Much commentary has been written on the Counter-Extremism Bill. The journalist Dilly Hussain has done a comprehensive article addressing the key points of the Bill. CAGE has published a blog which neatly highlights the excessive, hypocritical, dangerous and completely unnecessary nature of the proposals. The organisation has further published a point by point breakdown of whatever ambiguous information has been thus far provided.
There are few articles which delve into the noxious nature of the Extremism measures on this blog too:
In this blog, I would like to elucidate some additional noteworthy points and arguments on the measures. I will also focus on other proposals, which seem at first to be disconnected to the Extremism Bill, yet also foster the neoconservative closed society.
Indirect Criminalisation of Dissent and the Assault on Democracy
Noting the problematic nature of “extremism” (it has already included the targeting of Green Party members, orthodox Islamic viewpoints, anti-Israel views, and Palestinian activism) the leveraging of the civil order regime seems to be an attempt to circumvent the criminal burden of proof (which is higher than the civil evidentiary burden). Theresa May said in 2014:
“I want to see new banning orders for extremist groups that fall short of the existing laws relating to terrorism. I want to see new civil powers to target extremists who stay within the law but still spread poisonous hatred..”
As I highlighted at that time, the rule of law is being diluted to effectively criminalise indirectly those whom the neocons dislike. Criminal procedure maintains protection against the state through presumptions of innocence, the “beyond reasonable doubt” standard of proof and the inadmissibility of hearsay evidence. By circumventing this initial criminal procedure and going through the civil courts, such protections are not afforded. Pertinently, if the civil order is breached then you can be criminally sanctioned.
In other words, legal expression is being criminalised through the backdoor and people (mainly Muslims) will be sanctioned for espousing their religious or political beliefs deemed “extremist”.
It is little wonder that the prospective British Bill of Rights was also announced and which by implication repeals the Human Rights Act. The Act requires Courts to give due regard to the interpretation of the European Court of Human Rights. The Court has repeatedly observed that the Convention protects not only those opinions “that are favourably received or regarded as inoffensive or as a matter of indifference, but also … those that offend, shock or disturb”, pointing out that “[s]uch are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there is no ‘democratic society’”. The human rights trumpeting neocons would have a hard time squaring their Extremism Bill with this understanding.
Clearly, neocons don’t want a truly democratic society but one where the opposing discourses are closely managed within the confined parameters defined by them. They want a closed society.
DBS and Censoring Islam and Politics
The announcement of increasing powers of the DBS (Disclosure and Barring Service) is a further example of thought-policing. In fact an example of how this thought-policing policy would work already exists.
Last year a report revealed that a Muslim had been barred by the DBS from adopting a child due to being flagged by the Derbyshire Constabulary as “holding radical and extreme views”. These consisted of supporting the creation of a Caliphate, adherence to the Shari’ah, and anti-establishment rhetoric. The profile included a discriminatory description of the Shari’ah (constituted of the Islamic primary texts), which was both prejudiced (should a public office be making judgments on the religious beliefs?), and inaccurate (“Shari’ah does not recognise any other religion”). It was plain and simply totalitarian behaviour which resulted in the perpetuation of structural Muslim minority discrimination.
Can Muslims accept the DBS “intervening” in their seats of learning, when their very beliefs are being made the subject of securitised scrutiny, especially when other religions like orthodox Judaism have yet to receive the same level of securitisation and demonization from political circles and policy wonks? If a Muslim can be barred from adoption for adhering to Islam, then how likely will Muslims remain in their respective roles as teachers of that very same faith? Ofsted is already proscribing orthodox Islamic views as “extremist”, and sources state that Michael Wilshaw himself believes that the majority Islamic ruling on musical instruments (most musical instruments are generally prohibited) is an extremist position. What will be the status of an Ustadh (teacher) who teaches that the Qur’an is the word of God to a child, and that word of God demarcates ostensibly unequal inheritance shares between sons and daughters? Is the next step to legislate against the Qur’an too?
This is nothing but express, discriminatory state interference in the private sphere of religion. Again, this is the practice of closed society governments.
Integration or Forced Assimilation?
Proposals also suggest further legislation is to be expected targeted “integration”. “Legislating” for integration does not bode well, however. Do we now force people to behave like the rest of society? How does this monolithic “rest of society” behave? Incidentally, it also demonstrates that the Trevor Phillips’ documentary, What British Muslims Really Think, was also a propaganda prop for this subsequent addition to the counter-extremism programme. As highlighted in my multi-part analysis of that documentary, the implications for such a direction are potentially catastrophic and reminiscent of the European hatred of the Jewish people before the rise of the Nazi regime.
