Low on substance and high on rhetoric, British Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech in Birmingham today (July 20) unveiled what could loosely be termed as a less than coherent strategy to tackle Islamist extremism that would have likely gone down well with many of his core Friends of Israel Tory MPS some of whose constituents have left the UK to fight against the occupied and oppressed Palestinian’s, whilst others have gone to fight alongside the Kurdish Peshmerga.
Are we ever likely to have the likes of Cameron talking condescendingly to the Jewish community in the Golder’s Green district of North London about strategies to tackle Jewish-Zionist extremism? Moreover, is Cameron likely to debate in leafy Surrey, the Christian-Zionist fundamentalism of Blair and Bush which resulted in the death of at least half a million Iraqi’s on the basis of a pack of lies.
The questions of course are rhetorical since we know the answer. Unlike the Tory voting wealthy middle classes and Friends of Israel, likely anti-Tory Muslims within a de–industrialized urban landscapes like Birmingham are regarded as political fair game for Cameron’s shananagans.
Ignoring many of the causal factors that drive a small minority of mainly young Muslims to ISIS such as our endless wars in Muslim lands, Cameron outlined his government’s five-year plan to defeat home-grown extremism. Cameron set out four major areas that needed attention: countering the “warped” extremist ideology, the process of radicalisation, the “drowning out” of moderate Muslim voices, and the “identity crisis” among some British-born Muslims.
He spoke about the need to enforce British values without specifying what these ‘values’ are. He went on to conflate what British values were not by referencing forced marriage and female genital mutilation. The implication being that these manifestations of un-Britishness are unique to Muslim culture which of course they are not. “No more turning a blind eye on the basis of cultural sensitivities,” he said. Fine. I’ll now wait in eager anticipation for a similar speech by Cameron to the Jewish community in Stamford Hill.
“I want to work with you to defeat this poison [of Islamist extremism]”, he said. Presumably, ‘defeating’ ISIS doesn’t involve the counterproductive action of bombing to smithereens yet more innocent civilians as the justification for mission creep.
The one (unintended) positive that emerged from his speech was when he talked about the differentiation between Islamist extremism on the one hand, and Islam the religion, on the other. As such he brought into focus the wider questions regarding the differing interpretations seemingly inherent to religious doctrine.
Jon Snow of Channel 4 News quoted the Muslim Council of Great Britain saying: “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.
Do we know what Islamic extremism is exactly? Is there a distinction between Islam and extremism peddled in the name of Islam? Can a distinction be made between the Wahabbi version of Islam in Saudi Arabia and extremism? Surely the former is indistinguishable from the latter.
In order to tackle the problem associated with certain extremist interpretations of Islam it makes sense to want to tackle the problem at source. But crucially, this was the aspect missing from Cameron’s speech. For if he was to highlight it, he would have been cutting off his nose to spite his face.That’s because Britain has a an extremely cozy relationship with the oppressive totalitarian states’ of the Arab Gulf Peninsula, all of who without exception, adhere to the extremist theocratic Islamic ideologies.described but nevertheless represent extremely good business for Great Britain PLC.
Is it the duty of Muslims living, in say, Birmingham to defend other Muslims living, in say, Baghdad? Conversely, can the killing of innocent people in Western liberal democracies’ ever be considered as justifiable on the basis that theoretically the populations’ within these nations’ often elect governments’ who initiate wars of aggression against Muslims in their name? Can violent acts in these circumstances ever be justified? Does this, in the minds of extremists, justify Jihad against Westerners by Muslims irrespective of where either reside in the world?
Some moderate Muslims like Baroness Warsi insist that Jihad is about self-improvement, self-evaluation, questioning injustice and being prepared to raise your voice when you see injustice. This contrasts with the more extreme interpretation of Jihad in which external factors like the taking of arms are seen as the precursor to the kind of self-evaluation outlined by Warsi.
One of the main problems that needs to be addressed, but tends to be constantly evaded, relates to the contradictory aspect of religion itself. Irrespective of whether one is a follower of ISIS, or whether one is a part of the vast majority of the wider Muslim community of Sunni or Shia, all groups and sects will self-identify with, and hence, claim they are the true representatives of Islam and all will justify their opposing positions with recourse to the Koran.