During the course of the summer there has been intensive media scrutiny of our country’s Muslim community. Ongoing discussion about the young men who have gone to Syria to fight for what has become known as ISIS or ISIL was heightened by the savage murder of the Americans James Foley and Steven Sotloff by a UK citizen who is now threatening to murder a British hostage.
Then came the revelations of the cruel and criminal conduct of men of all ages but commonly of Pakistani descent over a period of 16 years in Rotherham.
This follows similar events in Oxford, Rochdale and London.
All of these incidents involve relatively small numbers of people and a tiny percentage of the Muslim population but they are so serious and so utterly unacceptable that they have to be met with loud and determined condemnation from both outside and within.
I have written before about the need for both ordinary and prominent members of the Muslim community to make it clear that the medieval murders committed by ISIS are “not in my name” and I was pleased to see a fatwa from a number of leading Muslim scholars that seeks to make a similar point.
But there remains in the minds of many a concern that there is a lack of credible community leaders, including Imams, who are able and willing to talk to young men about contemporary issues such as sex, drugs, alcohol and radicalisation.
A complaint that I hear from some young Muslims is that there are a few of a new generation who are trying to talk about and offer leadership on these issues but there are too many of an older generation who are not. This must change.
It is never easy for the ‘old guard’ to stand aside but if there is an inability to address these issues it is necessary. It is also necessary for friends and family to make it known and understood that the message that encourages travelling abroad to kill is a twisted and perverted form of any and every religion.
I don’t doubt that most Muslims in this constituency deplore those who have betrayed their faith whether in Rotherham or in Syria. And they should say so time and time again.
Not out of guilt but because whilst it is the collective view of all of us it is a view that they are best able to express.