A senior figure in the Church of Scotland has joined the ranks of those criticising Prime Minister David Cameron for his five-year plan to tackle extremism.
There are those critics who validly cannot trust the Prime Minister’s sincerity because of their own backgrounds in counter-extremism and exposing the sometimes unwitting links between establishment figures and jihadists. For them their problem with Cameron’s speech is not so much the idea behind it but the execution of it, both now and in the past. On the other hand, this Scottish cleric believes the solution lies not in “British values” but in “positive relationships, mutual understanding and common acceptance”.
In fact you might wonder whether the Rev Sally Foster-Fulton, Convener of the Church of Scotland’s Church and Society Council, even believes there is a problem to be addressed. Published on the official Church of Scotland website, Foster-Fulton writes: “I believe the Prime Minister’s presentation of extremism as a ‘problem’ which needs ‘solutions’ is disheartening.”
She explains that she doesn’t believe legislation and government funding are the correct way to address the situation, stating:
“That type of response is flawed in that it suggests that the drivers of violent extremism can be disarmed with surveillance at home, air strikes abroad and the co-option of a range of statutory and non-governmental organisations into the Government’s agenda.”
So at least she admits there is “violent extremism” even if presenting it as a problem disheartens her. How then would she address it? She continues:
“Our experience is that the best ways to develop societal cohesion are through well-rounded Religious and Moral Education in schools, through inter-faith dialogue in the community and through genuine collaboration. It is through positive relationships, mutual understanding and common acceptance that bridges of respect can be built up and barriers of fear and misunderstanding come down.”
At this point you might ask how one should go about building positive relationships with extremists who sympathise those who throw gay men off buildings only to stone them to death when they survive the fall. You could also ask how one finds mutual understanding with those who think about joining the army which drowns caged prisoners. Indeed it is legitimate to question what common acceptance should be given by us for those who fail to condemn enemies who crucify children and the elderly for failing adequately to observe the Ramadan fast.
You could also ask Foster-Fulton what “well-rounded Religious and Moral Education” looks like to someone who joined hands with humanists to lobby for “religious observance” to be removed from schools. She wanted it replaced with “genuinely inclusive Time for Reflection” which “supports the community and spiritual development of all pupils whatever their faith or belief”. Other Christian denominations were less keen, with a leading Free Church cleric branding it “completely spineless”.
Foster-Fulton believes she, unlike Cameron and his “British values”, has the answer:
“The Westminster Government’s comments about Islam needing to express “British values” undermines the vision of a global family and common humanity that is at the heart of faith. Perhaps, rather than asking faith communities to buy into “British Values,” we should encourage our country and each other to embody the values that reach past cultures and borders, those values that are glue that holds all human beings together.”
Didn’t John Lennon write something about this, or have I just imagined that?
To be fair to Lennon I think even he would have struggled to agree with Foster-Fulton’s ludicrously leftist utopianism. Even he could not have endorsed her further thoughts on the subject:
“We would encourage the Government to consider ways we in the UK could live out the values of love and hospitality it is so keen to promote. I would ask us to consider how last week’s intervention by Cabinet Ministers calling for air war over Syria and how the UK’s refusal to discuss taking a share of refugees exemplifies the vision of a society that welcomes, includes and promotes human flourishing? I would ask us to consider why the Government talk about action and not about the importance of working diplomatically with nations across the region and the world to seek a joint and peaceful effort to apprehend and disarm the terrorist groups.”
I have no doubt at all that the Government fully understands the importance of diplomacy and is doubtless building alliances with anti-Islamic State nations in the Middle East. Maybe Foster-Fulton would object to Israel’s inclusion in that coalition because of what she sees as that country’s “unjust policies“.
But really, “a peaceful effort to apprehend and disarm the terrorist groups”? How exactly is that supposed to work? The only olive branches our enemies are interested in are those strong enough to hang us from.
Looking at some of Foster-Fulton’s other contributions to public life gives a clue as to her view on this. In support of scrapping Trident nuclear submarines she once wrote “the theory that violence can bring peace has been soundly disproved in every fight, every skirmish, every war.” You don’t have to have been alive in 1945 to witness the final defeat of the Axis powers or be a full-time historian to see the flaws in her theory.
Foster-Fulton concludes her rejection of Cameron’s “British values” approach, with a final hippy flourish:
“When you sit, think, imagine and work together, when you encounter past the differences and know your neighbour’s name, you quickly realize that, though you differ, you have the world in common. Peace, justice, forgiveness, a radical hospitality that goes beyond tolerance and love – the very best humanity has to offer. Let’s start building there on those strong foundations.”
Foster-Fulton is best left sitting, thinking, imagining and working together with Islamist extremists, meanwhile the rest of us in the real world can get on working with people from all communities who genuinely seek an end to what is a very real problem.
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