Islam: Tenets - Question

– in the House of Lords at 6:06 pm on 7th December 2017.

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Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP 6:06 pm, 7th December 2017

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether, as part of their strategy against Islamist terrorism, they will encourage UK Muslim leaders to re-examine the Muslim tenets of abrogation, Taqiyya and Al Hijra and to publish their conclusions.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

My Lords, this Question is yet another attempt to start some sort of open discussion in this country about the nature of Islam. You can say what you like about the virgin birth, the miracles and the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but you get into serious trouble if you try to touch at all on the subject of Islam and what it really is. I repeat that I am in no sense an expert on Islam, but I am advised by four people who are.

I have been encouraged by what the most reverend Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury said in two speeches last autumn. He said that in order to defeat terrorism, we need to understand the mindset of those who perpetrate it; that if we treat religiously motivated violence solely as a security or political issue, it may prove impossible to overcome it; that it is wrong to say that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam; and that until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religions, we will see no resolution. I make it clear that the most reverend Primate was speaking not only about the darkness which is erupting within Islam, but about the Christian militia in the Central Africa Republic and the Hindu treatment of Christians in south India. No doubt he would now add the Buddhist persecution of the Rohingya Muslims.

Before coming to the detail of this Question, I suppose I should repeat some of the absolute basics of the Muslim religion. Islam does not, as so often averred, mean peace; it means submission to the will of Allah, the Muslim God. Islam and its sharia law are an indivisible legal, religious and political system, taking all authority from the Koran and from what Muhammad did and said in his lifetime. So it is a complete way of life, and does not sit easily with our western liberal democracies and our separation of powers between legislature, executive, judiciary and Church. Within this very broad generality there are a number of very controversial Muslim tenets, three of which I have put into the Question on the Order Paper, and two more of which I will mention. I very much hope that peaceful Muslim leaders do not accept any of them and that they will say so forcefully. The point is that the jihadists most definitely do accept them and take their evil inspiration from them.

The first is abrogation, which holds that the later verses in the Koran cancel the earlier peaceful verses—the verses of the sword cancel the verses of peace. So, for example, the much-quoted early verse, “Let there be no compulsion in religion”, is nullified many times in later verses. Taqiyya is more controversial but in its aggressive interpretation holds that Muslims living outside the Muslim world are encouraged to deceive their hosts in order to further Islam. A worrying example of Taqiyya took place on 18 September 2014, when 119 British imams and Muslim leaders wrote to the Independent newspaper to assure us that the beheading of the British aid worker David Haines,

“cannot be justified anywhere in the Quran”.

To back this up, they quoted from surah 5, verse 32 of the Koran as follows:

“Whosoever kills a human being ... it is as if killing the entire human race; and whosoever saves a life, saves the entire human race”.

The Taqiyya, or deception, becomes clear when you fill in the dots. The missing passage reads, “unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land”. So the Koran actually says you can be killed for spreading mischief in the land, which to the jihadist is doing anything that frustrates his evil purpose.

My third tenet is Al Hijra, which is taken from Muhammad’s example after he had accepted his multifaith hosts’ hospitality in Medina for five years and had become strong enough to force them to choose between exile, converting to his new religion or death. He ordered the death of several hundred people and Islam went on to conquer most of the known world. One of our so-called Trojan horse schools in Birmingham is actually called the Al-Hijrah School, so the tenet is alive and well in the UK today.

The two other Muslim tenets that I want to mention and ask our Muslim leaders to address are, first, the ambition to create a world caliphate and, secondly, the death penalty for leaving the Muslim religion, or apostasy. As for the caliphate, I can do no better than recommend a courageous article in the Daily Telegraph on 19 August this year entitled:

“Don’t blame the West, the terror won’t stop until Muslims reject the caliphate”.

The point about that article is that it was written by Mr Ed Husain, who was a militant Muslim for five years, so he knows what he is talking about. I will put a copy in your Lordships’ Library.

Death for apostasy applies in 13 predominantly Muslim countries but not here, so I trust that our Muslim leaders will have no difficulty in declaring it to be un-Islamic. Who are the Muslim leaders who the Government should encourage to re-examine these tenets? There is no Pope in Islam and its many sects and divisions make it very difficult to deal with. Presumably we will not be consulting the 119 imams who wrote to the Independent. There was a group of 130 leading Muslims who issued an unprecedented statement through the Muslim Council of Britain, refusing to perform the funeral prayers for the three terrorist attackers at London Bridge last June who were shot dead after killing seven people and wounding 48 others. Perhaps the Government could try them or the Muslim Council of Britain itself. I am advised that the Union of Mosques and Imams should also be approached. However, I do not have much doubt that the Government will not accept my suggestion and that, if they do, our Muslim leaders will not collaborate. This would be a pity because, if these tenets stand as part of the Muslim religion, Islam cannot possibly be a religion of peace and we should not go on pretending and hoping that it is.

We should instead be taking some initiative now which will help to avoid the eventual Muslim takeover of our society, at least in our major Muslim conurbations. You have only to look at the Muslim birth rate to see that that is now a real possibility. The latest figures I have from the ONS show that the Muslim population in England rose 10 times faster between 2001 and 2016 than did the rest of the population, by 107% compared to 11%. In six of our top Muslim conurbations, it rose by an average of 130%, and 33% of our Muslims in England are under the age of 15, compared to 18% of the rest of us.

The Government continue to tolerate sharia law here, whereby a Muslim man can have four wives, each of whom he can divorce by merely saying “I divorce you” three times. Of course, the Muslim wives cannot do the same.

Written Answers from the Government reveal that they do not have a clue what is being preached in sermons in our mosques or what is being taught in our madrassahs, or Muslim schools. What is more, they do not intend to try to find out.

Whenever some of us try to raise the issue of Islam, we are told that it is we who are undermining the Prevent programme or interfaith dialogue—dialogue with what faith?—even that we are spreading hate towards the Muslims and making them feel insecure. Speaking of the Prevent programme, it seems to me that our Muslim communities could be doing more to stand up to and expose their violent co-religionists, because only 8.6% of tip-offs to the programme or the police come from within those communities. If they co-operated more, they would be less distrusted by their non-Muslim neighbours.

In conclusion, as a leading Muslim said to a friend of mine recently: “We do not need to go on blowing you up. All we have to do is to wait until we can take you over through the power of the womb and the ballot box”. I hope he was not right.

I am very grateful to all noble Lords who are here to speak. At least we are talking about Islam. That seems to be a step in the right direction and I look forward to all other contributions, however much some contributors may disagree with what I have said.

