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.
Enter a caption Arend van Dam
As of yet, I have refrained from writing on the EU referendum, despite being prompted by friends to provide the neoconservative perspective.
Given the indeterminacy and misleading nature of the arguments being presented, the truth is I could not produce an advisory for either choice for reasons which will become evident through the course of this piece. One thing was for sure, that those who have been responsible for politically terraforming the closed society here in Britain and other Western countries, as well as physically destroying the Middle East courtesy of benevolent bombs and civilising war, had largely been ignored.
The neoconservative position has been a split one. It needs to be understood however, that the core aim is not being differed (militarisation, projection of power etc.), but rather the approach.
The ardent anti-Muslim neoconservative Michael Gove, author of the draconian anti-Muslim neocon Bible Celsius 7/7 has complained that those who wish to remain in the EU are,
“wanting us to believe that Britain is broken and beaten… It treats people like mere children, capable of being frightened into obedience by conjuring up new bogeymen every night,”
In other words, people are using neoconservative, Machiavellian tactics. His tactics, in other words. Ironically, in the same breath it is Gove who argues Britain is beaten and broken by stating that a vote to leave would be a “galvanising, liberating, empowering moment of patriotic renewal” which would result in “taking back control” – this presumes that Britain is currently unliberated and not empowered.
“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.
“They [the neocons] really have no use for liberalism and democracy, but they’re conquering the world in the name of liberalism and democracy.” Shadia Drury
Lying and deception as tools of war have been used for centuries. Sun Tzu in his The Art of War elaborates its utility in the context of war. The book makes the reading list for the US army. However, where a government lies and deceives its own people who put them in power, this is sabotaging democracy. The manipulation of opinion, deception and the promulgation of great lies is often used by totalitarian, fascist regimes to maintain their power and pursue their agendas against the will of the people.
Fulfilling the annual ritual of attacking the smallest minority within a minority (women in niqab – subject of a follow-up blog) came with an additional twist this year, spearheading Muslims, their beliefs and manifestations across the media spectrum. The right-wing relished in reproducing defunct diatribe of the Yasmin Alibhai Brown variety. The Guardian meanwhile comforted itself in introducing David Cameron to the concept of empathy, whilst asserting he was right to “raise the often unfavourable position” of Muslim women. The additional twist was Cameron dictating to his subjects that learning English reduces susceptibility to extremism. Whilst there have been a fair few commentaries and responses, the blatant elephant in the room has been completely ignored: structural, flagrant discrimination and racism.
The red herrings in this discourse and Cameron’s Cameronialism exhibited in his Times comment – titled We wont let women be second-class citizens – as such requires deconstruction.
In my previous article, I stated that I would focus on the discriminatory aspect of David Cameron’s statements made in his New Year’s messages around terrorism, its politically expedient focus on ideology (extremism), and the “conditions” which foster extremism, namely orthodox Islamic beliefs and practices.
Through the smokescreen of “Islamist extremism”, “integration”, and “isolated communities”, we have been witness to relentless, structural (state-level) culturalist attacks on Islamic beliefs/practices – from sex separation, Shari’ah arbitration and the Islamic conception of roles of men and women, to loyalty to other Muslims through the concept of the Ummah and Caliphate. All of this and more is used to concoct the Machiavellian “fifth column” menace.
There is one particular neoconservative blind spot which is absent not only from Cameron’s speeches, but also the underpinning policy which has been carefully carved by his neocon guides at the Henry Jackson Society and Quilliam Foundation: the counter-extremism strategy. It is the omission of a particular group which not only accentuates the discriminatory aspect of Cameron’s regressive rhetoric, but points to a contributory political hand being played in the carving up the Muslim minority, its beliefs, and practices.