There has been no shortage of Muslims and Islamic groups condemning the barbarism and despicable inhumane killings of ISILas it continues to ravish vast swathes of land in Iraq and Syria. It has even led to a “Muslim Apologies” Twitter trend resembling a parody of the earlier #NotInMyName campaign against the apparition of the self-proclaimed “Islamic State.”
Even relatives of David Haines and Alan Henning, the two Britons killed so brutally by ISIL have condemned and criticised “those who seek to drive us apart and spread hatred by attempting to place blame on Muslims or on the Islamic faith”- for the actions of terrorists. “We will not allow the actions of a few people undermine the unity of people of all faiths in our society. Together we have the power to defeat the most hateful acts. Acts of unity from us all will in turn make us stronger and those who wish to divide us weaker,” they said in a joint letter.
Muslims always have to accept collective responsibility for what al-Qa’ida, ISIL and other terrorists do. In trying to deflect any culpability for its failed policies, Western governments have wrongly claimed that that the real conflict is with underlying ideology connected with Islam. In effect, the US and its allies have only helped to create a breeding ground by causing more anger and resentment from their military intervention.
First it was called a war against terrorism, itself a misnomer, that was exploited to pursue not only military and political objectives but also as a form of social control. The obscure enemy became not just those involved in violence but expanded to ideology and those categorised in some way as extremists.
Few can disagree with some of the sentiments expressed by Home Secretary, Theresa May at the annual Tory conference. That Britain is all the more richer when different ways of life are celebrated, that diversity is valued and where there is freedom to choose how lives are led. There are indeed cherished benefits of a truly pluralistic society and she is also right to proclaim that everyone in such a society has not just rights but responsibilities. Respect of others is tantamount.
Yet during her speech, she pushed the boundaries of more draconian legal controls on individuals to include those not suspected or accused of advocating violence as Prime Minister, David Cameron, had raised in his address to the UN last month. Planned laws are to be directed against the “kind of extremism that promotes intolerance, hatred and a sense of superiority over others to the actions of those who want to impose their values on us through violence.”
Although there is no definition as such, the Home Secretary insisted that there is no place for extremism and the Government has to stand up for “our values as a nation.” It seems that if one disagrees with the Government may face the ban.
So much for the much cherished pluralistic society as the bar and criteria are to be changed.
Reasons for designating an organisation or an individual as extremist are to include not only the spreading, inciting, promotion or justification of hatred on the grounds of disability, gender, race, religion and sexual orientation but where members of the public, or a section of it, will apparently be harmed. The interpretation of extremism is to be widen to any activities that puts a section of society “at risk” of alarm or distress could fall under its scope.
There is a long way to go before such proposals may become laws but they are already part of the Party’s manifesto which the Tories are drawing up for next year’s elections and would become Government policy in the event they are returned to office. It is a worrisome definition that could extend to any views that differ from what is considered as acceptable.
It would be a further erosion of freedoms that have already been whittled away in previous anti-terrorism legislation. The threat is heightened by the Tories again putting Britain’s membership of the European Convention of Human Rights at risk.