UKIP MEP calls for Muslims to sign declaration of non-violence

Published 06 February 2014  |  
AP

All Muslims should sign a declaration affirming that they reject violence as "inapplicable, invalid and non-Islamic", UKIP's immigration spokesman has said. 

Gerard Batten, a UKIP MEP for London told the Guardian that he could think of no reason why "any reasonable, normal person" would refuse to sign it.

The document was first commissioned in 2006 and is known as a "charter of Muslim understanding".

It was written by Sam Solomon, a Christian convert from Islam, and the Islamic affairs advisor to the Christian Legal Centre. It asks Muslims to reject verses of the Koran that support "violent physical Jihad".

Mr Batten wrote the foreward to the declaration, stating, "The Western European view of religion, achieved after centuries of bloodshed, conflict and division, is that religion is a matter of private belief and conscience.

"Islamic fundamentalists do not share this view. They do not believe in the nation state, democracy, the equality of women, or tolerance.

"They believe in Islamic theocracy, a universal Muslim society, the Ummah, based on political rule according to the Koran and Sunnah."

In a statement from Christian Concern, a charity closely associated with the Christian Legal Centre, Mr Solomon is reported to have welcomed the renewed focus the document is getting in the light of the approaching 2015 elections.

Mr Solomon suggests that the declaration raises a challenging question about the commitment of UK's Muslim citizens to a free and democratic society.

"If Islam is a religion of peace, as portrayed by the Muslim community and its clergy, and those acts of terrorism committed in its name are the acts of a few misguided individuals who have misunderstood and misinterpreted its teaching, then Islam is completely innocent of the violence and the terrorism that is sometimes attributed to it," he said in the declaration.

He also calls for a global conference of Islamic theologians and scholars to discuss the declaration, and its implications and provisions more broadly.

"[Muslims] should have no objection to being signatories to [the declaration], and upholding its content both in letter and spirit in the name of Islam and for the welfare of their host societies and that of humanity at large."

Mr Batten repeated his view that some Muslim texts need updating. He was quoted in the Guardian as saying that some verses compel Muslims to "kill Jews wherever you find them and various things like that".

"If that represents the thinking of modern people, there's something wrong, in which case maybe they need to revise their thinking. If they say they can't revise their thinking on those issues, then who's got the problem – us or them?" he said

When he was asked why Muslims have been singled out, rather than followers of other faiths, Mr Batten said: "Christians aren't blowing people up at the moment, are they? Are there any bombs going off round the world claimed by Christian organisations? I don't think so."

Rehman Chishti, the Conservative MP for Gillingham and Rainham, was quoted in the Guardian as describing Mr Batten's position as "shocking".

Sadiq Khan, the Labour shadow minister for London said in the Guardian that he was "appalled at the ignorance that Gerard Batten appears to have shown when speaking about the faith that I and hundreds of thousands of British Muslims practise".

Mary Honeyball, a Labour MEP for London, said in the Guardian that Mr Batten "represents the ugliest side of UKIP".

"Batten's views overlap with the far-right. The idea that Muslims should be singled out in the way he suggests is a relic from a darker, more prejudiced time," she said.

In a statement replying to these comments, the Guardian later quoted Mr Batten as saying: "I would expect the fundamentalists to agree with me that democracy is incompatible with fundamentalist Islam. Moderate Muslims have to decide which side of the argument they are on.

"Who is in favour of jihad? Apart from the jihadists of course? I was, and still am, happy to speak out against it. It is amusing that the Guardian equates being opposed to extremism and jihadism as 'overlapping with the far-right'. So are left-wing liberals in favour of jihad? If not, do they overlap too?"

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