The speech delivered yesterday by British Home Secretary Theresa May, while ostensibly aimed at countering extremism, was in reality the latest episode in the ongoing assault on Britain’s Muslims, argues Dilly Hussain.
Home Secretary Theresa May had the hallmarks of a deluded neoconservative dictator when she delivered her speech yesterday on a new counter-extremism strategy aimed at tackling “Islamist extremism”. With less than 50 days remaining until the general elections, it made absolute sense why she reassured voters on the subject of national security, considering the fear that has been instilled in the British public of Islam and Muslims by the higher echelons of power.
Theresa May did not hold back in making her party’s position crystal clear, regarding those considered to be a threat to the UK. I would argue that her definition of “Islamist extremists” included Muslims from across a wide political, theological and sectarian spectrum. Now that the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act has become legislation, it is pivotal for the British Muslim community to realise how this law affects them.
The most contentious aspect of the CTS Act is undoubtedly the government’s tried and tested, Prevent strategy – a divisive social experiment based on ambiguous definitions of ‘extremism’ and ‘British values’, which are politicised in theory and McCarthyite in practice.
Many of the anti-extremism measures which the Home Secretary mentioned in her speech weren’t unheard of; rather it was more concerning that in the run-up to a General election and in light of the CTS Act, such draconian policies will be implemented very quickly, irrelevant of which party takes over in May.
The numerous flaws of the Government’s Prevent strategy have been highlighted by former cabinet ministers, senior police officers, as well as prominent think-tanks, ever since it was introduced by Tony Blair under CONTEST in 2006. The nature of its ill-defined premises and ad-hoc implementation were one of many reasons why it continues to have minimal effect or tangible success rates. However, now that Prevent has become statutory under the CTS Act, Theresa May’s speech cannot be taken for granted as it gave a daunting picture of the years to come.
British Values and the Clash of Civilisations
The Home Secretary’s speech consisted of the all-too-familiar rhetoric of successive governments’ who choose to address British Muslims as a disloyal suspect community. She spoke of a “clash of civilisations” narrative that the “Islamist extremists” peddle, in their quest to stop people’s individual freedoms; oblivious to the fact that she, too, sounded like an extremist who was adamant on criminalising those that do not subscribe to a state-sanctioned “British Islam” palatable to liberal secular values.
Though I was tempted to be pedantic over the entirety of Theresa May’s speech, I will only highlight five quotes which were either outright lies, statements of undeniable hypocrisy, or tarnished the entire Muslim community.
- “We have seen the Trojan Horse plot to take over state schools in Birmingham.”
Nicky Morgan should have informed the Home Secretary that the Education Select Committee concluded that there was no evidence of an Islamist plot to take over Birmingham state schools. Why would she continue to peddle this demonstrably unfounded lie?
- “…it’s obvious from the evidence that the most serious and widespread form of extremism we need to confront is Islamist extremism.”
The lion’s share of the Home Secretary’s speech focused specifically on “Islamist extremism” and very briefly addressed far right extremism, though many of the measures proposed would apply to both.
- “Islamist extremists believe in a clash of civilisations. They promote a fundamental incompatibility between Islamic and Western values, an inevitable divide between “them and us”. They demand a caliphate, or a new Islamic state, governed by a harsh interpretation of Shari’a law. They utterly reject British and Western values, including democracy, the rule of law, and equality between citizens, regardless of their gender, ethnicity, religion or sexuality. They believe that it’s impossible to be a good Muslim and a good British citizen.”
What are these “British/Western values” she’s referring to? If it’s “democracy, the rule of law and equality”, then why does the UK support dictators like Abdel Fatah al-Sisi who removed Egypt’s first democratically elected president by military force? Why does our government sell weapons to tyrannical regimes who violently quell political dissent, and the only “rule of law” they have is that of kangaroo courts? How can Theresa May talk of “equality between citizens” when the UK is a staunch ally of Israel, an entity which does not treat Palestinians as human beings let alone recognise them as “equals”.
Closer to home, is this the same “democracy” that, when Muslims try engaging and excelling in, they’re accused of having an “entryist” Islamist agenda? Or the witch-hunt of figures and organisations linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, at the behest of Gulf monarchies who are threatened by the group’s call to transparency through the democratic process?
As for the “clash of civilisations” narrative – first floated by US establishment academic Samuel Huntington more than two decades ago, enthusiastically revived by G.W. Bush after 9/11, and parroted by Tony Blair – Theresa May’s speech is the latest addition in the long history of Western leaders championing a “them and us” rhetoric.
On the subject of those who “demand a Caliphate”, it’s important to note that the Caliphate accounts for 1,302 years of Islamic history. It was a matter which the Prophet Muhammad spoke about in great detail, prophesising its permanent return after a period of demise. Many, if not all of the revered figures in Islam advocated the Caliphate, including Prophet Muhammad’s wives and companions.
Furthermore, British Muslims have unequivocally rejected the self professed ‘Islamic State’ led by Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but the ISIS crisis was inevitably going to be used to censor non-violent Islamic groups calling the return of the Caliphate in the Muslim world.
- “We must always take care to distinguish between Islam – a major world religion followed peacefully by the overwhelming majority of one billion Muslims worldwide – and Islamist extremism.”
It doesn’t require much thought to understand what the Home Secretary meant by following Islam “peacefully”: Muslims who do not oppose foreign occupation, the looting of their natural resources, external meddling into their affairs, or the everyday hardships they face as a result of the policies implemented by the tyrants the UK supports.
- “They say what I describe as Islamist extremism is simply social conservatism.”
It’s comforting to know that the Home Secretary acknowledges that what she is actually doing is intentionally conflating mainstream orthodox Islam with non-violent extremism.
Who to vote for?
The Home Secretary implied in her speech that she wants counter-extremism to be a “partnership” between the Government and civic society. Unfortunately, due to the manner in which the current Government has opted to engage with the Muslim community, it really has no grassroots partners or allies to assist on this matter.
But do not assume that the Labour Party has something better to offer the Muslim community either. Though Ed Miliband called for an overhaul of Prevent last week, Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, criticised Theresa May, saying:
“She has had five years as Home Secretary to do all these things, yet too many of her promises are the opposite of what she has done in Government. She could have had banning orders, reviewed Shari’a courts, and insisted preachers speak English five years ago, rather than leaving it until now. Everyone other than the extremists agree that we should robustly defend and actively promote the pluralistic values our society rightly holds in esteem. But it isn’t enough for the Home Secretary to say it, she needs to act.”
I think it’s fair to assume that irrespective of who Muslims vote for in the forthcoming General election, McCarthyite counter-extremism measures will continue. The bitter truth is that whilst the major political parties may differ in other aspects of policy regarding the economy, the EU, housing, and education, their stance on national security and counter-extremism is basically the same.