Photo of Lord Patten Lord Patten Conservative 6:17 pm, 7th December 2017

The noble Lord’s exegesis on Islamic theology was concerning and, in one or two parts, I think confusing. I do not criticise him for that because I am neither a theologian nor a philosopher. I therefore cannot judge how much scholarly water some of his assertions hold, but I must say that I have previously reflected whether it might be a good thing if many of our government ministries had a moral philosopher or two on their staff to advise Ministers about the rectitude of the course that they were about to enter into.

I do know that there is no text in the great books of the three Abrahamic religions that directly promotes or sanctions terrorism. While the record shows that Judaism has been pretty restrained over the millennia in the matter of religious violence within or without its communities, alas, one cannot say the same about the Christian religion in England—Catholics and Protestants in particular were going at each other for hundreds of years, busily burning and then, to make a change of pace, disembowelling each other in the interests of religion. I am extremely sorry that that ever happened.

Right reverend Prelates are extremely busy doing stuff in their dioceses, but it is a pity that we do not have a right reverend Prelate on their Bench to listen to what is going on this afternoon. Perhaps the most reverent Primate the Archbishop of Canterbury and his brother of York might look at this issue, because we really need their wisdom here. In exactly the same way—there are not so many formal Jewish rabbis in this place—it would have been good to have a noble Lord, Lord Sacks, as it were, to give his views.

Mercifully, the bad habits of the Catholics—and I happen to be one of those; that is a declaration of interest and complete transparency—and Protestants in dealing with each other was dropped a few centuries ago, although sometimes the theological debate can still be pretty robust between us. Christians have, in a phrase, grown out of it. Now in the final long, drawn-out act involving the Islamic world, we must be equally robust in asserting that terrorism and religion do not sit together. One is not an excuse for the other; only perverted minds seek to use religion for their perverted ends. I wonder how many so-called Islamic terrorists have actually read the Holy Koran in detail.

What is to be done? We have lots of advice on this. The new de facto Sunni ruler of Saudi Arabia, Prince Mohammad bin Salman, has just started bouncing around about the issue with his characteristic vigour, and said on 26 November of Islamic terrorism:

“We will pursue it until it disappears completely from the surface of the earth”.

Heigh-ho! That really is hyperbole on stilts at a time when Saudi Arabia is violently and in the name of religion pursuing proxy wars against other brands of Islam all over the Middle East and Africa, from Yemen to Libya and back. Such terror simply begets other terror.

A very important issue that was not touched on by the noble Lord in his concerning introductory speech is how much a debate on Islamic terrorism must begin with a clear recognition that, all too often, it is a case of Muslim on Muslim—Sunni on Shia with, for example, that terrible attack on the innocent Sufis in the Sinai at holy prayers in their mosque a week or two ago. Then of course, in the Middle East, Alawites and Ismailis feel a degree of fear, and feel threatened. However, we in this place and in the West cannot enforce what we see as reason on the Islamic world, nor can we be thought to be lecturing it about deep-seated and sometimes fracturing theological debates which we do not perhaps understand. I certainly do not understand some of them. In the end, the Islamic world has to sort itself out and, just as the Christian world did in England and elsewhere, grow out of the kind of stuff that it seeks now to do with us. I do not expect this to happen very soon. I happen to have a very close Muslim friend, who I have known for 20 or getting on for 25 years. We were speaking only yesterday, and I asked him how many decades it would take for the Muslim world to come out of this present epoch. He paused and said, “It won’t take decades—it will take centuries”. That is a very foreboding thought, grim but realistic. Dealing with Islamic terrorism, or what claims to be Islamic terrorism, is going to be how we live for a very long time.

The only approach to this is to treat all terrorism equally, wherever it comes from. Terrorists are terrorists by definition, regardless of their purported cause. Our security services do a very good job in keeping an eye as much as they can, particularly when things are going quiet. If you just go across the water to Ireland north and south of the border, there is that old saying that there is always a “pike in the thatch” from people on both sides of the religious divide. I believe that that is the case there—and sometimes, when things are quiet, we have to be extremely concerned.

Sometimes defending life means ending life, and that excellent and experienced Minister from his time in Iraq onwards, Mr Rory Stewart, has reminded us about that in another place. Our defences must ever be strengthened, which is why the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Bill making its way through your Lordships’ House, enabling us to target groups such as Daesh or al-Qaeda, is so essential to delivering safety at home and our foreign-policy aims abroad. But it is always where things seem to be quiet that terrorists will suddenly appear.

As somebody who works in financial services in the City of London, I rejoice to see how they have been put at the service of religion in making it a centre for Islamic finance in this world. My noble friend Lord Sheikh knows much more about this stuff than I ever will. We are very complacently saying that it is terribly good that we have all this going on in the City of London, but those people who use terror look to places like that and businesses like that with venom, so we must not let our guard drop.

Photo of Lord Desai Lord Desai Labour 6:24 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Patten, who has always been a thoughtful Member of your Lordships’ House. I also congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, on introducing this topic. We have sat next to each other for many years and of course we have often disagreed, but the thing about the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is that everyone thinks he is wrong, but he wins in the end—as he did with Brexit—so we have to listen to him carefully. Let us hope he does not this time, but that is another issue.

Ever since 9/11, I have taken the view that Islam will be used by the terrorists for what they do, but it is not an Islamic problem; it is a political movement which I and others have called Islamism. Islamism has a very tenuous connection with the religion and its religious texts. I do not read Arabic, so I will not comment on whether abrogation is a good or a bad thing, but I will say this: if we are to understand what is happening by way of jihadist terrorism, we have to understand that it is first of all a civil war within Islam. A lot of damage is done by the Islamic terrorists to fellow Muslims. Indeed, ever since 1973, which was the third and last defeat of the Arab nations to abolish Israel, it has been clear that the modernist, socialist alternative in the Arab world had lost credibility. The Middle East went back to religion; it thought that the only answer was to go back to religion to find a solace or a solution.

Ever since then, we have had this schism in the Islamic world, in which those who want a purer, more fanatical regime—Wahhabism or Salafism—have wanted to subvert Muslim majority societies and replace whoever rules them with a harder version of Sharia law and enforcement of religious morality and so on. The human cost to Muslim societies has been much, much bigger than we can calculate compared with what has happened to our societies. Since 1973—nearly 44 years ago—the Middle East has been in a continuous war-like situation. I will not cite all the cases, but in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, in Nigeria and Sudan in Africa and in Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt in north Africa, there have been continuous war-like situations. It is entirely an internal civil war.

