The title states that “Prime Minister David Cameron set out his plans to address extremism”. What sort of extremism? Well, we all know that we’re referring to extreme versions of Islam, though many politicians are reluctant to spell that out. Let’s see how Cameron fares.
Early on he declares that “Today, I want to talk about … how together we defeat extremism”. It is another nine sentences before he overcomes the “Voldemort effect” and actually names it:
“And because the focus of my remarks today is on tackling Islamist extremism — not Islam the religion — let me say this.”
Well done! Islamist extremism (even if it is accompanied by the hasty and obligatory assurance that Islamism is nothing to do with Islam).
After denouncing violence Cameron continues:
“But you don’t have to support violence to subscribe to certain intolerant ideas which create a climate in which extremists can flourish. Ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values such as democracy, freedom and sexual equality.”
“Ideas which actively promote discrimination, sectarianism and segregation.”
Discrimination? You mean, such as state-funded schools discriminating against children, refusing to admit them owing to their parents religion? Segregation? You mean the policy of segregating children into different schools according to the religion of their parents? Is Cameron finally admitting to the faults of such “ideas which are hostile to basic liberal values”? Wow!
“Ideas – like those of the despicable far right – which privilege one identity to the detriment of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Privileging one identity? You mean like allowing councils to hold prayers in council business, thus privileging those who identify as Christians while the non-religious are expected to know their place and stand around in respectful silence? That might be a fairly trivial example, but Cameron is known for his “this is a Christian country” spiel, and what is that about if not privileging one identity?
After dismissing the “it’s all the West’s fault” excuse, so beloved of “the left”, Cameron is adamant:
“No – we must be clear. The root cause of the threat we face is the extremist ideology itself.”
Good! Here I recommend Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s book Heretic, which clearly shows how the “extremist ideology” is a version of doctrines that are core to the mainstream versions of Islam. She explains why basic doctrines of Islam need to be over-turned and reformed.
“And how can it be that after the tragic events at Charlie Hebdo in Paris, weeks were spent discussing the limits of free speech and satire, rather than whether terrorists should be executing people full stop? When we allow the extremists to set the terms of the debate in this way, is it any wonder that people are attracted to this ideology?”
Exactly. Spot on. Any Western “liberal” who criticises Charlie Hebdo, or thinks we should self-censor our own free speech to appease Muslims who are “offended”, is playing into the hands of the Islamists.
“Indeed, there is a danger in some of our communities that you can go your whole life and have little to do with people from other faiths and backgrounds.”
And, Mr Cameron, do you think that faith schools help remedy that or hinder?
I’ve got a great idea, as a social experiment let’s pick on somewhere like, say, Northern Ireland. Let’s split the community into two, sending all the children from Protestant families to one set of schools, and all the children from Catholic families to another set of schools. This will work really well, and will be great for community cohesion. Why, after a generation or two they’ll likely be killing each other! Sadly, and despite the sarcasm, I do not exaggerate.
“We should contrast their bigotry, aggression and theocracy with our values. We have, in our country, a very clear creed and we need to promote it much more confidently. Wherever we are from, whatever our background, whatever our religion, there are things we share together.”
Note the lack of “… or none” after “whatever our religion”. Half the nation now has no meaningful religious affiliation.
“We are all British. We respect democracy and the rule of law. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of worship, equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith.”
Let’s note that list for a moment.
“Whether you are Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Christian or Sikh, whether you were born here or born abroad, we can all feel part of this country …
And whether we are non-religious? Are we allowed to feel part of this country also?
“We must stand up to those who try to suggest that there is some kind of secret Muslim conspiracy to take over our government, or that Islam and Britain are somehow incompatible.”
Or that Islam and Britain are somehow incompatible? Somehow? Well here’s how: It is back to that list of British values, those notions of democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and the others. How many Islamic nations are properly functioning democracies? How many Islamic nations or major schools of Islamic jurisprudence allow freedom of speech and religion? Almost all of them have blasphemy laws and most have prohibitions on apostasy. Wherever Islam is dominant it tends to produce a totalitarian system that rejects Western ideas of democracy and individual liberties.
“I also want to go much further in dealing with this ideology in prison and online. We need to have a total rethink of what we do in our prisons to tackle extremism.”
Well here are some suggestions. Don’t give prisoners a wider choice of food if they identify as Muslim. Don’t give prisoners more time out of cells (for prayer) if they identify as Muslims. Don’t allow Islamic gangs to dominate other prisoners. Things like that are just encouraging prisoners to convert, and to come under the influence of the often-extreme ideologies of their fellow inmates.
