Conflating extremism and terrorism with cohesion and integration, the latest speech by Britain Prime Minister, David Cameron has raised many concerns over its efficiency in fighting ISIL, with many warning that it would only lead to linking the vast moderate Muslims with terror.
“For many, Cameron’s conflation of extremism and terrorism with cohesion and integration could lead the British public to simply and most absolutely associate Muslims with terror; thus brushing an entire religion as undesirable and nefarious,” Hassan Basem, an associate with the Shafaqna Institute for Middle East Studies, told OnIslam.net.
“Suggesting that extremism is born from a lack of integration is reducing terror to an identity crisis. We all know that the problem is multi-faceted and multi-dimensional,” he added.
Addressing the nation from Birmingham on July 20, PM Cameron spoke rather inflammatory words when he proposed that Muslims shared in the guilt of ISIL under allegations they failed to make their condemnation more vocal and clearer.
While Cameron quite rightly likened ISIL ideology to that of Nazi Germany, linking both forms of extremism in the similarities they inherently share: “discrimination, sectarianism and segregation”, the methods he proposed to remedy and defeat this modern day evil have left something to be desired, at least as far as Muslims and other rights defenders are concerned.
“Making such broad statements actually qualifies as misinformation and one might argue disinformation – playing directly into the hands of the far-right,” Basem said.
As reported by the Independent in late July, Cameron is determined to “make tackling Islamic extremism in Britain a central priority over the next five years with a comprehensive strategy that involved not just the police and the criminal justice system but also softer interventions to tackle the root causes of radicalization.”
Again, many argue that “soft interventions” has become a euphemism for spying on all individuals: man, woman, or child following Islam; “hardly a democratic attitude,” noted Sara Ahmed, a rights activist from London.
“What we are fighting in Islamist extremism is an ideology. It is an extreme doctrine and like any extreme doctrine, it is subversive. [It] subscribes to intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish,” said Cameron.
“Ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality. Ideas which actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation. Ideas – like those of the despicable far right – which privilege one identity to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of others,” he added.
Speaking on the implications of Cameron’s new anti-terror strategy, the Muslim Association of Britain noted that engaging Muslims in the new strategy to guarantee its success.
“In order to “eradicate violent extremism, we must all work together in a climate of trust and transparency. Moreover, all elements of Muslim community should be engaged in the strategy,” MAB said in a statement.
“There shouldn’t be a “pick and choose” from the authorities. There is no evidence of the link between non violent extremism and violent extremism. The vast majority of Muslims in Britain see no conflict in being Muslim and British; and identify themselves as British.
“One of the biggest factors in radicalizing people is politics, and in the main the foreign part of politics. The British Government continue to ignore this, and thus attempt to distract attention away from this.”
Although MAB does not condone Cameron’s approach against extremism, that is not to say that the organization is not intent on cracking down on such an ideology and thus defeat terror at its core.
It only wants to do it in a manner which is inclusive and not exclusive and by means which are not intrusive but in keeping with Britain democratic and humanist principles.
“Our organization and many others like it encourage Muslims to actively partake in society, to integrate within the fabric and to give their utmost for its progression,” Dr Omer El-Hamdoon, President of MAB, said on the matter.
The MAB is not alone in its reproach toward Cameron’s strategy.
The Muslim Council of Britain issued a press release in July which reads: “We support sound evidence-based measures that confront terrorism effectively. Muslims across the world and in our country in particular, find the conduct and values of Daesh [ISIL] to be abhorrent. We agree with the Prime Minister that we must de-glamorise the Daesh cause. It is neither revolutionary, nor cool, and it certainly is against the basic teachings of Islam. We all have a part to play in this, including the media.
“We worry, however, that these latest suggestions will set new litmus tests which may brand us all as extremists, even though we uphold and celebrate the rule of law, democracy and rights for all. Dissenting is a proud tradition of ours that must not be driven underground.
“Challenging extremist ideology is what we all want, but we need to define tightly and closely what extremism is rather than perpetuate a deep misunderstanding of Islam and rhetoric, which inevitably facilitates extremists to thrive,” MCB added.
But another matter rung particularly disturbing for Muslims and all those who recognize in Cameron’s speech the seed of intolerance as the PM categorically rejected any responsibility towards the rise and subsequent spread of terror, arguing that whoever would suggest Britain foreign policy ever acted a catalyst held a “warped” understanding of the world.
He stressed: “the root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.”
In an interview with RT late this July the Quilliam Foundation slammed such a reductionist view on terror, emphasizing that studies had already established a cause and effect link in between Britain foreign policy footprint in the Middle East and radicalization at home.
Interestingly it was Director of the CIA John Brennan who recently said the West’s foreign policy is one of the factors pushing terrorism.
In all likelihood Britain’s conversation on how to defeat terror will continue to be controversial. ONISLAM