The Gulf — [Mr David Nuttall in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 9:30 am on 4th May 2016.

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Photo of Charlotte Leslie Charlotte Leslie Conservative, Bristol North West 9:30 am, 4th May 2016

I thank the hon. Gentleman for that good point. We often forget that the messenger is frequently more important than the message itself, because the message is fundamentally defined by who gives it. He makes a point that I will touch on later.

A third insight, which I found striking and relevant to our relations with the Gulf, was offered by His Excellency Dr Anwar Gargash, the UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs. He talks of the dangers of a digital world, where

“my opinion has become my religion”.

That observation speaks not only to the role of the internet in spreading Daesh’s message—the mass communication that Tim Rice’s Judas so lamented the lack of—but to fundamental changes in digital technology that appear to have an effect on people’s thoughts. I have called that a change from cogito ergo sum, I think therefore I am, to sentio ergo sum, I feel therefore I am—or even to sentio ergo est, I feel therefore it is. In that, a person’s feeling dictates absolute truth.

As MPs, we have all seen—on social media in particular—that dangerous trend and false premise that says, “I am human. I think this. You do not think what I think. Therefore you are not human.” That is a seed of genocide and the beginning of a takfiri mentality that extends its blind intolerance way beyond the scope of Islam. We are beginning to see that in the hate diatribes of UK far-left groups who are sympathetic to Hamas, Hezbollah and other extremist terrorist groups. That is a slippery slope.

All those insights are from the hard end of battling extremism in the Gulf. It is easy for the west to forget that the majority of Daesh’s casualties are Muslim and that Daesh wants to punish nations such as the UAE for “poisoning” the sacred Arab peninsular with pluralism. It is also easy to forget that Sunni Gulf states are concerned about the rise of an emboldened Shi’a militia as Iran re-enters the global economy.

The response of the Gulf to extremism may provide a learning opportunity for Britain. What assessment has the Minister made of the UAE’s clampdown on extremist teaching in schools and of its policy towards registering imams in Mosques? Are there lessons to be learnt from that? More specifically, will he keep an open mind on Britain’s classification of the Muslim Brotherhood? That would be an extremely good way of working out whether they are moderate friends who can be engaged with on political terms and whether they will renounce the writings, teachings and celebrated martyrdom of Sayyid Qutb. If they refuse to do so, we may need to reassess urgently what we think of them in our political context. We cannot afford to be squeamish.

I have talked only about what Britain might learn from its relationship with the Gulf.