‘If we change our lives because of extremists, they have already won,’ writes Paul Scully

pro-Paestinian rally

‘If we change our lives because of extremists, they have already won,’ writes Paul Scully

Paul Scully

By Paul Scully

Published: 31/03/2024

- 17:00

‘Muslims shouldn’t have to apologise for the acts of a tiny group of extremists,’ writes the MP

The weekly marches protesting about the awful situation in Gaza have rekindled the debate about religious extremism. Unfortunately for many, this quickly becomes shorthand for writing off the entire religion of Islam.

When I attempted to explain the circumstances around describing some places as ‘no-go areas’, I received an email from a viewer within half an hour, telling me that he believes Muslims should go and live in an Islamic country, calling them a minority group who ‘should not be in our society’. This needs calling out for what it is; bigoted, racist twaddle.

If we fail to talk about race and religion in a constructive way, we create a vacuum for wrong-headed and worse views to form and be championed. If we don’t address the extremists, small in number but often large in impact, then we give the oxygen for those groups to grow organically, grabbing the disaffected first, then evangelising, using the divisions within our society to radicalise others.

Back in 2017, I met nine former detainees of Guantanamo Bay, including the brother of the man who was still running Al-Qaeda in Yemen. The first thing that struck me was that he looked like a young man who could have easily been a member of a gang running county lines. He’d clearly been picked out of a dysfunctional upbringing and given a ‘purpose’ and a new family. The principle of radicalisation here is the same.

Paul ScullyPaul Scully recently apologised on GB News for his comments on 'no-go areas'GB News

We can’t have groups of people calling for Jihad on the streets. We must eradicate the ability of people representing an organisation with charitable status allegedly saying: “Oh Muslim, behind me is a Jew, come and kill him. These times are coming,” according to a Daily Telegraph investigation.

But in doing so, we should also stand up for the vast majority of peace-loving Muslims in this country. Muslims shouldn’t have to apologise for the acts of a tiny group of extremists, any more than white British men should have to apologise for Tommy Robinson.

The percentage of the population identifying as Muslim in the UK was 3 per cent in 2001 and stood at 6.5 per cent at the time of the last census. Christians have reduced to less than half of the population.


In any changing population, we need to recognise that there will be people who feel uncomfortable with the pace of change around them. That’s natural. But we cannot fuel that by introducing fear or hatred into the equation. Shying away from tackling extremism fans those flames.

The teacher in Batley who showed his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet would have known his actions would have caused a significant reaction from some parents. But the extreme, prolonged reaction led by self-appointed community leaders causing him to flee under a new identity, has also given another story for those espousing an anti-Muslim narrative to tell. We scrapped our blasphemy laws in 2008. Whilst we’re still notionally a Christian country, we should not allow one religion to push for their belief system to trump another in our legal system.

Extremism in no way begins and ends with political Islam. White supremacy groups use Christian symbols and often another cross, that of St George (despite Nike’s best efforts), to further their course. A small number of pro-Khalistan Sikh groups are having a considerably negative impact on other Sikhs as reported in the Government’s Bloom Review, written by its Independent Faith Engagement Adviser.

For a short time, I was the Faith Minister in Government. I’ve spent time seeing the best of so many religious groups in the UK from the Ahmadiyya Muslims who espouse “Love for All, Hatred for None”, a mantra by which they truly live, to the Haredi Jews in Stamford Hill, who tend to just want to be left alone to live their own style of peaceful life.

We need to maintain a society that can be agile and understanding for all of these groups whilst being robust enough to tackle swiftly those who seek to undermine us all. Terrorism is about striking fear, not necessarily acts of atrocity. If we change our lives because of extremists, they have already won.

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