British Values

Frederick_Leighton_-_SolitudeIslamic Extremism is a British value: most of the European fighters in Syria are British. There are two kinds of Islamic extremism- those who want armed struggle for the umma, and those who think the world was created less than 10,000 years ago and all unbelievers are going to Jahannam. They overlap but are not the same. Theresa May fails to understand the difference, writing We do, however, need to recognise that many moderate Muslims, as well as people of other religions, believe that covering one’s hair is a religious requirement and some parents will therefore want their children to do so. The text on dress requirements should therefore not be part of the extremism definition.

Michael Gove will require England’s 20,000 primary and secondary schools to actively promote tolerance, fairness, respect for other faiths, and the rule of law and democracy, says the Daily Mail, whose readers imagine that it epitomises Britishness, in its casual racism and loathing for LGBT and benefit claimants. Prejudice, drunkenness and spontaneous violence are British values since before Great Britain was. Any lesson on English culture should include the many uses of the word “fuck”.

“Respect for other faiths” is incompatible with preventing them teaching that Noah is a historical figure, if they want. There is a tension here. Sweeping the difficulties under the carpet is a British value.

Tolerance, a sense of fair play and the stiff upper lip are British values, and so is the hypocritical assertion that these are more British than foreign, or that they are more British than the eye for the main chance. Consider the War of Jenkins’ Ear, fought from 1739-1748 to ensure the lucrative right to sell slaves in Spain’s American colonies. We talked of the White Man’s Burden to civilise India, and indeed we managed to abolish suttee, which I read is the manifestation of the moral goodness (sat) in women.

Pretence is the core British value: we are the good people, shocked and amazed when our bad side comes out. So we have no way of channelling it. Cynical denial of such Good is a reaction to our pretence, necessary to purge it, but leaving us without a moral centre. Though our poets tell us the answer:

Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.

Ah, love, let us be true to one another!

By all means teach tolerance, fairness, respect for others and the myths and metaphors which speak to them, commitment to truth, grace in movement and repose. Children should be taught to come to their own understanding of what is the Good Life, by criticising different views of how to live well. Teach the best virtues of humanity, but not as British rather than Islamic. Fear of the Bogeyman is very British, but never ends well.

2 thoughts on “British Values

  1. our societies are filled with men/women who might fit the profile of the bogeyman. They, too, operate in darkness, planning terrible, violent acts against innocent strangers, propagate negative scary tales of the unknown…the fear is increased manifold when someone who fits our perception of a bogeyman does something foreign or strange to our ways – multiculturalism is a fertile ground where bogeymen spring up “out of the blue” … Bogeyman has become a political tool, no doubt


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