against. He belies the simplistic caricatures of him in the media by rejecting the hate and welcoming the debate; an example that far more prominent Muslim leaders would do well to follow.

Many of our Muslim citizens would argue that they have made some sacrifices too, adapting their beliefs to fit into a culture that is comparatively permissive, open and equal. Others may feel that they are entitled to respect and tolerance, and that society should simply adapt to them. But despite the undignified scrutiny by media and security services, most find that there is no conflict between practising their faith and extolling their patriotism for the United Kingdom.

Tommy Robinson and Quilliam may ultimately have the same agenda, to prevent the spread and threat of radical Islamism, but their collaboration proves that conflict does not need to exist. Rather, the ramifications are far more important and positive for our nation as a whole. In Robinson’s own words, this is a step forward.

The new and reformed Robinson - perhaps there is hope for all of us?

The new and reformed Robinson – perhaps there is hope for all of us?

I cannot help but believe an alien visitor to this planet, looking for an example of overwhelming tolerance and compassion, would find itself setting down in the United Kingdom. We may have a global reputation for abject cynicism and pessimism, but we are capable of making a giant leap of faith to foster communal harmony, and for that we should be proud of taking the lead amongst nations.

While many of our European neighbours and American cousins are besieged with corrosive anti-Islamic sentiment, rhetoric and hatred, the UK has resisted falling into that acrid abyss. Instead, we have followed in the tradition of this great nation by encouraging dialogue and understanding between differing ideologies. I cannot help but imagine that those who had fallen in the fight against Nazism would take pride in their sacrifice today.

The band of increasingly far-right extremists that Robinson left behind in the EDL will inevitably exhaust themselves of ideas and goodwill and instead ironically suffer the fate of their Islamist counterparts, becoming a marginal and irrelevant itch on the fringe of society; two sides of the same old penny, no longer in circulation and always turning up when no one wants them.

Some may say that Robinson sold out and shacked up with the enemy. But most intelligent spectators would argue that he has invested in a better future of greater tolerance and less extremism. We can only hope other communities and other nations of the world take notice and follow suit. Whether they do or not, I for one will remain proud to be British.

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