“It is intolerable to us that an erroneous thought should exist anywhere in the world, however secret and powerless it may be”.
Orwell, Nineteen-Eighty Four, p.205
What a pickle our Scotland Yard Commander Mak Chishty has gotten himself into it. For a person who has a degree in law from the former polytechnic Birmingham City University, and for a person who declares that “I think everybody deserves fair and equal human rights”, the implications of his recent statements have not dawned on the poor man. In fact, he still remains adamant that his words are unproblematic.
Before I put forth my analysis of the delirious situation, it is worth clarifying Chishty’s initial statements. He did not say that people who do not drink alcohol or shop at Marks and Spencer’s or wear “Western clothing” are on the path to radicalisation. Rather his focus is on the adoption of such a lifestyle which may suggest that persons are being radicalised. As the Guardian reports,
“Chishty said… radicalisation… could be shown by subtle changes in behaviour, such as shunning certain shops, citing the example of Marks & Spencer… Chishty said friends and family of youngsters should be intervening much earlier, watching out for subtle, unexplained changes, which could also include sudden negative attitudes towards alcohol, social occasions and western clothing. They should challenge and understand what caused such changes in behaviour, the police commander said, and seek help, if needs be from the police, if they are worried.”
The change in behaviour is what attracts the invasive measures Chishty suggests. These measures are as follows:
“Chishty said there was now a need for “a move into the private space” of Muslims to spot views that could show the beginning of radicalisation far earlier… Questions should be asked, he said, if someone stops shopping at Marks & Spencer or starts voicing criticism.”
In his latest interview with the International Business Times, he states that he does not want the police to move into the private sphere, but rather the parents to increase their monitoring. In what has become a habit of those merged with the establishment, he wants the “Muslim community to do more about it”.
Now that the clarification has been made, we can now comment on the outrageousness of his new demands of the Muslim community.
Firstly and perhaps most seriously, his comments are focussed solely on the Muslim minority. He justifies it by saying that,
“The majority of [radicalisation cases] are stemming from the Muslim community.”
In other words, we have yet another example of institutionalised discrimination against the Muslim minority manifesting itself. The reason why this point seems to have been met with indifference is that the person making the claims is a Muslim. Chishty himself uses this card:
“I am not saying the Muslim community is bad. I am from that community…”
The trick of using a person from the community to oppress the said community is nothing new; British colonialist history is practically riddled with such examples across the Middle Eastern world, from the modernist Muftis of Egypt and the pro-Imperialist “scholars” of the Indian subcontinent, to the present day autocrats in the Muslim world subservient to Western “interests”. It is yet another brown face in a long line of “Muslims” undermining the Muslim minority through an imposition of neoconservative assumptions of Islam and Muslims. If a person from a group calls for discriminatory treatment of that group, it does not change the fact that it is discriminatory treatment.
Chishty has stated previously that his operations were “not aimed at demonising the young.” He failed to mention that this did not apply if you are Muslim. Chishty has openly and publically discriminated against the Muslim minority by suggesting that there should be a “move into the private space of Muslims”. This is blatant religious profiling. The UN Human Rights Council Resolution 16/18, to which the UK has expressed its commitment to, documents the Council’s “deep concern” at “the enforcement of measures that specifically discriminate against persons on the basis of religion or belief”. The Resolution also calls on states to “make a strong effort to counter religious profiling, which is understood to be the invidious use of religion as a criterion in conducting questionings, searches and other law enforcement investigative procedures.”
The UN Forum on Minorities, in its recommendations on religious minorities explicitly states that those law enforcement officials who religiously profile should be punished. It further adds that,
Far from countering religious profiling, Chishty is advocating and then justifying it! Chishty needs to be punished!
It is worth recalling the words of Detective Khizra Dhindsa. She admitted that pushing the PREVENT Strategy into the Muslim home by co-opting women to spy on their children was discriminatory and that the solution was not to “start approaching white, working class women and saying we need to build their resilience (and their family’s) to becoming racists” because it would be “insulting”. By this argument, Chishty has not only discriminated, but, insulted the Muslim minority.
Secondly, while Chishty is keen to highlight that he is not criminalising thought, which would be a violation of the non-derogable, absolute right to freedom to hold a belief, Chishty does exactly that. If a Muslim teen begins to believe that Christmas is prohibited, or believes that alcohol is prohibited then he attracts the attention of the security apparatus thanks to “empowered” spy-parents. In other words, the police are calling on people to extra-legally police legal thought. In so doing, he has merely echoed David Cameron’s announcement that abiding by the law is now no longer enough. This certainly explains why Chishti circumvented any comment on Theresa Mays’ counter-extremism proposals.
Islam as “Islamism”
Thirdly, Chishty, following the neocons, explicitly classifies a mainstream Islamic viewpoint as “Islamism” thus defining for Muslims what the “right”, neocon-compliant beliefs are. The Guardian reports,
“He said he had heard of cases of children seemingly influenced by Islamist views in stable families in which the parents or guardians had moderate views… In the example of primary school children defining Christmas as “haram”…”
Additionally, the report dangerously suggests that families which adhere to such “Islamist views” are unstable. Presumably, Jehovah’s Witnesses who do not celebrate Christmas because they believe it derives from pagan customs, must be fostering similarly unhinged families.
