On Patriotism and Making London a Beacon for Islam

Too often you will hear some fool say ‘one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter’. Or in the case this past week of the Norwegian Anders Breivik that his tears in court were ‘for Norway’. Yet, killing Norwegians was his way of showing his patriotism.

A patriot will die for his country, but he’d rather live for it. And see others live for it too. That is how you tell if he is a patriot of not. A terrorist will make little effort to save women and children. That is how you tell whether they are freedom fighters or terrorists.

Simple tests reveal the underlying morality. So when Ken Livingstone says he wants London to be a ‘beacon for Islam’ my problem is not that he did not mention Hinduism or Sikhism, my problem is his underlying morality. How do I test it? Is he being a patriot? Or merely thinking he is? There is, as with freedom fighters and genuine patriots, a simple test we can apply. Ken fails.

Surely a London which is a beacon for Islam, would be a beacon for all faiths, would be a London where even the most put-upon, generally feared (if opinion polls among non-Muslims are true), generally reviled (if some Muslim commentators are accurate in their beliefs about what non-Muslims think of them), religion is respected and valued and seen in the same light by non-believers as it is by its billion strong global faithful followers? Surely that would be good for a London which has been the home for dozens of faiths for centuries. Surely if London can be a beacon to Islam, it can be a global centre for all nationalities and raise Britain as a whole. Bunkum. BS Ken.

Bunkum because this is not why Ken says it. He says it because he hopes for a block vote. He says it and makes the Christians and Hindus feel, ‘what about us’? He says it and isolates the rest of us because we think ‘what have we done wrong, that we do not get such special treatment? What do we have to do, to merit such attention?’ He says it and makes Islam even more likely to be feared because positive discrimination has that effect. It makes people dislike those that are favoured.

So the ones who should object the most to Ken’s statement about making London a beacon for Islam are not the Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Christians, not Isaac or Ishwar, but Ishmael. Muslims should object. They should be the first to say, ‘no thank you’. We do not want the divisiveness that positive discrimination brings. We do not want the hand-outs and the envy that you doubtless have in mind and we do not want your charity – ours is a faith built on giving charity not receiving it. We will by our example in everyday life be a beacon for Islam. Or as Gandhiji said of Christians, ‘if they were all like Christ, the world would be Christian’. So too with Islam, let each Muslim be the beacon, not Ken or London.

Alpesh B Patel


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