Office of the Chief Rabbi

In the press: Minorities must ‘pass the Norman Tebbit test’

The Telegraph reports on the Chief Rabbi’s call for faith communities to “pass the Norman Tebbit test”, a school of thought that regards a minority’s support for their host country’s sporting team as evidence of their successful integration into society. His comments came as he sat on a panel of religious leaders participating in the annual Benedict XVI Lecture.

By John Bingham

All minority groups must be able to “pass the Norman Tebbit test” to live successfully in modern Britain, according to the spiritual leader of the UK’s Jewish community.

The Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis revived the so-called cricket test as he urged all religious minorities to strive to be “totally British” without abandoning their beliefs.

Lord Tebbit is reputed to have suggested once that a good way to assess the loyalty of ethnic minorities to Britain is to ask whom they support in cricket matches.

The Chief Rabbi said minorities could learn the secret of integration from thousands of years of Jewish history.

He added that even German Jews living under the Nazis had been loyal to their country, proudly declaring “Deutschland über alles”, despite what they were suffering.

His comments came as he joined Cardinal Vincent Nichols, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, and Maulana Syed Ali Raza Rizvi, a prominent Shia cleric, at the annual Benedict XVI Lecture, an interfaith discussion event in London.

Cardinal Nichols spoke of the Government’s counter-extremism and “British values” drive, warning that while it is essential to combat radicalisation, the tactic could be “dangerous” and risks alienating minority groups, if the aims are not properly defined.

The three leaders were addressing the issue of how to live as “creative minorities” in the annual discussion set up following Pope Benedict’s visit to the UK in 2010.

Chief Rabbi Mirvis said the earliest example of the Jewish approach to this was the story of Joseph, who was sold as a slave into Egypt because of his brothers’ jealously over his coloured coat and rose to become Pharaoh’s chief minister.

“So too here in Britain, as has been the case with Jewish communities right around the globe, we have always given our all for our society,” he said.

“We have considered ourselves to be Jewish and at the same time totally British in the same way as Jews in South Africa are South Africans and those in Australia are Australians and those in America are Americans.

“We express a natural loyalty towards the country of which we are proudly a part.”

“In the same way, Jews in Germany in the 1930s declared ‘Deutschland über alles’ – regardless of what might transpire to us we express a natural loyalty towards the country of which we are proudly a part.”

He said minorities had a double responsibility – to be proud citizens of their countries without forgetting their own traditions.

“In a nutshell minorities need to pass the Norman Tebbit test,” he said.

“This is something which thankfully Jewish communities all around the world have always done.

“And we’re proud that we can pass that test within British society today.”

Welcoming the Chief Rabbi’s remarks Lord Tebbit said: “I’m not altogether surprised because I have always found that the Jewish community has taken the view that it fits in to this country, we respect each other, we don’t expect each other to entirely endorse everybody’s views but we can live together.

“And that’s the way it should be.”

In his address Cardinal Nichols spoke about the Government’s counter-extremism drive, warning of potential dangers.

“We are all intensely aware of the threat of extremism – extremist views, extremist actions – but we are less sure about how they are to be described,” he said.

“What exactly are the ‘socially acceptable’ patterns of thought and behaviour that might be determined to come under the umbrella of extremism?”

“And without some sound definition, countering extremism is not only difficult to fashion but dangerous in the premises it might unwittingly adopt and the alienation it could consequently engender.

“What exactly are the ‘socially acceptable’ patterns of thought and behaviour that might be determined to come under the umbrella of extremism?

“How do we begin to define what can reasonably be seen as inimical to the society we wish to shape and protect?

“It is all religious belief as some would have it?

“Does it include religious convictions that, at this time, do not accord with contemporary culture and preoccupations?”

“It could become far too embracing, far too expressive of simply current social consensuses.”

He added: “We heard the other day of incidences in schools where teachers rapidly get in touch with the police over remarks made by children.

“Now that can do immense damage to the confidence of a community that they are understood and that their children are not being viewed as immediately suspects or potential terrorists.”

Pressed about the Government’s so-called “Prevent” strategy, he said: “We are at a very delicate point in which the defining of what is extremism, and therefore what has to be prevented, could go quite seriously wrong.