- Pilgrimage to nowhere
There has long been an ambivalence about the man who was both the ultimate betrayer and the means by which God’s plan was fulfilled. The author of a new book visits the lonely place where the renegade apostle took his own life
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The lead story in today’s Times – “Hundreds more UK Muslims choose jihad than army” - should provoke grave concern for its inference that Muslim Britons are disloyal subjects, and tend towards extremism. It links international conflicts directly to the domestic terrain, pointing to the 1500 or more young people from our country now fighting abroad for 'Jihadi' causes. In tone it reflects the increasing zeal with which UK policy makers are starting to reach for US neo-conservative narratives of analysis in the Middle East and applying them to a hugely different European situation. For Catholics it will bring back memories of English parishes being raided by the police simply for having high Irish numbers, and parliamentary speeches where Birmingham women with strange headdresses – otherwise known as nuns – were accused of 'being a foreign threat to our children'.
Muslims aren’t the only ones putting people at risk. Hate crime is up in the UK against people with learning disabilities. Domestic violence is up on Saturday nights in those cities where the home teams lose a football match. Last year there were 20,725 rapes in England and Wales and a further 43,475 sexual offences. Alongside 198,176 drug offences there were 4,843 crimes involving a firearm being used. At stake here is the urgent need to defeat the domestic consequences that might flow from frenzied fear of a tiny minority.
Baroness (Pauline) Neville-Jones was one of those who disastrously handled Serbian persecution of Muslims in the nineties but was back on BBC Radio 4 yesterday calling for a more aggressive policy response on the home front. Theresa May leans in the same direction as did Tony Blair, Ruth Kelly and Hazel Blears before her. The trouble though is that from the Northern Ireland to South Africa, Jerusalem to Nicaragua and beyond, state-led community interventions to identify 'moderate' radicals, or to identify potential agents of political violence in advance have more often than not had a radicalising rather than a moderating impact because of their very bluntness and over emphasis on ideology over evidence. For when one reaches for the facts through the rhetoric, the primary threat to our domestic security today seems not to be the Times’ target of a few hundred Muslims abroad, but a deep and dangerous disaffection across whole swathes of our young men.
Francis Davis is a former ministerial adviser on communities, a graduate of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London and author of several books on the political economy of religion