Mr Timms referred to the problems in the world economy, the conflict in the Middle East and more immediate problems such as last weekend’s stabbing of Stephen Lewis when leaving a church hall party in his own constituency in East London.Thyere's no doubt about the new voice and new confidence. What I'm not sure about is from whence cometh this voice's strength. Is it the cohesion which put so many hundreds of thousands on the streets, to denounce wars in Iraq, Lebanon and Gaza, that has earned the respect of New Labour ? Or is it a series of riots, four suicide bombings and a large number of wannabes ? What think you ? What are our rulers more likely to take notice of ?
Mr Timms said: “It would be easy to lapse in the face of challenges of that magnitude into cynicism or even despair – to conclude that nothing can be done by politicians effectively to resolve these enormous challenges.
“But it is the calling of politicians to figure out how to tackle them, to identify solutions and to work to implement them.”
He said the religious groups of Britain were crucial to this process and singled out the Muslim community for particular praise. “Muslims in Britain have helped faith gain a new voice and a new confidence,” he said.
"How many divisions has the Pope ?" Stalin famously asked. Our rulers take a view on the likely number of Christian suicide bombers and act accordingly :
A Christian nurse from Weston-super-Mare has been suspended for offering to pray for a patient's recovery. Community nurse Caroline Petrie, 45, says she asked an elderly woman patient during a home visit if she wanted her to say a prayer for her.
The patient complained to the health trust about Mrs Petrie who follows the Baptist faith. She was suspended, without pay, on 17 December and will find out the outcome of her disciplinary meeting next week.
I digress. This report positively reeks of fear :
Twenty five per cent of the 430 population of Long Lartin top security jail in Worcestershire are now Muslim, according to an inspection report by Dame Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons.
Prisoners told Dame Anne during her inspection that offenders at the jail are converting to Islam because they want the protection of belonging to a big Muslim group. One inmate quoted in the report said:”Yes, there is a gang culture here which is becoming an issue. A lot of people are becoming Muslim just because it a bigger group."
Another inmate warned that all violence in the jail was gang related and that Long Lartin was in danger of turning into an American-style prison. He said: "If you are not in a gang, you’re in trouble. People are converting to Islam for protection.”
Not something you'd say about Christianity these days, is it ? There have been stories of gang culture in places like Belmarsh, Whitemoor and Frankland - wasn't someone killed in one of those jails ?
Our rulers are afraid that unless they are nice to Muslim inmates, when they come out some will set off bombs. But be fair. They're afraid of the other prisoners, too.
The number of Muslim prisoners in jails doubled in the eleven years to 2007 to reach 8,864 - 11 per cent of the total prison population. Muslim prisoners make up one third of the population of Whitemoor, 15 per cent of Full Sutton top security prison in Yorkshire and 20 per cent of Belmarsh jail.
In today’s report, Dame Anne said the jail’s security department was monitoriting the difficulties of gang activity, potential extremism and radicalisation of inmates in a balanced way. She said staff had been left to balance as best they could the need to engage with and ensure proper treatment for Muslim prisoners and the need to monitor and prevent radicalisation.
“There needs to be a national strategy to equip staff better to engage and support Muslim prisoners,” she said. There is no multi-faith room at the jail and this has resulted in Friday prayers being held in three separate locations.
A survey found that the proportion of prisoners who believed their faith was respected had fallen significantly and only 48 per cent of Muslim respondents said they were respected by staff, compared with a 67 per cent response from non Muslims.
“Given the sensitivities surrounding Muslim prisoners, including the perceived risk of radicalisation, staff required training and advice on how to engage Muslim prisoners better,” the inspection report said.
A growing number of prisoners serving long sentences who have “nothing to lose” is a threat to the control and stability of the jail system, the prisons watchdog warns.
Dame Anne Owers, the chief inspector of prisons, also said that there was a growing use of force to control the most pressurised jails in England and Wales. She highlighted a rise in the number of prison disturbances and increasingly fractious jails as warning signs of the strain being faced in the overcrowded prison system.
One in seven of the 82,000 prisoners in England and Wales is now serving an indefinite sentence for public protection or a life term, the inspector’s annual report reveals.
Dame Anne said that the disturbances in jails have been contained so far but she identified “real risks” of a loss of control in the future. She said that too many of the most volatile prisons, including top security jails holding an increasingly challenging mix of very serious offenders and those establishments holding young men, had not been judged safe in inspections.
Well, think about it. 900-odd homicides p.a. in England and Wales - even with some three-years-for-torturing-someone-to-death sentences you'll be adding maybe five hundred killers each year for ten years or so each, although they're also being released at the other end. Murder is still a crime with a relatively high clear-up rate. One in seven is about 12,000 bad boys of which maybe half will be killers and the other half rapists, failed killers and perhaps combinations of the two. Of course in the days of the death penalty you'd have a lower murder count and fewer murderers in the cells.
It was once pretty hard to get drugs into jail - in the days when you spoke to your beloved through a wire grille. Now you can sit her on your lap, put your tongue in her mouth and hand where you like - in a crowded visiting room with maybe half a dozen guards on high chairs watching over a room with forty or fifty people in it. I get the impression there's more stuff coming in via the staff, too. After all, a stoned jail is a quiescent jail - they hope. The balance of power in prisons has been shifting from jailer to inmate for forty years.
Dame Anne said that the prison system was having to cope with more prisoners serving longer sentences, more gang activities on the wings and concerns about drugs. “There have always been groups engaged in criminal endeavours both inside and outside prisons. There is some evidence of more organisation,” she said. She added: “The presence of drugs is also a key factor because that can create an economy in prison and create bullying.”
The number of Muslim prisoners may be rising, but so is the number of Muslims :
The Muslim population in Britain has grown by more than 500,000 to 2.4 million in just four years, according to official research collated for The Times.
The population multiplied 10 times faster than the rest of society, the research by the Office for National Statistics reveals. In the same period the number of Christians in the country fell by more than 2 million.
Experts said that the increase was attributable to immigration, a higher birthrate and conversions to Islam during the period of 2004-2008, when the data was gathered. They said that it also suggested a growing willingness among believers to describe themselves as Muslims because the western reaction to war and terrorism had strengthened their sense of identity.
Muslim leaders have welcomed the growing population of their communities ...
There are more than 42.6 million Christians in Britain, according to the Office for National Statistics, whose figures were obtained through the quarterly Labour Force Survey of around 53,000 homes. But while the biggest Christian population is among over-70s bracket, for Muslims it is the under-4s ...
Ceri Peach, Professor of Social Geography at Manchester University, said that the rapid growth of the Muslim population posed challenges for society. “The groups with the strongest belief in the family and cohesion are those such as the Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. They have got extremely strong family values but it goes together with the sort of honour society and other kinds of attributes which people object to,” he said. “So you are dealing with a pretty complex situation.”
Hmm. That's what I'd call the weak version of the theory. But he's right that Muslims have many admirable values which hold together and strengthen their society. The operative word being 'their'.
They're not destroying our society, though. We did that when we implemented the brave new vision of the Sixties, which has made modern Britain so different from the Britain of fifty years back. Islam is merely expanding into the moral vacuum left by the decline of Christianity, the cultural vacuum left by the decline of Britishness, and the demographic vacuum left by the Pill and feminism.
Here are the figures. Have a nice day.
The total number of Muslims in Great Britain:
Source: Labour Force Survey