The above panel discussion was exemplary in the balance and respect afforded to one another despite the quite often opposing views being propounded. BBC should take note.
I wished to make a couple of points.
War on Terror
Firstly, Moazzam Begg highlighted a number of occasions during the discussion the importance of the War on Terror as a context from which certain expressions of “free speech” contributed to the stigmatisation of the Muslim minority. As expected, it resulted in dismissive responses from some of the panellists (who were not Muslim). This was noted in the context of the discussion around Charlie Hebdo and its expression of free speech. Begg highlighted the effect of the Nazi-era publication Der Stürmer. However, this was, again, dismissed (the response was something along the lines of “how can you compare them to Nazis?”).
Joint Letter on the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill and the Protection of Charity Bill
This joint letter expresses our concerns over the Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, the Protection of Charities Bill and other measures seeking to tackle ‘’non violent extremism’’ under the PREVENT strategy.
The move by Government from tackling ‘violent extremism’ to ‘non violent extremism’ as a base line is dangerous and un-proven, There is little or no evidence to show that individuals progress from non violent extremist thoughts to violent extremist action in any study on terrorism. We are concerned that society is heading into the area of Orwellian concept ‘’thought policing and control’’, where we judge people by what we believe they think, rather than their actual thought or actions
These two bills place the UK at a cross roads of changing its current position of upholding liberty and the rule of law to one where these key values will be seriously compromised. It will not assist but act as a hindrance to the very services it is designed to help.
We recognise the terrorist threat posed by a small number of individuals seeking political change through violence and justifying it through either a misunderstanding of religion or a misplaced sense of duty to the nation. The solutions to counter this threat are difficult and complex and we recognise this .We have continuously made public statements opposing violence in all its forms to our congregations and members, as well as to groups, occupying powers and governments. We have always promoted ideas of active citizenship and participation, encouraging all people to improve the lives of all our citizens and people.
We also add that radical thought and debate are often a key driving force of innovation and progress. Our society and world has developed with radical thought and debate in establishing for instance, women’s rights, racial equality, industrial laws to protect workers, the right to challenge government decisions and police action.
Photograph: Stefan Wermuth/Reuters
It seems the problems with regards to the definition of “extremism”, and its abuse by neocons is finally starting to be discussed, although it may be too late given that the new counter terror bill has already been through its second reading in Parliament. Given the toxic implications of the Bill which I have briefly discussed here and here, one wonders why there is no outrage against what is an assault against the “democratic values” often propagated through military means around the world.
Peter Fahy in a frank and welcome warning highlighted that the battle against “extremism” could lead to a “drift towards a police state” in which officers are turned into “thought police”. Below are some of the excerpts which deserve being reproduced in full from the Guardian: Continue reading