David Cameron said Britain was in for “something special” when his Conservative Party won an outright majority this May. One wonders how much this government is going to make us miss the Liberal Democrat component of the previous coalition. The “Extremism Bill” Cameron recently announced is making Nick Clegg look pretty good right now.
In his declaration of war on “extremist speech” Cameron said a priority of this government is to target “both parts of the [extremist] creed – the nonviolent and violent.” Even those who explicitly condemn Islamic extremist violence (something Muslims are constantly obliged to do lest their silence be mistaken for endorsement), but who express views which could fit into the broader Islamist paradigm (say, opposition to US foreign policy) are now targets in the War on Terror. In the UK, speech inciting violence and hatred are both already banned. Now it’ll be a criminal offence to say anything that might be ideologically compatible with something a violent extremist might say.
When pressed by a BBC Radio 4 host about how extremism would be defined for legal purposes, Home Secretary Theresa May was unable to give an answer. It’s clear “extremist speech” will be treated as a “we know it when we see it” phenomenon. The dangers of that standard are the same as those in “common sense policing” where the often prejudiced, ignorant, arbitrary, or ideological personal convictions of the officer determine whether something is a criminal offence.
We’ve already seen how views expressed by Muslims are automatically considered “extremist”: a British was schoolboy reported to the police for having a “boycott Israel” badge. British teachers are now the eyes and ears of the state not only in promoting British values, but monitoring “extremism.” All this, combined with Cameron’s “we have been too tolerant” speech is Orwellian to the point of cliché. It’s ironic Theresa May claims rule of law and tolerance are core British values, while simultaneously pushing legislation that undermines both. If tolerance and rule of law are British values, and extremism is anything that undermines them, the government is the most established group of extremists in Britain.
Harry Sinclair Lewis is credited with saying “if fascism ever comes to America, it will come wrapped in an American flag.” Well, fascism is coming to the Middle East, and it’s wrapped in Islam. But it’s also coming to Britain, and it’s wrapped in British values.
In his speech announcing the Extremism Bill, Cameron said, “We’ve got to show that if you say… ‘violence in London isn’t justified, but suicide bombs in Israel are a different matter’ — then you too are part of the problem.” But what if you say “slaughtering innocent Muslims in London isn’t justified, but doing so in the Middle East, or arming or bankrolling groups that do so, is a different matter”?
That’s precisely what the British government says by its conduct in the War on Terror. Yet, double standards are endemic to the state’s ideology. It is somehow moral for Cameron his armed forces to kill innocent Muslims in the War on Terror. For any individual to act with such reckless disregard for human life, though, would be a criminal offence.
Westerners’ failure to see their governments’ hypocrisy is central to the Islamic extremist narrative. Islamic extremism is explained by the British and other governments as some transcendent causa sui that that recruits through hypnotic telepathy, rather than feeding off Western foreign policy.
The actions of the British state convey incredible ignorance about the lives of British Muslims, who are constantly politicized, suspect, and often suffer the loss of loved ones overseas at the hands of the British state. In his speech, Cameron presumed to know the hopes and fears of British Muslims, like he presumes to know what’s best for working people. This is not a peculiar affliction of an Etonian Bullingdon boy (though I’m sure that doesn’t help), but one of the British state in general. During the Trojan Horse scandal, Ofsted (the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills) referred to the “risks associated with extremist views.” In similar public health rhetoric, London Mayor Boris Johnson described extremism as a “virus” that children must be protected from exposure to.
The longer the state goes on treating Islamic extremism this way, the worse the problem will get.
According to Sean Gabb: “the British State is committed to an American-led campaign of war and destabilisation throughout the Islamic world, and shares responsibility for millions of civilian deaths and maimings there.” As Gabb says, the statement is not only reasonable, but “obviously true.” Yet to speak the obvious truth is now a heresy. We can soon expect to not be able to point out this simple truth, lest we offend “our British values.”