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{mosimage} ...the government and certain right wing ideologues have sought to popularise the notion of Muslim separatism; this idea that Muslims have an ingrained antipathy toward Britain...

The Squeeze: the shift in the debate


With radicalisation still on the rise the Prevent agenda is changing fast, the dilemma for Britain has been whether to work with the Radicals because they reject violence, or isolate them because of their anti-British views. Our sources suggest that policy hawks are winning their own ideological battle inside Whitehall and a new tougher approach is on its way to curb the home grown terrorist threat.

 

Richard Watson, Panorama, Feb 16th 2009
These were the closing remarks by Richard Watson who, by his own admission, has been investigating the rise of extremism for the BBC for a good part of a decade. Yet his investigation for Panorama seemed to blur the picture more than salvage some degree of clarity. Radicalisation – albeit undefined – is used in the media often to refer to individuals who carry out violence, as in, such and such was radicalised before he committed such and such act of violence. Yet according to Watson, even those who repudiate violence are, apparently, radicals (‘the dilemma for Britain has been whether to work with the Radicals because they reject violence…’). If radicalisation is a process that leads to violent extremism, yet there exist radicals who reject violence, then either radicalisation is not the catalyst in leading someone to violence or those who reject terrorism are not radicals. What is at stake here is not mere semantics. Instead, by not challenging those who use these terms about the conceptual inconstancies they elide one cannot hope to arrive at adequate solutions.

For instance, in seeking explanation for why acts of terror occur the government and certain right wing ideologues have sought to popularise the notion of Muslim separatism; this idea that Muslims have an ingrained antipathy toward Britain. This can be seen clearly a little short of 19 minutes into the Panorama investigation when Watson asks an Asian man talking about the criminalising of Muslims whether he is British, which it turns out he is, and if he is proud of Britain. Where else does such a question get asked? Which other “community” gets asked if they are proud of their country? And, what, for someone who has been investigating extremism for almost ten years and should therefore know better, does such a question actually mean? To require one to attest to being proud of Britain is a rhetorical gesture of alienation since it implies a momentary outsider/insider dialectic, where the inquirer is the insider and the one being asked has been pushed out and whose reintegration into the discussion (where he is in dialogue, and outside of which he is in isolation) is dependent on his giving the “right” answer. When this rhetorical gesture encompasses an entire community however, one isn’t simply dealing with a momentary outsider/insider dialectic as occurs in a conversation between two people, but a sustained outsider/insider dialectic, which, in today’s reality, impacts the Muslim population by forcing it to stand outside in the rain.

It is this psychical dissonance that is one of the key causes of some of the hostility amongst British Muslims toward the government and right wing ideologues. We as Muslims reject outright the targeting of innocent civilians and all acts of wanton terrorism, and we reject it based on the Qu’ran and the Sunnah, wherein we are taught that there are for Muslim states rules of engagement which are lofty in their desire to minimise as much careless slaughter as possible (recall the fact that one ought not to cut down trees, or poison water sources etc). We nonetheless remain committed to asking awkward questions of the government to keep them in check of their abuses of power – detention without trial, racial profiling, lack of strong pronouncements on Israel. But this is the point, the latest developments in Whitehall and in the debate on terrorism seeks to shift understandings of regulating violence to regulating religious beliefs. If this occurs, those hawkish individuals will find they demote the value of arguing one’s convictions and promote the physicalisation of individuals more. If this happens, radicals or no radicals – more people will be driven to approach Britain not with their minds but with their bodies and we should all, Muslim or non-Muslim, seek to avoid that.

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Notes:

 

source: www.islam21c.com

About Syed Haider

A PhD candidate at SOAS and English teacher.

5 comments

  1. Response to KarM
    I think you’re right, the tactic should be to question the questioner, but what I think Syed was talking about was the gesture of alienation that is implied in asking Muslims if they are proud of Britain – something which hangs over the Muslim community and blackmails them into constantly requiring to defend their “Britishness”. We should not only question the questioner, but highlight, as Syed does, the subliminal implications of such a question and thereby disqualify such a question or at least point out the harmful nature of nationalism which requires an outsider/insider dialectic to define itself. That’s what I understood from the article. Syed?

  2. Response to KarM
    I think you’re right, the tactic should be to question the questioner, but what I think Syed was talking about was the gesture of alienation that is implied in asking Muslims if they are proud of Britain – something which hangs over the Muslim community and blackmails them into constantly requiring to defend their “Britishness”. We should not only question the questioner, but highlight, as Syed does, the subliminal implications of such a question and thereby disqualify such a question or at least point out the harmful nature of nationalism which requires an outsider/insider dialectic to define itself. That’s what I understood from the article. Syed?

  3. Insider/ outsider dialetic
    It is not necessary to assume such a dialetic exists as mentioned in the article because a question about being proud to be British, it could easily go the other way. What it means to be British and what each party sees as being British is all important. Further, is Britishness consistent in one thing or is it possible to be many things? The lack of specificty within the question and terms is more dangerous and insipid than anything else and I think this is what is so galling, so nasty, and so leading. Perhaps the right answer is to question the questioner about their pride in being British, or not…

  4. Islamism and the roots of liberal rage
    JazakAhllah Khair for the article.

    A nice (academic) overview of “illeberal liberals” can be found in Arun Kundnani’s article entitled, “Islamism and the roots of liberal rage”. It can be found in the Race & Class Journal (October 2008, Volume 50, No. 2)
    http://rac.sagepub.com/content/vol50/issue2/

    I think it’s available in the Soas library.

  5. Jazakallah khayran!
    I think this more than anything demonstrates how weak the government are towards being able to address the ‘awkward questions’; much easier to just suppress -ahamm ahamm, cough cough- ‘freedom of speech’…i know we will get round that one by labelling it as part of ‘hate-fueled ideologies’

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