The Schools That Divide the Nation; THE MUSLIM DEBATE If We Are to Succeed in Defeating Extremism, We Must Resist the March of Naive Multiculturalism, Says One Writer

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ONCE there were tens. Then there were hundreds.

Now Peter Clarke, head of Scotland Yard's Anti-Terrorist Branch, speaks of thousands of militant British Muslims, indoctrinated and radicalised in British mosques and madrassas like the Jameah Islameah school in Sussex raided at the weekend.

This is not, primarily, because of the influence of a handful of a few "preachers of hate". Islamic extremism has spread in Britain thanks to a particular brand of multiculturalism encouraged by this Government. And until ministers tackle it - especially the influence of Muslim faith schools - all their new efforts to build cohesion will come to very little.

The context goes far beyond Britain.

Contemporary Islam has burst out of its colonial restraints. Once colonialism removed power, jihad and territorial control from Islam, it was left a benign force focusing on prayer and good deeds.

But contemporary Islam has reverted back to early Islam, with all its theological rage against the non-Muslim world. Issues like Iraq and Afghanistan have become valves for expressing this anger and hatred against Britain and the West.

Increasingly, it is the values and culture of Islam which define the identity of British Muslims. A senior British Muslim leader has defined Muslim identity as creed, sharia and umma.

The Islamic creed is nonnegotiable.

Those who do not share this creed are despised as kafir (infidels). Hatred of non-Muslims is preached in many British mosques.

Meanwhile Islamic law, sharia, is deemed by the majority of Muslims to be unalterable. Its medieval formulations cannot be updated. Yet it is this discriminatory law which many British Muslims wish to see enforced.

Finally the umma, the worldwide community of Muslims, is the primary focus of loyalty. It represents the political as well as the religious. Muslims have a duty to defend each other. This defensive-jihad is what leads Muslims to go and fight in places such as Iraq.

It might seem paradoxical that the UK, which has granted Muslims greater freedoms than any other Western country, should be the greatest Western incubator of Islamist violence. The explanation lies not only in the radicalisation of Islam but also in the Government's policy on multiculturalism.

There is a positive aspect to a multiculturalism where people share and enjoy each other's cultures. But the UK's well-meaning policy of validating every faith and ethnic community culturally, in a depoliticised way, is naive when it comes to Islam. For Islam does not separate the sacred from the secular: it seeks earthly power over earthly territory. The result is that already the UK has reached the stage of parallel societies, where purely Muslim areas function in isolation.

Worse, this is about to be made semiofficial. In West Ham a gigantic mosque is planned by the radical Tablighi Jamaat group. The London Thames Gateway Development Corporation says that the new mosque will make West Ham a "cultural and religious destination". This will be nothing less than an Islamic quarter of our capital city. But has anyone asked the people of West Ham? The non-Muslims? The moderate Muslims such as Barelwis and Sufis? …