For all the talk about the need to “integrate” Muslims through the British values social engineering programme, linguistic imperialism, and the white knights rescuing Muslim women in the name of equality and freedom, the hypocrisy stemming from the upper echelons of government has been brazen. Whilst on this blog I have brought to attention the discriminatory nature of PREVENT, counter-terrorism, and the judiciary, the latent anti-Islam and anti-Muslim attitudes have become increasingly apparent and overt. An assimilationist, extreme interpretation of secular liberalism, whilst being forced upon Muslims and their beliefs, has been notable only by its absence at the state level. In an increasingly, rare, brilliant piece in the Guardian, Jospeh Harker summed it up aptly in his tactful play on the neocon economic policy of choice, “trickle-down hate”:
“Muslims seem a particular target of his divisive and alienating language… Cameron’s dog-whistles matter. They may appear to be mere words – jokes or slips of the tongue; but they set the parameters and the tone of the debate. We could call this trickle-down hate. So if he makes a bold statement about the niqab, or some other aspect of multicultural Britain, it will go to the top of the news agenda, even if it’s in actual fact insignificant or completely wrong – as in the so-called Trojan Horse scandal in Birmingham schools, which a parliamentary committee inquiry ruled to be groundless… Cameron speaks; his entourage pushes further; the media responds; and on the streets, the abuse and attacks kick off. Sadly, Cameron and the Tories seem to believe that the answer to a broken nation is to break it some more.”
The entry into the New Year has witnessed an astonishing amount of open discrimination at the state level. The proposed government regulations to force PREVENT into religious supplementary schools is a perfect example. Having already seen the discriminatory implementation in schools against Islam and Muslims, and the rhetoric of David Cameron himself about madrasas, the target is obvious.
Reactions from other faiths groups have been telling. The voices within the Jewish community have expressed their concern over Ofsted’s conflation between religious conservatism and “extremism”, even though no state official has yet to explicitly categorise Jewish beliefs and practices as “extremism”.
Christian groups have been communicating their concerns and rejecting the secular interference into the private religious sphere – and rightly so. The rhetoric around the opposition to the measures, though, exposes Muslim minority discrimination. There have been two operating assumptions which underpin this rhetoric: that “hate” is not preached in Sunday schools, but is in a small amount of madrasas; and that Muslims have always implicitly been the target, not Christians or Jews.
Far-Right is not a threat, Islam is…
This was revealed in a Telegraph report which attacked Michael Wilshaw’s statement that he would apply the regulations to Sunday schools. Former Tory defence minister Gerald Howarth is quoted as saying,
“He has flatly contradicted ministers who have assured us that there is no intention of investigating Sunday schools, and he has used as justificaiton (sic) the very criticism that we have made that he wants to be even handed.”
Justifying discrimination and categorising Islam and Muslims as a threat whilst whitewashing white extremism, he stated:
“You cannot be even handed about people who present no threat to this country at all and people who present a very real and present threat”.
The measures, for Christians, were high handed and draconian and there was even talk of “religious freedom”, whilst another spoke of not cooperating with Ofsted “the religious police” if the measures passed through Parliament. For Muslims, though, the measures are fine. At this point, it is worth deconstructing Howarth’s white, Christian privilege. A two year study published in 2008 and commissioned by the Home Office found that, where “enclavisation” resulted in pupils being almost entirely White (and if religious, Christian),
“A significant number of these students expressed extreme views: they thought their own racial group was superior to others; they were hostile to learning about other faiths and cultures. In short, we encountered a type of White extremism which we believe must be one consequence of continuing enclavisation.”
Indeed. It can be contended that there are no studies linking Sunday schools with white extremism. However, neither is there any credible evidence in the Muslim context, but hey let’s not let “equality” or facts get in the way of protecting Christian fiefdoms.
David Burrowes MP took a similar approach in justifying the application of regulation in a discriminatory fashion against Muslims:
“Christians are all too aware of the increasing threats to religious freedom from militant Islam. So the Government’s plan to tackle radicalisation is welcome. However, it is both ironic and wrong to catch Christian groups in a blanket requirement for registration and inspection of ‘out of school’ education of more than 6 to 8 hours a week.
Unsurprisingly, instead of talking about his wonderful British values, which includes equality, however, David Cameron contradicted Michael Wilshaw two days later and bluntly promised:
“The Government is not proposing to regulate institutions teaching children for a short period every week, such as Sunday schools or the Scouts.”
