I was dismayed to read the article by Simon Rocker dated 24 September 2009 with the above title. It refers to the joint submission by the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust to the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the text of the submission on either body's website. I always want to be judged on what I have written, not what others report me to have written, and I always grant the same courtesy to others.
Accordingly, in this short blog posting, I just want to address one quote from the submission given by Simon Rocker. “Any future engagement with umbrella groups such as the Muslim Council of Britain must be contingent on them representing a greater range of views than those of the Islamists, and firmly rejecting violence in all circumstances, including in overseas conflicts.”
At first sight, “firmly rejecting violence in all circumstances, including in overseas conflicts” sounds really good. Who could possibly oppose this? However, the demand is intellectual nonsense.
There are some absolute pacifists in several religions including some Christians. However, there are few if any Jews or Muslims who are absolute pacifists. The serious weakness of any universal statement such as "rejecting violence in all circumstances" is that you only need one counterexample to destroy it. I would like to know if the authors of the joint submission genuinely believe that Britain should have rejected violence on 3 September 1939 or the United States after Pearl Harbour. I doubt it.
Once they admit that their demand that the Muslim Council of Britain reject "violence in all circumstances" is nonsense, the authors will then be left with the much more difficult question of deciding in which circumstances the Muslim Council of Britain is entitled to support violence and in which circumstances it is not. I would like mention in passing that I supported British violence after Argentina occupied the Falkland Islands. Does this disqualify me from all engagement?
Once the authors come up with appropriately nuanced criteria, I will be happy to discuss them. Meanwhile, please can we have a greater level of intellectual honesty?
The original blog posting can also be read on my blog at the website of the Jewish Chronicle. The original Memorandum from the Board of Deputies of British Jews (PVE 03) has since been published by the House of Commons on its website so one can read the full text of what I was complaining about. Doing so does not make me want to change what I wrote above.