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.
An ideology is a set of beliefs held by individuals or a collective. Given the way in which the counter-extremism discourse, as propounded by the neoconservative elements of the government and its associated “think-tanks”, possesses underlying assumptions which have been comprehensively rejected the intellectual milieu (see here, here and here), one can reasonably conclude that neocons are dogmatically promoting counter-extremism as a subset of their ideology and imposing it on people.
Given the pervasion of neoconservatism, its proponents in government, and the veritable control of the broad-spread permeation of this counter-extremism ideology by them, it would also not be reasonable to state that in the context of counter-extremism, the government has become both authoritarian and totalitarian. It is authoritarian because those who dictate the policies on counter-extremism can be traced to a small, elite cabal of neoconservatives, and it is totalitarian because extremism policy has taken societally-driven surveillance and thought-policing to a whole new penetrative, fascistic level.
Over one Spy for Every Muslim
I have already drawn parallels between today’s PREVENT surveillance programme and East Germany’s Stasi. Professor Arun Kundnani, has shown how the FBI has one counterterrorism spy for every 94 Muslims in the U.S., which approaches Stasi’s ratio of one spy for every 66 citizens.
“There should be no ungoverned spaces…” – Prevent Strategy
David Cameron’s speech was textbook neoconservativism. It was characterised by the need to manufacture an enemy for the state to court a form of fear-based nationalism, which enables warring and a resultant neocon-shaped society founded upon principles of fascism and increasing authoritarianism.
A “Greater Britain”, a Neocon Britain
It is certainly interesting to note that a “Greater Britain” for Cameron “begins by making the case for strong defence”. It echoes neocon hawks William Kristol and Robert Kagan’s “remoralisation of America” which requires a hegemonic foreign policy. There was much veneration of the global militarism in Cameron’s speech directly tied to the “greatness” of Britain and national identity. For war, an enemy the “nation” can relate to and remain in fear of, is required. In other words, an identity based on the “other” through fear is the Machiavellian recipe for a Straussian “closed society” shorn of individual liberty and freedom.
Photograph: Rob Stothard/Getty Images
The focus of PREVENT has discriminatorily targeted and resultantly profiled the Muslim minority for some time. Over the past year, I have documented how the structural discrimination at the state level has progressed pretty much unnoticed and without any furore – the type of furore that was created based upon smears and allegations last year which culminated in multiple reports being commissioned and published, which led to Muslims being associated with the far-right derogatory term, Trojan Horse (based off a fabricated letter no less).
I have challenged the skewed application of the term “extremism”. Indeed, biased, politically motivated investigations in other communities would yield interesting findings, and the government alongside complicit mouthpiece media would have little trouble turning the Jewish community for instance, into an “enemy within”. However the indifferent attitude to issues in the Jewish community, exemplifies the discrimination facing Muslim. Early last year I highlighted a school in which corporal punishment was being meted out to Jewish children by teachers. Most of the media did not even report the findings of Ofsted. Neither was there a relentless cultural attack on Jews designed to prove the inferiority of their way of life. No muscular liberalism was flexed.