Theresa May’s speech to Conservative conference in Birmingham has sparked a few controversies as journalists call for deeper answers to a complex issue. The Home Secretary quoted a now familiar phrase from the Koran, “let there be no compulsion in religion”, to illustrate that the violent conversion of non-believers is not permitted in Islam. And she added an injunction of her own for good measure: “Let the message go out that we know Islam is a religion of peace and it has nothing to do with the ideology of our enemies.”
The Standard states that we have to ask ourselves why young Muslims in this country are attracted to the murderous totalitarian ideology of those who behead aid workers. Ultimately there has been a breakdown of civil society, which has failed to deal with the segregation and alienation of many of our Muslim communities. This is not the job of national government. Our schools and mosques have not been strong enough to counter the ideology that fuels extremism, our local councils have failed to engage young Muslims and too few individuals, Muslim and non-Muslim, are taking the counter-arguments to the extremists.
As a first step let’s stop talking about Islam and Muslims in such infantile terms. It is patronising for British politicians to suggest they know the difference between a good and bad Muslim. Yes, Islam is, for many of its adherents, a religion of peace but like all religions it can also be used to justify violence. This is not a perversion of the religion because all faiths are open to interpretation and jihad is central to Islam. It is not difficult to see why a young British Muslim might feel driven by his religion to take up arms against the Assad regime. But we need to ask ourselves why a young British woman would choose to leave this country to live in the Islamic State. Only when we answer that question can we begin to work on preventing others from doing the same.

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