I had not intended to write in the context of the most recent attacks. Ramadan is upon on us and hearts are in dire need of purification, especially when one can see the policies that are on the political horizon. However, a brief interjection into the incredibly loud echo chamber that has been created, if I may.
No doubt the lurch of the government will be authoritarian in the best of neoconservative moulds, with more calls to implement closed society measures. Hilariously, the precarious Theresa May has just announced that she will tear up “human rights laws” to fight terrorism. In doing so she will become the very PREVENT-defined “extremist” she and mafia of neocons endlessly harp on about. PREVENT officers, you may need to refer this unstable lady as she has very publicly and vocally opposed “British values”.
As for the Muslim response, much can be said on a number of alarming behaviours. However, I will for now limit it to a statement by some 200 Muslims scholars and activists urging Imams to refuse the burial of terror suspects.
It is that time of the year: a hectic month as the British people recover from their frenzied Christmas shopping, briefly punctuated with the peace of the annual family get together, only to be followed by scrambling over various items thanks to the hype produced by corporations eager to increase the debt through boxing day “sales”. As the recovery from these activities begins and the damage to the bank accounts dawn, we take advantage of this lull for some customary reflection.
This year has been a particularly unsettling one; the sordidly racist campaign which ultimately culminated in Brexit; the far-right terrorist attack claiming the life of Jo Cox – the first killing of an MP in 26 years; the B-movie being played in the US starring Donald Trump, the West-wide rise of the far-right and unleashing of political and social xenophobia, security globalisation via totalitarian measures like the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda; Britain passing one of the world’s widest and intrusive surveillance laws; the list goes on. Sadly, it is the Muslim minority, either through scapegoating or being subjected to the fruits of this dangerous concoction of nationalism, disenfranchisement through the global neoliberal order, and neoconservative domestic and foreign policies, which has by and large, bore the brunt.
The former oil executive and Etonian Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, recently stated that there was a need to move away from the notion that ISIS has “nothing to with Islam”:
“If we treat religiously-motivated violence solely as a security issue, or a political issue, then it will be incredibly difficult – probably impossible – to overcome it… A theological voice needs to be part of the response, and we should not be bashful in offering that… This requires a move away from the argument that has become increasingly popular, which is to say that Isis is ‘nothing to do with Islam’, or that Christian militia in the Central African Republic are nothing to do with Christianity, or Hindu nationalist persecution of Christians in South India is nothing to do with Hinduism.. Until religious leaders stand up and take responsibility for the actions of those who do things in the name of their religion, we will see no resolution.”
The argument seems ostensibly balanced. After all, the theological element is mentioned as a factor (albeit a defining one) and Welby highlights the Christian militia in CAR, as well as the Hindu nationalist persecution, though, limiting it to Christian persecution whilst ignoring the rape and killing of Kashmiri Muslims by an army overseen by the fascist PM of India, Narendra Modi. However, the reporting, language and timing of his statements, upon closer inspection, reveal a smokescreen for a continued agenda to target Islam.
The neoconservative effort to deform Islam, neuter Muslim thinking and create a repulsion of Islam in general has its basis in the clash of civilisations thesis. Premising this thesis is the assumption of one particular side – the Western side – being civilised. The permeation of this assumption has led to a “civilising” mission utilising the War on Terror paradigm and all its political and military machinery; globalised drone warfare programmes, extraordinary rendition, torture, perpetual wars, and collective punishment through targeting of Muslim minorities using policies which erode the liberties of all. Through political exploitation of fears about ISIS which exponentially increased no sooner did Britain, for instance decide to join the foray in Iraq and Syria, the impact on civil liberties in Western societies has continuously progressed.
To the neutral observer, the above can hardly be described as “civilised”.
“We could favour the birth of a new Islam, more inclined towards compromise and tolerance of Europe; to encourage the young generation of ulama who are working in that direction…” ~ French Colonialist, Edmond Douttee,  1901
“It is the modernists whose vision matches our own. Of all the groups, this one is the most congenial to the values and the spirit of modern democratic society.” ~ (Former) wife of US neocon Zalmay Khalilzad, Cheryl Bernard, 2003
“We’re now going to actively encourage the reforming and moderate Muslim voices.” ~ British PM David Cameron, Speech on Extremism, 2015
Slogans based within particular parlance and values often provide the veil for an agenda of a different kind. During the 1970s, the human rights industry was used as official US imperial policy. Prior to this, the enlightened liberalism of the west was driving colonisation of the world to bring it out of “darkness” – a psychological projection of its own “dark” past. Today, neoconservatives have taken much of the above, tweaked the rhetoric and driven a strategic policy which has now begun to gain international traction. Today, the “cure” for “backward” and “violent” Muslims remains one grounded in the European, supremacist experience. However, this prescription is administered through the now pressing lens of security and specifically the counter-extremism agenda. In other words, neocons have successfully managed to securitise human rights, allowing them to foster closed societies domestically whilst pursing their doctrine of pre-emption objectives on a global scale through war – both physical and ideological. The vehicle which provides the language set and values for this culturalist war is the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) agenda.
In a previous article, I noted how the underlying neoconservative “clash of civilisations” assumptions about Islam have premised the counter-extremism discourse. In the British context, we now a have state-coerced effort to deconstruct Islam piece by piece in order to assimilate, as opposed to integrate, Muslims. When we understand that Britain through its neocon “think-tanks” and pseudo-liberal “reformers” are at the centre of defining the counter-extremism ideology transnationally, we can appreciate, or rather, be perturbed by the extent of the influence of this dangerous thinking.
In a word we must segment Islam… weaken Islam, make it restless, numb it, and render it forever incapable of great awakenings. ~ French liberal colonialist Edmond Fazy
I have often highlighted that neoconservative assumptions about Islam have driven much of the counter-extremism discourse. The implementation of the doctrine of pre-emption by neocons means that orthodox Muslims are purged from public sector jobs, and Muslim children for instance, are now the subject of counter-extremism measures for requesting prayer space, or campaigning for Palestine.
Whilst outrageous to the reasonable mind, and condemned by hundreds of leading academics, the neocons have successfully engineered an atmosphere where Islam and Muslims have become despised, thus allowing for secular interference of private religion to produce a secularised, government-compliant Muslim whose connection to Islam is merely incidental and historic. Whilst Orthodox Jews are engaged with by the government freely and have yet to attract the label of extremism for their manners and mores which are at odds with the secular liberal status quo, Muslims have only government-produced, neocon-connected individuals as the “approved” representatives of Islam. Gone are the days when MCB was consulted, or the Sufis were used and abused as tools to deal with “fundamentalist” Muslims. Today the attack on Islam is wholesale and open thanks to the counter-extremism agenda, and neocon-co-opted, state-funded individuals and organisations, officially supported and promoted by the head of state. It seems the failure in instigating a deformation of Islam means that the weight of the state is now being used to force it.