One reason why I believe this civil war has been carrying on—I wrote about this in a book about 10 years ago—is that we have not solved the vacuum created by the disappearance of the Ottoman Empire in 1921. I have recently also written about how we can think of the last 100 years’ history as solving the problem caused by the First World War. Each empire that disappeared—such as the Romanov or the Hohenzollern empires—caused problems that had to be solved in the rest of the century. The Romanov problem was solved finally in 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. The Hohenzollern gave us lots of problems but those problems were tackled by the end of the Second World War. The Ottoman Empire disappeared in, as you choose, 1918 or 1921, or whenever it was. We have not resolved that problem. We drew up the arbitrary Sykes-Picot line and created countries but we have not resolved the vacuum that that left.

I take up a technical issue with the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, concerning the caliphate. As noble Lords know, a continuous caliph was established soon after the Prophet died. The caliph was a spiritual leader and, very often, the ruling emperor in the Islamic world. Muslims used to offer prayers to the caliph at Friday prayers until the last caliph disappeared. In India, there was a movement called the Khilafat movement because it was suspected that the British might either abolish the caliphate or replace it with one of their own infidel appointees. As it happened, Kemal Atatürk abolished the caliphate. However, its abolition has created a huge vacuum which we ought to take very seriously. It is as if the papacy had been abolished while the Catholic Church had been kept. We cannot imagine that but that is precisely what the effect is. After 1921, for the first time in the 1,200-year history of Islam, there was no caliph. That psychological shock has not been taken on board. If I were to suggest a policy that we ought to follow, it would insist on there being a caliph approved by the entire Sunni community, not some upstart like Baghdadi who made himself a caliph with absolutely no qualification or pedigree. There are rules regarding who can become a caliph. We have missed a trick here. The collapse of the Ottoman Empire has not been resolved and we have not understood the politics involved here.

Photo of Lord Hussain Lord Hussain Non-affiliated 6:32 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, as we are aware, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has previously raised the question of Taqiyya and Al Hijra in the House at Questions, where I thought he had a good hearing. However, his subsequent attempt at securing this debate for the same question shows his deeper interest in the issue.

First, I wish to talk a little about the two main tenets that the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, is concerned about. I am a Muslim and I attend prayers at a local mosque as regularly as I can. To my knowledge, the term “Al Hijra” refers to the migration of the Prophet Mohammed—peace be upon him—from Mecca to Medina and it is the mark of the Islamic calendar.

For the benefit of noble Lords’ knowledge, today is the 18th of Rabi al Awal, the ninth month of the Islamic Hijra calendar year 1438. According to major English dictionaries, including the Collins English Dictionary, Al Hijra is an annual Muslim festival marking the beginning of the Muslim year. It commemorates Mohammed’s move from Mecca to Medina and involves the exchange of gifts. I have never met any Muslim who understands any other meaning of the term “Al Hijra” than the above mentioned internationally recognised meaning. In the light of this, it makes no sense for the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, or anyone else to ask Muslim leaders to re-examine the term.

There are two different opinions within the Muslim faith on the term “Taqiyya”. I understand from scholars of the Sunni school of thought, which has the largest following among British Muslims, that they do not believe this tenet exists and therefore would never practise it. However, those sects who do believe in Taqiyya consider it to be an extreme measure for extreme circumstances. According to them, Taqiyya is about concealing your own religious beliefs when confronted with the threat of persecution and death, comparing it with the Jews who had to conceal their identity in Nazi Germany or Christians in present-day Syria. It is a defensive response to a threat of attack, which cannot be used for other purposes.

However, as many noble Lords are aware, in any debate relating to Muslims or Islam in this House, the argument of the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, always finds its way to somehow link the Islamic faith with violence and terrorism. Would the Minister not agree with me that the vast majority of the 2 billion Muslims living around the world, including the 4 million living in Britain, are peace-loving and law-abiding citizens?

The small minority of those who get involved in terrorism in the name of Islam are either misled or do not have basic knowledge of Islam; nor do they practise it. A report was recently released by the Oasis Foundation, which is a Christian group of schools. Having compiled evidence from the United Nations and MI5, among others, the report found that religion is not the main cause or motivation of these individuals. Indeed, high numbers of them do not practise the faith that they claim to fight for and have little or no understanding of Islam. Many were found to be engaged in activities that are strictly forbidden in Islam, such as the consumption of alcohol and drugs. I encourage noble Lords to take some time to read this report. I anticipate that it will make uncomfortable reading for those who seek to promote the falsehood that Islam is a religion that leads people into violence. To suggest that these individuals have any understanding of the type of terms put forward by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, today is quite laughable.

Over the past few years, we have seen a huge rise in Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim racism, as it has been defined in the recently published Runnymede report. The report finds that anti-Muslim prejudice has grown further and wider and Muslims in the UK are increasingly disadvantaged in all areas of life. Would the Minister not agree that the way the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, uses his ill-informed narrative to demonise the great religion of Islam and blames this religion for all the ills of the world actually fuels anti-Muslim sentiments that lead to hate crime?

In conclusion, I suggest if the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, wants to understand the teachings of Islam properly, then I am happy to host a meeting to introduce him to people who are able to offer comprehensive teaching of Islamic doctrine. Finally, I ask the Minister to remind the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, of our nation’s commitment to protect and honour the rights of minorities and that freedom of religion is a core value central to our democracy.

Photo of Lord Marlesford Lord Marlesford Conservative 6:38 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has performed a useful function in introducing this sensitive and delicate subject so that we can, at any rate, discuss it. I want to focus my remarks on political Islam and its links with the many jihadist organisations that, as we have heard, inflict terror on other Muslims and on the non-Muslim world.

I have learned a lot from a lecture given on 15 November in New Haven by Sir John Jenkins. I hope that the Minister has read it and I certainly recommend it to other noble Lords. Sir John, an accomplished Arabist and British diplomat, was consul-general in Jerusalem and subsequently Her Majesty’s ambassador in Syria, in Iraq and finally in Saudi Arabia until 2015. He took an active part in the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry. In March 2014, he was appointed by the then Prime Minister Cameron to lead a policy review into the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islamism. Sir John was assisted by Charles Farr, who since December 2015 has been the chair of the JIC—the Joint Intelligence Committee—in the Cabinet.

The review was completed in July 2014 but the report was never published. Only a summary appeared, and that was in December 2015, 18 months later. However, that summary concluded with a damning statement:

“Muslim Brotherhood ideology and tactics, in this country and overseas, are contrary to our values and have been contrary to our national interests and our national security”.

