Yahya Cholil Staquf

Why Muslims like me are worried about the Batley protests

(Getty images)

To some, the persecution of a schoolteacher who showed his pupils a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed may seem like a local quarrel. Does it really matter, many Britons will ask, that a few dozen men gathered at the gates of a school in West Yorkshire? Surely it will blow over before long, goes the thinking.

Alas, this view – all too common in officialdom throughout the western world – is deeply naïve. To those of us in the Muslim world who work to counter Islamist extremism, what is happening at Batley Grammar School is disturbingly familiar. What may look like a local incident is in fact one with national implications and strong international parallels. That is why it draws our attention.

Notably, it shares precisely the same ingredients as the row over Samuel Paty, the French teacher who showed his pupils similar images in a civic education class last autumn, and was then brutally murdered in the street. I only pray that what is happening in Batley does not end in violence.

The truth is that this clash is only one small example of a much wider problem

These incidents illustrate an immense cultural and political gulf that exists in Western societies today. On one side stand proponents of a secular ideology whose cultural, economic and political power verges upon hegemony in much of the West. On the other side of this gulf stand those who embrace more traditional values, including many Christians, Orthodox Jews and Muslims.

Religious believers of all faiths often find their values and beliefs treated with derision and scorn, something that can be extremely offensive and upsetting. It is some Muslims’ misguided responses to this challenging and unfortunate reality, however, that so clearly set them apart from adherents of other faiths.

Rather than leading by example and seeking to raise the level of global discourse among the world’s diverse peoples, cultures and religions to that of the highest common denominator, some Muslims have allowed Islam to be hijacked by political opportunists.

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