The tests for David Cameron's new coalition are coming thick and fast. During his time as opposition leader, Cameron promised zero tolerance of foreign hate preachers who wanted to visit the United Kingdom. When Gordon Brown dithered over the decision to ban Qatar-based cleric Yusuf al-Qaradawi, David Cameron lambasted the Labour government. "It's clear for reasons of our security," Cameron said, " that we must expel or refuse entry to those who preach hate, pit one faith against another and divide our society….So I call on the government to confirm that it will not be giving al-Qaradawi permission to enter this country, and that it will not repeat the mistake of last December and make clear that Moussawi [who is affiliated to Hezbollah] is not welcome in the UK".
Criticism comes naturally to opposition parties; governing is quite another matter. Later this month, an Indian preacher, Dr Zakir Naik, is due to attend conferences in London and Sheffield. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is under pressure to ban him, although it has indicated he will be allowed into the country.
Naik, ostensibly an expert on comparative religion, has become increasingly controversial in recent years by lecturing on politics. Although he has condemned specific acts of terrorism, he is accused of making inflammatory speeches which glorify terrorists. In one lecture he tells the audience:
Beware of Muslims saying Osama Bin Laden is right or wrong. I reject them…we don't know. But if you ask my view, if given the truth, if he is fighting the enemies of Islam, I am for him.
I don't know what he's doing. I'm not in touch with him. I don't know him personally. If he is terrorising the terrorists, if he is terrorising America the terrorist…I am with him. Every Muslim should be a terrorist.
He also suggests female victims of sexual assault are partly to blame if they do not cover according to strict interpretation of Islamic law:
Suppose two sisters who are twins, and who are equally beautiful, walk down the street. One of them is attired in the Islamic hijab i.e. the whole body is covered, except for the face and the hands up to the wrists. The other sister is wearing western clothes, a skirt or a mini. Just around the corner there is a hooligan or ruffian who is waiting for a catch, to tease a girl. Who will he tease? The girl wearing the Islamic Hijab or the girl wearing the skirt or the mini? Naturally he will tease the girl wearing the skirt or the mini. Such dresses are an indirect invitation to the opposite sex for teasing and molestation.
Naik's repeatedly offensive remarks present a serious challenge to Cameron's government. Critics of the previous Labour government insisted that it focused too narrowly on only those who promoted violent extremism – rather than those who promote separatist and reactionary views at odds with the values of liberal British society. In short, they argued, the government should not just look at violent extremists but all extremists and, in general, those whose presence would not be conducive to the public good.
The way Theresa May and David Cameron handle Zakir Naik will give an important early indication of whether the Conservatives really are delivering the change they promised.