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: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?
• 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.
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.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’.
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.
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…