David Cameron launched his bid to lead the Conservative party he made a
speech on August 24 2005 in which he equated resistance to foreign
occupation in the Muslim world and Islamic opposition to tyrannical
regimes with Nazism. The speech followed themes previously expounded by
the neo-conservative writer Michael Gove – a close ally and front bench
colleague of Cameron.
Since then, Cameron has made a few cosmetic gestures to deflect criticism that he has an anti-Muslim stance. Spending a few days with a Muslim family and appointing a Muslim to his Shadow Cabinet were two such gestures. However, as we will show, these moves cannot be assumed to be sincere in any way, shape or form.
With regards to the time with Muslim family, Cameron wrote an article immediately following this saying that it was wrong to use the term ‘Islamist’ with terrorism, as it smeared the whole Muslim community with the actions of a few. He said: "We must also be careful about the language we use. No Muslim I’ve ever met is offended by Christmas, or supports its replacement with ‘Winterval’. But many Muslims I’ve talked to about these issues are deeply offended by the use of the word ‘Islamic’ or ‘Islamist’ to describe the terrorist threat we face today."
However, in his leadership launch speech mentioned, made in August 2005, it was he that used the same terminology saying: "The driving force behind today’s terrorist threat is Islamist fundamentalism. The struggle we are engaged in is, at root, ideological. During the last century a strain of Islamist thinking has developed which, like other totalitarianisms, such as Nazism and Communism, offers its followers a form of redemption through violence."
On another occasion he even said: "The BNP pretend to be respectable. But their creed is pure hate…and those who seek a Sharia state, or special treatment and a separate law for British Muslims are, in many ways, the mirror image of the BNP."
Cameron, as much as anyone, has stoked up anti-Islamic feeling by using the same terminology that he himself criticised when it seemed expedient.
His appointment of Sayeeda Warsi to his Shadow Cabinet may have been welcomed by some, but he has been very clear that he will not tolerate any independent Muslim voices in his Cabinet. Either they have to say what "Cameron Sahib" has to say or else they will be out. Ali Miraj was an ‘A’ list candidate who backed Cameron in his bid to lead the party. However, when Mr Miraj voiced criticisms of Cameron’s lack of substance, he was not only sacked, but accused of wanting a peerage and briefed against by Cameron allies.
Prior to her appointment, Sayeeda Warsi spoke openly about the need to engage a wider spectrum of Muslim opinion including so called ‘extremist’ voices. "We must start engaging with, not agreeing with, the radical groups who we have said in the past are complete nutters," she said in 2005. Warsi criticised the idea that pressure should be placed upon British Muslims to root out extremists within their midst, commenting that "when you say this is something that the Muslim community needs to weed out, or deal with, that is a very dangerous step to take." She once wrote: "if terrorism is the use of violence against civilians, then where does that leave us in Iraq?" Also, regarding Kashmir, she said, "We have a community in Britain, a Pakistani and Kashmiri community, who holds a very, very strong view about Kashmir and the scope of freedom-fighting in Kashmir. It would concern me if… the definition of terrorism was to cover maybe (the) legitimate freedom-fight in Kashmir."
However, once she had accepted a place in the Shadow Cabinet, Cameron said on BBC television that she would have to tow his policy line – which included the banning of the same groups she had suggested engaging. Hence, she followed the command of ‘Cameron Sahib’ – even to the extent that she called for the ban of those with whom she suggested engagement and has even appeared to legitimise the grievances of the BNP, a signal of how far one has to go to show one’s loyalty.
It is evident that Cameron has inherited many of Blair’s ‘qualities’. His stance towards Islam and Muslims is clearly one of them. He may be very proud of this, but it certainly shows the nasty side of his party. Doubtless there will be more cynical gestures to offset the criticisms. However, the real manner in which Cameron will deal with the Muslim community is certain to become increasingly apparent in his policies, the way he will deal with the Muslims voices in his party and his views towards Islam and Muslims in general.