“I want to see new civil powers to target extremists who stay within the law…”
British Home Secretary Theresa May addressed the Conservative Party conference proposing powers to ban Muslims from talking about Islam and politics or expressing views that she does not like.
Her proposals include “Disruption Orders” to stop people speaking publicly or posting messages on social media.
Her definition of ‘extremists’ will also include anybody who seeks to ‘overthrow democracy’. This would include anyone who opposes regimes in the Muslim world – such as those in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and Bangladesh – all of which pay lip service to some democratic process but maintain a small secular elite in power whilst presiding over a mix of corruption, despotism and dysfunctional governance.
Her proposal should be seen as trying to achieve two ends.
The first is to further clamp down on expression of Islamic beliefs and political dissent within Britain.
The government’s existing ‘Prevent’ strategy already tries to do this in a McCarthyite way, but the UK government aims to put this on a legal footing.
It is proof, if ever it were needed, that secular democracies such as Britain can be as draconian or totalitarian in clamping down on competing beliefs or vocal challenges to its foreign policy interests as are states like Putin’s Russia or China.
The second end the government is seeking is nothing more than party political point scoring. As well as May’s draconian proposals, ministers have proposed “a crackdown on ‘absurd’ human rights rulings which threaten to hamper British troops carrying out vital missions” as well as a proposal that anyone said to attend countries like Syria and Pakistan to “train” (whatever that means) will be jailed for life – and May’s further proposal that she “needs to look that all sharia courts are operating within British values.’
The run up to the UK General Election in 2015 is likely to see the three main parties competing to be more anti-Muslim, anti-Immigrant, anti-European etc in order to steal votes from each other. Cameron’s political advisor, Lynton Crosby, was formerly an advisor to politicians in Australia, where a similar atmosphere existed before national elections.
May, who once described her own party as “the nasty party” shows now it is not simply her party that is “nasty”. It is her politics, her proposals, the atmosphere they plan to create in the UK over the next few months, and the interests (especially foreign policy interests) she seeks to protect.
What this and the former government fail to admit is that their political model fails to harmonise differing communities and viewpoints unless they are bullied into assimilation – which is why they have such policies riding off the back of anti-terror legislation. It is no different to the failure of convincing people in the Muslim world to accept secular, liberal, capitalist norms – which is why they have to bomb people into submission, or force them to accept despots and crooks as their rulers.
My prediction is that the atmosphere created by this sort of politics and the actual implementation of any of these policies will make people look more seriously at Islamic beliefs and make UK policies in the Muslim world appear more disgusting in the eyes of people everywhere.
Just as in Moscow and Beijing, draconian policies will be counterproductive.
It is all too often that we see democratic politicians soil their countries long term dignity for short term political gain.
Chairman of UK Executive Committee