Yesterday evening, I took part in a discussion about the terrorist attacks in Brussels on Radio 4’s Moral Maze programme. The episode can be heard in full here.
I mentioned that in light of the pledge by the so-called Islamic State to continue to carry out more atrocities in European countries that European Muslims had a special responsibility to be extra vigilant and assist the authorities wherever possible to prevent those attacks. This might seem unfair – after all, why should European Muslims have a special responsibility to prevent the attacks when the overwhelming majority of them are appalled by the actions of the terrorists? Even so, it is quite likely that the closest associates, friends and family members of the ISIS terrorists are Muslims. They may well be better placed than most of the rest of the population in identifying worrying changes in attitudes and motivations on the part of those who have been seduced by the message of the extremists.
During the discussion, Claire Fox insisted that Islam should not be above criticism and critics should not be labelled Islamophobes for doing so. I wonder if most Muslims would agree with her. I responded by saying that no idea, including Islam, should be above criticism. The point, I think, is worth underlining. The scientific revolution in Europe and the Enlightenment have led to spectacular progress in recent centuries and this has been in very large part because no idea was held to be above criticism. It is only by allowing all ideas to be continually exposed to criticism that we can hope to improve our ideas about the world and identify misconceptions. Regrettably, this is not the case in most Muslim societies across the world, where many ideas, particularly those involving the place of religion and religious beliefs are held to be above criticism, and those who dare to question them are all too quickly branded as deviants or heretics.
Anyway, it was an enjoyable experience taking part in the show and I particularly enjoyed annoying Melanie Phillips once again.