The joint statement that has been signed calls for an end to undefined words like “radicalisation” and “extremism” being used for normative beliefs. Beliefs which themselves have been left undefined in the statement. It is a muddle of incoherent ideas, being two faced while using double speak.
As to using such “highly charged words”, how about accusation of “criminalisation” of Islam in statement, summed up in the 5Pillarz headline:
Let us dissect the statement piece by piece …
“This joint statement expresses a position with respect to the ongoing demonisation of Muslims in Britain, their values as well as prominent scholars, speakers and organisations.
I can think of two organisations off the top of my head: Hizb ut Tahrir and CAGE. Members of whom have signed this statement. Hizb ut Tahrir has stated democracy is against Islam and “calls the Muslim armies to give Hizb ut Tahrir the Nussrah (Material Support) so that Khilafah is established.” CAGE’s spiral from their abysmal press conference on Jihadi John and failure to condemn stoning for adultery or FGM, has resulted in big donors pulling money and now Amnesty breaking their links with them.
Pointing all this out is not demonising Muslims or Islam. It is criticising Hizb ut Tahrir and CAGE. As to the values which are demonised, let us see if the statement goes on to tell us what they are.
We, the undersigned Imams, sheikhs, advocates, activists, community leaders, community organisations and student bodies of the Muslim community, make the following points in this regard:
1) We reject the exploitation of Muslim issues and the ‘terror threat’ for political capital, in particular in the run up to a general election. Exploiting public fears about security is as dishonourable as exploiting public fears about immigration. Both deflect attention from crises in the economy and health service, but are crude and divisive tactics, where the big parties inevitably try to outdo each other in their nastiness.
Balancing security against liberty, or to be more accurate maintaining security while safeguarding liberty, is part and parcel of politics ever since fears of Big Brother. The suggestion is that people will not focus on issues like the economy or health service due to how politicians think they can make political capital with the electorate over dealing with the terror threat.
Most political pundits disagree with this. Political capital will be made more out of austerity, NHS, the economy, Europe and not being Ed Miliband. That is the bigger picture, though Conservatives have made a big play to introduce a Bill of Rights to replace European existing human rights legislation. Whilst deporting Islamic terror suspects has been a part of that narrative, this is more political capital on the European issue which has been a focus for the Conservatives for over a generation.
2) We deplore the continued public targeting of Muslims through endless ‘anti-terror’ laws. There have been around ten pieces of legislation since the year 2000, all giving huge powers to the state, which have fuelled a media hysteria even though in most cases no crime was committed. This has created a distressing and harmful backlash towards Muslims, especially women and children.
“No crime was committed.” Well, since 2000:
“2005 7 July: The 7 July 2005 London bombings conducted by four separate Islamist extremist suicide bombers, killing 56 people and injuring 700.
2007 30 June: 2007 Glasgow International Airport attack perpetrated by Islamist extremists.
2008 22 May: 2008 Exeter attempted bombing by an Islamist extremist, injuring only the perpetrator.
2013 22 May: A British soldier, Lee Rigby, was murdered in an attack in Woolwich by Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, two Islamist extremists armed with a handgun and a number of bladed implements. Both men were sentenced to life imprisonment, with Adebolajo given a whole life order and Adebowale ordered to serve at least 45 years.” [Source]
Those that never came to fruition, which are listed and we know about:
“2000 17 November: Police arrested Moinul Abedin. His Birmingham house contained bomb-making instructions, equipment, and traces of the explosive HTMD. A nearby lock-up rented by Abedin contained 100 kg of the chemical components of HTMD.
2005 21 July: The 21 July 2005 London bombings, also conducted by four would-be suicide bombers on the public transport, whose bombs failed to detonate.
2007 1 February: The 2007 Plot to behead a British Muslim soldier
2007 29 June: 2007 London car bombs [aimed at a nightclub, linked to Galscow attack above]
2008 27 February: British police thwarted a suspected plot to kill Abdullah of Saudi Arabia during a state visit to Britain in the year 2007 a senior officer said.
2012 June: Five Muslims plotted to bomb an English Defence League rally in Dewsbury but arrived late and were arrested when returning to Birmingham. A sixth was also convicted.
2013 April: As part of Operation Pitsford 11 Muslims are jailed for a plotting terror attack involving suicide Bombers. [Source]
Most of us would regard these things as crimes, ones that the letter wilfully forgets suggesting bizarrely there have been none. Up for debate is whether additional legislation is needed to combat the terror threat, and in what form. Whether the media has sensationalised some stories that have increased anti-muslim hatred is a serious point to be addressed.
3) We reject the portrayal of Muslims and the Muslim community as a security threat. The latest Act of Parliament, the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act, threatens to create a ‘McCarthyite’ witch-hunt against Muslims, with nursery workers, schoolteachers and Universities expected to look out for signs of increased Islamic practice as signs of ‘radicalisation’. Such a narrative will only further damage social cohesion as it incites suspicion and ill feeling in the broader community.
Social cohesion is not helped by a narrative that muslims are viewed as a security threat either. Rather than the police leading, we need a community based approach which deals with extremism and helping young people access civil society. That should cover all forms of extremism, and the skills necessary to challenge. For example PREVENT encourages:
“promoting knowledge, skills and understanding to build the resilience of learners;
exploring controversial issues;
recognising local needs;
challenging extremist narratives;
promoting universal rights;
promoting critical analysis; and
promoting pro-social values.”
