UK: MP Calls for Muslims to Sign 'Code of Conduct'

Right-wing MEP provokes anger after reiterating call for Muslims to renounce parts of the Koran calling for jihad.

Ari Soffer,

Muslim women in London (illustrative)
Muslim women in London (illustrative)

A controversial British Member of the European Parliament has renewed his calls for Muslims in the UK to sign up to a special "code of conduct", which would include rejecting aspects of the Koran which advocate "violent physical Jihad".

Gerrard Batten, a senior member of the right-wing UK Independence Party (UKIP) - which calls for Britain to leave the European Union and advocates for strict immigration controls in the UK - first published the "Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding" in 2006. At the time, he urged Muslims to sign up to the five-point pledge to accept equality, reject violence in the name of religion, and to "reexamine and address the meaning and application of certain Islamic texts and doctrines".

When asked about his views by the left-wing Guardian newspaper Tuesday, Batten stood by the call, and said he did not see why "any reasonable, normal person" would object to signing the document. He reiterated his opinion that the Koran and other Islamic texts should be updated, to remove passages calling to "kill Jews wherever you find them and various things like that".

"If that represents the thinking of modern people, there's something wrong, in which case maybe they need to revise their thinking. If they say they can't revise their thinking on those issues, then who's got the problem – us or them?" he challenged.

Batten, who represents the party in the EU parliament and is a member of its Executive Committee, is no stranger to controversy. In 2010 he issued a call to the British authorities to not permit the building of any more mosques in the county in response to discrimination against non-Muslims in Muslim countries.

"They don't allow Christian churches or Hindu temples to be built or any kind of non-Muslim place of worship in many of their countries and certainly not in the heartland of their religion," he said at the time. "Well, if they don't allow it, why can they expect to see their religion tolerated somewhere else?

Standing by those statements as well, he told the Guardian "Why do we allow the wholesale building of mosques by a religion that refuses in its heartland to acknowledge other people's right to worship a different religion?"

When asked whether he was holding all Muslims collectively responsible for the actions of certain states, he retorted: "They should be protesting about people being arrested in Saudi Arabia for carrying a Bible. Maybe that's what they should be getting upset about and protesting about. Showing they are in the same mindset as the rest of us."

"I would expect the fundamentalists to agree with me that democracy is incompatible with fundamentalist Islam. Moderate Muslims have to decide which side of the argument they are on," he added. 

His comments provoked angry condemnations from Muslim politicians from across the political spectrum.

Conservative Party MP Rehman Chishti called the comments "shocking" and said that if UKIP leader Nigel Farage had any credibility, he would fire Baten. 

Labor MP Sadiq Kahn said he was "appalled at the ignorance Gerard Batten appears to have shown when speaking about the faith that I and hundreds of thousands of British Muslims practice."

Baten's views drew ire from non-Muslim politicians as well, who have previously accused UKIP of having an anti-Muslim agenda.

"His offensive blanket stereotyping of Muslims as jihadists speaks volumes about UKIP's extremism and should warn voters that voting UKIP means associating with hatred and Islamophobia," said Liberal Democrat London MEP Sarah Ludford, who claimed the party was simply pretending "to be eurosceptic but not racist".

But Batten derided his critics, asking "Who is in favor of jihad? Apart from the jihadists of course? I was, and still am, happy to speak out against it. It is amusing that the Guardian equates being opposed to extremism and jihadism as 'overlapping with the far-right'. So are left-wing liberals in favour of jihad? If not, do they overlap too?"