Astonishingly, Prime Minister Cameron merely made a Written Statement to the House of Commons, in which he said that the Government would,

“keep under review whether the views and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood meet the legal test for proscription”.—[Official Report, Commons, 17/12/15; col. 418WS.]

The text of the Jenkins lecture is indeed illuminating to somebody from outside, like me, and I found it disturbing. First, Jenkins dismisses as “almost worthless” any attempt to place the Islamists,

“on some scale of relative extremism or moderation”.

I certainly do not intend to speak of the religion of Islam. Any analysis of its kaleidoscopic complexity and didactic variations is well beyond me. The Sufi version of Sunni Islam seems to me to be closer to what Christians could recognise as a monotheistic religion of peace and love. In the atrocity of 24 November this year in Egypt, for which Daesh has claimed responsibility, 305 Sufi Muslims—including 28 children—were shot while praying in a mosque in north Sinai.

Last Friday, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, the most ancient mosque in Cairo, and himself a Sunni, condemned this attack. This is an important step forward. Hitherto, due to the intimidation to which they are subject, very few of that great majority of the Muslim clerics who abhor the violent and cruel terrorism of political Islam as much as we do have spoken out against it.

Political Islam and the various Islamist terrorist bodies affiliated with it can no more claim religious justification for their horrific acts than could the IRA for its acts of murder during the Troubles. On 29 September 1979, Pope John Paul II, who was visiting Ireland, appealed to,

“the moral sense and Christian conviction”,

of the Irish, at his mass in Drogheda, with the words:

“Nobody may ever call murder by any other name than murder … On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence”.

That it took so long for peace to return did not mean that the Roman Catholic Church ever endorsed, justified or excused murders committed by the IRA.

I have long seen the relationship of the Muslim Brotherhood to the military wings of the Salafist Wahhabi creed, such as al-Qaeda and Daesh, as rather similar to the relationship that once existed between Sinn Fein and the IRA. The Muslim Brotherhood, originally partly based on the theories of Italian fascism, was founded in 1928 in Egypt by al-Banna, who promoted ultimate martyrdom through death in conflict. Its final aim, proclaimed by the Islamic State in April 2014, is the installation of a worldwide theocratic state, or caliphate, under Sharia law.

Theocracy is, by definition, the antithesis of democracy because, once in place, it cannot be removed by the electorate. This conflict can be most clearly observed in Iran, where a supreme leader—in this case, Shia—with the revolutionary guard as enforcers, keeps a careful check on the semi-democratically elected Government of President Rouhani. Jenkins points out:

“Links between the Brotherhood and the Khomeinist trend in Iran go back as far as the 1950s”.

The Muslim Brotherhood operates with much tactical skill. It assassinated President Sadat in October 1981 after he had made peace with Israel. It achieved full power in Egypt through the ballot box in January 2012, only to be ejected by popular protest, supported by the army, in July 2013 following economic chaos. Jenkins concludes that,

“if Egypt had fallen to the Brotherhood, the whole of North Africa would have eventually become a bastion of political Islamism”.

He said that in 2005, after the 7/7 attack on London transport in which 56 people died, the Brotherhood claimed to be working to prevent further attacks on Britain. That is perhaps why HMG have left them alone. It should be noted that the European leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Ibrahim Munir, has lived in London for many years. I understand that he is likely soon to become the group’s world leader.

The Anderson report on terrorism, published on Monday, makes extensive reference to the background of the Manchester bomber Salman Abedi, but fails to refer to the fact that his father, Ramadan Abedi, was part of the Libyan Muslim Brotherhood and a former al-Qaeda operative in Libya. Last week, 33 members of the US Congress wrote to Secretary of State Tillerson urging him to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a foreign terrorist organisation. I believe that the time may have come for us to do the same here.

Photo of Lord Parekh Lord Parekh Labour 6:46 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, I begin by complimenting the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, on securing this debate. His introduction was quite interesting, although I was a little disappointed that what began as a calm disquisition on Islam turned, as it moved on, into a kind of diatribe. That is an inevitable danger. If one talks about Islam as a whole, rather than concentrating on a particular aspect of it, there is a danger of spreading oneself too thinly and covering a lot of ground. Therefore, as, I hope, a good academic, I want to concentrate on the Question itself.

The Question that the noble Lord has asked—every word is carefully chosen, although occasionally mischievous, and certainly interesting—is whether the Government will encourage Muslim leaders to re-examine the three Muslim tenets of abrogation, Taqiyya and Al Hijra, and to publish their findings. I want to look at those three concepts. What are the Islamic tenets on these three concepts? Do they need to be revised or re-examined and, if so, along what lines?

The first is “abrogation”. I am sorry that the noble Lord used Arabic for the other two tenets, whereas he left this one as “abrogation”; in Arabic the word is “Naskh”. Naskh is simply a theoretical tool to interpret the Koran. Where the different verses of the Koran—or the verses of the Koran and the Hadith—do not match, you need a rule for interpretation. The rule generally is that the later Koranic verses supersede the earlier ones, as they do in the Hadith. That is what abrogation means.

Taqiyya is a much trickier concept. It largely means “covering up” or “dissimulation”. It means that when a Muslim is in a crisis situation or likely to face intense persecution, he is allowed to lie about his faith. He can say, “Look, I’m not a Muslim”, if Muslims are going to be attacked. At one level, he would seem to be disloyal to Allah to whom he has agreed to submit, but on another level he is excused because his life is in danger. As the Oxford dictionary puts it, it is really a precautionary dissimulation of religious belief. But again, it has been reinterpreted, as all these tenets have been. It was reinterpreted after 9/11 to mean that a Muslim has a religious obligation, not just a religious permission, to lie and to lie not only to survive but to proselytise his own religion.

The third idea is the idea of Al Hijra, which refers to Muhammad and his companions migrating from Mecca to Medina in 622 CE to set up the first Islamic state. The Muslim calendar counts dates from the Hijra, and Muslim dates have the suffix AH, which means “After Hijra”. In recent times, the concept of Al Hijra or Muhammad’s move from Mecca to Medina is taken to mean that Muslims have an obligation to move from a secular society to one that allows you to practise religion or be suffused with the religious spirit—or to oppose colonial rule. That is what happened, as the noble Lord, Lord Desai, suggested, in India during the time of British rule, when several Muslims on religious grounds said that they would rather move to Afghanistan from India rather than stay on because they suspected that colonial rule was not going to give them freedom.