Using Islam and Muslims as the alienated excuse, the very concepts of a democratic society and individual liberty are being decimated. As Phillips chillingly said in the interview, “the whole of Britain may have to set aside the live and let live philosophy.” When a state seeks to coerce a change, directly or indirectly, in the lifestyle of people than this is an assault on choice – the right to live as one sees fit within the confines of the law. And neoconservatism’s modus operandi is to “take on the sacred cow of liberalism – choice”.
In short the additional measures and potential extensions to the legislation will seek regulate the lives of people more. This is the neocon elite guiding the “vulgar masses”.
It’s not just the Extremism Bill
It must be understood that this “guidance” involves socially engineering a people whom are docile to their messaging and requirements. Elaborating on this, I will bring attention to another Bill which demonstrates the concerted effort by the neoconservatives to foster their ideal, fascist closed society.
One of the other Bills proposed in the speech seeks to entrench the National Citizenship Service (NCS) by placing it on statutory footing. It is to be accompanied with a £1.2 billion investment. This project is one which is close to Cameron’s heart. When Cameron became party leader in 2005 he had already decided to introduce some sort of non-military national service for youth to mimic his time in the Combined Cadet Force at Eton.
Aimed at 16-17 year olds, the voluntary summer programme begins “with an outward-bound course in the countryside – involving hiking and group-bonding activities – then moves on to a residential week of volunteering work, and rounds off with a series of day trips at home.” These new proposals force educational institutions to promote the pseudo-militarisation programme.
Such programmes are not themselves problematic. But when a state – a neoconservative state that is actively terraforming a closed society – begins heavily investing in such programmes, and forcing institutions to “promote” it, it should be a cause for societal concern.
For neocons, liberalism leads to cultural decline, and a society which is not willing to sacrifice their rights for the “greater good”. Neoconservatives also believe in an energetic state which regulates the private as much as the public. The thoughts as much as action.
Following their philosophic figurehead, Leo Strauss, they aver that “ceremonial seriousness” (drawn from national and civic symbolism and “values”) is necessary to cultivate collectivism for a fascist “closed society” in which people become willing to self-sacrifice. The purpose ultimately is to create a people who are hardworking, believe in and worship the civic religion of “British values”, are willing to follow commands of the state and give their lives readily for the state. In such a society, neoconservative statesman can thus easily exercise the grand political task of statecraft to control lives and pursue endless wars. The state thus envisaged is one which is more in common with the principles outlined in Benito Mussolini and Giovanni Gentile’s “Doctrine of Fascism”, than the “Night Watchman”, individual-based, small state modelled in a liberal democracy of the Locke or Jefferson variety.
The NCS is a mechanism to socially engineer the above set to of behaviours and aims. In fact, to an extent, it is eerily similar to the US neoconservative equivalent which was proposed by neocon John McCain in 2001. Spring boarding off the 9/11 tragedy, McCain’s National Civilian Community Corps programme would require those enrolled to work for organisations like Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity. Like Cameron’s desire to replicate his time in Combined Cadet Force at Eton, McCain’s proposal was overtly militarised; enlistees would work in teams, wear uniforms, and develop cohesion between teams in order to help foster the notion of the “citizen-soldier”, disconcertingly echoing the pre-World War II Nazi social engineering programmes.
Whilst the indoctrination is not quite on par with Kurt Gruber’s Hitler Youth programme, the underlying assumptions and drive for such programmes are certainly shared.
The task of indoctrination in present-day Britain is taking place in schools, which are required to preach “British values” against the threat of being branded a failing school. Prisons are now also to imbibe this brainwashing agenda.
The Counter Extremism Bill is a stain on any government let alone one which hypocritically and oxymoronically compels adherence to “British values” of democracy, rule of law and human rights. Even parts of the security establishment are beginning to realise this. Police lead for PREVENT Simon Cole (rather ironically) stated,
“We don’t want to be the thought police, we absolutely don’t want to be the thought police.”
As the Guardian reports, a statement backed by Liberty, Index on Censorship, the Muslim Council of Britain, and Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester says,
“These proposals will serve to alienate communities and undermine free speech, but there is scant evidence that they will tackle the terrorism we all want to confront.”
The resistance against such racist measures must broaden. However, it is equally important to understand that neoconservative programmes are constructing coercion at every level of society; the Extremism Bill is merely the overt end of their closed society project. Soft-fascist indoctrination in educational institutions alongside the centralisation of education (and therefore state control) through the Academies project is already happening. Programmes like the NCS are being entrenched. And even prisons are not escaping the thought-control project.
We must become alert to these programmes and instantiate the process of resisting and exposing neoconservatives.