The Muslim Question (4): Trevor Phillips’ and the Forging of a Closed Society

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A series of blogs analysing the recent Channel 4 documentary titled, “What British Muslims Really Think”

Part 1: An Orchestrated Attack on Islam

Part 2: Brief Profile of Trevor Phillips

Part 3: Trevor Phillips’ Propaganda and Normalisation of Muslim Minority Discrimination

In the last article, we saw how Phillips used spin and dubious extrapolations to conclude, in an expressly discriminatory fashion, that the survey on Muslim opinion showed “a nation within the nation.”  What the implications are in specifically the Muslim context will be the subject of my next and final piece.  Here the focus will on the ramifications resulting from Phillips’ proclamations and accompanying neoconservative chorus.

Phillips, based off his exclusionary conclusion, moves to providing a (semi-final?) “solution” to this artificially constructed “Muslim problem” saturated in hypocrisy:

“It’s clear to me that we have to discourage the many Muslims who want to live a separate life according to values that are at odds with non-Muslim Britain.  But that’s not a responsibility for government, to stand a chance of success the whole of Britain may have to set aside the live and let live philosophy that’s paved the way for separate and reassert the liberal values that served our society for so long.”

Phillips then calls for “active integration” which is made up of the notion that there are some things “society” will not compromise on, and the strategy that liberal trends in all parts of society are to be supported. In order to achieve, this, the already anti-Muslim, draconian, and civil-liberties-eroding measures implemented by neocons and David Cameron “do not go far enough”. “We need”, we are instructed, “a much more muscular approach”.

In essence, this approach entails more erosion of civil liberties: forced integration with a view of baptising Islam and Muslims and forcing them to accept a “base set of values”.

“Liberal Muslims” – code for neocon-enabling Quilliamites – must be supported and Muslims must trade their faith and spiritual morality in exchange for freedom from public harassment and societal alienation because of their religious beliefs.

This is nothing new. The PREVENT Strategy and Duty – which is forcing the secularisation of Islam, and coercing political opinion to conform to neoconservative, pro-Israeli spin – is already doing this. Phillips is calling on the “rest of society” to effectively accept this, and that which is more to come viz. the “counter-Islam” counter-extremism Bill and the defenestration of the Human Rights Act.

Secular Liberal Breakdown and Creeping Totalitarianism

All this demonstrates Muslim minority discrimination.  And a breakdown in all that Britain purportedly stands for.

Indeed, the coerced conformity to a base set of values which is what Phillips and neocons demand, is the complete antithesis to the increasingly desolate promises of secularism and liberalism.  If a person chooses to live in a particular way or expresses themselves within the boundaries of the law, who is the state to interfere? Indeed interference by the state to force the adoption particular beliefs and practices is plain totalitarianism.

Brendan O’Neill, when it came to defending the Orthodox Jewish community and their practices, claimed state interference amounted to an “Inquisition” and invoked John Locke:

In his Letter Concerning Toleration, published in 1689, John Locke said of ‘spontaneous societies’, by which he meant religious groups: ‘The right of making its laws can belong to none but the society itself… to those whom the society by common consent has authorised thereunto.’ Locke said it was outrageous that some people — the tyrannical — expected non-mainstream religious people to ‘oppose the dictates of their own consciences, and blindly resign themselves up to the will of their governors’.

The liberalism of Phillips et al breaks down when it comes to Muslims though. Clearly.

The holding of “attitudes”, beliefs and opinions, is grounded in an inalienable right established from the Western construction of human rights. From the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and regional instruments in between, the freedom of conscious and belief is a non-derogable right and discrimination on this basis is a violation of that right.

The same International legal framework also protects the rights of Muslims and other minorities to practice their religion and enjoy their culture without discrimination:

“In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.”(ICCPR, Art. 27)

And yet this ostensibly pluralistic understanding enshrined in this international legal instrument is rammed through with an ideological horse and cart.  The liberal state, so we are told, is committed to a pluralism which accommodates different types of groups.  In short, not only was the assumption about Muslims distortedly monolithic in the documentary, but the interpretation of liberalism being trumpeted was also presumed to be an antithetical singular.

Using this interpretation, Phillips informs us there was an expectation for Muslims to assimilate over time.  And this interpretation is also shared quite bluntly with fascist neocon hate preacher Douglas Murray:

“For decades, successive governments in Britain pretended that if you brought millions of people from other cultures into this country and gave them enough time plus all the provisions of the British state then before long they would be down the pub and failing to attend church like everyone else.”

When exactly was this secretive, unspoken expectation communicated?  With the rise of the neocon regime and on the airing of the Channel 4 documentary? Or is it the case that this has always been the unspoken cultural imperialist plan but neocons feel they can now come clean?

The Reaction from Neocons

Given the above, it is unsurprising that Phillips’ handy work found plaudits among neocons like Murray, who also took the opportunity to undermine, per form, Islamophobia. In another piece bemoaning Muslim women in positions of authority not toeing his neoconservative, pro-Israel line, he wrote (of course, ignoring Orthodox Jews),

“They [Muslims] – and very often their children – have another set of ideas, a different attitude towards the purpose of life and an alternative view of what constitutes respected ‘authority’… Of course as the ICM / Trevor Phillips poll the other week showed, a lot of Muslims in Britain like living in Britain.  But the poll also showed they like it because they get the freedom to live the lives they want to live.  Not British lives, but lives that are convenient for them.”

A fan of Douglas Murray (see here and here), Katie Hopkins also took the Dail Mail to declare,

“I have been right all along. British Muslims are not part of some rich tapestry of urban life.”