My point in all this is simply to say, first, that the re-examination of these concepts is going on and that no encouragement is required because circumstances compel Muslim leaders to reinterpret those concepts, just as Hindus and Christians have been compelled. Secondly, government intervention in these matters is always ill-advised because it politicises scholarship. Scholarship loses its sense of detachment and integrity. More importantly, the Government have no competence in the matter. If someone interprets Al Hijra in one way and the noble Lord, Lord Desai, interprets it in another and the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, in another, how will the Prime Minister decide which one to encourage and which to discourage? It is not the Government’s business. To give the Government religious authority is the worst thing that any liberal, or even non-liberal, society can aim to do.

The third difficulty is why only these three tenets? These three are not really crucial. I can think of half a dozen others, so why just these three? And more importantly, why only Islam? What about Hinduism? The noble Lord, Lord Desai, wrote a book about the Bhagavad Gita—a secular reading of a religious text. Lots of Hindus whom I know are deeply uneasy about it because they would like it to be seen differently. The question is why concentrate only on Islam. Even verses in the Old Testament breed the spirit of violence and hatred. The New Testament is just as bad in some cases—apart from the “Sermon on the Mount”, it contains other passages that can be just as obnoxious. So why concentrate on only one religion?

The next question that worries me is: will it assist the cause of anti-terrorism? It will not. Terrorists are not just guided because of these three tenets. They are guided by other considerations, such as being unhappy with our foreign policy or a sense of alienation growing up in our society. There are all kinds of reasons, and religion is simply being used as the language of expression, not as the source from which the inspiration is derived. When religion is simply being used as the language of expression, the causes lie elsewhere. If we are looking for a reinterpretation of the tenets in the hope that that would stop terrorism, there is no such possibility of that happening.

The last point that I want to make is that Islam, like any other religion, has both violent and non-violent traits. That is just as true of Christianity. How could the religion of simple peasants lead to the largest empire, of many different kinds, in human history—the British colonial, the French and all that? How could it justify slavery? If we think of Christianity, the enormous amount of good as well as harm that it has done simply cannot be explained away. Every religion has the potential for both. Which potential is being actualised depends on the circumstances. Muslim countries—it is not Islam as such but Muslim countries—are passing through a phase of identity crisis, deep alienation and anger against the West for its foreign policy or for its support of native tin-pot rulers, so obviously they are going to take the form of aggression.

The simple point I want to make is that, if we want to have this sort of discussion as part of an anti-terrorist strategy, the Government’s strategy—which I would have loved to discuss—leaves a lot to be desired. The Prevent strategy is not the answer, and to fit anything into that mould is not the way to proceed.

Photo of Baroness Stedman-Scott Baroness Stedman-Scott Deputy Chairman of Committees, Baroness in Waiting (HM Household) (Whip)

My Lords, perhaps I may say respectfully that we have limited time in this debate. All noble Lords have prepared for it incredibly well and have great points to make, but we need to allow time for the Minister to reply to them. I would ask noble Lords to honour the time allowed for speaking.

Photo of Lord Sheikh Lord Sheikh Conservative 6:55 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, I begin by expressing my disquiet and resentment at the wording of the Question for this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has referred to Islamist terrorism. I feel that to use “Islamic” or “Islamist” relating to any form of terrorism is completely wrong. Islam is a religion of peace and does not allow any form of suicide attack or terrorist activity. A terrorist should be referred to as a terrorist without reference to any religion. During the IRA activities, it was inappropriate to associate terrorism with a particular religion. It would be greatly appreciated if one were careful about using appropriate language in your Lordships’ House, otherwise it may cause offence to the people of this country.

I received numerous complaints from Muslims when it became known that this debate had been tabled. Islam is indeed a religion of peace and I promote this fact in my coat of arms. Even when we greet somebody, we use the phrase As-salāmu ‘alaykum, which means “peace be upon you”. I would like to emphasise that it is written in the Holy Koran that Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has said: “Whoever kills a human being, it is as though he has killed all mankind, and whoever saves a human being, it is as though he has saved all mankind”. This is very similar to what is written in the Talmud. Islam and Judaism, like other religions, both value the sanctity of life.

There are more than 3 million Muslims in this country and nearly all of them are peace-loving people. They have been successful in every walk of life and have contributed to the advancement and well-being of this country. I appreciate and understand that a tiny minority have acted very badly and committed criminal offences. What they have said and what they are doing is totally un-Islamic. Islam teaches us to celebrate the difference and diversity which God has purposefully created in our world.

The Question of this debate refers also to UK Muslim leaders. I consider myself to be one of the Muslim leaders. I am very active in combating extremism and radicalisation among all communities, and I have attended and spoken at numerous meetings. I have been involved in initiatives and have taken positive action to deal with the issues of radicalisation and extremism. To deal with them requires a holistic approach and we must all work together. It should involve the community, local authorities, schools, universities, prison authorities and the police. Mosques, Imams and Muslim centres also have a vital role to play. We must also take steps to combat radicalisation through the use of the internet, notably through social media, and for this we must work with organisations that can do so effectively. Because of the shortage of time, I cannot enumerate the steps to be taken, although I have prepared an extended report on these issues.

I am also actively involved in promoting interfaith dialogue and I am a patron of five Muslim and non-Muslim organisations which are involved in these activities. In the Holy Koran, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has said: “O mankind! We have created you from male and female and made you into nations and tribes, that you may know one another”. As Muslims, we should get to know one another and people from other communities, as commanded by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

Radicalisation and extremism cannot be dealt with by looking at theological issues, because we need to take positive steps. I am proud to be a practising Muslim. I have studied the Holy Koran and the Sunnah. I doubt very much if the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, has made a deep study of Islam. I feel that a debate such as this, tabled by him, can create discord and lead to further problems.

In verse 106, Surah An-Nahl refers to the notion of Taqiyya—hiding one’s faith in life-threatening conditions—as only self-defence. Mainstream Islam does not accept the current situation anywhere in the West as threatening Muslims to an extent that they would need to hide their faith identity to survive. This question is therefore completely irrelevant. In regard to Al Hijra, in verse 97, Sura An-Nisa refers to Taqiyya in compelling cases where Muslims cannot practise their faith for fear of persecution and threat to their life. In such extreme circumstances, they are advised to leave the land of hostility for a safer place. Again, no such conditions exist in the West to compel Muslims to migrate away from the West. This is again totally irrelevant and taken out of context.

In Islamic terminology, abrogation means lifting a ruling indicated by a sharia text, on the basis of evidence from the Holy Koran or consensus of the Sunnah. In most cases, the abrogation was to make things easier for Muslims or increase the rewards. As a Muslim, I say that it is totally unnecessary to re-examine the three points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Pearson. I want to emphasise that any act of terrorism is not in our name.

