We Should Aim To Tackle Extremism In ALL Religions, Says James

24 March 2017, 10:34 | Updated: 24 March 2017, 12:00

James O'Brien says that in order to tackle extremism, we need to start being "meaner to everybody with religious beliefs".

On his Friday morning LBC show James launched into this monologue about tackling extremism in all religions.  

James said: "You can't be an extremist, unless you start off somewhere believing that certain types of behaviour get you a place in heaven.  Now this, this fella, who is apparently responsible for the murder of PC Keith Palmer and now four other people, probably is about as religious as a Tonka truck, when push really comes to shove.  

"The process of radicalisation in prison is just the process of replacing one lot of hatred for another. You see that on both sides of the far right, and the Islamist extremist debate." 

He went on: "If you take an extremist...as someone who's at the end of the journey, then what about the rest of the journey? When does the journey become problematical?  

"This seems to me to be a really important question, because we talk about extremists, and yet what's the point at which we should be clamping down?  

"You teach someone, and whenever we tried to have this conversation in the past about 'why do they do it, why do they do it?', it boils down to, if you believe that it is religious based, as plenty of people do, and I think it's going to be a fairly hard argument to say it's got nothing to do with religion, it's got nothing to do with, in this case, Islam.  

"I kind of find myself struggling to come up with any other answer. Why do they do it? Because they think God wants them to. Why do they do it, because they think they'll go to heaven. Why do they do it? Because they think they'll get virgins in heaven. 

"Now, that means, almost by definition, if you're a bit dopey, if you're easily led, if you're already leaning towards criminality and hatred, then radicalisation in prison becomes a much more likely prospect for you.  

"But this is the horribly uncomfortable bit of my thinking: It kind of means we've got to start being a little bit meaner to everybody with religious beliefs, if you want to tackle the extremism, you want to tackle the extremists.  

"Don't we have to start mocking the early stages of that journey?  People who believe that chopping off a child foreskin is going to make it easier for them to get into heaven. 

"People who believe that eating fish on Fridays is somehow going to please their god. People who believe that not eating pork is going to have an impact upon an omniscient creator up in heaven.  

"But as soon as I say these things, and start veering into other religions, I feel a little bit more exposed, and a little bit more vulnerable. Do you know what?  

"At my Catholic boarding school in 1980s Yorkshire, 'Life of Brian' by Monty Python and was still banned, and I've thought about that a lot since.  

"And I know why. It's because if you, and remember I have this caveat, it's very convenient, and I almost wish I didn't have this caveat, because it's almost like a sort of suit of ideological armour, if I just keep saying 'welI I go to church every Sunday, so I'm allowed to slag off religious institutions'.  

"I'm conscious of the offence that it causes. But the reason why they banned 'Life of Brian' at my Catholic, monastic boarding school, for those of you that don't know it's sort of takes the mickey out of the Christian story, mistaking Brian, who is not the messiah, he's a very naughty boy, mistaking him for Jesus, but the monks banned it at my school.  

"Banned it. Literally. And it took me a while to work out why. The thing is, if you start laughing at any of it, a lot of it will fall apart, won't it?  

"It's why I thought 'Four Lions', was it 'Four Lions', the Chris Morris film that took the mickey out of want-to-be jihadists, it's why that was actually so powerful. 

"I wish I'd gone to a wider audience, kind of like a 'Life of Brian' for Islamist fundamentalism, if you will. But if you go from a starting place to an extremity, you've got to examine every milestone on that journey, and if you examine every milestone on that journey, we should be taking the mickey circumcision, we should be taking the mickey out of dietary requirements, we should probably be taking the mickey out of vows of celibacy."