Owen Bowcott, Guardian (London), Feb. 27, 2006
Muslims who wish to live under a system of sharia law should leave Britain, the chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality suggested yesterday.
Speaking in the wake of demonstrations against Danish cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad, Sir Trevor Phillips said those living in the UK had to accept that British values include a commitment to freedom of speech, even if that means offending people.
“What some minorities have to accept is that there are certain central things we all agree about, which are about the way we treat each other — that we have an attachment to democracy, that we sort things out by voting not by violence and intimidation, that we tolerate things that we don’t like,” he told ITV1’s Jonathan Dimbleby programme. “Short of people menacing and threatening each other, we have freedom of expression. We allow people to offend each other.”
Sir Trevor — who stirred controversy with his attacks on multi-culturalism and calls on ethnic minorities to integrate — said a consequence of freedom of speech was that non-Muslims must accept imams’ right to denounce homosexuality.
He rejected the idea that British Muslims should be allowed to live under sharia law in their communities. “I don’t think that’s conceivable,” he said. “We have one set of laws . . . and that’s the end of the story. If you want to have laws decided in another way, you have to live somewhere else.” Sir Trevor said he wanted to promote a sense of “Britishness” in the UK. “One point of Britishness is that people can say what they like about the way we should live, however absurd, however unpopular it is,” he said.