Prince Charles asks why do some young Muslim youth turn to extremism – which has no place, or very little place, in Islamic doctrine.
There are lots of answers. In the UK, it’s the feeling that if you’re a bit brown, your life opportunities are worse than for paler people. That’s a fact, and while it’s not as bad as some places, in fact racism is probably less of a problem in the UK than anywhere else, the only places that claim to have less racism are places like Japan where there’s no diversity and anyway, you just ask Koreans in Japan how they are treated – but it doesn’t matter if it’s better than anywhere else, racism is wrong. We all agree it is wrong. But it’s deep within each of us and particularly in our societies. As it happens, I’m proud of the way Britain is working it out. Our best answer to the problem of racism is, “love one another”; and we British, more than any other nation, do that – we have the highest rate of interfaith and interracial relationships and marriage in the world.
And another reason that Muslim youth is drawn to extremism is that Muslim people seem to get a raw deal around the world. The most obvious place is Palestine. I won’t go into that in this post (see this one) – because I want to talk about Kashmir. It’s part of India. Well, it’s part of the Indian sub-continent, and India thinks that it’s part of India. Actually, it’s divided, there’s Pakistani-controlled Kashmir, and Indian-controlled Kashmir. Disputes about Kashmir have been at the root of every conflict between India and Pakistan. Most of Kashmir’s people are Muslim, so Pakistan thinks they should be part of Pakistan. India doesn’t. At the time of Partition, the question of Kashmir was unresolved, so the UN Security Council said there should be a plebiscite as soon as practical. That was in 1950; Kashmiris are still waiting, and Muslims continue to get a raw deal in India. Particularly in Kashmir. Even worse under their new BJP administration. Most Kashmiris want an independent Kashmir including both the Pakistani and Indian administered regions, but Pakistan thinks that the whole of Kashmir should be part of Pakistan – after all, they are all Muslim. Kashmiris would probably prefer to be part of Pakistan than part of India… but without a plebiscite, how can we tell?
What do I think?
I don’t know. I’ve never been to Kashmir. I’m just surprised that it isn’t higher up the profile of international injustices. It’s a festering sore, one of many that helps drive young people towards extremism. The plebiscite should take place. Probably. But then what about the Punjab? Most Punjabis are Sikh. If Old-India’s Muslims got Pakistan, and its Hindus New-India, shouldn’t the Sikhs have their own country too? Err, actually no.
Basing countries on religion is a catastrophic mistake. Religion is a personal thing, it should have nothing to do with nationality. The partition of India in 1947 was a terrible mistake. The creation of the Jewish State another one, we are living with the problems of both mistakes today. India should have been created into a single, secular federation, with a secular constitution guaranteeing religious freedom across the subcontinent, from Sri Lanka to the North-West Frontier. Actually, the founder of Pakistan, Muhammad Ali Jinnah, wanted it to be a secular country – because he feared Hindu persecution. He did his fellow Muslims no favours, he should have kept their numbers in a single secular India. Pakistan is a terrible mess because it can’t decide whether it wants secular or sharia law. And it’s got one foot in bed with America and another with the Taleban. And they are all corrupt, corrupt like all governments are corrupt.
And Kashmir? Well, Kashmiris should decide. Obviously. The UN said so, sixty-five years ago. Only India is stopping it happening.