Moral Maze – a new lexicon for describing violence-inspired-by-Islam. Notes.

Moral Maze, BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 6th February, 2008, 20:00 – 20:45.

Claire Fox, Ian Hargreaves, Melanie Phillips and Clifford Longley.

Imam Ashral Nazrur

(Not spelt right – who is this man?)

“Listen to the scholars in majority” – Qaradawi, Qutub, Mawdudi are on their own when they prescribe suicide bombing.

Melanie asks whether people are wrong to associate the terror with the religion which inspires it. These people say they won’t cooperate unless we change our language.

Claire asks whether he is playing the victim card when he asks. Says he is going along with a set of guidelines – “an absolute little zone around Muslims” in a climate of feeling nervous about free speech. She asks why she should be called Islamophobic for upholding Western (Enlightenment values). He turns it round and asks why she is drawing lines between Western and Islamic values.

He says he wants an inclusive, open discussion which doesn’t alienate, that we need a level playing field – equal literacy and numeracy, an inclusive community in which anybody who becomes vulnerable to be recruited. If you want us to be included in a discussion, then hear us.

Anthony Brown

Author of The Retreat of Reason, member of the Policy Exchange

Unlike most other crimes, what motivates this is radical Islamist ideology. Important to make distinctions between moderate and extreme Muslims. Otherwise you play into the hands of the extremists. You should be able to criticise extremists without being accused of criticising moderates. There is an element of denial in the Home Office that there is a radical ideology which is the motivating factor – if you don’t understand that then you can’t tackle the problem. There’s merit in denying these people the glorification of being part of a ‘War on Terror’.

Ian Hargreaves queries that the Home Office is in denial. He says the recommendations allow for the entire range of debate. He reads out an example of the wrong type of language ‘You people need to weed out terrorist sympathisers’.

AB – making people reluctant to use the word ‘terrorist’ plays into the hands of ‘terrorists’. This isn’t like common crimes – it’s a battle of ideas.

IH – but what we’re debating is about care of language – to start a conversation surely you need to make a respectful approach.

AB – You’re setting up straw men here. I said you had to be careful about use of language. But religion is the motivating factor here.

CF disagrees, and cautions against giving a religious label which causes misunderstanding by making it exotic. 58% of young Muslims believe that most of the problems in the world are the result of arrogant Western attitudes – 38% of the general population agree. Alienation of Asian youth, rather than Muslim youth is a type of nihilism.

AB – but hindu kids aren’t blowing themselves up on buses. Anecdote about people being brainwashed by a radical Muslim ideology – religion turned a white, middle-class woman into a killer, her motivation was religion.

Brutish expression of anti-Enlightenment views attracts people to Islam. Aren’t we letting ourselves off the hook – why can’t we attract young British Asian youth to us?

Dr Richard Jackson

University of Aberystwyth, International Politics; author of Writing, the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-Terrorism

Current language misrepresents the relationship between religion and terrorism. It’s not an accident that the terrorists are all Muslims, but the relationship is very complicated. Sometimes it’s not a factor at all. Robert Pipes, University of Chicago, 315 cases of suicide bombing – less than half of them were religious.

MP queries that it’s possible to access the motivations of dead suicide bombers. Asks why he wants to deny the reality of religious fanaticism. RJ says that this is an unhelpful way of putting it, repeats that a linear causal explanation is not appropriate. Brings up the IRA and Irishness. MP asserts that the Jihadi groups are trying to Islamise the world. RJ questions this.

CF – young British Asians have begun to organise themselves as young British Muslims and express their alienation in religious terms. She wants to argue vociferously against the Caliphate and have a religious argument but can she under the current guidelines

RJ counsels against coupling the term ‘Islamic’ and ‘terrorism’, and talking about these things in the context of the Caliphate. This is stigmatising and demonising.

CF mentions the danger of closing down debate in order to let one group speak.

RJ – it’s incorrect to assume that extremist views equate to terrorism. It’s possible to be opposed to terror and in favour of the Caliphate, and people have the right to express these views as British citizens without coming to the attention of the police.


Melanie argues that anyone who is driven to the arms of extremists by critical language is not a moderate. Clifford says that MP is perpetrating the myth that the more devout the Islam the more dangerous it is. MP denies this. Michael Buerk criticises CL for using ad hominems. CF: Beshti the play,Fairytale of New York got closed down. MP: European poll, Britain the least Islamophobic and the worst relationship with its minority. Bowdlerising and censoring language to reduce risk of giving offence gives a signal that you are caving into terror. Home Office lost their nerve and can’t win an argument without bowdlerising speech.


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