Muslims are not a problem but rather a part of the solution.
On Sunday as many looked with horror at events in Charlottesville, Virginia, a comment article in The Sun concluded with the words "What will we do about The Muslim Problem then?" While the Nazi flag was openly carried through the streets of a US city by white supremacists, Nazis and members of the Klan, a question asked by Nazi Germany in regard to the Jews was now being openly asked of Muslims in the UK and beyond.
The article by Trevor Kavanagh in The Sun ranged over the Chancellor Philip Hammond, Brexit, immigration, national identity, and grooming gangs. It surmised:
"But there is one unspoken fear, gagged by political correctness, which links Britain and the rest of Europe. The common denominator, almost unsayable until last week’s furore over Pakistani sex gangs, is Islam."
After taking time to praise Rotheram MP Sarah Champion and race equality campaigner Trevor Phillips for speaking out, Kavanagh looked forward to the day post Brexit when we are in charge of immigration, and asked what we would then do about the source of all the problem
It is good to see that the Jewish Board of Deputies joining anti Muslim hate crime watchdog TellMAMA and Faith Matters speaking out Jewish and Muslim organisations complain to IPSO about “dangerous” article and registering a complaint with IPSO, the Independent Press Standards Organisation. It will be interesting to see what happens for the said journalist Trevor Kavanagh is a member of the IPSO Board. To date rather sadly Christian organisations, as I was, seem to be on holiday.
I want to suggest that we need a different narrative. That we regard our Muslim neighbours, and indeed Jews and all people of faith, as not a problem but rather a part of the solution.
This is the approach we have taken as a working group of Muslim and Christian leaders in Luton. Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation (FACES) was launched just over a year ago. Hard and honest discussion together convinced us that on street grooming such as we have seen in Newcastle, Rotheram etc was not an expression of Islam, just as grooming of young choir boys or children in a church school or camp was not a Christian thing. It is totally contrary to the heart of our respective faiths. But nor can we ignore it, when it takes place in the communities of people that bear our name - we must be alert to it, call it out and challenge it. We are convinced that a faithful lifestyle, whether as Christians or Muslims, is to protect the vulnerable, to condemn evil, to seek healing of the victims, and restoration of the perpetrator. That is what we are now seeking to do through a variety of projects. We are quietly confident that we are creating a new storyline around CSE.
Moving back to the proposed "Muslim problem." As some have noted, the response in Nazi Germany to "the Jewish problem" was "The Final Solution." The death of six million Jews in the death camps. Genocide. Do we dare even play with words at the beginning of the road to such an evil destination?
Our experience as a Muslim and Christian working group is enough to convince us not only that Mr Kavanagh and all who would echo his view are terribly wrong, but that when we start working together on CSE as well as on other issues that dog our society we lay the foundations for a better world.
Update. 17 August. It is good to see The Sun have published a response by Maria van Derek Zyll of the Jewish Board of Deputies and Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters and founder of antiMuslim hate crime reporting agency TellMAMA. It is found here.