Finally, I urge everyone in the country to be united and stand together to combat any form of radicalisation or extremism, in whatever form it comes.

Photo of Lord Ahmed Lord Ahmed Non-affiliated 7:03 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, in the name of God, most gracious and most merciful, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for giving me this opportunity. For the last 10 years, I have had discussions with him on TV channels, as well as in this House; I do not agree with him, but I thank him for the opportunity to speak. I want to correct him on a few things. I wish that he would respect the Prophet Muhammad as I respect the Virgin Mary and Jesus Christ.

There are a number of things that I need to clarify: first, the caliphate. The noble Lord, Lord Desai, is very knowledgeable; I do not wish to disagree with him, but in cases of the Ottoman Empire, Mogul Empire and North African empire, the caliphate did not exist after Sayedna Umar, Uthman and Ali—that is it. The deliberate concept of mischievous Muslims who can have four wives in the United Kingdom is nonsense. British law is the superior law in this country. Nobody is allowed to have four wives. Saying that Muslims are breeding more children and will take over is using the same language that Nazis used against Jewish communities before the Second World War. It is done deliberately when there is hatred against Muslims for their birth rate. As for someone killing someone who leaves their religion—in this country, nobody can do anything above the law. I am a Muslim; I am British. My law is the British law, which is for everyone. To be mischievous and say, “These Muslims have some other laws in this country, they will breed children, they will take over this country”, is a deliberate attempt to frighten people.

On the secular rule that Muslims are told after Al Hijra to leave|, I hosted Christian communities from Ethiopia here last night because of the human rights situation there. Abyssinia was a place where the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, asked his companions to go and live under a Christian ruler because he allowed them to live in peace, just like the majority of the 20 million to 30 million of us who are living here in the United Kingdom, in Europe and in the United States.

Looking at some of the figures, in America the Internal Revenue Service is quoted as saying that $200 million was spent by the Islamophobia industry last year, most of it by groups designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate crime groups. We need to put things into context.

I do not have to preach to anyone what the Holy Bible, which I respect, says in the Books of Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua and both Books of Kings. They talk about slaughter and genocide. If these fanatics—ISIS or Daesh—picked up the Bible and said, “This is why they invaded Iraq and kill Muslims. because this is the teaching of the Bible”, it would be complete nonsense. Whatever the religion, whether Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism—one of the most peaceful religions on earth, but we see what is happening in Myanmar to the Rohingya communities—Islam, Judaism or Christianity, it is the individuals who abuse the texts and the religion for their own violent, political purposes.

This is a great country. Frankly, we do not need Islamophobes, because every time we see people from Britain First and other groups create this hatred, attacks on Muslim, European and ethnic minority communities go up. When the Minister replies, will she tell us the figures on how much hatred and hate crime goes up when these groups use this bad language? Only last week a Muslim woman was refused service in McDonald’s because she was wearing a hijab. Visible Muslims with beards, or even those in the Sikh community with turbans, are attacked. People who speak European languages are abused on buses. We have seen the videos.

In this wonderful, democratic place, we should be talking about the great contribution communities have made. When my father came here after the Blitz this country’s industry had disintegrated. In the steel industry, the textile industry, the infrastructure, the health service and the transport industry, ethnic minorities, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs from Europe and the Commonwealth came here and made this country the Great Britain that it is today. During the Labour Government we had the third largest economy; I used to go around the world proudly telling people that. Even today Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world. Yes, we have criminals, but if we start pointing the finger at all the Muslims first, then it may be the Jewish communities after, then maybe the Sikh communities after that. Then we might say, “All these coloured people, different people who do not look like us, do not have green eyes like us, are responsible for our social deprivation, unemployment and economic crisis”. That is what the Nazis did. That is what Hitler’s people did.

I just hope that we come to our senses and talk about the great contribution. This is a great country—Muslims and non-Muslims, all of us, stand together. Terrorists murdered 37 of our citizens.

Photo of Lord Alderdice Lord Alderdice Liberal Democrat 7:10 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, first, I declare my interests as in the register, in particular my directorship of the Centre for the Resolution of Intractable Conflict at Oxford University. Having spent a great deal of time thinking about these things and then listened to the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, I do not know whether the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, will have the same nostalgic feeling that I have had, because so many of the things that I heard him say were exactly those that I grew up hearing from Dr Ian Paisley about Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland. “They’re going to breed us out”, was one of the favourite ones. “They kill people because of apostasy. Look at the Spanish Inquisition, and poor Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer burnt at the stake in Oxford for their Protestant religion”—indeed, he called his church in Belfast Martyrs Memorial because of all the Protestants who had been murdered by the Catholic Church. He was not so strong on mentioning the Catholics who had been murdered by the Protestants, but there you are: we see it from our own perspective. There were many other similarities as well.

Then came the demand: if Catholics are actually opposed to the IRA, why does the leadership of the Catholic Church not come out and say so in unequivocal terms? It is very much what the noble Lord has said about the leadership of the Muslim community. And so, one month after Lord Mountbatten, then a Member of your Lordships’ House, was murdered by the IRA, Pope Jean Paul II became the first reigning Pope to come to Ireland. As the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, referred to, he said:

“I appeal to you, in language of passionate pleading. On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace … To Catholics, to Protestants, my message is peace and love. May no Irish Protestant think that the Pope is an enemy, a danger or a threat”.

He appealed to young people to turn away, and so on. Within days, the IRA gave him his reply: it dismissed it. In that reply, it pointed out that the problem was a political problem and not a religious problem: it was not killing Protestants because they were Protestants, and the loyalists were not killing Catholics because they believed in transubstantiation; it was a political problem.

Sometimes, people will say, “Ah, but it is a completely different thing if you’re dealing with Islamist terrorists”. I think people sometimes need to explore the issues that they are talking about rather than simply presume. I went and spent some time talking to Abu Qatada, the European leader of al-Qaeda. I started talking to him in prison, necessarily through an interpreter, about the fact that, for me, religious faith was very important. He said, “Look, that’s fine. We can talk about religious faith if you like, but this is not a religious problem. This is a political problem. It is a political problem of what is happening in my part of the world and has been happening for a very long time”. The more I have looked at it, the more I have become convinced that he was correct—in fact, he was actually prepared to do what the IRA had been doing: to come out and say that violence would not get the political outcome they wanted. He asked me to take a personal message to the office of the Prime Minister here in the United Kingdom—the Prime Minister at the time was Gordon Brown. I took the message, but there was no interest on the part of the British Government in exploring whether Abu Qatada was prepared to come out and say, “This business of the use of violence is wrong, counterproductive and a mistake”. They were prepared to do it eventually, after a lot of pressure, with the IRA, with people like John Hume, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, but they were not prepared to do it with Abu Qatada.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, as he very often is, is absolutely correct to make the connection with the end of the caliphate, because, as was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, a very short time after that some young men in Egypt said, “We’re going to come together”. Was it for the purpose of martyrdom? No. It was for the purpose of reinstituting the caliphate.

