By Nisar Ali Shah : –
Prime Minister David Cameron’s latest political agenda will not go down well among the Muslim community.He (or his speech writer) attacks British Muslims at home and abroad for violence in the Middle East, instead of blaming the legacy of 14 years of death and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, and his direct role of intervention and bombings of Libya’s complete destruction and elimination of a good friend of Britain, Muammar Gaddafi. Now Syria is next to be attacked.
There is no gainsaying that foreign invasions and occupations of Muslim countries give rise to Islamophobia, and in turn Islamophobia leads to “radicalisation” among the better educated young men and women.
Like technology, the political language is fast changing. Take ‘radicalisation’ for instance. What does it mean? One dictionary describes it as radical political and social reform. Surely a noble and positive idea of change for the better; nothing wrong with radicalisation here. If one is radicalised by prison reform, or welfare reform, of which a great deal is being said at the moment in the government’s five year plan, it is a positive thing, but this word, like ‘war on terror’, is badly corrupted in the negative sense by politicians and is highly politicised.
Another word we have been used to hearing every day of the week is ‘terrorist’ and ‘terrorism’. A terrorist is always a Muslim, and never described as such if others commit similar crimes and worse. The media deliberately avoid referring them as terrorists and their religion is never mentioned.
Obviously, Muslims take note of this duplicitous policy. This openly discriminatory behaviour is also found to be leading to radicalisation.
It looks as if the conflict between demonisation of Muslims and so-called radicalisation (whatever that means) is likely to continue indefinitely. David Cameron describes it a generational struggle against ‘extremist ideology’. Using such obscure phrases don’t help. He should explain to the public what he means by that term.
A section of the population is deeply worried about the constant barrage of media manipulation of portraying Muslim citizens as wicked. It reminds us of McCarthyism in the United States when the communists were targeted, suppressed, and persecuted in the 1950s.
Many people now refer to crusade wars, which were fought more than a thousand years ago. One would have thought those wars were over and done with, a relic of the past, but the reality is that after a respite of a millennium, the conflict has taken a different shape in its intensity in modern times.
The destruction in Iraq by the combined armies of European nations and America had clearly shown that crusade is rearing its ugly head under the banner this time of ‘democracy’, replacing Christianity.
The West hardly ever uses the word Christianity or Christian soldiers these days, instead, it uses ‘war on terror’ to make it look as if it has nothing to do with religion.
When George W. Bush used the word ‘crusade’ in his very first speech after September 11, 2001, and before the invasion of Afghanistan, he was told he dropped a big political clanger. The clever counsels immediately prevailed and the president was advised against using this word again, in case the entire Muslim world gets united and provoked.
Tony Blair, however, was sufficiently radicalised and joined the president shoulder to shoulder to invade Iraq on a false pretence that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was capable of blowing up Britain in 45 minutes. Since British foreign policy is inextricably intertwined with the US foreign policy, Blair and Bush wars created radicalised British born Muslims.
Cameron and home secretary Mrs May may have good intentions of preventing terror and it is understandable, but the root causes of radicalisation are bombings and destruction of Muslim countries one by one.
Print and broadcast media tend to focus on issues in a negative narrative and create fear of Muslims who, as the propaganda implies, do not integrate in the society.
That is a lie. Muslim community has been an integral part and parcel of the British society for more than half a century.
In his speech on Monday, Cameron blamed Muslims not integrated sufficiently. It is not strictly true. Here we go again, we have another word integration, which has lost its meaning and is used as a tool to attack the already integrated Muslim population. Even technology cannot keep pace with the wordage revolution.
Muslims are as much integrated as other ethnic minority communities in a multi-culture Britain. Majority of them have no intention, understandably, of frequenting pubs, striptease clubs, and all night dancing places. So they are not seen as sufficiently integrated to borrow Mr Cameron’s terminology.
The fact is that Muslims are largely integrated into political and economic life of Great Britain. These, incidentally, include doctors, teachers, university professors, lawyers, solicitors, barristers, QCs, members of parliament, businessmen, engineers, councillors, political pundits, cabinet ministers, novelists, writers, historians, film makers, television and radio presenters, mayors, journalists and editors.
The list is endless, but in short, Muslims are integrated in all strata of society and make an enormous contribution to the well-being of their adopted country. Being the largest ethnic minority it plays a crucial role in running the British essential services. Why upset the apple cart by creating an ill-conceived but ludicrous crime of non-violent extremism? Cameron uses phrases such as Islamist ideology. Islamic ideology makes perfect sense, but what is Islamist ideology? There is no such thing as Islamist in Islam. It is a politically twisted slogan and it carries no meaning.
The home secretary would be introducing new laws under the Counter-terrorism and Security Act 2015, which will adversely affect largely law-abiding and peaceful populace. Majority of persons affected would be Muslims who are wrongly perceived as rejecting British values because of their religious or political opinions.
Strong laws already exist in Prevent programme. There is a danger of the new laws being unscrupulously applied to criminalise innocent citizens for expressing strong opinions or opposition to government’s foreign wars and bombings of other nations.
One wonders how democracy will look like in this country in future if these intimidatory laws are enacted. One way of preventing terror violence is to widen the range of opinions that can be freely expressed, not restrict them. Most worrying is the thought that freedom of speech, and dissent, the two highly regarded British values would be lost for ever. Under this dubious legislation people would not be allowed independent thinking and critical writing without being labelled as ‘non-violent extremism’. Consequently, that will have quite an opposite effect, a recipe for radicalisation.
Exploring a more productive rather than destructive role in a complex Middle East politics should be the aim. Sheer military assault could not achieve peace as we have seen horrendous death and destruction in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria throughout the past 14 years.
Further bombings in Iraq and Syria would result in a lot of civilians killed. That would be brushed aside as collateral damage. It is not clear what the prime minister is hoping to achieve and how long the bombings will continue. Are we expecting British involvement in that dodgy region for another decade or two?
The rules of imperialistic games have to come to an end. There is no military solution to the political problem. The region needs to be made safe from both terrorists’ attacks and warmongers airstrikes, but not at the cost of yet another million dead.
(Writer is journalist based in London)