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Saturday, April 4, 2009

The mosque debate again

A few days ago, the Sun carried a story based around remarks made on Premier Christian Radio by Alison Ruoff, an evangelical member of the Church of England's General Synod, in which she called for British Muslims to be prevented from building any more mosques in the UK.
"No more mosques in the UK. We are constantly building new mosques, which are paid for by the money that comes from oil states. We have only in this country as far as we know, 3.5 to four million Muslims. There are enough mosques for Muslims in this country, they don't need any more. We don't need to have sharia law which would come with more mosques imposed upon our nation, if we don't watch out, that would happen.
"If we want to become an Islamic state, this is the way to go. You build a mosque and then what happens? You have Muslim people moving into that area, all the shops will then become Islamic, all the housing will then become Islamic and as the Bishop of Rochester has so wisely pointed out, that will be a no-go area for anyone else. They will bring in Islamic law. We cannot allow that to happen."
Mrs Ruoff provides us the recipe for bringing about a moral panic: Mosques are all funded by the oil states (no names necessary as we have already acknowledged them enough); a chain reaction that starts from the building of mosques, escalates to the Islamization of the areas concerned and ends up in shari'a being imposed on all of us. To retain a modicum of respectability and avoid prosecution, avoid talk about compulsory sterilization and repatriation of those who have other places they may even reluctantly call 'home'. Finally, throw in the bishop of Rochester and simmer the mixture in implicit contempt and biggotry and, hey presto!

But the odour of such a concoction did not remain unnoticed and soon the BNP quickly sank its teeth into it with its website warmly welcoming Mrs Ruoff's remarks as "startlingly [sic] refreshing".

What, however has striken me in these statements is the utter contempt towards British Muslims with which a public personality has invested her abuse of her position. The reference to 'oil money' is clearly intended to strip British Muslims from any element of agency and their actions from any sense of purposefulness. Whereas most of Britain's mosques are the product of community hard work and accomplishment, and while British Muslims have been making a valuable contribution to their local communities and beyond, Mrs Ruoff prefers to ignore such accomplishments and to see them as hopelessly dependent to help from other countries. In short, these are 'people' who cannot accomplish anything (at least of the scale of a mosque) without outsider help. And, it follows, they may live here but their gaze and attention is directed elsewhere - mentally, they are foreigners.

It may be possible that such factual mistakes may be the outcome of ignorance. At the end of the day, the choice is not that reassuring: permission to alarm and misinform due to ignorance or bigotry? I will take none of these, thank you.

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