In this series, we will delve deeper into the views held by our new Justice Secretary, Michael Gove as articulated in his book, Celsius 7/7, with additional commentary explaining the neoconservativism underpinning the statements where appropriate, and the impact it has thus far had on the good Britons of this country.
Click here to read Part 1.
The belief in Islam has been used by the Police and other Government bodies in Britain to disadvantage Muslims (see here, and here, for instance). The core understanding of this draconian manifestation can be found in Michael Gove’s book, Celsius 7/7. An inspection of this book reveals views that give credence to Whitehall sources, which have been quoted as having said that,
“Michael Gove’s views are so incredibly black and white. It’s either his way or no way. He seems to think that anybody who strictly follows Islam is not really integrated… And he thinks anybody who holds conservative Muslim views is a bit of an extremist.”
The Whitehall source went onto suggest that his agenda drove his militant “intervention” into the Birmingham schools last year vis-à-vis the Trojan Hoax plot.
Ideas and Ideology
For neoconservatives, the ideological battleground is fundamental to their Machiavellian, hegemonic impulses. The neoconservative “godfather”, Irving Kristol once wrote,
“What rules the world is ideas, because ideas define the way reality is perceived.”
Whoever governs the ideas, can shape the public perception of reality.
Michael Gove, it seems has been looking for the opportunity he has now been granted. The world in which we are in, is a world, for Gove, “we must remake”. The royal “we” invoked here, is one which primarily revolves around anti-Muslim neocon warmongers and pro-Zionists known to whitewash Zionist crimes.
Chastising those journalists and commentators for not focussing on ideology, Gove trivialises foreign policy concerns, including those which are central to Muslims across the theological spectrum. He writes,
“Western commentators attribute Islamist violence to specific, discrete grievances such as the presence of American troops on Saudi soil, the failure to establish an Arab Palestinian state, or the material poverty of Arab peoples.”
William Dalrymple’s devastating comments on this exact point have been noted in the first part of this series. This line of argument has also been dealt with in some depth previously in an article critiquing Tony Blair’s essay, in which he, like Gove posits ideology as the driving force of today’s violence.
To render such issues described by Gove as “discrete” is a deliberate attempt at whitewashing these concerns. Indeed this assumption is nothing new. It is steeped in ethnocentric bias and is premised upon an assumption that a European imposition of ideals would prevent violence. The historian Professor David Fromkin, after a detailed analysis of the event in the Middle East during the time period of World War I, makes the following multifaceted observation,
“The Middle East became what it is today both because the European powers undertook to re-shape it and because Britain and France failed to ensure that the dynasties, the states, and the political system that they established would permanently endure. During and after the First World War, Britain and her Allies destroyed the old order in the region irrevocably; they smashed Turkish rule of the Arabic-speaking Middle East beyond repair. To take its place, they created countries, nominated rulers, delineated frontiers, and introduced a state system of the sort that exists everywhere else; but they did not quell all significant local opposition to those decisions. As a result the events of 1914—22, while bringing to an end Europe’s Middle Eastern Question, gave birth to a Middle Eastern Question in the Middle East itself. The settlement of 1922… resolved, as far as Europeans were concerned, the question of what—as well as who—should replace the Ottoman Empire; yet even today there are powerful local forces within the Middle East that remain unreconciled to these arrangements—and may well overthrow them. Some of the disputes, like those elsewhere in the world, are about rulers or frontiers, but what is typical of the Middle East is that more fundamental claims are also advanced, drawing into question not merely the dimensions and boundaries, but the right to exist, of countries that immediately or eventually emerged from the British and French decisions of the early 1920s: Iraq, Israel, Jordan, and Lebanon. So at this point in the twentieth century, the Middle East is the region of the world in which wars of national survival are still being fought with some frequency. The disputes go deeper still: beneath such apparently insoluble, but specific, issues as the political future of the Kurds or the political destiny of the Palestinian Arabs, lies the more general question of whether the transplanted modern system of politics invented in Europe—characterized, among other things, by the division of the earth into independent secular states based on national citizenship—will survive in the foreign soil of the Middle East. In the rest of the world European political assumptions are so taken for granted that nobody thinks about them anymore; but at least one of these assumptions, the modern belief in secular civil government, is an alien creed in a region most of whose inhabitants, for more than a thousand years, have avowed faith in a Holy Law that governs all of life, including government and politics…
“…The settlement of 1922, therefore, does not belong entirely or even mostly to the past; it is at the very heart of current wars, conflicts, and politics in the Middle East.”