Executive editor of Breitbart James Delingpole mocked the reactions and criticisms from Muslims, whilst ignoring of course the plethora of problems in the “rest of society”. For instance, Delingpole speculated that Muslims may think it is “OK” for a nine-year old boy to call a Muslim headmistress a “slag” for not wearing a headscarf.  Whilst this is indeed unacceptable (Islamically) Delingpole is of course blind to studies which show young pupils think violence towards women, if backed by a reason, is “OK”. It seems Delingpole also fell victim to amnesia when it came to recalling the case of an eleven-year old child who told Tristram Hunt that he would vote UKIP in order to “get all the foreigners out”.  To return Delingpole’s comment, “isn’t about time we heard a bit more from British Muslims white Christian folk about what they plan to do remedy this?”

Problems exist in all communities.  And they must be dealt without stigmatising or excluding particular minorities.

Tellingly, Delingpole’s article was reproduced, among other articles on Phillips’ fulminations on Muslims, on a far-right counter-jihad website.

This cheer from the far-right/neocons is instructive. And a cause for consternation.

A Call for a Neoconservative Closed Society

If it isn’t apparent already, then allow me to be explicit: the vision projected by neocons through the mouth of Phillips is one which is very much neoconservative, and one which seeks to “take on the sacred cow of liberalism – choice”. Thus Phillips states, “the whole of Britain may have to set aside the live and let live philosophy.” In other words, Britain needs to let go of its philosophy of choice.

If this isn’t a cause for alarm bells ringing then it should be.

As I have elaborated in detail, the neoconservative ideal state is a closed society based on lies, deception, fascist and imperial principles, which is faced with a constant threat, and where the “vulgar masses” are ruled by a small “wise” elite.

The consequence of the neoconservatism is what we are now witnessing in Britain already; an increasingly closed society qualitatively marked by encroaching surveillance, attrition of civil liberties, and the dual society where one rule for the elite is established (free from adherence to “British values”, for instance), and another expected of the rest of society (adherence to “British values”).

Last month, his “ally”, “ideology-only” Tony Blair stated that we needed a “muscular centrism” to deal with “extremism”.  The centre had succumbed to “flabby liberalism” which was “unwilling to take people on” as this may be seen as culturally insensitive.   Of course, Blair’s version of liberalism sees Islam as “extremism”.  It is this supremacist thinking which kept anti-Semitism in the 19th century buoyant and fuelled the subjugation of different cultures through colonialism.

In the context of universities, Blair’s “heir” David Cameron also spoke of the need to move away from the “misguided liberalism” being adhered to by universities.

Trevor Phillips has taken this precise line in effectively undermining liberalism. Choice is being slowly replaced by state-paternalist control.

His solution of coercive integration is plain and simply a policy of assimilation which is fully concordant with the neoconservative agenda to breed a nation of state-worshippers and servants.

It is a policy which reduces the freedom of a group of people to fit a metaphysical, ethereal base set of values.   Society, and Muslim in particular, must not only acknowledge the theology of the state, it must believe and worship it or face the consequence of non-compliance. With the situation before us thus conceived, “active integration” and macho muscularity in its impression is an augmented theocracy born of modernity, where the disputed ideas of secular liberalism are rendered into the supreme theology of the state and Muslims are, Inquisition-style, interrogated and conjoled into accepting this theology.  It seems the Schmittian observance of the state that “All significant concepts of the modern theory of the state are secularized theological concepts”, is aggressively being implemented.[1]  Then again, Leo Strauss, the father of neoconservatism, endorsed and reinforced the ideas of Carl Schmitt before the latter philosopher became known as a Nazi jurist.

These subversive ideas are forming the basis for the new nationalism being forged by neocons. It is for broader society to recognise the tyranny and totalitarianism present in the espoused ideas of neocons, and confront the threat that they pose.

There is also cause for apprehension in the core message of the documentary; that Muslims are separate from the “rest of society”.  What does this mean for Muslims? And what is the trajectory of this rhetoric?

The next and final part will attempt to tackle these questions.


[1] Schmitt, C., 1922, Political Theology: Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty, Translated from German by Schwab, G., University of Chicago Press: Chicago, 2005 p. xli

3 thoughts on “The Muslim Question (4): Trevor Phillips’ and the Forging of a Closed Society

  1. Salam Alaykum,

    I only skimmed through this article and have some idea of this “Muslim Question” matter, but would you say the ideal situation for ‘liberalism’ is that yes, an Ahmad, Maryam or Umar may “stumble” upon a religious Muslim livelihood and all is good while they practice it in the privacy of their homes – yet when a Muslim community is formally organized this is seen as a serious threat to the civil order, exactly because, whatever the contradictions may be, a ‘Secular Liberalist Society’ requires strict adherence to all its inner and outer principles in order to maintain and perpetuate its ideals, and this excludes the existence of a Muslim Ummah acting as an Ummah in the various facets of Islam (that is, the “Right of Practicing Islam” is given only to individuals within a very restricted scope, but not to the Islamic community qua community, basically ensuring that Islam will be phased out in such lands, since the healthy passing on of the religion among the people and across generations is broken in this structure).

  2. Reblogged this on | truthaholics and commented:
    “These subversive ideas are forming the basis for the new nationalism being forged by neocons. It is for broader society to recognise the tyranny and totalitarianism present in the espoused ideas of neocons, and confront the threat that they pose.

    There is also cause for apprehension in the core message of the documentary; that Muslims are separate from the “rest of society”. What does this mean for Muslims? And what is the trajectory of this rhetoric?”

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