How tolerant should liberals be of Islamic theocracy?

I quite enjoyed James Fergusson’s exploration of British Islam – Al-Britannia, My Country. If it is done intelligently, I approve of someone accentuating the positive, reminding us that the majority of British Muslims have successfully integrated to a large extent, and that optimism is warranted.

But I have a couple of quibbles. He spends much time arguing that it is dangerously wrong to conflate conservative Islam with extremism – the alleged sin of the Prevent programme. We should tolerate those who disparage gay rights or feminism, rather than accuse them of extremism, which will drive them underground.

Fair point, but I feel his argument misses a central issue. If ‘conservative Islam’ disparages pluralism, and the secular nature of our politics, and idealises theocracy, then it surely overlaps with extremism. You could say that an extremist is a conservative who wants to put his ideas into practice.

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