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Let me once again try to summarise the argument so far. I began by arguing that Britain in the eighteenth century renounced any public commitment to the idea of spiritual struggle, which had been the central legitimising value of most human societies up until then. I went on to argue that what replaced it was a relatively unashamed assertion of the Will to Power which took the form both of a drive towards securing a monopoly of sea power, and of an unprecedented expansion of what Marx would call the 'productive forces', both through the 'agrarian revolution' and then the 'industrial revolution', with huge cost to the population at large, first driven off the land, then driven into the factories (the process that was later to occur in concentrated form over ten years more or less in the USSR). That the impetus thus created required that Britain become the world hegemon imposing values favourable to the establishment of a single world market - the world as the largest possible arena for the exercise of the Will to Power.

Of course Britain is no longer the world hegemon. That role is now fulfilled by the USA. But we often hear it said that the UK and the USA have common values and the USA could be said to have taken up the British ideology and run with it. We will remember how Sir Charles Dilke congratulated the USA on forcing Japan out of its isolationism into a more British frame of mind.  I don't want to develop that notion here but I would like to say a brief word on the process by which the USA replaced the UK as world hegemon.

Normally one would think that such a development could only occur through war, and of course it did occur through war, but not a war between the UK and the USA. As a result of Britain's defeat first at the hands of Germany then of Japan, Britain became wholly dependent on the USA and its President, F.D.Roosevelt. Roosevelt, drove a hard bargain which amounted to the dismantling of its Empire. It is possible to see the 1939-45 war as a surrogate war between the UK and the USA which the USA won. The case is given in some detail by John Charmley in his book Churchill's Grand Alliance (Hodder and Stoughton, 1995).


I have presented this account of British values in a way that suggests moral disapproval, largely because of the degree of war and massacre that was involved. But, although the technical means at our disposal allow of a degree of destruction that is unprecedented in human history, war and massacre were hardly unknown to the religious civilisations of the past. The intellectual and moral history of both Germany and Britain was largely determined by the horrendous religious wars of the seventeenth century. There are many people of course who see the huge expansion of the productive forces under capitalism as rendering possible a great increase in prosperity and freedom from necessity throughout the world - foremost among them Karl Marx himself. Here he is, talking about the imposition of British material values, in the form of the railways, on India:

'I know that the English millocracy intend to endow India with railways with the exclusive view of extracting at diminished expenses the cotton and other raw materials for their manufactures. But when you have once introduced machinery into the locomotion of a country which possesses iron and coals, you are unable to withhold it from its fabrication. You cannot maintain a net of railways over an immense country without introducing all those industrial processes necessary to meet the immediate and current wants of railway locomotion, and out of which there must grow the application of machinery to those branches of industry not immediately connected with railways. The railway system will therefore become, in India, truly the forerunner of modern industry ...

'Modern industry, resulting from the railway system, will dissolve the hereditary divisions of labour upon which rest the Indian castes, those decisive impediments to Indian progress and Indian power ...

The Indians will not reap the fruits of the new elements of society scattered among them by the British bourgeoisie until in Great Britain itself the now ruling classes shall have been supplanted by the industrial proletariat, or till the Hindoos themselves shall have grown strong enough to throw off the English yoke altogether. At all events, we may safely expect to see, at a more or less remote period, the regeneration of that great and interesting country ...'(9)

(9) Karl Marx: 'The Future Results of British Rule in India', New-York Daily Tribune, August 8, 1853; reprinted in the New-York Semi-Weekly Tribune, No. 856, August 9, 1853. Full text available at Marx is optimistic about the effects of industrialisation on the Indian caste system but it could be argued that industrialisation has only made the situation worse. See for example Barbara Harris-White: India's religions and the economy, available at

And a society that has no credible collective religious idea of its own can permit many mutually contradictory religious ideas, modes of spiritual struggle, to exist together in the same social space. One of the most revolutionary sentences ever penned was, I believe, this, from John Locke's Essay on Toleration, 1689:

'A church, then, I take to be a voluntary society of men, joining themselves together of their own accord in order to the public worshipping of God in such a manner as they judge acceptable to Him and effectual to the salvation of their souls.'(10)

(10) Quoted in Brooke: Ulster Presbyterianism, p.72

That, it seems to me, marks the fundamental dividing line between what we might call 'British values' and what we might call 'Islamic values'. I'm not here thinking about what is called 'radical Islam', 'terrorism' etc. I'm thinking about Islam as a world religion. Don't worry. I don't intend at this point in my talk to attempt any sort of detailed account of Islam.(11) The main point I want to emphasise is that Islam is a religion of law. When Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire, it inherited an already existing body of law. But from the earliest days, indeed from the life of Muhammad himself, Islam was the organising principle of  new political society. There are within Islam many different, sometimes conflicting, schools of jurisprudence, but the basic principle remains that the ultimate source of law is divine revelation. It is not a matter of individual or collective human judgment.

(11) I go into a bit more detail in my article 'Islam and Politics' -

The British government, as part of its 'Prevent' strategy to counter terrorism has defined 'extremism', seen as the gateway to terrorist activity, as 'vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values'. And it has defined British values as 'democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs.' Actually the definition of extremism is opposition to fundamental British values including democracy, the rule of law etc, implying the existence of other fundamental British values that are not on the list.(12) Maybe we shall offend against them unwittingly.

(12) See

But so far as it goes I imagine most of us in this room would approve of that list, and even perhaps regard it as rather banal and self evident. It is, however, questionable whether any of these can properly be regarded as 'values'. Rather, they lay down the conditions under which different, or even contradictory values can compete for the prize, which is the rule of law. For example on the day of giving this talk I was listening to Any Questions. The question of British values came up. One of the speakers gave, I think, free trade, or perhaps it was free markets, and another free enterprise as fundamental British values. Had I been asked back in the 1960s/70s what it was I liked about Britain, what gave me pride in being British, I would have replied without hesitation 'the welfare state.' That was once a fundamental British value. There is competition between contradictory fundamental British values and the values given by the government merely define the arena in which the competition takes place.

The vast majority of Muslims will have no difficulty accepting these non-values as the necessary arena in a non-Muslim society, but in a Muslim society, the law is, at least in part, a divine revelation and therefore not subject to the vagaries of individual or public opinion. Even in our own case the 'mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs' that we proclaim has a clearly marked limit - it doesn't extend to intolerant faiths and beliefs, to for example the self confident Christianity that would have been regarded as a fundamental British value only a very short time ago. Muslim countries historically have often - not always - shown more tolerance to non-Muslim faiths and beliefs than Christianity, but this has always been within the framework of Muslim law. In Muslim law, Christianity and Judaism have a recognised status and are tolerated so long as they stay within the limits of that status. There is no question of Christians or Jews being allowed to propagate their views freely and to attempt to convert Muslims.

I imagine that most of us in this room prefer the contemporary British approach to these matters. We have, as part of our own historical evolution, absorbed John Locke's revolutionary definition of a church. But the point I hope you will retain is that this admirable sentiment comes with all the baggage I tried to outline in the earlier part of my talk; and that it has been received by large parts of the world, not as part of its own intellectual and moral evolution, but as an alien imposition, imposed by a force which (if we agree that US world hegemony is simply a prolongation of the old British hegemony) is still spreading terror and mayhem ('shock and awe') and what can easily be seen as a brutally self-serving, spiritually vacuous, commercial culture throughout the world.