“Let’s also recognise that we will have to enter some pretty uncomfortable debates – especially cultural ones. Too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence. The failure in the past to confront the horrors of forced marriage I view as a case in point. So is the utter brutality of Female Genital Mutilation.”
Yes, well said. And let’s also put an insistence on free speech and the drawing of satirical cartoons in the same category of “too often we have lacked the confidence to enforce our values, for fear of causing offence”.
“In the past, governments have been too quick to dismiss the religious aspect of Islamist extremism.”
“It cannot be said clearly enough: this extremist ideology is not true Islam. I have said it myself many, many times, and it’s absolutely right to do so. And I’ll say it again today.”
But what do we mean by “true” Islam? Cameron, a Christian, would not regard any version of Islam as “true”, and nor would the non-religious. Or, by “true”, do we mean faithful to the original? In which case, well, actually, Islamic State ideology is much truer to the original than many mainstream versions.
“[ISIS] claims to be based on a particular faith. Now it is an exercise in futility to deny that. And more than that, it can be dangerous. To deny it has anything to do with Islam means you disempower the critical reforming voices; the voices that are challenging the fusing of religion and politics; …”
Yes, exactly. And there you see the influence of Maajid Nawaz, who contributed to the writing of this speech.
“And let’s remember that it’s only the extremists who divide people into good Muslims and bad Muslims by forcing their warped doctrine onto fellow Muslims and telling them that it is the only way to believe.”
Err what? Cameron’s whole speech has been about dividing Muslims into the extremist Islamists [bad] and the moderate Muslims [good]. His mention of “true Islam” is certainly telling them about ways to believe!
“But as well as tackling isolation, there is one other area we must look at if we are to build a truly cohesive society — and that is segregation.”
Excellent! This is the bit where Cameron is going to announce the ending of state-mandated segregation in “faith” schools, and the ending of the exemption of schools from the 2010 Equality Act, allowing them to discriminate over religion!
“It cannot be right, for example, that people can grow up and go to school and hardly ever come into meaningful contact with people from other backgrounds and faiths.”
He’s just warming up to it!
“Now let’s be clear that these patterns of segregation in schools or housing are not the fault or responsibility of any particular community.”
Err, yes they are, the pattern of segregated schools is entirely the responsibility of the religious establishment, the overwhelmingly Christian religious establishment, which has long promoted such segregation to serve its own ends.
“Now, bussing children to different areas is not the right approach for this country. Nor should we try to dismantle faith schools.
What?? Why not?? Why should we not dismantle faith schools? Come on Cameron, joined up thinking! Have you actually read your own speech?
“Many faith schools achieve excellent results …”
Which they would, since they get to select their intake, and turn away the children who are less easy to teach, making them socially selective. It’s easy for a school to get excellent results if it gets to pick its pupils. Just look at the private sector.
“… and I’m the first to support the great education they provide. I chose one for my own children.”
Ah right, so this refusal to question faith schools is all about personal advantage. After saying that he does not want to privilege any identity, he now wants to privilege the identity of being religious, because he is among those who benefit.
“ Today I visited King David’s school, a Jewish school here in Birmingham where the majority of children are from faith backgrounds.”
And you don’t see anything wrong with that? Jewish families are less than 1% of the British population, and yet you don’t see anything wrong with a child’s schooling being entirely in a school surrounded by fellow Jews — and this in a speech about the damage to social cohesion caused by segregated schools?
And how about a boarding school where the pupils are “banned from watching TV, listening to the radio or reading newspapers” where they are “banned from wearing un-Islamic garments and using music players or mobile phones at any time”, where pupils “caught socialising with outsiders . . . will be expelled if there is no improvement after cautioning”?
That school was rated “good” by the government’s inspectorate, Ofsted, because “the students’ Quranic memorisation” is “outstanding” and because “spirituality is further promoted by five daily congregational prayers attended by all students”!
Earlier in the speech Cameron lauded religious freedom as a great British value that we must enforce. Now, I just wonder, how much freedom to choose whether to participate in religious worship would pupils at that school get?
“But it is right to look again more broadly at how we can move away from segregated schooling in our most divided communities.”
And why not also in the somewhat-less-divided communities? It’d help there also.
“ We have already said that all new faith academies and free schools must allocate half their places without reference to faith.”
Well that’s a start, I suppose, though how about applying the rule retrospectively to all schools, as a second baby-step?
“We have refused to compromise on our values or to give up our way of life. … Together we will defeat the extremists and build a stronger and more cohesive country …”
Laudable sentiments. Overall, I’ll give Cameron a B+. Good in parts, and some welcome directness and recognition of problems. But seriously flawed by a lack of joined-up thinking.