London UK, October 19th 2015 – UK Prime Minister David Cameron has announced a series of measures to silence dissenting views – and to ban lawful religious practice – saying they fall outside his definition of “British values”.
These proposals – like almost all counter-extremism policy in this country – are not about ‘terrorism’ or violence – but are about enforcing a secular identity, suppressing political views and reforming the religious values of Muslims. They are a deflection from government policies – foreign and domestic – that are recognized drivers of legitimate grievances.
Using rhetoric that accuses those he disagrees with of being ‘hate preachers’ and ‘extremists’ – he perpetuates the discredited links between beliefs and violence, and exploits public fears of ISIS and of terrorist violence in order to justify yet more draconian laws, building upon a decade and a half of measures that have not just affected Muslims, but others as well.
Commenting on Cameron’s latest announcement, Taji Mustafa, media representative of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain said: “Cameron seems proud to propose more ‘police state’ policies to put himself alongside both his old friends in the Saudi royal family and his new friends in the Chinese politburo – including arbitrarily blacklisting ‘radicals’, subjecting them to a variety of measures including house arrest and internal exile, threatening a dissolution of mosques and imposing new censorship rules on broadcasters”.
”What does it say of his confidence – or lack of it – in being able to counter ideas, if he bans and bullies, rather than debates ideas?”
“What does it say of his confidence – or lack of it – in the judicial system of this country that he plans to take a flamethrower to Magna Carta, bypassing due process and giving the executive more power to criminalise peoples’ views and lifestyles, rather than use existing laws which outlaw incitement to violence?”
“Is every critic of liberal values or the democratic system to be labeled an ‘extremist’, in this so-called ‘free society’?”
”Amongst all his proposals, which would make employers and public services part of his ‘stasi’ state, there is still some room for amusement in his ridiculous proposal to waste yet more money funding government friendly groups, who have done him the service of trying to reform Islam! Having failed to convince the Muslim community to adopt his ideas, he now has to bribe people.”
“Why should anyone have confidence in another raft of ‘anti-extremism’ policies that have led Muslim children to be reported to police-led counter-extremism programs for requesting prayer facilities, declining to play musical instruments, holding pro-Palestinian political views and for using the word ‘eco-terrorist’?”
“Our aim in Hizb ut-Tahrir is to continue to expose pernicious policies like these wherever and whenever we can.”
“We will continue to work in protecting people’s Islamic identity at a time when they are being bullied into hiding it.”
“We will continue to discuss important political issues, and inform Muslims about Islam’s political views to the best of our ability. To accept the rules of “Prevent” and remain silent whilst everyone in society can discuss issues such as Syria, Palestine, Jihad, Shari’ah and Islamic State – would be a crazy approach. Most Imams and Islamic scholars do not dare discuss these issues in any meaningful way for fear of being labeled ‘extremist’ or ‘hate-preachers’ – thereby leaving a mountain of unanswered questions for the Muslim youth. This is utterly stupid in an era when young people need legitimate Islamic answers to difficult questions.”
“Cameron, May, Gove and others doubtless think they are more capable than Stalin Putin, Islam Karimov and the leaders of Quraysh in forcing Muslims to abandon Islamic values.”
“But it is our belief that just as their forebears failed to both convince Muslims by intellectual argument they will similarly fail to coerce Muslims by force.”
“As we have said before – and we will say again, every student of history or religion knows that whenever an arrogant ruling class tries to crush the values of a principled few, they always end humiliated.”
1. These UK policies are based on a discredited narrative implying that there is a conveyor belt from normative Islamic ideas to violent extremism and terrorism which reinforces the lie that the more Islamic a person is, the more of a potential threat they pose.
There is much evidence that ‘radicalisation’ was caused by political grievances and not ‘ideology’. In 2008, MI5 published research that said: ‘Far from being religious zealots, a large number of those involved in terrorism do not practice their faith regularly. Many lack religious literacy and could actually be regarded as religious novices. Very few have been brought up in strongly religious households’. http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2008/aug/20/uksecurity.terrorism1
A prominent terrorism expert John Horgan of the International Center for the Study of terrorism at Pennsylvania State University said: “The idea that radicalization causes terrorism is perhaps the greatest myth alive today in terrorism research… [First], the overwhelming majority of people who hold radical beliefs do not engage in violence. And second, there is increasing evidence that people who engage in terrorism don’t necessarily hold radical beliefs” (John Knefel, “Everything you’ve been told about radicalization is wrong”, Rolling Stone 6 May, 2013)
2. ‘Deradicalisation’ has come to mean making Muslims less Islamic, more “westernised” or secular, and more submissive to political norms. It is nothing more than an agenda of forced-assimilation justified by fears of a security threat.
The state has resorted to bullying Muslims to either change their religion to a ‘British version’ or accept stigmatization for those who hold views that run counter to today’s secular, liberal, capitalist norms.
3. These policies are an escalation of creeping totalitarianism in the UK.
– There have been approximately ten pieces of counter-terrorism/extremism laws in 15 years.
– They use vague ‘catch-all’ definitions of ‘extremism’ wide enough to be used against many including environmental activities.
– They introduced ‘precrime’ – where legal behaviour for Muslims is criminalized and stigmatized.
– They include ‘thought policing’, where ideas and opinions are identified as suspicious behaviour. http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/dec/05/peter-fahy-police-state-warning
– This marks a new ‘McCarthy era’ such that teachers are chasing after kids who hold alternative political views or who don’t trust the media; nursery workers are looking out for toddlers whose parents don’t want them in nativity plays; employers are told to be suspicious of people who change their dress or appearance; universities are expected to police male or female students who don’t mix freely.
– Teachers, doctors, nurses, job center employees, and nursery-workers are now expected to be a security arm of the state.
– David Anderson QC, the Government’s adviser on terrorism legislation, said recently: “If it becomes a function of the state to identify which individuals are engaged in, or exposed to, a broad range of ‘extremist activity’, it will become legitimate for the state to scrutinise (and the citizen to inform upon) the exercise of core democratic freedoms by large numbers of law-abiding people.” http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/law-and-order/11897355/Laws-against-extremism-risk-criminalising-us-all.html
– They mark a two-tier citizenship depending on your faith or beliefs, because they are overwhelmingly focused on one community.
– Other than Muslims these policies have been used on Walter Wolfgang, a refugee from Nazi Germany who heckled a cabinet minister; Jean-Charles De Menezes, an innocent Brazilian man shot dead by UK police; anti fracking protestors (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3223109/Anti-fracking-protesters-labelled-extremists-police-thanks-Government-terror-strategy.html )
4. The fear of so-called ‘Islamic terrorism’ is grossly over emphasized to justify these policies. The organisation Europol published research that the percentage of terrorist attacks in Europe motivated by religious motivation (of which those committed by Muslims is a subset) was 2% – i.e. 98% of terrorist crime in Europe had nothing to do with Islam/religion. But even if the real target of such policies was violence rather than identity, the idea of criminalising whole communities for their political opinions or religious values is utterly disproportionate.