Two major policies have been brought forward by the neoconservative government soon after assuming the mantle of unfettered “statecraft”: legislation to tackle “extremism” (not to be confused with terrorism), and the proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act 1998. Indeed one wonders, given the speed with which the government has acted, why on earth were not these issues debated before the elections? Corporations are in better shape than ever, the homeless remain homeless, the starving remaining starving and the government wishes to make invocation of human rights all the more difficult.
It should be noted, however, that these two policy proposals are interconnected.
David Cameron in a clear breach of the rule of law, has made his requirements of the people of Britain, and in particular, the Muslim minority of Britain, very clear: following the law is not enough and Britain is “too tolerant”. The shock this statement causes was reflected in most papers excluding the Murdoch-owned publications. They continued to remind us why our rights must be caveated with an extra demand (respect for the still legally undefined “British values”) and additional responsibilities (propagating “British values”). Having been thoroughly derided in the papers and the social network sphere (courtesy of the #Britishvalues hashtag), the idiocy of such proposals is clear. It was exemplified to perfection when Theresa May was unable to articulate when exactly the red-line would be crossed from free speech, however distasteful, to “extremism”, which did not violate existing laws. One also wonders where this “too tolerant” attitude is; if you are brown and/or Muslim, it is very likely that you or someone you know has either experienced government intrusions vis-à-vis PREVENT, or the rather more sophisticated grunts of the alcohol inebriated neo-fascists. If anything his statements, like the Munich speech, will act as a catalyst and a green light for the right-wing thugs to continue their hate.
While these questions and concerns have only now come mainstream media arena, the Muslim minority has been experiencing the brunt of the politically pliable application of “extremism”. Peter Clarke’s Trojan Hoax report classified religious views on homosexuality (which Theresa May clarified was NOT “extremism”), opposition to British foreign policy, questioning of government versions of events, and anti-Israel rhetoric as “extremism”. The PREVENT Strategy, which already implements extra-legally what is already being proposed as legislation, has been applied to Muslims since 2011. Over the past year, I have repeatedly brought attention to the fact that the policy is an inversion of the values being preached, with “disruptive measures” being used, families being harassed by PREVENT Officers and Charities being discriminatorily targeted by the Charity Commission. Only now that the Cons are in power, the Left and the liberals have started to realise the authoritarian reality of the situation. In Theresa May’s speech on “extremism” prior to the elections, she announced that a McCarthyite list of “extremists” had already been drawn up by the “Extremism Analysis Unit”. What exactly did the journalists and brain-drained public think this was? If anything it highlights the discriminatory attitude of those who remained dormant to the proposals; after all, it was primarily in the context of “Islamist extremists” that the measures were revealed.
Of course, without statutory footing, the application of ambiguous policies which are not law through “disruption measures” would potentially be castigated in a judicial review. Enacting legislation which enshrined such draconian measures would potentially put it also into a collision course with the Human Rights Act (HRA).
The HRA presents an impediment for the necons in more way than one.
The point to note is that any subsequent legislation must be compatible with HRA. With the Tory proposals regarding the HRA itself, the requirement of compatibility and giving due regard to the European Court’s judicial interpretation will be removed, which naturally means the courts would take into account the intention of Parliament. The intention of Parliament, if the proposals go through, would be to limit the application of human rights to the “most serious cases”, with inalienable rights being subject to “tests”. Furthermore, the proposed Bill would “clarify limitations” on rights. Amongst those rights is the inalienable right of freedom of conscious, i.e. the right to hold beliefs. An extension of that right is the qualified right of free expression/speech – that great principle which is a marker for Western civilisation (ironically, according to Michael Gove), and vociferously defended when insulting revered religious personalities.
As alluded to earlier, Peter Clarke’s report classed various, perfectly legal political and religious views as “extremist”. This was Peter Clarke’s application of the neoconservative interpretation of “extremism”, as applied to the Muslim minority. Theresa May further gave examples of “extremism” around Islam itself: theologically-based, sex-separated audiences and Shari’ah being used in personal law. It must be recalled that in the latter case, discriminatory personal laws in Halachic jurisprudence are effectively exempted from a categorisation of “extremism” by Theresa May herself.
The HRA would inexorably act as an impediment to the neocons’ proposed counter-extremism legislation which would effectively create state-approved, legislatively-sanctioned beliefs and expressions, framed from the viewpoint of counter-extremism. On a deeper level, the HRA would prevent legislative actualisation of shaping of beliefs.
The two proposals taken together would reinforce the neoconservative conception of freedom: you have the freedom to choose between the options we provide. Given the anti-Muslim, pro-Zionist stances, and aggressive foreign policies of the neocons which have wrought chaos in the Middle East, freedom of expression would be shaped, “limited” and moulded to invariably fit this toxic worldview.
Michael Gove, having implemented his neocon social engineering programme in the education sphere, is now hell-bent on removing obstacles in the area of law and justice. In an upcoming blog, I will reproduce and elucidate Gove’s circle and his views, and demonstrate that the attritions we are witnessing are not incidental, but part of the perverted pervasion of neoconservativism.