Liberalism and Gove’s call for ‘British values’, whatever these are, are now being forced upon non-believers.
A plot to takeover schools, introduce faith into the classroom and enforce a particular worldview on vulnerable children.
No, this is not reference to an alleged Islamic plot to takeover schools in Birmingham, but to the Rt. Hon. Michael Gove, the British Government’s Education Secretary.
In a classic case of one rule for us and one rule for Muslims, Michael Gove is on the record for suggesting that the Christian faith had a positive role to play in educating children and that there should be more of it.
Writing in the Catholic Herald in 2011, he praised Catholic schools and attributed their strong academic performance to their religious ethos, going on to say that despite “sometimes intense hostility from sections of secular opinion”, the Catholic church had triumphed in a number of areas such as “the right to teach the Catholic religion” and “the rights over admission and staff appointments”.
He stated starkly: “Of course, what really makes Catholic schools stand out is their Catholicity … A key element of [Cardinal Manning’s] vision was that Catholic schools must be allowed sufficient autonomy to integrate the Catholic faith into every aspect of school life. A Catholic ethos is not something confined to RE lessons, but a pervasive set of values that find expression throughout the school day.”
His words explain why he was responsible for sending 370,000 copies of the bible to schools across the UK, proudly placing his name on the front of every copy. Faith is a positive force in educating children it seems, providing that faith is not Islam.
The ferocity with which the government acted over the alleged ‘Trojan Horse’ plot is remarkable. Sensationalising mundane orthodox Islamic practice on dress code, views on sexuality and men-women relations as distinctly beyond the pale.
Liberalism and Gove’s call for ‘British values’ (whatever they are) are now being forced upon non-believers, as part of Gove’s neo-con crusade to stamp out anything that remotely challenges the liberal status quo. This is forced conversion. Legal measures are used to ensure people who don’t convert are punished with the full force of the Government’s machinery.
In fact it is Government ministers who are brainwashing and indoctrinating young people. Whilst Gove described mutual respect and tolerance as distinctly British values, clearly in the case of Muslims, we witness only intolerance and aggressive harassment, as part of an extremist liberal witch-hunt.
And in a stance that would make senator McCarthy proud, Gove wants to introduce measures that punish people on the basis they ‘may’ one day, in later life become an ‘extremist’, by placing them under increased monitoring and surveillance.
As one commentator put it, to be a devout practicing Muslim is now to be an extremist. In wanting to ‘drain the swamp’ to prevent violent extremism, a whole community is cast under suspicion merely for holding on to their basic religious beliefs. [Whilst Catholics are actively encouraged to promote their religious values in schools!]
The burden of proof Muslims are required to exhibit to prove their ‘Britishness’ is far higher than any other member of society [many of which decreasingly consider themselves British or hold nationalistic identities: a poll published by the Scotsman in November 2011 found that on average less than 20% of the UK’s population preferred the British identity to any other].
We also live an era where global rather national identities are becoming more relevant and meaningful, as people move away from a narrow seventeenth century nation-state construct. The campaign harasses a community simply to appeal to the fringe right-wing who are becoming increasingly influential in anti-immigrant, anti-minority Europe.
One of the tragedies of Gove’s scaremongering is that it polarises whole populations. Islam is too frightening to approach, too unworthy of study when cast in such extremist narratives. Non-Muslims are presented with fear and alarm at people’s dress, manner and religious devotion; all of which break the bonds of community, and promotes mistrust and suspicion.
What Gove and his ilk fail to ask is why Muslims have decided to tread a path of increased Islamic adherence?
What such ideologues fail to realise is that many have seen the true extent of Britishness. They are not ignorant of its values; they live in Britain [not some far away country] and see the practical manifestation of Britishness all around them: broken families, an ASBO generation, sexual scandals, drug and alcohol abuse, harassment of immigrants and minority groups, financial suffering, individualism and growing societal and community breakdown.
As a glimpse, the Trussell Trust, the biggest organiser of food banks in Britain, said almost 350,000 people received at least three days’ emergency food last year, up over 250% in a year, and suggest this figure is now nearer 500,000. The use of antidepressants has risen significantly with 12.5m more pills prescribed in 2012 than in 2007, with prescriptions for antidepressants rising from 15m items in 1998 to 40m in 2012. Last year the Centre of Social Justice published a report suggesting that the UK has some of the highest rates of opiate addiction and dependence on alcohol, with alcohol and drug abuse costing the UK £21 billion and £15 billion respectively, and the rate of alcohol-related hospital admissions in England has doubled in a decade. One in 12 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the UK – more than 670,000 – said they have taken “legal highs”, the list could go on.
On taking this basic snapshot of ‘Broken Britain’ is there any wonder why some have opted to follow a different way, and instead hold onto a value system that will safeguard them against such negative trends. More Britishness will not solve this problem: the moral ambiguity and individualism that emerges from a liberal worldview will simply further such social chaos.
Islam represents an alternative to the liberal secular capitalist order. The current epidemic of social problems that plagues the West originate from its liberal and highly individualistic values that promote selfish and immoral lives, causing family break-down, youth delinquency, the dissolution of community values, disrespect for the law to name but a few consequences.
In contrast Islam promotes a value system which is not secular or individualistic and articulates not just rights but also responsibilities. These do not rely merely on legal statutes or enforcement to work, but on one’s own God-consciousness – taqwa – to create a principally self-regulating society. The state acts only when one’s personal standards fail.
The Islamic social model stands in contrast to increasingly hedonistic, materialistic and irresponsible western societies, that leave families, neighbours and the elderly neglected. Islamic social values promote collective, community and family responsibility, and reprimand the one who lives well while their neighbour goes hungry, disrespects parents, or raises reckless and irresponsible children. These are all values the socially decaying liberal west is desperately attempting to discover.
The Islamic economic model that focusses on distribution not simply production, abolishes usury and its pernicious effects, is based on a stable currency backed by gold and silver, taxes wealth not income amongst other characteristics. All of this stands it utter contrast to high risk and inherently unstable capitalism, which has unleashed global financial suffering, produced more unequal societies and now treats poverty as an unsolvable fact of life.
Gove, and others like him, cannot see (or choose not to) that every step taken in their chosen direction has challenged the very values they claim stand superior. That to the honest observer, they have rolled-back everything they claim sacred. His belief in Britain’s tolerance is marked only by his intolerance of others. He seeks to project a value-system that caused global financial chaos, deepened social malaise in the west, wasted the lives of its young in cheap wars for oil, and promotes extremism and intolerance in the way it deals with its minorities.
Secular liberal capitalism is in crisis – yet only those who stand outside its fold currently see its decay.
And it is this that infuriates those with a neo-conservative bent, that they should feel their ‘superior’ worldview is challenged by a counter value-system that refuses to be dismissed, but rather wins supporters, daily, and in Britain.
The message to the Gove’s of this world is that his liberal crusade will not work, because it fundamentally misses – or chooses to ignore – the fact that Islam now stands in contrast to liberal secular capitalist order. And such a contest cannot be won through punitive measures, but through a battle of ideas and values. And for this, Muslims have long-waited, to once again demonstrate Islam’s message in a world in desperate need of a way out of its current calamities.