Wednesday, 18 February 2009

“So this is how freedom dies, to thunderous applause...”

The government is considering plans that would lead to thousands more British Muslims being branded as extremists, the Guardian has learned. The proposals are in a counterterrorism strategy which ministers and security officials are drawing up that is due to be unveiled next month.
Not before time, you say?
Some say the plans would see views held by most Muslims in Britain being classed by the government as extreme.
This will please a lot of people, no doubt.

Until you look at what is actually being proposed:
According to a draft of the strategy, Contest 2 as it is known in Whitehall, people would be considered as extremists if:

• They advocate a caliphate, a pan-Islamic state encompassing many countries.
• They promote Sharia law.
• They believe in jihad, or armed resistance, anywhere in the world. This would include armed resistance by Palestinians against the Israeli military.
• They argue that Islam bans homosexuality and that it is a sin against Allah.
• They fail to condemn the killing of British soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Well, they’re going to have problems with the second one, for a start! When are they going to round up and intern the Archbishop of Canterbury?

But joking aside, all of those things are just beliefs. I don’t care what devout Muslims, Jews, Christians of Hindus believe. I only care what they do, when what they do breaks the law.

And if someone ‘fails to condemn the killing of British soldiers’, well, so what…? I might think them scum as a result, but we can’t lock people up for being scum. Or we’d need far, far more prisons…
Contest 2 would widen the definition of extremists to those who hold views that clash with what the government defines as shared British values.

Those who advocate the wider definition say hardline Islamist interpretation of the Qur'an leads to views that are the root cause of the terrorism threat Britain faces. But opponents say the strategy would brand the vast majority of British Muslims as extremists and alienate them even further.
I’ve a big, big problem with having the government define ‘shared British values’. And in particular, with them considering those who don’t hold those values as ‘extremist’.

There’s a nasty element of ‘show trial’ here, especially in conjunction with all the other recent moves by government to hold selected individuals to account for complex issues and restrict rights and freedoms
The Guardian has also learned of a separate secret Whitehall counterterrorism report advocating widening the definition of who is considered extremist. Not all in Whitehall agree with the proposals and one official source said plans to widen the definition were "incendiary" and could alienate Muslims, whose support in the counterterrorism effort is needed. There were also fears it could aid the far right.
Well, indeed.

In fact, if by ‘far right’ they mean the BNP (who are more socialist than the current incarnation of Labour), then by ‘aid them’, I suspect they mean ‘put them out of business’.

After all, they can hardly compete with this, can they…?
Contest 2 is still being finalised by officials and ministers. Those considered extreme would not be targeted by the criminal law, but would be sidelined and denied public funds. Ed Husain, of the Quilliam Foundation thinktank, said the root causes of terrorism were extremist views, even if those advocating the views did not call for violence.
Sorry, Ed, but I think you’ve failed to grasp some shared British values yourself; views are just that – legal so long as they don’t translate to action, no matter how offensive someone else may find them.
Inayat Bunglawala, a former spokesman for the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said such plans would affect many British Muslims. Bunglawala, who now runs Engage, which tries to get Muslims to participate in politics and civic society, said: "That would alienate the majority of the British Muslim public. It would be counterproductive and class most Muslims as extremists."
Frankly, Bunglawallah, it should alienate the majority of the British public. Muslim or not.

I fear it won’t. I fear a lot of people will champion these plans. Because recognition of the way some extremists have infiltrated government departments, quangos and organisations is long overdue. Because those extremists wield an influence out of all proportion to their importance. And most of all, because they think they will be used against ‘them’. They won’t stop to consider that one day, they will be used against ‘us’.

But they will


Anonymous said...

David T defends it here

I think you have to separate the elements.

Who is an extremist and what do we do about it.

I tend to agree with you that government has no role to play in determining who is an extremist. This is something that should be argued every time - there should be no centrally agreed list.

Unfortunately we are in a situation where civil society has a long history of excluding those it deems extreme. It's just that till now they have been those who challenge the orthodoxy around multi-culturalism. Therefore the treatment for extremists is not new, its just a debate about who to add to the list. Not surprisingly those who fit the new extremist definition are bleating about it.

The question is what is better in the short term: pragmatically take another step away from freedom or idealistically oppose this in the hope that we can get complete abolition?

Oldrightie said...

A cadre of lickspittle mandarins closeted, (pun intended), with their Labour paymasters, continue to dream up at great expense, more and more ways of control. 1984 begins to seem almost tame compared to this bunch of twats.

Dr Evil said...

Shades of grey and semantics here. Those criteria render all actual Muslims extremists. I've met a fair few and those were perfectly normal people. Not slavering, decapitation addicts and infidel killers. We know they exist as do baying mobs screaming nasty incitments of various kinds. I'm amazed by the volte face. One day Muslims are fluffy bunnies to be patronised and pandered to, the next demonised and turned into the legions of hell on Earth. WTF is this government on?

Anonymous said...

If they were proposing to punish people for holding such views, there would clearly be a problem, but the only sanction mentioned is denying public funds (and I can't imagine any valid reason for funding of nutcases like this in the first place).

In every democracy, as far as I know, the police keep special tabs on groups whose ideology makes it reasonable to think they have an unusually high probability of becoming violent. That means, of course, that the government has to have some way of defining which groups those are. Here in the US the FBI monitors white-supremacist groups in ways that it doesn't bother to monitor the Ladies' Bowling League. That's just common sense.

I'm not impressed by slippery-slope arguments. By that kind of argument, one should never do anything at all, because for any imaginable desirable action it's possible to construct an argument that it would legitimize some undesirable action.

JuliaM said...

"The question is what is better in the short term: pragmatically take another step away from freedom or idealistically oppose this in the hope that we can get complete abolition?"

I choose the second. Pragmatically accepting new legislation hasn't helped anyone in the past, has it?

"I'm amazed by the volte face."

It's almost as if the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing, isn't it?

"If they were proposing to punish people for holding such views, there would clearly be a problem, but the only sanction mentioned is denying public funds... "

I can see that this has been suggested because so many 'community leaders' involved in government approaches and initiatives have been exposed as Islamist whackadoodles.

But that's an argument for much better due diligence up front. Not for setting up a list of 'non-persons' according to vague definitions...

Leg-iron said...

Word ver is 'criziness'. How can I resist?

Some time ago, I suggested that in order to keep us all scared enough to accept ever more draconian legislation, the government needed an enemy within, and that they were busy importing a scapegoat for the purpose.

They were bound to turn on the Muslims sooner or later. It's the reason they built them up so high in the first place.

Al those racists the Righteous have been so busy developing will come in useful now. They're just waiting for the hotheads among the Muslims to start protesting about this. Then they can 'protect us' from people who pose no threat, while saving themselves the trouble of rounding up the few really dangerous ones.

I'll try to find that old post. There were more stages in it.

Young Mr. Brown said...

Our government are happy to tolerate Muslims, but they must be real Muslims, and hold to the interpretation of the great Imam Blair, and not to the interpretations of heretics who disagree with the Imam Blair.

Those who hold to the teachings of heretics must face the full wrath of the law.