Prime Minister David Cameron has outlined proposed new ‘counter-extremism’ laws in the Queen’s Speech, at the state opening of parliament. He has, once again, talked about ‘the introduction of a new civil order regime to restrict extremist activity’ and banning ‘extremists’ from working with children. He might use this muscular rhetoric to portray himself as the defender of democracy. And whether these laws are passed or not, he has managed yet again to demonise Islam – radicalising ‘middle England’ against Muslims with these proposal. But in reality, he has put another nail in democracy’s coffin. There are several factors that illustrate this.
Firstly, not defining ‘extremism’ precisely gives the government a free hand to use such laws against any person or any organisation that can be made to fit into the vague and broad definition of ‘extremist’. This would not be new (existing anti-terrorism laws and counter-extremism policies have already been used against Walter Wolfgang for heckling Jack Straw, and anti-fracking protestors) but it would extend state powers such that it will be even easier to suppress dissenting political and ideological views – even those expressed solely in terms of rational argument. By doing this, Cameron and Putin don’t differ in principle, only in degrees of totalitarianism.
Secondly, he is not simply using a security policy to silence political opinions, but to interfere, clamp down and even redefine religious orthodoxy – forcing believers to conform to today’s liberal capitalist norms. The endless focus on relations between men and women, Muslims not integrating enough and any manner of issues that are unrelated to violent actions proves again and again that this is nothing but an attempt at a forced conversion to liberal values where argument has failed to convince.
Thirdly, there remains no pretence that this is about ‘extremism’ or a strand of opinion amongst Muslims. There is a systematic attempt to bully orthodox practicing believers in a manner that would be called persecution if the subject of the bullying were any other community. The draconian plans to intervene in ’unregulated education settings’ (Muslim religious instruction Madrassas for children) is a clear example of this.
For those who hold different values or dissenting views and are attempting to persuade others, a confident answer would not be to ban them but to win the argument – unless of course they cannot win the argument, in which case the strong-arm tactics of the despot become the norm.
They are in a lose-lose situation. If they persist with these plans they will expose the weakness of democracy. If they desist, and leave Muslims to adhere to their own beliefs and bring about the Islamic system in the Muslim world, they surely will see that humanity will have a far better model of governance than democracy can ever give to people.
Our message is clear. We will continue to advocate that Muslims embrace Islam completely in their lives. This means a Muslim world coming out of darkness and chaos into justice and security for all its citizens under Islam. And it means Muslims in the west exemplifying the noble Islamic values and inviting others to look at them. As for Cameron and his anti-extremism rhetoric, this is no different to the rhetoric of the Quraysh. They too initiated measures like Prevent and the silencing of Muslims. They failed miserably and Islam was implemented throughout the Arab peninsula. Cameron and democracy are upon the same trajectory as the Quraysh.
يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا ادْخُلُوا فِي السِّلْمِ كَافَّةً وَلَا تَتَّبِعُوا خُطُوَاتِ الشَّيْطَانِ ۚ إِنَّهُ لَكُمْ عَدُوٌّ مُّبِينٌ
O believers enter into Islam completely and do not follow the footsteps of Shaitan, surely he is your clear-cut enemy. [TMQ : Al Baqarah – 208]