This week Lord Ahmed was imprisoned for dangerous driving. Though his imprisonment may have been caused by his pushing buttons on his mobile-phone; he has in the past committed far graver offences against Parliament. Recently, he, inadvertently or not, attempted to create a possible mass public order offence, by stating that the presence of a Dutch MP would be met by something akin to muslim riots. Benjamin D’Israeli once set a bench-mark for decency in politics when he said: ‘I equally decry the appeal to the passions of the many of the prejudices of the few’. Lord Ahmed has a lot to learn on that front, for he was doing quite the opposite. Perhaps, he felt that his own position was unsafe unless he was out slaying the myriad phantoms of discontent in his head. Through his visceral and ill-reflective manner of debate, he encouraged feelings of disenchantment amongst a few of the muslim community, rather than sought to reduce their fears and search for national and community solidarity. Instead of encouraging muslim vigilance and toleration when Geert Wilders MP was invited he was far too quickly and thoughtlessly up in arms ‘crying havoc'. He thus lost an opportunity to show those of us that are non-muslims and are sceptical about peaceful co-existence with Islamic communities that they are wrong, and that their fears are unfounded. His response was thus lacking in sound judgment and deliberation, questioning as to how much the Government had pondered a possible ‘band-wagon approach’ problem on appointment. His approach was particularly questionable as he himself had allowed a book-launch by a supposed anti-semite, Israel Shamir, in the Lord’s. This picking and choosing of speakers palatability belies a want of understanding of the importance of freedom of speech and intimates an agenda. It also indicates that this is perhaps not a man necessarily to be trusted with his self-appointed representation of British muslims.
There is also a graver and more worrying political issue here. Lord Ahmed became the Lord’s first Muslim Life Peer in 1998, a part of Blair’s search for minority representation in politics. This is a product of recent postive discrimination drives in political appointments, demonstrating the flaws in this unfair approach. Unfair, as it not only pushes out other candidates on the basis of background, but also deleterious as the better candidate is often marginalised. This positive discrimination approach can thus weaken the institution of appointment, as persons are chosen on representation as opposed to calibre. This problem is acute in other areas of appointment, including employment, which suffers from the malaise of interference by so called anti-discrimination laws. It may not be as clear a problem in political appointment to the Lords, which has much more to do with the current shambolic system of appointment to the upper chamber based on party whim. Positive discrimination encourages and re-inforces differences through unfair selection (a non-muslim, non-ethnic minority is thus not picked)that different racial and religious communities need their own representative factions in politics. This undermines the spirit of a singular national identity. Thus forced categorised representation enforces an existing divide that at present feasibly separates communities. We should, of course, be endeavouring to do the opposite. Simply put a policy that seeks a fair representation of ethnic and other minorities can also be harmful to community cohesion. Further, there is at present, perhaps, too much a drive for fair representation, that may leave such appointment processes open to abuse. Not all of our politics are such that we feel only comfortable if there are those from our own superficial ethnic sub-divisions in charge. Some of us, would rather choose someone more able from another back-ground, race or gender in positions of influence if it is in the best-interests of our country. In this spirit, the better of us may even prefer to elect those whom we do not like and those that also dislike us. A similar unfairness exists in the promotion of women over men, though unlike racial, ethic or relgious promotion it does not necessarily come with the same cost of community cohesion.
(The Birkenhead Society. The Birkenhead Society does not accept legal responsibility for the factual content or accuracy of its blog or website).