They sound like values we can all uphold. Education establishments need to look after the welfare of students, free speech and academic freedom are important. A drift to terrorism in a student should rightly ring alarm bells.
4) The expedient use of undefined and politically charged words like ‘radicalisation’ and ‘extremism’ is unacceptable as it criminalises legitimate political discourse and criticism of the stance of successive governments towards Muslims domestically and abroad. We strongly oppose political proposals to further ‘tackle’ and ‘crack down’ on such dissenting voices in the Muslim community despite their disavowal of violence and never having supported terrorist acts.
“Criminalises legitimate political discourse” – if being shown to be an extremist holds up to public scrutiny, it should impact on their credibility in public discourse. CAGE springs to mind, with recent events forcing Amnesty to break their links with them because they would not condemn stoning or FGM publicly.
If we did not call the Taliban extremists, do we think foreign policy would be different? Maybe we have just misunderstood those that use children as remote controlled bombs. That is, when they are not massacring hundreds of children in a school themselves. Terror is not knowing if your school will be attacked by terrorists or whether that new kid might have a bomb in his rucksack.
We could do with much more condemnation and less apologism for their actions as being caused by “the West.” Similarly, countering conspiracy theories like Charlie Hebdo being a Mossad false flag operation, or ISIS being funded by the CIA and Israel, would be much appreciated.
Roundly condemning the murder of Charlie Hebdo cartoonists without “but” would be great – not wanting such cartoonists imprisoned as Muslim Action Forum would like or giving them an islamophobe of the year award as The Islamic Human Rights Commission did – would also suggest you are serious about discourse.
5) Similarly, it is unacceptable to label as ‘extremist’ numerous normative Islamic opinions on a variety of issues, founded on the Quran and Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), implying there is a link between them and violence, using such labels as an excuse to silence speakers.
Newsflash: if you cannot condemn the killing just for being either an ex Muslim, member of the LGBT community, or adulterer under any circumstance – you are an extremist. If the shoe fits, I suggest you take it off rather than jump up and down while wearing them, complaining no one wants to listen to you for holding such an opinion. I am just sorry no one was looking down at your footwear for so long.
As Amnesty mentioned when breaking their relationship with CAGE:
Further to that, the refusal of a Cage spokesperson to condemn violence such as FGM and stoning – themselves examples of torture and degrading treatment that we are campaigning for an end to – is of huge concern to Amnesty and has made any future platform sharing with Cage impossible.” [Source]
6) We affirm our commitment to robust political and ideological debate and discourse for the betterment of humanity at large. The attempts by the state to undermine this bring into question its commitment to its very own purported values and liberal freedoms.
Debate is important. Oddly, charged language of colonialist, white saviour, islamophobe, coconut, liberal imperialist etc is used in the debate freely as well. They do not want to be closed down in a vigorous debate themselves, but often employ such terms to do just that. Pot Kettle.
7) We affirm our concern about peace and security for all. We, however, refuse to be lectured on peace-building and harmony by a government that plays divisive politics and uses fear to elicit uncertainty in the general public, whilst maintaining support for dictators across the Muslim world, who continue to brutalise and legitimate political opposition to their tyranny.
I in turn refuse to be lectured by people who support blasphemy laws, policies that oppress women, who undermine democracy, who give support to extremists, who are against the liberal principles and universal human rights that are essential for a free people.
8) We affirm our intention to hold on to our beliefs and values, to speak out for what is right and against what is wrong based on our principles, whether that be on matters such as the securitisation of society, corporate hegemony, war and peace, economic exploitation, social and moral issues in society, nationalism and racism. Not to do so would be dangerous and leave our community unguided.
By all means use free speech to say what you want to say, and debate what you want to debate. But you have given the game away as to your reasons: “Not to do so would be dangerous and leave our community unguided.” As ever people seek to speak for or guide muslims as a homogenous bloc. We need to get away from treating muslims like that, as either a scary entity or one that needs representatives telling them and others what they think as one.
9) We call on all fair minded people in Britain – including politicians, journalists, academics, and others concerned about fairness for all – to continue to scrutinise the scare tactics, fear-mongering and machinations of politicians, which do not bode well for societal harmony and only increase the alienation felt and experienced by Britain’s Muslim community.
This has to also include scare tactics of telling muslims they are being treated as “other”, subjected to McCarthyism, treated with suspicion by society at large. This only increases alienation and creates a narrative which makes engagement in civil society less attractive. Playing victimhood here is not about empowering change and engagement, but rather stressing grievance and that society has it in for muslims.
It is time that politicians stop diverting the attention of the British public away from its domestic crises and disastrous foreign policies by repeatedly playing the ‘Muslim’ or ‘national security’ card.”
In short, this statement is more about trying to take some of the heat off organisations in the public eye, and trying to give cover to extremist views under a bland undefined claim of normative religious beliefs. This is the politics of division which is done while using double speak when saying social cohesion.
The division being muslims from society while the cohesion is that muslims are one to be guided as one community, within their own identity box of islam under the watchful eye of pious community spokespeople. Using perceived grievance and victimhood as a means to try and herd people into line on religion.
Big brother is a reason to resist government legislation which takes away our civil liberties. We should also be concerned about people using our identity to empower their own political agenda which is not accountable to anyone.
The irony is the government itself has welcomed faith groups in the political process, legitimising religious identity as a fast track compared to non religious groups. The government has itself provided the incentive for the very thing that condemns it.
The resolve to face down extremism in civil society must continue.
Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog
My Huffington Post Blog