A couple of days back I reflected on Donald Trump’s presidential aspirations and noted in passing his latest controversial proclamation that Muslims should be banned from entering America. This has given rise to outrage among many, that has partly manifested itself in a petition which now has half a million signatures: “the signatories believe Donald J Trump should be banned from UK entry”. I should add that I won’t be signing given I don’t think expressing disagreeable views is tantamount to inciting hatred and if we curtail free speech we are on a slippery slope.
My views on Trump were made clear in my blog and as for the Muslims entering the country, and while not sharing the same “righteous indignation” as those opposed to Trump’s ideas and the implications of discrimination on the grounds of religious belief, I do have concerns that I will come to. It seems that Trump has a number of allies including (unsurprisingly) Britain’s own Katie Hopkins. A more unlikely ally is Rev. Franklin Graham, son of the famous evangelist, Billy Graham. Graham is quoted as saying: “Muslim immigration into the United States should be stopped until we can properly vet them or until the war with Islam is over”. Given he is a preacher holding mostly mainstream Christian views (which I support) and is expected to carry on some of his father’s outstanding work, it got my attention. And for the record, I would rather Graham’s reference to the “war with Islam” be replaced by something like “war with Islam inspired terror groups”.
I am not one to want to take sides with groups or individuals, arguing (I hope with due humility) that the only side I wish to be on is God’s and will support anyone when they are on that side too. What I find “interesting” is that (I suspect) most of the people signing the petition hold mainly secular values, including that of non discrimination on all sorts of matters, including religion. I suspect too that few will understand the true nature of Islam and subscribe to the view that most Muslims are peace loving people and the few that aren’t are as seen in many religions and do not truly represent those religions. I think many are deluded in believing most Muslims want the same liberal, multi-cultural,secular society as they do.
As some will know, who read my writings and blogs, I do more than most when it comes to trying to understand Islam and engaging with Muslim folk. While it is with consternation I observe in many Muslim dominated countries oppression of those who don’t subscribe to Islam beliefs, I also count a number of Muslims living in the UK as friends. I have even commented in the past that some are more British when to it comes to holding British values than many of those born and bred in this country. When a few weeks back I was taking to task by an ex-Muslim Christian convert for promoting an open day at our local mosque, I saw no contradiction in doing so, believing in the need to engage and understand.
Yet when I hear what Trump, Hopkins and Graham have to say, and while not agreeing entirely with their propositions, I do not ignore it either. Like most, I am keen to uncover the facts and suspect there is a cover up, even if done with good intention, on the facts. When there was an outcry from some elements of the establishment that certain parts of London have become police “no go” zones because of Muslim influence, I take note of such reports with the title: “‘Trump is right!’ Police say parts of Britain ARE no-go areas due to ISIS radicalization”. Before this is dismissed as sensationalist reporting by the gutter press, I recall some years ago meeting ex-Muslim converts saying much the same. I am also keen to get to the bottom of those surveys recently carried out both in Britain and America that seem to indicate that a significant number of Muslims who are living in those countries are (Islam) terrorist sympathisers.
I have also noted in times of war (and both sides of the Pond have declared a war on Islam inspired terror) that there have been measures to contain those who could be sympathetic. Sometimes overlooked is when in the recent past US President, Jimmy Carter, banned Iranians from entering into the country when a conflict was escalating between the USA and Iran and during the Second World War with the internment of those of Japanese descent. I have also blogged in the past on the growing Islamification being seen in the UK and the concerns this raises concerning undermining our traditional way of life if allowed to go unchecked. This of course needs to be balanced by the massive contribution many Muslims have made toward the wider community, evidenced recently by the Muslim response of victims in the recent Cumbria flooding.
As I say, concerning the Trump etc. proposition, I am not supportive but am not unsupportive either. The UK has a tradition, albeit checkered, of welcoming immigrants regardless of colour or creed, based on ideas of Christian hospitality, and I would want this to continue, especially concerning the millions of desperate, displaced persons, many of which are Muslim, as a result of recent Middle East conflicts. However, wisdom and proportionality is needed in assessing and responding to the claims of would be immigrants, including (again dare I say it) the Christian minority, that are as much if more needy than Muslim sanctuary seekers, and who may be more likely to fit in with a more quintessential British way of life.
I am inclined to agree with Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who has recently said “The institutions, culture, achievements and values of Europe can most readily be understood with reference to the Judaeo-Christian tradition, its teaching on the value of the person, the common good and, most crucially, the necessity of self-criticism and renewal. This is the time to reappropriate it, in its broadest sense, as the wellspring of our values, to celebrate it and to offer it to all of goodwill as a basis for working together for an open but cohesive Europe.” Until we recognize this and return to our Christian roots, I fear the sort of conundrum that the likes of Trump have raised, will remain with us, dare I say it, indefinitely.