In all our religious and political backgrounds, there is great variegation. Just a couple of weeks ago, I had another long conversation, as I have had before, with Rached Ghannouchi, the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood and Ennahdha in Tunisia. This man is a democrat. He has demonstrated clearly that he is committed to democracy. In fact, I sometimes think he has more understanding of the basics of democracy than I find with politicians in this country because, as he says, it is not just about votes and elections; it is also about having a culture of liberal democracy that makes sure those elections are used to good purpose. He is absolutely right, of course. That is not the same as the Muslim Brotherhood everywhere but, if we paint everyone with the same brush, we will find that we make the situation worse rather than better.

That is my appeal: that we do not get mixed up about the fact that people will see religious faith from many different perspectives. As the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, said, people will interpret the scriptures written in the past in a very different way now, if they have made progress, and in the same way if they see things in a fundamentalist way. We have to address the fact that there are political problems and that we in this country have our responsibility to resolve some of those wider problems. Sadly, the events of the last 48 hours and the pronouncements from Washington have made our job much more difficult in addressing the political problems, when they should have been making them easier.

Photo of Lord Rosser Lord Rosser Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport) 7:15 pm, 7th December 2017

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for providing the opportunity to discuss government strategy against terrorism. It is on that issue rather than Islam and its meaning that my contribution concentrates. Listening to the general tone and tenor of what the noble Lord said I do not know whether he regards, for example, Members of this House and the Commons who are Muslims, along with Sadiq Khan as the Mayor of London, as stealthily working towards a future Muslim takeover of this country, to which he made reference, or as fellow law-abiding and peace-loving British citizens—full stop.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, framed his Question for Short Debate around one specific area rather than more generally. As the briefing from the House of Lords Library for this debate reminded us he raised almost the same Question, only orally, at the beginning of this year. The noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, replied then that:

“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”.—[Official Report, 24/1/17; col. 552.]

I assume that when she comes to reply, the Minister will indicate not simply what actions the Government may have taken this year in pursuit of that strategy, but what the hard evidence is to show that whatever the Government have done since the beginning of this year, it has had a positive impact on strengthening partnerships, civil society groups and faith organisations across the country. Actions are not the same as impact; it is the impact of their actions on which I seek a government answer.

I presume that the Minister will also indicate in her response that the Government are seeking to tackle terrorism across the board, including from supporters of the kind of organisations in this country that now appear to have a surprising degree of unwelcome support from the President of the United States of America.

It has been helpful to have it confirmed in the recent report by David Anderson QC that our security and intelligence agencies seek to ensure,

“consistent assessment and investigation of all terrorist threats, regardless of ideology”.

Questions have been raised in a number of quarters about the effectiveness of the Government’s Prevent strategy. Home Office statistics apparently show that only 5% of the 7,631 people referred to the Prevent counterextremism programme in 2015-16 ended up with specialist support to turn them away from terrorism. What lessons do the Government draw about the effectiveness or otherwise of the Prevent strategy, and the way it is being applied and implemented, from that figure of just 5%? The Government must have a clear answer to that question, since the Minister told this House last January that “we regularly review Prevent”.

Are the Government really satisfied that they are allocating sufficient resources to combat the threat of terrorism, whether through preventive programmes or through the work of our security and intelligence agencies, including the police? In his report this month on the attacks in London and Manchester, David Anderson QC quoted the director-general of MI5 as saying in describing the work of his staff that:

“They are constantly making tough professional judgments based on fragments of intelligence”.

Mr Anderson then went on to say:

“The reason why the judgements can be ‘tough’ is that they are made against a background of imperfect information, and yet frequently require staff to choose which of a number of current and potentially deadly threats is most deserving of scarce investigative resource”.

What do the Government read into the use of the word “scarce” by Mr Anderson? Is it that sufficient resources have been made available or that sufficient resources have not in reality been made available? In that context, let us remind ourselves that we are talking about national security and the safety of our citizens.

One of the three considerations that Mr Anderson chose to mention in his report in saying,

“no responsible person could offer a copper-bottomed assurance that terrorists will always be stopped” was,

“current CT resourcing of around £3 billion per year”.

In her Statement to Parliament on Tuesday the Home Secretary said,

“We will shortly be announcing the budgets for policing for 2018-19, and I am clear that we must ensure that counter-terrorism policing has the resources needed to deal with the threats we face”.—[Official Report, Commons, 5/12/17; col. 915.]

In his report Mr Anderson, referring to CT policing, says,

“the indicative profile of their grant allocation over the next three years sees a reduction of 7.2% in their budgets”.

What parts of policing activity and what numbers of officers and staff do the Government include in their definition of counterterrorism policing, in respect of which the Home Secretary has said the Government will ensure they have the resources needed? Which police activities do the Government not consider to have a role in countering terrorism and are therefore not covered by the Home Secretary’s statement about ensuring the provision of the necessary resources? Does the Home Secretary’s commitment about resources, which she gave on Tuesday, cover, for example, community policing, or is community policing not considered by this Government to play an important role in countering terrorism?

I would appreciate clear answers from the Government to these questions, not least because the executive summary of the Anderson report states that MI5 and CT policing recommendations,

“include commitments to better data exploitation, to wider sharing of information derived from MI5 intelligence (including with neighbourhood policing) and to the consistent assessment and investigation of all terrorist threats, regardless of ideology”,

which some might not unreasonably conclude means that community and neighbourhood policing have an important role to play in countering terrorism.

I conclude by again thanking the noble Lord, Lord Pearson of Rannoch, for providing me with the opportunity to raise the points and questions I have raised.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department 7:22 pm, 7th December 2017

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate, and I thank the noble Lord, Lord Pearson, for securing it. There have been some very interesting contributions this evening and quite varied views, which is always the case in a debate. First, I thank noble Lords, such as my noble friend Lord Sheikh, who play an active part in communities and in promoting interfaith understanding, because that work is so valuable. I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, for what he said at the start of his contribution. I am not nostalgic for those days; I look back with sadness. Noble Lords will detect that I have no hint of an Irish accent, and that is because I came to this country in the 1970s as an Irish Catholic. Those were unpleasant times for Irish Catholics in this country. The noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and I have many interesting discussions on that dichotomy. I join noble Lords who stated that terrorism has no place in Islam: it does not. It has no place in Islam, Buddhism, Catholicism, Hinduism or any religion, and to conflate the two is quite dangerous to society.