In short, the way in which the regulations will be set up, and the hours which the government is proposing to target as the basis for intervention (6-8 hours), will implicate madrasas but not Sunday schools, constituting indirect discrimination. Ofsted through its spokesman further confirmed that it had “no intention of intervening in Sunday school teaching”.
If more evidence that the entire counter-extremism strategy was in fact a counter-Islam strategy was required, then look no further than the comments made in Parliament on the 20th of January by Gerald Howarth, and Northern Irish MP Gavin Robinson:
It is important to understand why we are in the Chamber today. We are here because Sir Michael Wilshaw found that the Trojan horse experience in Birmingham had exposed the most dangerous corruption of our children imaginable…
That exposed a problem in our country and, I am afraid to say, the problem is confined to one religion only: Islam and what is done in its name. Christians do not threaten our national security, and nor do Buddhists or Sikhs. The threat to our national security is clear and defined, and we can see it in Syria: British young people, brought up in British schools and taught British values, are now perpetrating the most barbaric medieval practices imaginable.
It is therefore right for the Government to address the problem, although we are not doing so correctly by introducing such sweeping proposals, which have been drawn up only to counter Islamic extremism, which threatens our national security. The Government, however, are pretending that there are extremists in other quarters in this country, such as in far-right groups. Yes, there are undesirable, revolting groups in this country, but they do not threaten our national security as it is being threatened by one group.
Gavin Robinson: That is an important point. The Government recently published a counter-extremism strategy. When I asked why Northern Ireland, which has a fair number of extremists, was not included in the strategy, I was told, “Don’t push the issue too far. It is really a counter-Islamic strategy.”
Sir Gerald Howarth: Indeed. Everything is being done so that the Government can pretend that they are being even-handed. We cannot be even-handed between those who do not threaten our national security and those who do. We have to be specific.
These shocking comments reveal three things:
- The Trojan hoax which is disproven by the Education Select Committee is being used as a pretext to target Muslims
- That some Christian MPs do not consider far-right and other forms of “extremism” as a threat to national security, uniquely placing Islam as the only threat
- That there is a “gentlemen’s agreement” in Parliament that the counter-extremism strategy is a “counter-Islam” strategy which is being dressed-up by the government to demonstrate it is not discriminating.
How does a government expect a people to sign up to something that is so abhorrently premised on baseless information and prejudice of a minority? The Trojan Hoax was hot air pushed by neoconservative ideologues; there is no empirical evidence to suggest a link between madrasas and terrorism; and according to a Europol report, less than 1% of attacks were classified as religiously inspired. Here in Britain, Northern Ireland has seen an upsurge in dissident republican attacks. Despite this, we have the systemic targeting of a Muslim group. It seems like the far-right terrorists like David Copeland, Robert Cottage, Neil Lewington, Ian Forman, and Pavlo Lapshyn are not a threat because they are attacking the same groups which are being targeted by officials. Secularism and its symbols like equality and rule of law seem to only protect the Christian status quo, and those who heavily fund the Tories, it seems.
Human rights – the other British value – prevents profiling on the basis of belief even in the context of a threat to national security. Yet we have Christian MPs justifying discrimination against Islam and Muslims based upon the dubious “threat to national security” get out clause. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 18, for instance, establishes non-discrimination on the basis of religious belief, whilst General Assembly Comment 22 on Article 18 explains that restrictions of this right cannot be justified on the basis of national security.
The Sixth session of the Forum on Minority Issues on “Beyond freedom of religion or belief: Guaranteeing the rights of religious minorities”, advises states that,
“…anti-terrorism legislation and policies and their application do not lead to negative consequences for members of religious groups, in particular as a result of religious profiling. They should ensure that religious profiling, in particular in the context of anti-terrorism measures, is actually prohibited by law.”
In 2015, the Human Rights Council adopted a resolution calling on states to counter religious profiling and combat negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination against, persons based on religion or belief. These are human rights standards articulated and encouraged internationally, yet, far from prohibiting religious profiling, “Christian extremists” are seeking justifying it, whilst the Prime Minister of Britain continues to aggravate the practice through racist rhetoric and disgusting discrimination. Welcome to “One Nation” Fascist Britain.
 A/HRC/FMI/2013/3, Note 32, para. 24, November 2013