Ahmadiyya Community — [Annette Brooke in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:49 pm on 20th October 2010.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington 2:49 pm, 20th October 2010

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship for the first time, Mrs Brooke. I congratulate Siobhain McDonagh on securing this debate. In spite of our political differences, we often make common cause on issues. I hope that she will therefore welcome the fact that the funding for St Helier hospital has been re-announced in today's comprehensive spending review; that is a success that she can share with me and, indeed, with the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend Paul Burstow. I am also pleased to make common cause with the hon. Lady in supporting the Ahmadiyya community. I support her work and welcome the fact that she is setting up an all-party parliamentary group on the issue. I am happy to be a member of that group and to facilitate its establishment.

In her opening remarks, the hon. Lady outlined well the position of the Ahmadiyya community around the world and the difficulties and risks that Ahmadiyyas face in seeking to practise their peaceful religion in various countries. Like her, I have had the pleasure of visiting the mosque in Morden. I went a couple of weeks ago with my hon. Friend the Member for Sutton and Cheam, who I know would have wanted to participate in this debate if his ministerial duties had not kept him elsewhere. We talk a lot about the big society at the moment. The building of the mosque is a good example of how a community can work together and draw on the resources at its disposal. It is a mosque of great stature and presence, and it sets an example for the rest of us. Hon. Members who visit can see the library, the TV station and the facilities for both men and women to worship.

I also welcome the fact that in a similar big-society vein, the Ahmadiyya community is working locally with other faiths to secure a large open space immediately opposite the mosque for the widest possible community use. For me, that is the thing that resonates most and comes across most strongly about that community: the willingness to work with other faiths and people of no faith on issues that are important to us all. That is one of the community's strengths that we should respect, which is why it is particularly depressing that, as the hon. Lady described, Ahmadiyyas face such risks and challenges around the world and, increasingly, in the UK. I will not repeat the examples that she quoted, but I will say one thing about the incident at the Bentall centre in Kingston. Those who know Kingston will know that if people are inciting hatred and potentially putting lives at risk in the Bentall centre, we have a wider problem in the country as a whole. One could not find a more affluent middle-class environment than the Bentall centre.

When the Minister responds, will he clarify what discussions he is having with the Home Office about the issue, particularly in relation to the Prevent agenda? The Prevent agenda-it is currently under review, which I welcome-is about preventing extremism from developing within communities. It seems to me that there is a risk of that at present, and I hope that he has had or will have discussions with the Home Office about how the Prevent agenda can be brought to bear on the issue. He might also be able to comment on the YouTube clips. I do not know whether he has had an opportunity to see them; I recommend that he does so, and that he reads the translations provided. He might then want to reflect, if he has not already done so, on whether there are implications under the Racial and Religious Hatred Act 2006 for some of the statements being made.

That is where I shall leave my comments, as many other hon. Members clearly want to speak. What I have seen on YouTube seems to go beyond a discussion about the relative merits of religions, which is what I think we all want to facilitate, and the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office need to respond to that agenda. I hope that we will hear a forceful response from the Minister shortly.