I want to talk to you about stereotypes.
Stereotypes can be funny, sometimes they can be offensive – some are based on an element of truth and some are gross misrepresentations.
As a Scouser, I know all about stereotypes – some people see us as a homogeneous group of football mad, working class people with leanings towards nostalgia and petty crime.
While I find the stereotype laughable, there is some element of truth involved – we do love our ‘footy’ and most of us (myself included) are working class.
Talking of football, in the 1980’s football fans were stereotyped as violent gangs of football hooligans rampaging across the terraces.
While some of this was exaggerated by the media, I grew up as a football fan in this era and witnessed some of this myself, so I won’t pretend it didn’t happen.
Modern football is very different. More women and families attend matches, stadiums are cleaner and football fans are no longer just seen as a menace.
In order to make the change, we football fans had to admit there was a problem in our ranks – while football hooligans were a minority, they were tainting us all with that image.
Two things happened. Firstly, over time, we the football fan base rejected and ostracised the violent minority of ‘fans’ who preferred to get into fights rather than sing songs in support of their teams.
Secondly, we had to accept that even though the majority of us weren’t hooligans, we would all have to be subject to increased surveillance and security measures.
In recent years, followers of the Islamic faith have been stereotyped and vilified.
Although only a tiny minority of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are linked to terrorism, their acts are so heinous – 9/11, 7/7 and the horrific Paris shootings to name a few; that the whole religion is starting to inspire dread amongst many people in the West.
Forgive the analogy, but just as football changed, so must Islam in the West. Firstly, our Muslim communities must admit and accept that they have a problem with the radicalised element of their faith.
Secondly, more must be said and done to clearly differentiate between the moderate Islamic views held by the many, and the fanatical extremist views, held by the few.
Thirdly, they must be more willing to give up, report and ostracise those in their communities who are determined to cause violence.
This means that Islamic communities in the Western world must change, they must adapt.
Until the violent minority is quashed, they will necessarily be subject to greater scrutiny than the rest of the populace.
If they can accept this, and make these concessions, the rest of society will thank them for it.
However, Western society as a whole must also change. We must be more prepared to discuss uncomfortable subjects openly and without fear of falling victim to so-called “political correctness”.
We must become less tolerant of hate preachers in the UK and we must be prepared to deport those with strong links to terrorism, even if there is a risk that their countries of origin may be hostile towards them.
I won’t pretend it’s going to be easy, but I am sure it is something we can all achieve as a united British people; Muslim and non-Muslims together.