‘We haven’t passed extremism Asbo, the case hasn’t been made’

28th Feb 2014
Deputy PM Nick Clegg told The Muslim Mews the government “had not passed new draconian anti-terrorism powers.”


Musa Naqvi in Manchester

Since its publication on December 4, Prime Minister’s Radicalisation and Extremism Task Force: ‘Tackling extremism in the UK’ has come under criticism for an undue focus on the Muslim community.

However, on Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), Nick Clegg, told The Muslim News on February 7 that the Government “had not passed new draconian anti-terrorism powers.”

Clegg spoke of a “proportionate and measured approach” on tackling extremism, arguing that post-Woolwich “despite some people wishing, we didn’t immediately reach for new legal powers.”

The Leader of the Liberal Democrats was attending the British Muslim Heritage Centre in Manchester to meet the Muslim community, as part of election campaign.

Responding to criticism from the community at not being consulted during the preparation of the extremism report, Clegg said, “There was wide consultation and those that may not like certain provisions” should voice their concerns.

The Task Force report had identified “Al-Qa’ida’s distorted interpretation of Islam” and the “Islamist ideology” as the primary source of terrorist threat to the UK. The report focused on closing the gaps within existing legislation, by ‘considering a case for new civil powers’ to target behaviours used by “extremists” to radicalise others, amongst others, as well as granting new powers to the Charity Commission.

DPM further said that “any predictions and assertions [about the legislation] are not factually true”, explaining that the “report doesn’t introduce an extremism Asbo (anti-social behaviour order) – the case hasn’t been made!” and it was important for the Government “not to overreact” after Woolwich.

“The Task Force [was] not saying we will introduce a whole raft of draconian legislation – we are precisely not doing that,” he said.

In reply to other questions about the banning of the niqab and Lib Dem candidate Majid Nawaz’s tweets about the ‘Jesus and Mo’ cartoon [with image of Prophet Muhammad], Clegg said: “We must treasure and cherish the principles of liberty and responsibility – in a free society we should have the right to say what we want, in the same way wear what we want.

Clegg rejected suggestions to withdraw Nawaz as Lib Dem candidate: “Freedom to speak your mind should not be discarded, but tempered with moderation and respect, Issues of faith matter to us all, Majid Nawaz has apologised, there is huge heartfelt concern, and that it was essential to be respectful of difference of opinion.”

At an interfaith event held by Clegg to celebrate their work earlier this month, he said, “I will never forget, in the wake of the terrible incidents on streets of Woolwich last year, there was a real sense of fear, a febrile atmosphere on the streets of London, a real feeling that it might lead to copycat acts, knock-on violence, or bring tension between our communities.

“I will never forget the important role you all played. It was a really powerful signal of calm, of tolerance and of reason, at exactly a time when all those qualities were under strain.”

One Response to “‘We haven’t passed extremism Asbo, the case hasn’t been made’”

Iftikhar AhmadFebruary 28, 2014

The Prime Minister is reported to have said: “there are just too many people who have been radicalised in Islamic centres, who have been in contact with extremist preachers, who have accessed radicalising information on the internet and haven’t been sufficiently challenged”. This narrative will only add fuel to an already charged Islamophobic atmosphere.

In spite of the odd references to other forms of extremism, the proposals and the words of the PM clearly single out Muslim communities and institutions, with an unsubstantiated assertion that extremists are radicalised at Islamic centres. Many are concerned that these proposals continue to view British Muslims through the prism of security, rather than as fully fledged members of British society.

We agree that those who call for the murder of innocent civilians, as we saw in Woolwich earlier this year, and in other atrocities around the world, are indeed presenting a distorted interpretation of Islam. That is the red line that the vast majority in our community would have no problem in endorsing. We are concerned, however, as to who will be the judge of what a ‘distorted interpretation of Islam’ really is. At what point does opposition to a war based on one’s faith or values becomes an act or ideology of extremism? There are still muddled notions of what extremism really is.

Over the years, vested interest groups have campaigned against speakers who may be conservative, or whose words were ill-advised, but they are certainly not supporters or promoters of terrorism. Many in our community are concerned that the Government’s proposals have been influenced by these questionable elements.

While exceptional events linked to Islam and Muslims as problems draw enormous attention and forcible and concerted action, little is done and even less willed to be done to combat Islamophobia, of word or deed, to tackle social exclusion, or to actively promote civic inclusion.

Moreover, the idea of the state or police arbitrating theological ‘distortion’ is especially worrying. We are a diverse Muslim community, it would be inadvisable for the government to promote state-sponsored sectarianism.

Following the tragic murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in May, the Muslim community was united in its condemnation and disgust at this action. They were joined by fellow Britons who stood firm in solidarity with each other. As I noted in a speech in June: “We look at Woolwich and are struck by the ways that ordinary people responded to this shocking event in extraordinary ways. The lessons from Woolwich lie less in acknowledgement of impending existential threats to our way of life, than in the demonstration of the resilience of our society.

No amount of investment in counter-terrorism alone will prevent another attack, but investment in the strengthening of the resilience and capacity of our communities across the whole of our society – through the promotion of civic engagement, social cohesion, capacity building, voice, dignity and stake-holding, through the strengthening of our democracy and through democratic practice and social justice will go a long way towards making the values we all defend a reality for all. Investing in the resilience and capacity of our communities is the surest guarantee that we can stand up for who we are and what we believe in; that we can articulate our grievances without being accused of disloyalty and face up to those who seek to undermine our contribution to this society.”

Endemic racism is infecting all walks of British society. It is a well known fact that British education is a home of institutional racism. The immigrant children are victims of bullying and racism. Muslim children suffer more than other children. Majority of them leaves schools with low grades or without any qualification. There is no arrangement for them to learn Arabic and Urdu languages making them cut off from their cultural roots. They suffer from Identity crises crucial for mental, emotional and personality development. According to s study report British teachers have no respect for Islamic faith and Muslim community. Muslim children need state funded Muslim schools with Muslim teachers for proper education based on their needs and demands.

For the first time, academics are taking the issue of anti-Muslim attacks in the UK seriously. A recent report by Jonathan Githens-Mazer and Robert Lambert on Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Hate Crime: a London Case Study shows how ‘contexts of fear and prejudice against Muslims are providing a basis for violence’. It distinguishes three groups as responsible: small bands of nationalist extremists, gangs with no particular affinities, freelancers acting out of prejudices imbibed from the media’s portrayal of Muslims as terrorists. And, for once in a report, the voices of the victims of such violence are centre-stage.

This report is the first from a newly formed European Muslim Research Centre (EMRC) at the University of Exeter which has funding from Islam Expo and the Cordoba Foundation for a ten-year study of the lives of Muslims in towns and cities across Europe. And, hopefully, having this new centre making a pronouncement on anti-Muslim violence, certainly the most virulent form of racism in the UK today, may have the national impact that is needed. The report’s strength lies in the way it traces cases back to the unequivocal link between attack and motivation.

There is absolutely no doubt that its authors are well intentioned and care deeply about this subject. However, there are a number of weaknesses in the report. Anti-Muslim violence is, of course, linked to a growth in Islamophobia. But Islamophobia is not just a body of ideas in a vacuum. It is connected to the war in Iraq and the war on terror and tied therefore to the state, its laws and executive decisions.


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Over 120 people attended a landmark conference on the media reporting of Islam and Muslims. It was held jointly by The Muslim News and Society of Editors in London on September 15.

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