Over generations, we have built something quite incredible in this country: a successful multiracial, multifaith democracy. That success is underpinned by British values, which the mainstream majority share and celebrate, including freedom of speech, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs. As the noble Lord, Lord Hussain, said, Britain is home to diverse communities who are free to practise their religion in accordance with the law. The noble Lord also talked about the 2 billion law-abiding Muslim citizens across the globe. He is absolutely correct. There are also people within our Parliament such as the noble Lords in this Chamber and of course the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Parekh, and my noble friend Lord Sheikh for describing the various tenets of the Muslims religion in the Question for debate, and the dangers of government asking Muslim leaders, or indeed any other religious leaders, to re-examine the tenets of their religion, because they are quite free to practise it.

The noble Lords, Lord Desai and Lord Hussain, and my noble friend Lord Patten talked about Muslim-on-Muslim terrorism. I saw that in Manchester, and of course we see it in every attack: these attacks are indiscriminate and Muslims suffer in them. The noble Lords, Lord Hussain and Lord Ahmed, talked about the aftermath of such attacks and how Muslim communities suffer further in the spikes in anti-Muslim hatred that we see afterwards. Those points were well made.

The noble Lord, Lord Pearson, made a point about sharia law which the noble Lord, Lord Ahmed, corrected him on. Sharia law is not promoted by government. It has no jurisdiction in England and Wales, and the Government have no intention of changing that position. Regardless of religious beliefs, we are all equal before the law. That is a really important point. The Government do not prevent people from seeking to regulate their lives through religious beliefs, and nothing in law prevents people doing that.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

The noble Lord will encroach on my response time.

Photo of Lord Pearson of Rannoch Lord Pearson of Rannoch UKIP

Is the noble Baroness therefore saying that sharia law is not running de facto in our land through the 87 Muslim tribunals? This is all very well documented.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department

I am saying to the noble Lord that people in this country abide by British law. It is as simple as that. Sharia law has no jurisdiction in England and Wales. I think I made it very clear that we do not prevent people from regulating their lives through religious belief—for example, in the sense that a Catholic might. I hope I have made that point clear.

The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, touched on what the Government are doing to tackle Islamist terrorism. We are absolutely committed to tackling it, and our strategy is firmly based on strengthening our partnership with communities, civil society groups and faith organisations across the United Kingdom. As the noble Lord said, the most effective way to counter the poisonous narratives of terrorists and extremists is to give the community the capacity to resist those narratives.

In the small amount of time I have, I will touch on the various questions that the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, posed. The first was on Prevent, and its outcomes rather than its aims. We have undertaken 169 community-based projects, delivered in 2016-17, reaching more than 53,000 participants; 44% of those were delivered in schools and were aimed at increasing young people’s resilience to terrorist and extremist ideologies.

Around one-third of the people who are supported by Channel are linked to far-right extremism; it is very important that the noble Lord brought up that point. He asked why so few Prevent referrals become Channel cases. As I have said, one-third of the people supported by Channel are linked to far-right extremism, and the Channel process is provided only to those who genuinely need it. About 14%, and he might think that figure is low, were discussed at Channel panels in 2015-16. A further 50% of the referrals, over 3,700 people, were referred on by the assessment process to other support services. Without that rigorous assessment, the vulnerabilities that many of these individuals might have might go unsupported. Around 36% of referrals require no further action, and that is broadly similar to those found in other safeguarding mechanisms. For example, out of the 621,000 children referred to social services in 2015, 35% required no action either before or after assessment.

The noble Lord questions whether Prevent is working. We believe it is. Apart from the statistics that I have just given him, since February 2010 300,000 pieces of illegal terrorist material have been removed from the internet. The Prevent statutory duty has prompted a significant step change in the delivery of Prevent work in sectors. The number of front-line staff who have received training has increased significantly, with over 850,000 front-line staff, including NHS staff and teachers, trained in spotting signs of radicalisation, while since 2012 over 1,000 people have received support through Channel.

More than 150 attempted journeys to the Syria/Iraq conflict area were disrupted in 2015. This includes action by the family courts. The courts protected approximately 50 children from around 20 families from being taken to the conflict areas in 2015.

The noble Lord asked about the Anderson report. The Home Secretary has asked David Anderson to provide an independent stock-take of progress in a year’s time. However, as the noble Lord said, implementation is linked to resources. We will shortly be announcing the budgets for policing in 2018-19, and the Home Secretary is clear that we must ensure that counterterrorism policing has the resources needed to deal with the threats that we face.

The noble Lord asked about providing more resources to MI5. The Government have actually increased funding for MI5. In the 2015 spending review a 30% uplift on counterterrorism spending was announced. This is equivalent to over £3 billion over the period to 2020. The additional funding was to meet the increased threat from Daesh and of marauding firearms attacks.

The noble Lord, Lord Marlesford, asked me about the Muslim Brotherhood review. He is correct to say that a review was conducted. Having taken advice, Ministers decided against publishing the report for national security reasons, given the sources of some of the data in it. The UK has taken and will continue to take concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood very seriously. We have published a summary of the main findings of the report, and they support the conclusion that membership of, association with or influence by the Muslim Brotherhood should be considered as a possible indicator of extremism.

We will keep under review what is promoted and activities undertaken by the Muslim Brotherhood in the UK in Arabic as well as in English. We will challenge extremists’ poisonous narratives, promote positive alternatives that steer vulnerable people to better ways to get on in life and continue to refuse visas to members and associates of the Muslim Brotherhood who are on record as having made extreme comments, where that will be conducive to the public good. In line with our existing policy guidelines and approach to extremism in all forms, we will seek to ensure that charities with links to the Muslim Brotherhood do not give support or finance to the Muslim Brotherhood instead of undertaking their lawful charitable purpose. We will strengthen liaison arrangements with international partners to ensure that allegations of illicit funding or other abuse of charities are robustly investigated and appropriate action taken. We will enforce the EU asset freeze on Hamas, and keep under review whether the views and activities of the Muslim Brotherhood meet the legal test for proscription.

I have gone over my time and missed out half my speech, but I think that I have addressed noble Lords’ points, which are important ones to address. I finish by thanking all noble Lords for taking part in the debate.

House adjourned at 7.35 pm.