On the 5th November Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked Her Majesty’s Government “whether, as part of their counter-extremism strategy, they will encourage a national debate about the nature of Islam, including whether the Muslim tenet of abrogation remains valid today.” The Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Revd Steven Croft, asked if the Government planned for education and faith dialogue to form part of the strategy. Lord Ahmad responded for the Government highlighting the work of the Near Neighbours scheme.
The Lord Bishop of Sheffield: My Lords, I strongly agree with the question raised by the previous speaker and the Minister’s reply. Does the Minister agree that encouraging education and dialogue across a broad front should be a key part of our strategy, including: encouraging relationships not only between the faith communities but between all the faith communities and civil society; encouraging agencies such as the Islamic Society of Britain—which does such powerful good work in education in schools and other areas; raising the levels of religious literacy at all levels; further analysis of why people of faith do, in a minority of cases, resort to violence; and building on the excellent work of the noble Lord, Lord Sacks, in his recent book Not in God’s Name?
Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon: The right reverend Prelate raises a very important issue about education. I think that education is the cornerstone of all progressive societies. The Near Neighbours scheme, for example, run by the Church of England, is a great scheme which brings communities together, irrespective of faith and denomination, to ensure that good and sensible values—the prevailing values; we often talk about British values but ultimately they are the human values we all share—prevail in a modern, progressive Britain.