In an editorial comment, Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society denounces the Muslim Council of Britain’s report (pdf) Meeting the needs of Muslim pupils in state schools (you know, the one that has been welcomed by the National Association of Head Teachers). Sanderson characterises the report as the work of “theocrats” whose “demands are never-ending” and who “want to turn our schools into religious minefields where Islamic sensibilities are waiting to trip you up around every corner”. He writes:
“It starts with the MCB’s favourite definition of ‘Islamophobia’ – a definition that brands anyone who has doubts or fears about the ideology of Islam as a racist. ‘Islamophobia’, says the report, ‘is the term currently being used to denote an extreme and abnormal fear and/or aversion to Islam in general and Muslims in particular.’ Neat, isn’t it? If you don’t like Islam you don’t like Muslims, ergo – you’re a racist. The worst excesses of Islam are therefore beyond criticism by anyone who doesn’t want to be branded as racist.”
Well, it’s understandable that Terry Sanderson should be sensitive about accusations of racism. For earlier examples of Sanderson and the NSS lining up with the likes of Robert Kilroy-Silk and Will Cummins in condemning Arab “limb amputators” and “Muslim foreigners”, see here and here. And this admiration is reciprocated by racists. For a recent example of the fascist BNP approvingly quoting Sanderson, see here.
Sanderson continues: “Not all Muslims are as attached to their religion as the MCB document would have us believe. A graph at the beginning of the document claims that 85% of children from Muslim backgrounds regard their religion as ‘extremely important to them’. There is no indication where this figure came from, though.” In fact the MCB document states quite clearly (p.18) that the graph in question – which shows that 99% of Pakistani and Bangladeshi pupils say that religion is important to them – was taken from the 2006 DfES report Ethnicity and Education (pdf here – see p.23).
Like many secular self-styled defenders of the Enlightenment, Sanderson in fact embraces a method that has more in common with pre-Enlightenment values, ignoring and rejecting any objective evidence that doesn’t fit in with his own dogmas.
See also “Was Muslim guidance reasonable?” BBC News, 26 February 2007