“There are harmful forces out there which are influencing our communities and I want to make sure that we safeguard [them], that Muslim communities are presented as they are: moderate, peaceful, progressive”.
For Chishty then, those who choose not to celebrate Christmas, stop shopping at M&S, and *shock, horror* stop wearing “Western clothing”, are not “moderate, peaceful, progressive”. Moreover, the Muslim community needs to be managed like a baby to ensure they do not become influenced by such “harmful forces”. Chishty airing his subjective views on what constitutes “moderate” and “Islamist” viewpoints (which curiously tally with what Quilliam Foundation propounds) is dangerous and an unacceptable state interference with religion. He has contributed to an anti-Muslim climate in which state structural discrimination against Muslims has rapidly become normalised; only recently a survey pushed by Waltham Forest Council profiling Muslim children for “radicalisation” in schools has come to light.
The obvious question is, who appointed Chishty as the arbiter of acceptable views? And furthermore, why add fuel to a fire lit by the likes of the Quilliam, and fanned by the neocon Michael Gove in the Trojan Hoax fiasco?
“Christmas is Haram” = Islamist
Christmas seems to be a major point of spin for neocons and those, like Chishty who peddle their biased narratives on what is “extremism” and “moderate”. Ed Husain the founder of Qulliam and Michael Gove’s neocon-utopian “moderate” Muslim, some years ago called on Muslims to celebrate Christmas. (Interestingly, the word in counter-extremism circles is that Chishty will be sharing a platform with Quilliam soon.) Later on, the celebration of Christmas at a school in Birmingham became the centre of attention in the media and subsequent government-sanctioned reports amidst Gove’s war on Muslims in the education sphere. The allegation was that Christmas celebrations had been abandoned at a State school over-run by “pestilent Muslims”. The allegation was unsubstantiated and false, while the head teacher at the material time was a Sikh. Now we have another government mouthpiece declaring the theological prohibition on Muslims celebrating Christmas, as “Islamist”. It certainly serves as a convenient way of accentuating division and beating the Muslim minority and their faith with a neocon-designed stick of “extremism” at the same time.
I am going to be frank here: for most Muslims who understand their faith in a traditional manner, the celebration of Christmas is regarded as forbidden. This is the Islamic viewpoint as articulated across the scholastic spectrum. The mainstream Islamic viewpoint also enforces utmost respect for Jesus (peace be upon him) who is regarded by Muslims as the apostle of God. I will also add that I, and I suspect many Muslims will not call upon their fellow non-Muslim neighbours to celebrate the forthcoming Eid. Our non-Muslim friends should know that if they do not celebrate Eid, we will not classify them as “extremists” driven by neo-fascist impulses out to attack the Muslim minority. Indeed we will neither support nor pay Christians to demand the observance of Eid, nor instigate senior Christian police officers to give statements to the press declaring the non-observance of Eid as an indicator of radicalisation. We believe in co-existence by respect, not by applying social and psychological duress on people of other faiths and none to celebrate Islamic ceremonies.
A False Premise
Finally, Chishty is simply wrong in his reductionist, anti-Islam assumptions that changes in religiosity indicate toward radicalisation. What makes the comments, and the neocons pushing these failed policies look absurdly out of touch from a strategic point is the fact that they are based on the academically-debunked, grossly inapplicable, Conveyor-Belt Theory of radicalisation, which posits ideology and beliefs above other factors. ISIS’ own manual advises (link is not to actual manual) their potential recruits to “hide their extremism”, and to adopt Western appearances! Indeed, if the concern to safeguard Britain was genuine, then the academic annunciations regarding counter-terrorism would be taken seriously and the false pursuit of the criminalisation of the ever-nebulous, “closed-society”-establishing “extremism” abandoned.
Will Chishty make some new announcements declaring the opposite? That Muslim who start celebrating Christmas, wearing Western garb and drinking alcohol may be vulnerable to radicalisation?
It is important to understand that Chishty’s comments have been conveniently promulgated after the appointment of Michael Gove as Justice Secretary and in a climate of stern opposition to the proposals to repeal the Human Rights Act, as well as the proposed, Orwellian Counter-Extremism Bill. Just a week before Chishty decided to air his not so well-thought out comments, it was reported that the police were looking to increase their powers to force people to go through deradicalisation programmes.
In following the neoconservative agenda, Chishty has ended up looking like a fool making silly comments, and has done his best to damage community confidence in the institution which is not meant to judge but protect people.
Ironically, Chishty himself could be interpreted as an “extremist”. The fact that Chishty has made public calls discriminatorily to monitor Muslims, and demonstrates an intolerance towards religious viewpoints, which can be found in other religions, but is only manifested with Islam, Chishty has vocally opposed British values of mutual tolerance, respect and equality. He is therefore an “extremist”. As such, I recommend that Theresa May the “extremist” directs her McCarthyite Extremism Analysis Unit to register his name as an extremist.
I also recommend all mosques and Charities to avoid inviting Chishty as it may result in mosque premises being shut down under new “extremism orders” and Charities having their charitable statuses removed due them being accused of hosting an “extremist”.