It is little wonder then, that Gove’s analysis of Muslim personalities, such as Sayyid Qutb and Hassan al-Banna starts after 1929. Writes Gove,
“Islamism emerged as a political movement in reaction to a specific crisis in the history of the Islamic world. Hassan al-Banna (1906-49) founded the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt in 1929.”
Not much ink is spilt on the European designs which left the Middle East in a beleaguered state. In his orientalist analysis of the question why the “Islamic world was held back”, Gove writes that the “Koran was viewed by Islam’s traditionalists as the impeccable, unalterable, word of God, which provided man with a guide for every action, a resolution for every dilemma.” Apparently, “the success of the West challenged centuries-old assumptions about the superiority of the Islamic faith and the perfection of the Koranic revelation.”
In reality, traditional Islamic scholars have written voluminous works about the history and causes of the fall of the Ottoman Empire and other devastating incidents in Islamic history. The Mongol hoards and the sacking of Baghdad, brought the Islamic world to the brink of destruction. Often, far from questioning the Qur’an, the causes have been derived from it. Be it success or humiliation, it has been the decree of God and the state of the people which has determined the situation they are in. If anything Gove’s understanding highlights the isolationist, not to mention supremacist viewpoint of Gove, who frames the entire discussion into an “us” and them” construct where the “success of the West” challenged the “superiority of the Islamic faith”.
Indeed, it is this ethnocentric outlook which governs his “remade” world.
“Islamism” or Islam?
“Islamism” is never given a precise definition in his book. Ambiguity and obfuscation is, of course, a staple neocon tactic which allows neocons like Gove equivocate.
Due to this quality, one needs to delve into other portions of the book to grasp a handle on key concepts being articulated. His anti-Islam worldview excludes key beliefs of Islam, discrediting them as examples of “Islamism”, which he equates to fascist totalitarianism. He informs us that “Islamism” is a “political creed that perverts Islam, just as fascism degraded nationalism and communism betrayed socialism.”
Amongst his embellishments however, he explicitly notes the “restored Caliphate” as something “Islamists” believe in. The establishment of a just Islamic Caliphate concordant to the conditions of Islamic law is an integral part of Islam.
Similarly, lumped together with other examples of “Islamism” is the “prosecution of Jihad”. Jihad, as self-defence or a means of removing injustice through arms is, again, Islamically founded. Its conditions, requirements and virtues are articulated in disparate Islamic sources from the primary legislative texts to the thousands of statements of the many distinct scholars of Islam.
Gove does not stop here. Those not even considering violence are condemned to the categorisation of “Islamism” for sharing views which are also held by his designated ideologues of Islamism, Sayyid Qutb, Hassan al-Banna, and Abul ala Maududi:
“The Islamist belief system, the ideology of political Islam, has a hold over a great many individuals and organisations that claim to speak for British and European Muslims. The belief that Islamic law should govern human relations, that Western notions of equality between sexes are an offence against nature, that sovereignty belongs to Allah alone… is shared by a broad spectrum of Muslim opinion.”
It does not necessitate a doctorate in Islam to know that the above broadly describes aspects of Islam. Furthermore, in an effort to delegitimise MCB, whose spokesperson defends Maududi and his works, Gove highlights some more of what he demarcates as “Islamism”:
“Like Hassan al-Banna and Sayyid Qutb, Mawdudi argued that Islam was not just a system of ‘some beliefs, prayers and rituals’ but a total way of life that should guide every element of an individual’s life and every aspect of their society and political culture.”
