On the 3rd December 2013, Jeremy Paxman began the BBC news affairs programme, Newsnight, by questioning whether society was beginning to display signs of a new strand of ‘McCarthyism’. He was, of course, referring to the saga involving Edward Snowden’s whistleblowing and the subsequent calls for him to be tried for treason. The irony of that sentence would strike anyone reading the ‘Tackling Extremism in the UK’ report presented for mass-consumption, in the last few days.
The report demonstrates the hypocrisy and scaremongering agenda of the British government towards the Muslim community, something that both past and present governments have consistently done. The stated aim of the report is tackle the problem of extremist ideologies, leading people on to the path of violence, and suggests measures to counter such ideologies. The extreme right wing neo-nazi world view does get an honourable mention in the initial paragraphs of the report. However, the entirety of the report is focused upon identifying and tackling the problem of ‘Islamist’ ideologies.
The first problem that stands out to any neutral observer is the criminalisation of any behaviour which does not fit into the remit of ‘British Values’, the most ambiguous and vaguely defined term one is likely to counter being spouted by otherwise educated and intellectual individuals, in pursuit of a heinous agenda. The report argues that anybody speaking up against the inherent problems of democracy, individual freedoms or freedom of expression is to be categorised within such manner. In essence, if you agree with the current political paradigm, you’re safe; otherwise you run the risk of political heresy. So do not challenge the power of the established political elite whether you’re a Muslim, the right wing extremists, the puritan Socialists or the Anarchists. One and all must obey their terms of serfdom and limit the expression to the various policies of the governments of the time, staying within the political spectrum defined for yourselves.
However, let us call this report what it truly is; an attempt to secularise and create a politically impotent, hollow, ritualistic worship system to replace the deen of Islam. It’s central thesis is that there is too much ‘radicalisation’ within the British society, with people arguing that the Sharia is the only way for man to solve his societal ills and hoping for a united Islamic Caliphate. This must be stopped and countered at every possible level from schools and universities to prisons and mosques. This is a tacit admission of defeat. Despite millions spent to ‘integrate’ the Muslims of this country, to hamper the political awakening of the Islamic community and to de-politicise the very religion, the campaign seems to be facing strong resistance. Why do these Muslims still keep speaking out for the Syrians, Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis and Chechens? Why can they not just be patriotic and support ‘our troops’, regardless of the murderous atrocities they commit across the globe? Why must they aspire to a unified Islamic model of governance, not content with their British identity? This report is nothing more than a primitive attack on the very basis of Islamic ideology and jurisprudence. The message is that you can pray as often as you want or fast all year if you must but keep your mouth tightly sealed when it comes to analysing society through the Islamic prism. Do not criticise the idea of democracy being the apex of human political endeavour. Do not question British foreign policy, particularly wars prosecuted under the euphemism ‘War on terror’ in Muslim lands. Be proud that you are British, before all else. Your primary allegiance should lie with the Queen and country. Any failure in these duties placed upon one are to be met with ostracising, ASBOs and prison, if need be. Dissent will be silenced in a manner reminiscent of the worst of the tyrants across the globe.
All of the above is presented whilst attempting to stress that this is not a curtailment of freedom of expression. Plainly put, yes it is. It is the very essence of curtailment of speech. It argues that one is free to express their thoughts and feelings, as long as they do not challenge the norms of society, reminiscent of the crude Ford tagline of ‘any colour, as long as it’s Black’. So one can criticise the legality of the niqab, claim the Islamic sharia is outdated or talk of reforming Islam to bring it in line with ‘modern values’. But, should you talk of the comprehensive application of Islam in society, attempt to help your brethren in Syria by actively partaking in their struggle, argue that there are alternative political models other than democracy or tell Muslims that their identity stems from Islam only, you will face repercussions. Remember this is independent of whether someone undertakes acts of violence, the mere expression of alternative ideological and political paradigms is being criminalised here.
The government will soon realise this is a counter productive measure as it attempts to silence the voices of millions of Muslims and prevent them from believing and expressing key aspects of Islam.
“They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will perfect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it. It is He who sent His Messenger with guidance and the religion of truth to manifest it over all religion, although those who associate others with Allah dislike it.” (As-Saff, 8:9)