Ghosts of Fascists Past

Ian Kershaw 

A PROMINENT British government minister, Baroness Warsi, herself a Muslim, claimed just recently that Islamophobia has “passed the dinner-table test” in Britain and is seen by many as normal and uncontroversial. She warned of growing intolerance, prejudice and bigotry toward the Muslim faith and its adherents. In reply, some religious and social commentators have suggested that growing numbers of Muslims in Britain give rise to legitimate concerns. They have asked whether strict adherence to the Islamic faith is compatible with the values of Western democracies. Even to pose such a question, people object, is to engage in a covert form of racism. However, the claims continue. It is further asserted that the advocacy of sharia law, disregard for women’s rights and opposition to all forms of assimilation into Western society by some Islamists justify doubts about compatibility. The controversy over the place of Islam in British society is inextricably linked with the additional concern about homespun Islamic terrorism in light of the evidence that the 2005 al-Qaeda bombings in London were perpetrated by young Muslims who had grown up in the UK, and whose deadly actions were apparently and worryingly supported by a minority among the Muslim population.

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