From an Islamic perspective, there is nothing abnormal, or specific to the three figures he has named here. Indeed, the Islamic scholars have discussed the abovementioned qualities in the context of tasawuf, or Sufism, the adherents of whom Gove so lovingly posits as the “mainstream”. They too believe that every act of a Muslim should “weighted by the Shari’ah”. To reject the belief in the governance of Shari’ah, which comprises guidance found in the Qur’an and Sunnah would constitute a rejection of parts of the aforementioned primary texts. However, this is what Gove regards as “Islamism”, which is “at odds with the values of the liberal West”, and which therefore requires “tackling at the root”.
In other words, situated before the three prongs of “Islamist” ideologues, is a directed attack on the religion of Islam itself.
Muslims to be Viewed Suspiciously
Disconcertingly, Gove further states that those who campaign for innocent detained suspects in the stain upon humanity that is Guantanamo Bay, and who support the wearing of traditional garb like the jilbab should not complain if Muslim identity is viewed through the lens of the War on Terror and “extremism”:
“The MCB and MAB champion the rights of terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay and individuals who wish to dress in a fundamentalist fashion and then complain that Muslim identity is viewed through the prism of the War on Terror and refracted by perceptions of religious extremism.”
One of course wonders whether he would state the same about the Board of Deputies of Jews, which has lobbied the government to prevent scrutiny of the Beth Din’s “inequality”.
The Good Muslim
Who is a “good Muslim” for Gove? Firstly, the Gove-ian Muslim mustn’t wish his or her Islamic faith to be the exclusive conduit “through which to relate to the rest of Britain”. Laughably, he cites the Sufis as being examples of such “mainstream Muslims”. He then mentions two names as examples of “mainstream Muslims”:
“Haras Rafiq and… Khurshid Ahmed, are exemplary moderate figures: pious Muslims and British patriots committed to peace and cultural harmony.”
Khurshid Ahmed belonged to the PREVENT-supporting British Muslim Forum. Haras Rafiq unsurprisingly, is a lying neocon policy-peddler, and an employee of Quilliam Foundation, whose director, Maajid Nawaz frequently calls for a reformation and promotes anti-Islam hate-preacher Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Given the above, it should come as no surprise then that Gove fully endorses Hirsi Ali, who recently, in-line with Gove’s conception of Islam, called upon Muslims to disregard of verses of the Qur’an. Hirsi Ali has a history of fraud, fabrications, defending far-right terrorist Anders Breivik (who cited her work in his terrorist plans), and believes the racist Benjamin Netanyahu deserves a Nobel Peace prize. She has also in the past described Islam (not “Islamism”) as a “destructive, nihilistic cult of death” that should be “crushed”.
In an updated version of Gove’s book, he describes Hirsi Ali as, “the brave Netherlands parliamentarian who has done so much to alert her fellow Dutch citizens to the dangers of Islamism”.
The conception of the ideal Muslim is the one who toes Gove’s neocon government policy, and effectively does not believe in his or her faith. He is, in this regard, no different to the “reformed” Muslim envisaged by the hate-filled neocon Hirsi Ali. In his fanatical attempt at creating the ideal enemy in the communist mould, Gove drags most Muslims into his definition of “Islamism”.
This creation of an ideological enemy is needed for neocons to instil fear and to unite the people against a common foe. To fully understand the danger of this Machiavellian mechanism, in the next part we will look at Gove’s foreign, and then domestic, policies from the perspective of neoconservatism.
 Kristol, I, Two Cheers for Capitalism, New York: Basic Books, 1978, p.129
 Gove, M., Celsius 7/7, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 2006, p.5
 Ibid., p.11
 Fromkin, D., A Peace to End All Peace The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East, Henry Hold and Company: New York, 1989, pp.563-4
 See fn. 2, p.14
 Ibid p9
 Ibid p.10
 Ibid p.92
 Ibid p.100
 Ibid p.99
 Fn. 2, p.93
 Ibid p.106
 Ibid p.105
 Ibid p.102